Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The running continues...

I went for a shorter run today, with plans to do some strength training afterward.  Today's run, a 2-miler, was quick and relatively easy.  I breezed through it in 16ish minutes (it was probably a little less than two miles).  I did not cramp up and my legs did not get tired.  I returned home and went on with some strength exercises and that was it.

In reflecting on it just now, I realized that I prefer the longer runs.  I prefer the ones when I get exhausted, cramped up, legs tired, and wanting to quit.  I prefer the longer time, as opposed to 'blink' and it is over.  Seems crazy, right?  It probably is, but let me explain.

Last Sunday I went for a run.  It was probably my hardest one yet, physically and mentally.  The day was dreary and I was not in the mood.  I did not want to go, but I made myself anyway.  And to make matters worse (or so it seemed) I left my iPod at home (to help me get used to its absence for the upcoming 5K).  So out I went, and I pushed myself, hard.  I kept up my pace, not letting myself slow down like last time.  I even jogged in place at the stoplights.  I did not want to stop to walk unless I absolutely had to.

It all actually turned out quite well, but to one thing I must attribute my improvement and success.  The difference in that particular run was that I tried to be very conscious of God and the fact that he was with me.  I prayed (when I was not distracted).  And when I got distracted by thoughts of slowing down or walking, I just started praising him, literally clapping up praises because whatever insufficiency I was feeling, God was still soooo awesome.  So the more tired I got, the more I praised him.  Knowing and acknowledging that he was there with me encouraged me.  Remembering and praising his goodness encouraged me.  It was awesome!

But it took the wasting of me to turn to him.  So I conclude:  I prefer longer runs, because the struggle points me back to God and the best way to make it through is to praise him.  I prefer longer runs because it empties me and fills me with him.  :)  What a wonderful thought!


So I got an account on  It is this cool thing where people can ask you questions and then you answer them.  I am actually surprised at how many questions I have gotten so far.  Since I have the question box on this site (and it does not do a good job of directing people where the answers will post) I decided to just answer the questions on the blog as well.  Even though only one person asked the question, it might be fun or helpful for others to see it.  I also would feel more free to give longer, more complete answers on here.  So without further ado...

What is your favorite song of all time?
Gosh...that is a hard one. After some thought, I will go with a very deep and theological answer - the song of praise the Church will sing for all eternity. Something like the song in Revelation 4...and something like this:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ever thought about what it takes to get to a spiritual high?

I went for a run the other day (as I often do).  I was running up a bridge and was thinking about how it takes a lot of hard work to get up the bridge, yet going down always feels so easy.  Somehow my brain made a similarity to the spiritual life.

In the Christian life we sometimes identify certain events or periods as "spiritual highs".  These are times when we feel close to God.  We can hear him clearly and seem to just "do the right things".  We are living the way we were meant to and loving it.  It is a time like that retreat you went to as a youth.  For the entire weekend you escaped the spiritual oppression from the world.  Those pressures and distractions were minuscule.  Everybody around you was trying to grow in their faith and relationship with Jesus.  It was a rich environment for you to clear your head and get things straight.  You grew in your faith and maybe even felt like God was giving you direction for part of your life.  You were on top of the spiritual world and felt like nothing could get you down.

But remember a few weeks after that, when you really messed up with your parents.  And the direction God gave you was not so clear anymore - did he really tell you to do that?  The world had crept back in and fogged up your sights once again.  You no longer felt so close to God and your relationship with him was just...well...hard.

So what does all this have to do with running up and down a bridge?

As I was running up that bridge I thought, "the top is like a spiritual high."  A second later I thought, "but it takes so much effort to get to the top, and it is so easy to run down the bridge."  And there it was.

It takes a lot of effort to get to a spiritual high.  It may take planning, rescheduling, facing persecution, traveling, isolation - any number of things.  It is hard work and tiring, and sometimes you may feel like quitting even before you get to the top.

But the view is astounding!  Getting to the top is so rewarding.  That day I was runing, I saw a dolphin - how cool!  I could see boats, cars, buildings and all sorts of things for miles around.  It can be a great way to see the big picture, which often helps guide our plans and actions.  But the best part is just the experience of feeling like you are closer to God - it just seems more real.

