A Nugget for Your Noggin.

I’ve excavated some old Biblical logic in hopes that you will bury it in your brain:

I was reading my Bible Study Fellowship notes while savoring a hot cup of my good friend joe (with cream). The topic was John’s vision of the throne room and everything was clipping along just fine.

“The Bible speaks of other believers who received visions of God’s transcendent nature and character,” a new paragraph began, and it mentioned Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

Good, good, good and good.

And then:

“The apostle Paul was ‘caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.’”

Whoa! What?

When was Paul “caught up to paradise”? I checked the footnote to see what Scripture they based that statement upon.

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.  Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say,  or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  2 Corinthians 12:1-7

How does Paul saying he knew a man who was caught up to the third heaven translate to HIM being caught up to paradise?

I was too comfy and too lazy to get out from under the cozy afghan on my cozy sofa to brave the 22 chilly steps (44 round trip) to my library to grab The Bible Knowledge Commentary, so I stayed put and checked an online commentary.

Matthew Henry: “for doubtless [Paul] himself is the man in Christ of whom he speaks.”

Doubtless? I’m in doubt.

Mr. Henry proceeded to commend Paul for his humility in not referring to himself directly. Paul’s humility? Since when? In that very same chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote:

I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing.  I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.  How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!   2 Corinthians 12:11-13

Paul’s defensive and accusatory remarks don’t sound like the model of humility to me.

Even his self-deprecating remarks come off as humble brags. Take this one, for example:

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. Philippians 3:3-6

And then there are all the I, I, I’s of 1 Timothy 2: I urge, I was appointed, I am telling the truth, I am not lying, I want, I also want, I do not permit.

John often referred to himself indirectly as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and it was well within his personality to do so, he did so consistently and there are verifiable incidents that tie that descriptor to him.

But indirectly and humbly referring to himself in the third person was NOT within Paul’s personality and no where else was it his m.o.

So let’s get logical: In the context of 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 – where Paul is arguing that he is equal to the apostles who actually walked with Jesus – a humble, indirect statement just doesn’t make sense.  If ever there is a time to speak boldly and directly it is when arguing a case or asserting one’s credentials.

Perhaps it was due to Matthew Henry’s impressive and exhaustive work that this doubtful interpretation has been promulgated in commentaries ever since. Even by my beloved BSF – who taught me to read the Scriptures for myself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

When I read, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven,” for myself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  I hear Paul saying that he knew someone who had been given a vision. And that person may have shared it with him. Or that person may have told him he couldn’t share it with him.

And I wonder whether that person was John, because John and Paul may have very likely crossed paths in Ephesus.

Or perhaps it was someone else altogether.

All I know for sure is that Paul DID NOT say that HE was “caught up to paradise.”

So why does the church twist Scripture and logic and temporarily change Paul’s personality in order to say he did?

Perhaps, when it comes to the church’s love affair with Paul, the lover is blind to its beloved’s blemishes.


faith, love, the friends

Barely Breathing

Be’s ashes arrived about an hour ago.  The young man who delivered them to my front door was very kind. As soon as he left, I hugged the little wooden box to my heart and sobbed. I told Be all the things I’ve said to her many times since her diagnosis but also things I wished I had said yesterday.  I wished I had looked her in her bright little eyes and said that I was so sorry to have to say goodbye, that I didn’t want to say goodbye.

The emergency room ultrasound showed a lung had collapsed on one side and fluid was building in her chest cavity on the other side.  Eight days earlier another emergency doc had tapped 600 ml of fluid from her chest.  For six days we marveled at how well she was doing. But Monday she started showing signs that the fluid was building again.

But she never lost her appetite. Yesterday she jumped and twirled when I set down her breakfast bowl. She enthusiastically gobbled it down and then stood at the kitchen island watching me separate meat from bones to make broth.  She stood there as she did whenever I made her bone broth, confident that I would hand her a morsel or two.

I put the bones back into the crock pot, covered them with water, ground the meat and started to load the dishwasher.

That’s when she started panting. That’s when she came back into the kitchen to get me.  She often lead me into the family room to sit with her.  But this time she lead me to the door that leads to the garage. She just stood there as though she was asking to go to the hospital. I called the hub. I called emergency to let them know we were coming.  They were ready with oxygen when we arrived.

The doc said she could tap the fluid again but that it would probably fill up quicker this time – in 2 days rather than 8.  That’s typically the way it goes.

And before I could say anything, my husband said, “No, it’s time to let her go.”

And that made me cry.  And it made me a little deep down mad.

A tech brought Be into the examining room, catheter already in her arm, laid her gently on the table and plugged an oxygen tube into the wall in front of it. She said she’d give us a few minutes to say goodbye. Be’s breathing was labored, even holding oxygen to her nose, and I didn’t want her to be uncomfortable one second longer than necessary. So we had the doc come in right away.

I wish I had taken just a moment though.

