What you learned about the Bible in the 1st grade

One of my new pregnancy symptoms turns out to be insomnia.  The past several nights, I’ll wake up to go to the bathroom and then suddenly I’m wide awake!  3 am, really?!  And I usually spend the next 2-3 hrs just awake – no reason at all.  So during these dark hours when NOTHING is going on anywhere, I’ve had some interesting things rolling around in my head.  Some of those things I have found interesting enough that I wanted to share them with you…one at a time, of course.

I remember the complaint a lot of us had regarding what we were taught in school.  “How is that going to help me in the real world?!”  One of the things that I know we all learned during school that is SOOOOO important to our lives in the “real world”, and that I am discovering it is especially in our relationship with God.  READING COMPREHENSION!!

You learn to read as you start school, and learning to read is not just about able to recognize the words on the page that form the sentences.  It’s about understanding what you read, recognizing how the sentence/paragraph/chapter you just read relates to the one you’re presently reading.  Yet somehow, there’s this disconnect when kids/teens/adults read the Bible.  Reading the Bible becomes about memorizing the “catch phrases” (“by his stripes we were healed”, “trust in the Lord with all your heart”, “For God so loved the world…”).  And then actually understanding the Bible requires “revelation from God.”  And guess what?  You will not insult God or remove the “holiness” of the Word if you break down chapters and verses (aka paragraphs and sentences) the same way you did Lord of the Flies in the 11th grade!

So, in case you need a jump start, here’s a few steps that will get you started.

1) Identify your pronouns

– If you start reading a passage and everyone is a “he” and everything is an “it”, then maybe you need to back up a bit to figure out who “he” is and what “it” is.

2) Identify the historical/cultural setting

– Somehow it becomes easy to forget that “bible times” wasn’t a separate time period from other time periods in history.  The people written about in the Bible had to learn to co-exist with the Babylonians and the Egyptians and the Romans – all of which are studied and documented cultures in history.  They weren’t some special breed of Egyptians from another dimension that just interacted with the Israelites, they were the same Egyptian culture that you watch documentaries about on the History Channel.  So, use that knowledge and information to enhance your understanding of scripture.  And the Bible isn’t the only documentation of Mosaic law-based cultures or even early Christian cultures, so learn some history!

3) Identify word origins

– The English language has proved to be a very limited language when it comes to accurate expression of thoughts and concepts.  We are all aware of the example of the word “love” – you’ve got a 1 in 4 chance to get the meaning right when you translate it to Greek.  Look up words, learn their roots.  You might be surprised to find that what teachers and preachers told you a verse meant really isn’t what was intended by the writer.

4) Re-write the passage in your own words using what you learned from completing steps 1-3

– This was probably my least favorite assignment from any Literature class I took.  But is probably the most useful when it comes to testing if you really understood what was being said by the author and what was happening in the story.  So, when it comes to doing this step with the Bible, it does a couple of things for you.  A) It gets all the thee’s and thou’s and heretofore’s out of the way to make it feel more natural B) It increase the remember-ability of the subject at hand for you to be able to summarize and share

I’ve learned that taking this seemingly academic approach to the Bible leads me to one of three places: 1) I learn something about God – his characteristics and his way of thinking.  2) I learn something about my role as a child of God – the characteristics I should have and the way I should be/think.  3) I learn something about my role as a disciple of Christ – the way I should speak and act.  Therefore, this process isn’t about getting brownie points because I read my Bible.  It’s about me taking what I’ve read and learned and evaluating my view of God or my ways of being and thinking or my ways of speaking and acting to see if they line up with what the Word says.

So, if you just want brownie points, keep it up, you’ve probably got more than you can count.  But if you want to know God, understand the Bible and how it applies to you and where you fit in with all of this, then dig in!  You don’t have to sit around and wait on a “zap” from Heaven.

Advertisements

Humans will be Humans

Throughout my life, I’ve heard preachers talk about Moses and how he dealt with the Israelites.  And somewhere before it’s all over they say something like “even after 1000’s of years, church people haven’t changed.”

Well, it’s true…

…but it’s not just church people.

During the 1000’s of years between the Fall and now, Sin hasn’t changed.

There is something about Sin that causes people to defy authority and instructions – it’s Sin’s nature.

