What Did Jesus Write on the Ground

Judgment, death by stoning

Over the years I have heard many suggestions about what it could have been that Jesus wrote in the gravel on the stones of the temple. Some say that He listed all their sins. Recently, I heard in a sermon something that made a bit more sense. To me anyway.

The incident I am talking about is the one mentioned in the gospel of John, Chapter Eight.

He (Jesus) came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
Jo 8: 2 -5

Question – how did they ‘catch her in adultery?’

Continuing…

But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
Jo 8: 6b

What did Jesus write?

Background:
In the time of Jesus, the Jews did not have the authority to execute sinners. If Jesus had said to stone her, the scribes and Pharisees could have taken Him to the Roman authorities. If Jesus had said not to stone her, before all the people following Him and listening to His teaching the scribes and Pharisees could have accused Him of not keeping the Law.

brought to Jesus for judgment
Sketch by Rembrandt - PD-1923}} – published anywhere before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

Other than the fact the scribes and Pharisees were trying to find a cause to accuse Him, what was the law they were talking about?

It can be found in Leviticus 20, verse 10.

‘The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.”

Question: Where was the man? The law they were referring to, above, clearly says both shall be put to death.

There is another scripture involved here…

At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
Deuteronomy 17: 6

Question: Where were the witnesses? The scribes and Pharisees did not ‘see’ the act of adultery. They had been on duty in the temple.

Herod's Temple as imagined in the Holyland Model of Jerusalem. By Berthold Werner [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Was what Jesus wrote something to do with these questions?

If so, it was, as the preacher I heard, say… a mistrial.

And when Jesus lifted Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are your accusers? Did anyone condemn you?’ And she said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you…
John 8: 10, 11

Note: Jesus said He did not condemn her, He did not say He forgave her.

The rest of verse 11 is “go and sin no more.”

Just thinking again,

Susan

Kingdom Thinking

Kingdom thinking, salt and light of the world

It was a tease… an interaction with a good friend. This friend is a fiercely loyal citizen of his city and said that it was the centre of the world. (It is not the city I live in by the way.) But I teased my friend saying that God probably considered Jerusalem as the centre of the world at least at one time, and it would be again. While my friend considered a reply, I said, “You need Kingdom thinking, not personal thinking.”

It set me thinking.

How many of us need to develop Kingdom thinking? Most of us. Remember, even the disciples did not understand much of what Jesus was talking about at first. They believed he was unique, different from anyone they had ever known. When Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” he did not understand how different his own life would become.

It isn’t enough to believe that Jesus is extraordinary, or even to believe that he is the divine Son of God

So, what is Kingdom thinking?

Dietrich_Bonhoeffer - Kingdom thinker

It is a process, well, that is my opinion. It is a process where we learn to live like Christ. For some that has already meant death. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous book, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer comments that “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Although Bonhoeffer died in a Nazi concentration camp, not everyone is called to die physically. We have to learn to die to self. This is why I said it is a process.

Apostle John series, all 5 cover images

Review comments from some of the people who read the books in the Apostle John Series …

“We are so lucky to be able to worship as we wish or choose not to without being persecuted.”

“It really makes you think deeply about the level of Christian commitment in the tense and troubling times of the first century church and wonder if it would be matched should we ever face similar circumstances.”

“Life in the early years of the Christian Church, when believers lived under Roman rule and faced tests on every side? Really made me think of how I would act in similar circumstances.”

To be honest, when I researched them, I wondered the same thing.

Jesus preached the ‘Kingdom of God.’

Judaism-v-kingdom-thinking.

Matt 5 – When Jesus said ‘You have heard it said – He was talking about the teaching of Judaism.

v 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment

v 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.

v 27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.

v 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

v 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’v

v 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

To successfully develop ‘Kingdom thinking’ we have to be committed to living as if fully  in the Kingdom of God now, not discouraged by our failures, ready to repent when we have done something wrong, and to encourage others.

Remember we are called to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Matthew 5: 13, 14) That is why I chose the top image.

Plodding,

Susan

God Still Chooses…

God chooses and sometimes is's a puzzle

God still chooses. (Although to us it is often a puzzle why.)

