Bible Observations

I have been having fun looking through the Bible in chronological order. One of the things I saw this past week comes from the end of Joshua. When Joshua “retired” as leader of the Israelites God didn’t give them a new leader. He was to be their leader. If His people were willing to follow Him, God made several promises including the fact that they would be free from their enemies. They would no longer need a national leader. They would no longer need a national army. Their only need was God.

Of course that isn’t what happened. They turned quickly to the gods of the people around them and the gods that they followed in Egypt and it wasn’t long before they were over run by their enemies again and again.

But I thought it was neat to see that God didn’t give them a new leader. He gave them a shot at life right way.

The story of the FALL

Our youth group is on a journey “storying” our way through the Bible. I am using the really great story set from http://www.echothestory.com/. It has been a very liberating couple of weeks. Here are some of my observations.

  • This is how I was created to teach. I like to preach, and have fun doing it, but I am a storyteller/discussion leader at heart.
  • I also learn best in group discussion. This was always true in college. There were classes where the teacher wanted to just lecture that I would interrupt with questions because to be engaged I needed to be discussing. (my classmates didn’t like me)
  • Because I am using prepared stories and because I know what comes next preparation time can be spent on prayer and focusing as apposed to finding a good game or illustration.
  • There are some students who really love this style of teaching. They are engaged and involved.
  • There are some students who are still a little confused about a teaching style that requires this much of them, but they are trying.
  • Then there are some students who just would rather talk to their friends and this teach style is terrible for them because it forces them to be involved in the group rather than in their own world (which is exactly why I like it)

My favorite part of these stories so far has been asking students what they noticed about the story for the first time. One student said, “I never realized that part of the punishment was that men and women would have relationship issues.” Later when we were talking about God making animal skin clothes for them I asked, “What does it mean that their clothes were from animal skins” After some discussion students said, “That an animal had to die.” When I made the observation that because of sin someone had to die to cover it suddenly half a dozen students went “O, that’s like…” It was pretty cool, even though I didn’t really run down that path because we are trying to take these stories as they come.

That has been the most eye opening thing for me. I have been trying to look at the story of the Bible as if God is telling me about himself for the first time and here is how he decided to do it. It is neat to look at Genesis 3 without more a more Old Testament idea of God. To see Him walking with his people and to get a new glimpse of His heart as He lays down His punishment.

Well, in case you can’t tell, I am really having fun with this series.

Isaiah 58

Isaiah 58

1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

Our fast this weekend is about raising money and awareness for world hunger, but it is also about our relationships with God. I am treating it as if it were a rallying cry: a call to return to the Lord. For the whole weekend I am teaching out of Isaiah 58 and I have been reading it often in preparation. These opening 2 verses just won’t leave me alone.

“They seek me out as if they were a nation that does what is right.”

Are there any more condemning truthful words about our culture today, even our church culture, maybe especially our church culture. Are there any more condemning words about my own life? How many times have I sought after God while at the same time seeking after myself? How many times have I spent my time satisfying my own desires my own hungers my own apathy just to pray and ask God to do something remarkable because I didn’t seek his face earlier.

I am praying for a true fast this weekend, not just an abstaining of foods, but a true fast of the heart, for my students of course, but for me as well.

36 Hour Famine

This weekend (February 27-March 1) will be a 36 hour famine at our church. I am modifying the World Vision 30 Hour Famine to sort of fit my style and my time frame better. Right now I am working on just the general feel of the weekend and I keep coming back to Isaiah 58. Go read it now. (While you read it I will do that cute little thing where I say that I will wait for you to come back and then after a pause I will ask you if you are back and then say Good or something like that and continue.) OK, now read it again. I’m not kidding now. It will take a couple of readings for this chapter to really set in.

Anyway, I am blown away by this chapter. How have we forgotten this in our churches. Somewhere, in an effort to make sure that it wasn’t all of our helping others stuff that was getting us into heaven we stopped stressing that God actually wants us to help others. Somewhere in our desire to not love this world and seek after Heaven we have forgotten that God does want us to try to make this world liveable for people who keep getting the short end of the stick.

Can you imagine a prophet walking into your church today and saying. “It seems like you are eager to seek the Lord. You have poured resources, time, and money into this place. You study the scripture with vigor. You know all of the stories. You stand and you sit at the right times and your worship gatherings are wonderful. BUT. But your heart is far away from the LORD.

This is what the Lord says. Stop acting like you are following me and actually follow me.

Follow me into the trenches, into the ghettos, into the sewer where people are starving and desperate and sick and addicted. Let your religion be about more than just this place. This place, this “church” is nothing if it isn’t followed up by what you do when you aren’t here.

So here is what I desire. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Help the homeless. Love the unlovable. Do that. Let that be your worship.”

Can you imagine a prophet speaking those words to you. Would you be offended, humbled, called to action or would you just say, “yeah, that sounds great,” and then go back home and forget all about it. I hate to say it, but I think that would probably be my response.

Minor Prophets

I have been reading through the minor prophets in my personal Bible study time. I’m not really doing a whole lot of in depth study, but rather trying to read through the books as a whole and sort of get a feel for what they are saying. It has been fun running through a big chunk of Israelite history in just a couple of weeks. Anyway, this passage from Zephaniah really stuck out to me.

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:”Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:16-17 (ESV)

I love the image of God rejoicing over us with his gladness an exulting over us with LOUD singing. It is the image of a proud father rejoicing with his children. But the part of this verse that speaks the most to me would have to be that “he will quiet you by his love;” As a dad I find there are many times when I just need to pull my son close to my chest and hold him as he cries. I speak to him in soothing tones and tell him that I love him. It amazes me that the Bible says that God does the same thing for us. He comes to us in the middle of our distress and he quiets us with his love.

God is an amazing God. (O, and the minor prophets are pretty fun too)