Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 88: The Finish Line

Image by Ambrozjo via

Hebrews 12:1-2

New Living Translation (NLT)

God’s Discipline Proves His Love

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 


What an incredible journey these last three months have been! I feel as though I've run a marathon, and in a sense, I have. I've had a huge crowd witnessing my race as I've shared it in almost daily blog entries. 

It's amazing how much I have learned in the last twelve weeks. This isn't my first time to read through in 90 days, nor will it be my last, but it has been the most rewarding. Nearly every day as I read, a passage would stand out in my mind, nudging me, saying "share me!". I often started without a clue what to say. But as soon as I started writing, the words seemed to just fly off my keyboard. I can't count the times that I thought I knew where I was going with a topic, and I'd find myself in the exact opposite direction. In fact, one day I even wrote:

Wow, that is so not the direction I thought I was going with this!

I edited that out, but it really did get written. Funny thing, too, because I didn't think about writing it, I just did! And really, that sums up how most of these entries have come about. Almost as though I was only an instrument to get the words out, but without my own intellect being involved.

Don't take that wrong. Nothing I've written has been God-breathed like the scriptures. I'm no Moses, or David, or Matthew. I'm nobody special. And this wasn't effortless. I studied my butt off! I would usually spend an hour and a half reading scripture, but then I would also spend as much time looking up commentaries and historical  encyclopedic references. The Jewish Archival Encyclopedia was a tremendous help to me as I researched more about the people who lived in the Old Testament times.

But it's not the Biblical commentators or the historic compilers who directed my learning. The only one who gets credit for what I've learned, and the majority of everything I wrote this summer, is God. I was already convinced of that, but yesterday as I was nearing the end of the Bible, I read this scripture:

But you have received the Holy Spirit,[a] and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit[b] teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ. (1 John 2:27)

Amazing. At the very end, God gives me confirmation of what I already knew. It pleased me very much, because I have often considered enrolling in Bible College. There are many that offer correspondence courses these days, many at low or no cost. And I still might, eventually. But God has shown me that He is the best teacher I could ask for, and as long as He's willing to instruct me, I'm going to be willing to learn from Him.

So this isn't the end for me. I may have finished this marathon, but there are nine months between now and the time I start over. Usually I spend those nine months letting my brain rest and my spiritual walk turn to a crawl. Not this year. I have just bought two new Bibles. One is actually a 31 chapter condensed version. The major events are included intact, but the more difficult, chewy passages are pureed and processed for easy digestion into a brief summary that keeps the flow between selected portions of Scripture. It's about 500 pages long, and I'll read that for relaxation.

When I finish that, I'll begin the other new one. It is divided into 313 daily passages; Six per week, with one day of rest. I'll read more than one per day, of course, because I'll have less than 9 months to complete it. The exciting thing is, both of these new Bibles are laid out chronologically  and each is a different version. In fact, they are both different versions than what I've been reading from. By this time next year, I will have read the entire Bible a total of 5 times in my life, in as many different versions. (Or are they translations? I can never really remember what the difference is.)

By setting these goals and committing to them, I am sure to stay more grounded in the Word than I have done in the past. I am so looking forward to drawing closer to Jesus and understanding God's ways more completely as He continues to guide me. It will be like spiritual weight lifting. Each day my faith will get stronger, and my endurance will improve. 

I hope you've all been blessed by what I've learned and shared here in the last 90 days. But please remember, the best teacher is the Holy Spirit. You can always trust what He says. You can only take my word with a grain of salt. 

I'll continue to blog as I go, although my entries will be less frequent. Those who have followed me over the last several months can continue to do so. I'll always post them on Facebook and on Google+. But now is the time for me to slow down on writing and focus on my family, and on making jewelry. If you've been following me here, I encourage you to subscribe to email notifications on my jewelry website, Pray for that endeavor, please! I need to generate a small but steady source of income from my jewelry.

I will also be compiling what I've written here into a real book in the coming months, edited and polished, and possibly with content that I have not included in my blog.. My primary reason is so that I can share it with family members. I want my children and my grandchildren to have copies. I didn't do the greatest job teaching my children about the love of Christ as they were growing up. If God allows, I would love to have the chance to do better with my grandkids. Through my book, I hope that will be possible. If you would like a copy of it when it is available in paperback, please leave a comment here. I'll be able to sell them directly for a lower price than what they'll retail at on Amazon.

For now, I'd like to leave you all with one final Scripture:

Jude 1:24-25

New Living Translation (NLT)

A Prayer of Praise

24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 87: Snooty, Much?

James 2:1-4

New Living Translation (NLT)

A Warning against Prejudice

My dear brothers and sisters,[a] how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?


Not long ago, I was Dollar Tree. I hadn't given much thought to my appearance that morning, and was wearing a worn out pair of knit capri pants, an over-sized and paint-splattered T-shirt, and a pair of black sandals adorned with rhinestones. My hair was disheveled, and I probably had smudges of mascara from the previous day still under my eyes. As I finished paying for my purchase and was about to leave, two women walked in, impeccably dressed. They looked me over from head to toe, and one of them actually rolled her eyes in disgust. At Dollar Tree. I know, right? I may have looked like something the cat drug in, but at least I fit in with my surroundings! Still, their look withered me. I left feeling like I hadn't showered in a week or something. That brief glance-over from a couple of snooty strangers who looked more like they belonged in Saks Fifth Avenue than a dollar store had really intimidated me!

