Tag Archives: Bible

Joshua (Mar-May 2022)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of Joshua published by Tom Vander Well in March, April, and May of 2022. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Joshua 1: Succession

Joshua 2: “That Woman”

Joshua 3: Pivotal Moments

Joshua 4: Memorials

Joshua 5: Upstaging

Joshua 6: A Different Way

Joshua 7: Life-Long Lessons

Joshua 8: Awareness and Ego

Joshua 9: Shrewdness

Joshua 10: Evolution of Conversation

Joshua 11: Facing the Giants

Joshua 12: We are Family

Joshua 13: My Inheritance

Joshua 14; Dense Fog Advisory

Joshua 15: Family Patterns

Joshua 16: Small Things, Big Consequences

Joshua 17: The Land of Entitlement

Joshua 18: Go!

Joshua 19: The Reward

Joshua 20: Justice Then and Now

Joshua 21: A Good Place

Joshua 22: The Fear Factor

Joshua 23: Success(ion) and Failure

Joshua 24: At Your Service

The Fear Factor

The Fear Factor (CaD Jos 22) Wayfarer

“No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord.
Joshua 22:24-25 (NIV)

As Wendy and I flew to the west coast to visit friends this past month, we took advantage of the flight’s entertainment options. Wendy and I both plugged into our tablets and watched something to pass the time. Everyone who knows Wendy knows that her raw emotions are sometimes expressed in explosive and animated ways, this is especially true of things that fearfully surprise her. Thus it was, the movie she was watching had one of those out-of-nowhere scary surprises. Wendy’s vociferous shriek of shock and surprise scared everyone around us. I even saw the flight attendant look our way to see what was the matter. If I remember correctly, this happened on more than one flight.

Wendy and I both hate horror movies. I always have. I know that there are people out there who love the genre. Good for them. It’s just not my jam. I hate being afraid, so I just don’t see the point of intentionally subjecting myself to an experience that has been purposefully designed to scare the bejeebers out of me.

In today’s chapter, Joshua dismisses the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to return across the Jordan River to the lands they’d requested back in the days of Moses. Knowing that the lands they’d requested on the eastern side of the Jordan were not within the Promised Land God had stipulated, the two and a half tribes suddenly feared that they might be treated as “less than” the tribes on the other side of Jordan. This fear was projected on future generations who might cut the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh from being part of the family, and part of the worship of God.

It always fascinates me where fear comes from and where it leads people. Reuben was the first-born son of Jacob who received a curse rather than a blessing from his father in Genesis 49. It made me wonder if this contributed to the fears that they might be cut off from the other tribes? Did it contribute to them hastily requesting land on the opposite side of Jordan because they didn’t trust that they would get a decent allotment in the Promised Land? Now that they’ve gotten what they asked for it stoked fears of being cut off from the other tribes.

It also appears that these “Trans-Jordan” tribes feared having a conversation about it with Joshua and the assembly. They choose instead to build a replica altar which creates misunderstanding and almost leads to a bloody confrontation with the other ten tribes, which is the very thing they feared to begin with!

The further I get in my life journey, the more I’ve come to appreciate Jesus’ command not to fear, and not to be anxious. Whenever Jesus told someone not to be afraid it was a directive, not a suggestion, and yet in my heart and mind, I confess that I’ve so often treated it as the latter.

The Trans-Jordan tribes are a reminder to me that unchecked and unspoken fears can and do lead to unpleasant places. Fear is a natural human emotion, but faith is an antidote. When in their fear of the storm, the disciples woke Jesus up in the boat, Jesus asked them “Where is your faith?”

In the quiet this morning, I’m searching my heart and mind in order to find and name fears that I haven’t really acknowledged. I’ve learned along the way that speaking these fears to God in prayer (or sometimes I write God a letter and get my fears out on the page), and then proclaiming my faith and trust in God helps move me out of fear and into faith.

And, that’s a good word this morning as I enter another day of the journey determined to leave fears behind and move forward in faith.

Cheers!

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Reward

The Reward (CaD Jos 19) Wayfarer

When they had finished dividing the land into its allotted portions, the Israelites gave Joshua son of Nun an inheritance among them, as the Lord had commanded. 
Joshua 19:49-50 (NIV)

In preparation for the Holy Saturday message I gave among my local gathering of Jesus’ followers, I’ve been doing a lot of studying about death. In particular, I’ve been reading about people who’ve had a Near Death Experience (NDE). These are individuals whose bodies literally died. No heartbeat, no brain activity, and no breath for a period of time until they were revived or miraculously returned to life.

