Bible study

February 2, 2009

I have decided that Bible Study is very important because listening to the sermon alone leaves me intellectually dissatisfied.

All I got out of the sermon this week was that to be able to depend on God, you need to be in a relationship with Him and that in turn implies some sort of investment of time and effort on your part.  (Duh?)  I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with the passage at all (Acts 4:23-31).  I must be missing the point here somehow.

Which I suppose brings us back to the original point – Bible Study is very important and I shouldn’t be a lazy bum (ie.  time and effort).  So I pushed back my PT session on Sunday so I could go for cell.  What a good girl I am!

A lame man healed

January 21, 2009

Passage:  Acts 3

Bible study material following the sermon passage is an extremely good idea.  Makes me wonder why Barker’s never done this.  It’s amazing how much a little seemingly simple administrative tweak can make such a difference to what you get out of the passage.

Anyway, 2 disjointed thoughts from the passage:

  1. v1.  Even though Peter and John were in the middle of a huge spiritual revolution, they still maintained their links with tradition and the faith of their forefathers.  Cue God saying to me, “go to church!”  Urg!
  2. v3-8.  The crippled man asks for alms and gets healing.  In the kingdom of God, it has been my experience that you usually don’t get what you ask for.  It was also totally up to the man to reject what was on offer.  It’s a bit of a red pill/blue pill scenario.

Here’s my last thought.  It was the first sermon that I’d heard by the new Pastor.  There are a lot of things to judge him on – style of preaching, exegesis, stage presence, whatever.  But there was something about the simplicity in the way he prayed that hit me.  The honesty, the intimacy, the softness of voice.  You got the feeling that he was merely talking to someone he talks to a lot and you just happened to be sitting in on the conversation.  Very nice.

Keep on trucking

December 14, 2008

A Joyful Return to Zion
When the Lord brought back the capacity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad.
Bring back our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South.
Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.’
– Psalm 126

I hate going to a new church with the view of changing church.  I hate attending a service and judging it for how it might suit or benefit me.  (Worse now, because I’m in no position to serve so I don’t ask myself how I might contribute to the church.)  The analysis doesn’t take long.  My brain just works that way about most things.  Style of worship, quality of preaching, community life etc…  A little check-list goes off in my head without me even trying.  I hate hate hate it.  It goes against everything I believe about church and church commitment.  And my God did not create me to be promiscuous.

Maybe it will be less jarring to my system next week.  (Actually I know it will be.)  Maybe I learn to be transactional about church.  Maybe I will get over myself, suck it up and deal.  For a person who is as adaptable and amoeba-like as I am,  I am oddly sentimental about these things. 

Repeat after me:  The church is just an institution.    The church is just an institution.    The church is just an institution. 

Well, at least the sermon was on one of my favourite Bible passages.  If nothing else, it was a reminder to keep on trucking.  Hello God, I’d like to get to Zion soon!

Passage: Psalm 46; Mark 4:35-41

Church has started a new sermon series on the theme “therefore, we will not fear troubled times”.  It’s pretty apt given the economic crisis and overall uncertainty that we are facing at the moment and today’s sermon was perfect for swirly-brained Cheryl. 

A couple of disjointed thoughts about the passage:

  1. Mark 4: 38 “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing”  I have prayed some version of this prayer many many times.  It is so true that it is the fear of drowning that leads us to panic.  I know I’ve made many a decision (rightly or wrongly) because of that fear.  In that sense, my fight-or-flight instinct is very strong.  Being still goes against my nature.
  2. Psalm 46:1 “A very present help in trouble”  The idea that God is a very present help is quite reassuring.  The interesting thing for me is that God’s track record of being present makes it easier to trust him for the future. 
  3. Isaiah 43:1  “You are Mine”  Enough said.  🙂

At one point in the sermon, the pastor shared about his past stuggles with depression and that sometimes the battles within are harder to fight that the battles outside.  Let’s face it.  I hardly have any problems.  But I always find it very hard to quieten the thoughts in my head.  The last few weeks have been pretty bad so when the pastor issued the promise that “God can still the storm of thoughts in your head”, I felt God’s gaze fall on me and a voice in my soul say, “I’m talking about you, kid”.  That was pretty cool.

