That's the Book: Jude
In the 1980's it was awesome in Florida to purchase large Burmese pythons. Apparently the other drug dealers were not only impressed by white suit jackets with teal t-shirts but they also liked the idea of pets that could kill you. However, drug dealers don't have the best instincts when it comes to caring for living creatures so they frequently got bored and released their pets into the wild. In Florida the nearest wild is The Everglades. Fast forward almost 40 years and the pythons have taken over.
The python population in the Everglades is estimated to be at least 10,000 and could be as high as several hundred thousand. No one knows. In addition, "Scientists say that the snakes are responsible for a recent 90 to 99 percent drop in the small mammal population in the national park." (see citation link at the bottom of this post - seriously - read the whole article. It freaked me out). There are almost no rabbits, deer, raccoons or wild birds. The pythons have started taking on the alligators. Nasty.
The book of Jude was written by one of Jesus' brothers. He, like James, was not a follower of his family member until after he had witnessed the resurrection. But then Jude spent the rest of his life spreading the word about Jesus and serving the early church. The book of Jude is a one chapter warning to the church not to let false teachers into their midst. Because like the pythons in the Everglades, they have the tendency to kill, maim and destroy.
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 1:3-4
The group of scientists tasked with attempting to control the python population in the Everglades state that finding the snakes is difficult. But possible if you know and track their behavior. Same thing is true with people who do not have God's truth as their goal.
These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. Jude 1:16
This verse makes me want to filter my Instagram feed through this perspective. Who am I following who grumbles all the time? Who finds fault? Who boasts or flatters for their own advantage? And a scarier question is do my social media posts reflect this or God's grace? Are my conversations with others patterned after Jesus or a snake?
The way to stay true is spelled out in Jude.
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21
The quote from the python hunting scientist which really sunk in was this; "If nothing were done about these pythons, they could eventually convert our entire wildlife biomass into one giant snake".
And this is also why Jude wrote his letter to the church. If nothing was to be done about the lies influencing the early believes they could have been swayed from the truth by that original snake in the garden. Grumbling, pride, and lies are still today some of his favorite tactics. And like then, if nothing is done to remind the church to hold the line and stay with the truth outlined in scripture we could all turn into one giant lying snake.
But there is good news. Something was done about our invasion. Christ came. He lived a perfect life. Died for our sin and rose from the dead. And this something resets the environment we live in. Because of His life we have the power to overcome. Jude knew it. If you need encouraged today - read this verse out loud. Print it out. Post it on your fridge. Take a photo and make it your phone background screen. He is able to keep you from stumbling. Glory to Him.
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 1:24-25
Take that snakes, liars, drug dealers, grumblers and prideful boasters. I know who wins.
Unless you are very familiar with the Old Testament and other Jewish historical texts; the book of Jude can be confusing. I really appreciated The Bible Project's overview as they went step by step through each section. This will help you unpack the important book and understand all the references.
Jackie Hill Perry is a poet, prophet and preacher. I love this woman's teaching. She just launched a full study of the book of Jude. I'd recommend you check it out.
And the link if you want to purchase Jackie Hill-Perry's new study on Jude.
Crazy interesting article about the Pythons in the Everglades. READ HERE. And if you want more go to YouTube and look up Python vs. Alligator. You'll see how I spent my Saturday morning. FREAKY.
That's the Book: 3rd John
When I was about 12 my family took a vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. My parents had been there previously and had befriended a family who lived nearby. So we were thrilled this trip to have personal tour guides and help with translating Spanish. Kind friends always make things more fun. We got to go horse back riding out in the jungle, take a ride across the bay and then climb up to a gorgeous waterfall and generally see some sights not on the normal tourist itinerary. Our friends owned an apartment in Guadalajara so their children could attend college and they invited us to stay there with them over the weekend. One epic night we rode through the old town in a horse drawn carriage and they hired a mariachi band to serenade us all during dinner. Such good hosts!
This kind of cheer reminds me of the joy with which John writes to his friends in the book of 3rd John. This one chapter book is the third in a series of books to encourage and challenge his friends. John's main points this book where to cheer joyfully on their faith and to encourage them to practice hospitality for follow believers.
It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John: 2-3
Our trip to Mexica was fantastic. And then near the end of our time there, my family all got sick. Barfing, way too much time in the bathroom, thought we were gonna die Montezuma's revenge kind of sick. And this is when our hostess really kicked in.
I'll never forget the care of this sweet mama. She welcomed us into her home, made us the most lovely tea, went to the local pharmacy for electorolite drinks so we would not become dehydrated and generally comforted this lot of pitiful travelers. We felt better. Not so much in our bodies - that took a few days - but we immediately felt better in our souls.
