Friday, June 29, 2007

A Beautiful Sight...

I have been in charge of our Family Bible Experience (VBS) all week, and I am exhausted. Tomorrow is the last day, and it will be a blast! But for tonight, I'm here relaxing in my office, printing off perfect attendance awards for tomorrow, enjoying a cool glass of Purity Dairy all natural Lemonade. If you are from Middle Tennessee, you should understand what a truly beautiful sight this is.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I'm officially replaced.

Well, I just found out that Rose Bud has hired a new minister: Phil Thompson. Dr. Thompson is a professor at Harding, and will be preaching at Rose Bud on a mostly part time basis, though I think he'll work with them a lot in the summer. I hope that everything goes wonderfully for everyone involved. He's a top notch preacher, and they're a congregation with a lot of potential. It makes me sad to be missing out on a lot of the good that will continue to happen at Rose Bud. At the same time, they need some stability, and I think Dr. Thompson will be around for a long time. I'm glad their search is over. I wish them all the best. Now if I could just get my house to sell...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Some thoughts on reading the Bible more

Most professing Christians will readily admit that they don't spend enough time reading the Bible. Of course, if I were to read the Bible 24/7 without sleeping or taking breaks, then I would still probably say (1) I'm not reading the Bible enough and (2) if all I do is read the Bible but I never practice what I'm studying, it doesn't profit me that much. There has to be that balance there of reading, contemplation, and action.

At any rate, I would put myself in that group of people who really does need to read the Bible more. My routine was shaken up in the move, and I haven't gotten back on a regular schedule yet. (If you've noticed, my blogging has been lacking quite a bit as well)

By default, when I want to read the Bible more, I have a tendency to look for a new Bible to purchase that catches my interest. Here are some that I've tried:

The Message. I had a post a few weeks ago about rising denominations; one of which was The Church of The Message. Long before I saw this humorous list, I had noticed this trend; particularly in my home congregation. No matter what passage we were discussing, someone would always say, "Oh, but you've got to hear how the Message puts this passage." People will sometimes quote the Message in a manner reminiscent of how other people quote the KJV as the authoritative "authorized" version.

I have a copy of the Message. I've tried to read it, and have read parts of it from time to time with some benefit. My problem is that my background in Biblical languages seems to block my ears from just opening up to the language. I'm always preoccupied with wondering what tenses the verbs are intended to be in, and how the best way is to translate certain phrases. Since the Message is a paraphrase--not a translation--I have often read along for a while, then got really upset about something I didn't think was handled well. Eugene Peterson's theology often appears to be shining through, and I think that's the disadvantage of having any version of the Bible made by only one translator. I have tried reading it, but I feel like I'm reading the Bible through a veil. I have been troubled when I see people carrying a Message around instead of an actual Bible.

Daily Bibles. I've tried a couple of different times to do daily Bibles over the course of a year. I've only succeeded once. The older daily Bibles were an incredible concept when they first came along. My problem with them has been that the reading really is a lot. Going from reading zero chapters per day to four or five a day is extremely difficult. Often, I'll find a passage I want to study more, but when you're so busy charging ahead to finish, there's just not time. The one time I did finish it, I basically skimmed the last month's worth of reading, and got very little out of the experience.

As opposed to reading a regular daily Bible, I've also tried a Chronological daily Bible. There's one by F. LaGard Smith where he adds commentary sprinkled throughout to help the reader grasp what's going on. I really have enjoyed his comments, but it just intensifies the problem of finishing in a year. If Scripture itself was already a lot, having a bunch of extra notes to sort through just adds to the load. I think it's a great approach to try and read the Bible in the order that things happened, because it seems to fit together a lot better that way.

The Story. This is my most recent attempt at reading the Bible more, and so far it's been about my favorite. This is not a paraphrase and it's also not a complete Bible. It is a compilation of passages in a somewhat Chronological, somewhat normal order. The readings all come from the TNIV translation (which is not my favorite...I think they take way too many liberties with inserting words that may or may not be implied). Even though the translation isn't my favorite, I like it better than the Message and it reads really well. I found it on a clearance sale at a Christian book store, and have been very pleasantly surprised!

