Bible-Book-Costume

Scary Costumes From the Bible

Our Top Picks for Your Bible-Themed Costume Party

Do you have a Halloween party, Fall Party, Harvest Festival, or some similar end-of-October party coming up? Have the organizers tried to tone it down and control the crowd by requiring all party-goers to dress as Bible characters? Have you been invited to wear a scary costume and you want to honor your strong Evangelical roots? Never fear, Project Priscilla is here to help you choose from among the scariest and most gruesome costumes in the Bible. Not only will you steal the spotlight with your creepy creativeness, you’ll also have a witnessing opportunity every time someone asks you to explain your costume.

Satan

Let’s start with an easy one, the most evil character in the Bible: Satan. But don’t mistake this for boring; there are a lot of options when it comes to a Satan costume. Of course you can always stick with the traditional red outfit with horns and a pitchfork, but for a new twist, try one of these Biblical varieties: serpent (Genesis 3:1), fallen star (Isaiah 14:12), shooting lightning (Luke 10:18), angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), dragon (Revelation 12:9), or roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). With a little creativity, you will stand out from all the other devils at the party.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus and itinerant wilderness preacher, was a formidable presence with his camel hair robe, leather belt, and unusual diet. However, the most gruesome version of this costume is the headless John the Baptist, post execution. Be sure to carry the severed head on a platter for the full effect. Matthew 3:1, 4; 14:10-11

 

Witch of Endor

Are black, pointy hats and long striped stockings more your style? Try dressing as the Witch of Endor. She may or may not have had a green face with a crooked nose and warts, but we do know she was skilled in her job and could hold a mean séance. 1 Samuel 28:7-8

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Ghost of Samuel

Ghosts are popular characters at costume parties. All you need is a white sheet and scissors for eye holes. However, to really embody the ghost of Samuel look, you’ll have to dig deep. You need white hair, a robe, and crazy eyes. His appearance in the Bible was enough to scare the stuffing out of the medium and the king! You’ll also want to adopt a “why are you bothering me” attitude toward all other party guests. 1 Samuel 28:12-14

Jezebel

Were you hoping for a costume where you could use your fake blood makeup? Then Jezebel is the right choice for you. She was a typical evil queen who plotted against righteous people, harassed and murdered prophets and religious leaders, and probably ripped the wings off helpless flies while she was alive. She met an untimely end, however, when two of her own servants threw her out the window. Be sure to add lots of blood to your face and a couple horse hoof prints on your back. 2 Kings 9:30-37

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Leper

If you like dressing comfortably, try this costume. All you need is tattered rags for clothes, something fit for a societal outcast, and messy hair. You’ll also need to cover your body with oozing, painful sores caused by an infectious skin disease. This is an especially good choice if you like keeping to yourself at parties. Just shout “Unclean!” every time someone comes near you. Leviticus 13:45-46

Goliath

“Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of an Israelite boy.” For this giant’s costume you’ll need a set of heavy bronze armor, a domineering swagger, and a mocking tone. You’ll also need a javelin, a spear, and a sword coated in blood. Oh yeah, this one’s also a decapitation, but with a beautiful bronze helmet on the severed head. 1 Samuel 17:5-7

Sisera

This daunting military commander and his ferocious cavalry were brought to end by the Israelite army under Deborah’s leadership. To assemble this costume you will need a cup of warm milk, a cozy blanket, and a giant ‘Property of Jael’ tent peg through the temples. Judges 4:19, 21

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Eglon

If you’re left handed, you are sure to be a fan of Ehud, Israel’s most famous left-handed judge. What better way to memorialize him than by dressing as his victim, the notorious and overweight King Eglon. You’ll need a crown, some royal robes, a left-handed sword barely visible in an enormous gut, and an adult diaper. Judges 3:21-22

Lazarus

Wrap yourself in strips of cloth for grave clothes and put a towel over your face for the Lazarus look. You’ll also need a perfume with a combination scent of spices and the ‘dead four days in the desert without an embalming’ smell. John 11:58-44

Prostitute

For those of you waiting for the slutty costume, this is it. There are several prostitutes in the Bible to choose from. Get a couple friends to join you, and you could represent all of them! There’s Rahab, the lady of the evening who saved the spies by hiding them on the roof while she distracted the guards below (Joshua 2:1). Then there’s Tamar, the jilted woman who went undercover to seduce her father-in-law (Genesis 38:24). We also have Gomer, the promiscuous woman that Hosea the prophet married as God instructed him (Hosea 1:3). But most impressive of all is the great harlot of Revelation 17. She was so terrible that commentators disagree to this day about exactly who she was or is.

