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Every Day Bible

The Shocking Truth about Boredom

Some of you are ready to strangle your kids if they complain about being bored one more time, but you should have a little grace. Humans stink at being bored.

Researchers at the University of Virginia recruited hundreds of volunteers for a study. Subjects sat in a room with no books, no phones, no pens, no televisions—nothing—and given fifteen minutes to do nothing—except think.

The subjects hated the experience.

They hated it so much that a follow up experiment was created.

Subjects were placed in a lab room alone for fifteen minutes again, but this time, they were given a button that would administer a painful electric shock to themselves if they wanted to.

After just a few minutes of boredom, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to shock themselves rather than sit alone with their thoughts.

(I guess this is proof that women are smarter than men!)

They knew the shock would hurt.

They had said before that they had no desire to experience a shock.

Participants even said in a questionnaire that they would pay money to avoid being shocked.

But when it came down to it, they’d rather be shocked than bored.

Bertrand Russell said that “Boredom is the vital problem of the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.”

His quote reminds me of David, who was at home on his roof while the men were off to war when he noticed Bathsheba next door.

What’s the antidote? Learn to work and learn to rest. Learn to be present wherever we are. Learn to be curious and engaged and comfortable in our own minds.

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Every Day Bible

Exercises in Seeing Grace

In this morning’s lesson, I wanted to show you just how prevalent and powerful God’s grace is in the story of scripture. I hope that helps us appreciate our total dependence on his kindness. I want you to see just how solid of a foundation this idea has in scripture. I could print a list for you, but you’ll “get it” better if you do some digging to find the answers, so I’ve prepared two exercises for you.

If it’s easier for you, you can download a printable pdf or word doc here:

Exercise 1: What Grace Does

I’ve listed most of the passages in the New Testament where grace acts. In these passages, God’s kindness does something. Look at each passage and make note of what grace can do. When you are finished, read over your list and see just how active of a force God’s grace is in our lives.

Passage                        Grace’s action

Romans 3:24               Grace justifies us

Romans 4:16              

Romans 5:2                

Romans 5:20              

Romans 5:21              

Romans 16:20            

1 Corinthians 15:10   

2 Corinthians 4:15     

2 Corinthians 12:9     

Ephesians 1:7             

Ephesians 2:5             

Ephesians 2:8             

Titus 2:11                   

Titus 3:7                     

Hebrews 2:9              

Hebrews 4:16            

Hebrews 13:9            

Acts 11:23                  

Acts 15:11                  

Exercise #2: Seeing Grace in the Old Testament

Most people are not well-trained to see God’s grace in the Old Testament. They think of the stories of God’s wrath and judgment—which are certainly there—and miss the acts of his kindness. It is true that the Old Testament doesn’t use the word “grace” as often as the New Testament. The New Testament even says in John 1:17 “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

It would be a mistake, though, to believe that grace and truth are missing from the Old Testament. After all, wasn’t Jesus who embodies grace also the pre-existent one who was God and who was with God? (see just a few verses earlier in John 1:1-3).

Beyond that, you can read of “God, who saved us, and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…”  (2 Timothy 1:9) God’s gracious character exists before he created the world in Genesis 1.

So here’s your exercise: find 3 examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament.

I’ll give you a few hints: the Hebrew word hen (חֵן) is usually translated as “favor.” It is the nearest equivalent to the New Testament’s charis (χάρις) “grace.” Don’t just look for the word, look for the idea! Look for stories where God shows kindness for no other reason than that God is kind. Look for his unmerited favor, his unnecessary mercy, his generosity. Look for evidence that God’s relationship with mankind isn’t transactional or quid pro quo, it is an outpouring of generosity before, during, and after any human response. Locate five stories where God is truly gracious.

Here are three to get you warmed up:

  1. God’s promise to Abram. In Genesis 12 God blesses Abram and makes him an incredible promise. He promises to make a great nation of the barren old couple. He promises to bless those who bless him. He promises an unimaginable legacy. Nothing Abram did merited this. In fact, Abram goes on to act inconsistently with this promise on more than one occasion (lying about his wife, sleeping with her servant, etc.), but nothing derails God from keeping his promise. God is kind to Abraham because of who God is.
  2. The book of Deuteronomy. Yes, the bulk of the book is filled with law, but the law is given in the context of God’s grace. Deuteronomy 1-4 are an account of how God has graciously blessed Israel. The laws are designed to reflect that blessing. Even in the section where Moses outlines the consequences of breaking the law (chapters 27-30), you see promises of restoration after repentance and hope after failure. (Check out Deuteronomy 7:7 and 9:5 as reminders of why God did what he did.)
  3. Ezekiel and Israel. Ezekiel 16 uses a parable to demonstrate Israel’s depravity, but while talking about how bad Israel has gotten, Ezekiel actually highlights how merciful God has been. God poured his love out on Israel when she had nothing to offer. He made her into something beautiful. She rejected him and caused great suffering, but God didn’t give up. He brings her back.

