I have an aversion to clean slates and starting over. Those things have their appeal and their place as well, but as a practice or rhythm for life they don’t work very well. Especially where humans are involved.
Rachel Joy Welcher wrote, in her poem, Tangled, “When will you realize, oh my soul… That is is not within your power/to untangle joy from pain?”
There are no real clean-slates in relationships. Where we’ve wounded one another, we cannot simple wipe the person and the wounds they’ve caused from our lives and move on as though those pains, those people, never existed. Even where we must end the relationship, the wounds that heal leave scars.
I am having a hard time putting words to what that quote from George Herbert stirred in me. Maybe it’s because it tugged at my soul like the question in Welcher’s poem. Maybe it’s because though I realize I have to take the joy with the pain, I still crave things not being so tangled up.
Sometimes I think I get stuck because I see both the black and the white of it. And there is a lot of grey. A lot. I can’t clear-cut the wrongs from my husband or sons’ lives like they do in the Douglas Fir forested hills of southwest Oregon. Heck, I can’t parse out my own wrongs from my life without digging myself into a deeper hole. But although the lament comes with the love, the joy with the pain, there are some clear lines to be drawn and clear ends to relationships that need to take place. There is a time, as Mary Oliver put it, for a clear and announced, “Yes! No!” There are boundaries we should not move or remove. But here in the already-not yet, our walls are overgrown with thorny Bougainvillea. Our relationships are a bittersweet drink of joy and pain.
As a Christian, I see my life, and all of life, more and more as a garden to be planted right where I am. With the dangers and delight that are sure to come. Rather than a slate or a white board to be wiped clean. There will be weeds and thorns even after I clear a patch of heart. There will be droughts I have not control over and floods that will drown what I’m trying to grow. There will be lessons to be learned about climate and shade and the need for light, especially on the things that want to hide in the dark.
I will plant myself right here with these people and thank God he hasn’t left me. He’ll tend to my heart. And I will lament and love.
Teaching kids about Jesus presents many opportunities to remember the love that changes us.
Yesterday I was the teacher to a group of kinder through 5th graders. The kids sat at their places around the tables, red construction paper hearts and crayons in front of them and one of the older kids read aloud our Bible verse for the day.
“Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.”
James 2:8 CSB
When the child returned to his seat he found that the child next to him had scribbled black crayon all over his red paper heart. The child Bible reader, now red-faced with anger, picked up a crayon and scribbled all over the red paper heart laying in front of the child offender who had ruined his paper heart. The two boys, now red faced, eyes spilling over with tears, were ready to lay down their darkened paper hearts and take up fists with each other.
The boys were separated, the class called to attention again, and with the demonstration of messing up each others’ hearts before us, we dove into the question from our Bible reading: How in the world do you love your neighbor as yourself?
I can go to church, read my bible quietly with a cup of coffee in the morning, put my ear buds in and listen to my favorite writers spell out hope in Christ from their stories and songs, and feel like I’m doing pretty good. Then people walk in my room, pick up my one fragile heart and start scratching it black with their selfish words, or cold manner, or inconsiderate acts. And then, I don’t feel so much good.
I’ll never be able to think of being a Christian as something I’m proud of or good at as long as being a Christian means loving my heart-wrenching neighbor as I love myself.
By the end of our class yesterday all the kids came to the conclusion that we don’t love very well. Not like Jesus did. We decided we need Jesus to help us. And we need to ask for forgiveness a lot.
And this is how I know Christ has hold of me. I see how he loves. I see how he turns my heart towards others with a desire to give what I have no power in myself to give. I see the brokenness in those around me, and I feel the self-protective snatching of my heart away from potential scribblers, and I say, “Lord, it’s too much! Send them away!” And I hear Jesus say, “No. Give yourself to them.” And I watch as he takes my meager offerings of a listening ear, a choice to be quiet, or speak up, or get low or stand up and makes them enough to communicate love.
At the end of our class the older boy went to the younger boy of his own accord, looked him in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry.” The boys hugged each other and played.
Jesus can make you want to make it right with the person whose heart you marred in revenge and hug the person who turned your tidy heart into a scribbled-up mess.
Fear can strangle you. Lies can put you in real danger. Truth can be a hurricane sweeping through and flattening everything you’ve worked to build. And you can be so overcome with the shadow of death that you stop bagging your tomatoes in the produce section and grind your teeth angry, determined to cut off whoever you must to get back some good, normal, happy life.
