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Timeless truth in a changing world

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Jesus

A Modern-Day Good Samaritan Story

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I groaned as I saw the flashing construction vehicles and the line of red brake lights ahead of me. I was taking my son to school, and we hadn’t left early enough to allow for delays like this. Some cars were already doing U-turns, presumably to go another route. But our detour option was a much longer way, so I decided to wait a few minutes before making a knee-jerk reaction. Sure enough, a minute later the cars ahead of me slowly started inching forward. Whew. But as I approached the cause of the backup, I could see this wasn’t just construction. There was a car with a smashed front end sitting in the middle of the four-lane road, and there was a man lying on the ground next to the driver’s side, two construction workers kneeling beside him. Clearly, the accident had happened very recently, since the emergency workers hadn’t yet shown up. It was a horrifying feeling to pass right by the man on the ground, not knowing his condition or even if he was alive. My son and I prayed for him and for the others involved in the accident, and we were fairly silent the rest of the drive, until my son said, “You know, Mr. Smith would have stopped to see if he could help.” It was an innocent observation; he didn’t mean it as a guilt trip, but I was convicted nonetheless. I should have stopped, but I didn’t. It was a modern-day parable of the Good Samaritan, and I was the priest passing by on the other side.

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Foolish Giving

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An adult never would have done it. It wasn’t logical. In fact, it was downright embarrassing to offer such a small amount for such a large crowd. And besides, it made more sense to keep it for oneself for the journey ahead. Yet the boy didn’t think about any of that. He just knew he had some food and other people needed it. So he found Andrew and told him he had five loaves of barley bread and two fish. Perhaps the people around him snickered at how naive this child was. But Andrew brought the food to Jesus, who multiplied it to feed over 5,000 men, plus women and children.  The leftovers alone were astounding. But in order to multiply the food, first the boy had to give it away.

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A Perfect Rescue

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It was the perfect rescue story. We found a stray cat nearby, looking dirty, hungry, scared, and overall pretty pathetic. We didn’t want to commit to another indoor cat, but we figured she could be an outdoor cat if she so chose. So we took her home, fed her, brushed the burrs out of her fur, and the kids gave her lots of love. They made a little bed for her inside a box, and she curled up in it rather cozily to spend the night. The next morning we couldn’t find her right away, so the kids went looking for her. They found her in a hole the dogs had dug in the backyard. This hole goes underneath the patio, and the dogs slide under there to stay cool in the hot Texas sun. We tried coaxing the cat out, to no avail. We bribed her with food. Nothing. So my oldest son volunteered to slither down as far as he could to reach her. I had visions of him pulling her to safety her while she purred gratefully, glad to have been rescued. Only it didn’t work out that way at all.

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In the Presence of the King

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This was a matter of life and death. The rule in the royal court was that anyone who approached the king without being summoned was to be put to death. There was but one exception. If the king held out his golden scepter, the person who dared approach him uninvited would live. Queen Esther knew this rule applied even to her, and when she agreed to plead with the king on behalf of the Jews, she knew she could be walking to her own death. Mordecai had tricked King Ahasuerus into signing a death edict for the Jewish people, and Esther knew it was up to her to save them, provided she didn’t get killed first. But she didn’t just run to the throne room. She told Mordecai to gather as many Jews as he could and fast and pray for her for three days before she would dare to approach the king. This was too serious a matter to attempt without proper preparation.

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Lost in the Fog

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Driving in heavy fog is very unsettling. Yesterday morning I had to drive to church in such conditions, and although it’s a road I’ve taken dozens of times before, everything looked different in the fog. Each turn seemed unfamiliar, large trees weren’t visible until we were practically next to them, and cars coming from the opposite direction didn’t emerge from the fog until they were pretty close to us, which was startling and a bit scary. I was on edge the entire time, not knowing if a deer would suddenly leap out in front of me or a car would pull out without being able to see me coming. I felt disoriented, but I was not lost. I may not have been able to see a hundred yards ahead of me, but I knew I was on the right road, and I knew that road was going to get me to my destination.

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Jesus in the Old Testament

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I came from a no-name town. My ministry began at the Jordan River. I performed many miracles, including healing a leper, multiplying food to feed a crowd, and raising someone from the dead.

Who am I?

When I pose this riddle to the students in my Midweek School class, they all give the safe answer: Jesus. Jesus came from Nazareth, a no-name town in His day, His earthy ministry began at the Jordan River when He was baptized by John, and He performed all those miracles listed above. But my students are usually surprised to learn that Jesus wasn’t the first biblical figure to fit the description. To find the answer we need to look back nearly 900 years before Jesus was born.

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Deathbed Requests

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It plays out like a scene from The Godfather. The aged king is passing along final instructions to the son who is to succeed him on the throne. He starts off well, admonishing him to be God-fearing and of noble character. So far, so good. But then he gets personal. He instructs his son to “deal wisely” with two specific men who had wronged him. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to know what the king means. “Do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace,” the king says of both men. In other words, kill these guys. These are the king’s final words, and then he dies. It’s the stuff of movies. Cue the climactic music. Get one last close-up of the characters in this scene, who are none other than King David and his son Solomon.

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Life is Hard and Then You Die

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Life is hard and then you die.

While the exact origin of the quote may be debatable, it’s a sentiment that resonates with many people. When I was a kid, I wanted so badly to be an adult. In my mind, I’d really be free then. Free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I could stay up as late as I wanted, eat chocolate whenever I wanted, buy whatever I wanted. I’d get married and have kids and be a perfect mother and a perfect wife with a perfect husband, and we’d all live happily ever after. Basically, I’d have it made. But then I became an adult and realized that adulthood wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I discovered that I’m not a perfect wife or mom, and neither are my husband or kids perfect. As a child, I never considered things like financial struggles, job loss, relationship difficulties, sickness, or the challenges of parenting. Despite my high hopes for adulthood, my adult self knows something my younger self did not: life is hard.

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Where is God, Anyhow?

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It was a confounding problem. It was dinnertime, there were over 5000 hungry people, and they were in a desolate location with little to no food immediately available. So the disciples naturally urged Jesus to send everyone away to fend for themselves. They looked to Him to make things right, and He did. But not at all in the way they were expecting. He told them calmly, “You give them something to eat.” Um, Jesus? All we have here is five loaves and two fish. That won’t even feed the 13 of us. Still, Jesus meant what He said. He directed everyone to sit down on the grass, blessed the food, and had the disciples distribute it to everyone there. Incredibly, everyone was fed, and there were 12 baskets of leftovers. Way to go, Jesus! And clearly, yes, He deserves all the glory for the miracle. But there’s something we’re missing if we stop there—the role the disciples played.

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