Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday's Meditation: Love of Knowledge, or Knowledge of Love?

With each passing day the image becomes more vivid: Jesus dancing with delight, rejoicing at the success of his disciples and the cluelessness of the “wise and the learned.” What kind of God celebrates when smart people are clueless?

It’s perhaps foolish to present three posts on the same subject within eight days, but so far I’ve been unable to deliver the baby. Last Monday: “An omniscient God is not impressed with the size of our intellect” Thursday: “What if our approach to following Jesus is fueled by the world’s idea of wisdom?” And today I wonder still whether we have chosen a worldly method to pursue the King of Heaven.

The spirit of this age respects knowledge. It’s a given. Knowledge trumps ignorance. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is self-authenticating. When we bring the spirit of this age to our study of Scripture we emphasize the texts which serve the value of knowledge. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . .” How many books have opened with Hosea 4:6 as a call to study?

We have loved knowledge since the Garden of Eden. Perhaps we have loved knowledge more than we have loved our Creator. In our day the western church presents a view of discipleship based upon ever-increasing knowledge, and Christianity becomes a subject to be mastered. As a result those who are smartest become the best disciples. The spirit of this present age tells us knowledge is good because it is knowledge. But what if the smartest among us know nothing of love?

Yet woven into the fabric of the Biblical witness is the still small voice of relationship. It warns of the dangers of knowledge. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” comes the whisper. Later on the voice grows: "Where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” We discover the voice coming from Paul’s prayer closet interceding on our behalf, “I pray that you . . . may have power . . . to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Perhaps we can learn from Paul--one of the greatest minds in history--that knowledge can never drive us to love.

Will you join me? I’ll continue meditating as the week goes on: what if true knowledge grows from love, and what if apart from love knowledge cannot be true?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion: About "Hearing God" by Dallas Willard

You can imagine how excited I was when Dallas Willard stopped by this morning:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Great Fall of Wisdom

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”

Well, yes, and we all know what happened to his Egg-ness, don’t we?

One of the great pitfalls of reading the scripture resides right inside my own head: there’s a distance between what the Spirit speaks and what I hear. I trust the Bible. It’s the revelation of God’s heart and mind. But I don’t trust me. I’m capable of missing the point, of reading my own values into the text. I’m capable of using God’s wonderful words for my own devices instead of his purposes. That makes the Bible a dangerous place to visit, but I’m not giving up.

Monday’s post marveled at what kind of God would celebrate when smart people are clueless, and I’m still awestruck by this idea: God isn’t impressed with my wisdom or intelligence, but he is impressed with the condition of my heart. If I ever compete with the Almighty on Jeopardy, I’m toast. Yet he will bend low to comfort a contrite spirit. While meditating on these things, I came across the opening of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In the first two chapters he talks about the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God. Here’s a sample:

  • I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.
  • Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
  • The world through its wisdom did not know him . . . 
  • God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;
  • When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom

So much for the way the world thinks. Then Paul begins to reveal God’s wisdom:

  • We speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom hidden . . .
  • "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"

What if our approach to following Jesus is fueled by the world’s idea of wisdom? I’ve met too many “smart” Christians. Perhaps you have too: the guys who can quote the Bible from start to finish and are happy to tell you what it means; the guys who bring the “been there, done that” attitude to the revelation of God’s word. I once knew a pastor who told a young man, “I’ve done the hard work of studying the scripture. I know what it means, so I don’t have to keep going back to learn it again and again.”

I’d like to suggest four checkpoints suggested by these first two chapters of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

If anyone could have brought worldly wisdom to bear on the scriptures, it would have been Paul. Even in his day Paul was recognized as a man of vast learning and intelligence, but until Jesus confronted him he was clueless. Instead, he spent three days in Damascus, blinded by the light of Christ, rethinking his life of study. Perhaps he spent three years (see Acts 9:9 and Galatians 1: 16-18).

