Archive for July, 2008

The Bible Again

July 22, 2008 6 comments

Yesterday, I finished reading the Bible from cover to cover.  For the first time in my life.  And I’ve been in ministry for 5 years.  I am ashamed which is why I confess it – I have, by God’s grace, overcome at least a portion of my undisciplined life and I am grateful.  I followed the Bible in 90 Days plan but finished about four days early because I was so close to the end that I just kept reading. 

My wife said I should celebrate so I did.

By starting over 🙂

I tried to read quickly the first time to get a good overview and now I’m going to go a little more slowly and pick up some details that I missed the first time around which were legion.  This iteration will involve, at the minimum, my naming of the chapters (one of the first steps in the inductive method) and general observations of the Bible.  For instance, I just finished the first 16 chapters of Genesis and one of the things I noticed was some similarities between Noah and Abram.  Both were told to “Go” by God – Noah in Chp. 8 and Abram in Chp. 12.  They were told to “Go” from places not their home – the ark for Noah and Haran for Abram.  They both received promises from God – never to destroy the earth with a flood for Noah and land and offspring for Abram.  They both entered into covenant with God as a ratification of those promises and those covenants involved symbols – the rainbow for Noah and the pot and torch passing through the sacrificed animals for Abram (circumcision is on the horizon, too). 

Those observations may not add up to anything but I thought they were interesting nonetheless.  I doubt I’ll blog the next 90 days of Bible reading but I might bring out what I’ve found from time to time.

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I’m still here. I hate being busy but I’m trying to always be in haste and never in a hurry. Jesus is awesome and I’ve been able to experience that head knowledge several times this week, especially as I spoke and helped at a Girls Chrysalis Flight. God bless them and I pray that they may follow the Lover of their souls with a full and reckless abandon.

Check out these awesome posts from Jared Wilson. One, which I’m going to use at my Church Council meeting this afternoon is the difference between an “attractional” church versus a missional church. Good stuff and very helpful. The churches in the US expect too much in “attracting” people instead of going out and getting them. Like Jesus did. Duh!

The other link for Jared is this awesome initiative his church is moving toward. Oh, that more churches would live this way! They are truly living the ideal that the world is our parish.

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Prayer Before Study

July 9, 2008 1 comment

Even though I am staunchly in the Wesleyan-Arminian theological tribe, I have often received spiritual nourishment from pastors and theologians of other traditions. While still in college, someone passed me a cassette tape of a talk given by John Piper to the Evangelical Theological Society. I don’t remember all of the talk, but I remember it was about how God’s place in all of life, including theological education, is right in the center of everything. I remember him saying something similar to this: There wouldn’t be a need for spiritual formation classes if a prayerful professor modeled a life of devotion to God. I took two spiritual formation classes in seminary but I could have sailed through without them because of the professors I had for other classes so in some sense Piper was right even though I loved the two classes I had with Reg Johnson.

The other thing I remember Piper talking about Reformed theologian B.B. Warfield who was told by someone that ten minutes in prayer was worth more than ten hours in the books to which Warfield replied, “What, more than ten hours over your books on your knees?” In other words, why not be prayerful in your study? I wanted to model this kind of study while in seminary but I didn’t actually do it. I don’t have many regrets in my life but not taking seminary more seriously than I did is number two on my list. I’m learning to do things now that I should have practiced then. The funny thing is, I knew what I ought to have been doing back then, I just didn’t do it. For example, and the reason for this post, here’s a prayer I wrote when I was in the middle of a class on the Pentateuch during my second semester. It’s based on Psalm 119 and I hope you find it helpful as you study the Bible on your knees.

Prayer of Consecration for the Studying of Scripture

Lord, I come before you dirty, dry, and empty.
In my heart there is hate and in my mind, filth.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies and
Make my mind understand.

I have drawn water from dry wells and I need
You to revive me with Your Living Water
According to Your Word. Plant me by the
Streams of living water in Your Word.

I am a disobedient child. You have ordained
Your precepts that I should keep them diligently.
Teach me Your statutes that I may delight in
Your Law instead of fleeing it.

In this time of study, with all my heart I seek
You, do not let me wander from your commandments.
Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things
From You, Lord. Let me not forget Your Word.

I will delight in Your statutes and laws. Please
Open my heart to Your Spirit and guide me
In meditation and study so that Your Words
Will be written on my heart.

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The Genius of Multipliers

I have a huge backlog of The New Yorker at home and just before throwing away one from May I glanced through the table of contents to see if there were any articles written by people I have read before. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink was one of those listed so I sat down to read his article “In the Air“.

One of the most interesting parts to this essay is the story of Intellectual Ventures, an organization that pretty much brainstorms good ideas that they then roll into patents and inventions. There’s really more to it than that, but you’ll have to read the entire article if you are interested.

I have some friends in ministry that will find this essay fascinating – they are innovators in ministry. Me? Well, I have a lot to chew on with regard to biblical interpretation. I know that’s not the direction most people will take after reading Gladwell’s essay, but I’m weird like that.

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The Jesus Way – Part II

Here is the second section of my notes for our clergy reading group last week on Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way. Remember, this isn’t a post written for a blog audience but notes for that reading group. I’d be happy to discuss it with any who are interested in the comments section.

“Way” is a stock metaphor in both our Scriptures and the traditions that have developed from them. At the entrance to our prayer book, the Psalms, the opening meditation uses this metaphor to set two ways of life before us. Will you live a solid life of prayer, listening to and answering God, rooted in the soil of God’s revelation, your life growing like God’s Torah, a tree with fruit-laden branches? Or will you line an insubstantial life of chatter and gossip, using words without God-context, oblivious of God, your life reduced to a pile of incoherent syllables, leaves blown every which way by the wind? Choose your way. (23)

Being good Arminians, we know that choice plays a large role in the way of salvation and thus the way of Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8 ) yet that faith is constantly being tested by the choices we make. As we live lives that reflect the character of Jesus we must pay attention to the choices that we make. Peterson developed this thought later on in the book when he notes,

Faith is a trusting, obedient life on the road, the way. Faith is a resolute “Yes” to the promises and commands of the living God, God as present. And faith is a firm “No” to an idol subject to manipulation and control, a god that we can see and touch and test. (46)

Are the choices we are making consistently “yes” to God and “no” to our proneness to manipulate and control the world around us? Are we listening to the witness of the Spirit in choosing to follow the difficult and often dangerous narrow road that Jesus carved out for us or are we saying yes to the ways and means of the world? These are questions that must be answered regularly if we are going to fulfill or ordination commitment of “going on to perfection”.

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