Great Online Bible Study Resource: FREE!

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 8.25.38 AM

The STEP Bible: stepbible.com

Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending a little time with Dr. Peter Williams, who is the Warden of Tyndale House in Cambridge, UK. Tyndale House (not affiliated with the publisher of the same name) is a study center for biblical scholarship, with an extensive library and facilities for hosting a variety of scholars and pastors right on the doorstep of the University of Cambridge. Tyndale House has a mission of raising up a new generation of orthodox biblical scholars and I really enjoyed talking with Peter and hearing about their work (also considering that as a possible sabbatical location someday!).

One of the things that Peter talked about, however, was a Tyndale House-created online resource for students of the Bible. It’s called the STEP (Scripture Tools for Every Person) Bible site (stepbible.org). It’s a very flexible resource that allows scholars, pastors, and students of the Bible to do quick word studies, cross references, concordance and lexicon work, and original language work all for free. The STEP Bible site will bring up interlinear English and Greek or Hebrew passages, as well as interlinears with a variety of world languages that interface with the original languages of Scripture (ever seen an interlinear Bible in Chinese?). Need to know what an English word is in the Greek? Just hover over it and the site will pop up a quick lexical definition of the Greek equivalent. It’s a marvelous tool that enables people from a variety of backgrounds and locations to access tools for biblical study that may be too expensive or too unavailable to them depending on where they are in the world.

Continue reading →

The Lord and His Prayer: Our Father

The Lord’s Prayer begins with a call to apprenticeship…

Exodus 4:22-23; Luke 11:1-13

slope prayer

Praying slope-side at Park City Mountain Resort, UT–Easter 2007

One of the occupational expectations of being a pastor is that you will always be called upon to pray for public events. I’ve prayed at church meetings, Memorial Day ceremonies, building dedications, and even prayed to open the Colorado State Senate. I’ve prayed at nearly every meal to which I’ve been invited (always a short grace, so that I will get invited back!). I’ve prayed in the Jordan River, at weddings, on cruise ships, tour busses, at interfaith gatherings, in police cars (not while under arrest), in jails, and in a host of other places where pastors are called on to pray because, well, we’re professionals. And I always say the same thing, “Yes, I’m a professional, but please try this at home.”

For many Christians, however, prayer is still an elusive concept. I have to admit that it’s something that I’ve struggled with over the years, even as a professional pray-er. How do you pray, what do you pray about, what does prayer actually accomplish, etc. I have a hard time being quiet in my own prayer time…is that bad? My mind wanders…does that mean I’m doing it wrong? Do I have to fold my hands and close my eyes? How do I pray for someone? Do I have to pray out loud? (always one of the most stressful things for people to do…we’ll share our most intimate secrets in a one-sided cell phone conversation but have trouble talking with God along with others). We don’t want to be embarrassed (though Linda Aldrich was telling me about being in Nebraska with a relative this week who offered to say grace at McDonald’s and did it loud enough for the burger flippers in the back to hear). Do I have to use Elizabethan English? Is prayer a magic formula to get what we want? There are lots of questions about prayer. I’m always impressed with someone who I think has a vital prayer life.

Continue reading →

Feeding with 5,000 (pounds, that is)

Emergency food drive for Tri-Lakes Cares and victims of the Black Forest Fire

Food DriveWell, it’s already the Labor Day weekend. Hard to believe that summer has gone by so fast, even though we’ve had our challenges during this season with fires and floods. As we move toward autumn, we continue to remember those who have been affected by this summer’s disasters and pray for new hope as a new season unfolds. One of the ways we can continue to help is by keeping the food pantry shelves at Tri-Lakes Cares full. Right now, TLC has some extreme shortages on food staples, which is why this Sunday we’re beginning another emergency food drive for TLC during the month of September. I’d like to challenge Tri-Lakes UMC to donate 5,000 pounds of food–or to use a more biblically recognizable goal, we’ll call it “Feeding with 5,000” (pounds, that is). Download this pdf list of TLC Food Needs and take it with you when you go for groceries this week.

You can bring the items with you to Tri-Lakes UMC or drop them off at Tri-Lakes Cares, just use our church name (Tri-Lakes UMC) so that we can track how much we’re giving. You can also make a monetary donation by writing “TLC” in the memo line of your check and dropping it in the offering plate this week, or donate online here using the “Specially Designated” fund line and put “TLC” in the Comment section. I also invite my out of town readers to consider donating online so that you can participate in this important work.Let’s make this a great outpouring of love for our neighbors who continue to struggle after a great tragedy.

Living the Cliffhanger

The end of the Book of Acts is a cliffhanger, leaving us wondering, “What happens next?” 

Acts 28:16-31

Well school has started, and many of our kids are heading back to the classroom. I’ve been talking with some parents who have also just sent their first child off to college, something we’ll be doing next year. It’s an anxious and exciting time, hoping and praying that our kids make good choices and have a great experience full of learning and hope for the future.

At the same time, we know that college has a lot of temptations. Many of us have some memories of our college years that we regret (I can see some of you wincing right now). Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to confess to you one of my guilty pleasures during those years in the early 80s—a stigma that I have carried my whole adult life. Here it is: I watched soap operas every day.

GuidingLightThat’s right, every day at 3:00pm, I sat in the common room of the dorm or the living room of my apartment and watched “The Guiding Light.” I wasn’t alone, either, my roommates were there, too—all Army ROTC guys, often in uniform. I don’t know why we needed to know what was going on in fictional Springfield every day to the Spaulding and Bauer families and people named Reva and Coop and Harley Davidson Cooper. We all knew it was wrong and out of character for a bunch of tough, aspiring infantrymen, but we couldn’t help ourselves. We needed to know, every day, whose baby that was, who was going to come back from the dead, who was cheating on whom (see how I did that grammatically? At least we went to English class). It was addicting. We saw a young Kevin Bacon on that show, who would wind up being in every show, ever. We especially didn’t want to miss Fridays and Mondays, because every Friday ended in a cliffhanger—with screeching tires, or someone walking into a room with that shocked soap opera look on their faces, or the doctor saying, “I have the results of the paternity test…” You had to watch on Monday in order to see what happened. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it was riveting television (well, at least to a bunch of bored and dateless college guys!).

Continue reading →

The Blueprint for Discipleship at Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church

Discipleship ProcessA lot of my clergy colleagues have been asking for an outline of the disciple-making process we are using at Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church and I thought I’d pass along a description for those who are interested in seeing how it works. We’re seeing great success with this process as about 130 people from our congregation have gone through the process in the first year of its inception. With our average weekly attendance around 370, that represents more than a third of the congregation who have been through the first round of courses, including potential new members. We thought we’d reach that number in three years, so it’s clear that people are responding to an intentional process of making disciples that closely models our Wesleyan “operating system” (a phrase used by one of our lay members to describe how we do things around here).

The basic premise of the process is that disciples are not made by accident or osmosis. We want to build followers of Jesus Christ who love and serve God and neighbor ,who (to use Wesley’s terms) live out “holiness of heart and life,” and who “spread Scriptural holiness” across our neighborhoods.

Continue reading →