Reading the Bible seems easy enough, doesn’t it?
Reading the Bible seems easy enough until you find yourself knee-deep in a genealogical list of seemingly unpronounceable names, waist-deep in Levitical laws, chest-deep in the sacrifices and imagery of the temple, neck-deep in the perplexing visions of prophets such as Ezekiel or Daniel, and in-over-your-head with St. John’s visions in Revelation. Let’s be honest. The Bible can be very difficult to understand and rather incomprehensible at times. When reading it, you might even find yourself wondering, “What does any of this have to do with what I previously read?” and “What does this have to do with my daily life?”
The idea of prayer is mainstream—from movie references to gift shop baubles, the word pray can be found everywhere. As Christians, we know that the Bible tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18) and that we are to cast all our worries on God, with thanksgiving (see 1 Peter 5:7). We are instructed, and even commanded, many times in Scripture to pray. If you grew up in a Christian household or school, you were most likely guided through prayers at meals and bedtime. When these structures are no longer in place, it can become easy to lose track of the habit and you might find your prayer life slipping. Read on to contemplate on how to invigorate your own prayer life despite the distraction and busyness of life.
For some of us, church is a word that stirs painful memories, which keep us away from the pews on Sunday morning. Others of us go to church each week and shake our heads sadly at the sight of empty pews, mourning for those people we no longer see in them. For those of us who love the Church and are committed to a life lived as part of the Body of Christ, we can still struggle daily with trusting the future of the Church to the Holy Spirit.
Once, my pastor asked me if I liked his reference to Shakespeare in his sermon. I should have been able to laugh with him and comment that I appreciated the way it connected to the Gospel reading. Instead, I awkwardly knit my eyebrows and tried to remember what he was talking about. After thinking about it, I realized that I couldn’t remember anything that he’d said in the sermon at all. I went to brunch that day feeling guilty but also confused about what went wrong in my ability to listen to the Good News that day. If you find yourself struggling with Sunday morning brain fog or a wandering mind, keep reading to learn tactics that help you focus on Christ in a distracting culture.
Prayer. This gift from God is a beautiful and blissful reminder that He wants to have a conversation with you about everything in your life: the good, the bad, and the ugly. On the National Day of Prayer, set for the first Thursday of May, we pause and intentionally take time to come together as Christians, folding our hands in prayer for the world, the country, the state, our neighbors, and ourselves. If you don’t know what to pray, God gives all His people an easy prayer already: the Lord’s Prayer. Take time today to go through the introduction, first, second, and third petitions with this excerpt from Minute Messages and lift your voice to heaven with the rest of His beloved creation.
In the 1970s and ’80s, I went to public schools from kindergarten through my first year of college. . . . It wasn’t a Christian environment by any means, but it was a decent education. There were leftist teachers, but there were also
conservatives. Ideology did not dominate the curriculum.
Those with similar experiences tend to begin with a basic trust in the public education system. Parents assume their children will receive roughly the same education they did, albeit with the added complications of technology and social media. If that isn’t enough reason to send your children to public schools, finances usually seal the deal. Why should parents spend large sums of money on a private or Christian school when their children will receive a good
education for free, in addition to access to all of the extracurricular programs such as sports, music, and drama? It’s simply not affordable, the thinking goes.
The organ notes sounded like dancing. I already knew that the guest organist for the noon Lenten service was one of the best around, but I was unprepared for the sheer joy that shone through a relatively short introduction to the closing hymn. The organist wasn’t just accompanying a hymn. He was living out his gift, his purpose, and his delight in making music for the glory of God. The organist’s joy overflowed to the entire congregation.
Although he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Joseph [in Genesis 39–40] is now a slave. As Joseph starts his new life in Potiphar’s house, God begins molding Joseph into the wise leader he will become. Joseph never asked for that path or such preparation—and sometimes, neither do we.
There are many of Jesus’ sayings and teachings from the New Testament that are frequently misunderstood. Whether the verses are taken out of context or the understanding behind them is simply harder to uncover, Jesus’ words can seem harsh or backward from how Christians see Him.
At youth group, the teens in attendance were engaged in a very lively discussion, during which, my daughter said something slightly off the mark theologically. I immediately corrected and expanded on her words—matter-of-factly, I thought. I was one of the youth leaders, after all. It was my duty to make sure the kids understood everything correctly. The discussion continued, but without my daughter. Her head went down, and she said nothing else.
When we got home, she turned to me, “You made fun of me!”