Zombie

If the undead is your style, try dressing as reanimated corpse. You can choose the skeletal variety or the fleshy kind with tendons and skin. Ezekiel 37:7-8; Matthew 27:52

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Demoniac

For the daring, this costume is so simple you can literally put it together at the last minute: the naked demoniac. All you’ll need is…nothing. Just be sure to foam at the mouth and cross your eyes a lot. If you have some broken chains laying around, those can be added for a nice touch. Special thanks to Jeff for this idea. Luke 8:27

Let us know if we missed your favorite scary or grisly Bible character. Have a safe and fun Halloween/Fall/Harvest/end of October!

Pastor App

7 Pastors Who Have Impacted My Ministry

When I was in seminary, I recall being advised to find a mentor, so when I needed help I would know who to call. Trying to narrow down a decision to only one or two people is extremely difficult! I have learned that there are so many pastors who have impacted my ministry and have helped me along the way, and there is no room for everyone on this list.

Ministry is hard, and it requires so much of giving up of oneself, and believe me, that doesn’t go unnoticed. My favorite part of working with other pastors is learning what they do best and making a mental note of it, so if I run into a problem in their area of expertise in the future, I know who to call. I have pastors who I call when I have a question with youth programs, I have pastors I call when I have a question on counseling, there are pastors I call when I have a struggle with my position, I have pastors I call when I am struggling in my personal life, etc… Everyone has given me something unique to pass on in my ministry, and everyone is needed in my life.  So thank you to all! :-)

Childhood leaders: the pastors who showed me how to pay it forward

There were several people at my home church I’d consider pastors (even though they weren’t technically pastors), because they were people I remember ALWAYS being at the church for VBS, AWANA, youth group, Christmas programs, Sunday School, etc… Home didn’t always feel safe, and school didn’t always feel welcoming, but at church, I felt safe, smart, appreciated and just in general, a good kid. Today, not a youth night goes by that I don’t think of our kids and wonder if any of them are in the shoes I once wore, and if so, I want them to feel safe, smart, appreciated and just in general, good kids. On days I’m exhausted and I don’t feel like dealing with loud and excited kids, the faces of Pastor Rick, Sharon, Pastor Monte, Kim, Merlin, Judy, Mary Jane, Mark, Mary, April, Valerie, etc… come to mind and I am reminded if they did it for me, I can certainly do it for these kids.

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Greg and Poppy: the pastors who became my second parents

When I graduated from high school, I (metaphorically) escaped to a camp four hours away for two and a half months to get away from home, was an extremely difficult year with my parents’ divorce. Greg and Poppy were my bosses who were available to help me through my family frustration and help me to learn to forgive and move on. If I needed a shoulder to cry on, if I needed a laugh, if I needed encouragement, if I needed to write a whole entire novel in one email (that Greg could summarize into one sentenceJ) they were always there. Greg and Poppy taught me a lot about how sometimes our families can fail us, and that is why God gives us His family to fill any void. I want to be a person who shows people, church is family. We go through joys and laughter, bumps and bruises, but in the end (in the words of LILO AND STITCH) “Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

Scott and Carol: the pastors who taught me to believe in people

Scott was my supervisor at camp, and by far is the best supervisor I ever had. If I were Mary Richards, he’d be my Lou Grant. He taught me how to mow, drive a tractor, weedeat, care for plants and flowers, and to have an appreciation for God’s creation. Scott, Carol and I all ended up going to seminary together. They’d call and ask if I wanted to go to the movies with their family or if I wanted to come over for supper. Carol helped me when I needed help with classes (especially that darn Shelby class!) And I’ll never forget Carol praying over my mom and me at commissioning one year. I appreciated their mentorship and their welcoming home. A little over a year after our graduation, Scott suddenly died. It was the first time I lost a friend, more so, a father figure, and it was so painful. He used to say to me often, “You’re not who you were when I first met you because you let God work on you.” I miss hearing him say that. We all need to be reminded that we are capable of changing and being better people, because we can often feel like we are struggling with the same ol’ stuff day in and day out. I want to be able to believe in people like that, especially our youth.

