Faith

God’s Great Story, and Where You Fit In

This article is longer than a blog post is “supposed” to be. But if you’re new to the faith, if you’ve forgotten or were never taught some of these concepts, or if you’re just curious as to how your own story fits in with God’s story, this article is for you.

Human beings crave stories. From very young childhood, we’re entertained by them, cautioned by them, learn from them, and willingly pay good money to be mesmerized by them (i.e., taken out of our own story and immersed in someone else’s) for a few hours—whether in a book, a movie, a play, even a video game or a painting.

I’ve been thinking a lot about story lately in terms of the best-selling book of all time—more than five billion copies sold, and still the best-selling book year after year—the Bible. (The fact that these statistics are still true will hopefully cheer believers living in a post-Christian or nearly post-Christian America.)

The greatest of all stories.

Long before video games, movies, and even books as we know them today, Jesus, knowing the  effect that stories have on us, used parables (short stories that illustrate a spiritual lesson) for teaching purposes throughout his three-year ministry. From their clueless reactions to many of the stories’ lessons and meanings, it might appear that his disciples were not always the sharpest knives in the drawer, being pretty obtuse when it came to understanding what Jesus was actually talking about. But to be fair, they were mostly unaware that they were in the living presence of the Savior of the world, God’s own Son, and who’s to say what our responses would have been in that situation? It’s human to be skeptical, even when witnessing miracles right in front of our eyes. We might view the parables as not terribly difficult to understand, but Christians today have the benefit of two thousand years of commentary and analysis, not to mention a firm knowledge of who Jesus is and what he came to do, so comprehension comes a little easier to the modern listener or reader.

But beyond the parables that Jesus told, the Bible is filled with story after story after story. The stories of creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the flood, the tower of Babel, Abraham and Sarah … and that’s just the first 15 pages of my 1,260-page Bible. The story of Jesus’ own life, death, and resurrection story takes four entire books to tell, over and over. The history of Israel and the early Christians are told in story form (Exodus, Ruth, 1 Samuel, Esther, Acts). The poets and prophets are storytellers (Job, Daniel, Hosea, Jonah). End-times visions are told as story (Revelation). It’s no wonder we teach children about the Bible using books with titles like The Jesus Storybook Bible, The Big Picture Story Bible (my favorite), Baby’s First Bible Stories, and so many more.

What’s the purpose of God’s story?

continue reading
Faith · Parenting

Finding Hope When You’ve Made Mistakes with Your Children

Many years ago when I was a young mom with an intense and challenging preschooler, I was getting coffee at Bible study next to an older, well-respected woman in the church. She had heard through the church grapevine that I was having trouble with my son, and  she casually said to me, out of nowhere, “Isn’t it great, Rebekah, that we can get all the parenting help we need right there in the Bible?”

That out-of-the-blue comment really threw me. Even though I was a fairly new Christian, I was pretty sure there was not a lot of direct parenting advice in the Bible that dealt with my specific issues with my young son. I honestly didn’t have a clue what she was even talking about. Feeling awkward, I smiled and nodded, and she went on her way, never mentioning it again.

To be honest, I didn’t take her comment very well. Her well-meaning advice had no follow-through, so it felt a little like I’d been the victim of a hit-and-run. But as the years went by, and I grew in spiritual maturity and Bible knowledge, I found that God did indeed offer parenting hope and help to me in his Word. I just needed to learn how to recognize it.

continue reading
Faith

On the Longing to be Seen, Heard, and Known

“We all desire to know and be known.”

“I just want to be heard.”

“I feel seen.”

The desire to be seen, heard, and known is universal. We all want to feel significant, worthy of attention, and validated by others. It’s painful to feel ignored, anonymous, or irrelevant.

Yet we often find ourselves in situations where we feel exactly that:

“No one understands how hard this is.”

“Why am I even doing this?”

“Does anyone even care?”

The need to “be seen” is so great that the multi-billion-dollar industry of social media has built itself around posts, clicks, and likes that provide people with solid, measurable evidence that they have indeed been seen and approved of by others.

