Monthly Archives: February 2015

Better Call Saul – Day 20 – 90 Days through the Bible – 1 Samuel 3-15

maxresdefaultSaul is a conflicted leader. He seems like the answer to the people’s demands for a strong king. God even allows Samuel to anoint him. The problems start after that. He serves as a king, but he can’t seem to trust God. He can’t leave things well enough alone. He keeps getting in the way with his own ideas about what he’s supposed to do. He sacrifices and offers worship to God when all the Lord wants is for him to be faithful.

When we bargain with God, do we do the same thing? Do we THINK God wants one thing when in reality God desires not fancy clothes, good church services and giving away a lot of money – God wants us to change our hearts, not our appearance, to give well, not necessary to give a lot. Something to think about, I guess. On to 1 Samuel!

  • “Here I am…” Is there any more powerful words of acceptance in the Bible? Samuel is eager to serve, to help, and to be the minister/prophet he was dedicated to be. The problem with that? He’s going to get a tough prophetic assignment. Careful what you wish for, I guess.
  • What a turn of events – The Israelites look like they’re going to lose, so they bring out their secret weapon: the ark of the covenant. This very presence of God will surely turn the tide…until it doesn’t. indiana-jones-ark-of-the-covenantIsrael still loses and now the ark is captured. Way to go, guys.
  • Poor Eli. He falls over from the bad news and breaks his neck?
  • Ichabod means “The glory has departed from Israel.” I never knew that one. So, why would you name your son Icahbod? Mr. and Mrs. -Ichabod-Crane-ichabod-crane-sleepy-hollow-tv-series-35844488-800-600Crane must not have thought too fondly about the good news of becoming parents.
  • Is there anyone over the age of 12 who doesn’t see this picture when they think of the power of the ark of the covenant? I’ll spare the face melting stuff but you know you remember it.
  • Everybody seems to want a king. Why? What is it about doing things your neighbors are doing that makes it so attractive? I love that Samuel warns them over and over again, but they still choose monarchy. How’s that gonna work out? Let’s go find a king!
  • Hello, Saul.
  • Qualifications for Saul as king? 1 Samuel 9:2 – “There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders about everyone else.” So, he’s good looking and really tall. That makes sense. Maybe that’s how I’ll vote in the next election.
  • “Is Saul also among the prophets?” That became a proverb…or so we are told in 1 Samuel 10:12. This march toward the throne is certainly less traditional than one would expect. Still, here comes the handsome, tall, prophesying Saul, ready to take charge.
  • 1 Samuel 13 begins with a very curious verse that is missing words. The length of Saul’s reign is unknown in this verse. Acts 13:21 notes Saul reigned for 40 years.
  • Saul loses his kingdom when he sacrifices to God, rather than trusting God would fulfill the promises made to Saul. Trust and faith…that’s more important here than right
  • Much like Saul, Jonathan’s introduction includes him traveling with an unknown companion. Who are these people?
  • It seems like Saul has been at war since he first came on the scene. Rough time to be the kind, I’d say.

Genesis 4 – Broken Brotherhood – #TPCgenesis

(Today’s reading is from Genesis 4 – if you’d like to take part in this Lenten journey, you can learn more about the details at )

Joe with fishI love my brother, Joe. He’s five and a little less than six years younger than me. He’s my own sibling and he is far cooler, better looking, and smoother than I’ll ever dream of being. He does interesting things, with interesting people, in interesting places. I’ll admit, there are a few times I’ve been jealous of my brother but without exaggeration, I am much prouder of who he is than I ever am envious.

What makes a good sibling rivalry? The kind of competition that makes both siblings better and pushes one another onto becoming better men and women. How can you experience that kind of relationship without it turning into jealousy, anger, and envy?brother gif

Today’s passage is the worst of possible sibling relationships. Cain can’t stand that his younger brother Abel does something well. He can’t help but compare himself to his brother and in so doing he finds himself depressed, angry, and vengeful. Abel’s death comes so suddenly (v 8) without any words ever uttered in the chapter by Abel himself. Cain certainly speaks. Even though he is shown mercy by God in his punishment, he still begs God for more. There is never a sense of remorse for his brother’s death.

Why do we treat our brothers and sisters with such disregard, always focused on our wants, needs, and desires? Can we be happy for our siblings and celebrate when they celebrate? I can’t think of many sadder passages in the Bible.

Days 18-19, 90 Days Through the Bible – The Book of Judges, Ruth, and 1 Samuel

Judging YouProbably a weird thing to say, but Judges is my favorite book in the OT. It feels like the Wild West. There is a sense of law vs. lawlessness in the claiming of this new land. And much like the European visitors who tried to take the land from the Native Americans, the would-be settlers were not always behaving as though they were righteous or just. Judges gives us a picture of people vacillating between right and wrong. It feels real, gritty, and more relatable than the wanderings in the desert we’ve been dealing with the last couple of weeks. Still, this book also contains some HORRIFIC passages, and none are worse than the Jephthah’s daughter debacle. What a disaster of a promise Jephthah makes and what an awful result.

On to the notes!

