Category Archives: Christianity

How to Read the Bible (2)

There’s something else I want to add on my thoughts about how to read the Bible. When it comes to reading the Bible, what is the role of the Holy Spirit?

Give us understanding

Paul tells Timothy in one particular passage:

2 Timothy 2:7 “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

Previous to this verse Paul tells Timothy to put men in charge who will faithfully teach the message of Jesus Christ. Paul then exhorts Timothy by appealing to three different analogies. Then Paul says, “think over what I say.”

This is interesting because Paul purposefully gives Timothy some stuff that isn’t immediately understandable. Each is disconnected and not easily ascertained as to what Paul is saying. Paul knows this, and writes to think it over.

That’s where I want to pause. As Christians who ought to be reading our Bible, we must read, and read daily. Sometimes our reading will be poor and quick, other times it will be long and satisfying. Regardless, the Bible needs to be read, and if we can read it long, then we must strive for that. Why? Because Paul says to Timothy to pause, stare, reflect, think over what he had just said.

When we read the Bible, we must use our minds, not merely our hearts. We shouldn’t stop on a passage because it seems to apply to our lives right now. We shouldn’t read until something is applicable to you. We should read, and then pause, and reflect, and ponder, and think hard over what we just read.

Which is why I said devotional reading shouldn’t be the only type of reading we do. We ought to be wrestling with a book of the Bible, thinking about what is being said, who is saying it, to whom it is being said, and figuring out the mere facts of the Bible. The stuff that’s there in the text. Why it was written that way, and why it was said like that, and why certain words were and weren’t used, and what the whole passage or book is about.

We must be deep thinkers.

But why? Well, because Paul says, “for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

If we want to grow in understanding, we need to think. Reading can be thinking, and reading can also be done in such a way that we obtain nothing. We must be thinking along side of reading. We must be asking questions. Why? Because God will give us understanding.

It is the Holy Spirit who will teach us what the Bible says, but only if we think about the passage. We cannot pretend to think we have the Bible right just because we prayed about it and something seemed to fit. We shouldn’t mock God, like a genie. We must revere God, and we must treat His word respectfully. Which means, as I said before, understanding that these words mean something more than what I want them to me. These words mean something that the author intended them to mean and I need to figure out what he intended to communicate.

One of the roles of the Holy Spirit, then, when it comes to us reading the Bible, is to give us understanding as we think through what was said/written.

May we understand what we read. May we not abuse the text by believing the text to mean whatever we want it to mean.


How to read the Bible

If we as Christians need to read the word of God daily, then we also need to know how to read the Bible. You’d think that we’d know how to but the sad reality is that as Christians we often don’t.

The reason for this isn’t because the Bible is some magical book that needs a magical way of reading it. The reason is because in our ignorance, arrogance, sin, and believing what the world has told us, we read the Bible in how we want to read it.

To read the Bible is simple, but we have over-complicated it. To read the Bible is easy, but we make it into something other than it should be.

So how can we begin to learn to read the Bible?

First Steps

The first step in reading the Bible is know what the Bible is and isn’t.

The Bible is a book written by multiple authors in multiple periods of time in multiple places. This should be obvious but it isn’t. I believe the Bible to be the word of God, but I also know the Bible, as the word of God, was written by over 60 authors, spanning a few thousand years, in different cultures.

To know this means we don’t read this book like you do every other book. Most books you may read today are probably written by people in your country, within the past fifty years.  Since these books you read are closer to you in time and culture you have less work to do in trying to understand what the author was saying. When it comes to the Bible we are separated by a few thousand years, thousands of miles, and thousands of cultural changes.

Each of these factors becomes an obstacle in understanding the Bible. However, this doesn’t mean you need to be a scholar who reads all sorts of historical information about the time period to understand what is going on in the text of Scripture. While I argue it would be a good thing to do and one every Christians ought to do, it’s not necessary to spend hundreds of hours to study the culture and context Moses was in so you can understand the command “Do not steal.”

So what am I saying? What I’m saying is being aware of these facts will help you come up with questions that will help you in reading the Bible. Knowing this will get you to pause and reflect and ask questions like, “Who was the original audience of this book?” “What were they like?” “How would they understand these things?”

