Background Passage: Job 11:7-9

As a celebration of our 40th anniversary, my wife and I are today enjoying a cruise on the Baltic Sea. We spent our first 36 hours at sea. The expanse of God’s creation and the endless waves outside our stateroom window remind me of a verse in Job as the suffering one is challenged by Zophar, one of his friends. Zophar chastises Job saying,

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper that the depths below—What can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. (Job 11:7-9)

I look in amazement at the expanse of ocean before me. Stare in wonder at God’s creation. Its magnificence…his magnificence…can be overwhelming. Yet, like Job, I question at times why things happen the way they do. Raise my fist in frustration at times when life turns tragic, asking the same question Job asked. “Where are you, God?” Life and its vagaries seldom come with explanations.

At other times, I think long and hard about how he constantly blesses my life. Cry out in complete joy because I know he carries me through my darkest nights and my brightest days. Shudder at the thought of any moment lived without his presence.

It is those times, I know what I need to know.

Since I cannot fathom God’s mysteries, nor probe the limits of his mighty power, I simply enjoy this life for what it is. His power expressed in the beauty and glory I see around me. His love exalted in the laughter of a child and the feel of a grandchild’s hand in mine. His joy evident in family and friends who continue to make my life more glorious each day. His work encountered within the context of my life that places me where he needs me to be at any specific moment in time.

I don’t need to know everything about how and why God interacts with my life. I just need to accept his grace for what it is.

Longer than the earth.

Wider than the sea.


In Whom There is Nothing False

Background Passage: John 1:43-51

Gene Lewis is 90 years old, still living by himself in Levelland, Texas. He is my Dad.

Born in Rhome, TX, in 1925, my Dad grew up in the small, West Texas farming community less than 20 miles from where he lives today. He served in the Navy during World War II, spending his time in San Francisco ensuring that the military supplies reached their destination on the front lines. He jokes that he served in the Navy and never set foot on a ship. After the service, he returned home, worked as a clerk in a bank until he was robbed at gunpoint and locked in the vault.

Dad spent most of his years as a cotton farmer and his later years working in the county tax appraisal district. After he retired and up until a few years ago, he delivered meals on wheels to the “old people” who couldn’t make it out of the house. He still works occasionally at the appraisal district during their busy times or to help train a new worker. He spends time trying to grow a few tomatoes in baked, red dirt that doesn’t cooperate much. He does love his home-grown tomatoes, but then, so does anyone who has ever tasted home-grown tomatoes.

That tells you what he has done, but not who he is. For that, I’ll simply remind you of the story of one of Jesus’ disciples.

Nathaniel (Bartholomew), born and raised in Cana in lower Galilee just a few miles from Nazareth, worked as a part-time fisherman and a full-time seeker of God’s truth. As Jesus began his ministry, Nathaniel followed the new rabbi for several weeks, listening to his teaching, probably sitting in the back row or on the edge of the crowd, getting his own measure of his teaching. He found Jesus’ conversations in the synagogue always rich with meaning and purpose. The stories to the multitudes penetrating…challenging the listener to think more deeply about God’s word. He was intrigued by this carpenter from Nazareth.

On this particular day, Phillip, one of Jesus’ new disciples, grabbed Nathaniel’s arm with a sense of urgency and excitement. “Come and see,” he said. “We have found the one whom Moses wrote about and about whom the prophets also wrote. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Knowing the scripture as he did, Nathaniel had trouble believing that the Promised One would come from Nazareth. Not yet knowing that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he stated as fact, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” It was not a put down as we have made it over the years. He questioned because the “facts” he knew didn’t align with scripture.

When Phillip and Nathaniel approached, Jesus stood to greet him. With a smile and a comment that conveyed immense respect, Jesus said, “Here is a true Israelite in whom there is nothing false.”

Whenever I think of that story and the high praise Jesus rained upon Nathaniel, I think of my Dad. The thought popped into my head again this week we approach Father’s Day. My Dad is a true child of God in whom there is nothing false. While certainly not infallible, he lives his life with the utmost integrity. What you see is what you get. And you get a whole lot of good.