  • Judges 1 – Here’s the first reference to Jerusalem (I think?). Amazing to see this important city enter through violence. It is still such a divided place today and it began as a divided place in Judges. Just a preview of what’s to come…
  • Funny how just a generation after Joshua dies, the people forget the Lord. Do we have the same problem? Do we take for granted the exploits and sacrifices of our parents? Grandparents and beyond?
  • “Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…” We run into this phrase an awful lot over the next 20+ chapters, don’t we?
  • Othniel doesn’t get very much of a story, just a short paragraph in chapter 3. I wish there was more to his backstory.
  • Judges 3:12-30 – WOW that’s a lot of violence all of the sudden. Killing a guy in the bathroom? Again, best book in the OT. Wild stories.
  • I love the introduction of Deborah.resized_creepy-willy-wonka-meme-generator-can-i-call-you-deborah-debbie-c7dd8e Here we have a very strong female leader who takes up the mantle when the male general is unwilling to do so alone. If this isn’t great rationale for female leadership and ordination, then I don’t know what is. Deborah is called by God to lead the people with her gifts, talents, and faith. I want my daughter to know this story. I want my son to know this story. I want all people to read the scripture with an eye toward the whole – what is God’s ultimate message about our relationships with one another, strangers, friends, and even our enemies.
  • Judges 6 – The Sign of the Fleece – Gideon may be blessed, anointed, and touched by God, but he doesn’t have a ton of trust in God, does he? It’s funny how he test God once and when God passes, he decides to retest God. What does he think, the first time was a fluke? God got lucky?
  • And the very next chapter we get an army chosen because they drink like dogs? This stuff is hilarious, awesome, fantastic, and hopeful. I really, really enjoy this book.
  • Judges 11 – Jephthah’s vow feels like the beginning of the end for the book. Why do we make deals with God that God does not ask us to make? Why would you bargain with God when there is no need to bargain? This poor girl. What an awful story…
  • And onto the scene burst Samson! Here is yet another child of promise, born to a previously barren mother. There will be many more of these individuals in the scriptures that follow. My favorite Grateful Dead song? “Samson and Delilah”
  • The Samson chronicles are great to teach kids…until everybody starts dying…and we have to deal with the weird sexual stuff…and the genocide…and animal abuse…and blindings…and, well, I’ll take back my previous statement.
  • And after Samson comes another passage I didn’t really learn in Sunday School. Judges 19 describes the horrible rape of two women and the civil war that follows between the various tribes involved in the incident. You’ll notice that God is absent from this section. The people were without any clear leadership, faith, or hope.


  • c3f00e52b4e59b8ff7c01a97a1f2aba9Ruth was one of the first books I preached on when I became thepastor at The Peoples church. I love the way this book provides a hope that was missing in Judges. It’s kind of a palate cleanser for the end of the last book. Now THIS is a story you can teach to all ages. After the NC-17 Judges, we have the more digestible PG Ruth…with a few scenes of adult situations (threashing room floor comes to mind).
  • Who are the people picking up the sheaves in our culture? Do we leave the sheaves out for them?
  • Names are important.
  • Everyone has the responsibility for another person. We are all called to take care of others, aren’t we?
  • Boaz and Ruth are part of the lineage of David, and a little farther down the line, the genealogy of Jesus. Makes you start to wonder about all the questionable characters in Jesus’ background.

1 Samuel

  • We’re just starting this book today.
  • We encounter yet another child of promise. Hannah prays for a child and is eventually rewarded. So what does she do with her new baby? Gives him away to the temple.

Genesis 3 – A Lack of Obedience #TPCgenesis

Who Helps You Make a Decision?


The rebellion in chapter 3 inspires a myriad of questions:

  • Why was the tree “a delight to the eye?”
  • What is the sound of God walking in the garden?
  • Why create the serpent anyway?
  • What does it mean to know good and evil?

This is the stuff I love about Genesis. This book sets the stage for everything that is to come yet it also holds up on its own in a way that gives us a better picture of God, one another, ourselves, and our world. At the end of the day, I can’t help but wonder – who is to blame for this the events of this chapter?

When something goes wrong, something dreadfully, awfully, and terribly wrong, do we accept willingly accept responsibility? Because I usually look for other culpable parties before I’m able to step up and take ownership of my own mistakes, faults, and sins. Is it cowardice, self preservation, or just a fear of punishment that makes us so reluctant to accept our own culpability?Simpsons Adam and Eve

This is the first example, among many later, of sin in scripture. The reaction of Adam and Eve isn’t so different from our own…and their need for grace is similar to ours. Tomorrow’s chapter? Some of the first examples of that grace that is so desperately needed, even in the face of horrific choices.

Genesis 1-2 – A Lenten Discipline Through Genesis

“In the beginning, God created…”


Northern-Lights-Photo-1-green-skyI remember the first time I saw the Northern Lights. I was eighteen and hanging out on a beach on the Lake Michigan coast by the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. It was the very end of the summer and I was preparing to head to my freshman year at Alma College. I was excited, nervous, and anxious about starting school but this last night with friends was a welcome release. As we sat out on the beach, we noticed the lights start slowly until around 12:30 they were in full force. At that point, it was like nothing could stop them.

