Bible

Responsibility of Revelation

Photo credit: lightstock.com Let me explain. Christ became a servant for the Jewish people to reveal God’s truth. As a result, he fulfilled God’s promise to the ancestors of the Jewish people. 

People who are not Jewish praise God for his mercy as well. This is what the Scriptures say,

“That is why I will give thanks to you among the nations and I will sing praises to your name.”

And Scripture says again, “You nations, be happy together with his people!”

And again, “Praise the Lord, all you nations! Praise him, all you people of the world!”

Again, Isaiah says, “There will be a root from Jesse. He will rise to rule the nations, and he will give the nations hope.”

May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭8-13 (GW)


Israel was chosen by God to be His people—His nation. Not because they were special, but for a special purpose.

God wanted a people who lived differently than the majority of people in the world. People who served a living God instead of caught up in superstitions and idolatry. He wanted them to be His light of revelation to other nations, but they failed to do this.

This is the responsibility of the church—the global community of believers who personally follow Jesus, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity.

We—the global community of believers—are to bring the light of redemptive grace and hope found in Jesus to a world lost in spiritual darkness and ignorance.

God's Spirit dwelling in believers is the source of our hope, joy, and peace. He is the source of light a world in darkness needs. So, let Him shine through you! ©Word-Strong_2016


Here's an older song taken from this psalm— I waited

Passion and Reason

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SRingler Preachers are often portrayed in unflattering ways in movies. Often as some caricature that doesn't resemble the typical pastor of a church. To be sure, plenty of charlatans have filled TV screens and paced across stages.

Let's face it, a typical church pastor appears average and boring compared to the exaggerated portrayals of preachers in films. It's easy to poke fun at these emotional and bigger than life caricatures.

Most churches have pastors who are overworked and underpaid. I know many that are and remember my early years as a pastor. The charlatans and caricatures are the exception, not the rule.

Persuasion and instruction

Preaching is persuasive by nature.

A much better example of a preacher is the famous Billy Graham, or Luis Palau, or Greg Laurie who's known for his Harvest Crusades.

These men can teach from the Bible, but they are best known as preachers—men with a gift for evangelism with persuasion.

Teaching is instructional and appeals to the reasoning mind.

Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, was an excellent teacher. He was a prime example for many other fine teachers associated with Calvary Chapel.

Most pastors are called on to do both—teach and preach.

Paul our example

This is the example given by the apostle Paul throughout Acts. Most of us learn to flow from one role to another without consciously doing so. At least, that's my observation over the years.

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. Acts 19:8 (NKJV)

I see the role of a pastor being a lot like parenting.

As much as parents need to instruct their children, we need to become more persuasive than instructional at times—“Get in there and clean up that room right now!”

But how does this relate to those who aren't pastors?

2 Different conversations

We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). Most of the time this takes place in one-on-one encounters between us and someone we want to see come into God's kingdom.

Not long ago, I met up with two young men for coffee and conversation. As I shared my thoughts as a pastor, I noticed two men at a table next to us.

One had a Bible in hand as he spoke to the other man with passion. I could see their discussion get pointed, while the one with the Bible both exhorted and pleaded with his friend.

Two groups of friends, two different approaches to conversation.

Sometimes there's a need for persuasion and passion, but most of the time we just need to share what God has made known to us—about Him and His kingdom.

Some questions and an encouragement

How recently have you spoken to someone about the kingdom of God, or shared the gospel message?

Are you more of a persuader or someone who likes to reason things out?

Find someone to share God's message of redemption with this week, and share what God's revealed to you recently with a friend.


This is a guest post originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's the link– Passion and Reason

How I Got Theology– Part 2

Photo credit: unsplash.com_JErondu Leadership is often described as influence. Several heavyweight leaders say these terms are interchangeable. I don't see it that way.

Yes, leaders can be quite influential in both good and bad ways, but this is not a given. I've seen people in leadership roles with little to no influence. The net effect of their leadership is nil.

On the other hand, I've known and witnessed influential leaders who've had great impact.

Leadership and influence

I ran across an excellent article on the difference between influence and leadership by Steve Graves. He makes a good case for the distinction between leadership and influence.

[bctt tweet="There is a distinction between leadership and influence" username="tkbeyond"]

Plenty of people have been good leaders with good influence, such as, Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, and Billy Graham.

Leaders with evil influence? Sadly, it's not a short list, but men like Adolph Hitler come to mind.

Then there are many leaders who have a somewhat sketchy influence. A cursory look at political personalities could produce a lengthy list.

What about spiritual leaders where character and integrity are essential? Among them we can find good, bad, and even sketchy examples.

[bctt tweet="Spiritual leaders can have good, bad or sketchy influence in people's lives" username="tkbeyond"]

Another question

Last week, I answered the first of three questions I posed in a challenge in a previous post.

This week I want to look at the second question and give my personal answer. Here's the question—

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?

Three leaders were influential in the early development of my spiritual life and theology.

Two are now with the Lord, but their leadership and influence are still embedded in my life. One is my age, alive, and still influencing others for good as a leader.

[bctt tweet="Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life and in what way?" username="tkbeyond"]

My first pastor

I came to faith during the Jesus People Movement of the late '60's and early '70's. I mentioned some of this in last week's post.

Ironically, the church I was thrown out of for asking the wrong question is where I got grounded in the truth of God's Word. It's also where I began serving the Lord in full-time ministry under my first pastor, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.

It was under him that I developed an appreciation for the grace of God and studying God's Word. Pastor Chuck was known for these two distinct things, not only in my life, but for thousands of others.

Both the grace of God and God's Word became foundational in my spiritual growth and my theology through his ministry. He was a living example of their importance and value, and a strong pastoral leader with great, enduring influence. Chuck went to be with His Lord in October of 2013.

[bctt tweet="God's grace and Word were foundational in my spiritual growth and theology" username="tkbeyond"]

A sage and a mentor

As my wife and I grew in our spiritual lives, we became more involved at the ground level of ministry while serving at a church and retreat center near Desert Hot Springs, CA.

When we arrived in 1973, it was a small church and retreat ministry in a sparsely settled area of the low desert of southern California. Susan and I learned so much about serving in every way imaginable.

Although it was remote, many significant spiritual leaders of the 1970's visited this little spiritual oasis. One of them was Rev PHP Gutteridge, known to us as "Percy". He was much older than us and also much wiser, a true sage.

Percy's teaching had spiritual depth and often centered on the cross of Christ, and the need for Christian believers to walk the way of the cross. Originally from England, he pastored this church in its infancy. In our time there, he visited on a regular basis, especially when we held large holiday retreats.

After I planted a church in 1978, he would come to preach to our little growing congregation in the upper desert area of Yucca Valley, CA. When he died in October of 1998, we were missionaries in the Philippines.

His life and ministry continue to influence us both to this day. Percy stirred my heart to further plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the essential simplicity of the way of the cross (Matt 16:24).

[bctt tweet="I was stirred to plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the way of the cross" username="tkbeyond"]

My friend and mentor

My involvement in ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa came at the invitation of a young man my age, but with much greater experience.

Bruce's wife, Joni, was pregnant and found it difficult to hold her guitar to lead praise for children's church. I and a couple others jumped in to help and this began a long term friendship in ministry.

Bruce opened the door for me to serve in many ways. When he and his young family moved out to the church and retreat ministry I mentioned earlier, we joined them and the ministry about a year later. We served their for five years, and it was of great value in so many ways.

Through Bruce's pastoral guidance, I learned how to preach, teach, counsel and lead as an assistant pastor. This was the foundation for my stepping out to plant a church and to develop a Bible College in the Philippines. It was practical, hands-on training.

[bctt tweet="I received practical, hands-on training that became a foundation for pastoral ministry" username="tkbeyond"]

But he was more than a pastoral mentor to me, he was a true friend. Bruce has a clear grasp on the immense, far-reaching love of God, which was infectious. His influence continues to reach around the world in a ministry he founded while pastoring in southern California—He Intends Victory.

Who for you?

So, now that you know who were important spiritual influences in my life and theology, how about you?

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far?

And what is their influence in your life?

Sweeter Than Honey

Photo credit: lightstock.com

"If God exists, why doesn't He make Himself known?" He has. The natural created world proclaims the existence of a Creator, especially the skies surrounding the earth.

All day, all night, God's voice reverberates to everyone on earth.

God's existence and voice are also made known within each person. First, our conscience—the inner sense of right and wrong. Second, the longing we all have for relationship.

