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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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Is God a Control Freak?

By Eugene C. Scott

There have been times when life has been completely out of control. And there seemed nothing anyone could do to change it, fix it, or stop it.

Even God.

It was as if my life were a passenger jet first wobbling, then looping and finally plummeting out of control. But before it hits the ground I bust into the cockpit only to discover God chatting it up with the co-pilot (and no, contrary the popular bumper-sticker, I am not God’s co-pilot and neither are you), while He is also texting and updating His status on Facebook. In the meantime my life is heading down nose first.

“Who’s in control here?” I shout. “Don’t You know You’re not supposed to text and drive? Grab the wheel. Get a grip!” God simply smiles and shrugs and goes back to texting.

People who believe in God love to talk about God being in control. By this we usually mean that we believe God can and should keep most–if not all–evil, bad, or even slightly uncomfortable situations from befalling us.

Given life’s raft of tornadoes, cancers, marriage break-ups and daily disappointments, it doesn’t seem that God has the same agenda. Is God is in control of this wildly tilting planet of ours? This discontinuity between believing in a loving God and living in an unpredictable world is the genesis of the question “how could a loving God allow (insert painful, devastating life circumstance here)?”

Most of us–even those who don’t really believe in God–understand that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Being should be able to prevent the personal and global problems of the world.

Yet life does not reflect any such controlling God. Not mine anyway. To me God seems to be anything but in control. But it’s not just me–or you. Even the Bible seems confused on the issue of God being in control. God did not stop the first two of us from making a bad choice. Then–like dominoes–character after biblical hero stumbles and falls: Abraham, Jacob, Saul, David, Judas, Peter and Paul to name the biggies.

Consider the story of Joseph. God gives him a big dream and then lets his brothers nearly murder him and finally sell him. Israel ends up in slavery for four hundred years. Moses tries defending some poor Hebrew slave and is cast into the desert for another forty years. Yes, Moses eventually sets his people free. But couldn’t God have prevented those tragedies? Wasn’t there a better way? Not according to God.

Or on a smaller scale, couldn’t God have kept my father or mother in this world just a little longer? In Navy terms, God doesn’t run a very tight ship. This pain and struggle that often permeates our lives leaves us a choice. We must believe God is in control and we have done something for which God has removed his controlling hand and let us swing in the wind, as Job’s friends claimed. Or to cease to believe in God, as C.S Lewis once did and so many others have.

Or to rethink how God and control interact.

Love requires freedom. Control kills love’s response. I have complete power over a toy remote control car. Not so a kitten. I can make the car turn left, right, back up, stop. But I can never win love from it. A kitten, however, listens to me not. It runs free and ignores anything I say or do except the opening of a can of cat food. But I can win love from that . . . well maybe using a cat was a bad example but you get what I mean.

A world in which love exists, much less thrives, must favor love and danger over control and safety. Therefore, God, unlike us, seems to eschew control.

If God is not in control, who is? Or is God simply a wimp?

God is no wimp. And God is indeed sovereign. Surprisingly so. In God’s surprising sovereignty prevention of pain gives way to redemption of pain.

In 1990 I was offered my first ordained pastoral position, associate pastor to families in a large church in Bloomington, IL. Dee Dee, my wife, and I prayed, sought advice, studied, debated and decided to accept the position. We moved, lock stock and two young children. A mere two years later spiritually, physically and emotionally broken I was ready to give up this dream of serving God in the pastorate and strap on my carpenter’s tool belt again. The church we went to serve was a broken, dying place. The senior pastor was on his umpteenth affair and the congregation took its pain and confusion out on anyone new and vulnerable: The Scott family.

What was God thinking? We asked for wisdom. God could have prevented the whole thing.

Instead God redeemed it.

In the middle of this came a phone call out of the blue. “I hear from a mutual friend you’re in a difficult church,” the pastor I had met at a wedding in Denver years ago said. For some reason I told this virtual stranger my story.

