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Archive for August, 2010

Life Transformation Groups

By Alison Lehman

PAC has been talking about Life Transformation Groups for awhile now and I’m interested to see if the idea is taking root. Our family was away when they were first introduced but when we got back, I picked up a pamphlet and skimmed over the main idea. It all looked great until I read the part about reading 30 chapters of scripture a week. The number, in itself, seemed overwhelming at the time.

The idea of having an accountability partner caught my interest right away. I have been working at PCI for a year now and have had some tough challenges, and at times wished I had someone praying with me and for me to conquer some of these challenges. God placed a couple of names in my head regarding this idea and I approached someone a couple of weeks ago. The asking part was easy. I waited patiently for an answer wondering, “Am I doing the right thing?” “Asking the right person?” “What if she says no?” or actually, “What if she says yes?!” Then I’ll have to be accountable and that’s a little bit scary. I’ll be inviting someone else into my dark spaces allowing her to speak truth into my life when sometimes I don’t want to see it. Then again, I’ll have someone who’s got my back. I will be at peace knowing she will be praying me through the tough stuff and encouraging me through life as I will do for her.

My friend did say yes and we’re starting next week. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. As far as the scripture and the 30 chapters, it’s not really that much or that overwhelming once you get started. My partner and I are not starting with this much but I am doing it on my own. We are doing the E100 challenge as a backdrop but I, myself, am reading an extra chapter surrounding the given chapter of the day and reading a Proverb and Psalm also. I find that Proverbs keeps me grounded in every day life with wise advice and Psalms keep me praising God. One day this week, I took a Psalm and wrote it out in my own words. It was more meaningful for me because I’m not a king like David and my battles aren’t quite on the same playing field.  He’s pretty dramatic sometimes.

If you are in an LTG and have started, I’d like to hear from you about your experience, if you’d be willing to share it. Please email me at:

aplehman@shaw.ca

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Stafford Greer on Bible Reading

My approach to reading Scripture sure has changed in the past 3 years or so.  I’ve lived much of my life with the notion that “a verse a day keeps the devil away” and the belief that Scripture was simply too difficult to understand that I lacked the ability to spiritually feed myself.  Like Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 3:2 I was still being fed spiritual milk like an infant instead of being able to eat meat by myself even after growing up in the church for 27 years.  My spiritual walk was contingent on what other people had read about Scripture and had regurgitated for me.

This began to change only a short while ago while in my second and third year of school at Briercrest where between my Hermeneutics professor (big, fancy word meaning study and interpretation of the bible) and Eugene Peterson’s book, Working the Angles, I realized that how I had been reading Scripture in my personal life as well as for academic purposes had been very ineffective.  In, Working the Angles, Peter quotes Abraham Heschel whose words have stuck with me for 3 years: “It has seemed puzzling to me how greatly attached to the Bible you seem to be and yet how much like pagans you handle it.” (pg. 137)  Ouch!  Could that be me that he was talking about?

I realized that it was time to start to act in such a way that reflected what I claimed to believe; if God reveals himself through Scripture and the basis of my faith is Scripture, I had better start to dig into scripture and start to read it myself!  Bruxy Cavey, pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto, wrote a thought that easily summed up my experience until that date: “To many Christians, the Bible is like a software license.  Nobody actually reads it.  They just scroll to the bottom and click, ‘I agree.’” (via twitter @Bruxy, August 19 2010)

Things that have recently changed in my life regarding scripture are:

  • Reading large portions, repetitively. I found that if I only ever read one verse or thought so I could ‘dwell’ on it, I never knew the context from which it came and it really crippled me when I came to a difficult passage to understand.  I would get stuck, frustrated and would not be encouraged to pick up my bible again.  Now, I understand the context more and am able to move past the things I don’t get right away knowing that over time, reading the context of many passages, other authors of Scripture will write about that part I didn’t understand before and shed a different light on it to help me understand it better.  I don’t need to understand everything all at once… I’m on a journey and I’m constantly learning.
  • The accountability of a LTG (Life Transformation Group) means that people now hold me accountable to what I said I would do (in this case it is reading 30 chapters of Scripture a week) and don’t put up with my weak excuses for why I didn’t finish.  This means that I do less of the useless things, like watch TV, in favor of reading Scripture because I know I’ll be held accountable for what I agreed to do.
  • If one day I don’t “feel” something or have God grip me while reading, I don’t feel like a failure.  It is very hard to read large amounts of scripture throughout the week and not have your life reflect it in some way.  God is always at work in me – just because I don’t always feel it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening!