Scripture

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made. Day after day they tell the story; night after night they tell it again. They have no speech or words; they have no voice to be heard. But their message goes out through all the world; their words go everywhere on earth. [vss 1-4]

The sky is like a home for the sun. The sun comes out like a bridegroom from his bedroom. It rejoices like an athlete eager to run a race. The sun rises at one end of the sky and follows its path to the other end. Nothing hides from its heat. [vss 5-6]

The teachings of the Lord are perfect; they give new strength. The rules of the Lord can be trusted; they make plain people wise. The orders of the Lord are right; they make people happy. The commands of the Lord are pure; they light up the way. [vss 7-8]

Respect for the Lord is good; it will last forever. The judgments of the Lord are true; they are completely right. They are worth more than gold, even the purest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even the finest honey. By them your servant is warned. Keeping them brings great reward. [vss 9-11]

People cannot see their own mistakes. Forgive me for my secret sins. Keep me from the sins of pride; don’t let them rule me. Then I can be pure and innocent of the greatest of sins. I hope my words and thoughts please you. Lord, you are my Rock, the one who saves me. [vss 12-14]

(Psalm 19:1-14 GW) [Context– Psalm 19]

Key phrase— Respect for the Lord is good; it will last forever

[bctt tweet="Respect for the Lord is good; it will last forever" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How is God's voice heard and known to all humanity? In what way is it expressed?

What is one example of God's voice and existence made known that circles the earth?

What are we told about the teachings and commands of God? What are they likened to?

What are the benefits of keeping God's teachings?

Reflection...

If God can be known through the natural world and within, why doesn't everyone accept His existence? Built into every human being is a capacity to resist God. It's called a free will.

When the beautiful intricacy of creation is reduced to a set of accidental and coincidental events, it deafens those who hold to that belief.

Insistence upon our way, regardless of its impact on others, hardens our hearts along with our conscience.

Creation reminds us daily of God's ever-present sovereign existence, and the truth of His word guides our consciences and helps soften our hearts towards God's Spirit.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How does God's creation speak to you? What speaks the loudest to you?

What things have you learned about God from the natural world?

How has God's Spirit and the Scriptures brought conviction, correction, and restoration in your life?

In what ways does the truth of God help you have a healthy relationship with God?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Fuel for the Soul—part 2

Photo credit: lightstock.com Each generation, often each decade, new advancements and discoveries take place. We call it progress. But progress often creates unintended consequences.

Some consequences are responded to and resolved, while others are accepted as the cost of progress. One simple example is pollution related to industrialization with all its inventions.

In America, we've dealt with the plague of smog fairly well, but urban sprawl continues to encroach upon our landscape and environment.

In a similar way, the advancement and progress of the church brings unintended consequences for God's people and kingdom on earth.

In Fuel for the Soul—part 1, I asked two questions—

What do you think is the best way to be nourished in the truth of God?

What role is the church to be involved with this?

In this post, I want to give you my thoughts on this based on the advice given to a young elder named Timothy by the apostle Paul—

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:12-13 NIV)

I highlighted two important parts of this advice—setting an example, and the priority of Scripture in the ministry of the church.

The role of the church

A lot of people have a lot of ideas for what the role of the church should be. Most of the ideas are subjective. That is, they are based on a personal perception or need.

Since Jesus is the founder and head of the church, it makes sense to go with His overarching purpose for the church. It's called the Great Commission, parts of which are found in all four gospels and in Acts.

Paul's advice to Timothy of setting an example is emphasized throughout his pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). It was also the cornerstone of Jesus' public and private ministry with His followers.

Importance of the Scriptures in ministry

In the text above (1 Tim 4:13), Paul sees public reading, preaching, and teaching of the Scriptures as a priority for Timothy setting an example for the believers. Are there other important elements in the church's role of nurturing God's people? Of course!

But the place of the Scriptures in the ministry of the church has suffered over the years.

[bctt tweet="Unintended consequences come when the church embraces the culture to reach people"]

This happens when the church tries to reach people by embracing the surrounding culture. It is not new to our time, but it's a tactic that often has unintended consequences.

Foundation for our faith

In many traditional or liturgical churches, the lectio divina is used as a guide for reading and praying through the Scriptures. It can be a helpful guide.

Less traditional plans for reading through the Scriptures have been around for years, and digital reading plans have flourished via electronic or online Bibles. Just google Bible reading plans!

I shared my own experience, in a prior post, of my initial involvement with a church that continues to emphasize teaching through the Scriptures. This was foundational for my faith.

The Scriptures are a vital part of growing in the Christian faith. They can not be neglected. Neglecting God's Word dishonors God, and is unhealthy for us and the church. As Christians, the Scriptures are fuel for the soul.

[bctt tweet="As Christians, the Scriptures are fuel for the soul"]

How can you incorporate the Bible in your own personal relationship with Jesus?

Let's look at the three things Paul spoke of—public reading of Scripture, preaching, and teaching.

Public reading of Scripture

In most of the churches I've been involved with or led, public reading of the Bible was a regular part of the service.

Before we planted a church, my wife and I served in a church and retreat ministry in the low desert of Southern California. One of the pastors had a strong Lutheran background, so each Sunday he would read from the Bible.

He did it well. His voice was strong, yet he modulated his tone and volume to fit what he read. When he read the Scriptures it was engaging and understandable.

[bctt tweet="I think public reading of the Scriptures is a lost art"]

A lost art

I think public reading of the Scriptures is a lost art.

I cringe when I hear someone reading monotone through a Bible passage. It's boring and uninteresting. Likewise, hearing someone rush through a text so they can share their own thoughts grieves me.

When I taught homiletics in the Philippines, I worked on this with the students. I would demonstrate reading with thoughtfulness, feeling, a natural pace, and reverence. Then I gave them an opportunity to do it.

I would critique and correct them when they did it poorly, and I encouraged them when they did it well.

Public Bible reading may be the only time someone in church hears the Scriptures. It needs to be done and done well.

[bctt tweet="Public Bible reading may be the only time someone hears the Scriptures"]

Jesus our example

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example. Reading the Scriptures was central to worship in the synagogue, and we see Jesus honoring it (Luke 4:16-21).

We also see Jesus giving people a correct understanding of the Scriptures, as He taught them in the open (Matt 5:17-20) and in the temple area (Luke 20:1-8).

[bctt tweet="Reading the Scriptures was central to worship in the synagogue"]

One advantage of our digitized world is how many resources there are for listening to the Bible read by a good reader. Again, just google audio Bibles!

Many people neither read well or like to read. Today, if people do read it is often reduced to scanning. So, hearing the Bible read is valuable and needed.

But even for those of us who like to read, hearing the Bible can be powerful and a great aid to meditating on God's Word.

What's your experience with listening to the Bible?

Do you regularly listen to the Bible more than read it?


Next week I'll try to look more closely at preaching and teaching—both the church's role in these, and how both can be incorporated into our life of faith.

Fuel for the Soul—part 1

Photo credit: lightstock.com What makes humans different from all other mammals? We have a soul, that is, we are a soul with a body—a spiritual soul. We don't live by instinct, but reason.

We have emotions connected to our thoughts, which effect our behavior. We are moral beings and are made like our Creator.

Generally speaking, we know right from wrong. We reflect on the past, imagine the future, while living in the present. And we need something more than just food, water, shelter, and other basic necessities. We need nourishment for our soul.

A need to know

The first human was created in the likeness or image of God, as are all humans. Humankind was created to rule over all other creatures on the earth, in the sea, and the air (Gen 1:26). This was the original design.

God also gave the first humans responsibility and purpose (Gen 1:28-30). He also gave us the capacity to think and reason (Gen 2:15-17), along with the need for companionship (Gen 2:18-25).

We also have the capacity to be wrong. This is made clear in Genesis 3. We have an innate need to know the truth, which spurs our curiosity and imagination. This enables us to be creative and productive.

[bctt tweet="We have an innate need to know the truth, which spurs our curiosity and imagination"]

"What is truth?"

But what truth do we need? Many claim to know and understand the truth, but all truth is not the same. This is revealed in the dialog between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, where Pilate asks, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38)

I was somewhat like Pilate earlier in my life. I sought out truth from various sources including the Bible. Along with other religious and philosophical books, I read the Bible every day for about two years.

Did I understand what I was reading? No. I was like the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah whom Philip encountered (Acts 8:30-31). I needed some guidance, but where would I go and who could help me?

[bctt tweet="I sought out truth from various sources including the Bible for about two years"]

Fuel for my soul

Right before 1970, I was invited to a church where the Bible was taught in a simple, clear way. This church became a reference point for me.

I still wandered a while longer, but returned there, made a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus, was grounded in the truth, and began serving in God's kingdom.

What was the key? The truth of God's written Word. I realized it was the fuel I needed for my soul to grow in a healthy way. It was the nutrition—the food—my soul longed for and needed.

[bctt tweet="The truth of God's written Word was what my soul longed for and needed"]

Spirit and life

As pointed out by many, when jesus was tempted by the devil, Jesus answered him with the truth of Scripture (Matt 4:1-11). The devil's first temptation appealed to the Lord's hunger, after a 40-day fast.

