Refreshing our memory

2 Peter 1:2-15
Our church has one Sunday School class right now. The class leader and I meet together and stream the class to an online audience. He prepares a lesson each week. I just chime in as we go along and run the media side of the class.

I noticed something this weekend in our conversation. It also dawned on me during the sermon I preached. Yes, during.

The class topic was obedience. My sermon was about God’s peace.

Somehow, both of them got around to talking about the need to read scripture and prayer. It occurred to me I talk a lot about those things.

Isn’t there anything else to talk about? Of course!

But so much of what we learn about faith comes from the Bible. Likewise, prayer deepens our trust in God like nothing else. As I was preaching, I got to thinking about what other topics I bring up all the time.

Without looking up anything, I reflected on what’s always on my mind: discipleship; community; obedience; Bible; prayer. Is there another point you always hear me go on and on about?

Well, if we’ve recognized there are a few faith subjects that come up all the time, we’re in good company. Let’s look at 2 Peter 1 to see.

Peter opens the first chapter with a call for Christians to grow in their faith. “Support your faith,” he said, “with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.”

He wants his readers to receive these traits as fruit of their walk with God. They are important elements of our faith in Christ. So, “be all the more eager to confirm your call and election,” he said. That is, make it your goal to pursue these characteristics as evidence of your faith in Jesus. I’d say as individual believers and as congregations.

These attributes are so important Peter has a plan. He said, “I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you.” It’s only right, he continued, “to refresh your memory.”

That’s what we’re doing when we repeat these common faith topics. We’re refreshing our memories. Peter’s audience needed that reminder. Are we so sure we don’t?

Our sanctification depends on it, actually. We won’t grow in faith and in the knowledge of God if we won’t pursue the things of God. God won’t just make you faithful one day. The Lord doesn’t have a magic spell to make you obedient. There’s no secret sauce to make you a faithful giver or a dedicated servant.

No, all that happens only as you and I remind each other of what’s important about our walk with God.
Stay blessed…john

You name it

2 Kings 22:11-20
We’re going to need better excuses.

I’ll share one with you that I’ve heard. From time to time, someone will tell me what keeps them from reading the Bible is “all those hard names.” They say, “It’s so confusing.” Let me affirm part of that to you. The longest word in the Bible is a name: Mahershalalhashbaz. And while most names in the Bible aren’t nearly that long, some can be difficult to pronounce, at first.

What I’ve learned is unfamiliar names don’t keep us from watching any of our favorite sports. Some of our favorite celebrities have names that can be confusing. I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but don’t ask me anyone’s name. The same goes for Star Wars, Harry Potter and even the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, I’m one of those people who has a hard time with names, too.

But that’s not what keeps us from engaging with scripture.

It’s not even a lack of understanding. You understand more than you realize (or admit). Yes, there’s always more to learn about the Bible’s stories. At the same time, we can come away from a text and see for ourselves what is happening even at first glance.

When someone found the book of the law, they made sure King Josiah heard it. Not that he heard about the finding, but that he heard it read. Apparently, God’s law hadn’t been read in public in sixty years. What was Josiah’s response? He tore his clothes.

Why did he do that?

It was a sign of grief and repentance because he understood. Josiah realized, just from the reading, that the people of God weren’t being led by God’s law. He was their leader. If the people were going to be led by God, it would start with him. Let that sink in. The religious reform we associate with Josiah began with one hearing of God’s word.

Notice what he did next.

The king directed his officials to inquire of the Lord about what he heard. This isn’t a perfect parallel to hearing a sermon, but Josiah asked for an interpretation. While he knew there was more, his first hearing of God’s word proved quite capable of moving his heart.

Most of us are just as capable of having the same experience. Not knowing how to pronounce a name shouldn’t keep us from that.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” What a helpful illustration. Have you ever moved? Lived somewhere different? When you do, you have to learn to move about in your new place. What about as our neighborhoods and communities change? We learn where things are. We figure out where we need to go and how to get there.

You might even learn new store or street names.

Such is learning the Bible.

Stay blessed…john

Recipe for life

Genesis 14:17-24
I’ve struggled to offer you thoughts about this encounter.

There are a lot of blanks to fill in when it comes to making sense of King Melchizedek. He shows up in Genesis 14 when he welcomes Abram returning from war. The few mentions of him after that relate to interpreting his role as a priest. That means there are a lot of questions about who he was and even what he was. For example, how did a non-Jew become priest of God Most High?

As I began writing, I noticed I was trying to provide a lot of information. I wanted to fill you in on what makes this passage intriguing if you aren’t already familiar with it. There’s much this text offers. But it started to read like a history lesson. I wondered if I was answering questions you weren’t asking.

And that’s been the lesson for me today. Maybe we’re too quick to “get something” out of the Bible. After all, scripture is not a cookbook.

There are countless recipes on Youtube and thousands of other websites. So, I didn’t realize cookbooks were still a big deal. Were I to open one I’d be looking for a how-to for tonight’s dinner. I’d expect each page to contribute to my options. Show me something to cook today because I am hungry today.

One of my most favorite movie lines is, “No one leaves this place without singing the blues.” Likewise, no one closes this cookbook without finding something to cook. Or no one closes this Bible without finding some life application.

Finding life application from every passage of scripture has its challenges. And it may not even be what the Bible is asking of us.

Would we be okay with that? Or does scripture have to tell you something each time you read it?

I’m suggesting to you it doesn’t.

The disciples on the way to Emmaus come to mind. Jesus intrigued them with his teaching. He helped them better understand scripture they had already known. At that moment, their reading and studying of God’s word prepared them to see God’s will unfold.

I’ve known the habit to read the Bible, close it and immediately ask, “What does this mean for me?” Who cares, John? Don’t be so selfish. Maybe there’s something for you to take to heart today. Maybe God’s giving you the information now in order for it to make sense later.

I’ve learned to broaden my reading to include two other questions. What does this text mean to us? What has it meant to our tradition? That helps me find the Bible’s insight when I read it even if I don’t find personal application.

Now, none of this means that you can’t read a story about an enigmatic figure like Melchizedek and learn some life lesson. It’s just that today I didn’t.

Is that alright?

Stay blessed…john