That's the Book: Galatians
The annual preschool bell choir was yesterday. It's one of my favorite days of the year. I love 3 and 4 year olds. I get them. They seem to get me. We do well together. They are funny, smart, mostly kind and they could really care less about all the pretense which can show up later in life.
We have been practicing for today's bell choir for the past several months. Every Sunday morning we go over the rules. Don't touch the bottom of the bell. Two feet on the ground. Big voices. Smile. Be nice. The rules are there to protect us all. It hurts when a wild bell hits a neighboring child's head. And the bells break if you touch the bottom bit.
Galatians is a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Galatia. Prior to this letter, Paul had preached and served in Galatia. Many Gentiles (non-Jewish people) had accepted his teaching about the grace of Jesus to cover their sins and bring them into right relationship with God. The church was born and was growing. Later, Paul heard this church was twisting the new faith of the local people by adding all kids of rules to the faith. Difficult, detailed, depressing rules. The church was being dragged away from the simple idea of following Jesus to a complicated faith with too many structures and requirements. The book of Galatians is Paul's simple "Stop That".
I grew up in the church where I still attend. This is amazingly joyful most of the time because I know their stories and I see Jesus in them. They know my stories and can call me out when I need it. Occasionally this is hard. Sometimes I hold off writing or doing something I know God is calling me to because I happen to know it will offend someone I love. I really like everyone I love to be happy. But increasingly I'm learning the people pleasing part of me has to die.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Frankly, sometimes I let them down because I'm following ME. This requires an apology. But if my people are disappointed because I follow Jesus I'm learning to be okay with that. Took me a long time to get there. I like to follow the rules. I've learned sometimes the rules or traditions are wrong or outdated or not as important as the people standing in front of me. I like grace and freedom.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live,, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Galatians 2:20-21
The kids this morning stood up on stage and declared to the believers watching the glory of Christmas. "For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord." The whole reason I teach preschool is not so we have a cute and heartwarming program. The reason I teach the 3 and 4 year olds is because I don't want a single one of them to remember a time when they did not know about Jesus. How much he loves them. How they can be a part of his family. How he is the greatest gift ever given. It's why I bother to write as well. I think Paul felt the same.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, than an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7
Paul knew freedom isn't the same thing as anarchy. Freedom has responsibilities. It has relationships. But it isn't bound up in a list of rules. I'm free to follow Jesus. So are you.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13
Before we dug into bell season, we ran through nine lessons with the preschoolers on the fruit of the spirit. This is the most well known section of Galatians. Paul is begging the church to return to a vibrant growing relationship with Jesus and let go of the piles of rules. He's convinced if they follow Jesus with their whole heart the rest of it will work out. We told the kids if you have Jesus in your heart things will start to grow. Good things. Powerful things. You won't have to worry or stress or fight. The lists will be covered because grace grows the good stuff.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5: 22-24
Today was a crazy schedule day. Bell choir, meeting after church, birthday party, piano recital and play practice. Goodness. I showed up at church this afternoon for the last event kinda spent. My friend offered to bring my kid home after practice. Little thing. HUGE impact. An hour to read, reflect and write.
You know what I figured out in Galatians? Loving people is way more important than pleasing people.
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
It's the beginning of December. I know your schedule is nuts. Take a few minutes and read Galatians. It's six chapters all about the freedom and grace found in following Jesus. Love people. Follow Jesus. Let go of some rules. Breathe. Don't grow weary. Christ is born. What a great way to ring in the season.
If you are used to these at the end of the That's the Book posts you know I think they are a great tool. If you haven't watched one yet - why not today?
Galations - lots to check out. Here is a great visual from New Spring Church
That's the Book: 2nd Corinthians
I've spent the last couple weeks procrastinating writing this post. Honestly I have tried. But I haven't had the courage to fully embrace writing about 2nd Corinthians. This is the second letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. Paul wrote the letter to encourage the believers to hold it together during some massive hardships. I've struggled writing this post because it's all about suffering. So it hurts. Also I felt it was important not to be flippant or trite. Suffering is a sacred privilege not to be tossed around lightly.
