Category Archives: Life Verses

LIFE VERSES 9: Acts 17:17

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In this series I’m sharing some of the Scriptures that have most radically influenced my own life and faith. Read full series here.

I love the moment in The Lord of the Rings when Samwise turns to Frodo and asks, “I wonder what kind of a tale we’ve fallen into?” The two hobbits perceptively realized that their lives were somehow part of a story far bigger than themselves, and though small in stature they had an enormous role to play in the unfolding drama.

In college and seminary, I was likewise finding my own life swept up into a bigger story and trying to discover my unique role in the plot. The version of The Story that shaped my imagination, and soon my vocation, is the Book of Acts.

I felt pulled into the ongoing drama of God calling ordinary men and women like Paul and Stephen, Lydia and Priscilla, to boldly advance the movement and message of Jesus across the known world. Acts tells the stories of Paul being led by the Spirit into unchartered territories where he established a base of operations in someone’s house or a rented out lecture hall. He took up part time work as a leather worker making tents during the day, and then sought out ministry opportunities after hours. Continue reading LIFE VERSES 9: Acts 17:17

LIFE VERSES 8: Isaiah 49:1-6

320611225_640In this series — Life Verses — I’m sharing some of the scriptures that have most impacted my life and faith journey. Today I want to share one of the most memorable moments I’ve had during my morning devotions. I even know the exact date. It was July 20, 2010.

I was seeking God more desperately than ever because this was that strange, uncertain time between being approved to plant a church (April) and when we actually began (July/August). I was unemployed, delivering newspapers by night, and dreaming about the idea of MainStreet by day.

I will not try to improve upon what I wrote about that powerful encounter with God’s Word that very day. Enjoy!

July 20, 2010

The Lord still calls loyal servants to accomplish tasks far too great if He didn’t give us the power.  This morning I went down to the lakeside, perched myself on the rocks and opened my Bible for my morning devotions.  As I stared out at the islands and “distant shores” of Lake Minnetonka, I recalled Isaiah once declaring, “Hear this, you distant shores…” So, I turned to Isaiah 49 where the Lord gave me the following passage to remind me of my own special call.

In it’s original context, the one speaking in the Isaiah passage below is God’s chosen servant, Israel.  In hindsight, Christians look back and see that it was not Israel that would end up bringing light to the nations, but rather Jesus who is the true Israelite.  But we can go a step further. By virtue of being “in Christ”, all believers are now in a certain sense the renewed and redeemed chosen people — the servants of God.

This morning, as I think about my own call to be one of God’s chosen servants to reach the community of Mound with the good news, I have personalized this passage for my exciting yet daunting task ahead in Mound.  I have inserted and replaced the [words in brackets]. Continue reading LIFE VERSES 8: Isaiah 49:1-6

LIFE VERSES 7: Acts 17:6

In this series I am sharing some of the passages of the Bible — or Life Verses — that have most impacted my own life. 

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also….they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, proclaiming that there is another king, Jesus.”

After college I immediately began seminary studies at Bethel. For four years I lived two very different lives that eventually collided with one power-packed Bible verse to create an internal explosion that set the course of my early ministry efforts.

I was taking seminary classes at night, nose deep in the world of the Bible and exploring how best to “do church” in the 21st century. By day I was immersed in the world of teenagers in my hometown school district as a sub teacher, coach and driving instructor.

Over time I had many telling conversations with local teenagers about Jesus, church, God, the Bible and Christianity. The common theme in these conversations was that teens were bored silly by their church experience and the Bible was viewed as a dry, ancient book with nothing to offer today’s youth. Yet, I also noticed how bad young people wanted to give their life to a good cause that could make the world a better place. They were young, passionate and naive enough to believe that they could actually be part of the generation that changed the world!

So, here I was a young, zealous idealist spending my evenings immersing myself in an ancient story about a movement of young world-changers who gave themselves wholeheartedly to a mission and cause that they believed would change history.

I’m spending my days with a generation of young people who are seeking a way to rock the world but who have only negative things to say about the contemporary church. The last place they would look to find a grassroots movement of young people organizing to revolutionize society and disrupt the status quo would be their local church.

And then one day I am reading the Book of Acts and I get to chapter 17. I am blown away by what I read in verse 6.

“These people are turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Continue reading LIFE VERSES 7: Acts 17:6

LIFE VERSES 6: Romans 8:11

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In this series I am sharing some of the passages of the Bible — or Life Verses — that have most impacted my own life. 

I was 21 years old. I was in the honeymoon period of my newfound faith. I can still remember how exciting it was reading my new Study Bible back then. Everything was new. I had highlighter in hand. Underlining relevant passages. Pondering remarkable truths.

I get emotional pulling out that old Bible from back then, and remembering the moment I first underlined this or that passage. God was speaking to me. I was reading His love letters and falling deeper in love with my Savior.

Over time, the longer you are a Christian, the more familiar the Bible becomes. This is a double edge sword. While familiarity with God’s truth is certainly a wonderful thing, it does come with one drawback: overfamiliarity. Dallas Willard warns us of the problem when certain biblical truths become too familiar. “The major problem,” says Willard, “is precisely over-familiarity. Familiarity breeds unfamiliarity, and then contempt.”

Contempt is a pretty strong word. Maybe he overstated his case a bit. But I am convinced that too many believers are carrying around a small paper bag of half-believed, inch-deep Christian cliches they are reaching for to navigate life and faith. Many of us are content to splash around in the kitty pool of faith rather than plumbing the depths of this Christian life and the life-transforming power available to us. We give lip-service to many Christian truths but don’t truly let them shape and guide our actual lives and decisions.

