Category Archives: Bible/Interpretation

God’s Gourmet Chef

 

Today I want to share a personal update of sorts.

Pastors wear a lot of hats.

For example, today I was negotiating a lease with our landlord and consulting with our architect for our building project when I received a call from a person in rural Minnesota asking me to pray with him for his estranged family that lives in our area. Now I’m researching 1st century socio-political realities in light of our current political situation for a sermon, organizing a window washing project, and catching up on some admin tasks.

Yet, my favorite hat to wear as a pastor is what I’ll call a “gourmet chef of the Word.” You’ve heard of “Hell’s Kitchen”? Well, I serve in Heaven’s Kitchen cooking up a fresh variety of truth-saturated appetizers, soul nourishing meals, and irresistibly delicious desserts from God’s Word. With each recipe I try, my greatest hope is that you will “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8)! For I am all too aware that “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from God”

The weekly sermon is probably the “main dish” that I spend most time preparing. But Apostle Peter would be quick to say that in order to “grow up” in our faith we need more than one meal a week! We need to drink daily of the “pure spiritual milk” of God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2-3). A baby will die without multiple feedings a day on momma’s milk. Why do we try to get away with a one or two feedings a week in our spiritual growth?

So, I have begun preparing other smaller snacks for my congregation to nibble on between our Sunday gatherings. I share these goodies at my Daily Illumination blog. I am  currently offering deeper reflections on our 1 Peter study along with many other devotional writings. There’s nothing more rewarding than feeding others a good meal; and there’s nothing more disheartening than preparing a lavish dinner and having nobody show up.

(By the way, that’s how pastors sometimes feel when people don’t show up for worship: “Wow, I slaved away in this kitchen/study all week to prepare this tasty sermon just for you, and you don’t bother to get out of bed for it.”)

Let me tell you about a new dish to check out!  As you may have seen, I am experimenting with a new 5-minute “audio devotional” called The Mailbox Podcast. These are fun, spontaneous spiritual thoughts I share on my 1,000 foot walk to my mailbox and back. Its a chance for you to overhear my own thoughts as I attempt to find God’s truth penetrating the everyday moments of life. Its another way I’m trying to bring “Reports from the intersection of faith and life.” Listen to a sample here.

Now, let me share the more personal reason behind all my dishes I’m cooking up for you to enjoy. I discovered this summer that I had neglected my own soul’s cravings this past year and was not nourishing my own spirit. I was empty. Parched. Exhausted. Stressed. Burnt out. Distant from God.

In July and August the alarm bells were going off and I needed to re-evaluate my own life-rhythms and pastoral priorities. I stopped beginning my days by opening the laptop and answering emails. Instead I have devoted the first part of my day to quiet time with God and His Word. I am carving out larger portions of my weekly hours for study and prayer. As your pastor I cannot lead you places I’m not already going.

So, I have been seeing the big difference my daily quiet time or walks with God are having on my soul. I find myself inspired, hearing from God, seeing lessons in nature and my daily routine, and I just want to share them. That’s the real reason for the Mailbox Podcast….because even if nobody else listens to them, they are fueling my spirit and the process of making them is feeding my soul!

Do any of you journal? These are very much my “audio journal.” My grandkids will get ahold of them when I’m dead and gone, and hopefully enjoy a window into my life with God.

So, I do hope you’ll  subscribe to Daily Illumination and listen to the podcast as you drive to work, do the dishes, exercise, etc. Many of you have other places you go for spiritual nourishment each day — YouVersion reading plans, sermons, podcasts, etc. That’s great! I just invite everyone to find your own way of letting “the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).

Regardless, I’ll keep my chef’s hat on and keep cooking up goodies for whoever wants to stop by for a snack or a meal!

Bon appetit! 

Jesus in Every Book of the Bible

Jesus made a staggering claim when he reprimanded a bunch of religious scholars saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39) This is just one of many instances that reveal that Jesus either was the Son of God as he claimed or a deranged ego-maniac. No mere mortal in their right mind would ever make such a claim. Imagine if I told my church congregation this Sunday that all the Bible studies they’ve ever been to were a waste of time unless they ultimately ended by showing how all the Bible passages really point to me!

Later, after his resurrection, he spoke with a couple of folks on the Road to Emmaus and made a similar claim about himself as the focal point of all the scriptures: “Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). 

So, Jesus himself believed that his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, and all the truths about his life can be found throughout the entire Bible. I recently came upon the following list of exactly how Christ can be found in every book of the Bible. Enjoy below!

Continue reading Jesus in Every Book of the Bible

Redeeming Martha: A New Spin on an Old Story

I’ve heard a dozen sermons and given my own share on the story of Jesus at the home of Mary and Martha. I think they’ve all been a bit too hard on Martha and overlooked a potential danger for Mary types out there. Let’s take another look at this well known story. It’s found in Luke 10:38-42:

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The typical sermon celebrates Mary’s singleminded devotion to Jesus while rebuking Martha for being too distracted with less important chores. Mary is interested in the “spiritual” acts of Bible teaching and prayer. Martha is focused on the less “spiritual” tasks of the kitchen.

The conclusion: Devoted Christians should be more like Mary and less like Martha. Spiritually mature people are found leading Bible studies and prayer meetings, not preparing a meal for dinner guests.

Right? Wrong.

I’m now convinced that the ideal Christian is not choosing Mary over Martha, but rather becoming a powerful, rightly ordered combination of the two. Continue reading Redeeming Martha: A New Spin on an Old Story

The Demise of Ananias & Sapphira (A.D. Miniseries)

Last night millions of viewers watched part 4 of the A.D. miniseries on NBC. We are seeing the tumultuous beginnings of the Jesus movement following his resurrection. Cowardly followers have become bold witnesses. The Holy Spirit inspires boldness in the face of opposition. The miracles that Jesus once wrought are now happening through his followers, and the movement has grown to over 3,000 people in the first couple months.

