God's Word

How I Got Theology– Part 3

Photo credit: unsplash.com_NCollins American evangelical churches have worked hard to reach out to younger generations over the past couple of decades. It's not gone that well.

Sure, more mega churches dot the landscape, but a great many people, especially younger ones, have left the organized church, or simply left the Christian faith.

Much effort has gone into attracting and drawing people into church, while others focus on being missional. Sadly, the foundation for faith is often neglected with these efforts.

An assumption

Aristotle is credited with the postulate that nature abhors a vacuum. A vacuum existed in the mid-sixties—a lack of spiritual integrity and substance. This vacuum got filled with philosophy, religion, and cultural trends. Life is cyclical. There is an ebb and flow to everything on earth.

An assumption was made by organized churches in the years preceding the Jesus People Movement. It was assumed that young people had no interest in studying the Bible. I see a similar assumption at present. It was a wrong assumption 50+ years ago and it's wrong now.

The opposite is true. Many young people are seeking the truth and are interested in the Bible. And, many people want mentoring, but they reject authoritarianism.

[bctt tweet="Many young people seek truth and are open to be mentored" username="tkbeyond"]

A hunger

A great biblical ignorance exists today. Not a lack of Bible knowledge or resources, but ignorance. Why? Much of what is presented and promoted is not processed thoughtfully and spiritually by those who receive it. The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart.

[bctt tweet="The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart" username="tkbeyond"]

A great hunger and interest in the truth existed when I came to faith over 45 years ago. Yep, I'm old. I'm a holdover from the Jesus Generation, as it was called.

I remember hours of shared engagement studying the Bible with other people of my generation. We did it in churches, often sitting on the floor, in homes, on our own, or outside in public. We couldn't get enough. I couldn't get enough.

It wasn't listening to well-crafted messages from the Bible, it was a personal encounter with Jesus. He (Jesus) has a lot to say about the value of digging into the Scriptures—

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)

It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. (John 6:63 NCV)

“If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31, 32 NCV)

 “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth. (John 17:17 GW)

A personal encounter

Is there a difference between attending a Bible study and studying the Bible? Yes. I've seen many people attend a Bible study, taking in what is said as valuable information. But, if that information doesn't become life-giving truth for them, it is simply Bible knowledge.

Bible knowledge isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't transform a person, it informs them.

[bctt tweet="Bible knowledge doesn't transform a person, it informs them" username="tkbeyond"]

If our study of the Bible isn't a personal encounter with Jesus, but only a pursuit of truth, we miss the most important thing. As Jesus said, "these very Scriptures speak about me!" (John 5:39 GNTD)

So, how does Bible study become a spiritual encounter with Jesus? Here are some things that help build a good foundation for your own personal theology to develop—

  • Prayer—perhaps too obvious, yet so vital it must be mentioned—we need to ask God to reveal His truth to us (Matthew 16:17).
  • The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17)—How can we receive God's revelation apart from His Spirit?
  • Reading and listening to the Scriptures—there is nothing that can replace this. No one else can do this for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Regular study of the Bible—if not daily, weekly—a consistent digging into the Scriptures so your faith is founded on a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27)

Need more?

This is the final of a 3-part series that began with How I Got Theology– Part 1. It's my personal answer to three questions posed in a previous post called Got Theology? where I look at how we all develop a personal theology.

If you'd like more guidance on how to study the Bible in a personal, yet systematic and objective way, you can download my 7-page Primer on Inductive Bible Study. It is a simple guide to Inductive Bible Study (IBS) developed from many years of training pastors, leaders, and other followers of Jesus, here in the US and overseas.

Just click on the link below, fill out the short form, then download it.

Click Here to Download the Basic Primer on Inductive Bible Study

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?

Projects and Posts

Photo credit: unsplash_JSheldon Projects. I like working on projects. However, I've learned it's easier to start projects than finish them. That's probably true for most of us.

One of the reasons I like projects is my tendency to lose interest in doing just one things for a long time. I like new things, different things, and I like challenges.

Recently, I've been working on a new project. It's connected to a couple of other projects that are revisions of previous projects I've completed. I hope to make it available next week.

What's make these popular?