But then there are those moments. Epiphanies. Ahas!

Sometimes God cuts through the fog and gets our full attention. Sometimes the coin drops into the slot and we finally get it. There are those rare moments when we’re taken up onto the mountain and get a glimpse of Jesus all aglow. We get a passing glance of God’s backside as his glory passes by. Every once in a while we might hear God say to us what he said to peter, “Blessed are you! Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven” (Matt. 16:17).

Romans 8:11 was one of those illuminating mountain top revelations that took my breath away. Continue reading LIFE VERSES 6: Romans 8:11

LIFE VERSES 5: Jeremiah 20:9

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In this series I’m sharing some Bible verses that have been pivotal in my personal faith formation and life journey.

For each time I speak….the word of the LORD has resulted In reproach and derision all day long. But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” JEREMIAH 20:8-9

So, I fell head over heels in love with God’s Word in college. I eventually switched my major to Biblical and Theological Studies with a minor in Biblical Greek. I was trading in my basketball sneakers for Bible commentaries, and I was set on pursuing advanced degrees and eventually becoming a New Testament scholar and Bible professor.

Just as I had spent hours perfecting my 3-point stroke in high school, now I wanted to wax eloquent from the front of a lecture hall on all Bible-related subjects. I now revered my college profs in the same way I once revered Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

Only one small obstacle stood in my way of becoming a great teacher or preacher of the Bible: a paralyzing fear of public speaking and deep-seated insecurity around my abilities to articulate verbally the thoughts inside my head.

Enter Jeremiah.

I remember identifying with Jeremiah’s similar (but very different) problem. He also felt a deep sense of call and passion to proclaim God’s Word but whenever he opened his mouth it resulted in embarrassment and reproach “all day long.”  Continue reading LIFE VERSES 5: Jeremiah 20:9

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

Life Verses 3: Acts 1:4-11

On one occasion, while [Jesus] was eating with [his followers], he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water,but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?”

So, sometime over the first two years at Bethel University, God snuck into my life and lit a match. My heart was suddenly aflame for God and I gained a voracious appetite for not just reading but entering into God’s Story. I’ve told the story many times, but essentially there was a moment when I experienced the sudden shift away from reading about Jesus and his followers to actually being swept up into the story and letting it begin to change my outlook on my own life.

I was a scared, confused 20-year old trying to figure out what to do with my life. I knew I wanted more than a safe, suburban life of working 9-5, raising some kids and attaining all that the American Dream had to offer. My peers at the time seemed happy with playing video games in all their free time. I wanted more. There had to be more.

I opened the Book of Acts one night, in search of something more. I immediately could sympathize with Jesus’ friends in the opening scene. They loved and respected Jesus, as did I. They had spent the past few years sitting under his teachings and admiring his remarkable way of life. So did I. Now they were trying to wrap their minds around the full meaning of his sacrificial death and victorious resurrection, as was I. They all caught a glimpse of the new Kingdom “life that is truly life” and were excited to experience more of it. But…and this was the big ‘but’ I was wrestling with, too…now Jesus was returning to Heaven and leaving them on earth.

“Now what are we supposed to do?” they must have been thinking as they scratched their heads. Well, in this opening scene, they’re told that they should wait for the promised “power from on high” to come down and clothe them. The Holy Spirit was going to fill them and empower them for the grandest life adventure of all. But in this scene, as Jesus ascends from their presence, we see a humorous scene of 11 guys staring up into the sky, confused, scared, frozen, paralyzed, stunned.

“Uhhh…now what?”

The angel smacks them upside the head, and says in effect:

“Dudes, snap out of it! Stop staring into space. He’s gone. He will no longer be with you in the same, physical sense. But if you were paying attention, you’ve been given some pretty big marching orders. Go pack your bags. Go say goodbye to your old, safe, predictable life. You’re embarking on an adventure of a lifetime. You’re going to receive power in a few days and then you’re going to go change the world. Jesus is going to be with you in an even more amazing, intimate way by his Holy Spirit. Thousands of years from now, others will be still talking about your life and your call. Scared, confused college students facing their own uncertainties about their future and experiencing their own paralysis, are going to read about this moment and be jolted into their own holy adventure. Now, get moving!” Continue reading Life Verses 3: Acts 1:4-11

Life Verses 2: Phil 3:13-14

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

The first Scripture that made an impact on my life was Philippians 3:13-14.  The impact was not great, but it was the first time God’s Word would nudge itself off of my shelf and into my daily life. I don’t think I knew much about what it meant in context, but like many teenagers flirting with God there was something about the message that touched my life at that moment.

The moment I speak of was my senior year of high school. I was preparing to graduate, leave a significant part of my past behind, and set out into college life. I was growing in my faith, hanging with Christian friends, even helping start a Bible Study with the bar tender at a local Golf Club where I worked. My faith was real, but my understanding of Scripture extremely sparse. But this verse fit with this transitional moment, and so when it came time to write something of lasting significance under my yearbook photo, I chose to mark myself forever with a Bible verse by my senior photo. Here it is in all its glory. (Notice my smooth, silky blonde hair carefully combed in the style of the late 90s — I call it the “golden arches.”)

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“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Phil 3:13-14 NLT). 

Continue reading Life Verses 2: Phil 3:13-14