Tag Archives: Jesus

Think About a Verse

Open Bible

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

  • Contemporary culture is adamant about the importance of customer service. What does this verse say to a customer who is angry that his order was not properly filled and delivery was a day late?
  • A person who supervises other people has a right to expect prompt, complete obedience to instructions. When your supervisor speaks to you with a rude, dismissive attitude and asks you to do something beneath your dignity, how does the example of Jesus shape your behavior? When you are the supervisor and an employee responds to your instructions with glib indifference, how does the example of Jesus shape your behavior?
  • What is the difference between being a servant and being a doormat? Does Jesus expect you to think of yourself as worthless?
  • Some say that marriage is a 50/50 proposition. Some say that it is more like 100/100. What does the heart of a servant say marriage is?
  • How does a servant heart affect your interaction with others when your flight is delayed after you have taxied onto the tarmac?
  • How does a servant heart affect your speech when someone cuts in front of you in the grocery checkout line?
  • How does the example of Jesus help you to teach your children to be servants of all?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the winter of 2016.

Image: Open Bible
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jpg
By Wnorbutas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Stop and Think About the Bible

torah_500

You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven. Mark 14:62 ESV 

  • Jesus was on trial. The high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ?” Jesus answered, “I am.” Why did that statement enrage the priest?
  • After Jesus said, “I am,” he made the statement quoted above. To what was he referring? 
  • Why is it important to know that Jesus is both 100% human and 100% God? What difference does it make to your life?
  • Many religions believe that they show respect for Jesus by saying that he was a wise prophet but no god. There are even secular thinkers who say that they respect what Jesus taught about love and peace, but they reject any notion that he is God. Why is that concept complete blasphemy? Why don’t Christians riot and shout “death to the infidels?” when someone makes this allegation?
  • Imagine that the US government arrested you and put you on trial for reading your Bible on a public bus, charged with attempting to proselytize fellow passengers by displaying this book. Further imagine that the judge announced that charges would be dropped if you were willing to classify the Bible as a book of fantasy. How would you respond? 
  • Imagine that you join other Christians and parade through a local festival carrying signs that say, “Jesus is alive!” Further imagine that you are arrested for being a public nuisance and you are offered a choice: either declare that Jesus is not alive any longer or spend six months in rehabilitative therapy with a diagnosis of schizophrenia because you believe that a dead person is alive and speaking to you. How would you respond? 
  • Why are these imaginary scenarios credible? What are you doing today to push back against the development of political and social action that denies people the right to have faith in God?

 

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Torah Scroll
Source:
http://library.duke.edu/exhibits/hebrewbible/torah.html
License:
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0

 

 

 

Life and Death Choices

Another pithy statement that helped to shape my life was, “Breathing is not living.” When my mother first said it, one of my great-uncles was entering the terminal stages of an illness. I was too young to understand his disease, but I did understand that big questions were being discussed. Machines. Nursing homes. Death. On the way home from one of many visits to the hospital my mother sighed and said to my dad, “Breathing is not living. They need to understand that Uncle Bob will never be happy again if survival is all that is left.”

The same statement reverberated through our house when Mother’s father became ill. He had never been ill at any time in her memory. Unlike everyone in our house, Granddaddy Liddell was never sick. He didn’t have fevers. He didn’t throw up in the middle of the night. He didn’t have rashes of unknown origin. No palpitations. No ulcers, bruises, or headaches. He simply was not sick at any time, until he was. When he got sick for the first time at the age of 77, he did not know what to do. He had to be driven to the doctor almost at gunpoint, and then to the hospital, protesting every step. Mother and her brothers got him admitted and into a hospital gown and into a bed, but he simply did not know how to be sick. I will never know his symptoms. I was too young and too completely disconnected from all the “stuff” that old people did. All I do know is that he became sicker every day, and there were those conversations again. Again my mother said, “Breathing is not living.” Then my mother’s father died of causes unknown. They never could produce a real diagnosis. Mother said it was better that way. Granddaddy hated every minute in the hospital, and every time people turned their backs, he struggled out of bed. He fell more than once simply trying to put on his own clothes so he could go to his home. When the hospital called to say that he had died in the night, mother said, dry-eyed, “Breathing is not living. He wanted to live.”

When Mother finally convinced her doctor that, unlike her father, she was actually sick, she proceeded to go downhill for forty years, always on the verge of death, but always appearing to reject any attempt to put her somewhere that people could care for her. She had more medical books than her doctor possessed, and she always took one, liberally marked for study, to her medical appointments. She chose her medicines more often than her doctor did, and when people suggested that she might need a live-in assistant to keep up with her medicines, she said, “Breathing is not living.” She alleged to want to be free and have adventures, but perversely, most of her adventures involved new prescriptions and side effects. She was still breathing, but it didn’t look much like a life to me. It looked a lot like Lazarus coming out of the tomb, still tied up in the grave wrappings.

