Monday, September 5, 2011


We have been focused on Sunday mornings on Inductive Bible Study. We have been talking about ways to read and understand our Bibles. The three steps are to make observations, interpret the text, and then apply it to your life. I have also tried on Sunday mornings to get some conversation going on the text we were looking at, but most people did not seem to want to talk back.
It seems this has been happening on my blog as well. My intention for my blog was for some back and forth conversation to take place about my message on Sunday mornings or anything else, but comments have been rare. For that reason this will be my last blog, at least for a while.
My final invitation is for you to look at the connections between the book of Genesis and the beginning of the Bible and the Book of Revelation and the end of the Bible. Both books talk about rivers and trees. They talk about God's presence and his activity.
They also both talk about God's connection to humanity. I think looking at the beginning and the end of the Bible shows that God's communicated purpose to us was that we were made to be in relationship with God. That relationship is not always easy because of who God is, in his holiness, and who we are, in our brokenness. Yet, God works to repair that relationship.
In the end we are told that it will work out. We are told that fear, suffering and death will end, but God's love, grace, and mercy will last forever. I pray that we can keep this hope in front of us as we follow God.
Keep digging into God's Word and keep growing in your connection to Christ.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Now What?

The final step of reading and understanding our Bible is application. After we have made observations and interpretations, we ask the question "now what?" Now that I have read this passage and dug into its meaning, what does it mean in my life? How does this passage connect with me?
You can see that this step is fairly subjective. How you look to apply a passage depends on where you are in your faith journey. This is one of the amazing things about Scripture. It can speak to someone reading the passage for the first time or someone who has read it many times. The only rule is the application must not go against God's nature of love and grace. If you think the passage is telling you to do something that goes against God's nature, then you probably need to study it a little more.
So as we read and understand our Bibles we also need to looking for ways the Scriptures connect in our lives. It could be calling us or challenging us to do something. It might be encouraging us to stop doing something. Maybe the passage just wants to remind us of something we need to remember.
The passage we read yesterday was John 5:1-9 the passage about a paralyzed man waiting to be healed in a pool with healing powers. He can never get into the pool in time to be healed. Then Jesus comes along and asks him if he wants to get well. He kind of says he has been trying, and then Jesus heals him.
Different people mentioned applications in this passage could be to not get too focused on one way to be healed. This man only saw the pool as a place of healing, even when Jesus, The Great Healer, was standing there talking to him. Another application was to never give up hope. The passage said this man had been that way for 38 years, and now he was finally healed. An application that came to my mind compared the pool to the church building. Many times we might feel like we need to get someone there in order to help them be healed or have a relationship with God, but this passage reminded me that we don't have to bring people to the building, we take the presence of God to them wherever they are.
Let me know if you have other applications for this passage.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Read Between the Lines

The second step in reading and understanding your Bible is to interpret the text. The first step was to make observations, noticing the facts and details of what is actually written in the Scripture passage. After you have made those observations you should ask what they mean. What is the purpose or meaning of the text? I see this as reading between the lines. You are looking for the meaning that is not always on the surface.
There are times the purpose of a passage is given. Sometimes when Jesus shares a parable, he will then interpret that parable. There are also times the writers of a book of the Bible says something like, "this was written so that you will never forget." They give you the reason for the passage. However, most of the time it is up to us as readers to dig into the text and find the meaning.
The passage we looked at yesterday was Mark 10:17-31. This was the story of the Rich Young Ruler. We found several places that we wanted to read between the lines. One was where Jesus lists 5 of the Ten Commandments. We wondered why those five and why did Jesus leave off the other five? There is no apparent reason given, so we were thinking of reasons Jesus might have done this. Like maybe Jesus was pointing out that the man was having trouble keeping the five he did not list. We do not know for sure, but that sounded like a reasonable idea.
Another place we were asking for meaning was in Jesus' response that this man needed to sell everything he had, give it to the poor and follow Jesus. We wondered if everyone needs to do this? Is this a universal truth, or specific to this man? We decided it was a little bit of both. This man's wealth was holding him back from following Jesus, and we all have something doing this in our lives. It may not be wealth for all of us (it may be for some), but Jesus would be able to tell each of us what it is that we need to give away.
Finally we looked at Jesus' saying, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven." We wondered if Jesus really meant this or if we need to interpret it? I said that Jesus meant this in the sense that really it is impossible for any person to enter heaven on their own merit. Getting into heaven is not about what we can do, but about what God has done. God makes it possible for us to enter heaven. We just need to accept the invitation.
There are more questions we could ask as we interpret this passage, but those were some places we focused. If you have other questions or interpretations of this passage please comment on this blog. Keep on reading your Bible and keep making observations and interpretations.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Camp Experiences

Yesterday in our worship services we heard from many kids about their experience at Summer Games this past summer. We had around 50 kids go to either Summer Games University for junior and senior high students or the first ever Summer Games Junior for elementary school students. They were excited about many parts of camp like horseback riding, creek stomping, and the food. Many also mentioned the presence of God in worship and prayer. Overall it sounded like our kids had a great time.
I would love to hear any other stories people might have. I have had more than one grandma tell me about the experience of their grandchildren. It is wonderful when even the faces of parents and grandparents light up when talking about their child's experience. So if you have a story to share about a camping experience please comment on this post.
I have great memories of camp. I have been going since I was 14 years old to Christian camps. I missed going as a camper because I started going as a counselor. Now I go as a pastor. Soon I will get the parent experience as Jamison will be old enough for Summer Games Junior next summer.
I too have great memories of food, activities and the presence of God. I keep in contact with many of my camp friends still today. God just seems to do something special when we get out of our routine. When we leave our TVs and computers behind God can really get our attention.
Maybe that is a reminder to find more ways to get away then just camp. Even going for a walk or sitting in a park might give us a little glimpse of that camp-like experience. I pray we all can find ways to be open to God's presence and keep going to camp.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What Just Happened?

