Rockin’ Rally: Living Out Our Worship

I_Heart_VBSIt is hard to believe that another Vacation Bible School (VBS) has already come and is almost gone.  VBS is a great opportunity to share the gospel with children over the course of one high-energy week. In a perfect scenario, we had the attention of a kid for 10 hours and  used every moment to teach and reinforce Scripture. (Of course if you have ever been involved in a VBS you know it is rarely a perfect world.)

Even when we use every element to teach God’s Word (worship, Bible study, music, crafts, recreation, snacks, and even transition time):

our time and influence with kids is minuscule compared to the time they have at home with their parents.

So, here are:

3 ways that parents and church can build on VBS to help kids love God passionately:

  1. Pray – Paul understood the power of prayer in the lives of those he discipled. Paul wrote to Timothy: “night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers” (2 Timothy 1:3). To the people in the cities where he helped establish churches he wrote: “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).  And,  “for this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you” (Colossians 1:9). Whether it was for a young man who he was discipling in ministry or a whole church, Paul was committed to praying for those he discipled. Church, pray for the children that attended VBS this year. Pray as Paul did for the people at the church in Ephesus “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people,I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:15-17). Parents, pray for your kids. Pray as Paul did for his spiritual son in Timothy that this faith that you are seeking to pass on to your children would live also in them (2 Timothy 1:3-5).
  2. Model – This week at our VBS we had a Jesus mascot walking around. It was fun watching the kids interact with Jesus. Some even thought he was the real Jesus. One little boy the first night wouldn’t leave until his mom met Jesus. Obviously our Jesus mascot was not the real Jesus, but our hope is that as parents and as a church family we would live our lives in front of our children in such a way that they would see Jesus in us. So church, model for our kids what it looks like to worship Jesus, and not just on Sunday morning, but what it looks like to live out your worship. Parents, model for your kids what it looks like to worship Jesus at work, at home, at play. Church, if we want this next generation to live out their worship, parents if we want our kids to live out their worship, we need to show them how it’s done. Think about it: How can you model for children that you are living out your worship? As Paul discipled others, his invitation was to “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). That’s our invitation to these children. Whether you are a parent or a grandparent, whether you serve in children’s ministry or simply model for them what it looks like to worship by living out a genuine faith consider how you can invite others to follow your example as you follow Christ.
  3. Release – our children’s ministry here at Grace Heartland Church is not meant to be a holding cell but a launching pad. Our homes are not meant to be bomb shelters but missile silos. As much as we want to protect our kids, the purpose of the church and the goal of parenthood is not to shelter them and cloister them from the world but to prepare them and launch them out into the world. Psalm 127:4 says, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
 are children born in one’s youth.” Those arrows won’t do much good if the warrior always keeps them in his quiver. As parents and as a church, we want to launch our children out into the world to make a difference for Christ. So, church, don’t look at our children and our teenagers as the church of the future but the church of today. Parents, look for opportunities now to serve with your children, to live out your worship as a family. As leaders and parents our primary calling is not to keep our children in the church but to lead them to be the church. The best gift we can give our children is to enable them to play an active roll in God’s story of restoration and redemption. If what they hear doesn’t move from their heads to their hands it will probably never make it to their hearts.

Adam Castenir, Children’s Pastor

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Vertical Worship on Vacation, Part 2, Evaluation of Relationships

A Vertical Evaluation of Relationshipsvacation_gas-texaco-57

There’s nothing like a vacation to allow for our most precious commodity to be well-spent. No, it’s not money. Our greatest gift is time. In the last blog, we discussed an evaluation of our responsibilities and our possessions–two major items that vacations force us to give focused attention.

Another major area of life is our relationships.  With whom will we vacation? Certainly our own kids!

But, watchout: vacations force us to evaluate the ages and stages of our kids.

  • Should we invite someone to come along?
  • Do they need a buddy their age?
  • What is unique to the age and stage of our children?
  • In what ways is each child excelling? Being challenged?
  • How can we best celebrate with them?
  • How can we best encourage them?
  • How do they need to be challenged?

