Tag Archives: Bible

Einstein is Fishy

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This quote is hanging in my office. I love the sentiment. The idea that each person learns differently and has unique potential is spot on in my opinion.

Most of the time, when you see this quote, it is attributed to Einstein. Probably FALSE. The most likely source for this quote is actually an unknown author who wrote in the late 1800’s under the pen name Aesop Jr.

“Finding quotes on the internet is only slightly easier than making them up.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Do you ever feel stupid? Do you feel smart? What is the litmus test for determining the education level of a person?

One of my favorite movies is “Goodwill Hunting”. In this movie, a juvenile delinquent, who reads profusely, solves what was known as the unsolvable equation. His education was self-taught. He had a job as a janitor, but he was more proficient than many of the full-time students. Why? Because he invested himself in personal education.

I know many people who think they are smart but are very ignorant. I know others who feel stupid but are actually brilliant. Some people are naturally gifted one way or another to have perspective on certain topics, but in others, they are deficient. I once knew a genius who graduated high school as a freshman but couldn’t find his next class in a one-hall school. Intelligence is subjective to the matter being discussed.

So, all that discussion on education…how do you feel about your intelligence regarding our response to God and His word, the Bible?

Many people are truly ignorant of the Bible, but it is because they have never read it. Some people think they are knowledgeable of the Bible because they know what they’ve been taught for years, but they, too, never read it; they already know what’s in there. Some people read the Bible profusely, scrutinizing every word, but they, too, are ignorant of the Bible’s purpose.

Jesus said to the religious leaders, “You diligently search the scriptures because you think that in them you will find eternal life, but those very scriptures talk about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have eternal life.”

It is possible to do this today. It is not uncommon for people to get so caught up in how we are to do church and what doctrines are false or correct that we miss having a real relationship with Jesus. We spend time in the Bible to be able to answer questions and make arguments, not to fall in love with the author. We pray to ask God for stuff and intervention instead of just wanting to be in His presence. We fast to seek God’s….oh, wait. No, we don’t fast anymore.

We all want to feel smart about God and the Bible, but if we don’t know the author, then the intelligence we gain through reading words on a page is useless. Knowledge puffs up, and many people in the church are balloons. No wonder they pop at the slightest things that don’t fit their pre-conceived theology. When our foundation is merely knowledge, then things that challenge that knowledge challenge us. When relationship is our foundation, then there is little that can shake us from that foundation (Romans 8:35).

Let us all focus on growing in our love for Jesus and our knowledge of His love for us. May we see the scriptures as a map showing us God’s love and confirming our relationship with Him. And may we find security in this relationship that cannot be shaken when someone comes with a different argument that has no bearing on our relationship with the Father.

Advertisements

Watch the Pendulum

Have you ever watched the pendulum on a grandfather clock? Maybe you’ve watched a plumb bob swing, or you created some other oscillating device. Back and forth it goes, swinging each time a little less unless there is a mechanism aiding the pendulum. There’s actually a great video on YouTube where a professor shows his class the nature of gravity when acting upon a pendulum. You can find that video here.

Often times the practices of society work like a pendulum. For a while, society behaves a certain way, then there is a moment of reaction and society shifts to behave in an opposite way.

Before the 1960s, the world was functioning in what is termed as the “modern” mindset, where the scientific method was king, and wars were fought, and society thought happiness could be achieved through rational thinking. Then, the 1960s happened. There was a general revelation that technology and science and logic could not create happiness and fulfillment in society, so a shift occurred. The western world moved into a frame of mind referred to as “postmodern”. It was, basically, a reaction to all things modern. In postmodernism, truths became relative, and one’s perspective determined one’s truth. Also in postmodernism, a person needed the spiritual/mystical to balance the physical, because it became evident that the physical realm is not all there is to this universe, and things in the metaphysical realm influence our reality.

For many people who had grown up modern, this postmodern shift was difficult to swallow. However, all they needed to do was wait. Now we are in yet another shift of culture, and the definition of this new shift is still being examined and explored. We are now in a post-postmodern culture. Not modern. Not postmodern. Somewhere else – likely a combination of both.

In the church, these culture swings happen regularly as well.

