Tuesday, October 30, 2007
From With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray:

Our daily life in the world is the test of our communication with God in prayer. How often the Christian, when he comes to pray, does his utmost to cultivate certain frames of mind which he thinks will be pleasing. He doesn't understand (or he forgets) that life does not consist of a lot of loose pieces which can be picked up at random and then be discarded. Life is a whole. The hour of prayer is only a small part of daily life. God's opinion of what I really am and desire is not based on the feeling I conjure up, but on the tone of my life during the day.
The other day at work I was asked to recalibrate the milk thermometers. This involves filling a small pitcher with ice water and a digital thermometer, and then you have to adjust a nut on milk thermometer until it matches the digital one. Any number of things throughout the day--from changes in barometric pressure to somebody putting it in the hot dish sanitizer--can throw a thermometer off.

And so when I read this passage, that image of recalibration hit me. And I kinda like that. I'm trying look and act like Jesus, and any number of things throw that off, some things a little, some things a lot. Prayer is the moment I get turned and twisted aright again, recalibrated to go back out into the world.

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posted by Peter at 8:52 AM
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Deuteronomy 15: 10/30
Read 15:7–11
Are verses 7 and 11 contradictions of verse 4? What do you think this means?

How do you define “needy”? Who in your life do you encounter who is “needy”?

How do the two clauses in verse 11 relate to one another? In other words, what gets lost if we read the first clause without the second?

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posted by Peter at 7:45 AM
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Deuteronomy 15: 10/29
Read 15:1–6
In verse 1, what is special about the seventh year? What does this mean for us as Christians in America?

What does the phrase “There will be no one in need among you” mean, in verse 4, and what is the condition for this statement in verse 5?

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posted by Peter at 7:35 AM
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Deuteronomy 14: 10/23
Read 14:9–21

In these laws of worship, going back to chapter 12, we’ve moved from talking about idolatry to a single location of worship to voices that distract us from God to food. What connections might God be making between all these things?

Why is it significant that God would put limits on what animals can be eaten, and what does that mean for us as Christians?

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posted by Peter at 7:19 AM
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Monday, October 22, 2007
Deuteronomy 14: 10/22
Read 14:1–8

Focus on the first statement of verse 1. This is the first time this statement is made in the Bible and the only time in this book. Why would God emphasize this relationship at this point in Deuteronomy?

What do verses 1 and 2 have to do with the preceding verses in chapter 13 and then what follows?

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posted by Peter at 9:05 AM
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Thursday, October 18, 2007
An Oh-5 wedding

We celebrated a wedding in the Oh-5 last Friday. Becky and Charles got married. It's a really good story. And Aaron knows it better than I do.

Read his post "My Big Fat 05 Wedding."

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posted by Peter at 10:07 AM
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Deuteronomy 13: 10/18
This is Mona #1 and Mona #2. They hang out with Sunday morning group that's going through Deuteronomy right now. So, Mona #1 comes up to me last night and says with a wicked grin that I should ask Mona #2 about Deuteronomy. Apparently, they spent a couple hours at McDonald's yesterday dealing with these questions, and Mona #2 was just getting mad about it. What are you supposed to do went I think we're going to have a great talk Sunday morning.

It's good to wrestle with Scripture. I think it's the only way. If reading Scripture comes easy, then I wonder if I'm doing it right. I think about the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel of the Lord. And he gets his named changed to "Israel"--Wrestles with God. What a cool name. And he's left with a limp for the rest of his life.

Mona #1 asked me if I like Deuteronomy. I don't really know how to answer the question. It's not the book of the Bible that inspires me the most or captures my imagination the most, but it is a book that makes me ask questions. It's a book that makes me wrestle it down, grapple with it, and maybe in the end I'll have a limp. I'm pretty sure it's a book that will mark me in some way. I think it will mark all of us. That's what all Scripture does.

Read 13:12-18

Allegiance to the community is another important thing for these people. How does the influence of a community matter?

When others see our church, what do you think they see?

How should Christians understand these verses?

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posted by Peter at 9:40 AM
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Deuteronomy 13: 10/17
Read 13:6–11
Allegiance to the family network may be one of the most important things to the people of this culture. What do these verses mean in light of that?

As Christians, what are some of the voices that compete for our attention, and what should we do about them?

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posted by Peter at 6:29 AM
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Deuteronomy 13: 10/16
Read 13:1–5
Prophets were individuals who spoke on behalf of God. How is this role important among God’s people?

Whether these verses are a lesson in be careful who you listen to, or be careful when you speak in God’s name, how does it apply to us today as Christians?