What if Mars Hill is a cautionary tale: Most 21st century scholars hold this speech up as a great example of evangelism. Paul came to Corinth directly from Athens, where he gave his “great speech” on Mars Hill--but was it really great? Acts 17:34 tells us only a “few men” believed. You can read his own reflections regarding his time in Athens in 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5.  It’s surprising! Perhaps when he visited the seat of philosophy he fell into the wisdom trap and tried to play the world’s game. He certainly changed his method when he got to Corinth.

True wisdom rests in Jesus Christ, and he is within our reach. Paul reveals that Jesus is the wisdom of God, and he defines the wisdom of God as “righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” (1: 30) What if wisdom is knowing what to love and whom to fear? What if we have accepted the world’s idea of wisdom and applied it to following Jesus? What if worldly philosophy is merely the Bill and Ted version of God’s true wisdom?

It’s possible to be a Christian, even a smart one, and still be radically unspiritual. How many of us marry the wisdom of this age to our expression of the faith? Many churches operate on the principles of business and marketing. Others operate in the realm of power politics--both right and left. Still others (far too many) apply the scriptures like a lawyer applies mercy. Shouldn't we take three days--or three years--to ask whether our ideas of Christianity come from Jesus or someone else?

Humpty Dumpty applied his dizzying intellect to the meaning of the word “glory.” We saw how it worked out for him. Is it possible we do the same?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday's Meditation: What Makes Jesus Dance?

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Luke 10:21)
Dancing Jesus icon by Mark Dukes
What kind of God celebrates when smart people are clueless and newcomers are in on the joke? Luke tells the story of seventy men returning to Jesus with news of spectacular ministry results. Jesus dances for joy and says something so challenging we could meditate on it all week. He rejoiced that the wise and the learned did not have access to the ways of God. He was delighted that children had discovered the way of the Kingdom.

Jesus revealed the things of God by inviting others to join his mission and carry out his work. Though there has never been a greater teacher in the history of the world, Jesus placed a higher priority on innocence than intelligence. He taught in parables; he infuriated the religious wise guys; and he welcomed those foolish enough to simply do what he said.

This bears reflection in the coming days: An omniscient God is not impressed with the size of our intellect, but he is impressed with the size of our heart. How can a finite human mind grasp an infinite God? St. Augustine--although he was one of the greatest intellectuals in history--lamented it was his heart that was too small. He asked God to graciously enlarge the “mansions of his heart,” not the halls of his mind. True, we should love the Lord with all our minds, but the order is important: love comes before knowledge.

The Holy Spirit is not impressed with how many verses we have committed to memory. He does seem to delight in us when even a few of those verses find their way into our everyday lives.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion: About E. Stanley Jones

In his 89-year lifetime E. Stanley Jones published 28 books. Baltimore-born and Asbury College educated, the man gave his life to the King and his Kingdom. Jones was a confidant to Franklin D. Roosevelt and friend to Mahatma Gandhi. He wrote a biography of Gandhi that inspired a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. to adopt the means of non-violent protest as a change agent. That’s a pretty good legacy.

Just before his death in 1973, E. Stanley Jones published The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person, which proved to be his summary of life in Christ and how to live for the Kingdom. I found this book while I was still a college student--it charged me with a passion for the King and his Kingdom and ruined me for anything else.

“I’ve been shedding labels all my life,” he told a group of students in 1969. “I hope to shed them all except one: ‘he was a Christian in the making.’” Page after page of The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person rings with wisdom and challenge. It’s the kind of book that should take a month to read and a lifetime to apply.

In an age when many believers have been inoculated against the Gospel of the Kingdom, Jones caught the virus like a man overcome with AIDS. The echoes of his voice have now died away. Few in our day have even heard the name E. Stanley Jones, and fewer still have been exposed to his contagion for Jesus. In my opinion every serious student of Jesus should catch the same Kingdom fever that consumed E. Stanley Jones. The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person will infect you for life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Funniest Joke Ever (or is it?)

