What can Separate?

Romans 8:35 New International Version
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”

Now I know it says who — but the word used here can mean who, which, what.  We can read it any way.

Let us first look at the concept of separation. The Greek word used is xorizo which comes from the Greek word xora meaning open, vacated space.  Think of a wide, vast field. Xorizo means to separate or withdraw, initially as in a divorce, when the partner vacates the marriage either physically or emotionally.

Paul, the author of Romans, is asking what or who can cause the love of Christ to take a vacation – to leave, divorce, or abandon us?

The word for love here is the Greek word agape.  Recall that the Greeks had three words for love– Agape, Eros, and Philia.  Agape is the word for a benevolent or charitable love. This is the same word in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son….”

Back to the question at hand, Paul questions 7 potentials things that could separate us.

  1. Trouble.  Greek word thlipsis- meaning pressure, or a narrow space that feels confining. This is internal, mind squeezing pressure.
  2. Hardship.  Greek word stenochoria– meaning a narrow space, but this is more external.  This is an outward difficulty or stressor pushing in on us.
  3. Persecution.  Greek word diogmos– meaning literally “The hunt to bring someone down like an animal”. This is being pursued or chased by someone or something that seems out to destroy you.
  4. Famine.  Greek word limos– meaning hunger or scarcity.  Don’t just think of food with this, there are other ways we hunger or feel depraved of some essential need.
  5. Nakedness.  Greek word gumnotes.  Meaning naked or exposed.  Think vulnerable or shame.
  6. Danger.  Greek word kindunos.  Meaning danger or peril.
  7. Sword.  Greek word machaira. Meaning sword, but would represent death or physical pain or crisis.

This list covers quite a bit.  I know there are times I have let the worries in my mind, or the actual stressors I was facing, cloud my awareness of Christ’s love.  There have been times when my hunger of something I felt scarce, or my shame of some past decision blinded me to my value in Christ.

The truth though is that none of those things can actually take away Christ’s love. He will never leave us, and nothing in all that exists can take his love away.

Paul later answers this question eloquently a few verses later.  Romans 8:38-39 says,

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Vibrations of the Heart

Psalm 19:14 . NIV “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

This familiar prayer comes at the end of a very poetic psalm. David spends the first six verses proclaiming the beauty of nature. He praises the heavens and the sun which glorify God without words. The next three verses proclaim the beauty of God’s law, using similar poetic language, describing the law as refreshing, radiant and pure. The law, in contrast to nature, is only words, but it too brings glory to God.

We have two concepts then, something of words (law) that is tangible, and something without words(nature) that is more intangible. With this in mind David looks inward to himself.  He asks for forgiveness from the intangible (hidden faults) and protection from the tangible (willful sins).

This fits perfectly into the ending of this psalm, when he sums up the duality of both outward and inward. First he mentions the words of his mouth – the spoken word, similar to the law.  Next he mentions the meditations of his heart. The Hebrew word translated as meditation is higgayon which is a musical term, with roots in an Arabic word, that means a deep vibrating sound. This then is a depiction of an intangible, unspoken sentiment that literally vibrates from his soul or heart. He is hoping that the outward tangible spoken and the inward intangible vibration of his heart is pleasing to God.

However, this is more than an aesthetic “that looks nice”. The Hebrew word translated ‘in your sight’ is panim or paneh which really means to come face to face with someone.  Have you ever had to do one of those exercises where you must face someone and not divert your gaze? It’s incredibly hard to stand under a scrutinizing eye and not look away.

Whether we realize it or not, we are face to face with God at all times, he see’s our outward actions and tangible deeds but he also knows the vibrations of our hearts.

Before we bury our heads in shame, however, let’s be reminded of David’s final words here. “Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”  David is reminding himself of two very crucial things 1) God is his rock or strength.  The power to even attempt to live well, make good choices, etc comes from God. 2) God is his redeemer. This word in Hebrew is gaal, meaning claimed or bought back. God has already chosen to pay the price for us, despite our worthy or unworthy tangible and intangible parts. The truth is we’ve been redeemed.