So I've spent the last three weekends pretending to write and instead looking at twitter feeds of cute animals and playing with new emojis on my phone. I was especially distracted by the hedgehog. But the verses and the post kept sitting there asking me to show up. To think and pray and write and bleed. Sometimes we avoid people who are hurting for the same reasons. It can be uncomfortable to join.
I recently sat on the phone talking with a friend of mine. She was in pain. Needed a friend. I didn't have much to offer - except I love her - and I can stand as a testament that on my hardest days Jesus was enough. I hope the reminder helped. This is the point of 2nd Corinthians. We should carry each other's pain. Use our own as a light to point others towards the hope of Christ. Understand He will be faithful to carry us. He is enough.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:2-5
Two years ago my mother-in-law was suffering from a recent diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer. The whole family was struggling and worried. We were tired. Exhausted really. Overwhelmed with the knowledge of survival rates and heartbroken over the crisis etched in her face.
Several weeks later, in the middle of the night, I received a phone call from my father. He said my mom had fallen down the stairs. He said there was a lot of blood. She was being taken by ambulance to the hospital. I should hurry. Would I call my sister and come to the hospital? I hung up. Got out of bed. Could not stay standing. Hit my knees. Gasped. Prayed a two-word prayer.
And in that very moment I knew. In this painful awful moment at 4:00 am I knew. I knew despite the horror on multiple fronts we were not alone. I knew God's presence would not leave. God provided the strength to stand, to pick up the phone, to call my sister. The verses in 2nd Corinthians are real to me because I've been in these places. My guess is you have as well.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves, we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not despairing, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9
How do you keep going when things aren't good? When people lie and break trust? When the diagnosis is elusive? When we can't see beyond this moment?
A couple of weeks ago I sat in a writer's conference and listed to Andrew Peterson describe how he came to write the song The Dark Before the Dawn. (Listen Here).
He wrote it one morning after he woke up to news of a school shooting. You know that sick feeling? The dark is pressing in feeling? He talked about how the only way forward is to remember this is not the end.
"Oh, I believe, I believe that the light is gonna come
And this is the dark, this is the dark before the dawn."
What I learned is God's promises don't make all things joyful - yet. And this yet makes it bearable. For heaven is coming. Glory wins. Despair loses.
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For this momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18
If you are reading this and do not have the same hope; please hear me out. We all face hard times. But you don't have to do it alone. 2nd Corinthians is a beautiful invitation to join the victory.
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2nd Corinthians 6;29-21
I think the reason my two word prayer, "I can't", was so powerful is because I came to the very end of myself. When I ran out, Jesus showed up. This is one of those upside down truths in the Bible. The weak are strong.
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I've thought a lot about suffering the past couple of weeks. About what we went through and the ways God made the difference. Sometimes it was simply His presence and strength. Sometimes it looked like a friend pushing a broom, bringing a meal or answering the phone. God showed up when people showed up. I know it was hard to be around me during those days. But I'm grateful people dove in. This post was hard to write. But sharing the truth of God's power in our struggle is an honor.
Turn off your phone for a few minutes. Read 2nd Corinthians. If you are in the middle of a crisis - pray a call for help. His grace will prove enough. If your life is currently stable you may have time to lift someone else's load. Call a hurting friend or get take-out for an overwhelmed neighbor. Wrestle with your own memories and look for how God showed up. Share your story. I know it's uncomfortable to do the work to heal or to help someone else. But it's life giving. Worth the courage it takes to see it through. Second Corinthians is important. Hedgehog emoji's are not.
Andrew Peterson's song The Dark Before the Dawn.
Here you go, the next section of the Bible Project's Read Scripture series. 2nd Corinthians.
Infographic from New Spring Church. These are helpful.
My mom and I went to the Seahawks vs. Texans game last Sunday. If you like football this was a game to watch. In the entire history of the NFL there have only been six games where both teams had four passing touchdowns and over 400 yards gained. Crazy high score.
On the Seahawks side of the ball we had some issues. Defense wasn't holding. The offensive line was - um - poor. Our running game was terrible. So terrible in fact all of our running weapons had a combined negative yardage. Except our quarterback. Russell Wilson was quite simply phenomenal.
