Tag Archives: Bible

What Stories Do

This was sent to me in response to my last post. What a great follow-up to that idea. Thank you Lori.
The original story can be found here.

What Stories Do

by 

Almost overnight, my eight-year-old niece went from being a vivacious little girl who sang her way through life—as if she were singing the soundtrack of her own life the movie—and became a frightened, withdrawn child who spoke so softly you could barely hear her. It was as if she were literally losing her voice, losing herself. And then we found out she was being bullied at school.

Later, she told me that she thought she wouldn’t get in trouble if she tried not to be herself. It broke my heart, and I wished she had a book to read before school to hear what God says about her, not what those bullies were saying about her. So I thought I better write one—it’s called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, and it has become a book of hope for children.

Children look to us for everything. But in all that we’ve given children, have we forgotten to give them hope? Have we left them in despair, looking at what they should do but don’t? Looking at who they should be but aren’t? How, then, do we give hope to children?

By helping them take the focus off themselves and put it back on God where it belongs. By telling them truths such as these:

God holds the oceans in the palm of his hand. If he can hold the oceans, he can hold you. (p. 106)

If God cares for the tiniest sparrow— how much more mus t he care for you, his child? (p. 152)

If Jesus can calm a storm on a lake, he can calm the storm in your heart. (p. 181)

God sees not just who you are— but who he is going to make you. (p. 145)

We give hope to children when we tell them what matters most.

They don’t need to be told to try harder, believe more, or do better. That just leaves them in despair. Taken by itself, the moral code always leaves us in despair. We can never live up to it. We don’t need a moral code—we need a Rescuer.

When I go to churches and speak to children, I ask them two questions: First, “how many people here sometimes think you have to be good for God to love you?” They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them. Second, “How many people here sometimes think that if you aren’t good, God will stop loving you?” They look around and again raise their hands.

These are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible, and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all. They have missed what the Bible is all about. They are children like I once was. I thought God couldn’t love me because I wasn’t doing it right.

How, then, do we help them? What can we do? We can teach children that the Bible is not about them.

The Bible isn’t merely about them and what they should be doing. It’s about God and what He has done. It’s not merely a book of rules telling you how to behave so that God will love you. It’s not merely a book of heroes that gives you people to copy so that God will love you.

Most of all, the Bible is the Story—the story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. And in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost Him— God won’t ever stop loving His children with a wonderful, neverstopping, never-giving-up, unbreaking, always, and forever love. Are we telling children the Story—or teaching them a mere lesson?

My niece didn’t need another lesson. What she needed to know was that she is loved—with a wonderful, never-stopping, never-giving- up, unbreaking, always, and forever love. What she needed was to be invited into the Story. What she needed was to meet the Hero and become part of His magnificent Story. That is because the rules don’t change you. But the Story—God’s Story—does.

How, then, do we instill a love for God in children? Simply by telling them the Story—the Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. By telling it well. Telling it faithfully. Telling it simply. Telling it without dumbing it down. Telling it without explaining it to death. Telling it without drilling it down into a moral lesson.

Stories don’t tell the truth confrontationally. They don’t coerce you. They don’t argue with you to believe them. They just are. The power of the story isn’t in summing it up, drilling it down, or reducing it to an abstract idea. The power of the story isn’t in the lesson. The power of the story is the story.  (Emphasis mine)

When God sent the prophet Nathan to King David (2 Sam. 12:1-4), Nathan didn’t confront David with a sermon about his sin but told him a story. David didn’t see it coming. The story got by his defenses.

That’s the thing a true story does—it doesn’t come at you directly and raise a wall of defense. It comes around the side and captures your heart.

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Hiking in 2012

In 2012 I am going hiking.

“Brilliant post Don, absolutely brilliant!” Yeah I know. Here’s the deal. I started Bible college in 2000 because no other school would accept me. One semester into it, I wanted to be a pastor/teacher/student of the Bible. My life has been a working towards that goal. Every job I have had was a step towards that goal, not a place of ministry. Sure I shared the gospel with people I worked with, but it wasn’t ministry to me. My life has been the pursuit of vocational ministry and until recently, that was my calling. Well, I say calling but it was actually my idol. You see, anything we put as ultimate other than God is idolatry. I sacrificed my family at the altar of vocational ministry. I sacrificed my jobs at the altar of vocational ministry.

In Genesis 22:2 God calls Abraham to climb a mountain and sacrifice his love. His son that he had waited for. God promised that he would raise up a nation from his offspring Isaac, and then asked Abraham to kill him.

God is calling me to go hiking with my idol vocational ministry and kill it. This year I’m going hiking.

Here is the hard part.

He might not provide a ram in the bushes.

