When Furrows Fight Back

AIMEE JOSEPH|GUEST Complaining about work is the adult equivalent of college students complaining about mid-terms and finals. And let’s be real, we all have those days when work feels like a weight too heavy to carry and “Everybody’s working for the weekend” is our theme song. We are wired for work. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a result of the fall. Challenges in work and struggles with identity around work were most assuredly a consequence of man’s rebellion against God’s created and careful order; however, work itself honors God and is a needed part of human flourishing. Wonderful Work In his pattern of the newly minted perfect world, God offered Adam and Eve significant freedom to do significant work on the fresh earth. There were animals to name and gardens to tame. Carl Linnaeus had nothing on them. Work was not a burden, but a particular privilege for those made uniquely in God’s image. God blessed the first human couple by giving them the significant work known as the cultural mandate. “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’.” (Genesis 1:28). As one who lives in San Diego and frequents the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, I can tell you this is no small task. The San Diego Zoo employs 2,300 employees to care for their menagerie. God entrusted Adam and Eve with a task that was large enough for the intellectual, physical, and creative capacities he gave them. God wired us for work. My teenaged children balk at having to do special projects around our home. As good parents, we force them to do so anyway. When the day is done, they almost always say, “Today was a good day. We worked hard and accomplished a lot.” Similarly, sometimes I catch my husband hanging out in the shed after we have organized its chaos. There is something so human and right about accomplishment after hard work. Yet you and I both know that work is not always a worshipful experience....

When Furrows Fight Back2022-05-04T23:25:47+00:00

Light Palms, Heavy Burden

AIMEE JOSEPH|GUEST Palm Sunday. The expectant people lined the streets, praising Jesus and quoting from Psalm 118 as he approached in peace. The people knew he was the Messiah, the Sent One, the One coming to save them. Thus, they shouted “Hosanna” which means “Save us, now!” (Matt. 21:6–11). They waved light palms as he approached history’s heaviest burden. Their praise presupposed that Jesus would establish God’s people in peace politically and do so immediately. They had visions of the once-flourishing reign of David. Their hopes soared with high expectations that Jesus would usher in a new golden era. However, within a week’s time, it would become clear to these same crowds that Jesus had plans to usher in a very different kingdom. As a result of these missed expectations, their praises faded quickly into shouts of “Crucify him!” in a matter of days. We are not unlike them; our praise quickly turns cold and bitter when our expectations are not met in our way and on our timetable. As we approach Holy Week, we are invited to search for the semblances of our own hearts in the fickle crowds. Jesus rode into Jerusalem through a tunnel of praises that came from the mouths of those who would soon chant “Barabbas!” (Matt. 27:15–23). They cheered his approach with a light and airy joy, but he alone knew he was marching on to his death. His patient restraint and resolve as he approached an unthinkable burden only further shows the purity of his goodness and love. His Burden A King approaching in peace, In humility He rode on, Onlookers cheering him, Expecting a new dawn. The Scriptures foretold it, Yet none of them could see, The dawn would begin with The God-Man hung on a tree. The Messiah was coming, To bring His kingdom to bear; But of the coronation of tears, None but Jesus was aware. “Hosanna! Save us!” they cried, As hopes and palms were raised. “Finally the kingdom’s come, May Jesus’ name be praised!” He heeded not their fanatical cries, For he well knew the heart of men, From “Crown Him” to “Crucify,” The voices would be raised again...

Light Palms, Heavy Burden2022-05-04T23:14:32+00:00

Covenant With a Cranky Woman

SUSAN TYNER|CONTRIBUTOR Do you tend to avoid cranky people? Go out of your way to avoid the teen who just got grounded or an exhausted coworker who started her day by stepping on a Lego? But what if I am the cranky one? I can’t escape me. Sure, I have tricks up my sleeve to stuff my frustrations so I can function at work. I can fix a smile during lunches with friends so I do not hint at the dark musings of my heart. However, my guard drops back at home and my crankiness is more obvious as I bang dinner dishes, yell “shut up” to the dogs, or give the silent treatment to my family. I see them avoid me, and I wish I could escape from my cranky self, too. I wonder if Naomi felt the same way. In the Book of Ruth we see Naomi’s story unfold. Her family left Bethlehem and went to Moab in search of bread, and though they found actual bread, they did not find what they really went for: health and life. Ten years later, Naomi’s husband and boys are dead, and she is left alone except for her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. A widow without male protection doesn’t have many options. She hears the famine back home is over and returns, her daughter-in-law Ruth in tow. They arrive back in Bethlehem, and Naomi tells her hometown friends, “I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Don’t call me by my old name, Naomi (“pleasant”) but call me Mara (“bitter”).” Empty. Bitter. Maybe even a little cranky? In chapter 2, Naomi comes across almost numb and depressed when Ruth goes to find work in the fields. Only when Ruth mentions the name Boaz do we see a spark as Naomi responds, “blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead” (Ruth 2:20). By the end of the story, we see Boaz taking both widows into his family and Naomi holding a grandbaby. But even though the writer does not explicitly say it, the real hero is God, not Boaz. We as the audience see what was happening all along. God was sticking close to Naomi because she was part of His family. Another way to describe His loving-kindness is with the term covenant, a solemn promise that God would never leave His children, His sheep. Covenant even with the cranky. In the flock of God, Naomi was a cranky sheep and God kept His covenant with her anyway. Sometimes you and I are cranky sheep, too. Perhaps our losses of dreams, expectations, or loved ones leave us dry and brittle. Or maybe we look up one day, and we are far from the community of God’s people and don’t like how our cynicism compares with their contentment. We wonder if God wants to avoid us because we are really not that fun to be around. Thankfully, God doesn’t keep His covenant promises only to the happy faces, the productive hands, and the hearts that sing with VBS vigor, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.”  He sticks with cranky women too—the women out of energy to pray; women bitter from hard work and empty bank accounts; and women haunted by mistakes that can’t be undone. Where do I go if I’m cranky?...

