Why Would God Say Something Like THAT?

“Why would God say something like THAT?”

My feisty little 7-year-old was fit to be tied. We had just finished reading a Bible story, and she was overwhelmed with what seemed to her an outrageous, unfair, one-sided, mean thing to say on the part of God.

What Abraham Can Believe

She had heard the story of Abraham, the Hebrew big shot and proverbial friend of God, who tells a lie so big I wonder if his nose might have grown a bit.  The faith-filled patriarch can believe God to guide him from his comfortable home in metropolitan Ur to some undisclosed, mystery land while he wanders around tent-dwelling and cow chip-jumping with his post-menopausal wife who will somehow bear his offspring.

What Abraham Can’t Believe

But Abraham can’t believe God will spare his life once foreign men see the beauty of Sarah, his wife, since they will undoubtedly want to take her for their own.

May we all have husbands so bedazzled by our perfect facial symmetry.

So when Abraham travels to a foreign land, he tells the king that Sarah is his sister.

And he tells Sarah to say that he is her brother.

And she does.

The Hiccup

Never mind that weird little thing about them actually being half-siblings that evokes all kinds of icky discomfort–that will have to be fodder for another day’s fire. Let’s just understand that Abraham lies to save his own rear end, and Sarah goes along with it.

The Plot Thickens

The king is delighted to hear  Sarah is Abraham’s sister, and so at the suggestion of his men, he takes her to be his own wife. Now listen to how the rest of the story unfolds in the soap opera of Genesis, chapter 20:

2-3 So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelech in a dream that night and told him, “You’re as good as dead—that woman you took, she’s a married woman.”

4-5 Now Abimelech had not yet slept with her, hadn’t so much as touched her. He said, “Master, would you kill an innocent man? Didn’t he tell me, ‘She’s my sister’? And didn’t she herself say, ‘He’s my brother’? I had no idea I was doing anything wrong when I did this.”

6-7 God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know your intentions were pure, that’s why I kept you from sinning against me; I was the one who kept you from going to bed with her. So now give the man’s wife back to him. He’s a prophet and will pray for you—pray for your life. If you don’t give her back, know that it’s certain death both for you and everyone in your family.”

17-18 Then Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his maidservants, and they started having babies again. For God had shut down every womb in Abimelech’s household on account of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  (Genesis 20:2-7; 17-18, The Message)


So the guy who knows God tells a big old fat one and gets the guy who doesn’t know God in trouble. But it’s the guy who doesn’t know God who is punished while the devout liar walks away unscathed.

I felt my 7-year-old’s frustration the first time I heard that story, and a whole lot of others just like it.

Seemed like God would have a better handle on his people.

Or like his people would have a better handle on God.

Or like life would work out more agreeably for people who do right things versus people who do wrong things.

The But-Kicker

Then it occurred to me that those kinds of stories are fairy tales, and that The Bible does not fall under that umbrella. God’s Word is not primarily the story of great pillars of the faith deserving of God’s praise and our imitation. It is the story of God’s grace and redemption in the life of the proud, short-sighted, unfaithful, lying, adulterous screw-ups who can’t find their way to the only porch with a light on–even with a heavenly GPS to show the way.

The pitifully imperfect.

Just like you and me.

So the next time God’s ways seem weird, be glad. He’s probably reminding us of how he is completely unlike we expect him to be, and how he does exactly what we don’t expect him to do. And drawing our attention to the outrageous,  unfair, one-sided, mean things he forgives all the time.

Wherever you are, whoever you are–he will work with you!











I Don’t Know What “Made Love” Means

Yep–that’s what the image says: “I don’t know what ‘made love’ means.”

Let me explain.

These last couple of months the developing of But-Kickers has been a big deal in our home. I’ve been on the lookout for “big but faith,” seeking to annihilate it wherever it lurks. And I’ve been the super-vigilant Wonder Mom who makes sure her own child doesn’t fall into that shallow belief pit that can’t put up with a cloudy day or a stubbed toe.

So how did I do it?

With the Word of God, of course. I figured, Hey, I’ll have Kaki read through the whole Bible just like I’m reading through the whole Bible, and we’ll talk over those faith issues that make you say, “Huh?” I’ll even have her write out her observations . . . So what if she’s just five weeks out of first grade?