For a long time, the church functioned without the scriptures available to all, and she focused on living rightly and devotion to the Lord. Then, when the Bible became accessible to the masses, she swung to focus on knowledge and devotion to the Bible, even though she said the knowledge was to influence actions. Now there is a swing back to try to be more social even as we remain somewhat biblically literate.

There has also been a shift in church culture regarding attending weekly services. For a long time, it was thought that missing church on any given Sunday (unless you were ill) was tantamount to walking away from the faith. Not only did you attend every Sunday to maintain good standing in the faith, but you dressed the part to show your devotion (giving the best) to God.

As culture outside the church has shifted, understandings within the church has shifted, and the attitude toward church attendance has dramatically changed. I remember, when I was younger, how people would make the argument that one would not need church attendance to get to heaven. Even as a teen, I remember attempting to show them the holes in their arguments, using verses like Hebrews 10:25.

The pendulum has swung, and nowadays families treat church attendance as if it is significantly optional. If one person has the sniffles, the whole family stays home. If chores need to be done, attendance with the saints at the assembly is put on hold for more practical endeavors. It is quite the swing of the pendulum how the church perceives attendance at the assembly today.

One of the main problems with this new attitude is the generational consequences being seen. With a 20% retention rate of our young people within our churches, we are already seeing the results of raising kids with this church-optional attitude. When you do not show your kids the importance of the assembly, they will be less devoted than even you are.

Another result of this pendulum swing is being seen in our churches at large. Because attendance is down, volunteers are scarce, and money for ministries wanes. The church is stronger together (Ecclesiastes 4:12). She really does suffer when you are not dedicated to her.

Probably the greatest result of this pendulum swing, however, is seen in the people themselves. Because of a disconnection with the life of the church, the lifestyles of the church looks more like the world than ever. When we do not have continual encouragement and accountability and reminders – when we disconnect from the body – we die spiritually. This is a biblical fact (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

Do not sit back and watch the church suffer because the pendulum has swung. You have direct influence on the pendulum. We do not have to be so legalistic about the church as she was for a long time, but in our reaction to legalism, let us not throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak. May we all renew our devotion, not only to the Lord, but to His church and her work in Him.


Most Owned, Least Read

Annually, bibles sales account for over $1,000,000,000.00. Yet also annually, only about 20% of the population say they read their bible regularly. The Bible is the most widely owned, least read book in history.

Why is this?

Every week, church people gather to worship and hear a message from the Bible. The more devout followers also attend bible class and/or small groups one to three other times during the week. Yet, for even these, the Bible isn’t read until they are in those study settings.

Again, I ask, why?

The Bible is an intimidating book. 66 books written over two-thousand years ago at the latest, and some of them nearly 3500 years ago. Yet for 35 different authors over the course of nearly 1500 years to write a book that contains a single thread bringing hope to generations is a miracle!

The Bible contains many teachings that are hard to understand. Does anyone really know for certain what Revelation is about, in detail? There are so many religions claiming the Bible as their book, yet they differ dramatically in their practices. How can a simple person understand it? Why even try? Isn’t it easier to trust that what my preacher/teacher says is reliable?

That’s awfully trusting of you!

For years I have wondered what it would be like to preach a sermon from the pulpit and completely make up all the scripture references and tell a message that gets close to but doesn’t match up with what is really in the Bible. I’d have the fake verses on the screen. No one opens their bibles during that time anyway. How many people would even notice I’d be lying? You wouldn’t notice, unless you already knew the book.

Preachers and teachers, even the most sincere ones, are fallible humans, just like you. They make mistakes, just like you. They have limited understanding, just like you. And they can’t read minds, just like you, so they do not know how a particular passage of scripture directly applies to you, personally.

Instead of waiting for the preachers to preach and teachers to teach, what if we read the Bible for ourselves? Then, when we engaged the preachers and teachers, what if we had questions about what we were already studying? What if our study led us to feel more confident in sharing God’s truths with others? What if studying the Bible daily created transformation inside us that others could see? What if we found greater contentment and joy through the perspective given us through the scriptures daily?

If we didn’t look to the Bible for guidance and a moral foundation in our lives, then how would we be different than the atheist who claims no moral truths? We could make up whatever we felt was right, and many religious people do just that.

