A Few Short Books

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January is my month off from school so I picked up some highly recommended books to fill my evenings and travel hours…

A Week in the Life of Corinth by Ben Witherington.  Witherington is a world-class professor of the New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and has written many academic books and commentaries.  This is a work of historical fiction for a general audience, an easy read (2-3 hours), and explores many facets of daily life in a town where the gospel took root under Paul’s teaching.  Highly recommended.

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible With Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin.  Wilkin is a young, popular, female voice in support of inductive Bible study.  Her teaching is well-grounded, and the book on how we should approach studying the Bible is well-written.  There’s even a chapter for teachers on common pitfalls to avoid.

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness.  This book stands as a classic, reflective piece on the finding ones purpose in life.  Full of historical figures and wisdom, it could be read as a devotional book by anyone pondering the call of God in their lives.  It is required reading for all Asbury seminary students.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue.  Great novel by a young African author!  It traces the life stories of Cameroonian immigrants and a wealthy Lehmann Brothers executive in New York City as the market crashes in 2009.  Themes of immigration, poverty, wealth, happiness, relationships, and ethics are prominent.

Enjoy!

The Surprises of 2017

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I had no idea.  I’ve been thinking about how life with God is such an adventure.  Last January 1st I spent time reflecting on the previous year, and in prayer.  God gave me Hebrews 11:8 as a theme verse for the year.  Then on January 2nd I read this in My Utmost for His highest:

Heb118 I didn’t know what was next.  I wasn’t expecting anything unusual really.  Then in March I spent a weekend with Sandy Richter, and two weeks later I knelt on the grave of Paul in Rome and the words that came out of my mouth were, “Lord, help me be faithful to preach the Word, in season and out of season.”  (Is the Word ever out-of-season?!)  In April I applied to seminary, in May I was accepted at Asbury, in June I stood in the pulpit on a Sunday morning as a guest speaker for the first time, and in September I started classes.  A year ago seminary was not on my To Do List, and here I am one semester into the game.

I still don’t know what’s next, other than the Inductive Study of Mark class I registered for this spring.  I really am enjoying being in seminary, but I don’t have an end game… In fact, not knowing “why” makes school a continual faith exercise… I am here because I am obedient, not because I have a plan.  As long as I check-in with The Master Planner on a regular basis, He will certainly keep me headed in the right direction.

My verse for 2018 is Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  I wonder what the new year holds… I wonder if I am already standing ankle deep in the rising river waters?  Last January I didn’t give my theme verse much thought, this year I am paying attention!

Tell your story – How has God been busy in your life this last year?

Mindy’s Good Reads 2017

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Every year I promise myself “less Facebook, more reading”… this year I read almost entirely nonfiction.  Here’s what I read in 2017: (alphabetical, *seminary reading)

1 Peter: A Living Hope in Christ, Jen Wilkin.

Epic of Eden: Isaiah, Sandra Richter.

Gutenberg’s Apprentice, Alix Christie. (historical fiction, printing press & church power)

*Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture, David deSilva. (excellent, but dense)

Prodigal God, Tim Keller. (new look at the parable)

*Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing, and Telling, Dean Flemming.  (how we preach the gospel)

Revival Rising: Preparing for the Next Great Wave of Awakening, Mark Nysewander. (history and character of revival)

Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber. (memoir)

*The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, Os Guiness.

*The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, Scot McKnight.

The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller.

*The Shadow of the Galilean, Gerd Theissen. (historical fiction by NT professor)

Unashamed, Lecrae. (memoir, excellent)

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, Lonely, Lysa Terkeurst.

What is the Bible? Rob Bell. (intriguing, but not recommended)

*What Saint Paul Really Said, N.T. Wright. (new perspective on Paul)

*Who Chose the Gospels?  C.E. Hill. (origin of the NT texts, academic)

Wisdom of the Enneagram, Riso & Hudson.  (personality types & motivations)

What have you enjoyed this year?  What should I consider adding to my list?

Bible Reading Plan for 2018

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My dear 5x5x5 readers… Some 300+ of you started with us last January on the journey through the New Testament.  I hope many of you are finishing Revelation with us in this next week!  (Revelation puts a whole different spin on the Christmas season, right?!)

I confess, we had two reasons for doing a church-wide reading plan:

(1) To consistently remind you that Bible reading is a priority for all believers, it is not an extra thing super-Christians do in their spare time!  Our goal is for you to become self-feeding – no longer eating only baby food on a spoon served by your pastoral staff – but a thriving adult who eats well and eats regularly.  A church where the majority of the people are reading and studying the Bible daily will be a healthy, growing community and we pray that will be true of us!

