Moving…

move

No I am not moving from Fresh Read, nor from the city of Madison.  We have moved to re-size our living space and finances. What that means is that some of the extras in life, such as a blog, have gotten neglected.  Alas, we are moved, mostly, but there are boxes, many boxes, too many boxes.

I also think I lost some weight.  I started serious packing in May and serious unpacking continues in August.

but as Arnold said, “I’ll be back,”

Commitment and Guilt – those reading plans

shipwreck.2

New Years.

Yes it seems like a good idea to make a great plan.

Read through the Bible in a year.  However, we tend to shipwreck somewhere between Leviticus and Numbers.

I have a plan to read a chapter of the New Testament and a Psalm in my Spanish/English Bible.

Yet I have already fallen off the wagon.

Alas, I have experience with commitment and guilt.

Here is my advice

  • Avoid over eager plans.
  • Avoid plans with boxes to check off.  All those un-checks stare ate your with outstretched fingers of accusation. Who needs it.  Just read the next chapter whenever you do get to it.
  • The Sabbath is God’s idea, so build in some days without Bible Reading work in it.
  • Remember the point is to learn and internalize.
  • If you are going to try to read the whole Bible, try a plan that mixes OT and NT and a Psalm each day is nice.
  • Reading a genealogy is usually a matter of skimming (but not always as Matthew 1 attests).
  • Reading a parable or proverbs requires that you stop reading and think it over.
  • You did not fail if you fell a few chapters short; think of what you did read.
  • Next year will come soon enough.

New Year – 2015

scribe.2Yep, there will be another year of Blogging, deo volente. Here are some topics

  • Matthew part 2, we will resume a series in Matthew in January, picking up the story in chapter 14.
  • Family Life in the Bible – a series of messages from Mothers Day to Fathers Day.
  • Some things on church unity and diversity as Bethany is becoming a more focused Multi-Lingual ministry incubator in 2015.
  • Various serendipitous topics.

Thanks for checking in.

Fall 2014 topics for Fresh Read

wileerunningI have been running like a cartoon character recently.  You know the scene, where the legs are going but the person is stationary. Yet, at last I came up with a fall schedule for sermons and classes. So, of course, Fresh Read topics will be tied to these and whatever idea falls out of the tree to hit me on the head.

Delivering the Good News – how the speeches in Acts demonstrate speaking the gospel to different kinds of people, from people of faith, to polytheists.

Science and Faith – I plan to do three weeks of topics on how Christians have responded to Darwin in particular, look at the responses of opposition, accommodation and dialogue. In the last I want to treat B. B. Warfield as the Theologian of the Year.  He engaged Darwin in correspondence – interesting for the “Father of Inerrancy”.

Finances – the Bible does not give a full fledged financial plan (despite some books to the contrary) but it does speak about finances and material things, so we will talk about giving, generosity, simplicity and planning. In one case I set the
Sermon on the Mount (chapter 6) beside Proverbs (chapter 6) and say ,”what gives?”

A Slow Train Coming – I want to explore a few texts that were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus – mostly from the account in Matthew’s gospel.

Then after all this, we return to Matthew part 2, from Chapter 15 to the end.

I am also teaching a class at Christian Life College on Isaiah.

Do You Have a Favorite Verse?

snip.logo.redWe gave a survey to the congregation to find out their favorite verses in order to construct a summer sermon series.  There was quite a range of passages. I will be working on these in June, July and August.

I have attached a document with all of the suggestions here – Favorite Verses.

I’d like to know if the readers of Fresh Read have favorites.  It might be a good source of material for the blog.   I have often found that it is worthwhile to study what we think we are most familiar with, and we discover how little we know.

First on the list is Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble
.

This was the text at the first funeral I presided over as a pastoral intern.  The man who died was not a regular part of the Chicago congregation, but received discreet financial assistance from time to time.  I have learned by talking to other pastors, that in addition to the official church funds for benevolence, there is often an unofficial case load of people who just can’t quite make it at times on their limited incomes.

Sometimes God’s ever present help comes through his people, or strangers.

 

Milestones – 20 and 8

yahara.1012

We arrived on Good Friday, April 1, 1994 to take up the position of Pastor at Bethany Evangelical Free Church. Today marks 20 years in the same place.

Observations:

  • the 20 years have been different – no two repeated.
  • We talked about looking more like the neighborhood, so we are now multicultural (with four language groups partnering at this location) but we have not really see that many from the Isthmus community make a connection here.
  • I once said that I thought the church could grow in this location to about 200.  That is roughly the number of active participants of the three congregations here now (Bethany English and Lao Fellowship, Nueva Vida and Greater Madison Chinese EFC)
  • There have been major trends passing by in the ministry world:  “seeker driven” was in its heyday, now “missional” is.  We are a bit ahead of the curve with ‘chaos theory ministry.”
  • Oh yes, the internet was kind of showing up to the non-geek crowd – I remember the hubbub over Windows 95.
  • I take a much more literary approach to Biblical study than I did – and will not be going back.