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Phil and Sheila: the pastors that journeyed with me to find my inner nerd

I had grown up in a home that talked about God a lot but theological conundrums were frowned upon. Even to this day, I’m told theologians think and analyze too much. I’m not sure how Phil knew I was a theologian while in his classes at seminary, but somehow he figured it out, and somehow got that inner undiscovered nerd inside me to come to the surface. I think of Phil as one of my Mr. Keatings (as in Robin Williams’ character in “Dead Poets Society”). He challenged me to use critical thinking and to search for myself an understanding of God. As a result, I walked into seminary with beliefs and out with convictions. In my ministry, I want more than anything, for people to go from beliefs to convictions. Sheila has taught me that faith is a journey we will never fully arrive at until it’s all said and done. It’s a good reminder for myself, but also a good reminder as I work with others. We are all in this boat together. We are all seeking, we are all searching, and we are all finding, together.

Bob and Audrey: the pastors who taught me to pastor

I worked alongside Bob and Audrey in my last appointment. They have to be two of the most pastoral people I know. If I had a question, they would answer.  If I heard bad news of a church member in a former appointment committing suicide in the middle of the Christmas season, and I needed to talk to someone, Audrey was there. If I needed someone to help move the sound system in the chapel, Bob was there. If there was a 5 gallon bucket found full of rotten boiled eggs, they were there to experience the stench with me. I appreciated how whenever they were in town for whatever reason, they intentionally stopped by my office to hear how things were going. Audrey is the one person, who can get me from absolute frustration and/or tears to laughter in a matter of moments. And it wasn’t just their ministry to me, but also their ministry to the corps people and their employees, that spoke clearly and loudly to me what it means to be a pastor. And for the record, I can’t leave out Stacy—the girl who LOVES to hug, who LOVES the Oak Ridge Boys, who LOVES to shred paper, who LOVES to call me Little Debbie (and then claim she forgot I don’t like to be called that J), and who LOVES to remind me that Johnny (my least favorite dog ever) has the same birthday as me.  :-) Stacy, you are such a blessing, indeed! :-)

Melody: the pastor who taught me about the ministry of presence

Melody and Rick were a year ahead of me in seminary and then we ended up being in the same district after I graduated. We became good friends in those 5 ½ years. Melody always comes up with the zaniest ideas of how to pass time, like singing old Amy Grant hits into a McDonald’s straw, or suggest wrapping up a (live) woodchuck in a blanket to give to a mutual friend. She is also one of the most loyal people I know. She is always willing to lend an ear at any time. She has been through thick and thin with me in my life as a pastor and continues to be a support for me. The greatest gift Melody has ever given me was the one year anniversary after Scott died, she went with me to the camp where he and I had worked together and she listened as I told story after story. As we were walking back to the parking lot, she asked if I was ready to go, and I said I wasn’t. She and I sat on outside steps nearby. I appreciated that Melody just sat with me in the silence of nature, allowing me to mentally put closure on Scott’s life. She has definitely taught me that ministry doesn’t always require words, but it always requires presence. Oh yes, and that ministry is meant to be fun!

