Serving Others – Following the Example of Jesus

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Life’s taught me that discipleship is not for the faith-of-heart.

I’ve had times in my life when I was so focused upon prayer and contemplation that my journey of faith began to turn inward. When I was in seminary, I always wanted to take a course on spirituality, so that I could somehow become a bit more “spiritual” – but I didn’t find the magic pill. I have moved through periods in life where I’ve consumed everything that people offered to me to help me grow as a Christian and I always went away craving more. I’ve also learned that it’s safe to do ministry from a distance. I’ve sponsored several children through Compassion International. I’ve sent money to Pittsburgh Fisher House. I’ve dumped hundreds of cans of food into boxes at my church – knowing that those cans would be delivered to a local food bank by somebody else. I can’t even begin to count the number of struggling people that I’ve tried to comfort by telling them that they’re in “my thoughts and prayers” while standing at a safe distance from their struggles and pain.

Jesus once had an interesting conversation with a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a powerful man and a ruler of the Jews. Nicodemus spent his entire life studying the Old Testament and trying to follow the “Rules of God” which had grown from a list of ten clear commandments into scrolls filled with thousands of rules. But Nicodemus was also fascinated by Jesus. And so, one night, Nicodemus came to Jesus because he wanted to talk with Him. And Jesus began to talk with Nicodemus about being “born again.” And in that story, we find what’s probably the best-known verse in the entire Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) And, in that great verse, we find an important key to ministry in the world today!

In this week’s message, “Serving Others – Following the Example of Jesus”, we remember that how we think about God shapes the way we think about ministry.

Many of us believe that God’s presence is found in a church building and that folks need to come to that church building if they want to encounter God and grow as a Christian – and when we think in that particular way we almost transform our church buildings into a Jewish “Holy of Holies.” Many Christians believe that the Church’s best-route-forward in swiftly changing times is still going to be discovered when we find new and innovative ways to get more people to come into our church buildings during a particular time of the week (that we, of course, have chosen for ourselves).

But, in the story of Nicodemus, we’re reminded that God didn’t sit up in Heaven waiting for people to come to Him. God became “incarnate.” The Christian faith is built around the idea that God came into the world to meet us where we live and spend our time and raise our kids. And so, if we truly want to serve others – following the example of Jesus – doesn’t it make sense that our ministry must also be one that reaches-out to people in the places where they live and spend their time and raise their kids, too?

What would the ministry of Christ’s Church look like if we moved past the idea that our primary goal in ministry is to get more people to come into our buildings?

Can you imagine Christians studying the Bible with each other in their homes, and very intentionally creating safe places where people who don’t want to come into our church buildings can gather to talk about God and pray with each other? Imagine Christians going into their communities and forging new relationships with groups of parents who are just as concerned about helping young people to grow into healthy adults as we are. What would our ministries look like if we pictured our church buildings simply as places where people could come to be welcomed and embraced, to be heard and to be cared for, to worship and pray in a place filled with love and acceptance, and to be equipped and empowered to do what God’s calling them to do outside of the church building?

Life’s taught me that discipleship is not for the faint-of-heart. And life’s, also, taught me that “Serving Others – Following the Example of Jesus” is something that will always call us to move beyond the safety of “spiritual practices” and the walls of church buildings.

What would happen if we began to see that ministry isn’t just about struggling to find new and innovative ways to get people to come into our church buildings? What would happen if we began to understand Christian ministry more incarnationally and followed the example of Jesus more intentionally – going-out into the world to meet people where they live and spend their time and raise their kids?

Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ

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I’ve always enjoyed sharing Good News with other people.

Good news can bring a smile to people’s faces and it can help people to see that life’s still good in tough times. Good news encourages people, builds people up, and brings comfort to those who are struggling. And yet, America’s filled with more and more people who do not want to hear the message of Good News that Christians bring to the world. America is filled with many people who don’t want to have anything do to with the Church. And that is a harsh reality that we face in:  “Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ”

The Temple of Jerusalem was divided into three distinct parts in the time of Jesus. There was a “Holy of Holies” – reserved for the High Priest. There was an area surrounding the “Holy of Holies” where the Jews could worship. And then, there was an outside area that existed because, according to Isaiah 56:7, the Temple in Jerusalem was originally built to be a “house of prayer for all people.” People who weren’t Jewish were still welcome in the Temple and they could worship in this outside area. But a problem was created when the Jews began to use this “outside area” as a place to sell animals and to exchange coins. And, when Jesus arrived at the Temple, He was horrified by the fact that the “business as usual” in the Temple was interfering with the Temple’s ability to be the “house of prayer for all people.”

