Last night was the end of the "Understand : Making Sense of the Bible" series. We talked about talked about a third question to ask when reading the Bible, "What is my response?" (Here is the first and second questions.) To me, this is a better question than "What should I do?" because it helps us think more than just actions we should take. Sometimes our response should be be grateful, have joy, or even rest. These are things we should do, even though they aren't the typical things that come to mind when we think of what God wants us to do. So I think the question, "What is my response?" helps us to consider more our lives than just actions.
So you've been coming to Blast/Ignite for a while, and you like it. You like the games, being with friends, and hearing about Jesus. Even if you don't understand it all, you feel good hearing about Jesus' love for you and that he wants the best for you. Now you're curious to know more about Jesus. So, you made time in your busy schedule to try to read the Bible. You've found a place to be alone (your room, your car, a park, the dryer, a Disney sponsored Miley Cyrus tour, etc.) so you can think and not be distracted. You go through your mental list. Cell phone silenced and put way? Check. No laptop? Check. No people? Check. No clue what you're doing? Check. Wait! Somehow, miracles of all miracles, you remember something from Wednesday nights. So you sit down and read what the Bible says. Not what you think it says, not what you think it means, but what it actually says. Then you remember to look for what that the passage teaches about God. Awesome! Two for two. But now what? Is this it? Just read the Bible and learn about God? There must be more. Something in your mind is nagging you. You think, "Now shouldn't I do something?" Hmmmmm.
Anyone who has read the Bible looking to connect with God has had something like this happen to him/her. Sure the details are different, but we all end up asking, "What does God want me to do?" It's a great question, and sends us in the right direction. But is it the best question? Join us this Wednesday, Oct 16 @ 7 pm as we figure out what to do after we read the Bible.
Last night we talked about how we should read the Bible to get to know Jesus. There's a lot of thoughts and ideas about who Jesus is and what he's like. And with so many different ways to get information (TV, computers, phones, tablets, video games, books, movies, music, etc.) we're going to get a lot of mixed messages. Someone will say Jesus is one way and another will say Jesus is the complete opposite. With so many conflicting ideas, how are we supposed to know what Jesus is really like? And how do we know if we are getting to know the real Jesus? I mean, if Jesus really does love me perfectly, and really died in my place, and rose from the dead so I can I have eternal life with him, I want to get to know the one who gives me life and not a fake idea. So here's a crazy idea; why don't we see what God says about Jesus in the Bible?
The second question when reading the Bible is, "What do these verses teach me about God (Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit)?" (For more about the first question, read a previous blog post) Here are some things to look for: what does God like, what does God dislike, what kind of character traits does God have, what emotions does God express, how does God interact with people, etc. While I'm considering what God is like, I find it helpful to write down things. I'm old school and use a notebook, but you can use a laptop, a writing up, whatever. The point is that writing it helps me process and remember what I'm thinking.
So the challenge is to read the same verses, Genesis 22:1-19, Psalm 13:1-6, Mark 15:1-41, 1 John 1:1-10, and look for what it teaching you about God. This is the good stuff. As we see God better, then life around us tends to get clearer. So hop to it.
Last night we talked about how God's words give us wisdom, knowledge and life. We looked at Proverbs 2:1-6 and noticed all the words (apply, call out, cry aloud, look, search) that require effort on our part. To connect with God requires some effort on our part. This shouldn't surprise us. It's true of any relationship. Whenever we call / text / post / message / tweet / etc. people, it takes effort. Most of that effort is just trying to find our phone! (How'd it get in the dryer??) So it's going to take some effort to dig into the Bible and connect with God. The good news is that it's totally worth it.
