That’s Not How This Works

Reveal Yourself to Me

Should we randomly open our Bible and ask God, “reveal yourself to me?” If we truly esteem God’s word, shouldn’t it be seen in our Bible study?

When I was 16 years old, I gave my life to Christ and was baptized. My new church family gave me a Bible as a gift for my commitment. I remember the morning one of the deacons handed it to me. My youth group friends, sitting together as we always did, feigned “oohs” and “aahs” over my gift and I played it up, displaying the crisp white pages.

Trust me, they were impressed.

Then, purely out of goofiness, I slipped my finger between a couple of pages and declared, “I’d like to read something that has meant a lot to me.” Turning to the random passage and placing my finger at the top of the page, I read from Proverbs 30:2-3 (in the 1984 NIV, of course. That was my generation’s KJV), “I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.”

Completely random! We all got a great laugh out of it, and I learned the dangers of playing “pin the tail on the donkey” Bible study. It made me look like the donkey!

You know what I mean.

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Jesus Cleanses the Temple

Jesus Cleansing the Temple Does Not Excuse Your Lousy Temper

What if Jesus isn’t flying off the handle while cleansing the temple? What if there’s something other than anger in his outburst?

You can always count on certain memes to make the rounds with the church crowds every few months. There’s the one about how Moses was technically the first person to download data from the cloud using a tablet (hilarious). Of course, you can’t forget the meme that encourages you to like and share a picture of Jesus, but it’s actually Obi-Wan Kenobi (cringeworthy when your sweet old aunt doesn’t get the joke).

Another favorite that regularly pops up on newsfeeds is an image of Jesus cleansing the temple, with the text:

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

This one seems to be a favorite for those who long to excuse their tempers and turn their bad attitudes into something holy. They see Jesus’ actions in this story as giving them permission to fly off the handle and offer someone a beat down—y’know, just like Jesus. But what if Jesus isn’t flying off the handle while flipping tables? What if there’s something other than anger in his outburst? And what if it’s something more deserving of our imitation?

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What I Learned from a Broken Dog

Trixie was a great dog, but she was broken. The only problem was, she seemed normal to me. Here’s what I learned from a broken dog.

Growing up, we had a dog named Trixie. Everyone thinks their dog is special, but none of them were as special as ours. Trixie was smart, happy, and very protective of the youngest member of the family (that was me). One of the most distinctive things about her was her tail. A car had run over Trixie’s tail long before I was born. As a result, she couldn’t wag her tail. It just hung there, limp and lifeless.

Trixie and Me - What I Learned from a Broken Dog
Trixie and Me (Trixie is the one on the left)

Having a dog with a broken tail gave me a strange perspective on dogs. Trixie was the first dog I knew, so to me, she was a perfectly normal dog. When I saw other dogs wagging their tails, I assumed there was something wrong with them. “Tails can’t do that!” I knew that was true because Trixie’s tail didn’t do that. And yet there they were—wagging tails, curly tails, happy tails, tails in the air, and tails that moved so fast they were a blur. Those tails weren’t anything like my dog’s tail!

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Masks and Mourning: Following Jesus Through 2020

He sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.

(Luke 9:52-56, ESV)

This passage has always fascinated me. I would love to have been a fly on the inside of James and John’s brains when they hatched this idea. When had they ever seen Jesus propose fire from heaven as the answer? What gave them the impression it was worth a shot this time?

Looking closer, what concerns me about this passage isn’t in these verses. Instead, it’s in the first verses of the chapter. In Luke 9:1-6, Jesus sends the disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Matthew includes the instruction, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no towns of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).

As Jesus sends them out, he instructs them, “Wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them” (Luke 9:5). But that was at the beginning of chapter 9. Things are different here at the end.

Or are they?

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Gospel Allegiance, by Matthew W. Bates

Could it be that we’ve limited our definition of “faith” to our hopes and feelings? Could it be that by doing so we’ve limited our understanding of what the gospel is and what it calls us to?

Reading Gospel Allegiance

Gospel Allegiance by Matthew W. Bates

I’ll be the first to admit, this book is a little out of my wheelhouse. I likely wouldn’t have picked up a copy of Gospel Allegiance on my own, but when a free book shows up, you read it!

Note: This should not be taken as a request to send me more free books. But who am I to stop you?

In our world today, the word “gospel” has become shorthand for any truth that seems so apparent no one could miss it. In the church today, “gospel” is often a nebulous and smarmy word that defines everything from music to message, but far too often misses our mission.  Add to that, the word “faith” has been relegated to the heart at the expense of the head, and Bates concludes, “we need better language and a new model to more accurately convey what Scripture teaches about salvation” (page 15).

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