What Parts of the Bible are You Ignoring?

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It’s not easy to make sense of scripture. Parts of it are downright weird or even horrific. The story of Judah and Tamar, God’s interaction with Hosea and Gomer, and any story using the phrase “devoted to destruction” come to mind. They are the stories you don’t see in children’s Bible story books, or if they are included it is with some serious sanitation and airbrushing (a Thomas Kinkade version of reality, so to speak).

Those passages get ignored because they gross us out or break our fragile understanding of God. But there are other portions of scripture we ignore in an entirely different way – commands that are uncomfortable or nigh impossible to follow. It is so easy to willfully overlook them, much easier than learning how to reconcile them to my life and God’s reality.

Love your enemies.

Forgive 70 x 7 times (that means ALL of the times).

Bless those who curse you and pray for those who persecute you.

Honor you father and mother.

Children, obey your parents.

Give to any who asks of you.

Lay down your life and follow me.

If it causes you to sin, cut it off.

Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the Church.

Do not covet.

Serve God, not money.

Do not commit adultery (which includes willfully lusting).

Consider others before yourself.

Pray without ceasing.

Judge not lest you be judged.

Take up your cross and follow me.

And so on.

We have so many rationalizations and excuses for overlooking and ignoring such commands. So often our mindset is that of a transaction: every disobeyed or ignored command is a debt owed, and we simply can’t pay them all back. We’re in over our heads, and it feels impossible to face our wrongs and admit them. But we must, and it’s good and freeing when we do because we are not settling accounts with God; we are being restored in relationship. God’s grace and forgiveness far surpass our willful ignoring of his commands (that’s in the bible too, don’t forget). His grace is so great that what the debt we do owe was paid already so that we can be free to come to Him for forgiveness, as children.

So be brave and ask yourself “what parts of the Bible do I ignore?” Then trust God’s grace for understanding and forgiveness as you would trust a good father, a perfect father. He gave us scripture to show us as much of Himself as we can handle. It is for our good, our peace, even if we can’t riddle it all out. We can trust the parts that tell us of His mercy, goodness, sovereignty, and forgiveness. We can rest in the parts that tell us of redemption at the cross and the coming of a perfect helper to teach and grow us. When we rest in these parts of scripture we will begin to improve at all those hard commands and come to terms with those tricky parts.

When Your Words Cry “Wolf”

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The most Amazing thing you’ve ever seen!

Try to watch this video without weeping.

You need to go there; it’s the best restaurant ever!

12 things you need to know to make it through today

7 life hacks you can’t live without

Must-read

Every day we hear phrases like these and read headlines offering us “essential”, “incredible”, or “unbelievable” something-or-other. Upworthy has made an evil art form out of using such titles as click-bait. If a description of anything doesn’t include a superlative it’s good for nothing. But what happens when we run out of superlatives and absolutes (if we haven’t already)?

If everything is amazing nothing is. By definition, not everything can be the best or worst. If every piece of advice is essential and we can’t live without those life hacks, well we should just give up now; life is hopeless.

A good principle to use in all (yes all; this is proper use of an extreme) your communication is this: words communicate meaning. When we persistently misuse them we skew and undermine that meaning. Meaning matters; without it we don’t know what to believe or who to trust. To abuse terms, to over-value inflate whatever we are describing, is to bankrupt words of meaning and our own reputations of trustworthiness.

You’ve all heard the story of the boy who cried wolf. Over and over he raised a false alarm about a wolf killing the sheep he was watching. Finally, all his fellow villagers were so fed up they refused to listen any more. One day a wolf did come. The boy cried “wolf, wolf!” but to no avail. His words meant nothing and his trustworthiness was nil. So it is without serial abuse of superlatives and extremes.

Gold is valuable because it’s rare. Wood is cheap because it’s common. We’ve turned words which should have the value of gold into a pile of wooden nickels. No longer can we trust them and use them as something of worth. What happens when something is essential or incredible? We have no way of describing it adequately because our words, the currency of communication, have lost all value.

I want my recommendations and descriptions to matter. When I say a book is “well-worth reading”” I it to mean just that; not the best, not a “must read”, but a book of value for the reader. When I say a piece of advice is “useful” I want people to see it that way without having to lie and say it’s essential. If I am able to use these positive descriptions well then all of a sudden those occasions when a book is “the best I’ve read recently” and a piece of wisdom is “crucial” have real meaning.

We are reaching (or have reached) a point where discerning people immediately disregard overstatement because it is so common. If you want your words to matter don’t cry wolf. Don’t add to the pile of wooden nickels. Make your good good and your bad bad so that your great can be great and your awful truly awful.

photo credit: falcon1961 via photopin cc

Don’t Follow Your Heart!

