According to the Riches of His Grace

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…" -Ephesians 1:7-8

Category: Bible

8 Tips on Reading the Bible

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I want to be very clear with you.

Read your Bible.

If you claim to be a Christian, it should be unthinkable to not read your Bible.

I’m not forcing a rule on you anymore than I would be if I told you that you need to eat your dinner. If you don’t eat your dinner, you will starve.

If you don’t read your Bible, you will starve your spirit.

A Christian who has a Bible and doesn’t read it makes about as much sense as a husband who lives in different state than his wife and never communicates with her. He may be legally married, but he doesn’t know his wife. He might as well not be married.

In the same way, if you have a relationship with Jesus but never read the Bible, you might as well not have a relationship with him. The Bible is how God speaks to us. You can’t ask God to speak to you and not read the Bible.

But more than that, you will not grow as a Christian if you don’t read it. When you come to faith in Jesus, you are “born-again.” Therefore, you are a newborn baby in Christ. Now, you have to feed yourself through the Bible and grow in him to become an adult, and continue growing after that.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while now and you are still a baby in the faith, it’s probably a bad sign. It’s probably a sign you haven’t been reading the Bible, praying, and seeking Christ in your life.

The most important part of my day is when I wake up in the morning, because I rise and I open the Word. I read it and listen for God to speak. And he begins to work on me like a surgeon on his patient. I have a problem: Sin. God, the Great Surgeon is repairing me one day at a time and that repairing usually happens as I am in the Word.

So, if you don’t usually read the Bible, do it right now. Read the tips I have below for Bible reading, close the Internet, and open the Bible.

Here are some tips that really help me in Bible reading.

1. Discipline yourself

You’ve got to make yourself do it. Some days I wake up excited to read the Bible. However, some days, I really don’t want to do it. I’d rather surf the web or watch TV. But reading the Bible is a spiritual discipline. You have to discipline yourself to do it, no matter how you feel.

2. Always have it with you

I try to always have a copy of God’s Word with me. It’s usually one of the things I leave the house with. If I don’t have a physical copy with me, I have about 4 different Bible apps on my phone that I can use. So, if I am out and I get free time, I can read the Word. If I end up in the waiting room at the mechanic or the hospital, I can read the Word. If I show up for a lunch meeting early or the person I am meeting is running late, I can read the Word.

3. Don’t make it a one time a day thing.

I try to read the Bible more than one time a day. I always read it in the morning. I have certain portions of the Bible that I am always going through, so I spend time in that during the morning. But as I have grown in my love for the Word, I am constantly making mental notes of things that I’d like to study. Sometimes, I spend a little time in it during the afternoon. And then, usually, I open it up at night, read a Psalm, and meditate on it before going to bed.

4. You have time

Some don’t read the Bible because they don’t have time. This has even been an excuse of mine before. However, recently, I examined if I really don’t have time and my conclusion was shocking. After doing the math, I found that I have 82 hours free during a week! The truth is, we have a lot of free time, we just waste it. We allow hours to go by looking at our phone, watching television, keeping up with fantasy sports teams, or studying things that are less important. If we snap out of it, we realize that we have a ton of time to read the Bible, we just spend it on other things.

5. Meditate

Don’t just read the Bible. Think about what you read. I used to read a lot of the Bible and spend very little time thinking about it. I thought I accomplished something with God because I got 10 chapters of the Bible read in the morning. But I really didn’t digest any of what I read. Now, I usually read a chapter or two and then just sit and think about the passage, asking myself questions about it. What does it say about Jesus? What does it say about sin? How does it apply to me? How does it apply to this current situation in my life? The same that you would take time for your food to digest before getting in the swimming pool, let what you’ve read in the Bible digest.

6. Memorize

I love Romans 8. In my senior year of college, I set out to memorize the whole chapter. And I did it. Do you know what I realized when I memorized it? I understood it better. I don’t know how memorizing it helped me to understand it, but it did. Suddenly, parts were clear to me that hadn’t been before. As you read through the Bible, pick out passages that really speak to you and memorize them. There is a great app that I use to memorize called Scripture Typer.

7. Pray through it

As you read the Bible, you should pray as well. I typically read a couple chapters in the morning and then center a good portion of my prayers on the passage that I read. For example, this morning, I read Luke 15, the story of the prodigal son. So a good portion of my prayer time was praising God for being a God who saves and rejoices at the repentance of a sinner. I am a sinner, so it brings me joy that he does that. Use Scripture to mold your prayers.

