Author Archives: Rich Neal

Take off the mask

If the first words I heard from Jesus were these, I’d probably follow someone else. “If any want to become my followers,” he said, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). Another time, I heard him say he came so we might have abundant life, more and better […]

A firm foundation

It may be the most important, revealing, personal question in the gospels. After asking his disciples who people were saying he is, Jesus put them on the spot: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:13-20). At some point as we grow in faith, every one of us must answer the same question. […]

A Jesus I might follow

An amazing thing happened when Jesus met that Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21-28). It’s not that Jesus healed the woman’s daughter and might have done so remotely. It’s not that he had close contact with someone his social and religious training insisted he avoid. What’s amazing is that when this foreign woman challenged him, he learned […]

The word in your heart

“The word is near you,” Paul writes, “on your lips and in your heart” (Rom. 10:8). It’s a stunning, breath-taking idea – the word is in your heart – and the more I sit with it, the more powerful it becomes for me. Paul is writing about the word of faith he proclaims, and he’s […]

Satisfying hungry hearts

We’re hungry. I am, and I think you are, too. It’s not a hunger that can be satisfied by a piece of the strawberry-rhubarb pie Sheryl made last week. We’re hungry because we’re dissatisfied with life and want something more. Polling by the Gallup organization consistently shows that in the United States we’re less satisfied […]

The nose on your face

“It’s as plain as the nose on your face,” my grandmother would say when she was trying to get me to see something she could see plainly but I seemed to miss entirely. She was usually trying to help me see not an object but a meaning, an implication, what was (to her) the obvious […]

Weeds and wheat together

If you want to see a living parable of the kingdom of God, you need only visit the lawn around my house. It’s a lawn our neighbors probably consider embarrassing. Unlike lawns treated liberally with chemicals, the kind of lawns pictured in Home & Garden, the kind advertisers have taught us to think of as […]

Down by the river

There are blessings that accrue and appreciate only as one’s years accrue. As the time remaining in life decreases, experience increases, and so does, one hopes, wisdom. Perspective lengthens, and in the longest perspective all of life’s experiences – diverse and contradictory as they seem – may be viewed in their proper places, as integral […]

Love’s yoke

It may be time to reread your Christian discipleship agreement. When you do, pay attention to the fine print. The invitation says something about an easy yoke and a light burden (Matt. 11:25-30), and if you’re feeling weary and heavy laden you might stop there. Keep reading, and you’ll find a model for effective prayer […]

When night has ended

Jesus erases differences so completely, he leaves me dumbfounded. For example, “Whoever welcomes you,” he says to his disciples, “welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Matt. 10:40-42). For anyone who welcomes you, you are not merely someone who holds certain beliefs or belongs to a specific faith tradition. You […]