There are a lot of commonalities in these experiences. If you’re interested, I recommend the book Imagine Heaven by John Burke (a shout out to Jen P for recommending it to me!). Among the commonalities in NDEs is a “life review” in which the person is shown a replay of their entire lives. Time is different in eternity. Even the Great Story speaks of eternity in which “a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like just a day.” Many describe their “life review” in those same terms. They saw every moment of their entire earthly life, but it only took what seemed like an instant.

Many who’ve experienced this life review also speak of the fact that the most important thing in this review was how well they loved others. Some mention that they saw the events of their life and could actually feel what others were feeling around them. For example, a childhood bully felt the agony of the person they victimized. A son forever estranged from his father, who had always blamed his father for their poor relationship, felt his parent’s emotions as he watched how he treated them as a youth, and he realized that he was just as much a part of the breakdown in the relationship.

Those who have experienced this NDE life review often speak of returning to their earthly lives with completely different priorities. They immediately begin to invest in relationships. They become more loving, generous, and faithful towards others because they died, they tasted eternity, and they learned that it’s the only thing that really matters just as Jesus taught.

Today’s chapter tells of the final allotments of the Promised Lands to the Hebrew tribes. In one final allotment, Joshua is given the town he requested in reward for his faithfulness. A few chapters back, it was Caleb who was first to receive an allotment. Now, Joshua is the last to receive an allotment. Joshua and Caleb were the only ones who originally spied out the land for Moses and had faith that the tribes could conquer the land and the people living there. The other 10 spies doubted. Over forty years later, Caleb and Joshua bookend the allotments of Promised Land and receive the rewards of their faith.

Joshua and Caleb received an earthly reward for their faith, and that got me thinking about eternity. The Great Story speaks of two distinct judgments to take place in the climactic final chapters of the Story. One is simply whether or not my name is written in the Book of Life. The second is described as an inspection of how well I built my life on earth as evidenced by how well I loved God and loved others. Based on what so many who’ve experienced an NDE describe, there is an eternal reward and the only thing that counts eternally is our love for others. Or as Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth:

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (MSG)

And so, I enter another day and another work week with a huge task list, yet reminded that the real priority, the only thing that truly matters, is how well I love those with whom I interact.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Go!

Go! (CaD Jos 18) Wayfarer

So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?
Joshua 18: 3 (NIV)

Early in my career, our company was contracted by a large, national corporation to produce and present a training program to all of their contact center employees across the nation. It was the largest project, to date, that our company had ever landed. And it was on me to write, produce, and present it.

I froze.

One of the things that I’ve learned about being an Enneagram Type Four is that there is a pessimism that runs deep in us. Perhaps that was what was gnawing at me as I drug my feet in getting started. I feared failure. I wasn’t sure I was up to a task this big and the lofty expectation of my superior and the client.

Today’s chapter begins with the setting up of the Hebrew’s traveling tent temple, called the Tabernacle, in a town called Shiloh which means “place of peace.” This is a significant act. Since it was created in the days of Moses and their exodus from slavery in Egypt, the Tabernacle has been the center of their camp wherever they went as they wandered in the wilderness. Now that they’ve settled into the Promised Land, the Tabernacle will have a fixed spot, and Shiloh is, roughly, at the center. It will remain at Shiloh for hundreds of years.

The setting up of the Tabernacle in a fixed spot is a sign of the beginning of permanence in the Promised Land, but there are still seven tribes who haven’t received their inheritance. Joshua asks them what they are waiting for, and this suggests that there was some hesitancy on their behalf. An allotment of land came with the expectation and responsibility to drive the remaining inhabitants from it. The tribes who are left are smaller in size and strength. The largest of the tribes like Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh, already had their allotments and were busy settling their own lands. The smaller tribes could not depend on the aid of all the fighting men these larger tribes had at their disposal. The hesitancy of the smaller tribes may have been simply that they feared they didn’t have enough fighting men and military strength to get the job done.

We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus just a few weeks ago. His resurrection appearances were scattered across about 40 days before He ascended to heaven and left His followers with the task of taking His message to the world. Talk about a monumental challenge of a task. And there was no Elon Musk among them. Twelve largely uneducated men with no worldly wealth or power were tasked by the Son of God with changing the world.

