Guilt trips vs guilt; feelings vs reality

Guilt tripWhen my youngest sister was about three, Mom needed a serving spoon at supper. So Sis jumped up to get it for her.  She grabbed a slotted spoon, and when she looked at it, she said, “Broken! I’m sorry!” and started to cry.

Cute story. I know a grown woman who left church after a sermon on how God loves everyone and commented that she had never felt so condemned in her life! Not such a cute story.

Recently I read about a poll that found that the people who most actively care about the environment are much more guilt-ridden than those who care far less.… Read the rest

What are you going to believe?

Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Women at the empty tomb, by Fra Angelico, 1437-1446.

A woman entering her hotel room was shocked to see a naked woman, who appeared to be dead, draped across the bed. Her husband, bending over the corpse, looked up and said, “Dear, before you say anything, I have a question. Are you going to believe what you see, or what I tell you?”

That is exactly the same question God has for each of us. We believe what we see, and that’s the wrong answer.

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Remember Jesus

The Resurrection of Christ / Noel Coypel, 1700

The Resurrection of Christ / Noel Coypel, 1700

Does it seem odd that Paul wrote “Remember Jesus, raised from the dead” (2 Timothy 2:8) to a dedicated minister of the gospel?

Earlier he had testified that no one on his staff was equal to Timothy. Why should a man like that need a reminder? Remember Jesus? Timothy must have spent most of every day either teaching his church about Jesus or sharing Jesus with the unbelievers in his city.

If we step back a little, though, and consider the history of God’s own people, it doesn’t seem so strange.

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Idolatry and redemption today

IdolatryChristians readily agree with the statement that God is all-powerful, all-loving, and all-sufficient. But when trouble turns up, how many of us really know how to respond as if we believe it? We turn to idols instead.

Our idols aren’t quite the same as those of the ancients, but they work the same way. We trust our own resources more than we trust God. Certainly God expects us to use our own resources much of the time, but we must not trust them. We must trust God. Otherwise, whatever we trust instead becomes, functionally, an idol, the god we truly worship.… Read the rest

Construction tools and weapons: spiritual multitasking

tools and weapons on the wall

from Charming Bible Stories / Henry Davenport Northrop (Philadelphia, 1893)

Nehemiah’s best-known accomplishment is getting a wall built. Lots of people have supervised similar construction projects. Not many have done so in the face of armed opposition that forced them to resort to multitasking. And even fewer have had their stories enshrined in Scripture so that thousands of years later, we can learn spiritual lessons.

Nowadays, multitasking seems to be the rule, not the exception. I have long observed people who claim they can be more efficient by doing several things at once. Usually I observe that they do at least one of the tasks so badly that they have to do it over.… Read the rest

A journal and a diary

Moses / Michelangelo

Moses / Michelangelo

Much of the Old Testament can seem pointless. Take Numbers 33; 31. Consecutive verses begin, “And they journeyed from.” After a brief interruption, there are 9 more verses that begin the same way. They journeyed from some place we’ve never heard of, went some place else we never heard of, and stayed there for. . . Who cares? I remember similar disappointment when I encountered my great-grandfather’s journal. But there is a point.

My great grandfather

Several years after the death of his first wife, Rev. Benjamin Franklin Morgan remarried. His new wife bore him a daughter, my grandmother, when he was 61.… Read the rest

How can we rest from our labor?

Faster! Faster!

Faster! Faster!

Lewis Carroll wrote, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” (Through the Looking Glass, 1871). Wouldn’t he be amazed at now much faster we have made the world in the nearly century and a half since he published his observation?

No one literally has to run any more. We have fast cars and superhighways. Communication must be instant. We have made computers that can multitask and expect that we can and should as well.… Read the rest

In quietness and trust

Rout of San Romano

The Rout of San Romano (center panel) / Paolo Uccello, 1456

How do respond to a lingering crisis? Does quietness and trust make it to the top of your list? If it doesn’t, you’re not alone. Yet God says that’s where we get his strength. What comes of failure or even outright refusal to get quiet before God?

In Isaiah 30:15 God says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,
 but you would have none of it.” Isaiah spent his career telling the people of Israel what it took to have God work for them and not against them, but hardly anyone paid attention.… Read the rest

Trusting experts or trusting God

Trust in the Lord

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not into thine own understanding.” Pass under this sign whenever you enter St John’s Church Hall (Knypersley, Staffordshire, Great Britain)

In traditional translations, Psalm 146:3 says not to trust in princes. We don’t have very many princes around any more. Even in traditionally Christian countries that still have kings and queens, they reign, but don’t rule. Perhaps we could update it to say not to put trust in politicians, but what’s the point? Everyone obeys that commandment, Bible or no Bible. But let’s look at how The Message renders the verse and read ahead a little more:

Don’t put your life in the hands of experts
 who know nothing of life, of salvation life. 


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What does it mean to trust God?

Trust

I love this rainbow. It reminds me that God is watching, even when it was stormy.

A simple, straightforward question in a workbook, but I was at an emotional low point. What does it mean to trust God? I know I ought to. I like to think I do. I’ve advocated trusting God in lots of blog posts. But as I say, the question caught me at an emotional low point. I didn’t have a quick answer.

After some thought, I figured it means not to second guess God, not to doubt, not to fall into unbelief. But that’s all negative.… Read the rest