When you begin asking those questions, you will begin to see much more of the Bible open up to you. You will notice things you hadn’t before. And much more of the Bible will begin to make sense. Why? Because you will be asking the right questions and you will remove the veil that your current context brings to see more of the glory of God’s word.

What it isn’t

So now that you know what the Bible is in it’s most basic and tangible form: multiple books written by multiple authors over the course of multiple centuries and cultures, all orchestrated and designed by God to communicate what he desires of his people to know about him and about how they ought to live; let’s look at what the Bible isn’t.

I’m not going to give a full explanation of each of these, but they should be rather obvious:

  1. The Bible is not your personal handbook to living life
  2. The Bible is not the “road map of life”
  3. The Bible is not a how to book
  4. The Bible is not a horoscope, Ouija board, or any sort of magical book that gives you direct answers to what you should do right now like buy this car or marry that person.
  5. The Bible is not a book that we should flippantly read: Understanding it leads to life, misunderstanding means death.

 

 


Christians need to do this daily

One of the worst things Christians can do is neglect their calling as Christians. This calling is one that urges us to take action, be ready, be prepared, to suit up, to arm ourselves, renew our minds and think hard. Being a Christians is a life of action. There is no passivity in the Christian life. If you’re being passive then you probably aren’t being all that God has called his people to be.

What Christ did was not passive

When we think of the one we follow, our Lord Jesus Christ, we often think of one who was acting. When he descended from the heavens to become a man, that was an action. When he lived life on earth he was active. We even get a glimpse of Jesus as a young boy, around thirteen, stepping outside of his family and remaining in the temple to be about his Father’s business.

What’s interesting is God’s actions in saving us are something we passively receive. The blessings of being redeemed, adopted, chosen, and given a new heart are all things God does to us, things in which we did nothing for. The beginning of our Christian lives is one in which God acts upon us, but the rest of the Christian life is working out what God has worked within.

The change God causes within us sets us up on a path of good works. We we’re created in Christ Jesus for good works, as Paul says in Ephesians.

This we must do daily

With all this being said, there is one thing we Christians cannot neglect if we are to be Christians. That thing is putting on the armor of God.

The armor of God is another way of saying the new man, the man born again in Christ. It’s another way of saying putting on Christ. It’s another way of saying being renewed in our minds.

And we do this primarily by immersing ourselves in the Word of God. We must be reading the Bible daily. Not just reading it like a devotional. If we want to mature in Christ we need to grow up from reading the Bible as little grapes to pick up and chew. We must read the Bible as a whole course meal, providing us with the proper nutrition of growing into maturity.

There are some items on our plate we don’t like eating, like vegetables. But, eating those are good and right. In the same way, if we skip over the parts that are hard to understand or that we don’t like reading, we will neglect the blessings of the fullness of God’s word. We will have to rely upon others for our nutrition, which can lead to being blown about by strange doctrines.

As Christians, in order to take up our armor, and to know how to wield the sword of the Spirit, aka the word of God, then we must be reading the Bible daily, and reading through the whole Bible regularly. And over the course of ten years, you’ll know far more of the Bible if you do so, and will be blessed for having done so.


On pleasing God and Man

Depending upon who you look for approval from, that is where you derive your standard of measure from. You want to please mom? You do it to her liking. You want to please man? You do it to their liking. You want to please God? You do it to His standard of Himself and how He loves Himself.

This is why we ought to be working for God and not man. We should care more about if we are doing things according to God’s word than if we are pleasing man. Sometimes, however, these things cross over into one another. The only way to describe this would be to use myself as an example.

Massage Therapy

So I’m going to show the distinctions between pleasing God and pleasing man, and the overlap between them as a massage therapist.

When it comes to pleasing God, I must ask myself a few questions: Am I doing this to the best of my ability? Am I sinning by: gossiping with my client, lusting after my client, or allowing my client to make inappropriate gestures and comments? Am I doing what my job requires of me, thus submitting to my authorities?