For this week's post, I've collected a few of the more popular posts on my blog. I'd like to get some feedback on what makes them interesting or engaging.

Is it the topic? Is it the title? What is it a link on social media? What is it recommended by someone?

Whatever the reason, I'd like to know. So, here's the list of the top 5 posts, let me hear your feed back and thoughts.

Top 5 posts

  1. The Art and Value of Encouragement
  2. 5 Basic Foundational Truths of the Christian Faith
  3. Acronym-ically Speaking
  4. About the Beginning of the Story
  5. Who Needs Fellowship?

Again, as you check these posts out, let me know what interests or engages you most about them.

  • Is it the topic?
  • Is it the title?
  • What stands out to you?
  • What is most valuable or helpful for you?

Thanks! And please feel to comment on or share any of these posts!

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?

The Jewish Advantage

Photo credit: lightstock.com

So, do Jews have anything that others don’t have? Do they get any benefit from being circumcised? Yes, the Jews have many benefits. The most important one is this: God trusted the Jews with his teachings.

It is true that some Jews were not faithful to God. But will that stop God from doing what he promised? No, even if everyone else is a liar, God will always do what he says. As the Scriptures say about him,

“You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win when people accuse you.” [Psalm 51:4]

When we do wrong, that shows more clearly that God is right. So can we say that God does wrong when he punishes us? (That’s the way some people think.) Of course not. If God could not punish us, how could he judge the world?

Someone might say, “When I lie, it really gives God glory, because my lie makes his truth easier to see. So why am I judged a sinner?” It would be the same to say, “We should do evil so that good will come.” Many people criticize us, saying that’s what we teach. They are wrong, and they should be condemned for saying that. (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭1-8‬ ERV)


We (US Americans) live in a culture of much entitlement. Many American Christians believe that God gave us a favored status among nations. I believe this is true up to a point.

If by favor we mean that God has shown us great blessings, yes. But He has not shown us favoritism because we are better than others. It is only because He is gracious by nature.

But, in my opinion, we have squandered this favor. How? In the way we tolerate immoral and unethical behaviors, such as abortion on demand, pornography and sex trafficking, and lack of integrity and accountability in so many ways.

God entrusted the Christian church in America with much favor and great resources. But it seems we have squandered this, as well. How? We are more influenced by the relativistic culture around us than impacting it with the integrity of the truth entrusted to us by God.

We can choose to uphold the truth of God by how we live, or compromise it by our example. But God, and the truth of God, will not be changed nor morphed by our compromise, nor by ever-changing culture.

God entrusted Israel with the Law (teachings), and He likewise entrusted the Christian church with His grace and truth. So, God had higher expectations of the Jews, just as He does of the church.  ©Word-Strong_2015

20 Years and Counting

DSC_1021 How can I put into words what is beyond expression? Even a photo, like the one above, doesn't capture the breadth of relationships and experiences we celebrated this past week.

Just twenty years ago, a small Bible college was established in the central region of the Visayas, in Dumaguete City, Philippines. We started off with a small student body—five people, and the following year our second class was even fewer. But year by year, the school grew and developed.

ptr-alumni_hats

Over the years, many churches have been planted by our alumni, and some of those earlier ones planted more churches. Even Bible schools and extension campuses (non-English teaching) have been established in a few places, including Southern Thailand.

Welcome-CCTC

Missionaries, pastors, children's ministry leaders, and other workers have been equipped and sent out. Each alumni learned to serve in the ministry while they studied, and out internships helped cement what was learned in class.

TK_mpr-alumni

Our celebration included some important reminders from God's Word through some of His servants, and we had some great fellowship.

Diningroom

It was a sweet time of worship, Word, prayer, and of course, we enjoyed some delicious food!

dinner-beach

We also made time for fun!

Imo-vball_guys

 

Many of the alumni came as young men and women, some were teenagers, and now they have their own families. I've been privileged to be a part of their lives over the years.

guys-atbeach

It's been a treat for me seeing so many people I haven't seen in a long while, as well as those I see each year. The time has gone by too fast, and it's hard to say good-bye again, as I head back to my US-home.

MPR_CCBCP

A Faithful Messenger

WS-devo_PMSMost of us like consistency, but not monotony. We want to be able to count on something, but don't want it to be repetitious.