8. Don’t use substitutes.

There are a lot of good books out there about the Bible. I have two bookshelves full of them. As much as I love Francis Chan or David Platt, none of their books can be a substitute for the Bible. I can read them in addition to the Bible, but never by themselves. You can’t spend your time with God by reading a John Piper book. It needs to be the Bible itself. There are a lot of good devotional books out there that have a verse at the top on a page and then a text from the author about that verse. Don’t even use those just by themselves. It is like eating fast food instead of a home cooked meal. You won’t get the spiritual nutrients you need.

There is no substitute for opening the Bible, reading it, listening for God to speak, and allowing him to work on your heart.

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Cultural Context and the Bible

Let me give you a little Bible reading tip: Understand that you are reading a document from the past and not our current day.

On Thanksgiving, I was with my family and one of my uncles was talking about the Bible. He referenced the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. A brief synopsis of the story: They are husband and wife. They sell their land and bring part of the money to Peter to use for ministry, but they lie and tell him  that they brought all that they got from it. God strikes them dead. They are taken out and buried.

My uncle described it that they were taken outback of the church building and buried in the church cemetery…..and that’s how he understood the story. The trouble is that in the early church, they didn’t have church buildings or church cemeteries. It was a house church movement and they wouldn’t have even been able to build churches with the opposition to Christianity.

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Yeah, the backwoods of Kentucky might have small churches with cemeteries out back, but first century Jerusalem didn’t. You can’t read Acts 5 with small town Kentucky as your setting.

If you want to understand the Bible properly, you have to understand it in the context of the culture and time that it was written. For example, Deuteronomy is written like that of a Hittite treaty. This doesn’t affect the inspiration of Scripture. It simply means that Moses was smart enough to write it in a way that would hit home with his readers in a way they understood.

Revelation is a huge compilation of Old Testament passages. Sometimes a description of Jesus will include imagery from Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah all in the same sentence! It is also written during Roman oppression of Christians. John wrote Revelation in a way that would appeal to his readers, pulling from all these things.

There is a danger that comes with cultural context in Bible study because sometimes people make it more supreme than the text itself. This must never happen. But the text must be understood in the context of where and when it was written.

In the same way that if I read a news article about the invention of a new social media network, I’d never read it with a 14th century cultural understanding, since social media wasn’t a thing then.

When Theology Becomes Worthless

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All the disciples were at the table. Jesus was speaking of how he was going to be betrayed by one of them and that the rest were going to fall away. Peter stood up and said, “Even if they all fall away, I never will!” Jesus told him the horrible news. “Before the rooster crows at dawn, you will deny me three times.”

Peter was taken back. It was even worse when he finally did what Jesus said he would do and flat out denied him three times. Peter was heartbroken and distraught. The Gospels don’t even record that he was at the crucifixion. He was so ashamed. Why? Because he loved Jesus. He really did love him; he had just screwed up.

After Jesus has resurrected, he appears to the disciples while they are fishing. (John 21) They haven’t caught anything the whole night and a stranger on the beach tells them to throw their net on the other side of the boat and they will catch some. They do so and they catch 153 fish. John realizes that it is Jesus on the beach and Peter has a jolt in his stomach. His mind has flashed back to when he began following Jesus (Luke 5) and Jesus did the same thing with catching fish. Surely this means Jesus has forgiven Peter! Like Forrest Gump seeing Lieutenant Dan on the dock, Peter jumps out of the boat and swims the length of a football field all the way to shore.

When he gets there, Jesus has breakfast with the disciples. Following breakfast, Jesus looks at Peter and says, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus asks him this three times. After the third time, Peter breaks down in tears. “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Peter loved Jesus. Peter so quickly said that he would never deny Jesus because he loved him.

Notice something here.

It is more than for a theological truth that Peter is willing to die. He is willing to die because he loves Jesus the person.

But how often is it that a Christian is more adamant about theology than Jesus? That might sound weird, but it is absolutely possible to make theology an idol. It is as possible to love knowledge about God more than God himself as it is for a husband to love his wife’s wealth or body more than her. Each is a part of the person instead of the person as a whole.

Some Christians, in a completely honest and good desire to know God more, become puffed up in their knowledge and lose track of gaining the knowledge to love God. Rather, they begin seeking just to become smarter about him. This becomes very apparent when Christians talk more about their identity as a particular theology instead of as a follower of Jesus. I am a lover and follower of Jesus 10 million times before I am any theological identity.