The book of 1st Corinthians was written to a church in division. The believers in Corinth had issues. They were fighting over who to follow, how to worship, what to eat, and all the rules about sex. Sound familiar? The apostle Paul had a message for the church. Get it together. Follow Jesus.
He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1: 8-9
With only a couple of minutes before the game was over, Seattle was down by 4 points. For you non-football readers this mean we had to score a touchdown or we would lose. No tie was possible. Wilson was scrambling around, making plays, basically saving his team all on his own. Then he threw an interception. Visions of a painful Super Bowl loss bounced around the stadium. People around us hung their heads. Lots of people left.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. I Corinthians 1:10
Some of the book of Corinthians frustrates me. I'm not crazy about the verses about women's hair or women in church. I've learned something over the years though. When I am most annoyed or angry about a verse that's where I should probably spend some time. Its possible I've got a stubborn heart or a rebellious spirit. No way should God tell me what to do with my hair, my voice, my body. But when I slow down, read the whole story in context I find God whispers truth to my heart. I am greatly beloved. He created me. He saved me. He does in fact have the right to speak into my life. My choices. My body. If you are feeling bitter or angry or hard toward the Bible or your fellow believers- if your temptation is to hang your head and walk away - hang in there.
I have the right to do anything, you say, but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything, but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. I Corinthians 10: 23-24
When I was a teenager, every Wednesday night I attended care groups. We'd play a few games and then settle into a circle to talk about our week and pray for each other. Every single week we'd read 1st Corinthians 13. The love chapter. Love is patient. Love is Kind. Without Love you are nothing. On Sundays and other times we studied other parts of the Bible but on Wednesday nights every week we read about Love. I think the point was that Love was the filterer all the rest of it. When you get sideways with God and wonder where your faith fits try circling back to the love.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preservers. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13: 2, 4-7
With two minutes to go, Seattle's defense did what they'd been unable to do all day. They held the line. Three and out. We had the ball again. And Russell Wilson - the leader - he moved the ball 80 years in three plays and under a minute. You should have seen that team hustle. They were out of time outs, out of chances. They pulled together with their quarterback and scored. The stadium erupted. Cheers and high fives. Rocking energy.
Down the aisle from where we sat I overheard a phone call. "Hey, we're in the car, we left after that awful interception. What happened". "Oh man! You missed the whole game!! We won!" This guy had given up before the game was over and missed one of the most exciting comebacks ever played.
Listen, I tell you a mystery; We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the winkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed...Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15: 51,52, 55-57
Here's the deal. Football is fun. Doesn't really matter. But life? Your marriage, your kids, your faith? This game has eternal value. Don't walk out with two minutes to go because you're frustrated with the details. Hold the line. We follow a leader who has already won. His weapon was love.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Love! and Weddings! And way more. Check out The Bible Project's walk through in Read Scripture.
New Spring Church produces these infographics and Bible studies which go in detail through the book. Great free resource. Free is good. Quality Free is fantastic.
That's the Book: Romans
I spent the weekend at Ladies retreat with our church. Fantastic sessions, well organized, fun time. Our leader could do ladies' retreats for a living. She's that good. God used her to teach us about praise. Praise in the hard times and in the good.
The final session came. I had previously talked to our leader about handing out some Quirky Faith business cards to all the women and inviting them to share their stories of praise through this blog as way to praise our Father. She said it was a good idea - let's invite more women to share! Final prayer came, final song. Our leader dismissed the ladies and out the door they streamed. She'd forgotten Quirky Faith.
Honestly I shrugged it off. No big deal. I forget stuff all the time.
Then on the way out a couple of offhand comments from some friends indicated people are too busy to read the blog. One comment hit too close to a tender spot.
My heart sank. My offering had been rejected. Bitterness took root.
Romans is a letter from the missionary pastor Paul to a church in Rome. It has many perhaps the clearest explanation of sin and salvation and call to obey God in the entire Bible. It's not good to read or quote Romans lightly. If you want to really change, to see yourself in truth and to climb out of messy thinking this is a book to read and consider. I signed up for a year long class through Bible Study Fellowship on the book of Romans for a faith check up. It's been good. And painful. So I approached this blog post with a little fear and trembling. I do not want you to take these words as the full or final or even only introduction to this mighty book I do want to show you though how it can change your life. So this story this week is a little personal. I've gotten permission from the couple of people I quoted to share.