Mt Rushmore

Vicki: the pastor who understands what not everyone does

I met Vicki through Melody several years ago, but it was when I was diagnosed with a Learning Disability a few years ago, that I really got to know Vicki.   She has come alongside me and has helped me adjust to this new concept in my life. I don’t know how to describe to someone what it’s like to have gone 30 years of my life feeling like I was the dumbest person in the world with the lowest IQ ever, and then to suddenly have someone say, “You’re IQ is perfectly fine. It’s the processing of information that has a hiccup in it. You’re not stupid.” It’s a moment of great relief. I’m not sure most people get that moment, but I feel like Vicki does. She’s never made me feel like I’m making up excuses, just trying to find pity, or get attention, but rather I feel like she truly understand the struggle and wants to do whatever it takes to help me succeed in a way that works for me. Vicki has been a source of encouragement to me and understands my frustration. If I ever run into a situation like this in my future ministry, I hope I can give the same encouragement to do whatever it takes to help someone succeed despite whatever hurdles are in the way.

Pastors-Appreciation

7 Pastors Who Have Impacted My Ministry

 

Pastors have a very difficult job. It’s emotionally demanding, physically exhausting, and mentally draining. They’re on-call constantly, visiting congregation members in hospitals and homes, preparing Biblically sound, culturally relevant messages, performing weddings, dedications, and funerals, planning midweek programs and Bible studies, all while overseeing the business of their church and ministry. Through all the heartache and frustration and lack of pay, pastors continue to work because the reward a pastor gets isn’t the paycheck they take home. It isn’t the accolades from peers, or the advancement in career. Their reward is in seeing lives changed and renewed, which sometimes isn’t seen for years.

 

I’ve had the privilege of being under the ministry of many pastors in my lifetime. It would be impossible to list every pastor who has touched my life, so I narrowed it down to seven pastors who have had the most significant impact, not just on my life, but on my ministry.

 

Dad: the pastor who was my parent

My first pastor was my dad. He was the pastor of a church, but he was first and foremost the pastor of his family. He sat us down for family devotions every night, he played preaching as background noise for just about every activity we did, he demonstrated a love of Scripture and a personal walk with God, and if I ever woke early and ventured down to the living room I found my dad on his knees praying for his family. To this day, when I have a theological or biblical question, I can ask my dad. He taught me by example that the most important aspect of my ministry as a pastor is to cultivate my own relationship with God.

 

Jim and Dee: the pastors who lived their ministry

They were my pastors when I was a young child. I don’t remember a lot about their theology or their business practices or their program planning. What stands out to me is how much they genuinely cared about every member of their congregation. I was never treated like a kid who needed to be entertained and kept out of the way. I was simply a younger member of the congregation, another one of the people they felt so strongly the call to love. From my young perspective, ministry meant love, care, and laughter. Along with my immediate family, the church was also my family. I have many fond memories of church services and fellowship and long conversations between the grown-ups when I would listen in, alternately gleaning insights for my own life and being incredibly bored. I remember service projects where my pastors got to know me by working alongside me. There was always laughter when our church family gathered, because we all knew we were with pastors who loved. If there is one thing I gleaned for my own ministry from Jim and Dee, it was the value of loving the congregation, not through fancy preaching, but in the small moments of fellowship and service.

pastor appreciation

Ellen: the pastor who instilled ownership in the congregation

Through the years I’ve witnessed many leadership styles, many decision-making methods, and many justifications for decisions. I’ve heard a lot of pastors who say “This is how we’ll do it” because, “I like it that way” or “I’ve done it before so I know what I’m talking about.” Ellen was different. She took the approach that the congregation needed to be involved in decisions because it was their church. She was able to look at the big picture, realized she would not be the pastor forever, and pushed the people to give their input. I remember her often saying “This is your church, not mine.” And that’s a lesson that has stuck with me all these years. There are a lot of drawbacks to serving in a denomination that transfers pastors, but one of the strengths is the reminder that the pastor does not own the church. Ellen’s ministry still sticks with me to this day as I lead my congregation. I hope that I, too, am not taking charge of the church as if I own it, but instead, leading the congregation to take ownership of their own church.

 

Shannon: the pastor who pushed me

When I was a teen I got a card from my pastor telling me how much leadership and teaching potential she saw in me. She also said she was praying that God would reveal his will to me, and she suggested, ever so subtly that his will might be for me to become a pastor. I tucked the card away, but was reminded of her sincere words when I did respond to God’s call to ministry only a few months later. That simple card, probably long forgotten, was significant because it reminds me of how she was constantly pushing me just a little past my comfort zone. Under her leadership I did just about everything on the bulletin, even preaching my first sermon. As I look at the members of my congregation and see the potential each member has for their own ministry, I hope I can have the same wisdom to push them past where they are, but not so hard that I push them away.

