We are forgetting that the Gospel is the solution. We too often treat the Gospel as a side issue, even though the current buzz states the Gospel is central. The questions we are asking right now is how do we live justly? The cycle of … Continue reading Lost, stuck, and the way out
Love wants work, we want flowers.
A phrase I use often in conversations is: That doesn’t pass the 1 Corinthians 13 test. Love wants, compels, and requires us to work. What we want with the concept of love is a Hallmark moment. Love does not work that way. If we want … Continue reading Love wants work, we want flowers.
Why faith is needed
In a first world nation, particularly our own, we have not often faced our mortality up front and personally. When that happens it significantly disrupts how we process things. Our prosperity, overly busy lifestyles, and brushing aside all things pointing to death leave us Ill-equipped … Continue reading Why faith is needed
Look for more water
Optimism and hope are often misplaced terms. I would venture to say that thinking best is not optimism, and hope is not a plan. Running to positivity can destroy and overwhelm. Being a pessimist also does not help. Negativity can wreak havoc on your immune … Continue reading Look for more water
Small Groups: the amazing opportunity of now
With the slow re-opening of the country back up, and the likelihood of church gatherings being restricted for awhile, leveraging small groups is critical. Many churches want to be a church a church of small groups. This crisis is a great test of how well … Continue reading Small Groups: the amazing opportunity of now
Why I still dislike the word Good with this Friday
Irony is not lost on me as I seek to be more precise with language when I am not wired to do so. As a person who thinks we take ourselves too seriously, as I grow older I see the wisdom more and more of … Continue reading Why I still dislike the word Good with this Friday
React, Repeat, Respond
Life is hard and not fair. A good friend of mine, Joe, reminds people often that we cannot control our situations, but we can control how we respond to them. The platitude of attitude is everything comes into play here. When life hits you, a … Continue reading React, Repeat, Respond
Insights form teaching Mark
When I finish teaching through book I like to pause and reflect. There is what you think you know when you go in, and then there is what stands out when you finished. After working through books of the Bible it can be all too … Continue reading Insights form teaching Mark
The Jesus centered wheel needs an alignment…
“How does Jesus pointing people to God the Father line up with the emphasis on Jesus in preaching?” I asked during a conference. “It seems with our emphasis on Jesus in the Scriptures we are forgetting God the Father, who Jesus pointed to, submitted to, and sacrificed himself so we can have a relationship with. Later I watched an interview of a celebrity pastor give an awful answer to politics in relationship to preaching to a right of center pundit. He tossed aside the issue of economics but focused on morality illustrated by speaking to the right to life issue. The Bible has much to say concerning economics. It’s a moral issue.
We need an alignment
Our tires were months old, but no longer good. We needed an alignment. At that time in our marriage, we drove over 175,000 miles in three years. That means we needed 5 alignments a year. Oops. With the laser focus on the centrality of the Gospel or Christ we have done something similar with the church. We are in need of fresh tires because of over emphasis. At this point the “yeah…but…” is starting to rise. While the Gospel is the main thing, it’s not the only thing. While it is most important “I delivered to you as of first importance…” It is not the only thing that Paul, Jesus, and the Bible spoke on. So why do we need an alignment?
Foolishness is evil
Jesus said in Mark 7 that what comes out of a person is what defiles them. He gives a list. At the end of the list is foolishness. Why is this a big deal? Because right after that Jesus says “All the EVIL things…” Foolishness is evil, according to Jesus. Proverbs makes the point that to be wise is to be godly. Paul, in Ephesians 5 flips that. To be godly is to be wise, “making the best use of the time for the days are evil.” The preacher of Hebrews relegates the basics of the faith as milk, not solid food. The church is out of practice when it comes to “the mature who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
What are you saying?
Would an average Christian have an informed answer when asked what is the biblical view of government, economics, and what criteria for judging nations? Some reading this may say “The Bible teaches on politics?!” The Bible speaks deeply about these matters. Do a study on “unjust scales” for example. (Federal Reserve system won’t match up too well with this.) Do a study on God judging a nation based on Nahum 3. (The U.S. foreign policy wont match up well will this.) Do a study on coveting. (Push towards socialism won’t match up well.) And if you’re thinking “…well, that’s the obsolete testament, old covenant thing…” Remember God judges nations in Revelation, which voluminously quotes from the Prophets. We need to build discernment in all areas of life.
Is Jesus the main thing or the Father?
More importantly the need of an alignment is our view on God the Father. While much of the Bible points to and is about Jesus, I would suggest God the Father is the central figure. We ignore him too often. Paul alludes to this in Philippians when he says “… every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Paul’s prayer in Ephesians chapter one amplifies this point. Paul thanks the father for the work done in us, through us and for us in Jesus. But more than that is what Jesus said.