I drove home from retreat through wind and rain. In my heart. On the way I found out two friends had to cancel plans for an event I'd worked on. Last minute. When I got home I found out my kid didn't get picked for a part in a play. My other kid hadn't been invited to an event. To top it off, my husband had cleaned out our cupboards. He'd thrown stuff out I'd bought as gifts, or to help people. Granted, he'd also thrown out a mountain of random trash I tend to keep.
You know. All the petty life stuff.
The whole string of events had me feeling unappreciated and frankly bitter.
I had a bad attitude. Walked into my kitchen and told my spouse. I said "Listen, I know this is rotten of me. I know its probably even sin. But I'm feeling bruised. A tad kicked and broken. Annoyed. Verging on mad. I talked about how I know God wants to me love people and forgive and move on. But I struggle here. Romans puts it clearly.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15
This was me. I hate feeling hard or hurt. I preach Grace. But when my ego or pride got bruised I went quickly back to judgment and bitterness.
I told him I needed to write about Romans but I had nothing to say from a right heart. I said I'd rather delete the whole blog, move out of town or take my kid for a long walk. He suggested perhaps the walk was the best option. So my little five-year-old spitfire and I headed out. This verse was ringing in my heart. Come help me Jesus.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24
My first sight outdoors was color. Vibrant fall leaves all around. I took a breath.
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20
My daughter lagged behind. She was collecting sticks. Muddy, dirty sticks. She said "I love sticks". She was completely ignoring the beauty and focusing on the dirt. Same as me.
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's richness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:2
When I come face to face with my attitudes and God's glory I see my sin for what it is. Pitiful. Ugly. Bitter. My feelings got hurt because my motivations and motives were off. My hopes and prayers were too. My priorities suck.
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Romans 3:10-13
I looked around at what God had created, at the beauty around me. In my personal rant I'd forgotten gratitude. Gratitude for salvation, for grace, for heaven, for eternity. For acceptance and love and mercy. I'd focused on some minor injuries and forgotten his great offering.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly...But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6,8
My daughter ran on ahead and I warned her to come back where I could watch her. She put down her sticks and started to show me the colors. ink, red, orange, yellow. All unique.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18.
This verse provides comfort on my darkest days. At funerals or hospitals or court rooms it helps to quote this and remember heaven. This verse is so convicting on my bad attitude, hurt feelings over minor issues days. My present sufferings. Compared with the glory that will be revealed. Someone tell me to shut up. My hurts were not worth comparing to what God wants to do in my life.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6
You see it right? The truth of Romans? We are a mess and powerless to do anything about it. But God can. And did.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-32
My daughter and I walked through the neighborhood. When a big dog ran up I took her hand. When we had to cross traffic I held her hand. She was safe through this walk because I love her and I was with her. Same is true for my life.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor live, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
By now I was praying and praising. Thankful to Jesus. He saved me for all eternity and he saves me daily from myself.
"If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
I talked my little one about the gifts God gives. My first and highest calling is to praise him for his gift. My second is to tell my daughters about His love.The walk was a good reminder. And Quirky Faith? It's an offering to Jesus. I feel like He asks me to write. So regardless if anyone reads it, the act of obedience is to write the Glory of God and post it. It's a beautiful offering only because it declares his truth. If what people see is me, I'm missing the mark.
How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:14-15
See this? I'm accepted by God because he sacrificed. And he calls me to sacrifice right back for him.
Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in light of God's mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
This morning I spent some time clearing the air with my friends. Honoring our friendships.
Love must be sincere, Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10
When my daughter and I got home we lined up our leaves. I took a few photos. She glued them onto paper. I want her to remember this day. I want to remember. I want to trust him. To hope in him. To be filled with him.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15;13
As I put away our shoes and coats I noticed a bag of my daughter's lessons and papers from Sunday school that morning. She'd learned that very morning about walking in Jesus' footsteps. Okay Jesus. Point Taken.
To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:27
My uncle is a smart man. He told me to read this book for a wise overview of Romans. It's on my read list. Want to join me?
