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.


You need to waste your life on this

The book Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper was one I thoroughly enjoyed and was convicted by. I read it a few years ago and it fanned the already burning flame that God had kindled. But John Piper had something wrong in the book.

Why You need to waste your life

What’s the meaning or purpose to life? Why are we here? These are questions that John Piper answers in the book. And he argues why the answer to these questions that he gives means that you need to stop wasting your life on other things than the ultimate meaning and ultimate purpose to life.

To summarize John Piper’s answer to the question “what’s the purpose of life,” one I agree with I must add, is that we are made to Glorify God and enjoy him forever. Which isn’t an answer that Piper came up with, it has some history. But we’re going to skip that for now.

Piper famously likes to change the sentence to: Glorify God by enjoying him forever. I could go on about the tremendous things realizing this did for me. However, I’m writing because I want to tell you why you need to waste your life, and what you need to waste your life on.

Piper didn’t get it wrong, but I would like to do the same thing he did, which is take his sentence and change it, or tweak it.

Instead of “Don’t Waste Your Life,” I would like to advocate for “Waste All of Your Life.” It might be merely semantic, but I think we as Christians need to waste more life on Glorifying God by enjoying him. This is something we need to waste our hours, minutes, and time doing.

Instead of playing on some app, we should spend those minutes in the Bible. Instead of watching some tv, we should spend that time praying and reading books that seek to glorify God. Instead of waiting in line and surfing facebook, instagram, twitter and the like, we ought to be memorizing scripture.

All our minutes are going to be wasted on something. And we often waste tons of minutes a day. The question is, how are you wasting them? If you’re just letting your minutes waste themselves then you’re probably letting your money spend itself as well. Which is why you probably don’t know where it all goes at the end of the day.

Conclusion

Waste your life. Waste it all. But waste it all on knowing God and enjoying God. Waste your time in the Bible.

I may be accused of legalism, but that’s okay. I enjoy reading God’s word more than I enjoy Facebook. If that makes me a legalistic, then I’ll gladly carry that title.

You are choosing to spend your minutes how you want to. And sure, that TV show may be a good waste of your time, but I know a better waste of your time.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” -John Piper


Taking responsibility or control?

As I have been mulling over in my head the ideas of taking action and not being passive in our lives, I’ve considered that perhaps I’m being a little too vigorous. Is taking action in every area of our lives really what God desires us to do? If we take action in every area could this be really us just trying to be in control of our lives?

As a Reformed Christian I believe that God in divinely in control of everything that happens. Meaning that all the evil going on in the world is to some degree within the plan of God and He allows it all to happen. If our God is powerful then he can stop any evil act he so desires. And he doesn’t for reasons the Bible tells us and reasons we cannot know.

If God is in control of everything, then he is already in control of my life. However, the Bible encourages us to live in these days of evil wisely (Ephesians 4). We must take action, and be men, Paul tells the Corinthians in chapter 16. We are told to encourage one another daily, as the writer of the Hebrews says.

This means that God uses means to control everything. One way God controls his people is through commands, encouragement, admonition, and instruction. God desires his people to take control of their lives. Really, to take control means to live as good stewards of our lives. If our lives are a gift, and being of the faith is a divine act of God, then we cannot squander any area of our lives.

I don’t see taking action in every area of our lives as trying to control our lives, so long as we are living according to the word of God and the Spirit of God (who points us to the word of God). Sometimes we read the parable of the talents, and think about how we can multiply our businesses, or work more for the Lord with our “talents”. Seldom do we think ask, what are the “talents” God has given me?

I believe the talents are not simply the wealth we may have, nor the “gifting” God has given us for others. The talents are every area of our lives. Its our physical health. Its our wealth. Its our relationships. Its our love for God. Its our work and our social lives.

God has given all of thus these talents. We must ask ourselves, how do we multiply our friendships? How do we multiply in our work? How do we multiply in our health? I don’t mean multiply as in having more friends, but multiply as in adding to and making better.

When God told Adam to work the garden, and gave him a helpmate, Adam had to multiply and have dominion. He had to do husbandry with the plants and animals, as well as lead and love his wife. We must do the same as Christian men, and Christian women, according to our God given roles respectively.

We live in a time where we can know more, and have more, and do more than ever before. How are you handling your time? Yes, a thousand years ago they didn’t have as much and couldn’t do as much, but that doesn’t mean we can take more time for ourselves. If anything, God has given us a responsibility to take the 100 talents we have been given and multiply them more. The reason we have 100 talents, when 200 years ago they only had 50, was because with their 50 they multiplied it and it has been handed to us.

With great power truly comes great responsibility. We are often in the problems we are in because of our laziness, our unwillingness to take responsibility for the things that are truly our responsibility. Even if we live in a fallen world, that doesn’t give us an excuse to not care for our bodies to use them and wear them out for the glory of God. Even if we live among sinful men and women, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to our children and their children and their children’s children.

