Category Archives: Scripture

“Mark My Word!” (Jesus)

16-10-30-ccbe-matthew-jesus-master-teacher-009Matthew’s Gospel is filled with the challenge and promise of taking Jesus’ word seriously! To live as if Christ has inaugurated the Kingdom on earth (because he HAS!). In this sermon, we looked at one of the many radical sayings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He calls us to be “Unoffendable!” (to borrow a word from a recent book title.)  Click here to listen to the sermon.


Enjoy this wonderful sonnet  by Malcolm Guite called As If.

Matthew 5:42  –  Give to the one who asks you, and from the one who would borrow from you, turn not away. 

The Giver of all gifts asks me to give!

The Fountain from which every good thing flows,

The Life who spends himself that all might live,

The Root whence every bud and blossom grows,

Calls me, as if I knew no limitation,

As if I focused all his hidden force,

To be creative with his new creation,

To find my flow in him, my living source,

To live as if I had no fear of losing,

To spend as if I had no need to earn,

To turn my cheek as if it felt no bruising,

To lend as if I needed no return,

As if my debts and sins were all forgiven,

As if I too could body forth his Heaven.

(Guite’s blog site is a treasure. Check it out)

Learn to read the Bible S l o w l y

15-07-26 PRAXIS- LEXIO.007In our Praxis series, last week we studied biblical meditation (or “Rumination.”) This Sunday we learned and practiced an old/new way to listen to God through the Scriptures. Also called Lectio Divina – or – Sacred Reading, our community found it to be a deeply worshipful and personal encounter with the Lord. The outline is below and you can listen to the sermon here. (the text was Mark 4:35-41) I hope you will learn to practice the way of Sacred Reading, personally as well as in smaller groups.

Sacred Reading (Lectio Divina)
Encountering God in the Bible

Listen prayerfully to the text for the word or phrase that ‘speaks’ to you. What is the Holy Spirit drawing your attention to?

Read the text again. Repeat and ponder these words in your heart. Where do you find yourself in this story? What is God saying  to YOU through this word or phrase?

Read the text once more. What is your response to God? And how could this affect your week ahead? Make it a prayer: giving thanks; asking for help; asking forgiveness. resting in God’s love…

Move from the activity of prayer to a place of stillness. Simply rest in God’s presence. Like Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant; let it be to me according to Your word.” Go with the delight and confidence that God is with you to live out what you have read.

Though often described as a practice within Roman Catholicism, it’s roots are ancient and modern Evangelical works on spiritual disciplines most always include some variation of Sacred Reading.

One article I recommend is “Step by Step Through Lectio Divina.

Why we have to learn how to Ruminate!

15-07-19 PRAXIS- Ruminate! copy.005
When I started blogging several years ago, I chose the title Ruminations. It’s still in the subtitle. It’s not just a graphic term for bovine digestion. It was adopted early in the church as a metaphor for the essential discipline of meditation. It means internalizing and assimilating the truth of God (specifically from Holy Scripture) into our spiritual bloodstreams. It runs counter to our frenzied culture but it’s the only way we flourish and mature in Christ-likeness! You can listen to the sermon here and I’ll include more below on the WHY and HOW of biblical meditation.

What is Biblical Meditation and why is it so important?

::  It has a vocal component: “to talk; mutter; whisper; muse; ponder; moan; sigh. It’s talking with God about His Word and your life.

::  It’s getting God’s truth from the ‘head’ to the ‘heart.’

::  It’s “the sister of reading, the nurse of prayer, and the guide of action;”  “the beginning of all good!”

::  It’s internalization God’s Word so as to transform our way of life. It’s not about emptying the mind as in some religions and spiritualities. Biblical meditation opens us to the “mind of Christ” and to God’s presence in the world.

::  It’s listening to God; giving attention (someone has said, “Inattention is the greatest obstacle to the life of faith!”)

::  It’s tuning into God with all the “antennae of the soul” (mind, emotions, imagination, and will.)

::  It’s spiritual digestion – or rumination! “Words and truths of God “eaten, chewed, received in unhurried delight” (Eugene Peterson)

So HOW do we Practice Meditation? Some suggestions:

Choose a verse, chapter, or story in the Bible – perhaps from your overall reading or a sermon or Bible Study. (You can also meditate on an attribute of God, like God’s justice; or a name of Christ, like the Good Shepherd or the Bread of Life)

1. “a.e.i.o.u.” is a way of “chewing” on the passage you are reflecting on. The vowels stand for:
Ask questions (Kipling’s “6 honest serving men” who taught him all he knew: What and Why and When; and How and Where and Who!)
Emphasize different words
In your own words, or paraphrasing
Other verses that relate and inform
Use, i.e. “Lord, how do you want me to apply this truth?”

2. Martin Luther taught a simple and practical way to meditate and pray:
Luther took for example, The Lord’s Prayer and using each petition, he wove “a garland of four twisted strands. That is, I take each (petition) first as a teaching, which is what it actually is, and I reflect upon what our Lord God so earnestly requires of me here. Secondly, I make out of it a reason for thanksgiving. Thirdly, a confession and fourthly, a prayer petition.” You can read more about his practice here from a past blogpost.

