New Bible/Same Old Story

Consider these illustrations.

What People Think They Need

If I asked if you had a watch, you would probably tell me the time, right? However, I might respond with,

“I didn’t ask for the time, just if you had a watch.”

If the salesman saw me looking at drills and drill bits he probably would say, “Are you needing a new drill, or some new drill bits?” And I might reply,

“No, what I really need is a hole.”

If I were at a Christian Book store looking at Bibles, the sales person might ask, “Are you shopping for new bible?” I could say:

“No, there aren’t any new bibles, it’s been the same for hundreds of years.”

worn out bible 1

People think they need a watch, a drill bit, and a bible.

But What They Really Need

To know the time.

To make a hole.

To embrace the Word of God.

There’s no reason to get a drill bit if you aren’t making holes. There’s no reason to own a watch if you aren’t checking the time. And there’s no reason to have a bible if you aren’t going to read it.

Bibles are copies of the sacred Scriptures. Over time the pages get dog eared and frayed, the binding tears, and the leather starts fading.

worn out bible 2

However, the message remains as fresh and meaningful as ever. There aren’t any new bibles, just new copies and apps and mediums telling the same old story of the old rugged cross.

The Word of the Lord is the substance of God, it’s Holy Spirit inspired, and it is the message of Christ.

To Close

Allow your bible to be more than a shelf ornament, more than a coffee table book, let it be a light for your path, a balm for your soul, and the power unto salvation.

bibles on a shelf

Now, if you’ll excuse me,

I’m off to get a new watch battery and a 3/8” drill bit.


Will The Real Mary Please Stand

What do the following films and plays have in common?

  1. Jesus Christ Super Star
  2. The Last Temptation of Christ
  3. The Passion of the Christ
  4. The Da Vinci Code
  5. Risen

Obviously, they are all stories about Jesus. But they have something else in common, or should I say someone else. They have a character from scripture that people know a lot about. Or at least they think they do. Her name was Mary.

The Seven Mary’s

There are seven women named Mary in the New Testament, some are mentioned prominently, like Mary the mother of Jesus. They can be difficult to identify, like the Mary in Romans 16:6. Who was she?

Historically, there isn’t much information on them. And some of the information we do have may not be accurate.

Another Mary

There is another Mary often mentioned in scripture, more often than many of the apostles were. She was Mary of Magdala or Mary Magdalene. Now, quickly, think about everything you know about her. She was…

  1. a sinful woman.
  2. a prostitute.
  3. the woman who washed Jesus’s feet in Luke 7.
  4. the woman caught in adultery in John 8.
  5. the woman who married Jesus.
  6. his lover.
  7. the mother of his child.

Pop Culture

Almost everything we think we know about Mary Magdalene comes from the movies, plays, and art, such as Da Vinci’s painting of the last supper, and many others.

A painting depicting Mary Magdalene, 1591

Some Facts

Facts are irritating things as they often interfere with the truth, or the truth as we see it. Senator Moynihan of New York is credited with this quote:

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Some Facts From Scripture

  1. Mary Magdalene was never identified as a sinful woman.
  2. The sinful woman who washed his feet was unnamed.
  3. The woman caught in adultery was unnamed.
  4. Mary was never identified as a prostitute.
  5. She was never identified as the wife of Christ.
  6. Or as his lover.
  7. Or as the mother of his child.

Seven little facts about Mary Magdalene, all of which were wrong, or at least unsubstantiated in scripture. Sadly, most of what is believed about her comes out of Hollywood.

Some Biblical Facts

Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her. She was one of several women who traveled with Jesus and his apostles supporting their needs from her funds. She was the first, or one of the first, to see the empty tomb, she was the first to tell the apostles that Jesus had risen. She was the first person the resurrected Jesus appeared to. She stood at Mary’s side, the mother of Jesus, throughout the cross and burial.

Sometimes opinions and myths shape our understanding of truth.

