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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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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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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).

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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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