Pray and then get active

Sometimes the chapters get in the way

I’ve been reading the Bible for roughly 28 years. I think we started studying it as a family when I was 12.

I’m been sharing devotions with my son, using Jon Swanson’s 300 Words a Day and 7×7. [7×7 is reading the Bible for 5 minutes, asking God a question, and listening for 2 minutes. Therefore, it is 7 minutes a day, 7 days a week.]

For the 7×7 last week, we were working through Matthew 9 and 10. Matthew 9 ends with the inspiring:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” [Matthew 9:35-38]

I’ve read this passage dozens of times. I’ve studied it. Heard it preached on. I’ve even preached on it myself.

But in the past, I let the chapter get in the way. I’d stop. And feel great that I was praying for God to send people to do the work.

I’d just never realized I was praying for God to send ME to do the work

Most of the time I read this, I thought God was sending out someone else. Oh, I realized there were times I was used by God as a “worker in the field” in answer to someone else’s prayer.

But then comes Matthew 10!

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions… [Matthew 10:1,5]

If the chapter division (inserted long after the Bible was compiled) wasn’t there, I’d have read something like, “Pray for God to send the workers. Now get busy being the answer to that prayer.”

Pray. And then get active.

It’s so easy to read the end of Matthew 9 and feel complacent and somewhat passive. “Ok, I’ve prayed. Thanks Jesus for letting me be involved without getting my hands dirty.”

But our God is the God of the dirty hands. He keeps involving Himself with us. And He calls us to be His hands and feet.

We can’t get out of if by saying this was a special sending for the 12. After this, the 72 were sent. And before Jesus’ ascension, He sent all His followers to “do the stuff”: healing, driving out demons, baptizing, and discipling.

This is the Kingdom He invites us into. One where He reigns. He equips us with authority and power. And He expects us to get busy being the Kingdom.

It reminds my of the Frederick Buechner quote: “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”

My take away: if you sense the urge to pray for a situation, explore to see if that is the first step in being sent to work on it.

Read it anew:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions…[Matthew 9:35-38; 10:1,5]

A digital flash mob for the KJV

#kjv400 YouVersions celebration of the KJVThe King James Version of the Bible turns 400 today.

Normally that wouldn’t have mattered to me. I don’t read the KJV. I associate it with the type of Christians that use lots of other adjectives on their church signs like “fundamentalist” and “blood bought” and (ironically) “independent.” I prefer a more immediately accessible translation like the TNIV.

But last month I heard a great story on the creation of the KJV translation on NPR. I hadn’t realized how much this translation had impacted our language and culture. The NPR story helped give me new appreciation for the KJV.

So I took notice when I learned that the folks at YouVersion, my favorite geeky Bible site and app, were planning a celebration. Their goal? To read the entire KJV of the Bible in 400 seconds!

They did this by dividing up the text among anyone who would sign up to read at the appointed time. They called it a sort of “digital flash mob.”

And sign up they did! According to the YouVersion folks, there were enough people to read the entire KJV eight times in 400 seconds! Here’s a map on where readers came from:
#kjv400 YouVersion's KJV map

I was assigned Isaiah 64. Not only was it oddly fun to read the now archaic language oddly compelling, I even rediscovered the Hebraic roots of one of my favorite biblical passages like 1 Corinthians 2:9:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (NIV)

Rather than just reading it, I chose to live stream it from my office using Bambuser. You can see my 2 minutes of reading here:

A fun way to spend part of my lunch hour. 🙂

If you want to learn more on the KJV, check out the story NPR did or click on this terrific infographic prepared by YouVersion (click on it to expand it):
#kjv400 YouVersion KJV infographic

Or you could just start reading it. Why not try reading Isaiah 64?

God talks through dreams

I firmly believe God talks. And that dreams are one of the ways He talks. But apparently I can’t understand the language yet.

I few weeks ago, I woke from a dream specifically remembering “47:20″…I think it was a time in the dream. But when I woke, I knew it must refer to Scripture.

Do you know how inconvenient it is to find what books have 47 chapters and then of those which ones have 20 or more verses? Oy.

So today, I decided to it. Very easy!

Here are the results for the only 2 47:20’s in the Bible:

Genesis: So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s,

“On the west side, the Mediterranean Sea will be the boundary to a point opposite Lebo Hamath. This will be the western boundary.

Clear as mud, huh?

Wish I’d checked this earlier. I might have remembered the context of the dream!

(The one from Genesis is, for me, one of the saddest passages in the Bible. The next verse says that Joseph made all of Egypt slaves to Pharoah. How ironic that a few centuries later, the descendants of Joseph become the slaves, isn’t it?)

Romans 8

Just got a cool invite to a Facebook Group: Romans8Movement. It’s a group of people committed to memorizing the entire chapter of Romans 8.

On the site, they even have printable flashcards to help.

Check out the text of Romans 8 (TNIV). And then join the Facebook group at: Romans8Movement.

Romans 8
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in human flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. The sinful mind is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Incredible Bible Resource

The International Bible Society has just come out with a work called The Books of the Bible. I got my copy Friday after work.

It’s amazing.

They’ve removed all the chapter and verse numbers and reformatted the text to reflect the way it was written. Letters have breaks at the natural places where the author changes topics, not arbitrary places that a monk put in as verses.

Books are arranged totally differently! More along the line of the time they were written. So 1 Thessolonians, being Paul’s first epistle, is first. And the Gospels are mixed in with the New Testament writings.

I’ve read more of the Bible for sheer pleasure reading in the past 2 days than I’ve read in the last 2 months. Large portions of Isaiah. (It makes SO much more sense without the verse numbers!) Large portions of Deuteronomy and Matthew. And entire epistles like both Thessolonians and James.

This is the best $9 (+ shipping) I’ve spent in a long time.

For more information, go to the IBS The Books of the Bible site.