Sometimes it is easy to act when we see a picture in the Bible already. We hear preachers ask us if we are willing to give up that which we love the most and we always say yes. We might nod in the affirmative as we hear the Word preached, but it is only because we know how the story ends…Abraham didn’t end up having to do it. There was a ram in the bushes.

Some of you need to go hiking with me. Pray about it. You might not find a ram.

 

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Our Town

78% of the music played in the family van comes from the Cars soundtrack. My son is enamored with all things Cars and whenever we get into the car, he asks Now, since the soundtrack is made up of regular music it isn’t usually a big deal. I have found that my ability to listen to the same song over and over grows as the  number of children grows. However a song that has been sitting on my mind lately is Our Town performed by James Taylor. This song speaks to the life of a town changing as society changes and the needs and desires of the people for their town changeas well. I began to think about the area that I live in. I grew up one town over from where I live now. After moving to various locations including out of state in TN, I ended up 15 minutes from where I grew up. So what is my responsibility? I have run into a few people that I knew years ago and in some cases have been able renew friendships. It leads me to wonder what my specific mission can be while here in this place. I am looking at a few local establishments and trying to see if there is an opportunity to live on mission in my community and to point to Jesus.

What do I see? I see at least two local bars that are close to both my house and the gathered worship location of my local church. What can I do in reference to these locations? I have a few ideas but I think that the best option is to hold a Fight Club in one of the locations on a regular basis. We can read the Bible, drink beer, and engage in bare knuckle brawling.

What are your thoughts? Any ideas? This needs to happen in this area. There are too many people who wouldn’t be seen in one of those locations and that is tragic. It’s time to fight.

-Cheers

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Stop Not Leaning

Proverbs 3:5-7 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

I have been introduced to a study by CJ Mahaney on time, fruitfulness, and business; and today I re-read something that is causing me to stop and pray…AND most importantly to repent. The words of Charles Bridges in his commentary have paralyzed me as I look at Proverbs 3:5-7 for the first time again. Read those verses again then these words from Pastor Bridges.

Let our confidence be uniform. In all thy ways acknowledge him (Proverbs 3:6). Take one step at a time, every step under divine warrant and direction. Ever plan for yourself in simple dependence on God. It is nothing less than self idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without his counsel.

He loves to be consulted. Therefore take all thy difficulties to be resolved by him. Be in the habit of going to him in the first place-before self-will, self-pleasing, self-wisdom, human friends, convenience, expediency. Before any of these have been consulted go to God at once. Consider no circumstances too clear to need his direction. (Emphasis mine)

In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let him be supreme.

-Charles Bridges (1794-1869), from A Commentary on Proverbs (Banner of Truth, 1846/1968)  pp. 24-25.

Lord, let my pride fall down. Let my words be Your words. Grant me repentance for leaning on my understanding. Grant me the acknowledgment of You. Let my paths be made straight. Let me not be wise. Let me turn away from evil.

Let me know what you thought. I’d love to hear how these verses change how you live your daily life in devotion to God.

-Cheers

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New Look

Yeah I know, a new look for the blog. Well, here it comes, the reason for the change…dum da da dummmmm…   Cause I felt like it. I plan on changing the picture on the top every now and then so that is cool. Not sure if I like the white or not but I knew it was a change from black.

I mentioned on my Christmas Day post that I received a book entitled For the Love of God. I have since started this book and I am enjoying it tremendously. It is a day by day reading plan based on M’Cheyne’s reading plan. A great reading plan which is used by many including John Stott. I had only heard of this once from one of Stott’s books Between Two Worlds but since getting this new book by Carson, I have the opportunity to do more than hear about it.

Like many other daily reading books, D.A. Carson provides practical application on a section of the reading. There are four chapters to be read for every day and in volume one of this set, he comments on one of the first two chapters. In volume two he comments on one of the last two chapters. So far this has been an amazing experience. It is more practical than I have ever experienced in daily Bible reading…and many sermons. Of course, it is still early and he might have put all his good stuff in the beginning to hook me so I won’t give up when it gets droll later. (I love that word…droll…are you impressed?) I find that many daily reading plans are just that…droll. They become very simplistic or childish…whimsical is how Merriam Webster defines it. Many seem to have a whimsical Thomas Kinkade frost over everything and don’t deal with practical matters enough. I need something to call my sin what it is; and that is sin. Here is an excerpt from the introduction. Go out and pick it up if you are looking…or even if you are not.