As a child growing up and an adult trying to find my own way in the world, Dad’s lifestyle laid out a set of undeclared expectations I still try to meet. He loved my Mom completely and with full devotion. That was a gift to his three children that he modeled each day. They were affectionate, but not mushy. They endured good-natured ribbing and laughed freely. Dad was her biggest supporter and she was his. His ability to love his wife and family openly was, and is, one of my greatest blessings in life.

Farming was not the easiest life to live. Dad would have supported any career path we chose, but we all knew his preference was for us to find another line of work. As a result, he helped raise a lawyer, a doctor and me. Dad instilled in all of his kids a serious work ethic, an attitude I see reflected in my brother and sister in the work they do. He worked hard and did what was necessary to support his family. While we may not have had a lot of material things, we were never poor…in reality, nor in spirit.

Dad spent long hours in the field, but he also knew how to rest. He understood that there was a time and place for everything. He knew how to leave the worries of the work on the tractor and come home focused on his family. He could also put things beyond his control in proper perspective. If the crop was hailed out, he spent little time moaning about his bad luck and more time thinking about the next steps. His work ethic and attitude toward life impacted me greatly.

Dad continues to teach me a great deal about our relationship to others. I don’t think I have ever heard a prejudiced word escape my father’s lips. Given the time period in which he grew up, that’s pretty amazing. He taught all of us that a person’s worth is measured by who he is and not where he comes from or what he looks like. Worth, to Dad, is not measured by political preferences, religious beliefs or immigrant status. A person should be measured by how he lives each day, how he treats others, the value he adds to the world. To treat anyone differently is just wrong.

I watched Dad as I grew up. If he found himself in a fractured relationship for any reason, he did his best to set it right, even if it meant having difficult conversations. Most of the time, those conversations led to a deeper friendship or, at least a mutual, respectful understanding of the other’s position.

These things and so many others make my Dad a great man in my eyes. However, if you know my Dad or ever met him, it would not take you long to understand that his relationship to God is his greatest gift to his family and friends.

If you look back to Nathaniel’s encounter with Jesus, you find Nathaniel stunned that Jesus used such kind words to describe him. “How do you know me?” asked Nathaniel. Jesus replied, “I saw you under the fig tree.” Sounds rather cryptic to us, but Bible scholars say it was not an uncommon circumstance for students of the scripture to congregate under the trees, unroll a scroll to study and discuss God’s Word. I like to think that Jesus was so aware of his surroundings that Nathaniel’s study under the fig tree, his desire to know God more intimately, did not go unnoticed by the Savior.

After a long day at work, it was not uncommon to see my Dad, sitting in his recliner, studying his Sunday School lesson while we watched Andy and Opie or some inane Star Trek episode. His discussions and debates with my Mom about scripture were often lively and always deep. Just reading the words of the Bible at face value is not enough for Dad. He wants to find its core meaning and its common sense application. The Bible for Dad is not spiritual pabulum or an outline of denominational theology, it is a blueprint for practical daily living. Its message drives the way he lives and loves.

I could regale you with stories about my Dad in hopes that you would know him as I do, but I can think of nothing better than this. Dad is Nathaniel in my eyes. A man in whom there is nothing false. And, I am a better man because he continues to teach me all he knows.

I love you, Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.

It’s Just Not That Complicated–A Story

Background Passage: II Kings 5:1-15

The driver guided the gilded chariot
to the side of the valley road.
Dust from the day’s drive dulled its luster.
The Captain hopped off the back of the chariot.
Pressed his balled fists into the
small of his aching back.
Stretched the kinks from
his muscled frame.

He pulled the headpiece gingerly from his brow,
snapped his fingers.
Within seconds a servant boy
handed him a goblet of water.
Soothing his parched tongue.
Slaking his deep thirst.

His caravan passed by,
continuing his journey.
Wagons bearing a king’s ransom.
Ingot and coin.
Silver and gold.
Carts hauling a king’s clothes.
Finest silk.
Softest fabric.
Gifts to the King of Israel
and his prophet.
The one his wife’s servant called
“The Healer.”

