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Every Day Bible

Hebrews: The Incomparable Christ

We just finished a 15-session study of the book of Hebrews at Burns.

Hebrews was a tough book to me. It takes for granted that you really know your Old Testament, so you’ve got to do some pretty good digging to make sure you understand what the book is saying.

Hebrews has one goal: to elevate Jesus. Nothing, no one, nowhere, nada, NOTHING is better than Jesus.

If you’re interested in following along, you can view all 15 sessions here:

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Every Day Bible

Flexibility

I’m not flexible. I can’t touch my toes. I can’t do most of the stretches that people tell me I should do. I suspect I could make any yoga instructor change careers. Most of us are somewhat rigid: we have an idea of how we want to do things. Once we have a plan, we’d like that plan to come to life. We get stuck on a course of action. We stress when things change on us.

This year has required a lot of flexibility. Our plans have changed both regularly and unexpectedly. We’ve had to get used to doing things in different ways.

There are certainly things we must be rigid about. Malachi 3:6 says, “I the Lord, do not change.” Truth is truth.  But our approaches do change. Paul spoke differently in the synagogue than he did the marketplace.

I imagine that Simon and Andrew had pretty solid plans for their day of fishing when something unexpected happened. A rabbi named Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” I’ve always been impressed that they “immediately” “left their nets and followed him.” Becoming a disciple wasn’t on the schedule that day, but they had enough sense to realize that this itinerant preacher had better plans than they did.

If I’m not careful, my idea for how my day or decade should go might just keep me from responding to a better opportunity God has in front of me. Let’s cultivate a Biblically-anchored sense of flexibility—and be ready to respond to God’s call wherever it comes!

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Every Day Bible

Be Careful of Your Words: Fear Edition

Our words are often blunt instruments that damage when we need the healing power of precision scalpels.

I’ve heard some Christians speak negatively about “those people” who are “afraid” of the virus.

I have no doubt that some people are truly afraid. They feel the weight of anxiety and worry. Their spirit is troubled. The “what-ifs” and stresses consume their thoughts. This sort of fear is unhealthy and in tension with the peace promised by Jesus. It is problematic.

But there are plenty of others of us who have chosen to take protective measures that they deem wise and reasonable. They rest assured knowing Jesus, living with assurance. It isn’t right to label them as cowardly. They aren’t any more faithless or afraid than you are when you lock your door or fasten your seatbelt—they are living their faith by acting wisely.

Be careful that you don’t demean a brother by calling him fearful when he is trying to live faithfully.

Is it possible that he’s wrong? Sure. And it’s possible that you are, too. And it’s possible he knows something you don’t. And it’s possible he has reasons or motivations or experiences that you can’t see.

In the church, we give our family the benefit of the doubt. We bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. We use our words carefully.

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Every Day Bible

Kingdom Reversals

Jesus often says things that are exactly the opposite of “normal” thinking.

He says that the greatest will be the servant (Matthew 23:11). He says that unless we become like children, we miss out on what matters most (Matthew 18:3). He says that his followers don’t cling to power and violence and all the “normal” means and methods of doing business.

Perhaps no place is that more apparent than in the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:2-12.

Often the beatitudes are preached as a to-do list—and certainly, Jesus is not discouraging these behaviors—but this passage is not prescriptive. It is simply describing the reality of life in the kingdom of God.

From a totally natural standpoint—I don’t particularly want to be poor, mournful, meek, hungry, merciful, pure, a peacemaker, or persecuted. Most of the time, we are drawn to the opposite of these ideals. But Jesus reverses our thoughts and says that those people are exactly the ones that are receiving God’s blessing.

We tend to think that the rich and happy are blessed. When something good goes my way, I’m inclined to say, “I feel so blessed!” But in the great kingdom reversal, Jesus suggests another way of looking at things: even when everything around me has totally gone wrong, maybe especially then, I am blessed by God.

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Every Day Bible

What the World Needs Now (Part 4 of 4)

This our final installment of our small group series, “What the World Needs Now.” Thanks for joining us for this study! Be on the lookout for what’s next…

Discussion 1: How do you define hope? (Don’t use the dictionary–use your brain and your experiences!)

Discussion 2: How does a Bible Dictionary define hope? Is there a difference between your definitions? (You can find several dictionaries at biblestudytools.com)

Discussion 3: Use a concordance or search tool to find some “hope” passages. Read several. Read them with the Bible dictionary’s definition in mind. Does that change their meaning?