 

Greg and Poppy: the pastors who were my bosses

For three and a half summers while I worked at camp, they were my pastors. Also my boss. They were the first pastors I had outside the traditional church setting. They had a significant ministry and left a significant impact on my life. When I was upset, they counseled me. When I was excited, they celebrated with me. When I had questions about God’s call and a future in ministry, they shared honestly with me. I think about those pastors often as I look at my own ministry. Long ago I decided my ministry wasn’t limited to the people who fill the pews on Sunday morning. My congregation is the child who comes to the midweek children’s program, it’s the volunteer who comes to wash the windows, it’s the staff that works in my building every week day, it’s the woman who comes to Bible study, it’s the community members I see every week in my service club. I’m thankful to the first pastors who showed me the broad scope of ministry.

 

Wayne and Patricia: the pastors who opened their home

When I traveled across the country to California for college, I found a church in my new town and the pastors welcomed me in, gave me a home away from home and a free place to do laundry. They eased the homesickness that came from being hundreds of miles from my family. They were an encouragement through my transition to college life, and college schedules. They gave me a place of ministry and even an opportunity to preach. In my ministry, I seek to welcome and encourage my congregation in the same way.

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Heather: the pastor who was my peer

It was a cold Sunday afternoon in January when I got the phone call that shattered my world. It was a friend and colleague who had called to give me the devastating news that my infant nephew had passed away. I’ll never forget the days that followed as I joined my family in grief and funeral preparations. That same friend stood by my side as I said my final goodbyes to my nephew. Two years later when unexpected death once again took my family by surprise, my friend was at my side. When I look back to those dark days of grief, I can be thankful for a friend who looked past the traditional roles of friendship and took the time to minister to me in a pastoral role. Her ministry to me still resonates as I also find myself in situations where I am the one offering pastoral care to a friend in need.

 

I am thankful for the pastors God has brought into my life who have ministered to me, bringing wealth into my own ministry as I pastor my congregation. Which pastor impacted your life? Whose ministry still echoes in your ministry today?

October is pastor appreciation month. Take time to say thank you to your pastor. They work hard and sometimes don’t realize what kind of impact they have on you.

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What Creative Writing Class Taught Me About Creation

I remember sitting in my seat in Creative Writing class as a sophomore in college, and our professor teaching a unit on poetry that would eventually end with us writing a poem for an assignment. In the unit of study, our professor said something along the lines of, “Many people think poetry is strictly a bunch of abstract feelings, but the most powerful poems use more concrete items in order to define the abstract.” This has to be the best bit of advice I’ve gotten on writing poetry. Let me give you an example of what is meant by this lesson.

My absolute favorite poem is “The Cold Within” by James Patrick Kinney. You can read it here. What makes this poem powerful is not that it’s written strictly about abstract feelings such as bitterness, pride, hatred, resentment, prejudice, etc… Rather, what makes it powerful is that the author uses a dying fire, the dead of winter, 6 people, 6 logs, and an unknown location as a venue to express abstract feelings such as bitterness, pride, hatred, so on and so forth. By using a concrete illustration of something we can experience, see, hear, touch, etc… we can understand the underlying abstract emotions the author is trying to express to us.

Now, hypothetically speaking, if I were to teach this poem to a classroom full of students, one question that would be interesting to ask is, “Is this poem literally about 6 humans stranded in the cold?” If the consensus was ‘yes’ then our attention would more likely than not shift to asking follow-up questions, such as: Where were the 6 humans located at the time this poem took place? How did they get stranded there? Where did they each get their log? Who, when and how were their bodies found?   If the consensus of the class was, ‘no, this poem is not a literal event’, we would strictly read it as a story to illustrate the abstract thoughts I mentioned in the last paragraph would be the focus of our discussion.

