Blogging through the Bible

This Sunday, we begin a series at Fern Creek I’m calling “His Story,” which will be an opportunity for us to jump into the story of the Bible. As we do, I will be blogging along as we work our way through the Bible. But before I do, let me mention some ways that you can be a part of this series:

  1. Read along with us as we read through the Bible. We will be tackling His Story in at least three “acts.” We will share in Act 1, “God Makes a Family,” during October & November. Find the reading plan here.
  2. Memorize a key Bible passage each week. Memory verses are also listed on the reading plan.
  3. Invite someone to join you. Find a friend, or a fellow seeker, who is willing to read through the Bible passages at the same time as you. Encourage and challenge each other through text, email, calls, facebook messages, or face-to-face gatherings. Ask each other questions like: What did you learn? What do you think it means to us today? What are you going to do with what you’ve learned? 
  4. Involve your kids. Each week’s reading plan includes four key chapters new readers can use, giving them access to some of the key ideas from that week’s reading. Or, if you have preschool children, you might consider telling them key stories from what you have read, presented in simple form as a bedtime story. (This is a great way to help you remember and reflect on the key points of the story.) Or, you can use a kids Bible like this one — though, like most preschool Bibles, it only includes the main stories of Scripture.
  5. Download the Youversion Bible app. Youversion is a wonderful app for your smartphone that puts the Bible at your fingertips. It has numerous languages, and a bunch of English versions of the Bible — many of which you can read, or listen to. And, we will post stuff directly to our church’s Youversion page that applies to each week’s message. Did I mention that it’s free? If you are joining us through this series, and you use a smartphone or tablet, click here to get Youversion.

But the key idea is for us to get to know the Bible — ALL of it, so that we can find ourselves in The Greatest Story Ever Told. And this Sunday at Fern Creek, we will begin by looking at the overall picture — what I am calling “The Wholy Bible.”

There are a number of ways to summarize Scripture. Jesus gave this summary. Also, Jesus is the summary. But another way to get our arms around the story of the Bible is found in the following video. It’s simple enough to summarize the Bible in a way even young folks can understand, but deep enough to cover the spectrum of Scripture from front to back. (Though, I will say, there is one more circle I will add. Join me Sunday to find out what that is.)

Yogi Berra, Catcher & Wordsmith

As someone whose work is all about words, I love Yogi Berra. As someone who doesn’t always get my words right, I really love Yogi Berra. Yogi is a word-maker’s dream. Or, I should say, was. For Yogi Berra passed away this week at the age of 90.

Yogi was an accomplished baseball star, a catcher who won 10 World Series — appearing in 21 as either a player or a coach. He was on the receiving end of the only perfect game ever pitched in the World Series — Don Larsen’s 1956 gem. In 1972, Yogi was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But Yogi was more than a baseball star; he was an American icon. Born in my hometown of St. Louis, he served his country in World War 2 — where he was a part of the D-Day invasion. He returned to the States after the war, and his baseball career quickly took off.

And so did his sayings. Some of what he said was unintentionally humorous, like:

  • “Pair ’em up in threes.”
  • On giving directions to his house: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
  • On a restaurant in St. Louis: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
  • “If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?”

But other things he said were both unintentionally humorous and insightful — in their own way:

  • “I wish I had the answer to that, because I’m tired of answering that question.” Yeah, me too.
  • “You can observe a lot by watching.” So pay attention.
  • “We made too many wrong mistakes.” Isn’t that the truth.
  • “It ain’t over til it’s over.” Thank the Lord.

Like all good wordsmiths, Yogi was right, even when he sounded like he was wrong. Like Yogi, there are so many questions I wish I had the answer to — because they keep coming up. And I seem to keep making the same mistakes, especially the wrong ones. Which is why I am SO grateful that it ain’t over til it’s over. Because every day is a new day, a new opportunity for grace, and hope, and forgiveness, and love. And when it finally is over — when the 9th inning is played and the game is complete — there is Someone waiting at the end to receive us.

But then, I expect that a great catcher already knows all about Home.

Some Questions I Have

I have a lot of questions. Questions that are all over the place. So, today, let me share some. Feel free to add yours in the comment section below.

Why do people wear perfume to the gym? To make their sweat smell better?

Why does real joy seem to be so hard to find? Some are good at projecting an artificial joy; others seem to have very little joy — but if joy is an essential part of the Christian existence, why does it seem in such short supply?

Why does it take so long for the frontal lobes of teenagers to fully develop?

Why do I recognize that so many of the things that frustrate me are “first world problems” — but I let them frustrate me, anyway? For example: why can’t someone figure out how to make those automatic paper towel dispensers in bathrooms actually work right?

Why, when church gets hard, do we so often back away from difficult, but important conversations?

Why does Donald Trump do his hair like that?

Why do I make the same mistakes over and over again?

Why doesn’t Qdoba have mushrooms?

Why, after 46 years, do I still not know how to respond to the guy at the corner holding up the cardboard sign asking for help?

Why do I have to have so many passwords?

Why do I take so many things for granted?

Why is St. Louis the only place with really good frozen custard?

Why don’t we talk about gluttony in church?

Why do I find myself thinking more often about the food my stomach wants, and not the spiritual food I really need?

Love Hurts

Love hurts. It’s more than just an old movie, or an even older song. In fact, love doesn’t just hurt, it can be downright heartbreaking.

And that’s on the worst days. Even on good days, love is still a challenge. And messy. And it can be frustrating, agonizing, and maddening.

Which makes you wonder: why do it? Why love? Wouldn’t it be easier to stay at home with the curtains closed, buried in our phones and ipads and TVs?

Yes. It would. It would be easier to close off the challenge of love for the comfort of technology and entertainment.

As anyone who has ever loved someone already knows, when you love, you open yourself to the risk of not being loved in return. Or having your love misused, mistreated, or simply overlooked.

So, why do we do it? Why do we love? Because it is what we are made for. We are made to love — because we were made in the image of the One who invented love; who IS love.

And how has it turned out for God? Well, it certainly hasn’t been easy for God. His love has resulted in pain, in separation — and took a lot of risk. God’s love, expressed most fully and powerfully in Jesus, took him to the cross. A cross that leads to life, for all.

In other words, love by its very definition is life-giving — even when it hurts, when it takes from us, when it calls for more than we have to give. Even in the sacrifices we make to love — even when love requires us to give — in the loving we find what we are made for. And the love becomes a signpost for those we love, even when they can’t see or understand it. And when our loving seems to be in vain, it is not, for even when no one seems to notice or care, our loving is bringing change. First and foremost, in us.

For when you love, really love, you are becoming more human — more like the human you were made by God to be. Even in the pain, you are being shaped into the person you are meant to be. Love is many things, but it is never empty. Or pointless. Or hopeless. For real love always points to the God of Real Love. And helps us become more like him in the process of our loving.

So, keep doing the hard work of loving. Even when it hurts. Or feels unreturned. For with each act of sacrificial, self-giving, others-focused love, you are becoming more like the One Who invented love.