top of page
Rolling hills farm.jpg

Scripture

Larry Crabb refers to the Bible as God's 66 love letters to us. And indeed they are. In this book, together with the illuminating guidance of the Holy Spirit, we learn the heart of God: who He is, His vision of a life well lived with Him and those He loves, His hopes and dreams for us, and even the nature of reality itself. No other book has been as influential on humanity as the Bible.

Cultivating with: Scripture

There are very few hard and fast rules with any of this. Each person is different so each relationship will look different. No two people's relationships with God and those He loves will look exactly the same. But there are a few suggestions that have worked for others. Here are some resources for the "how-to" of the practice. These, together with some of the articles and such linked below, will help to get you started:

There are a sea of options when it comes to engaging with the Bible: reading, studying, lectio divina, memorization, contemplation, etc. But there is only one commanded by God that I am aware of, and it is not reading:

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success."
Joshua 1:8 (NASB)

The context here is God speaking with Joshua, so the command and promise was to him. But Psalm 119 makes it clear that wisdom for a life well lived is found in meditation on the Bible. It is important that we do not simply read its words, but to understand its meaning, which is why the command is to meditate (here meaning to reflect deeply). God desires to be understood, and He has given every Christ-follower the Holy Spirit to help teach and guide us. He has also gifted some people as teachers so that we may learn from them.

Read:

There are several great study Bibles out there. Personally, I use the Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible with the Deuterocanonical Books (the books found in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles which are in addition to the books found in the Protestant Bible, some are additions to books such as Psalm 151 and additions to Esther. I, personally, do not see these books as inspired, but simply as good books to read). It is out of print in the large, hardback version that I have, and the small print version is really tiny printing, too small for my older eyes. But if you can find one, I recommend it.

Apps for reading and light study:

Laridian PocketBible: There are also a lot of great Bible apps available. YouVersion is free and many people like it. Personally, I prefer Laridian's PocketBible found at the aforementioned link.

Study help:

Logos.com: I use Logos, personally. It is a fantastic resource for study, but can get costly. Its capabilities are outstanding, and I am sure that it requires many resources to provide them.

Listen:

Dwell App: The Bible was originally taught and experienced orally. The printing press wasn't around when the Bible was first recorded, so not many people had access to the scrolls they were written on. Audibly was how the Bible was originally meant to be experienced. I've noticed how some things stand out when I hear them, that I never noticed even having read several times before. And this is a great app to experience the Bible audibly.

Books:

The New Joy of Discovery in Bible Study:  by Oletta Wald. This book is a study method. Study is simply one way to engage with Scripture. There are a multitude of other ways.

The Life You've Always Wanted:  by John Ortberg. Chapter 11 "An Undivided Life: The Practice of Reflection on Scripture". Chapters fall within the context of an entire book, so I recommend reading the book.

Father, Son, & Holy Spirit: Why What We Believe About the Trinity Matters: (Scripture) Renovare webinar featuring Chris Hall and James Bryan Smith. Chris Hall was a professor at Eastern University and author. James Bryan Smith heads up the Apprentice Institute at Friends University and is an author. This is 88 minutes long but as I write this at the 49-minute mark (I saw the whole thing before), I feel like I could listen to these two men for several hours. The material is scholarly but understandable. They cover some of the core truths we know about the Trinity and teach us a little about various ecumenical church councils that met in church history to come to conclusions about important theological debates of their time. They explain that the conclusions of these councils help us today not to veer into heretical thought, providing a sort of guardrail against such mistakes. It is a fascinating listen, and will almost certainly teach you things you didn't know about the Trinity.

 

Carolyn Arends, the host, makes an excellent point about how all teaching is taught by analogy. We can only learn something new by comparing it against something we know already. There is nothing analogous to the Trinity so that, and the fact of God's infinite nature and our finite minds, means we will never fully grasp the mystery of the Trinity. The talk is SO GOOD!!!