Then the day came that my father died. Mother was left alone with nothing but pill bottles and medical books. One day, she couldn’t deal with them anymore. She threw them all away, and suddenly, the woman who could not walk from the door of her apartment building to the parking garage, could hike a mile for a Hawaiian barbecued pork sandwich. The woman who was unable to tell anyone the place where her husband used to take her shopping could take a bus ride involving two transfers in order to reach a museum she wanted to visit. Her past, in which she breathed but did not live, disappeared like the morning mist and she lived two exciting, blessed years, suffering intense loneliness, suffering, but living far beyond the measure of breathing, before she stepped out of time into eternal life.

In the book, A Woman of Salt, Mary Engel digs deep into Lot’s motivations for suggesting to the angels that he be permitted to flee to Zoar instead of running away to the dark, terrifying mountains. Engel examines the possibility that in Lot’s mind, “not to die seems the same to him as living.” This thought is the opposite of my mother’s axiom–the one she did not live by. Engel suggests that Lot simply wanted to stave off death, and call that state “living.” Like my mother with her medicines and her books, Lot would “escape” death without entering into life. Zoar would not be home, but it would not be death, either. He thought it would do.

However, as Engel observes, Lot did not stop with the simple request. He tried to justify it, and every word of justification emphasized that mere continuation of existence in Zoar would not be life. In the end, even though Lot persuaded the angels to spare Zoar, he and his daughters fled to the mountains after all. Apparently, even for Lot, “breathing is not living.”

I don’t spend much time thinking about death, because I love living. I love adventure and routine and surprise and tradition. I am fortunate to be seldom sick, and to date, my body hasn’t abandoned me. I still come and go more or less at will. I still have the opportunity to try to understand whether my mother was right when she said that “Breathing is not living,” or if Lot was perhaps correct to think that “not to die [is] the same . . . as living.”

The rest of Lot’s story gives the lie to that notion, and the rest of the Bible continues to say the same thing. Lot was not really living, even though he was in Sodom where he thought he had the high life, much superior to Abram’s nomadic wanderings with his herds. When Lot chose the well-watered plain and left his uncle with the dry uplands, he really did not want the plains for his flocks and herds. He wanted Sodom. He could have told the truth to Abram. Abram was an agreeable man. He would never have told a grown man he should not live in Sodom. Yet Lot did not have the courage to tell the truth. He pretended to want the same life as Abram and shut Abram out of the well-watered plain unnecessarily. Lot died to truth right then and there. If you doubt that he was dead already, just read the story of Lot and his daughters in their “new life” after Sodom. Clearly, not to die is not the same as living. Judas learned that lesson, too, when he discovered that he was “alive,” but Christ was sentenced to the cross.

Before his crucifixion, Jesus said that he was “the way, the truth, and the life.” The fact is that people who don’t know the way or the truth cannot possibly know life, either. Just ask Lot. He was still breathing, but it is very clear that he was not living.

So, are you alive?

A Hymn for Meditation

Jesus, the very Thought of Thee
By Bernard of Clairvaux
Lyrics from http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh175.sht

Jesus, the very thought of thee
with sweetness fills the breast;
but sweeter far thy face to see,
and in thy presence rest.

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
to those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

Jesus, our only joy be thou,
as thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
and through eternity.

  • While thinking about Jesus is a sublime experience, what is a greater joy?
  • The hymnwriter rejoices in the hope Jesus gives to a contrite heart. What is a contrite heart?
  • How does Jesus treat people who fail? How should we treat people who fail?
  • What is the greatest prize a person can aspire to receive? How long will this prize last?

A Hymn for Meditation

  1. hymnalWhat a friend we have in Jesus,
    all our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    everything to God in prayer!
    O what peace we often forfeit,
    O what needless pain we bear,
    all because we do not carry
    everything to God in prayer.
  2. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged;
    take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful
    who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    take it to the Lord in prayer.
  3. Are we weak and heavy laden,
    cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge;
    take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In his arms he’ll take and shield thee;
    thou wilt find a solace there.

Words by Joseph Scriven
Text from http://www.hymnsite.com

  •  When I feel discouraged, no matter what the reason, this hymn is comforting. What sources of anguish are addressed here?
  • What biblical basis is there for believing we should take “everything” to God in prayer?
  • The second verse is particularly gripping. Who doesn’t have moments when he feels like an abject failure, worthless in the eyes of God and everybody. What is the hymn writer’s advice for those moments?
  • The daily news is not only discouraging as to its moral content, but the logic used to justify immorality is without any basis in logic or common sense. What recourse does the hymn writer find for such experiences?
  • The cultural restrictions on the expression of Christian faith in word and deed are increasing. How will Christians sustain faith and testimony against the pressure to be silent and stay out of sight?