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About Janelle Alberts

Janelle Alberts writes pithy Bible synopses and is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. For more on Alberts visit janellealberts.wordpress.com.

Janelle Alberts

Janelle Alberts
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Janelle Alberts writes pithy Bible synopses and is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. For more on Alberts visit janellealberts.wordpress.com.

Does God Even Care?

I once heard a mother speaking with her son about a recess fight with his little friend. The mom said all the usual encouraging things, and then added, “And son, maybe you could talk to God about this.”

 

The little boy turned to his mom with a question.  “Would God care?”

 

He was ready to get personal about this God that his mom had been making him put on church clothes to go sing about every Sunday.  The mom believed that her God cared about this recess situation. Pretty much. But the real question she couldn’t answer was this: “If God cares, then what will He do?”

 

It’s the theme of the whole Bible. Introductions go a little like this:

God: “Hi! I’m God. You are people. I love you.”

People: “Prove it. Then I’ll believe. Pretty much.”

 

And so the stories are told from the Israelites who, after crossing over the dry land of the parted Red Sea looked around only to ask, “Now what’ll we possibly do about dinner?”

And on to the disciples who, after Jesus walked on water and de-demonized a little girl, stood scratching their heads wondering where to get bread in such a remote place to feed so many people.

 

When we are right smack in the middle of a crucial moment, we are confused.

 

We must get it through our head, it’s not about the bread.  Or it’s not just about bread. Certainly there are bread-multiplying, cancer-curing, miraculous moments. But they come and go.

 

The emotion we feel in their absence reveals what we believe about this God. It reveals whether we really believe Him at all.

 

Here’s an emotion: confidence.

 

When three young Israelites named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were facing down a deadly furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, they didn’t know what their God would do, but they told King Nebuchadnezzar that they pick Him anyway. They said our God can save us, but even if He doesn’t, He’s still our God.

 

They were not sure what God would do, but they were sure how God felt.

 

He cares.  He can, but even if He doesn’t, He still cares. He is still the One.

 

It’s possible He has a plan. It’s possible I am playing part in something that is bigger than me. Even today. Even at recess. It’s possible.

 

Is it possible? Pretty much.

 

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Janelle Alberts writes pithy pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. Find out more about Alberts here.

 


Two Reasons Jesus Made Water Into Wine For MOMS

You don’t have to watch many Real Housewives reunions to know that too much of a good thing can be a problem.  Case in point: wine, and the fact that these women might fight less if they all stopped drinking so much.

That revelation puts panic in my system because I love me a good Chardonnay. 

All of which has me reconsidering Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine.  It’s a curious first move, no?

If my fifth grade son were writing a book report on the matter, he’d have to mention that the very substantive Jesus character puts His first miracle muscle behind…a party.  Isn’t that odd?  My 11 year-old dodges these book report chats with me by using this line, “We don’t have to get it mom; we just have to report it.”

For moms, therein lies the rub. 

We are not reporters.  Our job is to actually get stuff, so we can pass it on to our littles.  Isn’t it just like God to throw in a miracle that a mom first has to get and then pass on to…herself.

Reason #1 Jesus’ first miracle was for MOMS: Too much of a good thing was always a problem; Jesus made wine anyway.

We moms stink at nuance.  If one thing needs ousting, we tend to toss…it all!  If one thing needs reconsideration, we tend to reevaluate…it all! 

“It all” is a problem for us. 

We often function less like free-in-Jesus believers and more like moral lawyers who wrestle a good gift from God down to formulaic submission.  Then along comes Jesus who shoves a miracle like this right in our faces.  He leaves us no choice but to break up a bit with the legalism in all of us.

Like a pal of mine, who once said to me, as a way to play down the actual winemaking in Jesus’ first miracle, “You know they drank wine only because water back then was so bad.”

Okaaaay, but Jesus didn’t decide then to turn water into better water.  The wine?  It was on purpose.  Jesus was not a guy known for imprecision.

True, it wasn’t for everybody, like John the Baptist who never “took wine or strong drink,” (advice Real Housewives cast members could take to heart).

However, wine was for some, like Timothy, whom Paul told to “Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illness.” (Luke 1:15, 1 Timothy 5:23).  Beyond that, it was for lots of wonderful times to be had by all.  Like at a wedding.

Reason #2 Jesus’ first miracle was for MOMS: It wasn’t to numb a problem; it was to continue a celebration.

Jesus’ first miracle applauds celebration - laughter, love, saved-the-best-for-last kind of celebration and joy.

Which should be an easy thing for moms to wrap our heads around since what got us the title of “Momma” in the first place starts with “bundle of” and concludes with joy, joy, JOY.

Right?

Kinda.

The fact of the matter is that the needs and wants of our cherubs can be mind numbingly repetitive and heart seizing erratic at the same time.  Also, there are breakfast dishes.  Also, client meetings conflict with track meets, and contemporaries run businesses better than us and run marathons more than us and also, bake.

We’re told the “joy of the Lord is our strength.”  If joy is what reinforces our strength, then the source from whence joy originates better not be another something we moms need to drum up ourselves.  A girl can only do so much through act of will. 

Nobody gets that clearer than Jesus.  So much so that when He started His whole ministry with a nod towards celebration, He took it upon Himself to bring to the table a concrete contribution to make that happen.