We have a life-giving message of Good News and a wonderful message of God’s love and embrace to share with the world; but, sometimes, our “business as usual” in the Church can keep us from being Christ’s Church for all people. The Good News of Jesus Christ can become hidden when people in the Church aren’t living well with each other, and that’s why many people don’t want to have anything to do with the Church. The Good News of God’s welcome and embrace can become hidden when “the way that we want people to do things” becomes more important than the fact that we want people to be a part of what God’s doing in our midst. The Good News of God’s forgiveness can become hidden when Christians refuse to forgive each other and release the things in life that have hurt them. The Good News of Jesus Christ can become veiled in a cloud when our “business as usual” in the Church becomes more important than what we are doing to proclaim God’s love and embrace.

When Jesus got to the Temple, He found people doing what people had always done at the Temple during Passover. They were selling animals. They were selling sacrificial doves to the poor. They were exchanging Roman coins for coins that could be used in the Temple. And, as they did their “business as usual,” the part of the Temple in Jerusalem that was designed to be a place where people who weren’t Jewish could gather for worship disappeared and the Temple began to lose a sense of being a “house of prayer for all people.”

And that’s something that we need to think about in the Church today.

How does our “business as usual” interfere with our ability to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in the world today? How does our “business as usual” create a barrier that keeps people from experiencing God’s presence in our houses of worship today? How does our “business as usual” keep people from more-fully participating in ministry, and using gifts and talents to glorify God?

Perhaps this Lent, as the Living Christ continues to move in our midst, we can hear God’s call to move past our “business as usual” in the Church, so that all of God’s people will be able to more deeply sense that the place where we worship is a “house of prayer for all people” where all who gather can experience God’s presence and hear a word of Good News.

 

Hearing God’s Word and Sharing the Lord’s Supper

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Life’s taught me that discipleship is not for the faint-of-heart.

I was taught that faith is primarily a source of comfort, stability and peace in life when I was a little boy. I was taught that people should come to worship because the church is a place where people have their “gas tanks” filled, and where people come to be energized and to be inspired by the pastor. But, after living almost thirty years as a pastor, I can say that I’ve learned that living my life as a follower of Jesus is about much, much more.

It’s not easy to spend time with people who are dying, or to speak words of hope and new life while standing beside a hole in the ground. It’s not easy to listen to a pain-filled story; and, then, take a woman who’s being abused at home to a place where someone from the Blackburn Center will pick her up and take her to a safe place. It’s not easy to continually search for new ways to help parents raise faith-filled children when many of those same parents won’t even bring their kids to worship. It’s not easy to publicly speak-out against racism and bigotry, to openly speak about caring for the poor and homeless, and to just as openly address hot political issues when people just stop coming to worship and stop supporting important ministries when they disagree with what’s being said in the pulpit.

Right after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and right after He spent time alone in the Wilderness, Jesus began to preach and heal people and gather disciples. We read that Jesus once fed more than 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two little fish. And Peter was watching everything! The Bible tells us that Peter even got to the point where He believed that Jesus is the Messiah.

But, right after Peter told everyone around him that he believed that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus began to speak about suffering, and being rejected, and being killed, and being lift-up to new life. And when Peter had heard enough, he shouted, “No, no, no, no, no! That’s not how things are going to be!” And Jesus called him “Satan” – and told him to get out of the way! And then, Jesus spoke haunting words: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake will save it.”

And that brings us to the second of the Faith Practices that we’re going to lift-up during our Lenten Journey (to learn more about the first Faith Practice, click here).

The Bible tells us that God’s Word is the “sword of the Spirit” that cuts us to the heart – bringing words of comfort and peace, but also bringing powerful words that convict us and challenge us to do what God wants us to do. The “sword of the Spirit” is something that God uses to bring peace and to stir-up faith within us, but the “sword of the Spirit” is also a powerful word that continues to challenge us to “take-up our Cross”; and to allow “old ways” to die, so that “new ways” can be born.

In “Hearing God’s Word and Sharing the Supper”, we are reminded that our faith can be a source of strength and stability, but it can also be something that drives us to do things that are uncomfortable. When we stop biting our tongues and begin to speak-out about the things that we believe, we can experience rejection and unexpected consequences. When we stop biting our tongues and stop hiding what we believe, we can gain an even deeper sense of what God’s calling us to do – but, when we take that chance, we need to realize that we might become unpopular and even be rejected. That’s why the second of our Faith Practices is so important!