This is the second part of ‘From Moses to Donald Trump.’

In last week’s post we ‘skipped’ through the Old Testament looking at the way God chose leaders… and not always what we would call ‘good’ ones, at least not by our standards.

In the New Testament, God showed He was still in charge of the affairs of men.

God chooses Elizabeth

Who is she, you might ask. Elizabeth was the mother of John the Baptist. Like others before her, Elizabeth was barren. (In those days, being unable to bear a child  was a shame to a woman.)

God, intervened.

He had chosen a couple from the priestly line, Elizabeth and Zechariah to be the parents of the one who would announce the birth of the Messiah.

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Luke 1: 5 – 7

Before he had been born, God had chosen John the Baptist for this special purpose… to prepare the way for the coming Savior, Jesus Christ.

God chooses Mary

Mary was given the news that her elderly cousin Elizabeth was pregnant when the angel Gabriel came to her to announce that she had been chosen to bear the Savior.

(Mary’s reaction to that is recorded in the Bible. Luke 1: 34 – 38)

Mary visited the couple immediately after receiving this revelation that she, would miraculously conceive a son.

God chooses Mary and Elizabeth

Historical records are mostly silent about Jesus’ young years, with a couple of exceptions – that He grew in grace and stature and wisdom Luke 2: 40 as well as the incident when He was twelve years old and remained at the Temple after Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, causing Mary and Joseph to worry. Luke 2: 46 – 48

The disciples are chosen, and trained.

I do nothing on My own initiative,
John 8: 38 (part)

So, Who was it chose the disciples? Did Jesus choose them on His Father’s guidance?
The Bible does not answer directly, but gives examples of times Jesus said He ‘always did the Father’s will.’

As He walked the country announcing the ‘good news of the Kingdom of God,’ He was also training the disciples.

Even so, they still expected the Messiah to be the conqueror who would drive out the Romans and restore Israel. It took the resurrection of Jesus and His opening the scriptures (Old Testament) for them to understand.

Jesus chooses Saul of Tarsus

A more unlikely person would be hard to find. Saul, who was renamed Paul, was a Pharisee. He persecuted the followers of the Way, as Christians of that time called themselves. But he was the one chosen to take the good news to the Gentiles. Jews did not like Gentiles, and the hierarchy of Jews in Jerusalem hated Paul and tried to kill him.

The people God chooses can be puzzling to us.

In the last century there have been some ‘good’ leaders and some terrible leaders. In our day, we in Western countries believe that we choose the leaders. Do we?

In Britain currently the country is divided in opinion about the leadership.

In Australia – another Prime minister has been replaced while in office.

In the US – I have never seen a US President so disliked, as the current president, Donald Trump.

God chooses Donald Trump

Yet, if we believe that God chooses…
By him times and years are changed: by him kings are taken away and kings are lifted up: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to those whose minds are awake:
Daniel 2: 21 (Bible in Basic English)

Then we have to believe that God is still on His throne and as it says in Daniel 4: 17 that ‘the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and give kingship to whoever He wants.’

It’s not only in the Old Testament…

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Romans 13: 1 NIV

The Most High Rules

Just a small observation… it does not say they have to be worthy of the position.

Continuing to consider the time and seasons

Susan

Trials are par for the course

Trials come in relationships

Par for the course… why? If we are trying to live by faith why do we have trials?  

On this subject, I came across a video clip on the site of someone who followed my older blog. It was an interesting song. ‘Before the morning’ (I will link to the clip at the end.)

It begins with questions about why ‘you’ are suffering if there is a loving God Who cares. Questions like this are quite common.

rose garden

Remember the old song “I never promised you a rose garden’? Well God does not promise us a life without pain and trials if we accept the sacrifice His Son made for us.

Trials never end – while we are alive.

As it was in the beginning of our faith…

  • In Hold the Faith, book one of the Apostle John series, Benjamin faced a faith-testing trial. Ours trials are different to those of the fictional characters, but some of ours are ‘faith-testing’ too.
  • In The Light of Truth, book three, I wrote about the trials of a background character who has moved to the foreground. Then someone who left in book two, Grow in Grace, made a re-entry in this third book.
    Here things are moving toward another arrest of the Apostle John.
  • In book four, Keep the Flame, one of my favorite characters dies.
  • Book 5, Hell Shall Not Prevail, completes the series, and it was not the end of trials.