It is out of the gratitude of our redemption, and with his strength that we, like David hope that our words and deeds, as well as our inner thoughts and essence bring delight to our God.

Time in the Desert


Mark 1:10-12 NIV

“Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”

This account was written probably around 60-70 AD, and many feel it was the earliest gospel on record. Mark’s method of describing the events is specifically geared to the past, as his references are meant to show parallels that remind his readers how significant Jesus is in the story from the beginning.

The passage is of Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist, and describes the spirit of God coming out of heaven like a dove. This in itself is unusual, as usually the spirit of God is depicted as wind or air. However, there is one other reference of the spirit as a dove which comes from the Targum, which was the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew scriptures that Mark’s audience would have read. The Targum translated the creation story from Genesis 1:2 as “the spirit of God fluttered above the face of the waters like a dove”.  Thus using this description it would have referenced all the way back to creation, the first time the trinity appeared together (God, spirit, word of God) and now all three again (God, spirit, and Jesus (word of God).

Vs 12 then says at once, or immediately, the spirit sent him out. This is a mild translation for the Greek word ekballo, which really means to eject or drive out. This was a forceful kicking into the wilderness. The Greek for wilderness is eremos which means lonesome, desert, solitary. It is the isolation that makes this important.

Mark mentions there were wild animals there, which other gospels leave out. Many think this reference is meant for Mark’s audience, as the persecution of early Christians by being fed to wild animals was a reality of that time. It also symbolizes true danger, as Christ was not just isolated but surrounded by potential harm as well.

Then Jesus is tempted or tested, and although Mark doesn’t recount the details, Matthew’s gospel does. We know that the three temptations centered around refuting God’s authority; The first being about bread, the second about testing God and the third about worshiping self over God.

The parallels are many, for in Genesis, after creation comes immediate testing of Adam and Eve, and what three things were at issue? 1) The fruit (bread), 2) Testing God “Did God really say…?”(Gen 3:1) and 3) Self worship, “and you will be like God” (Gen 3:5)

There is another parallel with Israel, who after being rescued from Egypt was sent to be tested in the desert. They too were tempted with issues of 1) Bread (mana ordeal Ex 16), 2) Testing God and 3) Worshiping others/self with their golden idols (Ex 32).

To Mark’s readers these parallels would have been proof of Jesus’s credibility as the Son of God. To us, there is much to heed. We will have times of testing, perhaps even ejected into something we never chose for ourselves. These times are fraught with the same issues Christ had – times of isolation, times when danger is near, and times when we are tempted to distrust God and rely on our own self reliance.

Like Christ, in these times, there are often angels ready to serve us. Sometimes just opening our eyes to see the friends, neighbors and even strangers ministering to us, helps us persevere through the desert times.

Rod and Staff


Psalm 23:4 New International Version (NIV)
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

My grandmother had me memorize the 23rd Psalm as a child for the incentive of a dollar, so it holds a special place in my heart. This week though, something struck me when reading this, specifically about the rod and staff being of comfort. It inspired me to delve in a bit more.

This Psalm is likely written by David and the first 4 verses use the metaphor of a shepherd for God, an occupation David would have been very familiar with.

Verse 4 starts with “Yea though” or “Even though”, notice it’s not “If”. By using the Hebrew word gam the writer acknowledges this isn’t a hypothetical, it will happen. A Shepherd knows that to get to the next pasture, a journey must be taken, and going through a valley would be a must.

The valley mentioned in the NIV is “darkest valley” in the KJV it’s “Valley of the Shadow of Death”.  The actual Hebrew word is tsalmaveth taken from the two words tsel meaning shadow and maveth meaning death. Interesting that this word can be found often in Job.

