Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Drama of Scripture

There are a number of ways of engaging Scripture...

One is to engage it through the Lens of a Story.

Stories are powerful. They shape how we see the world.

Scripture is the most powerful story ever recorded.

It is literally, HIS-STORY. It is the Story of God’s pursuit of humanity. In fact, you can take the first 3 chapters of Genesis and the last 3 chapters of Revelation and you have pretty much the complete story in and of it self. Now much happens, we know in between…

If Scripture were a Drama or a Play, it could be broken up into 6 ActsCraig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, in their book Drama of Scripture, The: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story do a great job of laying out Scripture in such a fashion. I often reference this book and walk through this framework when introducing/teaching through the storyline of Scripture.

Scripture as a 6 Act Drama
  1. Creation: God Establishes His Kingdom
  2. Crime/Crisis/Fall: Rebellion in the Kingdom
  3. Israel: The King Chooses Israel
    1. Scene I: A People for the King
    2. Scene II: A Land for His People
Interlude: Intertestamental Period 

       4. Jesus: The Coming of the King - Redemption
       5. NT & the People of God
             Scene I:  New Testament and the Early Church – Jerusalem to Rome
             Scene II:  the ongoing story of the Church – To the ends of the Earth

       6.   Restoration of all Creation: The Return of the King

Helpful tips for engaging Scripture through the lens of His-Story.
  1. Begin to see Scripture as more than a collection of stories in which we can extract morals and principles from. It is useful for this, as well as for establishing doctrine and teaching. But, all of that needs to be framed in the context of the over-arching narrative of Scripture.
  2. Begin simply by reading through the Bible.(systematically // chronologically).
    • Bible Reading Plans.
  3. The following are some books and resources I've found helpful in this area:

All of human life is shaped by some story.

I can only answer the question
“What am I to do?”
if I can answer the prior question
“Of what story do I find myself a part?”

(Alasdaire MacIntyre)

The way we understand human life
depends on what conception we have of the human story.
What is the real story of which my life story is a part?

(Lesslie Newbigin)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Discovering Who I Am

“Who Am I…?”
This is the age-old question. Throughout the ages, philosophers, theologians, poets, psychologists, even historians have all made attempts to answer this question. Interestingly, of all the creatures of creation, humans are the only one’s who say, “Who Am I…?” The very one’s who were created with the greatest significance in the image of God seem to somewhere along the way have forgotten who they are. Henri Nouwen, in the book Spiritual Direction, points out that many of us are now prone to answer this question and define ourselves in one or more of the following ways.

I am what I do...

“I am what I do.” When I do good things and have a little success in life, I feel good about myself. But when I fail, I start getting depressed. To define yourself based on what you do is to live on an emotional and spiritual roller coaster. Isn’t this largely what one is doing when they experience what is commonly called a midlife crisis? They reach an age or season in life and they look around while asking themselves, “what have I done with my life…?” Then, based on what we’ve perceive we’ve done, we calculate how we’re doing. Our evaluations are often nothing more than the byproduct of how we faired when we compared what we’ve “done” to our peers and those around us.

As we get older and our body begins to deteriorate, rendering us unable to physically do much, all we’ll be able to say is, “Look at what I did in my life… look, look, look, look, I did something good…” Our value, worth, significance and identity will be nothing more than a distant memory and perhaps a faded plaque on the wall.

I am what other people say about me...

Another way we are prone to define ourselves is, “I am what other people say about me.” This is tricky and often subconscious. But, we have to admit, we often expend a tremendous about of head-space worrying (or at least thinking and imagining) what other people are saying about us (or at least what they think about us). Further, they don’t even have to say it or actually think it, but if we think they think it – it can control us just the same. Often, it’s not so much what other people think about you that is the problem; it’s what YOU THINK – THEY THINK.

Don’t be mistaken; what people say about you has great power. When people speak well of you, you can walk around quite freely. But when somebody starts saying negative things about you, you might start feeling sad. When someone talks against you, it can cut deep into your heart.

I am what I have...

Or, we might say, “I am what I have.” There’s a human tendency to let our things and our stuff determine our identity. The square footage of our homes, to the model of our cars, to the little designs on our hip pockets can all subconsciously serve as the building blocks of how we define ourselves in the eyes of others.

How much energy goes into defining yourself by deciding “I am what I do,” “I am what others say about me,” or “I am what I have”?

You are not, fundamentally, what you do, what other people say about you, or what you have. You are loved by God.

In the book, A Traveler Toward the Dawn, John Eagan describes an encounter he has with his spiritual director on the sixth day on his annual, silent eight-day retreat, “John, the heart of it is this:  to make the Lord and his immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth.  Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.  God’s love for you and his choice of you constitutive your worth.  Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.”