As Christians, we must think hard, assess what God has given us, and what we can do in those areas of life that we have ability to affect.

I’ll use an example and be done:

If you don’t care about your health, when God has given you a time in which you can be healthier and more fit than any other time, then you are putting that responsibility upon someone else. When you hit 80 years old, your health may (or will definitely) fail, and if you haven’t prepared financially for that, that responsibility falls upon someone else. And as Christians this ought not be so. We ought to so think as to love our children now and in the future.

Sometimes, that does mean letting one area of talent fail because you can grow others better. But let it be a conscious, well informed, well prayed through decision, and not one that just happens and you have no plans for.

And ultimately, God will do as he pleases, so know that God will direct his people’s steps as they plan their ways.


Stop doing this

If you are anything like me then you have often wanted to “experience more of God.” I use to desire this all the time. Now I don’t. Why? Because I don’t even know what that means, “experience more of God.” What was experiencing God like for David? Solomon? Elijah? Abraham? Isaac?

If we want to “experience more of God” or “experience more of His presence,” then we need to obey more of His commands. One of which will really get you to “experience” more of Him. Which is: meditating upon His word.

Have you ever thought about wanting to experience more of the beach? Do you simply ask to have more of an experience at the beach? Or do you go to the beach “experience” it?

In our desire to know God more then praying to experience God isn’t going to help us to know Him. Meditating upon His word will. I simply don’t like the term “experiencing God” or “desiring more of His presence,” because both I believe have fault assumption within them.

Experiencing God sounds too much like experiencing life. It’s vague, squishy, and it doesn’t mean much. We experience life 24/7, even when we “don’t feel anything” we are technically feeling and experiencing life. Desiring more of God’s presence is also too vague and not rooted in the Bible enough. Most of God’s people didn’t have supernatural experiences. Most of them lived life, obeyed God, and that was supernatural enough. Plus, God’s “presence” is everywhere and nowhere all at once. God is beyond location, and so he can be found everywhere and nowhere. He has no substance but all substance subsists in him. Thus, his presence can be both wrath, fire, brimstone, and love, joy, and peace.

Conclusion

I think it’s about time we try to be more precise in our language. That’s why I don’t pray to “experience God” more, but rather that I would know Him more and understand His love for me as Paul prayed in Ephesians 3. I don’t pray for “more of God’s presence” because He dwells in me. Instead, I pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and then I live out God’s commands, seeking to love my fellow brother in Christ.

I won’t get upset at anyone if they want to say that they want to experience God or feel more of His presence. Often they just want to feel more joy and be less caught up in themselves, so I pray for that for them.

But I pray that we all will use our language more precisely.


This is Ungodly

It may be just me, but there’s something I’ve been noticing in our culture. It’s something that has seeped into Christian culture as well. It binds us and holds us back, preventing us from being and doing as God has told us to be.

Passivity.

It’s there when we say we’re “waiting upon the Lord.” It’s there when we wait until the last minute to do what we need to do. It’s there in our fears or doubts or worries about doing something. It’s there in our decision making, and it’s there in our idol worship.

Lewis once wrote that we are far too easily pleased and would often rather play in the muddy slums than take the invitation to a cruise out to sea. Why is that? Because we’re passive and don’t want to work for joy but rather sit where we are.

I’ve thought about how in the past I use to idolize marriage. I use to think it was because I though about marriage too much. Now I realize why I thought about marriage too much: because I didn’t take any steps towards it. I turned marriage into an idol and prayed for marriage so much, being stuck seeking whether “God wanted” me to be married or not. What I should have done was take steps towards marriage. I would have not thought about it as much because I was moving towards it. And what I mean by moving towards is preparing myself for it. Which may have meant asking people for their thoughts if I am ready or not. Asking people what I may need to work on. Saving up for a home and to have children.

Instead, it was far easier for me to be passive, waiting “upon God” to “do something” to “show me” what “He wanted.” This was really just laziness. God usually doesn’t tell people if they’re going to be married or not, and really He desires us to take action. For women that may mean preparing yourself and saving up as well. For men, it may mean actually manning up while looking for her.

Anyways, this post isn’t about marriage. This post is about our passivity. We don’t want to move because it’s far easier to sit where we are. However, if God has given us the Holy Spirit, and He commands us to move, then we must move. There is no time for passivity in the Christian life. We don’t wait for circumstances to change. Surely we make sure that we are living according to God’s word, and if we are, then we ought not fear moving forward.

As I read the Bible, I don’t see really any character who is passive. Most of the Godly men and women take action and are called to action. Submission itself isn’t an act of passivity either. I think of one of David’s wives, Abigail, who submitted fully to her husband, and yet took such action as to spare her husband who still ended up dying.