And what’s the point anyway?
Why the long days of bending low and praying hard and training the vine to grow the right way, if it’s all gonna just get ripped up at the roots and tossed in the gutter? What are we trying to love these people in our four walls for anyway? Is it a waste?
If the ones we love take our arms-open-wide efforts to be patient and kind, to point them to the truth and hold up life-giving boundaries and look us right in the eye and stab us right in the heart without a blink, was it all for nothing?
Maybe the old saying is true- If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! But how do you join in destroying the good? How could that possibly be an alternative?
There are no sentences to write in response to these lamenting questions. Just silence. Just sitting with Job in the ashes and pain in silence. Just waiting. Just three dark days of waiting for the stone to be rolled away.
I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of God’s wrath.
He has driven me away and forced me to walk
in darkness instead of light.
Yes, he repeatedly turns his hand
against me all day long...
Yet I call this to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
I say, “The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the person who seeks him.
It is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is still young.
Let him sit alone and be silent,
for God has disciplined him.
Let him put his mouth in the dust—
perhaps there is still hope.
Let him offer his cheek
to the one who would strike him;
let him be filled with disgrace.
For the Lord
will not reject us forever.
Even if he causes suffering,
he will show compassion
according to the abundance of his faithful love.
For he does not enjoy bringing affliction
or suffering on mankind.
- Lamentations 3:1-3, 21-33
I listened to Ashley Hales podcast, Finding Holy, the other day. Tish Warren Harrison, the guest, shared her desire to help the Church find a way, “…between capitulation and combativeness,” in relating to those who see the world differently than they do.
I’m always drawn to discussions about how Christians should relate to those whose worldview is different. Not because I’m trying finally find the right answer, but because that is my life. My husband is not a Christian. As he puts, we have different loves, “You worship Jesus and I don’t.” Those are his words.
My worship of Jesus and my husband’s resistance to worship has been a source of pain between us for 28 years. And like Tish discussed on the podcast, I’ve swung between capitulation and combativeness, or in my case, capitulation and comatoseness, in our 28 years together. I’m an enneagram 9. So I don’t tend toward combativeness. In fact I’d rather go numb than combat anyone, over just about anything except my kids. Come for my kids, and I’ll turn Rambo on you. But I digress. What Tish said caught my attention because I have experienced the hand of God continually guiding me to walk the path of vulnerable and fearless love on the solid ground between joining my husband’s unbelief and fighting against it, or in my case, going numb to it.
There is a way to love between capitulation and combativeness…or comatoseness.
The temptation to surrender to unbelief, to give up on being involved in church, reading my Bible, praying, singing songs of worship, giving generously, serving others and teaching my children about Jesus is always there. I don’t even need my husband’s unbelief to be tempted to give up on those things. My own self-centered desires beckon me to take up the life Christ has called me to lay down. As though I would be a better god than He.
The other option would be to fight against my husband’s unbelief, berating him with Bible verses, well-thought out arguments, pointing out all his moral failings. Or in my case, saying nothing. Withdrawing. Going into doormat mode. I am guilty of both. The temptation to check-out whispers, “It doesn’t matter what you say. You might as well disappear. Nothing you say or do is going to change anything.”
Jesus has been pulling me out of the ditches on either side of loving my husband well for 28 years. And he’s kept my husband’s heart turned towards his family, despite all the siren songs that have tried to shipwreck our life. When I find myself veering towards one ditch or the other, I’m helped by being honest about my own brokenness, being vulnerable- willing to bear the pain that comes with speaking the truth, and by taking a posture of service.
Don’t get me wrong here. I fail at those three practices all the time. Like I said, Jesus has been pulling me out of the ditch on either side of this trail following him in learning to love well. But I am learning.
One of the things I’m learning is a key to fostering healthy relationships with others, whether they share your faith or not, is acknowledging that we both have brokenness. Part of learning to love another well is facing your own problems and lack of faith. I can’t easily turn towards combativeness or comatoseness with my husband if I acknowledge that I too struggle with lust for power, self-centeredness, and pride.