“Who am I?”
“I am one loved by Christ.” 
Thomas Merton

Consider the first human, Adam. God created Adam for the very purpose of finding pleasure in his union with the Creator of the universe.  Before Adam was given any assignment, role or responsibility, he was put in a place conducive for intimacy with the Almighty.  Scripture says,

“The LORD God took Adam
and placed him in the garden of Eden.” 

-Genesis 2:15

The Lord God took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden. The word “garden” used here means, “a place of enclosure.” The word “Eden” means, “delight or pleasure.” In other words, Adam was enclosed in the place of God’s pleasure and delight. God always surrounds those in whom He takes pleasure and finds delight. This is how the first human defined himself. His identity was not based on what he did, what other humans thought, or what he had. It was based solely on what God said. And, God said, “You are loved.” If we were to rewrite Genesis 2:15 with this expanded understanding, perhaps it would look like this:

Now the LORD took the human that He had intimately formed and put him in a place surrounded and enclosed with the reality of God's pleasure and delight.  –Genesis 2:15 rewrite

This original common-union is one of the most vivid pictures of love.  Love, was to be the primary expression of Adam’s existence. Out of this love, Adam would “work and take care of” the garden. Adam was not defined by his work, responsibility, status or position in creation; rather he was defined by the reality of God’s love. He didn’t work to earn God’s approval. He didn’t strive to acquire God’s love. He was loved. All of his life and relationships were to flow out of this central truth. And, so it is for us. “You are God’s beloved child, in whom He is well pleased.”


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Sabbath in the Suburbs

Sabbath in the Suburbs is a worthwhile read, especially if you're looking for ideas of what it could look like for a family to celebrate the sabbath together. There are a number of books that provide an in-depth understanding of the sabbath, historically how it has been observed by Jews and Christians, etc, but there are few books that chronicle the journey and exploration of what this could look like for a person and/or family. This book would be though generating for any person, especially those with young children.

A few quotes:

We have such a short time on this earth. How do we we want to live it? Always busy, working on the next project, chore, or errand? Or with an attitude of unhurried trust and joy?

The world would go on without us. We would be dispensable. We would let God's grace seep into us in a way that is can't when our lives are crammed full of activity.

Sabbath is more than a day; it's a mind-set.

Sabbath is a way of modeling a different relationship with time, one that values relationship over achievement.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Ephesians 3:18-20 // REWRITE

The following is a rewrite of Paul's prayer found in Ephesians 3:18-20.
"May have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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..." -Ephesians 3:18-20 NIV


You are not alone. You are a part of an eternal community of Christ followers – God’s very people. As you journey together, may you have the ability to comprehend and grasp with your whole being the love of Christ. His love, that stretches wide beyond geographical regions, ethnicity and race. That love, that runs long through the story of history itself, from eternity to eternity. The love, that extends toward the very throne of God, raising us up to sit with Him; forgiven, healed, restored, joint-heirs with Christ, who have been made alive with the same Spirit that raised Him from the clutches of Death, Hell, and the Grave. His love that reached downward into the mire of human depravity, taking on the very nature of humanity, stained by sin, stricken with the very punishment that belonged to us. May this love, become deeply lodged in the very core of your being, until it changes how you see everything (God, others, even yourself).

No longer shall you be satisfied merely making castles in the sand or paddling around in the shallowness of the shoreline. Rather, may you be drawn further and further out, deeper and deeper in, until you are completely consumed by His love. May you experientially know that which is beyond human rhetoric and comprehension.
Don’t be mistaken! You haven’t seen the least of it yet. Just when you think you’ve got a hold on His love, you’re swept still further out and further out beyond that. God is able to do anything, exponentially more than we can ask, think or imagine, according to His power that is presently at work within us…

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ephesians 3:16-17 :: REWRITE

The following is an expanded re-write of Ephesians 3:16-17.

 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
–Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV

I pray that the very core of your heart, the executive center of your being, the citadel of your soul, will be fortified and strengthened by the endless power of God’s Spirit. May you be built up, not according to your lack, but His boundless supply. The purpose of such strengthening isn’t for your own honor, making a name for yourself, or even expanding your own kingdom. On the contrary, this infusing of God’s power is that you may, more and more, live out your life as if Christ were living His life through you. Don’t be content with Christ’s provision of an eternal destiny. But, implore Him to be your traveling companion throughout this journey called life.