Jesus' answer was, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt 4:4). This is a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3, where God reminded His people that our spiritual need is greater than the physical.

[bctt tweet="God's truth is spiritual in nature and is the only thing that satisfies my soul"]

This is what struck a chord in my heart. God's truth is spiritual in nature and is the only thing that satisfies my soul.

Jesus made this clear to His first followers—

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

But not everyone either accepts or realizes this, only those with a personal commitment to Jesus. Here is Peter's testimony about it—

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

What do you think is the best way to be nourished in the truth of God?

What role is the church to be involved with this?


We'll look at answering these two questions in a follow-up post soon.

 

More Than Promises

Photo credit: unsplash_SWijers Commitment. Is it a forgotten value? Many express commitments, but how many follow through? Companies, politicians, the media, people making New Year's resolutions, all talk commitment, but are they only empty promises?

Promises, promises. Talk is cheap. Words are many, actions are few. However you express it, rhetoric and rants fill the air, but not resolve.

Resolve is the root word for resolution, "I resolve to...." Resolve, resolution, commitment, whichever term is used, is a promise requiring action. But what's the basis for making such promises? This is important.

The "C" word

The "C" word, that's what I called it. At the beginning of each new year, I'd craft a message on commitment. Each message was framed within the current need of the church in view.

Throughout most of the 80's, I challenged those I pastored towards some commitment. It became something we joked about, "oh no, the 'C' word again!"

It was joked about, but understood. Each of us in the church, including me, knew we needed to be challenged, reminded of our commitment to follow Jesus.

When I moved overseas, my challenge was directed towards pastors and leaders to study, preach, and teach the truth of God's Word. Later, I challenged my staff and students in the Bible college. I also challenged myself.

Over the years, many of these messages and challenges focused on the importance of God's Word, the Bible.

[bctt tweet="Resolutions are promises that require a commitment to action"]

A spiritual famine

When I returned from the mission field in 2005, I saw a great need in the church. I didn't have the same opportunities to address this need, as I had while pastoring and as a missionary. So I addressed it within a much smaller circle of influence.

Still, the need grew. It continues to grow. We are moving ever closer to what the prophet Amos spoke hundreds of years ago—

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12)

How would this be possible with so many biblical resources available today? We (Americans) are awash in study Bibles, devotionals, study guides, conferences and workshops, small groups, and mega and home churches.

[bctt tweet="We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment"]

We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment. We lack commitment to walk in the truth of God's Word. Let's face it, we're more talk than follow through.

Take responsibility

We don't need to be more articulate and erudite in Bible knowledge. We need to live the truth of the Scriptures out in daily life.

  • Live out the truth whether people notice it or not.
  • Live it out so it transforms our life from the inside out.
  • Live it out even when it doesn't meet the expectations of others.
  • Live it out even when it costs us something to do so.

[bctt tweet="We don't need more articulate and erudite Bible knowledge, but to live it out"]

How? Each believer needs to take personal responsibility for their own life.

Don't blame the church, the culture, pastors, anyone, or anything else. Each of us need to commit to seek the Lord, understanding His Word, and living out our faith each day.

Back to basics

What do you think is needed to make this kind of commitment? What does real commitment need to be based on?

In sports, when a team is making careless mistakes or playing without focus or passion, it's said that the players need to get back to the basics. Practice of simple, but essential fundamentals.

I believe this is true for Christian believers, pastors, leaders, and the church as a whole. But what are our basics? What are the essentials we need to put into practice?

[bctt tweet="What are the essentials Christian believers need to put into practice?"]


Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore some of these essential basics. I gave a hint above for the essential I'll focus on first. But what do you think?

What do you see as essential to live out the Christian faith?

Well Fed

Photo credit: babycentre.co.uk Feeding a baby or toddler can be a challenge. They still need to be fed much of the time, but their self-will is in full-bloom.

They can close their mouth and refuse to eat. They're often distracted by more interesting things. Most young toddlers want to feed themselves, even though they haven't developed the dexterity to do it well.

It can be a challenging and messy process, and it's only the beginning. Children are often finicky and picky eaters, and hormonally challenged teens have odd eating habits.

Pastors and leaders also face challenges in feeding their flock. It can even get messy at times.

Last week, We looked at leading with unselfish love, as we see in Jesus, our Good Shepherd. This week we'll look at the second of the three words related to what I call grassroots leadershipfeed. Again, We'll look at this word as an acrostic—F-E-E-D.

Keeping God's people well-fed

Just opening up the Bible and letting-it-rip (preach) isn't going to keep the people of God well-fed. There's more to it than that.

It's not just about preparation and presentation, although they're important. Certain priorities impact our preparation of any ministry with God's Word and however we present it.

Let's look at four important priorities needed to keep God's people, His sheep, or anyone we lead or disciple, well-fed.

"F" stands for focus

What's the number one priority? Focus. Our focus always needs to be on Jesus in whatever ministry we do, and whatever capacity we lead (as a believer).

How do we do this? First, each leader needs to be focused on Jesus, not the people we lead, nor on any ministry task. He is our Good Shepherd and we are His under-shepherds.

All ministry, even teaching in whatever form, is relational. It always needs to be connected to our relationship with Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14 NIV)

Our ministry and leadership also need to point to Jesus, in all we do. We are to follow His example, so others will follow our example of following Him.

[bctt tweet="Our ministry and leadership need to point to Jesus in all we do"]

"E" speaks of the need to examine God's Word

If we want to feed people with the truth, we need to understand it. We need to examine it well before we teach, preach, or share it in some other way.

We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is. Would you be surprised if I told you it's Jesus? It is!

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Many different methods are used for studying the Scriptures. I've used the inductive study process for the past thirty years. It is a simple, systematic, and self-contained approach to Bible study, which is why it works well in any place in the world, within any culture or language.

Whatever method you use, be diligent in it. Keep examining the Scriptures so that your understanding moves from your mind to your heart. Then it will flow out of you in a natural way in whatever setting or circumstance you share the truth.

[bctt tweet="We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is—it's Jesus!"]

"E" also reminds of the need to explain well

Thankfully, I learned early in my call to ministry the value of teaching the truth in a simple way. My general premise is this—if a child can understand and grasp what you teach, then you can teach it to anyone. This is an oversimplification but it's essentially true. If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone.

How can people feed on the truth of God if they don't understand it? This is obvious, but I find many preachers, teachers, bloggers, and others don't always make things simple for the average hearer.

Here are two simple ways to make God's Word hear-able and easy to grasp. First, use stories and parables, but learn to tell them rather than just read them. The second way to make things simple works with stories—put the truth in your own words (IYOW). Telling stories and parables IYOW helps people connect well with the truth.

Sound heretical? Not hardly. Remember, the original version of the Bible was oral, not written. The process of putting things IYOW requires processing the truth. It takes some practice, but it's very doable, and makes the truth more understandable.

[bctt tweet="If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone"]

"D" is for disciple

The Lord Jesus said we are to "make disciples... teaching them...."  (Matt 28:19, 20). This was not a suggestion but a command. It's called the Great Commission.

Discipleship has become more popular over the past several years. Of course, as with other things, several approaches and methods are used, but discipleship isn't just teaching and training.

Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, a pouring into the life of others what God has poured into you.

Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge. Lecture style teaching may be the most common form of Bible teaching, but it's the least effective. It's unidirectional and can be dull and difficult to understand for many people.

Like feeding a toddler, you can try pushing the food into their mouth, but they can close their mouth or spit it out. Also, there's a big difference between feeding people and equipping them to feed themselves.

Jesus, as always, is our example. His primary method for establishing the church was to disciple twelve men. This included teaching, but much, much more. Eleven of those twelve, and thousands who followed them, were well-fed. They continued what Jesus began with them.


Here are some related posts related you might find helpful—

How Did Jesus Teach?

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Lasting Fruit

Here are a couple of links of people I trust regarding inductive Bible study (aka IBS)—

Dan Finfrock

Jeremy Brummel

If you'd like a copy of the workbook I've developed for IBS, contact me and I'll let you know how you can get one.

The Wrong Kind of Encouragement

Photo credit: lightstock.com

Because people did those [evil] things, God left them and let them do the shameful things they wanted to do. Women stopped having natural sex with men and started having sex with other women. In the same way, men stopped having natural sex with women and began wanting each other all the time. Men did shameful things with other men, and in their bodies they received the punishment for those wrongs.

People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God. So God left them and allowed them to have their own worthless thinking. And so they do what they should not do.

