Occasionally I will hear people criticize others in a Bible study for saying things like, “I think this passage means…” I’ve even been criticized for saying, “I think…” in sermons. The critics say, “It doesn’t matter what you think, it only matters what the passage says.” But the words, “I think…” actually play a very important role in discussions about the Bible. So here are some reasons to keep saying, “I think…” when studying the Bible.Continue Reading...
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How can everyone read the same Bible and come to different conclusions about what it means? If we’re all reading the same book, why don’t we all believe and practice the same things? Here are some thoughts about why we don’t all understand the Bible alike.Continue Reading...
This weekend I picked up a brand new Bible, the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible. I plan to use this as my 2014 Bible. If this plan works well, I plan to purchase a new Bible each year to read through. Here’s my plan for studying, color coding, and marking in my new Bible.Continue Reading...
In a recent interview with author Rick Warren, interviewer Piers Morgan said the Bible was “inherently flawed” and that “it’s time for an amendment” to the Bible. Specifically, he was talking about how the Bible needs an amendment to allow for “gay rights.”
Morgan’s sentiments remind me of an e-mail I recently received from a man who believes Christianity needs to be overhauled and the Bible needs a “second version.” The e-mailer believes that it is “unfair” to expect people to follow rules that were written “2,000 years ago.” This e-mailer was also outraged by the Bible’s prohibitions on certain sexual behaviors.
These people, it seems, are okay with there being a God. They are okay with God having a book (the Bible). They are just not okay with God saying things in His book with which they disagree. So, they reason, God’s book should be changed so God agrees with them. How audacious man can be!
“If God and man do not agree,” they seem to say, “God needs to change His rules so that they reflect man’s wisdom, learning, and culture.” This, of course, is nothing new; but it is just as heartbreaking now as it ever was.
Sadly, there are many who are doing just as Piers Morgan suggest; they are amending the Bible to suit their own desires. A book has been published recently entitled The Queen James Bible. It is self-described as, “a gay Bible.” The publisher promotes it as being, “based on The King James Bible, edited to prevent homophobic misinterpretation.”
Christians must stand strong in this battle. We must be outspoken and loving. We must teach people that there is absolute truth. Scripture was absolute truth when it was written and it is absolute truth today. Scripture is not “inherently flawed,” in fact it is perfect. It is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The charge Paul gave to Timothy in the fourth chapter, is just as fitting today as it was then:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
I love you and the God of the Bible loves you,
It seems, in today’s culture, everyone is looking for the easy way, the shortcut. I’m sure thousands of people would pay money for someone to tell them how to read through the entire Bible in only 60 seconds. But guess what…there’s no shortcut through the Word of God.
I once went through the Bible in 90 days, and I know a brother who read through the Bible in three weeks. But, it is not those types of speed-reading Bible sprints that make Christians who they ought to be.
The type of Bible reading which will change your life is:
- Thorough – Dig deep and really understand what you’re reading.
- Theological – Focus on what each passage communicates about God.
- Thoughtful – Reflect on what the passage means and how it could apply to you.
There are no shortcuts to good Bible study. So, let’s all stop looking for ways to make our Bible study easier, and look for ways to make our Bible study better! Remember, it is not about how quickly you go through the Bible, but how thoroughly the Bible goes through you!
I love you and God loves you,
P.S. What are some of your tips for good Bible study? Feel free to share in the comments section.
Everyone is different. There are those who do not mark in their copy of the Bible. There are those who even believe it is sinful to mark in the pages of God’s Word. Not only do I mark in my Bible, I get out the crayons and color in my Bible. Here’s how I do it.
I started off, years ago, using a three-ring binder system I found in the church library. I believe it was called something like “Sharpening the Sword.” I’m sure my system has changed over the years and is different than it was laid out in that binder.
First, I color code my Bible topically. I like to use the “twist up crayons,” like these Crayola Twistable Crayons at Walmart. Highlighters bleed through too much and these work better, for me, than regular crayons. Here is the color coding system I use (mostly for the New Testament):
- Yellow – Salvation and Christian Living (Any passage about what God would have us, as individuals, to do.)
- Orange – Miracles and God (Any passage about what God does.)
- Purple – Sin (Any passage about what we ought not to do.)
- Red – False Doctrines (Any passage that directly refutes a false doctrine. An example would be, “Once Saved Always Saved.” In that example, I would also write “OSAS” in the margin.)
- Green – The Church (Any passage dealing with the nature, organization, or duty of the church).
- Brown – The Law (Any passage dealing with the Old Law).
