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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Your Name, Making Kids' Lives Harder, and the Church Says Yes

Morning Mistphoto © 2008 David Hopkins | more info (via: Wylio)This morning we sang a Paul Baloche song in church that goes "As morning dawns and evening fades, You inspire songs of praise that rise from earth to touch Your heart and glorify Your Name." I think the imagery of the song rising up from Earth to Heaven is beautiful, but this morning it made me think about how God causes all kinds of things to rise from the Earth toward Heaven. Trees, plants, animals... and His Son from the grave and us with Him. It struck me that God's will always tends toward things rising up from Earth and moving toward Him. Maybe that's part of the reason that many Christians like to stretch out their arms and hands toward Heaven when they sing worship!

After the music portion of the service, we had what we call "baby dedications." Basically those are just a time for new parents (or even not quite as new parents... one of the children we prayed over today is in the toddler class!) to kind of present their children to the church, pray for a safe and Godly upbringing for them, that sort of thing. For some reason I started thinking about my own two kids and how sometimes I'm pretty sure they think my wife and I get great mirth and joy from making their lives miserable. That is of course not the truth of the situation, but I was a kid once... I remember feeling that way sometimes! I realized today, though, that my job as a parent is to make my kids' lives harder... if they are not doing the right thing. My job is to make sin as difficult and unpleasant as I can, but when they are doing the right thing, my job is to grease the rails for them and empower them to succeed. I never thought of myself as a standing-in-the-way kind of parent, but if I'm standing in the way of my kids getting hurt or messing up their lives, I'll stand in the way of a speeding train if I have to!

Later in the service our associate pastor was talking about some of the things we are doing as a church to help needy people in the community, and I was thinking about how I usually feel sort of disconnected from those kinds of church ministries. After all, nobody asked me if we should help that person pay his rent or give him groceries or whatever. But then I realized that just because I don't make the actual decision to help that particular individual person, it doesn't mean I'm not a part of the decision... because if someone had asked me my opinion about it, I'm fairly certain I would have said "yes." In fact, I think it's safe to say, based on what I know about the people in my church (and I've spent time visiting with quite a lot of them), that we would as a body say "yes" if we were asked whether we should help someone who needed our help. When there's unity in a church body, the pastor knows that when he says "yes," the church says "yes." Come to think of it, the reason the pastor says "yes" and the reason the church says "yes" is because when someone calls out to Christ Jesus for help, His answer is "always yes" — within constraints of the church's budget, helping hurting people is always a top priority. That's how I feel, I know that's how my fellow church members feel, and I know it's how my pastor and his staff and board feel... so if Jesus says "yes" and leadership says "yes," and the church is of one mind with leadership, then the church also says "yes!"

Monday, November 15, 2010

While They Sleep

It was the end of the semester. Finals were ending, and summer vacation was coming up. And I was still short some of the funds I needed, and had no idea what to do.

This happened many years ago when I was a student at Oral Roberts University. I was in a choir that had been planning and preparing for a short tour/missions trip in Europe for the whole year. I had done what I was supposed to do to raise the money to pay my way, but fundraising is not a sport for the faint of heart. I had sent out support letters, and I had prayed, and some money had come in, but it just wasn't quite enough. My parents didn't have resources to make up the difference, and I sure didn't have anything squirreled away to throw into the pot. I had no idea what to do, and essentially I gave up and decided to take a nap. But before I did, I ran into my friend Dave. I won't give Dave's last name here, because he and others who know him may see this and he might be embarrassed to have people know what happened, but Dave was in choir with me when I told him I didn't have the money to go, he was very upset; I think he didn't want to see me miss out on an amazing opportunity. I don't remember the exact conversation, but I remember Dave being very agitated, not at me but at the situation. I went to my room and laid down, resigned to the idea that the mission trip wasn't going to happen for me.

