Archive for the ‘Bible study’ Category

These words…

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

Reading: Luke 6

These words that I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.

I continue my love/hate relationship with the Message translation. This above quote jumped out at me from my reading this morning, and yet when you reference it back to the NIV it seems to be more of an addition rather than a paraphrase. But that’s neither here nor there.

What convicts me this morning is the idea of using the bible as a “supplement” rather than my primary source of food for my life. I’m looking at my “to be read” shelf on my bookcase here in my office and I must have 30-40 books that I really want to read. I feel frustrated sometimes because I have so much reading for school, I don’t have the chance to get to some of the reading that I want to do. Looking at the titles, I see tons of books that I think would be helpful to me in my ministry, encourage me in my own faith journey, help me better understand other perspectives, and so forth. But often I can see myself treating these sources as primary and the bible as the supplement to my “other” readings. Perhaps others can relate.

God, give me a fresh desire to feast on your words. Help me continue to build my entire life on these promises, your direction, and loving action towards your people. Help to see them as the primary source of instruction for me as a disciple, pastor, husband, father, and friend.

A quiet place…

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

66289650_d4a2bc11bf_oReading: Luke 5

There seems to be a theme to the picture that Luke is painting in Luke 5. The crowds are pressing to draw closer to Jesus. Jesus, on the other hand is frequently trying to withdraw from the crowds so that he can draw closer to the Father.

"As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer."

This time of year is the homestretch for me. It has been for the last 8 years of my life because of school. Finals season is right around the corner. My last papers and projects are due this week. (2 by Friday) Christmas shopping needs to get done. Breakaway is wrapping up. We have our final Christmas dinner, and I have several other gatherings I am expected to attend as we all do. I don’t bring this all up to make myself look busy. If there is one thing that genuinely annoys my wife it is when people try to tell you everything they have to get done just to let you know how busy they are. Her internal response to that conversation is always the same, "if you’ve got so much to do, stop talking to me and get to work." It’s one of the things I love about her. So I don’t share my list for that purpose. If you’re reading this, I know your list is certainly as long if not longer than mine.

What hits me dead on this morning as I reflect on this picture of Jesus and his character is that when I feel overwhelmed, as he certainly did by the crowds and the constant cries for healing, I don’t run to the hills to pray and be still… I don’t have that tug that says, "as often as possible… find an out-of-the-way place to pray." And I know that my own unhealthiness and brokenness flows from that one missing component in my life. I am to quick to believe that I can handle it all by myself without asking for any earthly or divine help.

(more…)

He is Everywhere…

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

54337064_3d96353329_oReading: Mark 5 (The next chapter of my reading is actually Luke 5, but I turned to the wrong book!)

This morning I feel really flustered. I have felt this way since returning from my study leave on Tuesday. I got a lot of great work done during my time away, but may have fried my brain with 14 sermons and a whole bunch of thoughts about our student ministries future. It’s all great stuff, but also overwhelming.

Verse 31 jumped off the page at me today. As Jesus is going to the home of the Synagogue Ruler to heal the man’s daughter, a woman who has been sufffering from a disease for 12 years reaches up and touches the robe of Jesus. Jesus, recognizing that the power has gone out of him (a little wierd), questions the crowd to see who touched him. The disciples answer in verse 31.

"You see the people crowding against you, and yet you can ask, ‘who touched me?’"

Jesus doesn’t answer the question in the passage, but our faith teaches us that the answer Jesus gives us is, "absolutely, I am at all times everywhere, and right by your side." Through the chaos of need that surrounds Jesus, he still is deeply aware of our pain, our hopes, our dreams, our great fears. He can handle the massive and the minute. He can hear all and also know all.

That changes things doesn’t it. Between our times of worship, I think we are tempted to believe that we have somehow "left" the presence of Jesus. We spend this time of "unconscious seperation" working really hard for Jesus, and when we return to worship, we do so with a smile on our face, joy in our hearts, and an attitude that says, "look Jesus, this is what I have done while you were away."

