Tag Archives: Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups

John 19:23-30 — “The Crucifixion” by Eric Gill

The above image called “The Crucifixion” and was created by Eric Gill. It is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard.

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did.

25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:23-30 (NLT)

Dear God, as I sat down to look at this image this morning, even before reading the passage from John, I noticed something interesting. I noticed the circles around some of the characters’ heads–indicating they were saints, sanctified, or holy. One was Jesus. Two were obviously women (bottom of cross to the right). One was a man. At first I thought this might be the thief whom Jesus assured would be in paradise, but the face is clean and looking up–not dying. No, this is apparently John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. There is a fifth circle for the person on their knees to the left of the cross. It kind of looks like a woman, but I cannot be sure. Again, after reading the passage, I assume it is one of the other two Mary’s or Jesus’s mother Mary’s sister.

Other things I noticed that the artist, Eric Gill, chose to share with us (side note–I just looked up the artist for a link to share here and found that he apparently sexually abused his daughters. Completely heinous! But does it inform the art a little in that, while he allowed Jesus some modesty, he showed one of the thieves completely naked?): He portrays Jesus’s feet separately and not nailed together–I wonder why. He shows women and men who aren’t sanctified–no circles. I understand the man could represent the Pharisees, but who are the two women in front on John (in Gill’s mind). Who do they represent? It’s a reminder to me that it was likely both men and women who were glad to see Jesus die.

I confess, Father, that I know I would have been one of them had I been there at the time. I would not have believed. I don’t know that I’d have followed all of the way to the cross, but when I heard that the troublemaker, Jesus, had died I would have been happy. I am a fool, but knowing this about myself and how much I still love you gives me mercy for the non-sanctified people in the picture. I am sure you have mercy for them too. How do I know? Because Jesus asked you to. He did that so that every head in that picture would have a circle around it. So I join him in asking that you forgive me for what I am doing. Please allow for my foolishness and sinfulness in your plan.

In Jesus’s name, his wonderful, merciful, powerful, glorious name I pray,



Tags: , ,


“Ehud” by Ryan Stander.

Dear God, this is such an interesting story, and the artist’s interpretation of it is something I would not have considered. It really is a bit like a plot you’d see in a movie. In this case, Stander is comparing Eglon to Jabba the Hut. Ehud is James Bond. There’s a toilet. A lock and key. A watch to indicate the amount of time the servants waited for Eglon to finish what they thought he was doing. There is the line, “Lefties have rights too.” I’m not exactly sure what the device on the left is, but it looks like some sort of press. And then there is the 007 with the gun logo on the bottom left. Yeah, I guess it’s all there.

So what else is in this story that’s not in the artwork? Howa bout the Israelites crying out. They also sent a tribute to Eglon through Ehud. They have a gun instead of a sword. And the artist doesn’t show the violence done to Eglon. It tells the parts of the story around the violence. And then the story in Bustard’s book stops before it gets to the part where Ehud leads them to freedom from and dominance over the Moabites. It doesn’t mention the 80 years of peace or the fact that after Ehud died the Israelites went back to their old ways.

In this case, I wonder what their old ways looked like. Worshiping physical idols? Not worshiping you? Not loving the poor? It’s a little vague, but I am, once again, reminded that we read these stories quickly, but they last over the course of a lifetime. People lived and died during this 80-year period.

Father, I’m not sure where they application is for me, but I do know that Stander’s art here made me think of the secret agent-style tale that this is. There is everything from clandestine attacks to snarky comedy. It’s amazing what’s in the Bible. I guess my request from you as I conclude this time is to ask that you please show me how I am like the Israelites without Ehud and make me like an Israelite who lived under Ehud’s leadership.

In Jesus’s name I pray,


Leave a comment

Posted by on November 21, 2021 in Judges


Tags: , , ,

“The Faithfulness of God” — Lamentations 3:14-24

The above image is from
Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “Lamentations: Send Your Rain” and was created by Steve Prince.

My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink. He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
Lamentations 3:14-24

Dear God, yesterday, over lunch with a friend, I talked about how I’ve been disappointed with you in the past. I felt like you let me down when I had done my best to be faithful to you. My path got harder and more painful than I thought I deserved. What a beautiful portrait of that kind of pain this passage from Lamentations is! It expresses exactly what I was describing to my friend yesterday. I was filled with bitterness and felt you had given me a bitter cup to swallow. My peace (which I treasure from my relationship with you more than anything) was gone. “Everything I had hoped for from the Lord [was] lost!” But you used that experience to help me enter into a completely new place. I haven’t arrived. I’m not perfect. And I still can revel in self-pity with the best of them. Yet you taught me through that time to still “dare to hope.” You taught me to turn loose of what I thought I deserved at every level. Marriage. Children. Work. Money. Okay, like I said, I still fall into the traps of feeling like I deserve those things, but I can feel the progress I’ve made, and I’m grateful.