When it comes to pleasing man, I must ask myself: Am I addressing my clients needs? Am I providing the right amount of pressure they asked for? Am I communicating to them if something they ask for cannot be done or shouldn’t be done? Am I providing them with an excellent service that makes them want to come back?

When they overlap:  Am I setting up guardrails to defend myself against lust and protect my client from immodesty? Am I staying up to date with the latest information to give to my client about massage and their condition?

As you read some of these questions you’ll see that truly all of these questions overlap in some way because my job is one that is a service to people. So the questions I must ask myself about doing my work for God are mostly about sin and excellence. Am I doing it in excellence? Am I seeing this work as work that I am doing because God is my boss, my master? The question I ask about pleasing man have to do with the service I provide for them.

When it comes to other areas of life we need to think through what the distinctions are, if we need to be pleasing God over man in this moment, or if pleasing man is what God desires in this moment. An example would be as a husband I must seek to please my wife. This is something God tells us to do. So the most God honoring thing would be to do as she desires, like taking her out on a date weekly. Does God require I take her out on a date? No. He never says that a man must date her weekly. But does God require I please her? Yes. And that means taking her out on a date weekly.

Which reminds me. I need to schedule that.

Conclusion

As Christians, we must never be afraid to hurt people’s feelings or offend people, but we must not seek to purposefully offend and hurt. However, if someone thinks that murdering children is okay, then we must speak the truth and not care how they will feel when we tell them how utterly wicked their beliefs are. If you don’t think that confronting people on sin is a good thing then look at Jesus’ example.

He’s a great example of not caring what others think. He’s a great example on pleasing God. He’s a great example on caring for and pleasing man.


This simple statement could change your career forever

We all have to make choices in how we’re going provide for our families. We have to decide what role we play as a part of a family. We have to decide how we will function and what we will do in our community and society to make a living. But deciding what you should do can be difficult. Some of us want out of our jobs. Some of us want to make more money. Some of us want to do something else but won’t try to because we probably can’t make a living doing that.

As a husband and father I have had major shifts in my thinking. When I was younger I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life. It was such a big question looming over me. What is the one thing I’m going to contribute to society and the world? What is it I am going to decide to do with the rest of my life?

As I look back I realize how naive these questions were. I was assuming that I would stick to that one thing throughout my life. I was also entirely focused on myself and what I could do instead of on one simple thing that has changed me.

It’s obvious

When we focus on ourselves we end up loosing what we’re looking for. The people who try and “find themselves” end up usually more confused and ambiguous about who they really are. Some people think they become these amazing philosophers, and when you read what they write, they not only make absolutely no sense but it also doesn’t reflect the real world or any sort of basic thinking.

Jesus said that if you try to keep your life then you will lose it, but if lose your life for His sake then you’ll find life. Now this is a simple statement that Christians overlook. Jesus is saying that the more you try to gain and make something of yourself in this life then you will lose your life and yourself. If, however, you live for Him, then you will not only have life, but also yourself.

But that isn’t the simple statement I’m talking about. There are profound implications of what Jesus commands Christians to do there, but I am talking about careers so let’s focus in there while keeping in mind that principle.

The Simple Statement

When it comes to careers and picking that “one thing” you’re going to do with your life then you need to keep this one simple thing in mind that will change what you do for a career or what you do in your career.

Here it is: Make life easier for others.

If you want to know what will help you know what you ought to do “with your life,” when it comes to choosing a career, it’s that. It’s making life easier for others. This is what all good business and business practices are about. Making life easier for others. Whether you’re selling goods or services.

Often when people think about what career they want to do, they usually pick something they like, entirely focused on what they want and what they desire. They sometimes think of job security, or what makes the most money, or what could get them the things they want. And you want to know why most Americans aren’t satisfied with their jobs?

Instead of looking at what you like, analyze what people have said you’re good at, and combine those things together with: “What is it that other people need that I can help them with?”

It’s not prideful to think you can help someone with something. It’s called knowing yourself and knowing others. Farmers aren’t prideful. We often think of them as down to earth and humble people. Yet they provide and help tons of people with one major problem: we need to eat.