Covenant With a Cranky Woman2022-05-04T22:59:31+00:00

Follow the Lamb

BARBARANNE KELLY|CONTRIBUTOR Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look,     and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it,     and find rest for your souls. —Jeremiah 6:16 As Reformed believers we understand the whole of Scripture through the lens of covenant theology. Reading through the Bible, we see God’s spotlight illuminating the Covenant of Grace, lighting the way through the history of redemption. One way to follow the path of the covenant through the scriptures is to look for the shadows cast by God’s spotlight. These symbols and figures point forward, signifying greater spiritual truths and realities. Examples of such symbols are garden and tree, water and bread, bride and groom, priest and king, wilderness and cities. While the covenantal types and shadows may be familiar to us as Old Testament symbols, neither the symbols nor their significance diminish in importance on this side of the cross. Under the Old Covenant, believers looked forward to the coming of Christ, and in these last days, Christians await his return. But we still need encouragement to look forward. I’d like to encourage you, Dear One, based on God’s covenant promises, to find rest for your soul by looking forward in faith to the Lamb of God. But First, Look Back Let’s begin by looking back at the ancient path. In the book of Genesis, God made a covenant with Abraham, graciously promising to give him offspring as numerous as the stars through his son Isaac. Abraham believed this covenant promise so thoroughly that when God commanded him to sacrifice his son—his only son, whom he loved—Abraham obediently set out first thing in the morning (Gen. 22:1–3). By faith, Abraham considered that even if he sacrificed his beloved son, God was able to raise him from the dead (Heb. 11:19). As they approached the mountain, Isaac, seeing the fire and the wood but no offering, asks, “where is the lamb?” Abraham answered that God would provide the lamb for the offering himself (Gen. 22:7–8). Sure enough, God intervened and provided a substitute. Isaac’s question continues to echo down through the Scriptures. Where, indeed, is the Lamb?...

Follow the Lamb2022-05-04T23:08:05+00:00

The Comfort of Covenant Theology

SARAH IVILL|CONTRIBUTOR One of the things I love to do is sing covenant theology with my children. We have CDs that put the First Catechism: Teaching Children Bible Truths to music, as well as CDs that put the Westminster Shorter Catechism to music. I love both! I have found that we learn the questions and answers better when we sing them. Not only do I love to hear my children sing these truths, I love to sing them too. Whether I’m singing the catechism while doing chores, or while homeschooling, the truths of covenant theology comfort me.    Perhaps comfort isn’t the first thing you think of when you hear “covenant theology.” Maybe you’re not even sure what covenant theology is, or if you do, maybe you aren’t confident in explaining it to others. I want to help you associate covenant theology with comfort, and hopefully be better able to teach it to others. We need comfort on a daily basis, and we don’t want to get it from the wrong sources, such as food, shopping, or media. We want to remember that the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God is with us in our physical pain. He is with us in that messy relationship. He is with us as we battle habitual sin. And He is with us as we engage in service.   Five Ways Covenant Theology is a Comfort Covenant theology is a comfort because it teaches us that God is the Creator and Redeemer who wants to be in a relationship with His people. He created us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever, so our greatest satisfaction will always be found in Him. He could have chosen to relate to His people in any number of ways, but He chose to relate to us by way of covenant. We could not have initiated a relationship with God, but amazingly He initiated one with His people. This isn’t a relationship that can be broken; it’s binding. And this isn’t a relationship without structure. It’s grounded in His grace and promises. Furthermore, this isn’t a relationship without security. The blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, secures it. Covenant theology is a comfort because it teaches us the promise of God’s presence...