The Captain.
An imposing figure…
from a distance.
A head taller than those around him.
Shoulders broad.
Hips narrow.
Legs and arms
muscular and
Tall in stature.
Regal in bearing.
Accustomed to the mantle of command.
Adorned with the tributes of his master…
Ben-Hadad II.
King of Aram.

An imposing figure, indeed…
until closer inspection.

His once handsome face
hidden beneath a soiled cloth.
Stained by open sores and
Ssall, weeping tumors which
consumed the skin around
his eyes and nose.
Red blemishes
circled his neck.
Gray splotches
covered his hands and arms.

The Captain.
Greatest of Aram’s warriors.
Battlefield survivor.
A soldier’s soldier.
A prominent man
in search of
an improbable cure to
a dreaded disease.
A leper.

Naaman watched his entourage pass.
His men avoided looking his direction.
Partially in deference.
Partially in disgust.
Naaman noticed the slight.
He always noticed.
He roughly stroked his cheek,
angry at sensing no pain, no feeling
from the dying flesh.
More dead than alive.

An unknown prophet
his last ray of hope.
This trip a simple favor from the king
to his most trusted general.
Healing was a long shot both men willingly grasped.

Naaman gathered his strength again.
Exhaled a deep breath.
Climbed onto his chariot.
Nodded to his driver.
Followed the caravan toward the city of Samaria,
high on the distant hill.

He shook his head in weary disbelief.
He traveled this far on the word of a slave-child and
her blind trust in a holy man of Israel.


Naaman walked out the front door of what passed
for the king’s palace in Samaria.
Repulsed and revolted by the cowardice
he had witnessed.
He judged the Hebrew king.
A tattered bundle of nerves.
A sniveling sovereign.
A weak and whimpering ruler.

Entirely too intent upon keeping the leper at a distance,
the disdainful monarch summarily
dismissed the general from Aram.
Escaped personal accountability by
sending Naaman to
Israel’s prophet,
rather than ordering the prophet to the palace.

With each step along the path to Elisha’s house
Naaman grew angrier.
”What am I doing here?”
he muttered to himself.
“A fool’s errand.”

If the Israelite king’s palace was unimpressive,
the prophet’s home was little more than a hovel.
Naaman approached the door.
Hopelessness in his heart.
Contempt on his countenance.
A servant stepped onto the porch,
closing the rough-hewn door behind him.
Bowed respectfully at Naaman’s feet.

“My master bids you welcome and knows why you are here.
I tell you on his behalf to go to the Jordan River.
Dip yourself seven times into its waters.
When you rise up from the water the seventh time,
your flesh will be restored.
You will be cleansed.”

As quickly as he appeared,
the servant re-entered the home.
Closing the door in the Captain’s face.

Naaman stood stone-still in shock.
Mouth agape.
A man used to getting his way.
Now being sent along his way.
Accustomed to deference,
not dismissal.

Shouted indignantly at the prophet inside.
Rapped loudly at the locked door
with the hilt of his sword.
“I’ve traveled a great distance to see you.
Come outside and face me.”
Elisha did not come.
Naaman left in anger to return to his home.

troubled and

“Not what I expected.”
“Did not stand before me and call upon his God.”
“No wave of his staff.”
“No potions.”
“No pronouncements.”
“No pretending
to do something…

He shouted in anguish at the top of his voice,
staring at the heavens.
“Go bathe in the Jordan…Really?”
“A puny prophet!”
“An insignificant river.”
“An inconsequential country.”

“Superior rivers near Damascus…
Could I not simply wash in them?
Why must I travel this far?”

He rode in silence aboard his chariot.
Returning home without a cure.
Fury slowly subsiding
into somber submission.
Resigned to his fate.

After moments of uncomfortable silence
his trusted chariot driver spoke in a meek voice,
never taking his eyes off the road ahead.

“My Captain,”
he hesitated before screwing up his courage to speak,
“if the prophet told you to do some great thing,
would you not do it?
It seems such a simple thing…
‘Wash and be cleansed.’
Is it not worth a try?”

A servant’s simplicity.

Naaman stared at the back of his driver’s head.
Then, into the distance.
Trying to find fault with his servant’s reasoning.
When he could not,
his anger evaporated.
Breathed deeply.
Exhaled slowly.
Clapped his hand upon the driver’s shoulder,
“Turn us around.
Take me to the Jordan.”