My poor wife--married to the same guy for more than 25 years, a guy who thinks telling the same joke over and over again somehow makes it funnier. Here’s one of my favorites: when we visit friends with a newborn baby I take the child in my arms and stare lovingly at the infant. Compliments ensue as I coo and chat with this fresh new life. But when I hand the baby back to its mother, I strike the most serious posture possible. “I’m so sorry,” my voice is filled with deep concern, “but I think your child is illiterate.”

Hysterical, no? In anticipation of the hilarity my wife has already headed for the car.

It gets worse. Not only do I think my comedic stylings rival those of Jack Black, I also think my philosophical depth rivals Kierkegaard. Each one of us is born fully human. Each of us has the potential for relationships filled with love, kindness, mercy, and grace. And each of us is born a complete idiot.

The potential of human life and relationship depends on what happens after birth. Every child needs love and attention, food and care, safety and security. Every child is born with the capacity for language, yet has no concept of sounds, words, sentences or meaning. Every child grows in its ability to learn, discover, and relate to others. The beginnings of life are finite, the potential is infinite. Coming into maturity depends not only on the child, but the family as well. And the neighborhood. And the society.

When Jesus suggested to a religious teacher “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born from above” he was describing the beginnings of our life with God. In the last hundred years the evangelical church has made it the end of life with God. Jesus (the smartest guy in history) knew how to use a metaphor. He was pointing in the direction of life with God, a life that begins with new birth and carries infinite potential. Here is the challenge for North American believers: we have embraced the concept of new birth, but we have mistaken it for the end when it is merely the beginning. Spiritual formation is not an option for "serious students," it is reality that flows from the new birth. We are born into a new Kingdom, where the scripture itself refers to some as babes in Christ and others as mature sons and daughters.

All children grow. Some grow healthy and strong, others grow weak and die. Still others languish in a lifetime of unfulfilled destiny. Some develop into adults capable of healthy relationships, others develop into misshapen caricatures of human beings. Some take their place in society while others are stranded awkward and alone. Why do we think it any different in the Kingdom of God?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday's Meditation: The Greatness of God

We encounter visions of God wherever we go. On the expressway I have a recurrent daydream about the greatness of God: I watch the endless stream of cars going the other direction. They flash by in an instant. Inside each car is another person, perhaps two—perhaps an entire family.

I try to imagine each one. Each one has a life. Each car contains someone going somewhere. Each person has a history, a story, a destiny. In but a moment I am overwhelmed by the vast numbers of people in the city. My mind cannot grasp the fullness of each life that flashes past me. Each person lives in God’s sight, and Jesus assured us the Father has numbered the very hairs on each head.

I am confident that God knows me and cares about me. He not only knows the circumstances of my life, he knows my thoughts and wants to dialogue with me every moment of my day. As I’m driving, I think, “How can God know each person? How can he keep track of it all?” In fact, he cares for each one. He loves them--he’s not just “keeping track of” them. He is infinite, yet personal. Transcendent, yet closer than our thoughts.

We are tempted think God is just like us, only bigger and better. As I watch the endless stream of cars going the other way and try to think of every person I realize God isn’t just a bigger version of me. He is something—Someone—completely other than me. The vast numbers of people in my city, my state, my country, worldwide only demonstrate his greatness. He knows and cares for every one of them. Here’s what the Father told Jonah about Nineveh, the great city of that day: “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4: 11)

Do you want to be overwhelmed by God’s greatness? Why not consider this week that God not only knows you and cares for you, but for every person alive or who has every lived.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion: About "Babette's Feast"

Which Jesus should we follow? The Jesus who for forty days denied himself food in the desert, or the one who provided 120 gallons of wine to keep a wedding feast going strong? The fundamentalist soul lives, as H.L. Mencken observed, in a “terrible pervasive fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun.” The freewheeling charismatic, on the other hand, lives as though God had in mind the inebriation of responsibility.

