Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Have you ever been to a small group where you're asked the question: what do you want people to say at your funeral? I think one of the things I would like to be known for is a generous heart towards others. Not just financially, which is the first thing we think of when we hear generosity, but in every area of life. I believe that if we have received freely we should give freely and God will bless that because when we do that we are bearing His image in a way that honors Him.
This week we have been going through a terrible time here in the Red River Valley. The snow was melting and the process was accelerated by unusually warm days and then rain. So, we almost flooded here. We're not past the danger yet, but it has been a lot better then many feared. We prayed for a miracle and we saw it.
One of the things that has stood out to me and affirmed to me that we are all God's image-bearers whether we know it or not, was the generosity with which the people in this community gave of their time, effort, and resources to help others in need. I'm sure there are mixed reasons why everyone helped fight the flood, but ultimately I think the compassion and heroic effort that rises up within each person can be traced back to God's heart for humanity. I was very encouraged to see how the Body of Christ and the rest of this community came together to serve for the common good! The areas North of us are not past the danger yet, so they need our prayer and support too and I know that they will get it because, whether aware of unaware, we all bear the image of God to some degree. So, if you know you do, then let your light shine during these dark times with your good works so that others can see that and praise your Father in heaven!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Survey Says...

In the last couple of days I did a survey using everything from Facebook to text messages to live conversations to help me see what everyone struggles with when reading or studying the Bible. The 3 things that seemed to emerge from my unofficial survey are that people struggle with:

  1. Making the Time
  2. Staying Focused
  3. Not understanding It

Thank you ALL for your honesty and cooperation in this. It turns out I'm not alone in my struggle!The good news here is that most everyone that shared a struggle also shared some things that have helped them overcome it, so here are some of the responses:

How to get more out of studying the Bible:

  • Pray before you start (and some said after too so that it sticks with you)
  • MAKE the Time - Setting a specific time of day was helpful to stay consistent (morning, before bed, etc.).
  • Set the Tone - It may be candles or it may simply be going to a room away from your TV, computer and cell phone so they don't distract you...or at least closing Facebook down ("gasp!") :-)
  • Read it Like a Book - You wouldn't read your favorite novel one page at a time, why do that to the Bible? It's harder to follow the storyline if you break it up into such tiny pieces. One very helpful thing here is to check and make sure your version reads easy enough for you! If you can't understand the wording look for a different version. Another thing that may help you stay focused and keep reading is to listen to it while you read, there are even dramatized versions like The Bible Experience that can really help you enter the story.
  • Dig Deeper - Those who found themselves getting confused or bored were helped by taking the time to dig deeper on the passages that confused them. Take the time to read good introductions to each book so you know the context and background. Don't be afraid to use a Bible Dictionary or Commentary to help you figure it out. There are some amazing truths waiting for you if you take the time to uncover the mystery of what is perplexing you! Another thing you can do as you dig deeper is to highlight what stands out to you and then go back over it to meditate on it. You can always go to the Blue Letter Bible or to Bible Gateway to search things you are trying to understand. Then if you have questions that come up about faith you can also read some stuff here to help you find answers.
  • Switch it Up - If you're already in the habit of studying the Bible you may just need to switch things up a little to give you a fresh perspective on it. Maybe you switch where or when you spend time with God. Or maybe you switch your version for a year. Personally, I'm looking forward to reading through The Message translation next year. This year I'm on the English Standard Version.
  • Work with Others - Another great insight you all had was to work with others to help you stay motivated and also to help you gain insight that you wouldn't have on your own. Some ideas were to read with others or to be reading at the same pace as others so you had the same things to talk about and encourage each other in (like you might need someone to encourage you to make it through Leviticus or Job). Another idea was to discuss the Bible in a small group of friends to help you keep growing.
Thank you all for your help in discovering ways to GROW in our relationship with God through studying the Bible.

My next question I would like your input on:
Do you find it hard to spend time in silence in the presence of God? Why/Why not?
What have you found has helped you?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bible Reading

Sarah and I are both reading our Bibles in chronological order this year. It's not really that hard if you stay on task...We both fell behind when Abby was born and we have been trying to catch up ever since!
I've tried different things over the years, but it has turned out that I have read through the Bible one year and then I have focused on a specific part of it the next year (like the New Testament or the Gospels, etc.). I try to switch versions in order to get a fresh view of what it is saying. Last year I focused on studying through the NT in the New Living Translation. This year I am reading through the whole Bible in the English Standard Version and I am enjoying it the nuances it has over the NIV. I think that next year I might try reading The Message translation.

Here's are my questions:
  • What is the hardest thing for you about reading and studying the Bible? What do you struffle the most with?
  • What are some things that you have tried that have helped you in that area or in others areas of Bible study?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Greater Things

God has blessed me so much! I have a wonderful family, an amazingly awesome wife, and a beautiful miracle of a daughter. God has done exceedingly above all that I could have asked or imagined! I find myself randomly smiling throughout the day when I think of Abby. She really is the meaning of her name, "a father's joy" or another way to look at it "the joy of the Father." Even though I could not have imagined this stage of life a couple of years ago when we were going through losses...God was preparing us for Abby. There is a tremendous joy and appreciation in my heart for the privilege it is to have Abby in our lives because of everything that we went through. God was preparing us for what He had for us. Now I am filled with Joy and it makes me think of the fact that we cannot fully appreciate joy if we do not endure suffering.

The song and the phrase "Greater Things" has been stuck in my mind for the last several weeks. Here's where that's coming from: 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 and John 14:12-14. There are two things that have just stuck with me from those verses:

The first is that, and you can quote me on this one, "God will prepare you for what He has prepared for you."
The second, is that we have NO idea what God has prepared for those who LOVE Him! There's so much more in these two passages, but for now suffice it to say that I truly believe that God has GREATER THINGS for each of us than what we have experienced (in terms of relationship to Him, to others, and His overall plan for us) IF we LOVE Him.

I recognize that this is where we struggle...Loving Him. It's easy to get excited about the things that God has for us to do and His plan for our lives, but those greater things flow from a loving relationship and not from striving...from being and not from doing.

I am persuaded that God will do exceedingly above all that we can ask or imagine when we make it our goal to pursue Him! My desire is to seek His Face and not His Hand...His Presence, not His Power.

I want to share a song with you that has been in my heart since early October when I first heard it: