Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has observed that many believers in Jesus “think they have a relationship with God that they go to church to have expressed. . . . I think that’s to get it exactly backwards.” A local church isn’t merely a gathering of people who already have a relationship with Jesus. Meeting together is central to that relationship.
As a young person, I thought the headings found at the start of selected passages in the Bible had been written by the original writers themselves. But then I learned that the headings had been inserted much later to better organize the Bible’s contents. Since then, I’ve often noticed how those descriptive lines, despite not being Scripture, can stick with us and influence our interpretations of the passages that follow!
This month, believers in Jesus can participate in two special ways to show their solidarity with others around the world. The first two Sundays are International Days of Prayer for upholding those persecuted for their faith. And November 23 is designated the International Day of the Bible for us to celebrate Scripture publicly. Participants are asked to read any passage of the Bible at noon and to promote the Bible on social media using the hashtag #BibleCelebration.
My friends in my Bible discussion group chuckled when I shared how I was trying to avoid God. I smiled, but it was no joke. His promptings to overlook my demands for justice and extend grace filled me with resentment. I felt like shaking my fist (as the prophet Jonah might have done) and screaming, “You want me to go where, and do what?!”
My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.
With an estimated 6 billion copies sold, the Bible is the world’s best-selling book. The average American owns three or four copies of the Bible. In a 2012 survey, however, 18 percent of churchgoers revealed that they rarely or never read the Bible, and 22 percent said they did so just once a month. Only 19 percent said they read the Bible every day. Lamar Vest, President of the American Bible Society, said: “There are probably five Bibles on every shelf in American homes. Americans buy the Bibles . . . they just don’t read [them].”
I’ve been serving an inner-city church in an African- American neighborhood of a large US city. It’s not common for Korean pastors to serve in this type of cross-cultural context, and so I’ve been asked more than once what brought me to the church. My answer? “God!” I never planned on serving here, but it has become clear that it was indeed God who called me.
A group of friends and I are in the midst of attempting to read through the Bible in 90 days. Since beginning this endeavor, we’ve been surprised at the way God’s Word has become so alive for us.
From the window of my office in Singapore, I observed that a plot of land was being excavated to make way for a new building. But for many months, the building project didn’t seem to make much progress despite a flurry of activity.
Q: Why is it that though Revelation is clearly written to 1st century Christians, for example 13:17-18, people try to put a 21st century meaning to it? —Craig
A: Revelation was written around 95 AD, during the time when Roman emperor Domitian had commenced persecuting the Church. Exiled on the island of Patmos for his faith (Revelation 1:9), the apostle John…
During World War II, Waldemar Semenov (a retired merchant seaman) was serving as a junior engineer aboard the SS Alcoa Guide when a German submarine surfaced and opened fire on the ship. The US merchant ship was hit, caught fire, and began to sink. Three hundred miles off the coast of North Carolina, Semenov and the other sailors lowered lifeboats into the water. Fortunately, the lifeboats were equipped with a compass. Semenov and his crew used the compass to sail west by northwest toward the shipping lanes. After three days, a patrol plane spotted Semenov’s lifeboat and the USS Broome rescued the men the next day. Thanks to that compass, Semenov and 26 other crewmembers were saved.
How many times have you, like I, delved into sin— be it addiction, sexual impropriety, gossip, pride, unbridled anger, slothfulness—in attempts to mask the pain of life? It’s all too easy to respond to the emptiness, disappointment, or hurt that we’re experiencing by turning away from God’s commands instead of to them.
Nancy Johnson went for a walk and discovered a little library in a neighbor’s yard. It’s estimated that there are now between 300 to 400 small libraries lodged in people’s lawns around the world. Each has a take-a-book/leave-a-book policy. Nancy commented, “I like the sense of community.”
One day my son Alex and I took a “listening walk” around our neighborhood. We circled the block in silence and then settled on the front step of our house to name the sounds we heard. I mentioned geese honking and the scuffing of our shoes on the sidewalk. Alex talked about a car horn, the grinding of garbage trucks retrieving trash, and an airplane’s engine overhead.