Learning from Biblical Narratives

WIN_20170914_09_43_05_ProA little more than 10 years ago, while in a graduate class, the professor introduce us to method of understanding and applying lessons from Biblical narratives.  I have adopted his method for both personal use and when I am teaching a narrative passage in a Bible class setting.  I read or as a class we read the text of the narrative with a set of six questions in mind. These questions form the basis of our discussion and ultimate application.  I am sharing them with you praying that they help you understand and apply the text as much as they continue to help and encourage me.

First Reactions to Narratives

  1. Did I enjoy this story or event? Why or why not? I know what some of you are thinking, “Of course I enjoyed it. This is the Bible. I always enjoy reading the Bible.” You might; but honestly, I don’t. There are some events in the pages of the Bible that I just do not like. I do not enjoy reading them. I do not like the story of the fall of man or the degenerate state of the pre-flood world that would lead God to destroy most of His creation. So be honest as you read these events.
  2. How do the events of this chapter (section) remind me of life today? With this question you begin to take the text from a narrative to an application. You begin to internalize the events and see how they might be relevant to you.
  3. How would I react if I were certain characters in these events? Imagine yourself as the main character(s) of the story or as one of the children of Israel who witnesses these events firsthand. Would you respond similarly or dissimilarly? What would you say or do? The people in these events are real people with real emotions and with real life situations. Walk in their sandals and learn from them.
  4. What morals or lessons can I learn from these events? Make a list of what you learn or can learn and put those lessons into practice in your life.
  5. How is this story disconcerting to me? This may be why you do not like the events. Sometimes a text or event in the text may hit too close to home. Such a text will bother me because the mirror of God’s Word shows me a reflection of my own weaknesses and short-comings.
  6. How will I change because of these events and the lessons I learn from the text? Take steps to change as you learn from the text. This is THE practical, relevant, transforming process of Bible study. Often the text demands that I change.

I pray you have a wonderful day with the Lord.

-Scott

 

Begging Jesus

BEGING JesusWe grabbed hands, palms together, and on the count of three the battle was on. We each tightened our shoulders, worked our elbows and wrists trying with everything we had to force the other to say, no to cry out, to BEG for “Mercy!” I fought this battle against my brothers, my best friends, kids on the playground, and new kids in the neighborhood (I almost typed new kids on the block #ninetiesflashback).

I have to thank Austin Kelly a Senior Broadcast Journalism Major at UA and President of Tide4Christ for pointing out the word “beg / begged” in Mark 5.  After his devotional thought last night, I started looking for the word beg / begged through out Mark and here is what I found:

  1. Mark 5:10, “And he begged him not to send them out of the country.”
  2. Mark 5:12, “and they begged him, saying, ‘Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.'”
  3. Mark 5:17, “And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.”
  4. Mark 5:18, “As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.”
  5. Mark 7:26, “Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.”
  6. Mark 7:32, “And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
  7. Mark 8:22, “And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a bland man and begged him to touch him.”

Seven times Mark uses the idea of asking intently or to earnestly invite Jesus to act. In those seven times:

  • The demons twice begged Jesus not to punish or destroy them.
  • The townspeople begged Jesus to leave.
  • The healed man begged to go with Jesus.
  • A Gentile mother begged Jesus to help her daughter.
  • Friends begged Jesus to help a deaf man.
  • Friends begged Jesus to help a blind man.

Today, as I look around me, read, watch, or listen to the news, and as I pay attention to entertainment media I begin to realize people are still begging Jesus in the same way.

People are still begging Jesus.

Some beg Jesus to leave them alone. There are people who want nothing to do with Jesus. There are people who read or learn what Jesus teaches about certain behaviors or choices and they want nothing to do with Him. They beg us not to mention His name, teach His way, or pray in His name. Jesus is offensive to them. They are afraid of what the reality of Jesus might mean, so they beg never to hear of Him.