The books are fiction but the trials and challenges are similar to those we face.

Apostle John series, all 5 cover images

So why am I talking about these books? Why mention the song? Because, although my book series is fiction, my primary resource book has been the Bible, and in writing this series I have learnt a great deal about why things happen.

Take for example Jesus’ words...

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Many people are told that because Jesus said “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’, that He has done it all for us. Not so.

Trials did not stop with Jesus’ resurrection

Look at the lives of those first disciples… only John survived into old age. The others, according to legend, were all martyred. Also, according to legend, John was put in boiling oil. That does not sound like ‘Jesus did it all’ to me.

And what about these scriptures...

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
James 1:2

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials
1Peter 1:6

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

These writers, who were Apostles, make it clear that we will have trials, and as we plod through them, our faith and trust in our Saviour grows.

Have you read this one?

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
James 1: 3, 4

The trust in His Father that Jesus had to exercise must have been enormous, and another scripture says that He learned obedience through the things He suffered. (Heb 5: 8)

Jesus was schemed against all throughout His ministry. He must have been one of the loneliest, most lied about, most misunderstood person who ever lived. Not to mention the most cruelly punished. He was scourged, mocked and crucified.

plotting against Jesus

Our trials

never leave you quote

Although what Jesus and the early Christians went through makes what we go through seem ‘mild’ by comparison, our trials are horrendous to us.

Sometimes all we can do is ask God for help…

and try to recognise the help when it is given.

You might enjoy this song if you are going through a painful trial…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=New8i_eX3x8

Just thinking again,

Susan

A Look at the Lord’s Prayer

The Lords prayer

When I was at school in Scotland – a long time ago, we had to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the start of classes.

Recite, we were not required to understand it. We memorized it and mumbled through it without thinking of the words much less the meaning.

To be correct though, this is NOT the Lord’s Prayer it is the ‘model’ prayer Christ gave when His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. The actual Lord’s prayer was on the night He was betrayed after His last Passover, when He changed the symbols. Recorded in John 17 is the Lord’s prayer. First, He prayed for Himself, then He prayed for the disciples, then for all believers.

Knowing what He was to face, and knowing that He knew, it is a moving prayer. However, here I want to look at what is commonly known as the Lord’s prayer… the model prayer.

Looking at the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father Who art in heaven. Did you notice? Our Father, not my Father.

Hallowed be Your name. ‘Hallowed’ defined in dictionary.com as “regarded as holy; venerated; sacred” Praising Him happens here.
Matthew 6: 9

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6: 10

The Kingdom of God is one of the key elements of the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.

Question

Do we really want His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?

His will is expressed in His laws and the Ten Commandments, which Jesus summarized when he gave the Two Great Commandments.

White lies cartoon
Slideshare image

To do His will means changing a great deal of our behaviors and attitudes.

  • No more ‘white lies,’
  • No more taking pens from our workplace without permission. (Yes, small as it is, it is still stealing.)
  • So is piracy of music, books, movies.
  • No more putting ‘other gods’ before Him.

If we sit and honestly think about it most of us have something that has our first attention. Statues – are ‘helps’ it is said.

But that is breaking a command of the great God of the Universe.

Moving on…

Give us this day our daily bread (again it is ‘us’ not give me my daily bread)
Matthew 6: 11

homemade bread picture

I know there are many places in the world where the food that most Western countries throw in the bin would be a banquet.

It is also a good place to add a prayer for clean, safe drinking water for those who need it.

The next verses can be a challenge

Matthew 6; 12 Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

This is conditional.

Where it can be difficult is if the person praying has been greatly hurt by another. We are still to forgive if we want to be forgiven.
Perhaps a prayer for help to forgive the person or persons would be appropriate.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6: 13

The first part of this verse has confounded many scholars because it is said elsewhere that God does not tempt us with evil. Why then would we ask him not to lead us into temptation?

