Monday, May 30, 2011


On a daily basis, I am faced with decisions about obligation and commitment. How am I to deal with the needs of others? Where is the line between serving others and becoming a rescuer? Where is the line that makes me feel good about doing good works in moderation?

Or what about the times that I need to ask others to help me? Where are the lines about borrowing and lending?

Some will reach into the fuzzy memory of bible verses and quote, ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be.’ Where is that verse? It might be in that book near the end; isn’t it called Conquerdance (concordance)?

In fact, it’s not a bible verse at all. It is from Act 1 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It does describe a common desire to not be burdensome- do not borrow. It describes protecting ourselves from users- do not lend.

But what did Jesus say?

Matthew 5:42 
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 

Jesus encourages us to be generous, prioritizing people above our property. It causes to extend grace and trust sometimes to people who we suspect may not pay us back. In the face of legitimate need, what would Jesus do?

One of the saints of the Church was a man named Martin of Tours.

While Martin was still a soldier he experienced the vision that became the most-repeated story about his life. He was at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers when he met a scantily dressed beggar. He impulsively cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the beggar.
That night he dreamed that Jesus came to him and returned the half cloak Martin had shared with him. He heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me."  

After that dream, young Martin made an important decision. He went and was baptized. He understood that loving Jesus had everything to do with his care of others.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Dying days are memorable to those who witness them. I remember being with a man dying of cancer hours before his passing. He sat in the hospital room chair leaning and lurching with the pain. I prayed with him and then I prayed silently. I marvelled at the intensity and the imminence of death’s final hours. He tried to tell me it was okay and not to worry about him.

It may be that someday your friends and family will gather at the bedside and watch you fighting for life. They are not gawking at you; they are entering the edges of your suffering. They need to let you know that love still exists and you matter. Let them come to your bedside.

On Jesus dying day, there were many brief conversations, forlorn glances and necessary steps to complete. Friends, family and complete strangers were drawn into the vortex of his death experience. A Libyan man named Simon was passing by when he was suddenly pulled into a gruesome close encounter.

One of the Roman soldiers conscripted Simon of Cyrene along the Via Dolorosa. Roman soldiers could do that. They could stop a citizen and had legal authority to put them to work carrying their luggage for one mile. After that, they would need to recruit someone else to carry the load further.

On this day, the unnamed soldier put Simon to work. Not wanting his prisoner Jesus to die along the way and seeing that the load was quite heavy, he conscripted a nearby able body. The soldier had to get this job done right or be answerable to his superiors. There was no time for delay.

Art sometimes betrays the facts. Think about pictures of Jesus carrying his cross to Calvary. Did Jesus carry a fully assembled cross down the road or was it just the crossbar?

The weight of the entire cross was probably over 300 pounds (136 kg) while that of the patibulum ranged between 75 and 125 pounds (34-57kg). It is highly likely that only the patibulum was carried by the victim and this was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced on both shoulders.

( Dr. Andreas Lambrianides,

As Jesus collapsed under the weight and watched Simon being forced into carrying his load, He may have remembered the words He had so recently taught.

Matthew 5:41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Everyone dreaded the extra work that came with Roman occupation. People had their own work to do and schedules to keep. Going a mile for a soldier was costly in that moment.

Whole villages sometimes fled to avoid being forced to carry soldier’s baggage. (Walter Wink, The Powers That Be, Three Rivers Press )

Why would Jesus teach us to go twice as far when told to do something against our will? He describes a situation that everyone tries to avoid. No one likes to be forced to do anything. We have an innate sense of violation about such incidents and cannot wait to reclaim our freedom, our schedule and our lives. We resist being anyone’s slave.

When you make a choice to go the second mile, it puts the power back in your hands. The second mile allows you to meet the needs of another, even showing love and blessing to an enemy.

What we have overlooked in this passage is the fact that carrying the pack a second mile is an infraction of military code. With few exceptions, minor infractions were left to the disciplinary control of the centurion (commander of one hundred men). He might fine the offending soldier, flog him, put him on a ration of barley instead of wheat, make him camp outside the fortifications, force him to stand all day before the general’s tent holding a clod of dirt in his hands—or, if the offender was a buddy, issue a mild reprimand. But the point is that the soldier does not know what will happen.
It is in this context of Roman military occupation that Jesus speaks. He does not counsel revolt.… But why carry the soldier’s pack a second mile? Does this not go to the opposite extreme by aiding and abetting the enemy? Not at all. The question here, as in the two previous instances, is how the oppressed can recover the initiative and assert their human dignity in a situation that cannot for the time being be changed. The rules are Caesar’s, but how one responds to the rules is God’s, and Caesar has no power over that.
Imagine, then, the soldier’s surprise when, at the next mile marker, he reluctantly reaches to assume his pack, and the civilian says, “Oh, no, let me carry it another mile.” Why would he want to do that?
(Walter Wink, The Powers That Be, Three Rivers Press)

Jesus not only teaches us to be humble servants, but to be imaginative in responding to oppressive situations. Rather than remaining quietly resentful, the conscripted slave offers a powerful witness of human kindness and godly character.