God’s Word comforts and challenges us, and the Lord’s Supper brings us the gift of God’s presence and forgiveness. The “sword of the Spirit” continues to guide and direct us, and the Lord’s Supper continues to strengthen and empower us.

Churches and ministries that want to grow and flourish need to be grounded in God’s Word and to be strengthened by the Lord’s Supper. Churches and ministries that want to grow and flourish must continue to seek God’s guidance in the teachings of the Bible and in prayer, and they must also continue to seek the strengthening presence of God at the Table where Christ has promised to be. Churches and ministries can’t be built on things that Dietrich Bonhoeffer once called “wish dreams” (human-created ideas and dreams). In this week’s message, we are called to remember that churches and ministries are built and endure when God’s people spend time reading God’s Word and in prayer, and when God’s people continue to gather around the altar to be fed and nourished.

“Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for the sake of Christ will save it.” May God continue to guide us as we make sense of what these words mean to us in changing times, and may God continue to comfort and challenge us to “live well” with each other as we gather around God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper.

 

Read Through the Bible – Week 40

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

This weekend, many Christians will enter the season of Advent – a time of hope when we listen to the promises of God and a time of expectation when we hear God’s promises to renew His creation.

The news is filled with many stories that create fear and uncertainty these days. We hear about gunmen randomly shooting innocent people, and we hear about bombs rocking mosques in the Middle East. We’ve all heard about the increasing tensions between the United States and North Korea, and we’ve witnessed missile launches. We’ve seen people of great prominence fall from public grace as the #MeToo Movement has exposed stories of sexual harassment, and we’ve wondered what Congress’ new tax bill will mean to our lives in the coming years. Fear and uncertainty seem to be all around us. Some of us are asking questions that we’ve never asked in the past. And we need hope. We need to find a source of hope and peace that reminds us that God’s still in control and that the forces of good are, ultimately, going to win.

Advent is time of hope when we listen to the promises of God and a time of expectation when we hear God’s promises to renew His creation. But Advent is, also, a time when we are called to reflect and to honestly admit that, at least sometimes, we’re part of what’s wrong. We don’t always treat other people kindly; and, when people step on our toes, we don’t always forgive quickly. We want to sit in the driver’s seat and self-direct the course of our lives; and, when we do that, we can be blind to opportunities that God sets before us. We sometimes misinterpret the actions of others and we’re not always willing to admit that people can change. That’s the story of Jonah. And that’s one of the stories that we’re going to encounter in this week’s readings.

Many of us are probably already familiar with this epic tale. We can almost picture the frightened mariners casting lots, and we can almost imagine the look on Jonah’s face when his compatriots decided that he’s the problem. We can easily picture Jonah being swallowed by a great, big fish and being vomited-out upon the dry land. Maybe, as you read the story of Jonah this week, you’ll be able to sense the anger that he felt when God decided to have mercy upon the 120,000 people that Jonah thought God would destroy? The story of Jonah is a short one; but it’s, also, a very human story in which we can all find a part of ourselves.

What if we began the season of Advent by honestly admitting that, sometimes, we are the source of the problems in our own lives? What if we began the season of Advent by just stopping for a moment to think about the times when we’ve thwarted God’s plan for our lives and futures because we weren’t willing to give God the reins? Have you ever had a time when you struggled to accept the fact that God can forgive people that you can’t? Can Advent mark a new beginning in your life this year and help you to prepare yourself to meet the Christ whose birth we’re going to celebrate in just a few short weeks?

Advent is time of hope when we listen to the promises of God and a time of expectation when we hear God’s promises to renew His creation. But Advent is, also, a time when we recall that the renewal of God’s creation sometimes begins with us. Perhaps, we can use the next few weeks to renew our relationships with people that we’ve hurt or with the people who have hurt us? Perhaps, we can use the next few weeks to more intentionally pray and ask for God’s guidance? Perhaps, we can use the next few weeks to allow God to work in our hearts and in our lives, so that we’re more prepared to meet the Christ as He comes to us on Christmas?

Here are this weeks readings:

Sunday: Hebrews 5-7 – Monday: Numbers 29-32 – Tuesday: 2 Chronicles 11-15 – Wednesday: Psalms 117-118 – Thursday: Proverbs 28 – Friday: Jonah – Saturday: Acts 3-4

 

 

Read Through the Bible – Weeks 34 and 35

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible.”