I'd love to pretend I'm better than that, but I'm not. Recently, my youngest daughter called me up, and we were discussing the possibility of her coming to visit. She said it would be fun to engage in one of our favorite pastimes; People-watching while we shopped. Oh, what fun we used to have, sneering and giggling at someone wearing something ridiculous, or with some atrocious hairstyle. But when she said it, instead of feeling wistful, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame.

What a hypocrite I can be.

What right do any of us have to look at another person's appearance and make judgments? None. Jesus didn't just die for those of us who have every hair in place, coordinated clothing, and no lipstick smudges on our teeth. He died for the People Of Walmart, too.

What would your reaction be if you saw a woman come into church on a Sunday morning wearing a dress cut so low at the neckline, and so high at the hemline, that very little was left to the imagination? Would you pretend not to notice her, or would you glare her direction hoping she'd get the hint? Would you welcome her, and invite her to sit near the front next to you? Or would you quietly direct her to a seat in the back row? I've heard tales that some churches would even turn her away at the door, inviting her to return after she was dressed more appropriately.

Or what would you do if you went into a restaurant to grab a bite to eat, and saw an unkempt man who smelled bad, had spittle on his beard, and a chronic runny nose? Would you give him a wide berth as you moved towards the entrance? Or would you stop and ask if he would like to join you for lunch?

I may be a hypocrite at times, but I can honestly say that these two situations have actually happened to me. The woman who came to our church slipped in after the service began, and out before it ended. I wasn't alone in wishing she'd stayed. Our church had a label. It was a recovery church. If she had stayed, she'd have been warmly welcomed, and encouraged to come back any time. Nobody would have mentioned her clothes. We would have let the Holy Spirit do His work on her heart. Unfortunately, she never returned.

As for the man, well, I was on my way to see my oldest daughter, and had stopped at The Mad Greek in Baker, California. The management wouldn't allow him inside, but he graciously accepted food. We sat together on the patio eating our lunch. He was an intelligent man, a former professor, and he was dying of cancer. He said he'd made himself a home in a small cave out in the desert, about a quarter mile from Baker. His only family was a daughter, from whom he'd been estranged for many years. He said he had sent letters and tried to reach her many times, in hopes of reconciling before he died. So far, he'd never gotten a response. The one thing he wanted most, besides his daughter, was something to keep his mind alert and active. Before I left him, I grabbed a book that I'd just purchased. I had only read the first chapter, and someday I'll get another copy. I wrote some encouraging words on the inside cover and handed it to him. The book was called Don't Just Stand There, Pray Something. i prayed for him often for a while after that. i hope he eventually was able to find his daughter.

God says in Hebrews 13:2 that we should always treat strangers kindly, for we don't know whether the person is really a scuzz-ball or whether he's an angel in disguise. We're told in James 2:5-7 that poor people have been chosen to be rich in faith, and that we should not dishonor them in favor of some rich dude that would be all  to quick to sue you for serving him hot coffee that burned when he spilled.

When we look down our noses at some people and pander to others who project a nicer image, we're not making God happy. Not at all. In fact, He comes right out and says if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. (James 2:9) It doesn't reflect Christ who is supposed to be living inside you. To show favoritism indicates that you're being led by your own selfish agenda instead of by the Holy Spirit, and that's evil! If you look down your nose at others, God's going to look down His at you, and you're not going to like it. Trust me, I know this firsthand! And when you brown nose those who are above you, all you're going to get is two nostrils full of poo.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 86: The Crucible

James 1:2-4

New Living Translation (NLT)
Photo by SCPO Todd P. Cichonowicz,
U.S. Navy [Public domain]

Faith and Endurance

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.


New recruits to the US Navy and Marine Corp know all about The Crucible. Each one must train for months under grueling conditions to pass the ultimate test of mental and physical endurance. Boot Camp was not designed to be fun, as anyone who has been there can tell you. My daughter joined the USMC fresh out of high school, and spent her 18th birthday being pushed nearly to the breaking point by her Drill Instructors.

Every moment during those three months of training is spent separating those who just don't have what it takes from those who can reach deep inside themselves for strenth. Those in charge of overseeing this transformation don't take the time to be gentle. They don't have time to waste! They know that in only 12 short weeks, they have to take naive kids who've likely never known a day's work and prepare them for the ultimate test of endurance, will, and strength. Hopefully that final event before graduation will be the worst that military life ever throws at them. But all too often, it is just the beginning.

For some reason, people have this crazy notion that when they accepted Christ, they'd just been given a free pass from anything difficult. They sincerely believe that their ticket to paradise is going to be on a luxury cruise ship, and that God has promised them a life of ease. Then when things get tough, they start shaking in their boots, their faith crumbles, and they give up.

