Saturday, July 23, 2022

 True or False

I remember sitting in my Principles of Biblical Interpretations class in college.  Dr. Lanpher, being true to form, began his Monday morning class as he did all of his Monday morning classes…with a single question pop quiz.  Each quiz was based off of the assigned reading from the previous class.  In this case the one question pop quiz consisted of…“True of False…The Bible contains the actual words of Jesus.”

Score! This was a no brainer! The answer was so simple…of course it was true…it had to be true.  Just then, it occurred to me…it seemed too simple.  The question lingered with the rotten odor of the answer seems to obvious smell. The confidence I held just a moment ago began to ebb away as I began to ponder the possibility…could it be false?  “It must be false!,” I concluded, “Why else would he as the question THAT way?”

Yet, It had to be true.  The Bible is the Word of God…and the words of Jesus are in the Bible…“It must be true,” I countered to myself. 

“Put your one word answer on your paper…PLEASE ensure that your name is clearly printed on your paper and turn it in.”

“Wait!” Several students exclaimed from around the room, “I’m not finished!”

“What is so difficult?” Dr. Lanpher asked. “It is either True or it is False…write one word on your paper and turn it in.”

Oh! How I wished that I had read the chapter! My pen shook as I sat there…believing that he wanted each student to write “false” on their paper and turn it in.  But I couldn’t do it!! It went against everything I have believed and held onto when it came to the inherency of scripture.  I…I…I wrote TRUE on my paper and turned it in.”

After the quiz papers had been collected, Dr. Lanpher asked, “All right students…what is the answer.”

Nearly the entire class echoed together with a resounding, “True!”

“False,” He said.

“What! How can that be?,” several students rebutted.

Dr. Lanpher replied, “The New Testament was written in Greek…and Jesus spoke Aramaic…it is impossible for the Bible to contain the exact words of Jesus.”

“THAT IS A TRICK QUESTION!” Shouted my Hmong friend Vu Yang.

“This is college Vu.” was Dr. Lanpher’s curt response. 

It strikes me as interesting, as to how I was holding to a belief that was not as substantiated as I had previously thought.  Did the Gospel message change? NO! Did the inherency of scripture change? Absolutely NOT! It was I who was deceived…by…myself.  The message of Christ hadn’t changed…just what I “thought” that I knew about it.  What I believe is not what truly matters. What is TRUE is what really matters.  Yet, we often believe things that are not true.

It is so easy for humans to be deceived and to deceive ourselves.    

Paul challenges us to be careful of this very thing…self deception.  As we have read the book of Galatians we have found that Jews had been deceived.  False teachers had been deceived…and were deceiving others.  Gentile believers had been deceived. Paul challenges every believer to NOT be deceived.

If humans are so easily deceived…how can we avoid it?  I think that we can find the answer in Galatians 6:14, where Paul says, “May I never boast in anything…but in the Cross of Christ.”  I think that is it. We can easily be deceived into believing in and boasting about every kind of crazy thing in life.  But, if we can keep the Cross of Christ before us…and boast in that, then I think we can learn to trust the Spirit to guide us into all truth.  Let us therefore keep our eyes on Christ and the Cross, so as to not be deceived.

Saturday, July 16, 2022


My first real experience with community was in middle school when our church youth group went swimming at the nearest “community” center.  In this case, the nearest community center was 18 miles away in the neighboring town of Staples, MN.  I had certainly been exposed to community prior to this event, but in my self-absorbed, egocentric, middle school mind, all other community aspects in my life, like family, church, school, etc…would have been lost to the fact that life was all about me and not to the communities in which I dwelt. 

The Staples Community Center, was the ONLY community center within a 50 mile radius or more from my home town of Wadena.  In fact, it held the ONLY indoor pool…with a diving board…that I knew of.  It is a widely held belief that a community center is called a community center, because it offers all kinds of wonderful opportunities for everyone in the “community.”  However, as I look back on those care free days of community center living, I can easily spot the real reason for the less than flashy title.  I am convinced that the title is derived from the fact that at places like these…everything is “shared” with the “community.”  Here we find that the showers, lockers, benches, the diving board, experiences and influenza are all shared.  I remember watching one particular 6 year old boy share a head full of snot with everyone in the water, when his sneeze sent floating currents of mucus across the pool’s surface.  Next to him, my friend Matt obliviously sucked up water in his mouth and shared it with others as he shot it at the cute girls in a pre-pubescent effort at flirting. I won’t even mention the small children wearing…or not wearing…swim diapers.

