Don’t you hate that awkward moment when you wave to someone who is waving at you—until you realize that they were waving at someone behind you?
I’m not sure what exactly it is about this harmless social misstep that makes you want to crawl under a rock and hide.
Robert Benchley made a bigger blunder when he asked a man in a uniform outside a restaurant to get a cab for him. He was informed that he wasn’t speaking to a bellboy, but an admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Where I’d just want to die, Benchley rolled with it. Without missing a beat, he said, “I’m sorry. Can I get a battleship instead?”
The wise woman of Proverbs 31 is praised for her industriousness, character, and relationships, but my favorite line comes from verse 25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”
Certainly the principle can be abused, but don’t let the misuse keep you from the rightful use. There is something incredibly powerful about the ability to laugh in the face adversity, and even more so not to take ourselves too seriously.
Want to know another term for “not taking ourselves too seriously”? We call that humility. And laughter can actually be a path towards it.
In our Wednesday study of the Bible in a Year last week, we read the strange story of the death of King Ahab in 1 Kings 22:34:
“A certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate.”
Did you know that this is the only story in the Bible that uses the word “random”? (It’s told again in 2 Chronicles 18:33 with the exact same word.)
Random is a strange word.
It means “happening without method or conscious decision.” It is impossible to reliably predict a random number.
It is a chaotic word.
The Hebrew word in this story shows up 23 times in the Bible, but only here is it translated random. The word is usually translated integrity, blameless, innocence, full, or upright. Seem strange?
According to the NET Bible, the phrase here literally translated would be “now a man drew a bow in his innocence” (i.e., with no specific target in mind, or at least without realizing his target was the king of Israel).
That’s a little different, don’t you think?
You see, from the archer’s perspective, this was a random occurrence.
A shot went up and came down. He was innocent, in a sense. But it wasn’t random to Ahab. That one-in-a-million shot against the high-value target felt more like divine judgment. And it certainly wasn’t random to God who sees all and knows all.
I’m not sure exactly how God runs this world. I know that Ecclesiastes says that “time and chance” happen to all (Ecclesiastes 9:11). But from God’s perspective, I’m not sure that there is such a thing as random.
I can’t make sense of all the chaos in the universe, but maybe it is comforting to know that it isn’t my job to do that. I trust that God knows what he’s doing. I don’t have to!
This is part 2 in our series “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Applied Christianity in Paul’s Letter to Philemon.” I hope you’ll gather with some friends and join me for this simple study of Philemon.
Discussion #1: Why do you think Onesimus ran away?
The text of scripture doesn’t explicitly tell us, but try to put yourself into his shoes. What reasons might have have to take a drastic and risky step?
Discussion #2: When have you witnessed God’s providential hand at work in a strange way? Look both in scripture and your personal experiences.
Paul thought that, perhaps, God arranged for Onesimus to end up imprisoned so that he would come to faith. Stranger things have happened. It’s a good exercise to learn to look for God’s providential hand in our life stories, too.
Discussion #3: What does Christianity say to a slave? What is the gospel calling Onesimus to do differently than he did in the past?
Consider the following scriptures:
1 Peter 2:13-25
1 Timothy 6:1-2
1 Corinthians 7:17-24
…and any others you can think of.
Discussion #4: What did Christianity say to you?
This is personal, but it is important. How has Christianity changed you?
We’re often blind to the changes in our own hearts, because they happen slowly and daily. We are with us all the time! But sometimes it is easier to see it in the lives of others.
How has Christianity changed someone you know and love? Can you find a way to share that encouragement, so they might be able to see the power of God at work in their lives more clearly than they do right now?
Check back soon for Part 3 of 3: How God used Paul!
I will fully concede my bias here: no one has ever accused me of being normal—but I’m convinced that normal is an illusion.
I searched my Bible for the word “normal.”
It only shows up once in the ESV—in Exodus 14:27. In that passage, it isn’t describing a person. It describes how the Red Sea “returned to its normal course” after God’s miraculous division.
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary says that normal describes something “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.”
Even as kids, we feel a strong pressure to conform to the standard. We don’t want to stand out. We want to go with the flow and blend in with the crowd.
What’s the result of our lifelong obsession with normal?
We compete with the Jones’s.
We measure our success by our outside perception of others’ inside lives.
Maybe if we framed it differently, we’d realize the insanity of it all.
Most people in the modern world are unhappy, unhealthy, up to their eyeballs in debt, and crazy busy. And we spend most of our lives trying to be just like them!
