The Battle Over Samantha

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For many years, Samantha had guided her family to work outside their home. Besides teaching, her children also gave frequent talks to a great variety of people who asked, helped out in the soup kitchen downtown, shopped in small as well as large businesses, and donated to relief organizations. If someone had a need, they were to be quick to say yes. Samantha believed in the value of everyone, and instructed her family to use their resources to promote the welfare of others.

Not only concerned for those outside her home, Samantha also worked hard for those within her home. Her family was extremely important to her, and her children, in return, loved her greatly. At first her children had been supportive and grateful for her words to them even though they knew as well as she did that things weren’t perfect. She encouraged them to voice their concerns and suggestions with the intent that they would work on the problems as a family. But as her family grew, so did the problems. Sibling rivalry became a constant source of friction and it seemed she was no longer good enough for many of her children. No matter what she said, someone would complain. If she suggested steak and baked potatoes for dinner, some of her children complained that she ignored their desire for single dish meals. If she directed her family to clean the living room, some of her children complained that she was saying the dirt in the other rooms didn’t matter. Stains settled on shirts were her fault for not having treated them immediately. No matter how hard she worked, there were always more complaints about more messes. Some of her children blamed her that the messes even existed. They yelled, criticized, and threw tantrums. They turned on the siblings that ignored their rants or defended Samantha, and vowed to force them to change or to be attacked, which resulted in more fights as the second group retaliated with anger and name calling. Few children looked at themselves as the cause of many of the problems.

Samantha was concerned with the increasing discord in her family but was frozen from action by conflicting ideas on how to stop it. The stress of indecision weakened her immune system, which allowed viruses and bacteria to begin infiltrating her body. She fought against them the best she could, but could feel herself losing when a cancer took root and began spreading throughout her body.

One day a friend arrived. He had been watching the decline of Samantha’s family and could no longer stand by and do nothing. He suggested that she reduce her outside work for awhile in order to focus on the problems in her house. She followed his advice and began to shift her priorities. But as she did, her hidden illness began interfering with her work. The man recognized the signs of cancer in her and told her and her family that helping her regain her health was one of his top priorities. Until she was healthy, she wouldn’t be able to take care of anyone properly.

The backlash came quickly and violently.  Many of the children denied that Samantha was sick and refused to acknowledge the symptoms the man pointed out.  They said he was lying in order to take control, and that as long as their mother did things their way, they could take care of all the family problems themselves. They did not want this man in the house, and demanded that he leave. Other children disagreed, saying that the cancer would contaminate any solutions tried and would only result in more problems.  They wanted the man to stay, thankful for his help and intervention.

It seemed as if the disagreement would last forever, but eventually, a plan was devised and successfully executed by the first group of children, forcing the man to leave and replacing him with a woman. This woman also denied that anything was wrong in Samantha’s body and threatened to take action against anyone who disagreed. The children in the second group watched sadly as Samantha was put back to work without consideration of any possible health issues. While the first group of children celebrated their victory, the second group worried that the end result would be their beloved mother’s death, and were frustrated with the lack of freedom to voice any more of their concerns.

Will the first group of children care enough about the feelings of the second group to let a doctor examine the health of their mother to verify whether or not she was healthy?

Will the second group of children quietly submit to the woman’s threats, or will they rise up to confront the unfairness of censorship?

Will the man go back to his own life and ignore the needs he saw in his friend, or will he continue to find ways to get her the help he thinks she needs?

Will Samantha survive the intense battle that rages over her?

Only time will tell.


This allegory was written in response to a question I read this morning. My prayer is that God opens all of our eyes to what is true – to see the truth no matter which group of children we are in – to acknowledge what is true and not true in what we see and what the other side sees – and to recognize the truth about the evil spiritual enemy who is the real mastermind behind this battle – for without truth, there can be no healing or unity in our country.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Ps 25:5)

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! (Ps 43:3)

These are the things that you shall do: speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; (Zech 8:16)

and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)

Part 5: The Bible (Christian But Not series)

Summary of my previous posts laying the foundation for this post:

Christian: a person who has anything to do with Christ

Disciple: a person who is totally committed to following Jesus and all He said

Jesus did not call us to be Christians. He called us to be disciples.

Disciples give up their own truth for Jesus’ Truth

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17 

I think we would all agree we would find God’s word – truth – in the Bible.

I started to write this blog as a history and explanation of the different versions of the Bible we can find everywhere.  I spent several days researching the Bible. It was a fascinating. But that’s not where I’m supposed to go with this blog. Then I tried writing about statistics of what Christians and non-Christians believed about the Bible. Again I spent a couple days researching. But that’s not where I’m supposed to go with this blog either. As much as I love learning about the Bible’s history and translations, there are many web sites of scholars who do so much better than I ever could. And as much as I am fascinated with statistics and what people believe, there are web sites that provide that information better than I can.

And then I ran into this:

Christians use the Bible. Disciples read the Bible.