A good way to connect with God when reading the Bible, is to ask questions while you read. You might have heard the saying, "There are no stupid questions." That may or may not be true, but for sure some questions are better than others. Some questions get answers faster than others. And some questions get you off track. (What does the fox say?) Learning to ask good questions is important. And guess what? It takes effort. (Doh')
So the first question when reading the Bible, or anything for that matter, is to ask "What is it talking about?" I know what you're thinking, "But Jim, I just read what it says. Why do I have to ask or think about what it is talking about?" That's a good question. (See, you're already asking good questions.) Here's the deal... if we misunderstand what it says, then we have a much, much, much greater change of misunderstanding what it means. Here's an example I've seen on facebook about punctuation. "Let's eat, Grandma". If you read the sentence wrong by skipping over the comma, then you'll get "Let's eat Grandma." So we go from a lovely evening with family to some sort of possible zombie cannibalism. Grandma's life hangs in the balance of the question "What is it talking about?" Obviously reading, or misreading a sentence affects the meaning.
So the challenge for this week is to read Genesis 22:1-19, Psalm 13:1-6, Mark 15:1-41, 1 John 1:1-10 on four different days this week, and ask the question "what are the verses talking about?" I know that these are the same verses from last week. There's a reason for this. The questions that I'm teaching (this week and the next two) build upon themselves. There is a connection in the order the questions are asked. It's kinda like math. First you learn numbers (1, 3, 6, 10), then you learn counting (4, 5, 6, 7 . . .) and then you learn addition (2+4 = 7). There's a process to learn. By reading the same verses each week it should help you focus on the process, as well as the questions.
So here's the plan. Let me (Jim) know when you read any of the verses. Either text me, comment on this blog, post on facebook, tweet me a message, or even go old school and tell me in person. However you do it, I wanna know so I can encourage
Learning can be hard. Sometimes it's fun. Like learning about a sport, a new game, or a musical instrument. People look forward to it when it's about something that they like or are interested in. But even then, learning takes work.
There was a time that I wanted to learn to play the drums. Melissa bought me some drum sticks (not chicken) and a drum pad for Christmas one year. I was pretty excited. This was the year I was gonna learn to beat on the drums. All my childhood dreams were going to come true. Bands would start to call me and ask me to tour with them. That year came and went. No bands called. My dreams were still just dreams. And I still don't know how to play the drums. There were plenty of times (about a bizillion) that I picked up the sticks and looked at the practice pad. A couple of times I even hit the pad and pretended that I knew what rhythm was. But even with my best efforts, and some of the right equipment, I couldn't figure out how to play the drums. Honestly, I didn't even know where to start. It was sad. (Side note: the next Christmas Melissa gave me a book. "Here. I know you can read" she said.)
Reading the Bible can be the same way. You can have a Bible, have gone to church every Sunday for your entire life, but still not know how to connect to God on your own. Can you relate? Come to Blast and Ignite this week, Oct 2nd @ 7 pm as we talk about the first step in connecting with God. You'll be surprised at how simple it can be.
For the next four weeks we are going to be talking about the Bible. Each week we are going to talk a little bit about how to read the Bible so that we can better understand what it means in our lives. So for part of the upcoming nights in small group we will do some "Bible study." Last night I challenged you guys to do two things.
The first is to bring your Bible (if you have one) to Blast / Ignite. If we are going to read the Bible, it'd be a pretty good idea to actually have one to read. Yes, we will have Bibles available to anyone who doesn't have one or forgot theirs. But there is something about using your Bible. It's familiar. It's personal. It becomes natural. You get used to it. It really becomes your Bible, not just the Bible that you own.
The second thing I challenged you to do was read the Bible and write down any thoughts, notes, questions, etc. from what you read. I suggested reading Genesis 22:1-19, Psalm 13:1-6, Mark 15:1-42, 1 John 1:1-10. This would be four days of reading within the next week. Even with super packed schedules, this is very doable. It can be done between 15 - 30 minutes.
Something like this is usually more exciting and encouraging when doing it with a group. I'd love for there to be lots of interaction/encouragement from the people who are reading. So if you are reading, let us know by posting something on facebook, especially the BlastIgniteNC3 page. Maybe post the phrase or verse the stuck out to you. Or write a question or thought about what you read. I know I'll be inspired from seeing these, and my guess is others will to.
So, what are you waiting for? Get to it.
Each week two blogs will be posted for Blast and Ignite.