In no way do these pages pretend to be a commentary as that word is commonly understood. My aim is much more modest: to provide edifying comments and reflections on some part of the designated texts, and thus to encourage readers to reflect furthur on the biblical passages they are reading. If there is something unusual about these comments, it is that I have tried to devote at least some of them to helping the reader keep the big picture os the Bible’s “story line” in mind, and to see what relevance this has for our thinking and living. In other words, although I want the comments to be edifying, this edification is not always of a private, individualized sort. My aim is to show, in however a preliminary a way, that reading the whole Bible must stir up thoughtful Christians to thinking theologically and holistically, as well as reverently and humbly.. Volume Two includes an exhaustive index of names, subjects, and Scriptures for both volumes.

If you end up getting this set, please let me know how it is working for you. It has been a great exhortation to me and had caused repentance in my life already.

Cheers

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Born To Die

Today, Christmas 08. is an interesting day. I feel as if there is something missing today. I can not say it, explain it, or even wrap my mind around it. I think we did better this year than in past years with not going overboard…not having a job helps that tremendously. We are starting to move towards a minimal Christmas and are taking different steps to do so. So far I am glad to see progress being made however, I still feel materialistic and ‘American’! Sure I got some things that I wanted (that were paid for by the same bank account that doesn’t have enough 11 months out of the year) and I was able to see my family receive some things that I know they will appreciate, and some they won’t…ahem; but for the most part there is still the feeling that I have not honored the One who was born to die.

I can always count on my dad to make sure that books are on the gift list. This year was especially exciting as I received a two volume set of daily readings by D.A. Carson titled For the Love of God. This is a work that is regarded as one of the best at showing Christ in ALL of Scripture. Many of my extra-non-reformed friends would shudder at the thought of pushing the Gospel into too much of the Old Testament, but I would venture to say that the Old Testament has been misunderstood for too long by Joe-shmo theologues like myself. I look forward to delving into a whole new chapter of the Gospel story called…dum dum dummmm…the Old Testament. I pray…honestly not Christianese…that these volumes will open my eyes to what the Bible has to say about Jesus and His relationship with me. The Gospel is so much more than 1.5 hours out of my weekend. Seriously…if it isn’t…then church is lame. I can think of a bunch of things that I would rather be doing than sitting in a church building on Sunday mornings if that is where the Gospel is.

Ok, off my soapbox…the kids just go up.

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Romans

So it has been quite some time now since I first realized my sin. As a child I knew that God was God and I was not, however, the sin did not eat at me. I did not have guilt before God, I only had guilt before man. I was upset that I had let someone else down. Later in my life, that sin that ‘so easily entangled’, was for the first time seen as between God and myself. I needed help. Jesus is the help I needed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a guy, I can handle it. I grew up in an evangelical church that taught us the good way to live life in such a way that no one knows you are hurting. As M. Chandler says, “My friends all came up from being baptized quoting Romans while I just said…that was weird.” I didn’t however say anything about it since it was obviously my problem. People in leadership wore a cape…I wore a diaper. It wasn’t/isn’t about the heart, it is about knowledge and actions. We don’t talk about the heart much here in church. North or South it doesn’t matter. We don’t talk about the heart much. Jesus is calling us to a relationship with Himself and we continue to make it about what we can do for Him.

I was good at it. No rated R movies, no swearing, no TV past 9pm, no drinking the devil juice…I’ve even read Knowing God by JI Packer! I could do it all, and I still try to do it all, for the sake of pride. Romans 4-8 does not leave any room for pride.

Pride looks different from person to person. Pride takes on many faces depending on the situation and the company you keep. When the Pharisees would pray and thank God that they were not like the gentiles who surrounded them…they were merely using their context to act like us. Why do we call them lost, UN saved, UN churched, NON christian? With those very titles we are thanking God that we are not…lost etc. We look to them in the negative. Un, Non…

Romans 4-8 tells us that we all exist as one thing. Under God’s grace. The fact that people can breath God’s air, live on the earth God created, enjoy the sex God created…is grace. They can not enjoy any of these things however AS God intended, but they CAN enjoy them. Grace, what a powerful word.

I am convinced that it is because of a lack of transparency in my life that I am not closer to Jesus. I can fool everyone else, but I can’t fool God. Psalm 32:1-5 speaks volumes. Unconfessed sin decays the bones and kills your soul. Is this some sort of cleansing? No, you will not see me all of a sudden confess to killing a guy or bombing a bank. What I hope you see is some one who is starting to get it and who wants to find that place where it is ok not to get it but doesn’t let you stay there.

In his book Organic Church, Neil Cole makes a good case for bringing everything down. He takes many of his ideas a little too far, but the premise is solid. We need to get into a place where we meet with 2 or 3 people (same sex) and open our hearts. No more of this ‘small group’ stuff where we get together and do mini-church. We need life changing ministry form each other. We need to realize the power of the gospel, the power of Jesus, the power that the Holy Spirit can have on us and our relationships. The church needs to grow organically. We need to confess our sin (looking for another s word) in order to fertilize it.

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