I find it fascinating that Jesus’ “great commission” to His followers started with the word “Go.” He had told them in the Garden the night before His crucifixion not to worry when they were drug before rulers and princes. They would be given what they need to say and the power to say it in the moment they needed it. The first step was to “go.”

And, that’s where I was stuck with my major work project. I froze. I was sitting still. I was paralyzed like the seven tribes, hoping that maybe someone else with more experience and knowledge would miraculously show up and do it for me. Fortunately, I had a wise and learned boss who saw what was happening. He kicked me from behind, then grabbed my hand and pulled me along until I found my momentum. Our client said it was the best, most creative, and most empowering corporate training he’d ever seen in his career.

Mission accomplished. Yet, it wouldn’t have happened with that kick from behind and a pull to get me moving forward. I learned through that experience that when I’m feeling that pessimistic paralysis my first step is simply to “go” and get moving forward.

For example, almost every weekday morning I sit down at my keyboard to write this chapter-a-day post. Many days I’m tired, my brain is fogged over, and I stare at a blank screen. If I sit there waiting for a fully formed and structured thought to form itself in my brain I’ll sit there all morning. I’ve learned to just “go.” I start typing, and the words begin to flow.

That’s what happened this morning, in fact. And here was are at the end of my post, and the end of another work week.

Go…have a good weekend.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

2 Chronicles (Jun-Aug 2018)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of 2 Chronicles published by Tom Vander Well during the summer of 2018. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

2 Chronicles 1: Childen’s Stories, Powerball, and a Really Good Question

2 Chronicles 2: Family Business

2 Chronicles 3: “It’s Boring!” (Until You See the Connections)

2 Chronicles 4: “Sea”

2 Chronicles 5: The Work

2 Chronicles 6: “Hello?!! Yo! Tom!! I’m Right Here!!”

2 Chronicles 7: Mine, Yours, Ours

2 Chronicles 8: Not Getting It

2 Chronicles 9: The Hard Facts

2 Chronicles 10: The Wisdom of Those Who’ve Gone Before

2 Chronicles 11: It’s Not About Me

2 Chronicles 12: Faith, Strength, and Suffering

2 Chronicles 13: Differences In Interpretation

2 Chronicles 14: Hamilton, History, and Me

2 Chronicles 15: The Slog Will Give Way to the Passion

2 Chronicles 16: The Spiritual Barometer of Comfort

2 Chronicles 17: Reduced to a Label

2 Chronicles 18: When the Opening Hints of Doom

2 Chronicles 19: Overturning the Scales on the Spiritual Economy

2 Chronicles 20: The Implosion of Evil

2 Chronicles 21: The Epitaph Being Written Today

2 Chronicles 22: The Story is NOT Over. The Story WILL Go On.

2 Chronicles 23: Time is Not My Enemy. She’s My Dance Partner.

2 Chronicles 24: Transition of Leadership

2 Chronicles 25: Matters of Heart

2 Chronicles 26: The Strength That Leads to Destruction

2 Chronicles 27: The Junior Babcock of History

2 Chronicles 28: When Trouble Unexpectedly Blows In

2 Chronicles 29: Carrying Out the Filth

2 Chronicles 30: “Return”

2 Chronicles 31: Fail, Rinse, and Repeat

2 Chronicles 32: The Improbable Actually Happens

2 Chronicles 33: Paying Heed

2 Chronicles 34: The Book and the Journey

2 Chronicles 35: Who Will Sing for Me?

2 Chronicles 36: Time, Distance, and Perspective

Hebrews (Feb-Mar 2022)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of 2 Peter published by Tom Vander Well in February and March of 2022. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Hebrews 1: New Layers of Perception

Hebrews 2: Slaves to Fear

Hebrews 3: Version 2.0

Hebrews 4: A Die-Hard Tradition

Hebrews 5: The Mysterious Order

Hebrews 6: The Goal

Hebrews 7: The Gray
Hebrews 8: The Tension
Hebrews 9: The Sober Truth

Hebrews 10: Pajama Worship

Hebrews 11: Making it Into the Hall

Hebrews 12: Bitter Roots

Hebrews 13: Vertical and Horizontal

The Mysterious Order

The Mysterious Order (CaD Heb 5) Wayfarer

[Jesus] was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 5:9 (NIV)

Growing up in America, I am used to there being a separation between the government and religion, but for most of western history since the time of Jesus, the two were intertwined in one way or another. When the Jesus movement became the Holy Roman Empire, the pope was both a religious and political authority. Even after the reformation, protestant kings and queens held authority over both their country’s government and state religion. Queen Elizabeth is still head over the Church of England to this day.

