Good Bones

WordPress nicely reminded me that I started this blog 7 years ago. Well, May 31 2012 was my first post – so a little over 7 years ago. When I started blogging, I had no information on here that identified me aside from the blog name – and only a few people in the world would have known to link that back to me. I would post things and privately send the link to a few friends so they could read what I had written. Fast forward to a year ago when I took a full plunge and updated my site, bought a domain, made a Facebook page, and decided I would wholly embrace being identified through this blog.

Upon this moment of reflecting on 7 years of blogging regularly (and also not-so-regularly — how do people have time or energy to post all the time???), I took a moment to go back and re-read some of my earliest posts. Reading my old thoughts is something else. I posted on here and other places during some really really high points in my spiritual walk, but also some really low ones. Each post is a little snapshot of where I was and what I was learning at the time. My style has changed over the years, as has my jargon, but also – most interestingly – my faith has morphed over the years.

There’s a song that’s been stuck in my head the week or so – the chorus in particular (which is always how it is???)

When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter
Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter
Let it rain ’cause you and I remain the same
When there ain’t a crack in the foundation
Baby, I know any storm we’re facing
Will blow right over while we stay put
The house don’t fall when the bones are good
– The Bones, Maren Morris

The song is written about her relationship with her husband, but as the words and melodic riff cycle through my head for the umpteenth day in a row, I started thinking about how they also remind me of a very familiar passage of scripture:

 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
– Matthew 7:24-27

I say my faith has morphed over the years – and I mean that in the best way possible. Originally I was anonymous on this blog because I was afraid of backlash or people getting mad/judging me based on what I was writing. part of growing in my faith was learning not to be ashamed of the seasons I go through – and there have been SEASONS.

As I re-read my old posts, though, I am also reminded of the constancy that is Christ. Sometimes as I walk through highs and lows I am presently aware of how He is still there, other times I have not been able to see Him, feel Him, or understand where He possibly could be, but I know that He is. My faith and thoughts on faith have changed as I grow, stretch and am stretched, and face various things in my life, but the weathering of the storm comes down to the fact that the base is there. As I test and explore things, the “home base” that I come back to remains the same.

My life  sometimes feels like paint is peeling, glass is shattering, and rain is leaking in everywhere…but the foundation is firm. God is clearly remodeling – much to my chagrin – but I know that with the little bit of faith I have, it will be ok. After all – the bones are good.

Joining the Story (Matthew 27-28)

Well this is officially the fastest I’ve ever read through the gospel of Matthew. I think. Anyway…

As Matthew finishes, we see the conclusion of everything Matthew has been conveying in the book. At the beginning I noted how Matthew was set up by showing God’s hand in the birth of Jesus for generations, and the introduction of numerous prophecies and histories Jesus fulfilled. Now that I’m at the end of Matthew, it is good to see the complete fulfillment of the prophecies in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

It is a little sad to read the accounts at the end of Matthew 28 where the chief priests AND the disciples either doubt or stand in disbelief even though the facts are hitting them in the face. The Roman guards probably wouldn’t have lied about all that, and the fact that the priests didn’t report them for failure but said they would protect them sort of hints that they knew they did wrong (similar to King David hiding his adultery with Bathsheeba?). And the disciples – Jesus is standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM, and they still doubted. I mean, they didn’t even have smoke screens and really good make up artists back then so either its real or your hallucinating … and everyone else can see it too so lets be real here.

Regardless, reading about the crucifixion and resurrection serves as a reminder today of A. the joy I can have in knowing Jesus is alive, B. the freedom I have in that I am forgiven and can enter a relationship with God (torn veils!), and C. I am called to GO (great commission). I can join the story that has been going from the end of time, and today I choose to do so.

Uhhh…Do I Know You? (Matthew 25-26)

I pretty much wanted to ask that question every week last summer. I wish I remembered everyone I’ve ever had at camp (or met in real life), but I don’t. Remembering campers the second year is painful. I’d like to see you remember 200+ names and faces a year later, cause you never know who will come back, and you better say hello (the best is 4 years later – you don’t even recognize them).

I can’t imagine having God say this to me. But that is what he is going to say to those who are not ready and waiting for him. To those who go putz around all day, and those who continually focus on themselves instead of serving others. He will separate the sheep from the goats, and it will be horrible to be a goat.

Even Peter flops on this one when he denies Christ three times.