OK. I know. It's not possible to do justice to the book of Romans in one blog post. Please read it yourself. And do yourself a favor and watch The Bible Project's Read Scripture series for a good overview.
Infographic. SERIOUSLY. Look at this thing - it's helpful.
That's The Book: Acts
I sat in church this morning and was reminded October is Pastor Appreciation month. I thought about what my life would look like without my church. With no pastors or teachers or small group or faithful friends. Pretty bleak. Made me grateful. I've called pastors when life hit so hard I didn't know where to turn. Pastors have led the way. They've held my hand. They've hugged my children. Church has been a rock in my life. I know this isn't everyone's story.
The book of Acts is a riveting, fast paced and sometimes shockingly raw book. It tells the story of what happened to the people who believed in Jesus after they found his tomb empty. Essentially its a story of church.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer". Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believes were together and had everything in common. they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the tempe courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being said. Acts 2:43-47
Small group! Every Wednesday my house is full of people figuring out how the Bible fits in their world. We talk, we laugh, sometimes we cry. We always eat. Never underestimate the power of a good meal. Good for the soul, good for reconciliation, good for building friendships. We pray. If you don't have a group of people who hold you accountable and who hold your hand on bad days and who cheer on good days then find one. Today. Join Celebrate Recovery or Precepts or Bible Study Fellowship. Call your neighborhood church and ask if they have Sunday school classes or coffee bible groups or life groups. Find some people. Commit to them. Eat and pray. If you can't find a group of people shoot me an email and I'll help you find some. Jesus knew we needed people. That's why he built the church.
One of the reasons I go to church is I frequently need some hard truth to change my path. The book of Acts if full of sermons which moved people to change.
"Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and forknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him... Therefore let all Israel be assured of this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2: 22 -24 and 36-38.
So let's face it - pastors and church's aren't perfect. HA! NOPE. Sometimes they lose their way. Sometimes they let you down. Sometimes they are actually the enemy. Churchs can blow it big time. Exclude people. Hate people. Make people carry more than they can. Gossip, break trust. You name it.
It happened in Acts too. I find great comfort in the fact that the early church leaders didn't sugar coat the start. There was division, complaining, persecution and set backs. Disagreements and discouragement. Read the book, you'll see.
The two primary leaders were Peter and Paul. Remember these guys? Peter had denied Jesus at his time of greatest pain. Paul had actively chased and killed early church members before he himself was dramatically converted. If the early church could trust and grow under a flake and a murderer its because Jesus transforms people. He still does.
Whining happened too. Probably legitimately . The leaders figured it out.
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food." Acts 6: 1
God helped them work through some racist assumptions too.
Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism. But accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right" Acts 10:34-35. When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying "So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life." Acts 11:18
Am I saying to follow leaders who have ignored the truth? Hurt people? Abused people? Lied? Of course not. Acts shows great examples of calling out bad teachers and stopping lies. Couple people dropped dead because they lied and were making a mockery of the foundling faith. But Acts also shows the faithful were committed to figuring it out. They met, they prayed, they tried new tactics, they sometimes found new partners. But they didn't give up on the church. And that's what I'd say to you.
Been hurt? Quit church? Bitter and cynical?
Go Back. Find a church. Stick with it.
If you've left church because you are disgusted by problems then go back and help fix them. If you have concerns about racism within the church then go be part of the solution. If you don't see a place for people like you - then go create that space for others. Have hard talks with your leaders, research why you believe what you do and share the information If you've ever been loved by a pastor tell them thank you. Advocate. Don't quit.
If you don't see the point, be encouraged. Here is the beautiful truth of Acts. Jesus went back to heaven but God didn't leave us alone. He gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort. And he gave believers each other. The church collectively is the bride of Christ and he gave us a massive mission. Love each other. Be light. Make disciples. Comfort the hurting. Set free the captives.
Then Peter said: "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God. Acts 3:6,8
Its a mission we still are on together. I was talking to one of my pastors this morning. He said he always believe that when God is getting ready to do something powerful in someone's life or in a local church that the devil steps up the pressure. More pressure and heartache and attacks going on in your life? More pressure - more power. Hang in there. The Holy Spirit in on your side.