It has taken me a long time to get past the belief that I couldn’t just read scripture myself but now I am hooked.  When my life is void of God’s word, it usually manifests itself in selfishness, a short fuse, and a weakness to the temptation of sin. I wish I would have read it like I am now many years ago!

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Nephilim

By Alison Lehman

I mentioned in my previous post that I was going to do the E100 Challenge of reading the Bible for 100 days. (I will continue reading when this is done of course.) Certain passages of scripture have been planned out for me and they start in Genesis.  Although I was excited to start this challenge, I wondered to myself whether I’d be bored starting in Genesis with the ‘all-too-common’ stories of Creation, the flood, and all that. Not so!

I’m already asking questions. This challenge doesn’t have you read the Bible from start to finish. It pulls out the ‘main story.’ Yesterday I was reading Genesis 6 and was intrigued by chapter 6:4 “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” This was just before God destroyed the earth by flood.

What are the Nephilim? I Googled them and it seems that some theologians believe they were either the offspring of fallen angels and human women or the offspring of the heathen people having intercourse with the pure line of Seth (Adam and Eve’s third son). I checked out a couple of different sites and found the different views/debates interesting.

I feared that it would be boring going back to the same familiar stories but when you start asking questions and digging deeper, it actually becomes very interesting. I want more!

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Luke – Cleaning House

August 19, 2010 1 comment

By Tim Lehman

Jesus again encounters a demon in Luke 11, this time one that is mute.  This is quite a contrast to some of the others he has driven out that were shouting and yelling and throwing the person into convulsions.  When he drives out this one, there arises some controversy about whose power has driven them out: God or Beelzebub.

Jesus has no problem making their accusations appear silly.

My question comes from the second part of this teaching, when Jesus talks to the crowd about what happens after an evil spirit leaves someone.  He says, “it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it,” and then decides to return to the person it came from.

“It finds the house swept clean and put in order.”  After returning, things are worse than before.

The “house” is some person, right?  Evil spirits need a physical body in which to reside if they are to influence the physical world.  So when the evil spirit returns to the person and, “finds the house swept clean and put in order,” does that mean the person got rid of bad habits, committed themselves to Christ’s way of life, and has turned from their sinful ways?  To me, that doesn’t seem right, because then Jesus seems to be teaching that it is better to leave yourself as you are than to deal with stuff you know is wrong.  I know that’s not what he is teaching.

So how to interpret this passage?  I’m wondering if the part about cleaning and putting in order refers to a person who has had a demon cast out by Jesus or one of his disciples, like the man in verse 14.

They removed the initial and obvious problem from the man.  I think this could be related to some diseases or physical ailments we might encounter today: cancer, heart disease, AIDS, etc.  If we were sick with a disease like these and someone healed us miraculously, that would be amazing.  But that alone wouldn’t be sufficient to change our lives in the way they need to be changed.  Jesus is just taking the plank out of our eye so we can see the real problem that needs to be dealt with.  We need to be filled with the Spirit of God.  We need to allow God to take over and fill us with His goodness, rather than just try to get rid of the bad stuff on the surface.

In Ephesians 5:15-20, Paul exhorts believers to be careful how they live, to replace bad living with the Spirit.  We are to encourage each other, give thanks to God, and sing and make music in our hearts.

Similarly in Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, we are reminded how we have been rescued from darkness and are now to be filled with the knowledge of the will of God (1:9-14).  If there is still any concern about attacks from Satan once we have decided to follow Christ, we read in 1 Peter that we are, “shielded by God’s power,” so that even though we may, “suffer grief in all kinds of trials,” we are equipped to stand against them through faith in Christ (1:3-9).  If we are filled with Christ and his new life, we have nothing to fear from Satan’s attacks.  But if we have only been cleaned up and have not fully accepted the gift Christ offers, we are in a dangerous place.