Could it be that as we grow in the faith, He will lead us to a situation where we have to make a choice? God gave us free will. So, if we find ourselves tempted to sin the implication seems to be that we should turn away.

Remember Adam and Eve. Eve was tempted, and gave in. Adam disobeyed.

Last verse

For yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen
This Is missed out from many translations.

In the Greek/English Interlinear it is written. The only difference in the wording is that instead of ‘for ever and ever’ it is written ‘for the ages.’

A Question often asked

So, if the Kingdom and power IS God’s why does He permit evil? Why does He allow a loved child to die? Why does He allow rapists and murderers to commit their evil?

A question many West Australians have been asking in the last few days is why did He not prevent the worst mass murder ever in Western Australia.
(Margaret River region, murders and suicide.)
https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/western-australia/margaret-river-murders-tributes-flow-from-shocked-community-20180511-p4zesp.html

And it has shocked and saddened us.

Why allow all this?

Because He has given the bad as well as the ‘good’ free choice.
Our gift to the people who are grieving is to pray for them.

Your Kingdom Come

We have to cooperate. And when things happen that we do not understand, trust God and follow the instructions.

Bible. One book, many stories

He gave us His guidebook, His instruction manual. If we ignore it He allows us to go our own ways.
There are many scriptures that warn us of that.
(But this is not a sermon, it is me sharing my thoughts on what is commonly known as the Lord’s prayer.)

You don’t believe in God – that’s fine. He allows that too.

I remember a discussion with a family member many years ago.

I believe in God, the God of the Bible.

The family member disagreed, strongly.

I closed the discussion with the comment, “Well, one of us is right and one wrong. We will find out one day.”

A note for all who believe the evildoers should be punished. I believe they will be. By the only One who knows the hearts.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
2 Cor 5:10 (Christian Standard Bible.)

Musing again,

Susan

Gentle Jesus

Other than in the children’s hymn does the Bible mention anything about Jesus being gentle?

Isaiah prophesied of him –

A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
Isa 42:3 (ESV)

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.
Ps 34: 18 (ESV)

These suggest someone considerate of those who are hurt, damaged, and/or ‘broken.’

Gentle

According to dictionary.com an obsolete meaning of ‘meek’ is gentle, kind. Nowadays it is sometimes seen as synonymous with ‘weak’.

Strong’s 4239 says the Greek word from which the English translation is derived is ‘praus’

HELPS Word-studies says this… “This difficult-to-translate root (pra-) means more than “meek.” Biblical meekness is not weakness but rather refers to exercising God’s strength under His control – i.e. demonstrating power without undue harshness.

[The English term “meek” often lacks this blend – i.e. of gentleness (reserveand strength.]”

I remember when in Bible college this subject was discussed the lecturer explaining it was ‘power under control’ – that was a long time ago and I might not have quoted it as he did, but that is the general idea. Jesus had the power, He chose not to exercise it.

One of the synonyms of meek is ‘docile’ – which means ‘easily managed or tractable – easily shaped.’

Perhaps that is why some encourage us to see the helpless Babe in a manager.

You will not find Him there.

Nor will you find Him in the Christmas tree. (That is pagan anyway.)

Gentle Jesus, a manger setting

Where will you find Jesus?

In the Bible. Bilble, open

Some of His comments were far from gentle

Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
(Matt 10:34).

Some of His actions were far from gentle

Two times He ‘cleansed’ the Temple

Jesus’ first cleansing of the temple is described in John 2:11–12 as having occurred just after Jesus’ first miracle, the turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana. John makes it clear that it was “after this” that He went to Capernaum, where He “stayed for a few days.” Then in the next verse (verse 13), John tells us that the “Passover of the Jews was at hand” (NKJV). These verses trace Jesus’ movements over a short period of time from Cana in Galilee to Capernaum and eventually to Jerusalem for the Passover. This is the first of the two times Jesus cleansed the temple.