We’ve been traveling through the Gospel of John in the last few weeks. John is the last of the Gospels in the Bible and was, chronologically, the last of the gospels, too. The Gospel of John contains stories that we don’t find in the other gospels. This is where we’ll find the story of the wedding at Cana in Galilee, the Samaritan woman by the well, and a lot of stories filled with theological statements. John’s famous for the “I AM” statements that we find throughout his gospel, and we’re going to encounter two of those statements as we read from John’s Gospel this week: “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7) and “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:14). But, carefully tucked between these two statements, we find one of my favorite verses in the Bible.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

What kinds of things are stealing energy and enthusiasm from your life right now? What parts of your life do you find most difficult? None of us can live our lives without facing some challenges and obstacles, but there are other things in life that drain us (almost on a daily basis) and that leave us with weighted-down spirits and heavy hearts. Do you find yourself praying about those things? What’s God been saying to you? Jesus tells us that the “thief” comes into our lives to steal and kill and destroy – but God is mightier than the “thief” that Jesus describes, isn’t He? What do you need from God right now? How might God be working in your life to take away the power of the “thief” that’s stealing energy and enthusiasm from your daily life?

Jesus also tells us that He has come that we may have life and have it abundantly. What kinds of things make you feel close to God right now? What kinds of things send you into the world filled with energy and excitement? St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that God is a God who spurs us on in life, and who creates deep passions and excitement. What are you most excited about right now, and how can that excitement be a clear sign that God’s doing something big in your life? Perhaps, that’s something that you can lift-up to God in times of prayer this week, too? How can the excitement and passions that you feel about certain things help you to understand God’s plan for your life and your future?

I know that I’ve asked a lot of questions. But, as we travel through the Gospel of John, we’re brought face-to-face with a God who’s come into the world to bring life, to restore hope, to give peace in difficult times, and to give us strength to face the challenges in life that we’ll all face at some point. Where are you finding God in your life right now, and what do you need the most from God at this point in your journey? Why not take some time to talk with God about that today?

Week 34

Sunday: 1 Timothy 4-6 – Monday: Numbers 5-8 – Tuesday: 1 Chronicles 10-14 – Wednesday: Psalms 99-101 – Thursday: Proverbs 19 – Friday: Hosea 1-7 – Saturday: John 7-9

Week 35

Sunday: 2 Timothy 1-2 – Monday: Numbers 9-12 – Tuesday: 1 Chronicles 15-19 – Wednesday: Psalms 102-104 – Thursday: Proverbs 20-21 – Friday: Hosea 8-14 – Saturday: John 10-12

 

Read Through the Bible – Weeks 32 and 33

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Life’s been a bit crazy in the last few weeks….

I guess that a man doesn’t realize how much his wife does to support and to care for him until she decides to go away for ten days. I spent time at a coaching conference while my wife was away, and came home with a 3-hour homework assignment and a small pile of books to read. And, of course, ministry continues.  First Communion classes have started and our Catechism program is underway. We’re getting ready to celebrate Harvest Home this weekend with an Oktoberfest – and with a special Sunday that’s devoted to focusing our attention upon how God’s using us and the ministry of our congregation to do His work in a quickly-changing world. And, quite honestly, it’s all pretty overwhelming….

You could probably be writing something very similar, right? There are times when we find ourselves burning the candle at both ends and trying to light it in the middle. We all have times when we realize that there’s just not enough of us to around. And it’s hard for us – because we don’t always like to admit it. I often joke about the fact that I once asked God for an extra day each week – and He responded, in great mercy, by saying, “No!”

And yet, as we travel through the book of Proverbs, we find encouragement.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

How is God helping to establish your plans? How is God leading you and guiding you in your life right now? Are you trying to do it all by yourself? Are you struggling because you can’t figure-out how to find the time to do all of the things that you think God wants you to do? Perhaps, it’s time to step back and commit your work to the Lord? Maybe, it’s time to step back and admit that you don’t really know the exact path forward, and ask God to guide you and strengthen you?

We all face overwhelming times when we’re not sure about the future and when we are even less sure about how to get there. Why not take some time to pray about that today – knowing that God has a wonderful plan for your life and that God will open doors that will lead you in the direction that He wants you to move?