- Blue – The Second Coming (Any passage dealing with the Day of Judgement, the Second Coming of Christ).
This color coding makes it very simple to do devotionals and Bible classes, as well as personal Bible studies. I can open the Bible to a section I have highlighted and see the natural separations. Also, I may not remember exactly where a verse is, but I can find it easily because I remember which chapter it is and what color it is highlighted.
Second, I like to underline or circle these types of words or phrases* in passages:
- Key Words or Phrases
- Repeating Words or Phrases
- Unusual Words or Phrases
- Like/Unlike Words or Phrases
- Hinge Words (words like, “if,” “for,” “but,” etc.)
These are just a few of the ways I like to mark in Bible. Of course, I also try to add cross references to other passages in the margins. Occasionally, I will even add a very simple outline in the margin. I hope some of these will help you in your Bible study.
I love you and the God of the Bible loves you,
P.S. How do you mark in your Bible? Please share any ideas you have in the comments section below.
* Special thanks to Mike Vestal for this list of words/phrases to look for in passages.
It is amazing to me, when teaching the Bible, how often I hear phrases like this, “Well, I just don’t believe that.” With no more explanation than that, people dismiss new ideas and concepts. And they are surprised their faith isn’t growing.
Here’s the secret, are you ready? When you are not willing to entertain the possibility you may be wrong about what you believe, it is impossible for you to grow in your faith! When you hear a new idea and quickly dismiss it, saying, “I just don’t believe that,” you will never learn anything new and you will never grow.
You must allow yourself and your beliefs to be challenged. If you want to grow in faith, you must continually ask questions like:
- What biblical truth do I need to learn that I don’t already know?
- What biblical truth contradicts what I believe?
- What biblical truth contradicts how I’m living?
In order to find the answers to these questions, you will have to listen to ideas and concepts in which you don’t believe. Then, you will have to ask, “Why don’t I believe that?” Do you not believe that because of what your parents taught you? Do you not believe that because you simply don’t want to have to live that way? Or do you not believe that because it is not true?
When you hear a new concept or idea, do what the noble Jews of Berea did, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Paul was preaching something new. If they had simply said, “Well, I don’t believe that,” they would have never obeyed the gospel and received salvation.
Instead, they were willing to entertain the possibility that their faith was wrong. They neither rejected nor accepted Paul’s teaching at face value; they simply examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true. When they found that his teaching was true, many of them abandoned their previously held beliefs and held fast to this newly found truth (Acts 17:12).
Are you willing to do the same thing? Are you willing to hear new ideas and concepts that challenge you and contradict what you believe to be true? Are you willing to neither accept nor reject what you hear until you have examined it in light of Scripture? And if you determine that what you have heard is true, are you willing to abandon your beliefs in favor of Truth?
That is the challenge. That is the only way we will grow in our faith.
I love you and God loves you,
P.S. What truth do you now hold dear that at one time you adamantly opposed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
On the heels of President Obama’s announcement concerning homosexual marriage, DC comics announced that the comic book superhero, The Green Lantern, will be relaunched as a homosexual character. If it wasn’t already obvious, it should be at this point, the moral divide in this country is widening.
I have never been a comic book aficionado, but it seems most comic books today are very provocative and explicit. So, it surprised me no more than the President’s announcement, when I head DC Comics would feature a “gay” superhero. But again, my feelings are ones of great sadness and remorse for the immoral depths to which our country is sinking.
We, as Christians, must always remember we are in the midst of a great and terrible battle. Here is what we must do in response to our enemy:
1. We must “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). Be strong, brothers and sisters, don’t be discouraged. Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. Granted, the current state of affairs is not encouraging, but hold to the Lord and the truth of His word.
2. We must “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Since the beginning of time, Satan has lied and schemed (John 8:44). He calls evil “good.” He calls good “evil.” He is trying to make the sin of living in homosexuality seem innocent, harmless, and even pure. He is trying to make the world believe that those those who oppose homosexuality are hateful homophobic bigots. We must fight against these lies and schemes.
3. We must remember “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). Homosexuals, the Hollywood elites, and liberal politicians are not our enemies. These people are simply captives of our enemy (just as we were once captives of the enemy). Our goal is not to destroy them, but to help them to be set free from sin (Romans 6:1-11; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)!
4. We must “take up the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13). We will not win this battle by our own cunning and wisdom. In order to win the lost to Christ and keep ourselves from sin, we must use the armor which God supplies.
