In the messy middle of the story

At the beginning of the book of Ruth, Naomi was bitter. No doubt about it. She said she was bitter. She changed her name to “Bitter.” (That’s what “Mara” means.) Preachers and writers often point to her as an example of sinful bitterness.

These are some thoughts from the chapter in Untwisting Scriptures called “I must be bitter.”

When many preachers and writers talk about Naomi they say that she—and you—should instead be like Joseph in the book of Genesis. After he was betrayed by his brothers, he said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

But there are a couple of problems with this way of thinking. For one thing, when we look at the word bitter elsewhere in the Bible, we can see that the majority of the time, it’s talking about grief.  Naomi was grieving. (Untwisting Scriptures talks about what grief really is and how a lot of people don’t understand it and don’t want to acknowledge it.)
naomi-in-the-middle

And there’s another important point we should observe about Naomi in contrast to Joseph. Continue reading

Don’t trust your feelings?

In Ephesians 3, Paul prayed that the people he was writing to would know the love of Christ

. . . that surpasses knowledge.

What kind of sense does that make?

The sense comes when you recognize that those two uses of the English word know come from two different Greek words.

The second is the knowing of intellect, like book learning. Paul is saying here that the love of Christ is beyond intellectual grasping.

The first one is the knowing of the senses, the perception, the experience—dare I say it? Continue reading

“You give them something to eat”

Last week I told about how this past January God used Revelation 2 to show me a danger in my heart (very kindly, of course, using the sandwich method of words of commendation both before and after).

There were some other words at the end of that passage, which I had written in my journal, but which I didn’t really think about at the time. When I finally noticed them, they jumped off the page, but that wasn’t until April. . . .

Have you ever noticed in Luke 9 when Jesus’ disciples were all worried about what in the world the crowd of 5000-plus people were going to eat, have you ever paid attention to the odd thing Jesus said to them?

“You give them something to eat.” Continue reading

Searching for the one who is worth searching for

“How can I pray for you?” I asked that question of three different young women on the same evening. To my surprise, they all gave basically the same answer.

“That my eyes would be opened.”
“That my vision of Christ would be clearer.”
“That I would see Jesus.”

They were groaning with the Continue reading

Note to self: Stop saying “I can’t”

At some point in my life—not that long ago, I’m afraid—I realized I said these two words a lot.

I can’t memorize like I used to. I can’t keep anything in my head for more than about ten seconds.

I can’t take on one more thing. Really, I would love to, but I just can’t.

I can’t do this by myself, people.

I just can’t break this sin pattern.

At some point—don’t remember what God used to turn on the light—I realized Continue reading

Psalm 131: How can I have a soul like a weaned child?

I first published this one in November in 2009, shortly after a time, because of unusually traumatizing circumstances, when I believed I was approaching a nervous breakdown. I wrestled with God through Psalm 131 and saw Him bring me out on the other side.

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This question is one I asked myself not long ago when my soul was not quiet. In agony I turned to Psalm 131. “Lord, how can I quiet my soul?” Continue reading

Waging warfare through Psalm 18

It seemed like a normal day. I was going about my ordinary household tasks, for the most part on automatic. But during the course of the day I became aware of where my heart was going. I realized that I was continuing to be bombarded by temptations in my thoughts, and that I was coyly flirting with the enemy, even though it was only barely at the level of consciousness. Because, after all, I was still washing clothes and cleaning the kitchen and doing school and answering emails and carrying on with life.

Under this bombardment of wrong desires, anxiety, and wrong attitudes, Continue reading

How can I be strong in the Lord?

“Be strong and of good courage . . . Only be strong and very courageous, . . . Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid  or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (from Joshua 1)

Through the decades, I’ve carried on arguments with myself in my wide-margin Bible. I correct myself, I rebuke myself, I express aghast-ness at my spiritual nearsightedness. Continue reading