Tag: Bible

Two Questions to Find Deeper Relationships

Who would you say is the greatest friend you ever have? As you think about that person, you felt like you clicked. Proximity played an important role. You might have gone to high school or college together. No matter where you are today with them, you feel like you can pick up where you left off.

For some people, you have a close friend with whom you remain close to this day. Yet, many of us build a bond with a person or group of people and for various reasons we relocate or they do. Sometimes, we lose touch due to changing life stages.

On a regular basis, I help people try to get connected into small groups. My job title is even called Belong Director –the guy that helps you BELONG at a church. You and I pursue community to engage the Bible, pray together, and serve, but our larger hope is to find our tribe, the people with whom we can share life.

Let’s be honest. This process of finding deeper and more meaningful relationships is tricky. It’s far more art than science.
Each decade of our lives has more complications through changing life stages.
The effort it takes to meet new people can feel exhausting.
Even when we intentionally commit to a new group of people, we’re not always convinced it’s the right one.

An observation that I have seen in myself and others is this: we measure our new relationships by our best old relationships.

What do I mean by that? Remember the friend you answered in the first question? When you set out to find deeper community, ultimately you are looking for something similar to the good you had. Don’t get me wrong; there are consistent characteristics of great friendships that are universal. But there is a line of wanting to over-replicate something you already had.

When we measure our new relationships by the old ones, we will have a difficult time letting the new friendships grow naturally. In many ways, we’re asking for duplicates rather than originals. Our expectations could be ruining the beautiful reality of growing relationships.

You might find yourself in this spot. You moved to a new area or you long for deeper relationships. I want to leave you with two questions to pursue deeper relationships: What’s realistic to your life stage right now?

1. What’s realistic to your life stage right now?

Many people tell me that their most meaningful relationships came during their time in college and 20’s. Both these eras of our lives had copious amounts of availability and invites. Then our career responsibilities and family life changed. Start with what’s possible to develop now and manage your expectations.

2. Who are two-three people that I want to invest more time into?

I think we have to start with the people already around us. Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, we can either meet too many new people or not enough. Start with two-three people. Perhaps you meet with them one at a time and then move to a group setting. Begin by building the proximity so a deeper relationship can happen.

What insight can you give about finding deeper relationships? Share in the comment section below.

Photo produced by Phil Coffman

7 Tips for Listening to Sermons

I sat across my wife, Robyn, at Sunday lunch a few weeks ago. As we started to eat, she turned to me and asked, “Could we talk more about the sermon this morning and each week?” The question seemed straightforward. Then she added, “I would like to hear what you think and some Sundays we rarely mention it after service.”

Recalling the last few Sundays at lunch with Robyn, my mind raced from the morning sermon to the next part of the day. She rightly pointed out a missed opportunity. We could share about areas God challenged us to grow in a setting both of us experienced.

Listening to a sermon invites to a community conversation and can deepen our understanding of a passage. It allows us a chance to talk to each other about spiritual matters in our lives because we can respond to a shared experience. It calls on us to process how the Bible relates to our lives.

You may want to understand the Bible in deeper and more significant ways. You might desire to have a more meaningful dialogue with others about following Jesus.  Listening to sermons can bring these opportunities to you. Here are seven tips to for listening to sermons:

1. Take Notes.

In the last couple weeks, I have started taking notes on YouVersion. This app allows churches to input the points from the speaker. I have found myself focusing on what the speaker says about the point, rather than trying to write out the point. Other people using the app like having online storage rather than paper.

Whether you use paper and pen or an app, you retain more by taking notes. You can go back to your notes during the week or in conversation.

2. Focus in on the Reading of the Passage.

When the speaker or pastor begins to read the Scripture, follow along. You may want to highlight or underline verses that you have questions. Certain words or phrases might jump off the page. I like to add a date of the sermon in the passage, so when I come back, I can recall it.

3. Recognize the Cues.

At certain points of the sermon, the speaker might signal an important insight in understanding the passage. Here a few cues to identify:

Definitions – The speaker unpacks the original meaning of a word in Greek or Hebrew.
Biblical References – Note the additional passages mention and the idea associated with them. You can go back later and re-read the passage.
Context – Consider the back story of the passage and what other events surrounded it. Why did the author write this? Who is the audience? These insights can help a passage become more relevant.