Reflecting on these thoughts, I am reminded of how I too deserve to be one of the condemned. But knowing the ending of the story it is even more astounding that He loves me anyway. Though I reject the love lavished upon me in every self absorbed action I do and word I say, I am forgiven and given another chance. Instead of saying “do I know you?” he will accept me with open arms. But it is no excuse to sit around and do nothing. The goal is to share the gospel and to be ready when the time comes, just as Jesus was ready when the time of his death came.

The Heavy Stuff (Matthew 23-24)

I remember reading these parts at camp specifically because of their heavy-nature-serious-ness feeling during morning meeting being suppressed because suddenly there are awake energetic children.

The seven woes are always a little confusing to me because they’re written not in today’s language. But this time I think I got a semi-decent handle on them. So here is my attempt at interpreting what they mean:

1. Don’t teach properly and thus prevent others from following
2. Go all over to convert someone, but really make them worse off (manipulated)
3. Making sacred things unworthy of oaths to get off easy
4. Give “things” but not justice, mercy, faithfulness
5. Are greedy/self indulgent
6. unrighteous but put on a righteous air
7. Esteeming selves above  the OT stories thinking they wouldn’t make the same mistakes

I really don’t like this list because I can surely see times in my life when I’ve fallen under at least one of these categories. It’s easy to read the chapter and condemn the Pharisees for all they failed to do, but really, when I do that I’m not better because #7.

Then we move onto the end times, which is just super depressing because even though you thought you wanted to see Jesus return, that other stuff sounds highly unpleasant. No wonder we are told to always be on guard! I have one of the more consoling parts of the passage in a sticky note on the page, and thats what I’m going to close off with, because even though we fail, and even though the end times sound particularly scary, the Son of Man will come, and things will be set right, because one thing remains.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away – Matthew 24:35

The Power of Words (Matthew 21-22)

Sometimes I wonder how many times have I sung a worship song saying “I will go” or “send me to the world” or something else along those lines. I know it’s a lot because I pull one out every “mission Sunday”. Then I wonder if I’ve actually gone as many times as I said I would.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I have. Many times they were empty words that I didn’t really believe in my heart and that I never acted upon. It is similar to the “Parable of Two Sons” where one son said he would go to the field and never does. My, and the son’s, words have zero authority and zero weight because they mean nothing. Jesus, on the other hand, has all authority under heaven. It is by this authority that he causes a mini-riot in the temple.

The words people speak have so much weight in this passage. The people welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna!” affirming him as the Messiah (though they thought he would deliver them in a different way) (21:5-9); the Pharisees are caught in a “word-trap” when they challenge Jesus’ authority (21:23-27, 22:41-46); the sadducees try to use words to trick Jesus but fail (22:23-33), and it is through words Jesus “re-writes” the Shema (22:34-40). It causes me to reflect if the words I say and the things I do are pointing to God or myself.

Note, I didn’t comment on 22:1-14 not because it isn’t important, but because it just didn’t fit with what I was picking up on today.

Contentment (Matthew 19-20)

And the three post catch-up begins…and trying to follow the “shorter-length” rules.

This passage reminded me about the various things that we do as followers of Jesus. The centre of the passage has the “Rich Young Man” who follows the law, but is told that he must give away everything he has and follow Jesus to inherit eternal life. To this he’s rather upset because he was rich. I heard a sermon this weekend about how the body of believers are supposed to share all that we have to be one in body and mind (Acts 4:32). The concept that he used was that everything we have is “God’s dollar”given to us for our enjoyment and that when we are content with what we have received (salvation) we are able to share because our needs are met (2 Timothy 6:17-19). When things excessive of our “basic needs” become things we need, we begin to hold onto those tightly and are unable to give.

I think that this concept plays into the other aspects of the passage as well. If we are finding our satisfaction in Christ alone, then hypothetically we shouldn’t even breach the desire for grounds of divorce. I think this also would have helped James and John in their plight for being “best” in the kingdom because they would have had satisfaction in serving on earth. We don’t deserve anything in the coming life, but God still deserves all of us today.

Lastly, the labourers in the vineyard passage in conjunction with the “Rich Young Man” changes how I’ve always heard the “last shall be first” statement interpreted. We are wrong to assume we deserve more of a reward based on our time we have been Christians, we all fail miserably but we are still given a part of paradise!

So the challenge … are you content?

