Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Bread and wineMy wife and I like our son to eat food that’s nutritious and good for his development. We allow ice cream once in a while, but we know that giving our child a steady diet of junk food would be parental malpractice. He needs vegetables, vitamins, fruit, protein, complex carbs, and a reasonable dose of fat.

When he gets bored at mealtime and doesn’t want to eat the rest of his green beans, we encourage him to finish eating. We tell him that eating his food will help him to be big and strong like his daddy.

Maybe you’ve heard the saying “You are what you eat.” That doesn’t mean that you become green beans if you eat green beans. It means that eating healthful food empowers you to have a healthy body and a healthy life, while eating too much junk food empowers you to have a junky body with a junky life. This observation reminds me of another saying: “Input equals output.”

My congregation’s sermon this weekend comes from Romans 8, and in verses 1-11 we find a similar inside-outside connection.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (ESV)

What goes into us shapes how we live. “You are what you eat.”

When the Holy Spirit lives in us, God transforms our lives. “Input equals output.”

The Spirit enters us in various ways.

We “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” when we believe the good news of Jesus and when we are baptized (Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:13).

The Holy Spirit enters people through the laying on of hands (Deuteronomy 34:9; Acts 19:6).

The Holy Spirit can enter people who are around others in whom the Spirit is working (1 Samuel 19:18-24).

The Holy Spirit fills followers of Jesus when they speak (Acts 2:4; 4:8; 13:9) and when they are persecuted (13:50-52).

God gives the Holy Spirit to people who ask (Luke 11:13).

The Holy Spirit can even enter people before birth (Luke 1:15).

Beyond these ways, the Holy Spirit can operate in ways that are unexpected and unexplainable (John 3:8). As the hymnist William Cowper penned in the 18th century, “God moves in a mysterious way.”

I look forward to listening to tomorrow’s sermon on Romans 8. Before that sermon, I get to say a few comments to prepare the church for communion. As I get ready for that privilege, my meditation on verses 1-11 leads me to see communion as one way in which the Holy Spirits enters us and empowers us for life in God’s mission.

A long-held belief in Christianity is that Christ is somehow present with his followers in communion (also called the Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper). Although great thinkers in the history of the church have disagreed about exactly how this presence operates, many Christians have believed that in some way Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is present when gathered communities of Christian faith consume the bread and cup, commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion and celebrating the hope of his return.

Through this process of remembering and celebrating, the Holy Spirit continually fills the body of Christ (the church) and empowers that community of Jesus-followers to carry out God’s mission of blessing the world.

When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we do more than eat crackers and drink wine or grape juice.

When we participate in this event, the Holy Spirit enters us yet again and strengthens us to live for God.

As a child, I experienced amazement when the bread and cup were served. When I looked at the people around me, I could tell that this practice was something special, something mystical. I didn’t understand what was happening, but the holiness of the moment drew me in.

I have not always experienced that amazement at communion. The Lord’s Supper has not always seemed special. I have not always noticed the mystery of the Eucharist.

So I pray for the ability to see the mysterious transformation that God is working through the Holy Spirit when followers of Jesus take the bread and cup together. Through the Spirit, the bread and cup become more than a snack and more than an ancient practice the meaning of which we’ve forgotten. They become a meaningful meal that fuels us for life.

When we eat the body of Christ together, the Spirit empowers us to be that body.

We are what we eat.


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God calls us to participate in God’s mission, and we should respond in worship and obedience. However, we can get distracted by concerns that hinder our right responses to God.

In Jonah 1:1-16, God comissions Jonah to carry a message to a city called Nineveh. Jonah travels by ship in the opposite direction because he doesn’t want to preach to people he doesn’t like. God responds, and people on the ship respond, but Jonah ignores. The people on the ship cast lots and question Jonah, who admits his identity and responsibility and tells them to throw him into the sea. They try to avoid that by taking other actions. After praying to God, they reluctantly toss him. Then they fear, worship, and vow to God. (Note that the sailors are not members of Jonah’s religious community.)

God wants us to worship. When we lose focus on God and worship our own desires instead, God is not without worship. Others can worship God. Our preferences for our own groups and our prejudices against other groups can blind us to that beautiful truth, which calls us to embrace diverse people who worship God.

Instead of focusing on our own desires or worrying about who is or is not worthy to worship God, let’s just worship and obey God! Worship and obedience lead us to recognize and live out God’s love for all people groups in the spirit of Jesus, who died for the whole world.

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“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (Rev 1:3).

The biblical book we call “Revelation” is a fascinating report of an extended vision experienced by an early follower of Jesus. It had immediate application in the lives of its original readers and was intended to inspire hope in a challenging time. The book’s message still offers hope. Reading it is still a blessing.

We must be careful, of course, when we read it. We need to avoid interpretive approaches that twist it to fit times and situations it was not written to address. (Click here for an insightful lecture by Richard Oster on the topic “Popular Misconceptions about Revelation.”)

Despite the misconceptions, reading Revelation remains a blessed activity.

(Day 358: Revelation 1-3)

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We Christians hold Jesus as our example. He shows us how to live. We don’t always live up to that example, but Jesus is our model nonetheless. We follow him.

How is Jesus so good? Why is he able to live so righteously?

One answer is that he’s the Son of God. Another is that the Holy Spirit descends on him at his baptism. Maybe you can think of some other answers.

The answer I find in reading today’s text is that his deep familiarity with scripture helps him live well. When the devil tempts him repeatedly, Jesus replies to each test with scripture.

Do you want to resist temptation? Do you want to live righteously? Follow this example. Become so familiar with scripture that it comes to you and out of you naturally when you experience trials.

But be forewarned. The devil might quote scripture right back at you.

(Day 297: Luke 4-5)

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Song of Songs is a collection of sensual love poems. In itself, it says nothing about God or about how God’s people ought to live. Why is it in the Bible?

First, the poetry in Song of Songs demonstrates appreciation of lovers’ physical bodies and desire for intimacy — sexual, not just spiritual or emotional. If this book were not in the Bible, we would not have a place in our biblical theology for such carnal relations.

Second, the Song of Songs can serve as an allegorical vehicle to individuals’  intimacy with God, following examples of historic spiritual writers, such as Teresa of Avila.

Third, the text allegorically prompts thought about the romance between God and the community of faith, leading us beyond rules and into relationship, which includes rules and is much more. Church life is participation in the romance between God and the faith community.

(Day 207: Song of Songs 1-8)

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People who attempt to read straight through the Bible often stall in Leviticus. The lists of ancient rules about endless details can cause us to question the worthiness of what we’re doing.

But chapters 11, 12, and 13 provide more than ancient policy details. They show us the importance of purity.

The people have escaped from slavery and are on their long journey to the Promised Land. There they’ll encounter people groups who behave in ways contrary to the Israelite identity as God’s people. They will need to work hard to maintain that identity, and these laws about purity should guide them in the challenge.

These chapters remind us that all generations of God’s people have the challenge and blessing of remaining pure in a contrary world, and we cannot live purely without guidance and effort.

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These and similar chapters of the Bible give specific guidelines for particular tasks in the ancient Israelite community.

A major task of the church in all times is to decide–prayerfully, carefully, thoughtfully–how to apply principles behind biblical commands to contemporary life and ministry. We don’t necessarily need to build golden lampstands, but we do need to give God our best. We don’t need to decorate places of worship “with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker” (26:1 NIV), but we shouldn’t be sloppy in how we do ministry.

The “boring” chapters of the Hebrew Bible offer enlightening encouragement for holy living. They might require a little effort beyond superficial reading, but they’re worth the effort.

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