They are filled with every kind of sin, evil, greed, and hatred. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, lying, and thinking the worst things about each other. They gossip and say evil things about each other. They hate God. They are rude, proud, and brag about themselves. They invent ways of doing evil. They don’t obey their parents, they are foolish, they don’t keep their promises, and they show no kindness or mercy to others.

They know God’s law says that anyone who lives like that should die. But they not only continue to do these things themselves, but they also encourage others who do them. (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭26-32‬ ERV)


The Bible is politically incorrect. It contains the truth, but it doesn't square with popular culture. This poses a dilemma. It poses a dilemma for those who want to believe in God and the truth of His written Word (the Scriptures), but want to embrace the wind of popular cultural values.

A lot of posturing takes place today, when it comes to what the Bible says and what many people want it to mean. The problem with God's truth is that it is inconvenient and politically incorrect. It doesn't change with the shifting tide of popular opinion, culture, or social norms. It doesn't change because it contains the truth revealed by God who is unchanging in His nature. This has been true for millennia, not just the past few decades.

Reading the history within the Bible reveals the unchanging nature of God, and the ever-changing behavior of man. Human nature is also pretty consistent. Consistently bad. Even the Bible's heroes are shown to have some major character flaws, wrong behavior, and questionable judgement. And yet, God consistently provides a way for them to be rescued and restored. How? He rescues us because of His mercy and restores us by His loving kindness.

This portion of the Book of Romans was written nearly 2000 years ago, yet it describes the current behavior and attitude of humanity. Things like—jealousy, murder, lying, gossip, rudeness, pride, bragging about themselves, disobedience to parents, not keeping promises, showing no kindness or mercy—are descriptive of our current world. Sadly, these things are encouraged through public and social media, both out of ignorance and intent.

And yet, God continues to extend His mercy and grace towards anyone who would trust in Him, and His truth prevails. He and the truth will outlast all human culture, all governments, and all challenges in rebellion towards Him. It's up to each person to choose the truth or what seems right for the moment. ©Word-Strong_2015

What's Your Story Morning Glory?

Photo credit: www.sunset.com I remember this phrase when I was young. It's a variation of asking the simple question, "What's up?" or "What's going on?" I know there are at least two songs with this as a title, but I'm not referring to them.

The morning glory is a climbing vine with beautiful, white, blue, pink, and deep purple blossoms. The blossoms open in the early morning and close as the day moves to evening. I remember my first encounter with their beauty as a young boy at a daycare center.

I still admire their simple beauty and prolific trumpet-like blooms. My favorite is the deep bluish-purple, but they're all beautiful. Just as their trumpet shape suggests, they shout out beauty in the morning.

Each of us has a story, a life story. In Christian circles, we refer to them as testimonies. This comes from the idea of a witness who testifies what they've seen, or their version of an event. Hence, when someone tells the gospel story, it's often referred to as witnessing.

But as mentioned last week, witnessing or personal evangelism doesn't come easy to many of us. So, I introduced a basic outline for becoming an evangelist without really trying. There are three general points in this outline—keep it simple, keep it personal, and keep alert for opportunities. Today I want to explore the first point—keep it simple.

Start with what you know—your own life story

All of us have a life story

As a young believer, I remember hearing other people share their testimony at church. Some of these testimonies were so vivid and amazing, it may be feel like I didn't have much of a testimony. My life and conversion seemed boring compared to some of the stories I'd hear.

You don't need to compare or compete with others

This is the first thing we need to get squared away—we all have a valuable story to tell. It doesn't need to compare to sensational ones we might hear, it just needs to be genuine. Isn't that the catch-phrase nowadays, to be genuine and real? Who knows your life story better than you?

Your life story is genuine

Your life story is real. You don't need to embellish it to make it worth hearing, but you do need to be able to share it in a brief, clear way. Here's a basic guide if you're not sure how to do this— Guidelines_life-story

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

Most people worry about how to handle questions or challenges when sharing their faith. Don't worry about what you don't know! Focus on what you do know. The point is not to argue theology or get into debates with people. The point is to share your life story with them.

You don't need to have all the answers. You already know the answer. The answer isn't a doctrine or theological point, but a personal encounter with Jesus. So, just share your own encounter with Jesus. It's unique to you, even if it isn't sensational.

Take a cue from Jesus. When challenged by the Jewish leaders, who tried to find fault with Jesus, He side-stepped their challenge with the truth, or put it back to them with a question of His own (Matthew 21:23-27).

If you want to become more knowledgable in how to answer others, here's a resource you can get— Stand to Reason-Tactics

Engage people

When you gain some confidence to share your faith with others, the next thing to do is engage people in conversation. How? It's really not that hard. Think about the conversations you have throughout a day—at work, at a store, in a restaurant, with a neighbor, and others.

Most of the time you can start a conversation with a few simple questions. How's your day going? Do you have family in this area? Do you like your work? You get the idea. Much of the time you will find people willing to talk and open to sharing something about their own life story.

You can also speak something encouraging to a person. I'm pretty sure there's not excessive encouragement thrown around these days. If anything, there's a lot of cynicism, criticism, and complaining. Encouragement is a welcome break from all of that. It may be a start to a conversation, or starting point to develop a relationship with someone.

Once you engage people in conversation, whether for the first time or as a follow-up to previous conversations, you can look for an open door to share your faith. I'll talk more about that in a later post. But a book that expresses this well is, Just Walk Across the Room, by Bill Hybels.

Find a Bible story that matches

This is something that may take some time to develop, but it's a great way to tie your life to a story in the Bible. The great thing about the Bible is that it is honest. It's not a string of fairly tales, but of real life stories.

Many stories reveal the not-so-pleasant side of people. Other stories show great transformations (as in the Gospels or in Acts). The point is to link a story in the Bible to some part of your own life story. I'll also share more about that in a later post.

Just get started!

The first thing to do is get familiar with your own story. Work on getting it clear in your own heart and mind first. Then, try sharing it with others. You can start with people you know first—like a friend, a spouse, or a co-worker.

Then look for opportunities to engage people in conversation. You don't need to be clever, but you do need to be genuine in your interest in them. People can tell when you're just asking to set up what you want to talk about. So, get others talking about their life, the opportunity will come to share your life story after a while.

We'll look at all this more next week. Until then— What's your story morning glory?

A Dilemma

  ©word-strong.com

 

A growing number of people in North America and Europe have no background or understanding of Christianity.

One reason could be the great influx of immigrants from many nations. But an increasing segment of Western society has grown unengaged and uninterested in Christianity, which is the result of a shift in culture.

America’s culture is becoming both post-modern and post-Christian. Europe and Canada have preceded the US in this cultural shift, but America is not far behind.

The church cannot stop this cultural shift, nor can they ignore it. Some will argue this point, but denying or resisting this shift only brings insulation and isolation from people the church wants to reach.[i]

Adjustment needed

Christian believers need to understand this cultural change, and make necessary adjustments to address it. More and more new believers, responding to the gospel and God’s invitation into His Kingdom, come into churches with a limited understanding of Christianity—its beliefs, practices, terminology, and expected lifestyle.

How can Christian believers communicate to people so they hear the truth and respond to Jesus? This is an important question to answer.

Christians need to have a much more global view of the world around them and of God's kingdom. Billions of people in the world—yes, billions![ii]have never heard the gospel or even the name of Jesus once in their lives, or in their own language.

A rapidly growing Muslim population throughout the world appears closed to the gospel, even though the Koran speaks of Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) as a prophet.[iii] Again I ask, how can believers convey the gospel so they can hear it?

The problem of Christianese

Many people lack a frame of reference for understanding the words, terms, and biblical references used by Christian believers. Collectively, these words become foreign language to nonbelievers and new believers. It’s called Christianese—a specialized dialect of English.[iv]

Special words and terms are common in most fields of study. They're called field-dependent terms—words and phrases with specific meanings within a certain field, or a subculture.

Various branches of the sciences, academics and education, politics, and even subcultures like street gangs, have their own lingo—a language specific to their field of reference. Christianity, with its field of study called theology, is no different.

A language of its own

Christians often use specific words and terms with meanings understood within the church—or so they think. My experience as a pastor and cross-cultural missionary tells me differently.

Many Christian believers can't explain these specialized words and terms in plain English so a nonbeliever could understand. This helps make the gospel a mystery to people.

Christian clichés and what I call Bible talk,[v] used outside their field of reference (the church), are unfamiliar and difficult to understand.

Subtitle interpretation needed

I've traveled to many places in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. I know the feeling of hearing a foreign language and not understanding what’s being said. It’s similar to being in a movie with subtitles, but you can’t see and read the subtitles because you’re one of the characters in the movie!

In some conversations and settings, I'm expected to respond. Though I want to, I can’t. This is the predicament Christians put nonbelievers in, and even new believers uninitiated to Christianese. To be fair, most believers don’t realize they do this.

