The black hole of living an invisible life

A few weeks back I wrote about starting a online bible study, called Pursuing God, with Margaret Feinberg. I was going to write last week about the first week of the study, but quite frankly language school was whooping my behind and I just didn’t get to it, so I apologize for that. At the end of week 1 we looked at the story about Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well and something stood out to me that i wanted to share with you all. I am sure most of you are well familiar with this story, but I will sum it up just in case.

  • Jesus goes to Samaria (big no-no for Jews)
  • Jesus talks to a woman who is getting water during the heat of the day (big no-no for men to talk to women without witnesses and for Jews to talk to Samaritans and oh by the way, getting water at that time was totally not normal)
  • Jesus asks for water and the woman asked Him why He would ask her for water (since He was a Jew) and then Jesus totally threw her a curveball and said “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.
  • The woman was confused and continued to talk about the water in the well and He said drink the water I offer and you won’t be thirsty again.
  • Then she asked for the water and Jesus said get your husband (ouch! That was rough seeing as she had had five husbands and wasn’t currently married to the guy she was shacking up with).
  • She changes the topic and then Jesus says He is the messiah, she believes and tells everyone in the village, many become believers.

I have heard this story many times before but something Margaret said in the video stood out to me. She said, “When you are invisible you can only get hurt on your terms, not theirs.”

This Samaritan women came to the well when no one else would normally be there. She wanted to remain invisible. After her first few divorces, people probably steered clear of her. She was no longer the talk of the town, because it was normal for her to get married and then divorced. No one cared…and she liked it that way.

I too, have liked invisibility at times. Times when I know I am not good at something, I shrink to the back. Times when I am embarrassed by my actions, I go and take some “me time.” Times when I can’t imagine that a girl would be interested in me, I create something wrong with her so I don’t have to be seen. Times when I’m afraid of failure, I act like I’m disinterested or don’t have an ideas.

I’m sure you have felt the same way at times, but what does this mean for our lives?

  • Could we miss out on some amazing opportunities ?
    • Absolutely!
  • Could we get so concerned with remaining invisible that it consumes our lives and we essentially do nothing?
    • It’s sad and scary to think so, but yes.

It is easy to get sucked into being invisible. It’s easy to never want to be seen, because as Margaret said, if we aren’t seen then we can’t be hurt by those that see us.

That doesn’t have to be the end of the story though. Once we stop caring about what others think or what may happen and step out in faith just like the Samaritan women did, then we can achieve many glorious things in His name. Look at what she did, she went into town and talked to a whole bunch of people who probably didn’t even look her in the eye on a normal day and she brought them to Jesus.

How can you be visible today?

Summer Bible study – Pursuing God – Join me!

I know this is going to sound like a giant plug where you will assume I am getting some sort of payment or something like that, but I promise you it’s not. Late last year I had the privileged of reading Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg and I have been receiving her blog updates ever since. Well, recently she offered a deal to join an online Bible study on the Gospel of John and the book of Genesis called “Pursuing God’s Love” and Pursuing God’s Beauty.” My mom taught me well so as soon as I saw there was a deal, my interest was piqued. Also, since I am an instructional designer and online education is kind of my thing, I was curious to see how this would all work. Since I am in Germany the deal wasn’t as good for me, but I was able to order the book and dvds from Amazon in Germany (it’s in English, my German is not that good yet).

Here is the real purpose of this post. I want you all to join me. You can join me in name only (as in you are doing it on your own and we never talk) or maybe we set up a private Facebook group (invite only) where we discuss the readings and video clips weekly. Whatever the demand is will determine what we do. Let me know in the comments of e-mail if you are interested.

I have provided a link to the post about the study on Margaret’s website and a link for where you can buy them in a bundle, but if you would prefer to get an idea of what’s involved here is a small blurb from her post.

Each week, you’ll be invited to read a handful of chapters from the Bible, watch a session from the accompanying Pursuing God DVD (14-20 min each), interact with five days of homework (approx. 25 per day), listen in each Thursday with an interview on Midday Connection. For my fellow blogging friends, each Thursday you can link up your posts as you share what God’s teaching you through His Word.

For everything you only have to pay $40, so that’s a pretty sweet deal!

Join Margaret, myself and many others throughout the world as we pursue God through his love and beauty (Tweet this).

