When a Damsel in Distress

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Renee, Flickr

A series of tests were required to be passed for my railroad training. If they were not passed, trainees had to leave the facility immediately, go the hotel and pack their belongings, and go home. It was a betrayal to us all.

After our initial interview sessions, testing included, and notification to start training, we were assured by trainmasters that the job belonged to us. There was never a mention of additional, consequential testing, not until we arrived out-of-state for the 3-week training and realized there were 3-4 paper tests, a riding test, and strength tests to be completed. The failure of any of them meant going home posthaste. Continue reading

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Sitz im Leben: Understanding Scripture in Context

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Serlunar, Flickr

Context makes all the difference in properly understanding the scriptures. The German phrase sitz im leben, meaning “setting in life”, stresses that biblical interpretation must consider the social context for which a text was purposed and in which it was designed to function. Proper contextual understanding will keep one from error and from developing an eccentric theology. Continue reading

A Godly Approach to A Nation on Edge

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Gonzale, NC, Flickr

I wish to address the matters that have our nation on edge at the moment. Rarely do I depart from my usual custom to discuss current social issues. But I must use this small platform now to lend insight and positivity.

We all love America. We all are part of its fabric. We all belong. Unfortunately, it seems that a riptide is slowly pulling us back into a sea we’ve largely crossed, shore sighted. Our nation appears to be slowly Balkanizing, becoming less about “we the people” and more about “us vs. them”, the status quo, minorities, immigrants, and any other bloc. Continue reading

My Top 10 in the Bible

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DξβS, Flickr

What are you favorite parts of the Bible? What draws you back again and again? The Bible is a marvelous anthology written by men and touched by God. It never bores. We should be thankful that we get to read the completed canon in our own language, something many people never got to do, if only because they were illiterate.

Selecting my best parts of the Bible was not easy. Yet this is what I present to you now and encourage you to consider what most intrigues you in biblical history. Continue reading

Meet Cutter Mattock

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Stemonitis, SA Wikimedia

Do you have a favorite tool? Is it an outdoor or indoor tool? Manual, automatic, or digital—didn’t think of that, did ya? Although I consider myself a bona fide city-boy, I love nature and I like getting out in it. My favorite tool is a cutter mattock—doesn’t that sound like it might be your uncle in the country? “You know, Uncle Cutter said the wind took down Cousin Mable’s ole spook elm the other ni-igh-t.”

A cutter mattock is the combination of an axe and an adze blade.

I like the cutter mattock (there are other types) because it’s a simple tool that is very useful outdoors. I’ve used it and a bow rake alone to transform a property of dense brush into bare ground. It will unearth the toughest root balls and fell small trees. I’ve even lopped off the heads of a few snakes with it. Continue reading

The Night Is Dark and Full of Terrors

Recall with me that richly devotional passage, Psalm 53:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Let’s change the wording and context of the verse, O.K.? Reimagine it being prayed to…Satan. That’s right, our adversary. Now you will be able to understand what you’re about to see in the following clip.

One of the most riveting scenes for me in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was when Kylo Ren, the bad guy, prayed to his deceased grandfather, Darth Vader, asking his forgiveness. It was attention-grabbing because…well, watch it for yourself. Continue reading

Tithing: My Journey

Church lecturnEvery Sunday at offering time it was the same scripture, Malachi 3:10-12, declared from the pulpit, King James Version: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house”.  It became one of those things you couldn’t help but memorize because it was recited every Sunday. Some people know the Apostles’ Creed for the same reason. “And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts”. My pastor always misspoke “delightsome”—“for ye shall be a delightforsome land,” he would say. Continue reading

Fruit and Seed

Flickr - Orange

Cassiopee2010 NC-SA

Scripture extensively references fruit. Its significance generally ranges from harvested crops to progeny to quality of character. But I wish to draw attention to an important aspect of fruit that the Bible doesn’t highlight and perhaps assumes readers’ understanding. People living in first century agrarian society would have easily made the connection.

First: some science on how and why fruit develops. It begins when a plant is pollinated, maybe by an insect or the wind. Once pollen, produced by the male anther, has landed on the female stigma, it forms a long pollen tube that bores down to the plant’s ovary that stores ovules (eggs). Only then does the pollen release its sperm that journeys along the tube to the ovules where fertilization occurs. Continue reading

Called from Isolation

CC Vincepal, Flickr

CC Vincepal, Flickr

What is it that halts you from serving God? I mean, the way you know you’re called? Maybe you’re already walking in your calling, and that’s great; but many people aren’t. Can we be honest and admit that sometimes there are areas in our lives that keep us struggling at fulfilling God’s purpose for us?

Am I qualified? Will I fail? What if others learn this about me? How do I overcome this sin? Is God pleased with me?

Let me share a text with you that the Lord shows me when this pattern forms in my head.

Jesus and the Lepers

Luke 17 features the account of ten lepers who encounter Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. It’s a popular passage because of the one leper who returns to thank Jesus and perhaps for the amazing level of faith that characterizes both Jesus and the lepers.

The Law of Moses imposed several requirements on the leprous (Lev. 13-14). They include procedures for diagnosing and confirming healing, instructions on ceremonial cleansing and reintroduction into society, as well as rules for confinement. For instance, lepers were required to: 1) tear their clothes and leave their hair uncombed; 2) cover their mouths and call out “Unclean!”; and 3) live in isolation outside of their villages as long as the disease remained (13:45-46).

Leprosy upended a person’s life in every conceivable way physically, emotionally, and socially.

Verses 12 and 13 say, “They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’”. We gather that their band was perhaps travelling toward Jesus and his disciples and, removing themselves to maintain the required distance, recognized him and made their desperate plea.

God’s Unrelenting Call

CC Dan Grogan, Flickr

CC Dan Grogan, Flickr

This is where I always discover myself. They stood at a distance—because parts of them were not normal and unacceptable and sick and putrid. And people often correctly surmise this about areas of their character, morality, or actions. It doesn’t mean they are not fully clothed in the righteousness of Christ, but the unwholesome areas of their lives are nothing less than a festering sore that continually antagonizes the call of God in their lives.

In their minds the distance between them and engaging God’s call is a canyon of woe.

I pause to praise the God who sees us right where we are, knows how we hurt, and understands our desire to please him even when we aren’t everything we should be. David wrote, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me…you are familiar with all my ways” (Ps. 139:1, 3).

When Jesus saw them, he matter-of-factly stated, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” This meant they would have to walk for about a week and nearly 70 miles south to Jerusalem to show evidence of their wellbeing, which they did not yet possess and that Jesus did not expressly communicate (read my Crazy Faith).

What leaps out and pierces my heart here—especially when I’m assailed by “Me questions”—is the character of Jesus’s compassion toward these folk. He sends them on their way with only an expectation, one hinged on their obedience. He doesn’t heal them outright or interact much with them; and whether they murmured as Naaman had hundreds of years before is inconsequential; they obeyed. They clung to his word and the certitude that by the time they reached the priests, they would be whole.

This is how the Lord reassures me and quiets my fears, calling me out of the shadows: he tells me to keep moving forward, that his purpose for me remains, that my hang ups don’t disqualify me. He promises me that there is hope for what I don’t have the ability and strength to heal. And he asks for my obedience and trust, for he will heal me as I go, following his commands.