They Can’t All Be Correct

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

My home group has been journeying through the book of Acts for almost three months. Tonight we’ll be discussing Paul’s final recorded journey to Jerusalem and his subsequent arrest. Soon the narrative will draw to a close. I never fail to feel sad when I reach the end of a study. Even though Paul died many centuries ago, I’ll miss him.

Paul gets a hard time. People like to take what he wrote and what he was recorded as saying completely out of context. They spin his words for their own agendas. It frustrates me to no end to see the Bible abused this way. It is so, so important to take the time, to put in the effort, to consider and understand the context of a passage within the chapter, the book or letter or poem as a whole, the overarching salvation narrative and the historical timeline. This is the only way, guided by the Holy Spirit, to rightly handle the text.

Consider one of my favorite scenes from Acts:

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?”

Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.

And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:


Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

– Acts 17:16-31 (NKJV)

Yes, Paul had a temper. He was an intense guy. He was a very flawed human being, something he declared over and over again. He made mistakes. He knew exactly what sort of person he was and exactly from what God had saved him.

Yet there is nothing offensive in his sermon. He is respectful, learned and passionate. He speaks to his audience in terms they will readily understand. He seeks out whatever common ground he can find and builds on it. I imagine him as the sort of guy that would be willing to sit down with anyone who wanted to talk about faith and God, probably over a good kosher burger.

But he never says that their way is right.

He never says that the road they are on will lead them to salvation.

We would do well to emulate Paul in this way. He never compromised the message. He was not wishy-washy. He did not go into pagan temples and participate in idolatrous rights in order to “connect” with people. He did not preach some mushy, gushy, “all you need is love,” fake, flimsy gospel. He spoke and wrote the truth. It got him run out of towns, separated from friends, whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and eventually (according to tradition) beheaded.

I have no doubt that he stands today among that great and unseen cloud of witnesses and shouts, “It was worth it! The Lord is worth it!”

They can’t all be correct. We do the unbelieving world great disservice when we refuse to reveal the Unknown God to them. When we spout the political correctness of relativism. When we refuse to face reality. When we fall prey to inconsistencies of logic and cognitive dissonance.

There is One way, One truth and One life. Period.

Let us be moved. Not to disdain, superiority or prejudice. Not to unkindness or brutality. Let us be moved, as Paul was moved, to take the Light of Christ boldly into the dark. Let us allow the Lord to break our hearts for the lost, for those who grope about wildly for what He freely and openly offers. Let us be strong and committed. Let us declare truth.

For that is real love.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Weary

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

With little fanfare and even less introduction, I follow Kate and dwell on: weary.


I wrote these words long ago. Scribbled across the margin of a Bible study workbook. Among the first studies I ever did. Among the first poems I ever penned as an adult. They rise up from within my heart today. I am tired. I forgot to take my new medication last night, the one that helps my stomach to not hate me, and so I’m nauseous. I can’t decide whether to keep my bangs or grow them out so they’re in that really awkward phase that all women know about. Churchill’s black dog keeps trying to entice me to come and play. I am drawn. Beaten. Weary.

Edge of Defeat”

Sometimes I feel like a

worn-out boxer

I have no fight left

within me

The weight of my load

is too great to bear

But the fear of giving it up

is greater still

For who would I be?

What would I miss out on?

Is letting go where

true freedom lies?

I should rather be master

of my own life!

But in my weakness

I know I’m not

For this sin, this cloud

has beaten me into dust

Has sapped my strength

consumed my mind

Yet for all the pain

it causes

This is my bosom friend

whom I loathe to love

I want to hide – O, God!

Please turn away!

Don’t look at me –

let me have my secret shame

I beg of You – just let me go!

For this cannot be worth Your time

If I really loved You

I’d have beaten this by now

Kicked the habit to the curb

KO’ed my shadowy opponent

Emerged victorious from the battle

Isn’t that the truth?

Alone in the corner of the ring

Head lowed, knuckles bruised and bloodied

I accept my loss, bow to my enemy

He moves to overtake me

Wicked grin spread cross his face

Eyes that gleam with hatred

Tears fall down my battered cheeks

How could I fail again?

Suddenly, that thing, that fright

that cursed enemy of souls

Flung away, vanished!

Conquered by an unseen hand.

Clear, cool water pours over me

cleaning my wounds, restoring

Still my head hangs low

For I sure know Who is standing there

Blinding light takes place of dark

I cower even farther – try to shrink in size

I know You saw! You know I blew it!

Where can I run to now?

You gently tip my chin up

I cannot meet Your eyes

I know You must be disappointed

I’ve fallen, yet again

You step away with whispered word

Dry the tears from off my face

Fight!” You say,

and smile on me

For I know one day you’ll

surely win!

Because of this – and this alone

Your tiny faith in me.”

It may not seem as if it’s true

But have I ever lied?

So fight, my daughter,

I’ll bandage your wounds.

I will restore, prepare, make new

You have no secret shame

Nothing of you is hidden from me

And you can never fall too far.”

You do not fight this war alone

Though sometimes you try!

Lean again, trust again,

And with wings spread you’ll soar.”

How can this Man love me so?

How can He save me once again?

One look in His eyes, all questions gone

I’ve all I need to know

The fight bell rings,

I rise – steadied, sure

One two punch, I’m in God’s hands

And I’ll be whole again.


