Contemplative Bible Reading

Some thoughts about Bible verses

Contemplative Bible Reading header image 1

Pure and Genuine Religion in the Sight of God

November 5th, 2017 · No Comments

James 1:27 (New Living Translation)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

This is one of those sentences in the Bible…I read the opening phrase…and…here it comes. Write this one on the wall or a poster or an Instagram or whatever it is we do these days.

(1) Caring for orphans and widows in their distress. Help the helpless in their helplessness. I can love the educated, erudite, enlightened (can I think of any other good words starting with “e?”), but how about these others? I think so. I think I’ve been doing pretty good on this one.

and then we have the oft-forgotten number (2):

(2) Refusing to let the world corrupt me. oooh, what does that one mean in practical, everyday terms? Perhaps I would rather go on drinking my hot cup of coffee after eating my big, delicious breakfast while sitting in a fine restaurant in the richest country in the history of the world. Have I corrupted myself in the world? Well, perhaps I should consider some of these other things.

That’s the kind of stuff found in this letter of James. No wonder lots of folks think it shouldn’t be in the Bible.

→ No CommentsTags: James · New Testament

Considerate

November 4th, 2017 · No Comments

Philippians 4:5 (New Living Translation)

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

considerate: adjective, careful not to cause inconvenience or hurt to others.

If I love my neighbor (goes with the “everyone” in the above verse), how will I act? Will I be careful not to cause inconvenience or hurt to others?

What if they are wrong? I should rebuke them! I should show that good old righteous indignation! Really? In light of the Lord returning soon (a relative term), well, what is really important enough for all that indignation?

Yes, there are wrongs. Yes, I see them in others. And of course I see them in myself. Can I discuss the wrongs of the world without hurting others? Hmm, that can be difficult.

How about this opening, “I want to be considerate. I don’t know how to do this. I want to talk to you about the Lord coming soon.” Maybe after that conversation, maybe a few years after that conversation, we can discuss the wrong I see. First things first.

→ No CommentsTags: New Testament · Philippians

The not-so-secret Effort to Kill Jesus

October 29th, 2017 · No Comments

John 7:25 (New Living Translation)

Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they (our leaders) are trying to kill?…”

The leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem wanted to kill Jesus of Nazareth. What is a little surprising is that lots of just plain folks seemed to know this. Notice the word “trying.” This was an active effort, not just a plan or thought.

Some of the people were surprised that Jesus was standing in the most publicly visible spot in Jerusalem and speaking to crowds. Everybody with a smartphone was Facebook Live broadcasting Jesus. Well, not quite that, but the general idea applies.

Still, there was Jesus, there were the leaders, there were all the observers. It wasn’t time yet. The time eventually came; the killers eventually killed. The observers, however, noticed that He spoke publicly. They heard what He said. Many of them eventually believed.

Sometimes we have to wait on the time.

→ No CommentsTags: John · New Testament

Knowledge and (Lack of ) Training

October 28th, 2017 · No Comments

John 7:14-15 (New Living Translation)

14 Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15 The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

Could Jesus read? I Googled that question and found a large number of recent studies and discussions on the point. I guess we can disagree on just about anything.

Still, it appears that Jesus wasn’t trained or educated or something. I guess Mark Twain had some famous saying about not letting education interfere with learning.

Of course Jesus knew what he was saying, he was Jesus, the Son of God. Now we discuss whether the human-ness of Jesus was overcome by the God-ness of Jesus. Jesus knew things that his human life would not have taught Him—or did He? Was it humanly possible for the son of a poor carpenter from backwoods Nazareth to know such things? Is it humanly possible for me to know the things that Jesus showed in His human life?

And what did Jesus know? Love your fellow man. Do what is righteous. Don’t try to fake it. Hmmm. I don’t think a person needs an Ivy League education to learn those things. So, what’s my excuse? ooops. Please God, help me in my unbelief.

→ No CommentsTags: John · New Testament

We Pass and are Forgotten

October 23rd, 2017 · No Comments

Psalms 49:11-12 (American Standard Version)

11 Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever,
And their dwelling-places to all generations;
They call their lands after their own names.
12 But man being in honor abideth not:
He is like the beasts that perish.

I love to build things (see, for example, this blog). I’d love to have a legacy. Something chiseled in stone that folks a few hundred years from now will see. Let’s name a nation after me. That will take a lot of money, so I had better start earning that fortune today…or something silly like that.

The writer of this Psalm was filled with the knowledge of God and the ability to see thousands of years into the past and the future.

Sorry, we abideth not. We pass like the little bird that flies through the woods for a couple of years and dies when its heart stops beating. It falls to the ground and turns to compost.

