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May 2022

The Source of All Knowledge

Dragon Mystery of GodMy goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

-Colossians 2:2-3

Humans are curious creatures. We have an innate desire to know how things work, to understand. My favorite part of parenting was watching my babies interact with their world, and that special moment when the ‘lightbulb’ went on in their head as they figured something out. Sometimes you could almost see the gears turning in their minds. As tiny, diapered scientists, they formed a theory, tested it out and analyzed the results – followed by much repetition if the results were enjoyable (like watching Mommy clean pureed squash off the walls). Later, the endless ‘why’ questions dominated our conversations.

I have always been intrigued by anything called hidden, secret or a mystery. I spent a long time looking for the answer to the biggest mystery: the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I looked to psychology, philosophy, history, law, international studies, literature and art for answers to ‘why are we here?’ ‘what is our purpose?’ and ‘how do we live together in peace and harmony?’ Along the way, I did unearth a few mysteries, or at least things to make me say ‘hmmm’ 🤔.

In the early 1900s, psychiatrist Carl Jung came up with the idea of a ‘collective unconscious’ in each of us populated by archetypes: ancient primal symbols such as The Great Mother, the Wise Old Man, the Shadow, the Tower, Water, and the Tree of Life. He believed that the concept of the collective unconscious helps to explain why similar themes occur in mythologies around the world. He argued that the collective unconscious had a profound influence on the lives of individuals, who lived out its symbols and clothed them in meaning through their experiences.

In the 1950s, Professor of Literature, Joseph Campbell, came up with the idea of a monomyth that re-occurs in myth and folklore throughout the world's cultures. In the monomyth, or Hero’s Journey, a hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered, and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

In 1689, Enlightenment philosopher John Locke wrote about the basic human laws of nature, or fundamental natural rights. It is his philosophy which Thomas Jefferson borrowed in writing the Declaration of Independence which states, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”

People want to find a Unified Theory of Physics. But they really resist a Unified Theory of Humanity. However, it was in pondering these ideas of universality – a collective unconscious of shared symbology and archetypal characters, a monomyth of a hero’s journey that is retold across varying cultures, and Natural Rights of mankind that are ‘self-evident,’ which set me on the path to God. If these ideas exist, does it mean there is One Universal Truth that applies to all of humanity? If there is one set of Natural Laws, then who established it? Is there a story that is so primal that it lingers in the subconscious of all humans?

Finally, in Christ, it all comes together. The great story of God’s unalienable love for humankind, filled with trees of life, living water, supernatural beings, redemption, transformation and eternal life. An ancient story that was breathed into the spirit of every living person.  There is a reason that for thousands of years humans have been telling the story of Good v. evil. There is a reason even unbelievers feel their consciences recoil from evil. There is a reason that the Gospel story, plainly told, can still break the hardest of hearts.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. -John 1:1-5

All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. The starting point of all fields of study is God. Understand this because the unbelieving world needs to know. People who think they are ‘too smart’ for religion can respond to this. People who attune themselves to the ‘spiritual’ rather than the religious can come to see this. People who deny the existence of God can grasp this. Trace all of human knowledge back to the beginning and you’ll see – HE WAS and HE IS.

Still pondering,

Jen


Our Holy Library

My Cup OverflowsIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  -John 1:1

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

-Hebrews 4:12

I’ve been thinking a lot about books lately. In learning to write one, you first need to ‘deconstruct’ it into its various parts: character, storyline, plot, theme, etc. As I’ve been pondering all this, my admiration of the Holy Bible has only grown. It truly deserves recognition as the Greatest Book ever written – although actually it isn’t! It’s one BIG book that’s filled with little books, so really, the Bible isn’t our Holy Book…it’s our Holy Library.

In Sunday School every week there’s a little one- or two-line description of the Bible and I was thinking that these little thoughts might bless adults as well. Here are a few:

  • The Bible is God’s true story of love!
  • The Bible has two main sections, the Old Testament about God’s covenant with us made through Noah, Abraham and Moses, and the New Testament about God’s covenant with us made through Jesus.
  • Even though God inspired different people to write the Bible very long ago, it is still relevant to our lives today.
  • The Bible was originally written in three different languages, but now it’s been translated into hundreds of languages from all over the globe.
  • Every part of the Bible is there for a reason, showing God’s loving plan for us.
  • The Bible is made up of different kinds of writing, including history, laws, poetry and letters.
  • It’s filled with all kinds of amazing things God wants us to know about him and how we can live in friendship with him.

I also recently pulled out an old copy of The Bible for Dummies. I honestly thought there couldn’t be anything in there that I didn’t know already, but to my surprise, there were a few interesting nuggets.