If I don’t forgive my friend until I feel like forgiving…I’ll never forgive.

If I am not kind to my neighbor until I feel like being kind…I’ll never be kind.

If I don’t pray for the lost until I feel like praying…I’ll never pray.

If I don’t work hard at my job until I feel like being diligent…I’ll never be diligent.

If I don’t serve at church until I feel like serving…I’ll never serve.

If I don’t reach out to those who are different from me until I feel like reaching out…I’ll never reach out.

If I’m not patient with my kids until I feel like being patient…I’ll never be patient.

We live in a culture that tells us to follow our hearts. The Lord says, “Obey and your heart will follow”. The glory of the gospel is that God gives us the power to do what we don’t feel like doing. When it comes to following the Lord, more often than not, feelings follow obedience.

Don’t follow your heart. Don’t wait until you feel like doing it. By the power of the Spirit, obey God and trust that feelings will follow.

If God Doesn’t Need Anything, Then Why Does He Command Us To Serve Him?

God doesn’t need our work.  

He doesn’t need our money, either.  God can get everything done without a heavenly kick starter campaign.  He didn’t ask for any help when he created the galaxies.  He can get along just fine without our peewee contributions to the universe.

He doesn’t need our worship either.  He doesn’t need our praises to bolster his self-esteem.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  Acts 17:24-25

God doesn’t anything.  He doesn’t need our worship, our work or our money.  So why does God command us to worship, serve, and give our money to him?

First of all, for his glory.  Wait a second.  If he doesn’t need our work or worship, how does it glorify him?  It certainly doesn’t add anything to his glory.  Yet it does display his glory.  When we sing his praises together, we display to one another God’s greatness, kindness and love.  When I hear you give thanks to God, I’m reminded afresh of his goodness.  You display God’s glory to me.  And it builds my faith and helps me love and trust him more.  And when we do works of love, we display the character of Christ God is forming in us.

Another reason God commands us to worship, serve, give and obey is for our joy.

When God tells us to sing and raise our hands to him, it’s not because he needs our praise to feel good about himself. It’s for our pleasure in him. When we express our appreciation of God it enhances our enjoyment of him.  Like when we express appreciation for a great painting, or a great steak.  It enhances and completes our enjoyment of it.  When God commands us to give it’s not because he needs the money. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. It’s for our benefit and good.  When we give, God pours blessings back on us.  When we sow, we reap.  All God’s commands are for our benefit and joy.  That’s why we should serve him cheerfully:

Serve the Lord with gladness! Psalm 100.2

It doesn’t glorify God to serve him cheerlessly. It’s not enough to serve the Lord, we must serve him with gladness. Parents, ever ask your child to do something for you and he responds with as much enthusiasm as if you’d asked him to have a root canal? How does that make you feel? He may do the chore, but if he does it with grumbling or ingratitude it doesn’t please you. You almost feel like saying ‘don’t bother.’  

God loves a cheerful giver.  Do you think it glorifies God when we grudgingly say ‘Alright, here’s my buck’?  He loves a cheerful giver because glad giving displays the value of Christ. That he is more valuable than all our money. It shows we believe he’s generous and good and will bless and provide for us.

God doesn’t need our work or our praises or our money.  He gives them to us as gifts to display his glory and enhance our enjoyment of him.  So let’s serve the Lord with gladness today.

Jesus Spent 30 Years Being Boring

For the first 30 years of his life, Jesus was boring. He was an unknown carpenter who wasn’t doing “big” things for God. He worked alongside his dad, using his hands to shape, shave, and tack together pieces of wood. He quietly studied the scriptures, and grew in stature with God and men. He didn’t have a public ministry. He didn’t write any books, go on a conference tour, adopt an orphan, give away 75% of his income, or go on multiple missions trips. He loved the Lord with all his heart, honored his mother and father, and quietly went about his work.

Was Jesus wasting his life? Absolutely not. He was doing exactly what God had called him to do. As his hands ran over rough planks of wood, he was quietly earning our salvation. Jesus, the lowly carpenter, the furniture maker, was as radical as they come. And for thirty years he was quiet.

You don’t have to leave home to be crazy on fire for the Lord. Jesus spent his first thirty years simply working and obeying. This tells me that it’s possible to be radical while changing diapers, or creating spreadsheets, or plowing snow, or doing whatever mundane task you are called to. For the Christian, there is no such thing as insignificant work.

Being radical for Jesus means obeying Jesus, loving Jesus, and proclaiming Jesus wherever we are, whether that’s in the mission fields of Cambodia or behind the counter at Starbucks.