The first mile may be an unwelcome obligation, but the second mile is a gift. Law might enforce the first mile, but there is no law against showing love. We should be careful how we do the first mile.

Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

The second mile principle involves responding with patience rather than hostility to forceful people. Much of Jesus’ teaching shows us how to deal with those who are dysfunctional toward you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Often our first concern in conflict is proving our innocence. We are blinded by self-preservation and fear. We do not want to take blame or responsibility beyond the little part that we own. We think that paying our pittance is enough. Where would we be if Jesus had that attitude towards the world?

Matthew 5:40 
And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 

Lawsuits have been around for millennia. The goal is to repay those who have been mistreated and faced great loss. When you are sued or face the demand to repay someone, start with a willingness to do everything you can and more to restore peace.

A tunic would be comparable to your shirt. A cloak was the outer garment that kept a person warm at night. In Jewish law you could sue for a tunic, but not for a cloak. It was recognizing that the offender should not have to freeze at night. There is respect for basic human rights.

For the price of a winter coat, you may restore a broken relationship. The other has experienced loss because of you. Give them back more than they ask for or deserve.

If you are primarily interested in proving that you are always right, you will miss the opportunity to understand the nature of love. Love keeps no record of wrong and is patient. Your love for an enemy is a greater reflection of God’s presence than holding your ground as a matter of principle. If you are to make a mistake in these matters, err on the side of grace. Can you be judged for having too much mercy?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


In the secret games room of your mind, their picture hangs on a dartboard. Fiery darts of hurt, accusation and disappointment fly each time you enter that part of your mind. Hours can pass in the entertainment of trying to get your aim perfected. When you have your showdown, you will be ready for the bull’s eye.

Jesus enters the games room and says,

Matthew 5:
38 "You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 
39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 

In Jewish law the ‘eye for eye’ was not so much of a literal practice, but an illustration of the Law of Equivalency. The premise was that punishment for a crime should match the severity of the offense or injury. The equivalent punishment should not exceed the injury sustained.

In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus was not abrogating this important legal principle, but was rather inviting Christians in their daily lives to go beyond the letter of the law. The implicit intention of the law—to eliminate personal revenge—was stated explicitly by Jesus; and He, in His own person and ministry, modeled it for us.

Jesus called us to live in this world as peacemakers and reconcilers.  The problem with ‘eye for eye’ and ‘tooth for tooth’ is everyone will lose their eyes and teeth.  Jesus wants us to deal with our conflicts differently.

Jesus speaks to all of us who have had eyes gouged out by those trying to get back at us.  He offers us new eyes to see with.

The Healer speaks to all of us who have had teeth knocked out by those who were trying to teach us a lesson. We can continue in the cycle of personal destruction or we can become healers who help others get new eyes and new teeth.

We are to live as ‘healers amongst the blind and toothless’.

People who get slapped in the face have often done something to trigger this response. When you get slapped you need to own any blame that belongs to you for causing offense. Then, you can offer the other cheek as a symbol of your willingness to go all the way in making things right for the other.

Not every slap in the face comes against deserving parties. “But, I am innocent! Why are they treating me this way?” What about those times when people slap you in the face for no good reason?

At the time of Jesus, striking someone deemed to be of a lower class with the back of the hand was used to assert authority and dominance. If the persecuted person "turned the other cheek," the discipliner was faced with a dilemma. The left hand was used for unclean purposes, so a backhand strike on the opposite cheek would not be performed. The other alternative would be a slap with the open hand as a challenge or to punch the person, but this was seen as a statement of equality. Thus, by turning the other cheek the persecuted was in effect demanding equality.

In these instances, offering the other cheek sends a message to the abuser. It says, “You are dangerously close to defiling yourself. If you continue down this path of abuse, you do so against a brother and not a slave.” It would be like offering your hands to be cuffed instead of resisting arrest. Turning the other cheek tells the other that you are responding with civility, not resistance.

