February 2011

Posted by Ken Schmidt

In John 5:39-40, Jesus says to the Jewish leaders who have a problem with Jesus equating himself with God, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The opposition leaders are like many people who sit in the chairs/pews of a corporate worship gathering on Sunday mornings.  They somehow think that more knowledge of the Bible will somehow make them more acceptable to God.  In many of our good Bible-believing and teaching churches we can drift towards this scholar-righteousness mentality.

I really do want us to study the Word more.  I often counsel people to spend their ‘devotional’ time in the Bible.  But, I would caution us to examine our motives in the study of Scripture.  Is our motive to see ourselves as God sees us?  Is our motive to ask God, ‘How can I be made right again?  How can I be in relationship with you?  Is our motive to see and know the Hero who rescues us from sin and brings us into right relationship with God?  Is our motive to see Christ as the point of all Scripture?

I love the introduction to The Jesus Storybook Bible because it explains in language that a child, AND EVEN AN ADULT, can understand about the nature and purpose of the Bible.  This introduction answers the question of this post.

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne-everything-to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is-it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling on Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle-the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

I think that every person should read The Jesus Storybook Bible.  For the child, the JSB opens up the truth of the Scriptures in a clear, fun and concise way.  For the unbeliever, it is not littered with Christianese.  For the adult believer, it just may open up your eyes to the depth and beauty of all the Scriptures, which point to Jesus, the Christ, God!


Posted by Ken Schmidt

Al Mohler has written an insightful post concerning the foreclosure of Borders bookstore and the demise of bookstores in general.  I was intrigued by this thought from the article:

The general wisdom seems to be that the bookstore will go the way of the record store and the video rental outlet. The bookstore may have been an important cultural asset in years past, many argue, but it has little place in a world of e-readers, online sales, and mega retailers like WalMart that deep-discount bestsellers.

Some go further and suggest that the demise of the bookstore is a signal of the demise of the book itself, at least as a printed product with pages between covers. That dystopian prophecy is almost surely overblown, but the book’s survival in printed form does depend, to a considerable extent, upon the survival of bookstores.

This commentary is challenging and disturbing to me because I love to read.  And I love to read books, books that I can see, smell and touch.  In the course of a week, I generally read two to three books.  Numerous people have advised me to buy the Kindle or some kind of e-reader.  I have weighed the pros and cons of each and come to the conclusion that I don’t want a Kindle or e-reader.  I like to have a book in my hands. 

Is this simply because I am old and refuse to enter the age of technology.  I imagine that may be part of it, but I think there is a bigger reason for my desire to have a physical copy of the book in my hands.  It is a matter of focus.  When I have a book, I am fully concentrating on the content of the book.  When I am online and read an article, I am bombarded with opportunities to wander in my concentration.  Most online articles have numerous links and if I understand correctly, Kindle and e-readers also have links at the tips of your fingers as well.  Yes, these links have a usefulness to them, but they also fuel the limited attention span that online technology has fostered in our generation.

To read a book or an e-reader, that is the question…

Posted by Jon Moore, pastoral intern, Manchester Creek Community Church

Well, as Ken is excitedly crowing, the Super Bowl is fast approaching, and the excitement is building for one of the major party opportunities of the year. Sadly, I’ll be at Starbucks, but many of you will be participating in a Super Bowl party somewhere, so I wanted to share some thoughts from author/pastor CJ Mahaney. I love Mahaney partly because he is an unashamed sports fan, and encourages people to take redemptive pride in enjoying sports for God’s glory. Below are his suggestions on how to watch the Superbowl for God’s glory, with a few less profound ones of mine thrown in.