Saved by His Life: (Scripture) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Did you know that you are not saved by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross? If the story ended there that would just be a sad story. Yes, our sins may have been paid for, but then what? Romans 6:1-11 we hear Paul explaining that not only were we baptized into Christ's death, but that we were raised with Him into newness of life, eternal life, abundant life (John 10:10, John 17:3, John 5:24). It is through the resurrection of Jesus that we are partakers in His life. That is the name of this site/podcast/blog: Our God Bathed Life - we are baptized/immersed into His very life! So we are not saved by His death but by His life! Let us now live into that life.

Be With Jesus / Practicing the Way Vision Series Episode 2: (Scripture) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast. There are a number of very good points in this podcast but two to highlight here specifically:

1) In the beginning part of the podcast, John Mark Comer provides one of the best explanations I have heard describing what it is like to have a conversational relationship with Jesus. He gives his own description together with that of Brother Lawrence from his book The Practice of the Presence of God. If you want to get a better picture of what this means, give this a listen.

2) Then around 11 minutes or so into the podcast he begins talking about a mistake that is extremely common when we read the Bible. We want to know how to live so we begin to read commands into everything. His example is the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. These aren't commands. These verses simply list the truth of what the fruit of the Spirit is. I'll add that this is commonly done for the Beatitudes in the beginning of Matthew 5, the "blesseds". People try to turn these into commands or virtues to aspire to. Jesus was simply stating facts. If you are poor in spirit, it is okay, you are also blessed, yours is the kingdom of heaven. If you are mourning, it is okay, you are also blessed, you will be comforted. If you are meek, it is okay, you are also blessed, you will inherit the earth. Etc. They are not commands or encouragements to become poor in spirit or mourning or meek, etc. They are not conditions to become blessed. They are statement of facts about the world we live in. Don't try to find commands where there are no commands.

Lecture: A God of Love. A World of Suffering: (Scripture) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

In this episode, Tim Mackie, of the Bible Project, looks at a comment by Jesus and how that the theme of Jesus' biography is played out in the biography of others in the Old Testament. He discovered this by noting Jesus' words to the disciples on the road to Emmaus:

"And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures."
Luke 24:25–27 (NASB)

But Tim Mackie said that, when he noticed this, he said to himself, "Wait, I've read the Old Testament, and I did not see what Jesus is talking about anywhere." Then, on a bike ride one day, he had an epiphany: Hmmm, thinking about the theme of the biography of Jesus as:

1. Good or innocent person in a broken world

2. That person has to suffer.

3. Which bring about good to other people in the broken world.,

Then you see it over and over:

Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Job, various prophets, Jesus, and a host of others. He likens it to the melody in blue note Jazz. A song is a basic melody over and over with several variations.

This is not the kind of thing that I usually include on Our God Bathed Life, but it does show that the difficult to understand sections of Scripture can often be understood with diligent and prayerful study. Sometimes it pays to not simply skip over a hard to understand passage of the Bible. And, no, I did not really understand what Jesus was talking about there, either, other than I simply took it to mean fulfillment of Biblical prophecy about Him. So this was really cool to learn about, too!

The Emotional Life: (Scripture) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. In this episode James Bryan Smith explains that as Christians, we are invited to experience the range of emotions. He references Romans 12 and how Paul encourages just that to Christ followers, and he references how Jesus experienced and showed the human range of emotions in His life and ministry.

 

When I first was involved in leadership at the church I went to in my early thirties, I thought that taking my responsibility seriously required me to set aside my emotions so that I could get to the "serious work" of leading people within a particular ministry. I was wrong. In fairness, however, I was kind-of already wired that way in part due to my upbringing. I was wrong, though. Setting aside my emotions created relational issues with my friends and those who were in leadership with me in that ministry. That started a two decade journey of learning to allow my emotions to be seen and experienced. Toward the end of those two decades the church I attended went through Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzaro. It took me a few times through the material, but it was extremely helpful. Today I am a calmer person, I bring my emotions into relationships with me (including my relationship with God), and I connect with others more easily. I am thankful I learned this valuable lesson. And I think if you are like I was, then you might want to consider that lesson also.