When our youth group finished up with all of our “sharing” within the “community” center, we all shared a ride home, and we shared stories of our chicken fight victories.  The next day we would all show up to church with red blood-shot eyes and itchy skin as a sign of the solidarity of our community.

Since I have grown older, I have learned two things about community. Number 1: Community pools are gross. Number 2: Community is much deeper, more powerful and vital, than I had ever realized before.

Living in community is difficult, but it is worth it.  Interestingly, one of the greatest challenges to community is conflict, while one of the greatest builders of community is…also conflict.  Living in community is exhausting. It is inevitable that conflicts will arise and we will become tired of investing so much time and energy into many of our relationships.

Likewise, Paul recognized this in the Galatian churches as well, so he encouraged them to persevere.  Paul encouraged believers to carry each other’s burdens, to not bite or devour each other, and to not grow weary from doing good.  To Paul, the Gospel in community was so important that he called the believers to endure.  He also spurred us on to “not grow weary.” The he exhorted that if we will hang in there, that a harvest will be reaped if we do not give up.  As I look at this passage, I believe that Paul was speaking these words to and in the context for community and the relationships within the community.

May we not give up on relationships.  May we not grow weary for doing good, and may the Lord bring the harvest of restored relationships within the community.

Saturday, July 9, 2022


A few years ago, as I was single parenting the children for a weekend, the inevitable happened.  It never seems to fail, that some unexpected, perhaps even catastrophic, event will always occur during these, “Mommy is gone, Daddy is in charge weekends.” It could be a vomiting 5 year old or a concussed toddler.  It could be a broken, glass mixing bowl or a small fire in the oven.  Nothing is really off limits.

On this particular Saturday afternoon, I sent my son Isaac out to the minivan, which was parked in the garage, to clean it.  I commissioned him to throw away all of the trash, which there was A LOT of trash. He was to remove the items that didn’t belong in the van, (i.e. bowls, spoons, notebooks, pens, toys, etc…) and vacuum out all of the dirt.  While he was diligently working in the van, I was still in the house working on cleaning up other areas of the home.  I empowered the 3 girls to help me.  I encouraged them with exasperated exclamations, beckoning them to clean up their messes…and stop making more messes. 

Isaac had been at his work for about 20 minutes when, between my barks at the girls I would hear a periodic… squeak…from somewhere that I could not place.

“Girls! You need to take care of your Lego Friends and your dolls!”…squeak…

“Ok, Daddy!” they replied…but continued to do nothing. …squeak…

“Girls! Why is there milk spilled all over the kitchen floor? I just cleaned it!” …squeak…

“We don’t know Daddy!” they squawked back cheerily.  …squeak…

As this squeak continued…it seemed that the noise began to take on a literary form.

“Girls! Why are your clothes on the kitchen floor!”  …Dweack

“We used them to clean up the milk Daddy!”  …Dwaaadck

“Girls! Do you hear something?” Dwaaaaad!

“Like what Daddy?”

“Quiet girls!...Listen…” … … …Dwaaaaad!...

“There…did you hear that?”

Dwaaaaad!   The sound squeaked again.  It sounded as if it were coming from the garage.  I went out to check on Isaac, and as I stepped into the garage, I heard the squeaking sound much clearer.  My son’s small but muffled voiced echoed from inside the van.


I looked and saw his screaming face through the window of the sliding side door of the van.

 “Daaaad! Heeeaaallllppp!”

I reach to open the door. It wouldn’t move. My son continued to scream.

“Daaaad! Heeealp! Ouououch!”

I scurried to the other side of the van and opened the opposite door and crawled inside next to him. 

“What’s going on?”

“Myyyy haaand! Ahhh!” he squelched as tears flowed from his eyes.