Jesus himself, though submitting himself to the cross, was not passive. This was what he came to do. Thus, it was a life of action that brought him to that point.

There are areas in your life that you are suppose to have dominion over. Why are you being passive? God wants us to handle our finances well, why then are you letting your money fly wherever it wishes? You are suppose to handle your family well, why then are you letting your children be disobedient to you and the Lord?

As Christians, we are called to live according to God’s word. Why then are we letting America be taken over by the wicked? Why are we being silent?

Because we are passive. We would rather wait for “God” to do something, rather than realize that God has always used instruments to bring about change in the world. Are you willing to be an instrument? Or are you going to be passive, burying your talent in the sand?


Why I Don’t Read

There’s a reason why I don’t read the Message Bible. It’s a popular bible, but it’s not a translation. It’s a form of commentary. Meaning, it’s someone’s thoughts on the what the word of God says.

Now, commentaries can be a good thing. They can help us see things we may not have otherwise seen. They can help us understand things that we may not have known we needed to understand. They can expand and open up scripture to us. But commentaries can also be misleading, misdirecting, and avoid parts of the passage or even purposely skip over the main point of a passage to explain certain other things.

Which means, I wouldn’t read the Message Bible as a Bible but as a commentary. Though the author of the Message aimed to make the Bible more “relevant” for it’s readers, it did something entirely different: It made the Bible more distant for it’s readers.

How so? Easy. By changing the words and language of the Bible, this action, this method, conveys that the Bible is hard to understand and cannot be understood by the average person. This is simply false. I am your average reader, and I know plenty who are your average person who works on farms, and they understand the Bible just fine. It seems those who don’t understand the Bible are the ones who have tons of false beliefs to begin with and just can’t make sense of some of the things the Bible teaches because they don’t want to understand.

So, if and when I read the Message, I use it just to see his thoughts. Honestly though, I barely use it because I prefer Godly men who have wrestled with God and the meaning of passages to see what insight they have found in their wrestling with the king of the universe.

I don’t recommend reading the Message as though these are the words of God. I prefer to use a few translations, like NASB, ESV, RSV, and Young’s.


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.


“You really don’t have a right if you don’t exercise it”

Said my mom.

This is going into the pile of “things I need to think more about.” But there’s something about this statement that rings true. Being the novice politician, political analyst, government strategist, law abiding citizen that I am, I need to do more thinking.


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.


You Shouldn’t lead by example

I find that the cliche “lead by example” is one that probably needs to die, soon. It needs to be killed, retired, and forgotten. It needs to be buried beneath the deepest floor in the deepest part of the ocean.

You may be wondering why. It’s because I don’t know what it means.

Over the course of time, old phrases get used so much they become meaningless. The phrase might be used in a way it was never meant to be used and so it begins to fall flat. Flat like old soda. It has no fizz, no punch, no kick, no life. And I believe “lead by example” is one of those phrases.

I once used the phrase to tell someone that all they could do about a certain person in the situation they were put in is lead by example. What did that mean in that situation? What does that even mean?

If someone is going out destroying their body, you don’t “lead by example” by not destroying your body. They could care less what you’re doing. What you need to do is stop them from destroying themselves. You don’t lead by hoping someone will follow, you lead by action.

When I look through the Bible, I don’t find leaders who merely did things that were good examples. The reason why they’re good examples is because they did what needed to be done in the situation they were in. David didn’t merely lead by example. He didn’t just sit there and tell himself “I’m not going to kill Saul, and hopefully my men will follow my example.” No, David decided not to kill the Lords anointed, and he stopped his men from doing the same. He not only lived out his beliefs, he made sure those around him also lived it out.

Jesus didn’t just respect the temple and hope the people would see his example and respect it as well. No, Jesus made a whip and made them respect God’s house. He threw out the wickedness. He forced his beliefs upon people.

Of course this can be taken too far, and obviously I’m not saying that Christians need to go around forcing people to do what they want them to do. We have differences in thought about the way we ought to worship, when, how, and the way we should organize church. We shouldn’t force others to do what we believe they should do.

However, when it comes to “leading by example,” we have to stop pretending that being silent is going to get people to follow our example. We have to stop pretending that just seeing our good example will make people follow. If you don’t want people to follow your example, then don’t do what you’re doing. And if you don’t want to lead people in doing your example, then don’t think you’re leading by example. You’re being an example, but you’re not leading.

Joshua and Caleb were great examples. But neither of them lead the people of Israel for another 40 years.

Don’t abuse the word lead by thinking it means just doing good. Be an example by doing good. And sure, maybe you’re the first to do the good that ought to be done. But that’s still not leading, that’s just being the first. Sometimes it’s the third or fourth person who starts doing that good who becomes “lead.”

A better reason for doing good, for continuing to do good, is not because someone may follow or notice or it may change someone. A better reason is because Jesus told you to do so, and it is better to follow Christ than to lead people.