The second cleansing of the temple occurred just after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem the last week of His life. This second cleansing is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke but not in John. There are differences in the two events, aside from their being nearly three years apart. In the first cleansing, temple officials confronted Jesus immediately (John 2:18), whereas in the second cleansing, the chief priests and scribes confronted Him the following day (Matthew 21:17–23). In the first event, Jesus made a whip of cords with which to drive out the sellers, but there is no mention of a whip in the second cleansing. So there are two recorded occasions when Jesus cleansed the temple—the first time at the beginning of His public ministry, and the second time just after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem shortly before He was crucified.
https://www.gotquestions.org/temple-cleanse.html

Hold the Faith, cover

This is not the only place these instances are mentioned, but it is much simpler than the sources I used some years back when researching for Hold the Faith.

Jesus in the Gospels is the Jesus of Revelation

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Revelation 5: 5

And with the opening of the scroll comes the ‘plagues’ (bowls), then the trumpets, and ultimately the woes.

Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the One who unleashes all these things on the world.

Jesus is straight, true and faithful. Yes, he punishes… those who have had many ‘chances’ and not chosen His way. But Jesus is also the One who said…

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me…
Matt 19: 14 (ESV)

Jesus knew when to be firm, and He knew when to be gentle. But He is not a helpless Babe in a manger. He grew up, lived a life that we are to imitate (as best we can) and see Him as the multi-faceted Man He was.

Just thinking

Hate Your Enemies – Really?

What did Jesus mean when he said, “You have heard it said ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  I have always thought of this as Jesus correcting an Old Testament ‘law.’ Not so!

I was astounded when I heard a preacher say that Jesus was correcting a ‘tradition’ not a law.

Hate your enemies - or love them

So, I checked it out.

I ‘ran a search’ of the whole Bible seeking another instance when ‘hate your enemy’ was mentioned. There was none. The closest ‘match’ was a scripture in Leviticus 19: 18 – the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

‘Hate your enemy’ … a tradition?

One site mentioned that Jesus might have been correcting a saying among the zealots that had become a tradition.

Checking out Zealots, I found the following in Wikipedia –

“The Zealots objected to Roman rule and violently sought to eradicate it by generally targeting Romans and Greeks. Another group, likely related, were the Sicarii, who raided Jewish habitations and killed Jews they considered apostate and collaborators, while also urging Jews to fight Romans and other Jews for the cause.”

Hate your enemy could fit their practices, but let’s look at traditions.

How come traditions become so entrenched we see them as laws?

I guess it is the ‘old saying’ that if something is repeated often enough we end up believing it.

Keys to understanding the Bible

In 2017 for the subscribers to my Reader’s Circle (now VIP Readers’ group) I produced a PDF series called Keys to Understanding the Bible in which I had included a great many Pharisaic traditions.

From Part 4 this might further clarify ‘traditions’ and their acceptance…

“It has been said that in an effort to prevent this [captivity] happening again, the sect of the Pharisees ‘arose’. Their original purpose was to prevent people from breaking God’s laws, including the Sabbath.

It developed into Judaism. Judaism is not the ‘religion of Moses’ as is generally assumed.

From ‘A history of the Jews’ by Paul Johnson – Judaism dates from the time just after the Babylonian exile.

American Rabbinical scholar Stephen S Wise stated, ‘The return from Babylon… marked the end of Hebrew-ism and the beginning of Judaism.”

Over the centuries for the most part, the traditions became accepted and incorporated into the Code of Jewish Law.

Jesus said...

“They worship Me in vain; they teach as doctrine the precepts of men.’ You have disregarded the commandment of God to keep the tradition of men.” He went on to say, “You neatly set aside the commandment of God to maintain your own tradition.…”
Mark 7: 7 – 9

traditions of men

He would know!

Traditions were very important to the rulers of the Temple in Jesus’ time.

One small section in the gospel of Matthew…

Then some Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came to Jesus and said “Why do Your disciples violate the tradition (religious laws) handed down by the [Jewish] elders? For Your disciples do not [ceremonially] wash their hands before they eat.” He replied to them, “Why also do you violate the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition [handed down by the elders]?
Matthew 15: 1-3 (Amp)

These traditions and attitudes were very much alive and practiced in the late 1st Century and contributed to the hatred of the Jews for the Christians.

The Lord’s Prayer?

person sitting alone on a rock

Something that keeps coming to mind lately… the wording of what is generally considered the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ – the fact it is not, I will mention later. No, I will explain now.