I wish I had turned her gently around or slid her a little back so I was in front of her – so she could see me – instead of being behind her.   I was right there hovering over her, stroking her head. My husband was behind me stroking her back. I wish I had been where she could see me.  I wish I had scooped her up and held her after she was gone. I wish I had driven her to the crematorium myself – one last labor of love.  So many regrets. It all happened so quickly.  I wish I had prayed when she was on the table and not just in the car on the way to emergency. I wish I had blessed her one last time, asked God into the room.  I wish I had asked to hold her on my lap while she was getting the injections…

She laid her head down on the table and was asleep before the doc finished pushing the propofol into the cath. Her breathing stopped midway through the injection of the second drug – the euthanasia drug. No twitching, no nothing, just asleep and then quietly gone in less than a minute.

So I hugged the box containing her ashes and sobbed and told her all those things and it was cathartic.  I’m still sobbing and it still hurts and it is pouring rain again.

It hurts so much I can barely breathe.

The turkey bone broth is still simmering in the crock pot, its heartbreaking aroma permeating the house.

Someday, when I step into heaven, Lucybee, the beloved friend I lost three years ago, will run full speed to greet me.  But the little Be will come quietly: she’ll tiptoe up, peek her head around the gate, look up at me with her sweet little face, cock her head and then wag, wag, wag her happy little tail.

Some glorious day.





“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea…,” my co-leader read as she gave her lecture Monday night.  Afterward, as is our practice, she asked the students if they had any questions or comments.

“No sea?,” a young man questioned.  He had just returned from Spring break at the ocean and he didn’t like the sound of that. None of us did.

Another student asked permission to read the footnote in his study Bible.

The footnote said something to the effect that the sea in John’s day was viewed as dangerous and changeable. It was also the source of the beast.

Does that mean that there will be a sea, but not the danger and changeableness that it represents?

Or does it literally mean, no more sea because of the danger it poses? In which case, what about the good things of the sea – the dolphins, the whales, the shrimp?

I had no answers, neither did my co-leader.

So this morning, I looked up the Greek word translated as “sea” in the Revelation 21:1.

The word, thalassa, (thal’-as-sah), according to my online Blue Letter Bible’s interlinear tool, is probably prolonged from the Greek word hals, which means salt.

Perhaps a better translation would be “there was no longer any salt in the sea.”

What makes the sea salty?, I wondered. Is it necessary for sea life?

According to the National Ocean Service, rocks on the land are responsible for the sea’s saltiness.  The acid in rainwater erodes rocks, dissolving bits of them and causing their “salty” sodium and chloride ions to be swept downstream and into the sea.

Hmmm, so, bottom line, it’s rain that ultimately makes the sea salty.

Rain doesn’t actually appear in the Bible until the seventh chapter of Genesis. Quite a bit of human history elapsed between Genesis 2, when mankind was formed and fashioned, and Genesis 7, when rain first appears.

Near as I can figure, prior to Genesis 7, the earth was watered from below.

“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.” Genesis 2:5-6

In rain’s first appearance it is used as a tool of destruction, of judgment.

So perhaps “there was no longer any sea” (or salt in the sea) means there was no longer any judgment.

Or perhaps it means there was no longer both danger and judgment. Or perhaps it simply means there was literally no longer any sea.

What do you think?

When it comes to Revelation, your educated guess is as good as mine.

“Some areas of the ocean are saltier than others. This image shows methane mussels living at the edge of a underwater brine pool in a cavern at a depth of 650 feet in the Gulf of Mexico. The pool of brine in the foreground is nearly four times as salty as seawater and is so dense that a submarine can float on the pool (in fact, this photo was shot from a submarine).”  – from


Don’t Quote Me On This…

As I was catching up on some of my favorite blogs yesterday, I backtracked to pick up where I left off at Away With Words. The delightful author had accepted the Three Day Quote Challenge.

I kept reading… Hey, she tossed the gauntlet to ME, yay!  Thanks friend!

These are the rules:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.


2. Publish 3 quotes on 3 consecutive days on your blog. It can be your own, or from a book, movie or from anyone who inspires you.

Check.  Wait, only three?

And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules. – Barbossa

See what I did there?

3. Nominate 3 more bloggers to carry on this endeavor.

I will.

Now that it’s my turn, how do I choose? I should start with another movie. The hub and I frequently quote movies to one another.  My favorite is whichever one is called for at the moment.  But today I’ll go with the one I quote most often to myself:

It’s supposed to be hard, if it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.  – Jimmy Dugan

Don’t let hard stop you, Jules.

On day two Lew-Ellyn wrote, “I adore quotes. They are like one-liner life lessons… I have quotes on several walls in the rooms of my home and B&B.”

Me too, Lew-Ellyn, me too!

I have quotes all over my house.  I have a collage of quotes on the wall of the hallway that leads to the family room – right across from the lavatory.  I have quotes in the lavatory, and in my kitchen, on sticky notes in my computer, in frames on the walls of my dining room, and atop the buffet.