This episode we watched one of the most disturbing accounts in the Book of Acts unfold in dramatic form: the sudden divine judgment and deaths of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Here’s the biblical account from Acts 5: Continue reading The Demise of Ananias & Sapphira (A.D. Miniseries)

Life Verses 4: Hebrews 4:12

This series is expounding some of the Bible passages that have been most significant in my own faith journey. –JB

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

From my point of view, my “faith awakening” moment reading Acts in college was rather drastic and unusual. Oh, but there’s a long parade of people who had similar sudden “conversions” or awakenings in history! Augustine heard “take up and read” and opened Romans and was forever pricked by the Spirit. John Wesley describes his heart being “strangely warmed” as he heard the preface to Romans. The Ethiopian eunuch Philip encountered in Acts was immediately baptized along the road after he heard a passage from Isaiah unpacked. The church was born when Peter’s sermon resulted in thousands of people being “cut to the heart.”

For these reasons, one of my life verses that is most foundational for my thinking is Hebrews 4:12. This scripture makes very clear that God’s Word — and by that I mean the canonical Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments — has a life of its own. It’s alive and active. It’s not dried ink on a page. It’s dynamic and potent. I don’t believe its just the words themselves and the truths found within. I believe the Living God, the Holy Spirit, is at work in, around, above, below, and through the written and preached word of God. The Hound of Heaven is on the prowl in every casual devotional reading, in the half-hearted Scripture reading, in the best and worst of sermons expounding the Holy Text. Continue reading Life Verses 4: Hebrews 4:12

READING THE BIBLE AS (8): Signposts to Christ & the Gospel

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In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.

#8 – READING THE BIBLE AS SIGNPOSTS TO CHRIST & THE GOSPEL

I used to read the Bible as a long, strange book of OT stories (e.g., David & Goliath, Noah and the Flood, Daniel in the Lion’s Den) that taught moral lessons but had little to do with the New Testament’s focus on Christ and the Gospel. Yet, we are very mistaken if we believe Christ and the Gospel only enters the story of the Bible in the New Testament. In fact, the entire Old Testament — Law and Prophets — serve as sign posts pointing us forward to the Christ who would come.  The OT is but “types and shadows” (Heb 10:1; 8:5) of the reality that came in Christ “in the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4). 

Jesus himself is the proof of this point.  Jesus said to the religious Bible teachers who knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). This is a radically bold claim by Jesus!  Yes, according to Christ himself, all the OT Scriptures have himself as their ultimate goal.  And, as this incident seems to suggest, some people will read the Bible again and again and somehow miss Jesus who is found penetrating every page. 

Again, Luke tells us the story of the couple on the road who encountered the risen Christ and had their eyes opened to see Jesus penetrating the entire OT:  “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Yes, Jesus showed them how the entire Book was pointing them to himself.   Continue reading READING THE BIBLE AS (8): Signposts to Christ & the Gospel

READING THE BIBLE (7): As Confrontation & Summons

 

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In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.

#7 – READING THE BIBLE AS CONFRONTATION & SUMMONS

There is a brand of preaching and Bible reading in vogue today that fosters a “positive thinking” or Reader’s Digest approach to God’s Word.  Basically, many people just want to hear heart-warming sermons that make us feel good about ourselves.  Many read the Bible looking for an inspiring story and a warm fuzzy.  This shouldn’t surprise us in the least.  The Bible itself warns us that “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim 4:3).  Well, the likes of Joel Osteen and other “prosperity preachers” have stadium-sized churches packed each week with people getting their ears tickled.

Yet, God’s Word to us doesn’t always have shiny wrapping and a big red bow attached.  God’s Word isn’t always warm and fuzzy. God’s Word sometimes needs to hit us like a ton of bricks.  Sometimes we need a wake up call or a holy confrontation.  When we open our Bibles we are faced with a library full of holy confrontations and summons — stories that confront a person with God’s command and summons people to new tasks. Continue reading READING THE BIBLE (7): As Confrontation & Summons

READING THE BIBLE (6): As God’s (Crazy) Family Album

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In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.

#6 – READING THE BIBLE AS OUR FAMILY ALBUM

Ever look back at your parents’ year books and laugh and gag at how ridiculous they appear? Ever read the embarrassing notes your friends scribbled in the margins of your year book? Acne covered faces, scrawny legs and awful hairdos. Many of us would like to bury or burn ours. Yet they are a part of us. That is our past and those are the people who shared our journey.

The Bible is our family album, the diary of our ancestors, the carefully preserved yearbook of all of our long-lost relatives in the faith. These are the men and women who have gone before us, paving the way, testing the waters, making mistakes that we will hopefully learn from and, most importantly, providing examples of imperfect yet real faith in God. I am so grateful that God didn’t sugarcoat the Bible and airbrush all the players. We find ordinary people — warts and all.

Let’s see: There’s David the murderous adulterer “after God’s own heart.” The dishonest schemer named Jacob. Abraham sends his wife Sarah into Pharaoh’s harem to save his own neck. Moses has a speech problem. Solomon, the “wisest man who ever lived”, had a womanizing problem and lifestyle that would make Hugh Hefner blush. Yet God still used him to pen a lot of wise proverbs.

The prophets are like our crazy, embarrassing uncles from down south who we’re ashamed to claim. You know: Isaiah runs around naked for a couple years. Jeremiah is on prozac in his constant battle with debilitating depression. Ezekiel was cooking up food over a fire of human excrement. Jonah gave God the finger and ended up getting in a big fishing accident… Continue reading READING THE BIBLE (6): As God’s (Crazy) Family Album