In Job 16:16 it references dark shadows ringing his eyes after crying and in Job 24:17 it references fear, as the word is translated into terrors of darkness.  This  may not be a specific place, but we can understand what kind of a valley this was; the darkest emotional place we can imagine – either in terror or in sadness. Think, as black and as bleak as possible.

When in this time, David says to fear no evil.  The word evil here is ra and is translated as evil, distress, misery, injury or calamity.  Despite being in the darkest valley possible, he doesn’t fear calamity or injury, which could certainly befall a sheep in this situation.

Why? Simple. The Shepherd is there. There is someone else to take responsibility, to take control. This alone should bring comfort, but David specifically mentions two shepherding tools that bring comfort as well; the rod and staff.

The rod, Hebrew word shebet, was a club, rod, or scepter.  It was a shorter than the staff and bulky, used mostly to protect sheep by clubbing predators. The staff, Hebrew word misheneth, was a walking stick, long and skinny and often with a little curve on one end. The staff would not have been used as a weapon, as it was too flimsy, but was used for correction, to gently guide a sheep back to the herd or to rescue a sheep from an entanglement.

It makes sense that in our darkest places we can find comfort knowing someone greater than us is there, protecting us from danger and guiding us to safety  The more subtle point is that the guidance the staff provides, can at times feel confining or restrictive as the hook gently pulls us from a certain path. Some may even say the staff provides discipline.

Interestingly, in psychology they have found that parents that have delineated good boundaries, structure and discipline actually foster less anxiety and more feelings of security than families that have little structure of discipline.

I think David knew this truth thousands of years ago; in times of crisis, we ultimately need all three. We need a greater authority to take charge and be in control, we need to know we are protected, and we need to know we will be guided, even if by correction and gentle discipline.



Lamentations 3:32-33 New International Version (NIV)
“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”

This could be part II to the post Not Consumed.

The phrase for ‘brings grief’ in Hebrew is yagah, and is a verb meaning to afflict, vex, cause grief. What’s surprising is this isn’t passive, God’s not just allowing something to happen. The verb implies he is actively doing it. Some translations start with “if”, others “since”, and the NIV says “though”, which means the translations can’t agree on if this is universal or a potential grief bringing.  One this is certain, there’s no question on the person doing it.

To me it’s not if, but when; so when affliction comes, then what? It says he will show compassion. Unlike this verse, the word for compassion used in Lam 3:23 comes from racham from the root ‘womb’. In this verse it also is translated out as racham but there is a little apostrophe on the Hebrew word, which changes the root to ‘fondle’. Thus a compassion of tenderness, a gentle touch, a soothing hand.  Why the compassion? It comes from his loving kindness or unfailing love which is abundant.  The Hebrew word for this unfailing love is chesed which means mercy, and comes from the word chacad which means to stoop or bend one’s neck in deference to another.  To me this implies a respectful or deferential love.  Though hard to believe, God lowers his head to us with merciful love.

The order in Hebrew has the next word as anah which means to be bowed down, or let’s say pushed down. The other times this exact word was used in the bible it was translated as violate, in regards to a woman. It’s not just pushing someone to the ground, but defiling them. A pretty harsh word.  This helps us read the verse as God does not force us down, willingly.  Willingly is our translation for the Hebrew word mil-lib-bow, or leb meaning heart.  In fact the only other time this word is used like this is 2 Kings 9:24 which talks about an arrow going through the center of someone’s heart. This implies that the intent of God’s heart, at the center, isn’t to push us down and cause grief.

Although the NIV ends with ‘anyone’ I find it interesting that the Hebrew uses the phrase ‘son’s of man’ or ‘children of man’.  By referencing children, isn’t there an added element of paternalism?