“Our senior pastor went through something very similar here as an associate pastor. Can he call you and talk to you about our need for an associate pastor to families?”

Almost two years to the day after we moved to Bloomington, we were on our way to Tulsa, OK. We spent almost nine years serving at Kirk of the Hills. Some with equal pain to Bloomington.

But Dee Dee and I return to Tulsa often. Our youngest daughter, Emmy, was born there.  Our oldest daughter, Katie, son-in-law, Michael and two beautiful grandchildren still live there. You see Katie married Michael, a boy who came to love Jesus and my daughter in the Kirk of the Hills youth group.

Redemption indeed. God could have prevented the pain of Bloomington. But he chose a better story! A story of taking our pain and turning it into something more beautiful than any Van Gough, Remington, sunset or seascape.

God is no control freak. I love Him for that.

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Are Books About to Become Extinct?

By Eugene C. Scott

I have thousands of good friends. Friends not just acquaintances. People who have spoken into my deepest fears and hopes, people I have shared untold hours with. They have asked and answered questions, frustrated me, left me yearning for more, angered me, comforted me, challenged, and have always been only an arms length away. None of these unusual friends have ever met me, however, nor I them. Still they have walked with me down every path of my life.

I’m not talking about my covey of life-long friends, who are thicker than blood, who also fit the above description. And no, I’m not referring to my Facebook friend count nor people in church, though they are friends too. These are friends some would not count or–possibly–even notice in their own lives. But they are there. And they have so much to say.

One of these friends, one of my best gave me great pleasure–and insight into my own family of origin–by telling me a story about a 1960s tragedy—a murder—that rocked a Minnesota family and brought one brother to his knees and the other to an understanding about the true nature of faith. Through that story, I was transported back to my childhood and warm memories of my family, before it was broken, and how my own loss started me on a journey of faith.

Another less poetic friend shared theology with me that challenged (oh how I prefer avoiding challenges to my beliefs) me and gave me a refreshed relationship with Jesus and a new view of heaven and earth.

An older friend mesmerized me with a series of jokes, puns, and one-liners retelling his life story. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt and I found myself wishing I didn’t take life so seriously; and for a moment I didn’t.

I also had a young friend who shared with me his struggles and victories while growing up without a father. I saw my own struggle in his–my father died when I was eleven. He too had fantasy father figures. His were Bill Cosby from “The Cosby Show” and an older hippy kid who befriended him. Mine was my older sister’s boyfriend. We arrived at a school father/son event in his souped-up GTO. I knew I was the coolest kid there until I realized this guy was not my dad no matter how hard I wished he was. My friend’s story defined my story. Though many men could influence, help, mentor, and love us fatherless kids, no one could replace our real fathers, except maybe God.

There are many more of these friends I could share with you. Strangely none I have seen face to face, however.

As you may have guessed, these friends are all books. The Minnesota family is Leif Enger’s invention in his outstanding novel, Peace Like a River. Enger’s storytelling and prose were so simple and beautiful I have read this novel half a dozen times.

Dallas Willard wrote one of the freshest, most challenging, accessible theologies called The Divine Conspiracy. It describes God’s desire, God’s conspiracy to let us know him and to live life beyond our human constraints. I go back to it again and again and discover new layers each time.

The next friend mentioned above is I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This! an autobiography by my favorite comedian, Bob Newhart. I read it in two days and still retell his jokes to whoever will listen.

Next Donald Miller’s delightful books are each funny and light, true, and flawed, real, yet able to slip under the skin and pierce one’s heart. Miller’s fourth book To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father is a slim book—197 pages—each page of which showed me my past and future vistas through viewing Miller’s life.

Some suggest my friends, books, should be placed on the endangered species list. Reading is declining, ebooks may bury books with bindings. Movies and TV have also dug the grave deeper. These good friends of mine are on life support. Or are they?