1. Strategically assign the remote.
Some prefer to turn off all the commercials; other prefer to just keep an eye on it and turn off the offensive ones. Either way, be proactive about what shows up on your TV screen. One way to do this is to assign one person (someone with both discernment and quick reflexes) to remote-control duty.” This cannot be just anybody. Throughout the game viewers are assaulted with commercials—immoral commercials, commercials that assault and offend one’s intelligence, and commercials with immodestly dressed women (which both tempt men and belittle women). These are as much a part of the Super Bowl as the game itself.
This one is no surprise (every year GoDaddy shows the only thing they really know how to sell is the single entendre), but it also may be the most tempting advice to ignore. If you don’t care about the game, the unveiling of new commercials is one of the most exciting aspects of the Super Bowl, and it’s tempting to be lax with “bad” commercials because we don’t want to miss the “good” ones. That’s bad priorities, but it’s also a lie… you won’t miss a good commercial because they’ll be replayed ad-infinitum online and on your TV for months to come.
When choosing who holds the remote, let me recommend finding someone who is sensitive and discerning enough to know what needs to be turned off, not only for themselves but for sake of the room. This often works well if it is a person who doesn’t care about the game. Commercial time is when they’re focused on the TV, whereas for the football fan, it’s downtime meant for conversations, and their attention may be prone to wander from the task. 

2. Watch proactively.

I encourage fathers to watch actively and discerningly, never passively and superficially. There is no doubt that throughout the game you will hear one superlative after another attributed to the skill of the athletes. The accent throughout the game will be on skill, not character.
Nowhere is the word great mentioned more often in our culture than in the context of professional sports. If you watch any game this weekend and listen to the announcer’s commentary, then like a mantra you’ll probably hear the word great repeated throughout—great, great, great. Yet it may well be that nowhere in our culture is the absence of true greatness more evident than in professional sports. So be careful about cultivating an excessive love for professional athletics in your child.
Without minimizing the skill as a gift from God, I want to direct my son’s attention to character as theologically defined. So as Chad and I watch the game, I will draw his attention to any evidence of humility or unselfishness I observe, as well as any expression of arrogance or selfishness. I will celebrate the former and ridicule the latter.
This isn’t just a message for father’s and sons either. In your conversations, you have the chance to hold up truly great values not only by observation of the game, but by commending and praising how you have seen God at work in your life and how you see it shaping and transforming the life of a friend.

3. Foster fellowship.
We need to make sure a room full of people are not simply passively watching the Super Bowl. Commercial time can be time redeemed with the right leadership and by a simply changing of the channel to C-SPAN.
Don’t misunderstand. It’s perfectly legitimate to watch and enjoy the game. I’m not advocating that you invite those who have no interest in the game and who want to distract your attention from the game. You can arrange to meet with those people at another time.
No matter who we invite to our homes on Sunday, let’s not just stare at the TV, paying little attention to our families and our guests. Watching the game should involve building relationships.
 Even if you don’t turn off the game at certain points, there are still plenty of ways to make the game more social. Telly has started printing up “football bingo” cards, so that even those who don’t care about the game can learn more about football and enjoy themselves through the competition. Even more important than finding creative means of being social is being intentional about relationship building during the party. One simple way to do this is to enter the room and choose out at least one person (preferably not someone whom you already know well) upon whom you will focus your attention and make sure you know them more than when you arrived.
4. Draw attention to the eternal.
Sometime after the game—that same evening or the next day—it’s helpful for a father to draw his child’s attention to the game in light of eternity. It’s also helpful for us as fathers to be reminded of an eternal perspective.
Apart from those few who listen excessively to sports talk radio, this game will be quickly forgotten. Let me ask you this—who won the Super Bowl even five years ago?
The day before the 1972 Super Bowl, Dallas Cowboy running back Duane Thomas said, “If it’s the ultimate game how come they’re playing it again next year?” Some players seem to get it. Sadly, many fans don’t.

More recently Tom Brady, quarterback of three Super Bowl championships, is quoted in a 60 Minutes interview saying,
Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, “Hey man, this is what is.” I reached my goal, my dream, my life. I think, “God, it’s got to be more than this.” I mean this isn’t, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.

I anticipate that in a week or two, after the Super Bowl has been won, the champions will experience this same dissatisfaction. As Augustine said, “You [God] made us for yourself, and our hearts find no peace till they rest in you.”
We must impart this eternal perspective to our children.
This is a brilliant observation, and it reminds us to make Super Bowl gatherings an opportunity to spend time with those who may not know the Lord. We will have chances during the event and following it to springboard from the game and gathering to deeper issues of their lives and impart this eternal perspective, laying a foundation for the Gospel message.