Posts Tagged ‘chrisitianity’

Website Question 1: How can I have a relationship with God?

I am working on the content/answers for a couple of questions to go on our new website at Calvary.   Here is the first question and answer.   I would love some feedback on this first draft, especially content:

How can I have a relationship with God?
This is a bold question!  Especially, when we consider our place in the larger universe.  And yet, the Bible invites us to ask this question because it presents God in relational terms (e.g. “Father”).  We also know form our personal experiences that we need healthy relationships in order to be successful and at peace in this world.  Why should our relationship with God be excluded from this equation?

So, let’s start with a question:  Is it possible to have a relationship with God?  Not only does the Bible speak in relational terms, it presents a relationship with God as a part of our original design and a necessity for our present lives.  This leads to a follow-up question:  is there something keeping us from a relationship with God?  Again, the Bible tells us that we are the problem and have a problem.  Our sin (going against the instruction of God or failing to do the things He requires) impedes a relationship with God.  Furthermore, we cannot fix this problem ourselves because we are never able to meet God’s standard of perfection.  One final question then:  Does God provide a solution that we cannot?  Yes! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is that answer.  He lived a perfect life, died on the Cross to satisfy the penalty of our sin, and was resurrected to new life.  We need only receive the work of Christ on our behalf to begin a new relationship with God.

The Christian faith is more than ceremony & ritual, more than principles & laws, and even more than mere head knowledge.  Martin Luther, a church Reformer, said “the Christian faith exists in personal pronouns.”  As Paul writes in Galatians (a letter found in the New Testament) of Jesus Christ, “who loved me and gave himself for me.”   Are you ready for a relationship with God?  Visit us for a worship service or contact us and we would be delighted to walk with you further in journey towards a relationship with God.

itunes Music Fun

While I think the new Genius mode in itunes is cool, particularly because I am often in the mood for particular styles of music, rather than just for a particular artist or album, I have been creating a mix using keyword in the search box.  For instance, recently I have been listening to a mix of songs that have the word “light” in the song title (I did “rain” last Friday after we had so much rain at the end of the week).  Here is what I have been listening to from this mix (excluding albums that have “light” in the title):

  • Salt & Light by Ashley Cleveland (Roaring Lambs Compilation)
  • Where Does the Light Fall by Bill Mallonee (Dear Life)
  • Hold the Light by Caedmon’s Call (Overdressed)
  • Fill Me With Your Light by Clem Snide (This is Americana 2)
  • When I Light Your Darkened Door by Damien Jurado (Live performance)
  • Marvelous Light by Derek Webb (City on a Hill compilation)
  • I’m Standing in the Light by Dr. Dog (Paste Magazine Music Sampler 39)
  • When the Lights Go Out by Derek Webb & Sandra McCraken (Ampersand EP)
  • Sometimes a Light Surprises by Indelible Grace (Pilgrim Days)
  • Is the Light Burning by Jan Krist (Decapitated Society)
  • Real Light by The Jayhawks (Tomorrow the Green Grass)
  • Miles from the Lightning by Jeffrey Foucault (Miles from the Lightning)
  • Daylight by Jeremy Casella (Recovery)
  • Waiting on the Light to Change by Matthew Perryman Jones (Throwing Punches in the Dark)
  • In the Morning Light by Mo Leverett (For the Benefit of Desire)
  • In the Light of Common Day by Phil Keaggy (Beyond Nature)
  • Vacant Light by Romantica (It’s Your Weakness the I Want)
  • Reinventing Light by Southeast Engine (A Wheel Within A Wheel)
  • City of Blinding Lights by U2 (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb)
  • Red Light by U2 (War)
  • Certain Slant of Light by Vigilantes of Love (Blister Soul)
  • When You’re Blinded by the Light by Vigilantes of Love (Across the Big Pond)
  • Bar Lights by Whiskeytown (Pneumonia)

Don’t eat the Raisin Cakes

[May 16th, 2013 NOTE:  After nearly five years, this post remains one of the most popular posts.  Unfortunately, you may have stumbled here looking for more information than I provide.  Be sure to read the comments for some takes on what the raisin cakes were or refer to.  This is mainly a post about the way we approach Scripture when we are confused or uncertain of something we have read.  If time permits, I may add to this page someday.  Sorry if you are disappointed by what you find here.]