So, how do you get the one without the other?

We've all experienced the fickleness of people saying one thing, but doing another. It can make us wonder if there's anyone who can be faithful and consistent in what they say and do.

Like the cold of snow in time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his masters.”—Proverbs 25:13 (NKJV)

This week's devo is a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's blog. Here's the link– A Faithful Messenger

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post with others!

Calvary Chapel—Past and Present

©CCCM – the Tent This week I'm attending the SE Calvary Chapel Pastors Conference at CC Merritt Island (Florida). I'll be representing and hosting a table for Poimen Ministries, and fellowshipping with other pastors.

Several weeks ago I submitted a guest post to a writer friend whom I interviewed a while back. He allowed me to share a post about Calvary Chapel in a series with other bloggers called Denomination Derby.

It's been interesting to read other people's appreciation for their churches, and I'm glad to be included in this. Thanks for letting me join Ed!

Photo credit: edcyzewski.com

I hope you enjoy reading the post, and maybe you'll appreciate why I've been a part of Calvary Chapel all these years. This link will direct you to the post— Calvary Chapel—Past and Present

 

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! 

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

 

Enter and Rest

WS-devo_PMSAnyone who enters God’s rest will rest from his work as God did. Let us try as hard as we can to enter God’s rest so that no one will fail by following the example of those who refused to obey. God’s word is alive and working and is sharper than a double-edged sword. It cuts all the way into us, where the soul and the spirit are joined, to the center of our joints and bones. And it judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts. Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God. Everything is clear and lies open before him, and to him we must explain the way we have lived. (Hebrews 4:10-13 NCV) How do we know we've entered His rest? When our heart is at peace with God and our conscience is clear. How can we know this? God's penetrating truth! ©Word-Strong_2014

Simplicity and Power

©tkbeyond/word-strong.com Stories have both simplicity and power. They engage the heart and mind. (Click to Tweet) This is what makes biblical storying so effective.

Biblical storying is the purest form of sharing the gospel. (Click to Tweet)

Simple, yet powerful

Here's an excerpt from a newsletter (from Simply the Story) about a Filipino pastor I've partnered with for many years. I have been his mentor, but he's also my mentor through his example of bold leadership and vision.

We continue to pray for those in the Philippines who were devastated by the typhoon. A week before the typhoon, our amazing STS instructor (who leads workshops, plants Oral Bible Schools and tells STS stories on weekly radio programs) wrote us.“

"The pastor of ___ church called me last night and told me that he changed. ‘'I listen to you, and so do other pastors of my denomination. I noticed in your program that you never talk any doctrine. I always try to answer your questions by my doctrines, but I find my doctrines are not in the Bible.'’ [His denomination is not considered by some to be Christian.]

"“My radio program encouraged him to read the Bible. He and those pastors asked me for training so they can learn how to be closer to what the Bible teaches."

Influence that lasts

Few people have this pastor's vision, discernment, and resourcefulness. He doesn't pastor a large church, nor oversee a large network of churches.

Yet, his fruitful influence exceeds more well-known ministries. Why? He practices what Jesus instructed his disciples, "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matt 10:8 NIV)

He doesn't hold on to people or resources. He's willing to cross lines drawn by others to serve and teach whoever is hungry for the truth. (Click to Tweet)

Effective discipleship is color-blind, non-partisan, and inclusive of all ethnicities. (Click to Tweet)

True discipleship ignores cultural barriers and socio-economic status. It is the essence of the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). (Click to Tweet)

Discipleship is the practical application of God's love to whoever will receive it. (Click to TweetLove is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking.... (1 Cor 13:4-5 NIV)

This is the heart of God as seen in His Son Jesus, as He discipled those who followed Him.

