Summer XA: Reading Plan Update #2 and Some Extra Resources

As of this morning, we are on day 47 of the Summer Reading plan! 

Reading through the Major Prophets this summer has been really challenging. I tend to like my Scripture readings with a little less wrath and punishment! However, as I've been reading through, I have found that God is much bigger than the picture of wrath and punishment that many of us see when we read through the Old Testament. Reading through books like Isaiah and Jeremiah, we are struck with this picture of a God who is angry at his creation, one who disciplines in ways that seem extremely harsh and sometimes, unwarranted. How could this God be a "God of love"? The more I read through the Old Testament, the more I come face to face with this picture of God, and I don't think that I am the only one. Many of us come to this place, but ignore the entire story. God is love, and he disciplines out of love. He takes sin seriously, but desires restoration and reconciliation in his relationship with us. That is what the prophets are about: God’s justice in dealing with sin, and his love in the future hop of a Messiah to come, one who will restore the nations of Israel and Judah, and place us in right standing before God.

This summer, the guys small group is studying the book of Hebrews. Over the past few weeks, we have been talking about the fact that Jesus is our High Priest. He intercedes for us, he took on the wrath of God on the cross, and now because of that we are able to commune with the Father. Hebrews 6:19-20 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” When we read through the prophets, we can know the culmination of the story - we see the hope that is mentioned, and we see it fulfilled in Jesus Christ. 


Resources:

As we began the book of Ezekiel this week, I wanted to share a few resources with you:

The Year of Biblical Literacy: A collaborative project from The Bible Project, Bridgetown Church  and Reality SF. This website is slam-full of resources for you. The app is a great resource for you to use to supplement your Bible Reading, and the teaching/lecture videos are really great information as well! 

Ezekiel: Part 1- Part 1 of The Bible Project’s summary video of Ezekiel

Ezekiel: Part 2 -Part 1 of The Bible Project’s summary video of Ezekiel


**** “Bloodlines: Race, The Cross, and the Christian” - by John Piper

After the events of the last few weeks in America, it feels like we are all looking for answers. This book has been a great resource for me as I process through the racial divide in America and around the world. It is a free e-book (for now), and I would highly encourage you to download it, prayerfully begin reading it and humbly have conversations with your peers about it.


Download Link: http://www.desiringgod.org/books/bloodlines

 


Written by: Josh Jones  July 15, 2016  Short Link: http://bit.ly/29DIBX5

Summary & What I Learned – A 3 Hour Personal Spiritual Retreat

This is somewhat more formal writing than I normally do, but since it started out as an assignment (like most things that start that way), it was refreshing yet was also still an assignment. You know what I mean? Anyways, I hope it serves and encourages you in some small way today. – Blane

This quote from Dr. Coffelt was the perfect sentiment and guiding framework for my personal spiritual retreat earlier today. "Busyness saps spiritual vitality and may in fact mask spiritual laziness." In the following paragraphs, I will describe my retreat as well as begin to unpack some of what the Holy Spirit was revealing to me through this intentional, holy time.

Before I began describing “the liturgy” of my retreat, as I call it, I want to be honest with where I was coming into the retreat in terms of my emotional and spiritual health. Another quote came to memory during the first few minutes of my reading during my retreat and it is from Martin Luther. He once said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” As the father of a toddler and the director / primary leader of a growing campus ministry, if I’m honest, I often subconsciously value my time spent in work for God as more valuable or vital than the time I simply spend with God. Feeling constantly sleep deprived, trying to complete some online ministry training to help me grow, while juggling the desire (and task) of using the summer months to lean into spiritual disciplines (while the normal routine is nonexistent) has been difficult. I think that I’ve used these things, my circumstances, as an excuse to live ‘reactionary’ (even in my pastoral and parental functions) instead of living ‘intentionally’.

I found myself both dreading and looking forward to a retreat of this type, which I have done a few times before. However, as my life stage continues to change, I realize that both the cost and benefits of “extravagant time with Jesus” (to quote Dick Brodgen) have both risen. I disconnected from notifications and my phone (for the most part) and I spent three hours at one of my favorite coffee shops in Washington, DC. It’s outside of our neighborhood and on the other side of town, which helped me feel disconnected from the normal parts of life (and reconnected with Christ). I walked to a bus stop that I don’t often use, rode the bus across the city and I tried to simply ‘be present’ and in tune with Christ and others through my thought life. No music, no podcasts and no ‘doing’. Simply being. I think it was just what I needed, but what I dreaded or avoided for some reason.

I tried to study and savor the attributes of God, the fullness of Scripture and the person of Jesus. To do this, I combined several different types of readings while also journaling. In summary,I  read Psalms 1-3 (MSG), a handful of resources from John Piper about the fear of God, a great blog from Greg Boyd on the infallibility of the Bible and then spent some time both in worship through song and examining my own heart towards musical worship. I also listened to an interview with Dino Rizzo, as he talked through navigating stress as a minister and shared some of his failures. I love connecting with God through the lenses of others, and I find so much joy in reading about God, even (perhaps especially) from authors and pastors outside of my denomination or theological stream.

Below, are three short journal notes from this retreat. Each seem to be pointing to a thread or two that I have found consistent in my readings today and how God has been speaking to me this week through the Holy Spirit both directly and in conversations with other believers.

I am (strangely) comforted by the fact that God is big, mysterious and complex as I read through articles and lean into Chi Alpha’s Summer Bible Reading Plan of the Major & Minor Prophets. That we can and should fear Him. Perhaps the idea that, “There is beauty, not just in simplicity, but in complexity” has taken root in my soul (as opposed to just my mind or mouth). Maybe I like the idea that God is bigger than me, and that I truly want to be following and living (and dying) for something great.

Perhaps God isn’t upset at denomination or theological differences (streams, circles, expressions) but perhaps He is big enough for this when I am not. And perhaps, He is fully known in expressions that seem so unlike each other.

I am falling back in love with the greatness of God, the bigness of God and the comforting, scar-ridden hands of Christ.

I’d like to do a retreat like this (of this length or greater) two to three times per month going forward. I think it’ll only serve me and allow me to continue to rely on God as I get more used to and comfortable in my pastoral voice and the mechanics of ministry. I’m grateful for this experience and I am eagerly looking forward to answering more of the reflection questions during my next retreat, as I was only able to tackle the first one during my retreat today.