Tag Archives: Bible

Truth-Seekers? Are You There?

Okay, so I have a legitimate question. And the comment section is open to everyone, even if you think it is a stupid question in the first place, and even if you are an agnostic or atheist. I don’t expect everyone to agree with each other, but I do want to engage in respectful, intelligent conversation.

So here it is: have you ever gone through a serious phase of doubt in your life? And when I say doubt, I’m talking about your core beliefs. The ones that make you who you are. The reasons that you behave the way you do. I’m referring to the lens through which you view all other beliefs and ideologies.

I sincerely want to hear what you all have to say, even if you don’t call yourself a Christian. However, it is my opinion that this is something that sincere Christians do not talk about often enough. To me, it almost feels like the church is operating under an Emperor’s-New-Clothes mentality. We’re afraid that if we admit to having doubt, it will de-legitimize everything we claim to believe about God. Has anyone else felt what I’m feeling here?

So, if you did have doubts, or if you still do, where did they come from? Did you read something in the Bible that caused you to second-guess? Did you have a conversation that challenged your long-held beliefs? Maybe someone asked a question, and you just couldn’t fathom having an answer that fit in with everything you’ve ever believed.

I’d like to get a little bit of self-analyzing here, because I think it’s important that we ask the hard questions in an effort to become fully aware of why we believe what we do. I don’t think it’s good for people to float through life believing everything they’ve ever been told, even if it was a highly respected or valued individual that taught them.

Be a believer or a non-believer, as you wish. But be an intelligent one. Know why you are clinging to your religion (or anti-religion, as the case may be).

Okay, so a couple of follow up questions for those who have doubted: did you search for answers, or allow your beliefs to fall by the wayside? Did your religion suddenly become the most important thing you could possibly dig into and research, or did you just shrug your shoulders and leave it in the dust? Why do you think you reacted that way?

Did you come full-circle? Are you believing what you believed before, or did something change with the new information? What changed, and why?

If you doubted, and did your research, and are now a believer again, do you feel that your faith is stronger than ever? Do you feel that you needed to experience a time of doubting and searching to become the person you are today?

If you have never doubted, not even for a moment, why not? Are you clinging so closely to what you grew up believing that there’s no room for questions? Are you afraid to ask the hard questions? Afraid that you won’t like the answers, or afraid that you may be misled by someone who believes differently than you?

Truth is worth seeking. Even if you have to break down 50 years of traditional beliefs, even if it divides you from your friends and family, Truth is worth finding. Seek with a whole heart, and never be afraid of the Truth. Truth is freedom.

If the Bible is true, and I have found that it is, then your seeking will not go unrewarded. You will find the answers you are looking for:

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

Advertisements

Believers, Do You Read Your Bible?

Bible-reading: How can I express its importance?

How can I put it into the right words?

What argument can I use to encourage you to pick up this life-giving book?

If you don’t believe it’s all that important, why not? What are the reasons that you allow it to take a backseat to the other priorities in your life? Let’s talk about it and see if we can get to the bottom of the issue here.

I have a few more questions for you, intended to provoke you to action.

How can you claim to believe something you’ve never even read?

How do you know what the Bible says about where we came from, how we are supposed to worship, what obedience entails, and where we are going to end up? If you haven’t read the Bible to glean these answers, then you are merely believing what someone told you. You are choosing a person to trust rather than the Word of God itself.

Is there anything within its pages that would surprise you? How do you know?

Is there hidden treasure inside that might be the answer to the persistent questions or problems in your life? What if you’re missing it?

His words are truth. His instructions are life. Please don’t miss out. That book over there, sitting on the shelf collecting dust – it has the power to change you, but first you have to read it.

photo credit: Theo Crazzolara <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/141324643@N05/32033909876″>Chocolate coins</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Entitlement and the Bible

Our society is in trouble, and everyone knows it.  We are surrounded by people who abuse the welfare system. The Bible suggests a reasonable punishment for these folks:

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12

10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

The root of this problem is a total disregard for Biblical principles. Let me show you:

Job 1:13-22

13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:

15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,

21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

We have been raised in a culture that is always looking out for number one. We begin learning our own self-importance from our loving parents and teachers who are merely trying to build self-esteem, and it just continues through life: My school is the best because I go there. My team is the best because I’m on it. My church is the best. My friends are the best. My town is the best, ad nauseum.