The Comfort of Covenant Theology2022-05-04T23:08:59+00:00

Grafted Into the Family of God

HEATHER MOLENDYK|CONTRIBUTOR The pitted dirt road jostled the muddy pick-up truck as it made its way through the narrow rows of Florida orange trees. Years in the sweltering sun and heavy rains had aged the white truck as much as its driver. Putting the truck in park next to a young orange tree and creaking open the door, Jerry carted over the necessary equipment. Studying the tender trunk of the chosen tree, Jerry’s expert eyes surveyed where the grafting procedure would take place. With one weathered hand holding the lower trunk and the other hand firmly gripping a sharp blade, Jerry began removing some upper branches of the young tree. Though the roots and trunk of this particular tree were healthy and strong, Jerry knew this rootstock would not produce an impressive orange harvest when it was full grown. Because of that weakness, some of the scion (upper portion) of the tree was being removed by Jerry’s sharp blade. In the cut places, healthy branches from another orange tree would be grafted on. Jerry brought over freshly cut branches from another young tree in the orange grove. These branches came from a breed that faithfully produced superior oranges. The fruit from this other tree would be sweet, juicy, and bountiful. With a farmer’s tenderness, Jerry tightly bound the new scion to the original rootstock with grafting tape. Then gathering up his tools, Jerry climbed back into the driver’s seat after tossing the worthless tree branches from the original tree into the bed of the truck. The dead branches would be added to the growing wood pile out back to be used for the family’s bonfire that weekend. A wound is made to the original plant. God created Adam out of the dirt. Noah was chosen among the sinful men roaming the earth. Abram was called out of a pagan land. Isaac was brought to life in a dusty womb. Moses was tasked with leading the Sons of Israel to a land of promise. David was chosen to be king and his lineage was promised to endure forever. Over and over, God’s blessing rested upon a people He had chosen to love. Like a mother hen, His protective wings sheltered the love of His heart from destruction and death. In spite of their holy legacy, God’s people eventually despised their Creator, Rescuer, and King...

Grafted Into the Family of God2022-05-04T23:11:17+00:00

That’s Why He Came

MEGAN JOHNSON|GUEST “We must lay before God what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” (C.S. Lewis) As we approach Christmas, I’m reminded of a situation I was in a couple of months ago. Now, this situation as we will call it, is not for the faint of heart, it is going to make you squirm, so be forewarned and proceed with caution…. My daughter, Maggie, had lice crawling on her scalp. She woke up in the middle of the night crying and clawing at her head and a vague recollection of a student at preschool having lice the week before buzzed in my brain, so I courageously pulled out the flashlight and checked. Yep. There they were, as clear as could be. I nearly dropped her. Here’s the thing: Just a few hours before, I was blow drying her hair for the first time, and we were all “ohhh-ing and ahhhhh-ing” over her smooth, soft, golden, beautiful hair – truly, all 5 of us encouraging her in how pretty her hair looked since she let mommy fix it…and yet, crawling not so far below the surface of all that shine, were bugs. Bugs that were immune to normal shampoo because, I read, they hold their breath. If you’re not itching at your head by now, you’re stronger than I. The spiritual implications stung me immediately. I remember Jesus’ proclamation to the Pharisee’s: “Woe to you! You clean the outside of the cup, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matt 23:25), or David crying out to God in Psalm 51:6, “you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” How often do I ohhh and ahhh over my own outwardly apparent righteous works, or other's outward works, or long for recognition and approval for my “righteous” acts? And yet, there are bugs crawling beneath the surface. Daily, friends, yes daily. And yet, as we celebrate Advent, this is exactly why Jesus came. He came to cleanse us from the filth inside, from the “bugs” that are immune to all our forms of self-denial, discipline, and good works.  I’m reminded that God made a covenant with Abraham, swearing by Himself, that He would be His God. And God did this, while Abraham was asleep. Abraham was doing nothing to add to the promise of God. No works of his own to add to the covenant. And like that, Jesus comes – to a sin ridden, lice infested, broken world. Emmanuel! God with us!...

That’s Why He Came2022-05-04T23:46:10+00:00

Looking at the Cross Through the Lens of Christmas: Hope for Excruciating Moments

ELIZABETH TURNAGE|CONTRIBUTOR Mary’s pain must have been excruciating. For how could a mother watch her son, the supposed Savior of the world, be crucified without feeling that agony herself? In the most excruciating moment of her life, what did Mary remember of the first Christmas, and how did it give her hope? In the most excruciating moments of our lives, what can we remember, and how can those memories give us hope? As the frenzied crowd shouted around her, “Crucify him!” did she remember a night over thirty years ago? Into the quiet of that night, the bright and fearsome angel Gabriel had burst with a troubling announcement, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). As Pilate sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion, did she remember how she and her cousin Elizabeth had celebrated Gabriel’s announcement and the early days of their pregnancies together? As Pilate scrawled out the word “King of the Jews” on a makeshift sign, did she remember the angel’s words, “…and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33)? As she watched the life leak out of Jesus, did she wonder how a dying king could reign forever? Did she remember Gabriel’s assurance, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37)? Did she remember how easily she had surrendered to God’s plan, voicing her faith, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)? As the Roman soldiers ripped her son’s clothes, did she remember swaddling Jesus in a soft cloth the night she gave birth to him in the stable, because there was “no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:27)? As Jesus called to her from the cross, “Woman, behold your son,” and pointed to his beloved disciple, John, did she remember gazing into the shining dark eyes of her newborn son, the Savior of the world? As she heard Jesus cry out, “It is finished,” did she remember the “impossible” beginning of Jesus’ life? Did that memory of the miraculous lead her to wonder if life could yet again emerge from death?...

Looking at the Cross Through the Lens of Christmas: Hope for Excruciating Moments2022-05-04T23:47:54+00:00
Go to Top