The Overflow (Matthew 17-18)

Whenever I try and imagine what the transfiguration looked like, I always end up imagining something like in the “reveal” scenes from Touched By and Angel. However, I’m 98% sure none of you know that show since its 10 years old, so here’s a picture.

touched by an angelBasically they suddenly have light shinning around them….I couldn’t find a really good picture 😦

 Anyhow, back to the Bible

It is interesting that the disciples that didn’t go up with Jesus to the mountain don’t have faith enough to cast out a demon. They too were traveling with Jesus and seeing his miracles, why couldn’t they do it? I heard a sermon once that used the two “camps” of disciples as an illustration of people who were either A. filled with God’s presence and worshiping, and B. not filling up on God’s presence and relying on themselves.

The disciples who went with Jesus, while they tried to build tents (not so sure why), were spending time with him in God’s presence. I would be willing to bet that they had more faith after that than the ones who stayed behind, and probably could have been able to cast out the demon (they had already been told they could earlier in Matthew). It’s so easy to think we can do things on our own, especially in this culture, when we should be relying on God to do things so that the actions we do point to him.

I have to wonder though, why did he only bring three?

I’m not 100% sure what the implications are for verses 24-27 with the sons/others thing, so ……moving on

Chapter 18 covers a few aspects of Christian living:
1. Humility
2. Avoiding being tempted to sin
3. Taking care of “little ones”
4. Forgiving

All of these actions can be sort-of done on our own strength, trying to be “good” ourselves, or they can come from an overflowing heart. The latter is better.

Just like how the disciples who spent time filling up on God had more faith etc., if we spend more time with God and seeking after a heart like his, it becomes easier to take care of others. When we come to deeper understandings of the gospel and how much we are forgiven, forgiving others comes easier (unlike the man in the parable who clearly has some issues).

Over and over again in scripture (both OT and NT), God calls into question our hearts, or comments on the status of our hearts. David is king because he is a man after God’s own heart. in Hosea, God asks for “steadfast love”  instead of sacrifice (6:6), and wants people to call to him from the heart (7:14a).

I’m left at the end of this passage wondering “Where is my heart today? Has it begun to drift away from the fulfilling presence of God? How can I continue to go deeper in my relationship with God”

As a note to my fellow Bootcamp-ers, I will be away this weekend and catching up on the posts when I get back, so either Monday night or Tuesday. Looking forward to see what you learn while I’m away!

Compassionate Teaching (Matthew 15-16)

Jesus dealt with some pretty unsavoury people (in the eyes of the reader and the eyes of someone at the time). He could have easily said at many times during his life that he didn’t want to associate with the “sinners” or even the regular citizens when he was tired, but he continues to have compassion on them. He has compassion on a crowd of 4000 people and decides to feed them (15:32). He clearly has had compassion on those he heals … and basically has it on most everyone he meets.

Jesus is also called rabbi, meaning teacher. This means that he teaches, which he does a lot of in these passages as well. Sometimes when I read the teaching sections I imagine him saying it like with much gusto and really driving in the point, but other times I can envision him speaking gentler and with more evident compassion on his listeners. I especially see the latter in talking with his disciples.

So the teachings … he starts off by rebuking the Pharisees and telling them to quit bending the rules that they wanted and sticking to the other pointless ones like glue. He then goes on to further reiterate the point saying that it wasn’t necessary to purify themselves before they ate, saying that it was what they filled their heart with that made them clean. This always reminds me to be cautious to what I spend my time doing, what shows I watch, what music I listen to … because I don’t want to fill my heart and my mind with things that can lead me astray or cause my actions to be things that are not pleasing to God.

Jesus also talks about his own identity and death in this passage. It’s easy to think the disciples were thick not to understand what he was saying, but in reality no one fully understood the implications of what it meant to be the Christ. It then makes sense to me that Peter would try and tell Jesus to stop talking about his death, but clearly God’s thoughts and actions are far above my own (and Peter’s) understanding, and trusting, though hard, is the only way to go.

The disciples couldn’t have known the full implications of Jesus telling them to take up their cross and follow him at the time, and though I’ve heard it many times, it is always a reminder that each day and hour is a choice to follow Christ and not my fleshly desires.

Reflecting on this passage, I love how Jesus teaches through compassion and love for the lost sheep of Israel and for those who have faith like the Canaanite woman. Jesus-like compassion is something I must continually pray for – compassion that turns into action.