What is generally considered as the Lord’s Prayer, and I grew up saying every day in school – (wow, that dates me doesn’t it ), is actually the ‘model prayer’. Jesus didn’t pray it. He responded to a request from one of His disciples…

One day in a place where Jesus had just finished praying, one of His disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11: 1

image of the 'Lord's' prayer in open BIble

Now, this scripture does not say what Jesus had been praying. It says when He finished praying… Nor does the scripture say that He had been praying near them. Most of the accounts say something along the lines of Jesus praying privately.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5: 16’

withdrew to a lonely place to pray

Having used almost two hundred words to say little – please forgive me. I will continue…

This prayer that most of us know as the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ is actually a model prayer.

 

Why talk about this Lord’s model prayer?

Well, it has been occurring to me more and more that in this ‘self’ society. Self-actualizing, self-sufficient, self-esteem, self-help, self-discipline, self-improvement… self-centered.

This started off – this self-awareness, to help us improve, but from this old lady’s point of view it soon developed into the ‘me’ generation.

 

Contrast...

Selected lines… (not an instruction <smile>)

  • Our Father who art in Heaven. OUR Father – not my Father.
  • Give US this day OUR daily bread. – not give me this day my daily bread.
  • And forgive US our sins (trespasses, debts) as WE forgive OUR…
    (you see the point, I know.)
  • Lead US not into temptation… not me
  • Deliver US from evil (or the evil one)

As I am sure you noticed it is totally opposite to self-focus.

Just thinking…

And these thoughts lead me to looking at the life of Christ.
When did He ever say,
“I am not in the mood,” or “I am tired, leave me alone for a bit” – or “I need some ME time,” I could not find any such examples.
He did need time alone. He rose early and went off to pray…

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1: 35

When He rose from His prayers, He went back to teach, to heal, and to face the criticism He invariably attracted.

Sometimes I feel very lonely.
(I miss my best friend, my human best friend, my late husband.)

But when I think of how lonely Jesus must have been, well, I am glad I am never as lonely, misunderstood and rejected as He was.

In school I muttered those words of the prayer obediently, not understanding – now I can see they are a framework for bringing before God, in prayer, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I wonder if any of you remember the ‘thing’ that went around the Internet a few years back about the ‘special needs children’ who were in a race. One fell, the others came back and helped the one who had fallen… so they could all cross the finish line together.

This YouTube video is a modern version of it

 

Interesting?
Yes. I think so.
We are not in a competition against others.
It is not ‘me’ against everyone else.


We are family, we don’t always like what the other members of the family are doing… but that’s family life.

Remember – it is OUR Father in heaven!

Just thinking,

Susan

P.S. While you are here… I invite you to look around, read some of the other blogs… explore the other pages in the website.

Christian Historical Fiction Author, Carol Ashby

Carol Ashby website image
Carol Ashby, author

This week please welcome Carol Ashby to the blog.

Welcome Carol, and thank you for agreeing to tell us about Carol Ashby, author. It might interest readers to know that the ‘featured image’ on this blog is from Carol’s website and provided by Walters Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Carol’s novels are set in the time of the Roman Empire. A little later in time than the Apostle John series, but about people living with the challenge of death for their faith.

A little of my history will put how I write in perspective.

I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and worked in research for many years. You could say I’ve been a professional writer almost all my life since being a scientist means writing many technical journal articles about your research. That background makes me obsessive for getting the details of my time period correct. It also equips me to pull information from books by history professors and use it to make my stories as historically accurate as I possibly can.

Most historical fiction writers try hard to get their history right, but some time periods are easier than others. Fortunately, the Roman Empire has been a popular topic for a long time, and there’s lots of information available. I now have more than six dozen books by experts in Roman history. (Yes, I’m a bookaholic, but what writer isn’t?)

To make my characters behave like “real” people true to their own time, I study everyday things like normal household activities, food preparation, clothing and uniforms, and medical practice in the Roman world. It can be very dangerous to be in my novels, and I actually use the translation of the 8 volumes on Roman medicine written by Celsus during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius.

