Category Archives: Biblical Thoughts

Do you want to be healed?

I love the story in the Bible, in John 5, of the man who lay helplessly by the pool of Bethesda. The story goes that angels came and stirred the water, and whoever got into the pool first received miraculous healing. People flocked from near and far for a chance to be healed.

There was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years and couldn’t make it to the pool fast enough. “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

What an insensitive question, Jesus! What do you think, certainly this man wants to be healed!

Can we stop and consider for a moment that we are to a great extent the authors of our own experience in life. We tend to repeat patterns of perception and behavior over and over without really realizing that there are other options open to us.

You know the old story of the woman who was asked why she always cut off the end of the ham before she put it in a pot. She answered that she really did not know why but her mother had taught her to cook a ham in that way. When she asked her mother and finally her grandmother the grandmother said that the pan that she had was not big enough for the whole ham. Often practices that start for very practical reasons continue far beyond their reason for being.

How often do we continue to follow the same patterns of behavior without having any particular reason for doing things in the way that we are doing them? It is my contention that the man at the pool of Bethesda knew how to sit on his mat at the edge of the pool but to do something different was somehow a larger challenge than he was willing to accept.

We can complain that life is not going the way we want it to go. If we want change we must be willing to experiment with doing things differently. I had a friend who decided he wanted to quit smoking. He threw away a whole carton of cigarettes. That is the spirit of willing.

There is a book on addiction that I have not read but the title says it all. The title of the book is “I will quit tomorrow”. Tomorrow never really comes. Change only happens in the present. The present is the only thing that is real. New life happens the way it did for the disciples of Jesus. They dropped their nets and followed Him. This is the structure of New Life. It happens NOW.


Bread and Fish

The feeding of 4,000 with just a little bread and a few fish

loaves and fishThe story of bread and fish, which appears only in Mark and Matthew, is also known as the miracle of the seven loaves and fishes, as the Gospel of Matthew refers to seven loaves and a few small fish used by Jesus to feed a multitude.

According to the Gospels, a large crowd had gathered and was following Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed  such a crowd?”

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

Jesus told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

We have all heard this remarkable story of simple bread and fish. It seems to be a story that describes supernatural powers that Jesus had to out rank the natural order of things. Jesus seems to be like Super Man who could leap tall buildings in a single bound. He seems not to be confined to the limitations that you and I face every day. Here is a child, a little boy, who may have packed a lunch for himself and possibly a friend. His lunch of bread and fish was clearly “not enough” to feed the crowd gathered to hear Jesus.

Can you and I bring to mind the many times in our lives when we clearly have not “had enough”. It seems to me that the miracle of the story is that somehow the little boy showed up with what he had. Fear, defensiveness, shame and doubt can so easily block us from “showing up”. We are often convinced that what we have to bring to the party is not enough. We may suffer from low self esteem. We may hear voices from the past that accuse and judge us. These voices can direct our paths and determine our behavior in situation after situation.

This magnificent story invites us to bring what we have. Bring our bits of bread and fish. Even if the bread that we carry is stale and dry, we are challenged to bring it. Bring ourselves, open our hearts and our lives to “love God, neighbor and self”. This is what transformation and New Life are all about. If we think we are not enough and can make no difference in situations that we face in life that thought becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. In life, love is the answer to every challenge. I believe that we are invited to deal with ourselves and each other with care and compassion.

The Stories of the Bible and What They Might Mean for You

Adam and Eve
Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

I have come to think of the Bible as a book that is the carrier of truth. The stories of the Bible contain truth about us humans and life that can only be expressed through the power of stories. These stories of the Bible open up to us what is true about life and the human condition. I see these stories as more true than true. That is to say as we engage with the stories we are given eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us.

Over the next several weeks, I will share some of what the stories are saying to me at this point in my life while I invite you to wonder what the stories are saying to you.

For some time in my life it seemed that the only possible way to hear these stories was accepting them as literal accounts of what happened during the Biblical Period and especially during the life of Jesus.

As I have grown old looking at these remarkable stories in this way reduced them to acts of magic. These days the magic does not reach deep enough to satisfy my heart, soul and spirit. These stories are miracles that can only be seen and understood through new spirit filled eyes. I have fallen in love with so many of these stories as I experience their truth every day in my life.

The Bible starts with that wonderful image of a man and woman in community with each other being “naked and unashamed”. What a striking picture of presence with the self and other. We all know how shame sends us into hiding and isolates us from the core of who we are as well as from each other and God. The words of Jesus echo through our very being when He calls us to simply love one another, as Jesus identifies the greatest commandment to “Love God and neighbor as self”.

Shame cuts us off from love and acceptance of ourselves, others and God. It seems that we tend to believe the way to correct bad behavior is to cast shame, judgement and guilt on ourselves and others when we fail to live up to expectations.

This Bible story of a man and woman experiencing connection by being naked or open honest and exposed and unashamed or accepting and welcoming presents the opposite of correction by shame and judgement. This is ongoing correction by love and acceptance.
We profess to believe in the transformative power of the love and acceptance of God in Christ but we more often than not rely on shame, guilt and judgement as tools of change. These tools tend to produce defensiveness through withdrawal, aggression and debilitation (fight, flight, freeze) rather than transformation.

In my next several blog posts, I will seek to engage with some of the Biblical Stories in an attempt to discover ways that these stories invite and welcome us into New Life. I hope you will sign up and read along.