Resisting the desire for revenge is an act of submission to higher authority. I will not take the law into my own hands but surrender this offense to those entrusted to judge in these matters. Paul taught that deference to authority is recognizing that the law is good. An abusive person is best surrendered to the authorities. Before the situation becomes criminal, you may de-escalate it when you turn the other cheek.

Jesus is teaching us to recognize insults and offenses and extend grace and patience towards those who are upset with us. Non-retaliation reveals the attitude that Jesus has toward sinners and even the abuse of authorities against him.

Revenge belongs to God. He alone is just in all His ways and near to the oppressed. Would you rather fight the battle alone or let God judge the matter for you?

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Revenge… the word rolls softly off your tongue and curls around the imagined enemy. The world will be a better place when I find a way to put them in their place. Have you ever felt that way?

It seems that we never tire of ‘revenge’ stories.  TV shows and movies stir our passions as the underdog gets back at the villain.  We feel satisfied when the bad guy gets killed or arrested.

This is not just the stuff of movies, though.  History has many examples of revenge at its finest.

At one point early in Julius Caesar's political career, feelings ran so high against him that he thought it best to leave Rome. He sailed for the Aegean island of Rhodes, but en route the ship was attacked by pirates and Caesar was captured. The pirates demanded a ransom of 12,000 gold pieces, and Caesar's staff was sent away to arrange the payment. Caesar spent almost 40 days with his captors, jokingly telling the pirates on several occasions that he would someday capture and crucify them to a man. The kidnappers were greatly amused, but when the ransom was paid and Caesar was freed, the first thing he did was gather a fleet and pursue the pirates. They were captured and crucified ... to a man!
Such was the Romans' attitude toward crucifixion. It was to be reserved for the worst of criminals, a means of showing extreme contempt for the condemned. The suffering and humiliation of a Roman crucifixion were unequaled. 
(Today in the Word, November 23, 1992)

This is the revenge-crazed world that Jesus was born into.  And before Jesus was crucified, he had time to teach a way to de-escalate the violence and blood-thirst of humanity.

Friday, May 20, 2011


(poetic license to portray the Bride of Christ as the virtuous woman)

If your congregation closed its doors tomorrow, would your neighbours be affected in any way?

Proverbs 31:
27 THE CHURCH watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 
28 THE CHILDREN OF THE CHURCH arise and call her blessed; JESUS also, and he praises her: 
29 "Many ORGANIZATIONS do noble things, but THE CHURCH surpasses them all." 
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a CHURCH who fears the LORD is to be praised. 
31 Give THE CHURCH the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. 

Lazy churches are satisfied with minimums. Empty buildings and empty seats are not viewed as a problem. The hoarding of resources and an unwillingness to do extra are the marks of idleness.

Some churches die because they have not reproduced. But even busy, full churches can miss the point. What influence and impact do you have on your surrounding community? Do they know you exist and if so, are you making a difference to them?

A diligent church realizes that the greatest heritage is godly children. We give thanks to God for the hard work and strong character of those who served Jesus ahead of us.

The Church of Jesus is superior to any other organization or group of people when it comes to the potential for noble things. There are many charming and beautiful people to catch your eye, but it’s a real head-turner when church shows respect for the Lord.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


(poetic license to portray the Bride of Christ as the virtuous woman)

Proverbs 31:
23 JESUS is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 THE CHURCH makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 THE CHURCH is clothed with strength and dignity; THE CHURCH can laugh at the days to come.
26 THE CHURCH speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

The world still whistles at the Bride when she shows virtue. Jesus is well spoken of in the city when the church does good work. They may not be impressed by many of our indoor activities. They do sit up and take note when we feed the poor, take care of the sick and bring help to the most vulnerable.

We can laugh at the days to come when we learn to trust Jesus for our future. We can speak wisely to the community when we have a dream for better streets and merciful justice.

Monday, May 16, 2011


(poetic license to portray the Bride of Christ as the virtuous woman)

Proverbs 31:
21 When it snows, THE CHURCH has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed; THE CHURCH is clothed in fine linen and purple.

The virtuous woman made sure her kids and servants were dressed well. Scarlet was actually the finest clothing available. What does this mean for a church that wears ‘work clothes’ when we gather? We tend to dress down deliberately to not draw attention to ourselves.

Certainly the Pharisees and other religious leaders placed high value in their vestments and robes. There’s nothing wrong with dressing up or having a costume that sets you apart. But, there are better things to wear.