Dave, however, did not take a nap. This was the extreme end of the semester, and Dave knew that guys all over the dorm were packing up their stuff to go home for the summer. He also knew that some of those guys would be finding money they had lost in their rooms months ago. Dave took a can or something and walked around the dorm, looking for doors that were open and guys who were packing up their things, and asked them for donations to help a student go on a missions trip. And you know what? Dave managed to raise all of the money I still needed! When I went to sleep, I wasn't going on missions; when I woke up, I was. I wasn't involved at all. I didn't even actually ask for help! What a friend, to help me out when I had given up on helping myself! That trip was a defining couple of weeks for me. I still think back to that trip sometimes. Missions doesn't only benefit the people you go to see, you know. A missions trip changes the missionary, I think, maybe even more than it changes those who receive his ministry.

So, last night I was reading what is known as the "songs of ascent," which you will find in your Bible from Psalm 120-Psalm 134, and I saw this verse (which I've read many times before):
In vain you rise early
      and stay up late,
      toiling for food to eat—
      for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2 NIV)
It's a great verse to meditate on when you have insomnia, for sure. In fact, it's in my list of sleep scripture verses on But the thing that caught my eye this time was an NIV footnote attached to the verse. If you use the alternate reading, the verse says:
In vain you rise early
      and stay up late,
      toiling for food to eat—
      for while they sleep he provides for those he loves.
What an amazing picture of what happened to me that day! I worked and toiled, but it didn't work out for me... but when I came to the end of myself, God provided for me in my sleep. I hope Dave does read this, because I hope he understands how much I appreciated then and appreciate now what he did that day. The money didn't appear by magic; I believe God gave Dave an amazingly good idea, and directed him in what to do, but Dave got up and did the work, and I was and still am extremely grateful for that. I want to publicly thank him for being obedient to the Holy Spirit, and I want to publicly thank God for caring enough about my missions trip to provide for me "while I slept."

Guess what? I realized that something very similar happened in the Bible! Check out this post for details.

* I'd like to add this: don't sit around waiting for God javascript:void(0)to magically fund your missions trip. Follow the instructions of experienced folks. Write your fundraising letters and emails. Work a few hours extra per week at your job. Wash cars; have bake sales. Do what you know. Pray that God will inspire people to give, and that He will inspire you with clever ideas to earn. But when you've come to the end of your rope and you don't know what else to do, trust God to be in your corner. If he's put missions in your heart, He will also put the money in your hands to do what he's inspired you to do.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Making God Sad

"Long ago people were mean to each other," I read to my 2-year-old daughter this morning. "They hated God. This made God sad. So God said he would destroy the world with a flood because the people were so mean and sinful."

Wow! That's what God does when he gets sad? I'd hate to see what He does when He gets totally cheesed off!

OK, seriously... I was reading from a children's Bible story book designed for very, very young children, and the story is highly oversimplified (it's the book pictured at right, by the way.) But it highlights something people think about God: they think God had an emotional reaction to the sin in the world, whether it be "sad" or "angry" or whatever, and He flew off the handle and decided that the world was no good and needed to be destroyed. But when God spoke to Noah, He sounded extremely calculated and un-emotional:
Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth...” (Genesis 6:11-13 ESV)
Here's the thing. Anyone who's had The Romans Road explained to them knows that "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." and "...the wages of sin is death...". So if we have all sinned, and our paycheck is death, then outside of God's mercy and grace, we all deserve to die. All of us. That fact turns the whole story of Noah on its head, because it no longer is a story about an angry God killing off everybody, but it is a story of a loving God preserving the human race by saving the lives of a family who, as part of the "all" who had "sinned," certainly deserved death like the rest of humanity. God wasn't angry at the people of the world, but God is just, and He ultimately won't stop us from receiving what we have earned if we insist on receiving payment. God made a way for Noah's family to escape (through his obedience to God's ark-building commandment), and God has made a way for us to escape death too, through receiving Jesus as our savior!

God's not mad at you; He just wants a relationship with you. God wants to love you. If you don't know him, seek Him out today!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Little Doggies

Killer Dogphoto © 2010 Neil Kremer | more info (via: Wylio)Yesterday evening on my walk through the neighborhood, I saw a little doggie running loose. Now, I'm partial to little doggies, and I don't like to see them get hit by cars, so when I see one out, I usually tell them, "Go home, doggie!" and oddly enough, they usually look at me for a second, then turn around and go home. I'm like the Pied Piper of Doggietown. Anyway, not only did this doggie not turn around and go home, he stayed exactly where he was, which was exactly in the middle of the street! Apparently something smelled mighty good to him out there.

