2015 church-wide Bible reading project – Take Note: Give Thanks!

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I urge every MoSt Church member to participate in next year’s church-wide Bible reading project! It will be unlike any reading project you have ever done before. While most Bible-reading efforts focus on what to read, our focus in 2015 will be not on what we read, but on how, when, and where we read. That’s right: what you read is left completely up to you.

How will that work? Let me answer in a Q & A format.

Q. When will the 2015 reading project start and conclude?

A. Our reading will start on Mon., Jan. 5 and will continue through Fri., Nov. 20.

Q. At what pace should I read?

A. You’ll make the call as you’re the one who determines both the parameters and pace of your reading. Whatever you decide, tailor your choice to maximize your ability to actually accomplish the reading.

Q. So what’s the plan? What’s it made of?

A. This project has four components. The first concerns the place and time of our reading. Strive to be as consistent as possible in this, making it a matter of daily routine – the same place and time.

Second, if at all possible, do your reading in a paper (non-electronic) format. Is that a change for you? Roll with it for it’s good to get out of your comfort zone on occasion!

Third, take a few, simple notes on each day’s reading. Those notes can be as simple or as involved as you want to make them. The point is to truly engage what you’re reading.

The fourth component is not directly related to your daily reading, but will connect with the persistent theme of gratitude that runs throughout all of scripture. At the end of each day, take ten minutes to write down three matters that happened that very day for which you are thankful, and as best as you can discern, why those three things happened. Then, pray in regarding such. Try to make this step virtually the last thing you give real thought to, and actually do, right before you go to bed each night. Seek to work this fourth component on a daily basis – no exceptions! – whether or not your Bible reading plan is daily.

Q. Why should I participate?

A. The purpose behind all of this is fourfold. We want to help you: (1) create a habit of body and mind that associates a specific place and time with feeding on God’s word, (2) develop a mental and tactile sense about such, (3) truly engage what you read, and (4) fill your mind at the close of each day with good things you recall that cause you to thank God.

Further, think not only of the benefit you’ll receive forming this habit of discipline, but think also of the good your children, grandchildren or other loved ones will derive in the future from pouring over your handwritten notes about Scripture and your thankfulness to God. Just imagine the possibilities of what God could do with such tools!

Q. Is there a verse that sums up the essence of this effort?

A. Yes! In fact, there are two texts: Philippians 4.8 and Psalm 106.1. Memorize both passages as soon as possible if you haven’t already. In fact, I’d encourage you to recite Phil. 4.8 every morning, out loud, before you even get out of bed, every day next year. Similarly, I’d encourage you to recite Ps. 106.1  aloud before and after your night’s posting of three things for which you are thankful. Using these two verses so can only help us deliberately enhance the growth of a mind bent all the more toward the Lord.

Q. How will you go about your reading, preacher man?

A. I’ll read the Old Testament through on a six-day-per-week schedule with Sunday being my ‘off’ day. I’ll do my reading sitting in my favorite chair in my study at my house somewhere between 5:15-6:30 a.m. The translation I’ll use for this project is The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. I’ll make my thankfulness list in a small, leather journal that was given to me as a gift. And I’ll make my Bible notes in the NIV Note-Taker’s Bible.

If you have any questions – or are looking for some suggestions – as to this project, do let me hear from you.

Oh, and I’d greatly enjoy hearing how, when, and where you’ll do your reading and writing, as well as the what of it. Share such with me, won’t you?

May we be formed by this daily discipline it into something more of a blessing from God to each other and the whole world.

Remember:

“From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4.8 CEB)

links: this went thru my mind

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Apps, archaeology & children: Free App “Dig Quest: Israel” Teaches Children about Archaeology in Israel

“The app is in English and is available for download at the iTunes Store for iPhones and iPads. An Android version will be made available soon. The app features two simulated dig sites.  One is based on the site of a Roman period mosaic at Lod and the other on the site associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran.”

Beauty, creation, earth, environment, goodness & wonder: Creation Is a Many-Splendored Thing: Delighting in Creation’s Goodness

“… the psalmist praises God and relishes the vastness, complexity, and beneficence of God’s creation and the astonishing creatures who find a home there …”

Bible reading: Five Practices to Refresh Your Bible Reading [essential reading]

“1. Retell the passage from the perspective of the different characters. … 2. Interview each of the characters. … 3. Read the passage five times with each of the five senses in mind. … 4. Find the good news in the passage. … 5. Read the passage out loud.”

Discrimination, prejudice & racism: * The New Threat: ‘Racism without Racists’ [required reading]; * America the Beautiful, America the Violent

* “…  racial domination is a collective process and we are all in this game.”

* “We remained either quiescent or ambivalent on race and violence, and then somehow manage to look at the images in Ferguson with shock and dismay.”

Food & recipes: Amazing Recipes from Chefs Who Feed the Homeless

“… here are a collection of holiday recipes we’ve culled from restaurants, shelters and churches that serve those in need, but also value nutrition and fine cooking.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Bible reading, Churches of Christ, interpretation & open-mindedness: Reading the Bible in Churches of Christ

“The Bible is a finger pointing to Jesus. I love the Bible but I love Whom it points to even more.”