God's story

Jesus told stories with simplicity and power. The gospel is not a collection of theological truths, but the revelation of God's personal and redemptive love. (Click to Tweet)

The entire Bible is God's redemptive story. All of it, even the parts that are hard to understand or accept. (Click to Tweet)

When we (teachers, pastors, leaders, etc.) reduce God's grand, all-encompassing story of love to propositional truths, we rob it of its power, we corrupt its simplicity. (Click to Tweet) The way Jesus went about His ministry was so simple and powerful, it drew people to Him. (Mark 1:21-28) (Click to Tweet)

No need for improvement

And yet, the church and its leaders keep trying to improve on how ministry is done. Talk about being missional and intentional sounds good. But has the gospel become more relevant? (Click to Tweet)

Have we only managed to complicate it? If so, we've put it out of reach for millions. Make that billions. (http://www.peoplegroups.org/)

The gospel has always been relevant, because it is personal and true, simple and powerful. (Click to Tweet)

How well do you know the gospel? Do you know how to share it with anyone, at anytime, anywhere?

You can't, and you won't, unless you know it in your heart, not just in your mind.

Read it. Hear it. Share it. Then let it become embedded in your daily life as you follow Jesus.

More resources—

Blue Letter Bible– www.blueletterbible.org/

Daily Audio Bible–  http://dailyaudiobible.com/

Orality Network– http://www.orality.net/

Spirituality and the Value and Danger of Electricity

©tkbeyond/word-strong.com Electricity is very useful. It can also be dangerous.

Our present lifestyle requires electricity. We need it for lights and appliances, including our computers, tablets, smart phones, and wi-fi. If there's a problem with your car, technicians hook it up to a diagnostic computer.

Electricity, not just its discovery, but how to harness it, has revolutionized the way we live. A bit of understatement, huh?

Though valuable and useful, it can be dangerous unless it is properly grounded. Spirituality is similar. (Tweet this)

Grounded

Electricity needs to be grounded to stabilize it. This makes it both safe and useful. Likewise, spirituality, that is, spiritual truth, needs to be grounded in a proper way. (Tweet this)

What is the grounding for spiritual truth? God's Word. The written Word of God, the Bible, stabilizes spiritual truth. (Tweet this) It grounds it. Just as electricity needs to be grounded to be safe and useful, so also spiritual truth needs to be grounded to God's written Word, the Bible.

Why does lightning strike the ground from the clouds? It's attracted by the positive charges (electrons) in the earth (the ground). The atmosphere, filled with storm clouds, contains an immense amount of scattered negative electric charges. When they gather together, these negative charges seek the positive charged ground. [Lightning]

This is why it's not good to be on exposed ground in an electrical storm!

©tkbeyond/word-strong.com

Understanding

The natural world is God's illustration book for understanding spiritual truth. (Psalm 19:1-4; Rom. 1:20) (Tweet this) So, electricity's need to be grounded can help us understand the need for spiritual truth to be grounded.

When I was seeking truth, I wandered through the maze of philosophies and religions available on earth. It was confusing. I also found it to be quite impersonal.

Have you ever flown on a plane caught in an electrical storm? It's exciting to say the least! Bounced around in those clouds full of electrical power, being safe on the ground is desirable.

That's how I felt in my search for truth.

One constant for me was reading the Bible each day. I did so for a couple of years during my search. I didn't understand much, but it stabilized me. Bounced around from one thought to another, I saw consistency and stability in the Bible. It kept pointing me to a person. That person was Jesus. (Tweet this)

Here are a couple interesting things I've discovered. Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is known as the Word (John 1:1, 14), which lines up with the account of creation in Genesis 1 where it says, "...and God said...." At the end of the Bible, in Rev 19:11-16, He is known as, "The Word of God."

It's personal

God's truth, as recorded in the Bible, is personal. Unlike the ungrounded, impersonal philosophies and religions of the world, it is grounded in the person of Jesus. (Tweet this)  As He told the expert teachers of the Law (the Pharisees)—

You study the Scriptures in detail because you think you have the source of eternal life in them. These Scriptures testify on my behalf. Yet, you don’t want to come to me to get ⌊eternal⌋ life. (John 5:39-40 GW)

What's your experience with reading the Bible? Do you understand it or find it difficult? (Tweet this)

Are you searching for answers? Are you uncertain about what is true, or are you confused by man's opinions and ideas about truth? (Tweet this)

The Bible is not just a collection of spiritual truths, it's God's Story. His story of redemption. (Tweet this) It is a written revelation of truth so we may know God in a personal way.

