Re-Hacked: My Scripture Top 5

Yesterday, I discussed the Scripture Top Ten Method of approaching scripture. It starts with a favorite passage or verse and then through discovery or study leads to other similar or noteworthy passages. Here is five of my top ten and why they are significant. Nos. 6-10 will come tomorrow.

1. Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) – I used to read self-help books and books on how to achieve success until I found the teachings available in the Sermon on the Mount. I discovered that if I became the kind of person presented in the Sermon then I would have no need for leadership gimmicks and success platitudes. Jesus became someone who could teach me how to live my life.

2. Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 1-21) – Much of the Sermon is referencing the Ten Commandments and the commands of the Old Testament. I felt that I needed to have a better understanding of the Ten Commandments. I realized that I had never really read them in context before and that they are not written in nice little one line commands. I was so taken by them, I decided I needed to memorize them. Memorization had never been a priority until scripture started to come alive to me.

3. Psalm 23 – I understood the command to have no other god before God but I didn’t fully understand what it meant to have the Lord be my “shepherd,” my protector, my nourisher, and “restorer of my soul.” I memorized this one as well and it has been a great comfort to me.

4. 1 Corinthians 13 – Another famous passage that doesn’t need to be dismissed just because it is well known. It is well known because it deserves to be dwelt over and meditated on. Also, if I was still thinking that the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments were simply rules and not a way of life then I would look at 1 Cor. 13 in the same way. Looking at this great passage on love and thinking that I have to go out today and be more patient, kind, and less boastful is to miss the point of inward transformation into Christlikeness.

5. Colossians 3: 1-17 – I think this one may eventually move ahead of 1 Corinthians 13. Once, I read this passage daily over a week’s time and it was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had with scripture. I encourage you to try the same exercise.

Re-Hacked: The Scripture Top Ten Method

In light of my recent emphasis during the “Year of The Word“, I thought I would repost something I posted a little over a year ago. This was my previously successful attempt at approaching scripture.

For most of my life, reading scripture has been intimidating. I avoided reading scripture because I was afraid that I wouldn’t understand what I was reading or that I wouldn’t find my time meaningful or enriching. This all changed when I discovered the Sermon on the Mount. In the passages found in Matt. 5-7, I discovered the greatest teaching ever found and it became something that I wanted to read over and over again.

You know how an interest in a band or a writer leads you to seek out more items that are similar to what you originally discovered. I love the classic 60′s folk rock band the Byrds and through my love of the Byrds I discovered Gram Parsons, Flying Burrito Brothers, International Submarine Band, Buffalo Springfield, Dillard and Clark, and the Desert Rose Band. I love the baseball writings of Bill James and that led me to discover Rob Neyer, Baseball Prospectus, and Michael Lewis. In the same way, my love of the Sermon on the Mount led me to discover other passages of the Bible that either inspired the Sermon (the Ten Commandments) or were a reflection of it.

In this process of letting the Sermon lead me to other life changing scripture I discovered an interesting scripture reading method. Instead of obsessing over reading chapter after chapter, I let my favorite scriptures lead me to the next passage. So I went from the Sermon on the Mount to the Ten Commandments to Psalm 23 to 1 Corinthians 13 to Colossians 3 to Galatians 2:20 to Psalm 1 to 1 Samuel 16 to Romans 12 to the Parables of the Kingdom.

A critic might say that I am just scratching the surface of the richness of scripture and that is obviously true but each one of the above passages taught me something about God and helped me draw closer to him in a way that I had never done previously. Scripture was coming alive to me, I was seeing changes in my life, and I was excited about diving into God’s word in a way that was new to me. These passages were entry points into God’s word for me just as the Byrds were an entry point in to other great music.

Do you have an entry point into scripture? Have you been discouraged by people who tell you to just start reading, or Bible reading programs that are more about volume than formation? If so, then try out the Scripture Top Ten Method and see what God wants to uncover for you in his word.

Tomorrow, I will list my top ten scriptures and provide insight into what I learned and how I discovered them.


Early Returns On The Year of The Word

I have mentioned on this space that I am making 2012 the “Year of the Word.” I am taking an entire year to study, learn, meditate,

A bible from 1859.

Image via Wikipedia

reflect, and most of all, READ the Bible. I want to know more about God by studying his word. I want to know more about myself by studying God’s word, and I want to know more about the world. Two months into this project, I have some thoughts.

1. What you tell yourself about the Bible matters – Now that I am paying better attention to the Bible, I am recognizing what people say about it. Renovare describes the Bible as a book about humans being “with God.” Others list the Bible as God’s revelation about himself. For me, I have discovered that prayer, worship, and experience matter but the easiest way of finding out more about God is through his word. Why haven’t I accepted this obvious truth before?