So I decided to up the stakes. I actually walked out into the street toward him, yelling "Go home, doggie!" hoping to get him to leave the street (and danger) and get back into some yard or on the sidewalk. And he did leave the street... he started barking at me and backed me out of the street onto the sidewalk! He was a little dog so I wasn't afraid he was going to hurt me too badly, but he was pretty cranky and nobody wants to get bitten, even by a little dog. He barked and barked at me, and every time I tried to walk away he would advance. I had to back away with my satchel between me and him to make sure I didn't get teeth marks in my ankles! As soon as I was far enough away to suit him, guess what he did? He walked right back out there into the middle of the street, in the dark, with cars coming, and stuck his nose right back into whatever he was smelling before. From down the street I watched the next SUV come down the street, hoping I wasn't about to witness a doggiecide... fortunately they spotted and went around him (he stayed in the middle of the street the whole time)!

I was thinking... people are just like that sometimes. Some people, if you see a pitfall in their lives and say something to them about it, will take your advice and avoid the problem. Other people, if you give them even very good advice, will go on the defensive or even on the attack, and you wind up having a hard time extracting yourself from the situation without getting hurt by the person you were trying to help! Does this mean that we shouldn't try to help people (and little doggies) who are in danger? Of course it doesn't mean that. Jesus loved each of us, and Jesus certainly gave us a pretty strong picture of self-sacrifice to save someone who needed saving. I do think that Jesus used a great deal of wisdom and spiritual insight in selecting the people He was going to offer aid to, though; you don't really see people in the Gospels being offered help by Jesus and resisting it. So maybe if I had listened more closely to the Holy Spirit I would have left Mini-Cujo alone. And maybe there are some situations in which the Holy Spirit will guide you out of a situation instead of into it. The key is that just because this doggie went on the offensive it doesn't mean that I shouldn't try to help the next doggie who is out playing in the street. And if you get hurt by some person you are trying to help, don't be scared to help the next person. That person might receive your gift with thankfulness, and you may be able to change, or even save, that life.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Carefully Constructed

I know I've been blogging over and over about Psalms lately... but they're just so cool!

So I was reading Psalms 111 and 112, and I thought I would share what I learned from the notes in the two study Bibles I'm reading. These two psalms are "twins," almost certainly composed together by the same author, and intended to be read as a pair. Each of them is an acrostic; after the first line ("Hallelujah" in Hebrew), each half-line starts with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. They each have ten verses, and in Hebrew they have the same number of syllables. Each has one opening verse, one closing verse, and two four-verse segments with opening and closing thoughts. Check out these parallel structures:

Psalm 111 (ESV)Psalm 112 (ESV)
[1]  Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
    in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
[1]  Praise the LORD!
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
    who greatly delights in his commandments!
[2] Great are the works of the LORD,
    studied by all who delight in them.
[2] His offspring will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
[3] Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
[3] Wealth and riches are in his house,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
[4] He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; 
    the LORD is gracious and merciful.
[4] Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
[5] He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever.
[5] It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
    who conducts his affairs with justice.
[6] He has shown his people the power of his works,
    in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
[6] For the righteous will never be moved;
    he will be remembered forever.
[7] The works of his hands are faithful and just;
    all his precepts are trustworthy;
[7] He is not afraid of bad news;
    his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
[8] they are established forever and ever,
    to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
[8] His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
    until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
[9] He sent redemption to his people;
    he has commanded his covenant forever.
    Holy and awesome is his name!
[9] He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever;
    his horn is exalted in honor.
[10] The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
        all those who practice it have a good understanding.
        His praise endures forever!
[10] The wicked man sees it and is angry;
    he gnashes his teeth and melts away;
    the desire of the wicked will perish!