Some thoughts from Deuteronomy – from covering excrement to punishment for crotch shots

Some for a while now I have been reading Deuteronomy and I have been quite pleasantly surprised with what is hidden inside a book that is mostly repeating “the law” as stated earlier in the Bible.

Of course any time you are reading about “the law” you are going to find some interesting laws in there that you kind of wonder why they had to be mentioned in the first place, but then you realize that that people today are just as dense as people back then.

For instance in Deuteronomy 23:12-13 it says, “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. 13As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement.” In other words, when you take a dump, do it away from where the people live and cover it up…..duh! I equate this to the warning labels on coffee cups from fast food places that tell you the hot coffee is hot……..ummm, isn’t that the reason iced coffee exists?

Or how about Deuteronomy 25:11-12. “If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” First off, you can tell this was written by a man and secondly, why did this need to be said? Were women doing this as a normal thing? For the men’s sake, I sure hope not. In the modern era I think this is similar to the warnings on plastic bags that remind us that they are not toys. Honestly? Who was the person who got their groceries, took them out of the bag and then said, “Hey my baby might like to play with this.”

We are dense, but apparently the human race has been that way for a long time, so that’s good news right?

Outside of the “interesting” laws, Deuteronomy has a lot of wisdom that I forgot was in there. Deut 4:9 is probably my favorite though.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them

slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

 Think about this verse a little. Every single one of us has seen things that God has done for us or others that totally amazed us when it happened, but then we forget. I could probably quote most of Dumb and Dumber, but I will forget the miracles God has done for me, my family and friends. That seems a little backwards, doesn’t it. Don’t get me wrong Dumb and Dumber is an amazing movie, but it shouldn’t have that big of a place in my brain. The next part is the best part of the verse though. “Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Yes please! If you are blessed enough to be a parent, teach your children the right way and by the right way, I mean what the Bible says, not what other people say the Bible says (read it yourself and seek counsel if you are not sure what it means). Then when your kids have kids make sure they are being taught too!

Here are some other verses I think you might like. Deut 4:7, 4:31, 6:5-9, 6:10-12, 8:10-11, 10:14-17, 15:11

Galatians 6 Restoring Gently

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Galatians 6:1

I seem to have a horrible sense of balance. Part of it was just natural skill at being unbalanced and part of it, I’m sure, comes from the fact that my stomach muscles have been cut into during two different surgeries thereby making them weaker to support me. Regardless of why I have difficulty balancing my self, I struggle especially in the winter-time when it is icy out. I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen on my butt only to have to struggle to gain enough balance to stand up while still on the ice. It’s not easy.

Most of the time when I fall I am all alone (thank goodness!), but I sometimes imagine what my friends would do if they were there. What technique would they use to help me up, that is if they weren’t too busy doubled over in laughter. Would they grab my hand and yank with all their might? Would they barely lift at all, making me still do all the work? Would they grab with both hands and gently lift taking care to apply force when I need it? Would they stand on the ice with me or just off of it if possible?

How do you help a fellow Christian when they stumble? Do you just laugh when they fall? Do you try to pull them from the depths of despair with all of your might? Do you just put out a hand and barely do anything to help? Or do you grab with both hands, support them and apply force when and where needed while making sure not to step into what caused their stumble? Paul says that we should help them gently and humbly, making sure they get back on the right path without falling into temptation ourselves.

This isn’t an option, we need to help those who have stumbled, period!

This ends my study of Galatians, I am going to do some personal studies for a little while and then maybe I’ll post another study after the New Year. Thank you for joining me.

Galatians 5:13-26 Acts of the Flesh and Fruits of the Spirit

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:19-26

There is no story today, no modern day example for today’s reading, only the stark realization of how many of the acts of the flesh we commit on a regular basis. I don’t want to concentrate on the negative so I will leave it at this. We are are saved through the grace of Christ are not subject to these anymore. Through the Holy Spirit we can truly experience the fruits of the Spirit.

I want to quote from a Bible study series that I have been consulting during my study of Galatians because what they say about the fruits of the Spirit does a great job explaining each and showing how to apply them. The book is Galatians: Walking in God’s Grace by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. They say:

Love, joy, peace. These virtues point to our relationship with God. Our first love should be for God, our joy should be in God, and our peace should be first and foremost with God.