A few things that Jesus said in Matthew
… so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. … so that you you may be sons of your Father who is heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good… You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. …your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. All things have been handed over to me by my Father… For whoever does does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will. My Father if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.
- While the preaching of the Gospel is primary, and Jesus the agent that makes that happen, as Gospel centered people we must point people to Father. Jesus did. Significant parts of the Bible are about our Father. In focusing on what Jesus is to us, let us not forget that our brother Jesus established our relationship with the Father, goes before the Father on our behalf, and that together we glorify the Father by doing Dad’s will.
- As foolishness is evil, and the current time evil, let us sharpen our discernment to distinguish good from evil. Let us be deep, reasoned, and thoughtful saints. Let us think, judge and redeem every area of life around us. This involves knowing the whole counsel of God, and applying it to life, family, relationships, economics, politics, ethics, philosophy, history, protection, law, childrearing, conflict, science, engineering, environment, criminal justice, monetary policy, entertainment, etc., etc., etc.
- Preach Jesus! While the church needs an alignment, we must not “swing the pendulum” the other direction. Without Jesus, we cannot know who is central, the Father. Without Jesus, we lack the power of the Holy Spirit to live biblically discerning lives. Without Jesus, we are of all most people to be pitied. In course correcting, let us never forget that the Gospel was delivered to us as of first importance. Preach Jesus, and don’t forget to build discernment. Preach Jesus, and don’t forget our Father in heaven. Let us be in proper alignment and not out of balance. Our culture needs this from us.
Reding the Bible in a week
On occasion the Holy Spirit, whose operations are mysterious no doubt, taps you on the shoulder. The tap is often a kind way of saying you need to do something different or correctly. This occurred when on a spiritual retreat. I wanted to try something different by reading through the whole Bible in one week. Right up from I got a tap on the shoulder that I was reading it wrong. Here are some things that stood out when going through the whole book.
You’re likely not the hero
We like to identify with the protagonist in the story, and not the mob. Chances are very good that we’d be like the mob. Reading through the Bible will break you and it will challenge whatever perspective of the Bible you hold. Rather than asking how people in the Bible could make the mistakes they make, ask yourself how you could make those same mistakes. Why? Because we do. The Bible was written to people like you in me. Different time and culture, but many of the same challenges.
Scope and Sequence
In reading through the Bible in a week, aim to see the big picture of what is going on. Speed read it. The win isn’t details, it’s the big picture. If something catches your attention, flag it to study later. In hitting the New Testament I suggest this order: Matthew, Hebrews, Galatians, Revelation, and then the rest in order. Coming fresh off the Old Testament, those books in the New Testament will make a TON more sense. But first, pray and tell God that you’re going to listen and keep you mouth shut. Bible reading is ultimately about listening to God. For me, the process took about 6-8 hours of 216ish pages a day.
Reading from beginning to end is interesting. Genesis carries a lot more weight than we realize, as do the first five books. God’s standard is perfection in every sense of that term. This is massive when suddenly in the New Testament Jesus touches people who were forbidden in the temple. The prophets will depress you. Even heroic moments ultimately become let downs. But before that lets you down, there are the writings. Those books show how things can be done. Psalms is a pain to read. Great content, but repetition of various phrases make it challenging reading. The Gospels are a breath of fresh air! The New Testament carries common themes from the Old, but Jesus gives TONS of up. Things move ahead.
Reading through the Gospel makes you VERY thankful for the Gospel. Without the Gospel we are very stuck. What is also amazing is how gracious and merciful God is throughout the entire Bible. The mean curmudgeon feeling we associate with God in the Old Testament isn’t there. God is truly the loving father who doesn’t give up on his family, even when his family abuses or takes advantage of him.
The key message from God nearly always been an old story of hundreds if not thousands of years old. We ask the question of why we should listen to a book that is 2,000 years old. But that comment could easily be made in Noah’s day, Abraham’s, Moses’, Davids, and Jesus’ day. But given this span of time, God’s Word became more and more fulfilled…literally.
You are loved
A repeated phrase throughout the Bible is God’s love endures forever. It is a major theme in the Bible. If God chose to orient himself with humanity through the lens of justice, we would not exist. Instead God chose the lens of grace and mercy. A BIG reason for the chaos we live in now is God wants you to be a part of his family. God willingly endures what he hates to get what he most loves, and that is you. God doesn’t give up on those he loves.
The bottom line:
Take the time to read through the whole Bible as fast as you can. It may seem intimidating, but it is very refreshing. While it will break you, scare you, it will also leave you feeling incredibly loved. Ultimately the Bible is about God revealing himself and being available to us all. Even when we try to run from him.