When the differences between what guides my decisions and desires and what guides my husband’s seem to pit us against each other, being willing to be vulnerable, to speak the truth in love, even if it’s not received, puts a cruciform posture in my part of the relationship. That posture speaks Christ. It’s says, “This is wrong. And I love you. I’m not going to abandon you even though dealing with this hurts.” To be willing to suffer the pain of addressing the problems we have with each other and not abandon the relationship simply because we don’t agree is a Christlike posture that deals in a currency of compassion rather than combativeness or comatoseness.
When I think about what I believe-that the Jesus of the Bible is God in the flesh, come to live a fully human life and take the form of a servant. Touching the untouchables. Reasoning with the proud and argumentative. Healing the sick. Delivering the demonized. Teaching the stubborn. Washing the feet of those who would abandon him. When I think about this Jesus, I can’t take a posture of proud distain of even the most corrupt combatant who disagrees with me. Much less my own husband or neighbors, coworkers or friends who don’t see eye to eye with me. Jesus compels me to take a posture of serving these. How can I help you get what you need? What can I do to bring joy or blessing to you? What can I say that would encourage you? These are the questions Jesus brings to these sometimes awkward and strained relationships
This man I love, I wish he would embrace the Jesus of the Bible as his savior and God and follow him with me. I wish that for my family, friends and neighbors and those who think I’m nuts.
But if they never do, it will not be a waste of my life to let Jesus spend my life teaching me to love them well.
On May 27th, the New York Times published the 100,000 names of people who died from Coronavirus. If you scroll down the screen of the online piece, you’ll see the images of humans scattered sparsley at first, then densly as time moves forward. Next to many of these human icons you’ll read the name, age and something specific about that person- their occupation, hobby or passion. The response intended from such a piece is sobriety and grief. Maybe if you read the names you’ll stop living with this intoxicated view that everything is fine. Maybe you’ll even feel sad that so many have lost their lives to this disease. When I first read the article I remember feeling sober and sad. But I also had questions. What would we do if we knew the 100,000? What if we knew the wrong they’ve done? Would we honor them like Jesus honors the undeserving? Would we do the vulnerable work of discipleship?
In my work as a nurse, and before that as a nurse’s aide, I’ve cared for people whose family members disowned them. Some had been abusive. Some were addicts. Some had abandoned their children. I’m sure my patients over the years have done many grievous things. My tending to their needs in times of illness, debility or injury is not dictated by how these people lived their lives. Yes it is my job, but also, I believe my work exemplifies the way God made us to live- to love and serve one another. Even when we know the evil the other has done. As a nurse, this way of loving isn’t passive or sugar-coated. It requires the broken to do things that hurt so they can get better, and at times it compels me to ask patients facing their mortality what their hope is.
Today, I read a heartbreaking story from David French about his friend and former client, Mike Adams. Mr. French’s eulogy is titled: A Eulogy for a Friend, a Lament for our Nation. America today—broken people, breaking each other. I was disturbed, convicted and saddened by what I read. Mr. French’s friend had said provocative things. And people sought his ruin in response. I don’t know if someone loved Mr. Adams enough to get close and express concern about things he said. As a people with screens in our faces, we don’t get face to face with others, see their sins and deal with them in an effort to bring wholeness. We do what Mr. French said. We break each other.
Undoubtedly there were many Mike Adams among the hundreds of thousands who’ve died of Covid-19. When the masses die we, as a culture, lament. But when among the masses one is exposed for some evil thing he or she said or did, we crush them. Jesus is not like this. And his people should not be like this either.
There is a distinct difference between our tendency to swoon over people and then destroy those same people on social media from a safe distance, and Jesus. Jesus doesn’t swoon, he knows what’s in people. He knows the evil that lurks in us all. But that knowing doesn’t lead him to destroy. Jesus, knowing what’s in us, deals with us, on a personal level. He lowers himself. He serves, even his betrayers, washing their feet (see John 13). We don’t naturally do this. The virtue of vulnerable love that exposes wickedness and offers redemption and reconciliation, is distinctly Christlike.
I expect humans to devour each other. But as Christians, vulnerable love should distinguish us from the rest of humanity. We should display a tangible foreignness in how we engage people, whether we know the wrong they’ve done or not. Not that we won’t be guilty of swooning and stabbing people, we will. I have. But we should be a people turning from idolizing and impaling others with our words. Increasingly, we should be a people noted for honoring and serving others, not because they’re good, but because Christ is good.