We have been nurtured with a world-view of entitlement: I deserve to be wealthy; I deserve respect; I deserve to own the things I want; I deserve some time off. Credit card companies and businesses of every kind are seriously guilty for promoting this kind of thinking and behavior. The pervasiveness of the materialistic world that surrounds us is largely to blame for this constant barrage of input that stimulates the “me” mentality.

 

StealingFact 1: Human beings are greedy.

James 4:1-3

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

 

Fact 2: The poor envy the rich.

I think we make the mistake of thinking that everyone on this earth should be equally successful. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 not to envy the rich because they have their (earthly) reward. Just because someone else has something doesn’t mean that every person on earth deserves it.

 

Luke 6:20-26

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.

22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.

25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

 

Fact 3: When it comes down to it, we don’t deserve anything at all.  

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 

Isaiah 64:6-8

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

 

Fact 4: We have no right to question God.

Who are we to question God and His providence? We don’t know what’s best for us – we merely think we do. We get ourselves into scrapes all the time because we rebel against God.

Romans 9:20-24

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

We know ourselves to fall short of God’s standards countless times, and many of these times we directly defy Him (Any time we sin on purpose, we assert our knowledge of what is best for us over God’s knowledge. We say, “no, I know better than You.”) Ephesians 2:8-9 We can never earn salvation, we don’t deserve it.

 

Fact 5: Everything we have is God’s.

James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Everything you have had, have now, or ever will have is a gift from God’s hand to yours. Everything good you own is like God saying, “I love you; I want to give this to you today.” But when He removes something from our lives, it is also because He loves us.

 

Fact 6: We prove our trust in Him through obedience to His Word.

We have to trust Him enough to believe He loves us and acts in our best interest; our actions should reflect those beliefs. Anything short of obedience shows that we do not trust Him with our lives.

James 2:17

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

When things go wrong, when we lose things, when we can’t catch a break, remember that we are not on this earth to self-worship or seek our own good.

 

Fact 7: We serve a God who loves us in spite of our shortcomings.

Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

He was willing to become a human being and share our plight, taking our punishment for sin upon His own flesh. This is how much He values us.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Matthew 10:30-31

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Conclusion:

Humans may not deserve God’s love, but He loves us unconditionally. We are who He thinks we are – precious souls in need of a Savior. We were redeemed (bought) by the very blood of Christ, so even though we don’t deserve redemption, we are far more valuable than any price could ever tell.

Our goal is to become totally dependent on Him, trusting Him for everything. Each breath, each penny, each door that opens and closes in our lives. The book of Job will help us get there.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves when we are in poor health, jobless, and betrayed, we need to offer up a sacrifice of praise.

Hebrews 13:15

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

Romans 12:1-2

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

II Samuel 24:24.

And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

We need to remember that He is in control, even when things seem dire (think of the crucifixion – God was using Satan’s own plan against him).

I Peter 5:7

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Trust, have faith, take action, obey His commandments, knowing that He only wants what is best for us, and that all things work together for our good.

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Isaiah 26:3

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

And we can rest easy, knowing that He will take care of us through every situation.

 

Christ-Centered School Subjects

Last week, someone asked me what I liked the most about homeschooling. It took a little bit of thought on my part, but I would have to say that I like being able to prioritize whatever I want. I also enjoy being able to teach the different subjects around a particular theme. Some folks call them unit studies, but I have never tried those in the traditional sense. Nope. What I am talking about is taking a Christ-centered approach to homeschooling. I have gotten a lot more serious about this over the summer, since Ian revealed to me his desire to be a missionary. All of a sudden, I’m in panic mode. I only have seven years left to train him!! I feel like I’m very far behind.

In an effort to help him learn as much about the Bible as he can, without sacrificing his other studies, we have been trying to come up with some creative ways to incorporate the skills he will need as a missionary into his daily homework. Here’s what Ian and I have come up with so far:

For writing and spelling practice, I use a dictation method. If you’re interested, you can read about it here. However, this year, instead of reading to him from literature books, he has asked me to read from the Bible. He can practice his handwriting and his spelling this way. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, so I agreed.