It's a sad commentary, isn't it? Becoming a Christian is actually very much like joining the Military, only without a Recruiter telling you what to expect. There really is no excuse, either, because throughout the New Testament, Paul warns of persecution much worse than what most of us will ever face. Because he properly prepared those in his charge, they were well equipped to move through life rejoicing in even the smallest victories. 

This day and age, we usually train on the fly. We haven't been taught what to expect, or how to handle the unexpected. As a result, we are way too easily discouraged. We read these sentimental poems with photographs of footprints in the sand, and think that our walk with Christ more closely resembles trudging through quicksand.

So let's change all that right now. Let's take a look at Paul's life after salvation and see if we can't shift our perspective. Hopefully we will never have to walk a mile in his shoes, but the day is coming when those who love God will be put to even greater tests than he did.

2 Corinthians 11:23-28

New Living Translation (NLT)
23 Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. 28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.

Can you imagine suffering that much for any reason? It's bad enough to be thrown in prison, beaten, flogged, and threatened with death, even for someone who has committed a crime deserving of all those things. But Paul was innocent! His only crime was witnessing to others about Jesus. He had to float in an ocean like shark bait after one of many shipwrecks. He'd been homeless, starving for food and water, shivering in his sandals without even a blanket to keep him warm. He'd been the victim of more crimes than most characters on a soap opera. And on top of all that, he had to worry about the newer Christians he was trying to teach and give encouragement to! He had to settle their squabbles and give them tough love, and I can only imagine sometimes he might have wanted to turn his back on the whole stinking lot of them.

But he didn't. Instead, he felt honored that he had been accepted as a defender of truth and freedom. With every torture he survived, he rejoiced, because he hadn't been broken. Every day was one step closer to the ultimate test, to The Crucible, where he would be proven worthy of his rank. And still he would press on, always anxious to reflect well on his Commander In Chief. 

Yes, I know, you're not Paul. I'm quite happy to say that neither am I. But I do wish I was more like him. I whine and complain when I can't afford to go out for a steak dinner, and pout if I have nothing left after paying bills. If Paul could see what a wimp I am, he'd roll over in his grave. But even though I slept through Boot Camp and missed the Crucible, God's teaching me to overcome my weaknesses. I may be a slower learner, but my reward will be the same.

James 1:12

New Living Translation (NLT)
12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Days 84 & 85: Face In The Mirror

James 1:22-25

New Living Translation (NLT)
Image by Sigurd Decroos, aka cobrasoft
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.


This is not a new writing. In fact, I wrote it more than two years ago. I chose to include it here, because I believe it is such an important lesson, and one that I frequently need to be reminded of!

This morning I woke up, and spent an hour praying and reading the Bible before even crawling out of bed. I read the book of James and I'm telling you this because James goes into quite a bit of discussion about works, what they are, what their purpose is.

Works are an extension of our faith. They are the proof of our faith, the result of our faith, and the catalyst for deeper faith. One analogy that James made really struck me. Part of what I'm about to say is taken directly from scripture, but I'm also expanding on it with my own little ad-lib comments.

If we say we have faith, but we don't do works, it's like we are looking into a mirror, seeing who we really are, and then walking away from that mirror; The mental image of who we are looks better than the truth. Because we're not living our faith through works, we think of ourselves as "prettier" than we really are. We have walked away from the mirror and don't retain the truth. But if we're doing works that give witness to our faith, that mirror is always in front of us.

What happens if we stand in front of a mirror 24/7? We forget it's there, and we quit focusing on what we look like. We just go on about what we're doing, and if what we're doing is acting out our faith and bringing glory to God (i.e. works), then when we glance up and see our reflection in that mirror, we're seeing Christ looking back at us. That is a picture of beauty.

But if all we're doing is standing in front of the mirror preening, we're never going to see Christ looking back at us. all we're gonna see is skin-deep... superficial and hollow, and without substance.

Faith, without works, is dead. Useless. Non-existence. If there are no works, there really is no faith.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 82 & 83:: Let's Talk About Love

Image captured from Facebook, copyright unknown

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

New Living Translation (NLT)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.


What better way than to follow up a chapter about the Biblical view of sex with a Scriptural perspective on love? God's kind of love is the kind that applies to every relationship. It's an unconditional, unselfish love that demonstrates how we should treat our parents, our children, our friends, even the stranger on the street. It is equally applicable in romantic relationships. It's the kind of love that never fails, even when we screw up. It is a perfect love. And I'm going to pick it apart, trait by trait.

Love is patient and kind.

Patience is sometimes an elusive virtue for me. I'm sure it is for most people, but I've known a few who seem to have an unending supply, and it just amazes me. No matter how stressful life gets, though, it's no excuse for getting short tempered or being mean to someone. We all know how it feels to be snapped at by someone we love and trust. It hurts our feelings! Why would we ever want to do that to someone else? 

Consider how patient God has been with us. No matter how I try to live a life that pleases Him, I'm constantly screwing up. I can't go an hour without doing something wrong. I can't help but think of when my girls were small. They were just kids, doing what kids do, and it seemed like their little brains couldn't remember from one minute to the next what was right and what wasn't. It's frustrating, raising kids! They push their boundaries constantly, trying to see just how much they can get away with! How far they can go before they get caught; How much can they get away with before Mom steps in and punishes them.