We have been sacrificially and scandalously served and loved by the God who knew our wickedness before we performed it. Therefore, as Christians, we should exhibit a kind of sobriety about humanity that knows the evil we’re all capable of. And with that sobriety we should bravely engage our fellow man with an other-wordly love.
There are a lot of shoulds in this blog. I don’t like shoulds. I want to be motivated by love, not rules. But just like a good parent, there is a need to remind a child what he should be doing, because we love him. I am as guilty as any of looking at the masses with sentimentality or with slander on my tongue. All these shoulds are aimed at me first. It’s hard to love like Jesus. It’s vulnerable. But it’s what I’m called to do. And it is love, that motivates me to do it.
The masses are dying around us, but get close Christian, close enough to love your enemy with your hands, like Jesus did with Judas. Get close enough to have a gracious conversation over coffee with your neighbor about what you heard your him say, like Jesus did with the woman at the well. Get low with the marginalized and despised, like Jesus did with lepers and tax collectors and prostitutes. Don’t engage others this way because they’re kind or good. But because the Spirit of the Lord Jesus is upon us and he is immeasurably kind and good.
I hit an emotional low this week. Last week I crashed from the adrenaline of responding to this pandemic in my church, community, family and hospital. This week I’ve cried. A lot.
The normal low-level fatigue I live with has become high-level. The irritability that signifies my depression has been showing. Hot tears have been spilling over my eyes and fiery darts of faithless thoughts have stung my swirling mind. I’ve found myself very tempted to hide in a batch of devoured hot brownies. I’ve vacillated between wanting to hide from every day’s grim new statistics of the spread of this virus and the death and destruction it’s brought, to busying myself with organizing my week, writing lists, setting goals and calling on people I care for.
And it hit me today. This is Holy Week. This is a special week of reflection and remembrance. And I’ve been missing it. I’m like the crowds around Jesus when he entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. But today, Jesus got my attention.
My sister called me today and reminded me how God saved her. In her words, “You didn’t give up on me sis. When I was mean, you kept calling, visiting, sending cards and notes. You never gave up. You listened to me. You made me see that Jesus is real, not just a religious idea.” Her words shook me awake.
I believe that the Jesus who entered Jerusalem a couple thousand years ago, setting in motion a series of events that would lead to his crucifixion on Friday and his resurrection on Sunday, is alive. And lives in me. I believe he suffered this week those millennia ago so that I could experience the freedom of the glory that only the children of God experience (Romans 8:20).
This week the world is suffering. She groans. I groan. But as the world writhes under the pain of a pandemic this Holy Week, God’s children look to Jesus, our older brother, gone before to save us. We share this week with Jesus. We are in him and he is in us. He is redeeming our suffering. And we are sharing in his glory. It’s a beautiful wonder the world longs to see. And it’s a reality the children of God have been commissioned to invite them into.
This week my pastor called his congregation to pray for and specifically tell another person what Jesus has done for them. To be honest, intentionally setting out to tell my friend what Jesus has done for me via phone call or text or video (because doing it face to face isn’t safe) and inviting her to follow Jesus with me feels a little crazy. It feels a little bit like I might look foolish. I might be misunderstood. I might be mocked. I might be rejected. I might be… cut off. Like Jesus was, for me.
Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to me. And He’s the best thing that could every happen to any of my friends. And if I love them like Jesus loves me, I’ll look all those possibilities in the eye, and like Jesus I’ll set my face determined to go there.
There is no greater love than one would lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). And there is no greater way to lay down my life for my friends than to give up whatever might happen to me if I determine to intentionally and faithfully love them well and invite them to follow Jesus with me.
I pray that like Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem this week, determined and knowing what he had to do to reconcile me with God, I will set my face toward someone else, determined to lay my life down that they could experience the freedom and glory of Jesus.
I’m not a COVID-19 expert. But I have some thoughts as a nurse and a Christian about what should be driving our decisions during this pandemic.
I work as a nurse case manager in a local hospital in Sun City. I also serve on staff with my church as a kids ministry director. I am also an enneagram type nine. If you know anything about my personality type, you know these current circumstances can drive a person like me to stay in PJ’s all day and take lots of naps, avoiding news and decisions. Thankfully I serve as an essential worker and am teamed up with a wise church staff that doesn’t allow me to hide my head in a pillow while the world suffers.