In an effort to get him to write even more, I have begun to show him what sermon notes would look like. I wrote down a few notes from the Bible chapter we had read together earlier that day, and I let him practice giving the tiny sermon (more like a Sunday School lesson at this point) to me and Jesse. I’m going to get him to the point where he can write his own outline as he reads through a chapter, and then expand it to draw from other passages to support his main idea. He’ll be using cross references (thanks for the idea, Pastor Mike!) and a topical index (I still have to purchase one though), and he’ll also be learning how to deliver a speech.

Science always makes us think about God, no matter what we’re studying. I’ve always told Ian that science is the study of the way God thinks. I read a great quote in a chemistry book a couple of years ago. It said: “Human beings, especially scientists, but also philosophers and theologians, are always suspicious. They have a deep down feeling that things are not just put together randomly, a strange intuition that, underneath it all, there is a conspiracy going on, a great conspiracy of order. That is why chemists started to wonder, and wonder (as Aristotle said long ago) is the beginning of all science.”

For Bible right now, we are reading Begin, a book for new believers that has key passages from Genesis, Exodus, John, Romans, and Revelation. We read a chapter each day and discuss. We are also reading a biography written by a man who (along with his family) was a missionary to the Philippines. This man also happens to be our pastor! (Thanks for the great stories, Pastor Doug!)

So those are the Christ-centered ideas that I have so far.

Here are a couple of extra things I am thinking about to prepare him for his future: Eventually, when I can afford a Rosetta Stone program, he wants to learn Urdu. It’s nice being homeschoolers because his options are so much better. I don’t think Spanish or French or German would serve him well in the mission field he has chosen.

The last idea I have had is to get him tabla lessons. Indian raga have always been fascinating to me, so I was thrilled when I discovered that Pakistan uses the same ones as Northern India.

Do you all have any more ideas? Either for creating Christ-centered studies or for preparing for missions?

Bible Study vs. Bible Reading

The other evening at church, we were talking about whether it’s more important to read through the Bible over and over, or more important to slow down and study passages from it.

Personally, I like the idea of reading through it every year because I think you are more likely to open your Bible every single day if all you have to do is pick it up. If you have to think of a topic, drag out your Strong’s concordance, Vine’s topical, and Matthew Henry’s commentary, I think you are a lot less likely to be in the mood to spend time with God.

I also like the idea of having read the Bible 5 or 10 or 20 times, depending how long you’ve been at it. After a while, it becomes like that favorite movie you can practically quote. No, but really – spending time with God every single day, and working your way through every aspect in which He has revealed Himself, has some pretty amazing benefits.

First of all, you get to know God pretty well – how He thinks, how He loves, how He has planned and labored for our redemption since the beginning of time. For instance, there are certain things I know about my mom or my dad. Certain things about their personalities that go without saying. They would no longer have to tell me that they love me, or that they have my best interest in mind, etc. I just know these things because I understand them. When you read the entire Bible, especially multiple times, you are building an all-around perspective of what God is like.

Secondly, if you can get in the habit of reading for a few minutes every single day, instead of waiting for a chunk of time in which you can sit down and really dive in, you are giving God the opportunity to grab your attention daily. Sure, there will be some mornings or evenings that you are tired and have to prop your eyelids open. There will be some days where you find yourself not really paying attention and needing to reread what you just spent the last five minutes staring at. However, eventually, it’s all going to sink in. Finding a time of day in which you are awake and mentally engaged is challenging, but it can be done.

Thirdly, when people make outrageous claims about the Bible saying this or that, you will know whether they are true. If you are truly paying attention while you read, you will know if you come across anything that just doesn’t seem to jive. Here it will definitely be your responsibility to pray and research and find out what is meant by such a passage, and then you will be able to answer if someone questions your faith in a book that they claim contradicts itself.

Lastly, I think it’s ludicrous for Christians to claim they believe something they have never even read all the way through. Baby Christians, new converts, okay. I get it – you haven’t had time yet. And I know that the Word of God speaks for itself, and when you identify with certain parts, you believe by faith that the rest of it is true. But come on. Seriously, you need to at least be moving toward that goal of having completely read it, and then keep right on going, moving toward the goal of having read it so many times you can practically quote it. I looked at my Kindle reading app, and the average time for reading through the Bible that I have downloaded is 44 hours and 9 minutes. Folks, that’s less than 8 minutes a day. We honestly have no excuse.

