Friday, October 7, 2016

10 Neat Tricks To Keep Your Bible Study Fresh

As we prepare to go through our 40 Days In The Word series, I sent out an email today which linked to an article about studying God’s Word. You can link to the article here. The author lists 25 different methods of studying the Bible. I found the list to be fun.

Not every method is for every person, but every person will probably find 2–3 methods that work for them. Below are a couple of my favorites:


Survey the Word
Whether it be the whole of Scripture, an entire book in the Bible, or a given passage, capturing the big picture makes a deeper engagement of the Word more accessible and productive.

Discuss the Word
Discussions about meaning, interpretations, doctrinal substance, and sheer trivia can be a productive means of engaging the Word and driving it more deeply into our hearts.

Hand-copy the Word
Hand-copying the Word slows the brain down and synchronizes the mind with the meaning of a passage. Bible on one side. Journal on the other. Copying the word is a tremendous way to nourish the spirit and align the mind with the thoughts of God. Take. Eat. Enjoy!

Cross-reference the Word
Cross-referencing one passage with another related passage can release as much light into the soul as opening into the night the door of a lit room. Use a concordance. Use in-line references found in a study Bible. Use a computer search capability.

Paraphrase the Word
Good translation can be defined as taking the meaning from one language and capturing it accurately in another language. Paraphrasing is like that, only it is capturing the meaning of a passage and re-expressing that same meaning with different words. The paraphrases don’t have to be of publication quality. Though, if you come to like this type of exercise, you might be surprised by some of what you write and want to share it with others.

Sketch the Word
For the right-brain artistic types among us, sketching the Word is something that is second nature. But even for those of us who do better with straight lines and right angles, sketching the Word can be a rich experience capturing the big idea of a passage or even details best highlighted with a picture or illustration.

Memorize the Word
David said he hid the Word of God in his heart to avoid sin (Psalm 119:11). Scripture memorization is a foundational exercise on which many other forms of Scripture meditation are based.

Display the Word
Some passages are just so wonderful they are best artistically displayed in some fashion. Such passages might be Bible promises to keep in front of us or reminders in our walk with God. Consider commissioning a calligrapher to artistically transcribe your favorite verse in a frameable drawing or painting. Or create a colorful depiction of it yourself in PowerPoint, print it on a color laser printer and have it framed.

Share the Word
What would it do for your own Scripture focus if you were to give away one Bible verse to a different person each of the next 30 days? I encourage you to try. A friend who was studying with me at Wycliffe’s Summer Institute of Linguistics caught fire with God’s Word and could hardly contain himself. Brian would constantly hand write verses on 3 x 5 cards and leave them in our mail boxes. The personal touch brought these verses to life and I remember feeling like I had received numerous personal messages from God himself. And Brian himself grew deeper as he shared with so many of us. Sharing the Word with others engages us in it more deeply ourselves.


Do the Word!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

4 Ideas To Help You Create More Time In Your Week


People have many reasons for not joining a small group. Some are good reasons and some are not as good. "I don't have enough time" is a less-than-good reason. Consider these four time-creating ideas which will enable you to spend two hours a week in a LIFEgroup (the two hours includes thirty minutes of drive time!)

DVR two television shows for the next six weeks.

At the end of the six weeks, you may decide you don't need to watch that show anymore, or you can find time on a weekend to binge catch-up.

Wake up 30 minutes earlier four days a week.

Organize your schedule to use that extra half hour each day to accomplish the tasks that keep you from being able to go to LIFEgroup.

Skip a workout.

Your spiritual muscles are as important (if not more) than your physical muscles. You may not work out for two hours, but factor in transportation, cool-down, and clean-up as well!

Cut out (or just reduce) your social media use.

The New York Times reports that people spend an average of 50 minutes per day on Facebook. That amounts to nearly six hours per week. If you eliminate that time, you will be much more productive and may discover it is easy to invest two hours a week in spiritual growth.
The purpose of this list is not to shame you into joining a group. It is to inspire you to be creative in finding SOLUTIONS that enable you to do something you know will be good for you. If you have other ideas for creating the time necessary to join a group, share them in the comments!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The 2 Questions I Ask When I Vote

I wrote this on election day 8 years ago. Back then, these thoughts were slightly novel and most felt I was being a bit extreme. They seem a bit more relevant today (all but the "write in Rudd" part at least...).

As you vote today, don't forget to "Write in Rudd"!


Seriously. When I vote, I ask myself two questions to determine if I can give my vote to a candidate.



1. Will he/she vote the way I would on legislation?

I don't really pay attention to the specifics of candidates plans. Those are most often empty campaign promises. What I am interested in is the foundational philosophy behind their plans, because that tells me how that person will vote when real live legislation is placed before them. If I don't think a candidate will vote the way I would, they don't get my vote. I do, on occasion vote for a candidate with whom I have a philosophical difference, if I determine the issue at stake is more of a preference issue than a moral issue, the Bible makes this kind of distinction (Rom.14), so I feel like I can as well.


