The Daily Office Reading – April 1st, 2010

Mark 14:12-25, ESV:

The Passover with the Disciples

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
Institution of the Lord’s Supper

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

The Daily Office Reading – March 30th, 2010

Mark 11:27-33, ESV:

The Authority of Jesus Challenged
And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

The Daily Office Reading – March 31st, 2010

Mark 12:1-11, ESV:

The Parable of the Tenants

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

The Daily Office Reading – March 29th, 2010

Mark 11:12-25, ESV:

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.

The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Revised Common Lectionary – Palm Sunday

Luke 19:28-40, ESV:

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Beer and the Bible

This is an interesting ministry. What’s even more interesting is that it’s right here in my adopted home state of Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. Here’s a video they’ve put together to promote it:

Experimenting with Teaching

This Spring, we will experiment with our Sunday morning setup. Right now, we do a large group gathering for high school students for about an hour and twenty minutes. The positives are that a lot of students come, and many report that they usually take something away from the gathering, whether it was the teaching or the worship we do once a month. However, since one of the purposes of Sunday morning is for students to learn, I have been wondering whether we are really discipling students during this time. I’m thankful that some students do say they are learning a lot, but to be honest, most students who say that are really, really committed to learning more about Jesus, and I don’t think they represent more than a small minority in our group.

Thanks to a new leader (and parent) in our group who is passionate about teaching, I have been trying to discern where God might be leading us in terms of teaching and discipleship. Here are some principles I believe come from the Bible about the subject:
Discipleship occurs in relationships, usually one-on-one (for example, Paul-Timothy), and when in groups, the groups are smaller rather than larger (Jesus and the 12).
There is something to be said for learning content (such as facts or where different passages appear in the Bible). However, Jesus always accompanied such teaching with illustrations and parables, and connected the dots for his hearers from the abstract (such as the fact that God has forgiven us a whole lot of sin) to the concrete (such as the idea that if we don’t forgive a brother or sister, it’s like being forgiven a debt of millions and millions of dollars, then turning around and making a big deal over maybe a few hundred dollars we are owed).
Jesus welcomed interaction, and this often helped those he taught to discover the truth by working through it. Example: Matthew 19:16-30.
Jesus was not afraid to point out incorrect thinking (see Matthew 16:23). No matter how laid back we try to be as youth leaders, there is something to be said for being clear and firm from whatever pulpit God has given us, whether it’s a booth at McDonald’s or up front on a Sunday morning. I did not grow up in the church, so I am at times surprised by the weight a student will give what I say simply because I am a licensed pastor.

So, for three weeks this Spring, we will do an experiment that we may keep: instead of a large group gathering, we will have four “learning groups” (they are not small groups, we already have a “GO Group” ministry) consisting of 20-30 students led by qualified teachers. Students will choose one of those groups to be a part of during those three weeks, and in those groups, they will have a chance to really dig into a particular topic. The idea is that there will be room for interaction, discussion, and discovery. My hope is that there would not just be more learning taking place in these groups, but that students would learn how to learn, and how to apply what they learn to their walk with Jesus. We’re still fleshing out the details, but I’m excited to see where this experiment will take us. Because I’m just not that convinced that our large group gathering does a great job enriching our students’ relationship with Jesus every week or helping students who don’t know Christ to learn more about Him and begin a saving relationship with Jesus.

Pew Forum: Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths

From Here:

The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. A new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination — even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizeable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.

Religiously mixed marriages are common in the United States, and the survey finds that the link between being in a religiously mixed union and attendance at multiple types of services is a complex one. Overall, people in religiously mixed marriages attend worship services less often than people married to someone of the same faith. But among those who attend religious services at least yearly, those in religiously mixed marriages attend multiple types of services at a higher rate than people married to someone of the same religion.

Here’s the main issue: in our culture, we generally see no problem with this, because we see spirituality as a private, personal taste. Just like not too many people are going to raise an eyebrow at my buffet choices from the local Country Buffet (unless I go Jim Gaffigan-style), not too many people raise an eyebrow when we select different items from the spirituality buffet. In fact, we praise creative choices. My wife once organized a conference for a denomination not known for having Bible-centered beliefs about Jesus on ministering in tourist and resort communities. One of the participants called herself a “Buddeo-Christian.” Somehow, we see this as cool: she’s a Christian who’s open to Eastern spirituality. The problem with this (at least the only one I’ll point out for now) is that Buddhism and historical Christianity are not compatible in their basic tenets. It’s important to teach the concept of absolute truth. That’s Truth with a capital T. I’m not saying that I as a teacher have the corner on truth, but I do know that the concept of absolute truth–at least on spiritual issues–is losing ground (for more on this, check out Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey). As youth workers, we try to present the claims found in Scripture about Jesus as truth. Many times, we need to back up and show that there is such a thing as absolute truth and to at least help teenagers think through what they believe.

Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything at Church (And How To Fix It)

The title of this post is a book I’m currently reading by Thom and Joani Schultz. As the title suggests, the book is about education within the church. I’m enjoying it so far, and have a few things to think through after only one chapter. Some takeaways so far (in my own words):

  • It’s silly to teach without knowing the overall goal of teaching. We’re not talking just about the goal of a particular sermon, “talk” or lesson; we’re talking about teaching in general. If I picture teaching as a ministry as a machine of sorts, and if the input to this machine includes our time, effort, resources, etc., what do I hope to get out of the machine? What do I want the outcome to be? If I don’t know the answer to this question, I need to really think and pray about it before I teach another lesson or preach another sermon.
  • It has been shown that students do not learn best in primarily lecture-based format. So why is this format the “go-to” for most youth pastors? Time is one factor (it’s easier to simply talk), fear comes into play (what if I try something new and it bombs?) and some of it is just plain “We’ve always done it this way!” (insert your favorite denominational joke here).
  • What we’re doing isn’t working. Fewer and fewer students (according to studies) can articulate a biblical worldview or are impacted in a positive way by what they learn in church.

Good food for thought here. After thinking about this for a few minutes, here are my, “but what about…” thoughts:

  • So what should be our primary form of communication? I’m not ready to buy into the idea that since students watch a lot of T.V. and movies, we should totally embrace those media. Teaching in the form of a sermon seems to be a consistent form of teaching in the Church and was embraced by Jesus (although I doubt Peter and the other apostles were too worried about having three points or organizing their thoughts into easily remembered acrostics).
  • Okay, I agree that we shouldn’t focus on the memorization of facts as a benchmark for how well students are learning. I want to graduate faithful followers of Jesus who are passionate about being doers of the Word, and not mearly hearers. But don’t we need the building blocks of a decent understanding of Scripture, theology, church history, and other disciplines? At some point in time, hard work that might not be the most exciting is necessary. In athletics, sprints and strength drills aren’t always the most fun, but they provide for us the endurance and strength necessary to enjoy and be successful at the game.
  • How do I provide ways for a large group of students to really engage what we’re learning so that it sinks in? I know that not everyone I teach will totally dive right in to applying what I teach to their lives, but how do I provide tools for students “take the next step” and live out what they’ve heard? When I led a smaller congregation, I felt like it was easier to do this, because we could do more things as a group. So what’s the answer? Encourage my small group leaders to do this in their groups?

Well, here’s looking forward to a nice evening reading more of this book and holding my sweet girl Samantha…