Thinking like a parent helps me visualize this passage.  While at first glance the causal factor seems cruel and unjust, I keep thinking about this in parenting terms.  Specifically the image of immunizations for my kids comes to mind. When I and the nurses hold down (anah) my child and inflict pain/cause grief by injecting a vaccination, the intent of my heart is not to cause harm, yet I do it, knowing it’s for their good. As they cry and grieve in pain, I absolutely cradle them with compassion (racham). In fact, it is my abundant love for them that allowed me to cause them grief in the first place.

Blind Guides


Matthew 23:23-28 New International Version (NIV)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

This chapter is the start of the judgment discourse. Jesus was in the Temple when speaking this. While he spoke about the Pharisees, they were not in his audience during this speech.

First, who were the Pharisees? Recall there were two groups – Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were the teachers of the Law, they were middle class individuals and had great influence on the people. This was much different than the Sadducees who were from wealthy families and had more of a political role.

The Pharisees where who the people looked to as role-models on how to live righteous lives.

There are actually 7 “woes” that Jesus condemns, but I was drawn to these two specifically. In vs 23 Jesus ridicules the Pharisees on their behavior. Tithing, or giving a tenth of your income/harvest etc was a practice of the time, though there was some dispute on if this applied to herbs. The Pharisees thought so, and by deliberately going above what may have been required, it made them look good. However, there are more important things, Jesus says, like justice, mercy and faithfulness. These three things he describes as weighty, or barus in Greek, which means oppressive or heavy. They are both important, he says, but the Pharisees are missing the point.

The next illustration explains this. There was an actual Rabbinic teaching of the time that required liquor to be strained for gnats, because even accidentally swallowing one was a sin. The problem wasn’t that they were missing gnats, but missing the camel. It’s good to note that a gnat was the smallest known creature of the time, and a camel, the largest animal in Palestine. The Greek word for swallow is katapino which is a devouring, or gulping down motion… a greedy swallow. In their haste to follow the law exactly, Jesus implies by ignoring justice, mercy and faithfulness, they actually are committing greater sins, for there was no doubt that the camel was forbidden animal to eat.

The next woe addressed is really the heart of the matter. The reason Jesus is so hard on this group is that their motives are wrong. They look good on the outside. On the inside, however, as the Greek implies, you find they acquired things selfishly or harpage meaning through plundering or robbery, or acquired things with akrasia or lack of self control.

Ironic. The one thing the Pharisee’s prided themselves on would have been self control. Their ability to follow the law to such exacting measures shouts self-control, and yet Jesus says it’s an illusion and doesn’t matter because it’s based on selfish motives.

What’s the take home message then? It’s all about motives.  How do we try to show our righteousness today? It may be by being overly concerned with the do’s and don’t of religion, but it may be more subtle. Perhaps getting involved in projects to look good? What camel’s are we blindly gulping down, all the while so focused on some petty gnat?



John 3:16 New International Version (NIV)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

For as long as I’ve known this verse, I’ve known of the concept of agape or unconditional love. Yet, never have I delved into this word myself. It is at the crux of not only this verse, but the season of Christmas that is upon us.

The biggest surprise is that nowhere in the definition of agapao is the term ‘unconditional’ listed.  The word in Greek means ‘I love, wish well, take pleasure in, long for; the love of reason or esteem.’ Properly it means to prefer, and is thought to be a socially or moral love.  The attribution of having no conditions comes from inference, based on the things God does for us based on this love. For instance, giving his only son.

I love the Greek for the word gave, didomi which also means offer, it reminds me that a gift by it’s nature must also be accepted.  God offered his monogenes, quite literally the only one of his genus/class/species. The only one. Are there any only’s in your life, and how would you feel giving those away?

The promise comes next, anyone who believes or is persuaded will not apollumi which means to destroy or lose. However, by putting the ap at the beginning, it makes this a stronger type of destruction, a permanent destruction. We will not be permanently destroyed but instead have aionios zoe.  The word aion means an age or lifetime, adding the ios means an age that never ends, thus eternal. While zoe does mean life, it is a physical and spiritual form of life. John did not use the word psuche which also means life, but a means our spirit or breath, or an individual personality. Zoe is more generic, like when we say, “Now that person is really living!”, meaning a full, animated, zestful life.

