Thursday, October 24, 2013

With All My Guts?

My mother always told me and my siblings we should love God with all our guts. It was her way of telling us how deep our love needed to be. I hadn't thought of that statement in sometime until I read about praying with direction and devotion in Lois Tverberg's book, Listening to the Language of the Bible.

The idea is that whether one speaks a prayer that's been written by someone else or is made-up as you pray, you should have your whole heart in it. No one around you will know if your mind is focused on a prayer or not. But God will.

I have to confess sometimes I speak out a prayer in a manner that seems halfhearted. I don't like it, but it's true. Do you ever do that? Do you ever struggle to keep your mind on what you're asking or talking to God about? Do you ever have a last minute fleeting thought that causes you to speak an even faster, perhaps halfhearted, prayer?

It's easy to fall into these traps in today's fast pace, multi-tasked oriented society. So many things grab for our attention. Multi-tasking has become second nature for many. And unfortunately, it spills into our prayer life. However, or whenever, a prayer is spoken we should do our best to put our all into the words we speak.

Praying to God and loving him with all your guts doesn't mean you have to spend a solid hour in prayer everyday. Although, there is nothing like it when you do. But lifting up focused-from-the-gut prayers throughout the day reminds us who's in charge and who we answer to. It's a constant reminder to the very core of our being of who's the BIG boss.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Whale or Fish?

How many of you grew up hearing that Jonah was swallowed by a whale? I did. I believe it's because my teachers knew of no other "great fish" in the ocean. I accepted this in my younger years until I learned that whales have a very small esophagus. Jonah couldn't have been in the whale's belly for any length of time let alone three days. So for years I chose to believe that God created one fish for the duty of getting Jonah's attention.

Then one day I was taken to the Bahamas to a resort called Atlantis. Integrated into this huge and spread out complex is an equally expansive aquarium. There are indoor and outdoor tanks mingled around the pools. For example, the shark tank is part of the water slide area. And along side most of the tanks were workers stationed to answer your questions about any of the species or the aquarium itself.

I have to admit I love aquariums. It seems I find a new fish each time I go. And this place was no different. There were fish there of colors and shapes unique to the Bahamas which were wonderful to watch.

One of the fish I came upon was enormous. My friend and I were commenting on the size of it when we were interrupted by the aquarium worker. "Oh, that's just a baby. When he's an adult he can swallow a man." He proceeded to tell of how divers report being swallowed up by this fish and then spit back out. One of his final statements stayed with me. "This is the fish that swallowed Jonah."

I had to laugh at myself. God didn't just create one fish for the job. He created a species that's still alive today as a reminder to modern man. I just had to go to the Bahamas to find it.

I have to wonder though, how many people trip over this one story? Do they not trust God because they've never seen a fish that can swallow a man? If they can't see it or don't hear of it, do they stop trusting or seeking God? Just because we don't see it or know of it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Do we limit God as a result of our limitations?

It definitely helps to discover that what we read about in the Bible is real. It confirms our faith in Jesus, whom we can't see or touch. If you think something, anything, in the Bible is made-up, ask God to show you where to look to find evidence that it's real or can happen. He's faithful and he will.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Concubine - Mistress or Wife?

What are your thoughts when you read about kings and prominent men of the Bible having concubines? Have you ever wondered why those men even needed concubines if they already had multiple wives? I have. Can you imagine all that female hormone under one roof, oh my.

And one more thought. . .have you ever noticed how infrequently daughters are mentioned? But when there was victory over a king, among the list of things taken were the concubines. Why did they rate being mentioned?

Until recently I thought of concubines as in-house mistresses. But they weren't. In fact, concubines were the showcase of a king's power. The more territory he conquered or wealth he gained the more concubines he had.

But a concubine wasn't just a mistress or some piece of purchased property. She was like a back-up wife. There was even an official ceremony appointing her to that position. She ate with the family and bore the king legitimate sons; that's why they're listed in the family tree. She had all the rights as a wife, in fact, she could even be divorced.

Here's a killer fact. . .when a man wanted to usurp power from a weak leader or seal the overthrow of a king, he didn't make some kind of political move and then bed the king's wife. No, he took a concubine. (2 Samuel 3 and 16)

Go figure. A concubine holding the position that dictated who had power. Unbelievable. But, true.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Just Off the Highway

When you picture Bethlehem back in the days of the Bible do you see it off on a little country road, or next to a highway? And what about Herod's country palace, Herodium. How do you see the people getting there?

In my mind's eye I always pictured the travelers heading to Herodium turning off the main road before they reached Bethlehem. According to In The Footsteps of Jesus, by W. E. Pax, the only way to get to the town that serviced Herodium was through Bethlehem. I had no idea there was a town nearby. I also had the misunderstanding that Herodium was Herod's get-away palace. What I learned from W.E. Pax is that it was also an administration center for places south of Jerusalem. That was new to me.

After all these years of picturing Bethlehem as a quiet country town on a slow going road with a small inn for the few people passing by, my mind has to re-adjust how to picture this landmark town. And perhaps see a couple of the stories around the birth of Jesus in a new light.

Like, no wonder there wasn't any room in the inn. All the people coming in for the census plus the foreign business travelers going to or from Herodium would have left little room for a late arriving group.

Not only that, but to be honest, I thought the soldiers who did the killing of the children looked at it as going to a no-name town, killing babies and small children, and never having to return there again. Now I have to wonder, did the soldiers who killed the children also travel with Herod? Did they know these people? How difficult was it to then face the families each time they passed through town? What an ugly mess.

It's amazing how sometimes the small just-off-the-beaten-path places pack so much history. Bethlehem is one of those.