Would you like to know God, or understand Him better? Start reading, or listening to, Gods Word, the Bible. (Tweet this)

The important thing is to read it or listen to it each day. Even if it's only a few verses a day. This is the purpose for my Word-Strong devos posted three times a week. (Tweet this) And think about what you are reading or listening to throughout the day.

Where do you start?

There are many resources available online. If you're reading this online, then you probably have access to most of them. Various reading plans can be found and followed, and several devotional readings are available.

Here are some links to get you started—

https://www.bible.com/

www.blueletterbible.org/

www.biblegateway.com/

www.biblica.com/bibles/

www.esvbible.org/devotions/daily-light/

Do You Want an Expert Opinion?

Photo credit: Tribune Media Services What is it about experts that makes us want tho hear what they say? Is it their intelligence? They're experience? They're authority or recognition as an expert?

Many years ago I realized a couple things about experts. They are often self-appointed, and too often their expertise is knowledge-based rather than experiential. Oh yeah, they can be wrong. Sometimes more wrong than they're right.

For example, take the experts in the Law in Jesus' time. They were way wrong, but would never admit it. (Mark 2:16-17 GW)

I believe we've been held captive by the opinion of experts far too long. (Click to Tweet) The earth is not flat. Draining someone's blood doesn't get rid of disease. Humans can travel faster than the speed of sound, and run a mile under four minutes.

Experts and Jesus

The experts of Jesus' time, people who should know better than anyone, missed what they were looking for—the Messiah. Why? For one thing, they didn't like who He had as His followers.

My definition of arrogance is the resulting combination of pride and ignorance. (Click to Tweet) Sadly, my experience with (so-called) experts has born this out, too often. BTW, I'm no expert.

I can only guess why you would want an expert opinion. My expectation is that an expert will deliver an authoritative and true opinion. But alas, opinions are opinions, regardless of who gives them.

Jesus had real authority and He spoke truth, not opinion. His view of discipleship was simple and practical. (Click to Tweet)

A considerable amount of books, pamphlets, and messages on discipleship have been generated over the years. All try to capture the essence, purpose, and value of discipleship.

One book I can recommend is The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert Coleman. It is a classic and well worth the read. But one of the simplest views of Jesus' model of discipleship can be found in Paul's epistle, 2 Timothy in Chapter 2.

Here is where I find the essence of discipleship. Not so much a "how-to" plan, but a process. Discipleship is an ongoing process. It may have a beginning, but it's only end is when we see Jesus face to face. (1 Cor 13:12) (Click to Tweet)

Where do we start?

The foundation for all true discipleship is God's grace. His kindness poured out for all humanity through Jesus. (Click to Tweet)

My child, find your source of strength in the kindness [grace] of Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 2:1 GW)

How does the process of discipleship begin?

First, we need to become a disciple and follower of Jesus. We need to be faithful and consistent in our own relationship with Jesus, and our relationships with others. (Click to Tweet) Then we are to pass onto other followers of Jesus what the Lord has worked into our lives.

You’ve heard my message, and it’s been confirmed by many witnesses. Entrust this message to faithful individuals who will be competent to teach others. (2 Tim 2:2 GW)

What is the primary message?

The essential gospel should always be the basis for sharing our faith with others. (Click to Tweet) The essential gospel, as I wrote about in my book, is simply— He (Jesus) came, He died, He rose.

Always think about Jesus Christ. He was brought back to life and is a descendant of David. This is the Good News that I tell others. (2 Tim 2:8 GW)

How can we be ready?

How can you and I be ready at all times and anywhere to share the gospel in our own words? And how can we share what the Lord has worked into our own lives? We need to know the truth of God's Word ourselves. How can we share with others what we don't have a firm grasp of ourselves? (Click to Tweet)

Do your best to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker who isn’t ashamed to teach the word of truth correctly. (2 Tim 2:15 GW)

Two essential elements

What are two essential elements of true discipleship? It needs to be both relational and intentional. (Click to Tweet) It begins with our own personal relationship with Jesus, and continues through personal relationships with others.

It requires commitment on our part. We need to be intentional and faithful in discipling others, even when the results aren't encouraging (see Matt 15:15-16 NIV). (Click to Tweet)

How? That brings us back to the beginning—being strong in God's grace (2 Tim 2:1).