That's exactly what we do to God. And unlike children, we don't grow up and grow out of it, or reach an age where we no longer have to obey the rules of the house. From the day we accept Christ as our Savior, we become the children of God, and obedience to our Heavenly Father is a life long commitment. One that we constantly fail at keeping, I might add. Yet He continues to be patient with us, always loving us, never kicking us to the curb. Even when we anger Him, He provides our needs. It's a kindness we should learn to emulate!

Love doesn't demand it's own way.

Sometimes it's hard not to make demands. Face it, we're human, and we want what we want. Our wants may not always be such a bad thing, but they should always be weighed against the needs of those around us. If we have to fight to get our way about something, have we really won? Or have we only succeeded in making someone else feel used, resentful, or just plain overwhelmed?

Even God doesn't demand His own way with us. He commands, but doesn't demand. He allows us the freedom to make right or wrong choices. Although we should conform to His will, He isn't going to force us to do anything against our own. He wants our devotion to Him to be totally of our own accord. If He manipulated us like puppets on strings, our "love" for Him would be meaningless. 

Love is not Jealous.

A few years ago, my husband and I went bowling with a couple of friends from church. We were having a great time, as we always did. If you've ever been bowling, you know that three strikes is called a turkey. Well, my friend had gotten a turkey. My husband's turn was up, and he had two strikes in a row. Their scores were very close, and a turkey would push Mark ahead by a few points. He stood there at the end of the lane and lined the ball up perfectly, but something went wrong. He missed the strike. Oh!!!! We were all laughing about how he'd been robbed, and as he pretended to complain about not getting a turkey like our friend had, I shouted playfully "Thou shalt not covet thy friend's turkey!"

It was all fun and games, and there were no serious rivalries. But sometimes in life, we do get jealous of others. Maybe a friend is able to buy a beautiful new car, while we are nearly having to push start our own mode of transportation every day. Perhaps you just lost a well deserved promotion to a co-worker that hadn't earned it. Any number of things could inflame the little green-eyed monster within us. But is that fair? Would we rather our friend drive an old clunker just to make us feel better? Of course not! It might be tempting to resent the co-worker, but to what end? It's not going to hurt the other guy as much as it gnaws at us, eating a hole into our own peace of mind, right?

No matter who it is, we don't have the right to be jealous. God gives out blessings according to His purpose. If you're wasting your time being jealous over someone else's blessing, you might not be paying attention when God tries to offer you an even better one.

Love is not boastful, proud or rude.

Don't you hate it when someone goes around patting them self on the back all the time? It's as if they can't get enough attention. They must suffer from some inadequacy that makes them want everyone to notice whatever greatness they've accomplished. Or how about when someone always makes snide remarks at the expense of others. They think they are being clever or witty. It's like a bully. Their ability to feel good about themselves is directly linked to how bad they can make others feel.

You and I, we're just little mosquitoes in the big picture. God has created this entire universe. He knows exactly how many gallons of water are in the sea, He knows the very temperature of the molten lava bubbling beneath the surface of the earth. He hung the sun, the moon, and every star, and He designed the human body, this immensely complex and complicated machine that couldn't possibly be duplicated at random. Who are we in comparison to that kind of greatness? We're nothing. But does God belittle you? Does He put you down and make you feel worthless? No! God's in the business of lifting us up and giving us life, not stepping on us like ants. 

Love isn't irritable and keeps no record of wrongs.

I am sure this happens in all kinds of relationships, but marriage comes to my mind first with this one. It's so easy to let little hurts and grievances build up in us as we share our lives with someone. And it really is usually the little things. They just pile up one on top of the other until they become one big huge thing, and it so often results in divorce.

Back in the 1960s, there was a movie called Love Story, starring Ryan O'Neil and Ally McGraw. An epic romance, this film has been a favorite for generations. There is a line that was made famous in that movie, and is still often quoted today. As his young wife lays on her death bed, Ryan's character is apologizing for all the things they never got to do, and Ally's character says "Love means never having to say you're sorry."

It's a nice sentiment, but it's wrong. Love means knowing when to say you're sorry. It's also being able to forgive. God's love is so complete that it doesn't keep track of how many times we make a mess of things. When we say we're sorry to God, He takes our mistake and throws it as far as the east is from the west, and remembers it no more. He totally forgets it. We tend to be less apt to forget things, but we should forgive as readily as God does. And our forgiveness should be just as complete. Even if we don't forget what our loved one did, once we say we've forgiven the incident, we never have the right to bring it back up.

Love rejoices in truth, not in injustice.

I read a story once that touched my heart. It would touch anyone's, so I'm going to share it, as best as I can remember it. The story was about some kids in school. I'm not sure where this school was, because caning has never been legal in the US during my lifetime, but in this story, the penalty for theft was 10 strikes across the back with a rod.

