Tag Archives: Bible

Energy Boost

soda

One of my vices is to drink Pepsi or Coke every morning. I know it may not be the best choice. But it is what I need to get an energy booth to get me going in the day. Other people drink coffee or tea or sports drinks to perk them up to give them a lift to start their tasks.

The truth is that the Lord gives us an energy boost like no drink on earth can. Consider these enlivening words of Scripture:

The joy of the Lord your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Jushua 1:9

They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

What gives us an energy boost according to these verses? Joy of the Lord, the Scriptures, having hope, knowing that God is with you and being renewed as we wait for him. Every time you indulge in your morning energy boost, consider these ways of being energized in your faith. They have the power to bring you everlasting liveliness in God.

Crossword Puzzles

crossword

I recently began doing crossword puzzles. I had not done them earlier because I felt they were too difficult for me. But I have found that doing them on a regular basis (once a week) has helped me to get better at them and made them easier to do. Now I look forward to my “crossword time” and enjoy the experience more, especially when I “get” a hard word that opens the door to getting a lot more words in the puzzle.

My experience of getting into crosswords puzzles can be similar to how we get into the Word of God. At first we may avoid it and think it is too difficult for us. But then when we read the Bible regularly. it becomes easier to do. It feels good when it becomes part of our routine. When we do “get” a word or passage, story or parable from Scripture through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are excited and enlightened and our minds are opened to other messages in God’s Word.

As with crossword puzzles, all the words of Scripture are connected to each other, and we are connected to God more and more as we come to see the interrelationship of his communications to us.

Sunflowers

sunflowers

In late summer, there was a large sunflower field in the St. Louis metropolitan area that was a fair distance from my house. People kept posting beautiful pictures of themselves in the midst of these beautiful blossoms. I wanted to get there to see the sunflowers for myself but I kept putting it off or was too busy to make the drive.

Then the last weekend in August I decided to make the trek, only to find I was too late. The sunflowers had lost their color and were all drooping forlornly. I took a picture of myself with the sad-looking sunflowers anyway.

As I drove away from the the field that once was so full of life, it made me think about the fact that we as Christians oftentimes need to act right away when an opportunity to share our faith presents itself or the chance for a beautiful result may slip away. Don’t get so caught up in yourself and your activities that you miss the opening to blossom with God’s love and shine the light of the Son of God onto someone else.

The experience also made me remember the words of Isaiah who said, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord lasts forever” (Isaiah 40:8). The fading sunflowers actually become a comforting symbol that shows that the Word of the Lord will never fade away. We do not have to worry that God’s messages will wither away. The Word will be a bright and lasting burst of sunshine in our lives every day here on earth and in heaven to come. Let opening the Bible be like opening a forever-flourishing flower in an otherwise dwindling creation. Let the words bloom within you.

Thirsty?

water bottle

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” —John 7:37

These words from Jesus are a good reminder to us of what it is we are thirsting for. Are we thirsting for him? Or are we thirsting for wealth? Or for a human relationship? Or for happiness? Or for a good job? Or for popularity or fame?

I think of how we hear again and again from doctors and other health experts that we should drink 8 glasses of water a day. But do we? I for one find myself drinking more soda than bottled water, more sports drinks than tap water. We know what is best for us, but we don’t always drink what we should.

Coming to Christ and drinking means being in prayer more often than we are on the Internet. It means reading his Word in the Bible more often than watching TV. It means being filled with his Spirit more often than stuffing our faces with food.

So come to Christ and drink. Be thirsty for time with him. Crave his presence with you. Be soothed by his messages of hope and blessing, peace and love. Let his words wash over you and be poured into you over and over again each and every day.

Digital vs. Print Bible

bible

While I have extolled the virtues of digital Bibles on this very blog, there is a mounting backlash against the exclusive use of digital Bibles. In “People of the eBook” in the Spring 2019 CT Pastors Special Issue, author Karen Swallow Prior says, “As our reading becomes more immersed in a digital rather than a print culture, the more we return to some of the qualities of the pre-literate world. We are reading more, but the way we read replicates the effects of the discrete images of stained glass windows more than the sustained, logical, and coherent linearity of a whole book” (50).

Before people had access to the written word of the Bible, parishioners learned about what the Bible said in bits and pieces, most often through the images found in stained glass windows in the church. The same thing seems to be happening when accessing the Bible digitally. We are only getting bits and pieces and we are drawn to imagery on the screen.