What three examples of God’s grace can you find?

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Every Day Bible

Resurrection Reminders

I love Easter Sunday!

Not just for the Cadbury Eggs filled with chocolate or the Starburst Jelly Beans (which are the only Jelly Beans worth eating), and not even for the bigger-than-average crowds at church.

I love Easter because it is one more reminder of the resurrection.

Sometimes people will say, “We remember Jesus every week, so why is this one special?” My answer is simple. I love my wife every day, but I still celebrate her birthday and our anniversary. We need more reasons to celebrate and remember, not fewer.

The resurrection is the center point of Christianity. There are a lot of important pieces of Bible teaching that you can survive without getting quite right, but the resurrection is the most important. Let’s take every opportunity we can to talk about it! After all, the apostles mentioned it in almost every single sermon recorded in Acts!

The resurrection is crucial. Without it, Christianity falls apart (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

The resurrection is the transforming power behind our new lives (Romans 5:1-11).

The resurrection demonstrates that nothing stops God from keeping his promises (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27, 13:35).

The resurrection gives us hope and strength and purpose and joy and meaning and life! I think that’s worth celebrating, don’t you?

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Every Day Bible

#weshallassemble

This new tag began to trend on social media last Sunday. As thousands of churches across the country elected not to meet in person to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, Christians all over began to find alternative ways of meeting.

Some Christians met by having their own time of worship.

Families studied, prayed, and communed together.

Some churches took to the radio and even to television.

Thousands, like Burns, took our services online.

As of 10am on Thursday, our morning worship service showed up more than 2,600 times on people’s phones, computers, and tablets.  The video was viewed in part 1,514 times. I know that most of those views were just for a few seconds as people scrolled on down to the next thing on their feeds, but well over 100 “connections” watched from beginning to end. Remember that many of these connections represented families or friends worshipping together. I suspect that even though our auditorium was empty, last Sunday may have been our highest-attended service in history! Several even participated in worship services from churches all over the country.

I can’t wait to get back together to hug and high five and fist bump and be in the same room, but I love that even when we can’t assemble in person, we still assemble. It’s a reminder of the deeper truth that the assembly of Christians is always bigger than our assembly. I’m privileged to be part of that assembly!

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Every Day Bible

All Ear

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

What does God want?

The same thing any parent wants. He wants his children to listen and obey.

Why does he command?

Why does any parent command? He wants his children to grow and be safe and be good and be everything that they could be.

This preacher’s story is attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I sure like the idea:

A missionary translator was struggling to find a word for obedience. There are a lot of words that are hard to move from one language to another. One day, he called his dog. When the dog came running, one of the locals praised the dog and said, “Your dog is all ear!”

That became the perfect idiom for obedience: “to be all ear.”

Do we listen and hear what God is telling us? Do his words go in one ear and out the other?

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

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Every Day Bible

God Favors Faithfulness

Someone has said that in war Providence is on the side of the strongest regiments. And I have noted that Providence is on the side of clear heads and honest hearts; and whenever a man walks faithfully in the ways that God has marked out for him, Providence, as the Christian says—luck, as the heathen says—will be on that man’s side. In the long run you will find that God’s Providence is in favor of those who keep His laws, and against those that break them.

—Henry Ward Beecher

I know that doing right is not a guarantee that good things will happen to us. Under the sun, the race isn’t always won by the fastest nor is the battle always won by the strongest (Ecclesiastes 9:11). However, when we do things right, generally good things tend to happen.

Sometimes people speak of “being on the right side of history.” It is embarrassing to look back and see people arguing in favor of slavery. We want our grandchildren’s children to judge that we were doing right. We don’t want to be in the wrong.

The surest way to be judged right in the end, and the path most likely to lead towards a successful life, is the path that follows the instruction of God. After all, isn’t God himself the definition of right?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

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Every Day Bible

Slaves to the Clock

When we come home from work tomorrow, the sun will still be shining. What will we do?

I love seeing the sun when I get home, but I hate how out of whack both time changes make me feel. The kids don’t adjust quickly. We don’t feel right for a few days. A study in Sleep Medicine found that the spring shift to DST correlates to a 6% spike in fatal car accidents during the following workweek. It’s hard to prove, but that lost hour of sleep may kill 28 people per year.