I look at my library of friends, lined neatly on the shelves, or not, so diverse and beautiful, and full of life and wisdom–and even foolishness–and I grieve. Their loss, if it comes, will be great. To me people who do not read books (or God forbid, cannot!) are like people who have seldom or never tasted chocolate or ice cream. They are missing something delicious.

Or more accurately they are missing a rich interaction no other medium can offer, daily conversations with people from all over the world and all through time that will comfort and challenge while also delivering them on great flights of fancy. I have read a piece of one book or another daily, missing only a few under duress, for nearly twenty-eight years. I can’t imagine life without books.

In 1953 Ray Bradbury wrote a science fiction titled Fahrenheit 451 in which the government begins to burn books because they deem them dangerous. But like most other beautiful, important things in our lives, nothing so drastic or romantic will spell the demise of books. If books die it will be while we are not looking. Their loss will come at the hands of inattention.

There is hope. Brabury’s novel recounts a secret society that covenants to save their favorite books. Each person participates by memorizing a book and in essence becoming the book. The book through its host, so to speak, comes to life. Bradbury’s idea is not far-fetched because story–factual or fictional–is the life blood we readers share with books. Story is a part of most–if not all–of our lives. Our very lives are stories, unbound, living books. Therefore, the soul of a book, story will live on, as it did before books and as it will after.

And I for one–no matter whether others read or what technology comes–will not easily let go of my many friends.

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How to Be a Revolution: Read Your Bible

By Eugene C. Scott
Revolution! Facebook–and Twitter even–is being given partial credit for the overthrow of dictator Hasni Mubarak in Egypt. Protesters logged on to Facebook to share information and to gain an unfettered audience for their cause. Words–freely and virally disseminated–drove the Egyptian revolution. Thus informed and motivated, thousands of brave men and women stepped out of the virtual world and into the real one to face bullets, rocks, sticks, imprisonment and possibly death in order to gain freedom. We salute them and pray freedom takes root and grows as wild as weeds.

But just as Al Gore did not invent the Internet, so the Internet did not invent freedom of thought and expression. As seismic as its impact has been, the world wide web is simply the latest version–Freedom.4.0 so to speak–in a long line of word weapons we have wielded in the fight for freedom.

 

Original case for the 1611 Bible

Ironically 2011 is the 400th anniversary of one of human history’s greatest triumphs of the written word in our continuing battle for freedom. Similar to how we witnessed the successful end of the Egyptian protests (we hope and pray), people in the year 1611 saw the end of a violent 200 year revolution. With words, and fierce faith and determination, the protestors finally triumphed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before that–some two thousand years ago–Jesus, not the written word but the living Word, started a revolution in another time of severe economic, political, and religious oppression delivering us freedom never before imagined. This freedom promised not the mere overthrow of a despot dictator or corrupt system but rather the release of our bodies, minds and spirits from the tyranny of sin and corruption. We no longer had to cower to our own fears, cruelties, hates, frailties, and failures. Nor those of others.  Jesus proclaimed the truth would set us free.

What truth? That his life, death, and resurrection freed us from guilt, fear and separation from our Creator. Lean not on a ruler, president, government, religious system, or philosophy for what you need. These are blank-eyed idols. Dead. Jesus said. Then Jesus even conquered that ultimate tyrant: death.

In words inspired by God himself, Jesus’ followers wrote down the story and truth of Jesus’ revolution. Slowly–but just as virally as if the very air carried the story–the Word spread. First slaves, women and children learned they were valued and free in Christ. Boldly they struck out to live new lives. Then others bravely joined in. Often facing ridicule, torture, and death for their beliefs. Eventually even kings, dictators, and governments bent their knees to Christ the different kind of king. The good news of freedom in Christ conquered much of the world. Even the Roman Empire was reborn, this time with a soul.