Here are two weeks of readings:

Week 31

Sunday – 2 Thessalonians, Monday – Leviticus 25-27, Tuesday – 1 Chronicles 1-4, Wednesday – Psalms 93-95, Thursday – Proverbs 16, Friday – Daniel 1-6, Saturday – John 3-4

Week 32

Sunday – 1 Timothy 1-3, Monday – Numbers 1-4, Tuesday – 1 Chronicles 5-9, Wednesday – Psalms 96-98, Thursday – Proverbs 17-18, Friday – Daniel 7-12, Saturday – John 5-6

 

Read Through the Bible – Week 28

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

This is a place where we’re gathering together around God’s Word, and where we have decided to read through the Bible with each other and support each other as Christians. We’ve moved through more than half the Bible this year, and we’re pressing on toward the goal! But, if you’re new to this site, don’t be dismayed. Please feel free to jump on board! You don’t have to try to catch up with us, and we understand when people miss a reading or two along the way. This site is about encouraging you to spend some time with God’s Word and to allow the words of the Bible to speak to you.

We’ve been hearing a lot about disasters in the last few weeks, haven’t we?

Hurricane Harvey dumped several feet of water onto Texas and Louisiana, and then buried many other people under smaller amounts of water as it moved north. We’re hearing about raging fires in the western part of the United States and, just this morning, we heard stories about an earthquake off the coast of Mexico. Hurricane Irma is going to be moving across Florida this weekend – wreaking havoc as it slowly moves north. And many of us are feeling overwhelmed. We want to help, but we don’t know how. We want to offer our generous support, but many of us continue to struggle to simply make ends meet in our own homes. Just last week, I used my weekly installment of “Read Through the Bible” to lift-up a young woman and family that lost everything that they own – and I asked you to consider giving them some help. What’s a person to do?

This week, we’re going to be reading a parable from the Gospel of Luke. We’re going to hear about a nobleman who entrusted some people with a part of his wealth; and, when he did that, he asked them to take care of it. Some of the people invested the money that they had been given and doubled the nobleman’s wealth – one turning ten minas (each of them worth the amount of money that 13 farmers would be paid for a year’s labor) into twenty minas – and another turning five minas into ten minas. But one person, who was entrusted with only one mina buried it in the ground; and, at the end of the story, he just returned the mina that he had been given to the nobleman (who became enraged).

And, I guess this story has always been one that makes me think about the things that God has entrusted into my care, and about how I use those things (or don’t us them).

And, with that in mind and without pointing fingers, I’d like to ask you to think about how you’re using the gifts that God has place into your hands.

Some of us have already sent some of our money to support people who have lost their homes and all of their belongings in raging storms. Some of you many have even sent some money that will be given to Debbie and her family. Some of us support our local food bank or women’s shelter. Some of us volunteer time, so that programs like Meals-on-Wheels can continue to bring cooked food to people who are confined to their homes. Some of us cook meals and deliver them to our aging parents. Some of us watch our own children’s kids, so that they can go to work. Some of us donate money to places that are doing cancer research, while others support homeless shelters. And to all the people who are so faithfully using and investing the gifts that God has given, I say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23) You are a real blessing!

This week, in the midst of raging storms and fires, I want to challenge you to think about the fact that God’s happy when He sees you investing your time, energy, and financial resources in the lives of others. And how you do it isn’t as important as the fact the you ARE doing it. I guess that as we read one of Jesus’ parables this Saturday, we’re going to be reminded that the only person who angered the nobleman was the man who buried his mina in the ground to protect it and keep it safe, so that he could return what he’d been given to the nobleman without having risked it or increased it in any way.

Here are this week’s readings:

Sunday: Colossians 1-2 – Monday: Leviticus 13-15 – Tuesday: 2 Kings 6-10 – Wednesday: Psalms 81-83 – Thursday: Proverbs 10 – Friday: Ezekiel 25-30 – Saturday: Luke 19-20

 

Read Through the Bible – Week 26

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

This week, we come to the mid-point of our journey through the Bible! We’ve read some familiar stories from God’s Word as we’ve worked our way through the books of Genesis and Exodus; and we’re, presently, reading yet another account of Christ’s ministry in the Gospel of Luke. We’ve read the story of Job (a man of great faith who showed us a Godly way to move through times of struggle and adversity) and we’ve plunged head-first into some of the deep theology that’s contained in the letters of St. Paul. And now, we’re going to begin our journey through a rather short book of the Bible called Philippians.

Philippi was named after Philip of Macedon – the father of Alexander the Great. In 42 BC, Mark Anthony and Octavius wrestled Philippi from the hands of Brutus and Cassius, and transformed the entire region into a Roman colony. Philippi was frequently visited by people who were traveling through the region; and, thus, it was a strategic place for St. Paul to visit as he continued to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the entire “world” of his time.

St. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while imprisoned in Rome.