However you and I come to “ingest” the Word of God, let our prayer be with the hymn writer: “Beyond the sacred page – I seek YOU Lord!” *

Let’s be people who Ruminate on God and His truth!

(*from “Break Now the Bread of Life” – Covenant Hymnal, A. Groves, alt.)

Do our lives have Authority?

-cloud-syncIn our series, Ordinary People, Radical Kingdom, we examined Mark 1:21-28 and asked the question, “By what authority?” Why was Jesus’ authority so obvious – and what, if any, authority do we have as his modern day disciples?

Jesus demonstrated his authority, not only in his teaching, but also in calling the 12, casting out demons, healing the infirm, eating with ‘sinners,’ and more! He also delegated his authority to his disciples and we today have authority when we speak and pray and embody the Kingdom ‘in His Name.’

The personal challenge for us is whether our lives have integrity. Does what I say I believe sync with how I live? Do my principles and my practice match up? Do I embody (like Jesus) what I announce?

You can listen to sermon here.

Ask yourself: “What is one place where the authority of my life is being compromised?” Let God’s Spirit bring you into step with Himself! (Galatians 5:22-25)

Day 9, Pierced!

sinai iconOn my retreat this week , we began with a lengthy time of silence. I went to a small chapel and knelt down and just gazed at an icon of Christ, the type of which always has the hand raised in blessing and holding the Scriptures. The icon here is called Christ of Sinai, ‘written’ in the sixth century and preserved in the remote monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai desert.

This word from God in Hebrews flooded into my mind:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12-13)

I felt lovingly “pierced” by the discerning Word of God. I left known and still loved! Jesus and the Scriptures do that.

Scriptures to pray with today:
Psalm 51 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”
Hebrews 4:11-16 – “With confidence, draw near.”
John 3:16-36 – “God so loved the world…”

“Search me and know my heart…”

A Prayer for the road:
Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

[Join us for these 40 days of “Spiritual Spring Training,” as we journey through Lent. You can visit the blog each day. You can also follow me on Twitter which will have the links as well. I will post each day leading to Easter, except Sundays.]

Soul Medicine – Prescriptions from the Psalms

RX 2This week I re-read the 4th century letter of Athanasius of Alexandria written to a man named Marcellinus on the importance and use of the Psalms. It is often available as part of the his famous work, On the Incarnation. It should be in every Christian’s library.  The edition I have has an introduction by C.S. Lewis that is also classic. [The Kindle edition is on Amazon for $.99 !]

A good part of the letter is given to detailed “prescriptions” – Psalms to read in every situation. I’ve listed them out here. I look forward to taking more time to read the Psalms in this way to supplement my monthly reading of the Psalms. The entire letter is wonderful and can be accessed on-line.

in the Psalter… you learn about yourself. You find depicted in it all the movements of your soul, all its changes, its ups and downs, its failures and recoveries.

Let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need.

He also recommends chanting or simply singing the Psalms as the way to “unify” the head and heart and body. For the most part, I chose not to change or paraphrase the writing.

Here is the list of 80+ Prescriptions for most every situation!

[NOTE: use the numbers in parentheses – the traditional Hebrew numbering in our English Bibles.
The first number listed is from the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, read in the early church. ]

1. Suppose, then, for example, that 
you want to declare any one to be blessed; you find the way to do it in Psalm 1, and likewise in 31 (32), 40 (41), 111 (112), 118 (119), and 127 (128).

2. If you want to rebuke the conspiracy…against the Saviour, you have Psalm 2.

3. If you are persecuted by your own family and opposed by many, say Psalm 3;

4. and when you would give thanks to God at your affliction’s end, sing 4 and 74 (75) and 114-115 (116).

5. When you see the wicked wanting to ensnare you and you wish your prayer to reach God’s ears, then wake up early and sing 5;

6. and if you feel yourself beneath the cloud of His displeasure, you can say 6 and 37 (38).

7. If any plot against you, as did Ahithophel against David, and someone tells you of it, sing Psalm 7, and put your trust in God Who will deliver you.

8. Contemplating humanity’s redemption and the Saviour’s universal grace, sing Psalm 8 to the Lord; and with this same Psalm or the 18th (19th) you may thank Him for the vintage.

9. For victory over the enemy and the saving of created things, take not glory to yourself but, knowing that it is the Son of God Who has thus brought things to a happy issue, say to Him Psalm 9; and, if any wishes to alarm you, the 10th (11th), still trusting in the Lord.

10. When you see the boundless pride of many, and evil passing great, so that among men [so it seems] no holy thing remains, take refuge with the Lord and say Psalm 11 (12).

11. And if this state of things be long drawn out, be not faint-hearted, as though God had forgotten you, but call upon Him with Psalm 26 (27). Continue reading Soul Medicine – Prescriptions from the Psalms

Minding the Bible ‘Gap’

mindthegapI won’t bug you with the stats! We talk in the Christian world  like we revere the Scriptures and live by every word of God. (Matthew 4:4) Our ‘walk’ is often much different! We are all too often rivaling the biblical ignorance of our society, and arguing about the Bible more than applying it.