One day, a student we'll call Tom, who was the biggest boy in the class came in, angry that his lunch had been stolen. After some investigation, it was determined that Little Timmy was the culprit. The teacher called Timmy to the front of the class and asked if he understood the consequences for his actions. Timmy did, and the teacher told him to remove his shirt. Reluctantly, he did. The teacher and the entire class sucked in a collective breath. The boy was skin and bones.

The teacher knew he had to carry out the punishment, but he sure didn't want to. He asked Timmy why he'd stolen. Quietly, the little boy said that he had no father, and that his mother was barely making ends meet. She hadn't been able to afford to buy groceries, and he hadn't eaten anything in two days. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. After a moment, Tom, the big guy whose lunch Timmy had stolen, asked the teacher, "Sir, the rules say that the punishment for stealing is ten licks with the rod. But does it say who has to get the licks?" The teacher thought about this for a moment, and replied that the rules didn't specify. Tom came forward then and removed his shirt. "Sir, can I take Timmy's punishment for him?"

That's love. Timmy was deserving of the punishment, and Tom had every right to demand justice be carried out. But he wasn't going to get any satisfaction seeing the younger student get caned. The truth was, there had been a wrong committed, and a punishment must be dealt. The truth also was that it didn't matter who took the beating, and for that, Tom rejoiced, and took Timmy's place.

That's exactly what Jesus did for us, too. So next time you feel a little smug about how "karma" or whatever is placing a well deserved bite on someone else's backside, you think about Tom and Timmy, and then rejoice in how Jesus spared you the penalty for the crap you've done. Maybe you'll have a little more compassion on the person who did you wrong. After all, you don't know what led them to do what they did.

Love never gives up and loses faith, because love always has hope enough to endure.

It's what separates real love from selfishness. It's what makes us capable of enduring for a lifetime what most people would throw away out of boredom. It's what binds a parent to a child, and what ensures that a marriage will last til death parts a husband from a wife. It's the impulse that drives a stranger to rescue a child that has fallen into a wash of raging flood waters. It's the compassion that prompts someone to buy lunch for a person who has no home.

It's God's kind of love, and His love is perfect.

Day 81:: Let's Talk About Sex

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

New Living Translation (NLT)
Image in Public Domain via Wiki Commons
18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.


I am fully aware that this may be a touchy subject for some people. It seems that any discussion of sex automatically brings up things like shacking up with a lover, or shacking up with a gay lover. I really want everyone to be able to read this chapter without getting their defenses up, but I have no intention of side-stepping anything. I hope I speak boldly about the Biblical view of sexual sin, while still having compassion on those who are trapped in it.

Do you know whom is being addressed by these passages? Believers are. Specifically, the believers who lived in Corinth during the time of Paul's ministry to the Gentiles. It's important to understand that. Although what is defined as sexual sin applies whether you believe or not, those who do not believed are condemned already. (John 3:18) Their sexual misconduct isn't going to change a darn thing when they stand before God on judgment day. Hell is hell. So Christians, quit trying to tell your unbelieving friends that their sex life is sinful. The state of their soul is far more important.

Believers, on the other hand, will not suffer the fires of hell. We will be granted eternal life, even if only by the skin of our teeth. Our faith in Christ has spared us from the fate of the unbeliever, but it doesn't mean God's always pleased with our actions. And His discipline is about as fun as getting whipped with a tender green branch from a sapling tree. (I'm sure anyone under the age of 40 is scratching their head and saying huh? right now.)

Nobody wants to get in trouble. It's a whole lot better for a friend to steer another away from trouble than to stand by while he secures a noose around his own neck, right? So if you know of another believer whose sex life isn't up to God's standard, you should point it out. It might be exactly the reality check that they need to bring them back on track with God so they don't get punished. If they refuse to straighten up and keep their promise, then God tells us to stop hanging out with them. If they are going to claim to love God but live as a witness for Sin instead, then they don't even deserve to keep coming to church. It's the exact opposite of what our response to an unbeliever should be.

When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin.  But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that.  I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.  It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” 1 Cor 5:9-13, emphasis mine.

So what is sexual sin, why is it singled out so much in the Bible? Let's explore that! Then we can move on to the good stuff; You know, when God blesses your sex life.

Sexual sin is the same in the Old Testament as it is in the New. I'm not going to delve into the entire Levitical list of who is off limits and who isn't, but I'll stick to the basics. And the most basic of all is this: Sex is a gift given to a husband and wife. Any sex outside of the covenant of marriage between a man and his wife is a perversion and abuse of the gift God gave us. That means, if you're a Christian, you'd better keep your pants on unless you are in private with your husband or wife!

It means no sex with someone of the same gender. It means no casual sex, and no bought-and-paid-for sex. It means no sex on the first date (or second, or tenth, or hundredth.) it means no sex even with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, until you have taken that final step and gotten hitched, and no sex with someone else after you have gotten hitched. (And while I'm at it, entertaining thoughts of sex with other people is  the same as having done it in real life, so don't even go there.)