Patience, kindness, goodness. These three virtues refer to our relationship with others. Patience is the quality of hanging in there with people, even when they irritate or offend us. Kindness reflects a pleasant disposition, and goodness stems from our words and deeds towards others.

Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These three virtues focus on our inner selves. When we keep our commitments, we are faithful. When we act with humility and an attitude of service, we are gentle. And when we exercise self-control, we are doing the opposite of indulging our flesh.

Galatians 5:1-12 Freedom is a gift, say thank you today!

Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. Galatians 5:2-4

If you read my post a few days ago on Galatians 4:1-20 you will see an analogy between slavery in the US and being slaves to sin. In the analogy I compared someone going into a slave market and buying all of the slaves, setting them free and adopting them into their family to what God had done for each and every one of us. We were all slaves, God sent his representative down to Earth to purchase us and we are now God’s children. I am going to extend that analogy and look at the slaves response to that choice. Lets say that the owner tells each of his new adopted children that they can stay or go, the choice is theirs and their freedom is not affected either way. It is theirs to keep.

I can only imagine what an actual slave would do if their freedom was bought and they were given an option to join the family of the person who paid for their freedom, but for the sake of this analogy I can see three possible reactions from the slaves:

1. The former slaves embrace their new family and out of their gratefulness and respect for their adoptive parent they do work for them to show their appreciation.

2. The former slaves go to live with the adoptive parent, but only take from them, giving nothing in return.

3. The former slaves say thanks, but no thanks and strike off on their own attempting to do the best they can without any help from their adoptive parent.

Do you see your reaction in those three examples? Maybe you are a mix of two of them, sometimes showing your love through works and sometimes trying to strike out on your own. I know I struggle to be living like the first response. I want to live every day showing God my love and appreciation for Him by doing good works, not because I have to because my salvation is secure, but because I want to. I want to show others a tiny example of what God has done for them and me.

How will you show your appreciation for God’s gift today? Will you help someone on the side of the road? Give a few dollars to someone in need? Pay for a random person’s coffee? Listen to a friend or stranger in need? Write an e-mail of thanks to someone who means something to you? How can you help others see Christ in you right now, in the next hour or sometime today?

“Freedom in Christ does not give us the right to do as we please, but the power and ability to do as we ought.” Max Anders

Galatians 4:21-31 Yikes!

But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. Galatians 4:29

Persecution is a funny thing. Not funny ha ha, but more interesting funny. Persecution differs from place to place and time to time. The persecution in the US now is not what persecution was in the US in the past just as the persecution in Iran now is not what it used to be and what it will be in the future. When I read this verse I thought about whether I am being persecuted or not. My initial note said “We are free and if we are living like Jesus then we will be persecuted. It’s a guarantee. If we aren’t being persecuted then we are probably not living boldly for God.” This is where the yikes comes in. I began to think about whether in my regular life I see any persecution.

I decided to look up the definition of persecute. It says: “To pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, especially because of religion, race, or beliefs; harass persistently.”

The first thing that popped into my head when I read this definition were my days in Junior High. I was kind of a dork and by kind of I mean, I was a dork. Add to that that I was a fat kid and you get the recipe for harassment. It got so bad that my main bully was a girl. That’s how much of a dork I was. Hardly a day would go by that I didn’t have my books knock down or words said about me or any number of things. It was persistent harassment, but it had nothing to do with my beliefs as far as I know.

That was the worst harassment I have lived through and in retrospect it wasn’t really that bad. It got me to wonder though, have I been harassed persistently for my beliefs? Have I had someone oppress me because of my beliefs? Probably not. I was hoping that the definition would say something like ignored, not invited to things withhold invitations to parties, etc.  Those things I could claim but not anything like harassed persistently.

Have you been persecuted for your faith? If so, I commend you for sticking to your faith in the hard times.

Have you never been persecuted? What does this mean? Honestly I don’t know. Christianity is tolerated in the US so it is hard to imagine any major persecution happening (I know it does happen though), but shouldn’t we all be persecuted some if we are living boldly? That’s a tough question to answer and I guess a simple answer is we could all probably live a little more like Christ and a little bolder. That is my prayer this week for sure.