"If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this; you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is "The stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Salvation Is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:9-13
Oh how I want that in my obituary. Weird thought right? But someone write this down. I want it noted at the end that any courage from this unschooled and ordinary person is astonishing and only because I've been around Jesus. That's it.
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace. Acts 20:24
The church leaders were persecuted, martyred, imprisoned and beat. Happens around the world still today. And here our pastors and teachers face pressures, abuse to their families, disappointment and great pain. You can make a difference. Thank one of them.
Our pastor this morning asked us to think about what our life would look like without Jesus. Mine would be a mess. The best things in my life are from him. The hard things I can do with him. I'm grateful for his gifts. The church hits the top of my list.
It's Pastor Appreciation Month. Need some ideas about how to love on the pastors in your life? This is a good resource. READ HERE. Don't underestimate the power of a thank you note. Or food. Food is good too.
Fire from heaven? Yikes! Find out why Acts is so exciting and why it matters to you. The team at The Bible Project's Read Scripture series on YouTube (say that 5 times fast) is a great overview.
There is a lot going on in the book of Acts. The infographic is helpful.
That's the Book: John
I always read through the That's the Book posts one final time Monday morning before I hit publish. Last week I read my words and paused.
It was terrible.
I had noticed a pattern in the verses of John. There are such a crazy variety of ways people responded to the life of Christ. Kinda interesting. So I read though and grabbed all the stories where it showed how people responded to Jesus. Some people were scared. Some angry. Some were grateful, confused. Some worshipped. Some followed.
I had blogged through these responses and showed how different elements in our society still respond the same ways. I even had some nice tie ins to NFL protests. Should have been okay. It wasn't.
It was boring, a tad smug and a lot depressing. This was not a post I could put up. I had worked super hard, put in lots of hours and it stunk. I missed a deadline.
I put away my computer and wondered how I was going to fix it. Hauled my body into the shower and prayed that God would help me see and help me write something decent.
He whispered into my soul.
You missed Jesus.
I'd read one of the most beautifully written books about Jesus and I'd focused on all the other people. I completely skipped the power and grace and love and hope. I'd focused on fear and anger and confusion. I'd looked at other people, at powerful people, at lost people, at broken people and even at some joyfully found people. But I'd skipped Jesus. No wonder it stunk.
The book of John is the most poetic of the four gospels. It's a powerful book. The language is deep and memorable. John also contains stories not mentioned in the other three gospels. More pictures of Jesus. More love.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
The Word becomes flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Somehow I had blown right by these life giving words and searched instead for people. Sigh. I may do this all the time. Pray for help and then look around to see the people who can fill my need while Jesus is waiting for me to accept his gift. Or I watch people to see if what I did was worthwhile. If I should continue. When who I should be looking at is Jesus.
I do it with the Bible too. And Jesus knows I do.
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40
Sometimes I work and hustle and get my big long lists done because I think that's the important work before me. But Jesus really wants the focus to be him.
Jesus answered, The work of God is this; to believe in the one he has sent. John 6:29
He can meet my needs. Yours too.
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35
He can light my path. Yours too.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12
He doesn't want me to worry about the future. You either.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Really. Just remain in him. The rest falls away.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Trouble will come. Of course it will. But he'll be there.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Last week I was chatting with my eldest. I told her I was having a really hard time summing up John. My eleven year old had some advice 'Just tell them what you really think mom'.
I think I'm convicted.
I think I care too much about other people's opinions. I watch other people's responses too often. I think this week my post stunk because I was looking at people and my eyes were off Jesus. I'm just like the crowd who cared more about human praise than what God thinks. Sometimes I'm more like the people who were scared their lives would change so they choose not to follow. I think I read the book about my savior and my eyes were on other people. I think I need to change. I think I better watch Jesus, follow Jesus, love like Jesus.
And about what I write? What do I think? Please. Please. Don't read these words and think you heard from Jesus. I'm a mess. But you can hear his words for yourself. Read John. Just make sure you look for Jesus.
John 3:16 is probably the most well know verse in the entire Bible. I love Max Lucado's book all about this verse.
Need a song today? Here's a good one to settle in with while you read the book of John.