I now saw that his hand had been slammed in and was stuck in the closed door.  I reached across and attempted to open the door.  It still would not open.  I checked the lock.  It was unlocked, but completely stuck with his hand caught tightly inside.  He couldn’t pull it out and I couldn’t open the door.  He continued to wail as I hopelessly worked to open the non-functioning door. 

Finally, all I could do was brace my feet on the opposite side of the car while pressing outward on the jammed door, and performed my best horizontal squat.  I gritted my teeth and growled in effort, pushing as hard as I could against the door, not knowing what I could actually accomplish.  To my relief, I was able to create just enough clearance for his hand to slip out of the lodged van door.

I think that this is the picture that Paul is referring to when we read Galatians 6:1-5.  Paul describes a person who is “caught in sin.” In Paul’s context, to be “caught” is to be “trapped.”  Paul then calls for those who are “walking in step with the Spirit,” to help restore them.

Consider how absurd it would have been for me to walk away from my son who was trapped with his hand stuck in the door.  Consider how absurd it would be for me to sit down next to my screaming son and tell him how foolish he was to close the door on his hand and tell him how messed up he really is.  It wouldn’t make sense.  Likewise, when we are following the Spirit…we are led to help one another…we are led to “carry one another’s burdens.”  Paul is calling people to help one another out of the trap of sin.  Paul is not calling us to point out everything that a person is doing wrong.  There is a huge difference.  Yet…we are responsible to HELP restore!

May we come to see the Spirit’s work in our lives and help to carry one another’s burdens.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

 The Race

“Hey Dad, do you wanna race?” asked my 8th grade son.  It was the spring of 2020 and the entire country was shut down due to the COVID 19 pandemic…including the schools.  The snow had recently melted and the ground was still soft and soggy as the frost worked to break free from the grip of winter. 

“No, I do not want to race,” I replied.

“Why not? Are you afraid that I will beat you?”

“No…I am not afraid that you will beat me…I am afraid of getting injured.”

“Oh, come on! We can race just one lap around the house.”

“One lap is plenty of distance for someone to get injured…namely me.”

“Oh, come on Ryan! Race the boy!” interjected the wife of my youth.

 “I will probably get sore muscles in my legs!”

“Oh Please! With all the biking that you do, I don’t think that is going to be your biggest pain.  Your biggest pain will be the blow to your ego when you realize that your 8th grade son is faster than you.”

“That’s it! Fine…I will race!...Let’s go!” I barked, and then I took off without warning. 

I realize that some may call this cheating. I would have to argue.  Though technically I did leave before anyone “else” said go…someone in fact DID say “go.”  It was me…and thus…I went.  My head start garnered me at least a 10m lead before my son took up the challenge and sprinted behind me.  I held the lead around the first two corners and as I came up on the North side of the home I could foresee a dilemma spread before me.  The North side of our home was a muddy swamp, residual from the still melting frozen winter ground.  The North side wall had been shielding the ground all spring from the penetrating and drying effects of the sun. 

I made the decision to run right through the swamp, as straight as I could.  My path veered wide, allowing a wide gap to my left…the “inside” of the path, that could potentially allow a would be runner…a younger runner…an 8th grade runner…a faster runner, to get past me.  But, I knew better than to try and get traction and “turn” while immersed in the wet ground.  The 8th grader behind me…did not.

As Isaac tried to cut in and pass me on the inside, he lost traction.  His feet went out from beneath him and he landed hard onto…no…into the wet, swampy, muddy ground.  I finished my race by trotting the rest of the way around the house.  I was both dry and injury free,  My son however, was not.

I am convinced that if Isaac had continued to follow my path.  If he had gone in the exact same spot and the exact same way as I did, he would have beat me around the house.  He was faster, but, I knew the way.  I find a picture of what Paul is talking about in Galatians 5:13-25 here.  In vs. 16 and 25, Paul says that we are to be led by the Spirit.  When we try and take our own path rather than the path of the Spirit it leads to the perpetual slip in the swamp of life.  So often in my life I think that I can be better if I just try harder.  It is in times like this…when I lose sight of the Spirit and rely on my own strength or confidence that I find myself, “down on my backside”…in the swamp.  Oh may we come to keep in step with the Spirit.  May we trust in the way that He is leading.