Spiritual Warfare, Should it be Studied? with Dr Matt Ayars: (Scripture) Podcast episode from Andy Miller's More to the Story podcast. The spiritual realm is real. The Bible tells us that God is spirit, that God has enemies who are spirit, and that we do battle against those enemies in the power and authority of God. Part of the purpose of this podcast is to encourage people to audit Dr Ayars' class, so be aware of that going in. But I like that they bring up a few important points such as if you are looking for spiritual warfare everywhere then you will find it everywhere; not everything that could be explained as demonic activity is demonic activity - we need to be discerning. But being around it makes it more real to you - Dr Ayars spent time in Haiti. As Christians, we are saved from slavery to sin and its forces, and saved to freedom.

Tough Questions from the Old Testament with Dr Dan Freemyer: (Scripture) This Spotify link is to episode 35 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry. In this episode there are a few great points of learning for me including:

1) How to handle tough questions (I love his method as it is relational and affirming to the one asking the question)

2) I did not know about how God repeatedly warned the inhabitants of Canaan to leave before God, through Israel, dispossessed them

3) I did not know why Achan's family perished with him in Joshua 7:16-26.

 

It's an informative listen that helps to answer difficult questions in a way that shows forth God's goodness.

The Wisdom of Job Part 1: Suffering Well: (Scripture) This link is to The Bible Project Podcast. It is probably the best explanation of Job's suffering that I have heard.

If you are unfamiliar with the book of Job in the Old Testament, it is about a morally upright man who lives a morally righteous life before God. He prays to God, worships God, and lives by a morally high standard. Then we see God and Satan have a conversation in which God brings up Job as an exemplar of right living but Satan tells God that Job only worships Him because nothing bad ever befalls him. So God gives Satan permission to do whatever he will with Job except for taking his life. Then Satan turns Job's life into a Greek tragedy. Satan afflicts Job with painful boils all over his body and kills all of his family except for his wife, who then tells Job to curse God and die. Then we see Job's friends come to visit him in his distress. And while things go well for days as they sit with him in silence, sharing in his suffering, they then begin to speak, accusing him of having to have committed some great sin because we live in a moral universe with a moral God who would never allow this kind of suffering unless some great sin were committed. Job insists he is innocent, which we heard God tell Satan that Job was indeed innocent, but his friends insist otherwise. As for Biblical books, especially in light of Proverbs telling us that living a righteous life brings about the best life, this one is a difficult one, and leaves the reader with their own questions about God's goodness and justice, especially when we all have things in our lives that we think are unfair and we wonder if God cares at all about righting the wrongs in our lives.

Our reaction to wrongs suffered is often "God, why?!" I think that God defaults to wanting to answer us. But He has an infinite mind and we do not. When God does not answer us it doesn't mean that He is not good or that He doesn't care. It may simply mean that we cannot comprehend the answer, or cannot comprehend it at this time. The only thing left is for God to remind us that He is good and that He is actively working in the world. In this episode, they liken the level of moral wisdom between God and man to that of between a parent and small child. The parent tells their small child to never lie, but then one day witnesses the parent telling a lie, not understanding that the lie was told to save lives. The child then goes "Aha! You lied! You can't be trusted! I'm on to you." not comprehending the higher moral good of telling the lie to save lives. And, for a small child, they may not be able to comprehend the nuance of the situation yet. Anyway, this episode has much in it worth hearing.