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.  Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Cor 6:9-11 emphasis mine

But why? Because God created your body as an instrument of worship. Because when you accepted Christ as your personal savior, You agreed to let your body be a place holy enough for the Holy Spirit to live. And for that reason, your body should be used for one purpose; To honor God. Even when you're having sex. Sounds weird, huh? That's because we've been brainwashed by society into thinking that God doesn't approve of sex. That's one of the biggest lies out there. God is absolutely not anit-sex.

I know the question that looms in the back of people's minds. It used to loom in mine, too. How do I know if we'll be sexually compatible if we wait til we're married? That's where faith comes in. If you are a Christian, then you are supposed to trust Him. You are supposed to believe that God wants only His best for you. Now, if sex is such a precious gift from God to married couples, why would He bring you a mate that isn't going to satisfy you in bed?

Sex as God intended it is far superior to any sex you could ever have outside His will. Apart from God, sex is only a shadow of what it could be. And those shadows can haunt us forever. When we abuse the gift God has given us, it scars us in ways that effect us later, even after we do finally go about it the right way. It forever damages our ability to experience sexual perfection.

Honestly, if everyone would trust God with their love life, married couples would experience the most mind-blowing sex ever! Really!

So when does God give the thumbs up to sex? When a couple becomes one in marriage, and not a minute sooner.

This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. Genesis 2:24-25.

God doesn't want sex within marriage to be boring, either. Like I pointed out above, He wants it to blow your mind! In 1 Corinthians 7, God tells us through Paul that the husband and wife are equals in bed. A husband is expected to fulfill his wife's needs, and the wife is to return the favor. His body belongs to her, and her body belongs to him. Since his body is hers, she should want to ensure that his body is as satiated as hers is, and vice versa. Scripture really doesn't limit sexual activity between a husband and wife, as long as it does not defile the marriage bed and dishonor God. In other words, as long as your mutual sexual pleasure (and it should always be mutual) includes nobody, real or imagined, besides the two of you. 
Have you ever read the Songs of Solomon? That is a Biblical work of erotica that gives a pretty good glimpse into the marriage bed as God intended it. It describes the joy of exploring one another intimately, through the senses of sight, touch, taste, you name it. Indoors, outdoors, visual, physical and oral, as long as the couple has total privacy and mutual pleasure, no act exclusively between them is forbidden.
If you're a Christian and are not yet married, trust Him with that! He won't let you down, I promise! If you're a Christian and you're violating God's purpose for sex, I urge you to stop what you're doing right now, repent, and move on. Even if that means moving on from the person you're being self-indulgent with. God has something better in store for you.
If you're not a believer, it's not too late to change your mind. God can heal you of your past and make you a brand new person in Christ, and give you the best He has to offer, in everything.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Days 79 & 80: Evolving

Photo by Christof Wittwer

Acts 4:13-14

New Living Translation (NLT)
13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say.


If I were to write a great deal today, it would start with this scripture, and then go on to provide examples of how God took ordinary people with no theological education and no special training, emboldened them, and gave them authority through Him that even the religious experts can't deny. 

I'd talk about Peter, and how he told the lame man to get up and walk, in the name of Jesus. No hesitation, no doubt, just do it. There is even a song about that event that was one of my favorite childhood songs. Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee; In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk!" 

I'd continue with the story of Saul, aka Paul, who was one of the most hateful of all persecutors of Christianity, until God got a hold of him. I'd love to tell about that encounter, because Saul went from being an evil murderer to being Paul, the vessel God chose to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.

Those are the things I have read about today. But writing in depth about what I read is very time consuming, and life and its responsibilities are pressing in on me today. I've taken my commitment to blog through the Bible in 90 (give or take a few) days very seriously. So seriously, that there have been times I've neglected other things, and people. During these last couple of months though, God has begun teaching me that sometimes it is better to be a living sacrifice and help those in need, rather than being legalistic about the burnt sacrifices. Does that make sense?

So, while I assure you I'm sill reading, this two-day entry will have no Biblical substance. I hope that you'll enjoy yet another poem, though. 


I’ve been on a journey.

I’ve been to the heart of the jungle,swam the depths of the sea.I’ve been a speck in the vast expanseof the barren desert, and havefloundered through the trenches of the wasteland.

Somehow I climbed to the top of a mountain,clinging desperately to each craggy rock,not knowing why I fought to survive,except that I was afraid to die.

Yet when I reached the summitI was bathed in glory as thoughI’d reached Heaven,
and God, Himself.

He didn’t reject me,
didn’t turn me away...He thanked me for coming.

I left the mountaintopto come live in a meadow.He came with me,to teach me to love.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 77 & 78: So You Think You Know Goth?

John 19:17-19

New Living Translation (NLT)
By D Sharon Pruitt [CC-BY-2.0] 
17 Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). 18 There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”


Confession time. I don't know Goth. At least, I'm no expert on the contemporary Goth subculture that exists in America (and many other countries) today. I'm not even going to try to explain what a "true Goth" person is. From what I've read, there are about as many definitions for true Goth as there are Goths to define it. So forgive me while I delve just a tiny bit into the stereotypical Goth. And then indulge me while I teach you some things about the real origin of Goth that you'll probably never even read in history books.