I love John. So much love. The guys at The Bible Project think so too. Check out their Read Scripture YouTube. I seriously have to go meet this team. They are in Portland, Oregon you know?!
This is the fourth gospel. Why do we need one more? I thought it was interesting to compare the four infographics from New Spring Church. Geek out! Look at charts. If you really want to get to know Jesus better spend some time in the book of John. New Spring has a devotional series newspring.cc/studies/john-21-day-guideHERE you can use.
That's the Book: Luke
If you have kids my bet is you've seen Finding Nemo. More than once. Who am I kidding? You probably have it memorized. So you already know the movie is about Nemo, a fish, who gets lost. He spends the whole movie trying to get home. His dad spends the whole movie trying to find them. The movie documents their story.
The book of Luke is the third gospel or story of Jesus. This one was written by a doctor named Luke. He investigated the reports of Jesus and compiled his notes, interviews .songs and information into one text. His stated goal was to help people find Jesus. This is the most detailed of the four accounts and provides extra insight into the people, miracles, wonder and events around Jesus. If you are searching for Jesus let me recommend you start with Luke.
With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1: 3-4
As I read Luke this time I thought about where we can find Jesus today. Here are some hints from my read through this week. You want to find Jesus?
Try church: There is a push right now in the Christian world to avoid church and find faith anywhere else. Can I recommend you go back? Church can be a primary place to feed your soul, to encourage other believers and to find out more about Jesus. Luke has a story about when Jesus' parents couldn't find him and Jesus seems shocked they didn't try the temple first. It's a good place to start and a good place to stay plugged in.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke2:49
Try prison: You want to find Jesus? Try the places where people are hurting. My guess is you'll find Jesus there. His ministry was all about helping the hurting. So if you want to find Jesus find someone hurting and try to make a difference. Or find a group of believers already pushing back on the dark in a hospital, homeless camp, jail, brothel or bar. You'll find Jesus.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19
Try the Lake: Yup. Jesus loved to be near his guys out fishing. Out boating. Walking through fields. Praying in gardens. He knew that nature portrayed the glory of God. Wanna find Jesus? Take a Bible and go for a walk.
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Luke 5:5-6
Look for kids: If you want to see the world like Jesus did then start to volunteer in your church's preschool department. Or borrow your friend's kids and hang out at the zoo. Play with play-dough. Ask them questions. Serve someone weaker and smaller than you. You'll learn about heaven.
Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” Luke 9:48
The book of Luke is full of stories of Jesus interacting with and around his world. You'll find him arguing for outcasts. Standing for truth. Welcoming strangers.
Here is the great hope found in the book of Luke. If you seek him- you'll find him.
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10
Want to know the better truth? He came to find YOU!
You know in Nemo he was surprised his dad was looking for him. Dad was out the whole time searching for Nemo. Just so he could tell him "Come home kiddo". Do you ever feel like you are searching for God and he's hiding? He's not. He left all the glory of heaven just to come and find you. Read Chapter 15 of Luke if you need a refresher. God's crazy about you and he went to great lengths to find you.
One of the stories in Chapter 15 is of the Prodigal Son? Here's the 2 second version. Rich dad has two sons. Older son does what he's supposed to his whole life. Follows the rules. Younger son takes his inheritance and runs away. Breaks all the rules. Ruins his life. Repents and heads home. Dad throws a party to celebrate because his son has returned. Older son pouts.
I think most people don't notice what happens next. We stop there. We talk about how God welcomes home the wandering messed up sinful son. And he most certainly does. But what happens next makes this church girl so happy. The one who was lost was welcomed home with open great arms to a great party. The elder one was pouting, bad attitude, missing the party. And then.
Dad went to find him too.
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. Luke 15:28
"My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." Luke 15:31-32
See? God wants everyone at the party. He wants those lost in the world to come home. AND He wants those lost in judgment and apathy and fear in the church to come to the party. Salvation is for everyone.
You know what's fun about Finding Nemo? It came with a sequel. There was a next step. Same with Luke. Once you find your way home to the father - you are commissioned to the world to find others. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people." Luke 5:10
Wowsa. So much info in the book of Luke. If you have time and want a great sum up check out The Bible Project's Read Scripture series. Here are the two they did for the book of Luke.