No! We need the Bible to show us the path God intends us to walk. We need the Bible to help us connect with the God who loves us and gave Himself for us. We need the Bible to combat the temptations of the evil one. We need the Bible.

But we cant get to the truths of the Bible through osmosis. The words of scripture won’t dissolve through the cover and enter our bloodstream to fill our minds with goodness. We have to open the covers and read for ourselves, or listen (there are many, free audio versions of the Bible even for your phone).

Do you know what’s in there? Do you REALLY know? It’s time to start your journey into the text today. Most translations are written on a 6th grade reading level. If you find something you don’t understand, then connect with a spiritually mature person who can help you. Be transformed by the word so that you can be used to transform the world.


The Five Keys

The other day, I was blessed to attend an AA meeting in a local church building. This was a requirement for a class I’m currently taking on addictions counseling.

While I was there, the people went around the room and talked about what they were grateful for regarding their AA affiliation. Many people expressed gratitude for the group and sobriety, but one story of gratitude stood out to me, and after this person spoke, many repeated the same sentiment.

This person spoke up about their 28 year anniversary of sobriety. In this celebration, credit was given to AA for giving the right path to success in recovery, but there were five things, five keys, that allowed this person to find the ability to be clean and sober. The five keys are as follows:

1. Attend the Meetings

2. Get a sponsor

3. Read the Big Book

4. Work the steps

5. Tell others about the program

It struck me that these keys hold true for anyone wanting a life change, and especially Christians looking to find maturity in Christ – a life of discipleship. What would it look like if we participated in these keys as Christians?

1. Attend the meetings

“Do not give up meeting with the brothers and sisters as some are in the habit of doing. (Hebrews 10:25)” As you seek the goodness of God, have you been faithful in attending services centered on worship and fellowship with others in the body of Christ, the family of God? Without gathering with the family of God, it is easy for Satan to take us back into our addiction to sin and godlessness. With the family, we can hold strong and find encouragement and renewal.

2. Get a sponsor

It has been proven that people do not continue to gather with Christians in a church setting if they do not have any significant relationships with non-family members within that gathering. Do you have friends within the church who are not family members? You can’t wait for someone else to initiate this. You need to befriend others. This relationship is meant to enhance your ability to walk the path to life. A good friend holds you accountable and encourages you to do right. A good friend reaches out to you when you’re sick or absent. A good friend does life with you. It’s kind of like having a sponsor in a 12 step program.

3. Read the Big Book

Have you read the Bible? Cover to cover? Many people have been in churches for a large portion of their lives, but they are largely ignorant of what the Bible actually says. Some people know enough scripture to make the arguments for traditional doctrine pertaining to their denomination of choice, but they don’t know the larger context of the Bible. The Big Book of AA explains the reasoning behind the 12 steps and encourages people why they should follow this way. The Bible does the same thing for us as we seek to understand why and how to live according to the will of God. In today’s technological age, there should be no excuse for you to be ignorant of the scriptures. If you don’t read well, listen to the Bible. You can find free apps that not only give you the text but will read it to you. If you don’t have a bible app, I recommend YouVersion. You can even get this app for your computer. It’s free and was created by the church in OKC, lifechurch.tv.

4. Work the steps

AA and many other therapy groups have twelve steps they use to find and maintain the ability to overcome an addiction or some other sinful behavior. The Bible gives guidelines for how we can find and maintain the ability to live lives that reflect Jesus – lives of discipleship. If you need it simplified into twelve steps, much of what the original AA twelve steps encourage its adherents to do is applicable to all Christians to find a healthier, more mature life. Celebrate Recovery also has 12 steps that are more Jesus-focused that can help a person overcome any kind of hurt, habit or hang-up (we all have these). This life change is supposed to be part of life in Christ’s Kingdom.

5. Tell others about the program

Has your life been changed because of your relationship with God and His church? If so, just as an AA member tells others about how to find sobriety through the AA program, we should tell others about the message of hope through Jesus. This is actually the first command of discipleship. A disciple makes disciples.

Are you participating in these keys to more maturity in your Christian walk? Do you want to consistently walk the path of righteousness to which we are called throughout the scriptures? When we all participate in these keys, we will grow spiritually, and the church will grow numerically, and the world will be changed, one person at a time, one day at a time.