2. You can’t read every part of the Bible the same – This is another obvious observation that seemed to go over my head for much of my life. Though I have been critical of “read the Bible in a year” programs because they become more about achieving something than discovering something, I now realize that certain parts of the Bible need to be read in large chunks. The gospels, Psalms and much of the New Testament deserve the short treatment while the historical books and books of the law are better handled in larger chunks.

3. The Bible is so rich, it is going to take a lifetime to appreciate it fully – I have never thought about this before but part of my frustration with the Bible in the past has been the sheer volume of truths and insights into Christ and the Christian experience found within its pages. I often felt like  a hiker who never climbs up a small mountain because, “I am never going to make it up Mt. Everest so what is the point of climbing a smaller one.” But that is the beauty of the Bible. Within its words are a gigantic collection of truths, lessons, discoveries, and insights that reveal themselves by multiple readings, by meditation, and by the teacher that is time. One year of the Word is not going to do this book justice.

Soft Drinks It Is

On Monday, I posted about Lent and how to participate in it this year. I have wrestled with what it is that I need to give up for Lent. I thought about giving up Twitter or maybe gossip or negativity but I went back to what I said about the connection between the body and the spiritual life. I determined I needed to pick a food item.

I thought about my love of bananas but that didn’t have quite the impact that I was looking for. Desserts might have been a good one but I wanted something that had more of a daily, even hourly impact on my life. Even though I have fasted from this before, I thought I needed to do it again. So, for Lent, I am giving up Soft Drinks.

I am addicted to Cokes like many people are addicted to coffee. I plan my day around getting a Coke and usually have to talk myself out of getting one early in the morning and late in the afternoon. I am often rationalizing reasons to drink one. All of this to say, this will be a real sacrifice for me and something that I will have to rely on God’s help to get through. Yes, consumable items can have that much of a hold on you.

But Lent is not about me and my achievements, it is about preparing for the celebration of Easter. Through this fast and a deeper commitment to Christ, I hope to make this Lenten season a powerfully moving one full of experiences with God and a transformed heart.

Those of you who are joining me in participating in Lent, I will pray that God will reveal himself to you through this experience.

Come Lord Jesus!

Christian Life Hacker Guide To Lent

This week marks the beginning of Lent – the 40 days preceding Easter Sunday. I know many people in my faith tradition, Baptist, who have never heard the term much less practiced a 40 day period of fasting in conjunction with Lent. This is a shame. To join millions of other Christians in preparing our hearts, minds, and bodies for the joy of Resurrection Sunday is a deeply meaningful and enriching experience.

Christ Webb, President of Renovare, writes that Lent is ”a time of repentance, an opportunity to experience the mercy of God, to be set free from past patterns of behavior, and to embrace a life of joyful holiness.” Wow. If I were more eloquent or a thief, this would be the Christian Life Hacker mission statement. In a nutshell, Lent is a time when God is calling you to renew your commitment to him by humbling yourself and sacrificing your wants for the “mercies of God” and “joyful holiness.”

Here are three steps to approach and practice Lent:

1. Sin Inventory. On Ash Wednesday, some churches have their members write down a particular sin or sins on a piece of paper and then throw it into a fire. You may want to just take a piece of paper and start listing sins. Pray over your list and ask for forgiveness and then throw it away to symbolize how these sins no longer have a hold on you. If you have a trusted friend, you may want to share a few of the sins on your list and ask them to pray for you that Lent will be a powerful time of renewal.

2. Pick an Elimination Food Item. I have talked in this blog about fasting or eliminating. I have mentioned fasting from technology or sports but the traditional way to fast is to eliminate food or a food item for a time. Last year, I fasted from Soft Drinks during Lent.

Though some people may feel more of a sacrifice if they fasted from Facebook or TV, I would encourage you to try a food item because of the connection between our body and our spiritual life. Our brokenness and sin can so infuse our heart and mind that it filters to our body where our parts are so willing to do wrong. Fasting from a food item starts to break the hold that our body has on our heart and shows us an existence that is not characterized by untamed fleshly desires.

3. Join with others. Even if your church does not practice Lent corporately, there is no reason for you to practice it in isolation. Take if from me, who tries to do everything on my own, a community or a few people who are doing this together will make the experience much more meaningful. Ask your spouse to join you or a best friend. If you are already in a small group or Bible Study, then tell the group what you are doing and have them pray for you and consider joining you. This blog could even be a place to join with others. Tell us what you are doing in the comments box and the Christian Life Hacker community can pray for you as you become active in this great preparation for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On Wednesday, I will let you know what I will be fasting from and give you an opportunity to join me in practicing Lent.