Some beg Jesus for mercy. In my time in ministry, I have seen people realize the implications of their lifestyle on both their eternity and their life on earth. They realize that their choices are destroying their both their emotional and physical health. They want healing. They want a better life. They learn that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They understand the grace, healing, and forgiveness found in Him. I will never forget witnessing a young person literally jumping and shouting for joy after they put on Christ giving Him their life.

The truth is everyone will beg Jesus for mercy. I see this truth in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11). Every knee will bow! Every tongue will confess! We will bow and confess Him now and live for him, or we will bow and confess when this life is over after refusing to seek Him during our life.  We will beg for mercy now and receive that mercy or sadly, many will wait until it is too late.

Every knee will bow! Every tongue will confess!

When will you beg Jesus for mercy?

-Scott

Thank You, God

Morning Prayer

Will you join me in a morning prayer?

-Scott

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Dear Father, Creator, Sustainer, Law Giver, and Judge of mankind,

Thank You for loving me. Thank you for giving me opportunity and after opportunity to return to You. I know that I am not always the person I should be. I know that sometimes – no many times – I have put my desires, my goals, and my plans above You. I am sorry. I want Christ to be my life.  I want every decision I make and every path I take to be in Christ. But sometimes I forget. Sometimes, I get in the way. Thank You for forgiving me.

As I begin today, this day is Yours. Help me to crucify my desires, my hurts, my agenda, my life for You today. Today, I die to myself anew so that I can be Your agent in the world.

Thank You for Your people, the Church. Thank you for the encouragement they are to me and the way that they challenge me to be more loving and to be more active in Your service. Give each member the strength they need to be faithful to You today. We are not always the people You desire us to be, but we long to be. Forgive our shortcomings and help us to grow closer to You and to become the light You desire us to be.

I pray for my nation. I pray for healing of the many things that divide us: racial tensions, political fighting, regional differences, immigration, social welfare issues, crime, addictions, as well as the influence of Satan on culture and the Church. Please be with our leaders in every branch of government and in any political affiliation. Help them to search their hearts and truly focus on the needs of the people of this nation and what is truly best for the citizens of this nation. Help them to lean on Your Word for guidance. Help them to first live a moral life and then to enact laws and put policy into place that help foster a spirit of morality in our nation.

I pray for the world. We are a selfish creation. We each think we have the answer to how the world should be. We each consider our way the best way. But our ways fail. They always have, they always will. It is not in man or a nation of mankind to direct their own path. We fail when we do not consider You and Your Word.

Thank You, Father for Your Grace, for the Good News that saves us from wrath through the blood of Jesus Christ. Help me to live in that Grace and to teach others the Good News.

In Jesus’ Name.

A Year has Passed

One year ago tomorrow, my younger brother passed away after fighting a glioblastoma for 5 months.  One year. How can it already be one year?

I had plans last fall. I had plans to have him come up when he was felling better to see The Crimson Tide play at home. He had come in 2015 and I was looking forward to a game last Fall.

I had plans for what we would do over Christmas. I had plans on making the most of the time we had left together.  We took advantage of some of those plans, but we ran out of time.

I miss Charles. My entire family does. There is not a week that goes by that something does not remind me of him. A post from a mutual friend on Facebook. A quote from a movie or the lyric of a song. I see a green frog and I begin thinking of “Kermitgrn.”

I am not as sad or angry as I once was. Time has a way of changing the emotion attached to memory. I smile when I think of Charles or something he would have liked.  I am proudly wearing one of his Alabama shirts as I write this.

Maybe you understand. Maybe you are missing a family member. Maybe your pain is more recent and the tears and anger are still a reality. I am praying for you. I am praying that you find some level of joy in the sweet memories of your son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or parent.

-Scott

Daily Marriage

My niece is getting married next month, so I am thinking about marital advice. While looking through a few articles and posts about marriage a ran across this ne I posted a few years ago.  I thought I would share it again.

love and marriage

This is a glimpse, just a few moments – 10 to be precise – of a happy marriage.  These are moments you can recreate in your marriage that, if you put into practice daily, will help your relationship grow exponentially.