At first glance, this love seems conditional, because belief is required to get eternal life. Look again, God’s gift of his only son was not conditioned based. His preference or agapeo is present independent of our belief. The deed’s been done; Jesus was born. The conditions have nothing to do with the love, but are the framework necessary to lead to greater understanding, life changing decisions, and ultimate wholeness.

This Christmas as I ponder the gift of God with us, I want to also reflect on agapeo. Do I make my love for others dependent on them meeting the conditions I set, or are the conditions just a framework for overall wellness and I love despite them being met?

Not Consumed


Lamentations 3:19-27 New International Version (NIV)
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. “

Recent events in my life have brought me back to this great verse, memorized many years ago. However, I’ve never looked in depth at it.

The passages leading up to verse 21 are pretty miserable.  Historians feel this book was written by the prophet Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem. Undoubtedly a dark time for the Jews.  It is written as a poem, and as many poems of the time, it is an acrostic, meaning that each stanza begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Right before the poem makes an abrupt change, the author summarizes his earlier bemoaning by saying that he remembers these afflictions, the la’anah and rosh which were Hebrew words for the bitter herb Wormwood and for poison or venom from a serpent. These memories literally cause his soul to shuach or sink down within him.  I can not think of a better way to describe depression or grief.

Then the mood changes as Jeremiah calls something to mind, or shub which in Hebrew means to turn back or return.  In other words he deliberately stops his depressing decent by thinking, or returning to truths he already knows which allows something incredible to happen; hope.

The great truth he claims is that the Lord is so tenderhearted that we are not consumed. The Hebrew word is tamam which really means finished, spent, destroyed, ended, gone. We won’t get to our end, or as the NIV says, be consumed so that nothing’s left. Why? Because His compassions never end. Here’s another great visual, for the word compassion is the Hebrew word racham which in a literal since means womb. Symbolically there is no greater tender love than that from a mother to an infant. That merciful love from God towards us will never be spent or finished.

Not only does it never end, that compassion is new every morning. From the Hebrew, it is fresh at the break of dawn, and just like the sun’s rays burst onto the horizon each day, so do we start fresh.

More than our need to return or look back to truths we know in times of despair, Jeremiah models another behavior that helps, as he talks to himself. He is claiming something out loud to himself, that the Lord is his portion. This Hebrew word, cheleq is talking about a territory or inheritance. The phrase comes from Numbers 18:20 where God tells Aaron, unlike the other tribes of Judah, his tribe won’t get any land or inheritance, instead they get God. Jeremiah is reminding himself that God is all he needs, God is his inheritance and because of this he has hope. Although translated into wait – the word is the same as the “hope” claimed in verse 21.

Finally he claims that God will show kindness or goodness to those who do wait and to those who seek him. The word for seek is darash which is a searching, questioning, pursuing. There is action in this as well, and to me this gives permission to question misery.

When our spirit sinks then we must look back to the truths we know about God’s mercies, we certainly can question and seek answers, but ultimately we must talk to ourselves to remind our souls that God is enough.

Double Minded


James 1:5-8 New International Version (NIV)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

This passage comes just after James has told us to be joyful in trials, as troubles ultimately make us more complete humans. However, James doesn’t expect us to go through these trials in the dark. For now in vs 5, he recommends that we ask God for wisdom. The Greek word sophia used for wisdom means clarity. In other words, if you don’t get it and something isn’t making sense – then ask!

The visual for the next part is nice – this giving of wisdom is done generously – the Greek word haplos literally means without folds, meaning nothing held back or hidden.  Clarity then unfolds around us, simple and frank without wrinkles.  Sounds refreshing, so how to get this wisdom?  Three things: We must ask, we must believe, we must not doubt.

