The 10 Scariest Scriptures, part III

Hands

Ezekiel 24:15-18

I had a problem with this scripture. Sometimes, it still trips me up. I know to read it in the context of Ezekiel’s ministry, but when I first began to study him, I didn’t know what to expect. This verse terrified me.

“Then this message came to me from the Lord: ‘Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure. Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears. Groan silently, but let there be no wailing at her grave. Do not uncover your head or take off your sandals. Do not perform the usual rituals of mourning or accept any food brought to you by consoling friends.’ So I proclaimed this to the people the next morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did everything I had been told to do.” (NLT)

I’ve known my wife since we were kids in high school. She’s been my best friend since. And as I look back through the years, I realize there’s always been a feeling that we were meant for each other. She is my soul-mate, the love of my life and a beautiful mother to our boys. This scripture makes me cry. Writing about it makes me wince. I know God was using Ezekiel to speak a message of judgment against His people. Despite the cost, Ezekiel remained obedient. And it reminds me of another story, the time Jesus prayed and cried in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew all too well the cost but trusted God. He was obedient. In these difficult circumstances it’s easy to focus on the pain, the cost, and lose sight of the love that is behind it all. God used Ezekiel to speak and act out prophetic messages. By this time in his ministry, he knew it was going to be a rough road for the people. He probably knew, too, that he wouldn’t be exempt from those difficulties. The bible doesn’t tell this part of the story, but I like to think that God gave Ezekiel a ‘heads-up.’ Through this message, He gave him time to spend with his wife, to talk and laugh and love. Maybe it was during this time that they had a chance to be at peace with each other and with what was happening in their world. Considering that their world was falling apart, that is definitely a blessing. And I can’t help but see the love in such a thing. Sometimes, the greatest gift that we can give, or receive, is time to be at peace in our hearts. And while I feel for Ezekiel’s loss, I am ever mindful of the time I have to live with my love.

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The 10 Scariest Scriptures, part II

Matthew 10:37

My dad had cancer. My spiritual journey brought me across this verse during that time in my life, in his life. My faith was growing and I was learning to have a relationship with Him when my dad was diagnosed. I remember thinking at the time, ‘Lord, you’re in this; it’s going to be alright.’ Ironically, prior to my dad’s cancer, our relationship was stale. He and I didn’t quite see eye to eye on some things. As his cancer progressed through treatment to surgery, though, I think we began to see what was important. We were letting go of some of the stuff, whatever it was, that had been pushing us apart. We were growing closer and stronger, thank God, and to a son who so wanted to have his dad’s affection and approval, this was truly a blessing. And then I came across this verse while reading the bible:

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.” (NLT)

It scared me. As a growing Christ-follower, I was learning to be obedient, learning to be faithful. But this scripture really hit me hard. ‘Lord, am I suppose to choose? My dad is struggling with cancer and I’m supposed to turn my back on him?’ Those were the questions running through my mind. Now, of course I know that God didn’t want me to bail out on my dad. But at the time, I just didn’t understand. What I eventually learned, though, is that sometimes it’s enough to just have faith. I came to see that God wanted all of me. And seeing how my family was an important part of my life, well, that meant that He wanted that part of me, too.

My dad did find healing – he now sits with my Lord. And the thing that I will always remember about that time in our lives are the blessings: the last words my dad ever spoke to me were, ‘I love you.’

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The 10 Scariest Scriptures, part I

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I don’t know if ‘scary’ is the right word.  Maybe ‘worrisome?’  Or how about ‘unsettling?’  ‘Troubling?’  Whatever the word, it’s those scriptures that have left me with a, umm, degree of distress after I’ve read them, causing me to pause, ponder and pray.  They have guided me as I’ve grown in faith and are powerful markers along this journey.  There is hard truth in these scriptures, to be sure.  And I really do mean it when I say that they’ve scared me because they’ve forced me to grow.  So, in no particular order, let’s take a look at the first one.

Matthew 7:21

This scripture falls at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.  This is one of my favorite teachings by Jesus.  It is beautiful in its simplicity and presents the core values for discipleship.  Here we find compassion, truth and love.  He tells us how to pray, how we should treat each other and He also encourages us not to worry or judge.  It’s all so clear, so inspiring.  And then Jesus hits us with this one:

Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (NLT)

Now that’s some serious business right there!  If I understand this correctly, and I think I do, He’s saying that it’s not going to be a nice little stroll through those pearly gates.  In fact, ‘liking’ Jesus isn’t going to cut it!  It’s going to take a lot less of us and more of Him to make it.  And this is the scary part (and why it makes the list): it’s real easy for us (for me) to be deceived into thinking that we’re doing enough for Him.  ‘Just the bare minimum for me, please,’ isn’t going to work. Only saying ‘I believe in Jesus’ isn’t going to do it.  Showing up to church every now and then, dropping a little something in the offering and yelling ‘hi’ to folks as we run out the door after the sermon isn’t going to do it.  And taking a ‘serving is optional’ approach to spiritual growth isn’t going to do it, either.  And this scares me because I know how easy it is to do all of that, to fall into that trap.  Sure, we get busy with life, but we need to understand that without Him, we’re not living.  It’s a hard thing to accept sometimes, but I’m glad He laid down this marker.  I needed to see this because I need to give Him my all, today, and not worry about whether He will welcome me on that day.

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