To Close

 Mary Magdalene was a significant person in the Jesus narrative and was someone Jesus called to serve in his ministry. She was well regarded and respected in the early church. She wasn’t the whore often depicted in paintings and films. 

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.


Book Ends: Framing Our Lives

I’m a big fan of book ends.

They aren’t a hobby, I’m not a collector, and I don’t have a cabinet displaying my collection. I just like them. They do a good job of doing what they were designed to do.

book ends
Not my book ends, but close, really very close.

Book Ends

They can be made of wood, metal, or stone. They can be ornate or plain. They come in all sizes, colors, and textures. On second thought, maybe I’ll start collecting book ends. But, probably not.

A Different Kind

 The apostle Peter, like all of us, had his struggles. He was at times proud, egocentric, and presumptuous. He was famous for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

He and I could have been twins.

From John 1:42

 “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.’”

Then, from John 21

 “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

 “Again, Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’”

 “A third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’”

When Jesus spoke to Simon the first time, he used his formal name and said that his name would change to Cephas. Simon would become a Rock, known in the Greek as Peter.

When Jesus spoke to Simon for the last time, he used his formal name again and asked a question three times. But having denied his Lord three times, Simon wasn’t ready to become the Rock, and so he gave answers that were less than Jesus was looking for. Or maybe not, maybe Jesus was pleased that Peter, at last, had demonstrated humility.

Book Ends

Jesus and Simon began and ended with, “Simon, Son of John.”

When Mom was upset she would say,

“Richard Neil Fyffe come in here right now.”

Odd that they called me Rick unless something was wrong, and there was always something wrong, and then it was my full name. Why do parents do that?

Simon was weak sometimes, but he eventually became the Rock. He strengthened his brothers after the crucifixion, organized the replacement for Judas, kept the disciples together in the upper room, and was the key speaker on the day of Pentecost. He became the man Jesus had envisioned.

To Close

Book ends. They frame the outside edges of whatever’s in the middle. What are you on your way to becoming? How is Jesus shaping your life? Can you see it?

I’m a big fan of book ends.


Feeling Trapped, Needing to Sin

Most of us pray for forgiveness after we’ve sinned, not before.

Not These Guys

 Jonah was on a ship headed for the Southwest tip of Spain. He was getting away from God and his prophetic assignment, to go to Nineveh, in Assyria, but Jonah didn’t want to go, so he didn’t.

Well, the Mediterranean developed a violent storm and the sailors realized that Jonah was the cause. They asked him what they should do and Jonah said to throw him overboard, they didn’t want to, but they did.

However, before doing so they prayed to Jonah’s God. 

“O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you O Lord, have done as you pleased.” Jonah 1:14

“Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard.” Jonah 1:15



Praying for forgiveness before we sin, what a concept!  

Some Things Some of Us Do

  1. Pray for safety and break the speed limit the whole way.
  2. Teach kids to respect the law and then throw paper and cigarettes on the ground.
  3. Uphold honesty and integrity but justify little indiscretions. 
  4. Hide our sins because we care more about what others think than what God thinks.
  5. Swear, gossip, complain, and grumble, all sinful, but just little sins, right? 

Feeling Trapped

The sailors were desperate and felt trapped. Their ship was about to break up and they had to do something.

Don’t we feel trapped sometimes? So, we lose our cool, get irritated, and say and do the wrong things. Maybe out of frustration, and maybe out of fear.  

It’s hard to do right every time. Jonah and the sailors didn’t, and neither do we.

To Close

Keep the faith. Stay strong. Wrestle with temptation. Give thanks that we have a Savior who gives mercy and grace. Thank God that he lifts from our shoulders the burden of moral perfection. Thank you Lord!

“Lord, we’re absolutely going to kill this guy, but please don’t hold it against us.”

“Okay boys, chuck him over the side.”

Uh Huh


It Was An Excellent Game!