It is not wrong for us to dress up. Feel free if you want to. The day will come in eternity when we will all be sharp-dressed by the Master Designer. For now, it is good that we focus on inward adornment. What are the inner things that are pleasing to Christ?

The virtuous woman is one who takes care of herself. She wants to be attractive and represent her husband well. Are you taking care of yourself to please Christ?

In the home that Jesus is building, the closets are filled with inner beauty. The church finds ways to dress the household in the very best qualities. Dress each other in encouragement, faithfulness and the deepest textures of love.

Friday, May 13, 2011


(poetic license to portray the Bride of Christ as the virtuous woman)

Proverbs 31:
20 THE CHURCH opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

When we embrace the poor, we receive Christ. The church with this attitude is becoming more like her husband.

Not only does she open her arms, she gives herself to meet the needs of the poorest. This a church that is willing to help wherever they can.

She may be moving to the King’s palace, but she never forgets the ghetto she was raised in. She does not look down on anyone; she looks into their eyes and finds one more way to serve her Lord.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Proverbs 31:
13 THE CHURCH selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
14 THE CHURCH is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
15 THE CHURCH gets up while it is still dark; THE CHURCH provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
16 THE CHURCH considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 THE CHURCH sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 THE CHURCH sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand THE CHURCH holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

In the picture of the virtuous woman, she worked creatively, supplied her household with provision, rose early to get ahead of the work and found ways to generate profits. To be a virtuous church, we need a DIY (do it yourself) attitude. Instead of waiting for someone to rescue us and supply our needs, we find ways to make things happen. This keeps us from developing a generational dysfunction expecting the government or church hierarchy to keep us afloat.

Hard work combined with genuine love make the difference between us being a welfare church and one that is self-reliant.

We recognize the high value of outside support and are utterly dependent on God’s grace and provision. But we are not lazy. We have a job to do and we work hard at it.

There is a holistic prosperity that comes to those who give their heart (and their back) to Jesus. Prosperity comes to the soul and has little to do with cash reserves.

What about you? Has your love for Jesus translated into vigorous good work? Have you found ways to take care of the Lord’s household?

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Some people think that Christianity is an enemy to feminism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Women served as missionaries, prophets and deacons in the early days of the Church and continually throughout history.

The first wave of feminism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included an increased interest in the place of women in religion. Women who were campaigning for their rights began to question their inferiority both within the church and in other spheres justified by church teachings. Some Christian feminists of this time period were Katharine Bushnell, Catherine Booth, Frances Willard, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.[i]

Jesus and the early apostles elevated the position of women above that of the surrounding culture. Men were told to love their wives sacrificially in the same way Christ loved his woman, the Church.

One of the metaphors to describe God’s view of the church is that of a bride. We are the bride of Christ. In ancient cultures of the East, a father would arrange a suitable wife for his son.

Our Father in Heaven arranged that you/we would become the Bride of His Son Jesus.

Just as individuals differ from one another, each church has its own unique personality. We can say that the local assembly has a personhood. Scripture often refers to the church as an individual, even though it is a group of people. One of her descriptions is ‘The Bride of Christ’.

Consider the ancient picture of a virtuous woman found in Proverbs 31. We find a woman who was well suited to the needs of her time and responded with appropriate actions and attitudes. It’s an ancient picture, but the heart of virtue is eternal.

Let’s consider Proverbs 31’s description of a woman of character and use it as a metaphor for God’s People, as expressed in a local church. As we do let’s identify the kind of church that we want to become, the kind of virtuous church that we can root our families into. Let’s replace the ‘she’ words with ‘the church’.

Prov 31:10 - 31

10 A CHURCH of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

11 JESUS has full confidence in THE CHURCH and lacks nothing of value.

12 THE CHURCH brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

You know it when you find it. Who can resist belonging to a church with noble character? Who doesn’t want to belong to a group of people with a heart that longs for Jesus?

If you were ever part of a church that rejected Jesus and followed other lovers, you would know how ugly adultery is.

God wants a woman He can trust. She is so valued for her attitude of doing the right thing. It would be unusual for a man to marry a woman with whom he had no trust or respect. Jesus has confidence in the church and looks forward to being with her.

Her character is focused on making Jesus proud. She does good things to please Him.


Thursday, May 5, 2011


Luke 13:
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

As Jesus tells of his mission to head to Jerusalem, he fills with emotion for the estranged children of God. Jerusalem should be the holy city where the Father is found in the streets. Instead, it is filled with those who have left home and forgotten their blessing.