If we are not overflowing with love for our Savior, it doesn’t matter if we are Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, Post-Trib, or No-Trib. It doesn’t matter if we believe in a creation that took 6 days or 600 billion years. It doesn’t matter if we are an Arminian, a Calvinist, or somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter if we believe in 7 dispensations or 6 covenants. It doesn’t matter if we use the King James Version or the Message. If we lack love, our theology is worthless.

This also becomes apparent when we aren’t overflowing with sacrificial love that goes to any means to serve people everyday. Simply talking about that kind of love doesn’t count. We are supposed to walk in love as Christ loved us. (Ephesians 5:2). Theology must fuel our love, service, and mission, but it is certainly possible to have theology without being filled with love.

Theology is awesome and it is a very good thing. But let us not get so caught up in knowledge that we lose our passion. This has been a major struggle for me in seminary. I haven’t necessarily been obsessed with theology, but I have been studying it so much that I have struggled keeping my awe of Jesus. But if I have perfect theology, if I have memorized every verse of the Bible, if I can preach every topic perfectly, if I have read every book of a 50,000 book library, but I lose my love for the Savior, I am worthless. I am nothing more than a hard drive of information.

Knowledge puffs up and makes one arrogant. Love humbles us under the beauty of Christ and makes us in awe of what he has done.

When Christ meets me on the beach and says, “Aaron, son of Ronnie, do you love me?”, I don’t want to start quoting a theology textbook to answer him. I want to look at him with tears in my eyes and say, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Many Have Already Been “Left Behind”

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Today, the new Left Behind film released to theaters. You should check out Christianity Today’s review of the film before you go see it.

Let me tell you my story with Left Behind. I used to be obsessed with the series. I read the 12 books in high school for several book projects and made corny little short films for the projects set in the Left Behind world featuring me and some of my classmates (in which I played the main guy left behind, Jesus, and the Antichrist all in the same film).

In fact, had it not been for the Left Behind series, I wouldn’t be a Christian. The first films connected me to Kirk Cameron’s evangelism ministry in which I watched and became a Christian from his presentation of the Gospel. So I am thankful for the series.

Theologically, I don’t really agree with the sort of eschatology that the series presents anymore, but that’s not what this post is about. Frankly, very little, if any, of the ministry I do on a daily basis has anything to do with the rapture, a 7 year tribulation, the antichrist, or the number 666.

My worry is that many Christians have already been left behind whether Jesus has returned or not. The reason I say this is because of a major misunderstanding of all of this.

The message of the New Testament is constantly this: Jesus could return at any time, so make sure you are faithfully working for him while you wait.

Think of it this way. A manager has been gone for lunch from a business and the employees decide that they will slack off while he is gone and just pretend to be working hard when they see him coming back into the building. But he doesn’t come in the front door that day; he comes in the back. They didn’t see him. He comes up to the front and sees all the employees slacking off.

Those employees who were slacking off are going to be in trouble. They might get fired.

This is why I worry that many Christians have already been left behind. Because American Christianity has reduced being ready for the return of Jesus to watching the news and connecting the news stories with what the Bible says.

But let’s take a look at those signs:

Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?” Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you,  for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.  But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:3-14)

What do you see there? It’s not wars and persecution in Syria that signals the end of the world. It’s not the outbreak of Ebola or earthquakes in Myanmar.

It’s actually not until the end of this passage that Jesus says that the end will come. And what is the sign of that? When the Gospel has reached all the nations.

Later in Matthew, Jesus gives the Great Commission where he says, “Go and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19).

Nations is used the same way in both of these passages. In the Greek, it is rendered “ethnos” which means people groups. A people group is any group of people living in an area. They can be based on language, culture, religion, or many other things. Multiple nations (people groups) exist in every country of the world.

Statistically, there are over 16,000 known people groups in the world. Of those, over 7,000 are classified as “unreached”, meaning there aren’t enough Christians, if any, in the area to evangelize the people group.

What does all of this mean? It means that there are still over 7,000 nations that have not heard the good news of the Kingdom as Jesus said would happen before the end. I have no idea when Jesus will return. But I think there is still a lot of work to be done.

So, Christians, don’t get left behind. Jesus said reach all nations with the Gospel, so go do it. Maybe you should go to another country for it (as people often think when talking about missions) but maybe you should go to your next door neighbors.

