From Fever to Fervor

Two little verses — that’s all I read.
And then this happened.

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Now, that’s what I call a Bible party.
I usually keep these celebrations private,
but maybe somebody needs to listen in today.
“Put wings to my words and send them to whoever needs them.”

Two little verses — Matthew 8:14-15. “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.”

Mark’s gospel reports that this happened on the Sabbath. Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James and John were in Capernaum and had just been to church (synagogue). They must have been going to Peter’s house for lunch, after all, he had a wife who could make a mean falafel. Peter might have said, “Hey guys, come on over. My wife won’t mind a bit.” (Holy imagination is at work here. The Bible says nothing about Peter’s wife’s cooking.) Really? Peter was married?

“Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Peter?” 1 Corinthians 9:5

So yes, Peter was married and his wife’s mother lived with them. Did they have any children, I wonder? Did any of the 12 apostles have children? Jesus’ brothers probably had children. Did they refer to the Messiah as “Uncle Jesus”? Ah….probably not. However, at one point, Jesus’ family thought He had lost his mind. Did they ever talk about their crazy uncle? (Time to reign in that imagination.) Back to the story.

Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever — but no one asked Jesus to heal her. Jesus just saw her lying in bed. (Greek word for fever = pyresso, to be on fire.) I’m sure Mrs. Peter was concerned about her mom. Then her husband showed up at lunchtime with four other men (2 were business partners, 1 was her brother-in-law, and one was a preacher.)

Oy vey.

Lunch wasn’t happening with m-i-l down in bed and Mrs. P tending to her. So Jesus went to the older woman’s bed and touched her hand. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t feel her forehead, he didn’t close his eyes and pray a long prayer. He touched her. And just like that, the fever broke. No, the fever fled, disappeared, ceased to be.

What did she do? She did what any good Jewish grandma would do — she got up and started fixing lunch. There were no residual effects of the fever, no decreased energy or lack of strength. She was good as new. (Greek word for “got up”= egeiro, resurrected) This was a mini-resurrection, a foreshadowing, a miracle for an unnamed, insignificant old woman. The dear soul got up and served, which was the only logical response to Jesus’ touch.

What a time they must have had around that dinner table! The ladies hadn’t been in church that morning, so they missed the amazing teaching Jesus gave and the dramatic driving out of an evil spirit. (Mark 1:21-28) Peter and company must have recounted that morning’s unusual worship service to the women. What a day to miss church.

They lingered long over lunch and deepened their relationship with this amazing Teacher. Mrs. Peter was so grateful for her husband’s new friend. Now she could see what drew her man to this Man. He was unlike anyone she ever knew. Could it really be Him? Messiah? Here in her humble home? Eating her falafels?

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I live a fevered life sometimes.
I lie in bed, agitated by concerns and worries about the future.
I burn up with resentment and painful memories from the past.
Jesus sees me lying there, huddled under my burdens.
He touches my hand. I grab ahold. He helps me get up.
My fever is transformed into fervor to serve.

Every morning He resurrects us
so we can be about the Father’s business.

Jesus is aware of the needs
in your home,
in your heart,
in your body.
Ask Him in.
His touch changes everything.

2019 Bible Reading Plan

When I go to a buffet, I like to scope it out before loading up my plate. I peruse the salad bar and the soup offerings. I check out the main entrees and sides, and, of course, eye up the dessert table. After this fly-over, I form my plan in order to make sure I have room for all the things I want to taste or indulge in. Without this big-picture approach, I may just dish up my old favorites and miss some new and exciting flavors.

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Every five years or so, I sense a need to go back and recapture the grand sweep of the Bible. I much prefer the microscopic approach to study — choosing a small portion and burrowing down into it, squeezing out every bit of meaning and nuance. But from time to time, I feel the pull to step away from the microscope and lift my sights to the panoramic view.

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This year’s plan is to read through the whole Bible.

I know it’s daunting.
I know it’s hard to push through Leviticus.
I know a year is a long time to stick with anything.

That’s why I’ve decided to try something different.

I’m going to read through the whole Bible in two months.
Thirty pages a day for 60 days.
I expect this fly-over will provide new taste experiences.
I know this landscape view will add valuable perspective.

Perhaps a 60 day gallop through the Good Book is not for you. Then let me challenge you to pick one book of the Bible you haven’t looked at for a while (or ever!) and read a chapter or two every day for two months.

In March, a reading plan will be available that will focus on the 2019 Lenten series.

falling

(One year Bible reading plans can be found here.)

 

The Message

The guy who wrote the Bible died last month.

I should clarify: the guy who wrote “The Message” version of the Bible passed away in October. His name was Eugene Peterson. Last January, I made a list in my bullet journal of most of the books he wrote, with the intention of one day checking them all off. And then I’ll start over and read them again. He’s that kind of guy.

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As you can see, I’ve only just begun.
Three down, eighteen to go.

One of the things I loved about Eugene Peterson was his humility. He was a brilliant scholar, teacher and pastor, but he never served a church with more than 250 members. It was his belief that a pastor should be able to call every parishioner by name. He spoke forcefully against the “mega-church” movement and “CEO-type” pastors. After years of pastoring and teaching, he went home to Montana where he wrote books and lived in a house without a TV.

Peterson undertook the mammoth task of singlehandedly writing a translation of the whole Bible. It has become a beloved version to many because of its accessiblity to modern readers.

For instance, the Revised Standard Version of Psalm 35:1 says,
“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me.”
Peterson’s rendering in “The Message” reads,
“God, punch these bullies in the nose.” 