Parallels between the two psalms: "Praise the LORD" in verses 1, "his righteousness endures forever" in verses 3, "gracious+merciful" in verses 4, "trustworthy" and "trusting" in verses 7, "established" and "steady" in verses 8, and the references to "fear of the LORD" in 111:10 and 112:1 tying the two chapters together.

The four-verse sections are marked off by "works" and "covenant" in Psalm 111, and by references to the righteous man's legacy and generosity in Psalm 112.

"So that's clever and all," you're thinking, "and your highlighting is very [ahem] 'attractive'... but what difference does it make?" Well, there's a quote from the 60s that "the medium is the message," meaning that the form that communication takes is part of the communication itself. The parallelism of these two psalms is part of the message. Psalm 111 is about God, and Psalm 112 is about a righteous man. Because they match, part of the message is that a righteous man starts to look like the God he serves (in fact, since the parallels don't come into focus until you spend time reading and re-reading, the message may be that the closer you look at the life of a righteous man, the more similarities to God you begin to notice!) But not everything is the same... for example, God is "trustworthy," but the righteous man is "trusting in the LORD." The righteous man does not become God, but he relies on God to such an extent that he comes to resemble Him. In the end, the biggest difference of all between man and God becomes obvious: the Lord's "praise endures forever," but "the desire of the wicked will perish!"

Why is this kind of thing useful to know? Well, I think it's easy to blow through the Psalms thinking that they're just some lines somebody dashed off. They seem so similar sometimes. As the "God" character in the Monty Python movie says, "It's just like those miserable psalms, always so depressing." The problem is that sometimes the artistry and craftsmanship present in the Psalms is masked by the change in language from the original Hebrew text. But when we begin to notice how deliberately these things were thought out by the people who composed them, we begin to look much more closely at what they were trying to communicate. If the very structure of the psalm was that important to the composer, imagine how much more important the underlying message must have been. The Psalms are amazing! And I'm not just talking about numbers 23 and 91. Take some time with them and see what the Holy Spirit teaches you!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

You Are Good

Rayo de Zeus / Zeus's Lightning - Tepic, Nayarit, MEXICOphoto © 2005 Christian Frausto Bernal | more info(via: Wylio)Today in church we sang a song which contains the lyric "You are good, You are good, You are good, and Your mercy is forever." Which, of course, came directly from the Scriptures, but as we sang, my mind suddenly and rapidly went through a series of thoughts:
  • Yep, God is good.
  • And, God wants the best for us.
  • Then why does God sometimes call us to dangerous situations? (Say, to live in dangerous conditions in a foreign country in order to spread the Gospel.)
  • Or why does God sometimes call us to do things that we don't want to do? (Say, to teach Sunday School when we are scared of public speaking.)
  • Because God knows that we will be the most fulfilled when we are living within His will.
  • So why doesn't God just change His will so that we can only have to do things that are comfortable or safe?
  • Because it proves to the world and to demonic powers that we are willing to follow Him, whatever the cost.
  • So you're telling me that God gets an ego boost out of it?
  • How does THAT show that God is good?
I have a resolution for this train of thought, but you know what? I'm not going to put it here. If those questions rattle your cage and/or rock your Theology, that might mean that you need to spend some time alone with God, because maybe you don't understand Him as well as you will if you ask Him these questions yourself. I think we sometimes don't spend as much time questioning our own assumptions about God as we should. I will say this: God is good. The presence of evil doesn't change that. You take it from there.

We had some guests today who led a worship song: "How He Loves" written by John Mark McMillan. Inexplicably to me, they sang one of the "altered" versions of the "sloppy wet kiss" line, making it both less sloppy and less wet than it originally was. I'm actually a little surprised that the line bothers people as much as it apparently does; the songwriter actually even blogged about the controversy personally. I can think of songs that, to my way of thinking, are a lot worse offenders than that one; I actually like that line because sometimes my mind starts to wander at about that part of a song (late in the 2nd verse) and the sloppiness and wetness of that line always brings me back in.

Anyway, my point wasn't to argue about that line... my point was to mention a Scripture that it brings to mind:
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
    and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the LORD will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him
    and make his footsteps a way.