Our primary job is not to connect the news stories on CNN to verses in the Bible. Our job is to share the Gospel with people, that we are all really bad sinners and Christ has bore all the sins of the world on himself and taken the punishment for them. Now, all who receive him will receive forgiveness and eternal life. We are to call people to believe that and then walk beside them as they follow Jesus. That’s what making disciples is.

So don’t be the employee that is slacking off when the manager returns. Be the one who is joyfully doing his job in faithfulness. Don’t get left behind.

The King is coming. When the clouds roll back and he descends, we will see his face and all will be right in the world. Until then, it’s not and there is a job to do. Go and make disciples of all the nations.

Sanctification in Construction Work

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I wake up in the morning. The sun is shining through the window, but that isn’t what wakes me up. It’s not even my alarm that wakes me. It’s the sound of construction on the floor below me. My dorm was probably built about the same time as the Roman Colosseum, so it’s pretty old. And they decide the year that I come to seminary to update it. So, every day it sounds like a jackhammer is trying to pelt through my floor.

Before I started seminary, I was a groomsman in one of my best friend’s weddings. The wedding was about an hour from my seminary city, so I left at the reasonable time to get there for the rehearsal dinner. That was a mistake, because I ran into road work….that spanned for what seemed like the entire country of Russia. I moved about 2 miles in an hour. I listened to an entire CD and could still see some of the same things that were around me when it started. They had already rehearsed once without me by the time I got there.

When I was in college, they decided my junior year to remodel the main building on campus, which caused my tuition to increase, but they told us that the building wouldn’t be finished until after we graduated. So, I funded a project that I never saw.

What do all these stories have in common? Construction work. I hate seeing unfinished work. I hate getting stuck in traffic in a construction zone.

But I think about construction work and I actually learn a great spiritual lesson from it. There will always be construction work in the world. Things are always going to be needing repair or updating. Things are like that because of sin.

And I am a construction project. When God created the universe, it was good. Then Adam and Eve sinned and that damaged God’s creation. Death and destruction entered the world and now everything goes bad. But then Jesus came into the world. Sin entered the world when man disobeyed God at a tree. In a reverse effect, Jesus took the sins of the world on himself and allowed himself to be nailed to a tree. He died on that tree, rose from the dead, and now new creation has begun. All who believe this story begin a journey in which God is remaking them. He is in the process of restoring all things to what they once were, one person at a time.

We call this sanctification in the church. The process in which God remakes a Christian out of their sin into the image of Jesus. This will all finish when Jesus returns and Christians are resurrected into the form that Jesus was when he walked out of the tomb. Now, if anyone is in Christ, he is new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Now, Jesus stands over the creation saying, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

So, as much as I hate the inconvenience of construction work, it reminds me of the work that is going on in me and in the world as God recreates the world back into what it was originally.

Digesting a Delicious Meal

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I want you to think about your favorite meal. For me, it is a juicy piece of garlic marinated, grilled chicken, some sautéed carrots, celery, and potatoes, a slice of Texas toast, and watermelon for dessert. I like a ton of other meals, but that is the one that I could eat every meal for a while and not get burnt out on it. I don’t know what yours is.

As delicious as my favorite meal is to me (my mouth was watering while I was typing that), the Bible should be more appetizing to us. It should make our souls water. So, if that this the case, let’s learn a lesson from how we eat our favorite meal.

This morning, I did my usual thing of spending time at my desk, with a cup of coffee, reading the Bible. However, I got up a little later than usual this morning, so I was short on time. I had to read the Word and leave. I didn’t get to have my usual time of thinking about what I had just read, as well as praying. And what resulted from that is that I didn’t get the full effect of devotional time.

What if I did that with my favorite meal? What if I wanted to eat my favorite meal, but only had time to quickly eat it and then I had to go about my daily activities. Likely, the next couple hours, I am going to feel terrible as my food is trying to digest while I am on the go. Depending on the activity I am doing, I might even throw the food up (if I were doing something manly like running a 50K up a mountain in a rain storm).

When I eat a delicious meal, I want to go sit down and allow the food to settle as it digests. Reading the Bible is not enough. You need the time to meditate on it and let it digest in your system in order to use the application of it in your day.

It was my mistake of getting up later than usual today and not having that time. If it means getting up thirty minutes early, incorporate this into your daily devotion time. I promise, meditating on the Scriptures is worth the thirty minutes of sleep if it stirs up your affections for Jesus and allows you to be able to become more like him in your day.