2. Will he/she do more harm than good to the two party system?

I believe the greatest ill in Washington is the two party system. We haven't had a presidential election in which actual issues were at the heart of the candidate's conflict in my memory. Special interests and pork-barrelling run rampant which leads to ridiculous spending because of the two-party system. Senators, Representatives, and Presidents have a greater sense of loyalty to their party than to the people they represent. Therefore, I only vote for those who have demonstrated an ability to be the black sheep of their party, and were someone to pass muster on my first question, I'd be happy to vote for independents. I do think that unfortunately, this election will, in the end, do more good than harm to the two-party system, and that is my greatest disappointment.

What do I do when no candidate meets my qualifications? I don't give them my vote. I still vote... but not for them.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Here's Why I'm Not Preaching A Sermon Series On The Election

We are now entering the time of year when churches all around America have special sermon series that focus on the impending election. Every four years, our country makes a big decision about leadership and some might wonder why our church isn’t talking more about that on Sundays.



On October 9 we will be launching a new sermon series entitled 40 Days In The Word. This series has already been done by hundreds of churches around the country with extremely positive results. This series is an opportunity for us to create and improve our Bible study habits. Through Sunday’s sermons, small group interaction and daily journaling, everyone in our church will have the opportunity to learn God’s Word, love God’s Word and live God’s Word.

I believe focusing on Scripture through the election season is the best approach a church can take. Rather than telling people how they should interpret current events, we’ll point them to the Bible and let God’s Word be their guide.

One of the beautiful things about The Gathering is that we have people from every walk of life. We are all different. Every Sunday we have democrats, republicans, libertarians, independents and even some who don’t care in our worship services. Yet, we all stand shoulder to shoulder and worship the same God, focus on the same Jesus and work together to reach the world.

This election season, we won’t pay much attention to politics on Sundays (I know many of you will passionately work for good during the week, and you should!). In our worship gatherings and small groups, we are going to unite around God’s great gift of the Bible. We are going to immerse ourselves in His Word. We are going to develop habits which lead to life change that lasts a lifetime. As we do that well, we’ll trust God to take care of the rest!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Sunday Morning

Is Sunday morning the most important morning of your week? Most of us would say it is because Sundays are our time to come together with God and His people. Yet, I am often guilty of approaching Sunday with far less intentionality than the most important day of the week deserves. 

Today, I’d like to offer a few suggestions as to how you (and your family) can tweak your Sunday morning routine to make it the BEST day of the week!

HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR SUNDAY MORNING


Make your plans on Saturday night
It’s easy to sleep in Sunday morning, crawl out of bed, debate which service to go to and then finally decide to just take the morning off. Have a brief discussion with your spouse/family on Saturday night. Decide which service you want to attend (think about what the rest of your day looks like) and then set your alarms accordingly. You’ll be glad you did.

Spend a few minutes being quiet
Some time during the morning, find a quiet place in your home and relax for a few minutes. Spend some time talking to your Heavenly Father. Tell Him what’s on your mind and ask Him to show you what’s on His mind for you. Read a couple verses from the Bible. This time will empower you to have a calm and peaceful Sunday morning, which will enable you to have a meaningful and joyful experience at church.

Arrive at church early
Nothing is worse than arriving at the church, running in from the parking lot, racing through the child check-in process, speeding through the cafe and then sneaking into the service as the last song finishes up. By the time you catch your breath and your heart rate slows down, the service is over. Try to arrive early so you can enjoy your morning routine and feel relaxed and at ease when the service begins.

Enjoy coffee and a donut
Sometimes a Sunday service can be long and tiring with all the standing up and sitting down. Sometimes the preacher is less than exciting. You’ll have an easier time keeping your energy up and staying awake if you have a little energy boost before the service.

Find a seat before the service begins
If you get into the Worship Center before the service begins, you’ll have your pick of seats. Find something that works for you, but try not to isolate yourself. Once you’re seated, have a brief conversation with someone around you or take a minute and browse the information in your program. If the sermon passage is listed, you can read it before the service to give yourself a head start.

Make a new friend before you leave
Unless you know the name of everyone who attends your church (and none of us do), you always have a chance to make new friends. During the service, notice the people sitting near you that you’ve never met. Before you leave, greet them with a smile and introduce yourself. You never know what the outcome might be: you may never see them again or it might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


Maybe all of these can be helpful for you. Maybe just one or two are beneficial for you. This Sunday is a great time to practice. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

God's Secret of Success



When he was named leader, Joshua was undoubtedly a bit hesitant. He wasn’t managing a bank or a fast-food restaurant. He wasn’t leading a sports franchise. He wasn’t taking over a family business. He wasn’t even becoming a CEO of a nationally known corporation. Instead, he was assuming leadership of a brand new nation encompassing millions of people who had no land, no formal government, and no clear direction other than a cloud they followed.
Joshua was probably a bit fearful. He needed some direction.
God wanted Joshua to be successful (read to the end, “success” might not mean what you think it means). He wanted Joshua to lead Israel appropriately. His instructions to Joshua were quite simple:
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
These were powerful words. Joshua took them to heart, and he was successful (read to the end, “success” might not mean what you think it means).