Then slow tragedy struck. The Word, the story loved and lived by so many, was captured by the elite. Written in Latin, a language common folk no longer spoke, this great story of freedom disappeared from the streets and alleys and kitchens and living rooms and squares and markets of life. With the written Word locked in monasteries, cellars, libraries, studies, and castles, freedom vanished. The truth of Jesus‘ kind of freedom became a mere shadow of itself, like a wonderful childhood story heard before the fire but now only vaguely remembered and smiled at. Worse yet, the elite added untrue elements to the story. With their elite and twisted knowledge and power, these corrupt ones sucked freedom, faith, belief, truth, and life from their people like early versions of J.K. Rowling’s dementors.

But God kept for himself a remnant, a faithful few who read God’s amazing story in Latin and Greek and Hebrew and saw the truth shining from its pages like a search light in a dark sky. Then for two hundred years this remnant, men–and probably women too but unfortunately history did not record them–with names like Wycliffe, Huss, Gutenberg, Erasmus, Tyndale, Luther, Knox, Calvin, and Cranmer began to love and live Jesus’ original story again. Not only that, they began to retell it–translate and publish it–in the language of the people: common German, French, and finally English. Many died for this. Burned at the stake, tortured, shunned, hated. But they kept protesting, fighting.

Then in 1611 God drew all the work and struggle into one beautiful Book. That was the year King James authorized the publishing of Jesus’ revolutionary story in common, though beautiful and poetic, English. Finally, those translating and publishing this scared story would not be held in contempt or killed for making it available to the common people. Freedom was reborn.

Today we–and even the Muslim Egyptian protestors–are children of those brave revolutionaries. The historical strings that tie us to these ancient protestors (today called Protestants) have been lost, cut, and often purposefully obscured. But their God given love for Jesus and his truth about freedom drove them to fight against religious and political oppression. We bask in their work. Much of our belief in freedom of speech and our obsession with free thinking, learning, and expressing our beliefs and ideas is rooted in the story of Jesus–who spoke out against religious oppression long ago–and in the story of those who followed him and believed that every person should have access to this book of truth.

Today we call that book the Bible. Four hundred years ago this year, the Authorized King James version of the Bible was first published. Since then, it is the “most published book in the world . . the only book with one billion copies in print.” The King James Bible, along with its predecessors and descendants is a book of revolution: personal, national and international.

There is probably a copy of it, looking deceptively quaint, hidden somewhere in your house. Happy four hundredth birthday King James! Break out the Book and celebrate.

Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog.  If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO

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Would The Apostle Paul Have Used Facebook?

What would the Apostle Paul have thought of Facebook?

The Apostle Paul Writing His Facebook Status by Rembrandt

Would he, like some, call Facebook the Devil in disguise? Or would he, like some 500 million others today, log in, change his status, and check in on his friends?

Some might say the ancient theologian was far too serious for such frivolity.

But I’m not sure.

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)

Jeremiah 51:54-52:34

Titus 3:1-15

Psalm 100:1-5

Proverbs 26:18-19

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Proverbs 26:18-19: Some might interpret this proverb as a slam against humor. Some see God, faith, the Bible, and life as so serious there is no place for joking. That kind of thinking is what made Mark Twain, the man with a fabulous sense of humor, think twice about going to heaven. He worried playing the same tune on a harp might be a tad boring.

We do our God no favors denying him a sense of humor. Thus, this proverb is not a prohibition against joking, but rather against using humor to cover up our true ideas or feelings.

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

I believe the Apostle Paul would have embraced social media such as Facebook (though probably with a wise, critical eye) because he was an innovator, especially when it came to communicating the truth of Jesus Christ.

Not many people could read or write in Paul’s day, and letters were exchanged mainly between educated government officials, yet Paul wrote personal letters to his friends and common everyday folk (thirteen that we know of including Titus and Timothy). Some say that personal letter writing as we know it today (or used to before email and Facebook) did not really gain ground until about 1500AD. Paul was well before his time. Surely he would have seen this technology as a way to talk about Jesus.

Further, I believe Paul would have logged on because he valued relationships. Paul is famous for his theology. But above all he valued people and friendships.