The first part is asking. This word is not a brief inquiry like other times that the word ask is used in the Bible. This is aiteo, which also means to beg or demand. The tone is of a pleading nature. The request cannot be flippant, we must be sincere.

The second part is equally important, to have faith or belief when we ask. The Greek word pistis more literally means that you’ve been persuaded. It is something foundational to this pursuit, and we must be persuaded that what we seek is truth.

The third part is the challenge for me. I’ve always read this as “doubt” being the opposite of faith, so basically not believing  But it is actually more complicated, the Greek word is diakrino, broken down to dia meaning back and forth and krino meaning to judge.  James is adding another dimension then by suggesting that those who waver back and forth in their decision making won’t get wisdom.  The following visual explains doubt as being like a wave in a violently agitated sea, with the wind driving and tossing them back and forth. He adds more, saying someone who can’t make a decision, going back and forth is really a double minded person. In Greek this is dipsuchos literally someone with 2 souls. It is possible then to have faith and yet be still wresting with another belief. I think the easiest example of having two souls is our desire to follow God and at the same time still following self.

Until we put to death our self will, self interests, etc then even when we plead for answers in faith, we probably won’t get the wisdom we seek.  Is it because God won’t grant it? No… remember he gives to ALL. It’s because of us, as vs 7 uses the word “receive”.  This Greek word is lambano, which means receive and to take, with the emphasis on the assertiveness of the receiver. In other words, in our double minded state, although wisdom may be offered, we don’t take hold or accept it.

What’s the ultimate consequence of not having clarity when troubles come? Being unsettled. This section ends with the words, “unstable in all they do”. Turning to the Greek the word akatastatos literally means unsettled, and hodos is a journey or path.

Are you unsettled in your journey? Need clarity and wisdom to the nature of the events around you? Then ask sincerely, believing completely, without any back and forth internally. If there is internal wavering, where is the double mindedness? Most often it’s our selfish nature struggling with the divine.

Unworthy Servant?


Luke 17:7-10 New International Version (NIV)

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

This isn’t a heartwarming promise of gratitude. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Jesus, talking to his disciples, has some lessons for us to heed.

The story is that of a servant, and by servant I mean someone bound to another. Metaphorically this is someone who has given himself up wholly to another’s will. The servant does something ordered or prescribed and basically Jesus says not to expect that these actions suddenly change the nature of the relationship. The teachable point is to us, Jesus actually says, “So you”… that means me and you, we should say to ourselves “we are unworthy”.

The Greek for the word unworthy is achreios which also means unprofitable, useless and unneeded. Another humility reminder. We live in a society that tells us we are special so often, that I think at times this is our approach to God. It’s a hard to remember that actually, we are not needed. There’s a great quote by CS Lewis that speaks to this, “He who needs nothing, chose to need us, because we need to be needed”.

The next truth in this passage reminds us of our relationship to God. 1 Corinthians 7:22 says it well, “..likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant”.  When we turn over our lives to Christ, we are essentially becoming bound, a bond-servant, to him. As such, this passage reminds us there are things expected for us to do.  These expectations aren’t done to earn affection, or improve status, but are merely our duty.

Here comes the great paradox of Christ. Though we are meant to be slaves unto him, shifting our will to his will, astonishingly he molds that bond into that of adoption. Galatians 4:7 specifically says, “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

Paradoxes are confusing! I think the message from Christ is this: We are unneeded slaves who should do good things not to earn his love or improve our status. Reading the Bible, going to church, serving our neighbors, this is expected. If we do those things to get a seat at his table we are missing the point.  The secret is, though unworthy bond-servants, we are already at his table, adopted as heirs, welcome to his riches because of love and not from doing our duties.

Time to check my actions. Why do I do what I do? Am I expecting thanks? Am I expecting blessings? Do I think this will move me closer to God? And can I really identify with being unworthy? Until I recognize I am not needed, I won’t grasp how profound it is that God has actually chosen to need me.