Now, why do I explain this? Because the question I want to answer in this blog is: Does it matter whether or not I believe Genesis 1 is a literal event or not? So let’s take a look…

The interesting thing about what we call the Creation Story is that it really isn’t a story, it’s a Hebrew Poem. Therefore, I do not believe The Creation Poem is meant to be taken literal, rather, I believe Moses was taking something extremely abstract and assigning something very concrete to it so we could somewhat grasp the ungraspable.   How better could one explain how powerful God is? How better could one explain the creativity of God? How better could one explain the ultimate Deity? How better to explain… something so beyond human understanding?

And what better way to give hope to a group of people who live in a world full of pain, full of hurt, of devastation, of turmoil, of sin, etc…   It would serve as a marvelous reminder that God is greater than this world! He is more powerful than anything down here! No matter how hopeless things look, it’s not hopeless. He’s greater than humanity, greater than the world, greater than all!

We can also read this poem as being literal, although more likely than not, our focus is going to shift from God’s Being and character to the physical capabilities of God creating the world instead. We would likely start asking follow-up questions such as: Was it a literal 24 hour day or did it take years? How is it possible that there was light and dark before there was a sun or a moon was created? Did Satan fall in between the 1st and 2nd verse of Genesis 1 and that’s why the world was formless? Because of these types of questions, I hesitate a bit when it comes to reading Genesis 1 as literal. Too often this can spark debates against Evolution, and once that takes place, we’ve lost the beauty of the poem because we are out to prove something rather than stand in awe of Someone.

We often give the authorship of The Creation Poem to Moses. We also know that one very common and powerful way to pass on information in Biblical times was through storytelling. So, this is how I picture The Creation Poem when I read it at the beginning of The Bible.

I picture the Israelites while wandering in the dessert and one evening after they had finished up their supper of manna, a small group of them sat together around a campfire under the starry, dark, sky. I picture Moses being the grandfather figure of the group. I picture the children begging Moses, “Tell us a story! Tell us a story!”  I picture Moses starting a very dramatic discourse, “In the beginning… God created the heavens and the earth.” I picture the children’s eyes getting big as they imagine a Being that big. I picture them asking questions like, “How big is God? Is He bigger than the sky?” or, “How Mighty is God? Does He have big muscles?”

I imagine the children being amazed when Moses said, “God spoke, ‘Let there be light’ and there was!” Who could possibly just speak something into existence? That’s amazing!

As Moses described God creating the waters, the sky, the sun, the land, the animals, etc… I see the children asking, “If God never saw a tree then how did He know what it looked like?” or “How did He know how to put it together?” And when Moses says we were made in God’s image, I picture them asking, “What is God’s image?”

I picture that as the children went to sleep that night, they had one profound understanding of a God that was creative, that was Almighty, that interacted with His creation, Who was able to do the impossible by just speaking things into existence, that He was so big He is beyond human imagination, and a God that is powerful enough to get them out of any mess in life.

And just stop and think for a moment, this is how our Bible begins! Before the creation of Adam and Eve, before the Fall of humanity, before Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, before Ruth and Esther, before David, before the Law and the Prophets, before Jesus is born on earth, before Paul, before John on Patmos; God’s character and Being is identified as being something beyond anything our little minds can comprehend, and so therefore, we can trust Him with our lives.

Now, that is one powerful image of God!

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Was Jesus a friend of sinners and should you be?

Christians have their clichés and phrases. Usually there’s some truth buried in the statement, but by the time a phrase becomes a cliché, it has lost its genuine meaning and is usually used incorrectly. Take for instance “inviting Jesus into your heart,” “Feeling led,” “When God closes a door, he always opens a window,” “Let’s say grace,” or the ever popular, but highly inaccurate “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

There’s a particular Christian cliché I struggle with: “Jesus is a friend of sinners.” I’m not convinced Jesus really was a friend of sinners. So I want to take a look at Jesus, at friendship, and ask the question “Is Jesus a friend of sinners?” And the follow-up “Should I be a friend of sinners?”

Aren’t we all sinners?