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posted by Peter at 7:35 AM
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Monday, October 15, 2007
Deuteronomy 13: 10/15
Read 12:29–32

In verse 30, why is God so concerned about what the people imitate?

Who do you influence and what influences your life, particularly how you love God?

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posted by Peter at 10:15 AM
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Sunday, October 14, 2007
Evangelizing Twelfth St

The other day I'm walking home from the bank. It was a breath-taking day. The first brisk, fall afternoon of the year. Nice to get some fresh air. The kind of air that makes your lungs catch just so.

I'm just about to Laura and Jessica's house when two young ladies cross the street and approach me. They're maybe late teenagers. Maybe a little older. They introduce themselves as Rose and Miranda. Rose does all the talking. "If you were to die today, do you know where you would go?" I'm not really sure she caught my name. I hadn't been feeling too great all day, so I wasn't at my smart-ass sharpest. Then again, that could have gotten me into some real trouble.

She asks what I would tell God when he asked why He should let me into heaven. I try my hardest to explain that me and Jesus have been pals for a while. I go to The Rock right around the corner. I don't play the seminary card thinking that might label as the worst kind of pagan. She's not really listening to anything I say anyhow. She whips out a New Testament (that could have got me really going, now that I think about it), pointing to the Romans Road verses that are highlighted in blue. I'm chomping at the bit to ask if she's read the whole book, that chapters 8 and 12 are my favorites. But she probably wouldn't have heard me anyway. I'm such a jerk. She goes to great efforts trying to explain to me what the word "gift" means, that I don't have to do anything for it. She talks at me for maybe 10 minutes.

There was a lot I wanted to say. Honestly, not all of it mean, either. I've been doing a lot of reading about evangelism lately and thinking about what it means in this place. But they really weren't interested in a conversation. They sped through their presentation and handed me a flier about their Baptist church and said I should come. Chica, I told you I already go to church. I asked where the church was. "Oh, it's on Winchester Rd right around the corner." Seriously, that's not very close at all. I wouldn't be able to walk there. And then they were off.

Sometimes I'm cranky and Christians piss me off. I confess that. I was feeling pretty territorial about all this. They didn't want to hear that I knew God, that I moved to this street to meet Him and serve Him and hang out with Him amidst the characters of this street. Why didn't they want to listen? Why is their punchline for me to come to their particular Sunday gathering? Do they really want to know the street? Do they really want to know what God is stirring up?

They went on down one side of the street. I noticed another guy knocking on doors down my side of the street with two little tikes in tow. They left a tract in the door of the vacant duplex next to ours--"How to Get to Heaven from Kentucky."

The irony was pretty thick. And they had no idea. This is definitely going in my research paper on evangelism in the Oh-5.

And Christ, give me mercy for the next time I meet someone who won't listen to me.

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posted by Peter at 11:25 PM
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Thursday, October 11, 2007
Deuteronomy 12: 10/11
Read 12:20–28
What might the connection be between destroying the altars of foreign gods and eating?

Think about this reverence for blood (vv. 23 – 25). What does this mean for the practice of Holy Communion (drinking the blood of Jesus) in this culture that thinks about blood this way?

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posted by Peter at 9:29 AM
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007
News items
I don't know what it is. Maybe it's becoming a subconscious tick of procrastination. Last couple days, I've been wandering news websites. Here are some interesting things I found.

Here's a video clip, via CNN.com, of West Virginian Larry Gibson and his fight against mountaintop removal in his community. You can see more of Larry's work here.

From the Seattle P-I, Starbucks had it's fourth-worst 12-month period on Wall Street. Here's my favorite part...

That same month, Consumer Reports ranked McDonald's coffee ahead of Starbucks', saying it costs less and tastes better, and the Seattle P-I reported that Schultz in the previous year had shareholders pick up $1.23 million worth of perks for him despite making more than $100 million as chairman.
A) Consumer Reports is whack. There is just no way. I've had McDonald's coffee. I nearly spit it out. B) And here I thought a latte was $4 so that I could have health insurance while working part-time. But apparently Mr. Shultz ain't doing too bad out of that deal, either.

And there's no mention in the article about how I can go to every locally owned independent bakery or coffee shop and get free WiFi. But not Starbucks.

I was in Tulsa for a quick couple days last week. Lo and behold, my lovely alma mater is front page news. And not the good kind. No truth to rumor yet they're renaming the school George Bluth University.

Lastly, the NY Times reports about youth groups reaching out with Halo 3. So wide, broad question: How does the Church disciple young people through spiritual formation? How are they becoming more like Jesus?