My journey to faith. (15)

What I Want

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

Hello, there. You may have noticed my silence last week. I won’t lie – it was good to be away from the laptop. Much as I enjoy writing, I get tired of the screen and the keys. But we’ve talked about my love/hate relationship with technology before, so no need to cover old ground. Besides, that’s really not the point today.

Today is about getting back on the right path.

Over the last couple of months I’ve had more than one person ask, “When are you going to write a book?” Normally I would brush such an inquiry aside; I dislike talking about such things because I never have a satisfactory answer. But it’s hard not to take notice when people who don’t know each other poke and prod at the same spot. Then the 31 Days Challenge came – and my series was a success. People responded. They enjoyed what I wrote.

I don’t know how I feel about people noticing my words and wanting more.

Writers are a strange lot. We are compelled to dribble the ink across the page, but most of us are flat-out petrified of others reading the finished product. That’s why blogging is such a great thing. It’s good writing practice and it also helps in getting used to the idea that there is an audience out there. An audience that somehow connects with you through those letters, jots and tittles.

So, on the one hand, it’s encouraging to know that the years plugging away in this little corner begin to produce a harvest. On the other, one or two nasty comments are a whole lot easier to deal with than an honest-to-goodness bad review from someone who matters. Or at least matters in the writing world.

The question remains: When am I going to write a book?

The answer: I’m working on one.

It began in early summer. The big picture came fully-formed. I knew exactly how to start, how to finish and where to go in between. I have chapter titles. I have a document just for notes and ideas. I put an app on my phone just for scribbling little things that come to me at random moments. The first, rough run-through is almost halfway finished.

You think I’d be excited.

I’m not.

I ran away from this project. I deliberately turned away from what I know to be God’s will for me in this season.

There goes any of you thinking that I’ve got it all together.

When we throw our hands up and tell God, “No,” there are always consequences. For me it’s been weeks of discontentment and spiritual “blahness.” Oh, I’ve kept on doing things that I should do. Bible study, church attendance, prayer. But there’s been a block. God knew what it was. I knew what it was. He waited for me to acknowledge it. I tried not to.

Because this project, this little book of mine, is not likely to be well-received.

That’s the other thing I’ve heard more than once lately. “You are never going to be a popular author.” I know what that means. If it’s God’s will that one day this book sits on a shelf in a store and people buy it, a good portion of them won’t respond favorably to what they read. If I could just stay in the funny lane or shift gears into conventional “women’s writing…” But I can’t. That significantly ups the scary factor.

God being God, He decided that this little detente wasn’t going to continue. He pressed on me. Kept bringing it up. We had a moment. Rather literally a come to Jesus meeting. I never win when that happens. (Well, I do, because He’s always good and right and there’s nothing but winning when we submit to Him). In His graciousness, He condescended to hash some things out with me. There was forgiveness and renewal, as there blessedly always is.

This weekend I turned on the computer and called up the book. I didn’t bother going over what I’d already written. That will come later. I started where I left off, all the way back in July.

And it was so, so good.

There was flow. There was logic. I remembered the thesis and how to connect each chapter. I knew right away that this is it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.

God being God, He knew that the fear would set in once more. He knew that I would lose that sense of rightness as soon as I shut it down and walked away. When cares like making dinner and figuring out what to take to a church chili cook-off took precedence in my mind. I’m shortsighted like that.

I crawled into bed early that night, aching all over. (No, not some divine punishment. Just my body being it’s weird self). I reached for a book on my nightstand, but stopped short when the Holy Spirit very clearly said, “Ezekiel Thirty-Three.” Not audibly. Not with a burning bush. Clear as a bell nevertheless. And utterly, completely random. He’s interesting like that. I read:

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them, ‘If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman, and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people, then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it’s his own fault. He heard the alarm, he ignored it—it’s his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.

“‘But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn’t blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I’ll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.’

“You, son of man, are the watchman. I’ve made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them. If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked man, wicked woman, you’re on the fast track to death!’ and you don’t speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I’ll hold you responsible for their bloodshed. But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don’t do it, they’ll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life.” – vs. 1-9 (MSG)

Be chill. I’m not claiming to be either a prophet or a watchman. I’m not predicting the apocalypse. I do know exactly what those verses mean. From the lips of my King to my ear. It’s something we all need to remember.

The Lord commands us to obey Him. It’s both that simple and that hard. (Thanks, Adam and Eve). He tells us to put aside all fear, all distraction, and do what He says. How other people respond – that’s on them. The only thing on us, on me, is to follow where He leads. In my experience, more often than not His leading is decidedly against the current. Against trends and fads. Against accepted norms.

If you’re anything like me and that scares the crud out of you, be encouraged today. God isn’t asking you to save anyone. (Or to control them). He’s not putting the weight of the world on your shoulders. He gives you one assignment at a time, an assignment that only you can complete. A task ordained before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10). He’s not requiring you to swim upstream on your own, either. He is with you every moment, giving you grace, courage and wisdom – even when you don’t have sense to ask for it.

In the end, whatever pain that arises from the strain is absolutely worth it. I would rather see a smile on the face of my Lord and know that I did all that I could to obey Him than have the accolades of a world gone to you-know-where in a you-know-what. He’s given me a job to do (just let that blow your mind; God gives us jobs to do) and I want to be able to say that I did it. Even if there’s a howl and a backlash. Even if the waves crash and beat against me.

A life completely turned over to Him.

That’s what I want.

My journey to faith. (15)