As for this image by Steve Prince, let me spend some time with it and see what be noticed and put into it.

  • It appears to be a tribals-type woman who is not fully clothed.
  • There is something ominous behind her. I originally thought she held the umbrella, but it is the mysterious figure behind her that holds the umbrella for her.
  • She has her right hand around her abdomen. Is she pregnant?
  • The train is not only falling, but it is blowing in from an angle. This isn’t just a shower. It’s a storm that requires the umbrella to be held against it.
  • It looks like umbrella is made of some time of leaves or thatch.
  • The man holding the umbrella has his left hand (with pretty gnarled fingers) around the woman’s waist.
  • The man is under the umbrella with her.
  • The man’s clothes cover more of him than her clothes cover of her. He even has a head covering while she has none.
  • Her scarf is blowing in the wind to support the idea of a storm.
  • It looks like she is trying to help with the umbrella, but it’s obvious that he is the one with control over it.
  • Her eyes are closed and she looks like she is just surviving, while the man looks confident and sure. His left arm around her indicates care.
  • The more I look at the picture the less ominous the man looks. He is becoming more noble in my eyes.
  • The piece is titled “Send Your Rain.” Is this storm from you for my good? Is this a rain that actually nurtures while it challenges? I like that thought.

Here is what Bustard says about the image:

This print is from the same series as Exodus: Bread from Heaven and therefore is intended to be a look at an Old Testament passage through the lens of a love story. This image shows a couple walking through a storm, which is symbolic of the suffering, pain, and destruction documented in the book of Lamentations. The husband clings to his wife as they move in faith through the storm. In the midst of the raindrops three elongated figures forms (alluding to the Trinity/Holy Spirit) create a covering over the couple. The woman clutching her abdomen is a symbol of hope and renewal as it represents the imminent arrival of a child. The presence of the Cross is created by the subtle placement of the woman’s finger overlapping the rod of the umbrella. It is by faith they walk, and the Holy Spirit amplifies their love through the storms of life.

So, I never thought of them as being a couple. I was thinking more of the woman representing your people and the man representing you. We are your bride. But you are in the umbrella? Hmm. That’s interesting. I have to admit, I really like the idea of this depicting my wife and me going through this together. Over the last 10 years, we’ve really needed each other in ways we never imagined. And we’ve needed you.

Father, help me to hold on to you. You don’t have to take away the storm for me to have faith in you. I’m slowly learning that. And help me to really believe and have faith in the fact that your steadfast love never ceases and your mercies never come to an end. You renew me every morning through your faithfulness to me. Great is your faithfulness, oh Lord. You are my portion, and I will hope in you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



Tags: , , ,

The Fiery Furnace – Daniel 3:14-23

The above image is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “Even If” and was created by Ned Bustard.

Daniel 3:13-23
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ” Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

Dear God, before I get into the artwork that accompanies this story, I want to spend a little time with a revelation that I had. Christians/Jews in the Bible who were living in exile or under the rule of a non-Jewish/Christian king didn’t seem to complain about persecution. Whether it was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in this story or Paul, Peter, or any of the other martyrs in the New Testament, they seem to take it in stride. Now, I’m sure they were scared and frustrated, but they seemingly dealt with that internally and with you. Externally, however, they just worshipped you through it.

Contrast that with how a lot of Christians respond to what they call “persecution of Christians” in our country today. First, I hardly think it can be called persecution in light of what real persecution looks like. But I hear a lot of whining about Christians being persecuted. Outside of the enforcement of the separation between church and state rules that have been set up, I’m not even totally sure what they’ve been referring to. And maybe I have only a limited picture because I live in the South where there are still large parts of the community that honor faith, but even so, whining is not how to be a witness for you. In this case, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego influenced the king by their faith in action, not by complaining to him that he was being unfair. Paul and Peter were the same way. Letting our faith shine in the midst of trials is what changes hearts. Complaining only makes others tune us out.

Okay, with that being said, let me take a look at this image created by Bustard and see what I see before I read his description.