Is that a correct interpretation of the passage in Luke?  Is that the intent of Jesus’ teaching?  Or is there something more that I’m not seeing.  Please let me know your thoughts.

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Paul Stanley on Bible Reading

What a time this last 2 months has been, as I’ve been in the Bible more than I ever have.  I am not a disciplined person by nature, and in order to be so, I need others. The LTGs (Life Transformation Groups)  have really helped me to get into the Bible, and with consistency, read and pray.

The past year has been different for me in that I’ve started getting my kids up ealier than normal, during school that is, and having about 20 minutes to ourselves, just reading a short passage and talking about it. Some of these conversations really challenged me as a dad.  The only problem was this wasn’t feeding me and my personal relationship with God, so I started to get up earlier. For those who know me, it’s not easy for me to get up at 6:00, as I tend to stay up too late.  Nevertheless, I tried it for a 9 month period of time and the  results are…I’m hooked on reading the Bible.  42 years old, saved for over 20 of them, and finally I’m hooked.

Bottom line…it’s not easy.  Simple yes, easy, no.  If you find you are capable of doing this by yourself, “Good on you” (As Ray would say).  I found with the LTG that it makes the journey much more fun. I read the same as others in the group, pray and answer a few questions while together, and see God work as He transforms me and the guys I’m with.  That’s one of the exciting parts of being the Church, in my opinion.

Betty Madsen has also responded to my question regarding Bible reading…refer to two posts below.

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Bible Reading – Part 2

By Alison Lehman

As you can see by the post below, I’ve gotten a handful of responses to my questions about tips for Bible reading. Like Betty said, I also find myself drifting away from lack of reading. This past spring I got out of the habit of daily reading and the longer I went without reading, the easier it was to let it go. I found myself losing interest in church and church activities. I just plainly didn’t care anymore. I felt more anxious than usual and felt it easier to fall away than to confront my fears and tackle them with God’s help.

It’s tough being a Christian and always having the pressure to do the “right thing.” Sometimes it takes a lot of energy and I don’t always have lots of energy. Satan is always on the prowl looking for someone to devour. At times I’ve thought he would leave me alone if I would just relax on the church thing and take a break. Well, yeah, maybe he loosened his fangs on me but I fell away from God at the same time, and eventually felt empty and alone. Sunday mornings at church were starting to become a formality and worship felt dry. (Except for that one song that gets me every time. ‘This is Our God.’)  Can’t seem to sing that with dry eyes, ever!

So what’s the answer? How do I stay disciplined enough to keep reading even when I don’t feel like it. The last blog post got a response from a fellow about a website, “The E100 Challenge.” I was intrigued, so I visited the site. This E100 challenge is to get people into the Bible and reading it on a regular basis. I have tried the “Bible in a year” thing before but I usually get stuck in Leviticus or Numbers and quit. I’m not interested in who is the son of who and what procedures needed to be followed back then. I want to read about stuff that I can apply to my life. This E100 Challenge is a Bible reading plan that keeps you reading everyday but doesn’t get you bogged down in the hard to read stuff. You can choose to read these selected passages in 100 days, 20 weeks, 1 year or whatever suits your fancy. There is no cost to this challenge. If you need help navigating the site, give me a call.

E100 Challenge

I started this challenge yesterday and there is a sheet to print out that has you crossing off each day as you read, (which is a good visual reminder that you’re on track.) I want my life to reflect Christ. I can’t do that without His daily input, so I’m making an effort to get back on the saddle. If you’d like to do this with me, please email me and we can be accountable to each other.

aplehman@shaw.ca

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Bible Reading – Finding it Tough?

August 16, 2010 1 comment

Bible reading can be a tough thing to do sometimes, especially when reading the same stories time and time again. If you’re a new Christian, you may find it overwhelming and it can be tough knowing where to start. I asked a handful of people a few questions about Bible reading last week to see if I could give you some different tips on how to go about it. Here are a few of the responses I got.