Just beware.  Before I knew it, I had breezed down the bridge and once I hit the flat ground my feet felt heavy again - heavier than before.  Sometimes it does not take long to come down from a spiritual high - it is often so easy you do not notice you are descending...until you plateau.  Then it seems like a struggle, harder than before.  You may even have lots of doubts.  Did I really see that dolphin?  Was that boat really that close?  The big picture may become skewed and you may start to doubt the things you learned, what you heard God say, or the guidance you received.  Weeks or months later you may even find yourself wondering, "Did I really run that bridge?"

So work hard to get to the top and be attentive to the descent.  Record things during your spiritual highs so you can refute the doubts when they come.  (Just like this picture shows that I really was at the top.)
 Journals are a great way to record your thoughts and prayers, lessons you learned and what you felt like God was saying to you.

And one more thought.  I think ahead to how I want to keep ascending that bridge (and training for my 5K).  I may not have been able to run the entire way up the bridge the first time, but as I continue to train I will be able to run the entire ascent, it will get easier and I will be able to make regular visits to the top.  So maybe those principles transfer to the spiritual life as well, not necessarily that you will have spiritual highs more often, but that experiencing a closer relationship with God becomes more natural and regular.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

MPD like Israel's wanderings

I'm reading Deuteronomy. Could it be that ministry partner
development (MPD) is like this wandering in the wilderness? God is
certainly leading and frequently humbling me and others during this
process. I certainly feel that my faith and heart is being tested,
whether I will walk in his ways or my own.
It seems like it to me...just thought I would share.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Redemptive Thrust of Scripture

The following comes from a selected chapter assigned as a part of the Biblical interpretation class that I hope to take this summer.

When composing a lesson to teach or preach, there are two focuses/perspectives that can be taken: 1) fallen-condition focus (FCF) and 2) redemptive-historical focus (RHF).  The FCF takes the experiential perspective by focusing on Jesus as the remedy for our experience of the fall - sin, suffering, brokenness, etc.  In considering a passage of scripture it asks the question, "What aspect of the fallen condition of mankind does this passage address?"  Each passage reveals the ways that I, you, we, humanity need the grace of God.  The RHF takes the theological perspective by focusing on God's divine plan of redemption, assuming that God has a divine plan.  It asks each passage, "What aspect of the divine plan does this passage reveal?"  Every passage in every book focuses on Jesus by revealing some aspect his person and work.  Each book does this uniquely.  "These two methods keep us from preparing messages that contain true statements and good counsel but are ultimately sub-Christian because there is nothing of the Savior in them."

My thoughts and opinions
The most important thing to notice is that all of scripture points to Jesus, period!  Regardless of whether you are looking through red or green lenses, you still see Jesus; you just see him in a different light - by light of experience or theology.

As much as I like to ponder theology and learn more about it, my preferred perspective is the fallen-condition focus.  It is probably the teacher in me, because I want everyone I teach to feel the weight of their need for Jesus, so as to accept him gladly.  One of my favorite quotes says something like, "If they don't feel the weight of the problem, they won't care about the solution."  If people do not agree that they need something/someone like Jesus, then all our words will fall on deaf ears.  I want my audience to be captivated and convicted so that they are begging for Jesus' solution before I even finish.  It seems simple to me, but how can your audience not be attentive if you are talking about something they agree with and for which they crave solutions?  (I'll get off my soap box now.)

Another important consideration for the fallen-condition focus is what is meant by "fallen-condition".  This does not only refer to sin, but anything related to living in a fallen world - sin, suffering, and frustrated longings.  Suffering for example, may be experienced because of our own sin, someone else's sin, this sin-wrecked world (illness, death, natural disasters), persecution and Satanic/demonic oppression, or just plain ignorance.  So fallenness encompasses more than just sinfulness.

My questions
Nope, I liked it way too much to have questions.

Doriani, D. Getting the Message:  a Plan for Interpreting and Applying the Bible. (pp. 170-186) Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bible reading - part 3

(I finally finished this article on reading the Bible.)

