teach the Bible please

In my experience churches are receptive to solid biblical teaching. People crave truth (meat as Hebrews calls it) and flock to it when they find it. The trouble is, they do not find it often enough because our leaders are not as biblically active as they should be. Many feign biblical activity, but not enough meditation, not enough serious study, not enough learning from Scripture goes into their messages. Too many pastors decide what to teach then look to Scripture to support their ideas (which are often more concerned with being relevant or clever than in being biblically based). The church needs teachers who get their ideas from Scripture, who teach divine truth, not human ideas. I am not suggesting that relevance (or even cleverness) are bad things. But the preacher who teaches the word, instead of using it as a resource, will deliver messages more relevant (and clever) than anything he or she could have come up with alone.

This applies especially to the great stories in the Bible. We worry too much about extracting meaning from the stories, when the stories themselves convey more meaning and nuance and variation than we can possibly extract or explain all at once. We go wrong when we approach the Bible as a textbook, life manual, or source material. It is a book of stories. Even the letters from Paul are what we have left of stories, one side of a conversation, not detachable propositional statements.

And I have to admit, I have strayed from Bible preaching myself. I’d like to think I chose topics and themes based on the Spirit’s leading. Hopefully I did. But I’m also as busy, distracted, and reactionary as the next weekly preacher. So I’ve committed to preach the Book of Acts this year because of everything I just said, and because I feel a deep tug in my soul to do so. There are great stories in Acts and I can’t wait to see where this takes us. Right out of the gate, I had to preach from Acts 1, where they cast lots to choose Matthias to replace Judas. What a weird story! Then I talked about the urim and thummin and the times those got used – more weird stories! I think it wound up being good (listen here and let me know what you think), with the final point being that we need to leave room for God to direct our steps (without using dice!). One thing I love about this approach is it forces me to preach texts I would otherwise avoid.

I know there are other ways to preach the Bible than to go through a book. And yes, going through a book can get long and dry. But I think with enough discipline, study, and imagination, it can be good and life-giving. Another way is to have small groups work through books of the Bible together (I led a home group through Acts years ago and it was good). That’s good too, but I suggest that our main gatherings are excellent places for the didactic work of teaching our core stories (with the stories themselves as the main feature) while our smaller gatherings are perfectly suited for talking out the practical implications of how we live based on these stories that we are becoming part of.

sacredness of small moments

My little post from yesterday about the meteorite struck a nerve. A number of people shared it, liked it, and commented on it. I appreciate the encouragement. I also had to laugh thinking about what the experience of writing it was like compared to how it came out and was received. As I wrote Monday, I’m committed to writing more this year, including daily blog posts. The idea is that by making myself post something everyday, I will get back into a writing mode and be more productive overall like I was in 2013. Putting that idea into action means finding time to actually sit down and write. With everything else I have going, I think the best time is early in the morning (which is also when I wrote many of my Red Letter Year posts). The only problem so far is that my boys, who are early risers anyway, are getting up earlier and earlier, nearly matching me. I’m writing this sitting on my couch and Isaac has just curled up beside me, arm in mine, watching the words appear as I type. He’s up a good 45 minutes earlier than usual. I’m not noisily waking them up or anything. Somehow, I think they just sense an opportunity for a few extra minutes with dad so they’re taking them.

Yesterday, I wrote the first few sentences before Isaac came downstairs. Unlike today, he was immediately hungry. So I paused and made his oatmeal and sat back down to write. Then I had that moment of enjoying watching him enjoy his breakfast. If I accomplished nothing else yesterday, I wanted to capture that moment, to preserve how special it felt in all its ordinariness. A few sentences later, Ian (my 3 year old) came downstairs heartbroken from a bad dream and missing grandpa (who visited us recently). A long hug on this same spot on the couch and a cup of orange juice made things better, though he wanted to play quietly before his breakfast. I managed a couple of sentences before he was ready for cereal and raisins. Soon, two boys were full of breakfast fueled energy and into their morning play. I had to bear down mentally at the end but that’s also when I cleaned up a few messy sentences and made the whole thing a good deal tighter.

Why am I giving you the play by play from yesterday? Because I suspect that you might be like me, trying to do creative things and have an actual life at the same time. It’s not easy to keep all the balls we’re juggling in the air. I used to think I had to get things just right (total quiet, clear desk) to write. But I have found in recent years that I do some of my best writing in far less sterile conditions. I can recoil from real life as a distraction from my creative work or I can find my inspiration for it in all those everyday moments. I can try to bend all of my life around my writing or my writing can take the shape of my actual life. I’m learning to revere the sacredness of the small moments.