5. We must fasten “on the belt of truth” (Ephesians 6:14). Satan has taken the world captive by lies. But, Christ sets men free with Truth (John 8:32). Our goal is to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
6. We must “put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14). When Satan attacks with evil, he hopes we will respond in kind. We must respond to evil with righteousness. Paul says, “the works of the flesh are evident” (Galatians 5:19-21). Among those is “sexually immorality”; but also among those is “fits of anger.” If we respond to the homosexuality agenda with fits of uncontrolled anger, we have played into Satan’s trap. Instead, we must respond with the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
7. We must “put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). The “gospel of peace” is compared to the soldier’s shoes. We must stand firm in the Good News of Jesus Christ. You must, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
8. We must “take up the shield of faith” (Ephesians 6:16). When the word of God falls on an honest and open heart, it produces faith (Romans 10:17). Faith is believing God is who He says He is, trusting He will do what He says He’ll do, and obeying what He says to do (Hebrews 11). No matter what temptations you face, no mater what insults are cast your way, no matter what you are forced to endure, faith is the answer. When you believe, trust, and obey God, you are protected from the fiery darts of the evil one.
9. We must “take the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17). Only with a helmet upon his head, can a soldier walk out confidently onto a battlefield. The same is true on this spiritual battlefield. When we know we are in Christ, we can fight this battle with the utmost confidence.
10. We must wield “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Your only weapon in this battle is Scripture. I have heard Christians make the most absurd arguments against homosexuality. For instance, “Homosexuality is wrong because homosexuals can’t reproduce.” My response to that argument would be, “neither can many heterosexual couples; does that mean they shouldn’t be able to marry?” Of course not! Homosexuality is wrong for the simple reason that Scripture says it is wrong (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9). Likewise, Scripture is the tool by which the homosexual can be set free from his/her life of sin. Use the Word. Nothing else.
11. We must be “praying at all times” (Ephesians 6:18). Pray for our nation’s leaders. Pray for those struggling with homosexual temptations. Pray for those who are living in sin. Pray for those who are striving to bring lost souls to Christ. Pray for our nation. Pray for yourself. Pray that you may be bold. Pray that you may be honest. Pray that you may be loving.
12. We must open our mouths “boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). There may come a time, when it becomes illegal to speak the truth about this matter. It may be considered “hate speech” to say homosexuality is a sin. There are already places in the world where this is the case. We must all pray that we have the boldness to proclaim the Good News in love. We must boldly call sin, sin. And we must boldly tell people that we will not respond to sin with tolerance; we will respond with the Gospel.
We are in this fight together!
I love you and God loves you,
P.S. If you have anything to add to this, I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share in the comments section below.
Today there are hundreds, if not thousands, of false ideas about God. Sadly, many of these ideas come straight from those who claim to be teaching Scripture. In no particular order, here are 10 of the most popular myths about God today.
Each passage can be read by hovering your mouse over the reference. However, I encourage you to also read the context in which the verse is found.
1. God predestined individuals for either heaven or hell (John 3:16; 2Peter 3:9).
2. God is tolerant of sin (Romans 6:23; Colossians 3:5-6; 1 Peter 1:16).
3. God is pleased with any kind of worship (Leviticus 10:1-2; John 4:24; Colossians 3:16).
4. God saves people when they pray and ask Jesus into their heart (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).
5. God speaks directly and miraculously to individuals today (Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 13:8-9).
6. God is okay with denominationalism (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
7. God used evolution, over the course of millions of years, to create humans (Genesis 1:24-31; Matthew 19:4)
8. As long as people are sincere, God is pleased with their faith (Proverbs 14:12; Acts 26:9).
9. God is so loving that He couldn’t possibly send “good people” to hell (Luke 18:19; 2Thessalonians 1:5-10).
10. God is whatever you want Him to be (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 55:6-9; John 4:24).
I love you and the God of the Bible loves you,
P.S. What other myths are popular today? Feel free to comment below.
What does the Bible say about drinking? That is a question about which I wonder, do people really want the answer? Like many issues, Christians tend to pick out passages that “prove” their position, instead of allowing Scripture to dictate what their position should be. Let’s take an honest look at the Bible and see what God has to say about the issue of alcohol.
What Does the Bible Say About Drinking?
First, I think we should define what “drinking” we are talking about. Obviously, God is in favor of us “drinking” liquids. Without drinking something, we’d die. The issue here is, what does the Bible say about drinking alcohol? I say this, not to be sarcastic, but to introduce the first point.
