The Most Important Question We Can Ask of the Bible

The most important question we can ask of a biblical text is not, “What does this mean?” but “What can I obey?”  A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to the text far more quickly than any number of Bible studies.

Soren Kierkegaard said,

The Bible is very easy to understand.  But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.  We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.

The Tomorrow Man Theory

There is one page in Chuck Hogan’s novel “Devils in Exile” that I’ve been wrestling with.  It’s called “The Tomorrow Man Theory.”  And in the novel it is espoused by the villain.  Yet, it makes TOTAL sense.  It’s actually helped me to make some good choices in terms of what I eat and to push me to exercise a few times I didn’t feel like it.

Here it is:

The Tomorrow Man Theory.  It’s pretty basic.  Today, right here, you are who you are.  Tomorrow, you will be who you will be.  Each and every night, we lie down to die, and each morning we arise, reborn.  Now, those who are in good spirits, with strong mental health, they look out for their Tomorrow Man.  They eat right today, they drink right today, they go to sleep early today–all so that Tomorrow Man, when he awakes in his bed reborn as Today Man, thanks Yesterday Man.  He looks upon him fondly as a child might a good parent.  He knows that someone–himself–was looking out for him.  He feels cared for, and respected.  Loved, in a word.  And now he has a legacy to pass on to his subsequent selves.

But those who are in a bad way, with poor mental health, they constantly leave these messes for Tomorrow Man to clean up.  They eat whatever they want, drink like the night will never end, and then fall asleep to forget.  They don’t respect Tomorrow Man because they don’t think through the fact that Tomorrow Man will be them.  So then they wake up, new Today Man, groaning at the disrespect Yesterday Man showed them.  Wondering why does that guy–myself–keep punishing me?  But they never learn and instead come to settle for that behavior, eventually learning to ask and expect nothing of themselves.  They pass along these same bad habits tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, and it becomes psychologically genetic, like a curse.

The thing is–you can’t fix the mistakes of Yesterday.  Yesterday Man is dead.  What you can do is help yourself today.  Eat a vegetable.  Read a book.  Cut that hair of yours.  Leave Tomorrow Man something more than a headache and a jam-packed colon.  Do for Tomorrow Man what you would have wanted Yesterday Man to do for you (emphasis mine).

I don’t know that it’s biblical but it is compelling.  And certainly Jesus wants us to love others like we love ourselves.  It seems like a lot of us don’t love ourselves and certainly not Tomorrow Man.

15 Questions from I Corinthians 13 (Love Chapter) For Self-Evaluation

Most people have heard 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings and maybe a sermon at church.  But it’s also a great parameter to assess our own “love” for others.

#1 – “Love Is Patient” – Am I giving others the same room to make mistakes as I want them to give me?

#2 – “Love Is Kind” – Do the people that I spend time with actually like being around me?

#3 – “It Does Not Envy” – Am I automatically jealous of anyone who has a great idea?  Do I rejoice when others are rejoicing or do I wish they would be struggling like me?

#4 – ‘It Does Not Boast” – Do I feel like I always need to remind people of my previous victories?  (If we are obsessed with the past, then we’re not advancing towards the future!)

#5 – “It Is Not Proud” – Do I feel that I am the only one that has all of the answers?

#6 – “It Is Not Rude” – How am I treating those who serve me?  Do I treat the waiter/waitress, customer service rep., and others with the respect I would show my own family?

#7 – “It Is Not Self Seeking” – Who is this about–really?

#8 – “It Is Not Easily Angered” – Are people afraid to bring me information that is true and accurate because they know I will lose my mind and begin to yell?  (Don’t shoot the mailman!)

#9 – “It Keeps No Record of Wrongs” – Do I remind people of their past failures or encourage them in their current condition?

#10 – “Love Does Not Delight in Evil but Rejoices in the Truth” – Can people be honest and open with me?

#11 – “It Always Protects” – Do I have the back of my co-workers and friends?  It’s very discouraging to have a relationship with someone who demands loyalty but will not extend it.

#12 – “Always Trusts” – Do I believe others (the staff at church and my wife at home) can make day-to-day decisions without my input?

#13 – “Always Hopes” – Do I always automatically assume the worst or the best about people?

#14 – “”Always Perseveres” – Am I quick to give up on people after they make one mistake, or am I willing to teach them through it?

#15 – “Love Never Fails” – Am I failing others?  Or am I loving them?

Sin Hinders Prayer (and vice versa)

Sin hinders prayer.  A person may pray and pray without receiving an answer, and then conclude that the problem is God. In reality the problem may be in the person’s heart.  See Psalm 66:18-19.

When sin blocks prayer, the real problem is not that we have sinned but that we have not repented.  It is only unconfessed sin, cherished in our hearts, that inhibits our prayers.  Forgiven sin does not hinder prayer.

Not only does sin hinder prayer; prayer hinders sin.  The two are always opposed.  The more careless about sin, the less we will pray.  The more we pray, the less careless we will be about sin.