He is not a fox ready to devour the vulnerable citizens of the holy city. He is a nurturing, mother-like hen feeling the urgency to gather the chicks under wing. Jesus desires to protect people from the storm of evildoers.

So many have painted Jesus as a fox-- a political animal trying to overthrow Rome and Judaism. This is no such animal. Jesus has the heart of a mother who will do anything to save the children.

We know the Easter story. Jesus was devoured by many foxes (including Herod). Like a hen he had no apparent defense against the devourer.

But Easter tells us that the hen ultimately defeated the fox. The resurrection of Jesus Christ following his execution still comes as an inescapable surprise to those who prefer God in a grave. The Easter story tells us that real power is expressed not by ferocity and oppression, but sacrifice and love. The greatest show of power is a refusal to retaliate. No ‘eye for an eye’ will ever open blind eyes.

If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. 
Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world --wings spread, breast exposed -- but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.
Jesus won’t be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first.   (  )

This is what the foxes and wolves of humanity have repeatedly done. They have killed the prophets, martyred the saints and crucified Jesus. In this story, Jesus laments to the vulnerable citizenry. How he longs to gather them under his wing and shield them, but they refuse.

Have you heard his lament? Have you been gathered under the Lord’s wing? That is his heart’s cry for you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Jesus was never afraid to talk about ‘the elephant in the room’. Calling Herod a fox was an echo of what the Jews all believed but only whispered in hushed tones. Having come out with it, Jesus now delivers a message that remains the same to any unruly oppressor who perverts justice.

Luke 13:
 32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

Jesus is not about to back down from doing the right things. Jesus is bringing mercy and hope to the most distressed citizens. He was doing what the politicians were incapable of doing. Deliverance and healing were not policies empowered by any Senate.

This is the work of God who rules above earthly principalities and powers. Jesus recognized that he had a short window of opportunity to fulfill his mission. He will end up in Jerusalem, the center of power in the ancient world of Judaism. He identifies that he is a prophet and will die for the truth.

Now at this point, if this were a typical Hollywood movie, the director would have Jesus break into a long speech about how he is determined to let nothing dissuade him. With drums rolling, and a close up of Jesus with clenched jaw and steely eyes, he would say "Tell Herod, that I have not yet begun to fight".
Yet, Jesus responds in a way that is nothing like what our century expects of a hero. He responds with lament, with tears, with sadness, and with love. Love for the center of power. Love for the people of Jerusalem. Love for the Pharisees. Love for his people. 

(excerpt from )

Sunday, May 1, 2011


We are not told what Jesus thought their intentions were. But, his response tells us much about his fearless pursuit of God’s Will. Others thought they knew what Jesus should do, but He was not deterred.

Luke 13:
 32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

In democracy, you can call politicians names without reprisal. In many ways, political mocking is a national sport. This is not the case in other nations, nor was it politically correct for a first century Jew to speak ill of Roman rule. They had crosses and cat-o-nines for mouthy people.

Jesus calls Herod Antipas a ‘fox’. To a Jewish mind, this indicated an unclean animal. The fox was unholy and one to avoid. This was the Herod that Jesus would soon stand before in trial.

When Jesus calls someone by a derogatory name, it is most often directed to leaders who pervert justice. Such was the record of Herod Antipas Foxworthy. He was a Jewish born Roman leader who did many things to insult the conscience of his constituents.

"In 17 AD, to honor his Roman overlords, he build a grand new capital city named Tiberius, after the current emperor, only to discover that it was built on top of an old Jewish cemetery. No pious Jew ever entered it, and it was inhabited almost exclusively by Greeks and Romans.

It was this Herod who had John the Baptist killed. John had been a persistent critic of Herod for his dubious marriage and his general immorality. The Gospels say he had John killed because he had promised his daughter Salome anything she wanted if she danced for him, and John’s head on a platter is what she wanted. The historian Josephus wrote that Herod’s subjects believed that the war that broke out in 36 AD with the Arabs (recall the first divorced wife), and the subsequent Arab military successes, were divine punishment for Herod's many transgressions.

So for these reasons, and for the fact that he let his daughter dance in public, which was considered a shameful act, the readers of this story would have understood that Herod Antipas was an unrighteous man and an unfit ruler.  No pious Jew would ever have let his daughter dance in front of strangers. "

(excerpt from Richard L. Floyd , )

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