When you hear these cues, make note of it. You might even want to highlight the verse associated with it.

4. Utilize a Group Guide.

Often, churches will provide group guides for small groups. You may want to have one with you during service looking at the questions. After the sermon, you can even answer the questions personally before going to a group.

5. Post on Social Media.

Social Media invites us to a further conversation. A point or Scripture passage might have come alive. Posting can reaffirm the same point that others have heard. It adds to the community element. Share a picture on Instagram. Use the series #hashtag in a Twitter post. Check-In to the church with Facebook.

6. Re-Listen to the Sermon.

Take time to listen to a podcast or watch the video. You can do this in the office or when driving in the car.

7. Discuss the Sermon.

Just like Robyn encouraged me to do, talk about the sermon. You might listen to the sermon with a family member or friend. Use this opportunity to share and hear from them. Small groups give you an opportunity process the passage together. You can use these two questions to start a conversation:

What questions did you have?
What point stuck out the most?
What challenged you?
How will you respond to this passage?

What tip would you offer for listening to a sermon? Share in the comment section below.

Photo by Aaron Burden.

Remedying Short Attention Spans

Short attention spans come easier and easier. The headlines of last month can get lost in the urgency of today’s news. We move from story to story at an alarming rate, sometimes without taking any time to reflect on the larger issues. Opinions get debated without little nuance or thoughtfulness. It can seem more information brings anxiety rather than peace.

photo-1458748600212-a4c65493cbfd

Remedying short attention spans begins with recognizing Christ’s grace. It requires us to redirect our focus to a greater reality rather than succumbing to distractions. In a world where everything seems urgent, the Gospel constantly reminds us of the resurrection of meaning. We can live life as those created in God’s image and restored by His forgiveness.

A new way of looking at engaging Scripture includes the habit of having a longer attention span. We need this simple practice and reminder of seeing God’s grace. Consider what Eugene Peterson says in Run with the Horses:

We live on the gossip of the moment and the rumors of the hour. It is not as if we never hear the truth at all, but we don’t realize its overwhelming significance. It is an extra, an aside. We have no sense of continuity. We respond to whims, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Then Scripture is placed before us. Words are assembled and arranged, and powerful patterns of truth become visible…Amnesia is replaced by recognition. Distraction gathered into attention.

Engaging Scripture has to do with cultivating an attentive heart to seeing God’s presence in the world around us. Not falling into the trap of worry, today’s headlines, and ventilated opinions, but coming to the place where we discover the Gospel in real life; seeing God’s grace in the everyday.

So today, read the Bible seeing the continuous work of God’s grace in the world around you. Take time to reflect on His faithfulness of yesterday. Slow down at a verse that stops you rather than reading for a quick self-help fix. Keep the Scripture as a reminder by writing it down or saving it on an app.

How can you recognize God’s continuous work rather than living with a short attention span?

Photo credit by Seth Doyle.

Table Talk: Conversations on Scripture

A professor from a state school invited me to a biblical literature class. The students discussed the David and Absalom narrative from 2 Samuel on that day. I attended a Christian college full of classes interpreting, debating, and engaging scripture. This context intrigued me because it allotted me the opportunity to compare my experience with this class’ experience.

photo-1445445290350-18a3b86e0b5a

Their discussion wrestled with David’s motives in 2 Samuel 15. The professor and students brought to the surface how David asked God to thwart Absalom, but how he devised his plan to do the same. For this class, King David wasn’t necessarily a hero but a flawed man of mixed motivations. Anyone engaging this passage has to grapple with the writer’s ambiguity of the characters’ motivations.

These students came from various faith backgrounds. Each one of them had a fascinating viewpoint to offer from the passage. This experience challenged me to read Scripture through their lenses of what they saw and heard. Often, we can find ourselves engaging Scripture out of our biases and preconceived notions.

I meet people apprehensive about reading the Bible. People fear misunderstanding the text and then misinterpreting it in discussion with others. Some of us have lost the imagination of experiencing the story of Scripture. It can become another task in the day.

Part of our problem comes is that we were never intended to engage God’s Word on our own. Community becomes a place where we wrestle, interpret, and discuss Scripture. We open ourselves to listen to other’s perspective because we recognize our limitations to understanding the text.