Many pastors in response are encouraging deeper engagement with physical Bibles to help to see the whole salvation story and make stronger connections with various parts of the biblical text. This has brought about a growing popularity in printed Bibles that include space in the margins for journaling and notetaking to make these connections within the text. Also, people have come to realize that they like to hold the weight of God’s words in their hands. So while digital Bibles can have their benefits, consider getting reconnected or more connected with your physical Bible to stay connected to the whole story of Jesus and his love.

Forgivenesss for Kids

hug

In an article called “Sin and Forgiveness,” in the March 2019 issue of Living Lutheran, author Erin Strybis talked about a time when her young son’s tantrum led her to have a tantrum of her own. To her surprise, her son came up to her afterward and said, “It’s OK, Mommy,” and hugged her (42). Our kids “get” forgiveness more than we perhaps realize.

Strybis suggests three principles to practice in the home to reinforce the power of forgiveness:

Lean on story: The Bible is filled with stories of people who sinned and were forgiven. Think of the prodigal son, Simon Peter, the thief on the cross. Bible stories of forgiveness can be the bedtime stories we tell our children.

Lean into hugs: Remember the father of the prodigal son who ran to embrace repentant son. We need to be quick to reach out and wrap our arms around our children when they come to us confessing their sin. We need to show them that we love and forgive them wholeheartedly.

Lean on prayer: Prayer is an important piece in the practice of forgiveness. We need to pray to God when we are angry at our child and need to reorient ourselves to God’s merciful ways and we need to pray with our kid when we express forgiveness to remind us all the forgiveness comes first from God through Christ and the cross.

Let forgiveness flow freely in our families by the grace of God.

Digital Bibles

digital BibleThe use of digital Bibles as exploded over the last several years. So much so that I know that in many churches the pastor will say in a sermon, “Let’s open our Bibles or your favorite Bible app or website to look more closely at our reading for today.” It seems more common these days for people to read Scripture to me on their phones when we are talking about a particular topic or a favorite verse they want to share.

Biblegateway.com is my go-to digital Bible most of the time. It recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and has 219 Bible translations in 72 languages available to users. I like to use it to get right to a verse I was trying to think of. Like, say, I am looking for that verse about “endurance” and “character ” Type in those two words into biblegateway.com and boom! There it is. Romans 5:4: “Endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Now I can go from there quickly and easily in the flow of writing a devotion or blog or letter to a friend to make my point.

Hard to believe that at one time we spent lots of time flipping Bible pages, looking through concordances and saying to ourselves, “I know it is here somewhere in Romans, but where exactly?”

Digital Bibles do take the guesswork out of finding verses. But the work of the Holy Spirit still needs to happen within our hearts for these words now more quickly found to speak to us deeply and spiritually. Digital Bibles should never be a way for for us to “click it and forget it” and go on to the next verse or the next app or the next website. We still need to be people who “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly” (Colossians 3:16). What the Bible (digital or leatherbound or otherwise) has to say to us must continue to sink into us and make a difference in how we live, speak and act.

That’s why I do like the “in context” feature available on biblegateway.com. It takes the verse you have found and shows you the verses that surround it, the story this verse is from, the topic that this verse was a part of. It’s easy to “cherry-pick” Bible verses when you are working with a digital Bible and not get the full message being expressed, unfortunately. So taking the extra step to put verses in context is invaluable to our understanding of the Word of God for our lives.

Making the most of the digital Bible you use can help you grow in faith and develop a closer relationship with Christ. In the end that is all that matters, no matter how those precious words of salvation through his cross and empty tomb reach you. See how much “screen time” can involve “faith time” in the digital Word this week!

 

Everyone Has a Part

curtainTheology professor Kevin J. Vanhoozer wrote, “Scripture is not a textbook but the Church’s holy script, and understanding it involves reading all the books in the Old and New Testament as parts of an overarching story. It’s more than narrative, it’s drama: story made flesh, in which readers today have speaking parts” (“Letter to an Aspiring Theologian,” First Things, August/September 2018, 29).

This quote is a good reminder to those in church work that implementing programs that call for parishioners to read the entire Bible over the course of a certain period of time is a valuable and worthwhile exercise even when slogging through the book of Numbers. We as Christians need to see the big picture and be reminded of it again and again. This is not some new story of salvation. It is the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

The other part of this quote that I like is that it reminds us that the Bible is not something to put on a shelf to collect dust somewhere. It is not just something to read in a college course and box up in the basement. It is not just a sweet story that you read to kids at bedtime from time to time. It is living and active and something that is a part of us and a part of our lives here and now.