Reading the Bible for Personal Application - Personal application of the Bible is a mystery.  The contents of the Bible was written in a different time to different people in different situations.  Essentially, we are reading someone else's mail.  Yet, the Bible still speaks to us.  Personal application can be expanded in the following ways.  First, consolidate what you already learned.  Chances are there are some passages that you listened to and connected with right away and thus they were, and may still be, very applicable to your life.  Passages like these are usually straightforward where you can easily plug in your life's details.  Secondly, look for those passages that are directly applicable.  These are usually more general scriptures, such as those found in the Psalms.  Finally, recognize that many passages are not direct for personal application, but tackling those passages to apply them personally can be very rewarding.

My thoughts and opinions
This was probably my least favorite part of this article.  Though there was one part that I will take with me as I move on.  One big advantage to digging into the less direct passages to apply them personally is that they provide a different perspective.  These passages take one's focus off one's self and places them on the bigger picture.  This decrease in focus on one's self may be just what one needs.  The Bible is all about God, and thus our lives should be too.  The Bible is not for our benefit but God's glory (albeit through changing us), so this refocusing perspective is crucial.

My questions
I guess I got nothin'.

Bible reading - part 2

Wow, I feel like I have just been overloaded with information!  I thought I had a good understanding of what it meant to read the Bible as literature, but WHOA was I wrong!  There is so much more that I never thought of and can/need to take into account when reading and interpreting the Bible.

Reading the Bible as Literature - There is a distinction that needs to be made between expository writing and literary writing.  The Bible is literature, with means rather than just informing and stating abstract thoughts (expository writing), it explains those abstract thoughts through stories of concrete human experiences (literary writing).  Authors do not write about characters, actions, and situations, but the use those to write about God, people and the world.  There is a form to this book of theology, and it is literature.  Thus, we must be able to understand the form in order to accurately interpret the theology of the Bible.  [Whoa!]  Taking all of this into account, there are then many things to consider - literary genres, literary subject matter (human experiences - which I have already mentioned), archetypes, motifs, stylistics, rhetoric, and artistry.  "The Bible is a literary book in which theology and history are usually embodied in literary forms."

Reading the Bible in Prayer and Communion with God - That we could commune with the creator God is unthinkable.  How is this possible?  Because God took the initiative to reconcile with us poor, ungrateful, backstabbers.  "The first thing to say about the Bible in relation to communion with God is that the message of how to be reconciled to God for the glory of God is the central message of the Bible."  That is where we must start.  But it does not end there.  Communion here is defined as "not merely learning about God but enjoying fellowship with God in the truth he reveals about himself."  The Bible is where God reveals himself, and therefore a place of communion.  We pray to the Father, by the work of Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer encompasses confession, praise, thanks, requests, and others.  God reveals himself in words through the Bible and prayer is our response to God using words (as opposed to responding through actions).  The Bible not only reveals God, but gives us instruction, examples and encouragement about prayer.  The Word allows us to pray, helps us to pray, and gives us our prayer - that God would be glorified and that others would be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

My thoughts and opinions
In regard to prayer and communion with God, not as many things were new or impactful.  Though a couple things stood out.  "When we pray for God to do what only he can do, he alone gets the glory while we get the joy."  What a sweet deal!  We pray, God does the work, and we get to partake in the benefits of his glorification.  Wow, how awesome is that!  I just cannot get over that we get so much despite our undeserving of it.  But then again, it is even there where he is glorified and we are satisfied.  Huh, wonderful.  :)
"We speak to God the Father, on the basis of Christ's work, by the help of the Spirit."  This sentence made me think of how I and many others conclude our prayers - "in Jesus' name we pray, amen," or something to that effect.  I just thought of how cool it would be to encompass the whole Trinity when concluding our prayers by stating that "we pray to you Father/Almighty God, etc., on the basis of the work of Christ, by the help/power of the Spirit within us, amen."

As for the Bible as literature, my mind was/is overloaded.  In order to interpret the Bible the way I desire (really well, accurately, etc.), there is a lot that I need to learn (or remember from school).  But the prospect of digging into literature is so exciting to me - it is more than just a boring, straightforward essay.  It is a artistically written book, full of variety of forms to keep us entertained and engaged.  We can (and should) read the book with vivid imaginations playing out the words on the page.  We can engage with the concrete human experiences and learn truths and lessons vicariously (much less painful, might I add, than learning them on our own, the hard way).  I think of a time when I was trying to memorize the whole chapter of Luke 15, and when I got to the story of the prodigal son I acted it out as a drama.  For the first parable I drew a comic strip and for the second story I rewrote the story for modern times.  Without really realizing it, I was taking advantage of the literary opportunity the Bible presents us with to relate to and engage with the scriptures.  Now if that does not make reading the Bible exciting, I don't know what does!