The Bible as Spiritual Authority: (Scripture) Link to Podbean episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast (It was taken off of Spotify and this is the only place I could find it). This sermon is given by John Mark Comer. I lean a little more literal in the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden than he does, but that's okay, he still sees the story as meaningfully true. As always, there is much goodness in a John Mark Comer teaching. This one includes:

1) The essence of sin is trust. Oooooo. So good! Ignatius of Loyola defines sin as "unwillingness to trust that what God wants for me is my deepest happiness." When we seek happiness in things we know that God does not approve of, it is sin.

2) Notice as John Mark Comer is reading the account of the temptation of Jesus, that Jesus wielded scripture well in His battle with Satan. The Bible is authoritative for our lives, and so is important to know well. If you aren't well versed, you can learn the Bible better than you know it today. Ask your pastor or Bible study leader or small group leader to help you get better at knowing and understanding the Bible. There are several resources to help you.

A Community of Orthodoxy in a Culture of Ideological Idolatry: Future Church Part 3: (Scripture) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast. This sermon is given by John Mark Comer. There is a lot to think about in this episode. Be warned, he is making a point in the beginning of the sermon and says things that the political right won't be happy with, and then says things that the political left won't be happy with. He is showing how for many, our politics has crept into our religion, and is causing division within the church. In fact, some ideological viewpoints have adopted a Christian twist and have replaced our orthodox faith (orthodoxy means right belief). Then, further, he reads from an editorial in a newspaper where the author, not a religious man, says that it seems to him that Christians are seeking to be more like him, when it seems like we should seek to have him want to live more like us. Ouch! But often true.

He gets into topics like the popular practice of deconstructing our faith, but also how many do that in such a way that leads them away from the faith. He encourages those who are reconsidering their faith to do so with others of the faith that can help with doubts and questions. I'll add that God is not threatened by our doubts and questions, and has compassion for a hurting, confused, questioning person. When I went through my own serious questioning of my faith, I had other strong Christians around me to challenge my thinking, and I thank God that I did.

He points out that we do not live by the standards of this world but by a better Way, a way of righteousness, compassion, joy, goodness, and love.

He closes by explaining that a practice of engaging with the Bible will help to connect us to Jesus, help our understanding, and help to keep us on the right Way, the better Way.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

The Differentness of God

 

God is Dead. You're Next.

 

Come and See: (Scripture) Links to Spotify episodes of the Bridgetown Audio podcast. These three sermons share a few things in common. Each are on Matthew's account of the crucifixion of Jesus.

The first deals with the emotional weight of facing what really happened to Jesus, and then the emotional weight of what that means about the depths of God's love for us.

The second looks at the death of Jesus and recall Jesus' own invitation for us to die to ourselves and follow Him, and how this is not an invitation to misery and deprivation but to fullness of joy in all of what God has for us in this life. There are also included a few comments on reasons to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Be aware: while this is good and important to hear, some of the details of the crucifixion may be a little much for young or very sensitive ears.

The third covers how Jesus' blood courses through our spiritual veins making all who place their trust in Him part of His family. As such, those who are ashamed of things in their lives need not be. They, too, are lifted up with Jesus and seated at the same table as all other believers. He also includes further reasons to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Symbols, Myth, and the Bible with Jonathan Pageau: (Scripture) This Spotify link is to episode 167 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry. In this episode Jonathan Pageau makes a great point about how what God did with Israel and the story of Jesus has echoes of several other stories from ancient myths. Critics of the God of the Bible use this as a kind of argument against these stories being real. But why? Why would similar stories existing make Biblical history false? Why can't God use the existence of those stories to prove His power by actually accomplishing them? Why can't God be meeting people where they are at by using their stories as an evangelistic tool? Jonathan Pageau says that these stories are indicators of a kind of cosmic truth, and he sees symbols and patterns everywhere in scripture.

The Heart of a Disciple: (Scripture) Link to Podbean episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast (It was removed from Spotify and this is the only place I could find it). In the first few minutes of this podcast I thought I knew where the speaker was going. I was wrong. There is some truly great stuff in this episode. Among it:

1) He speaks about John 15:1-8:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples."

