September 24th, 2008

Stained Glass - Teaching

Still Loving My Bibles

I've been spending more time with my NLT Study Bible and have really been enjoying it. I decided that I will use it as my primary bible for this year's Disciple Bible Study. We're nearing the end of the second week in the study, so I've had a few more hours with this Bible as part of the studying. I'm trying to make sure that I have enough time in my preparation to read both the assigned text and the study notes related to that text. So far for this study, I've been through several chapters in Deuteronomy as well as I and II Kings.The more I use this Bible, the more I like it. The notes really help enhance the reading without being lame.

I'm also doing a better job of keeping up with my daily devotional reading. For that, I'm using the ESV Literary Study Bible that I received for my birthday last year. I'm also really enjoying this one. It doesn't have the notes on individual verses like other Study Bibles do, but the section notes they have for each of the sections are interesting. They really focus on the literary aspects of the text. It's a bit different approaching the Scripture from that mindset in my devotional reading, and I think it's a good approach for me. It helps me to re-examine familiar passages through a new lens and, in general, helps me to stay more actively interested in continuing the daily readings.

For my Sunday School lesson prep, I continue to rely on the various translations and tools I use through Accordance, the best Bible software in the world. It really helps simplify the work I do for class.
running - shoes

Running Update

I'm still running and training for the marathon. Just not as much as I probably should be.

Realistically, I think I'm at a point where I could complete the marathon before the bus would pick me up and make me quit. But I bet that bus would be right behind me for the last part of the race and I don't think I'd enjoy the experience. My longest long run is still only eighteen miles. I should have twenty-three under my belt at this point.

The good news is that the weather has finally turned to bearable. The last three times I attempted a long run, I had to throw in the towel early, mainly due to heat issues. It's at least 10 degrees cooler now, and if it can stay that way through the weekend, I expect to have a very successful long run on Saturday.

The marathon's only about a month away, so I really don't have any slack time at all.

Once it's over, I'm really looking forward to continuing to run, but not having to worry about doing more than about ten miles as a long run. It really will be nice to have this behind me.
Stained Glass - Ascension

Structured Prayer

As I've been doing a better job of keeping up with my daily devotional Bible reading and studying, I'm finding that my spiritual life is growing, deepening. That's not really a surprise.

What is a little bit of a surprise is that I'm also finding that I'm very interested in incorporating some structured prayer/worship into my daily routine. It first stated a few months ago when I picked up a 50s-era copy of the Methodist Book of Worship from an antique store. I have really enjoyed reading through it. The past couple of weeks, as this year's Disciple study has kicked up, that desire for more daily structure has deepened. A few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time looking at Anglican Rosaries and picked out a favorite. I don't remember where I got the idea to look for rosaries. Someone must have mentioned it recently, or I must have heard about it on a podcast or something. Regardless, I think that I would enjoy using a tool like a rosary to help introduce and encourage a regular structured prayer time.

Today, while listening to a recent (the latest?) Internet Monk podcast, I heard Michael mention Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary, which sounded very, very interesting to me. Using the "look inside" feature on amazon.com confirmed my interest.

I've got to return a book to the library soon. I think I'll look and see if they have any similar resources that I can thumb through and/or borrow. A quick scan of their online catalog indicates that they have several books that I will probably find interesting.
headshot

Book Review: unChristian

OK, I'm exhausted. And my laptop battery is dying. This will be my last post before going to sleep.

My pastor recently recommended that I read unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters. I picked up a copy from the library and finished it a few days ago.

It's an interesting look at how the Christian faith is perceived by both Christians and non-Christians. It's easy for Christians to say that the perception shouldn't matter -- as long as we accurately represent God's word, we're doing the right thing. The truth, however, is that perceptions do matter, and that many Christians simply don't accurately represent God's word. As a result, we're turning off a whole bunch of people who otherwise might be attracted to Christianity.

The book is based on a huge study that was conducted by the Barna group, so there's a lot of discussion about what was learned by the study. It was informative to look at the data they gathered for the study and read their conclusions. The biggest conclusion is that there is a lot of work Christians need to do -- that the current image of Christianity is not representative of what Christianity is supposed to be, and that many people who call themselves Christian are doing a terrible job of both representing and acting on their faith. The book focuses on a handful of negative perceptions that people have about Christians, explains why those perceptions are reasonable for people to have, and presents possible solutions on how to start reversing those perceptions. No surprise here, most of the solutions involve having Christians start acting on their faith instead of merely giving it lip service.

All in all, I'm very glad that I read the book. Especially as we continue to work on the new service at church and seek to get unchurched people involved, I think it's going to be helpful that I read the book. If you're involved in ministry in any capability, I recommend that you give this book a look. It's a very easy read, and you can skip around in the chapters to read them in whatever order you like.