Several days later after going through several chapters of Genesis together, I was so impressed with my little genius. She wondered what it meant to be cursed, whether snakes used to have legs or if they hopped around on their tails, and she wondered if any of the fish God created looked like Nemo.

Then came Genesis, chapter 4. By then I was thoroughly convinced Kaki could fly the plane solo. I queued up BibleGateway so she could hear the Word while following along in her Bible.

I walked away to give her a chance to work alone.

A few minutes later when I checked to see how she was doing, I found that she had already finished the chapter and written her observations. Great over-estimator of reality that I am, I was ready for Kaki to ask why Cain was so angry, why God liked some offerings but not others, and why a man would have two wives.

Instead I saw Kaki with a confused look on her face as she showed me what she had written: “I don’t know what ‘made love’ means.”

She had never gotten past verse 1: “Adam made love to his wife, Eve.”

So much for the deep theological, discussion on faith-bearing issues–at least on that day. She had one simple question.

And so I answered it with a bird, a bee, and a boatload of hugs and kisses.

Then we were done.

At least for that day.


A Lesson from My Seven-Year-Old: The Family Recipe?

My seven-year-0ld daughter and I watched our favorite cooking show last week in preparation for the Fourth of July. The show featured a chef who had built a catering business and a restaurant inspired by his grandfather’s recipe of a toe-curling barbecue sauce that sounded like you couldn’t even taste it properly without taking off your shoes. Kaki and I wanted that recipe. We anticipated something that would compel us to eat a Frisbee if it were marinated long enough; after all, we were talking about Memphis BBQ, right?

Before his great revelation, the BBQ chef admitted he was confused as to why his businesses hadn’t really soared like he thought they would–why he didn’t have people holding him hostage for that family recipe.  He called a mentor chef for help. But when the mentor said he didn’t like the sauce the BBQ chef just stared at him. There was no way anyone was going to tell him his family recipe wasn’t gold.

Then came the showdown. The BBQ chef was ready to tell the mentor how he made his special sauce, and was ready to prove that something was wrong with the mentor’s palate if he wasn’t slapping himself after  eating it . . . Commercial break, ugh! . . . Then shockingly unashamedly, the chef plunked down a gallon-size bottle of his local supermarket’s BBQ sauce along with three or four other ingredients, which I believe included ketchup and mustard.


Even my seven-year-old had to catch her jaw before it hit the floor.

“Mommy?” she asked as if her world just stopped spinning. “Is he saying he made barbecue sauce out of barbecue sauce?

Still unbelieving myself, I shook my head. “I guess so, honey.”

In the sixteen years that chef had in the BBQ business, I’ll bet he came up with some pretty innovative ideas and recipes. Still, his creative juices were limited to doctoring up an already-made product–someone else’s stuff.

This stands in such contrast to God who created the world out of absolutely nothing. Read Genesis 1 and 2 for yourself.

You were made in the image of God, and you too are creative. Just ask Him to help you get those creative juices flowing. It may take a while, and it may not be easy. But don’t ever settle for someone else’s stuff when you’re making your family recipe.

Let’s depend on the One who doesn’t need barbecue sauce to come up with . . . barbecue sauce.






Considering Culture (Prodigal Pilates, Part 3)

I just realized the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal sonS is an even bigger jerk than I thought a week ago.

Notice how the presence of the elder brother is confirmed right at the beginning of the parable (Luke 15:11, 12):  “There was a man who had TWO sons . . . So he divided his property between THEM.”   Though the elder brother says nothing, he is as present here as when he explodes in conversation with his father outside the banquet hall at the end of the parable.

What would you say if you knew it was the duty of elder brothers in Middle Eastern society to keep the peace at  home, particularly if there was a problem between a younger sibling and the father?  The elder brother, who would have been the person closest to both the father and the problematic sibling, should have protested violently when his younger brother essentially wished their father dead by asking for his inheritance while the father was still alive.

But the elder brother doesn’t do that.

What’s more, under these circumstances, the elder brother should have refused his own portion of the father’s inheritance so as to honor the patriarch.

But the elder brother doesn’t do that either.

What does this reveal to you about the elder brother’s heart and motive(s)?

(Reference:  Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15  by Kenneth Bailey, Concordia, 1992)