A Day in the Life and Love of Marriage.

  1. Start the day praying for your marriage.
  2. Say, “Good morning (insert affectionate term here), I love you.”
  3. Be affectionate: i.e. hold hands, hug, kiss (Kiss AFTER you brush away morning breath.  Nothing can kill a morning like morning breath).
  4. Embrace and kiss before you leave for work.
  5. If job(s) allow call each other a couple of times or text a few “I love you”s all along.  Amy and I have a “secret short code” we can add to text, that we each know means “I love you”.
  6. Kiss and embrace when you get home. Growing up, we were not allowed to bombard Dad with all of our news, homework, etc. until after Mom welcomed him home with a kiss.  One we would “eww-gross” and try to break apart.
  7. Work on household chores together – including meal preparation.
  8. Sit on couch together while you read or watch TV.
  9. If children are small get them ready for bed – together.
  10. End the day with quiet time (quality time) together.

BTW – somewhere between #6-8 take time to discuss your day at work or with the children.

– Scott

What God Wants

What DoesGod Want-

David knows the end of his life and reign are near. Bucking the convention of the Ancient Near East, he skips over a few of his sons and chooses Solomon to be his heir to the throne in Jerusalem. After a speech to Israel, David’s attention turns to Solomon. “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it.” (1 Chronicles 28:9-10).

Notice just a few points from these two verses that help you and I to see what kind of person we ought to be:

What God Wants

1. God wants us to know Him. Knowing is more than knowing about Him. The word translated know in this verse is “yada.” This word carries the idea of intimate knowledge. It is the same word used in Gen 4:1 where Adam “yada” his wife Eve; and she conceived. How well do you know God?

2. God wants us to have a willing heart. That is a heart willing to serve Him and love Him above all else. In Luke 14:25ff Jesus says He is to be our one and only; that nothing or no one is to even come close to competing with our love for Him. Are you truly willing to follow? David reminds Solomon that God knows our heart and our thoughts.

3. God wants you to seek Him. In my mind this goes along with intimate knowledge. This is not a one time event, this is an ongoing pursuit. This is the romance of intimacy. I know God and I want to know Him more. I think Paul said it this way, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, may share in His sufferings, and be like Him in His death.” (Phil 3:10). What do you do t spend more and more time with God becoming more and more like His Son?

4. God wants us to keep building His house. You and I should understand His house to be the Church. Paul takes bout his concern for the churches. We read throughout the New Testament of the various churches, their problems, strengths, and mission. We read that we are being built into a spiritual house. How are you spending your time and energy to build the church . . .not the building but the people you encourage by your presence and the ones you teach in the world?

5. God want us to be strong and do it. Three times in Joshua 1, God tells Joshua to “be strong and very courageous” to do God’s will. Paul closes the great passage on the resurrection of Christ by reminding us to be steadfast and immovable and to keep on working. In other words, “be strong and do it!”. Will you take the challenge to just get in God’s kingdom and work?

– Scott

Triple R

Three -R-sof Jesus“Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmatic, taught to the tune of a Hickory stick . . .” So say the song lyrics. But that never made sense to me.  I thought that spelling was important.  There are not three “R”s but one “R”, one “W”, and one “A” – but I digress. This morning while thinking about what to write and looking for inspiration, I ran across an outline about three “R”s in what are some of Jesus’ final instructions to His apostles (Luke 24:36-52).

1. Remember the Law of Moses, Prophets, and Psalms
Luk 24:44-45, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,”

The Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms comprise the Hebrew “Bible” Jesus says that all the promises and prophecies about the Messiah come to pass in Him.  What is the probability? In the 1960’s Dr. Peter Stoner of Westmont College in Santa Barabara, CA studied the probability of one person fulfilling Biblical prophecy.  He determined that the probability of one person meeting eight (8) OT Messianic Prophesies = 1:100,000,000,000,000 (One in One Hundred Thousand Trillion). That would compare to covering and area the size of the State of Texas two feet deep in silver dollars, then randomly dropping one marked coin from an airplane flying overhead. After that use heavy equipment to mix the coins thoroughly.  Then blindfold a person and have them walk and having them stop only once to select ONE coin and them choosing the marked coin.