Tim [age 14] explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”
Playing Halo is “no different than going on a camping trip,” said Kedrick Kenerly, founder of Christian Gamers Online, an Internet site whose central themes are video games and religion. “It’s a way to fellowship.”
John Robison, the current associate pastor at the 300-member Albuquerque church, said parents approached him and were concerned about the Halo games’ M rating. “We explain we’re using it as a tool to be relatable and relevant,” he said, “and most people get over it pretty quick.”
David Drexler, youth director at the 200-member nondenominational Country Bible Church in Ashby, Minn., said using Halo to recruit was “the most effective thing we’ve done.”

Really? This is what the Gospel looks like contextually to this group of people? This is cutting-edge, creative outreach?


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posted by Peter at 8:51 PM
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Deuteronomy 12: 10/10
Read 12:13–19
Why do you think having a specified place of worship is so important?

What is the difference between what the people are allowed to eat (v. 15), what they are not allowed to eat (v. 16), and what they are allowed to eat only under special conditions (vv. 17–18)?

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posted by Peter at 8:48 PM
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Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Deuteronomy 12: 10/9
Read 12:8-12
How do we as a church act “according to our own desires" (v. 8)?

Notice the growth in vv. 8–11. Behavior that was acceptable before crossing the Jordan is not acceptable after. How do you see this at work in your own Christian life?

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posted by Peter at 12:55 PM
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Monday, October 08, 2007
Deuteronomy 12: 10/8
Chapters 12-26 of Deuteronomy provide the details of the covenant/Law. They center around three major themes: worship (12:1-16:17), leadership (16:18-18:22), and community life (19:1-25:19). So this week we dive into the material on worship.

Read 12:1–7
What are the first actions required by God (vv. 2, 3)? Why is this so important?

How do you as a Christian practice this?

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posted by Peter at 6:15 AM
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Sunday, October 07, 2007
Exhibit #317 on knowing your community
So some church in Tennessee sent out a mailer regarding a series on marriage. And put on racy title across the top of it. Apparently, they "do church differently." I have this sneaking suspicion that this isn't the Gospel Jesus modeled. Maybe it's just me.

"Church preaches power of sex" (1:25, via CNN.com).

Money quote:

Concerned Parent: Why don't they take the thousands, literally thousands, they spend on the mail-outs and put that directly in the community, as opposed to having some kind of shock value to their mail-outs?


I'm filing this under "When Doing Church Differently Makes You Look Stupid on National TV."


posted by Peter at 8:11 PM
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Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Deuteronomy 11: 10/2
Read 11:8–17
In v. 8, what are the results of obedience?

How does God contrast Egypt with the new land? Why is this important?

What has been your own experience in trusting in your own means versus in God’s provision?

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posted by Peter at 7:00 AM
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Monday, October 01, 2007
Pastor as ward heeler
From Blue Collar Ministry by Tex Sample:

The key to the power of the political machine was the ward heeler, the person who had a thoroughgoing knowledge of the ward. The ward heeler knew who needed a half ton of coal, who needed a job, who needed help with a hospital bill, or whose taxes were overdue, and so on. The ward heeler knew where the trade-offs were and where a bargain could be struck that would meet the needs of disparate parties and turn them into a coalition.
First, it is a role that can work in the complex relationships found in church and community.... Second, when properly conceived and practiced, it addresses the question of dignity in the relationships between pastors and working-class people (134-35).
Makes me think of Karl Malden's priest character in On the Waterfront, in one of my favorite all-time scenes in a movie.

Aaron's got me reading some Tex for my independent study. Tex spends about two-thirds of this book just describing the social framework of working-class white people. And at about this point he's got this great chapter about the role of pastor as "ward heeler." It has historic precedent in the 19th and early 20th centuries when politicians would work the streets to gain peoples' favor in exchange for votes. It may sound crass on the surface, but the process of quid pro quo and the idea of reciprocity are hard-wired into people.

For many of us, we've forgotten ministry is a two-way street. To give and give and give and never let the "poor and needy" give to us robs them of some of their imago Dei human dignity. I mean, think of the quid pro quo of the cross. Is that manipulation? Jesus died with an agenda. So we love God because he first loved us.

And so maybe one day the world will love the Church because it sees the Church, the bride of Christ, acting on behalf of Jesus, first loving the world.

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posted by Peter at 6:32 AM
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Deuteronomy 11: 10/1
Read 11:1–7
What are the great deeds of God for Israel in these verses?

What are some particular great deeds of God in your life?

**(for the story of Dathan and Abiram, see Numbers 16)

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posted by Peter at 6:24 AM
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