Galatians 4:1-20 We were all slaves

God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:5

I just got back from a trip to Charleston, SC and being a northern boy my stomach always drops when I am in the south and I see remnants of slavery. Now I am not ignorant of the fact that slaves were prevalent in just about every part of our country at one point or another, but down south you see much more remains of the horrible institution of slavery. Whether it is the plantations, slave marts, or you hear the stories of slave revolts, slavery was a major part of southern life. I took a photography tour and the tour guide showed us a slave mart that is now a museum. She told us that at one point a “seasoned” male could go for as much as $1,000 1860 dollars. After doing a little research I found that this would be about $26,000 today. I also found that some slave auctions had over 200 slaves, men, women and children, at their auction. If the number of each men, women and children were equal that would give you a total of 103,900 (1860 dollars) or $2,701,400,000 (2011 dollars) for 198 slaves.

Now imagine the Bill Gates of that time coming to one of the slave auctions and buying every single slave up for auction. That would be insane! Bill Gate’s total worth is about 59 billion, but still 2 billion is a lot of money to spend. Now lets say he goes one step further and adopts every single one of the slaves into his own family. Could you imagine that? 198 former slaves are not only free, but they will be fed, clothed, and provided for as if they were born into this family. No one could ever expect anyone to do that.

Paul says that this is exactly what God did. God sent his representative, Jesus, to the slave auction and told him that no matter what, those slaves will be in my family. Spend whatever you need to spend to free them and bring them to my table. Jesus went to that slave auction and the only way that He could fulfill His Father’s wish was to offer His life in place of theirs. He did just that and then instead of blaming the now-former slaves  He instead opens His arms and welcomes them to the family.

We were once slaves to sin and not only set free from that sin, but also welcomed into God’s family and God hopes that every single one of us can join Him at His table. What a great picture of God and what He Has planned for us.

Galatians 3:15-29 Like a new pair of shoes

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27

Typically when you buy new clothes you enjoy wearing them so that others can see you in them. Whether its a new pair of shoes, a new shirt or really any other piece of clothing. You think you look good in it so you want to let others see you look good. Then you get a new piece of clothing and you wear what you once loved a lot less. Why is this? Is it that you don’t like it as much? I doubt it.  Do you still look as good in it? Probably, but it’s not as new, people have seen you in the old clothing, but not the new clothing.

I feel weird as a man making this point,  but when I read Paul’s words about clothing yourself in Christ and I realized that people treat Christ the same way as they do a new shirt, suit, dress or shoes. At first they want to tell everyone, it doesn’t matter who, a new Christian typically wants to let everyone see them in their new outfit of Christ. Then after a while the newness of Christ wears off and we go searching for something else to in which to be clothed. Whether we clothe ourselves in good things like church activities, family, friends or not-so-good things like alcohol, gambling, etc., we clothe ourselves in things not eternal. We need to be reminded that just because it might be an older outfit, it doesn’t mean that we don’t look stinking amazing wearing Christ as our clothes.

We should be excited to be given the chance to daily clothe ourselves in Christ.

Galatians 3:1-14 Descendent of Abraham?

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Galatians 3:6-7

I am not Jewish. In fact, I am not sure what all I am, but my pasty complexion tells me fairly certainly that I am not Jewish. I do come from a line of pretty awesome people though. My great-grandparents were missionaries in Africa, my grandpa was a pastor, my grandma (mom’s mom) led my dad to Christ, my parents have stood up for the rights of people with developmental disabilities and I’m sure there are many other pretty amazing people that I just don’t know much about. We are from England, Germany, France, Ireland or Scotland (maybe both?), and maybe Native American. We are from a lot of places and yet I am not Jewish.

According to what most people think about the Old Testament this would mean that I have a 0% chance at getting to Heaven. No matter what I do, I could not make it to Heaven because I am not a true descendent of Abraham and Moses. Paul’s words put out something differently. He says that anyone who has faith is a descendent of Abraham. Heck yeah! I mean, I still have a 0% chance of making it to Heaven on my own, but I have a 100% chance of making it due to my faith that Jesus Christ was the end result of God’s covenant with Abraham and therefore I am able to make it to Heaven. It does not matter where my family is from, what they have done or anything like that. It only matters that I have faith. Man, that makes me excited!