And I knew where I am supposed to go.

Christians use the Bible to support and promote their views. Disciples read the Bible to form their views.

Christians use the Bible to point fingers at others. Disciples read the Bible to point their fingers at themselves.

For Christians, opinions come first, then Scripture. For disciples, Scripture comes first, then opinions.

We all know that Christians on both sides of every issue can find something in the Bible to support their views. Many times, the scripture is taken out of context, misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misused. Hopefully the Christians doing so don’t know that they’re doing so. But sadly, there are Christians who don’t care. If they can get a scripture to justify their opinions, then they feel entitled to use it to condemn others. This is not new. It’s been happening since the first Christians. Paul had to address it to the Roman Christians.

Romans 14:14-19 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess[b] to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

In a nutshell, Some Christians were condemning other Christians for breaking the law. They used the Old Testament and years of tradition to back them up. Other Christians were condemning those who were still living under the law instead of in the freedom Christ provided. They used Paul’s letters to other churches (they didn’t have the New Testament yet, but some of the letters Paul wrote were already circulating between groups of Christians) to back up their opinion.

Galatians 4:21:26 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

Galatians 5:1  For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and so not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Sound familiar? Christians fighting Christians, each using the Bible to condemn the other? I could think of numerous examples just by looking at doctrinal differences between denominations. But I also see it outside the lines of denomination. One huge example is how Trump followers use the Bible to condemn Biden followers, and Biden followers use it to condemn Trump followers. Or how Republicans and Democrats are using the Bible to justify their own side and condemn the other.

Both groups are using the Bible to defend their opinions, just like those Christians in Rome. And both groups are missing the bigger picture. 

God’s message has been clear since Genesis. Love Him. Love each other. Live in peace with each other.

Matthew 22:35-40  35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Isaiah 32:15-18 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.  

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

The Roman Christians showed in their fighting that they were using the Bible for their own agendas.

Paul, a disciple, showed that he had read the Bible and was responding using that lens. He knew the bigger picture. (Reread his letter to the Romans quoted above if you are guilty of reading familiar Scriptures like I do – skimming through them because I think I already know what they say.)

As disciples, we are not called to use the Bible. We are called to read it. How would our families, our work places, our stores, our roads, our leisure activities, our churches, our communities be different if we began reading the Bible instead of using it? If we lived as disciples instead of Christians?

I think it’s time to find out.

Let the Comforter Comfort

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She sighed with satisfaction as she put down her scissors. Finished! It had taken awhile but the hand quilted comforter was finally finished. And just in time for her friend’s birthday. She imagined how cozy her friend would feel cuddled up in the large softly padded blanket. She didn’t usually make such an elaborate gift for birthdays, but this friend was special, as was this birthday.

She lovingly folded the comforter and tied it with a pretty red ribbon, then placed it carefully in a large gift bag. She couldn’t wait to see her friend’s face when she gave it to her in a few days.

She spent the next few days packing for her move out of state. Each time she passed the bag, sitting on the small table near the front door, new images formed in her mind…

…her friend, sitting on the couch, reading a good book and wrapped in the warmth of the comforter.

…her friend, sleeping peacefully on her bed under the cozy weight of the comforter.

…her friend, sitting in her bathtub seeking safety from a storm and surrounded by the softness of the comforter.

When the day came, she handed the bag to her friend with a huge smile, eager to watch her friend’s surprise and delight.

She wasn’t disappointed.

“Oh, wow! This is amazing!” her friend said, holding it up and admiring it. “I can’t believe you made this for me. It must have taken you forever!”

“It did take a while,” she answered. “But it’s well worth it. I wanted to give you something to treasure to remind you how much I treasure you and our friendship.”

“Aww… thank you. I feel the same way and I will treasure this comforter my whole life.”

Six months later, settled in her new home, she began missing her friend and decided to make a visit. Upon entering her friend’s house, she saw the comforter she had made. It wasn’t on the couch where it could be easily grabbed and used. It wasn’t on the bed waiting to provide warmth in the cool evenings. It was displayed on the wall!

“I love the comforter so much that I didn’t want it to get dirty or damaged so I put it on the wall. It looks great up there, doesn’t it!” her friend told her.

Hiding her disappointment, she smiled and agreed – it did look good up there. But it wasn’t made to be displayed on a wall. It was made to be used! To part of her friend’s everyday life. What good was it up there? How could it provide warmth and comfort from up there? But she knew it wasn’t her right to force her friend to use it the way she had purposed it. It belonged to her friend now and it was her friend’s right to choose what to  do with it.

On the way home, she sought the comfort of her Friend… and made a startling connection.

“Lord,” she prayed. “Thank you for Your gift of the Holy Spirit to be my comforter. Help me to allow Him to be part of my everyday life, to seek Him to comfort me when I’m scared and to warm me when I’m cold. May I never keep Him at a distance, knowing He’s there but not allowing Him to serve the purpose for which You gave Him to me.”

