Nameless–no, Unnamed–Series Conclusion

We can only define them by their malady (or friend’s malady) and location: The Deaf Man in Decapolis, 4 Friends on the Roof. Or sometimes by their profession or nationality: Centurion in Capernaum, Syro-Phonecian Woman in Tyre. The one thing we never know is their names.

I mislabeled this blog series when I started. These people aren’t nameless. They had given names and family relationship names like mother, husband, or cousin. They were people, just like me and you. In fact, Jesus may have called many of them by their names. But we don’t know those names. So they’re not “nameless.” They are “unnamed” or “anonymous.” Maybe I’ll go back and correct all the posts at some point.

Continue reading

Nameless: A Troupe of Ten Lepers

One man, a leper, interrupted Jesus on the road, and Jesus returned him to his relationships (Luke 5:12-14, etc.). We saw that story last week. This week, we look at ten other nameless men with leprosy who approached Jesus in a different way, but only one of them chose to say “thank you.”

Luke 17:11-19.

Jesus was already on his way to Jerusalem for the last time (Luke 13:22, On the Way to The Cross series), walking southeast, along the border between Galilee to the north, Samaria to the south, and heading toward the Jordan River valley. He stopped in some little village, which also remains nameless, along with the ten outcasts on its edge. The place isn’t important. The men’s names aren’t important. What matters? Jesus and His power.

Continue reading

Nameless: Series Introduction

What’s in a name? Shakespeare said it wasn’t really important:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  -William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

But God prioritizes names. He equates them to one’s reputation—especially His own. God told Abram his name would be great (Genesis 12:2). Later, He changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning “He struggles with God” (Genesis 32:28). And repeatedly, the Psalmists praise God’s Name.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Psalm 29:2

Later, Peter heals a man just by saying Jesus’ name:

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Acts 3:6

And he insists before the Sanhedrin:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  –Acts 4:12

There’s power in one’s name—especially Jesus’.

Why do we get so embarrassed
when we forget someone’s name?

And identity. If names weren’t important, we wouldn’t get so embarrassed when we forget someone’s name, and it wouldn’t be so significant if we call someone by the wrong name. We also wouldn’t work so hard to pronounce names properly.

So what does it mean when someone remains nameless in the Biblical narrative? In particular, many people Jesus healed and some with whom He interacted often aren’t recognized by name. Continue reading

Ambition is a Dragon

I’ve found myself grappling with surges of ambition for the past few months, and I haven’t known what to do with it. At times, I’ve been frustrated, almost angry, because I know I could accomplish so much more, were I free to do it. At other times, I’ve been despondent, wanting to give up, because my efforts appear futile without the potential for real accomplishment.

Ambition is a dragon: hard to manage and never completely understood.

In 1960, no one had gone to the moon. What made people want to do it? Sure President Kennedy declared the goal, but the desire went beyond making a name for the scientists, astronauts, or country (Encyclopedia Britannica). I believe it was about seeing just how far humanity could go…about achieving something astounding primarily for the sake of achieving it.

Does ambition exist for its own sake? I don’t think so.

When I finally confronted my own ambition, I started by pushing and pulling on a definition for ambition, trying to understand this dragon that has awakened. Continue reading

Acts Progression: Philip and Paul

We’re making our way through Acts, talking about the situations and verses that rise to the top this time. Now we’ve come to my favorite story in the New Testament: Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40). Not surprisingly, I’ve already written a bit about this here on #NotAboutMe.

Philip 1
(c) Carole Sparks

In Things Not Said: Philip, part 1, we spend the whole post in Acts 8:26. Meeting Philip at the height of his career in Samaria, we watch his obedience take him down an unknown road–literally.

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  -1 Samuel 15:22

Philip 2
(c) Carole Sparks

Watch God arrange innumerable circumstances so that Philip and the Ethiopian cross paths at the right time. In The Right Place at the Right Time: Philip, part 2, we cover Acts 8:27-29 and rest in the confidence that God is in control.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  -Isaiah 55:9

Philip 3
(c) Carole Sparks

Finally! In Intersection: Philip, part 3 we see Philip speak to the Ethiopian guy, climb into his chariot, and share the Gospel. It’s Acts 8:30-40, and the principles for evangelism are clear.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  -Hebrews 11:6

I’ve also spent some time with Saul-who-became-Paul. Click on one of these links if you’d rather read more about Saul/Paul.

