the blog of Jason C. Stanley

Tag: Bible (page 1 of 4)

The Message 100


I have a lot of Bibles. Call it an occupational hazard. There are study Bibles. Bibles in various translations. Children’s Bibles, teen friendly Bibles, and Bibles I wonder where they came from. Many were gifts, others I purchased along my own journey.

When Eugene Peterson’s The Message first hit the shelves in October of 2002, there was a collective sigh of relief. People who had challenges reading any of the many translations of the Bible, now had, as Peterson himself calls it, a paraphrase of the Bible in today’s language.

The Message is one of the many Bibles I own. Mine is a small, compact Bible. I bought it when I started Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at the University of Virginia. I needed a Bible that would fit in my white lab coat pocket.

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Book Review: For the Love

blog_642262_2683366_1437256531In her book, “For the Love,” Christian writer, blogger, and DIYer, Jen Hatmaker provides a collection of essays ranging from helicopter parenting to the future of Christianity. The idea for her book comes from a phrase she acknowledges she says a lot: “For the love.” It’s like saying, “Good grief,” or “WTF?” in different situations. Each essay (chapter) covers something that she has encountered that has caused her to utter the words, “For the love.”

The target audience for this book is the large number of women readers that have been congregating around Hatmaker for the last several years thanks to successes like her book “7.” Having said that, I enjoyed reading this book (there were some sections I skipped over). Haymaker comes from an evangelical background, which she explains at different points, highlighting the good things that came from that and the more challenging things. At  her current place in life, a 40-something writer, mom, and pastor’s wife, she recognizes that church no longer needs to be the way it was.

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Book Review: My Sing-Along Bible

My Sing-Along BibleMy Sing-Along Bible: 50 Easy-Read Stories & 50 Fun Bible Songs, Stephen Elkins, Tyndale Kids, 2015.

My Sing-Along Bible is a fun collection of easy to read Bible stories and easy to sing-along songs. The target “reader” is a toddler or preschooler. But, Baby J already enjoys this book, which includes 50 favorite Bible stories and 5o songs, one for each story.

Here is how the book is organized. There’s a “Let’s Read” section which is the Bible story. Most of them are only six lines. Short. The middle section is a key verse, which is followed by the “Let’s Sing” section, with the lyrics to one of the songs on the CD, which can be found in the front cover of the book. Each story also includes a “Little Lesson,” which is the one sentence main idea of the story.

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Book Review: Burning Bush 2.0

51Eka19YuhL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet, Paul Asay, Abingdon Press, 2015

The title is what caught my eye. If you know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I like pondering the intersection of faith and pop culture. So, I was interested in Asay’s take, especially in his take on how pop culture has replaced the prophet.

In each chapter, Asay writes on a theme, weaving in different elements of pop culture. For example, one of the chapters deals with call (the burning bush connection) and Asay uses illustrations from various superhero films. Along the way, he makes valid points about why we should expand our thinking enough to hear what God may be saying to us through pop culture.

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Book Review: I Will

cover64157-mediumChurch researcher and consultant Thom Rainer addresses a growing problem in many churches, mainline and non-denomotional alike. Church member burnout and declining membership.

Rainer begins his little book, I Will, with a short narrative about a divorced, single-mother of three, Heather. Heather joined a church to make a difference, yet she found herself in an unexpected place in her church. It was a place that left her feeling spiritually sick and after four years, she left the church.

It is reported that active church members, like Heather was, are those who attend church events or services at least three times a month. This stands in stark contrast to what was considered to be the norm: three times a week. A lot goes into this change, but for Rainer, it is not enough. He calls for a “church membership revolution.”

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Guest Post: One-Upmanship

by Brock Weigel

washing_3262c-2Read Psalm 31: 9-16

“For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away.” (Psalm 31: 10)

While playing basketball, the goal is to get the ball through the hoop as many times as possible. When I play, however, that goal is not on my mind. Instead of maneuvering the ball, my goal is one-upping the other team, or showing off for spectators. I care as little for the ball going through the hoop as plugging a lamp into an electrical socket. The task itself seems mundane when you remove the context. My joy in basketball is not in the ball, but in the victory.