Gabriel Axel’s 1987 masterwork, Babette’s Feast, invites us to consider the counterpoint of asceticism and celebration among followers of Jesus. This subtitled Danish film tells the story of three women: two are devoted and reverent sisters. The other a foreigner, an outsider--and God’s gracious provision for those unable to hear the invitation, “Come, enter into the Master’s joy.”

The sisters, Filippa and Martine, have given their lives in service to their father, a stern sectarian minister. The women have given up on love, music, and beauty in order to express their faithfulness to a man who defined the Christian faith as a life of continual sacrifice. After their father dies they carry on the traditions of simplicity and tranquility while helping the poor. In their charity they take on a refugee from the 19th century conflicts raging in Europe. Babette, the refugee, offers to cook and clean, and in her gratitude learns life on the sister’s terms: straight, narrow, and devout.

Years later the hand of God intervenes when Babette wins a lottery of an astronomical sum. Instead of leaving the sisters, she offers to help them celebrate the 100th anniversary of their father’s birth by preparing a meal--under the condition that she can set the menu and make all the arrangements. The result is a feast of unparalleled excellence, unearthly delight, and guests who find themselves unsure how to receive such bounty. Babette is revealed to be more than a refugee: she is a chef of world renown.

The second half of the film is dedicated to the meal, a prophetic feast of the age to come. The guests are drawn into an understanding of their God previously unimagined. Old grievances are set aside, the warmth of their original devotion is restored, and each guest gains a glimpse of the marriage supper of the Lamb.

This movie is remarkably even-handed toward both Christian traditions: it does not demean one to exalt the other. Every character is impacted by the lives of others, and in community they discover the glory of God as one might see the night sky for the first time. Even the experience of watching this film requires both sides of our souls: The Danish film is subtitled in English, requiring our study and attention, while the transcendent visuals on the screen draw us from one world to the next.

In my opinion every follower of Jesus should sup at Babette’s Feast.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Most Excellent Way

There’s a wedding in town this Saturday, so I have at least a fifty per cent chance of hearing someone read 1 Corinthians 13 out loud. You know the passage, right? “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. . . ”

This week I conducted a Twitter, facebook, WalMart, totally-unscientific survey. I’ve been asking, “Do you think it’s possible to live up to the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13?”

No one has been comfortable with a simple “yes” or “no” but everyone has an opinion: “Oh, that’s the ideal, no one could ever do that . . . Well, the Bible says ‘all things are possible’ so I suppose so . . . On our own strength, absolutely no. With God, absolutely yes.”
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
We want to believe these words. They fill us with hope. They remind us of what is best. They point to a life fulfilled. But we have also seen the worst, experienced the disappointment and felt the pain. Do we dare believe? When the scripture reads like poetry we are tempted to dismiss the revelation. When our life experience contradicts the good news, experience can trump the truth. Is it possible that faith, hope, and love really are the things that remain? If they remain, can we attain them? Receive them? Live them?

When I go to the wedding Saturday I will listen to the beauty of the scripture with a few practical thoughts also in mind. Perhaps they could help you answer my survey question as well:

“I will show you the most excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12: 31) It’s easy to miss this verse because it's at the end of chapter twelve, but Paul wanted us to know from the very start that love is a way. It’s a path. With a guide we can learn the way. If we expect love to magically overtake our hearts and change our lives, we are taking to the whitewater of life--out of control. But if love is truly a way, we can learn from others how to navigate the river of life. Consider the people Paul first wrote--the church in Corinth was a confused mess of relationships and envy, debauchery and religion. Yet Paul said, “I will show you the way. You can learn how to love like this.” If the people of Corinth could learn the ways of God’s love, why can’t I?

Tongues, prophecy and knowledge amount to nothing apart from love. How many of us mistake personal spirituality, anointing or intelligence as the things that remain? No. In order to learn a life of love, we must first recognize what will last and what will not. Ministry is for this present age; love is forever. Ask any pastor, social worker or physician--you can minister to anyone without actually loving them. Yet when ministry is infused with love there is eternal effect. Anything else is smoke and mirrors.