None of us wanted to leave, turn away, blink even. Yet just as quickly as they developed, they started to disappear. And then, we were left with waves, sand, and hope for some kind of return. That was a beginning of so many things in my life and it started with something so indescribable. Words, truly, don’t do it justice.

Genesis 1 and 2 – there are no good words to describe the beginning of something profound, incredible, and miraculous. The poetry of these first chapters of the Bible are impossible. They carry a weight far greater than the words on the page. “In the beginning…” To imagine the beginning of, well, everything…it’s impossible to comprehend.

Yet here we are and this is where we start.

I hope you’ll consider continuing this journey through Genesis as we continue together through Lent. This is the beginning. Let us marvel.


Ash Wednesday

Making AshAsh Cross

President’s Day Reading Catch-up – Days 13-17 – Numbers 33 – Joshua 24

President’s Day Reading Catch-up

Days 13-17 – Numbers 33 – Joshua 24

quote-the-best-laid-schemes-o-mice-an-men-gang-aft-agley-an-lea-e-us-nought-but-grief-an-pain-for-robert-burns-281775Nothing like a long weekend to help you catch up on some reading, eh? Or, in my case, nothing like a long weekend with your family at a waterpark to wreck havoc on your good intentions. I feel like there is some kind of parallel between this weekend and the Hebrew people’s journey in the wilderness. Hear me out – they want to do the right thing, the thing God has called them to do, but something always seems to get in their way and distract them. They assume it’s going to be easy and, predictably, it never is. We’re still reading some difficult passages and truth be told, I’m looking forward to the end of this section.

This is a big chunk of the OT and by the time we finish it we’ll be out of the Torah and onto Joshua. That’s gotta mean something, right?

  • Numbers 33 feels like a sitcom “clips” show. You know the episode I’m talking about? One of those shows that claims to be all new but it’s really just a collection of clips from the previous episodes. That’s what we’re dealing with here. A recap of what we just read in the previous 32 chapters. Actually, it’s helpful for me to reread this whole section. Nice to remind yourself how everybody got to where they are.
  • Numbers 35 – Cities of refuge for those seeking asylum. I love this concept. Where are the places of security, refuge and sanctuary in our world today? Where do we allow the accused, the frightened, and worrisome?
  • Again, I’m concerned with this approach to reading scripture. I know there are some subtle differences between the similar events that are retold in Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, but for the life of me, I can’t pick them out while reading this much this fast. What I am discovering are the larger themes and ideas that permeate throughout the meta-narrative – God’s continual presence, call and response, the need for obedience, humanity’s shortcomings, and the ability to forgive – just to name a few.
  • Moses is again reminded that he will not enter into Canaan. What must he have felt to know that his children and grandchildren would see the land he had longed for for so long? Is that a comfort to us? To know our children will experience great joy, even if we do not?
  • Retelling the 10 commandments – Deuteronomy 5
  • Best part of Deuteronomy – 6:4-9 – SHEMA!!!TheShema I may not remember much else from my seminary Hebrew classes than these wonderful verses. This sticks and it should stick. I want to remember these verses- To keep these words. To share these words.
  • Big warning – Deut 8:19 If you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
  • Hooray! More food laws! I was wondering if I should eat roebuck or roebuck-animals-2955302-600-400the buzzard. Guess not.
  • Deuteronomy 15:10 – Give liberally and ungrudging when you do so
  • And here come the sexuality laws…Deuteronomy 22…this deserves more attention…in another post…on another day…
  • Fun new law I just learned? Deuteronomy 23:24 – If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in a container.
  • Laws usually develop because of the actions of a community. I’d like to know the origin of this particular law and want to know how many times it occurred to warrant recording it in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 – If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes by reaching out and seizing his genitals, you shall cut off her hand; show her no pity.
  • Wrapping Deuteronomy up with another recap, this time set to a song. Way to go, Moses. I didn’t realize you had some music skills in addition to all the prophetic stuff!
  • Moses’ eulogy is beautiful, fitting, and a nice conclusion to the Torah.
  • It’s the turning point! We’re in Joshua!
  • And let’s also welcome Rahab onto the scene.rahab-11 Her story is a pretty fantastic one – this foreign woman is responsible for giving the Israelites what they needed to come into the land and survive. She is one of many “women of questionable backgrounds” who proves to be part of the great story of all of God’s people. God chooses the most unlikely, even you and me. Her quick thinking and wise words make all the difference.
  • Joshua 5:15 – Josh takes off his sandals in the presence of God’s holy messenger…very similar to Moses removing his shoes in front of the burning bush. Bottom line? Take off your shoes in the presence of the divine.
  • Those sneaky Gibeonites tried to pull a fast one on Joshua. Didn’t seem to work out in their favor (Joshua 9).
  • Joshua 12 is the list of kings defeated. That’s, um, a lot of war. A whole lot of war.
  • Dividing up the conquered land – give it to the tribes, give the Levites their due, and make sure you set up cities of refuge. I think I got this section. Bring on Judges.