Dinosaurs and Epilepsy

When I was a child, the world looked so much differently than it does now that I am older. My education and experience grant me a perspective that a child cannot fathom. As a child, this perspective of the unknown, which was way bigger than the known, created a dependence on our parents, who knew much more about the world than we did.

When we became teenagers, we began to stretch our wings and try things with an attitude of invincibility, figuring that we knew enough of the world to get by. This attitude of independence led many of us into trouble and poor decisions that we still deal with the consequences of to this day. Once we survived through a few years of this ignorant independence, we began to realize that our parents knew so much more than we did, and we turned back to them for advice and perspective. This was a healthy turn in many of our lives.

When we read the Bible, we get a glimpse into a culture that is far removed from our own. So much of what we understand due to the maturing of the world and cultures was not know when the Bible was experienced and then explained in writing. The Bible speaks of dragons and monsters, but they didn’t have the word, dinosaur, to describe these large beasts, nor did they have the scientific understanding of their natures that we do. The word, dinosaur, wasn’t coined until the mid-1800s.

They also didn’t know how to explain certain ailments. When a person fell to the ground in convulsions beyond their control, they said the person had a demon or an unclean spirit. Jesus healed a few such issues when he walked around Palestine. However, today we know this ailment as epilepsy. Our scientific understanding allows us a perspective that is greater than that of the ancient near-east.

[I am not denying the supernatural events that happened in scriptures. Jesus raised the dead. Samuel was summoned from beyond the grave. The epileptic was completely cured without medicine, so were the lame and the blind. Yet, there is still an understanding today that differs from that of the Bible-times.]

It is amazing to consider how humanity has grown in their understanding of the world around them and how it works. Science is a blessing, and through science we have made tremendous advancements in technology, medicine, and psychology. Some of the science we understand today, like water cycles, underwater springs in the ocean, and the solar system, were hinted about in the Bible long before they were discovered. Science and the Bible are meant to accompany one another – not oppose one another.

There is one thing that science has caused, however, that is not healthy. When the world was immature, like a child, the people looked to God (or other deities) for help with the unexplainable. There was a general faith among people that brought peace and help in time of need. There was a trust that God would help in the ways needed. And He did.

Through science, much of the world has come to the conclusion that the unexplained is explainable, therefore we do not need God. In our daily lives we rely on ourselves and our understanding to make it through the day without much thought of our relationship with the Creator of the universe. Even Christians, who pledge their devotion to God through Jesus, live daily more like atheists than Christians as they exercise their independence from the Creator.

This is not to say we should go back to the ignorance of the dark ages and before. We live in a grand age of understanding.

Yet, we must not be so arrogant in our education that we assume independence from the One whose foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.

In your daily life, how often do you pray? How much do you know of God through the Bible? How many times per day (or year) do you make a decision based on faith rather than an educated guess? How much trust do you put in the promises in the Bible and the personality of Jehovah?

Our knowledge of the world has puffed up humanity to the place of humanistic atheism. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had just such an attitude, and he had to be humbled by God. The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) May we enjoy and grow through science, but may we not be so puffed up by our knowledge of science and the workings of this world that we forget there is so much more we don’t understand that can only be explained and controlled by God. And may we not forget that God wants to work in our lives, for our good, everyday (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 13:5-6) – He’s that personal.


Alternative Facts


We are coming to the end of an era in our generations called the “postmodern age”. This is a cultural response to the modern era which sought to solve the world’s problems through science and reasoning. During the modern era, great advancements were made in technology and medicine that will forever change the world, but the postmoderns saw that the philosophy of the physical sciences could not entirely solve problems like war, poverty, and even interpersonal relationships.

So the mindset shifted in a bit of a reaction to the ideals of the modern era to what we now call the postmodern era. In this reaction, truth became questionable and relative. No longer were there any absolutes. Now, all truth is relative and dependent on each individual’s perspective which is shaped by their cultural influences.

Does this frustrate you? To an extent it should.

Because of the shift of postmodern thinking we now have phrases like the one commonly being used by new sources all over: alternative facts.

Instead of calling something a half-truth or a whole lie, because of political correctness we now refer to misleading someone by using only the convenient facts as using “alternative facts”. Your truth is valid, and so is mine, and don’t you dare judge my truth with yours.