When the average person hears the term "Goth", we think of young people with pale skin, black hair with maybe a shock of pink running through it, black clothes that are often a curious mix of victorian and industrial styles, lots of body piercings, and jewelry adorned with pointy spikes or skulls. Maybe that's not fair, but it is the fashion code that we've come to associate with people who call themselves Goth. 
“Goths don't identify with evil, we mourn the evil in society. The fascination with death is basically a reminder to us of our own mortality. For these reasons, we wear black.”  ~Chris Shaffer
I may not understand the phenomenon, but I do know that the subculture as we know it today arose from the punk rock era, sometime around the mid 1980's. According to, Goths are "free thinkers" who do not accept the moral rules of society or Christianity, but are open minded and willing to listen before rejecting. (I ad-libbed that a little, in case anyone clicks over to the website to see what was actually said.) They may seem scary to those who are more conservative, but typically they aren't dangerous. They may seem fascinated with death, but the average Goth is not interested in their own or anyone else's.

Despite the notion that Goth (as we know it) has only been around for a quarter century or less, one can draw a lot of comparisons to the early Goth era. Historically, "Goth" is a term used to describe cultures and subcultures throughout history. Since the direction I'm going with this is Biblical, I have to admit I didn't research the history a great deal, but I did find a timeline that gives a fairly good, albeit incomplete, overview. According to the timeline, "Goth" entered the scene about 500 years A.D. (or C.E. if you're younger than 25.) Wikipedia, on the other hand, dates Goths back to the first century. It's not the date of origin I'm interested in, though. It's the characteristics.

Goth's were stereotyped by the Roman Empire as dark and dangerous. To be fair, they were warriors, and any warrior that is your opposition is going to be considered lawless and violent. Gothic architecture of Medieval churches during the Renascence were considered  stark and unattractive by Italian standards, with all its pointed arches and gargoyles. Literature with a gothic flare was nearly always written with a background location of Medieval churches or cemeteries, and was characterized as dark and moody. And as literature made its way into the film era, all things horror were attributed to the Gothic style. Any classic movie nut will recognize the names Vincent Price and Bella Lugosi, famous for their work in that genre.

But who would guess that Goth dates back to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? What I'm about to tell you is going to be rather long, but I just can't abbreviate something this important. Besides, the whole story, although one of beauty and redemption, resonates as much with the Goth mindset as with the conservative view of Christianity. Trust me, no matter how well you think you know the story of this event, you probably are going to see it through different eyes after you read this.

This is the story of the last 14 hours of Christ's ministry on earth. It begins in a garden of Gethsemane. When we reveal the definition of the garden's name, it suddenly takes on an ominous tone. Gethsemane means the place of the olive press; It was more commonly referred to as the crushing place.

Jesus had just finished sharing the passover meal with his 12 apostles. These men had followed him from the beginning of His ministry, and He loved them all dearly. Still, He was keenly aware that one of them had left the meal to betray Him, and that His death was imminent. He also know that the rest of His friends were going to be save their own skin in the coming hours by pretending not to know Him. But more than that, He knew exactly what brutality lay ahead for Him, and He wasn't looking forward to it. He was, quite literally, carrying the weight and the sins of the entire world on His shoulders.

As He entered the crushing place, He took three of His disciples with Him to keep watch for those who would be coming to arrest Him. Not far inside, He stopped and told them that His soul was so crushed with grief that He felt like He was already dying. I'm sure we've all felt crushed by sadness to the point of wanting to die before, but His sadness was so deep that it really was nearly killing Him. Scripture says He fell to the ground, crying in anguish and sweating blood!

Mark 14:35-36

New Living Translation (NLT)
He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

After a while, He got up and returned to find His friends had drifted off to sleep. Distraught, He woke them up.

“Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?

Jesus went back to where He had been, and again fell to the ground, praying that His Father would find some other way for Him to save the world. He began praying even harder, so hard that the Bible says sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. 

Luke 22:44
He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
That's not just a figure of speech. It was Luke who described it in this manner, and besides being a disciple, Luke was a very well educated physician. He wrote of the blood because it was such a rare medical condition, and how significant it was.

Although this medical condition is relatively rare, according to Dr. Frederick Zugibe (Chief Medical Examiner of Rockland County, New York) it is well-known, and there have been many cases of it. The clinical term is “hematohidrosis.” “Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form.” Under the pressure of great stress the vessels constrict. Then as the anxiety passes “the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture. The blood goes into the sweat glands.” As the sweat glands are producing a lot of sweat, it pushes the blood to the surface - coming out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat. (author Paul S. Taylor of Eden Communications)

So yes, Jesus really did sweat blood. Then He got up, returned to His (again) sleeping friends, and woke them up to be witness to His arrest. He watched as His former friend approached Him. He knew it was coming, but it was still a disappointment. As if turning Him over to a death squad wasn't bad enough, Judas identified Him with a customary kiss to the cheek. What kind of jerk does that?