This is what good hospitality does. It makes you feel welcome, included, comforted and known. This mama made me feel better 30 years ago and I still am grateful.
John was a traveling pastor - as were many of those believers in the early church. And the local people who gave them room and board made all the difference. So John spends the rest of this chapter reminding them to show hospitality - and to call out those who don't.
We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth. I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. 3 John 1:8-10
Over my life I've had other times when friends and believers made me feel welcome. When a meal made all the difference between hope and despair. When I wasn't sure how to continue and someone had a cup of coffee, made me laugh and encouraged me forward.
Some people are intimidated by hospitality. They get caught up in a cycle of comparison, self doubt and shame. My guess is this is partly fueled by too many instagram posts of perfect dinners and the predictable Pinterest fail.
Listen. Hospitality doesn't have to be fancy. My friend in Mexico gave us hugs, looked us in the eye, made us a cup of tea. She didn't need fancy to show love. And neither do we. This is work we can all do. And its joy giving.
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. 3 John 1:11
A neighbor was sharing with me a story from when they lived in Oklahoma. We had got onto the subject of tornadoes and the odd things they do.
A family had just sat down to dinner one stormy evening when the tornado watch alarm sounded. Being in Oklahoma, they had a storm cellar that they could immediately retreat to safety.
The tornado ended up hitting their home spot-on! Unharmed, the family eventually emerged from their storm cellar to find that their home had been completely demolished. They soon, discovered, however, that their dinner table had somehow remained untouched. Everything, including the food, was in perfect order still awaiting for them to resume their evening meal.
How fantastic is that!? I have heard of tornadoes doing strange things, but this one floored me the most.
There are days when we see the tornadoes of evil that seem to be swirling in our world more viciously than ever. These things we are witnessing can sometimes feel like an unbearable weight on our spirit.
My husband sent me a cute Peanuts meme of Pigpen stating, “Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of Christ.”
Do you know what else spins? The spin cycle of our washing machines. And what is it’s purpose? To pull out all the final impurities that the rinse cycle has brought out of our clothes.
The spinning tornadoes we face in life can do the same in us if we look to God to see us through. He can use them to pull out the impurities in us so we can shine more each day in the midst of the grey stormy clouds.
God is our “storm cellar”. With faith, we have to believe that He has us fully covered and safe in the midst of the worst of evil’s tornadoes that seem to beat mercilessly. When the tornadoes end, because eventually they do end, we will rise above it all, shining and pure and “ we shall see Him, face-to-face”. (I Corinthians 13:12).
He will be glowing brighter than the sun and He will have a banquet table set perfectly for us and we will celebrate the final end of all storms!
That's the Book - 2nd John
It was the resident chef's birthday yesterday so I took the day off work and we went on a little adventure. We had lunch at Skamania Lodge. We've both been on diets so eating something of substance with this fantastic view was lovely. I had blackened salmon tacos. Dessert was a huckleberry bread pudding. Sigh. We really enjoy good food. Tis why we are currently on diet.
After the lunch we hustled over to our appointment with the Skamania Lodge Adventure team and spent a couple hours zip lining. The longest zip line was 950 feet long - over three football fields worth of trees and wind and fun.
Our guide pointed out a massive old growth Doug Fir in the middle of their forest. He said the reason it hadn't been cut when the rest of the area had been logged was because it had been hit by lightening. The bad event in this tree's history had saved its life. Interesting idea to ponder.
But even cooler was the fact that this tree had split at the top because of the lightening and over the years seeds had fallen into the split and spouted two new trees. Up in the top of this gorgeous senior tree there are two sisters reaching high. And one of them isn't even a Doug Fir. Its is a Spruce. I love this.
Check out the funky branches half way up. They aren't branches. They are roots. Spread out to capture more rain to feed the host tree and the two grafted offspring trees.
Which brings me to the book of Second John. Its short. One chapter long. John is writing to his fledgling churches. John had seen hardship over his life. Lots of it. But his continuing message to those who followed behind is to keep on. The message didn't change.
It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his command. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1: 4-6
This big birthday adventure was full of the same kind of joy I've been sharing with this man for over 25 years. A little adventure, some good food, some pretty spectacular roots. We've had some rough patches - a little lightening here and there - but our goal is the same as the one John had. To support our family (those born to us and those grafted in) and to continue to walk in love.
I echo John. And this incredible tree. Weather the storms. Spread out your roots. Make room for others. Walk in love.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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