When God promises to provide manna for the people to eat every day, he says to gather only enough for today, because if you try to save it for tomorrow, it will be rotten.  But on the 6th day, you should gather enough for the Sabbath because manna won’t be available on the Sabbath.  Sounds easy right?

Well, there were still people who tried to save up and reaped the consequences of rotten manna.  And there were other people who tried to go gather manna on the Sabbath, and had to go hungry for the day because it wasn’t there.

Yes, the people were complainers and whiners.

When the 12 spies came back from their scouting mission, Joshua and Caleb believed God.  The other 10 spread rumors and instilled fear in the people.  God said go take the land, the people said no.  Then God told Moses that they would have to wander around until all the doubters died out and the next generation would take the land.  The next morning, Moses wakes up and goes outside and sees the people prepared for war and they got their “toe” kicked.

Every time God said “don’t send your daughters to marry their sons and don’t bring in their daughters to marry your sons” – all because He knew they were take on their idolatry and customs – they did it anyway, and fell into the problems that God said they would.

So, in Sin, you’re destined to stay in a cycle 1) get instructions/law 2) say “ok” 3) disobey/break the law 4) pay consequences 5) repent 6) start over.  If they obeyed God, they had the blessing and protection of God.  If they disobeyed God, they were on their own.

It wasn’t until Jesus came and became the sacrifice for all that we were able to break out of the cycle and have a nature that didn’t inherently disobey.

So, without Jesus, humans would just be (and stay) Human.

What fool is driving your car?

In 2002, I was driving home from college in my sea foam green 1995 Ford Contour. I was headed to Athens to meet my dad to get my passport renewed, and it was raining. As I was traveling through Banks County, a lady turned right and pulled out in front of me. Then she immediately slammed on her brakes & flipped on her left turn signal. And here’s what happened in the split second following…
Crazy lady……I’m not going to be able to stop…what to do now…I think I’d prefer to take out that person’s mailbox instead of the lady’s van……why am I not turning…CRASH…crunch…POW…*sigh*
I hit the van, my air bag deployed, crushed my radiator, but everyone was fine. There’s a reason why that car was named Gracie!
In 2003, Ken & I were driving to Virginia after my parents moved up there – 500 miles in 8 hours in my E
2001 tomato red Ford Focus. Somewhere on I-85 in the middle of North Carolina, I told Ken I was going to grab a quick nap and laid my seat back and closed my eyes. It wasn’t more than 5 minutes and I sat straight up in my seat just in time to notice our car was drifting off the left side of the road. The words “uh oh, baby” barely got out of my mouth when Ken jerked the wheel. We swerved back onto the road and I thought we might be safe. Then, suddenly we swerved back onto the shoulder and then down the embankment off the median. Once we hit the guide wires, they “guided” us in a straight line until we stopped. The wires managed to rip of the back bumper, destroy my bike, and leave scrapes down the entire driver’s side of the car, but we were fine.
Now my current car is a midnight blue 2003 Mitsubishi Galant. When I started driving it, my prayer over my car was “God, please protect any fool that drives this car.” And He has.
Texting & driving = foolish
Emailing & driving = foolish
Tweeting & driving = foolish
Sleeping & driving = foolish
Playing angry birds & driving = foolish
Reading & driving = foolish
Speeding = foolish
Driving under the influence of cold meds = foolish
Whether it’s me doing the foolish things listed about or someone else driving my car foolishly, I’m reminded of that one wise prayer – protect the fools.
In 2007, I was driving back to my apartment in Savannah after a study session at school. I was one block from my parking lot when the Waste Management truck made a right turn out in front of me and made a stop for trash. My options: hit the Waste Management worker that just hopped off the trash truck or swerve into the other lane and hope people can get out of the way. I’m not a big fan of vehicular homicide so I chose to swerve – side swiped a girl’s car. All I lost was my driver’s side mirror ($45), and that’s all she lost as well.
Protect the fools!

A time to be born…

At work, my pharmacy manager is pregnant, my store manager is pregnant, and one technician/cashier is pregnant (Don’t drink the water!).  The other single ladies and over 50 ladies look at me and say “You better not come back from vacation pregnant”.  And I respond “Don’t worry I won’t.”

Then others ask “Do you have kids?  When are you going to have kids?”  My answer is usually, “When I’m good and ready.”