So, if the Real Housewives franchise shines a light on over imbibing as the enemy of civil discourse, so too does an inaugural wine miracle shine a light on the importance of celebration to the God of Scriptures - and His willingness to do something about it.

We moms are soldiering through best as we can.  It’s nice to know from Jesus’ first miracle that we need not wear a refrain-from-fun face (since, turns out, stoicism does not solve what we think).  At the same time, we are not pressured to fake happiness.  Life with God is not for sissies.  We get it.

Despite that, maybe in light of that, celebration matters to this God.  So much so, that He kicked off His ministry on earth letting the world know He’s the kind of God who brings to the table something worth celebrating.

That’s a book report character that a mom can get behind.  That, plus, when invited to a wedding at 30ish years on, who did Jesus ask to come with Him?

His momma.  Good on you, Jesus.  Good on you.

 

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Janelle Alberts writes pithy pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. Find out more about Alberts here.


Two Ways “Hamilton” Rattled My Faith

I’m late to jump on the Hamilton bandwagon. 

Even Lin-Manuel Miranda has cut his ponytail and moved on.  I’m only now obsessively memorizing the musical’s every word - several of which have surprised me by, oddly, confronting my perception of the Old Testament God.

Hamilton Faith Hit #1: Its depiction of King George, whom I want no one ever to compare to the Old Testament God, because, well… I did. 

In the musical, King George croons to his rebelling revolutionaries that, “You’ll be back.  Soon you’ll see. You’ll remember you belong to me.”

After that, King George takes it up a notch with, “’Cause when push comes to shove, I will kill your friends and family…to remind you of my love.”

I hate to admit how many folks think this pretty much sums up the vengeful pre-Jesus God that is depicted in Hebrew Scripture, known as the Old Testament.

So some say.  So some think. 

So…do I?

I would have to say a sheepish, “Kinda,” except that recently, with a crew of clever pals, I dug into the Hebrew Scriptures anew, where what to my wondering eyes should appear but a different God than I thought lived in those chapters.

What fills the many pages before baby Jesus was found lying in a manger?

Turns out, forgiveness.  Affection.  A God who wanted humans to receive His love, hear His voice.

Christians get the impression that everything that came before Jesus was heavy on law, light on personal affection and without individual interaction with God.

Wrong.

In Hamilton, Miranda created a caricature of King George, grounded in sound evidence that he had copiously read. 

Many of us create a caricature of the Old Testament God, by reading – what’s the opposite of copiously?  Actually, what’s the opposite of read?

The Hebrew Scripture God behaved in ways that are hard to read, wherein we tend to just…not.  However, if we’re trying to paint the Old Testament God with a King George brush, that will be a problem too, since we’ll stumble over statements like God telling Jeremiah, “For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.” (Jer 31:34)

Forgiveness?  Reconciliation? 

Yes.  It happens over and over with the God of the Hebrew Scriptures who said, “I have more than enough burnt offerings…” (Isaiah 1:11&13) and longed for a relationship with a human race that He loves very, very much.

Put like that, it sounds simple.

Alas, it isn’t.

Nothing real ever is.  We are complex beings.  What we desire vs. what actually nourishes us is often at odds, and the God whose image we bear can likewise appear a mass of contradictions.  It’s hard to resolutely keep hope in a contradictory cause alive.

However, Hamilton managed to.

Hamilton Faith Hit #2: Hamilton’s high view of independence.

A trendy church phrase these days is to have a “high view of Scripture.”  What I’m noticing is that that will have to come with a high tolerance for the tension between what is and what we wish would be.

Miranda’s Hamilton grasped this “high view” concept, at least applied to democracy, when he asked Aaron Burr to defend the baby brand new American Constitution.

Burr: “The Constitution’s a mess.”

Hamilton: “So it needs Amendments.”

Burr: “It’s full of contradictions.”

Hamilton: “So is independence.”

Is it ever.  However, Miranda’s Hamilton carried a high enough view of independence to slog though the emotionalism of what one wishes about a thing to stay and stand and see what is true about a thing.

What is true about the Hebrew Scripture God is His reaction to people breaking up with Him.  He holds them accountable and simultaneously longs to reconcile with them through – and this is the kicker –His own expense.

Let’s face it, the Scriptures are one ego blow after another to God.  When God created humans with free will and in His image, what He wished for must have looked different than what is.

What is, is a God who repeatedly puts Himself in a position in which He is vulnerable to people rejecting Him.

What is, is a several millennia-long storyline in which lots and lots and lots of people…did.  Still do.

Wherein, Miranda’s King George and Scripture’s King of Kings part ways.  Because God keeps coming for the human race anyway, persisting such that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9), devising ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from Him (2 Sam 14:14).

It’s up to believers to get to know the Old Testament God just a little bit better than we have been doing in recent days.  Misunderstanding the early pages of Scripture undermines keeping it real in later pages of Scripture.

Miranda mastered this when serving up to us a brilliantly simple understanding of Alexander Hamilton without flattening a three dimensional, complex man into a one-dimensional, oversimplified one.  Miranda kept it real.

We can do the same for the God of Hebrew Scriptures by cleanly bearing witness to a complex, three-dimensional God.

After all, what kind of God can bear up under that kind of honest evaluation?

One that’s real.

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Janelle Alberts writes pithy pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. Find out more about Alberts here.