Friday, December 19, 2008

With Unveiled Faces

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by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

“As we continually reflect the glory of the Lord, we are continually being transformed into the image of the one whose glory we are reflecting.”
Anthony A. Hoekema
Created in God's Image
Eerdmans, (C) 1986
p.24
Learning to “continually reflect the glory of the Lord” starts with our convictions. Convictions are often difficult to uncover, yet they are quite powerful.
  • Convictions reside in the core of our person—our heart. Whether revealed or hidden, convictions determine our actions and attitudes.
  • Convictions can be hidden from our consciousness, with hints and clues revealed in our unguarded moments. We can tease out their nature by looking at the thinking, feeling, and doing that coincide with our knee-jerk reactions.
  • Convictions cannot be changed by direct action. We cannot awake one day and decide to hold a different conviction.
  • Convictions are integrally connected to our habits of mind-body-emotion. We have trained ourselves to behave according to our convictions and their related actions and attitudes.
  • Convictions are resistant to change; disciplined practice is required.
Developing new truth-conformed habits is a powerful way to change our convictions and bring them into conformity with the truth. Habits train us to behold the glory of the Lord.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
Resources
Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard
The Lost Virtue of Happiness, J. P. Moreland and Klaus Issler

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Greater Than We Can Imagine

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by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

Let us suppose a particular gathering of professing Christians has a corporate illness. The diagnosis, received and agreed upon is this: as a community, they do not love God and do not obey him. What might be the prescription for this illness?

Since the knowledge of God is knowing-in-relationship, then knowing God person-to-person is a necessary element of the prescription. Further, this knowledge of God would need to be the sort that shakes persons out of their assumptions and corrects their thinking, feeling, and behaving.

TFB Academy 2009 will consider this issue by investigating four characteristics of God.
  • Glory—God’s Splendor and Radiance (February)
  • Justice—God’s Fairness and Righteousness (May)
  • Grace—God’s Compassion and Favor (August)
  • Love—God’s Decided and Demonstrated Affection (November)
It is our prayer that our knowing-in-relationship will shake us out of our assumptions and correct our thinking, feeling, and behaving.

Our God is greater than we can imagine. Let us know him together.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bible Rumination and Digestion: getting the Bible into your heart

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Key Practices
  • Thinking
  • Carving out time and space for thinking

According to Webster's, rumination is "The act or process of ruminating, or chewing the cud; the habit of chewing the cud." [1] Rumination is a repeated, intentional process. In the physical process, the cow exercises her will to bring up the cud, re-chew, swallow, re-chew, etc. In the spiritual process, we also exercise our will by bringing a passage to mind, thinking and rethinking, and repeating the process. Rumination is hard work, but it is the only way to send the nutrition of God's word into our hearts where the Spirit can use it to transform us and make us more like Christ. Rumination must also be intentional. As several said yesterday at Collegium, we are always ruminating on something--for good or ill; whatever we ruminate on shapes our hearts. This is a sobering thought.

Digestion is another matter. While we can do things to make proper digestion more likely, the process itself is autonomic--it happens on its own. The most important thing we can do is chewing and rumination; this sends properly prepared food into the digestive tract. We can also carve out time in our day when we set aside the stresses and concerns of everyday life, enter the throne room of God, and worship him.


In rumination and digestion, we cooperate with God in confronting our hearts with his truth and submitting to his will. Do your part; God will most certainly do his.

The course outline and take home practice for Bible Chewing and Beyond is located on the Collegium blog.


[1]
Those interested in more detail should read the Wikipedia article: Cud.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bible Chewing and Beyond--getting a handle on the details

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Weekly lesson post is available at Sanctify Collegium: Bible Chewing and Beyond

Three Key questions
  • What did the passage meant?
  • What does it mean?
  • How we might respond?
Getting the Details

An important piece of the first question is getting a handle on the details of the passage. The basic reporters' questions (How? Who? What? When? Where? Why?) are a great tool here. Read through the passage several times. As you read, be curious. Pause at each phrase and write down your questions. At this point, do not stop and search for answers (although, do write down any that occur), keep reading and asking. Next, read over your questions and determine which questions are most important for understanding the text. Beginning at the passage (e.g., Revelation 5) and moving on to the book (e.g., Revelation), the testament (e.g., New Testament), and the whole bible, search for answers. Also helpful here are Bible Dictionaries and Introductions. Some online and book resources are listed below.