Paul inauspicious beginning
(c) Carole Sparks

Acts skips over it, but Paul spent three years in the wilderness before his ministry was effective. Paul’s Inauspicious Beginning pulls from Acts 9 and Galatians 1 to explore the early days of what became the most fruitful Christian ministry ever. The principles for us are clear.

An early post, “Do Me a Favor?” looks at the way we responded to God’s personal leading in our lives, using Ananias (Acts 9:10-19) as an example. There’s also a bit about my friends asking me for money.

This post, A Martyr Mindset, came up in conversation just this week. Sometimes our greatest personal sacrifice isn’t the path to God’s greatest glory. Sometimes we sneak out of town in a basket (Acts 9:23-25, 2 Corinthians 11:21-29)…or the modern-day equivalent.

A pile of previous, but still pertinent, posts on Philip and Paul as we progress through a pair of chapters in Acts. Both my alliteration and my #BibleStudy are #NotAboutMe.  (click to tweet)

With over six years of blogging now, I’ve covered a lot of territory. Which of these posts looks most interesting to you? I would really appreciate it if you leave me a comment on that post or pop back over here to let me know. 

 

5 Things to Try When Your Bible Study Feels Dry

I started Amos last week in my personal Bible study time. I could spend the rest of my days in the Gospels, but we need the whole of Scripture. Every portion—every verse—has a purpose. So about once a year, my husband and I venture back into the Old Testament. I studied Amos for a Hebrew exegesis class in seminary, but I have never walked through it in my personal quiet time.

The first couple of chapters were interesting, from a historical and geographical perspective, but I had some trouble with application. My Bible study time felt dry. What do you do when your Bible study time feels dry? Continue reading

Blessed Are: Those Who Mourn

“How did we get here?” It’s one of the questions I ponder after every school shooting, after every senseless act of violence, after every scandal in the public arena. It’s one of the questions I ask God. The longer version: “Oh Lord, how did this country come to be like it is today?”

Sometimes I mourn for the state of our country…our world. Maybe you do, too. Jesus said,

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  –Matthew 5:4

Like many of Jesus’ statements, this line seems backward at first. Like I’m going to celebrate my grief because I experienced some comfort in it?!? It would still be better not to have grieved at all, thank you very much!

Maybe we don’t really understand “blessed.” Continue reading

We Don’t Have to Understand Everything

The treasure chest bulged between its straps and strained against its clasp. I paused, my eyes wide, and savored the moment. There was no lock on the clasp, so I heaved open the lid. It clanged back as gold coins spilled all around. I reached in, burying my arms in the treasures yet never hitting the bottom of the chest. I scooped out as much as I could hold and fell into a nearby chair. The chest remained full.

When we open our Bibles, we lift the lid on a limitless treasure trove of greater eternal value than any pirate’s booty—treasures we understand and enjoy now along with treasures we won’t understand until Heaven. What sort of treasures, you ask? Treasures of wisdom and knowledge, of perfect judgments and plans. The Apostle Paul knew about these treasures. The thought of such treasures struck him so that he paused in the middle of Romans to declare,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  –Romans 11:33 Continue reading

When It Doesn’t Feel Like Work

I recently began working outside our home. For the previous four years, I poured my days (what was left after washing dishes and buying groceries, which are both part of a vicious but necessary cycle, now that I think about it.) into writing and all the obligations surrounding it (e.g. social media). But what I loved—what I always wanted to be doing—was opening the Word of God and writing about it. That part never felt like work. It still doesn’t.

There are big chunks of my new
job that don’t feel like work.

But now, I go to an office most days, and I’m trying to adjust my life to this new normal while I try not to lose the writing. This struggle for adjustment is why, for the first time since September 2015, my blog posts are sometimes late. There are big chunks of my new job that don’t feel like work, just like when I wrote from home. And some parts of my new job that are work feel like the work of helping someone move:  hard but rewarding. (Maybe for you, it’s gardening or baking.) God has equipped and trained me for this new job, and I know He has placed me there for this time. Continue reading