For the ancient Hebrews, there had always been a separation between their religion and their monarchy. The priesthood was established by the Law of Moses around 1400 BC. The monarchy wasn’t established for another 400 years when the Hebrew people chose Saul as their first king. Yet the prophets had foreshadowed a Messiah who would unite the two as both priest and king.

In today’s chapter, the author of this letter to Hebrew followers of Jesus makes a head-scratcher of a statement. He explains that Jesus was made humanity’s ultimate High Priest “in the order of Melchizedek.”

To understand this statement, we have to go back to our chapter-a-day journey through Genesis 14. There we find Abram (aka Abraham) being met by a mysterious sage named Melchizedek who appears out of nowhere, has a bit moment in the story, and then exits back into mystery. Here’s what we know:

  • Melchizedek means “King of righteousness.”
  • He was King of Salem (a shortened version of Jerusalem).
  • He was “priest of God Most High”
  • He met the Abram, with bread and wine, and blessed him.
  • Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of his spoils, which was known as a “king’s share.”

When the author of Hebrews explains that Jesus is high priest “in the order of Melchizedek” he is first of all stating that King David was prophetic when he wrote the lyrics of Psalm 110:

The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.”

The fact that David wrote this is additionally prophetic because God established David’s throne and it was through David’s line that the Messiah would come (FYI: Jesus was a descendant of David). The author then points to this prophetic line from King David and explains that Jesus is the Messiah in the mysterious order of Melchizedek who was both “King” of Jerusalem and “priest” of God Most High 600 years before the priesthood of Aaron was established by Moses.

I find myself reflecting on history this morning. Whenever earthly kings and queens have headed both church and state the results have been typically disastrous. I would argue that much of the apt criticism of Christianity stems from centuries when the Roman Catholic Church held sway over both politics and religion. It was a human institution and kingdom of this world claiming to be God’s Kingdom on earth. Jesus told Pilate, “my kingdom is not of this world.”

Allowing the persecuted Jesus movement to take over the most powerful Empire on earth was, I believe, one of the most strategically shrewd moves the Prince of this World has ever made this side of the Garden of Eden. Almost overnight, the church of Jesus became about human power, human authority, human control, and all the earthly treasures a worldly Empire both creates and hordes. It was seduced into becoming the very opposite of everything Jesus taught. It became the very sort of human religious institution that crucified Jesus in the first place.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself contemplating Jesus, both king and high priest of a kingdom that is not of this world. I’m thinking about my citizenship in that kingdom and the role I’m given as an ambassador of that kingdom. It isn’t an earthly human institution. It’s further up, and further in. It’s rooted in the eternal mystery, like the order of Melchizedek, in which the monarchy and priesthood work together in perfect harmony like a circle dance of trinity in which one is three and three is one.

And, it’s that kingdom I’m called to represent in my day today.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Matthew (Jan-Feb 2022)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of Matthew published by Tom Vander Well in January and February of 2022. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Matthew 1: Adding it Up

Matthew 2: God of the Foreign

Matthew 3: Herald

Matthew 5: Alignment of Being

Matthew 6: Two Retirement Funds

Matthew 7: Simple Difference

Matthew 8: “Ins” and “Outs”

Matthew 9: For or Against

Matthew 11: A Hobby Kind of Thing

Matthew 12: Two Guys Alone in a Mall

Matthew 13: Heart and Words

Matthew 13: Finding Forrest

Matthew 14: Between Quiet and Noise

Matthew 15: “Leave Them”

Matthew 16: Jesus’ PR Pitch

Matthew 17: Behind the Veil

Matthew 18: The Debt

Matthew 19: The Sticky Wicket

Matthew 20: The Old Couple Who Lived Up on the Hill

Matthew 21: Jesus vs. the System

Matthew 22: The Context

Matthew 23: “The Weight”

Matthew 24: Hot Times and Cold Love

Matthew 25: Three Stories, Three Questions

Matthew 26: The Contrast

Matthew 27: Mob Justice

Matthew 28: The Presence

New Layers of Perception

New Layers of Perception (CaD Heb 1) Wayfarer

…in these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
Hebrews 1:2 (NIV)

I woke this morning remembering that it was time to choose which book in the Great Story to trek through on this chapter-a-day journey. There has never been much rhyme or reason to where the journey goes next. At this point, I believe every book has been blogged through at least twice with many having been revisited four or five times.