 (Psalm 85:10-13 ESV)
When we on Earth are faithful to God, and that intersects with His righteousness, good things begin to happen. I think that Psalm is so beautiful in its depiction of God's love for us. Just like the song, as a matter of fact. I don't know if there was conscious inspiration there, but it certainly looks like it to me.

And hey, there's the goodness of God popping up again. Something to think about.

Friday, November 5, 2010

New NIV Translators' Notes

I just read the Translators' Notes for the new revision of the NIV (PDF), and I had a couple of thoughts.

It struck me as odd that the notes seem to imply that the King James Version was the first translation of the Bible into English. That is FAR from the case, as even a quick look at Wikipedia's entry for the KJV shows. Over 200 years before the KJV, John Wycliffe made the first-ever translation of the Bible into English; William Tyndale did it 100 years after that, and there were several revisions of that translation before the KJV was undertaken. If you look at the first pages of your King James Bible, you will probably find the phrase "with the former Translations diligently compared and revised" right there. The notes aren't trying to mislead anyone; it just struck me as odd that all that history was glossed over so completely.

I did like the terms "transparency" and "comprehensibility" used to describe "formal equivalence" and "dynamic equivalence", respectively. "Formal equivalence" seeks "transparency" to the original texts (meaning, trying to make the English closely match the way the text was originally written), while "dynamic equivalence" seeks "comprehensibility" by re-wording sentences and even whole paragraphs so that the train of thought is clear to a modern English-speaker. (The other terms I've heard for it are "word-for-word" vs. "thought-for-thought")

formal equivalenceword-for-wordtransparencyNASB, ESV
dynamic equivalencethought-for-thoughtcomprehensibilityThe Living Bible, The Message

The NIV seeks to be somewhere in the middle, and I think in general it does a good job. I've come to prefer translations like the ESV that are a little closer to the "transparency" end of the spectrum, but it occurs to me that maybe a good Bible strategy is to have at least one "dynamic equivalent" Bible (the NIV is a good choice, or the HCSB) for times when you are just reading through the Bible, and at least one "formal equivalent" Bible for more intense study times.

The examples of changes in the new NIV that are outlined in the document look pretty good to me overall... it will be interesting to see whether this new NIV gains traction!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Greeks Were Mixed Up

I love the Percy Jackson books.

Months ago we watched the movie Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and my son and I liked it so much that we've been reading the book series on which the movie was based (the movie is spectacular, but the books are even better!) In the books, the gods of Olympus (from the ancient Greek myths) do human being things, like talk on cell phones and wear Hawaiian shirts and drive taxicabs. And that's actually quite true to the ancient myths, in a way; the Greek gods and goddesses were constantly getting married and getting jealous and getting angry and having sex with humans, winding up producing illegitimate children. In fact, the Greek gods and goddesses, in the final tally, are basically nothing but very powerful (and immortal) human beings. There's nothing really different or divine about them except that they can do cool tricks like throwing bolts of lightning around. The Greeks basically just looked at the world around them and created gods that resembled themselves, with all of the same flaws of character that they had.

Well, the Greeks got God all wrong; in fact, they got it almost exactly backwards. About a month ago I blogged about my belief that everything God created in the physical world was designed to express a truth in God's spiritual world. That train of thought is not something I came up all on my own, of course... Plato was talking about shadows and caves a long time before I came along. Isn't it interesting that the Greek religion taught that the Gods resemble things in their own world, while their own philosophers were figuring out the real truth: spiritual things are the "real" things, and the things we see around us are the "shadows on the wall." God is real and God's ways are the true ways: everything we see around us exists to reveal those ways, and anything that provides a wrong picture of God does so because it is part of a fallen world that has been twisted by sin.

Another interesting thing about the Greek gods and goddesses: they are all associated with something. Zeus is the god of the sky. Poseidon is the god of the sea. Hades is the god of the underworld. Ares is the god of war, and Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty. Each of them associates himself or herself with something in the physical world. Our God, though, doesn't focus on the sea, or the sky, or the sun, or even some intangible thing like beauty or war. Our God's primary focus is one thing: us. God is the god of the human race. He has focused His love on us. He has made it so that we can be His people, and He can be our God. There is a sense of belonging to and being owned by God in the Bible that you don't find in other religious traditions. God isn't the God of the ocean or the land or the sky or fire or Mount Olympus. God is the god of you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I learned the wrong thing

My pastor started his message this morning with Genesis 3:1-6. He went on to compare the first half of verse 6 to 1 John 2:16, which was an awesome point, but he had already lost me; I was seeing something in the conversation between Eve and the serpent that I hadn't seen before.