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CNN Finds Jesus

unnamedThis Sunday, March 1, CNN premieres a new six-week documentary series, “Finding Jesus.” This new series blends science and archaeology as it attempts to discern what is fact, what is faith, and what is forgery. Part documentary, interviewing academics and theologians, part drama, the series explores the value and authenticity of six objects which could bear light on the historical Jesus.

For the last 2,000 years, humanity has been fascinated by the figure of Jesus – the historical man and the divine Christ. Images of Jesus have appeared on icons, stained glass windows, painting, sculptures, television, and film. Jesus has influenced music, politics, education, and philosophy.

But, what is fact and what is forgery? And, what is just simply faith?

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Anonymous (2011)

Anonymous_2011_film_posterAnonymous, penned as a film about the “real” William Shakespeare, is a political drama laced with soap opera-style relational tensions.  The film is set in Elizabethan-era England during the time of the Essex rebellion.  Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford, realizes after watching a play put on by Ben Jonson exactly how powerful words can be.  He approaches Ben and offers him a play for him to stage.  But the authorship must remain anonymous.

Ben stages the play (Henry VIII) and at the conclusion the audience demands to see and hear from the playwright.  Ben anxiously looks up to the Earl’s box for some kind of direction.  In the meantime the young, egocentric actor Will Shakespeare (who is like a grown up version of Dopey) runs out on the stage to take the playwright’s bow.  Director Roland Emmerich continues to weave Shakespearean plays in the film as the political drama of who will succeed Elizabeth I unfolds.  In the midst of this weaving, Emmerich sprinkles in a number of flashbacks that help us (or at times confuse us) in understanding the characters more.  For example, in these flashbacks we learn that the relationship between Edward and Elizabeth goes beyond Earl and Queen.

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Follow Friday: Susan Irene Fox

I first discovered Susan Irene Fox and her self-titled blog after she started liking some of mine posts. Out of curiosity I started reading her blog. Susan has a way of sharing profound, spiritual thoughts that are welcoming and not threatening. After a twenty-year career as an elementary school teacher, that ended due to a permanent disability, Susan started blogging to get her name out there.

She had started a Bible curriculum projected for grades K-6 called Branches. The blog was to give her an online fingerprint for potential publishers. Ever since then, both the curriculum and the blog have evolved. “The curriculum,” Susan says, “is now a biblical devotional series for families.”  Branches, which is based on John 5:14-15, is currently in the editing stage. Meanwhile, the blog has greatly expanded as “a way to edify, encourage, enrich – and sometimes gently exhort – the Body of Christ,” Susan says. The blog has become, for Susan, a way to abide in the Spirit, while building the Kingdom of God.

As I have lifted the focus off me and onto God, the experience has become rich with new insight. Followers have increased organically as the Spirit has led them. And when just one person tells me the words I write have reached his or her heart, that comment keeps me motivated for weeks, because I have been an obedient vessel.

At times, Susan will post a poem, which is an incredible way to express a gospel truth. “Poetry,” Susan says, “is a rekindled love.” She wrote poetry during high school and college. She would teach grammar through poetry writing. Often, as she writes in her personal prayer journal, she will write poems. She never, however, had the courage to make any of the poems public. With great delight, the poems were welcomed and well received. Susan got a number of reassurance and support for them, including from other poets. She now posts a poem every Sunday – “my small way of praising Him.”

Susan, like other bloggers, will occasionally do a series. Currently she is doing a series on the Beatitudes. Susan says there are two reasons that went into her decision to do a series. “The first,” she says, “is because writing a series keeps me motivated, interested, and educated.” It gives her the opportunity to “dive more deeply into a small amount of Scripture,” and then share what she gleaned from that dive with others. “The second reason,” she says, “is that, as I’m editing Branches, I’m relooking at this living text called the Bible.” Susan says that each time she ponders on the Bible, “it seems to speak differently” to her. These new ponderings lead her into areas she may not have been ready to see previously in her life. “It’s an adventure,” she says, “and I love to follow each new path.”

