Friday, August 22, 2014

26 Good Bible Study Questions

I have a list of questions I go through while writing a sermon. They are simple questions anyone can use to get the most out of a personal or small group bible study. Below is my list use it! An asterisk (*) denotes a question that it is okay to google to find the answer. Other than that I would encourage the creative use of one's brain to discover the answer.
  1. Who is the weakest person in this passage and what is their point of view?
  2. Who is the strongest person in this passage and what is their point of view?
  3. Where does this passage take place? *
  4. When and to whom was it written? *
  5. Are jobs mentioned? What are the implications of these professions?
  6. Who are the people mentioned in the text?
  7. How many descriptors can I give each character? Jobs, gender, titles, etc.
  8. What injustices are being addressed?
  9. Are their racial or socioeconomic conflicts in this passage?
  10. How would an oppressed person identify with this passage?
  11. How would a wealthy or empowered person identify with this passage? 
  12. What does this passage say about God?
  13. What does this passage say about (and to) people in general?
  14. What does this passage say about (and to) the church?
  15. What does this passage say about (and to) me?
  16. What does this passage remind you of in the bible?
  17. What would this passage mean to it’s original hearers? *
  18. What has this passage meant to Christians and Jews throughout the ages? * 
  19. Are there any ancient or modern day rites of passage that this passage highlights mimicks, or echos? 
  20. What would the world's advice to the gospel be in relationship to this passage?
  21. How does this passage fit in to the text of the surrounding chapters?
  22. How does this passage interact with the broad themes of the entire book? *
  23. What bothers me about this passage? 
  24. Where do I want to disagree with the passage?
  25. How do I need to respond to what I just learned?
  26. Are there any unusual words or phrases that I should research further?

What questions would you want to add to the list?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July Reading List

Evangelical Theology by Karl Barth
A meticulous scholar, relevant but dull at times.

Taking on the Cross in Youth Ministry by Andrew Root
A fantastic piece of theology which uses narratives from youth ministry to illustrate the importance of the crucifixion as a means for developing identity.

Children of Divorce by Andrew Root
I liked Root's other book so much I read this one too. It felt a little repetitive in the context of reading Taking on the Cross.

The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins (READ THIS BOOK)
This one is the find of the month. It is the big recommendation. Jenkins takes us briefly through the history of Christendom then argues, very successfully, that present Christianity is not dying. it is growing and it is also migrating south. A perfect book for anyone concerned about the "death of the church" it gives a lot of hope.

Conversation, How it Works by Anne Curzan
I like linguistics. This was a brief lecture about how we communicate with each other. It was pretty basic stuff.

Poems by Walt Whitman
I love poetry. I thought it was time for me to get acquainted with the grandfather of the American poem.

Monster Hunter: Nemesis by Larry Corriea 
I like to switch up my reading. Especially when the list gets too "thinky." So I read a book about the wolfman fighting the Frankenstein monster. It is not for everyone but for me, there is nothing wrong with a little pulp genre fiction every once in awhile. :)

Friday, July 4, 2014

I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
-Walt Whitman

Happy Fourth People

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How Can I Tell If My Christianity is Working?

I realized this morning I spend much of my time running a ministry. I am guilty of not take enough time to do a regular check up to ask, "Is my Christianity working?" I realized that I did not even have a rubric through which to run this important question.

I decided to start such a rubric. I constructed an initial list of questions that I think are important to ask while doing a spiritual self evaluation. It is by no means complete but it is a start. I think it also reflects my spiritual values because given 20 minutes to come up with a list these are the first things that come to mind for me.

I will spend the next few days reflecting on these questions. I pass them on to you in the hope they will inspire you into a similar time of self reflection.

  1. Am I compassionate? 
  2. What part do prayer and other spiritual disciplines play in my daily life? 
  3. How do I feel that my Christianity is working? 
  4. Am I humble? 
  5. How does God impact my daily perspective on the world and change my interaction with the world? 
  6. What does God care about and do I care about the same things? 
  7. What areas of my life are in need of redemption? 
  8. What areas of my life am I inviting others into redemption? 
  9. Do I have faith in Jesus Christ as my only hope of salvation? 
  10. What value do I place on that salvation?
  11. How is the value of that salvation manifest in my daily life? 
  12. Where is that value of salvation not manifest? 
  13. What have I given up or suffered for the gospel? 
  14. Where do I find joy in my faith? 
  15. What evil do have left unchecked? 
  16. What good have I neglected to pursue? 
  17. Am I being a good spiritual mentor to others?
  18. Do I have good spiritual mentors in my life?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June Reading List

A pastor once told me you can tell a character of a man by his friends, his check book, and the books he reads. I like to think some iteration of that saying is true even in 21st century America. So here are the books I read (or listened to) in the month of May and June.

I usually keep a tally of the books in a widget on the side of my blog but I decided it would help me with record keeping if I also created a post.