All that being said, I am not trying to deter anyone from actually taking a half-hour to an hour a day and studying the word of God. Or maybe you can carve out a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon – whatever works. Just try to form a habit you can stick with. I do believe that there are many insights to be gained by studying the meanings of words in their original languages. I also believe we should study the Bible in light of other Scriptures, and there is something to be said about reading supporting verses in one sitting, rather than as you come to them on your journey through the Bible.

Personally, I study the things that catch me off-guard, or things that are on my heart, or things I think I need a better understanding of. In this way, I use the Bible as a tool, a reference book, a how-to guide for life. I openly admit to not studying in-depth on a daily basis, but when I do, I usually feel compelled to study until I get to the bottom of an issue. This can take hours a day for several days sometimes. It still doesn’t happen often enough for me (in my opinion), so I intend to make some additions to my reading plan in order to study with intentionality (is that a word?).

I spoke with Ian on the way home about how he thinks we should approach Bible study. I said, some folks who study the Bible but don’t intentionally read it through never even get to all of it. How do we fix that problem? Ian said, “Study it in order.” Well, I should have known that was the obvious answer, but didn’t think of it on my own for some reason. So, I think I will start at the very beginning, and study as much as I like after I have read my passage for the day. The studying portion will, of course, move at a much slower pace, but perhaps it will benefit me more. Perhaps studying everything once will have the same affect on my understanding and retention as reading it ten times through.

Do you have any ideas on reading or studying the Word of God? What method do you use? What changes would you like to make?

Bible Memory Book

It was my turn to teach Children’s Church this week, which I’ve only done once before. While looking for an object lesson, I remembered a method that a former Children’s Church teacher of mine had used to help the class memorize a Bible verse. So I decided to try it with our class. Here’s what you do:

Write the memory verse out on a dry erase board. Have the class read it several times. It helps if you use a sing-song voice because they get the rhythms in their heads. Then, once they know a few key words (like nouns or verbs), erase them two or three at a time. Keep going until you have erased the whole board. The kids really like this activity because it challenges them! I only had three boys in my class at the time, and they were competing with each other to say the words first.

Bible Memory BookIt went over so well, that I thought I would use the same technique at home to help Ian begin to memorize verses on his own. At first, I contemplated purchasing a white board, but I really couldn’t justify the five dollars. So I took a notebook that I already had laying around and taped an envelope into the front cover. I wrote out this week’s memory verse, only three words per line, spacing them out so they were on the left hand, in the middle, and on the right hand of the page. I also skipped every other line. After that, I cut out a bunch of pieces from cardstock that would be large enough to cover any word that could be written in a space but not large enough to overlap the other words.

Now, he has the ability to recreate Sunday’s activity with any verse he wants! I am going to dedicate the entire notebook to memory verses, and have him review them occasionally. What do you think?

Bible Verse Songs

Well, I have been writing my piano curriculum, but not in any particular order. I went through Psalms the other night, and arranged eight or ten verses to rhythms. Yesterday, I went through my favorites and put them to music.

When I eventually complete the curriculum, I’d like to dedicate several pages to just middle C and D in the treble clef, followed by middle C and B in the bass clef. I’m going to be sure that they are actually learning to read the notes, instead of finger numbers. In fact, I don’t intend to include finger numbers at all until the music gets more complicated – not even initial fingering because I’m going to have them play the two- and three-note songs beginning with different fingers. I am really tired of having kids get stuck in hand positions.

When I say that I’m going in no particular order, I mean that I am choosing a Bible verse and deciding whether it would sound okay with just two melody notes, or whether it needs three, four, or five. Then I arrange the song the way I like. I’m really lacking two-note songs, but I will find some eventually.

Anyway, it occurred to me that these songs would also be good for voice students who have a limited vocal range of a fifth or so. I have six songs so far; here are the two that I like best: one for voice (although I also made the simplified right-hand only arrangement for piano students) and one for piano. (The piano one can also be sung as a round, so it will work for voice students too, especially with groups of siblings or friends.)

I own a copy of Finale from my university days, but my computer that has it installed isn’t working right now. So the other day, I downloaded a copy of MuseScore 2, and I must say that I like it very well. After using Finale, it was pretty intuitive. A few things were different, but it is less complicated and I actually like it better for my purposes. Best of all, it’s a free program!!

He_That_Dwelleth-1He_That_Dwelleth (voice PDF)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In_the_Beginning (piano PDF)In_the_Beginning-1