First they took Jesus to the High Priest, where all the leading priests, elders, and teachers of religious law had gathered. According to the account in Mark 14, the accusations began to fly against Him, but His accusers kept contradicting each other.  Finally, someone shouted the accusation that Jesus had said He would destroy the Temple, and then rebuild another within three days. Jesus had previously said something to that effect, but had been referring to His own death and Resurrection three days later. It didn't matter. The High Priest stood up and asked Him point blank if he was the Messiah, to which Jesus answered "I Am." The Priest then tore his clothing in horror, and declared that they needed no further testimony. At that, He was blindfolded, and the guards started spitting on Him and hitting Him with their fists, daring Him to divinely ascertain which guard threw each punch.

Then His accusers put together a bogus trial before the Roman governor, who was named Pilate. Pilate knew that Jesus had done nothing illegal, and that He should be set free. Even King Herod came to the same conclusion. Jesus was innocent. But the Sanhedrin and their followers were a bloodthirsty bunch, and demanded He be put to death. Pilate, in an effort to appease them, ordered that Christ be flogged. It wasn't enough though, so He was condemned to death, as well.

By law, a person was only allowed to be flogged 39 times. The whip was what some call a cat-of-9-tails. It had multiple straps of leather, each embedded with shards of iron and bone. Jesus was stripped of His clothing, and two guards, one on each side, took turns beating Him, pulvarizing both sides of His back, buttocks and legs. At first the lashings tore at His skin, making a bloody mess. But as the scourging continued, the bits of metal went deeper and deeper, tearing the underlying skeletal muscles until His flesh hung like ribbons. When they'd reached the limit on how many lashes he could receive, they formed a crown from a thorny branch and shoved it tightly onto His head. Then they put a wooden staff in His hand and a purple robe around His shoulders, making fun of Him for being called the King of Jews. When they tired of their antics, they ripped the robe from His bloody back. dressed Him in  His own clothes again, and led Him away to be crucified.

If you're wondering what all this dark ugliness has to do with Goth, keep reading. In the English language, we call where Jesus was crucified "Calvary". That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? It's like putting rose colored glasses on the stark naked truth. The Aramaic word, the one used in the Bible, is Golgotha. It was not a cheerful place, it was a place of darkness and doom. A hill where huge crosses of wood were erected after the hands and feet of criminals had been nailed in place. The word Golgotha meant the place of the skulls. The place had earned its name long before Jesus was hung there, but if you can't connect the dots and recognize that everything we associate with Goth was first documented at this event, in a location that even has "goth" in its name, then you must be blind.

The story doesn't end there, though. That morning the soldiers laid Jesus across the cross beams and drove iron nails through His hands and feet to hold Him in place. Truth be known, they were most likely driven between the bones of the wrist, between the carpal and the radius, narrowly missing the artery. Archaeological findings have taught us that the nails were tapered spikes that measured 5-7" in length, and had a square shaft that was 3/8 of an inch. The feet were placed one on top of the other, and nailed into position before the beams were erected into the air.

By law, the soldiers were required to offer a rag soaked in wine and myrr for the condemned to suck on, which brought about some relief from the pain. Jesus, however, refused the drink. He hung there, bugs burrowing into and feeding upon His torn flesh. With every breath, His torn and battered body scraped against the rough wood of the beam. Excruciating pain was like lightening bolts through His outstretched arms as they bore the weight of what was left of Him. Because of the position He was nailed in, breathing was shallow and very labored.  Depending on the severity of the flogging, a man could live as little as a few hours, or as long as a few days. 

It was about noon when the sky went dark. Many skeptics say that it couldn't have possibly been an eclipse, because it had followed a full moon. But it was, and it's backed up by the records of Phlegon, the Roman historian who recorded the events surrounding the 202nd Olympic Games in the year 32 AD. According to this document, there was a total eclipse of the sun that occurred in the 6th hour (of daylight), or noon. It remained dark for three full hours. As Jesus took His last breath, He called out to God.

Matthew 27:46

New Living Translation (NLT)
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Suddenly the the earth shook, rocks split apart, and the entrances to tombs were uncovered. The heavily woven curtain in the Temple sanctuary  was ripped from top to bottom, as though by the very hand of God. The curtain had always separated the holy area from the Holiest of Holies, where only the High Priest was allowed to enter. The significance of this is that Jesus now spanned the divide between God and people, and we were no longer on the outside. The priests were probably in the Temple right about that time, offering prayers and incense to a God they gave lip service to; Among them would have been the very priests who were responsible for having Jesus arrested and crucified.

That ends the darkness and gloom and the "Gothic" overtones. At that very moment, Jesus' spirit was released, the sun came back out, and Jesus was carried to a tomb that had been provided Him by a wealthy follower. 

Though His body had died, Jesus was very much alive. He spent the next three days in Sheol, also known as Hades, the place of the dead. This is not to be confused with hell, though. This is a realm between heaven and hell where the dead are held awaiting judgment. Sheol is divided into two distinctly separate areas by a deep chasm. On the one side, referred to as Abraham's bosom, are those who knew God. It is also called paradise, and is what Jesus meant when He told the thief on the cross "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise."  On the other side, the lost await their final judgment before spending eternity in hell.

Three days later, Jesus arose from the place of the dead.

Today, thousands of years later, He still lives.