What I see in the mirror of Scripture…and starting a study on the “Fruit of the Spirit”

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Christians in my tradition love Bible stories, but we’re not always good at them. We tend to always look for life, or moral, applications.

Anyone who ever read Judges 19 - 21 knows how ridiculous that can get.

But I think that many, if not most, Bible stories are not in there to teach moral lessons; they’re in there to be mirrors through which we see our own lives.

For example, it is easy for a comfortable American Christian to listen to the story of the Exodus and criticize the Hebrews for failing to trust God.

It is easy to make the moral of the story: “See, you should always trust God.”

The kindergartners at Vacation Bible School can get that point.

But the story of the Exodus is in the Bible as a mirror through which we see that we are as disobedient and untrusting as the Hebrews. In the Exodus story we see our own condition before God.

That is, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see, as Someone once said.

I bring up the Exodus because it may be the mirror in which I see myself most often. I am one of those Hebrews going somewhere with God and not sure that: 1) I want to go there, 2) God knows how to get me there, and 3) it is even God who is leading me there.

One thing that strikes me about the Exodus story is how God’s people ping pong between glory and shame. For example, as soon as God leads them through the Red Sea and drowns Pharaoh’s army, they complain to Moses that they will die of thirst (see Book of Exodus 14 - 15).

How I am just like that as I go through life with God!

In December 2021, a woman in my congregation gave one of the best Christmas gifts I ever received: She followed me into the church parking lot one day and offered to pay the full tuition it would take for me to enroll in the Master of Religious Education Missional Leadership program at Rochester University.

This generous surprise resurrected a long-dead dream of mine. Now I am writing this post on summer break, with just two semesters to go. Glory!

Last summer, just a couple of weeks after my dad died, The Christian Chronicle asked me to create and direct its weekly features and news podcast. We launched the podcast this January. Finding ways to inform and inspire thousands of Christians around the world every week is the most fulfilling and stimulating thing I’ve ever done in my ministry career. Glory!

But on May 5 of this year, without notice or warning, my employer let me go from my job. I was told to pack my things and leave without saying goodbye to my colleagues or donors. Shame.

And, with job loss comes financial strain for my family. More shame.

So in the Exodus story, I see…me. Glory and shame staying in the same queen double. One moment I praise the grace and provision of God. The next moment, I doubt that God is even there at all!

Far from any life application or moral, perhaps the Exodus story shows us that the people of God can do no better than put one foot in front of the other. Even if one step is a stride of glory and the next is tripping into shame. Forward progress does not come by anything but the grace of God.

What can I do but hold onto my meager belief and pray God’s mercy for when my belief fails?

A few months ago, I promised I would take up writing again this summer when I don’t have any papers or projects to turn in for grad school.

So here we are.

Until school starts again in September, I plan to use this space to start writing the book I’ve had in mind for a couple of years now.

Heather, if you’re reading this, the last sentence is for you. Thank you.

The book idea that came to me is a specific application of the “Fruit of the Spirit” from the Letter to the Galatians 5:22-23. I want that application to be a surprise for later. This summer, I will post a short study each week on the nine “fruits” from the text: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Once school starts in the fall, I’ll put these studies “on the shelf” and then finish the book manuscript after I graduate next May (God willing).

So look for the first post on the first fruit of the Spirit, love, in a week.

Grace and peace.


Now read this

The Civil War is over

When I was a boy, I had a thing for the Civil War. When other boys were playing video games, I was reading and re-reading ‘The Civil War’ by Bruce Catton. I knew that my family had deep roots in the South. I had a hunch that my family... Continue →