Tag Archives: Scripture

Brain Hacking

brainA recent segment on 60 Minutes detailed the activities of “brain hacking” taking place among computer companies in the designs of their social media platforms and apps.

Programmers have developed algorithms that take advantage of the brain’s desires for pleasure, Responses to status updates from other users are often spaced out over a period of time to drive us to check our devices more. And “likes” are sometimes bunched up together so that our brains feel a greater sense of reward when they are revealed.

Beyond making me somewhat mad at Facebook and the like for playing with our minds like this, the story reminded me that there are many things that have a greater influence over our brains than we realize.

Continue reading →

Victim and Victor

victorSt. Augustine famously said of Jesus on the cross: “Victor quia victima!” which means “victor because victim.” On the cross, Jesus turns the ancient thinking of battle on its head. Usually in war, the defeated is the victim and the executioner is the victor. But as the victim on the cross, Jesus became the victor over the enemies of sin, death and the devil. St. Paul points out this amazing reversal:

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” —1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Then in Hebrews 2:14-15, St. Paul describes the divine combination of Christ’s being victim and victor this way:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Continue reading →

What Is a Bible Study Exactly?

Bible studyThe answer to the question of what a Bible study is seems at first glance to be a simple one: an in-depth look at Scripture. But a recent article in Christianity Today entitled “Let Bible Studies Be Bible Studies” reveals that the answer can actually be fairly complex in our church today.

“Over time, ‘Bible study’ has become a catchall to describe all kinds of gatherings,” the writer of the article, Jan Wilkin, explains. “As we have expanded our use of the term, we have decreased the number of actual Bible studies we offer” (Christianity Today, March 2017, p. 26).

Continue reading →

The Bible Reads Us

Bible reading

Let the Bible read you.

In the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of the Concordia Journal, Prof. Erik Herrmann says in an article on the relevance of remembering the Reformation, “There is a saying that ‘there are some books that you read, and then there are some books that read you.’ For Luther, the Bible was that second kind of book. He did not see the Scriptures primarily as the object of our interpretation, but rather we are the objects as the Scriptures interpret us” (Concordia Journal, Winter/Spring 2017, p. 24).

Letting the Bible read us instead of us reading the Bible completely changes our approach to the study of Scripture. We are not to lay our own thoughts and opinions and values onto Scripture. Instead, we need to let the messages of Scripture overlay onto us and reveal where we are at in our spiritual lives.

Continue reading →

The 7 Visible Marks

churchWhat is the church? It is a question that comes up more frequently these days amid technological and cultural shifts. Amazingly, Martin Luther actually wrestled with that same question 500 years ago. And thankfully for us, Martin Luther expressed what a church is by writing down what he called the seven visible marks of the church:

  1. The Word of God
  2. Baptism
  3. Holy Communion
  4. The Office of the Keys (Confession and Absolution)
  5. Called ministers
  6. Prayer, public praise and thanksgiving to God
  7. Bearing suffering patiently

Luther called these the seven principal parts of Christian sanctification or the seven holy possessions of the church.

Continue reading →

Powerful Words

open BibleI was recently hospitalized and through that experience, among many things, I learned the power that the words of Scripture can have on a person in a time of crisis.

On a plaque directly in my line of sight as I laid in bed read: Fear not, for I am with you (Isaiah 41:10).

Those words kept my spirits up each day and gave me the strength to keep going.

Then my cousin texted these words to me:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning —Lamentations 3:22-23

As soon as I saw those words, I immediately began to cry. It was just what I needed to hear at that exact moment. No matter how bleak it was looking, I was reassured that God will always love me and that his goodness to me is fresh every day—no matter what is happening in my life.

Continue reading →