The topics in the series are the same topics that are included in Branches. The first series was on the Fruit of the Spirits. The series after the Beatitudes will be The Twenty Third Psalm. Each series gives an opportunity to chew and digest small pieces of Scripture at a time.

I was curious to know who Susan reads. Every so often she will quote a Christian thinker and ponderer. When Susan first came to faith, she “soaked up Lee Strobel’s books.” She names her pillars as N. T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and Henry and Richard Blackaby. She also reads Max Lucado, Tullian Tchividjian, Jonathan Merrit, Francis Chan, Phyllis Tickle, David Platt, John Ortberg, Beth Moore, and Tim Keller. But that is just to name a few.

Blogging has its rewards. I wanted to know what the most rewarding part of Susan was from blogging.

The most rewarding part of blogging is the discovery of new things about Scripture from the most amazing blog writers. I have so much to learn as a new believer, yet just this week I was greatly comforted and inspired that I am not unlike all those other “new believers” in the first century – Mary and Martha, Priscilla and Lydia, Titus and Timothy – and I am humbled and enriched to be in such gracious company.

You can read Susan’s blog at susanirenefox.com and you can follow her on Twitter @susanirenefox.

Easter Feet

Easter Ponderings“But, go, tell his disciples, and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7)

A few weeks ago my friend Jennifer posted on Facebook a quote from her daughter. The three year old had placed two Easter eggs on her feet and declared, “Look, Mommy! I have Easter feet!”

So adorable and innocent. And theological.

Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb, in Mark’s Gospel, are commissioned to go and tell the others that the Christ is Risen, Risen Indeed! The command to go and tell is not unlike other times in the Gospels when the followers of Christ are told to go and tell. After Jesus had healed lepers in Luke 7, he tells the followers to go and tell John the Baptist about the things they had seen. Mark and Matthew record Jesus telling the disciples and go and tell (preach) the good news.

Go and tell.

That is what it means to have Easter Feet. To walk or run with our Easter Feet is to go and tell. Mary and the other women were a sent people with a mission.

We, too, are people who are sent. We are sent out beyond the boundaries of our church walls to share the gospel message – a message filled with love, grace, and hope. The church is an important and vital place for the believer. Christians gather together at the church on Sundays and throughout the week for worship, studying the scriptures, prayer, and participation in the sacraments. Then, followers of Christ are sent to feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, to love others as Christ has loved them.

We gather with other people of faith to engage in works of piety so that we can be sent to engage in works of mercy.

We are sent out on our Easter Feet.

The mission of the sent is to continue the work of making God and God’s ways known to the world. In this sense, the world needs the Church. It is through the Church that the world responds to Christ in faith and accepts the grace that has been given to the world. All of this is made possible by and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But, there are days when it is not easy to walk on Easter Feet. There are days when it would be so easy to act like all those other people who are rude and just plain mean. We are assaulted by this meanness at work, at school, in our communities and yes, even in our churches.

Recently, a minister in town attended a children’s ministry event at our church. He took issue with the children’s moment that we had, where we shared the Easter story. About 80% of the children were not part of our church, and were 3 and 4-year-olds. The children’s moment presented the story using language that was age appropriate and focused on the meaning of Easter – a risen Jesus!

This visiting pastor, who was present with his children, took to Facebook to share three or four theological points that he considered were left out of this outreach event. He did not come to talk to any of the clergy. He did not write an email. He did not place a phone call. He took to Facebook and shared very publicly that our church was leaving out the truth of the Gospel. Some members who knew him took him to task for his actions. He later edited his Facebook post deleting the rude statement and replacing it with scripture. The meaning, however, was the same.

There are times when people will assault us with meanness and they think they are doing the right thing. They think they are being faithful to their God. They use their Bibles, quoting scripture to put others down.

Friends, this is not what it means to stand on Easter Feet. 

We can stand on Easter Feet and be in dialogue with those that we disagree with. We can stand on Easter Feet and walk in grace, showing the grace that Christ extended to us to others. We can stand on Easter Feet and use the word of God to build up instead of tear down.

Jesus did not say, “Go and tell others all the ways in which they are wrong.” Jesus said, “Go and tell that I have risen!”

How are you walking on Easter Feet?


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