Two issues are at work here. One is the lack of understanding on the part of the nonbeliever or new believer, who doesn’t understand this language.

The second issue is with the believer who uses Christianese, yet doesn’t understand the terms themselves. This is revealed when a person attempts to explain what they say in non-Christian words but can’t.

Experience—the great teacher

Over the years I stumbled upon a simple test of someone’s understanding of Christian terms and theology. If a person can put Christian and Biblical words in his or her own words, then they understand them. If not, they don't.

There's a simple way of communicating Christianese to unbelievers and new believers alike. I use the acronym IYOW—In Your Own Words—to describe the process. It seems simple, but it's not as easy as it sounds.

I didn’t discover this through extensive research, but in much humbler ways.

Learning curve

As a pastor, I’m responsible to feed the sheep, that is, teach the Bible—its doctrine and practice—to help God’s people grow spiritually. I founded a church in Southern California’s high desert in 1978, with my wife and three children, ages newborn to five years. Our fourth child came a few years after the church started.

My older children would hear things in Sunday school and church services, which prompted questions. They often asked dad (me) these questions at inopportune times. It seemed much easier to teach adults than children, or so I thought.

With adults I could use all the Christian theological terms without explaining them. But when my children asked me to explain these same things, I found myself unable to explain them in simple, clear words. More than a few times my oldest daughter would ask simple, heartfelt questions on our way to a church service. “Dad, how can God be one and still be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

As a pastor, my mind was filled with things to do before the service began, as well as on my message. I was not prepared to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to my sweet, elementary-aged daughter in a simple, clear manner.

The reality is, it challenged me, and this changed my whole approach to teaching.

On the job training

My experience in the Philippines, as a teacher of pastors, leaders, and Bible School students, confirmed the importance of this, while teaching in an environment where English was a second language, but Christianity was familiar.

The Philippines is often proclaimed as the only Christian nation in Asia, so students used Christian terms frequently. But, I realized many of the students didn’t have a full understanding of these words and phrases. I got a partial clue early on, while settling into Filipino culture.

Slow to learn

We were part of a little barrio church with many small children, where some of the worship songs were sung in English. One Sunday morning, during greeting time, I started speaking to one of the children. My wife said, “They don’t understand what you’re saying.” I replied, “But they’re singing the songs in English, aren’t they?”

Because I was a bit slow on the uptake, my wife explained that they sang in English because that's how they learned the songs. The children didn’t know what the words meant. Similarly, I could speak a little of their dialect, but didn’t understand the language beyond a few familiar words and phrases.

No more coded language

When people use certain words and terms, and quote Scripture texts, it does not mean they have a clear grasp of what they are saying. Although it may seem clear to the speaker, unless the person can explain these same things in simple words, what’s spoken sounds like a secret code language to the uninitiated.

As Christian believers, we need to speak in simple, clear, non-Christianese words.

What's your experience with using or not understanding Christianese?


This post follows an earlier one called— The Search to Know God

It is another excerpt from my book, which is available in paperback and as an e-book (see sidebar).


[i] There are many books and articles written on post-modern, post-Christian trends, here are some ones I’ve read and recommend— The End of the World as We Know It, C Smith Jr. (2001 WaterBrook Press); Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, by DA Carson (2005 Zondervan). Online articles— http://goo.gl/emWyu | http://goo.gl/yVFBo

[ii] With the world population hitting seven (7) billion at the end of 2011, statistics fluctuate for numbering the billions of unreached and least reached peoples in the world. However, there are organizations dedicated to researching this (see the following links). Joshua Project— http://www.joshuaproject.net/index.php| Operation World— http://www.operationworld.org/| US Center for World Mission— http://www.uscwm.org/

[iii] Isa al Masih is the anglicized term for the Arab name/title of Jesus the Messiah or Jesus (the) Christ. The Koran (the anglicized spelling for Quran or Qur’an) is Islam’s book of sacred writings. Muslims are followers of Islam and the prophet, Mohammed.

[iv] Here are some websites devoted to Christianese— http://dictionaryofchristianese.com/ | http://goo.gl/nssqu| http://goo.gl/aKFDV| http://www.internetevangelismday.com/jargon.php| http://goo.gl/2Y1Bp (also see “Christianese_glossary” in the Glossary)

[v] Christianese comes in many forms—common clichés, Bible references or words from familiar Bible texts, and theological terms (more academic). I call these Bible talk because they are based on words and phrases in the Bible, or in reference to texts in the Bible.

 

Luke's Purpose

WS-devo_PMSToday I'm featuring a guest post I was privileged to do for Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Hope it encourages and blesses you, and please feel free to share it with others. Check it out here—

http://www.calvaryftl.org/calvary-blog/lukes-purpose/

The Search to Know God

Photo credit: TNValleyTalks.com  

Not long ago, I posted Calvary Chapel—Past and Present as a guest post on Ed Cyzewski's blog. It's easy to reminisce, but I'm not so big on that. Selective memory tends to cloud reality and make things worse or better than they were.

In that post I share a bit of my early history with Calvary Chapel. So, here's a little more of my own life story and search for God. My search proved fruitful, but it met some roadblocks along the way.

It may be history, but it's relevant for our times and a new generation.

The 60's and the Jesus Movement

During the sixties, I was part of the counterculture movement seeking spiritual truth. In the early seventies, I became part of the Jesus Movement.[i] This movement was neither organized, nor guided by any church or religious organization. It was the work of God in people searching for spiritual truth and encountering Jesus in a personal relationship.

“It’s not about religion, but relationship,” was a common expression during that decade. Young people, including those known as hippies, joined the developing counterculture of the 1960's and popularized the Jesus Movement. A spiritual vacuum existed in those days.

[bctt tweet="During the Jesus Movement—It’s not about religion, but relationship was a common expression"]

For the most part, traditional churches did not reach the young people of that generation. Several elements in our current decade remind me of that era. Today, traditional and established churches are not reaching the young people of this generation, including those raised in Christian homes. Many surveys show a strong trend toward young people leaving churches in droves.[ii]

My search begins

In my own search for truth, I sampled the wisdom of various religions and philosophies, which surrounded me in abundance and diversity. I was raised in a nominally Christian home and confirmed in the faith of the Episcopal Church at age twelve.

But my Christian moorings were too weak to keep me from drifting into the counter-cultural vortex of the day. Initially, my search produced plenty of confusion and uncertainty.

During the late 1960's, I developed a ritual of reading the Bible every morning. Even so, I still used drugs and alcohol, practiced transcendental meditation, and played and wrote music, along with other experiences typical of that era.

[bctt tweet="My Christian moorings were too weak for the counter-cultural vortex of the 60's"]

Through it all, I came to believe Jesus was an important element of true spirituality. During this period, a friend invited me to a church in Southern California that grew into a mega-church within the Jesus Movement.

I attended an evening service where a young but quite charismatic evangelist was teaching the Bible. At the end of the study he invited us to “accept Christ.”[iii] But, I wasn’t ready to do this.

Questions, questions, questions

After the service, I asked many questions my friends were unable to answer. So they brought me to a man considered a Bible-answer-man of sorts, so I continued to ask questions. He answered me by quoting verses of Scripture from the King James Version (KJV), but without explanation.

I had studied Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school, so it wasn’t the archaic language that troubled me—it was my lack of spiritual understanding.

[bctt tweet="Answering questions with Scripture quotes, with no explanation, is not helpful"]

Each time I asked a question, he quoted a Scripture in response. I heard a round of “amen’s” and some cheers, as he refuted my challenging questions.

Intent on my quest for spiritual truth, and exasperated with his pat answers, I finally asked him—“If I could destroy all the books in the world, then how would you tell me you truly know God?” He promptly called me the devil and threw me out of the church.

More wandering

It was another two years of spiritual wandering before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus. I continued to read the Bible and pray, but didn’t give up the other counterproductive activities and experiences to my spiritual growth. My frustration deepened and became desperation.

One morning, I left the small trailer I lived in with my girlfriend to search for God. I expected some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience, as Moses had before he led Israel out of Egypt.[iv] I saw no sign, no burning bush, and didn’t hear any voices. Discouraged, I returned to the trailer and began reading my Bible. I came to some verses that challenged me—

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

In my heart I took up the challenge of going on the narrow and hard way. I considered many different philosophies and religions in search of a harmonious belief everyone could hold. This text showed me I was on the wrong path and it led to destruction.

[bctt tweet="Do you expect some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience from God?"]

A new path and new door

I saw the last part of the verse as a challenge to pursue, so I committed my life to God. My life changed little by little as God showed me a new way of living. I began to give up the old habits of my previous lifestyle and develop new ones.

On the day of my wedding I experienced a rush of new life and freedom. I had closed the door on my old life as a new door to a new life opened up.