Are there others that you include on vacations? Maybe your family combines an all-out reunion as part of the trip? Or, maybe your family needs to start this tradition? Do you invite the grandparents to come along? Is there a family you’d like to come along? Why? Chances are they have kids of similar age & stage and enjoy the same activities and places.

Sadly, this year our family vacation features only five instead of six.  Our oldest daughter is in college and working all summer. It is also a final trip just before our second-oldest leaves for life as a student and soldier at an academy.

A vacation can allow us a heartfelt, prayerful evaluation of our responsibilities, possessions, and the people who matter most. They allow us to frame our lives according to seasons and stages. We can put down the to-do list long enough to see life through the lens of seasons and to see how God is working.

As a practical help, praying through and talking through Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 can be a blessing.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
   a time to be born, and a time to die;
       a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
   a time to kill, and a time to heal;
       a time to break down, and a time to build up;
   a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
       a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
   a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
       a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
   a time to seek, and a time to lose;
       a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
   a time to tear, and a time to sew;
       a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
   a time to love, and a time to hate;
       a time for war, and a time for peace.

Daryl Pepper, Associate Pastor

Vertical Worship on Vacation? Part 1, Evaluation of Life

55_Nomad_wagonJust when we thought it was safe to go back into the water, here’s a pastor using our trendy church word, “vertical” and applying it to the family vacation!  By vertical we mean enjoying the presence of God in our worship—and all of life should be, can be, worship! So, why not think about a vertical vacation?

Defining Vertical Vacationing

A vertical vacation is not taking a week-long break from worship, holiness, or the presence of God! Rather, let’s apply the idea of being vertical in our worship of God to our vacation. Why not infuse the family vacation with a very real vertical presence of God?

This multi-part blog will discuss allowing a very-real vertical presence to permeate our vacationing. In this post, we focus on the evaluation of life.

A Vertical Evaluation of Responsibilities and Possessions

One of the practical benefits of taking a vacation is that it forces us to think about our responsibilities in life and our possessions. What else causes us to pay attention to every area of life all at one time?

In preparing to get away, we have to make plans for:

  • Pets—grooming, shots, feed, toys, care while we are gone?
  • Home—doors and windows locked? Heating or cooling okay? Lawn mowed?
  • Work—just trying to get it all done so we can be gone!
  • Cars—is the family grocery-getter clean and maintained?
  • Technology—do we have enough data for all the new pictures and video?
  • Other meetings and sports—do others know we will be gone?
  • Church—can my volunteer positions be met by someone else? Giving done?
  • Finances—are the bills paid? Do we have the money we need while traveling?

Responsibilities. In all of the above areas we can prayerfully evaluate what responsibilities we have. This is a great time to ask good questions.

  • Am I trying to do too much?
  • What am I doing that someone else can do?
  • What are my roles in relation to my family? Community?
  • What am I doing that only I can do—because of training, skills, education, experience, etc.?
  • What stressors do I need to deal with in my work?
  • What are the benefits of working where I work and with my co-workers?

This work may be the kind you get paid for or the roles you have in the life of your family and home.

A vacation will force us to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears that we all have in whatever work the Lord has given us to do. Why not use the time leading up to the vacation, being gone, and returning, to prayerfully evaluate the work of our hands?

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3).

Possessions. We are also forced to measure the amount of stuff we have—the few items we will take with us as we travel, and the vast amount we leave behind. Do we own our stuff or does our stuff own us? Most of us can get along quite well with far less!

  • What do we really need?
  • What can we live without?
  • When should we put a yard sale on the calendar?
  • What do we own that could be a blessing to someone else?
  • What items are worthy to donate to Mission Hope for Kids? Hosparus?
  • What needs to be consigned or sold outright?

Vertical vacationing includes an honest assessment of our stuff. Prayerfully evaluate the possessions we need and what we can do without. Use this time to challenge your soul to be content with what you have.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Next post: Vertical Worship on Vacation and the evaluation of relationship.

