Friday, May 27, 2011

Inspired? Inspiring?

Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:16
There are many interpretations of this Scripture passage and what the church means in its affirmation that Scripture is inspired. Some, of the more Conservative bent, focus on the inspiration of the original authors and original words of Scripture. Others, of the more Liberal bent, focus on the inspiration of the current readers guided by the Holy Spirit. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement commented on this particular passage, "All Scripture is inspired of God - The Spirit of God not only once inspired those who wrote it, but continually inspires, supernaturally assists, those that read it with earnest prayer." So from his Anglican roots Wesley took a middle way that acknowledges both the inspiration of Scripture as from God and the current inspiration of the reader in the process of reading aided through the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps you've heard of or believe in the doctrine of inerrancy. This doctrine states that the Bible is inerrant (without error) in its original manuscripts. The problem with this to me is it begs the question: which manuscripts? What scholars have in the original Greek especially is not one perfect manuscripts but many and each has slight variations (none of any theological consequence). Thus to say we don't posses original manuscripts. And bigger picture, it just misses the point in my opinion to over focus on Scripture at the expense of the transformational character of Scripture. Through our reading of God's inspired Word in Scripture we are transformed to be God's spoken word in the world. As it has been said before, you may be the only Bible somebody reads.
What are some difference between reading for information versus transformation? Certainly one difference would be the speed at which we read. Are we reading such to say we've finished the book or reading for depth even though it may take a lot longer to do so?
Try reading Psalm 100 (or another favorite Psalm or Scripture passage) several times through. Try reading with different emphasis and at different speeds. What questions surface? Read the passage again so that it speaks freshly not just to your head, but to your inner self. What affirmations are there from God? How would it look like to live out this passage today? everyday?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good conversation partners

Scripture: Psalm 119:9-16
Yesterday I had the privilege of having a conversation with one of my favorite people. This particular man has lived an extraordinary life through amazing times and in unique locations across the globe. I say conversation, but really I simply asked a few purposeful questions and sat back and listened to his wisdom  and gentleness. He is one of my favorite people to converse with because his life experiences are so differently than mine (age and ethnicity among others) that he sees things in ways I don't and sheds light on them in ways that are challenging.
Scripture is a formative conversation partner for our life as we discover how God has interacted with His people throughout history. The word conversation comes from the Latin word which means "to live with." As our Scripture passage from Psalm 119 notes, God's Word should be our primary conversation partner in our Spiritual Formation. As Robert Mulholland observes, "The question is not whether to undertake spiritual formation; the question is what kind of spiritual formation are we engaged in." 
Who are your spiritual formation partners? Where does Scripture rank in that order?
How might we be in conversation with Scripture instead of simply reading it for study or pleasure? What might be the difference in reading for information, trivia, or as a conversational partner?
How might we ask better questions of Scripture such that Scripture challenges our preconceived notions about life? God? How we think of others?
Find a favorite parable (for example read the lost parables in Luke 10) and allow it to become a conversation partner. Ask and live with such questions as, What might the father be thinking? The older son? The younger son? What does this parable teach us about God? About ourselves? About others? About how we treat others? What new insights have you gained? How will you live them out? 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Master of Scripture or Mastered by Scripture?

On my wall resides one of the most audaciously titled degrees. I was awarded a Master Divinity (M. Div.) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary. What you actually learn in seminary is how little we can master the Divine and in fact we are invited to be mastered by the Divine for His service. The same is true about Scripture. We are not called to master Scripture, but to allow it to master us. Thus the purpose of reading and studying Scripture isn't for information or even inspiration, but transformation. When we read Scripture in way where we read our opinions in to it or trying to figure it out like deciphering a code we are masters over it instead of allowing it t master us. We're in control when we read Scripture in such a way that it affirms our already held beliefs, gives us trivial information, supports our opinions. We allow Scripture to be in control when we position our self such that we seek Scripture to challenge our previously held beliefs and inform how we live.
In Robert Mulholland's book Shaped by the Word he suggest we ask as we read, "What is God seeking to say to me in all of this?"
Scripture: John 16:13. John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) stated that Scripture was doubly inspired. It was inspired when it was written and when it is read.
When is the last time reading Scripture challenged a previously held belief?
Would you say you usually come to Scripture seeking inspiration, information, or transformation?
What Scripture passages do you find most challenging?
Do you find reading Scripture to be difficult or intimidating? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So if the world ends Saturday should I buy my wife a birthday present?

So have you heard the world is ending this Saturday? No, not because my wife's birthday is Saturday, but because the Bible predicts it! Okay, so somebody has put out there that they believe May 21st, 2011 will be the day of the rapture and judgment day based on Scripture prophecy. However, the Bible is pretty clear that not even Jesus knew when that would occur making it arrogance upon arrogance for one person to think he or she can figure it out.
Chances are if you're reading this you've lived through others such predictions by others who have claimed to have figured out when Jesus is returning. Such audacious claims stem from a faulty perspective on reading Scripture. The guy who made the prediction said that the Bible is written in code. So rather than seeing Scripture as the story of God's interaction and incarnation among His people, empowering them for a new way of life, Scripture becomes a code to be deciphered as if it's true value lie hidden for only specialist to figure out. Predicting dates is nothing new and has failed each of the many times it has been tried. So my contention is that instead of putting all that effort into trying to figure out a code Scripture is inviting us to an eternal relationship living out the mission of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit both now and for all eternity. Imagine if Christians spent more time, effort, and energy on living God's mission daily what the world would look like and think about Christians and the God we serve! My guess is that living out Scripture on a daily basis is more difficult than trying to decode the Bible (were that possible!). 
However, I will say this about all the end of times doom and gloom bad prophecy predictions - it does remind us Jesus commanded us to be alert and that it would happen when we least expect. Are we living alert to what God is up to around us or so caught in our routine we forget to be on alert?
Scripture - Matthew 24:36
How do you categorize Scripture? Love letter to the church? Codes to be interpreted? A Story God is inviting us to? History? Science?
What does it look like to live a life empowered by God alert to His presence? How would the church's image change if what was reported was not bad, doom and gloom prophecy, but people who served God and neighbors with their hearts, minds, soul, and strength?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Organized Religion?

In an article about his book Naked Spirituality Brain McLaren was asked about his thoughts on "organized religion." McLaren asked, "What are people critiquing when they are critiquing organized religion? I like to say, 'Is disorganized religion better?'" He goes on to assert that people are really objecting to what they see organized religion doing, specifically around right-wing political causes. So then he ask, "Well, what would the right purposes [of organized religion] be?"
Today's Reading: John 13:1-17
What purposes does the church have?
For whose purpose is it when the community of the faithful gather? For whose purpose is the community of the faithful sent?
How would you relate to a friend the purpose of the church? Organized religion?