Bible Reading and Bible Living

A new Barna poll is out regarding “Bible Minded Cities.” My own metropolitan area (the Twin Cities) ranks 81. That’s not very high, if you’re keeping score.

In Lutheran land, where people don’t actually carry Bibles because they’re in the pews at church, is this really “surprising?”

What is the great mystery, of course, is HOW do they reach these rankings? What are the criteria? What does “Bible minded” really mean?

Plus, the great joke is you may actually be reading your Bible, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into living your Bible.

At any rate, congratulations to Knoxville, TN for whatever it is they do better than the rest of the country!

The Beauty of Reading the Text Together

At the beginning of the summer we began “Eat This Book.” It was a project to read through the New Testament together. We put up a “tree” at the beginning and asked everyone to put a “leaf” on the tree for every book of the New Testament they read. It has been a great picture of what happens when we read the Word together. Here are three pictures taken through the summer.


The Anointing and Sin

1 John almost seems to be a mystical letter. There are bold, brash statements about “knowing the anointing” and “not needing any teacher,” plus the whole thing of not sinning anymore.

1-3 John are such short books and make such outlandish statements, it’s almost too easy to skim right over them.

Not sin? REALLY?

Part of what we miss is John’s knowledge of what is possible. Sometimes, when we get a glimpse of the power of the Kingdom, and we get a taste of the power of the Spirit, there is a glimpse into what is God’s best. When we glimpse God’s best we may not know how to fully describe it. Descriptions can come out awkward, such as bold statements like John makes in his short letter.

The point is this: We need to realize the lavishness of the Kingdom. There is a power that has been delivered to us and we just don’t recognize it most of the time.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (I Jn. 3:8, NIV)

The enemy has been bound up. The Kingdom is unleashed. There is power available. We can understand God’s best and live it. Too much of the time, however, that doesn’t seem to interest us very much. The loss is ours. It is also the world’s loss.

We can do better.

Is There Joy in the Journey?

We are down to our last two weeks of “Eat This Book,” our journey as a church through the New Testament. We have made an intentional effort to read the New Testament with fresh eyes, tackling whole books at a time rather than a few verses at a time.

This has been a joy for me personally. It is so refreshing to engage the text each Sunday with people who are reading the text with me. The questions are great. The observations are great. The Spirit is speaking.

As we wind down in this journey, what have been your joys? What have been your discoveries?

We May Just Be On to Something…

Our first Sunday in our journey of “Eat This Book” where we weren’t out at the lake for a baptism, and it appears we may be onto something.

The “sermon” time was our church this morning was by… everyone. Our goal each week is to read through assigned New Testament books. This week was Acts and 1-2 Thessalonians. To start the sermon I had everyone break down into small groups and gave them some discussion questions. Then, the next part of the “sermon” was me fielding questions on the text. There were great questions. Plus, I didn’t have to answer all the questions! Often, others would jump in and talk about what they had learned.

Here we were taking a huge chunk of text and talking about it. This is something where everyone realizes they need to come prepared for church! We don’t come to be entertained. We come to contribute. 

Our next week’s reading is 1-2 Corinthians and Galatians. Enter the conversation. Here, Facebook, email… let’s talk about it.

Dig in.

Familiar Passages That Bring Life

I realized after preaching last Sunday that I refer quite a bit to a list of Bible passages I call “Ancient Wells.” These are familiar passages of Scripture that call out to me every time I read them. When I am “stuck” in my Bible reading, I turn to these passages again to help renew my thirst for the Word and for God.

In looking through my posts, I also realized I’ve never really posted those passages. I picked this up from Dallas Willard years ago and then added some of my own.

Romans 12:1-21
I Cor. 13
2 Cor. 3:12-7:1
Gal. 5:22-6:10
Eph.  4:20-6:20
Phil. 2:3-16
Phil. 4:4-9
Col. 3:1-4:6
I Pet. 2:1-3:16
2 Pet. 1:2-10
I Jn. 4:7-21
Micah 6:8
Deut. 10:12-21
Matt. 5-7
Rom. 8

Common English Bible and the Apocrypha

As I read through the Apocrypha in the CEB, I more clearly understand the need for simple language in the translation process. With the regular 66 books of the Protestant Bible I am used to more difficult language. I grew up with the Bible, even memorizing with the King James Version. The stilted language is actually comfortable to me.

But in reading the Apocrypha this time with the CEB, I understand why simpler translation is needed. I am unfamiliar with the Apocrypha so reading it with the CEB’s clarity helps me get into it quicker. I am understanding more and more that someone who’s rarely read the Bible would be quicker to get into a dynamic equivalent translation (or whatever they’re calling it these days) than a more formal equivalent translation.

The reading for today is pretty clear:

Don’t be too confident of being forgiven,
adding sin upon sin.
Don’t say, ‘His compassion is great:
he will forgive the whole heap of my sins.
Mercy and wrath are with him,
and his anger will rest on sinners. (Wisdom of Sirach 5:5,6, CEB)

I like THAT clarity!