Betty Madsen

When it comes to reading the Bible, I find that I do so in response to something rather than being disciplined to read as regularly as I should.  Right now I am doing a research essay on the reformation under Luther, so I am led to find out what the Bible says.  I look for topics and people of interest in the Bible to prepare for Bible study at the women’s jail.  I have read my Bible after listening to a great sermon at church, and also in response to what might be going on in everyday life, especially about tough stuff.

When I don’t get into the Bible enough, I know I can almost ‘begin to lose interest’ and get caught up in the busyness of life, which makes me feel guilty.  I still need to work on that discipline!

Karen Gross

Consistency has always been my problem in Bible reading. As per my character, I go to extremes. I recall in Bible College days, I would spend hours in the furnace room reading the Bible and praying, every day for weeks. Then weeks would go by without me even opening my Bible except for my courses.

I have always wanted to keep a consistent prayer journal, but when I get around to it, I will write ten pages one day, and then leave it.

After Bible College I have lived in  “I will have time when…” Excuse-ville. I will have time when I finish this project, or when I am not working, or when I am home with kids, or when the kids go to school, or when the kids leave home – Excuse-ville is a big town!

Now, I am living most of my life in my bedroom with my laptop on my lap. I have discovered the plethora of Bible websites. You can sign up for reading plans on most of them, with your choice of starting points, and for those who, like me, need external accountability, there are charts to check off your daily reading. You can also add personal notes; look up commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and more. They have devotionals and chat rooms and forums and videos and way too much stuff to read each day.

Here are a few sites that I have used:

Christianity.com
Biblegateway.com
Crosswalk

One that offers a free download that I want to check out:

e-sword.net

One tip that I can offer to anyone who would like to read the Bible in a year, but get bogged down in the begats or the Levitical laws – You need to read about three chapters a day to get the whole Bible read in a year, so start in three spots: Genesis, Job, and Matthew. Read one chapter from each bookmark every day.

Tim Lehman

I find blogging about what I’m reading helpful as a way to focus my mind while I am reading.  I’m thinking what I would tell someone else about or what I would want to discuss with someone.  I found it helpful awhile back when Nathan was introducing the One Book focus for 2010 and he suggested using light-bulbs, arrows, and question marks in the margins of the text.  I don’t actually write them in, but as I’m reading, I’m thinking what questions I’d have about what I’m reading, what new insight God is giving me that I hadn’t understood or noticed before, and on what things I’m feeling convicted by the Spirit.  I find questions really easy to come up with.  I’ve been working on trying not to stop there, though – I could ask a million questions, but I don’t think that’s the only way to learn.  I’m convinced God, through His Spirit, helps us to understand his Word, so when I have a question, I try to take some time to meditate on it, perhaps remembering a related passage or verse, or something I read sometime.  My goal is to come up with possible answers to my questions.  Then when I discuss it with someone else, I’m not just expecting them to come up with an answer (the easy way out), rather, I’m offering what I’ve learned and seeing if it fits with their learning.  I think discussion in that context can be quite valuable.

I’ve found www.BibleGateway.com to be an invaluable resource when I’m searching for answers.  I’m amazed that this is available for free to anyone!  For those who don’t know, a huge number of Scripture translations (the complete texts) are available to read and search.  These include any common version, such as NIV, NLT, NASB, KJV, The Message, and many others.  You can also read and search in other languages.  Awhile back I was searching for references to sleep, and right away I got listings of the 107 verses that mention sleep.  How easy is that?!  There are a lot of other resources available on the site as well, though the Scripture read and search is the main one I use.

To summarize, then, I find it helpful to write while I read, going slowly and meditating on a thought or verse, and searching for answers to questions.  I would like for this process to occur between a small group of friends, although I haven’t managed to make this work effectively yet.  I’m still working on that.  If anyone would like to be a part of an on-going discussion of Luke, please read my blog at http://groups.google.com/group/one-book_PAC and follow the instructions for how you can join in.  If you haven’t been reading Luke yet, that’s not a problem – just start now!  Hope to see a few of you there.

George Roy

In this digital age I love reading ‘The Daily Reading’ that’s emailed each morning from the Canadian Bible Society. They take Scripture from both the New and Old Testament and often continue a story from day to day. For me this continues to reveal who God is and what’s important to Him.

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