Hills? Help comes from God

Distant mountains

This picture was also taken from eastern Colorado, but we traveled for hours before the mountains looked this close.

When I was in high school, my dad went on sabbatical and obtained a visiting professorship in California. He decided to buy a trailer and camp across the country with the family to get there from northwestern Ohio. It turned out to be a great idea, but the trip got off to a terrible start.

The absolute worst night came in eastern Colorado, where the official state map had shown a camping place. The state highway to get there turned out to have been abandoned.… Read the rest

The foolishness of a disappointed heart

The fool says in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1). Some folks over the past 200 years have become durn fool enough to say it out loud. People have been questioning God far longer than they have questioned his existence. The questions mainly come from disappointment, and the disappointment comes mainly from a false sense of our own innocence. When things don’t go well, people turn to God for help, too often as a last resort. At such times, they focus on their own needs, their own helplessness, but not on the reality of sin.

I’m adapting this post from a Sunday school lesson on Isaiah 44:21-26, but all the prophets had basically the same message.… Read the rest

The Visitation: Don’t forget Elizabeth!

Between the dramatic stories of how the angel Gabriel appeared first to Zechariah and then to Mary, Luke mentions that Mary paid a three month long visit to Elizabeth, one of  her blood relatives and Zechariah’s wife. Although artists have painted or otherwise portrayed The Visitation for centuries, it is all too easy to read right past it. So let’s give Elizabeth her due.

Luke says she and her husband were blameless, but they may not have looked blameless to the rest of the people in their community. After all, the old priest Zechariah had never been chosen to light the incense in the temple.… Read the rest

God’s presence in the storms of life

Clouds get so thick they obscure the sun. The air becomes heavy with humidity. The wind picks up. Rumbles of thunder come closer and closer. Soon it’s raining hard. Forget your plans and run for safety, as lightning flashes and all manner of debris flies through the air.

Does that sound like a description of what the weather outside can be like? Or does it sometime sound like a metaphor for our lives? The loss of a job, the breakup of an important relationship, the death of a loved one, health issues–don’t these things often seem like a storm, with the ensuing flooding or loss of power or damage from falling trees?… Read the rest

Holy Saturday and dashed expectations

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his admirers expected that he would eventually be crowned king and begin the process of freeing the land from Roman occupation. His disciples expected to occupy important cabinet ministries in the kingdom .

Jesus didn’t behave much like a king. By the end of the week, it no longer looked like he planned to live up to expectations. Perhaps Judas acted as he did trying to force Jesus’ hand.

On Thursday night, Jesus hosted a pre-Passover meal and behaved very strangely and started talking somberly about death. All of the disciples’ expectations and hopes were dashed when Judas led soldiers to capture him.… Read the rest

Leaving Jesus behind

We have only one story of Jesus’ childhood, when he sat in the temple questioning the teachers while his parents had already started to return home. Surely every parent can identify with the multitude of emotions Joseph and Mary must have felt as they searched for their son.

Men traveled separately from women and children in those days. A twelve-year-old, one year from adulthood, could have plausibly traveled with either group. Only when they stopped for the night and families reunited did Joseph and Mary recognize that no one had seen Jesus. They had to return to Jerusalem to find him.… Read the rest

Present protection and future victory

“I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will  hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.”–Psalm 52:8-9 (NIV)

David was running for his life from Saul and stopped to see the priest Ahimelech. An Edomite named Doeg saw him there and told Saul, who ordered death for Ahimilech and all the other priests who served with him. No Israelite would obey the order, so Doeg was happy to slaughter them.… Read the rest