Jesus fulfills all 300+ Messianic prophecies (some count over 400).  Here are just a few:
o Gen 3:15
o Zech 9:9
o Zech 11:12-13
o Psa 55:12-14
o Psa 22
o Isa 53

2. Repentance
Luk 24:47, ” . . .repentance  . . .  should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, . . ..”
Repentance is not simply saying, “I am sorry.” Repentance is not, “Oops! I got caught.” Repentance requires a knowledge of sin – Rom 3:20. Repentance is a change of mind and a change of Life Style. 1Th 1:9 ” . . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”  Repentance is turning: 1) to God, 2) from idols, and 3) to serve God.

3. Remission of Sin
Luk 24:47, ” . . .  forgiveness (remission) of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations . . .”
We are  all legally guilty! (cf. Rom 3:9-11, 23). We are guilty even if we are unaware of our violation of God’s law.  We are guilty even if we do not feel guilty.  Because we are guilty we need remission of our sins.

To remit is to dismiss, release, or forgive.  That is what Jesus came to do (cf. Mat 26:28). In Christ our sin is:

  1. Taken away
  2. Not imputed
  3. Blotted out
  4. Washed away
  5. Purged
  6. Covered
  7. Remembered no more.

We are therefore, SET FREE.  We are Legally Justified (cf. 1Co 6:11)

What a GREAT, LOVING, GRACIOUS God we serve!

– Scott

United or Untied?

UnitedorUntied-It is my firm conviction that Satan loves division. I consider that one of his main weapons from the very beginning. He used lies to divide Adam and Eve from God and from the garden. He used jealousy to divide Cain and Abel and then Cain killed Abel. When Satan can divide our relationships, he can get our focus off of God and unto what keeps you and I at odds.

Satan does this to our world. He divides people within nations. He leads us to focus on our differences and problems using that focus to divide us by gender, race, and geographical location. He uses similar methods to divide churches.

God, on the other hand, emphasizes what makes our relationships with each other. God helps us to be united instead of untied.

God helps us to be united instead of untied.

All we have to do is look at what God says we are to do for one another.

  1. Edify One AnotherRom 14:19, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. “ Mutual upbuilding is edification. Pick each pother up, encourage you fellow man, praise the good in others.
  2. Admonish One AnotherRom 15:14, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” Instructing each other in what is right; to gently restore or to direct each other is admonishment.  I think of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.”
  3. Teach One AnotherCol 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” One of the ways we teach each other in worship is by our singing. Other examples in Scripture demonstrate the importance of private instruction. I am thinking of Aquila and Priscilla pulling Apollos aside (Acts 18:25-26).
  4. Serve One AnotherGal 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” When we minister to or serve each other, we take our self out of the equation and focus on the other’s need(s). Volunteering to serve is a great reflection of what Christ did for us.
  5. Bear One Another’s BurdensGal 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This is service taken to the next level. This is relieving physical, emotional, and as much is within our power – spiritual burdens. This is listening for the need and working to help. This is investing time and emotion into the relationship.
  6. Provoke One AnotherHeb 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” Not provoke to anger or frustration but to love and good works. This is one goal of fellowship and gathering for worship. Our togetherness alone can stoke the fires, stir up the embers, that enflame our passion for Christ and godly living.
  7. Forgive One AnotherEph 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Forgiveness is not always easy. However, it is at the very least the kind thing to do. When we forgive, we are putting the Golden Rule into practice as we forgive others, the way we desire to be forgiven by them – and by God.
  8. Pray for One AnotherJam 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” We can pray for physical needs. We pray for spiritual needs – for increases faith. We can pray for God’s forgiveness and strength to avoid sin. But you cannot pray for me if we do not have a relationship where we can discuss our struggles (confess our sins to one another).
  9. Love One AnotherJohn 15:!2, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Matt 22:39, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Despite the fact that I am not always loveable, God loves me; while I was still his enemy, weak, and sinful (Rom 5:6-8). If we love, we will want what is truly best for each other and we will do our best to keep the relationship healthy.