  • Israel had a large library of scrolls containing history, prophecy, wisdom, the law and more, but it wasn’t until the Babylonian captivity in 586BC that the scrolls that the Israelites were able to bring with them were edited and compiled, resulting in a relatively complete version of the Hebrew Bible around 450BC.
  • Interestingly, the books in the Hebrew and Christian Bible are ordered differently.
  • Additionally, the Catholic Bible contains a few books that the Protestant Bible does not. We call these apocrypha, and they include 1 & 2 Maccabees which tell the story of Hanukkah.
  • The Bible was written over a 1,500-year period by countless authors who lived on three different continents and wrote in three different languages.
  • In 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a cave in Qumran. These were copies of the Hebrew Bible that were more than 1,000 years older than what was previously found. For the most part these were identical to the much newer copies we had been working from!
  • Abraham is considered the Patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Here are a couple of things you might not know about Father Abraham:
    • The Muslims pray toward Mecca because of Abraham! According to the Koran, after their expulsion from the Garden, Adam and Eve made an altar to God at Mt. Arafat in Mecca. After it was destroyed by the Flood, Abraham (Ibrahim) along with Hagar and Ishmael rebuilt the shrine, now called the Ka’aba (cube) to which millions of Muslims make a pilgrimage every year known as the Hajj.
    • Islam’s founder, the prophet Muhammad, traces his lineage to Ibrahim through Ishmael.
    • Muslims believe that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael, not Isaac.
    • According to the Jewish Mishnah and the Koran, Abraham’s father was an Idol maker. One day, Abraham smashed all the idols except for the largest, and put a hammer in its hand. When his father returned and demanded to know what happened, Abraham told him the Idol did it. When his father would not accept that idols could actually do anything, Abraham had proved his point about the folly of praying to statues.
  • Jerusalem is a sacred city to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
    • The Temple in Jerusalem was God’s home on earth. Jews will not set foot on the Temple Mount because they are afraid they might accidently walk on the place that was designated as the ‘Holy of Holies’ in the now ruined Temple.
    • For Christians, Jerusalem is where Jesus was dedicated at birth, taught in life, and was crucified and miraculously resurrected.
    • Muslims believe that the Temple Mount is where God was ordered to sacrifice his son (as do Jews and Christians) but they believe it was Ishmael not Isaac. Also, that is the place where Muhammad was said to have been carried in a vision and then taken up to tour Heaven.

The Bible, though a vast work, has a coherent plot and storyline that centers around its main character, God, and His desire to have a loving relationship with His creation – humankind. Throughout, it highlights His overarching character traits of faithfulness, forgiveness and unconditional love. Knowing that a ‘wretch’ like me is a beneficiary of all that after all these thousands of years still blows my mind – every day.

Blessings,

Jen


The Author

Peace Love and Joy cropLooking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, and despised the shame, and is set at the right hand of the throne of God.

-Hebrews 12:2

I love books. As a child, I eagerly awaited our trips to the library. Every book was like a ticket to some wonder-filled, entertaining land. I lingered over every one, savoring the word usage and swimming through the illustrations. From the time I was old enough to hold a crayon, I was writing stories and decorating them with pictures. Many people in my life were sure that I would be an author someday.

And I do have a book inside me that is struggling to come out. It’s an epic adventure of a boy and some friends who end up in a strange land of wonders and miracles and go on a quest to fight evil, restore a kingdom and experience personal transformation along the way. With naïve enthusiasm, I want to fill it with humor, daring, and wits, along with amazing supernatural encounters and some moral lessons as well. I’ve had the skeleton of an outline for years now. I thought if I threw enough stuff into my mind’s ‘stew pot’ something amazing would just pop out. But it hasn’t been like that. I’ve had some flashes of inspiration and there are a couple of notebooks filled with them, but it’s just raw material.

On cable, I discovered ‘The Great Courses: Writing Literature’ lectures. As I watch them and try to digest them, feeling memories from college days reawaken, it is becoming clear to me that there is sooo much more involved in coming up with a story than just some ideas. The plot is a carefully chosen selection of scenes and events and dialogue that move the story along, always with some point to them: showing characters’ desires, motives, traits, presenting challenges, facing challenges, transforming or not. There are all kinds of plot and character arcs. There are flat characters who just serve one particular purpose and round characters that interact with and shape the story. My ‘stew pot’ is getting larger and larger and it’s beginning to feel overwhelming.

The professor imparted some wisdom that had been imparted to him by his high school English teacher: Literature is bringing order out of chaos.

Okay, stay with me here for a moment. Our lives, in fact life in general, can be regarded as just a series of events: some causal, some not, some planned, some not, most of which do not have an overarching theme or redemption arc or really any point. What I mean is, If you listed out your day, or your week, or your life event by event: grocery shopping, trip to the dentist, signing up with a gym, etc., it would look to most people like what Pastor Bill describes as ‘spending’ your life - doing the stuff we all do day to day, year to year - the chaos of existence. And, you know, maybe it IS. Or, maybe there’s more!

Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus as the Author and finisher of our faith. The author’s job is to carefully pick and choose particular scenes, events and moments out of a life-full of material, and craft it together with a theme, to reveal a plot over time – to make it into a cohesive story and to give meaning to otherwise ordinary events.  Jesus does this with each of his followers, and if we take the time to look over our lives with his eyes, we will start to really see it. Foreshadowing? Oh, it’s probably there. A neighbor or teacher or parent that saw something in you that you didn’t see in yourself. Conflict? No doubt. Then success or failure and the transformation they brought about. Flat characters that came into your life for just a brief time to help or challenge you in one particular way – I’ll bet they’re there. Surely round characters that came into your story and made it richer and deeper, forcing you to grow in new ways. And if you are a Jesus-follower, I guarantee there’s a redemption arc – from sinner to saint, but perhaps from short-tempered to patient, from gruff to tender-hearted, from lone-wolf to people-person? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were also some answered prayers, some healed relationships, some inexplicable blessings, and some tragedies that eventually became triumphs in some way. Looking back, we see the hand of the Lord working throughout our lives to craft a story that brings Him glory and makes us more like Him.