“Underdog Beats Favored Champion

There were five kinds of viewers of last night’s game:

  1. Patriots Fans
  2. Eagles Fans
  3. Football Fans
  4. Socializers
  5. Commercial Watchers 

Some rooted for the Patriots. Some rooted for the Eagles. Some wanted a close, competitive game. Others watched because they were at a party. And some watched to watch the commercials. 


It was the Super Bowl. 

A Good Game

I thought it was entertaining. It had several lead changes, some fantastic plays, and was close down to the final seconds And my wife had excellent snacks. 

But the underdog beat the favored team. 

The Underdog

There’s just something special about the little guy upsetting the big guy.

In regular life, where the consequences matter, it gets more serious. Both David and Goliath stepped onto the battle field, but only one stepped off, it was the shepherd boy, a huge upset.

We have giants:

  1. competitors
  2. enemies
  3. rivals
  4. setbacks
  5. circumstances 

 How we face our giants may be as important, or even more important, than the outcome.

Jesus Said This

“Blessed are you when insulted and persecuted…” Matthew 5:11

“Be reconciled to your brother.” Matthew 5:24

“Make peace quickly with your adversary,” Matthew 5:25

“If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39

“Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

To Close

It’s not a popular viewpoint. Some say it reeks of cowardice and appeasement. But Jesus taught that loving one another was more important than winning the fight.

Certainly, we should stand for truth or we’ll fall for anything. Conviction is vital. But our  path is one of peace, not the sword. We don’t beat others with clubs, or with the truth, we shouldn’t be beating heads at all.

“Underdog Beats Favored Champion”

Congratulations to the Eagles for upsetting your favored opponent!

But for regular life:

“As much as possible, as far it depends on you, live in peace with everyone.” 





A Box of Chocolates?

Forest Gump, from the movie Forest Gump, made this famous:

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”


Can you tell which is which? 

Was He Right?

I can’t tell the ones with coconut from the ones with caramel. I can’t tell just by looking at them and sampling  doesn’t seem right, nobody wants sampled chocolates in the box.

What About Life?

If a box of chocolates is like life, then maybe Forest was right. We can expect something to happen, we just don’t know what it will be.

Some possibilities:

  1. winning the lottery
  2. a call from someone in the past
  3. some really good or bad news
  4. coming down with the flu
  5. getting promoted or terminated

Life’s unpredictable and tough to anticipate. Except for the lottery. Since I’ve never bought a ticket I can open the lid knowing a “lottery chocolate” won’t be in the box. But at some point, I have to stop obsessing about which chocolate is which. 

Hard Wired Behavior

 Some of us are positive and some are negative. Some are optimistic and some are pessimistic. Some have a little of both.

Some of us live with a carefree attitude and some worry about everything. Some live with a little of both.

I don’t want to live my life worrying, but I can’t ignore the realities of life.

What Jesus Said

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” 

“Do not worry.”

Tough teaching, hard to obey, difficult to live.

He began with “Therefore” meaning he was giving commentary to something he just said. Here it is:

“Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

To Close

Worrying is about the heart. If our treasure is heaven, then that’s where our hearts will be. But if our treasure is here, then our hearts are invested in this world. And that means worry and anxiety because everything here is temporary,

Wow, that’s challenging, bold, and demanding, and a little offensive. But is it true?

“Life is like a box of chocolates”

Thanks Forest, well said.


What The Duke Said

“A man’s gotta to what a man’s gotta do”

John Wayne, in his movie “Stagecoach” is credited with making that line famous. But what he actually said was:

“Well, there’s just some things a man can’t run away from.”


Charlton Heston, in his 1956 movie, “Three Violent People” had this line:

“A man must do what he must do”

Steinbeck, in his novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” wrote this:

“I know this man—a man got to do what he got to do.”

By 1962, the line had found its way into pop culture and was used in an episode of “The Jetsons.” George said,

“Ha, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

And So?

Regardless of who said, what does it mean? Is it about determination or fate? Or is it a cliché justifying doing something bad because sometimes a man has to do bad things? I’m sure it has positive and negative applications, but mostly it seems to be negative. 