Throughout his ministry, St. Paul supported his own ministry by continuing to work in the “secular” world. However, we do know that St. Paul received encouragement from the Christians in Philippi when he was visiting Thessalonica (Philippians 4:16,18) and when he was visiting Corinth (II Corinthians 11:9). The letter to the Philippians that is contained in the Bible was carried back to the church in Philippi by Epaphroditus, who had nearly died while bringing an offering of love to St. Paul while he was confined in prison (Philippians 2:25-30). As you are reflecting upon Sunday’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, spend some time thinking about Philippians 2:5-11 – an early form of the proclamation of the Christian Gospel.

Here are this week’s readings:

Sunday: Philippians 1-2 – Monday: Leviticus 7-9 – Tuesday: 1 Kings 19-22 – Wednesday: Psalms 75-77 – Thursday: Proverbs 7 – Friday: Ezekiel 13-18 – Saturday: Luke 15-16

 

Read Through the Bible – Week 24

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

This week, we will begin what (at least for me) is one of the most difficult books in the Bible. The book of Leviticus is packed with rules and regulations. We’ll begin by reading rules about burnt offerings, grain offerings, and peace offerings. We’ll read rules about sin and guilt offerings, about clean and unclean types of animals, about purification rites that women should perform after childbirth and about boundaries that God’s set in place to define healthy sexual relationships.

But rules are sometimes hard to follow, aren’t they?

Last week, when I was on vacation, I almost always set the cruise control on my car to 5 (or even 10) miles-an-hour over the speed limit. I’ve been known to run into a store and hurry things along, so that I can return to my car before someone notices that I didn’t put any money into the parking meter. I, sometimes, break God’s rules by refusing to forgive people who have hurt me, and the words that come out of my mouth aren’t always kind and up-lifting. I, perhaps like you, used to worry about the fact that there might be a big balance in the sky where God weighs all of the bad things that I’ve done and all of the good things that I’ve done – all in an effort to determine my eternal destiny.

Rules are important and the book of Leviticus is an important part of the Bible for us to read; but, as you’re working your way through Leviticus, I’d like you to continue to ask yourself an important question: “What makes me ‘right’ in the eyes of God?” The God of the Bible says, “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you may not vomit you out.” (Leviticus 20:22) But, in the very same Bible, St. Paul writes: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Romans 3:21)

How do you make sense of that? How do you live in “community” with other followers of Christ in a world where some Christians want to argue that the Law means nothing – and where other Christians still argue that “good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell?” How do you balance the Law of God with the Love of God? And, perhaps just as importantly, how will you “use” the words that you read as we work our way through the book of Leviticus? Will you highlight certain verses and use them to point-out the sin in the lives of other people, or will you struggle to make sense of what it means to live in a world where the God who writes rules continues to love us and forgive us?

Here are next week’s readings:

Sunday: Ephesians 1-3 – Monday: Leviticus 1-3 – Tuesday: 1 Kings 10-13 – Wednesday: Psalms 69-71 – Thursday: Proverbs 4 – Friday: Ezekiel 1-6 – Saturday: Luke 11-12

Read Through the Bible – Week 23

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“Read Through the Bible” has been created to help you to read the entire Bible over the course of one, short year! We hope that you’ve been traveling with us, but want you to know that you’re free to jump into God’s Word and read along with us at any time! And, if you miss a day or two (or even a week) along the way, it’s not a big deal. Don’t worry about what you’ve missed! Just jump back into the schedule – knowing that other people all around the world are reading the same passage that you are.

This week, we’re going to tackle an entire book of the Bible named Lamentations.

Lamentations is a book that was written by a person with a broken heart. The writer had most certainly witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and its aftermath. We can see the author moving back and forth between horrifying confessions of sin and appeals for the kinds of help that can only come from God.

Lamentations is written in an “acrostic” style. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 contain twenty-two verses – corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In the original Hebrew text, each of these verses begin with a different Hebrew letter – and all of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are used in order. Chapter 3 is written in the same way and consists of three blocks of twenty-two verses; however, even though Chapter 5 of the book of Lamentations returns to the twenty-two verse pattern, no acrostic is present.

We don’t often experience a genuine lament in the 21st Century. However, the Jews use the book of Lamentations to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem to this very day.

Here are next week’s readings:

Sunday: Galatians 4-6 – Monday: Exodus 37-40 – Tuesday: 1 Kings 5-9 – Wednesday: Psalms 66-68 – Thursday: Proverbs 2-3 – Friday: Lamentations – Saturday: Luke 9-10

Blessings!