And your story isn’t over. It’s still being lovingly written.

If Literature is bringing order out of chaos, if it is finding powerful meaning in a life full of ordinary experiences, if it is finding a theme that weaves everything into a cohesive whole, and if that can be done for every soul on the planet, then Jesus is truly the greatest Author that the world has ever or will ever know. I don’t think it would be too much to say that every story is HIStory.

PRAYER: O Lord, Author of life, help us to see the beauty of our own story, and give us the courage to share it with others to point them to You. Remind us of Jesus’ story which has the supernatural power to convict souls, break hearts and transform lives. Make us always ready to tell the old, old stories. Amen.

Blessings,

Jen


Godly Women's Mother's Day

Godly Woman's PrayerTitus 2:4-5

GOD’S WORD Translation

In this way they will teach young women to show love to their husbands and children, to use good judgment, and to be morally pure. Also, tell them to teach young women to be homemakers, to be kind, and to place themselves under their husbands’ authority. Then no one can speak evil of God’s word.

We often refer to the Bible as God’s instruction manual. In fact, KJ calls it Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. And it truly is! As I was saying in last week’s devotional, I didn’t have any models of Christian marriage in my life when I became a Christian. Nor any models of Christian parenting.  So, as the over-achieving student I am, I dug right in to the ‘instruction manual’ to see what God had to say about marriage and parenting.  Suffice to say that although there are similarities to the worldly versions, the focus is all different, and that difference changes everything.

Marriage is a partnership. We embrace that in our culture – a joining of two equals. In fact, many couples omit that part about promising ‘to love, honor and obey.’ But the Bible is pretty clear about marriage being a hierarchy. In fact, God is obviously VERY big on hierarchies because He establishes them again and again throughout the Bible. If you feel yourself resisting authority, as I did, BEWARE, because authority and obedience are major themes and powerful lessons in the Bible.

Yes, women are called to be obedient to their husbands. In other verses the term is ‘submission.’ Hoowee, if you want to see ladies get riled up right quick, try to discuss THAT in Bible Study! But in verse after verse all throughout the Bible, that is God’s plan. And it’s a beautiful plan. It’s a plan that is another archetype of our relationship with Jesus. Our relationships on earth prepare us for our relationship with God. And for any men who snickered at ‘submission,’ God calls every last one of us to submit to Him and His authority.

God knows us and loves us. Good parents know that sometimes what gets through to one child may not work at all on another. You tailor discipline and teaching to the nature and temperament of each child. And so it was with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were partners, but in the Garden of Eden on that fateful day, Eve acted individually in chatting up that snake and tasting the forbidden fruit. Then she convinced Adam to try it too. Eve took authority, decided it would be awesome to be like God, and her punishment was to be ‘ruled by her husband.’ For being irresponsible and not taking authority, God punished Adam with hard work. Personally, I see some humor in this. I know it is my nature to want to ‘take charge,’ when reasoning together or submitting would be much more sound, and in KJ’s nature to let me go ahead and make those tough decisions so he doesn’t have to. Luckily, we haven’t tried any bad apples – yet.

AUTHORITY and SUBMISSION are such harsh words, and looking through a worldly lens, one can see that all kinds of negative power dynamics are possible in a system built on them. But that’s the uniqueness of the often-misunderstood Christian perspective. God IS love. Everything He gives us is based on love. Love is the fuel that makes His Kingdom go, on earth as it is in Heaven. Loving AUTHORITY is taking responsibility for the family’s best interests. It is taking the burden of leading the family in following God and discerning His will in every circumstance. And it is dispensing loving correction when needed. Loving SUBMISSION is just what the above verse in Titus 2 is all about. It is loving your husband by focusing on His needs, it is caring for the children and looking after their needs. (Of course, in the hierarchy, children should be honoring and obeying their parents.) It is being a good partner and making suggestions and recommendations, but understanding that in the end, the husband is the final authority. It takes a lot of good judgement and self-control not to overstep the authority God puts in our lives. But He gives us authority to help us stay on track and in His will and to teach us how to submit to Him which is the process of becoming holy and pure.

AUTHORITY and SUBMISSION are the two sides of the Divine nature. God leads, God commands, God guides, He gives us loving discipline. But He is a SERVANT LEADER. He cares for us, He provides for us, He comforts us, and all with kindness, humility and tender mercy. Jesus taught us humble submission. He washed feet, fed thousands, spent hours telling stories with a moral at the end, healed boo-boos, told the hard truth when necessary for others’ personal growth, taught how to pray and prayed a lot himself. That’s the picture of a godly Wife and Mother. It is a high calling indeed.

Happy Mothers’ Day,

Jen