Daryl Pepper, Associate Pastor

NEPAL: Missionaries Hugh & Joanne Roberson Report

Nepal_2015When seeking to help Grace Heartland Church stay up-to-date on the crisis in Nepal, who better to catch-up with than some of our own missionaries?

Photo: Nepal, 2015

Hugh & Joanne Roberson serve with Cru (Campus Crusade) at the headquarters in Orlando, FL.  They are in charge of directing Cru’s efforts to reach Asia. Recently, I was able to communicate with them while they are in Bangalore, India–even as they stay updated about Nepal!Nepal_hugh_1980

Hugh:     It was 1980. We lived in Manila, Philippines. Hugh was asked to go for 6 weeks to a country to help train a group of college students and to help initiate a rural training for lay pastors. It was illegal to become a Christian in this Hindu/Buddhist kingdom. In fact our national director spent time in jail simply because he was ‘breaking the law’ by ‘proselytizing ‘.

This was our first exposure to Nepal. Years later through a peaceful coup this kingdom transformed into a democratic parliament. Today, at least two of those college students serve as CCC staff members, giving significant leadership to Nepal and to the South Asia area. Another is an elder in a church now pastored by one of our former staff. In 1980 a small house church was formed and met secretly in a room on top of a bookstore. Today there are 15,000 members with 62 church plants!

Our national director was instrumental in forming the Nepal Christian Fellowship, which today is one of the largest associations of churches in the country. The number of Christians has grown from about 500 in the mid 70s to about 1.7 million. Today Nepal CCC [Campus Crusade] has 100 national university graduate staff, 66 of whom minister on the university campuses. In light of the recent earthquake here’s the miracle. All 100 staff are safe, although many are now living in tents. Nepal is part of the South Asia area in which we continue to work.

Another update from Hugh places the number of Christians in Nepal as closer to 4 million believers!

Hugh also shares the following ways to pray for Nepal:

  1. Pray for God’s comfort and peace as the people deal with displacement, loss of loved ones, anxiety over missing family members and friends, loss of property, injury and fear, (especially with the continued aftershocks).
  2. God will prepare hearts and that this tragedy will draw many to Christ who alone will satisfy spiritual hunger and thirst.
  3. All government and other aid agencies involved in rescue and relief work. Pray for strength and perseverance. Pray for all those in authority to make timely decisions and to respond to needs.
  4. Tara Singh, our CCC Nepal National Team Leader and his team as they coordinate local relief efforts; best possible ways to respond to the huge needs all around them.; pray for staff families (especially women and children)
  5. The Church in Nepal (even as they grieve over the death of some of their loved ones) to be “salt and light” in the midst of gloom and darkness; to show genuine love, care, unity and authentic faith; to bring HOPE to the people around them.
  6. God’s wisdom for Nepal and South Asia CCC as we look beyond the immediate relief; to know a course of action to take in rebuilding the lives of people; pray for favor with the government in providing long term, needed resources; how to engage with both believers and non- believers in a God glorifying way that is conducive to building spiritual movements.
  7. The future needs of all our staff members in Nepal – Staff support has been a huge challenge in Nepal as they try to raise funds from a relatively poor and small community of Christians. With this earthquake and large scale damages and property loss, we have no idea how this is going to affect the Christians in general and specifically our staff’s support. Pray that the God of Elijah will provide for every need of our staff members in the coming months.  Pray that the Lord will open up unprecedented ministry opportunities as they seek to minister to people. You can go to www.cru.org/give to support staff.

Hugh and Joanne can be reached at hugh.roberson@cru.org or joanne.roberson@cru.org.  They would love to hear from you.  If you’d like to partner in prayer and/or with finances with the Robersons to reach Asia, be sure to contact them.

NEPAL: Pray. Give. Go.

IMB_Nepal

GHC Family,

How do we even begin to respond to the–now double–tragedy in Nepal?  You’ve seen the news stories with updates and pictures of devastation.

So, how do we respond?