Two conversations have struck a cord in me, that really made me consider the nature of God.  One conversation was about forms of birth control, and both conversations involved me saying “God created the person who invented birth control, so I’m going to use wisdom as I use the tools God gave me, and I believe His grace will make up the rest.”.  Then the other person says “If God wants a baby born, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

The other was about this AT&T commercial. The person said to me “Isn’t that crazy? If he hadn’t gotten on the train, their kid wouldn’t have been president.”  I said “No, missing one train isn’t going to ruin 3 people’s destinies.”

God isn’t going to sabotage my birth control when He’s ready for me to have a baby.  He’s a gentleman, so He’s not going to force you into your destiny. You get to choose whether you follow or not – and that includes becoming a parent.  But He’s also not unmerciful that if you “miss the train”, your life is ruined.  He’s a God of mercy and grace and forgiveness.

God lives outside of time.  He created time, therefore it does not rule over Him.  So, yes, God has a plan for me and needed me to be born at a certain time.  And yes, He’s got a plan for my children.  But, God is bigger than time.  If I wait a day or a month or year too long to start having kids, it’s really not “too long” because I’m not big enough to ruin their destiny from God.  Since God is outside of time, the moment a child is born, He can get it all in, and they can still fulfill their purpose.  Works the same with being born again too.  Just because you didn’t get saved as a kid doesn’t mean you’ve missed your destiny.  God is outside of time.

And that’s a great thing to remember: when we “miss the train” and it causes us to spend more time in a certain season of life – God is outside of time; when we postpone decisions or actions due to fear or doubt but finally get moving – God is outside of time.  He is bigger than our mistakes, He is bigger than our failures, He is bigger than the time we feel like we wasted!

God didn’t call you to be American

When I hear the phrase “the American Dream”, the picture that comes to mind is a beautiful tw0-story house with a yard that is perfectly manicured.  It’s in the perfect neighborhood so the kids go to the right school and dad has the perfect job.  They have at least 2 children who do well in school and only get into minor trouble.  They have one car that fits the whole family,  but they only need one car because dad has a great job and goes to work every morning and mom stays home and cooks the most glorious food so the family can sit down together at the dinner table when dad gets home from work and have a nice meal and talk about their day.  And mom, the house wife, has the most fashionable clothes and the perfect hair-do and manages to get all the chores done without breaking a sweat.  They participate in all the community events.  And mom and dad get along so well with only a few minor spats. Anyone picture Donna Reed?

If we modernize it, it’s the big house and the big yard and the perfect kids and TWO cars and the best job for dad AND mom, and the right town and the perfect friends and a peaceful marriage and all the latest electronics and gadgets, and the latest and greatest fashion (for us and for our kids).  Right?

Did you know there’s an American Church dream too?  We want a church that provides lots of opportunities so we don’t have to make ourselves uncomfortable to participate.  And a church that does lots of flashy things to keep our attention because we like to think “I’m ADD”.  And a church that will let us volunteer to the level we want to without demanding more or trying to improve our character.  We just want a church that will love me “just as I am” and then let me go home that way.  We want a children’s program that will teach our children about God and about how to obey their parents and their teachers and how to respect others so we won’t have to.  And we want a marriage series to teach our spouse what marriage is all about and remind them of their duties.

At Catalyst I heard Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson ask the question “what are we pledging allegiance to?” They said American Christians have an “American story” that we overlay with “belief in Jesus”.  They hear us say “I love God” but they see us live and strive for the American dream.  And there are churches that strive to be the American church to help American Christians achieve their American dream.  And according to Darren and Jon, that makes the story of the Church “hypocrisy” (we are the Church).  God called us to be believers and sons in His Kingdom, not Americans.

Do we really want to live God’s Story, or are we happy with our story of hypocrisy?

What if God was narrow-minded…

…like us?

Go ahead, get mad, huff and puff and tell me that you’re not narrow-minded.

Now, think of something that you don’t like.  And think of a person (or group of people) that like that thing that you don’t like.  Did God create those people?  Did God create those people for a purpose?  Does God love those people?  Can you tell me that God didn’t give those people the ability or knowledge or skills or gifts to be able to accomplish, participate in, and succeed at that thing that you don’t like?