Sum it all up

So if you want to figure out what you should “do with your life,” and don’t know what it is you should do, and you don’t want to be miserable, then there’s two thing you need to do: You need to give your life up to Jesus Christ and seek to know Him, and you then need to think about what things you can do that will benefit others.

If you aim to produce goods or create services that make the lives of others easier, or aim to work for a company that produces good or creates services that make the lives of others easier, then the possibilities are endless of what you can do, and also you’re never stuck on one career path. Because helping others no longer becomes about just what you can do, but how can you keep making others lives easier. So you may invent an app, and then create a service, and then start a business, and then freelance, and then move onto others things because you see a new need. You see a new way you can make the lives of others easier.

So don’t focus on a career but focus on a type of living. One that seeks to honor God in all things, because He knows what’s best for people, and one that works to make the lives of others easier.

Anybody can implement this. You can remove my religious talk and just listen to the practical things I wrote, but know that Jesus didn’t say lose your life for the sake of others but the sake of him. So you may be able to seek to make the lives of others easier, and many haters of God do, but you still haven’t truly found life.


On Fighting with my wife

Something I’ve been reflecting on is the arguments I get into with my wife. I wrote previously that sin is our problem. However, I also want to add something that must not be ignored.

Fighting with your spouse may be the very thing God uses to edify and change you into a better man or woman. As Christians, if we believe God uses all things together for our good, then that includes our fights with our spouses. That includes our disagreements.

What this means is that we need to look at our fights as information gathering. In a fight, there is much that is demonstrated. Our sin, where we disagree, what we each think and believe.

God will use our disagreements to help us mature. We must use them for that end. This is why I thank God for my fights with my wife. I don’t thank God for the sin in those fights, but that sin is revealed and disunity in particular areas is brought to light. As a husband, these fights reveal to me where I must think through if I am wrong or right regardless of how I feel. If we do disagree then I need to lead us through the necessary steps in either coming to an agreement or in choosing to walk together in a way that doesn’t undermine one-another.

Often in fights both parties need to seek forgiveness for their sins, but that’s not all. Both also need to listen and reflect, using these opportunities to grow and mature and see if there is truth to what is being portrayed, even if we don’t like how it’s being portrayed.


How Fear is Holding You Back

It grips you like nothing else can grip you, holding you down, pulling you back, restraining you. It shames you, telling you how you can’t do it, how you’re going to mess up.

Fear’s claws grips the heart. It prevents you from doing things that you should be doing. Fear is a feeling of something terrible may happen: in a situation, in a circumstance, with a friendship, with the government, with your job or your home.

1 John 4:18-19: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (ESV)

We often fear things because we don’t want to deal with them.  In 1 John, John in chapter four discusses the judgement of God and how we have confidence for that day, because our confidence is that we know God and He abides in us as Christians.

As 1 John 4:18 demonstrates, fear has to do with something that is going to happen to us. Punishment will happen in the future. Judgement from God is going to happen to all of us. If you’re consumed with the judgement of God then you are missing the love of God. If you fear His judgment, then you don’t know His love.

But what about all other circumstances in life? What about our other fears? I believe the principle still applies. Fear is being consumed with something that may happen and dreading it. We might fear speaking in front of people, probably because we fear what others think and believe that they may judge us (which they will). We might fear the market crashing and loosing our jobs, probably because it can happen and we don’t know how we’ll care for our families. We might fear war, or people breaking into our homes, or spiders, or messing up.

What fear comes down to is focusing on what may happen or can happen or will happen, and getting a sense of helplessness or hopelessness. Yet, as Christians, we should know about the judgement of God and also not fear it because the judgement has already happened for us on the Cross. Jesus Christ has taken our judgment. We know God’s love and we meditate and focus upon His love and His goodness and His acts.

Fear prevents us from doing things we should or ought to do because we don’t want to be in a situation or circumstance that we feel we can’t handle.

As Christians, we need to focus upon God’s love and what He has done and what He tells us to do, and this perfect love will cast out our fear.