Soon my dining room will be filled with the bittersweet aromas of roast turkey and trimmings, of love, laughter and loss. So today I’ll share a few words from those walls:

Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting. – Elizabeth Bibesco

A single grateful thought toward heaven is the most complete prayer. – Gotthold Lessing

Few delights can equal the presence of one whom we trust utterly. – George MacDonald

George has lots of great quotes. This one is in honor of election day:

It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellowmen. – George MacDonald

Amen, brother. Happy first Tuesday in November everyone.

Oh and wait! I wouldn’t be me without quoting the Bible.

These words from Daniel 9:

As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed,

coupled with these words from Daniel 10:

Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them,”

are among my favorites.  I quote them often to the students to whom I speak.

Oh to be esteemed by heaven! Oh to have my prayers immediately set angels into action! Oh to have a heavenly messenger come and explain it all to me!

Let’s all set our minds to understanding!

P.S.  If you want (or don’t want) me to toss the gauntlet your way, you have until day 3 to let me know…

faith, Jesus, Light

Stacking Stones: My Cousin Jim

In uncertain times it helps to remember Jim. I did not see him often because he grew up in Florida and I grew up in Michigan.  My family visited his family each year, but he was a few years older, and a boy, so we didn’t interact much.

When Jim was 19 his face was smashed in a bad automobile accident.  His father – an oral surgeon – and a team of plastic surgeons put his face back together.

And then he dove into a gravel pit to help his girlfriend, who was tangled in a branch, and he broke his neck.

In the hospital, on life support, my cousin Jim kept asking his mom to make sure the machines keeping him alive were securely plugged in to the wall sockets.  He worried that someone might trip over the cords and pull them loose.

And then one morning, as my aunt entered his hospital room, she saw peace on her son’s face.  He told her that an angel had visited him.  He was going to die and it was okay.  He was not afraid.

Jim died that afternoon.

But that morning an angel gave a gift to him, to his mom, to me and now to you.  I treasure that gift in my heart and pull it out whenever I need a reminder.

Fear not.

faith, Jesus, life, Light

Nothing Concrete

road 1

My daughter told me about a vile post written by an evil pastor, or perhaps its an evil post written by a vile pastor.  I’m not sure but I’m guessing he is one of those men about whom Jude warned the church.

The post to which I am referring – entitled “Where Do Dead Babies Go?” – asserts that all babies go to hell.  The pastor also puked a post entitled “Ten Women Christian Men Shouldn’t Marry,” but we’ll save that for another day.

I figured I should actually read the post before writing about it, so I did.  There is a lot to refute.  Too much.  Therefore, rather than speak to it point by point, I will just sum it up by saying that his logic and his understanding are faulty and flawed.  Flawed, flawed, flawed.  And if he is not evil, then he is misguided and sorely in need of a renewed mind.

So, where do babies go when they die?  The Bible does not say.

But, knowing God, my guess is that there is not a blanket answer.  God knows our hearts.

Psalm 58 says, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.”

The pastor used this verse to “prove” that we are all wicked from birth.  But it does not say that.  It says the wicked are born that way.  It doesn’t say we are all born that way.

So if the wicked are wicked from birth, then God’s all-knowing brain knows which babies are wicked and which are not.  He knows which ones would yield to Him, if given longer to live, and which ones would stubbornly refuse Him.  And I think He judges accordingly.

Jesus told this story recorded in Luke 16:

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

God knew that a little more time, a little more knowledge and a little more warning would not make a lick of difference.

The pastor wrote:

Now, Romans 10:9 clearly states, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Unfortunately, babies can do neither (to my knowledge).  Which sorrowfully leads me, therefore, to response #2 as perhaps the only biblically tenable response: all babies who die in infancy go to hell.

Shaking my head.

Two words (actually a name and a word):  Balaam’s  Donkey.  If God can make a donkey talk, then He can make a baby talk.

And if rocks can cry out, who is to say a baby’s heart cannot believe?

God to Jeremiah:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

At the risk of being thought a bit of a nut, I have a vague recollection of a conversation I had with God when I was in the womb.  And why not?  If He can talk to me now, He could talk to me then.

In the book/movie, “Heaven is for Real” – based on one family’s testimony – the little boy who went to heaven told his dad that no one is old in heaven.  I started wondering why the boy’s grandpa was a young man in heaven and not say a boy, etc.  And I landed on a theory based on nothing concrete:  What if, instead of remaining the age we were when we died, we remain the age we were when we were born again?  In which case I will be eternally 23.

The only glitch in my theory (the only glitch I can think of at the moment) is that when the little boy in the movie met his miscarried sister she was a child and not a fetus.  My best explanation – actually my only explanation – is that God knows everything – past, present and future.  Perhaps in His omniscience, He knew at which age she would have believed in Him, had she lived.  Life was His plan for her and He knew how that plan would have played out.

So here’s where I stand today:  Do all babies go to heaven?  Probably not.  Do all babies go to hell?  Definitely not.  Does God, who knows every heart, judge according to that intimate knowledge?  That’s what I’m thinking.

I may have a different take on all this when my sinus infection is gone and my head is less fuzzy, but these are my thoughts today.

What do you think?

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2015