Our Mind the Gap Series is a practical challenge for our church community this summer to face the disparity between what we know in our heads and what we DO. [The first week we looked at KNOWING God, as distinct from knowing ABOUT God.]

For those who are hungry to do some ‘gap minding’ in relation to the Bible, here are some tools and resources,  including some of my favorites. DISCLAIMER: Tools unused are of little help!

SO, here are some SUGGESTIONS for increasing your serious Rumination on the Word of God:

The Bible App – free online and mobile app that has exploded world-wide. There are dozens of reading programs built in also.

Bible Gateway – my go-to site when I’m on my computer. Also a new app is available for mobile devices.

ESV app – This is the translation I use and the app is resident on my smart phone so I don’t need to be online. It’s a well done format with cross-references and good search function, etc. NOTE: If you use a different translation – do a search and you’ll probably find an app for it or it will be likely included in the other sites/apps listed here. There is also an ESV Study Bible in all formats that is one of several good study resources.

NET Bible – A fairly new translation that has a lot of notes and language tools to go deeper into the text.

Community Bible Experience – This site has downloadable audio that includes great introductions to the sections of Scripture and readings without chapter references to get the big story of the Bible. The New Testament is ready and can be used in a group. Sign up for a sample and you get the whole NT with intros in ebook format.

How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth – is an introduction to the books of the Bible (with interpretation points) that has stood the test of time and has been updated in recent years. NOTE: as I write this, Amazon has the Kindle ebook version for $1.99!

Obviously, we are overflowing with access to God’s written word in ways unimaginable in the past. So saturate yourself with the Scriptures! Be a life-long learner of the Book of Books. Not as an end in itself, but as the means of knowing Christ, the living Word, and being transformed by the Holy Spirit who inspired and illuminates the Scriptures.

One more challenge. Don’t just read books ABOUT the Bible. Get into the Word for yourself – The Spirit will turn the light on to help you see and learn Christ!

Poetry Monday – “The H. Scriptures”

Singing the praises of Holy Scripture begins in the Bible itself, as in the magisterial Psalms 19 and 119.  Many Christian poets have joined the chorus over the centuries.  George Herbert was a pastor and poet who lived in the 17th century.  Charles Spurgeon’s wife said that nothing soothed her pastor-husband after a long exhausting Sunday like Herbert’s poetry!  Here is one of two poems (you could also call them meditative prayers) that he wrote about his love of the Bible, titled The H. Scriptures I. Let it remind you of the sweetness of Scripture!  And of our need to prayerfull “ingest” it and be transformed!  [I’ve added some translations of old English words.]

Oh Book! infinite sweetnesse! let my heart
Suck ev’ry letter, and a honey gain,
Precious for any grief in any part;
To cleare the breast, to mollifie all pain.

Thou art all health, health thriving till it make
A full eternitie: thou art a masse
Of strange delights, where we may wish & take.
Ladies, look here; this is the thankfull glasse**,                   

That mends the lookers eyes: this is the well
That washes what it shows.  Who can indeare
Thy praise too much?  thou art heav’ns Lidger** here,     
Working against the states of death and hell.

Thou art joy’s handsell:** heav’n lies flat in thee,        
   Subject to ev’ry mounters bended knee.

** [glasse = mirror];   [Lidger = ambassador];  [handsell = deposit, down payment]

‘Not by Bread Alone’ – Serious Bible Reading (and Listening)

The new year is always a great time to be more intentional – and for the Christian disciple, that includes increased reading and meditating on the Word of God.  Here are a few resources to check out if you don’t already have a plan.

Audio Plan
I’ve just started the 40 day Audio version of Biblica’s Books of the Bible, NT.  Cheryl, our Assoc. Pastor has introduced  the use of this format in a Sunday class and a midweek group.  This unique way of reading or listening to the whole NT without chapter breaks opens up the text in wonderful ways.  Read about it here and download the audio version that can be made into an audio book on iTunes. (This is the NIV – 2011 version)

Apps for Smart Phones/tablets, etc.
The world’s most used Bible app is the YouVersion (Managed by LifeChurch, an Evangelical Covenant church).  In addition to multiple versions – many that can access audio – there are dozens of reading plans available of varying lengths, topics, etc. Look here for an overview.  It is also available on any computer.

Printed Plans 
Of course there are many plans you can print out and have on good ol’ paper!
Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish pastor whose reading plan has become well known and appreciated.  It is available in many formats here.

The Psalms continue to be a staple of my reading – working through the Psalter monthly in various ways.  The important thing is to ruminate frequently in this great “Prayer Book of the Bible.” One early church saint said that the spirit of acedia (or spiritual apathy) must be cast out, mainly by prayer and psalmody (praying the Psalms as a spiritual exercise)

Our new series called Game Plan will introduce much more on “Intentional Discipleship” including the essential discipline of saturating our minds in the Scriptures!