(NASB)

And then makes the comment, referencing the final sentence, that God has tied his glory to our flourishing / bearing much fruit. He gives other examples of what fruit is, but we also know what it includes from Galatians 5:22-23:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
(NASB)

God is glorified when we exhibit much fruit. This fruit is borne from the excess life that passes from the vine (Jesus, whom we are invited to abide in) through the branches (us). However, for a branch to bear much fruit it must be pruned, it must be cut. We know from James that trials and hardships build our character. James 1:2-4:
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
(NASB)

We abide in Jesus, we bear fruit, we encounter hardship, so we may bear much fruit, resulting in God's glory and our flourishing. But through it all is the comforting and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The speaker uses an excellent example describing why our flourishing is God's desire.

2) Jesus said that we must deny our selves (referring to dying to the desires of the world, the flesh, and the devil within us; in other words the things that are counter to God) so that we may follow Him. In this we will find true life and joy. If you don't believe Him, just look around and see the levels of anxiety, fear, and depression in our society that is determined to follow its "authentic self", which it fails to see as the desires within them set against God. This shows us  how the alternative works out. The speaker says, citing that it was the Father that raised Jesus from the dead, that it is our job to die to those passions set against God, and God's job to bring life and joy out of the dying to self.

3) He also makes a point about introspection. He is distrusting of it. I, personally, do not think it is a bad thing as long as you do not get stuck in it, and as long as you are looking to God to shine the light on what He wants to work on. I think that God does not show us all of our character flaws at one time because it might crush us. Let God show you what He wants you to know, and ask Him to work on it. I think that is a better way of introspection. Think Psalm 139:23-24:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
        Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
        And lead me in the everlasting way."
(NASB)

The Heart is a Sewer: (Scripture) Link to Podbean episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast (It was removed from Spotify and this is the only place I could find it). This episode is thick. You may need to listen to it a few times. I did. But there is a wealth of great explanation in it. See point 2 below, though, for a brief explanation on the heart, and the fact that the idea of the heart being a sewer is referring to an unredeemed and/or untransformed heart. Among the items covered:

1) One of the best explanations I have heard explaining the progressive revelation we see in the Bible. Progressive revelation can be important to understand because without understanding this, sometimes people get tripped up by what, on the surface, appear to be contradictions in how God tells people to live. What is Biblical progressive revelation? Adam was given three commands, those commands were expanded for Noah after the flood, Moses was given an entire Law to help Israel flourish and to bear the name of God well to the nations around them at that time in that culture, Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law rendering much of it irrelevant to us today but then provided further explanation as He dug into God's heart for human flourishing, then the writers of Scripture developed that theme in what we call the New Testament. The speaker in this episode uses the example of changing rules that grew more restrictive for his children as he tried to keep them safe as they played. The Baker encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics offers perhaps an even better example that takes into account the growth of children to metaphorically explain progressive revelation:

"An example of progressive revelation can be seen in every family with growing children. When they are very small, the parent allows children to eat with their fingers. Later, the parents insist on the use of a spoon. Finally, as the child progresses, the parent commands use of a fork. These commands are temporary, progressive, and appropriate to the situation."
Norman L. Geisler, “Progressive Revelation,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 609.

2) The speaker (his name is Josh Porter) alludes to this, but I don't recall him spelling it out specifically so it can get confusing. I've heard the Biblical reference to the "heart" explained many different ways, but for simplicity, think of it as our core, our central beliefs and world-view. Entwined with this would be our emotions because often our emotions are reactions to how we interpret events in our life: our circumstances, how others treat us, etc. The heart is formed by all kinds of things internal and external - how God wired our personalities and how we are raised by our parents, for example. But just as our heart is formed, it can also be transformed. This is the work the Holy Spirit does in us with our cooperation. Our hearts can be transformed more into the likeness of the heart of God. The more intentional time we spend with God, the more He works on transforming our hearts to be more like His. So when he refers to the filth or sewage in our hearts, he is referring to our unredeemed and untransformed hearts, hearts that got messed up from being formed by the world around us. Hearts that look more like the heart of God can be trusted - the Holy Spirit's work of a redeemed and transformed heart is good to follow because that heart follows God.