I was doing some devotional reading in the book of Hosea and was brought up short for a minute by Hosea 3:1

And the LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”  (ESV)

In reading this, I was tracking with the thought of this verse, particularly understanding the backdrop of Israel’s rampant idolatry.  It was the part about loving raisin cakes that caused me to stop reading and try to figure out how turning to other gods and eating raisin cakes went together.  Though I have certainly read and studied Hosea before, I was drawing a blank on this one.  So, what are some easy ways that we can improve our study of Scripture and not get bogged down?  That is, without having to keep commentaries handy, bible study software or website open, etc…

  • You can always keep reading.  This might be the best option if you are seeking to consume Scripture in larger quantities.  I would recommend for this kind of Scripture intake, reading a Bible with very little extra material (e.g. headings, notes, cross-references).  While those things can be very helpful, especially for close study, they can actually be distracting to our reading.  Sometimes we need to read for the big picture, rather than for the fine detail.  In the case above, I could have kept going and would not have been hindered from understanding that the Israelites were not exactly following God as they should.
  • Invest in a good study bible.  While a study bible won’t answer all of your questions, chances are that it will answer a lot of them.  So, for the above example, I could have read in my NIV Study Bible the following:  “raisin cakes.  Offered to Baal in thanksgiving for harvest.”    That little note helps me to see how the Lord was giving a very specific and tangible example of the idolatry.  Not only were the Israelites participating in worship of Baal, the indication is that they “loved” it.   Now those raisin cakes don’t seem so tasty now.  I also have a New Geneva Study Bible that would have given me similar information.  As an aside, I am very excited about the ESV Study Bible that will be available very soon.  This study bible may become the best study bible on the market.  If you don’t have a study Bible already, you might consider investing in this one.
  • Keep one (maybe two) alternate translations nearby.  Consider these alternate translations (ideally employing a different translation strategy for best results) of the last part of Hosea 3:1 and how a quick glance at them might have been helpful.
    • NIV:  “…though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
    • NKJV:  “…who look ot other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”
  • Read Scripture with someone.  This could also be distracting, but it could also be very helpful to simply sit in the same room with a friend and read Scripture together.

May Books

Sadly I only completed reading two books in May, which is a couple off my pace in earlier months. I do think that I can reach my goal of averaging a book a week in 2008, but is not a big deal if I don’t. Without further ado, I give you May Books:

  • How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Explanation of Globalization by Franklin Foer: This book prompted an earlier post on hooliganism or the lack thereof in American (USA) sports. I also gave initial thoughts on what I liked and didn’t like about that book. I really enjoyed the soccer part and found the connection with globalization lacking. In addition, the book was a little uneven and I struggled through a few chapters, while I was enthralled by others. One thing I did greatly appreciate throughout, was the use of phrases or words that were unfamiliar – this made reading this book fun and challenging.
  • Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry: A Trouble Shooting Guide for Church Leaders by Bill Donahue & Russ Robinson: As I have been evaluating and contemplating changes to our community group ministry at Calvary, this has been the best book I have read so far. This is partially due to our context, but also the premise of the book. Far from needing to know why we need community groups/small groups/covenant groups/growth groups/cell groups, I needed to know how to fix what we ‘ve got already. So, it has been very helpful to have a book that goes straight to the point of addressing the issues (for the record, we have broken most of “deadly sins”). The chapters alternate between describing a “sin” and providing some suggestions for correcting the problem. I am still working through all the implications, but this is a great resource for diagnosing and addressing the things that damage small group ministry. One small complaint: I got tired of hearing about how mega-church Willow Creek does things in each of the chapters. That said, they cannot help their context and I did think they offered the right tone (e.g. they were simply offering their thoughts and experiences vs. we are great so do it our way) and readily admitted their mistakes in small group or church ministry.

What are you reading currently or what in print has grabbed your heart/mind recently?

Respectable Sins: Impatience and Irritability

Okay admit it:  you were impatient with my late posting of my reflections on chapter 14 from Respectable Sins. Well, maybe not.

Impatience and Irritability are the topics of this chapter and this topic hit home for me again.  Impatience is defined “as a strong sense of annoyance at the (usually) unintentional faults and failures of others” (116).  And irritability “describes the frequency of impatience, or the ease which a person can becomes impatient over the slightest provocation” (118).  I must confess, even right after (I mean within minutes) reading this chapter I found myself expressing impatience with my son’s slowness to pick a book from the library and with a driver in front of me on the way home.  And these were two areas that Bridges used as illustrations!  This is one reason I don’t sport any kind of Christian symbolism on my car – I don’t my impatient driving identified with Christ.  And yet, Bridges reminds us through Scripture that patience is a virtue to be cultivated.

Also, he reminds us that other people (our children, our spouse, the poor or slow driver in front of us, etc…) is not our problem.  They are not the cause of our impatience.  “They merely provide an opportunity for the flesh to assert itself.  The actual cause of our impatience lies within our hearts, in our own attitude of insisting that others around us conform to our expectations” (117).  This to me may be more important for us to learn than anything else, except for the Scriptural teaching on patience/impatience.  I need to see myself as the problem, not someone else.  This is the challenge we face as we consider our own impatience and irritability – we are always focused on how we have been “wronged” by another.

If you really want to know then do as Bridges encourages:  ask a spouse, an older child, or a friend to help you identify areas of impatience in your life.  Just don’t get angry when they tell you the truth (that’s covered in the next chapter).