The Stuff You Can't Stop Talking About

What do you like talking about? I love to talk about the things that are important to me. You don’t have to be around me long to hear me talking about my wife or my children. Probably if you listen long enough, you’ll hear me talk about sports, particularly golf. I’ll talk your ear off with my thoughts on church, Christianity, and theology. The things about which I’m excited are the things which won’t depart from my mouth.
God told Joshua to not let the words of Scripture depart from his mouth. If God’s Word was the most important thing in Joshua’s life, then Joshua would be successful.

The Stuff You Can't Stop Thinking About

I remember when my wife was pregnant with our first child. Many nights I would run out in the middle of the night for a bean burrito. I was just glad Taco Bell was open all night! Women who have been pregnant can sympathize with my wife.
While I’ve never had those types of cravings, I have plenty of my own obsessions. I hate being late, so I am always paying attention to the clock. During baseball season, I give more than an appropriate amount of attention to the Detroit Tigers. When I am preparing for an important presentation, I obsess about the details. I’ll spend day and night meditating on the words I’m going to use.
James 1 contains a brief parable about a man who wakes up in the morning, checks himself out in the mirror, and begins his day without making any adjustments.
A mirror’s purpose is to point out the elements of our appearance which need correction. The benefit of looking in the mirror is lost if a person chooses not to act according to the information obtained. James’ used his story to challenge people not to “merely listen to the word”, but to “do what it says”.
God did not want Joshua to simply accumulate and think about the information contained in Scripture. He wanted Joshua to “be careful to do everything written in it.” Success for Joshua would be accomplished by acting upon the information he discovered in God’s Word.

Prosperity is relative

Many people read God’s promise to Joshua and begin salivating at the prospect of a simple formula which will lead to prosperity and success. Such excitement is often based on a misunderstanding of these two concepts.
Prosperity is relative. For every person you can find who is more “prosperous” than you, likely just as many exist who are less “prosperous” than you. Success is a perception. Almost everyone is successful in someone’s eyes (even if it is just your parents!). The reality of success is dependent on the standard used to measure success.

Success is a perception.

Everyone is successful in someone’s eyes. In whose eyes are you successful?
Joshua was certainly not successful or prosperous in many people’s eyes. Very few accounts exist of his individual exploits. No record can be found regarding the extent of his wealth or possessions. He is remembered as much for his great defeats and mistakes (Ai and Gibeon) as he is for his victories (Jericho). His is a good story, but certainly not a “great” story.
The last we hear of Joshua is written in Joshua 24:31:
Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel.
Everyone is successful in someone’s eyes. Joshua’s success as a leader was in the eyes of God.
  • Joshua never let the Word of God depart from his mouth.
  • Joshua never stopped meditating on God’s Word.
  • Joshua was careful to do all God’s Word commanded.
Everyone is successful in someone’s eyes. In whose eyes are you successful?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I Don't Have All the Answers, But I Can See One of the Problems

*This was originally written in 2011 and while the data may be a little out of date, the principle is still true in 2016.


I saw a commercial this morning in which Ed Schultz said something to the effect of, "I never imagined I'd see America like this. Wall Street is going through the roof and Main Street is footing the bill."

This is not an uncommon statement these days, and it seems to get a lot of traction. But is it true?

I decided to do a little research myself, and here's what I found.

The top 10% of all wage earners in America currently pay about 70% of the taxes in America. I would imagine the "Wall Street Barons" probably fit into the top 10%, yet it would appear they are footing 70% of the bill for America.

The top 1% of all wage earners in America currently pay about 35% of the taxes in America. To really understand what that means, think of it this way: The wealthiest 1% of Americans are not only paying their own way, each of them are also footing the bill for 35 other Americans who are paying NOTHING.

It would hardly seem that "Main Street" is footing the bill for Wall Street. In fact, the numbers would suggest the opposite.

One more stat. The top 50% of wage earners in America currently pay about 98% of the taxes in America. In other words, half of Americans are not footing any part of the bill...

Here's the problem. When guys like Schultz use deceptive and inflammatory rhetoric, we are unable to address the real problems. By using words he either knows to be false (the alternative is that he's a lazy fact checker or an idiot), he is diverting people's attention from the real issues and is creating unnecessary divides between classes.

We will always have people who make more money than others. We will always have people who are far wealthier than others. These are not problems. In our current system, the wealthy and the high earners are already paying far more than their fair share.

Yet we still have issues.

Unemployment is really high. Poverty continues to grow. Children are being neglected and abused. Families are falling apart. People are losing their houses. Soldiers are being killed. etc...

But none of these problems are going to be solved by pointing our fingers at "classes" of people and screaming that they need to pay their share...

I don't have the answers this morning. But I do know that dishonest journalism doesn't get us any closer.