From Jesus

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37

From James

“but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:9-10

The Things We Do

Almost daily I’m confronted with double sided speech, half-truths, and situational ethics. To be dodgy we spin our words, craft our story, and offer free-falling gossip like water over a dam.

Men will praise you and curse you. They will tell the story one way and then tell it a different way. They evade culpability by shaping their words with slanted intent.

To Close

It shouldn’t be like that. But it is and most of us are guilty.

If we are talking about being virtuous, then yes, we have to tighten our belts and step up to what’s right, regardless of the cost.

If we are talking about the other things, and justifying them, well, then it’s just wrong.

“sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”

Yep, we get it.


Understanding Suffering, Hardly Ever

Keanu Reeves, as Ted in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” said this:

“Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”

Ted was right. Strange things were happening and resulted in the boys having a grand adventure. But often, strange things are neither grand or adventurous, they’re just hard.

Faith & Trust

Sometimes I struggle with God’s word, a sign of weak faith, a lack of trust?

There are Psalms that tell of God’s protection, that he is a shield about me, and will deliver me from hardships. Then there are verses that speak of being pruned and disciplined, and how suffering is good for me.


I don’t always know the what or why of the things that happen to me. Am I supposed to know? 

A Strong Faith

A healthy faith accepts the good with the bad. It gives thanks in all circumstances. However, when does the deliverance happen? Where is the shield that protects me?

Perhaps it’s always there? If he lifted his shield of protection, even for a minute, would I  realize just how much he’s doing for me, in spite of my confusion, pain, and grief?

Some Confusion, Pain and Grief

  1. our stillborn child
  2. sudden, tragic deaths of family and friends
  3. hurtful attacks from wolves in friend’s clothing

When experiencing those “strange things,” I don’t feel thankful, or delivered, or sense his shield is about me.

But later, I do. Strange, isn’t it?

We each face life’s trouble with our experiences and levels of faith, maturity, and knowledge. None of us are the same.

To Close

I’ve not yet found a simple theology that explains everyone’s pain and suffering to everyone’s satisfaction. So, I’ll leave you with this:

Paul wrote:

“—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Don’t be scared of God, be in awe of him, and respect and humble yourself for he works his purpose within you and there is just no way to comprehend the depth of what that means.

“Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”

Well put Ted, there are indeed.


Yes, You Drive In The River!

Chris Farley, as motivational speaker Matt Foley, perfected the phrase,

“I’m living in a van down by the river.”


Perhaps you’ve considered a simpler life with a riverside van, or maybe not? Some rivers are deep while others are shallow, some run fast while others barely move. In the winter, some don’t move at all.

A Recent River

My wife and I spent a few days at a secluded cabin in the Texas Hill Country.

We made the five-hour drive, found the place and checked in. We were looking forward to getting to the cabin, which, as it turned out, required a bit more driving. Now here’s the odd part. The road suddenly ended and it ended in a river. There was a dirt road and then there wasn’t, just a river without a bridge and no way to cross. However, there was a sign indicating that we were to turn left, into the river. At the bottom of the sign was:

“Yes, you drive in the river!”

The river was shallow, slow, and the bottom easily seen, but still, driving into a river seemed wrong, but I finally did, the river bed became our road to the cabin! 

Not our cabin, or the river, and it didn’t have a van, but its close, really very close. 

Another Sign

Here is sign, of a sort, that the apostle Paul wrote:

“For we live by faith and not by sight.”

His message was clear: nothing eternal can be seen in this life. Nope, it’s by faith, by trusting in what our Father promised.

To Close

I read the sign, but my eyes were fixed on the water. The choice was obvious: trust the sign or sit there doing nothing. 

It’s the same with God. The choice is obvious: trust his word or sit doing nothing. It’s a choice we make every day. It’s how we walk by faith.

“Yes, you drive in the river.”