Scary realities have to be faced. Less than ideal circumstances have to be accepted. Hard decisions have to be made.
As the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Arizona has become more alarming, I’ve had friends, team members and coworkers ask me for advice about various decisions they need to make. I don’t have any specific do’s or don’ts that aren’t already recommended by the experts. But I do have a couple principals I believe should guide our decisions during this time.
Check your motives
There are things that need to be done that will come with risk. And there are things that don’t need to be done that will lead to loss. Evaluating what must be done and what we must accept as loss requires us to examine our motives.
As a Christian, I am compelled to love my neighbor as myself. I believe that Christ is risen and will raise me from the dead. I don’t have to fear. But I also must not test God or be foolish. Loving my neighbor right now may mean staying home. It also may mean taking the risk to enter another’s home or letting them enter mine because of the necessity of the need.
As a nurse, I can’t stay home. I must do all that I can to prevent the spread of this virus and still go to work. Entering my hospital puts me at risk, but as one coworker said, this is our time. I go to work not because the risk is low but because the well-being of my community depends on me showing up.
When trials like this come in our lives, it proves who we really are. The decisions we make during this pandemic will expose the ethic that underlies our choices. If fear is motivating you, you may hoard supplies, or refuse to go to work when you’re an essential worker. But love may also be why you’ve purchased large quantities of toilet paper or water. Maybe love motivates you to supply the needs of your neighbors who aren’t able to go to the store.
In a letter written by Martin Luther to a friend during the bubonic plague, Luther sums up the motivation that should drive Christians in times like these:
In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also. If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames. If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help. If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can. If there are others to do it, I am released. If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so. A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor. He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss. No neighbor can live alongside another without risk to his safety, property, wife, or child. He must run the risk that fire or some other accident will start in the neighbor’s house and destroy him bodily or deprive him of his goods, wife, children, and all he has. –Martin Luther 1527 , Whether One May Flee From Deadly Plague from the Davenant Institute
Listen to experts
Friends have asked me questions like, “Is it OK to send a package if I have chronic respiratory issues?” And, “Is it OK to send cards and letters to those alone in hospitals and nursing homes?” And, “Is a drive-by caravan safe?” My answers mostly take us to what the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other local health experts say.
The agencies and people responsible for disseminating information about a pandemic like this may not have all the answers, but what they have is the best we have.
This week I overheard a friend opining that this pandemic is a conspiracy. With so much information coming out of the media, we are all watching and listening to even more opinions and voices than usual. It’s hard to know what to believe and who to believe. But as my pastor has pointed out, it is folly to fill in gaps of information with skepticism.
With this pandemic our norms are changing daily. What was OK to do last week is not OK this week. When it comes to gaps of information about what to do and not to do, we must trust that what the experts are telling us is the best thing we can do. And when it changes or we don’t understand, let’s fill in the gaps with grace. This is a place where as a Christian I again feel compelled to trust my God is in control.
So, who are the experts? The World Health Organization, CDC, state and county health departments are the best source of information we have right now about Covid-19. We need to make decisions in accord with their advice, not our favorite news commentator or social media post.
Here are links to some credible authorities, and their answers to many of our questions:
I’ve been married for over 26 years to a man I deeply love, a man who doesn’t love Jesus with me. Through our hard marriage, God has helped me see the error of my ways and led me in better ways when it comes to loving my husband. This morning, one of the typical tests I’ve faced, and frequent mistake I make, came up. My husband was watching a YouTube video and said, “Hey, did you know a bunch of Christians believe the earth is flat?”
My first instinct was to roll my eyes and argue. I didn’t think before I spoke this morning, or even pray. I just started laying into how ridiculous it was that he was getting his information about Christians from YouTube. I tried to win an argument with him and then walked away exasperated, wondering if I’d ever get to experience the joy of worshiping Jesus with the man I’ve loved since I was 17.
Here’s a married-to-an-unbeliever life hack for you: When your unbelieving spouse wants to argue with you about unimportant or controversial issues, you may be tempted to try and win an argument. Don’t do it. Jesus shows us a better way.
This morning, while I was pouting in my bedroom after arguing with my husband about faith, science, Christianity and credible resources for information, Jesus’ words came to mind.