This post previously appeared March 4, 2011

A Cure For The Blues

Dallas Willard once said that if you are feeling down, even depressed, you should start reading the Psalms, preferably aloud. Yesterday, I needed a pick me up and I randomly selected Psalm 16 as a starting point. Here is some of what I read:

 I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

So, keeping verse 8 in mind, I set out to keep the “Lord always before me” so that I will not be shaken. I didn’t close up my Bible and skip out of the room on a spiritual high but I did understand that if I was going to shake the blues I was under I needed to focus less on myself and my own predicament and much more on my Lord, who “will not abandon me.”

Thank you Lord for the Psalms, a ready remedy for the blues.

Good Words

I think creativity is the best marker of a Christian Life Hacker. Donald Miller‘s Storyline Conferencesare a great example of thinking

outside the box in ministry. Here is a timeline exercise that you can do from home.

I have come across many regimented and structured approaches to the Bible but many of these programs lose the concept of formation. Lectio Divina is designed for formation. Here is an introduction to this ancient practice.

Worship experiences outside of church events are usually fragmented and force the worshiper to piece together items. I find a song here, read a scripture there, and then access a sermon. A New Liturgy is a collection of 25 minute worship experiences that can be downloaded or sent via CD.

A Howard Payne student won an award for this short film, Stained Glass. Does it seem like the generational gaps are getting wider? Or is it just me?

Reading for the fun of it. Who knew? Alan Jacobs encourages Christians to read but it doesn’t always have to be serious.

Now reading: Read the Bible For Life by George Guthrie

Now listening: Hard Bargain – Emmylou Harris, Beyond the Sun – Chris Isaak, 11/22/63 – Stephen King

Now watching: Downton Abbey, An Idiot Abroad

Introducing 23 Things

23 Things is a learning phenomenon within the circles in which I work. To keep up with trending technologies and to train those that are somewhat leery of new web movements, a librarian developed 23 Things to introduce these technologies and to give participants the opportunity to develop new skills and apply internet based tools to their work activities. I would like to modify 23 Things so that it can be used in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship. Instead of introducing Web 2.0 tools, I will introduce Spiritual Disciplines and exercises to all of those who want to participate. Then, participants can do a small exercise related to that discipline.

This project takes a little more effort and time than usual blog posts so I will be a bit sporadic and link driven over the next week or two. I think you will enjoy the finished product though. I have been developing some of these ideas for over 10 years now and in true Christian Life Hacker style will attempt to make it accessible and doable.

More to come…

Guide To Giving To the Homeless

What do you do when a homeless person asks you for money? Is there a more vexing question for people? So many spend way too

Homeless person, with shopping cart

Image via Wikipedia

much time thinking and stressing over these encounters. For some people, the entire weight of human existence and all that is right in the world is hanging on the proper response to these situations.

I say just relax, get off your high horse, and consider a few things that might help you handle these situations with a clearer mind.

  • First, 85% of the time, when you give a panhandler money they intend to use it for less than noble pursuits. This is no great revelation so what good is it going to do to crank up the judgement level. Sure, it is advisable to not give panhandlers money but no matter what you do, do it with a spirit of love and kindness and not contempt and self-righteousness.
  • Second, if you decide to give a panhandler money and they choose to use it for booze or drugs then that is between them and God. It is out of your hands and you don’t have to feel guilty as long as you were faithful to what you felt the Holy Spirit was guiding you to do. Many people fear being taken advantage of but is that really the end of the world? Maybe we need to learn to be more generous and God has placed this person in our path to see if we are willing to be gracious and compassionate. Sometimes the encounter with the homeless person may be more about you than it is about the homeless person.
  • Third, start to save up the coupons you see for food. We all have free drink coupons or 99-cent hamburger coupons lying around that we mostly ignore. Why don’t you get some of your really good ones, stick them in a sandwich bag, and put it in your glove box. When you see a homeless person, you can pass it along to them. Or you could buy a gift card to McDonald’s and place $5-$10 on it and hand it to the next homeless person you see. Better yet, put together a sack with snack items that can handle a few days in your car and make that your handout. You could write a note on the outside or place a scripture verse inside the bag.
  • Fourth, talk to homeless people. If you have lived in fear of homeless people, maybe it is time to move past your fears. Like we have said before, the panhandlers are going to be the more aggressive, possibly addicted, street people. They might not be open to much conversation. But if you move past this version of the homeless and encounter folks at shelters or homeless ministries, you will find very fine people who are very interesting to talk to and are very thankful to have your attention. Some of the kindness, most genuine people I have known have been homeless people.

For four years, my wife and I worked closely with the homeless and poor. These observations come from our experiences during this time.