So why keep going?

When Jesus was tempted by the Prince of this World, He compared the Great Story to spiritual bread. It is basic nutrients. It is sustenance. It is a foundational, life-giving staple. When Moses commissions Joshua to be his successor as leader of the Hebrew people, he tells Joshua, “Always keep this book of the Law [the only written pieces of the Great Story at that time] on your lips; meditate on it day and night, and be careful to do everything written in it.”

That was the first verse I ever memorized. It launched my perpetual reading, meditation, and study, and it has never gotten old. In fact, it only gets deeper and more fascinating for me. Why?

First, because every time I trek through a book again I am at a different place on the journey. My perspective from this waypoint in the journey changes what I see, hear, and receive in spiritual nutrients and sustenance. It’s like going back to a favorite restaurant and having your favorite meal off the menu after not having tasted and experienced it in years. It is the same meal, but you experience it differently.

Second, with every step of my life journey, I acquire new information, inputs, and experiences which lead to greater insight into the stories, episodes, lyrics, and poems as well as the Great Story as a whole. Metaphor is layered with meaning, and the more experiences I have in life the more I see layered in the Message, and the more connections I make the text, both to other pieces of the Great Story and to other pieces of my life.

Third, I have found it to be exactly what Jesus said it was: foundational, life-giving, spiritual staple. It centers me at the beginning of the day. It informs my thoughts and meditations for the day. It reminds me how to think, speak, act, relate, and live this day. It often gives me an encouragement to inspire, a promise on which to cling, or an affirmation to comfort.

And so, a quick perusal of the latest chapter-a-day treks by book revealed to me only a couple of books missing from the list referred to as New Testament books. The first one I noticed missing was Hebrews. So, here we go…

Since the last time I’ve made the chapter-a-day trek through Hebrews, my dear friend sent me a personal essay about Pierre de Chardin that has greatly inspired me to learn more about this 20th century Jesuit priest, mystic, and scientist. His writings were banned, his teaching was censored, and he was silenced by the institutional Catholic church. History teaches me that this is always a credible sign that he was on to something true. In particular, Chardin’s thinking around “the Omega point” had a huge influence on both the worlds of science and art in the 20th century. In short, “the Omega point” theorizes that everything in the universe is connected, and just as the entire universe sprang from the explosion of a tiny point of matter (I guess that’s the Alpha point), so it will eventually collapse and return to a tiny point of matter: the Omega point.

As I launched into the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews this morning I only had to get to the second verse before I ran into something I’ve never seen in my reading of this text before.

“...in these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son [Jesus] whom he appointed heir of all things...

The heir receives the inheritance. If Jesus is the heir of all things then all things eventually return to Him. He is the “Omega Point.”

and through whom also he made the universe.

Jesus was also the “Alpha Point.” And, the author of Hebrews goes on to state in the next verse, Jesus is “sustains all things.” In this letter to the followers of Jesus in Colossae, Paul states that in Jesus “all things hold together.” Therefore, I am reminded this morning that Jesus is the “Alpha Point” from which all things spring, the “Omega Point” to which all things return, and also what science ironically refers to as “dark matter” which holds everything together.

So, what does this have to do with my day today?

My meditation on Jesus being the “heir of all things” leads me to conclude that nothing I think I own or possess is truly mine. I will die and it will be passed onto others (who will also die) and/or it will erode, decay, or be destroyed to eventually flow back to the Omega Point. Makes sense, then why Jesus would tell His followers not to worry about, or invest in, the things of this world. He sees the bigger picture. He’s looking in context of the Great Story in which all of creation Jesus “will roll up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.” And, if Jesus is the sustainer holding all of creation together, then how ever-present and accessible He is. He’s holding me together in ways I never consider.

In the quiet this morning, I head into my day considering everything in my temporal life in the context of a much larger reality. This is what I find Jesus constantly teaching His followers: “Break out of the crimped tunnel vision of this human existence. Learn to see as I see! Step back and see in the context of Alpha and Omega, inter-connectedness and omnipresent sustaining. Then you will see each day, each moment, each interaction with hope and possibility!”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

2 Peter (Aug 2018)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of 2 Peter published by Tom Vander Well in August of 2018. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

2 Peter 1: Excersize and Add

2 Peter 2: The Freedom that Leads to Slavery

2 Peter 3: Conflict, and What Needs to Change in Me