(2) To help you get started in the discipline of daily Bible reading.  It’s one thing to know it’s important, it’s another thing altogether to carve out the time and mental energy to actually do it.  I pray that the 10-15 minutes a day you spent reading your Bible in 2017 was richly rewarded.  I pray you will continue with this habit for the rest of your life.

Several of you have asked what the reading plan is for 2018.  I am going to make three recommendations, pick one:

(a) Through the Psalms in 90 Days. (click to download 90DaysInPsalms )
I skipped many of the Psalms when I read through the OT in 2016, so now I’m going to read them.  As you read ask, “What is the character of God revealed in this Psalm?”  Give each Psalm a title in the margin of your Bible, instead of just a number.  Highlight song lyrics you recognize – after all, the Psalms were the hymnal of the ancient church.

(b) Bible Chapter Checklist (click to download BibleChapterChecklist )
Start somewhere, anywhere that looks interesting.  Read one chapter a day.  No fair rereading a book before you have read them all.  If you keep at it, you will finish the whole Bible in 3 years.  Psalm readers, you can do this too… and if you read the NT in 2017 then look how far you have come already!

(c) Explore the You Version Bible App.  If you prefer to read electronically, then explore the many reading plans available in this app.  Just pick one and keep reading!

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
– Joshua 1:8

Adjusting to Being a Student Again

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I’ve turned in my research paper and finished my final exam – my first seminary class is done!  Thank you to all of you who have supported me (to the ladies at The River who paid for my books!) and encouraged me not to lose sight of the end (you who take my phone calls when I need to vent, you know who you are!).  A special thank you to Lynn Haven UMC who has been flexible with me studying, travelling for class, and given me a quiet office space.

For Introduction to the New Testament I read 6 books (about 1400 pages) this fall, and listened to some 40 hours of lectures online or in person, wrote a research paper on interpretations of Luke 16 (the Parable of the Dishonest Steward), and took two exams.  I have no idea how people in full-time ministry with families can take more than one class at a time!  (Be nice to pastors you know who are still in school!)

I discovered that I procrastinate by cleaning and doing laundry, so my house is still looking pretty good.  Ha ha.  I really enjoyed the academic work, but that is my nature.  I was overjoyed to discover that my background in sociopolitical systems and other cultures is very relevant to modern Biblical studies.  I found time management challenging – it was difficult to evaluate how much time to give to various projects, since they always expand to fill whatever time is allotted.  I was annoyed to have to give up other activities to make time for studying… (I am coming back to tennis, I promise!)  I struggled to keep things in perspective – when I had 100 pages of reading to do and it was 10pm, but my teenager wants to talk… then I would choose to set the book down and talk.  In the end I keep reminding myself – I have a family, a job, a ministry, and friends – seminary is extra.  Stay with it for the long haul, but keep it in its proper place.

Thanks to all who have asked how I am surviving.  Now, time to celebrate!

5x5x5 Bible Reading – Revelation

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Dear 5x5x5 readers,

We have come at last to the end, The Book of Revelation is the last book in the Bible and the last we will read on our journey through the New Testament in a year.  Congratulations to all who are still reading with us!

Revelation is clearly one of the most complicated and neglected books in the Bible.  We know that it is important, but we cannot figure out what to do with all the symbolism and strange events, and we end up ignoring it completely.  Consider whom it was written to and why, and perhaps that will give us a start.  The consensus is that the Apostle John wrote Revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos (a Mediterranean Alcatraz of sorts!)  He wrote it around 90 AD, some 60 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the birth of the church at Pentecost.  Churches across the Roman empire remained small, scattered, and persecuted.  Jerusalem had been destroyed.  It was undoubtedly difficult for Christians to persevere, there was doubt, conflict, and disappointment that Christ had not yet returned and set things right in the world.

To these little, persecuted, frustrated church communities John writes the letter of Revelation.  The book is firmly rooted in the historical context of the Roman Empire.  As you read, work to identify broad themes.  Who is God?  How is He working in human history?  Who is Jesus Christ?  What happens to evil in the world?  Is there any hope?  Where does real power lie?  What is the end of the story?  Try not too get too caught up in figuring out the sequence of events, or what various symbols mean – much of it remains a mystery and many commentaries have been written on such things with no agreement.  Remember that Revelation was not written to give us a precise timeline of history, but rather to offer hope and encouragement.

(update) For those who asked for a commentary recommendation – I am reading and loving Revelation by Leon Morris, 2009, part of the Tyndale New Testament commentary series.  It is written for a pastoral/ministry audience (not an academic one) and is very balanced.  It is also firmly rooted in the historical context of the original audience, so many of the symbols they would have understood are explained.  Dispensationalists would not like it.

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and honor and glory and power forever.” – Revelation 5:13