  • You are overlooking Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego with your arms out wide and your hands open. Everything about you is outstretched and present.
  • Your eyes are focused on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
  • The flames are very present. They have not been removed. The three of them had to go into the fire.
  • The three men are certainly given distinct looks and hair styles.
  • The one on the right with the curly hair seems to have a rye smile.
  • All three of the men are looking at us while you are focused on them.
  • The guard is dead and the fire had already skeletonized him.
  • The guard is holding a bellows, indicating that he was part of making the fire as hot as possible and he paid a priced for it.
    • He sacrificed his life out of obedience to a king/god that couldn’t save him from the fire that you saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from.
  • I just noticed a triangle behind your head. Is that a reference to the Trinity? If so, that’s a nice touch.

With that said, here is what Bustard said about his piece “Even If.”

The title for this piece comes from a different translation of the “But if not” protest against Nebuchadnezzar made by these three young men in this passage. And at the end of the passage above it looks like God will not save them. The poor Persian soldier on furnace duty that day lies on the ground, burned hallway to the bones by the incredible heat, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are doomed to be burned to death. But then the king was astonished to see four men unbound, walking  unhurt in the fire. God had chosen to save them. He protected them from the king, from the heat, and from death. The appearance of the fourth man in the fire represents a theophany–God revealing himself in human form before the incarnation. Other such appearances include Genesis 32:24-30 and Joshua 5:13-15.

Father, I will follow you “even if” you choose not to save me from earthly situations. I will follow you “even if” I am disappointed with how things that I for which I’m praying turn out. I will follow you “even if” I am angry with you. I will follow you “even if” the road is hard. Let “even if” be my mantra today. I have nothing to prove to anyone else. I am following you “even if” they can’t understand why. But with that said, let my life be an example to others of why, and draw others to yourself through what they see of you in me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



Tags: , , , , , ,

Interpretation of Dream — Genesis 41:1-13

The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “Joseph and the Dreams” and was created by Wayne Forte.

After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh. Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”
Genesis 41:1-13

Dear God, it feels like it’s been a while since I really dug in and spent some time with one of the images from the Bustard book Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups. There is so much in this image, I might need to break my observations into categories.

Chief Cup Bearer:

  • The original dream had three branches on the vines and I see three clusters of grapes.
  • The cup bearer is small combed hair and clean shaven.
  • The cup bearer is dressed.
  • The cub bearer is obviously bearing a cup for Pharaoh.

Chief Baker:

  • The baker is hanging (some translations say he was impaled, but the artist went with the hanging translation).
  • The baker is naked.
  • The birds are literally eating his flesh while he is still hanging.
  • There is a basked by his feet to represent the basket that had been on his head in the dream.
  • In death, his face is turned towards Pharaoh.


  • Pharaoh is seen as being much larger than the cup bearer.
  • His headpiece has a cobra snake on it.
  • He has the traditional eye make-up to make it obvious to us that this is Pharaoh.
  • There is a fence as a backdrop in the image. I’m not sure what that is about. Could that represent the wall that Joseph is behind, still in prison. It’s interesting that Joseph is not represented in this image.

I’ve made these observations before reading what Bustard had to say about this piece and this story.

John Piper writes: “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph…is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” It is often difficult to see the point of the evil circumstances in our lives, but examples like the life of Joseph serve as reminders that God is actively working for our benefit. The sometimes circuitous paths he sets us on are to keep us loving him and depending on him. They are for our good and his glory.

I like the line “…examples like the life of Joseph serve as reminders…” because the structure of the Bible is such an interesting way for you to have communicated with us and laid out the bread crumbs for us to find our way to you. I was thinking about this recently. How else would I have done it? If I were God, would I have just laid out a manual with a bunch of rules or would I just give example after example of how I have interacted with my people over thousands of years? Obviously, you picked the latter, and while that certainly gives impacts the way we develop as individuals and corporately as the church it also gives us greater insight into you. In storytelling parlance, you show more than you tell.

Father, help me to remember that you are sovereign and that there is a plan. Let that faith in something I cannot always see sustain me in my pursuit of you and the peace I experience in you. Be glorified in me so that others might be drawn to you as well.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



Tags: , , , , , ,

Pentecost — Acts 2:1-12

The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “Communion/Pentecost” and was created by Chris Stoffel Overvoorde.

Acts 2:1-12
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Dear God, I have spent so much time with the passages about the Holy Spirit this week that it’s nice to have a fresh take on it, and the fact that I have this piece of art from Chris Stoffel Overvoorde is great. So let me take a look and se what I can see that Overvoorde might be telling me about his interpretation of the story.