Love never fails. These three words reveal the way things really are. “To align yourself with love is to align yourself with God,” songwriter Adam Russell observed, “because God is love.” To align yourself with love is to align yourself with victory, because love never fails. Was the Apostle Paul writing a Hallmark card or trying to explain the reality of God’s Kingdom? Are these words true, or just beautiful sentimentality? Do we sit in the wedding ceremony and hear these words as God’s promise to the bride and groom, or do we quietly think, “they will find out what life is really like soon enough”? Does our failure have the authority to nullify the truth? Here’s a meditation: what if it’s really true that love never fails?

Who can show us the way? Hidden within the crazy letter to the Corinthians is a deep truth of the Kingdom of God: there are some who have broken through the spirit of this age, and they can show us how it’s done. There are some who have learned a new way to live. “Be imitators of me,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “just as I also am of Christ.” We can learn God’s ways--including the way of love. Nor is it merely book learning. God’s wisdom may be found in the scripture, but it blossoms into life when we find mentors in the Kingdom. The Lord never intended us to go it alone: “Here’s the Bible. Good luck.” That just isn’t how he does things. Whatever demands the scripture may place on us are met with possibility there is someone who can help us make things real in everyday life. Ask God to show you the trail guide for your life. It’s called discipleship, and it’s the way of the Kingdom.

Perhaps these ideas are the reasons no one ventured a simple yes or no answer to whether we can attain the love in 1 Corinthians 13. We instinctively know it is true, while we instinctively know we cannot do it alone. We were never meant to: love isn’t meant to alone.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday's Meditation: How Can I Walk in Peace?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
I’m not interested in Romans today, I’m interested in peace with God. Monday’s are for meditation--to suggest a course for the coming week, something to consider for more than a passing moment. And lately I’ve been thinking about peace.

On the night before he was betrayed, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples he began with the simple greeting, “Peace be with you.” In the Apostle Paul’s definition of the Kingdom of God peace is one third of the equation. Peace is a part of every greeting Paul gave. Peace is evidence of the Spirit’s maturing work in our lives. Peace is promised to guard our hearts and minds. Peace is the birthright of every child of God. And yet . . .

How many believers live in peace? How many of us experience the peace that passes understanding? What portion of the body of Christ is known for peace? Or to ask the question in the negative, why is peace not the sign of a follower of Jesus?

It’s an important question. Some suggest a legal answer--the peace we have with God is positional: since we are reconciled with God through the sacrifice of Jesus, peace is part of our new standing with God. I suppose legal answers serve some purpose--but I see too many Christians who are decidedly not at peace. They are confused or even angry with God, worried about their lives, unable to live at peace in their families and in constant conflict with the affairs of life. These believers are my friends, and I can see they are not at peace.

I’d like to suggest a question capable of changing our lives: “Jesus, you’ve promised peace but my life is not at rest. How can I walk in what you have promised?”

Perhaps some of you know an answer. Many of us are waiting to discover your secret.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion: About Ordination

Today marks the ordination of my friend, Jeff Martin. I'm sending him this greeting and a few observations about ministry, and you're invited to listen in:

Grace to you, Jeff, and Peace!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Infinite God, Infinite Grace.

"In the terrain of life with God, grace is not a ticket to heaven, but the earth under our feet on the road with Christ . . . Grace saves us from life without God--even more it empowers us for life with God." ~ Richard Foster (with Kathryn Helmers) in Life with God
When I decided to take seriously the call to follow Jesus I left God’s grace behind for a while. I thought grace was what God did for me the day I was born from above. I thought grace was only about forgiveness. I thought grace was a ticket to heaven. How little I knew about God’s grace. Decades later I’ve discovered his grace is the air I breathe.

One of the challenges of spiritual formation is the easily-held idea that God has done everything he’s going to do. The rest is up to me: I must meditate, pray, serve, study, contemplate, isolate, and even celebrate on my own. Jesus showed me how it’s done, died on the cross, paid the price, and now it’s up to me to respond. There’s a measure of truth to such thinking, but the best lies always use a bit of the truth. God's grace is the disciple’s fuel for life.