Church, generations, leadership, Millennials, ministry & mission: Five Reasons Why Millennials Do Not Want to Be Pastors or Staff in Established Churches

“My plea to Millennials is not to abandon established churches. Not all of them are as bad as many think. Consider yourself to be a part of the solution. Above all, look at these churches as mission fields just as you would a ministry in a distant continent. We need Millennials in established churches. Your present and future leadership is vital. Granted, church revitalization is messy and not easy. It is often slow, methodical, and frustrating. But God loves the members of established churches just as He loves the members of new works.”

Church dropouts: The Rise of the Dones

“… the Dones … these de-churched … [are] among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best. … The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.”

Gun control, right-to-carry laws & violent crime: Right to Carry Increases Crime

“… extending the data yet another decade (1999-2010) provides the most convincing evidence to date that right-to-carry laws are associated with an increase in violent crime. … The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder.”

Jesus & offense: Give Me the Doubly Offensive Jesus, Please

“The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how inclusive He is. The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how exclusive He is. The church is offended by His inclusivity, and the world is offended by His exclusivity. Thus we are inclined to weaken the offense, either by minimizing His inclusive call or by downplaying His exclusive claims. Unfortunately, whenever we lop off one side or the other, we wind up with a Jesus in our own image. Instead, we should celebrate both Jesus’ inclusiveness and His exclusivity, for this is the polarity that makes Jesus so irresistibly compelling.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Application, Bible reading, interpretation, meditation, obedience & reflection: * Reading the Bible vs. Being Read by the Bible; * Asking the Bible to Do More Than It Does

* “I suspect it was for my failure that God had been waiting.”

* “According to Scripture we do not first know and comprehend the way and then decide to follow it; it is rather the one who is on the journey who knows that he is on the right way. Knowledge comes only in action and decision. Only he who is in truth will recognize the truth.”

Archaeology, credibility, discernment, hoaxes, reality & scams: Questions to Ask of Sensational Stories

“… I suggest that the following questions be asked as you read …”

Communication, literary devices, public speaking & writing: 10 Literary Devices that Actually Work

“If you want to become a better writer, using literary devices is a way to add spice.”

Government, politics & voting: Greg on Politics

“Think deeply about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and whether or not you should be having any allegiance to the politics of this world.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Bible literacy & reading:*  Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge [required reading]; * 9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible [essential reading]

* “Study after study in the last quarter-century has revealed that American Christians increasingly don’t read their Bibles, don’t engage their Bibles, and don’t know their Bibles. It’s obvious: We are living in a post-biblically literate culture. Just as critical is the second word of the Bible literacy problem: literacy. Pew Research tells us that 23 percent of us didn’t read a single book in the last year. That’s three times the number who didn’t read a book in 1978.”

* Read ‘King’ when you see ‘Christ.’ … read ‘you’ differently … if you see a ‘therefore,’ find out what it’s there for … realize that not all ‘if’ statements are the same … recognize that lamenting is OK … realize that prophecy is more often forth-telling than fore-telling … become familiar with the idioms of your King … remember what you learned in English class … read to study, but also, read to refresh your heart.”

College funding: A College Financial Aid Guide for Families Who Have Saved Nothing

“In just a generation or two, we’ve gone from students working their way through college without too much trouble, to many parents still being able to write checks to cover tuition out of current income, to sticker prices being so high that two decades of savings may not be enough to cover two children from relatively affluent families.”

Government, Houston, law suits, litigation & sermons: Victory Through Defeat

“As a matter of normal legal practice, I doubt that Mayor Parker, David Feldman, or anyone at the City of Houston read the subpoenas before they were sent, much less specifically ordered the discovery and confiscation of sermon notes and other communications involving homosexuality and gender identity. Typically in litigation lawyers will throw a bunch of jello at a wall and see what sticks, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, they’ll fill up the kitchen sink and see what takes. In other words, the lawyer drafting the discovery requests and subpoenas probably tried to think of every conceivable thing that could possibly be related to this lawsuit and asked for it. You don’t get it if you never ask, and litigation is all about being aggressive and taking anything that the other side will give you. Again, these are just requests (issued by a lawyer), and the judge can quash the subpoenas or issue a protective order for the pastors. …

“… the reality is that we are merely dealing with an overbroad discovery request from a zealous trial lawyer employed by the City. So the sky is not falling. This is not a government-wide ‘approval’ system of pulpit messages. The pastors aren’t being threatened with punishment merely for the contents of their sermons. But this is harassment, and the small things add up. A government that tries to intimidate pastors who would seek to employ the democratic process to repeal a morally questionable piece of legislation is no friend of liberty, religious or otherwise. The government answers to the people; the people do not answer to the government. Remember that. The subpoena is only step one in their 12-step program.”

Prayer: 5 Triggers to Grow Your Prayer Life

“For years, when I thought about prayer, I mostly felt guilty for my lack of a robust prayer life. Reading stories of great saints praying for two hours a day or more left me with a gnawing sense of defeat. I would often resolve to pray more. But the resolves didn’t last.”

Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd – Psalm 23

“All of this comes from Yahweh’s ‘goodness and mercy.'”