We have a strange relationship with the clock. What was supposed to be a tool to help us divide the day into manageable pieces has become a taskmaster for us. Did you know that the minute hand was only added to clocks in 1680? The second hand didn’t become popular until the 1700s, and it was the 1900s before the second hand was centered on the clockface. Most of us simply didn’t need that degree of precision.

Do you manage your time, or does it manage you? Do you find yourself wishing away your time, wanting the next phase of life to get here? Do you rush ahead of the clock and worry about tomorrow? Do you try to swim up the waterfall of time and obsess over what happened yesterday? Or like so many, do you kill time without thinking about the scarcity of this most precious resource?

Don’t be mastered by time. Use the precious gift of life, given one moment at a time, to God’s glory.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV)

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Every Day Bible

NO Vacancy?

Back in the dark ages before Priceline and Hotels.com, do you remember what it was like to drive on a road trip and look for a hotel? You’d always look for the sign. Was the “no” light on? If so, the glaring “NO VACANCY” light would send you down the road to the next town. Every now and then, a careless front desk clerk would accidentally leave the “no” light on from the night before and cause the hotel to miss out on some real business.

Sometimes churches accidentally leave a “no vacancy” sign out. They communicate to people that they aren’t really welcome. Can I tell you how it happens?

If we don’t make room for our guests to sit together, we’re hanging up a no vacancy sign. It’s hard enough to go to a new church. It’s even harder if you don’t get to sit with your family. Don’t get me started on telling someone “that’s my seat.” (I want to be snarky and say that the seat might be saved, but the person saving it might not be!)

If we sit in the same place and talk to the same people, we’re hanging up a no vacancy sign. Without meaning to, we communicate that we already have friends, thank you very much, and you didn’t make the cut.

If we don’t make an effort to learn names, we’re hanging a no vacancy sign. I know names are hard. Nobody is actually good at it, but if someone visits us for 6 months and we still act like we don’t know them, they’re going to get the idea that we never will.

If we talk like insiders, we’re hanging up a no vacancy sign. Churches love to have cutesy names for things—that’s not a problem. The problem is when we fail to explain them. Inside jokes make everyone else outsiders. Outsiders see a no vacancy sign.

If we insist on our preferences and our traditions—not the things that are biblical, but all the other stuff—we are hanging a no vacancy sign for everyone who has a different preference.

If we never make an effort to get outside the walls of our building, if we never go out to where the community is, and if we don’t foster creative opportunities to interact with people for the kingdom’s sake, we haven’t just hung a no vacancy sign—we’ve taken our sign down altogether and acted confused when nobody arrives.

Churches don’t hang no vacancy signs on purpose, but unfortunately, they do it all the time.

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Every Day Bible

Racism

Humankind has a nasty tendency for dividing into groups: us and them.

The Jews hated the Samaritans. The Zealots hated the tax collectors. The Pharisees hated the “sinners.”

Hate might be too strong of a word for what normally happens.

More often our feelings are subtle. We stereotype and label. We cut “our” people more slack than “their” people.

The Jewish Christians were suspicious of the Gentile Christians and vice versa. Somehow the Greek speaking widows got neglected while the Hebrew-speaking widows did just fine in Acts 6.

The Bible is clear: “God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35)

Humans like to divide on the basis of skin color and language, but God does not approve.

On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, there was a beautiful mixture of Parthinians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Cretans, Arabs, Romans, and Asians who came together to learn of Jesus.  We praise the Lamb who “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight! Christ followers must be serious about combating all of the ugly -isms that creep into our hearts. We need to make sure we are aren’t doing things—even little things—that make it harder for the body to be united like Jesus wants.  

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Every Day Bible

In Support of Singles

Valentine’s Day can be tough on our singles. Unfortunately, church isn’t always an easy place for singles either.

Well-intended friends try to fix you up. Many of our activities are hosted by couples, so it’s easy to get left out or feel like a third wheel.

We have a lot of people who are afraid of saying the wrong thing so divorced people and widows find themselves alone in a crowd.

I wish I had an easy solution for the hurts and frustrations our singles have felt. I don’t. I do have an apology—I’m sorry that life is hard, and I’m sorry that we have made it harder.

In the Bible, singleness is not viewed as a defect, but as a sign of spiritual maturity:

Paul wrote, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.” (1 Corinthians 7:7-8)

He continues, “I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is….Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife…I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided… I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:26-27, 32-35)

Singles aren’t second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. I want to make sure that I act that way!