This is maddening in the political realm. It is exhausting in the spectrum of news sources available today. It is exactly what we teach our children not to do.

Maybe you were taught as I was: a half-truth is a whole lie.

Contrary to current thinking, there is truth that is not relative. Jesus is truth. The gospel is truth.  The consequences of sin is truth. The love of God is truth.

Even in society there still exists truth that is not relative. One needs merely to look for it.

In order to find truth in any circumstance, you must consider all sides of a situation – you must consider the context.

What we don’t want to admit is that the church has been functioning with partial truths for nearly the entirety of its existence. Even the concept of denominationalism is founded on the idea that you can read the bible through one lense and me another, and we can come to differing conclusions on the same topic.   When I focus on one set of scriptures concerning a topic, and you focus on another set concerning the same topic, we may disagree.

Our goal, then, as followers of Jesus, should not be to read the bible with a preconceived lense, rather we should read the entirety of scripture in context in order to derive our conclusions from the text instead of inserting them into it. When we insert our ideas and refuse to look at passages that don’t jive with our desired conclusion, we invite division and discord into the church.

I pray that the church doesn’t imitate our current culture in claiming “alternative facts”. I pray we are humble enough to accept correction where we have been ignorant. I pray that the church can lead the way in standing for truth as it is written in the Word of God. I pray that our desire for contextual understanding brings grace and unity rather an excuse to further divide.

What’s the upcoming generation going to be called? I don’t know – maybe the post-postmodern era. In any case, I pray it is a returning to truth that is NOT relative while maintaining spiritual fervor.


Cussing Christians

tape-on-mouth

I grew up in the Bible Belt – in the Deep South. In that area, religion pervades every area of life. Even though most people are only marginally Christians, the Christian ideals influence the moral compass of that society.

In the South, there are ways a person is supposed to behave and ways they aren’t. In the South, you’re supposed to treat women right and work hard to provide for your family. In the South, what church you belong to can function as a status symbol that can help you out in social and business circles. In the South, your language matters.

Growing up in the South and in the church, I was taught often about what I am not allowed to say. I remember being told that “crap” was a bad word when I was a child. By the time I reached my teenage years, “crap” was being used by adults at church. I remember being shocked the first time I heard it used by an adult I thought was spiritually elite.

I had learned about the “B” word, “D” word, “S” word, “A” word and “F” word. I knew these words weren’t to be used in social settings, and if I stubbed my toe and said one of these, I needed to repent because saying such was a sin.

I have seen how media has increasingly incorporated each of these words into mainstream media. On TV you can hear most of these in regular programming. If you watch original programming on Netflix, you may encounter all of these words.

So, the question poses itself: are these words really bad?

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

James 3:8-10 (ESV)
…but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

See? The bible talks about curse words!

Really?

If you look at the context of scriptures that talk about our language use, time after time you will see that our language is to be used to build others up. If we are tearing people down with our words, then we are sinning against others.

You can use “four letter words” to tear people down. People do it all the time – cussing someone out. But you can also tear people down with socially acceptable words that can even inflict worse damage.

Calling some “good for nothing” or “worthless” is no better nor more acceptable to God than using profanity against them. To call someone stupid or fat does the same or maybe worse than any four letter word. When we ridicule and cut and deride and slander and gossip, we are sinning against those whom the Lord created in His image to be His children.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words cut to the heart.

The scriptures, when talking about “unwholesome talk” isn’t addressing the times when you stub your toe and say a colorful euphemism. The scriptures are addressing the way you speak to others around you. Are you building them up or tearing them down?

Words are like money and guns. They are not inherently evil by themselves. Their worth is determined by how we use them.

So, is it ok to flippantly use words our culture considers “profanity”? The context of your conversation matters tremendously. When speaking about eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul refers to the context of the meal to convince Christians that their actions may inadvertently cause others to go against their consciences.

To cause someone to go against their conscience (even unintentionally) is to sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 9). So we must be always on guard with our language.

So, can Christians cuss? The scriptures don’t really address much of what goes for cussing today. What the scriptures speak to directly is our treatment of others with our words. Build others up. Don’t tear them down – no matter what words you use.


%d bloggers like this: