Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

God of the small things

Posted: April 6, 2016 in Faith, Life
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Sleepyhead kid

Sometimes we think the Bible only speaks on the big issues. But scripture has very imminently practical instructions and advice in small matters as well. Take Proverbs 27:14 for example:

Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice,
rising early in the morning,
will be counted as cursing.



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 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.

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.

The following is a modernization/paraphrase of Bounds of Charity from Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) with some particular application following.

Don’t lend more than you can afford to lose, and don’t refuse to lend money to someone if you can afford it; especially if it can help someone else more than it can hurt you.

If your debtor is honest and able, you will get your money back, if not with interest, then with thanks. If he cannot pay you back, don’t ruin him to regain that which will not ruin you to lose. Remember that you are merely a steward and someone else is your owner, master, and judge.

The more merciful acts you perform, the more mercy you will receive; and if, by using your earthly riches charitably, you gain eternal treasure, then your purchase is infinite: You will have discovered something even better than the key to winning at the stock market or beating the casino.

Applicable Thoughts
My daughter keeps lending out pencils at school. Lending and seldom getting them back. Her generosity has denuded our supply of the wood and graphite sticks. In frustration we told her to stop giving pencils away. This word from Mr. Penn has challenged me. We’re not rolling in dough. In fact right now things are particularly tight, but a box of pencils is nothing: As Christ has said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much…” (Luke 16:10a ESV). I think we need to give her the go-ahead to be generous.

The following is a modernization/paraphrase of Disappointment and Resignation from Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718).

Disappointments that come our way, not from our own foolishness, are the trials or corrections of heaven. It is our own fault, however, if we do not grow from these experiences. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

To complain about these trials does no good. When we do we are, in fact, complaining about God’s handing of things. But to see the very hand of God in these experiences, humbly submitting to His will, is the way to turn this water into wine. Through this we find that the greatest Love and Mercy is in fact on our side.

We need a serious attitude adjustment if we only see what we’ve lost. If, on the other hand, we stop for a minute and consider how little we deserve even what we have left then we will find that our anger and frustration will subside and our grumbling will turn into thankfulness.

If God is aware of every hair on our heads and knows when each falls, how much more so is aware of our situation? If he cares for the grass of the field and the birds of the air, how much more does he care for and provide for us?

No matter how far we fall, or how low we feel, we are never below the reach of God.

Though Christ’s passion (his suffering) is finished, his compassion will never end. He will never fail his humble, sincere disciples. We find more in the very person of Christ Himself than any worldly thing we might lose.

To Dream, but Which Dream?

Posted: October 10, 2014 in Church, Faith, Life
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Here are some excerpts from the Switchfoot song “American Dream” which have resonated within me:

When success is equated with excess
When we’re fighting for the Beamer, the Lexus
As the heart and soul breath in the company goals
Where success is equated with excess

I want out of this machine
It doesn’t feel like freedom

This ain’t my American dream
I want to live and die for bigger things
I’m tired of fighting for just me
This ain’t my American dream

As a bi-vocational minister I struggle between working for myself and working to be able to minister. It’s a constant struggle tugging and pulling at my heart and my mind.

Christian Narcissism

Posted: June 17, 2009 in Books, Faith
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From J.P. Moreland’s book, Love Your God With All Your Mind:

“The narcissist evaluates the local church, the right books to read, and the other religious practices worthy of his or her time on the basis of how they will further his or her own agenda.”

It seems to me that the evangelical church in America has gone this rout “felt needs” based outreach schemes and books like Your Best Life Now.