We all have this desire to one degree or another—which isn’t surprising, because we were created to know and be known by God. He has made seeing, hearing, and knowing him easier for us in so many ways:

  • through the person of Jesus Christ
  • through his Word
  • through evidence of his saving grace in our lives
  • through the beauty, majesty, and intricacy of his creation

Wanting to be seen, heard, and known isn’t sinful in itself (it’s part of our human nature, given to us by God), but as with everything in life, sin has tainted it in a big way. It turns out that Jesus had some things to say about being seen, and it’s what’s going on in our heart that’s actually important.

Continue Reading
Faith

Already Saved … Not Yet Finished

My first grandchild was born last year. What a wonderful day it was when she finally arrived! She is delightful in the way that only babies can be. But even though she’s already here and I love her sweet baby self, I have great anticipation for the future, because truly knowing her, seeing her grow into all she is meant to be, is still yet to come.

She’s already here, and is so precious … but she is not yet who she will become.

continue reading
Faith

The “Temptation of Affluence” and the Lord’s Prayer

Give us this day our daily bread.

It’s been a long time since I’ve wondered where my next meal was coming from—about 40 years, actually, since living in an apartment or trailer with a mostly empty refrigerator or no heat. I don’t specifically remember reciting the Lord’s Prayer back then, but if I did, I’m sure I understood the phrase “give us this day our daily bread.” Even as a child, I would have seen the direct correlation between a prayer for daily sustenance and the fact that God somehow provided for my needs each day.

Of all the elements in the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day our daily bread” seems very straightforward: Please provide for my daily needs, such as food, to survive. It often gets overshadowed by other, seemingly more pertinent or lofty phrases such as “lead us not into temptation” or “forgive us our trespasses” or “Thy will be done.”

But God has a remarkable knack for continuing to teach us new truths even when we think we thoroughly understand something as familiar as the Lord’s Prayer.

Continue reading
Faith

What Does It Mean to Be a Believer?

Many years ago, not long after I became a Christian, I attended an evening church service by myself, and slid into a pew beside a woman who had spoken with me a couple of times previously. After a few moments of small talk, I said somewhat nervously, “I think I’m going to ask my mom to come to church with me soon.”

“That’s nice!” she replied, genuinely interested.

“Yes, I’m hoping she’ll like it. I’m just not sure,” I admitted.

“Oh, is she a believer?”

The question rolled off her tongue so naturally, and she asked it with such matter-of-factness, that I could tell she had a fairly straightforward understanding of what being a believer was all about. But it wasn’t a straightforward question to me, a new Christian, especially regarding my mom. (Religion was rarely spoken of in my family as I was growing up.)

So when she asked it, I froze.

continue reading
Faith

Testify

Everyone has a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. No matter what page you’re on, God is right there with you, even if you’re not aware of it. In the times of darkness and despair, at the height of great wonder and joy, in the wasteland of stifling boredom or crippling indecision, he’s never left you.

Everyone has a story. Here’s mine.

continue reading
Faith

Letting Go of Bible Reading Expectations

What’s the best daily Bible reading plan? The one that works for you.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve attempted multiple times to read my Bible every day. Many women I knew were in the same boat: having a goal of daily Bible reading, trying repeatedly to make that happen, falling short, and feeling guilt. We were often eager to try new ideas, always looking for the “one thing” that would help us maintain the Bible reading habit past a few days or so. But in all those years of adding this or that, trying this or that plan, I ultimately found success only one way.

Not by adding, but by taking away.

continue reading
Faith · Parenting

Light of the World, or 120 Watts of Jesus

When each of my children was around 5 years old, we did a “Names of Jesus” unit together during our Advent homeschool time. Each day we would focus on a different name that Jesus is called in the Bible, such as shepherd, king, Alpha and Omega, or light of the world. Each lesson had an activity, craft, or lesson associated with it, most of which I’ve forgotten now … except for the object lesson I used for “Light of the World.”

To begin this lesson, we would look at Bible verses together such as John 9:5, where Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” It was very clear to even a young child that Jesus understood his role in the world as a light to shine in the darkness. I then proposed that we go into the darkest room in the house, a small bathroom with no windows. Always eager to get up and move, and intrigued by continuing the lesson in the bathroom (of all places!), each child would eagerly comply.

continue reading