More than keeping up with the news stories, as Christians, we can trust God to use these catastrophic earthquakes to bring the gospel right into these areas.  There are really 3 responses that need to be made: Pray. Give. Go.

Pray.

Certainly we need to pray for: relief aid efforts currently underway–many of these are done by Christian ministries who literally stand ready to rush in at a moment’s notice. Most of the people in this region have never even heard of the name of Jesus Christ.  Now, mission agencies have an open door to both meet very real physical needs while also meeting their eternal need of knowing Jesus.  See the links below where those on the front lines are posting ways to pray.

Give.

While we can give to many humanitarian groups who are handing out water and food, I encourage Christians to give through mission agencies who also tell about God’s love.  Links are posted below to inform your giving.

Go.

Many more Christians need to go to this region of the world to help. Go short term–go for a a few days or weeks and be part of the answer.  Go long term–take a long-term view and decide to go to this region for several years or more. GHC partners with many mission groups who equip believers to serve overseas.  Some of the links below also have information on how to go to this area, or feel free to contact me.

Links to missions groups we trust:

Samaritan’s Purse is run by Franklin Graham.  http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/second-major-quake-shakes-nepal/?utm_source=Bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=m_YYNP-015V_BingSPNEPAL

Cru is the new name for Campus Crusade for Christ who are directing efforts through Global Aid Network. https://give.cru.org/0775884_5843?CampaignCode=854BAN

Baptist Global Response is the relief agency of the International Missions Board.  https://gobgr.org/projects/project_detail/nepal-earthquake-response/%22%20%5Ct%20%22_blank

Daryl Pepper, Associate Pastor

Burning Hearts

Abiding in the Vine  Burning-heart-glass

The week that I was born again was the week that I started reading Scripture. I was drawn to read it because a pastor, and now friend asked, “How’s your Bible study?” The truth was, I had no Bible study. In fact, I wanted nothing to do with it. But I had a void within my soul that I could not escape. No matter what I tried to fill the void with, it was never satisfied. So I began reading Scripture. I’m not sure what I read first, but when I came across John 15, it was there that I undoubtedly heard Jesus say to me:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (v. 5, ESV)

He showed me that a life that bears the fruit that it was designed to could only be found in a relationship with Jesus. My Scripture reading has not always been like the experience I first had when I came to faith–hearing God’s voice so clearly and so easily applicable. However, I have tried to make it my consuming passion every time I come to the Word. As people who live in a fallen world, we feel the draw to invest your time, energy, and affections into things that do not satisfy, but we must constantly abide in the Vine if we are to produce fruit that has eternal value. We must seek the Lord until our hearts burn from His presence.

Burning Hearts

In Luke 24 we see two disciples who had a similar experience on the road to Emmaus. They encounter the risen Jesus but do not recognize Him because His glorified body is different in some way. However, that night at dinner:

He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (vv. 30-32).

I know, you’re thinking “Whoa! Jesus is like a ninja, appearing and disappearing.” But that’s beside the point. The point is that although Jesus wasn’t recognized by His physical appearance, He was certainly recognized through the way He gave understanding to the Scriptures and broke the bread.

Stoking the Flame

Our private worship should be marked by times like this—Jesus doesn’t seem to be anywhere around, but as you open the Word, you hear the Spirit speak and your eyes are opened. There your heart burns, and you realize that you have been in communion with the risen Lord. Simple, shallow, Scripture readings are not enough. It was likely simple and shallow reading that made Jesus rebuke the two men “O foolish ones, and low of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25a). No, we must go deeper, and we must stay there until our hearts burn with awe from being in the presence of God Almighty.

Below are some methods that have helped me to have heart-burning encounters with the Lord. I hope you find them to be just as helpful.