We will spend a few weeks looking at how to study our Bibles. I often tell people how important it is to read your Bible, but then do not spend the time to teach how to read your Bible. The Bible is an ancient text translated into English that takes some effort to understand.
The first step to understanding a Bible passage is to make observations. Look at what exactly the text says. Answer the basic questions of who, what, where, and when. Notice what is specifically mentioned in the text and also take note of what is not in there. Sometimes when we read a familiar passage we put in details that are not actually in the passage.
We tried this yesterday in our worship service. We looked at Genesis 3:1-13 the passage about the fall of man. I invite anyone to share observations about this passage and especially details that might lead to some discussion.
I mentioned that the passage says a serpent came to talk to Eve. We often say the serpent was Satan, but that is not mentioned in the passage, so that is an interpretive step taken.
A couple of people noticed that the serpent talked to Eve, not Adam. We wondered if that was intentional or if she just happen to be the one who found the serpent first.
We mentioned that the fruit that was eaten was not said to be an apple. An apple is often a symbol of temptation because of this passage, but this passage just mentions fruit.
We also saw a lot of blaming going on when God showed up in the garden. Adam blamed both God and Eve for eating the fruit. He said he was given the fruit by the woman God had made. Eve then blames the serpent for deceiving her.
What other observations do you have of this passage? What questions do these observations bring to your mind? The conversation with the text begins with observations. In the next few weeks we will look at the next steps to better understanding God's Word.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What's the Verdict

In our final look at the views young people outside of Christianity we will focus on the view that Christians are judgmental. 87% of young people outside Christianity think that Christians are judgmental. At the same time, 53% of young people inside Christianity agree. As Christians our actions and words come across as judgmental to many and it is something we need to address.
In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus addresses being judgmental. There he says we will be judged by the same standards we judge others. Jesus also warns against pointing out the speck in someone's eye while we have a plank in our own eye.
Here Jesus really wants us to look at ourselves when it comes to judging others. He wants us to turn it around and look in our own eye instead of checking on other people. We are usually quick to judge others and point out their imperfections, but often slow to do this in ourselves. We seem to offer ourselves much more grace than we will offer to others. We are quick to judge people's actions and thoughts. C.S. Lewis has a great quote reminding us of the person we overlook imperfections in the most.
“There is someone I love, even though I don’t approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love the most. That person is me.”
We tend to give ourselves more grace than we are willing to offer to others. If we can grow in offering the grace we give ourselves to others, we would probably be viewed less as judgmental and more as caring and loving people.
One thing I want us to consider here is how this judgmental view of Christianity connects with our churches. We are called to be the body of Christ as a collective group of people. Many Christians will tell you that their church or group is not judgmental and is loving and welcoming, but if 87% of young outsides feel we are judgmental that has to have some connection to how our churches are viewed. How can we make our church more loving?
I think we can address this issue of being seen as judgmental by getting to know people different than us. Many times we tend to judge those who are different than us. We tend to gather around those who are similar. As Christians we need to be connecting and building relationships with those different than us. This is not to be done as a checklist, but as an intentional pursuit of getting to know varying points of view. When we get to know these people with different points of view we can hopefully see the real people behind the faces we often judge.
Currently the verdict is that Christians are judgmental. Christians need to learn to follow Jesus' instruction to look at ourselves first. I also hope we will be willing to learn more about others and get to know the person instead of jumping to judgment. Then maybe we can turn around this view. What do you think?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Talk About It

I am back to blogging after a few weeks off. It has been a great but busy few weeks.
We have been focused on the views young people outside the Christian faith have of us as Christians. This week the focus is on the view that 91% of young people have and that is that Christians are antihomosexual. These young people think that Christians are against homosexuals. They have heard Christians say things like "God hates gays" or 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina are judgments by God on homosexuals. Then they think that all Christians agree with that.
I want to know how Christians that disagree with these kinds of statements should respond. How do we respond to the issue of homosexuality the way Christ would? I do not believe God hates people. I believe God loves all people, and as Christians we are called to communicate that message.
One of the troubling statistics in the book unChristian by David Kinnaman is that only 1% of Christians respond to homosexuality with prayer. I believe prayer is the first place we should go and so I want to encourage more of us to be praying as a response to homosexuality. We need to be praying for God's guidance on this issue and any other issue with this kind of complexity. We need to be talking with God about the direction we take to respond. Through times of prayer God will help us to see the situation with his heart and mind.
We also need to be praying for those personally facing this issue. I need to be praying for my brother, who is gay. I know some of the struggles and difficulties he has faced and I know he needs prayers for strength and peace. I need to do better at remembering to lift him up in prayer. We also need to lift up family members of homosexuals as they wrestle with the emotions and reactions. We can lift these people up before God and this response can hopefully bring a new spirit into these situations.
I also want to encourage us after having these conversations with God to talk with people about this issue. Let's have open communications about our struggles and difficulties. Let's ask questions to get better understanding instead of making assumptions. If we will truly listen to others we can grow in our ability to respond appropriately.
Above all, we need to respond first out of God's love and grace and not out of condemnation. I think only through love and grace can we communicate God's care for all people. Let's talk about it.