Discussion 4: How are you living today in light of the hope that you have?

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Every Day Bible

Halfway

It’s July! That means that 2020 is halfway finished. (Surely the rest of the year will be boring, right?!)

Halfway is a good time for a checkup. During halftime, many a coach has helped turn the game around by analyzing where things stand and what needs to change.

Maybe in January you made some resolutions. Nobody’s year has gone according to plan, but don’t use that as an excuse not to work on the things that are most important.

Are you making progress in your journey to be more like Christ?

How are your relationships with those closest to you?

Where have you planted seeds of the gospel? Who is closer to Jesus because of your influence?

Are those sins that you battle gaining ground or losing ground?

Is your attitude better or worse than it was a year ago?

What do you need to be doing so that you can look back on 2020 as a great year for the kingdom of God?

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Every Day Bible

What the World Needs Now (Part 3 of 4)

We continue our small-group study of 4 things that the world desperately needs from the church. In this week’s study, we look at the power of truth in a time of competing opinions.

Discussion 1: What are some controversial truth claims that are being argued about right now? How many of those can your group list in 60 seconds?

Discussion 2: The Gossip Verses. What do you hear?

Discussion 3: Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Biases. Take a look at the most common logical fallacies and most common cognitive biases. Read through the lists. Which ones do you encounter most frequently? Which are most common at church? In politics? Do you recognize any that you have fallen into this week?

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Every Day Bible

Empathy

When we think of Mister Rogers, most of us go straight to the set of his show. We see his cardigans and his puppets and hear his songs.

Did you know that Mister Rogers was asked to author a chapter in a medical book called Duane’s Opthamology?

The book is a technical workbook for all things “eye.” It’s one of the standard references in the field.

What in the world does the minister-turned-television-guru have to say that could help an eye surgeon?

His chapter was entitled, “Physical and Psychological Preparation of Children for Anesthesia and Surgery.”

You might expect it to begin with a thorough review of psychiatric literature about children’s stressors and coping skills. It could immediately launch with specific strategies and conversations to use.

Mister Rogers does something better than that. To help the medical team prepare children for eye surgery, he begins is chapter with six words:

“You were a child once, too.”

Fred Rogers

That’s all it takes, isn’t it? Mister Rogers invited these surgeons to stop thinking like surgeons and start thinking like children. He invited them to empathy.

Imagine how much better off the world would be if we began the day with a simple reminder: “We’ve been in their shoes, too.” You have been stressed. You have made bad decisions. You have been lost. You have been afraid. And if we can remember what it was like for us, maybe it will make it a little easier to follow the words of Jesus: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” (Matthew 7:12)

(Inspired by Becoming Better Grownups: Rediscovering What Matters and Remembering How to Fly by Brad Montague)

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Every Day Bible

Laughter

Don’t you hate that awkward moment when you wave to someone who is waving at you—until you realize that they were waving at someone behind you?

I’m not sure what exactly it is about this harmless social misstep that makes you want to crawl under a rock and hide.

Robert Benchley made a bigger blunder when he asked a man in a uniform outside a restaurant to get a cab for him. He was informed that he wasn’t speaking to a bellboy, but an admiral in the U.S. Navy.

Where I’d just want to die, Benchley rolled with it. Without missing a beat, he said, “I’m sorry. Can I get a battleship instead?”

The wise woman of Proverbs 31 is praised for her industriousness, character, and relationships, but my favorite line comes from verse 25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”

Certainly the principle can be abused, but don’t let the misuse keep you from the rightful use. There is something incredibly powerful about the ability to laugh in the face adversity, and even more so not to take ourselves too seriously.

Want to know another term for “not taking ourselves too seriously”? We call that humility. And laughter can actually be a path towards it.

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Every Day Bible

What the World Needs Now (Part 2 of 4)

Discussion 1: How did your strive to “love better” go last week? What success or failures did you have? What did you learn?

Discussion 2: What is your talk-to-listen ratio? Compare notes in your group. Is your vision of it accurate?

Discussion 3: What does scripture say about listening?

  • Proverbs 19:20
  • Proverbs 18:13
  • Proverbs 12:15
  • Proverbs 2:2
  • Proverbs 19:27
  • Proverbs 18:2

Discussion 4: Why are we so bad at listening?

Discussion 5: How will I practice listening this week?