“…as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35
Getting ready for today’s Thanksgiving feast, asking God, “How long?!” for the seven billionth time, God’s word gently and powerfully reminded me there is a way to love unbelievers: The way Jesus loved me! In that passage in John, Jesus was about to suffer the condemnation of all my sin, and all his disciples’ sin in his own body, and he bent down and washed feet, even the feet of the one who would betray him. He didn’t love them by arguing with them about petty things. He loved them by serving them and bearing the pain of their sin in his body.
There is no magic argument that will win your unbelieving spouse, relative or friend to Jesus. There is no Petri dish of circumstances you can create that will grow faith in them. If your spouse or child or neighbor or friend or relative bends their knee to Christ and worships him it will be an absolute miracle. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. You and I should do what Jesus leads us to do and what the Bible tells us to do and then offer up our faith and obedience to God, praying he would light it on fire, and save our loved ones. We should follow Jesus example, and with his power at work in us, put down our arguments (even if we could win them), and instead just vulnerably love and serve the unbelievers we are in relationship with.
We must love our spouses well, and entrust them to God.
Today after confessing I’d been a jerk, I told my husband, ” I love you. I wish you believed Jesus and followed him with me. I don’t want to argue with you… What time do you want to eat our feast?!” It’s vulnerable and tender to speak the truth like that. But it’s the way Jesus loves.
Yesterday I received my copy of the winter edition of The Joyful Life Magazine: Treasure. In it, there is an article titled: Marriage: When the Yoke Is Unequal.I wrote it. Sometime in early 2020 the Daily Grace podcast will publish a podcast interview with me on this same subject. I never wanted to grow up and be a woman who wrote and spoke about my hard marriage. I wanted to be an author, or an archaeologist. I thought I’d write children’s books or poetry or dig up old things out of the dirt. I didn’t think I’d dig up treasures out of the ashes of my life and write or speak about them. But here I am, blogging, writing and speaking about my mistakes, what I’m learning and the treasures and trials I’ve found as I bend my knee to Jesus under this unequal yoke.
I hope these blogs, articles and the coming podcast will help you follow Jesus in your circumstances. I hope they’ll give you courage.
There is a way to study the Bible solely to be more knowledgeable, more academic, and in itself there’s nothing wrong with being more Bible literate and scholarly. But there’s a huge danger in studying the Bible to know it so well you can add letters to the end of your name. It’s the danger the men who studied the law in Jesus’ day fell into. But that danger did not lead Jesus and should not lead us to steer clear of studying the Bible. There are two practices that will keep you and I from falling into the mouth of pride when it comes to studying the Bible:
1) Look for Jesus
The Jesus Storybook Bible is for me one of the greatest works ever written on the Bible. Yes, it’s a children’s book, but pastors and teachers, Bible scholars and lay people studying the Bible should use it as sort of a danger-meter to see if their studying is leading them to fall off the cliff of pride. The tagline for Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book is, “Every story whispers his name.” But Sally Lloyd-Jones didn’t make up this good idea. Jesus did.
In Luke 24, after Jesus is raised from the dead, he joined a conversation two men were having while walking to a town called Emmaus. These men were disillusioned and dejected followers of Jesus. They witnessed the horrific death of the one they thought was the promised descendant of David who would lead Israel to victory over their enemies and bring peace to their land again. But Jesus broke into their conversation and said, ““O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27) These men knew their Bibles, but they missed Jesus. Jesus helped them see that the whole message of the scriptures they clung to was about him.
When you pick up your Bible you should study it. You should ask the text questions. What is this telling me about God? What is going on here in this text? What does this word mean? But in your examination of the scriptures don’t fail to ask the most important questions, “Where is Jesus in this? How is this pointing to Jesus? How is Jesus needed here?”
Jesus is God’s word (John 1:1-3). That book on your shelf or in your phone that says Holy Bible on it is just the manuscript that speaks about Jesus. Study the words and listen for Jesus.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. ” (Hebrews 1:1-3)
2) Study so you can love someone else like Jesus and deliver his message to them.
Paul, when instructing the early church said, “…knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (In context from 1 Corinthians 8:1-3).
We fear what we don’t know, and knowing things is good. It’s good to be educated, to gain knowledge, especially when it comes to God’s message to us, but we can’t avoid the pitfall of getting puffed up if we only seek knowledge and not love.