Galatians 6:6 says, “Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” What we see people in the Bible discussing the Scriptures: Jesus with Nicodemus, the Early Church in Acts 2:42-47, Peter with Cornelius, Paul with various churches. Engaging Scripture becomes a practice participated in community.

Students of Martin Luther recorded their conversations with him in the book Table Talk. The book references discussions at the dinner table. Table Talk gives us a picture of engaging the Bible in community. We sit at the dinner table with each other discussing passages learning from each other. It becomes part of our everyday life. Table Talk gives us a picture of engaging the Bible in community. We sit at the table with each other discussing passages learning from each other. It becomes part of our everyday life.

Eugene Peterson in Eat this Book says this about Scripture:

Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son (pg. 18)

My class visit reinforced the value of engaging Scripture in community. Not just an academic or intellectual pursuit, but in the realization that we mature not just by engaging scripture on our own but with each other. God speaks to us while we sit at the table together.

How do you engage the Scripture with the people around you? Where do you have your table talk with others on Scripture?

Photo credit by Aaron Burden.

Reads of the Week | 01/23/2016

fvD9myEgRued3zLne2GS__DSC0033-1

Start your weekend with these five articles in the Reads of the Week.

6 Bible Verses When You Feel Stuck in Life by Jeff Martin

Jeff makes a remarkable observation here:

When we shift the focus of our prayers from our will to his, things change. Our eyes start to open to new possibilities. This year could hold the fresh start we’re looking for—and it starts with realigning our hearts.

All Christians are Biased Voters by Christena Cleveland

The political season is upon us. Cleveland shares about how our views come from biases. This article invites us to listen to others and calls us to humility.

6 Tips for Cultivating the Practice of Reading Scripture by Joel Green

Green provides six suggestions for reading Scripture. He gives us a glimpse of the Bible shapes our lives in personally and in community with each other.

Why Some People Take Breakups Harder Than Others by Lauren Howe

Not just breaking up, but How examines our internal narratives. This piece opens people to see a redemptive reaction to rejection.

The Founder of TOMS on Reimagining the Company’s Mission by Blake Mycoskie

Mycoskie shares how he recaptured the “why” of TOMS, rather than focusing on the “what” and “how.” A fantastic insight for people who lead organizations.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

3 Starting Points for Reading the Bible

I received my first personal Bible around the age of nine. Like many other children growing up attending church, I carted a blue hard covered Kid’s Life Application Study Bible to every service. Along the way, I started reading a chapter at a time. You could see the uneven underlining of verses and squiggly highlighter marks on the pages.

991902_98839418A friend and I have had the opportunity to develop and teach a class on reading the Bible. Many people experience apprehensions to studying the Scriptures. Questions arise like; Am I reading this right? Did I miss something in this passage? Where do I even start? Both skeptic and growing follower of Christ may understand relevancy of reading the Bible, but also will need direction on how read the Bible.

This process has brought me to ask the question, what do I wish I knew about studying the Bible when I started? Here were three points which have enhanced reading the Bible for me.

1. Think Big Picture 

Graeme Goldsworthy in According to Plan says, “The Gospel is the fixed point of reference of understanding the meaning of the whole range of biblical revelation.” The big picture of Scripture is the Gospel – the saving work of God for humanity through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Genesis to Revelation directs us to a congruent message. Dr. Daniel McNaughton, a professor from college, summed this up by saying, “God is the hero of biblical revelation.”

2. Read a Book in One Sitting

I started reading one chapter of the Bible a day. This practice gave me micro understanding of the text. When we take time to read a whole book in one sitting, then we have the opportunity to understand the flow of the whole book. Many books of the Bible were read aloud to the original audiences. Philippians, a letter from the Apostle Paul, develops with certain themes and ideas relating to his personal relationship with the church. Reading a book as a whole allows us to see the message unfold. You may want to start small and then move to longer books.

3. Study in Community

The term “quiet time” implies isolation. So the use of this term can equate to an inaccurate understanding of reading the Bible. Christian community gives us the opportunity to share what God has revealed to us in Scripture and to listen to others on the same journey. Hearing each other invites people to relate experiences. Community invites us to seek other resources and perspectives. We were never meant to read the Bible devoid of community.

These points have helped me read the Bible. What starting points have assisted you in reading the Bible?

© 2017

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: