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Showing posts from October, 2012

Ghost Stories...from the Bible!

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A long time ago in a far away land there was a king. He ruled absolutely. His word trumped that of God Himself. He was tall, strong, and charismatic. But as his life neared it's end, he began to go through a very dark time. His spirits fell. Suspicion and fear compelled him to act irrationally and recklessly.

Some even say he had an evil spirit possess his soul.

Then one day all his enemies gathered their forces, determined to exact vengeance on this king for all the pain and suffering he had caused them. It was an army bent on destruction with one objective - kill this king.

On the eve of battle, the king and his entourage saw the enemy hordes marching to war. In former years this king would have been confident. He would have craved the opportunity to drive his opponents back once and for all. But these were darker times. His own soul had turned against him and against his God. His most trusted adviser, a wise old prophet, had recently died. The king had no one else he trusted en…

Who Wants to Live Forever?

That's an easy question. I do! As long as that forever is spent in the presence of God.

I devoted a couple posts to breaking down some "favorite Bible verses" - giving a fresh, much needed look at what they might mean in context. Well, now it's time for me to share some about my personal favorites.

Beginning with this one:

ROMANS 8:11
"And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you."

Really, the entirety of Romans 8 is as epic as they come. Read the whole chapter in one setting and try not to get chills.

But this verse in particular stands out to me and has stuck with me over the last few years. There's so much to this one sentence that it needs to be dissected a bit.

First of all, it was God's Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. Think about that - Jesus didn't raise himself, as I used to think. He did…

Going Up?

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I've been doing a lot of reading and studying recently about heaven and hell. Our youth group kids had a lot of questions about the afterlife, so on Wednesday nights we're diving into Scripture to find out what has been revealed to us.

I am by no means close to reaching any definitive conclusion for myself about what happens when we die, but I'm on that journey. I'm currently reading a book by N.T. Wright called Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. So far, it's very interesting. Wright has already touched on a lot of the questions I have, and I'm excited to see where he goes with all of this.

That being said, I want to simply put my own questions out there. Maybe you've wrestled with some of them yourself. If you have any good book suggestions or any other thoughts on the issue, I would be more than happy to hear from you.

My initial thoughts & questions:

Are heaven and hell only experienced after you die?…

Seeing the Unseen

A lesson by Patrick Mead and our weekly reading assignments at our church have got me thinking about Hagar lately. Hagar gets kind of a bad rap. She was the one that Abraham got pregnant (at the request of his own wife). She gave birth to Ishmael who has traditionally been regarded as the father of the Arabs. Muslims trace the history of their faith back to him. The descendants of Ishmael were violent, aggressive, and territorial. And to this day, many blame much of the unrest in the Middle East on this one son of a slave woman.

Disclaimer: I have no references for the above statements. I have not done the historical research. I am simply passing along what I have been taught, whether true or not.

Regardless of the historical implications of this...subsitutionary impregnation...the story of Hagar is both tragic and beautiful.

Hagar was an Egyptian woman. Kind of. She may not have been Egyptian in nationality, but she was probably one of the "gifts" given to Abraham and Sarah …

2012 Goal: Year to Date (mid-October)

I'm well on my way to completing and surpassing my goal for 2012 of reading 2 books per month or 24 books for the year. Here's my list so far. I try to read one Spiritual/Religious/Ministry book and one fiction novel at a time.

King's Cross, by Timothy KellerForgotten God, by Francis ChanErasing Hell, by Francis ChanCatch-22, by Joseph HellerOf Mice and Men, by John SteinbeckMiracles, by C.S. LewisThe Princess Bride, by William GoldmanAmusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil PostmanThe Hunger Games, by Susanne CollinsCatching Fire   "   "Mockingjay    "    "Technopoly, by Neil PostmanDirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas AdamsLong, Dark Tea Time of the Soul    "   "Shattered, by Dean KoontzBeautiful Outlaw, by John EldredgeThe Practice of the Presence of God, by brother LawrenceTimeline, by Michael CrichtonKingdom Come, by John Mark Hicks and Bobby ValentineEnder's Game, by Orson Scott CardSpeaker for the Dead  "   "

Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Jesus Stuff

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I've been reading through and thinking about the story Jesus tells in Luke 16:19-31. It's commonly known as "The Rich Man and Lazarus." It's a story about...a rich man and a guy named Lazarus. Gotta work on better titles for Jesus' stories.

Lazarus was a poor, disease ridden beggar who stationed himself right at the edge of the rich (unnamed) man's driveway. In a strange turn of events, they both kick the bucket. Angels deliver Lazarus first-class into Abraham's side (the word "bosom" makes me uncomfortable). But the rich man was simply "buried." Guess he had to take a ride in coach for the first time ever. The rich guy wakes up in Hades.

Upon waking up, the rich guy set about doing one thing rich people do really well - he started complaining. It's hot. I'm thirsty. Send someone to serve me right away.

It takes him some time, and a stern lecture from "Father" Abraham, but the rich man finally realizes his fate. H…

Never Meet Your Heroes, Round 3

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Can you believe this guy? He's messing with John 3:16. Who does he think he is?

No doubt, if you went to Sunday school then you probably memorized this verse at one point or another. And it's a great verse. I think it speaks volumes in only a few words - the summation of the entire gospel message.

Here's how it reads in most translations:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV 2011)
And here's how some translations have rendered it:
God loved the world so very, very much that he gave his only Son. Because he did that, everyone who believes in him will not lose his life, but will live for ever. (Worldwide English Translation)
It's an English idiom to use the word "so" as a qualifier. I love you soooo much. That soup is sooo gross. This blog post is sooo boring.
When we say "so" we mean "a lot" or "very." This causes us to read this ve…

Never Meet Your Heroes, Round 2

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We Christians, especially in the West, love to try and make Scripture speak favorably of the "American Dream." We take verses like Philippians 4:13, as we saw yesterday, and shove them into a part of the puzzle where they just don't quite fit. I want Paul to be saying that I can be whatever I want to be and do whatever I want to do as long as I'm keeping my eyes on Jesus. That sounds like a brilliant plan for successful "Christian living." But that's simply not what he says.

Another well known verse in a similar vein is Jeremiah 29:11. The unfortunate thing is that most people who claim this as their favorite Bible verse *probably* have never read the context, much less the rest of Jeremiah.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." If there ever was a verse indicating that the American Dream is in line with Scripture, it's this one. I…

Never Meet Your Heroes

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According to the popular proverb, "You should never meet your hero." The idea is that this person has become so idolized in your mind and your imagination that you are bound to be disappointed if you actually get to know them. They are human, after all. They will probably end up ruining your dreams and fantasies. You will never be able to watch their movies, read their books, or buy into their hype ever again.
Sometimes that can be a good thing, though.
There are a lot of athletes, pop stars, and movie stars that are brilliant at what they do, but I would NEVER want them to be a personal role model for my son.
And it got me thinking, in a weird "minister's only" connection sort of way... Why do we claim certain Bible verses as our favorites? I'm not knocking the whole "favorite Bible verse" system. I'm just doing a double-take at some of the verses people choose as their faves. The ones they know by heart. The ones they post on Facebook and hi…