If you have the entire 66 books memorized and can quote famous theologians and understand difficult doctrines and can whip out the four spiritual laws like a citation for every person you meet but you don’t lower yourself to lead the next generation to Jesus, pour yourself out for those who can’t give back to you, and lay down your life for your spouse, your children, your neighbors, speaking the hope of the gospel into their lives and living the hope of the gospel with your own life, you’re just a loud, annoying Bible-egghead.
The practice of studying the Bible is listening for Jesus and the aim of studying the Bible is love. I study the Bible with a group of ladies who’s chief purpose is to pull out of the text a message we can feed to children about the hope of the good news of Jesus Christ. When we get together it’s a feast! We aren’t looking for clever insights that build our resume. We’re looking for life-giving truth we can digest and regurgitate for the kids we’re going to teach on Sunday. Like mamma birds, we aren’t gathering morsels for ourselves only, we’re gathering so we can feed our little ones.
Study your Bible. But be ware of the danger of pride. Keep yourself on the safe path by looking for Jesus and feeding what you find to someone else.
Growing up in Roseburg, Oregon in 1989, all the cool kids shopped at the Gap store in Eugene. It’s an hour drive. And on some weekends, when I got to go shopping with my friends we would all plan to shop at the Gap and eat at Cinnabon. The aroma of those heavy, buttery, sweet cinnamon rolls was intoxicating then, and it still is. There really is no comparison to Cinnabon for me. I’ve tasted and I’ve seen that Cinnabon is good and there is no other cinnamon roll that will do.
That level of craving, of tasting Cinnabons and wanting more does not compare to the taste of and craving for the goodness of Jesus. I know it feels like a drop off doesn’t it. We all know the intoxicating taste of hot, melting-with-butter-and-frosting cinnamon rolls, but Jesus? How do you taste and crave Jesus?
The Bible calls us to, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) The only way we can taste and see the goodness of the Lord is to be feeding on his word (1 Peter 2:2), joining our lives with his people (1 John 1:3), and praying fervently as we go (Psalm 69:13). And if I’m sensing my own condition and the state of many in my life correctly we’ve lost our appetite for tasting the goodness of the Lord Jesus this way.
There are times I need to push reset on my eating habbits. I need to eat clean so I can enjoy the goodnes of good things once again. When I’ve been indulging in junk food and fast food my body feels it, and I have a diminished desire for what’s actually good for me and want to eat more french fries. I’ve found my relationship with Christ to be similar. Sometimes I need to intentionally stop filling my mind with podcasts, music, my favorite movies, or busying myself with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and reading blogs or books, and fill the empty, uncomfortable space I find when I do that with God’s word and prayer. That’s the only way I can cleanse my spiritual pallete. It’s the only way I can grow my appetite and affections for Jesus.
Today in a leadership meeting at my church we talked about the need to return to our first love Jesus, to return to fervent and effective prayer, to remember the gospel and stir our affections for Jesus and all he’s done for us. It hit me that I have to repent often of not valuing what Jesus has done, and valuing something else in his place. The barrier keeping me from passionate love of God and others, fervent prayer and a worshipful heart is my constant and often unconscious tendency to think, “Yeah, Jesus is great, but I want ____________.” I’ve filled that blank with so many things over the years. They’ve all dulled my appetite for God’s word and the goodness of the Lord.
Do you have a craving for knowing Jesus more? For being with him, going where he’s going, being made like him? Do you find like me that you’re often lacking in desire or appetite for Jesus and sort of, “meh” the thought of him? Join me in repenting. Join me in turning away from the things that have dulled our appetites for Jesus. And join me in returning to a steady diet of God’s word and prayer to regain a craving for God that’s fitting. Surely he is even more wonderful than a Cinnabon.
A return to feeding on the word of God, praying as we read, talking and listening, casting cares and asking questions, chewing like cud again and again what God has revealed to us of himself in Jesus through the Bible and his church is the hard reset button we need to push on our spiritual diet.
C.S. Lewis described our condition this way:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – The Weight of Glory
Lord, forgive me for dulling my appetite for you with “mud pies.” Thank you for your mercy and grace provided me in Christ. I want to crave you more than Cinnabon, more than spacing out, or vegging out, or detaching, or escaping, or wine, or chocolate, or surfing social media, or anything. I want to love you with all my heart and love my neighbor as myself. Let me taste and see that you’re good again and again!