My wife and I attended the same church I’d been thrown out of, but I had a much different attitude and view of God. I began to serve the Lord[v] in various ways, and became part of the church staff. My wife and I were full-time volunteers overseeing the childcare ministry at the time our first son was born.

Years later, I’ve wondered if the time between my earnest questioning and eventual committing of my life to Jesus could have been much shorter—perhaps two years shorter!

[bctt tweet="For many, Jesus is a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery"]

What I needed that night and what millions—even billions—still need is a simple, clear, and complete explanation of the gospel. For many people, Jesus is a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery.

I believe every Christian believer should be able to share the truth of the gospel with or without a Bible in hand, and without using Christian terminology and jargon. Is this possible? Absolutely!

[Check out Acronym-ically Speaking for how this is possible!]

This post is an edited excerpt from my book. If you'd like to read more, it's available in paperback and as an e-book.


[i]The Jesus Movement was a Christian counter-culture movement starting in the late sixties, and growing to prominence in the early seventies. Young people, often termed Jesus freaks, and Christian rock music, characterized this non-organized movement. [http://www.one-way.org/jesusmovement/| http://conservapedia.com/Jesus_Movement]

[ii]The Barna Group has done a lot of research, especially in the area of young people. Here are a couple reports that reveal this trend of church dropout among youth/young adults— http://goo.gl/HwxIJ| http://goo.gl/0vA5T. There was also a significant study done by sociologist Christian Smith, which he published in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (published in 2005), coining the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Here are some links to articles about MTD— http://goo.gl/pJLgY | http://goo.gl/RvllH

[iii]“Accepting Christ,” describes a person making a decision to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is also called “making a decision for Christ.” An invitation (opportunity) is given to make this decision during an “altar call”—an invitation to come forward or signal an intention to “accept Christ” with a raised hand, then being led in a simple (often rote) prayer.

[iv] Reference— Exodus 3:1-6

[v]“Serving the Lord” became a popular phrase describing volunteerism in the church, but can also include paid staff positions. The idea being it’s more than a job, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord.”

Want a Prosperous New Year?

Photo credit: lightstock.com  

It's the beginning of a new year, and many people are looking for a new start, new goals, and some New Year's resolutions. What are your expectations for the coming new year?

Do you want to be prosperous? First of all, it depends on what you define as prosperity? Perhaps you're hoping for a new job, wealth, new opportunities, or something else for a better life.

What if prosperity was not so measurable? What if it has more to do with values and quality of life? Is that the kind of improvement you're seeking this year?

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.

But they delight in the law [teachings] of the lordmeditating on it day and night.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalm 1:1-3)

A picture is worth a 1000 words

Can you see picture these words paint? There's a contrast between those who get bad advice and guidance, and those who meditate on the truth of God.

In Old Testament times, the Law was the primary base for teaching. Now, we have the teaching of Jesus, God's only Son, and His followers (epistles).

Those who read and think on God's Word, throughout the day and night, are like trees planted by a river. They have a constant source of nourishment, bear fruit, and never wither. Not only that, but they prosper in all they do.

Why? Because their guidance and source of wisdom is the eternal One—the Living God.

Would you like to prosper and be blessed?

A simple way of tapping into the continual flow of wisdom God gives to whoever asks for it (James 1:5), is reading and meditating on His Word. Either by reading through it, or listening through it.

Have you ever read through the whole Bible? It takes commitment, but is worth the investment.

Here are some plans you can try—

Bible in One Year

M'Cheyne One Year Reading Plan

The One Year Bible

The Bible in a Year

ESV Study Bible

Prof Horner's 10 list plan

I'm committed to reading through the Bible this year using The Bible in a Year plan.

Choose a plan, stick with it, and see how God prospers you this coming year!


This week I've focused on reading, sharing and understanding God's Word. If you haven't seen my earlier posts this week, check them out—

 Getting Beyond "John 3:16"

Re-framing John 3:16—a follow up

As always, thanks for reading and sharing these posts!

May your New Year be blessed—as you trust in the One who alone knows the future! 

Re-framing John 3:16—a follow up

Photo credit: lightstock.com How can we (believers) communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well? There are many different forms of communicating the truth of God's Word—conversation, tracts, Bible studies, preaching, biblical storying, blogs, and more.

We need to choose a way that fits the person we're talking to and the situation at hand. Using only one approach or method forces people to fit into our grid, as if one-size-fits-all. Each of us is different in our own way, and so are the people we come in contact with everyday or randomly.

So, we need to be ready to share our faith, and share the truth of God's Word, with whoever we come in contact with, wherever we might be.

Re-framing John 3:16

Last Monday's post included some practical guidelines on making the truth of God's Word (the Bible) simple and clear. This is a follow-up to provide an example of following those guidelines. Hopefully it will help you communicate Scripture truth so others hear it and understand it.

[bctt tweet="There are many different forms of communicating the truth of God's Word"]

Here are the summarized guidelines—

  • Read (or listen to) the Scriptures in different versions of the Bible
  • Identify key words in a verse and how they are interrelated
  • Use a dictionary and thesaurus (for word meanings including Bible dictionaries)
  • Reframe words and phrases within an expanded picture explanation
  • Understand the Scriptures in your own words (IYOW)

[see the second half of last Monday's post for more details on each guideline]

Making it simple and clear

[bctt tweet="We need to share the truth in a way that fits the situation and person we're talking to"]

I'll apply these guidelines using John 3:16 as an example—

Read (or listen to) the Scriptures in different versions

[All references taken from https://www.bible.com/ | for audio versions try– Listener's Bible]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV) [also available in audio]

  • For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. (John 3:16 AMP)
  • God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NCV)
  • God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. (John 3:16 GW)
  • For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT) [also available in audio]

Identify key words in a verse and how they are interrelated

  • Key words– God / so loved / world / gave / only Son / whoever / believes / not perish / eternal life
    • most of these words are straight forward, but some need further insight into their original meanings in the Greek, which I've put in bold
    • one of the best online Bible text study tools can be found at– My Study Bible (when you hold your cursor over a specific word, a pop up box will give you further insight into its meaning)
    • the progression of words all stem from the first key word– God
      • God so loved the world
      • God gave His only Son
      • whoever believes in the Son (God's only son) should not perish
      • whoever believes...have eternal life

Use a dictionary and thesaurus (for word meanings–including Bible dictionaries)

  • Ex– believe from <G4102> (pistis); to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ) :- believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with
    • [this is taken from My Study Bible and shows the Greek word (pistis) and the corresponding number (G4102) in a Strong's concordance]
  • Ex– only from <G3441> (monos) and <G1096> (ginomai); only-born, i.e. sole :- only (begotten, child) [also taken from My Study Bible]

Reframe words and phrases within an expanded picture explanation

This is especially important with words that are somewhat generic or have broad meanings, like God, love, world, gave, only Son, etc. Here are a couple examples of what I mean by reframing and expanding the explanation with a picture.

  • Ex– God Which God? One of the millions of Vedic gods of Hinduism? Or the God of Deism? It's important to consider words from the perspective or point of view (POV) of others (especially non-believers).
    • In John 3:16, the apostle John speaks of the Father, who is also the Creator– (see John 1:1-3, 14)
  • Ex– love Which kind of love? In NT (koine) Greek, there were four different words describing for kinds of love— agape, philia or phileo, storge, eros. In John 3:16, the Greek word for love is agape (agapao), which is often referred to as unconditional love, or a love that is willed more than felt.
    • God has an all-encompassing love, which is non-exclusive, intentional, and unconditional. It is similar but greater than a mother's love for her child (Isaiah 49:15-16a)

Understand the Scriptures in your own words (IYOW)

  • Here's my IYOW version of John 3:16—
    • The Creator of the universe showed great compassion on those whom He created by sending His one and only true Son as an expression of His love, so those who put their trust in Him will not experience eternal judgment, but everlasting life beyond their life on this earth.

Keep it simple and give it a try

I've given a lot more information than you might want to use, but I wanted to provide some clear ideas about how I approach putting the truth of Scripture in my own words (IYOW).

You don't need to go through this long process each time, especially as you become more familiar with the whole Bible. As you gain more experience and understanding in God's Word (2 Tim 2:15 NIV), and read various versions, it will become more natural.

Again, keep it simple, but give it a try!

Post your own IYOW version on social media or in the comments section below.

Feel free to share this post with others– http://word-strong.com/re-framing-john-316-a-follow-up/ –and thanks for reading!

Getting Beyond "John 3:16"

john316sign When we hear something over and over, we tune it out at some level. It becomes too familiar, or we tune it out because we don't want to hear it.

This is what children do with their parents. "Are you listening to what I'm telling you?" Uh, that would be no! When we hear an ad or announcement repeated ad nauseam, we tune it out as a means of self-preservation.