God’s grace starts well before we come alive to his call; it is the power to forgive and save at the new birth; and it is the pathway to walk with him forevermore. As mentors like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have pointed out time and again, the spiritual disciplines are practices that put us into position to receive more of his grace--the disciplines are not spiritual hurdles to be cleared by the “serious” student of Jesus. The startling truth is that those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus need more of God’s grace than others who have no interest in spiritual transformation.

May I share three surprising passages about God’s grace?

  • “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2: 11-12) Simply put, Paul reminded Titus that God’s grace is available to teach us how to live right now. Do we ever think of grace as a teacher? What have we learned from grace? God’s grace stands ready to teach us even after we turn to Jesus: we can learn how to say ‘no’ to ungodliness. We can learn from God’s grace how to live upright lives. We need not be forever trapped in a cycle of same-sin, same-forgiveness, same-life. This too is part of the good news.
  • “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:16) Apparently the good folks who translated the New International Version were challenged by the more literal rendering of this verse, “From his fulness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (NRVS) The NIV substitutes “one blessing after another” for “grace upon grace.” But why argue over translation? I believe John was searching for a way to communicate that God’s grace is multi-layered. If we walk with him 50 years we will discover again and again the God who beckons us (in C.S. Lewis’ happy phrase) to come “farther up and farther in.” But take note: if we are determined to think of grace as merely a ticket to heaven there is no farther up and farther in--either in this life or the next. Why come to the shores of God’s grace only to dip our toes in the ocean? 
  • “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6) More grace. Greater grace. All the more grace. I believe James was speaking from experience, not theory. I think he discovered the multi-layered grace of God as he learned to humble himself again and again. When we humble ourselves we position ourselves for greater grace. One sure indicator of a religiously closed mind is the firm conviction that we have this Jesus-thing figured out. The religiously closed mind is only interested in exporting it’s brand of spirituality. We need to discover that it’s impossible to drink in God’s grace if we do nothing but tell others how to live.

What kind of Father would tell his child, “I’ve done all I’m going to do, the rest is up to you?” Our transformation is his work, accomplished as we present ourselves to greater grace again and again. If we limit his grace to the work of forgiveness, then forgiveness is all we will know.  If we open ourselves up to his infinite grace then our destiny is the infinite God.

Infinite God. Infinite Grace. Infinite Destiny.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday's Meditation: Encountering His Spirit in His Book

How do we approach the Bible? Are we looking for information about God, or an encounter with God? When we say the book is inspired, do we mean that the Holy Spirit breathed upon those who wrote it, or do we mean that the Holy Spirit wants to breathe on those who read it now? I believe the correct answer is “both.”

Our experience with God’s word should not be simply an intellectual exercise. It should be a conversation. The Holy Spirit hasn’t gotten any older or further away during the passage of 21 centuries. He longs to engage us when we come to the scripture. He invites us to use our time in the Bible as an opportunity to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength.

I’d like to suggest a few questions about our time with God as we come to the scripture:

  • When is the last time I experienced an emotional response to the scripture--sadness? anger? awe? joy? fear? doubt? confidence? grief? regret? remorse? hope? laughter? love? relief? gratitude?
  • When is the last time I experienced a physical sensation during my Bible reading? Has my body ever responded to God’s word?
  • When is the last time I was moved to action because of the words on the page before me? Have I ever been moved to call someone, go to someone, or help someone?
  • Have I ever come to the scripture asking the Holy Spirit what he hopes to accomplish while I read?

I believe the North American church has come to value intellect over spirit and soul. The result for many believers is a dry and lifeless experience of his great gift--the very words of God spoken, captured, preserved and delivered to us today.

Sweet Holy Spirit, I invite you sit beside me, breathe on me, and guide me through your collected wisdom I hold in my hand. Come, Holy Spirit.