I love the depth of this story… that Jesus must walk to the home to heal the daughter (we know from other stories that really isn’t necessary. Jesus heals from a distance as well) that Jesus is interrupted while doing something really necessary… that Jesus is totally aware of all that surrounds him.

Maybe what I am getting at is the tension that exists between seeing faith as "living for Jesus," as opposed to, "living with Jesus." Living for Jesus implies that their is no life in Jesus which we know is not the case. Living with Jesus reminds me that today in my office, as I struggle to get started on this week’s sermon, sort through the mounds of paper’s on my desk while also processing the multiple layers of ideas that continue to float around in my mind… Jesus has pulled up a chair. He is here. He is everywhere.

His presence…

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Reading today: Luke 4

Luke carefully crafts a picture of the character of Jesus that I think is fascinating. Throughout this chapter, we get a sense of the “authoritarian” presence of Jesus. From his exchange with the devil… to the teaching in the synagogue… his rebuking of illness and demons… and his ability to escape the crowds who “drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill.” Luke describes Jesus power to escape in such a unique way. He writes, “But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” You get the idea that Jesus demanded authority and yet his presence is also seen as calm and peaceful. Notice that Jesus doesn’t escape the mob by beating them back, threatening to “cast a spell,” or by any other “aggressive” tactic. The crowds respond to him not because they fear him, but because, “his message had authority.” That’s such a counter culture picture of power. It is so tempting to lead from a position of power and control, yet so difficult to do so from weakness and humility.

Lord Jesus, may my actions, words, and lifestyle be reformed and reshaped in your image. Help me to serve with humbleness. Remind me God, today, and tomorrow… that the message is what matters… that all authority, power, and change draws from your good news alone.

Professional Christianity?

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

37271842_d4eeacd864_3
I think everyone who chooses to work within the church faces the temptation to confuse their faith with their profession. The place that I feel that the most in my own personal study and devotional time. It’s hard to turn off my, “I have to preach this week, I wonder if this scripture will work,” portion of my brain. My study tends to focus more on my material and less on personal conviction, and I know that in that process, I am cheating myself, but in the long term, I am cheating others too. A friend quoted me (which is always a strange thing by itself) by saying, “you cannot give what you do not have.” I believe that, but it is a continual struggle. It concerns me that sometimes I would rather read Rob Bell than the bible. I am more intrigued at times by a book of theology than the book by which all theology is based. I hope I’m not alone in this struggle to distinguish that which is necessary for me to be faithful and that which I need to do my job well. I hope to spend some more time in the coming months diving into the book rather than the latest book.

Reading today: Luke 2-3

it’s interesting reading the words of John as he calls the people to repentance.

“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” “What should we do then,” the crowd asked. John answered, “the man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

This seems to mirror for me the lifestyle that was modeled by the early church. Repentance was directly connected to economy. Following Jesus was directly connected to serving your neighbor. John doesn’t invite them into a bible study program or to serve on his traveling committee. He tells everyone to share their tunics. He tells tax collectors to stop extorting money. He tells soldiers to stop accusing people falsely. My faith and devotion to God is directly tied to my faith and devotion to my neighbor. That also reminds me of the West Wing episode where Bartlett is talking about Yom Kippur, and the day that precedes that holy day which I cannot remember right now. He says, “You cannot ask forgiveness of God until you have asked forgiveness of your neighbor.”

Does he get it?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2005

  The Good News 
  Originally uploaded by liyin.

This morning I am reading Luke ch. 1 and my question is this: Does Zecheriah get it? Reading his song at the end of chapter 1 makes me wonder if he catches exactly where God is going with the chain of events that are beginning to transpire. He sings, "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us…" (vs. 71 quoted from Psalm 106:10)  Is this the first human to fundamentaly misunderstand the task of Jesus? Zecheriah’s understanding is a salvation from the world around him (not surprising for a Jew of that time I suppose), but with the historical and theological perspective of 2005, wouldn’t we express it differently? Wouldn’t we say that Salvation isn’t from our enemies but to our enemies?

"Although I believe in Jesus as my personal savior, I am not a Christian
for that reason. I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus is the
Savior of the whole world."
(Generous Orthodoxy, 100)