Online Resources: Answering Questions
Online Resources: The Process of Study
Book Resources

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Why go beyond bible reading?

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by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

Why go beyond Bible reading? Because even the structure of the Old Testament tells us that mere reading is not enough. Allow me to explain.

The Old Testament, as arranged in the Christian Bible, is rather like a library (History Poetry, and Prophets), with the prophetic books arranged by size, largest to smallest. In the Jewish Bible, called the TaNaKh (having the same content as the Old Testament), the books are arranged to make a point: success in following God comes through meditating on God’s instructions.

The TaNaKh is arranged in three sections. The first is Torah, meaning “instruction,” the second is Nevi’im, meaning “prophets,” and the third is Ketuvim, meaning “writings.” So far, this may seem very similar. Ah, but wait; there is more. The first book of the Nevi’im is Joshua. Joshua 1:8 says,
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
God tells Joshua that his success in following God is directly tied to his meditating on God’s instructions. The first book of the Ketuvim is Psalms. Psalm 1:2-3 says
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
God says, through the psalmist, that success in following God is directly tied to meditating on God’s instructions.

Now, lest we think this is merely “Old Testament,” let us flip forward to James’ letter to the Dispersion, written around AD 49-50 and one of the first New Testament books written. James 1:25 says
the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
God says, through James, that Christians’ success in following God is directly tied to meditating on God’s instructions.

The message of Scripture is clear: success in following God is a direct result of chewing, ruminating, and digesting God’s Word. Start now. The reward is great and well worth the time and discipline.


“Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” http://www.esv.org/

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What is Mission? Revisited

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by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

Too often we think of mission as what “they do over there” or what some of us “do” on short term trips. In reality, mission is more local, diverse, and daily than many of us realize.

On July 19, TFB Academy met to consider this question: What is Mission? Here are a few of our findings:

First, wherever the church is or can go there is a mission field. Mission does not only take place “over there;” mission is where you are. Second, everything we do, everything we value becomes part of our mission message (either for good or for ill). Mission is the earthly, daily purpose of our existence in Christ. Finally, mission is shaped like the diverse people of God, with our multiplicity of skills, passions, vocations, knowledge, and cultures. There is no one way to be on mission. (Laura)

Mission is outreach: teaching, growing and building the knowledge of God’s Kingdom (Mark)

Mission is offering my whole life to help expand His kingdom: to be ready and flexible, anytime, anywhere, to reach out to people. (Jinsoo)

Mission is to go out into the field, being viral in regards to telling others about God, and expanding God’s kingdom. (J. J.)

Our lives are an offering to the Lord.
Our usefulness is for His Kingdom-building.
Our joy in life is to serve Him well.
This is our response
to God’s amazing abundant gifts to us,
and to our love for His people (Michelle)

On October 12, the TFB Academy meets to consider the question, “What is gospel?” If you would like to participate, contact Laura in person or via email (lkspringer AT gmail DOT com).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beyond Bible Chewing

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by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

I hope that by now, you have chewed a passage or two and have tasted the goodness. This is a good start. However, just like eating food, chewing is only step one; if you stop here, the food is not only useless, but also quite harmful.

Like food, Scripture must be ingested to be of any good use; two word pictures—rumination and digestion—will help us understand.

The Metaphors

Rumination is what cattle do when they chew their cud. After the first chew, food moves to a holding chamber. Cattle bring the stored food back up for a second chew that extracts more nutrients.

Digestion is next. Food is disassembled and the parts are sent out into the body for integration and reassembly. The body takes grass and makes cow.

Unpacking the Metaphors

These same two steps are crucial for a deep understanding of Scripture. After we have chewed the Word and understand what it meant and means, we must ruminate and digest.
Bible rumination is muttering and pondering the Word as you go through daily life.* This extracts more truth and makes it available for digestion.

Bible digestion is thought; it is discovering how a passage fits into the whole Bible, into what you already know, and into your feelings and behaviors. Digestion disassembles biblical truth, integrates the parts into your heart, and reassembles them into you. God’s truth becomes part of your beliefs, feelings, and behaviors.