Kingdom Focus (Matthew 13-14)

In Matthew 13 we see the return of “the kingdom of heaven” that was spoken about earlier in the chapter. I love how when Jesus explains things to the people and tells his parables, he uses things that they can understand and relate to. Lots of times I find myself referring to memories of the “agriculture” unit I did in grade 1 in Saskatchewan so that I can understand (literally learned about how to harvest wheat, so if you’re curious…). What intrigues me is that the disciples didn’t understand everything he was saying either – though I suppose this is because they didn’t know the ending of the story yet.

The fact that almost the entirety of chapter 13 is on the Kingdom of Heaven implies that it has to be important, but the parables that stand out to me today are the latter ones about the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value. The first time through, it is a reminder of how much we are supposed to “hate” the world to the point that we would give everything we have away to possess the kingdom.

However, it also works the other way around as well. When I was at camp we had a sermon from this point of view, and it completely humbles me. God thinks that we are that pearl or treasure, and that we too are worth losing everything for, even his son. It speaks into the beautiful story of the gospel that God would see us as things of value. And through this we are God’s chosen instruments to continue to spread the kingdom as the mustard seed and leaven (yeast) do in the earlier parable (13:31-33).

Didn’t really see how Chapter 14 related, so new topic.

The death of John the Baptists is a little sad to me, because first off, Herod’s predicament seems rather akin to the one Xerxes was in Esther with all those decision he made he couldn’t reverse because he was king. However, I know that his story had to end this way, because otherwise I believe God wold have done it differently. Looking at John’s whole life, I am reminded that the pursuit of Christ in this world is not going to be easy, if it is we may be doing something wrong. Our whole lives have to be focused on living for Him.

Then we see more demonstrations of Jesus’ power in feeding five thousand people, and then walking on water. I can never fully wrap my mind around the five thousand part, probably because I can’t imagine what that many people would look like. However, I can imagine the walking on water, and it’s pretty cool in my mind. I always like to remind myself the role Peter plays in the story though, and instead of focusing on his failure, I also like to note his success in actually having faith enough to get out of the boat. I think it is a perfect example of how we first have to get out of our own boats and follow Christ out of our comfort zone, but then we also have to keep our focus on him. He never leaves, but sometimes we too get distracted by the wind and seas and start to doubt and sink.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

Wisdom is Justified by Her Deeds (Matthew 11-12)

Disclaimer: I was slightly confused by the line and wanted to make sure I was right and asked my dad about it. My mind is churning with things, and I tried to spit some of it out as I’m processing. Hopefully it will make sense.

Wisdom is justified by her deeds – Matt. 11:19

I’ve never noticed this part of chapter 11 before, but it stuck out to me this time around in Matthew, reminding me of basically the entire book of Proverbs, but this in particular:

“Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
     in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
     at the entrance of the city gates she speaks” – Pro. 1:20-21

The concept of wisdom has always intrigued me, and how evident it is in the Bible that worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom are different, but that Godly wisdom is something we should seek. She is “calling out” for us to listen, yet so often her calls go unheeded. And Job 28 talks about how “the fear of the Lord” is wisdom, and that it is not found any other way on the earth or the heavens. So now Jesus is referring to wisdom’s deeds. Interest piqued.

The deeds that Jesus mentions wisdom is justified here, is the same word that Matthew uses in 11:2 when John is asking about the deeds Jesus is doing: εργον (ergon), which means in this context “the deeds that reflect a moral character.” In this case, it is the character of God. Point being, the reference of the deeds Jesus did – the blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleaned, deaf hear, dead rise, and poor have hope – are actions that reflect the wisdom of God.

Interestingly, it is also in reference to John’s deeds that Jesus speaks in verse 19. Both of them were different, one ate and drank, the other didn’t, but their deeds still pointed to the evident fact that God was working through them to display his kingdom. Different styles of leadership, same end result. (hint for future committee) God will work in whatever way he sees fit, it will look different as it manifests in different people. It is a sobering concept, but also a joyful one as it reminds me that God can indeed use me as well in spreading his glory.

What kills me is that right after that we get a list of people who saw the deeds and didn’t believe. I mean, if I saw all that stuff, I’m not sure what I’d do, but I think I’d be rather tempted to believe the person doing them. Especially the dead rising one. But even seeing the deeds of John would have made me pause to think.

This concept of actions reflecting the heart from which they are poured out comes back again in chapter 12 when Jesus talks about how a tree is known by its fruit. If our deeds are an outflow of what is in our hearts, all the more reason to make sure we fill our hearts and our minds with good things instead of evil! 

I realize there are so many things in these chapters I didn’t touch on, but I didn’t want to ramble for 20 more paragraphs….