Perhaps this is why people are indifferent to the good news of God's redemption. They either tune it out because it's redundant and repetitive, or they just don't want to hear it. Then again, it could be something quite different.

Signs of the times

Christian believers and non-believers alike, tend to tune out redundant, repetitive Scripture quotes. This is especially true for quoting Scripture references. The ubiquitous signs at sporting events are more of an irritant than inspiration.

[bctt tweet="People tend to tune out redundant, repetitive Scripture quotes"]

Do people with Scripture reference signs really think they communicate the gospel? They don't. Only those familiar with these references know what they mean. Are sports fans suppose to have their Bibles handy to look up these references?

For me, this is spiritual laziness. It is useless effort. It doesn't communicate the truth of Scripture. (Want to know I really feel?...lol)

[bctt tweet="Do people with Scripture reference signs really think they communicate the gospel?"]

Tuning in

If a believer is genuinely concerned about lost souls hearing the truth of the gospel, then they need to communicate it well. How can a person share the truth of God's Word so others hear it and understand it?

I'm a believer of reading and hearing God's Word (the Bible) in different versions. It helps me see and hear the truth in a fresh way and in different wording. It keeps me from tuning out what I think I already know.

[bctt tweet="How can a person share the truth of God's Word so others hear it and understand it?"]

I found this helpful while teaching in the Philippines where English is a second language. Language is often a barrier to understanding, especially going from one distinct language to another. But obstacles exist within the language that's most familiar to us.

Often, certain words or terms are misunderstood or not understood at all. Here is where we need to learn to communicate the truth of God in a simple and clear way.

[bctt tweet="Certain Bible words or terms are misunderstood or not understood at all"]

Making it simple and clear

How can we communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well? Here are some suggestions I've found helpful while teaching in the US and in cross-cultural settings.

[bctt tweet="How can we communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well?"]

I'll give you an example in my next post, so stay tuned!

Give it a try yourself!

 

Do You Have a Problem with Junk Food?

Photo credit: lightstock.com How many times, in a day or week, do we hear how bad junk food is for us? Some cities and schools are trying to restrict or control diets. But will this change how we eat over all? I don't think so.

When I was young, I'd stop by our local donut shop and get a half-dozen donuts, which I scarfed down before dinner. Ah, I still remember the taste and satisfaction of the moment! When dinner time came I told my mom, "I'm not hungry." Sound familiar?

After eating all those donuts, I wasn't too interested in vegetables.

I'm not hungry

As a parent of my own children, I've seen something similar play out in our home. As a pastor, I've also seen it.

Most pastors have heard the familiar complaint, "Pastor, I'm not getting fed anymore."

When I was a young pastor I took it personally. Not any more. What changed?

I began to see past the complaint to the real problem. Sometimes the person was discontent with their own life. In some cases it was a problem with the person's appetite. What they meant was, "I'm not hungry... for what you're serving up."

People too often have an appetite for what I call spiritual junk food. They've developed a diet of pop-theology and shallow Bible talk. I've addressed this before, so I won't get into that here.

"I'm not hungry... for what you're serving up."

Supplements

Some people counter a fast-food diet and lack of exercise with supplements. The vitamin and supplement industry is huge. Vegetables and fruits? Who needs them when you can take a capsule or powder formula to get the same nutrients?

My friend and fitness coach spent thousands of dollars on supplements, until he realized whole foods, fasting, and exercise insured better health for a lot less money.

I think it's the same with spiritual truth.

If a person read (or listened to) the Bible on a daily basis (Acts 17:11), relied on God's Spirit for understanding (1 John 2:27), and did some fasting—they'd be spiritually healthy.

Is it that simple? Yes!

We don't need to hear the latest message from the most popular teachers, we need to feed upon God's Word itself. Jesus indicates this in His famous teaching in John 6, when He says, "I am the Bread of Life" (John 6:48-51).

Is it that simple? Yes, I believe it is.

In our first year in the Philippines, Susan and I were told by a few missionaries, "We don't get fed by the national pastors." Susan's thoughts on it were, "If they have their Bibles and the Spirit of God, why can't they get fed?

Are you relying on others to feed you spiritual truth?

Physical or digital?

There is something to be said for reading a physical Bible. You know, the kind with printed words on paper.

Photo credit: lightstock.com

I know, it's the digital age. I have Bible programs on my phone, tablet, and laptop and use them often. But I still rely on a Bible and notebook when studying.

This post stated out as a rough draft in my notebook. I looked up references by thumbing through my Bible. Amazing how that still works so well!

A common Bible text for us teacher-types is 2 Timothy 2:15. The NIV uses the wording, "...who correctly handles the word of truth." The original language (Greek) is literally cutting straight, and is translated rightly dividing in the KJV, and handling aright in the Revised Version.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)

There's something about handling God's Word in a physical way that goes beyond the tangible. It involves me in a more complete way— in a physical, mental, and spiritual sense.

But hey, if digital media is your thing, that's fine. But, do you take the time to read, think, and listen to what God's Spirit speaks to you, as you scroll through the Scripture?

So, what's the point?

When we look to others to feed us, we will remain like infants (Heb 5:12-14). Just as with mothers and their babies, we're relying on someone else to chew or grind up the food to a soft, near-liquid state to consume.

If that's what you prefer, don't expect much in the way of spiritual growth. It may keep you alive, but you won't grow up and mature as God intends (Eph 4:11-15).

When we look to others to feed us, we will remain like infants

A little junk food once in a while won't hurt, but a steady diet of it is unhealthy. The choice is yours, of course.

A simple challenge

At the beginning of one year, I challenged people in the church to read one Bible verse a day, or even a week. Not much of a challenge, but it can make a world of difference in anyone's life.

Think you could handle reading a Bible verse a day? I'm sure you could. Why not try it out?

Just pick one verse, read it, think on it, and consider it throughout the day.

Here's some resources—

Need help finding a verse? There's plenty of resources available online or on your phone.

The Bible app YouVersion has a daily Bible verse each time you open the app.

Also see...

The Daily Bible Verse

Verse of the Day

 

Acronym-ically Speaking

Image credit: blinkblink1 / 123RF Stock Photo Acronyms. Gotta love 'em… lol (laughing out loud)! Whether it's government agencies or texting lingo, they've become an integral part of everyday life, at least for most of us. Like them or hate them, they are part of our information-overload culture.

But acronyms, as a rule, are context dependent. Unless you know the context they're used in you won't understand what they mean.

I know a group of believers and a ministry that goes by CIA—Christians In Action. Of course, when most people see these initials the Central Intelligence Agency comes to mind. BTW (by the way), that reminds me of a great line from the movie, Red October— Capt. Bart Mancuso: "Central Intelligence Agency... Now, there's a contradiction in terms."

Acronyms

Terminology and phrases used over and over often get shortened into acronyms.

When I did some work in the chemical dependency field we wrote reports for intake and assessment interviews. Comments were made about a client's social history (Hx) and recommended treatment (Tx). These abbreviations are common within social services and helping professions.

Acronyms are shorthand abbreviations for terms. It saves time and energy. But if you're not familiar with the context they're used in, it can cause confusion.

Christian lingo

Herein lies one of my pet peeves—the use of Christianese. It is a generic, catch-all phrase for Christian lingo and terms. I also call it Bible-talk. For the uninitiated (non-believers or new Christian believers) it is unintelligible talk. It doesn't make sense because there's no frame of reference to understand these terms and phrases.

As with most things I learn, I stumbled into a way of dealing with the overuse and abuse of Christianese. It wasn't discovered through research and study, but a desperate attempt to help my students understand the Bible and theological terms.

In 1995, I established a Bible school in the Philippines with a curriculum based on the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) approach. Working with students for whom English was a second language (ESL), I needed to find a way to help them learn beyond the typical transfer of knowledge—copying and repeating.

How could I get them to understand well-known Bible verses beyond a surface familiarity? How could I help them understand what it means to be born again or what redemption is?

IYOW

I developed the expression IYOW, for In Your Own Words. I asked the students to define words and express Bible verses in their own words. It proved to be a challenging yet fruitful process.

Several years ago we had a group of Americans come over on a short-term mission (STM). They went out with our first-year students for an outreach mission in another area. As part of our curriculum, the students had a class on personal evangelism along with the outreach (OR). This class required them to redefine common Christian terms related to personal evangelism.

I was glad to see how well the students did, but confounded by how the Americans struggled with the assignment. They had a hard time transferring what they knew into words of their own. They seemed to be bound by unspoken rules, as if it wasn't proper to decode these terms into simple words.

A useful tool

I realized I had stumbled upon a useful tool for teaching the truth. Not only for my students, but those who think they know the truth.