And she drove the rest of the way home wrapped in the cozy embrace of her Comforter.

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 2

She turned around slowly and two men with warm smiles on their faces. The older man was tall, average weight, and thinning gray hair. The other man was younger with dark hair and eyes.

“Umm..” she started to stammer not having any idea how to explain her presence.

“Can we help you?” asked the younger man.

Shaking her head, she looked past them to the door. Seeing her look, the older man chuckled.  “No need to worry, We won’t hurt you.” He walked over to her with his hand outstretched. “Hi. I’m the Pastor here. You can call me Toby. This here is my son, Jude. We’re actually glad you’re here.”

“Um… sorry for intruding. I just needed a place to hide.”

“You won’t find a safer place. Would you like to take a walk with us? We were just heading out to the lake.”

Lake? Here, in the city? Confused, she followed them down the hallway. They passed  several closed doors before Toby opened the one at the end of the hall.

“No way!” she thought as she saw what was on the other side of that door.

It opened into a large garden full of colorful blooming flowers, luscious green grass, and mighty fruit-bearing trees of every kind. A dirt path wound its way through the garden exiting at the far end. And in the distance, she could see the blue glint of water. Where in the world was she?

Toby and Jude chatted as they walked, trying to draw her in by asking her questions. They asked about her job and family as well as her concerns, cares, and dreams. Not wanting to reveal the sadness inside her – being a preacher and preacher’s son, they would be sure to try to “fix” her – she covered her feelings by answering flippantly. They didn’t seem to notice her tone, and were intensely interested in everything she said and even seem to care about everything that concerned her.

They arrived at the lake and climbed out onto a pier that jutted out over the water. IMG_20180504_145142154Sitting down, they were all quiet as they drank in the peaceful beauty of the place. Bella began relaxing as the peace soaked into her wounded soul. She had never experience as much love and acceptance from anyone as she was feeling from Toby and Jude.

After a long while, Toby turned to Bella and said, “Why don’t you tell me all about it. Just start at the beginning.”

Still covering her feelings, she continued to be flippant. “What beginning? When I was born beginning?”

Toby looked at Bella for a long minute, then said quietly, “Start at Disneyworld.”

Bella paled. Trembling, she asked, “How did you know about Disneyworld?”

“It’s my job, my gift.”

“My sisters were molested in Disneyworld. I might have been too because I was there. I can’t remember. All I know is something isn’t right inside me.”

She tried to listen to Toby as he began talking but her feelings were overwhelming her and she couldn’t hear anything but fear and doubt and condemnation. Eventually Toby’s words began to get through to her as he spoke louder and louder. When they were loud enough to drown out all her thoughts, she caught his eye and said, “OK, I can hear you. You’re preaching!”

He smiled and said, “Yes, I tend to do that.”

“I think we should leave now,” she said, wanting to avoid any more discussion.

“Sure, if you want to.” They stood up.

“I’m glad I chose to hide in your church,” she said as they walked back towards the church. “This is a good place.”

“I’m glad you accepted my invitation,” he answered. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you like.”

“Thanks, but I’m fine. I need to go.” As much as she loved being there, she was also uncomfortable. If he knew about Disneyworld, how much more did he know?

“As you will. But just know that you’re welcome back anytime. We’ll always be  here.”

They escorted her through the house and back into the foyer. Reluctantly she waved goodbye and went out the front door. She didn’t know why she was drawn to this place that both refreshed and terrified her. But she knew one day she’d be back.  And when she did, she knew Toby and Jude would be waiting for her with open arms.

 

This story, based on a dream I had years ago, is designed as an allegory. Here are a few analogies you can find in it.

The sidewalk was crowded with people – most going about their business, some feeling lost, and a few trying to connect with other people. Life is crowded with people also. Most are going about their business, not really paying attention to those around them. Some people feel lost in this world. And a few people try to connect with others to share God’s love.

Bella was surrounded by people and ended up getting hurt but chose to be in denial about how serious it was. We live in a world surrounded by people and will eventually get hurt. Many of us also tend to live in denial of the pain we have rather than allow someone else close enough to help us. At least I know I do.

The church was bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside, and contained a beautiful garden and lake. The spiritual world, heaven, is much bigger and more beautiful than it appears to those on the outside.

Bella found refuge in the home of Toby and Jude. We find refuge in God the Father and Jesus the Son.

Toby and Jude were intensely interested in everything Bella said, and cared about all her concerns.  God is intensely interested in us and cares about everything we care about.

Toby knew about the pain Bella felt deep in her soul, regardless of how flippant she tried to sound. God knows the pain deep inside us no matter what we do to try to cover it.

Even though Toby and Jude wanted Bella to stay, she was free to come and go as she pleased. We have the same freedom in God. He desires us to stay with Him all the time, but won’t force us.

 

Now your turn. Does this story relate to your life in any way? What are some other analogies you can see?