Discipleship is an ongoing process, not a task to accomplish, but an intentional, continuing relationship with Jesus and others. (Click to Tweet)

"Have You Been Born Again?"

Image credit: compuinfoto / 123RF Stock Photo Back in the 1980's, I saw a news account of a group touting a new method of resetting a person's consciousness.

The person was to climb into a hot tub and close the lid, naked I believe. Then the person would be submersed under the water representing their mother's womb, though I'm not sure what instructions were given for when to breathe. (lol)

At some point their consciousness of the past would be cleared and they would come out of the tub. It was to be a new start in life and they were proclaimed as "born again." I'm not kidding, I really did see this on a news program. Where? In Southern California, of course!

The term born again

Charles Colson, legal counsel to former President Nixon, wrote his book Born Again in the previous decade. It tells his story of spiritual rebirth following his imprisonment. It's a clear, compelling book that I recommend.

Nothing against hot tubs, but Colson is more on target with what Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of John, when he told the Jewish leader Nicodemus that he needed to be born again. (John 3:1-10)

The term born again has been misconstrued and misused often. My story of the hot tub is a clear example. When Jesus uses this term Nicodemus is puzzled by the idea of being born twice, as many of us might be.

I've heard complicated and technical explanations, but they aren't much help for non-believers or even young believers.

Jesus gives His explanation

So how does Jesus explain it? He uses natural and simple words, and reinforces what He says as one simple truth. For me, I need to read and reread what Jesus says until I can see the simple truth with God's Spirit as my guide.

Two words form this simple expression of born again. The idea of being born isn't complicated, my grandkids can grasp that. New life comes as a result of birth, whether it's a person or an animal. So the first word doesn't require much explanation.

But the second word isn't as simple as it looks. The word again, as it's translated in most common versions, doesn't mean repeat or replicate. Nicodemus, a learned leader of the Jews, struggled with this expression. But Jesus pressed on and repeated what He said in different words to express what He meant.

Jesus talked to Nicodemus about life in God's kingdom. It is spiritual in nature, so a person needs a spiritual birth, different from the natural, physical birth all humanity experiences. This spiritual birth comes from God. It's from above. The basic meaning of the second word again is literally from above or anew.

How can we understand this term?

How does Jesus explain this to Nicodemus? He uses an illustration from nature and speaks of the wind which is invisible. We can't see it but we see the effect of its action. Then Jesus says, "That's the way it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8 GW)

It helps to look at Jesus' words as reinforcement of one simple truth, rather than many details to be analyzed. Rereading through John 3:3-8 in other versions and translations will help with the process of seeing the simple truth Jesus intended.

Making it simple to understand

Here's the process I use. First, I read and reread the full Bible text where the word or phrase is found. Then I look for the simple and natural meaning intended by whoever spoke or wrote it. When I gain more insight, I write out (or speak) it in my own words (IYOW). Try it. If you have a simpler way, go for it.

Here's my attempt— God's kingdom is spiritual in nature, so I need a spiritual nature to see it and enter it. I can't cause this spiritual birth myself, but I can receive it from God by faith.

How would you tell someone who is a non-believer what it means to be born again?

I bet someone out there in web-land can do a better and simpler job than I did. Give it a try. Put your IYOW version in the comment section. I look forward to seeing your creativity!

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/

What gives Words their Meaning?

Nehemiah 8:8 Learning English is difficult. It has a strong emphasis on grammatical structure.

I remember weeks in grade school and middle school diagramming sentences. I don't think that's done anymore. Pity.

It shows in the way people speak and write. And pity because, I think every student should endure the same torture (just kidding).

English!

English words can have different meanings and pronunciations, but the same spelling. Did you read the book? She read the book. The book was red. Imagine how difficult this is for someone learning English as a second language (ESL)!

How about two words that sound the same, spelled differently, mean different things, and used in the same sentence! He read the red book.

Context is important

This week I talked to two different people who used the acronym PT. One spoke of physical therapy, the other referred to physical training. How could I know the difference? The first person described what he meant as he explained what he was studying. The other one is in the military—known for their use of acronyms—who talked about his physical conditioning.