Paul tells his friends in Thessolinica, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” And he greets, names as friends, affectionately mentions, and encourages over 80 people by name in his letters. There are many others he does not name. In Titus he mentions Artemus, Tychicus, Zenas, and Apollos. Not one New Testament letter of Paul’s does not contain a warm personal greeting to some person or group. Paul’s Facebook friend list would have been almost as long as any teenage girl’s.

Like his mentor and master, Jesus, Paul cared about people. He cared about their health, families, faith, relationships, beliefs, work, theology, ideas, politics, sex lives, kids, marriages, and, especially, their eternal destinies. And he loved them so deeply he suffered physical pain and persecution to be with them. He traveled miles, wrote difficult letters, prayed, argued, taught, wept, and was imprisoned for their sake and the gospel.

Despite our modern ability to connect, many people are lonely. A recent study reported 67% of Americans are spending less time with friends than ever. And for us within the church, whom Jesus commanded to love one another, we often value doctrine and structures and systems and budgets and buildings over relationships. This must break our relational God’s heart.

I have a new friend I met through email who wrote that, as important as doctrine is, he believes right doctrine follows right relationships. I agree. For that matter, Jesus seemed to believe that love was our first doctrinal calling. Paul certainly held fast to the cord of truth. But he seldom strangled strangers with it. Rather he laid it out within the loving friendships he developed.

As the modern saying goes, “Would you rather be right or be in relationship?”

My answer, “I’d rather be in right relationships.”

Would Paul have used Facebook? Though I asked the question, I’m not sure it really matters. I just asked it to focus on this fact: Paul never forgot how important relationships were. So, where Facebook would have fostered them, he would have logged on. And where Facebook hindered knowing and loving the people God placed in his life, he may have said, “Facebook is the devil in disguise.”

1. Which passage spoke most to you?

2. What did the four have in common?

3. What social networks do you use?

4. Do they deepen or distance you from relationships?

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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What Our Respectable (And Not-So-Respectable) Addictions Say About Us

The Japanese call it karoshi–“death by overwork”– and it’s estimated to cause 1,000 deaths in Japan per year, nearly 5% of that country’s stroke and heart attack deaths in employees under age 60 according to WebMD. Other “respectable” addictions include the dependence on pain killers, television, food, computers, technology, video games, FaceBook, Twitter, spending, even exercise.

But whether respectable or not, our addictions point to a deeper issue that has plagued humanity for thousands of years.

Please join us as we discuss what our respectable additions say about us in our daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Jeremiah 10:1-11:23
Colossians 3:18-4:18
Psalm 78:56-72
Proverbs 24:28-29

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Jeremiah 10:1-11:23. Over and over we read in the prophetic books about the futility of worshipping idols. “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good” (Jeremiah 10:5). Our modern-day idols fare little better (more on that just below).

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: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

An overarching theme in the Old Testament prophetic books is God’s criticism of Israel’s idolatry. In fact, in Rule #1 of the 10 Commandments God says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). God wasn’t content with any competitors for the affection of his people. Most amazing to me is that the Israelites in Moses’ day witnessed some pretty awesome acts of God:

  • They watched Egypt suffer through nine plagues while none of them affected the Israelites.
  • Through Moses, God parted the Red Sea and the people crossed on dry land.
  • God provided manna and quail for the Israelites to eat and water to drink in the middle of the desert.
  • A cloud by day and a fire by night led them across the wilderness.

Yet while Moses received the Law from God on Mt. Sinai, the people were throwing a raucous party replete with orgies and idol worship. So, God waited for an entire generation to die in the wilderness before starting over with his people as they entered the Promised Land.

Nevertheless, the people struggled with idols. Over and over again.

Fast forward 800 years to Jeremiah’s day and the same problem persisted. Israel continued to place their trust in idols carved from wood and stone.

So what ever happened to idolatry?

It exchanged objects of worship but the practices remain the same even to this day. It seems to me that the core of idol worship consists of anything that prevents us from completely relying on God.