You try it. Take a common biblical term (i.e.: salvation, communion, etc.), Christian expression (i.e.: altar call, accept Christ, etc.), or well-known Bible verse (like John 3:16) and put it into your own words (IYOW). You may find it more challenging than you expect.

Next week I'll begin a new category of posts called, IYOW. From time to time I'll try to decode certain terms used in Christian circles (ie: church). I hope it will be helpful and insightful, and maybe a little fun along the way.

What are some Christian expressions or biblical terms you'd like to understand better?

Let me know. Just put them in the comment section. Maybe I'll use one of the suggestions in another post.


For a fun look at Christianese check out this video (still one of my favorites)— Christianese

For a more in-depth view of Christianese, here's a resource in development that might help, and give you a chuckle or two— http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/

About the Beginning of the Story

Image credit: arturaliev / 123RF Stock Photo I've started a new writing project. It's a bit ambitious, but here's the gist of it. My goal is to take God's Story (in the Bible) and show how my own life story and the life story of others is woven together. Here's the beginning point...

God's story starts out with a simple statement, "In the beginning, God…." God exists and all life as we know it began when He spoke it into existence.

Many people have a hard time swallowing this as true, and see the Bible as a book of fables and folk tales. The reason it's hard to see it differently is because we have lost connection with God, and lost touch with our own human history.

The power of story

More progressive cultures have difficulty believing in God than cultures in less developed regions of the world. While it's easy to dismiss the Bible and God as just a story, stories engage people and are popular today.

What may seem as a trend or fad in western culture (an interest in story) has never been lost in other cultures throughout time. In most cultures, stories take center stage. People gather to hear stories, stop what they're doing to listen to stories, and look for opportunities to tell their own story.

The power of story invaded my own life unexpectedly. As a cross-cultural missionary I do a lot of talking. In a more formal setting it's called preaching and teaching. In preaching, stories are incorporated into the messages as a way of illustrating or explaining whatever truth the message is intended to convey.

Most of the time we preachers see stories as something to add to the message. It's not the focal point, but a means to an end. A way to help make a truth more clear by connecting it to something familiar and known. Jesus used stories in a more central way.

A simple story

One Sunday morning in the Philippines, as I went on and on with my message and followed a carefully written outline, I told a story for illustration. As I began to tell it, I engaged everyone's attention. I borrowed it from a book of parabolic stories made popular in Philippine culture by a doctor and journalist. The story revolves around a carabao (water buffalo). It's a simple story that transcends culture.

IMG_0659A farmer and his son traveled back from a day of farming with their carabao. The carabao is a powerful and mostly docile animal used for pulling heavy things and to plow fields. It's common in South East Asia and beloved in Filipino culture.

The farmer had his son ride on the carabao while he walked beside it. As they went by some people, they overheard them say, "Look at that lazy son! His father has worked hard all day and he insists on riding the carabao. How disrespectful!

So, the son got down from the carabao and the father mounted the carabao. They continued home with the father riding and the son walking, until they came to another group of people along the way. Once again, they overheard their conversation, "Look at that father who rides the carabao while his young son is forced to walk beside him. How cruel this father is to his son!"

The farmer and his son dismounted the carabao and began walking together, leading the carabao behind them. As they approached another group of people, this is what they heard, "Look at this foolish farmer and his son. Here they have a strong carabao to ride on after a long day's work, but they're too stupid to take advantage of what God has given them!"

This time the father joined the son on the carabao. They both rode the carabao and continued to their home. Again, people said something critical, "Look at them, the carabao has worked hard all day and this lazy farmer and son are making the carabao work even harder!"

The point of the story

The point of the story, of course, is that no matter what you do someone is likely to criticize it. It's just human nature.

This illustrates out how well story engages us. It draws us in and engages our emotions and our thoughts. And sometimes, the point of the story can be the story itself.

Have you experienced something like this where no matter what you do someone is critical about it?

Does any of this ring true with the story of your own life, or certain events in your life?


Give me some feedback on what you like (or not like) about what I wrote. You can make a comment below. Thanks for reading!

The Core of the Gospel

MJ_sharing
MJ_sharing

Culture has an amazing impact upon people. It subtly shapes their worldview of everything in life, from birth through adulthood.

This impact is strong and resistant to change, but it will change given sufficient cause. The change can be either good or bad depending on one’s worldview, values, or beliefs.

For example, the enslavement of Africans, abducted and traded as if they were cattle, was culturally acceptable in European countries and America. Now, it is illegal and immoral. But that change did not come easily.

A major culture change

A British Member of Parliament named William Wilberforce challenged his prevailing culture in the late eighteenth century. He proposed legislative measures at great cost to his reputation, wealth, and health for more than forty years.

But change came in 1833 when slavery was made illegal in England. It had a ripple effect felt across the oceans of the world, which included the newly established United States of America, the former colonial territory of Great Britain. [1]

Religion and culture

In many countries around the world, religious conviction is tied to the intrinsic culture.

The Philippines is predominantly Roman Catholic, with a strong contingent of Evangelical (Protestant) Christianity, a significant Muslim minority, and ancient folk traditions. Many Filipinos struggle with becoming born again, [2] because of the strong influence of Roman Catholicism—it’s rituals, traditions, and longevity.

Thailand is primarily Buddhist. Many Thais find it difficult to distinguish their national identity from their religion. Likewise in Indonesia and Malaysia, where the world’s largest population of Muslims reside. In many countries, it is illegal to proselytize someone of Islamic faith towards another faith.

The impact of culture

In the early 2000's, our Bible school in the Philippines sent out two young Filipinas as missionaries to Thailand.

MJ and Ruchell learned the Thai language quickly, and made friendships with ease. They lived out their Christianity with genuineness and simplicity, and were well received by their neighbors, including the landlord of the simple apartment they rented in Chiang Mai.

As they built relationships, they offered prayer for their new friends. Prayer was accepted with gratefulness. But when it came to accepting the Gospel and Jesus, who was unknown to them, there was resistance.

They were Thai. They were Buddhists. They were afraid of changing their religion and no longer being true Thais.

American culture and Christianity

America’s culture  is known for its respect for individual rights. As a result, Christianity in America is often self-focused and personalized.

Based on versions of the gospel, as given by popular preachers, many people regard Jesus as their best friend, someone personally interested in them, but not as their sovereign Lord. It is such a prevalent view it’s been categorized as a religious belief of its own—Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. [3]

A popular worship song about the Lord’s death on the cross goes,

“You took the fall and thought of me, above all....” [4]

The Father’s purpose for Jesus going to the Cross was, indeed, to bring redemption for all people. But a self-focused bias is not reflected in the biblical version of the gospel, but is in a plethora of popular songs, teachings, and various Christian self-help books.

Culture bias

This cultural bias is exported around the world, reflecting an American, self-absorbed view of Jesus and the Gospel, which adulterates the gospel message. This has a crippling, often tragic effect.

The Gospel can be minimized and reduced into brief terms. When this happens, its importance and significance is overlooked. Biblical truth may be talked about and discussed without being passed on to those who need to hear it.

Ministries in America can focus more on getting people into the church than caring for the physical and spiritual needs of the people. Worship services can be more focused on presentation and performance than the Lord Himself, whom it is all intended to exalt.

A distorted focus

Are believers in churches being discipled unto the Lord Himself, or trained for doing certain tasks? The need to accomplish a list of spiritual activities can take the place of spending personal and intimate time with the Lord.

Things like spending time in prayer, devotions, reading the Scripture, serving in various ministries, and so on, are good things, but not an end in themselves.

The Lord desires His people to give themselves to Him.

These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:8-9 NKJV)

I want you to be merciful; I don't want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that's more important than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6 NLT)

It's all about Him, not us

Christian activity can look past what is most important—the personal element. The Christian life is far more than the sum of all Christian activities to be done.

What the Lord considers most important is revealed in the story of Matthew 16:13–28. It’s not complicated or theoretical, but simple and essential.

It is the core of the Essential Gospel and the Christian life. It runs counter to the culture of the day—the culture then and now.

Whether the culture is primitive or sophisticated, the Gospel and the call to follow Jesus is not “...all about me,” nor any individual. It’s all about Jesus.

Do you see your own culture's influence in how you view Christianity?

This is an excerpt from my book, The Mystery of the Gospel, Unraveling the Mystery

Footnotes for this excerpt are below

[1] Reference for William Wilberforce— http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wilberforce

[2] Born again is a term Jesus used in John 3:3-8 when talking to Nicodemus, a Jewish Pharisee. It has become synonymous with a personal faith conversion to orthodox Christianity, especially within evangelical circles.

[3] Here are a couple links to articles about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD)—

http://goo.gl/RvllH | https://goo.gl/fxIwRm

[4] The lyrics are from the song, “Above All,” by Lenny LeBlanc