Naaman left the caravan a distance away,
taking only three servants with him.
Stood on the muddy bank of the Jordan.
Ankle deep in its languid flow.
Little more than 20-feet wide.
Slowly moving to the south.
A lazy current of muddy water reflecting
a greenish tint from the brush
along its slippery banks.

He stripped himself of his shirt and tunic.
Removed the soiled cloth covering his face and neck.
He waded into the water past
his hips to his chest.
With a quick glance at his servants
who had turned away to give him privacy,
Naaman submerged beneath the water…
Six times.
Stared each time he emerged from the tepid stream
at his reflection in its wavy surface.
No change.
No transformation.

He took another breath.
Bent his knees.
Sank into the river a seventh time.
He floated beneath the surface.
Stared up through the murky water at the heavens,
filled once more with despair.

In the muddled quietness,
disturbed only by the rush of blood pulsing in his head,
he thought to himself.
“Just sink.
Open your mouth.
He exhaled and waited to die.
Self-preservation and aching lungs
forced him to the surface.

Water dripped from his hair.
Ran into his mouth,
Sputtering as he gasped for air,
the Captain offered a quick prayer
to a God he did not know.
Almost too afraid,
he willed his eyes open.
Looked again upon his image in the water…

Tears mingled with the
trickle of water
running down unspoiled cheeks.

The man with the smooth skin of a child
Splashed and danced in the muddy waters like a child at play.


With a shout that echoed through the hills of Samaria,
Naaman lifted his unblemished hands and arms to the sky…

“Now, I know there is no God in all the world
except in Israel.”


Naaman’s story.
An act of God leads to salvation.
Yet, he didn’t go down easily.

Look between the lines.
Arrogant by accomplishment.
Prideful of position.
Naaman almost missed out on
physical and spiritual cleansing.
We’re not so different from the
leprous warrior.

Why is it so hard for us to accept the simplicity of God’s grace?
“Be saved.”
So easy to hear,
yet too hard to believe.

Whether grace unto salvation or
grace toward our need,
we pound on the Father’s door
demanding an audience.
He sends
his servant…
A word of scripture.

They tell us,
“Why do you make this so hard.”
“Go wash…”
A simple act of obedience.

We fume!
He didn’t present himself to us personally.
We fuss!
He offered us nothing spectacular.
No whisper of a magic word.
No wave of a magic wand.
We demand something…anything
different than…
“Go wash.”

Far too simple for our tastes.
Not at all what we expected.

Such cleansing ought to be demanding.
A requirement through which
we can prove ourselves worthy
of His grace.

Thank God.
Naaman learned a lesson we all must learn.
God’s grace is not that complicated.
It’s a gift.

Naaman teaches one more thing.
There is no other river into which we can
plunge that offers us cleansing.
Not the rivers of our home.
Not the rivers of our family.
Not the river of our deeds.
No other river.
No other Lord.

“There is no other name under heaven given to men
by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

One last lesson.
Blessed is the one who has someone in life,
Like the chariot driver,
willing to challenge his or her stubbornness…
Someone to remind us of our illogical pride
that prevents simple obedience to God’s will.

“If He asked you to do some great thing,
would you not do it?
It seems such a simple thing.”
Go wash.”

You see.
It’s not that complicated.
The cleansing power of Jesus Christ
washes away…
Everything that stands in the way of receiving
His grace.

Because it’s so simple,
we stare at the heavens through murky water.
Falling to its depths.
Waiting to drown.
until self-preservation pulls us to the surface.

With tentative eyes,
we stare at our own reflection…
our now unspoiled condition.
Shouting to the world in absolute joy…

“Now, I know there is no other God.”

It’s just not that complicated.


Publisher’s Note: You’ll find stories similar to this in each of the author’s books, Put Away Childish Things and The Chase: Our Passionate Pursuit of Life Worth Living available from Xulon Press, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or most online bookstores. You may subscribe to the author’s blog by entering your email in the subscription block on the right side of the page at www.drkirklewis.com.