It’s fun to read this Bible.
Thank you, Eugene.
Well done.

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“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-3, The Message

This Wobbly World

This week someone dear to me said these words:
“Your world seems to lack a wobble that is so prevalent today.”

Then I went grocery shopping and pushed a cart with a wobbly wheel all around the store. I started paying attention. Lord, what am I to learn about wobbling?

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By the time I noticed the odd roller under my cart, I was in the dairy section, so I decided to push through. My usual glide through the aisles looked like a crazy zigzag as I tried to manhandle the defective cart. Steering around the end caps was particularly challenging. Plus, that loose wheel was noisy, spinning around in circles while the other three stayed the course. More than one sympathetic shopper smiled in my direction.

Why the wobble?
Something got loose in there.
Something made it unbalanced. 

This is a wobbly world, for many reasons. But we keep pushing through. Some days we are able to glide through life, but most days feel defective — like we’re navigating with an unsteady wheel base. Challenging circumstances can put us into a spin that seems out of control. So we try harder and talk louder, adding to the confusing cacophony of culture.

Something is coming loose.
We need to tighten up a bit.
Do more by doing less.
Control the calendar.
Say no to self.
Sit still.

Something is out of balance.
We need to recalibrate.
Every seven days or so.
Put first things first.
Say yes to God.
Rest.

This wobbly world needs a few steady voices, a few balanced souls, a few glimmers of hope. We should be people who can offer more than a sympathetic smile. A little lack of wobbliness might speak volumes.

God will be the stability for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

“Our hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls.” Hebrews 6:19

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This Is Not Us

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PB and I just finished watching season one of the NBC hit show “This Is Us”. I know — we’re a little late to the party. With season three in full swing, it will be awhile before we are up to speed on the Pearson clan. Don’t spoil it, please. I’m assuming there are many more tragedies in store, many more gut-wrenching, tear-jerking episodes in our future.

The endearing characters have wormed their way into our hearts. The concept of weaving together the generations is intriguing and compelling. The theme of family and struggle and growth really resonates. The Pearsons try hard to build a good life. They make plenty of mistakes and poor choices along the way, but we forgive them and keep on rooting for them. We hope Jack and Rebecca and Kate and Kevin and Randall find happiness.

But when season 1 episode 18 rolled the credits,
I didn’t feel inspired or heart-warmed.
I just felt sad.

Sad because these dear characters are empty —
yet trying so hard to find fulfillment.

Sad because they are all looking for significance and security —
things only a relationship with their Maker can provide.

Sad because they are seeking freedom from painful pasts —
something only God can redeem.

If “This Is Us” is an accurate portrayal of contemporary life in America, then its depiction should cause us to wonder, “What’s missing here?” Because what’s missing in the show is also what is missing in our increasingly secular culture.

If we are believers in the power of the resurrection to heal and bring hope into people’s lives, then we should be willing to display what that looks like to the watching world.

We need to be couples who take hold of each others’ hands and, in humility, pray together about our problems. We need to be families who seek out the direction and support of pastors and spiritual leaders when things get too hard to handle. We need to be people who understand sacrifice and selflessness in light of eternity.

I get it — a drama like this can capture the television viewing public.
But this is not us.

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ….
without hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:12

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, he who formed you:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1

Tomato Wisdom

This week in Bible study we talked about wisdom and knowledge.
Are they the same thing?
Or not?

So, what’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

There were many helpful thoughts on this:

  • Knowledge is a matter of knowing facts. Wisdom is understanding and applying principles.
  • Wisdom is knowing what, how, when, why, where to use the knowledge.
  • Wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective.
  • Wisdom is knowing how to navigate the realities of life when the rules don’t help.

But, by far, the best definition came from a guy named Miles Kington:

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.

Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

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We learn some good stuff in Bible study.

“Wisdom is more precious than rubies.” Proverbs 8:11

(And ruby red tomatoes.)

A Prayer for the Cooks and Custodians

Several years ago, PB and I were asked to join with other faith leaders in the community in a service of prayer for our schools. A few days before school started, we gathered together to lift up all aspects of education in our town. We were each assigned a special group of people to pray for and we each took our turn giving voice to our prayers in the assembly. One prayed for the teachers, another for the students; someone prayed for the principles and administrators. There were prayers for the elementary schools, the middle school and the high school; we prayed for the Christian schools and for home-schoolers. Prayers were lifted up for the safety of the buildings and all the people in them.

My assignment that night was to pray for the cooks and custodians.

“Father, You know I’ve done my fair share of cooking meals and cleaning up after kids. And what I know to be true is that those things often go unnoticed and unappreciated. Unless, of course, there is no food on the table and no clean clothes in the closet. We do not want to overlook these dear people, the cafeteria workers and custodians, who feed our kids and clean up after them. These people are servants, and we know that’s something You value greatly. Equip these good people all over our schools to carry out their responsibilities with excellence and integrity.

It’s hard for kids to concentrate on math when their tummies are empty. And it’s hard to pay attention in science when the toilets are plugged and you gotta go. As these servants meet physical needs of both students and teachers, help them to also be aware of and sensitive to the child who needs a smile as they go through the lunch line. Give them Your grace to see the student who may need a kind word.

We pray for the hearts of our cooks and custodians, dear Lord. Let there be joy for them in the baking of the bread and in the sweeping of the floors. Use their hands to do this holy work.

We pray in the name of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve. Amen.”

We may not be able to pray IN our schools,
but we sure can pray FOR our schools.

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“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people —
for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
1 Timothy 2:1-
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