1. Not all wine in the Old Testament is “wine.”
We must understand an important point. Just because someone is said to have been drinking “wine” does not mean they were necessarily drinking alcohol. Did you know that many of the Hebrew words translated, “wine,” do not necessarily imply an alcoholic beverage? We even read in passages such as Isaiah 65:8, “the new wine is found in the cluster.”
Obviously, today we would not say “wine” is found in a cluster of grapes. We would say “juice” is found in a cluster of grapes. In Hebrew, however, their words for “wine” were more generic, applying both to intoxicating and non-intoxicating beverages made from grapes. If you are interested in further study on the words used in the Old Testament for “wine,” consider these articles: “Drinking in the Old Testament” and, “What About Social Drinking and the Old Testament” by Wayne Jackson.
So, while there are many references to wine in the Old Testament, not all of the references are to alcohol. The only way to tell whether or not an intoxicating beverage is being referenced, is by the use of context clues. Do not make the mistake of assuming a drink is alcohol just because the word “wine” is used!
2. Not all wine in the New Testament is “wine.”
In Greek, it seems even harder to tell whether or not the “wine” in question is fermented or unfermented. Again, just as with the Hebrew language, the Greek word for “wine” (oinos) is a generic term that can refer to any beverage made from grapes. Context must tell us whether the beverage contains alcohol or not.
In fact, many point to Jesus turning water into wine as “proof” that the Christian is free to indulge in the drinking of alcohol today. They quote the master of the feast, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). And explain his statement to mean that everyone at a party is usually so drunk by the end, they cannot distinguish whether the wine is good or not.
If this explanation were true, it would imply that everyone at the wedding feast in Cana was drunk, and that Jesus was providing more alcohol to already intoxicated people. In fact, He would have provided between 120-130 gallons of intoxicating wine to people who were already drunk! How contradictory that would be to New Testament teaching, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery” (Ephesians 5:18)!
Doesn’t it make more sense to understand that the “wine” of the wedding feast was not like the wine people drink today; but was more along the lines of grape juice. Furthermore, wouldn’t it make more sense to understand the master of the feast to be saying that once the people had been drinking so much juice, their sense of taste was so dulled, they could no longer distinguish good drink from poor? To understand this account any other way, is to make Jesus out to be one who contributes to the drunkenness, and thereby sin, of others!
3. Drunkenness is Condemned
We are told that drunkenness is a “work of darkness” (Romans 13:13-14) and drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21). What is always interesting to me, is how some Christians view the term, “drunk.” They admit it is a sin to be “drunk,” but believe moderate drinking to be acceptable. I wonder, who gets to define what it means to be, “drunk”? Does the government decide that for God? Is a blood alcohol level of .08, God’s definition of drunkenness? Are you acceptable to God when your blood alcohol level is .07, but sinning when it passes .08?
Let’s all be honest here, shall we? Drunkenness happens in degrees. There is not a line, before which there is absolutely no impairment, and after which you are suddenly “drunk.” Drunkenness comes as a result of accumulating alcohol in your body. As soon you start accumulating alcohol in your body, you begin the process of getting drunk!
4. Sobriety is Commanded
The Christian is not just commanded to, “not be drunk.” The Christian is commanded to be “sober.” And the word “nepho,” translated “sober” (1 Peter 5:8) literally means, “to abstain from wine,” according to Strong’s Dictionary of Greek Words. As soon as one begins to drink alcohol, he can no longer claim that his mind is sober. A Christian cannot fight the spiritual battle he needs to fight and resist the attacks of the evil one unless his mind is sober! Ten times in the New Testament, Christians are commanded to be sober:
- We are told to think of ourselves with, “sober judgment” (Romans 1:23).
- We are told to be “children of the day” by keeping awake and sober (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
- We are told to be sober, dressed in the armor of God (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
- Elders are told to be sober-minded (1 Timothy 3:2).
- The wives of deacons are told to be sober-minded (1 Timothy 3:11).
- Evangelists are told to be sober-minded (2 Timothy 4:5).
- Older men are told to be sober-minded and self-controlled (Titus 2:2).
- Christians are told to have their minds “prepared for action” and be sober-minded (1 Peter 1:13).
- Christians are told, for the sake of our prayers, to be sober-minded and self-controlled (1 Peter 4:7).
- Christians are told to be sober-minded and watchful because of the devil, who like a lion, is looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
How is it possible to drink, even moderately, and still be “sober” as God commands us to be? Can a Christian honestly say he is having a beer or a glass of wine to better glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)? Understanding God’s will concerning sobriety and His warnings against drunkenness, is there no better alternative for a beverage than alcohol? Just some things to think about.
I love you and God loves you,