Don’t just tidy up your soul the way you’d clean your house prior to a visit from an out-of-town guest. Yard mowed. Bushes manicured. Landry put away. Yet, all the while, the closets are a mess, and so will be the rest of the house, once they depart. No, invite Christ in. Give Him refrigerator rights. Grant Him keys to the closets and access to the attic. Don’t stop there, go ahead, turn over the title and move into the guest room yourself. Let Him run the affairs of your home and all of your comings and goings…

Friday, May 17, 2013

Paul's Ephesian Prayer :: Remixed

The following is a rewrite of Paul's prayer found in Ephesians 1:15-23.

Because God has chose you, predestined you, accepted you, redeemed you, forgiven your sins, lavished you with his grace, shown you his will, marked you with the Holy Spirit and given you an eternal inheritance that you can partake of in the here and now, I have not stopped giving thanks for you. Day and night I’m praying for you! I keep asking God, over and over, to give you in abundance the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. The Spirit that causes you to come alive with an awareness to God and His present-nearness, even in the most mundane moments of life. In all the arenas of your life, may you know God better. May your relationship with Him continue to move from the theoretical and abstract to the practical expressions of love and faith in action. May this experiential knowledge of God transform you from the inside out and cause you to walk in complete freedom with-Him.

Like the shutter of a camera that opens to let light in so that an image can be captured, I pray that the eyes of your heart will be opened, so that the image of who God created you to be, will be etched and developed deep in the core of your being. May every skewed image of this world that rises up to distort your true identity in Christ be exposed for what it is, a mirage - an illusion.

May you be consumed with the hope to which you have been called. All these truths that declare who you are in Christ, may they begin to cause you to see everything from His perspective (God, yourself, others and the world in which you live). May you be so infiltrated by the reality of God’s promises that you will never again settle for empty, stale or aimless living.

May you come to understand not only who you are in Christ, but how Christ Himself sees you. You are His treasured possession, a precious jewel, the very one who He suffered and died for to reconcile back to Himself.
May you know that you are no longer under the tyranny of sin, nor the power of Satan. No longer are you to be spellbound by the enchantments of this world or imprisoned by the fads and labels of this present age.
For the same dynamic force that God exercised to shatter the dominion of death, raising Christ from the grave is at work within you who believe. May you live in the sphere of His kingdom here and now…

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Paul's Colossian Prayer :: Remixed

The New Testament letter's penned by the Apostle Paul contain instruction and doctrine, but they are also very personal. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul writes, "we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well."

Paul saw prayer as a significant element of the on-going transformation within the life of those he discipled. Not only their prayers, but the prayers he prayed for them. In nearly every letter we have by Paul, he makes note that he has been praying continuously for them. In a few places Paul even gives us a glimpse into not only the constancy of his prayers, but the content as well. There's much we can learn about prayer from simply reflecting on they types of things Paul prayed. The past couple of weeks in New Community, we've been reflecting on Paul's prayers. 

I've encouraged  everyone to take the passages/prayers that we're studying and commit to pray them throughout the week for: 

  • themselves/immediate family, 
  • someone they are close to, and 
  • someone they have a hard time being around (but must interacte with on a regular basis). 
In addition to studying and reflecting on Paul's prayers as they are written, each week, I've offered a rewrite of the passage. A remix, if you will, of the passage, what it means and how we could practically pray it for ourselves and others.

The following is the rewrite for Colossians 1:9-14.

God I pray that you grant unto me an experiential encounter with Your truth – the knowledge of Your will. Renovate my mind and establish the blueprints to Your kingdom deep within my heart. God, help me to see things from Your perspective. Everything, from who I am to what I do. Invade every sphere of my life – private to public. May I live as if You were living through me. I pray the very minute details of my life will bring an unending smile to Your face.

God, more and more, let me learn how to keep in step with Your Spirit in every part of my life. As I follow Your leading, the way You want things to be done, may my life be marked by the out-flowing of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Father, expand the horizon of my vision, until I see Your present-activity in virtually every arena of my life. Strengthen me with the power of Your Spirit. As I’m empowered according to Your might, may I not bow down as a despondent coward in the face of adversity and difficult circumstances. No, in the power of Your might, may I find the wherewithal to stand and not give up. When I’m mistreated and in the midst of difficult people, may I be slow to anger and respond to others with love and grace.

Finally, I desire to be a wellspring of joy, giving thanks to you at every occasion. May I not get bogged down with the snares of this world to the point of my joy becoming strangled and my heart diminishing into decadence of complaining. May I never lose sight of the reality that I was once aimlessly wandering in sin, shrouded by death and held captive under the dominion of darkness. Not so any longer! I have been rescued out of darkness, snatched out of death and transferred into the kingdom of the Son of Your delight. I have been chosen, forgiven and redeemed because of Your never-ending love.