It is set up more like a book. Mine has fancy uneven edges on the pages to make it appear older. The pages are nice and thick instead of the usual dinky bleed-through Bible pages. It doesn't contain normal verse or chapter divisions. There are individual chapters designed to present the whole of Scripture as a story. It is a very abbreviated version of Scripture, and is only a little over 400 pages long, and that is in large font, 1-column format. For someone trying to keep the flow of Scripture in mind, I have really loved this book. There are several notes from the editor here and there to help connect passages from one to the next if large portions are skipped.

My one complaint is that this book does not state who compiled it. I'm one of those types who is very selective about which authors I read. I know which scholars I like and which schools I'm more fond of. This is done completely anonymously, which bothers me. I haven't ran into anything that I've found problems with in terms of the comments, but I feel like as a reader, when I know these words were not originally there, I deserve to know who added them.

Even so, if you're trying to be a better Bible reader and reading the regular Bible seems like too much to start with, I really would recommend The Story. My favorite section so far is Job. Job's story is abbreviated masterfully, with about a paragraph from each of the speeches. It makes it so much easier to visualize what is happening.

After I finish it, I'm thinking about challenging my youth group to read it through next year. It is a much more manageable amount to read, and it might make a good stepping stone for them to eventually read the entire Bible.

So what has worked for you? Is there a version you like best? Have you found a way to help you read, contemplate, and apply what you're studying?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Personal Milestone Accomplished

I've had an insanely busy year in 2007, but it's been a good one. The biggest thing that's happened for me was getting to teach my OT Survey class at Harding. Teaching Bible at the University level was a lifelong goal of mine that I expected it would take me a couple more decades to achieve. I was very flattered at the opportunity to do this at the age of 26. It kept me totally stressed out, but it was worth it. Several of my students said some really nice things to me (yes, I'm aware they could have been kissing up for a better grade), that made me feel good. I know that I genuinely helped some of them through some struggles and taught them a lot. Eventually, I may be back in the classroom, but I'm not as driven in that direction as I used to be, since I've already done it.

Yesterday, I finished and submitted a lesson for some adult curriculum from 21st Century Christian which represents another personal goal I've been working towards. If you've never used the Power Points For New Life series, it's a good one. There are lesson books that the teachers and students utilize, then there are free Power Point presentations available for download on the website that you can use while teaching the class. My lesson should be in the Spring 2008 quarter on Romans 8. I don't know how good it is, but I'm proud that I got to do it. This is the first actual lesson I've got published that wasn't just a newspaper article or something.

Frankly, I am even more glad to not have that hanging over me right now. I've got VBS coming up in a couple of weeks, and camp in about four weeks. It's all stressful, but it will also be rewarding, I'm sure.

At any rate, I just wanted to make a post to recognize this point in my life. I've been blessed.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Planning for the summer...

Well, so far I have been playing catch up here at OH. I've got VBS in a couple of weeks, and church camp in about 4. It's pretty crazy.

I had been a little concerned about getting stuff together, but all at once today, several things seem to be falling into place. Keaton and Lisa Bell took us out to lunch yesterday, then to Gospel Advocate where Keaton works. (He's an accountant, but his kids enjoy telling people that their father is a "book salesman".) I found some books with some great games and helps for what I'm planning, and it makes me feel like I'm much farther ahead than I was yesterday.

I discovered a website that has lots of items with great potential!

I feel like buying at least one of everything they've got. It looks like there's lots of fun potential. At OH's church camp, they have "messy day" on Tuesday, where they spread out a giant plastic cover, and do all sorts of disgusting relays and games on it, using ketchup, crisco, syrup, eggs, and whatever else they feel like.

I ordered a book today with 50 recipes for making slime. I also may end up buying some "Yuck" from the above website.

I've had a hard time staying on top of everything, but the people here at church have been great to work with. I think this will be an all around good summer for everyone. I'm sorry that I haven't had an extra month to work on planning. Then again, I hate I didn't have another several months to spend at Rose Bud.

Oh well. Such is life.

If any of you have any good suggestions for messy games, I'm all ears!