  • Pray for God to give you wisdom (James 1:5). Since God inspired it, it seems only natural that Christians would ask God for help in understanding it. Ask him to reveal Himself and help you to hear His voice.
  • Read God’s Word. We must inwardly digest His Word because “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Moreover, we must read all of the Bible. We want to grasp the message we’re reading: (1) in its immediate context; (2) how it flows into the larger picture of the whole Bible, and (3) how it is fulfilled in Jesus. Read it when you are alone and read it when you are with others. Discuss it, teach it, memorize it.
  • Study God’s word carefully. Ask yourself (1) What does it say? (2) What does it mean? (3) How do I apply it? We are often eager to get to the third question, sometimes so much that we fail to actually see what the text means. Other times we are so interested in one verse that we don’t give enough attention to the whole thing. All of it matters.
  • Finally, we should Devotionally study God’s Word. That is, not merely academic study. When we come to God’s Word we want know how it will apply to our own life and to our understanding of God. We want our minds to be informed by the gospel, blindness to our sin removed, and our hearts stirred to better love God and others.

Chris Adkins, Bible reader & follower

Serving as Worship

romans-12oneThe other day we were watching a show on TV with Hadley. At one point in the show Hadley needed to go to the bathroom. She asked us to pause the show. She was so used to watching shows on Netflix that she couldn’t comprehend the fact that we had no control over the TV. Kids today have it so easy. I remember as a kid if my parents asked me to clean my room while my favorite show was on I would slowly back out of the room so as soon as the commercials started I could run down to my room and try to get it cleaned up during the 2 minute break before my show came back on. Now all kids have to do is pause the DVR, clean their room, and when they come back they can pick up right where they left off.

When we ask our kids to do something we don’t just want them to go through the motions, we want them to do it with the right attitude. When we ask them to clean their room we don’t want them to stomp down the hallway and reluctantly clean their room.  We want them to want to clean their room. But why would anyone want to clean their room?

As Christians when we are called to serve God doesn’t want us to merely serve out of some sense of obligation or out of some sort of effort to earn His approval.

He wants us to want to serve. We serve as an act of worship.

Most of us are familiar with the famous words in Isaiah as God asks, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” and Isaiah responds “Here I am. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). Isaiah’s response grows out of the events that preceded God’s calling. Isaiah finds himself in the presence of God, fully aware of his own sin, declaring “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips . . . .” when one of the seraphim who was proclaiming the glory of God took a live coal from the altar and touched it to Isaiah’s mouth saying “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:5-7).

When Isaiah heard God’s call to go he immediately jumped at the opportunity. Isaiah was eager to serve God in some way, any way, not because he felt guilty but because God had taken his guilt away. We serve not out of a sense of guilt or obligation.

We serve not in an effort to be forgiven, but we serve because we are forgiven. We serve as an act of worship.

Isaiah didn’t say “Here I am! Send me” until after he had an encounter with God. We encounter God through worship and we continue our worship experience by serving as an expression of our worship. In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney says it well: “Worship empowers serving, and serving expresses worship.”

As Charles H. Spurgeon preached, “The heir of heaven serves his Lord simply out of gratitude; he has no salvation to gain, no heaven to lose. Now out of love to God who chose him, and who gave so great a price for his redemption, he desires to lay out himself entirely to his Master’s service . . . . The child of God works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved.”

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).  It is in view of God’s mercy, in light of what He has done and the grace we experience as we encounter God through worship that we offer ourselves as an act of worship.

Worship empowers serving; serving expresses worship.

Adam Castenir, Children’s Pastor

Focus on the Vertical: Lead Pastor Jeff Noel Shares 1 Great Lesson from 32 Years of Ministry

focusIn my 32 years of ministry, I have observed many trends and their ensuing impact on the overall ministry of the Church. One overriding lesson I have learned is this: the less a church focuses on having a relationship with Jesus as their primary mission, and the more a church becomes consumed with ministries that focus on the “felt needs” of people, the power of that church’s ministry fades into mediocrity.

These churches lose their passion for the relevance of the gospel and are endlessly swayed by the latest social need of culture. Want to start a . . .

  • Food pantry?
  • Clothing drive?
  • Fitness program?
  • Counseling center?
  • Home repair team?
  • Alcohol recovery group?
  • Community issues forum?