Bot sin and prayer are powerful forces.  Which one is moving you?

When I’m Not Talking to God…

Paul says we should pray without ceasing.  But sometimes I find myself not ceasing from life that I forget about God.  Call it practical atheism if you will.

Now this doesn’t happen as much as it used to.  But it still happens.

I used to think of prayer as a DISCIPLINE that HAD to be worked at.

But really it’s just like the conversational aspect of any relationship.  Yes, sometimes I have to work on listening to my wife and communicating.  But I don’t WORK on it like it’s a discipline.  I don’t need to.  I love her and I know she loves me.  So why does my prayer life stall occasionally?

Specifically prayer is the conversational part of the most important love relationship in our lives, our love relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What can your prayer life tell you about your love relationship with God?

7 Reasons Why I Like/Dislike Going to Church Camp

7 Reasons why I dislike going to church camp:

  1. I prefer my bed in my home, sleeping next to my wife.
  2. Some of the kids smell.
  3. The food can be not to my liking.
  4. I don’t get enough sleep.
  5. Sharing community restrooms and showers.
  6. I have to follow a camp schedule.
  7. I’m a Type A and kids don’t usually follow the script.

7 Reasons why I like going to church camp:

  1. It forces me out of my comfort zone and no where does Jesus say, “Please stay in your bed with your preferred foods with people who don’t smell.”
  2. Get to see lives changed!  People come to know Christ and that changes their eternal destiny!
  3. Get to be a part of the “A-Ha” moments for children “getting it” for the first time.
  4. Building relationships that last a lifetime.
  5. Don’t have to cook for a week.
  6. Growing spiritually myself: “I don’t have to be in control when God’s better at it!”
  7. Bring home a new song for congregational worship.

So if you haven’t chaperoned or counseled at a church camp yet, what are you waiting for?

Four Signs of Weak Faith

4 Signs of weak faith…

  1. Demanding visible proof (John 4:48).  We desire to see and yet we may be deceived through sight more readily than through almost any other sense.  Faith based upon sight is weak.  “The devils believe and tremble (James 2:19).”  It is really unbelief which demands visible proof (John 20:25, 29).  People who will not hear God as He speaks through the Bible will not hear Him when He speaks through miracles.
  2. Driven to God only by overwhelming need. Now, such faith is better than no faith, but it is not so good as the faith that draws us to God by gratitude and love.  it is better to be driven than not to come at all; it is still better to be drawn.
  3. While it prays it dictates to God.  Strong faith prays out of humility which allows God to guide and dictate rather than the folly of thinking vice versa.  Those of weak faith have the impression that they could do better than the Lord, if THEY had the whole thing in hand.
  4. Impatience with God.  It is comforting to know that Jesus honors even faith like this.  Though impatient and dictatorial, driven by need and seeking visible evidence, He answers the prayer.  He pities our weakness.  The fire of trust doe not blaze up; He sees more of the smoke of impatience and unbelief than of faith, but He will not allow the sparks to be trampled.  Indeed, He fans the sparks into a flame.

 

Prayer Obstacle No. 2

Another common obstacle to prayer is an enslavement to “feeling.”

“I don’t feel like it.”

They assume that prayers are only efficacious when they rise from an eager and emotional heart.  We should keep our appointment with God, whether we feel like it or not.  The meek submission of our will deepens our surrender; our resolution to engage in prayer strengthens thought control.

Faith, not feeling, measures the efficacy of prayer.

Prayer Obstacle No. 1

There are many obstacles to having a strong prayer life and none more employed and observed than the lack of time or busy-ness.  It’s a shallow obstacle because we clearly find time for less important things–entertainment and friends.  We rarely use that excuse meaningfully to excuse our lack of time spent with those closest to us.  Christ stole time  from his sleep to pray.   Just begin with 15 minutes/day and try to grow that over time.

Prayer is Like a Ladder

Prayer is like a ladder, an ascent to God, step by step.  This imagery can show us where prayer begins and to what heights it is capable of rising.

Step 1: Emergency prayer. Prayer commonly begins with the cry of escape.  The lowest step on the ladder of the soul is the cry wrung from disaster or adversity.

Step 2: Confession. The next step of the ladder is the stage when prayer for outward help becomes a cry for deliverance from sin.  Initially there is no thought of anything but the calamity which has befallen us.  But slowly, as a person prays for help, there steals on him the strange conviction that he needs something deeper than assistance and that he is a sinner.  So we cry out for a clean heart and right spirit.

Step 3: Request for personal virtue and grace. Deliverance is not everything if our walk is to be well-pleasing before God.  We must become something, something in the image of Christ Himself, full of patience and courage and control.  This can only happen through grace.

Step 4: Real submission to God’s will.  We have to learn to get to the place where we can honestly trust God with the phrase, “Thy will be done.” This is the point at which we can have joy in prayer.  Most people pray out of duty and not joy.  Joy can’t be found in prayer if we come to God demanding our own way.  Joy is born when we come to God wanting nothing but God and His ways.