So why trouble? What’s the use? Love one another. Bless one another. Spread the grace of God to those in reach.

I live in a rich community. I mean it is a R I C H community. Still, I see persons everyday who hurt. They don’t need money from me, just a smile, a handshake, an acknowledgement that they too need the riches of Christ. Because one day soon our bodies, not our souls, will be like that of the little bird on the floor of the woods turning into compost.

→ No CommentsTags: Old Testament · Psalms

A Clean Heart

October 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

Psalms 51:10 (American Standard Version)

Create in me a clean heart, O God;
And renew a right spirit within me.

I use an older translation today. A little more poetic.

I desire a clean heart. One that isn’t soiled with emotions that are bad for my outlook. Some examples:

  • self-pity
  • jealousy and envy
  • hatred

Oh how I could go on and on with things that I sometimes hold in my heart and push into my life. Some days I have a dirty heart. So I ask God to renew a right spirit within me.

Notice the word “renew.” The writer isn’t asking God to create a right spirit for the first time. The writer asks God to renew or restore or create again the right spirit. God had given me the right spirit before. I let dirt come into my heart. I let it, no one forced it in. I allowed it.

So, yes, please God renew the right spirit in me, in my soiled heart. Have me wipe the mud from my feet before I walk into the house of my heart. Have me use the doormat you have provided—Jesus Christ. Never thought I would think of Jesus Christ as a doormat, but when you think about it, a good dirt-removing door mat is quite a gift.

→ No CommentsTags: Old Testament · Psalms

Mary and Martha and Cain and Abel and Reaction

October 21st, 2017 · No Comments

Luke 10:41-42 (Holman Standard Christian Bible)

41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Here is the story of the admirable Mary and that Martha who just didn’t understand what was happening. Right(?).

Martha was distracted in all her preparations. Jesus chided her. Jesus also told her that Mary was doing right. I have to think back to Cain and Abel. God complimented Abel and chided Cain. And then Cain murdered Abel.

Martha took the chiding. We aren’t told what happened next. We know that Martha didn’t follow the example of Cain and kill Mary. Let’s admire Martha for her reaction. She swallowed her pride and took the admonition of Jesus to heart.

Let us all be like Martha. Perhaps this episode is really about her, not Mary. Perhaps Martha is the subject of admiration here.

→ No CommentsTags: Luke · New Testament

Jesus—Horrified(?) (yes, by me)

October 15th, 2017 · No Comments

Mark 14:33 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified.

I find the words used in this translation to be fascinating. Jesus was distressed and horrified. Horrified? Jesus? He had all power. What horrified Him?

I think we could write a dissertation or two on this. Jesus was about to take on my sins and nail them to the cross. My sins. How could my sins horrify Jesus? That means that my sins are horrible to Jesus. Oh, ooops.

My sins are horrible to Jesus.

Well, okay. That about sums it up pretty well for me. And to think that Jesus took my sins voluntarily. Does my life show appropriate (or any) appreciation? This isn’t a very upbeat little blog post, is it? There are times when a little sobering is needed (like daily).

→ No CommentsTags: Mark · New Testament

Pray for It, We have It (what is it?)

October 14th, 2017 · No Comments

Mark 11:24 (New Living Translation)

I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.

I’ll pray for a million dollars (maybe ten or a hundred times that for good measure) and believe that I have received it. It will be mine, right? Perhaps that is a bit too literal a reading of the verse. Perhaps that is much to childish a reading of the verse. Perhaps I am being to childish.

What’s a one, ten, or a hundred million dollars compared to things that are important. Perhaps Jesus is talking about important things like love, patience, forgiveness, and the like. How about I pray that I love my neighbor? I believe that God has granted me that, I love my neighbor.

Again, maybe this is all about focusing on what is important. Faith, hope, love, and the like. Maybe this is all about maturity.

→ No CommentsTags: Mark · New Testament

Wrought in God

October 8th, 2017 · No Comments

John 3:21 (American Standard Version)

But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God.

Another well-known passage in an older translation. We don’t use this language anymore. In some sense, these words have been pushed to the back corner of some old collapsing church building—doeth, cometh, manifest, wrought.

What does it mean to do the truth and have works wrought in God? Wrought in God basically translates to today’s “done in God.” Still confusing? To do something in God is to do something based on the foundation of the love and righteousness of God. I do this because I am of God; I am Christian.

Working backwards, doing something as a Christian, in righteousness, is doing the truth as Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

Me? I try. Others? I see plenty of others performing works that have been wrought in God. I strongly believe that God sends these people through my life so that I may learn the truth in the light. Thanks be to God.

→ No CommentsTags: John · New Testament