It's the context a word is used in that gives it meaning.

The one speaking (or writing) has something in mind when using a certain word, phrase or acronym. However, those listening or reading may not be familiar with how the person using the word intends for it to be understood. How many times public figures (mostly politicians) say their words were "taken out of context" when what they say stirs controversy. Christian believers, are you getting where I'm going with this?

Disconnect

This past week, someone asked me what my occupation is. My answer was that I'm a writer and teacher. The inevitable next question is, "Of what?" Right now I'm involved with three part-time jobs to pay the bills, but for the majority of my life I've been a teacher and leader. The transition from teacher-leader to writer-occasional teacher, and as an online teacher-writer, has been a steep learning curve.

When asked what I wrote, I told of my recently published book and my current writing project. I explained my concern of many Christian believers not understanding the speech they use, called Christianese, nor did non-believers understand these words.

As we talked about this, I could see it struck a chord in her heart. Although her church background is different from mine, we both saw a major disconnect of young people from church, or Christianity in general.

Why? There are plenty of stats and opinions, but I believe one thing that goes unnoticed is this issue of Christianese. Christian believers need to speak in plain language, not an obscure form of it. If we want people to understand what we're saying, we need to make the meaning of it clear.

What is your experience with hearing Christian terms and Bible-talk?

Have you ever considered the language you use when talking about Christianity?

____________________________________________________________

For a funny look at Christianese check out this video by B.A.D.D.– Christianese

Here are some Scripture references that might help to make the point even clearer— Nehemiah 8:8, 12; Proverbs 1:2; 25:11; Luke 24:27

Do I Have to be Humble?

A recent Bible study discussion prompted various comments focused on God's grace. Several people interjected their thoughts on what grace means, and how it relates to them. My personal experience with God's grace over the years fills me with a profound sense of humility. Why? Because I realize my smallness and God's greatness. In spite of my failings He showed me kindness and compassion. How much? King David the psalmist said it like this, "Your lovingkindness is better than life." (Ps 63:3 NKJV) Tightrope walker Wallenda walks the high wire over the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls Did you get to see Nik Wallenda walk across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope? I did. It was both stunning and ironic. Nik, the great-grandson of Karl Wallenda ("the Great Wallenda") is a born-again Christian and a tightrope walker. Throughout his traverse of these enormous falls he called out to and praised God. This was a dilemma for the famous news channel broadcasting it live. They wanted audio of the walk as it unfolded, but I doubt they wanted all the commentary they heard from Nik, as he prayed and praised his way across the falls.

A lot of time can be spent on analyzing spiritual truth or defining theological terms. But at the end of all that effort, the truth can elude us. Insight may be gained about truth, and an intellectual grasp of conceptual truth may be held. But spiritual truth, God's Word, is not abstract or conceptual. As Jesus said, "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." (John 6:63)

It is not intellectual pursuit of truth that leads to understanding, but a spiritual and personal quest. Nor is it a doctrinal polemic where truth is debated and weighed. Even theology, in its truest most plain sense, is a study of God Himself. Again, in the words of Jesus, "You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!" (John 5:39 NLT)

Some of my favorite biblical images are found in Psalm 42, which begins with, "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God." David's soul thirsts for the living God! Isn't that a beautiful picture? The whole psalm brims with deep expression from King David's heart. Yet, my favorite image is found at the midpoint of the psalm, and reminds me of God's grace and its inevitable effect on me—humility.

I've visited the place in Israel where this was penned. Ein Gedi is a green oasis in the middle of a dry, rocky, and barren desert. It is where David found refuge from King Saul's murderous pursuit. After King David cries out to God and questions himself, "Why are you cast down, O my soul…?" His heart exclaims, "Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me." (Ps 42:7)

This picture, being overwhelmed by an immense waterfall in the middle of the desert, with waves of water flowing over him, is my sense of God's grace. Overcome by God's greatness and goodness.

So, what's all this have to do with the question, "Do I have to be humble?" The simple answer is, no you don't. But in light of God's graciousness and goodness is there a better or wiser option?

Have you genuinely experienced God's grace in your life? If so, how did it effect you? Did it help put things in perspective? I know for me, it brings me to a place of humility, as said earlier. How about you?