Tag Archives: Bible

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.

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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.


James vs. Paul: A contradiction?

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about faith in my sermons on Sunday mornings. We have seen that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). We have defined faith as follows:

Believing in something so much that you ACT on that belief without hesitation.

Faith isn’t merely saying you believe in something but living like you believe in that something.

As we talk about faith there are many who want us to talk about James 2. Many people have an opinion one way or the other about this passage. Many in the churches of Christ love this passage and use it to talk about the things we do as Christians. Some people dismiss this chapter because they believe in the “faith alone” passages of Romans and Galatians. Which is it? Are we saved by faith alone or do works come into play?

Paul says this:
Romans 4:1-5
​”What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

He also says this:
Galatians 2:15-16
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

So it seems that we are saved by faith alone. This is true, but you must understand the type of works that Paul is talking about in these passages. He is not talking about the works done as a result of faith. He is talking about the works people do in order to fulfill the law – as in the Old Testament Levitical Law System.

People believed that if they followed the rules of the Old Testament to the letter they would be found righteous. The problem with this is if you break one of the laws even once you have been found unrighteous, and there is no undoing that stained record. A person cannot justify themselves by following law.

But James says this:
James 2:14-17
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

So which is it? Do you need works for Salvation? James thinks so, but he is talking about a different kind of works entirely. He is not talking about following a religion legalistically. He is talking about a life that shows its faith by what it does.

The kind of deeds James is referring to have to do with faith. Faith without action is mere words. It’s not faith at all. If we are going to claim to have faith then there needs to be evidence of it by the lifestyle we show daily. Your lifestyle, the deeds you do daily, shows whether or not you have faith.

James and Paul are not in contradiction with each other. They both believe that faith shows itself in what we do (Galatians 5:6).

So, you are not saved by proving yourself worthy. You are saved by a faith in God that expresses itself daily in a lifestyle of love for God and others and trust in the Creator to sustain and fulfill you.

So are you saved by faith? Yes! But faith cannot be defined without action. May your life reflect that saving faith, and may others see that faith in you.


Hunters Who Never Hunt

IMG_4681It’s hunting season across the nation. Each morning thousands of people wake up before dawn and get into their vehicles or walk out to their desired location and listen and watch as the sun rises. This process usually begins with a gathering of tools and weapons needed for the hunt. If the hunt is for the day or for a week much preparation is needed before the day of the hunt.

Many hunters spend hours and hours hunting, not for game, but for areas where the game are. They do research and read books and peruse articles that may give them an edge on the hunt that they have chosen. They spend countless dollars on gadgets and gizmos they see as needed to reach their prize. They look at maps and drive miles upon miles to get to their hunting grounds.

Then there’s the hunt. The hunter is properly camouflaged and adequately still and quiet. They pick a place where they can find cover but still see well enough to find their quarry. Then they wait. They may make game calls with their gadgets if they deem necessary, but more important than gadgets is that they are in the right place at the right time, so they wait.

Hours and hours have gone into this one morning. The sun is rising. The air is calm and crisp. Anticipation and adrenaline runs high.

There’s the prize.

Now the harvest.

God be praised for the bounty of his creation.

What if they never went out?

What if week after week they talked about hunting. They paid for subscriptions to the best hunting magazines and read them cover to cover. They bought all the gadgets and gizmos and practiced them to perfection in the comfort of their homes (or the car if their wife deems necessary). They have the right gear and weapons.

What if they even got together at the local shop to talk about their latest gadget. They showed off their best camo. They talked about their favorite hunting dog.

What if they did all this but never went out and hunted.

Would they be hunters?

Week after week people flock to churches to sing praises to their God. They read their bibles and partake of the Lord’s Supper. They teach classes to people of all ages on how to know their bible and properly practice the traditions of their faith.

Many of these people know the bible forward and backwards. They can quote book chapter and verse with ease. They can tell you all about Jesus. They are good people and look like they have it all together.

Week after week they read the words written in black and white, and week after week they fail to put those words into practice.

Does that make them Christians? Is your knowledge of the bible what makes you a follower of Jesus? Is it not, rather, the way you live your life?

We call ourselves Christians, but how well are we evangelizing the world around us? Jesus seemed to make that a priority for his followers.

We call ourselves Christians, but we look like the world on every day but Sunday. Isn’t that contrary to what we are called to in the bible?

It’s time to stop pretending and start participating. You have been called to be fishers of men. You are called to hunt for the lost and rescue them from the wages of sin. It’s time to stop filling your buckets with preparation and start using your tools for the work you were called to do.

Join with me as we work together to do more than learn about Jesus. Join with me as we tell the world about him.


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