Pomegranate Juice

My wife kinda dared me to write about pomegranate juice. Well, okay, it wasn’t a dare. It was more like, “here’s something that you can’t write about because it’s so random and silly.” So I accepted her challenge and raised her orange juice.

The most interesting thing is we have a pomegranate tree. I don’t know if you’ve ever opened up a pomegranate fruit, but pomegranate fruit is the weirdest kind of fruit. It looks like little pomegranate purple alien pods lodged into the sides of a yellowish-white mountain climbing on-top of one another. You soon quickly realize, looking at this fruit, that it would take hundreds of these fruits to make a few cups of pomegranate juice.

Perhaps hundreds of our pomegranate fruit. However, the extraction process of these little pods of fruit must be difficult. And difficult is a good thing. I don’t know why we shrink back from difficulty. Why do we want easy lives? Why do we want things easier?

Have you ever wondered why God would make a world that He knew that would fall and have to be redeemed, and freely made the world that way so that He could do all the work that He determined to do?

If we want to be more like God, perhaps we should be taking on a few more difficult things than we do. I certainly enjoy a good glass of pomegranate juice, and I’m glad that someone went through the trouble to do that for me.


When Motivation is Gone

If you’re like me then you find it easier to do things when you’re motivated to do them. It’s much easier to write when you’re motivated to write. It’s much easier to write a blog about something you’re passionate about. It’s much easier to do your work when you like your job and the people you work with are encouraging. It’s easier to train up your children in the admonition of the Lord when you’re motivated to do so.

The problem is, motivation is something that comes and goes, but life continues on. So how do we deal with this fact of life? How can we learn to do things even when we’re not motivated?

Maybe I can help answer these questions.

Face the Facts

The truth is that we do hundreds, if not, thousands of things every day that we’re not motivated to do. When we wake up, even if we’re not motivated, we all get up and get ourselves ready for whatever day we’re about to have. You aren’t motivated to turn the key in the ignition of your car. Maybe you’re not motivated to get dressed, or eat, or even go to work. Yet you do all of it. Daily.

If you’re like me, then, when you start doing something, you start forgetting how you feel and you focus more on what you’re doing. You see, the reason that we even think about motivation in the first place is because we’re not doing something. If you were doing something, you wouldn’t be thinking about how you felt.

We need to start thinking about how we feel, why we feel, and take our emotions and let them be information for us. Our feelings tell us where our hearts are at, and our hearts can be redirected. If you ever read through the Psalms, you will find that often the Psalmists feel one way and then command their hearts or souls to feel another way.

Can we do things without motivation?

I think we try to find a way out of doing things, and so we let our hearts direct us instead of directing our hearts. We’ll take any excuse we can get, and we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel of excuses when we “just don’t feel like” doing something.

This is why some people are procrastinators. They’d rather wait until the last minute when “motivation” suddenly comes rushing in. But what’s going on there? What’s happening when a student waits till the last minute to write his essay?

What’s going on is the student is letting circumstances motivate him instead of causing his own motivation. What’s going on is we’re letting circumstances control us instead of being mature and taking control of our time.

So how can we learn to do what needs to be done even if we’re not motivated? I think there’s only two options:

  1. Do it without motivation.
  2. Motivate ourselves and do it.

We either learn to motivate ourselves or we do it without motivation. And the way we learn to motivate ourselves is the way we get motivated usually: 1) Through our own thoughts or 2) By the words of others.

I know you’ve experienced it before where you started thinking about something and it motivated you. You’ve also experienced it where someone was talking and it motivated you. Motivation comes through words, calls to action, or someone speaking to you about what you should do and encouraging and telling you that you can do it.

Motivation is powerful and can help us in doing things. But we don’t need motivation to do things. However, we can learn to call and stir our hearts into motivation.

But why spend time getting motivated when you can just do what needs to be done?


Make it Clear

The most effective way to get things done is to know what you need to get done. The most effective way to do well is to know what it is you want to do well. The most effective way to change is to know what you want to change into. The best way to learn to do anything is to learn from the best.

The most effective, best, and sure fire way to be somebody in this world, is to know the God of this world and play your role in it, regardless of what that role is. God is the one we all ought to seek to obey and listen to. In the end He will judge us. Regardless of our social status in this life, God judges justly. His decrees are righteous, and His ways are pure.

For the Christian, this means that how accomplished we are in this life may mean next to nothing for God. Meaning: You can be rich, and have done little for God. You can poor, and have done much for God. You can be rich, and have done much for God. You can be poor, and have done little for God. Your economic situation does not define you, nor does it tell God how great you are.

We must remember that God made everything for Himself. Even if many people don’t like what God has wrought, God is the only wise. He is pleased and He needs no one’s approval. And He owns it all, and He gives it all to His children.

Christian, remember that even if you are spending countless hours with children, and are struggling to see the meaning, that God judges not on how many people you touch but how faithful you are in the role He has called you. Remember that God isn’t judging you for not having your own home, or for wanting your own home. What God is doing is beckoning you to remember His words, His precepts, His commandments, and His righteous wisdom.

Read His word. Know what He says about His children, what He says about you, and continuously seek to know how God acts so that you can imitate Him. Make these things clear in your mind. If you want to be more like Christ, you need to know what Christ is like. If you want to aim to do what God desires, then look in Ephesians at how God defines you.

We need to know what God says of us, of what we are, and we need to live according to what He defines us as.

Know this definition. Have a clear vision. Have clear insight. Pray that God will help you.


Why Religion isn’t just

Most people believe something that simply isn’t true. It’s a modern thing, springing from the soils of philosophical movements from a few hundred years ago. It permeates everything around us. Sadly, many Christians believe this dangerous idea.

That belief is this: Religion is only a personal and private matter.

Philosophy from which it grows

The philosophy that this thought stems from is the enlightenment. During the enlightenment, spanning from 1600’s-1800’s, was a move away from corporate, into the personal. It’s focus was proving all things through reasoning, the mind being the center of the philosophical reasoning.

There is much good to learn from this movement. But there is also much that we should wipe off from our shoes after trekking the waters of the enlightenment. Wipe off that belief that man is the judge of all things.

No such thing as neutral ground

As Christians, we must always ask ourselves, What does God say about religion being personal and private? A quick glance through the Bible will show you one thing: Your beliefs have consequences and faith in Christ means bowing to Him in all spheres of life. Which means you must bow to Christ and obey Him in your interactions with non-believers, the way you vote, why you vote, how you conduct yourself, how you handle money, how you speak, what you do for work, etc.

What faith in Jesus Christ does is cause you to live a completely different life. Your faith cannot be kept to yourself because your life must change in every possible way. The Father does not give the Holy Spirit only for Him to be ineffective in accomplishing His work. Meaning, when God changes someone, that person is changed and can never go back.

Abraham, when He heard God tell him to go, Abraham went. That affected every relationship he had. When Moses was told to go, Moses’ became a leader to many, and was ridiculed for trying to save the Israelite’s from Egypt.

The fact is that we all know beliefs are not an intellectual exercise. This is why in America people are up in arms against Christians. They know that Christians who believe the Bible must follow the Bible.

As Christians, our interactions with everyone will change. If our interactions are suppose to change, then our religion has ceased being “personal and private.”

If someone tells you that religion ought to be “private and personal,” they are saying this:  we don’t want your religious beliefs to be imposed upon us, but we are okay with our religious beliefs being imposed upon you. Someone saying this to you are in effect saying that they want you to believe something that they believe. Who’s religious beliefs are personal and private now? Definitely not theirs because they’re telling you to shut up and listen to their beliefs and obey their beliefs, and to keep yours to yourself. To which I usually respond, “hey man, that’s just your belief, so stop imposing your belief upon me.”

If they’re imposing their beliefs upon you then it should be fairly obvious: they don’t actually believe that religion is only a personal and private matter.

Conclusion

So, my Christian brethren, rise up. Don’t be afraid from speaking the truth. Don’t fear the schemes of the enemy. Don’t let the world impose their beliefs upon you. Don’t fall into the snare and trap of the devil. They want you to be quiet and hush up because they fear your beliefs.

And the world ought to fear the God who will one day judge them.