Infographic?? Here you go!! And check out New Spring Church and their 24 day devotional to go along with the book of Luke. newspring.cc/studies/luke-a-24-day-devotionalREAD HERE. It's a good one.
THAT'S THE BOOK: MARK
My daughters are both taking piano lessons. One of the weekly assignments this year is to listen to a classical piece of music and then write down a personal response. The little one is supposed to write what it makes her feel. Tonight we decided to start with Beethoven's Fifth. Everyone has heard of Beethoven's Fifth but I wondered if they'd ever actually heard it. As the familiar opening Ba Ba Ba Boom played I watched my girls' faces. I listened with fresh ears. Its a very different thing to know of a work of art and to actually take the time to listen to it for yourself.
The book of Mark is the shortest of the four accounts of Jesus' life. Like Beethoven's Fifth, it is packed with action, movement, and big emotions. The book focuses on the power of Jesus and how his life overturned the status quo. As I read through Mark this last week I was thinking about how many people know of Jesus but have never read the book. In pop culture, Jesus is frequently portrayed as meek and mild. Or boring. This is not the Jesus found in Mark.
The beauty of the book of Mark is it calls readers to get to know the whole Jesus. Not just a flat substitute. As I read this week I tried to compare what I think about Jesus with what the story actually told. Here are the things I wrestled with. If you read Mark this week let me know what you think. Where were your preconceived thoughts of Jesus challenged?
If my faith doesn't include the teachings of Jesus which call us to care for the broken hearted, to rescue the lost, to welcome the stranger or to host a dinner party for the most difficult people in your neighborhood than I think I may be following only half of his legacy. A gospel without compassion makes a mockery of Jesus' teachings.
"On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
On the flip side, Mark makes it clear Jesus cared about people's behavior and frequently called people to leave their former lifestyles behind them. So while current culture wants my faith to be ONLY about serving the broken while ignoring personal integrity or repentance from sins, I think that's missing half the story. If the church preaches a gospel without repentance it is editing the work of Jesus.
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23
Can I be honest? Sometimes I cringe when I hear mention of end times. It's confusing and can be embarrassing. But then I am disregarding a major sermon topic from Jesus. The entire chapter 13 of Mark is all Jesus' prophecies about the end of the world. And Jesus says the sermon is for everyone. When the church ignores sections of Jesus' teaching because its uncomfortable its like telling God we know better.
"What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13: 37
Honestly we all have our favorite verses and can spin the word to support our particular cause. Me too. Reading Mark is convicting. If I want to know the real Jesus I have to read the whole story and recognize that choosing to follow him may actually undermine my status quo. My power structure. My habits. My preferences. At one point in Mark he does enough miracles in an area that the people become scared and ask Jesus to leave. I understand. It can be scary to follow.
BUT. When people left behind their former lives to follow Jesus they were witness to the miraculous.
The real Jesus was incredible and powerful and joyful - he was a man of deep distress, of sorrow to the point of death, of compassion and courage, of miracles and wonder. Jesus was constantly on the move, teaching, preaching, and healing. He expressed a wide range of emotions including anger, compassion, sorrow, indignation and humor. He taught, healed, walked on water, called a storm with a word. He was tempted by the devil, attended to by angels. He was anointed by a prostitute, had dinner with sinners, gave orders, helped children, prayed, taught. cleared out the temple and rose from the dead. Not mild or boring.
Perhaps my favorite story in Mark is this one.
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
I love this. Cheer up. On your feet! He's calling you. If you follow, count on adventure.
When I asked my littlest one what Beethoven's Fifth made her feel she said 'What if it made me feel angry, sad and happy?" Well my love. I'd say that's how life works. Rarely are things experienced on one flat plane. It was gorgeous though, Same with Christianity. Scary, uncomfortable, challenging, exciting and beautiful. But I believe its true. The whole thing. Want a faith checkup? Read the book of Mark with fresh eyes.
Another gospel? Same story? Nope. The guys at the Bible Project show in this Read Scripture video why the book of Mark is important and distinct. Watch and learn.
You have no time? Want the big picture. Here you go - courtesy of New Spring Church.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
Sign up to receive Mindy's Quirk-E-Mails