The Bible Food Pyramid

In the movie, “Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves”, Wayne Szalinski accidentally shrinks himself, his wife, and two relatives, leaving the three kids in the house by themselves. One of the kids has a condition in which he gets sick if he doesn’t get enough potassium. At the end of the movie, he has one of his spells and the other two kids must come up with a way to help him. One of them remembers that bananas have a lot of potassium, so they feed him a banana and he gets better.

But if they had fed him a chicken, or some cheese, or a plate of rice, he wouldn’t have gotten better. Why? For the condition he had, none of those things would have provided what he needed. They are all good types of food, but they wouldn’t have helped his sickness in any way.

As Paul said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) All of the Bible is absolutely good! However, you may need different parts of Scripture in different situations of your life. Keep in mind two things when considering this:

1. Don’t look at the Bible as specifically for you. It is not a motivational book written to “bless your heart” in which you can go and find different uplifting things for your life problems. It is in essence the revelation from God to the world about who Jesus is.

2. Never read the Bible in the way that some people do where they let the Bible fall open to a certain page and say, “The Lord must want me to read here.” That’s stupid. Actually, something else happened. Gravity latched on to the two sides of the book and based on how you were holding it, it fell open to a random page.

That being said, you do need certain parts of the Bible at certain points of your Christian walk. This is the same as how you need different types of food for different conditions of your body. If you are trying to lose weight, you don’t need to eat a ton of red meat. If you are trying to gain weight, don’t just eat vegetables. You don’t feed a baby or an old person with no teeth solid foods.

So based on what is going on in your walk, you need to tailor your Bible reading to what is going to grow you best and stir up your affection for Jesus the best at that time. For example, right now, I am in one of those dry seasons of the Christian walk. My mind is there, but I am really struggling with my heart for it. I think it is that I am kinda exhausted. So recently I’ve been reading Judges. It hit me today, that’s not what I need. Right now, I need the Gospels. I need to revisit those and stay in them for a while just looking at the Jesus I am following.

If you are a young Christian, I wouldn’t recommend reading Leviticus, Numbers, Joel, or several others. You need the Gospels. You need to look at Jesus and learn who he is and how to follow him. If you are really passionate for the glory of God and really on fire, then go deep into Romans, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation. If you are trying to grow in Christian community and mission, read Acts. If you are ready to know the deep theology about who Jesus is, look at John and Hebrews.

If you aren’t ready to eat a certain kind of food, don’t do it. As you follow Jesus in the Bible, you need to tailor your Bible reading to the category of the Scripture food pyramid that is going to best benefit your growth and give you the nutrients you need. The whole Bible is a display of who Jesus is. However, as you follow him, you need to be able to see different angles of who he is that will help you grow at that time.USDA_Food_Pyramid

Psalm 136 (New Testament Version)

I read Psalm 136 this morning and it is awesome! It is full of references to the Old Testament and shows how God’s love endures forever in all of that. As I was praying during my quiet time, I thought to myself, what if Psalm 136 had been written after the New Testament was written. The Old Testament is awesome, but the defeat of the King of Sihon might not mean much to you unless you are a Jew and/or have studied  the Old Testament in great detail. So, what if it was talking about the story of the New Testament? Maybe it would be something like this.

Psalm 136 (New Testament Version

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The Word was in the beginning with God, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He created all things and holds them together, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was baptized by John in the Jordan, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He overcame temptation in the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He called twelve to follow him and carry his message on, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He taught with great authority, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He turned water into wine, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He gives eternal life to all who believe, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He healed the crippled man at the pool, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He fed the 5,000, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He is the Bread of Life who will satisfy all hunger, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He walked on water, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He healed the man born blind, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He is the Good Shepherd who dies for his sheep, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He raised Lazarus from the dead, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He washed the disciple’s feet, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He told the twelve to love one another, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He prayed for the twelve to be unified, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was arrested willingly, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He remaining silent on trial, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He endured lashes from a whip on his back, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He took a crown of thorns, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He carried the cross, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was lifted up on the cross, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He bore the wrath of God, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He became sin, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was forsaken by the Father, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The veil of the temple was torn, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He cried, “It is finished!”, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He died, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Death has been rendered defeated, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was buried, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The stone rolled away, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The Word emerged from the grave alive, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He let Thomas see the scars, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He forgave Peter three times, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He gave the great commission, “Go make disciples of all nations”, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He will come again, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ, for his steadfast love endures forever.