About 8 years ago I started this blog.  The name came to me in the shower.  I hoped to keep the Jesus Junk and in-house churchy talk to a minimum and provide a place where people who are curious about the bible will want to explore.  It has turned out to also keep on conversations with folks I have known over the years.  Many of my posts are test runs for sermon or class ideas.

  • The NIV changed to the New NIV. I use it but I don’t like it much.
  • The ESV is a nice study text, but I am not in love with it either.
  • The ESV Literary Bible is great, except for sepia toned small print – what were they thinking?
  • Something like 55,000 people have visited the site, but more see it through Facebook.  That is about 10 times the size of the town I grew up in.  But maybe Port Orchard made multiple visits.
  • Adding pictures doubles the readership of a blog
  • The most read post is still “A visit to the ant hill” based on Proverbs 6:6.

As far as I know I will continue with Bethany and Fresh Read…but that is up to the Boss.

Two Books

Yahara River

 

Fresh Read is about reading the Biblical Text freshly, looking and listening to take in what the text is saying.  I have recently started Two Book Retreats which has as its goal to explore the book of nature and the book of scripture through various art forms.  So if you are interested in that check out the web site and the Facebook Page

We are currently in the middle of a watercolor class that explores the Yahara river that runs along just across the street from my office.  The Text we will explore this week is Psalm 19.  This psalm transitions from the book of nature to the book of scripture and then to the response to the Lord by the psalmist.

Psalm 19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

To the leader. A Psalm of David.

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Diced & Defined or Read & Received – Revelation

I admit it.  those charts about Revelation leave me cold.  Those, “what exactly is this?’ and “how do these fit together on a time line?” questions are unanswerable.  If this was that John meant to tell us, he did not do a good job.  Just pick up 3 commetators at random and read from any part of Revelation and see that they will not agree.

Is there something wrong with the Dice & Define approach.  That is, where we dice up the book into its various parts and then set out to define (Is that Nero, Domitian or the Devil?) each part.

The Blessing is for Reading and Receiving this book (1:3).  There is only one possible place where there is some kind of puzzle – after speaking of “666” it says, “let the reader understand.” (Rev. 13:18).  Again, lots of luck with finding 3 commentators that agree on the meaning of that.  I am quite sure that having a license plate with 666 or finding it in your address will not be the issue.

Better to read Revelation as a whole and receive the charge it contains: persevere, be on watch for the deception of evil, embrace the future victory, more is going on that what we see, Christ is Lord, make sure you are in “the Lambs book of life.”  Evil has a repetitive quality, the bad guy might be a little of Nero and a lot of Anti Christ, but they share the same outline and methods.

Read it out loud. Repeat as necessary.

Read Freshly or Read Dogmatically?

The book of Revelation is the perfect example of why I titled this blog “Fresh Read”.  It is a book of strange images, it has a long history of highly disputed interpretations.  So we have a choice.

We can come to the book having decided what we think about “the end times” and try to fit the bits and pieces of Revelation into our dogmatic framework.  To be fair, it is a fair principle of scripture, to compare scripture to scripture.  So we place the saying of Jesus about “hating” our mothers and fathers next to the 5th Commandment to Honor our Fathers and Mothers.  This keeps us from falling overboard into some cult like interpretation.

However, when we attempt to fit the scriptures into our dogmatic framework, we are trying to fit the text into our pre-determined filing system.  This places our dogma, or filing system, above the scriptures.

At the start of books on Revelation, one can get lost in a sea of history and controversy.  The whole thing makes me feel like one of the survivors in the painting by Géricault.

Another approach is to focus more on a reading of the text, comparing English translations, or to the Greek if you can, and noticing the internal structure and flow of the work.  Keep observing, and them observe some more before you start to try to formulate a structure or a framework.  Become familiar with the text before you consult other observers (these are the commentaries and expositors).  Only then will you be anywhere near able to learn from and dispute with these literary friends.

For example, in reading Revelation 4, the scene of the adoration of the Almighty in Heaven, i found that the verse :

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!   (4:8)

introduces three concepts of God that are each repeated three times – Holiness (this one is obvious), Might (“almighty” and in following verses “seated on the throne”, and Eternity (was, is, is to come; lives forever and ever (2 times)).  There are other “3s”: God is  worthy of “glory, honor and power”  because he “created…they existed…were created..”  (all from Revelation 4:8-11

I don’t know what that means, but it had me singing  they hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” in my back yard patio where I was reading under the bright and warm sun.

Reading through dogma can lead to confusion, reading, just reading, leads, occasionally, to worship.