Ok, so that’s kind of vague.  Let’s get specific (and I’ll talk about me so you don’t have to examine yourself)…

I’m a pharmacist (well, about to be one very soon).  I like science, I like medicine, but I don’t like blood and guts and oozy things.  Therefore I am not a nurse or doctor or surgeon or dentist.  I’m a pharmacist.  Thank God there is somebody out there that likes blood and guts and oozy things to be nurses and doctors and surgeons and dentists.  I also don’t like dealing with death and terminal illnesses – my emotions aren’t built to handle those situations (that’s a whole ‘nother story).  Therefore do not work in an ICU or nursing home or cancer center.  Thank God for people who can handle those situations and choose to work on those places.

Now, it’s time to look at yourself…

Say you like art and music and drama, but you think sports are dumb and pointless.  Does that mean God didn’t create the people who are famed for inventing those sports – and give them the creativity to invent such things.  And does that mean that God didn’t create people to have talent and abilities to play and succeed at those sports?  And does that mean God didn’t create the people who like to watch (and even make sad attempts at participating) in those sports?

Let’s flip it around…

Say you like sports, but you think art and music and drama are dumb.  Does that mean God didn’t create those people and give them the skills and ability to create art or write music or plays?  And does that mean God didn’t create people who have an appreciation for and find enjoyment in all types of art and music and drama? (Yes, ALL types!)

This goes for just about anything… people who wear different types of clothes or like different types of music or movies.  People who have a different favorite subject than you.  People who believe differently than you – religious or political or any other way.

How often do you find yourself silently (or maybe not so silently) saying the words “stupid” or “dumb” or “idiot” or “moron” or “pointless” when you encounter people with different likes and dislikes than you (and it doesn’t have to be about the person)?

Maybe you like Action movies instead of Fantasy or Sci-fi?  Does that mean God didn’t give those people the imagination to create or enjoy those movies?

Maybe you like soccer instead of football?

Maybe you like country music instead of rock?

Maybe you like English instead of Math or Science?

Maybe you think it’s important to protect endangered animals, or be more Green to protect the environment, or buy local produce to support your community or eat organic foods.

How often do you try to convince God to close His mind to think like you rather than ask Him to open your mind so you can really love (and not just patronize) your neighbor as yourself?

(Disclaimer: I’m not trying to say that the decisions people make about using their God-given abilities, skills, and creativity are always right.  But He did give them those things and He did give them free will to choose.)

God did something nice for me!

If you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you’ve probably heard a little about the troubles the roofers have caused me in the past couple weeks.  I told this story to the teens Sunday morning, and I wanted to share it with the blogosphere – complete with pictures!

About three weeks ago, the roofers finally made it to start working on the building I live in, putting on a brand new roof.  After about 4 days of work, a monsoon hit and stayed around for about two and a half weeks.  On about Day 12, I was on my porch watching a fantastic thunderstorm go by, when I suddenly heard the sound of rushing water (I was thoroughly expecting a car to come rushing through the river of a parking lot, sending water 15 feet into the air).  Instead, the noise was coming from inside the apartment!  I turned to see water pouring out of my ceiling, about 3 inches away from my lamp!  I rushed to get a towel and empty a trash can to prevent a huge mess.  I called the emergency maintenance line, but they said “just watch it, and we’ll check it in the morning to get it patched and clean the carpet.”  They never came.

Memorial Day weekend was the first time we had seen the sun in what seemed like forever.  As the sun continued to shine, the roofers got back to work.  Then last Thursday, I was in the kitchen fixing supper, I could hear the roofers still working.  A few minutes later, I walk to my bedroom to put on some shoes to go to my car and I see a chunk of sheet rock laying on the floor and some smaller pieces in the frame of my bed (becuase my mattress doesn’t fit quite as snugly as it should – Image 1).

DSC01587

I look up and there’s a pretty good sized hole next to the ceiling fan (Image 2 & 3).

DSC01579

DSC01585

So, I turn the light on to take a closer look at the mess on the floor (which the light switch also turns on the fan).  Suddenly, pieces of sheet rock go flying across the room!

I found some behind the door (Image 4).

DSC01590

And some more by the window (Image 5).

DSC01593

When the foreman came to look at the damage, he told me that because they messed up my carpet (I had a nice puddle of water under the hole as well – not pictured), I would not have to pay to have the carpet cleaned (per my contract with the apartment complex – worth $75) when I move out!