It’s no mistake that Paul reminded his Colossian readers that their true employer was Jesus (Colossians 3:23–24). Our paycheck may come through our employer, but God is our ultimate provider.

But when I think about it, isn’t that what an addiction is?

Years ago, the Israelites offered child sacrifices to brutal gods like Molech in order to manipulate their god into granting their request. Today, we sacrifice our families for our jobs and a bigger income (the idol that tempts me most). Instead of engaging in a quick fling with a temple prostitute, we try to stuff the God-shaped hole in our hearts with addictive behavior. Or, we throw an extra dollar or two (or Rand, for our South African friends) into the offering in hopes that God will multiply it and make us rich.

Yet all of these practices betray the central problem: we don’t trust that God is enough. Our addictions try to convince us that God isn’t enough, that other alternatives exist.

The New Testament word for relying on God is faith—and without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Do you want to be a man or woman of faith? Do you want to eliminate the idols from your life? Then take inventory of anything that prevents you from completely relying on God.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In your opinion, what modern-day idols vie for people’s allegiance?
  3. What modern-day idols vie for YOUR allegiance?
  4. To what extent is God more than enough for you?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Is Your FaceBook Friend Really Your Friend?

As of this morning I have 631 FaceBook friends. But whenever I start feeling cocky about the number of people who consider me their friend, I just click on my daughter Anna’s FaceBook page. She has 942 friends. One very outgoing friend’s FaceBook page says she has 1,537!

Oddly enough, some of my FaceBook “friends” really aren’t my friends at all. We never talk, email, or hang out. Some I haven’t seen in 30 years. In fact, sometimes I wonder if FaceBook actually contributes to the disintegration of friendships.

Please join us in today’s conversation as we look at this closer.

A WORD OF CONGRATULATIONS

We recently reached the 2/3 mark in reading through the Bible in a year. Congratulations!

TODAY’S READING

Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7
Psalm 47:1-9
Proverbs 22:16

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12. Solomon must have been feeling  a little morose while writing Ecclesiastes. After exposing the meaninglessness of riches, poverty, and power, he reflects, “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God” (5:19). Finding contentment with our place in life is truly a gift of God. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:6. Seems to me that learning to enjoy the life God has given is may be a spiritual discipline.

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7. Paul seems to take a tangent in 6:14-7:1 as he discusses being yoked together with unbelievers. The context tells us he was referring to idol worship. Living this out in our everyday lives, however, is tricky. What does it mean to be unequally yoked? The yoke, obviously, refers to a set of oxen who pull a wagon or plow, but God doesn’t require us to work separately from unbelievers. It seems to me that the greater the level of intimacy, the more we need to be aware that hitching a yoke with an unbeliever may take us in conflicting directions.

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: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

What constitutes a friend?

In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Solomon offers an important argument for friendship and community:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (verses 9-10)

While reading this passage, it struck me that technology seems to work against community and relationships. We sit behind a computer and communicate through FaceBook. We send text messages on our cell phone because we don’t want to get bogged down in conversations. My daughters rarely talk on the phone with their friends because they prefer texting. “Talking on the cell phone is for old people” one of my 13-year-olds told me the other day.

Despite state-of-the-art technology and communications, it seems we’re becoming increasingly isolated. When we sit down to dinner, I’m forced to demand that my daughters set aside their cell phone so they won’t text the whole time. When I stood in line at the grocery store last night, a man in front of me was talking on his cell phone while paying for his items. He seemed oblivious to everyone around him.

Now please understand, I’m not against technology. I love techie gadgets. But texting, emailing, and cell phone calls don’t constitute a relationship. Almost every week, Eugene and I tell our church that “relationships are sacred.” Relationships, though, are best built in person. One-on-one conversations. Doing things together. Sharing our hearts with one another. Only then can we help the other person up.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How do you find contentment?
  3. To what extent do you enjoy the life God has given you? What prevents you from enjoying it? Why do you allow it to distract you?
  4. How many friends do you really have? What defines it as a friendship?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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