Before we go any further, I have to concede that in the most basic definition, yes, Jesus was a friend of “sinners,” since we’re all sinners. Jesus was the only sinless human being to ever live, his only human friends are, by definition, sinners. However, we can look at this a little differently and say, any sinner who has been redeemed by Christ, has had their sins forgiven and removed. So, perhaps we could clarify the question a little: Is Jesus a friend of unrepentant sinners?

Doesn’t the Bible say Jesus is a friend of sinners?

Yes, “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” is in the Bible, but let’s look at the complete verse.

Luke 7:34 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” The accusation comes from the Pharisees along with calling Jesus a glutton and a drunkard. I would say this verse proves that Jesus is a friend of sinners about as much as it proves he is a drunkard and a glutton. Also, take a look at how the Pharisees use the word “sinner,” basically, anyone who wasn’t as religious as they were. If we classify a redeemed sinner as a follower of Jesus and someone who desires to please God, then the Pharisees’ accusation is plain wrong. The “sinners” that Jesus was spending his time with were the ones who were listening to and obeying him. In fact, in the same chapter in Luke we read “All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.”

The Pharisees’ accusation came because Jesus did tend to spend a lot of time with the tax collectors and “sinners.” The Pharisees used the label sinner for anyone who didn’t fit their criteria of who a follower of God should be. Is a tax collector a sinner? Well, in a culture where national and religious identity are closely tied, any deviation from good citizenship would be considered sinful. The tax collectors were cooperating with the Roman government and were viewed as traitors to their country (the nation of Israel) and consequently traitors to God. Jesus enters this culture and turns the way we view power upside down. “Blessed are the meek…If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also…if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:5, 39, 41). Jesus’ message was that serving God wasn’t about grabbing power, it was about giving up power. So when Jesus “hangs out” with tax collectors and so-called sinners, perhaps the message isn’t that he is a friend of sinners, but that he is challenging the old definition of what a sinner is.

Jesus’ Friends

John 15:12-15

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus was speaking to his disciples, the ones who had followed him, watched him, listened to him, got confused and asked silly questions of him, lived with him, exasperated him, and supported him even when they didn’t understand him. These are the people Jesus calls his friends.

Were they sinners? I suppose. They certainly weren’t perfect. Soon after this conversation, they would all abandon him in his hour of need. They still hadn’t figured out who he was or why he had come to earth, as we can tell from observing their shock and confusion in reaction to his death and resurrection. But they did love him.

If Jesus was a friend of sinners, we’re not talking the random sinner-on-the-street kind. They were the sinners that he did life with, lived in community with. Friendship was an intimate relationship for Jesus. He elevates them to the level of his mother and brothers (Matthew 12:49). We’re often told that blood is thicker than water, but a friendship with Jesus is even more intimate than a sibling relationship, and more powerful than a parent-child bond.

We can say that Jesus loves sinners, that he is friendly to sinners, but when we talk about who he is a friend of, that’s doesn’t include everyone. Jesus is a friend of his followers.

Should you be a friend of sinners?

The kind of intimate friendship that Jesus was talking about with his disciples is very powerful. God designed us to live in community and friendships are one way we live that out in the body of Christ. A friend who is a fellow believer is someone who will encourage spiritual growth, remind you of the promises of God and the character of God. Also, a friend who shares who shares your faith can connect with you on a deeper level than a friend who shares something less significant in your life such as a passion for art or sports.

Whether or not you choose to limit your close friends to people who share your faith is a personal choice. Personally, I’ve never had a close friend who wasn’t a Christian, but I don’t think that everyone has to have that standard. Whatever you decide about this, remember that friendships are an important part of life, and they are powerful.

What do you think? Do you have any close friends who don’t share your faith?

marriage

Four Ways I have Grown Spiritually Through Marriage

On our last blog post, Ruth discussed how singleness has helped her spiritual life.

Today, we have Kelsie returning as a guest blogger, as she gives us the view of how marriage has helped her in her spiritual walk:

1. Marriage has encouraged me to submit to the Holy Spirit.

This submission is important because marriage is an opportunity to develop and practice every single Fruit of the Spirit. Trust me when I say that in a good marriage, all of them will be on display regularly. Have you ever tried to have a marriage without peace or kindness? It’s pretty rocky. Self-control in a marriage is absolutely essential. There are times when I have absolutely lost my mind over something relatively trivial that my husband has done or perhaps neglected to do. I’ve also lost my mind over some pretty big things too. On these little or big occasions, self-control, patience and kindness have gone out the window and I have said exactly what was on my mind. Peace is often next to take a hike on such occasions.