  • The easiest people to make out are the man and woman silhouetted at the front of the image. I’m assuming these are the people who came to the apostles after the spirit moved through.
  • One of the people represented is a woman. Of course there was a woman there. We don’t normally picture that, but there must have been many women among the 3,000 who would become believers that day.
  • There is light flooding from above. I assume this is the Holy Spirit descending from Heaven and into humanity through the original apostles.
  • I can count nine faces that seem to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. The other three (we’ll throw Matthias in there since he was just made an apostle at the end of chapter 1) are likely there too, but not pictured.
  • I think that is a hand reaching out by the silhouetted man’s face. We’ll assume that represents Peter speaking to everyone a little later.
  • Artistically, there is a vague shape of a cross depicted where the Spirit is. The others are in darkness, but coming to the light.

Of this picture, Bustard writes:

The disciples of Christ are gathered together in an upper room just before Pentecost. There is expectation and fear in the various expressions around the table. The Spirit was promised by Jesus when he ascended, but for now they must simply wait and hope. They are in communion with each other and sharing in the Eucharist. The interplay of light and dark created by their bodies close together forms the shape of the Cross, symbolizing that together they are the body of Christ.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit–Trinity–please be with me this morning as I preach. I pray that you will be in that room. I am almost afraid to pray this for what it could really mean, but please show up today. Show up in our church and your church all over the world. Surprise us. Use me. Help me to not look for any glory for myself this morning. Help me to decrease as you increase. Shine through me, sweet Jesus. Holy Spirit, please be with me and pray for me.

I pray all of this in submission to the name of Jesus my savior and with the help of the Holy Spirit, my God with me,


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 9, 2019 in Acts


Tags: , , , ,

The Flood – Genesis 7:17-24

The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “And Such Were You” and was created by Matthew L. Clark and Ned Bustard.

Dear God, I looked at this passage this morning and looked at the picture for a while and, frankly, I was having trouble getting anything from it. Then I read Bustard’s commentary in the bottom paragraph on the left. It says:

This large woodcut lifts the wave from the famous Ulithi-e woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai Katsushika and the ark from a small Washington print by Saadi Watanabe to create an image intended to communicate the idea of God’s goodness as seen through the preservation and redemption of the unworthy. The animals on this ark are not the cute, innocent animals found in a Noah’s Ark play set. According to the traditional symbolism in Christian art, these animals are all evil: the bear (evil influence), the cat (laziness), the goat (the damned), the blackbird (temptation of the flesh), the ape (malice), the leopard (cruelty), the owl (devotion), the hog (gluttony) and the fox (guile). The passengers on the ark that God chooses to save are undeserving–as are the people described in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

So, of course, after I read that, I went to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral nor idolators nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor greedy nor dunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)

Yes, I like this. I like Bustard’s idea that you saved the unworthy with the ark and you saved me, the unworthy, with Jesus. The trick is, how do I stop grieving you with wickedness in my heart. And it’s not just the obvious that sticks out on the Corinthians passage like the idolatry and sexual immorality, but it’s the seemingly little things like slander, drunkenness and stealing. No one is innocent. We love to judge others, but none of us are pure.

Father, help me to embrace your forgiveness and pursue you. Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me, extend grace when it isn’t deserved and being your light of love, joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness and self control into the world.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



Tags: , , , ,

Elijah Stands Before the Lord – 1 Kings 19:11-18

The above image is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “A Gentle Whisper” and was created by Justin Sorensen.

1 Kings 19:11-18

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

Dear God, Bustard didn’t include verse 10 in this lesson, but I think it’s important because it starts with you asking Elijah a question and then Elijah answers. It is after this exchange that you decide to “pass by.”

There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

Elijah passively accuses you of the same thing I have accused you of. He feels like you have let him down. You have disappointed him. I have felt disappointed by you too. For Elijah, I think he felt like he “zealously served” you and you still didn’t come through with the people falling into line. After he did such a great job, why should his life be on the line?

Then you told him to get ready because you were going to come by. And you did some things that would physically scare him. A huge wind that crumbled rocks. An earthquake. Fire. Were you showing him that you could take his life in a minute? Were you making that point to him?

What I’ve always liked about this story is that when you showed up you were gentle. A gentle whisper is what you used to once again ask your question of Elijah: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” His answer didn’t change, but I wonder if his tone of voice did. Was there anger in his first answer? Were there tears in the second?

My wife and I were talking this morning about the fine line we often cross between feeling close to you and living in the Spirit and being completely fallen. Thank you that you give us people like Elijah who experienced the same thing.

