Tag Archives: 2012

The Challenge for Twenty-Twelve

Can you find something you are thankful for each day? Can you open yourself to seeing God in your life-not just in the big events-but in the little moments too?

Our lives can get pretty busy with work, family, and friends.  Most people are so caught up in their lives that they miss out on the greater adventure that life can become.  I think God tugs on our lives each year.  He calls us, most of the time very gently, to join him in a grand adventure, which is why every year we make goals to improve our lives.  We yearn for more, maybe even for the life God has for us, but often we give up one week in.  I think that happens because we are trying to reach these goals alone.  So let’s join together in making 2012 a special year.  As an online community let’s place God at the center of our lives.

Here is my challenge.  Live 2012 Spiritually.

Living Spiritually means listening for God and doing what he asks.

On Christmas Eve I realized I hadn’t really given anything good to half of my family.  Fortunately hours before midnight I felt a gentle nudge to challenge my family to keep a daily journal about how they saw God.

For a brief moment I tried to ignore the idea.  Nah, too much work.  But then it hit me, if I didn’t try this idea I’d never know what God could do with this.  So I said yes, drove up to Wal-Mart, fought off the last minute shoppers, picked up six journals, printed out some pictures (that way each journal had a personalized photo for each person), and drove home knowing this gift would be an incredibly hard challenge.

On Christmas Day my family opened up their journals and the idea of challenging everyone to open their eyes to God’s daily activities sprang to life.

This is a challenge my family is taking on together.  Now I want to invite you to join in.  Say yes to God’s gentle nudge.  You will not be alone in this.  Together we will make 2012 a different year, a special year.  Do you want to go on a grand Adventure?  If so, pick up a journal and keep track of how you see God work in your life.

Here is how I am going to do it.

Every day I am going to read the Bible.  God is relational and the best way to get to know Him is to read his word.

Every day I am going to write down what I am thankful for.  I believe keeping track of what I am thankful for will help me stay focused when times get tough.

Every day I am going to look for ways I’ve been blessed and when I see them I will write it down too.  I believe if I am looking for God’s gifts, God will make me a person who is more willing to give and receive blessings.

Every day I am going to recognize God’s presence.  He is in the big moments and the little moments.  It just takes opening my eyes and looking for him.  I will write down what I see in my journal.

Writing all of this down is key.  Go grab a journal, it doesn’t have to cost much or be fancy, and start writing.  It trains us to look for God and see what He is doing.  And at the end of the year we have proof of a life lived with God at the forefront of our every day lives.

Adding these four steps to your already busy life might seem daunting, but when you join in on this adventure you aren’t doing this alone.  Through prayer and scripture we will do this together, and as my nearly three year old little niece Addi once said, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Living Spiritually means saying yes to God.  Keep God at the center of your life in 2012 and join us on this adventure.

Brendan helped his dad create facebook.com/livingspiritually and would like you to like the page.  When you like the page you will join us in our adventure and have a great way to interact with a broad group of people who have committed to living spiritually.  If you are on twitter tweet #livingspiritually2012 to join the conversation about how God is working in their lives.

Happy New Year!

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Revelation: The Most Misused and Misinterpreted Book in the Bible

The end is near. It’s true. For those of you participating in Daily Bible Conversations with us, we are almost done. Twenty-three days to go. For me it’s been a fabulous journey.

But that’s not what I mean. Today we begin reading the most misused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted book in the Bible: The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation, the last book in the Bible but the first book in the library of those predicting the end of the world.

Predicting the end of the world has always been a popular past-time. But does Revelation actually predict the end of the world or does it have a larger more hopeful message?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Joel 1:1-3:21

Revelation 1:1-20

Psalm 128:1-6

Proverbs 29:18

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

At first disturbing glance, Revelation does seem to predict the end of the world. Near the beginning of the book John of Patmos reports that, “the time is near,” though he doesn’t say exactly what time. Then a few verses later, John continues, “Look he [Jesus] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him . . . .” From there, as Eugene H. Peterson writes in The Message, a “rush of color and sound, image and energy leaves us reeling.”

We read of scrolls and seals, censers and trumpets, angels and devils, dragons, destruction and doom, judgement and, finally, a new Jerusalem. Many have connected these vague symbols and metaphors to current events and in so doing predict the end is near.

Hal Lindsey became famous (or infamous) doing this. He reported there was a three-story computer (this was 1974) that could give a mark to every human on earth, a code, the equivalent of 666. The computer was supposedly nick-named “The Beast.” It turns out the computer was pure fiction. Using this system of turning symbols into literal events, people, or things, Lindsey predicts, “Within forty years or so of 1948 [when Israel became a nation] all these things could take place.” If he was right, we’ve all been “Left Behind.”

But to be fair, Lindsey was not the only one to read Revelation as a literal prediction of the end of the world. Also the symbolic language of Revelation is complex and confusing. It is easy to get lost trying to interpret them and miss the bigger themes of the book.