Conclusion

If we stop at chewing, we are in the danger Jesus talks about in the parable of the four soils (Matthew 13:3-23). Merely chewing the Word leaves it on or near the surface, where Satan can snatch it, troubles can scorch it, or distractions can choke it. Biblical truth is only fruitful when planted deeply in a well-prepared soul. Rumination and digestion are tools for preparing and planting.

* Rumination can also take place in times of quiet, intentional reflection.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

BIBLE CHEWING

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by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

How would you feel if, for every meal, you were offered pre-chewed food? Unless you are an infant—in which case it is amazing that you are reading this article :-)—you would not be pleased. So why do so many of us survive on pre-chewed Bible? [1] If you want to chew and enjoy the Bible for yourself, try these three questions.

What did it mean?

The first step in chewing the Bible for yourself is figuring out what the writer intended to communicate to the original readers. This can be complex, but only one thing is crucial: read and reread the text. Before looking at cross-references, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, or even section headings in your Bible, read the text.

The biblical authors were good writers who wrote so that their readers might understand. Look for repeated words and ideas, cause and effect, claims and evidence, and summary statements. Ask who, what, where, when, how, and why. Read the passage in several translations.
Once you have an opinion about what it meant, check with other believers—whether in person or in books—and then argue your case or adjust your conclusions. Write down the meaning in a few sentences.

What does the passage mean?

Once you have a handle on what the passage meant to the original readers, rewrite the statement in terms that are more general so it will be clear to people in your church and community. This rewrite is a “biblical principle” and it will always match the original meaning of the text. We must not and cannot make Scripture mean anything we choose. Check your rewrite with other believers to be sure you are on the right track.

How is this passage significant for us in our time and culture?

This is where perspective and creativity come in. While the text always means what it meant, the details of our obedience change with culture and circumstance. Allow the biblical meaning to confront you in three areas: knowledge, desires, and behavior.
  1. Do I/we have ignorance to be remedied, false belief to be corrected, or true belief to be strengthened?
  2. Do I/we have desires to be restrained or reinforced?
  3. Do I/we have behaviors to be stopped, corrected, started, or encouraged?
If you are tired of eating pre-chewed Bible, I challenge you to chew it for yourself. Take advantage of the habits we are developing in the TFB Summer Reading Program, choose one passage (at least a paragraph) per week (or per month) and chew it yourself. Then gather with fellow believers and share the wealth.

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Recommended Resources
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[1] Chewing illustration courtesy of Dr. Shelly Cunningham, Biola University (see Who Gets to Chew the Cracker? in the Christian Education Journal).

Monday, June 09, 2008

What is Mission? Two Poetic Reflections on Matthew 26-28

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by Laura Springer, M.Div.

Read Matthew 26-28

Stumbling and Following

We live in the crowd,
we of faith and not faith,
ever mixed,
ever following
and stumbling
and following again.

Assessed by trial, we repent;
distance traveled, we fail.

Still, all is in him,
and by him,
and for him,
even when
we fail
to recognize this
fact.

In Toddlers' Wobble

Decision made.
Now what?

Halting steps
in toddlers' wobble,
we trust
and stumble;
broken when we realize:

Certainty
is not nearly as certain
as we would like.



On July 19, TFB Academy will investigate the question, “What is mission?” The answer is more local, more daily, and more diverse than many of us realize. You, dear reader, are invited to join us. Contact lkspringer AT gmail DOT com for information.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sticking our Hearts in Other People’s Business

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by Laura Springer, M.Div.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines nosy as “Given to prying into the affairs of others; snoopy.” We all know someone whose picture could grace the pages next to that definition. Our culture teaches us not to stick our noses in other people’s business. This is an important and often difficult lesson to learn.

Unfortunately, too many of us have misapplied this lesson, to the detriment of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We misapply this lesson every time we see a brother or sister struggling or making unwise choices and yet fail to act because it is “none of our business.” Biblically, the distress of a brother or sister is our business.

The final words of the Letter of James makes a bold claim: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (5:19-20). In Galatians 6:1-5, Paul instructs those in the Galatian church to restore a brother or sister caught in transgression, for followers of Christ are to fulfill the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens. In his letter to the churches of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), Peter reminds his readers that, among other things, they are a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9-10), representing the people before God and representing God before the people.

Despite the lessons of our culture, it is clear from Scripture that we are commanded to stick our hearts in other people’s business. We do this because we love our Lord and our brothers and sisters. We do this with care, grace, and mercy because other hearts are involved and their care is our concern. We do this because we must.