“I need to do better.”

I often hear Christians talking in a saddening way about the things in their Christian walk. I’ve heard things said a lot in the manner of, “I don’t pray enough. I should pray more.”, “I could give more of my time to God.”, or “I could always be doing more.” Some of these sayings are absolutely genuine, but I wonder how many of them are just filler text to ignore taking action in our Christian walk? I want to challenge it.

When you use this “I need to do better” theology, is it because you are sincerely seeking where you are not measuring up in your walk and seeking to grow or is it simply an excuse for you to get by, so you don’t have to acknowledge your lack of measuring up?

I’m worried that many Christians have a mentality like the bumper stickers that I have seen: “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” It’s true that you have fallen short of the glory of God and can be made righteous before God by nothing except the righteousness of Jesus Christ, but it is false that you do not grow more toward perfection as you follow Jesus. Jesus actually told his disciples, “…be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

If you think you could do better in prayer, then don’t sit around moping about it, start praying. If you could be spending more time with God, don’t whine about it. Figure out where in your life you are wasting time, abandon that activity, and spend more time with God. If you could be sharing the Gospel more, don’t simply talk about the fact that you don’t do it. Go and share the Gospel. The only way your levels of lacking will ever be beaten is for you to push headlong against them and seek to push them away, becoming more like Jesus.

Paul said that he is so concerned with achieving perfection in Christ that he strains forward with everything he has got to reach it (Philippians 3:13). The writer of Hebrews said we are running a race to get to Jesus (Hebrew 12:2). No runner of a race is still at the starting line looking at his tied tennis shoes thinking, “I sure wish I ran better.”

So recognize that you are not perfect before God. You will not be totally perfect before God until Jesus returns and completes his work in you. As you wait for that, do everything in your power to run toward Jesus and become more like him. Christian, seek to be perfect, for the Son of God was perfect.

Do you have trouble understanding the Old Testament?

Many people struggle with the Old Testament. They know they are supposed to view the Bible highly, but they can’t help but feel that all the commands of sacrifice in Leviticus are boring. The chapters in Genesis that say, Adam fathered Seth and Seth fathered Enosh and Enosh fathered…. just seem long and pointless. The census at the beginning of the book of Numbers just seems irrelevant to someone who is not a Jew.

So how to we think highly of a passage of the Bible that just seems outdated? We know that all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), but we really struggle with how to read some of these passages and be interested.

Simply put, all of the Bible is about Jesus. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, everything in some way connects to the ultimate display of God’s glory: Jesus. After Jesus had risen, he met two men on the road to Emmaus and took them through the entire Old Testament and concluded that every bit of it was about himself. (Luke 24:27)

When we think about the passion of Jesus, we see every bit of the Old Testament within it.

Just as all of Paradise was destroyed when Adam disobeyed God in a garden, Jesus begins his complete obedience to God in a garden, praying “your will be done.”

Just as Noah was a righteous man among a corrupt people and God used him to provide salvation from judgment, Jesus was the only righteous one among a world of sinners and provided salvation from judgment with his death on the cross.

As Abraham is taking his son up to sacrifice him, he assures his son that “God will provide for himself the lamb.” That lamb is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

As Moses climbed a mountain to receive the law, Jesus would carry his cross up a mountain to fulfill the law by being crucified.

As Joshua led the people of God out of the wilderness and into the promise land, Jesus would lead the church of God out of their sins and into adoption as God’s children.

As the Levitical High Priest would go into the holy of holies once a year to offer a sacrifice of atonement for the people’s sins, Jesus would offer himself up as a once for all sacrifice of atonement for the people’s sins and open the holy of holies so that now all who are in Christ can have access to the presence of God.

As David was anointed king as a young man but didn’t get publicly anointed until much later, Jesus was anointed King at his baptism, but pronounced King publicly when he was lifted up on the cross for all to see.

As Solomon built a dwelling place for God (the temple), Jesus came as something greater than the temple and provided himself up on the cross to make each Christian the dwelling place of God.

As Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days, Jesus was in the grave for three days until he rose.

As Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem when it was in ruins, Jesus rebuilt the Holy City, by establishing the church in his death and resurrection.

Time would fail me to continue on in every story from the Old Testament, but it is all about the Son of God. So if you are having a hard time understanding the Old Testament, ask this question:

How does this passage look ahead to Jesus Christ?