Sketch of Roman man in toga

We history buffs love sharing the details of our favorite eras. I’ve turned my research into a Roman history website. You will find the link at the end of the post.

 I try to add something new every week. Some topics include slavery, adoption, and why you’d really want to be a Roman citizen if you were charged with a crime. I’m working on an article on medicine right now.

Did you know the Romans did cataract surgery?

Books by Carol Ashby

The novels of the Light in the Empire series are set in different provinces of the Roman empire at its peak, between AD 114 and 122.

Two are published now, and four more will be releasing during the next two years.

The first, Forgiven, is set in Judea where a family of Messianic Jews whose son was killed by a Roman soldier care for an injured Roman officer after his own brother tries to murder him to inherit more of the family fortune

The second, Blind Ambition, is set in Germania where a German Christian risks having her whole family executed for their faith when she finds a Roman officer left for dead by robbers and takes her enemy home to care for him.

These stories are about people who struggle to live out their love for Jesus when the desires of their hearts or the demands of their culture are pulling them in another direction. Sound like a contemporary problem?

If your own experience is anything like mine, I bet you’ve experienced that struggle yourself.

But there’s nothing more exhilarating than seeing a friend you care about who didn’t even have God on her/his radar begin to ask questions about life and eternity. That’s a unifying theme in all my novels. Each one is a story of hope about human love and spiritual transformation, a story about how our faithfulness can inspire another to open his or her heart to God.

What got me started writing Roman?

From the safety of living the US, I’ve been watching and praying for my Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who risk everything and sometimes pay the ultimate price when they stay true to the faith. I couldn’t miss the parallel between their lives and those of early Christians during the time of Roman persecution. A few months before I retired, God put it on my heart to start writing stories about people living their faith in dangerous times.

As a follower of Jesus working as a scientist, I’ve had many opportunities to share with my friends why I believe. It’s those years of honest conversation with friends and colleagues that guide how my characters approach their lives. The believers know why they believe, and it isn’t just because they grew up in a culture influenced by Christian teaching. My characters who are not Christians at the beginning of each story ask the same questions I’ve been asked by friends. They wrestle with the intellectual and emotional questions that confront them when they see how a genuine believer lives out what Jesus taught in a time when that might get them executed by the Roman state.

When I talk with someone about my faith, it has nothing to do with trying to prove I’m right and they’re wrong. It’s because I want to share the most wonderful thing any human can experience. It’s because I’ve seen how God loves me more than I can even imagine, even though I can never be good enough on my own to earn the right to be in the presence of all that’s perfect and holy. He loves me enough to take human form and be tortured to death on a Roman cross for my sin to give me an escape route from the death I deserve to life with Him.

God isn’t some fairytale figure made up to comfort or scare us.

If that were the case, my scientific training would have “cured” me of belief before I even got my undergraduate degree. But it was my first biochemistry class that guaranteed I would believe in God, whether it was culturally popular or not.

Paper and pencil cartoon

Give me 5 minutes with paper and pencil, and I can show you some simple facts of molecular biology and the easy math that lets you calculate the probability of getting heads or tails when you flip a coin. That’s all I need to prove it’s statistically impossible for life to have accidentally started. Once the math and science convince you there was a designer, how could a person not start asking questions about who that designer is, does he want you to know him, and what is he willing to do so you can?

My stories are about selfish ambition, envy, greed, hatred, love, painful loss, and world-view transformation set in the Roman world at the peak of the Empire. But nothing has really changed between then and now except our technology. God still loves us and wants a loving relationship with each of us. The mental and emotional struggle that can keep someone from accepting that hasn’t changed one bit in 2000 years.

I love writing stories where someone struggles through the swamp in the valley to reach the bright sunshine of the mountaintop beyond. The beauty of writing historical fiction is having a setting that’s enough different from our own daily experience that it’s easier to set aside our cultural conditioning to consider what we believe and how we might want to live as we enjoy a compelling story

Carol, thank you so much for sharing your writing, and yourself.

It has been an honor and a privilege to hear from you.

Now… if you want to explore Carol’s website and enjoy the benefit of her research here is the link to get there. (You will find links to buy her books there also.)

http://www.carolashby.com

Enjoy,

Susan