Monday, March 17, 2008

God, Revealed in Language

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by Laura Springer, M.Div.

We make claims about the Bible. We claim it is God's Word. We claim it is true, powerful, useful, and correct. We make these claims with our lips. But too often we behave as if the Bible is a self-help book that we read when WE have needs or desires.

But the Bible is most certainly NOT a self-help book. It is, rather, God's revelation of himself in language. This is an amazing thing. This means the Bible is not under our control. We do not decide its meaning and significance. We do not decide its usefulness. We do not “pick and choose” according to our needs and desires.

Rather, we place ourselves in God's presence. This has implications for how we should read and study the Bible. It means we read and study HUGE chunks—whole books, whole sections, and whole Testaments. It means we study, respecting the divine-human nature of the Bible.

Because the Bible is divine, we trust it and obey it. We submit to the shaping. Because it is divine, we discipline ourselves, setting aside our desires and excuses. There is no good reason not to read and study God's revelation of himself.

Because the bible is human, we read and study, respecting it as human literature. This means grammar, syntax, literary devices, genre, history, culture, etc., matter, and matter greatly.
Because the Bible is human literature, we study deeply to discover (NOT decide) the original authors' intended meaning. Because the Bible is human literature, we understand it in the context of the human author's culture BEFORE trying to understand it in our culture. This means that our response to the Bible must always correspond to the meaning and significance intended by the human and divine authors.

Bible reading and study is not a source of spiritual warm-fuzzies. It is disciplined submission to the Sovereign Lord and Creator of the Universe. It is nothing less. We dare not make excuses.

Friday, February 22, 2008

We Just Moved Here: A Poetic Reflection on Ephesians

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by Laura Springer, M.Div.




We just moved here
from fear,
surrounded
by terrifying power.
This power
seemingly strong,
all stolen,
derivative.
Jesus: Ultimate.
We just moved here
from immorality,
surrounded
by enslaving freedom.
Jesus,
the Ultimate,
commands holiness,
makes whole,
gives extravagant
kindness and power.
We just moved here
from division,
kept apart
by walls.
No more walls,
but one people.
Hidden,
hinted,
revealed,
becoming.
Continuity,
one people
always
in Him.

Why poetry? Because theology is more than intellectual ponderings; it is also the voice of the heart.

Originally published as WE JUST MOVED HERE on Laura's Writings.

Monday, January 14, 2008

LET US CHOOSE TO REST

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A Reflection on Amos 3:1-5:17
by Laura Springer, M.Div.

From the beginning, God expected his people to evidence the covenant by their obedience (Deut 27:26). The blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience were clearly laid out (Deut 28:1-68). Many of the Torah[1] laws concern treatment of fellow Israelites and strangers. Both are to be treated with justice and love. Other laws concern the worship of God. Israel has transgressed the covenant in her treatment of others (Amos 4:1) and in her worship (Amos 4:4-5).

Amos' prophecy proclaims the earned results of the people's choices. The people have transgressed the covenant, refused God’s grace, and ignored his sovereignty. God’s judgment of Israel followed many years of grace, in which he provided multiple opportunities for repentance.
Yet each opportunity was scorned (Amos 4:6-11). Israel had rightfully earned God’s judgment, for she had ignored the sovereignty of the only Creator and Lord of all. The ax is about to fall and all Israel can do is prepare to meet God, who comes in judgment not in deliverance.

Jesus, the Messiah who fulfills the old covenant and inaugurates the new, expects his followers to observe his instructions (Matt 28:16-20) as evidence of the new covenant in his blood. While blessings and curses are not spelled out in the detail we find in Torah, there are surely temporal consequences to our behavior. Obeying Jesus’ commands--taking his yoke (Matt 11:25-30)--brings rest. Might it be that disobeying Jesus brings unrest?

If our experience of his rest is influenced by our obedience, we ought to take seriously our obedience. Jesus keeps covenant. He is gracious and he guards his glory. If we continually trample his glory, there will be consequences. Let us choose, rather, to rest in his grace.
---
[1] The Torah contains the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. See a Wikipedia article on Torah here or a Bible.org article here.

Originally posted as CONSEQUENCES on Laura's Writings.