Archive for December, 2015

Bible Reading Pro-Tips

Posted: December 14, 2015 in Faith
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Desiring God has a great article title Three Tips for Better Bible Reading. This article isn’t about why one should read scripture regularly. Most Christians I’ve spoken with on the topic already know it’s important…and feel guilty for failing to do so. Many try but get bogged down for one reason or another. The article mentioned provides some thoughts on ways to do so effectively.

[Spoiler Alert: I’m going to tell you what they are, and my take on them, but I still recommend reading the primary article for yourself.]

1) Listen to audio Bibles

I’m a fan of this myself. That’s part of my regular routine. My mind tends to wander while reading anything. I found that listening while I read really helps me stay focused. The article suggested reading in one translation and listening to another. I’d not considered that before. I have a feeling that I would find it distracting (as I sometimes do in church when scripture is read aloud in a translation different from what I’m reading) but I’ll probably still give it a go and see what happens.

Personally I use YouVersion on my iPad (or bible.com on my laptop) both for my reading plan and listening pleasure, but there are other options out there and the article provides links to a few.

2) Read books of the Bible in one sitting. 

This is really effective at giving one a macro level view of a book. We usually break up readings into small chunks which can sometimes cause us to miss things only noticeable in the big picture.

I’ve done this with some of the shorter books or when studying in preparation of a new sermon series (I preach expositorily through books of the Bible).

3) Read without any chapters or verse references.

Have you ever noticed a paragraph or even a sentence broken up by a chapter mark? It happens. The chapter and verse divisions aren’t part of the original text. While these features help us locate specific places in scripture, they can also cause us to lose the meaning or emphasis of a passage. Just this week I discovered a sentence broken into three verses and discovered the emphasis of a passage completely changed when I ignored the verse divisions and read the sentence as a whole.

Bonus: Just keep reading

This is my own addition. One things which used to bog me down was allowing myself to get sidetracked by interesting things. Something would grab my attention and I’d start chasing it down, doing word studies, historical studies, etc. To combat this I started doing a quick underline or note in the margin and move on. Later that day I’ll come back to the passages I read and start looking more deeply into those things which grabbed my attention during reading time.

Well, there’s my two cents. I recommend reading the main article and finding the tools which work for you.

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A morning with Persian Christians

Posted: December 13, 2015 in Church, Faith

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13

This morning I had the great privilege of worshipping with a body of Persian Christians. These followers of Christ are former muslims, mostly from Iran (I met one young man from Tajikistan).

The opening scripture was Psalm 119:65-72 and the sermon was on Matthew 1:18-25. It was very interesting to hear the story of the angel appearing to Mary, and then Joseph to announce the pregnancy of Mary and the birth of Christ from a middle-eastern, and former Muslim, perspective.

In each service they have a time of open prayer. They prayed for me. I didn’t ask them to. I didn’t share any concerns or requests. Yet these brothers and sisters in Christ prayed for me, a stranger in their midst.

Following the service was a time of fellowship. I drank tea (a requirement at Persian gatherings), ate pastries, and spoke with followers of Christ from all ages. I was challenged and encouraged. Each person’s story of faith was unique. Some had sudden conversions where they surrendered all to Christ (and placed their very lives in his hands) and others had a more gradual conversion. For all of them, Christmas is a very special time. The story of the birth of Christ is full of symbolism which screams to their hearts and minds of the divinity of Christ, the need for salvation, and the amazing love of a God who did the unthinkable in drawing close to man and upending the scales forever so that we could be with Him.

An amazing morning.

How can we sing…

Posted: December 4, 2015 in Faith, Music
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I’m listening to Christmas music. Fitting, given the season. The song “Mary Did You Know” comes on. It’s being sung by a group whose members are not followers of Christ. I find myself asking how they can sing this song with such passion and seeming conviction and not be brought to their knees.

One reason I gave up acting was how much it took out of me. I was a method actor. Each part, each piece was exhausting. I essentially became the character. Parts of these characters continued to live on in me. It became increasingly difficult to play characters which were much divergent from my own personality and values. Either I was dry and unconvincing or their world views became part of my own for a time.

A similar thing occurs in music. Music affects me very deeply. God has used music more than any other thing to convict me of sin, call me to repentance, and encourage me in my faith. I have great trouble singing a song I cannot agree with. This is true even of my own music. Songs I wrote in my past, when I was younger and more foolish, I have a very difficult time playing even on my own in a “blast from the past” rehearsal.

I do not become upset when I hear faith oriented Christmas music sung by unbelievers. I don’t care of a functional atheist, Buddhist, Jew, secular humanist, etc. records a Christmas album and sings about the birth of Jesus. It’s simply that I don’t understand how they can remain unaltered by the message.