3) I think that his observation of how we are being "infantilized" in our culture by being taught to be offended and outraged is a good one. The picture he paints about what our culture seeks to do with us is decidedly not at all following in the footsteps of Jesus. We are to be sober of thought and discernment, understanding that there are often nuances to the stories and news that we hear.

4) At one point he is describing those who are theologically liberal. While I am theologically conservative / orthodox, the sarcasm used to describe the theologically liberal seems unkind to me. He was likely poking sarcasm at the thoughts and ideas, the viewpoint as opposed to the people, but if you find that a little off putting like I did, I would invite you to extend grace. There are times when I am less than graceful myself. I do agree with the point he is making, however. This includes when he points out that there are extreme literalists who fail to take interpretation and context into account on the conservative side. I have often seen verses taken out of context or misinterpreted. For example, the Holy Spirit is given to us as a seal when we trust in Jesus Christ. Therefore David's request to God in Psalm 51:11 for God not to remove the Holy Spirit from him does not apply to us today. However, we can quench the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives or become calloused to His leading and work by choosing to willingly walk in sin. But He is never removed from us, and contrite confession will restore the relationship with Him.

Know Your Enemy: (Scripture) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. God has an enemy, and it isn't people. The same thing is true for those who love God. That is the first important point. The second is that our enemy is Satan and his evil forces. We should know how he attacks us. But we should also know how to defend ourselves against his attacks. In this episode, James refers us to Ephesians 6 where we see the armor that God has given us to defend ourselves.

Another point, not covered in this episode, is to remember that the Bible says that the gates of hell will not prevail against Jesus' church. Gates are defensive. That means the posture of the church is offensive in its battle against Satan and his forces. We both defend against his attacks in our lives, and join with other believers in being on the offensive as we are "fishers of men". That doesn't mean we are trying to be "offensive" against people - people aren't the enemy. We are for people, we are to love people and invite them into abundant life with Christ. But we are offensive against the devil in his attempts to keep people away from Jesus.

Jesus Is Lord: (Scripture) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. If you are a Christian, chances are you have heard the term "the good news of the gospel". But did you know that this term didn't originate in Christianity? It was originally a term in the Roman empire used when "good news" came from Rome, for example if the Roman empire conquered another people. Gospel actually means "good news". Further, Roman emperors were often called "children of god". Why? People believed that they were favored because of power and wealth, etc, and it was encouraged as part of their mythology. So the use of the good news of the gospel about the Son of God, Jesus, you can understand why that would have been a bit threatening and offensive to those in Roman leadership. But in Jesus' case, He actually has "all authority". Do you remember the words Jesus spoke right before He commissioned His disciples to make disciples? "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18) That's why we often pray "in Jesus' name". He has the authority over all things. In this episode, James expands on what it means that Jesus is Lord.

Eternal Life Now: (Scripture) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Eternal life is now in session for all who trust in Jesus. John 17:3 defines eternal life as relationship with God. And that is what God intends for all people. That is the point of our lives - relationship with God.

Things Above Conversation with John Ortberg: Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Eternal Life is Now in Session is the name of a John Ortberg book. As I write this I have yet to read it but I have read other Ortberg books and I trust this one is very good, too. But in this episode, Ortberg says that many people, including an earlier version of himself, believe that salvation is what you need to believe for the minimal entrance requirements to go to heaven when you die. He likens it to the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where they are trying to cross a bridge and the bridge keeper will only let them pass if they answer three questions correctly. But eternal life starts now (John 5:24 & John 17:3) and it is relational. For the believer, heaven starts now. In a very real sense, when we die, it is simply a continuation of the life that we now have, but without the physical body where our sin dwells (but also is the temple of the Holy Spirit - so don't think of your body as evil just because sin lives there). When we are given a resurrected body, it will be free from the presence of sin, and it will be glorious.