Should my husband have the courtesy to pick up his dirty socks and put them down the laundry chute? Should he take out the trash on the day it gets full and not two days later when the kitchen smells like old carrots or rotten eggshells? Should he remember to tell me his sister is pregnant so I don’t find out when the twins are born? Without a doubt, the answer to all three is yes! When he forgets, though, it doesn’t give me a license to lose my temper or be unloving. Marriage has given me many opportunities to allow God – and the fruits that come from knowing Him – to be on display in my life.

2. Marriage has made the command to forgive one another real to me.

Colossians 3:13 says,“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

It seemed easy in my single life to forgive, because at the end of the day, I usually wasn’t sharing a house, bed or life with whomever had wronged me. I was extending a shallow forgiveness – out of sight, out of mind, totally dependent upon how little time I could spend with the person whom I had “forgiven”. This isn’t true forgiveness and it certainly wasn’t how the Lord has forgiven me.

My marriage relationship has given me more opportunity to extend and understand forgiveness than any other relationship I will ever have. In our marriage, there have been many times when my husband and I have had cause to have a grievance against one another. In the moments when my husband has done something to offend or hurt me, I have the opportunity to forgive as the Lord has forgiven me. That means truly letting go of the hurt and not holding it against him anymore. My husband and I can’t be truly reconciled to each other if one of us is withholding forgiveness.

The lessons my marriage has taught me about forgiveness have allowed me to address it in other areas of my life. It has forced me to examine the times where my forgiveness was shallow or insincere. I strive to sincerely forgive – as the Lord has forgiven me—in all of my relationships now.

3. Marriage has taught me to really trust God.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

There have been some very uncertain moments in my marriage, moments when it wasn’t clear to me if the vows we made to each other, before God, were going to be enough to get us through. It’s a scary place to be, wondering if the one you’ve chosen to spend your life with is going to still be there. The biggest mistake I have made was trying to figure these troubles out on my own. When your life is in such a tumultuous place, you have to trust God, really trust Him. I had to realize that no matter what happened – God was still God. I just needed to seek Him. Whether my marriage fell completely apart or was strengthened and held together, God had my trust. In the face of uncertainty and the unknown, my faith was strengthened. Trusting in God and His wisdom instead of our own is what got us through the uncertain moments. This revelation has spilled over into other areas of my life that are sometimes uncertain – and has taught me to rely on God more and more.

 

4. Marriage has taught me about true intimacy.

I’m not speaking of just physical intimacy – marriage has taught me about closeness, about truly understanding the heart of another person. I crave time alone with my husband. I love spending time with him, just the two of us. There is nothing that makes me happier than an entire day spent with Javier, just the two of us, hiking in the woods or maybe fishing, talking about life or our hopes and dreams for the future. There are days when he’ll tell me to get in the car and we’ll take a little road trip and use the time in the car to discuss scripture or share our hearts with one another. We discuss books and politics and opinions and ideas. My husband knows me better than any other person on this planet and I know him in the same way.

This helped me to understand that God craves that same kind of intimacy with us, that same kind of close, deep relationship. I know this because He gave up his own Son so that we could be reconciled to him. God didn’t do that so we could just chat occasionally. Before I was married, my relationship with God was more along the lines of a friend I spoke to fairly often. He was a good friend, but not necessarily someone who I desperately wanted to see all the time. Through my marriage, I have come to understand the kind of desire that God has for us, the closeness he wants. God loves me more than I could possibly love my husband, and his desire to know me and be known to me cannot be matched.

In 11 years of marriage, my spiritual life has been stretched and grown more than I could have possibly imagined. I know the coming years will hold many more lessons as well.

To read more of Kelsi’s excellent writings, you can visit her blog at: http://kelsmoreno.wordpress.com/