My questions
Hmmm...I do not think I have any this time.

"Reading the Bible." (2008) English Standard Version Study Bible. (pp. 2567-2568) Wheaton, Ill:  Good New Publishers.  

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bible reading - part 1

I started reading an article in my English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible as part of the readings for my next Institute of Biblical Studies (IBS) classes.  The article is about reading the Bible (seems pretty simple right?).  Here's what I have gotten so far:

There are various ways to read the Bible - theologically, as literature, in prayer and communion with God, for personal application, and for preaching and public worship.

First things first, a few foundations must be laid.  The Bible is the Church's instruction book.  It is canonical, meaning it is the standard, literally the "measuring rod".  It is God's instruction and standard for faith and life.  Crucial to classification as canonical is the Bible's inspiration and unity.  The Bible is God's self-revelation to humans, by means of divinely illuminated humans writing in their own words so that we may understand.  However diverse in form and style the writing, the Bible is unified in content and themes.  The entirety of scripture tells one story, that of Creator God redeeming his creation and chosen ones through Jesus Christ.

Finally, theological reading.  Theological reading of the Bible is a quest for God.  Theological reading must always be done prayerfully.  It is a prayerful search for God, in light of three guiding principles.  First, revelation of God throughout the Bible was progressive - from dreams and visions in humans to the Lord himself revealing himself through the incarnate Jesus - partial to full/complete.  Second, one must keep in mind the difference of everyday words when used in relation to God (reading "analogically", similar in meaning to reading metaphorically).  Third is to keep in mind the Triunity of God - three "persons" yet one divine Being.

Secondly, theological reading is a quest for godliness.  "The goal of theological Bible reading know God personally in a relationship that honors him."  So, three questions guide readers.  1) "What is shown about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?"  2) What is shown about the world with its beneficial aspects along with its corrupted aspects?  and 3) "What is shown to guide one's living, today and every day?"

My Thoughts and Opinions
(I think I was so caught up in "regurgitating" that I did not really analyze what I learned/remembered, if anything.)  There is a lot there that is completely up to the interpretation of the article's writer(s).  Some things I have heard before, multiple times actually.  I have learned a little bit already about the canonicity of the Bible.  Though is not the purpose of this article, there could be more that could be mentioned.  Progressive revelation and "analogical" language were new ideas to me.  They are good things to point out and to consider.  I prefer the questions at the end, probably because I always prefer more practical concepts - and questions are very practical.  These are great questions to ask yourself when you are reading any part of scripture.  It forces you to look at the context and background of the scripture, which most likely is time consuming, but they will lead to a more accurate interpretation of God's Word and thus a more accurate revelation of God - which is the whole point of it all anyway - God.

My Questions
 From where did the term "analogical" come?

"Reading the Bible." (2008) English Standard Version Study Bible. (pp. 2567-2568) Wheaton, Ill:  Good New Publishers.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"What do you want the Lord to do for you?"

I opened My Upmost for His Highest and ran across that question for the title for February 29th. Something in me would not let me move on to March 1st, but to consider that question. So I skimmed Oswald's thoughts and got stuck on the 'supernatural' idea. "What do I want God to do supernaturally in my life?" became the question to answer. I knew immediately the answer - I want to reach my full support goal by June 4th. In addition to and as a result of that, I want to staff Getaway and then take IBS classes the following four weeks. Then, for the rest of my summer I can work on more ministry partner development until the team returns and I start my training for Student Venture ministry. I know the Bible warns us about making our own plans, and all of these desires I state in a heart of surrender, with the attitude of "if the Lord wills" (James 4:13-15). I cannot do it on my own - I must have God act supernaturally in my life and in my world, but that (and more) is what I am asking of him. I ask you to join with me in praying for this.