Bible Study Assisted by Google Home

This week Rachel and I have started a morning Bible study together, reading through the Gospel of John. This is something we’ve talked about doing for many months, but we finally decided to do it over the weekend. I think this was prompted, in part, by her sharing of her testimony / faith witness Sunday morning in our “Gospel Encounters” Sunday School class. As we read about the testimony of John the Baptist, I was reminded of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the fact that parts of the book of Isaiah (referenced in John 1:23) were included with the scroll fragments found at Qumran. I thought this discovery was made after World War II, but since we have a Google Home in the bathroom adjoining the room where we were sharing our study, I asked aloud, “Hey Google, when were the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered?” The Google Assistant replied with the dates, 1946-47. How cool to be able to verify information like that during our Bible study, just using my voice! It was like we had a digital librarian right on hand, standing by to readily answer our questions when needed!

‘This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord ’s coming!’” Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?” John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.” This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.’

John 1:19,21-28

Later, as we discussed the importance of having direct access to the Bible and these words from the disciple John, I mentioned Vatican II (“The Second Vatican Council”) in the context of the Catholic church making fundamental reforms in the way Mass is and was conducted. (The priests turned around to face the congregation instead of the altar and cross at the front of the church, and the mass changed from being shared in Latin to the local vernacular language of the congregation.) Again, I thought Vatican II took place during the 1960s, but I confirmed by asking Google Home… it was held from 1962 to 1965.

It’s wonderful to have access not only to the Internet, but to a search assistant via Google Home during Bible study!

Thinking about Christian bumper stickers

So this is an unusual find this weekend. One of Alexander’s roommates shared this with me. You can ask for 10 random “Christian” bumper stickers from the website below, or select 10 that you want for free. I definitely do NOT agree with all the messages included in their bumper sticker menu, but I DO agree with many of them. In most cases, these short messages encourage some worthwhile, critical thinking. Some reference Bible verses, most do not.

As an example of a bumper sticker message with which I disagree: We don’t simply need to require / mandate prayer in public schools to remove all ills, like drug abuse or premarital sex from teen and adult culture. I happen to work at a school that mandates chapel for all students, and I can tell you this is not received well by many of the students. At some point I will write a blog post reflecting on mandatory chapel. I am definitely a fan, and I love having chapel services at our school, but it is recklessly naïve for people to think we simply need to mandate prayer and Bible reading in schools and this will heal all of our society’s ills like a magic wand. God has the power to heal any of us at any time, but the mechanism of his healing for our culture is not via a mandated school Bible curriculum in public or private schools. If you’re a little fuzzy on historic problems with mandated religion, refer to the English Wikipedia article for the “European Wars of Religion:”

It is true bumper stickers on our cars can provide an opportunity to encourage people to think about questions of faith, morality and propriety. I don’t think putting a bumper sticker on your car is going to realistically lead to immediate, life changing decisions for people to turn their lives over to God and reject evil, but it’s worth considering whether or not this is something you want to do. Check it out: www.christianbumpersticker.org

I think a more random selection of these bumper stickers could be used as a catalyst for excellent conversations in a Sunday school class, about our beliefs and the ways in which we are called to advocate for and work for God‘s kingdom on earth.

Verses from Men’s Group

These are some verses from our Friday morning men’s group today, as we continue our book study of “Same Different as Me” by Ron Hall and Denver.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-14 (NIV)

Every time I read or hear others read these verses from the prophet Isaiah, I am reminded of speeches given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which I have heard via recordings. God has and does ordain prophets to speak his word and share his message with his people. We are called to not only listen to these words, but to go forth into the world and act on them through the Spirit and with the guidance of Jesus.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn…

Isaiah 61:1-2 (NIV)

Keep Your Eyes on the Action

Rachel took her academic application tests this morning for ClassenSAS, so she was unable to bowl in the Saturday morning youth league she has started participating in this semester. As a result, this evening she is doing her “pre-bowl” (or in this case post-bowl.) It’s $12 for three games. The bummer is I am unable to join her. It’s an official league bowl, so extra participants are not permitted.

I am testing a post-by-email option for WordPress, and I need to activate this on our family learning blog as well.

My connection to tonight’s bowling and “Eyes Right” is this: Just as we need to keep our eyes on Jesus each day, going bowling with your daughter is all about watching every frame with her. At any time, she could get strike or a spare, and she wants to share those moments with me. It is also important to see frames where she is not as successful, including the occasional gutter ball. Every frame, she is looking back to see if I have watched her and what she did.

I think our own kids, and our spouses, are probably constantly looking at us in the same way even when we are not bowling. Did you see me? Are you watching what I’m doing? Are you experiencing this moment with me?

It is a lot easier for me to use Siri on my iPhone to dictate this post than type it on my laptop or iPad. Bowling time like this is not about having your eyes completely on a screen. It’s about keeping my “eyes right” on Rachel & her bowling lane!

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Brene Brown on Vulnerability

Several months ago I watched Brene Brown’s excellent Ted Talk on vulnerability. I highly recommend it.

Today a good friend recommended one of her books, and I’ve added it to my Amazon wish list. I definitely agree that vulnerability is a key element in friendships and relationships. I also resonate with the idea of this title, that we stop trying to force ourselves to live in an image someone else has created for us, and instead discover and embrace the person God created us to become. I don’t think Brene wrote this from a religious standpoint, but I can certainly project that into her thesis just as I have with the “Essentialism” book I finished listening to on Audible a few months back.

Sent from my iPad