No doubt, many of these issues are great causes, but they can never become the main focus of the church.

The preaching at these churches uses Scripture as a support for these causes rather than using the Bible as the agenda for the message. What happens then? The gospel fades into obscurity. Sadly, this trend is the story of too many congregations and defines a majority of churches across our country.

Thankfully, I have witnessed the trend of churches that adopt a laser focus on Jesus and His Word as the center and purpose for everything they teach and preach. Instead of becoming irrelevant and weak, these churches attract the attention of people who are exhausted from seeking answers to their “felt needs.” Many of those same people gave “the church” a try and found it to be another self-help group cloaked in religion producing the same result – frustration and disappointment.

But, when they come to a church that turns their attention in a vertical direction—claiming that it is in Jesus they will find their source of strength—the story changes drastically! Instead of disappointment and apathy, they find spiritual strength and genuine transformation. These churches operate from a deeper sense of love and strength than those that focus on horizontal answers. Why is this the case?

I have come to believe with deep conviction that this trend is true because these scriptures are true . . .

Solomon was correct when he declared in Ecclesiastes 3:11: . . . he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. He captures the vertical truth of every human: we are all created to be in relationship with God (vertical) and we can never satisfy that need in the things of the earth (horizontal).

Jesus was not lying when he said in John 3:14-15: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. He was not simply referring to His crucifixion, but to the eternal purpose of the church –to exalt Jesus, and trust that He is our “evangelism program,” and the one thing that fulfills the vertical need of every human heart.

Paul spoke truth when he told the Ephesian church: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (2:20-21). He revealed the truth of our power: it is from Jesus as he works in and through the Church. That truth declares the primary purpose of the Church – to proclaim Christ as the answer to our deepest need.

So, why do we emphasize “Vertical Church”? Because it is why we are here and anything less than exalting Christ would be an epic failure. There is no doubt we will be involved in ministries and programs that meet the horizontal needs of people—but only as they contribute to the exultation of Jesus and draw people into a relationship with Him. Otherwise, we are simply another organization dependent on earthly resources and human talent. The world has plenty of those agencies!

What the world needs is Jesus. The Church is the only organization on the planet tasked with the mission to share His message and equipped with the power to accomplish that mission. There is nothing that can substitute for the Church and the message we are honored to herald to the world. That is why we are vertical. It truly is all about Jesus and his Word!

Jeff Noel, Lead Pastor

3 Ways We Misread Scripture

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1. Misreading Scripture As a Scrapbook

Lee Ann and I have not celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, but that doesn’t keep our kids from finding our wedding scrapbook and having a good laugh at the styles of hair, dresses, and decor of the early 1990’s. Tempted to be offended, I’m reminded that I’ve done the same with old family scrapbooks since I was a kid.

The problem lies in reading the Bible this way: dismissing the cultural settings and situations as quaint, outdated, and irrelevant. It is good to understand the context or the setting of a passage–to include the customs and traditions.  We will miss the full weight of a situation if we dismiss the details.  When we know the Jewish law forbidding the raising of pigs as unclean animals, it deepens the abject horror of the prodigal son who is longing to eat their food.

2.  Misreading Scripture As a Selfie

A casual glance at social media informs that it is not only tweens, teens, or twenty-somethings who take selfies.  From grandmothers to presidents, everyone is snapping away.  The nature of a selfie is usually places us in the center of the shot in a positive light.

The problem is when we read Scripture this way. We are guilty of placing ourselves in the center of the biblical picture frame.  In our minds’ eye, we place ourselves in the scene and in the best possible light.  Peter denying Jesus three times?  Tsk, tsk we muse, pridefully believing that we would be so bold as to identify with Jesus?  Careful! A more sober selfie is of our backsides running far, far, away outpacing the other disciples.

3. Misreading Scripture as a Yearbook

Remember the day the yearbooks were handed out every spring in school?  100% of us scanned the pages quickly trying to find . . . ?  That’s right–you’re own big, fat face.  Did they use the right picture? Is my name spelled right?  Where else do I show up? Any casual shots? If so, are they good?