May 2014

1175 : The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric C. Cline
I do not recommend. It's a snoozer. Very little of the book is actually about 1175 B.C.

A Pretty Good Person by Lewis B. Smedes

Racing Hummingbirds by Jeanann Verlee
A fantastic slam poet whose content is not for kids and may even make some adults uncomfortable. I love the honesty and composition of many of the poems while others were too raw for me to enjoy.

Vikings by Prof. Kenneth W. Harl
So much fun. I loved learning about how vikings were more than just some berserkers with horned helmets. Made me curious about the coming of Christianity of Northern Europe.

The History of Ancient Rome by Pro. Garret G. Fagan
I will be drawing from this lecture series for some time in my sermons as a good cultural reference to the life of Christ.

Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Neil is one of my favorite fiction authors. This is a subtle rural fairy tale set in 1960s England. I loved it.

The Code of Hammurabi
I heard their were some parallels to this Babylonian text and to texts in the bible. It was a hard read given that I know little about Babylon.

Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters by Alan S. Miller
A work of evolutionary psychology that reminds me of a saying, "When all you have is a hammer everything starts looking like a nail." The hammer is sex. The "everything else" is culture, arts, war, and what it means to be human. It was interesting but it made me glad my world view contains a loving creator and savior.

June 2014

Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean by Glenn Holland
A rich look at the religion of the civilizations in which God brought Israel out of. Very interesting. Provides some fantastic contexts for how Israel is both set apart from these religions and how they borrowed from them.

Influence: Mastering Life's Most Powerful Skill by Kenneth Brown
Still working through this one. It's ok. Useful advice but overall it feels like a textbook on how to manipulate people.

The Era of the Crusades by Kenneth Harl
A primer on the Crusades was long over due. Read partly in response to the viking lectures. Incredibly through introduction. Made me curious about the barbarians to the east, Constantinople, and  

The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes by Kenneth Harl
Great lecture series about the Barbarians. I read it in response to the curiosities I had after listening to the Crusade lectures. The Steppes are a place I have heard of but now I have a greater appreciation for them as a region and their impact on western (and eastern) civilization

A History of Christian Missions by Stephen Neil
The barbarians, the vikings, the crusades, and the lecture about ancient Rome combined with a overall sense that I am living in a culture that is moving away from Christianity made me really interested in learning about Christianities pull on the world. This was a great book that wrapped up everything I am learning about in a nice lens  of mission.

Think Like a Freak by Steven Dubner
I think this book should be mandatory reading for all church elders. It is about the art of thinking critically. 

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
A re-read. I was inspired to pick up another Gaiman book especially after reading about the vikings as this modern book is a fictional work about European pagan gods in America.

Skin Game by Jim Butcher
I just like a good urban fantasy book. Jim Butcher is the best and his new book came out this month.

Letters to Malcolm on Prayer by C.S. Lewis and At the Master's Feet by Sadu Sundar Singh
Some jerk Presbyterian pastor recently published about speaking out against prayer. I love prayer. I was livid that this guy chose to split acts of mercy and prayer, then say one is more important than the other. I needed to read some good books about prayer to cleanse the palate. Lewis and Singh were my antidote. Two great early 20th century authors who come from completely different backgrounds (India and England) talking about the goodness of prayer. It was delicious. Lewis's comments about "liberal" Christianity made me curious about the difference between his understanding of the phrase and what we have come to accept it as in our own culture. 

An Introduction to Contemporary Preaching by J. Daniel Baumann
I take my preaching seriously. I'm always looking for more help. This book was discounted AND in the bargin bin over at the Fuller Seminary bookshop. So far so good. It is a bit dated but in someways the same issues he addresses are true today.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Maybe Its Time To Change Your Name

Hi David,

As you know I have a little newborn now and I would really like to raise him in a church. I know you are a pastor now and I was hoping you could tell me which were the right ones to go to. I am not a member of any of these denominations, do I have to be one in order to go to their church? Are they going to card me at the door and check?

This is a paraphrase of an email I received recently. The woman is a life long friend of mine. She's smart as a whip but has little to no church background. She is also the mom of a young family and really really wanting to join a church. Any church would love to have her family become a part of their community. The very first hurdle she and her family face, what kind of church. She wasn't a Presbyterian, would the Presbyterians know at the door she was different and not let her in? That was a genuine concern.

I think churches like to pride themselves on being welcoming and friendly. However, a name says a lot about a person or group. Putting a denominational affiliation in the name of your church may be the first sign (literally in some cases) to outsiders that they are not welcome. It does not communicate "This is where people gather to worship God" instead it telegraphs "This is where PRESBYTERIANS gather to worship God."

This is by no means ever intentional. Almost every church I have ever worked with has had their denomination stated in their name. But in an era marked by a decline of importance in denominational affiliation, maybe for the sake of being truly welcoming we should be thinking about changing our names.

Also, I am not saying to deny your denominational identity. Just find other ways of expressing it.