Now, regarding this image, here we have Elijah with the cloak he put over his own eyes, and I assume that is your presence approaching his face. Is that a knife? A claw? A feather? I don’t know. Here is what the artist, Justin Sorensen, says about this story:

I’ve always been interested in how the specs tackle of the fire or earthquake didn’t touch Elijah at his core the way the gentleness of a whisper did. The ordinariness of the whisper really strikes me. My tendency is always to look for God in the places I expect to find him. The whisper seems always to suggest that God can’t be controlled, and that he can manifest himself however he likes. I think the whisper is God’s way of saying to Elijah that he is everywhere, and that he is moving in ways we can’t see. It’s not that God wasn’t whispering up until that point, it’s that Elijah then became aware of it.

Father, help me to consider my life worth nothing to me. Help me to simply finish the race and complete the task you have given me–the task of testifying to your grace.

In Jesus’ name I pray,



Tags: , , , , , ,

The Mockery of Baal — 1 Kings 18:25-29, 36-39

The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “Prophets of Baal” as was created by Diego Jourdan Pereira.

1 Kings 18:25-29,36-39
Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.” So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made. About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response. At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord , are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord —he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

Dear God, before I get into the image the Pereira created to go with this story, I want to focus for a minute on something that struck me while I was reading it. The prophets of Baal went to the links of cutting “themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out.” The thought that I had that I don’t think I have had before is, how many times have I sacrificed myself waiting for an idol to pay off? Yes, looking back it seems like their custom was ridiculous, but is it any different than what I do when I expect my money, my job, my marriage, or my kids to do something for me. When I give and give and give to them not out of love but out of expectation of them, isn’t that just as foolish?

Now, back to this image, I’ll be rank and SA that I cannot make heads or tails of it. Is the large man in the picture Elijah? Are those images of Baal or the prophets of Baal under his arms? I see the bull’s horns on the bottom right. I see the Sun. But I’m not sure what else it is I’m seeing.

Father, at the end of the day, I just need to be reminded that It is easy for me to make idols–even an idol of you. Not the real you, of course, but of the you that my mind wants to create. The you that I expect to give me what I want and do what I want you to do. Making an idol of that image of you is as bad as making an idol out of anything else. I want to worship the real you. The powerful you. Not the you that does what I want you to do. I certainly need a God whom I serve, not one that serves me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,



Tags: , , , , ,

John 11:32-46 — The Raising of Lazarus

The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself was created by Kevin Lindholm and is called “Take Off the Grave Clothes.”

John 11:32-46 [ESV]
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

Dear God, I’ve heard this story many, many times before, but in the spirit of what I’ve been doing with Martha and Mary recently I wanted to spend a little time with it. I went to my new favorite book this morning to see if any of the Martha and Mary stories were in it, and I found Lazarus’s resurrection.

In the spirit of using this book, I want to see what the artist put in here that I might not have thought about before. Let’s see what I can see in the image:

  • He made what the Bible describes as a cave with a stone into more of a tomb in the ground made out of bricks. Hmm. I wonder why.
  • I don’t know if it is Mary or Martha, who has her hand over her mouth, but she is there. Her hair is shorter than I would have expected it to be. Her hand is over her mouth. She is looking at Lazarus.
  • The man helping Mary/Martha isn’t looking at Lazarus, but is looking at her to see her reaction. I never thought much about whether or not the mourners there were mourning because they missed Lazarus or if they were weeping to comfort the sisters. This man seems really interested in Mary’s/Martha’s reaction.
  • Lazarus is partially unbound and exposed. He has one eye open and his left hand and are are free.
  • Radiance is coming from Jesus. Is that the sun behind him? Is the radiance from him? But all of the shadows are falling away from Jesus so it was an intentional choice by the artist to have the source of light be from Jesus’ direction.
  • I think there are a couple of people over Jesus’s left shoulder. Were these mourners? Was one of them the other sister? Disciples?

I guess the thing that I notice in this story is the last phrase: “…but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” What was their motivation? Were they snitches? Were they trying to believers of the Pharisees?

Another thing I’ve learned over the last week as I’ve looked at this story a little more carefully is that there is a lot more to this story than the verses Bustard chose to include here. The first part of this story is really quite interesting in terms of Jesus’s delay, Martha’s approaching of Jesus without Mary, and then Martha’s retrieval of Mary, bringing her to Jesus. In fact, for the woman in the image above to be showing the emotion that she is, and for the man to be so concerned about her, I’ll bet that the artist was thinking about Mary when he drew her.

Father, there are obviously a lot of moving parts to this story, but I think the lessons for me are to be at peace, have faith, and worship you regardless of the answer you give to my prayers. It also tells me that it’s okay to mourn and feel anguish. It’s okay to weep. It is okay for tragedy to upset me. It’s what I do with that angst and frustration that I need to submit to you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,



Tags: , , , , , ,