The best part of the quote for me is that it declares to us that everyone has a part to play in the drama that began in the Bible. This divine play does not end with the last word of the book of Revelation. It continues with each one of us who have faith in Christ and believe in him. No believer is left out of this play. Everyone has a part. The story of what is yet to come on the Last Day when Jesus calls us home to be with him as his forgiven and loved brothers and sisters still needs to be told to audiences all over the world in many and various ways. Some have speaking roles. Some sing in the chorus. Some pull the curtain open to reveal a truth about our salvation to someone. We are on the world’s stage for a reason. And it not to signify nothing, to paraphrase Shakespeare. But what we have to share signifies everything. We only need to wait for the curtain call when Christ returns with endless applause.

Moon Rocks

Moon rocksI read an article recently that after Neal Armstrong brought back moon rocks from the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, they were distributed to all 50 states, but many of the mementos vanished. Saddened by this development, intrepid rock hunter Joseph Gutheinz made it his mission to find the missing treasures. He has successfully located all the states’ rocks, except for 2, New York and Delaware, and he hopes to find those by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019.

While some of the rocks were stolen, amazingly, Gutheinz discovered that an estimated 40 states did not record where they put the moon rocks, and they simply lost track of them.rock plaque

How could this happen, we ask ourselves. But the truth is that something similar can happen with the treasure of our faith in Christ that we have been given by the power of the Holy Spirit through our baptisms.

Our precious faith can sometimes get ignored under that piles of work assignments, school activities and personal hobbies. For instance, if you can’t think of where to find a Bible in your home, then perhaps it is time to put the Bible front and center in your living space to remind your entire household that our faith is precious and needs to be honored and recognized.

The same goes for those who have wondered away from the faith or whom we have simply lost touch with. If you haven’t talked to a special friend in the faith for awhile, it is probably time to set aside some time to search for them and reconnect with this treasured person in your life.

I am reminded of the parable of the woman searching for the lost coin. Like Getheinz with the moon rocks, she is determined to keep looking for the coin until she finds it, and then she is overjoyed when she does.

Our attitude should be the same in our re-embracing of our faith and our fellow followers of Christ. Never let the Word of God or the bonds we have with others disappear from our lives!

Sunday School Shuffle

Sunday schoolAs with the coffee hour I discussed a couple of blogs back, the Sunday school hour is not what it used to be in our churches today, especially during the summer months.

The traditional approach of having separate grades in separate classrooms for one hour after church is becoming increasingly rare these days for many of the same reasons for the decline of the coffee hour. There are so many competing commitments on a Sunday morning for so many young families that schedules do not often allow for an extra hour to be at church for Sunday school.

In order to accommodate this pervasive trend, churches are turning to other alternatives to incorporate Sunday school into Sunday mornings. One way is through what is typically called “children’s church.” In this model, just before the sermon or right after a children’s sermon in worship children are invited leave the worship space to come to another room to learn about the Scripture lessons for the day or other Bible readings or stories in a more kid-friendly way. This approach usually involves some sort of craft or activity to reinforce the message. Children are then brought back to the worship space at the end of the service to rejoin their families.

Another model gathers all grades into one room during the entire worship service that is happening elsewhere simultaneously. This design allows for the singing of Bible-based children’s songs, a more in-depth look at Scripture and a more complex activity or craft. The gathering of all grades together also increases the feeling of community and fosters relationships that may not otherwise have happened if children were placed in separate classrooms by grade levels.

Many churches have chosen to continue offering traditional Sunday school for separate grade levels, only moving it to the same time period as regular worship.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of Sunday school shuffle, in my view. The advantages of children’s church is that children take part in both worship and Sunday school in the given hour. The disadvantage is that it is often disruptive, rushed and unsettling to make the transition from worship to Sunday school and back.

The advantage of the combined grade Sunday school is that there is an increased energy, the entire hour is dedicated to Sunday school and church workers can be more creative with their lesson plans. The disadvantage is that children do not get to experience worship with their families.

The plus of moving the traditional Sunday school to the church hour is that children can receive directed teaching that caters to their leaning development level and that children are with other children their own age. The disadvantage again is that children miss church.

There is no clear answer here, of course. I have talked to many church workers who struggle with how best to present the Sunday school shuffle to their congregations. In the end, it is about sharing the Good News of God’s love in Jesus to children in whatever form that may take. Let us rejoice in any opportunity we have to do that.