In this list of nine there are eleven “one another” statements that God knows will keep us united and not untied.

-Scott

Loving the Church

love churchSeven years ago, Chris Gallagher asked me to write a post of What I love about the church. I gave three reasons then. Here are the “edited for content and to fit in the allotted space” reasons I gave then.

  • I love the Church in view of the fact that God loved Her enough to purchase Her at a sacrificial price.
  • I love the Church that is precious to Christ.
  • I love the Church that has the promise of an eternally joyous relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father.

Recently, Chris asked that I write a second article on Why I Love the Church. He posted it yesterday on The Preacher’s Pen, so I thought I would share it here.

I still love the Church, in fact, I can honestly say, “I love her more now than I did then or ever have.” But before I list more reasons, allow me to tell you a little about my background.

I grew-up church. My grandparents raised my mother in the Church and my father’s mother and aunts taught him about Christ and His Church. When my parents married there was no question in their young married life about the role of Christ and the Church. As they started a family the role of the Church increased as did their roles within her. During my growing up years my parents taught Bible classes, had members, church leaders, and ministers over for dinner, and held church socials at our house. Dad served as a deacon and was the volunteer minister for the deaf ministry. He later became an elder and continues to serve in that role.

I literally grew-up in Church. I attended a private Christian elementary school, where my mother served as a secretary. When were not at school or school functions we are at Church or church functions. By my upper high school years my peers and I were leading the youth program – we did not have a youth minister. Church was my life.

As high school graduation approached and all the opportunities for adulthood came, I could not think of a better way to live than to dedicate all my time to the Church. I went to school to become a minister. For 28 years, I have served in fulltime ministry with three different congregations. Church involvement was never an option in my mind. I knew I would be a part of Her. I love the Church.

I think of the Church the way the psalmist thought of the House of God. “I was glad when they said to m, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psa 122:1)

I LOVE THE CHURCH!

  1. I love the Church because she is the Elect Bride of Christ. (Eph 5:21-33). Paul’s description of the Church as the betrothed of Christ is a beautiful portrait. Whenever I see a long-lasting marriage relationship that is beautiful and I see the way the husband dotes on his bride of many years, I think about Christ doting on His Betrothed Bride – the Church. I think of how He is preparing Her for the day He presents His Chosen Bride to the Father. How proud He is of Her beauty and accomplishments that glorify Him. I love the Church because the Christ loves Her.
  2. I love the Church because she is the Kingdom of Christ. (Col 1:13-14). Jesus earthly ministry was about repentance and the Kingdom. As Christians, we are a citizen in that Kingdom now. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20) as we are part of the earthly kingdom, His Church now. I love the Church because the King of kings is Her Sovereign.
  3. I love the Church because the Bride and Kingdom are a glimpse of heaven. Christ will present his Elect Bride to the Father at the Great Wedding Day (Rev 19:6-10). Christ will turn the Kingdom over to the Father when the end comes (1 Cor 15:24). I love the Church because the Bride and Kingdom will be translated to heaven.
  4. I love the Church because I love Her people. Here people share a common bond. There is a love that is not easily broken. We understand each other’s struggles and pray for each other. We are there to help each other with spiritual, emotional, and physical battles. We rejoice and weep with each other (Rom 12:15). I live hours away from my parents and my brother, but I have family near me, the Church is our family. I love that family and the fellowship we have.

Maybe these are some of the reasons the Hebrew writer penned these words, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25)

Why do you love the Church?

-Scott