Okay, so in verse 1 of Genesis 3, the serpent asks Eve if God really said she couldn't eat from the tree in the center of the garden, right?


Look back at it. "He [the serpent] said to the woman, 'Did God actually say, "You shall not eat of any tree in the garden"?'" (my italics). God had simply said they couldn't eat from the one tree in the center of the garden, not any tree at all. But the serpent misquotes God on purpose, as though he had misheard a rumor through the grapevine. Why do you suppose the serpent did that? I think the serpent (who, we find out later in the Bible, is actually the Devil) understood human nature and knew that if he could just get her into a conversation, that was half the battle. Lesson #1 to learn from this passage: don't try to correct Satan's theology. Don't have a conversation with him. Shut him down, because nothing good will come of having a battle of wits with the Devil. You'll see why in a minute.

Eve doesn't know that the serpent isn't simply misinformed, so she tries to correct the "misunderstanding." But does she correct it? No she doesn't! She messes it up worse! "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" (again, my italics). What's with the "touch it" part? That's not what God had said either! God just said not to eat it. God didn't say a thing about touching it. Someone had added something to God's word. Was it Eve? Was it Adam, adding some extra insurance when he told Eve what God had said? We don't know, but it apparently happened somewhere along the line, and maybe when Eve was starting to wonder about things, she touched the fruit and nothing bad happened, and that made her feel bolder about actually taking a taste. Lesson #2 to learn from this passage: don't add things to God's commands that don't belong. God's Word can take care of itself.

Anyway, I was sitting there, lost in this conversation, actually giving Satan some props, because he knew how to play this woman. He had the psychology down. He got her talking, defending her faith. He waited until she twisted it herself and he saw the chink in her armor. Then he contradicted God outright ("...the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die...'") and told her a half-truth ("...God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."), distracting her from God's warnings and getting her attention on something that seemed like a better idea than following God's instructions. Come to think of it, it reminds me of how Satan tried to confuse and persuade Jesus Himself in Luke chapter 4 (which my pastor read later in his message) by quoting from Psalms. Oddly enough, Eve only had a few sentences of God's Word (that we know of, anyway) and Satan managed to twist it for her enough that she did exactly what God had said not to do. Jesus, on the other hand, had hundreds of years of God's word to deal with, and Satan actually quoted God's word correctly, but Jesus managed to see right through Satan's argument and avoid the sin Satan was trying to trick Him into.

And that's why we need the Holy Spirit. Even when the human race was only two people old, the Deceiver knew human psychology well enough that he was able to trick them. What chance to you and I have against an intellect like that, one which has debated with millions of the greatest minds humanity has ever produced and beat all of them but One, without the help of the One Who wasn't tricked? Don't go it alone today. Let the Spirit of God guide you, and you won't be deceived, even by The Deceiver.

And the next time you're sitting in church, don't worry about it too much if the Holy Spirit takes you on a quick rabbit trail. I didn't miss anything from the message that was coming from the pulpit, and as you can see, I seem to have received a bonus message that was mine alone... well, okay, mine and now yours! The Word of God is amazing and multifaceted, and sometimes it's just a rollicking read (think about the intrigue in that brief exchange between one seemingly naïve and clueless woman, and the enemy of all mankind! Now that's suspenseful writing!) The Bible isn't just a Theology text. The thing that caught my attention was the drama of the story itself. Enjoy the Bible for what it is, whether you're reading narrative or poetry or a vision of the future or a letter written from an evangelist to one of the churches he had visited... take it on its own terms and enjoy it as a book. And then when God has something to teach you, you'll already be listening, and it will be easy for Him to make the revelation clear.

Here's a link to the message I was listening to.