The most powerful theme is worship. John is in worship when he receives his vision and from then on every person, nation, and creature in the book ends up bowing down, voluntarily or involuntarily, in worship. Praise, adoration, and servitude fill the book. “Holy, holy, holy,” all heaven sings. Maybe many of these symbols are not to be wrestled into literalism but rather are there to show poetically how all of God’s amazing creation will fall before him in worship.

If so, Revelation is not so much a prediction about how and when the world will end but rather a description that when the end comes, God will be triumphant over all. And our response to that great victory will be to rejoice and worship him.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow captured this truth in his Christmas poem written during the seemingly endless pain and evil of the Civil War. John Gorka musically rearranged this hymn/poem as a more modern Christmas song:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

 

I thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

 

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth good will to men.

 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep:

The wrong shall fail,

The right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.”

 

Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A Voice, a chime,

A chant sub-lime,

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It may be by God’s design we are reading this difficult book at Christmas when our hopes our supposed to soar. Because, though the world seems to be spiralling toward a horrible and destructive end, Revelation is a vision not of a fearful end of the world, though there are terrifying visions there, but a picture of the culmination God’s powerful redemption that began on Christmas Day. Revelation envisions a hopeful end of pain, fear, death, sin, Satan, and all that opposes God. But it is not the end of the world. Rather Jesus proclaims from his throne, “I am making everything new.” Let’s celebrate.

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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How the Blame Game Makes Natural Disasters and Suffering Worse

Natural disasters are nothing new. Unfortunately.

In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried two cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Yellow River in China flooded several times killing 3-5 million people. More recently we have seen Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Tsunami, and this year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti cause unimaginable suffering.

It has been heartening to see the world respond to these latest disasters with aid, prayers, workers, and money.

Disheartening, though, has been our need to blame someone or something for these disasters, as if affixing blame will ease the suffering, or even–realistically–prevent another disaster.

This blame game is nothing new either.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Job 8:1-11:20

1 Corinthians 15:1-28

Psalm 38:1-22

Proverbs 21:28-29

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Blame. Some Democrats blamed George W. Bush for Hurricane Katrina. Some Republicans in turn blamed Democrats. Pat Robertson moved up the food chain and fingered God, saying God possibly allowed the disaster in response to America’s abortion policy. Meanwhile people suffered. And none of this blaming deterred the hurricane that wrecked Haiti.

As I said above, this blame game is not new. And God receives most of it. Or rather, we blame bad people–so called (such as George Bush or Democrats or whomever the blamer sees as sinful) for making God (or the gods, or the scientific equivalent) angry.

Pliny, a seventeen or eighteen year-old Roman citizen, who witnessed Mount Vesuvius explode and devour Pompeii and all her people, including his uncle, wrote, “Many raised their hands to the gods, and even more believed that there were no gods any longer and that this was the one last unending night for the world.”

This assigning of guilt was the response Job’s three friends had to his suffering as well.

Bildad actually has the gall to say, “When your children sinned against him [God], he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.”

Can you imagine saying such a calloused thing to a man who just had lost seven of his children to murder? Unfortunately people often do, maybe not so boldly. Our propensity for blame is as calloused and continues the destruction of the disaster . Because what blame really does is distance us from the suffering. If we can assign fault, maybe we will escape the next go round of disaster or at least we don’t have to feel what those suffering are feeling.

But Job does not flinch or fire back: “Indeed, I know that this is true,” he replies. Humans are sinful and we cause a great deal of our own suffering. We are greedy and rob and steal and lie. There is plenty of guilt to go round.

“But how can a mortal be righteous before God?” Job counters. “He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble.”

This is not Job blaming, but rather admitting that we often deserve disaster and God has the right to visit it on us.

Somehow, however, Job knows there is more to his suffering, and suffering in general, than simple cause and effect. Job has seen good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. He understands that sometimes the good things that happen to bad people may not really turn out to be that good. And likewise the bad things that happen to good people may not end bad.

Job realizes better than the blamers that there is a mystery in suffering: the holy and beautiful and the terrible and painful twisting and turning together like a fine rope. Job doesn’t want to blame God, or himself, for his suffering. Nor does he even seem to want to end it. Job simply wants to talk to God about it.

This is honesty, authenticity, and it opens the doors to heaven. Blame is dishonest, even if someone appears responsible. I am not arguing against taking personal or corporate responsibility for our faults. Rather finding fault in others is a dodge that we hope lets us, the blamers, off the hook to find and give real hope in suffering.

In the end, God gives Job his audience because Job has looked beneath the surface and is willing to go deeper for answers, including accepting responsibility.

“My ears have heard you but now my eyes have seen you,” Job tells God. Here Job may be describing that illusive movement of truth from the head to the heart. He gets it, we might say. Whatever this phrase means, Job seems to have moved to a profound understanding of God, himself, and life. Had he stayed in the shallow waters of blame I believe he would have never drowned in the deep truth and beauty of God’s purpose for his unimaginable suffering. And neither will we.

  1. What did these reading say to you?
  2. Have you ever asked for an audience with God the way Job did?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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