Scripture Monday – Amos 8:11

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land — not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Amos 8:11, NIV.

What a powerful illustration! The previous chapters of Amos outlined many possibilities for physical difficulties for the people, however this is perhaps the most threatening. God’s Word is integral to our life in right relationship with God and others.

Exodus 4:24 – In which, God almost kills Moses

Moses the prophet, Russian icon from first qua...
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One of the passages in the scripture that I find baffling is in Exodus 4:24:

“At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Mosest and was about to kill him.” (NIV)

This is as Moses was on his way to Egypt after meeting God at the burning bush and being sent to return to Egypt to tell Pharoah to let God‘s people go.

What do you make of this short verse?

How do you know something is true?

You know something is true when it is measured against something that is certain truth. In my case, I look to scripture as the primary source for understanding the truth about life, the universe and everything. As a United Methodist Christian, I seek to discren whether something is true by comparing it to what I find in scripture. I seek to understand the truth as found in scripture by using my own reason and intellect, the tradition of the church across time and the experience of a community of believers as well as my own experience of faith. These tools guide my search for truth and help me know whether something is true or false.

I recently met with a congregant who shared some deep questions with me. I asked for permission to share them on this blog to more broadly share my response.

How do you define truth?

Truth is reality as it actually exists. Ultimately, truth is the Triune God in which all creation lives, moves and has being. I believe that the clearest written depiction of truth is in the entirety of the Bible, which includes the story of God’s work and God’s people across time. Scripture contains the clearest picture that we have of Jesus Christ in the four Gospel narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus Christ is the best picture that we have of God. Jesus recognizes himself as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

I recently met with a congregant who shared some deep questions with me. I asked for permission to share them on this blog to more broadly share my response.

In what way would you define truth?

The Rabbit and the Elephant – a review

I recently finished reading The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church by Tony & Felicity Dale and George Barna. This book offers the perspective that the church may be more effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ by multiplying rapidly rather than seeking to grow larger. The authors offer both practical tips and a thought framework for launching house churches and creating networks.

Tony and Felicity Dale share their stories of house church planting in both England and the United States. Some of their reminders include listening to God, focus on prayer and to model a simple pattern so that it can easily be repeated.

An outline for engagement in a house church is taken from Acts 2:42 – apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread together and prayer.  Each gathering includes conversation, a meal and prayer. None of these are to be the best possible (for example a gourmet chef) to encourage the participation of all. The authors suggest a framework for teaching which involves studying the scripture in a community and using symbols as a guide to the conversation.

  • Question mark – “something we don’t understand”
  • Lightbulb – “something that sheds light, either on that passage of Scripture or something going on in a person’s life”
  • Arrow – “represents God piercing a person’s heart – he or she has heard from God and needs to do something about it.”

The authors suggest that it is important to consider starting new groups with new people rather than assimilating others into existing groups. They suggest looking for a person whose leadership could be key in influencing a new circle of people to start the next group – a “person of peace” (see Luke 10:5-6). Finding this person of peace may be accomplished by telling one’s story as this can be a key opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. They suggest this simple pattern for sharing (pg 135):

  1. What was life like before you became a Christian (or before your faith became real to you)?
  2. How did you meet Jesus?
  3. How has Jesus changed your life?

I found particularly important the reminder that there will be a difficult time of transition for persons who are moving from a more traditional form of church to a micro church. It will not be what it was, nor will it likely be exactly what is envisioned when first starting out.

Many of the themes in this book were quite helpful for those considering the possibility of living out one’s faith in a micro church. Unfortunately, the book did not flow smoothly from beginning to end and there were parts of several chapters that did not add to the advancement of the thesis. Nonetheless, this was a solid book and I recommend it for anyone considering a life of faith in a micro church.

Why did Jesus preach for such a short period of time?

Last week, I received several questions from a Resurrection member who had been using a DVD series to study as a part of a small group. I will take some time today and over the next few days to respond as I believe that there may be others who are interested as well. Always feel free to email me questions on topics about which you would like to see me write.

Are there any theories as to why Jesus preached for such a short period of time?  It seems so short in contrast to say Paul or the OT prophets…

This is a great question. I believe that there are two main reasons why Jesus’ public ministry lasted the length that it did. One at the beginning and one at the end. We read stories of Jesus birth in two of the gospels we find in the Bible. There is only one story of Jesus after his birth before he begins his public ministry. This story is found in Luke 2:41-52. This gives us little information about Jesus life from twelve years old until he is in his early 30s. According to Luke 2:51 (TNIV), “As Jesus grew up, he increased in wisdom and in favor with God and people.” Jesus seems to be growing or maturing in some way before the beginning of his public ministry.

Jesus first words in the gospel according to Mark, are these, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15, TNIV). Jesus seems to recognize that there is a particular time for the beginning of his public ministry. In other places in the gospels, Jesus speaks about the right timing, or that his time has not yet come. Jesus seems to have a sense about the timing of his ministry and the beginning of his ministry fits into this timing.

Likewise at the end of his ministry, Jesus knows that he is going to Jerusalem to be put to death. The disciples that followed him throughout Galilee did not want or were not willing to believe the upcoming death. Jesus ministry eventually reached a place where he caused enough ruckus in society that he became a threat to the empire. Among other reasons, Jesus was put to death for threatening the status quo in many different ways.

This is the best that I have for today. I’m not sure it is the best possible answer, but think that there is something here.

What else would you add?

Speedlinking – October 16, 2008

Scripture: Flexible and Resilient

Back in December, I started thinking about what would be the opposite of the scriptures being fragile. (See the comment conversation at – Were there really wise men?) I believe that the word of God as contained in the Old and New Testaments is both resilient and flexible.

Let me be clear that I do not advocate for using scripture to prove whatever point one may be interested in making, i.e. prooftexting. However, I do think that the story of God’s work in the world and the narrative of God’s people is not a fragile one that can be broken down by pointing to small inconsistencies. I believe that in scripture we see the best portrait of Jesus, who in turn is perhaps the clearest picture that we have of God.

What do you think?

Explaining the Trinity

With the idea of the Trinity being so easy to say “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I want some pointers on how to begin explaining to somebody that doesn’t understand (as much as I try to). How do you correct people that say that there can’t be the three separate things and one God?

I think that any attempt to enter into conversation about the Trinity is better than dismissing the question. The Bible does not fully outline what it means to understand God as Trinity, but the Bible is our starting point and ultimately the best resource for learning about God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.

Trinitarianism is a part of the structure of the gospel. It is expressed in the baptism of Jesus as found in the Gospels.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17, TNIV

The baptism of Jesus occurs in all four of the Gospels and provides an example of the Trinitarian nature of God. Jesus is the Son as referred to by the voice from heaven. The Son implies that there is a parent. This is the one who pronounces the words upon Jesus. The Spirit is seen descending like a dove. For other scriptural references you might check here.

Another way that you might approach this question is to think of the relationships between the persons of the Trinity as what brings life and a deeper way of understanding. Each of the persons is given shape by the relationship to the other (For more a more detailed explanation check out deviantmonk‘s comment on Physics of the Trinity)

How else would you respond? What have you found to be helpful in your own understanding?

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”