Also cool was the reminder (following the theme from last week) from Philippians 2:4 to “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  I’ve been feeling extremely transactional and selfish for most part of the year.  It is a real struggle to prefer another’s needs over your own AFTER you realise how much it is actually going to cost you.  But cost is hardly a factor when it is the right thing to do.  Hmmm…

Afterthought:  Blogging about the sermon is actually turning out to be a pretty good discipline.  For one, it means that I actually went to church (which is a minor miracle in itself) and paid attention to the sermon.

This weekend’s sermon was very interesting, especially for someone whose job title says “Strategist”. You can read it the passage here (Luke 16:1-15).

It made me think about a conversation I had some time ago about how to discern what’s right and wrong. I’ve always taken a fairly liberal view about sin in the sense that I’m all for living by grace not under law. It’s actually far more complicated to try to develop a relationship with a living but amorphous God that is attuned enough to know what is the right thing to do at all times. It would be easier to blindly follow some manual. But I disgress. It was interesting that nothing was really said about his dishonesty. I’m guessing that’s because Jesus was talking to his disciples (and the Pharisees) and this stuff is a given. Presumably there comes a point in one’s Christian walk when God can stop nagging at you for the obvious.

Instead, the steward is commended for having a strategy and acting in a way to ensure his security for the future. And Jesus uses that example to remind people to think seriously about whether their choices today will yield lasting benefit for the future. (I should add that it was a sermon about money, which is something that is not preached enough from the pulpit).

“16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

Shrewd: having or showing keen awareness, sound judgment, and often resourcefulness, especially in practical matters. An alternative definition includes the disposition to artful and cunning practices. Two sides, same coin. But I got to say that the sermon made me feel a little bit better about my place in the Kingdom of God. That my economics, cost-benefit analysis, return on investment, transactional brain is not at total odds with the Kingdom. (On further reflection, it also made me think that my place for ministry is not in the institutional church but out there in real world. But that could just be my past ministry baggage talking.)

At the end of the service, the worship team sang “The Servant King”.

“So let us learn how to serve,
and in our lives enthrone Him.
Each other’s needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we’re serving.”

“Each other’s needs to prefer.” I have to remember this phrase for 2 reasons: Because there are people who I love enough to “prefer” their needs over mine and because there are people who love me enough to “prefer” my needs over theirs.  And love is always a choice.

Passage: 2 Samuel 22:31-37; 44-51; John 17:1-5

The sermon today was a nice summary of the life of David and how he looked back, saw God and praised Him.  My main takeaway was that David always had a song for the Lord.  Even if it was a “song in the night”, he was still singing.  I suppose when you are used to singing, circumstances (positive or negative) do little to change that.  It’s just what you do.  Never underestimate the importance of the spiritual disciplines.

This morning’s sermon was on 2 Samuel 12. No time so a couple of disjointed thoughts will have to do:

  1. v4 “the wayfaring man” Nathan used a traveler who was just passing through in his story to David – the fleeting desire juxtaposed against irreversibility of a dead Uriah.
  2. v8 “And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!” This verse just breaks my heart. It also reminds that I should dare to ask of God rather than trying to willfully do my own thing, in my own way.
  3. v14 “The LORD also has put away your sin” David and Bathsheba’s next kid was Solomon and that God loved him. God was pretty serious when He said that he “put away” the sin.
  4. Fear of the consequences of sin alone just makes one superstitious. I have a real issue with this. Faith has to be more than a reward / punishment system. Shit happens. Even when you are obedient.
  5. I thought about a scene in the Sex and the City movie (I know, hardly the place to be getting spiritual insight) where Miranda tells Carrie that maybe it isn’t about apologizing but really to stop doing the things you need to apologise for.  The same thing can be said about repentance.
  6. The word “create” in the verse “Create in me a clean heart” (Psalm 51) is same word used in Genesis and conveys the idea of creating something out of nothing.
  7. 2 Samuel 12 really needs to be read with Psalm 51 for its full effect. It is very very very important to keep and protect one’s covenant relationship with God.

That said, I watched The Kite Runner this evening and the movie spoke to me very deeply about the importance of doing the right thing in the eyes of God (regardless of the consequences). Probably more than the sermon did. Never underestimate the power of a good storyteller.