The true path to happiness is more likely to lead through abnormal lands than normal ones. After all, didn’t Jesus say something about a broad path that leads to destruction, and a narrow one that leads to life?
You realize that your relationship with God stalled; you’ve drifted farther away from him. You haven’t made progress on conquering those sins that nag at your heart. It’s not as dramatic as the Prodigal’s journey to the far country; it’s more like a spiritual drought.
If that’s you – there’s hope!
I think it happens to most everyone at some point. But let me encourage you to work on getting unstuck.
Here are a few suggestions:
ONE: Get untangled. (Read Hebrews 12:1-2). Maybe something is weighing you down. Look for unhealthy relationships or obsessions that distract you from what matters most. Be willing to do some pruning work to lighten the load (see John 15:1-11).
TWO: Get motivated. Recognize what is on the line! Nearly four hundred years ago, John Owen summarized Romans 8:13 powerfully: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” And it’s not just you—it’s your family and your friends. When we get stuck, we weigh down the people who depend on us, too.
THREE: Get moving. There is great power in simply acting. You likely already know what you need to do. You know a step you can take. Most of us contemplate for a long time before we act. Just act! Scripture promises a reward for action. James says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” He doesn’t say he might. He will. Do something.
FOUR: Get creative. Perhaps your spiritual routines served you well for many years, but your season of life has changed. It might be time for a change. I’ve noticed that much of our spiritual growth comes when we are out of our comfort zones. Try something new. Study in a different way. Serve in a new capacity. Dare greatly!
FIVE: Get help. Remember that we were never called to live the life of faith alone. Sometimes when you get stuck, the only way you’re going to get out is to call a friend with a winch and a tow hook. Lean on your spiritual family for help.
Everyone gets stuck. Not everyone gets un-stuck.
Take action today to get moving in the right direction!
With so many of us doing church online or hosting study groups in our homes, I wanted to put together a little resource for your study of a powerful little New Testament letter: Paul’s letter to Philemon.
Check out the intro to the series below:
A few thousand pounds of car sit on just 147 square inches of rubber, the patch of tire where the rubber meets the road. That contact patch might be the most important place on your car. No matter how powerful the motor is, its ability to move the car (and steer and stop it) comes down to these 147 square inches.
We like that expression: “where the rubber meets the road.” It’s the spot where the idea meets reality. That recipe looks good on paper, but when you cook it – is it any good? Have you ever seen (or created) a “Pinterest fail”?
Where does the rubber meet the road for Christianity?
In real, boring, every day life.
Specifically, your life, and my life. That’s where we get God’s word out of the book and into practice.
I’d like to invite you to join me for a study of the book of Philemon. Philemon is a “rubber meets the road” book of the Bible.
It’s a tiny letter—only 355 words. It fits on a single page. You can read it in 3 minutes. It’s shorter than this post! So if Bible study is intimidating to you, trust me, you can make it through Philemon.
Here’s the gist of it: it’s a letter from Paul to a Christian named Philemon. Philemon was a slaveowner—like most of the rich people were in his day.
His slave, Onesimus, ran away.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a Christian while living as a fugitive. So now the fugitive slave who was considered his master’s property becomes his master’s brother.
Legally, Philemon could beat or kill Onesimus. So here’s where the rubber meets the road. What does Christianity look like on Philemon? What does it look like on Onesimus? How do Christians handle a situation like this?
Sound interesting? I think so.
Choose a time and a place to get together with a few friends or family members for the next three weeks (at home, virtually, whatever works for you), pick up your Bibles, and head here or facebook to watch the 3 lessons and study.
Let’s see what Christianity looks like in real life – where the rubber meets the road!
We’re in the “learning to ride a bike” stage at our house. It’s wobbly, crashy, wonderful fun.
Learning to ride a bike is tough, isn’t it? It’s scary to pull off the training wheels and trust the balance of the bike. It takes some time to convince the kids that it actually gets easier the faster they go and the more fully they commit.
That might not be a bad analogy for learning to live a life of faith. Walking by sight is what we’re used to. It’s comfortable. It feels safe. But we’re not called to walk our bicycles. We’re called to ride them! So we learn to pull our feet up and walk by faith, not by sight. We trust that God knows what he’s talking about and that what he says and does is good, no matter what it looks like.
And maybe the most important lesson from learning to ride a bike is this one: when we fall down, we get back up and try again.
“Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” (Proverbs 24:16)