The Yearbook Misread applies to Scripture in this way–we read the stories seeking to jump to application far too quickly.  What’s in it for me? What am I supposed to do? Sometimes we hope we do not show up–since we don’t want to change our actions anyway.  Other times we are sure that the tough lesson does not apply to us, but can think of many in our class (church) that it would really help. Jesus teaches that all Scripture points to him and is fulfilled in him (Luke 24:27; 44). The main picture we need to find is the one of Jesus. Once we find his picture, we can then more humbly find our face in the crowd of brothers and sisters being transformed into his likeness.

1 Helpful Solution

Recently a Bible study class was asked–What are some good Bible study tools? They were right to answer: Bible dictionary, Bible handbooks, good commentaries.  But, some of the simplest and most powerful tools were overlooked: pen, paper, and  good questions.  Stopping to ask the “5 W’s and an H” slows us down and allows us to observe the details: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?  A particularly good questions to help us avoid the 3 Misreadings is: What did it mean to them, then? The “them” is the original audience. The “then” is the time frame in which the text occurs.

1 Brief Example

When reading the 4th Commandment, it states: “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).  Before asking how this possibly applies to us right now; ask, “What did it mean to them, then?”  Why does the text tell them to “remember”? Reading the rest of the commandment (verses 9-11), we note that Moses roots this command in creation. They were to “remember” that God created for six days and rested on the seventh (Genesis 1:31-2:3). They are to “remember” this pattern.  Next, we can recall that they were instructed about the Sabbath in the giving of the manna–six days to collect the bread, one day it will keep and be preserved (Exodus 16:23-29).

Later, when seeking to move toward application, we can ask other questions of the 4th Commandment: What does Jesus teach about this text? About the Sabbath? About rest?  But, for now, it is good for us to see that God is establishing a pattern of work and rest for his people and that the Sabbath is a gift (Exodus 16:29; 20:8-11).

Read! Read the Scriptures! Enjoy them deeply.  But, read them with an eyes fully opened to observation and interpretation before jumping fully into application.

Palm Sunday

Jesus.

The I am.

He is.

The son of the living God.

The first-born and author of all creation.

His name . . . is Wonderful.

His throne is forever. He is the everlasting God.

He is the King of Glory; the upholder of all things.

The beginning and the end. The first and the last.

And the radiance of God’s glory.

He is he shepherd of his sheep – the true vine – the bread of life and our living water.

He is the light of the world – the bright and morninçg star – the sun of righteousness.

He is strength to the poor – a refuge from the storm – and the hope of his people.

He is the rock of ages – our priest, mediator, intercessor and advocate.

He is the gift of God – the ONLY holy one.

He is the resurrection – and the head of his church.

Captain of the host of the Lord and Lion of the tribe of Judah.

He is the King of kings – and Lord of Lords.

The prince of peace – a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

He was the babe, born in a manger – the carpenter’s son.

The Word made flesh – God with us.

A stranger and an alien – he humbled himself unto death.

He is Jesus of Nazareth – the savior of the world.

The lamb of God – without spot or blemish. Worthy is the lamb.

He was obedient, meek and lowly . . . tempted and oppressed;

He was despised, rejected, betrayed and condemned.

He was reviled, scourged, mocked and beaten.

Bruised, stricken, smitten and crucified.

Yet he was holy . . . undefiled . . . perfect . . . and sinless.

He is mighty. He’s exalted. He is risen. And he is glorified.

He is my savior. My healer. My hope. My brother.

He is my physician. My refiner. My restorer.

He’s my portion. My wisdom. My Master. My Foundation.

He’s my righteousness. My purifier. My redemption. My Salvation.

He’s my example. He’s my teacher. He’s my keeper. And he’s my feeder.

He’s my shepherd. He’s my peace. He’s my helper. And he’s my leader.

Jesus – you are.

You are.

You are.