Shining Examples of Incarnational Living: (Scripture) Link to Renovare.org newsletter excerpt from Richard Foster. The piece touches on why matter is not evil, as the Gnostics believed. Ecumenical church councils have condemned this idea as heresy - Jesus came in the flesh. Jesus, as fully God, infused Jesus, as fully man. Each and every believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit, his/her own spirit enlivened to God, and this is lived out in his/her body. Our bodies are good, and the spiritual infuses the material. But this is also why we do not have a "spiritual life" compartmentalized from a "secular life". We are enfleshed souls and spirits, ensouled and enspirited bodies. It is who we are. We are not spiritual sometimes and secular at other times, nor are we supposed to live in such a way. Our union with God is meant to be lived out outside of "just" our church and devotional times, and into our work and social activities: running errands, family time, etc. Christians are, quite literally, the body of Christ in this world.

Questions about the Old Testament Pt 2 with Dr Larisa Levicheva-Joseph and Dr Dan Freemyer: (Scripture) This Spotify link is to episode 61 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry. In this episode there are a couple great points of learning for me including why God may have commanded the killing of the children in the land of Canaan when Israel was conquering it, and why it might matter when certain things in Biblical history echoed local mythology of other belief systems from a missional perspective.

Both And: (Scripture) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Have you wondered if the grace of God frees us to sin? What about holiness (a heart attitude that aims to align with what God is doing and results in good works done together with God)? James does a great job tackling the question of grace giving us two stories together with how Paul answered that question in Romans 5 & 6. James points to who we are as Christians. We are new creatures freed from the slavery of sin and alive to God with the indwelling Holy Spirit. Sinning doesn't align with who we are now. I believe that if we do decide that we can sin all we want, that would lead to misery and callousness to the Holy Spirit.

The Jogging Monk and the Exegesis of the Heart: (Scripture) Article by James Bryan Smith. He marries a humbleness of spirit, and openness about how he fails to live up to his own expectations, and a scholarship that doesn't sound academic. This is a beautifully written piece that reminds us how to read the Bible. It is easy to get caught up in seeking to understand the text historically or exegetically, but remember that the Bible is first and foremost written to us for relational purposes. James Bryan Smith writes about how he knew that, forgot it in seminary, and how he relearned it again.

Why Sinai Matters with Dr Carmen Joy Imes: (Scripture) This Spotify link is to episode 178 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry. In this episode Dr Imes makes an important observation that we may have misunderstood a couple of things in the Old Testament.

1) The command about not taking God's name in vain may be interpreted to mean that Israel, having been rescued from Egypt by the Lord, is to now bear His name well as a light to the surrounding nations. So not taking His name in vain may actually mean that they were commanded to represent Him well. Of course, representing Him well would include not using His name flippantly or as a curse word, but the command is so much more.

2) She points out that we often think of the law as ineffective because it didn't work - we still needed Jesus. But she points out that the law was effective, it just didn't change the hearts of the people of Israel, and that is what Jesus came to accomplish, together with the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

3) She has the opinion that when Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray and says "Hallowed be Your name", that He may have had in mind the fact that His followers bear His name, and that the prayer is that they bear His name well. 

Everything is Meaningless with Dr Larisa Levicheva: (Scripture) This Spotify link is to episode 137 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry. In this episode Dr Levicheva, who studied Ecclesiastes, lets us know that the word for "vanity" in "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity" is actually a Hebrew word with one meaning being "breath". She looks at the meaning of Ecclesiastes as live each day as a gift, live contentedly, live to the full. You will enter life with no possessions, and you will leave life with no possessions. There are a lot of insights into how to live life to be found in Ecclesiastes.

bottom of page