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

Even so, come Lord Jesus

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I’ve mentioned before that I will probably never go to Passion conferences again, because it’s really an experience I only want once. However, every year, I am really eager to hear the new worship music that they produce at the conference. It usually leaks on Youtube before the album comes out.

This year, there are two songs that I really love, one of which has been part of my prayers just about everyday.

The chorus says:

Like a bride waiting for her groom, we’ll be a church ready for you.

Every heart longing for our king, we sing

“Even so, come. Lord Jesus come.”

I’ve always been a bit irritated by people who just sit around and wait for the return of Jesus. The sinful critic within myself has always thought, “You don’t understand that following Jesus is more about what you do in your life now. It’s not just some distant hope we have for the day we die in our bed of old age.”

And yes, I definitely recommend not just sitting around and waiting for “the rapture.” But I have been wrong to be critical like this.

Of course, this song from Passion is straight from Revelation 22, the final chapter of the Bible. The canon of Scripture closes with the amazing hope that Jesus is coming soon!

Lately, I have been very hungry for that moment. Don’t get me wrong. I want to live the purpose that God has for me in his kingdom. I want to graduate seminary and go on to preach the Gospel wherever God sends me. I want to make disciples of people from all nations. I want to demonstrate Christ and the church in marriage as well as parenting. I’d love to do short term or long term mission on every continent at some point. I want to see the Kingdom of God at work in whatever ways God chooses to use me in my life.

But, like Paul in Phil 1:21-26, I am torn between my two desires. I want to live for Christ here on earth and see his Kingdom move in power. But I also want to see the Kingdom of God complete and be with Jesus. I am hungry to see my Savior.

Whereas, I would normally close my prayers with “In Jesus name, Amen”, lately, I have been closing them with the chorus from this song. I long for that day when Jesus descends. When all of his work is complete. When sin is destroyed. When I no longer have to battle this war that is my flesh vs. my spirit anymore. When sorrow and pain are done away with. When there will be no more death, mourning, or crying. No more sleepless nights. No more financial insecurity. No more disagreements between friends. No more crime in the streets. No more terrorist beheadings. It will all be over. Satan will be thrown forever into the lake of fire. Stealing, killing, and destruction will be gone. And we will be with Jesus, the Savior of the World!

Who wouldn’t long for this day? This is why I am so hungry for it.

May the clouds part and King Jesus descend to remake the heavens and the earth! May he do away with evil and complete our salvation! May the dwelling place of God forever be with man!

Even so, come! Lord Jesus, come!

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A Standing Ovation from Jesus

Twice over the past couple days, my attention has been brought to the death scene of Stephen in Acts 7:54-60. Once was watching the final sermon from Passion yesterday. The second time was when we studied it in my New Testament class today. Each time, a specific detail has been brought out to me. It comes in verse 56.

Stephen looks up into heaven and sees Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. Every other time in Scripture that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, he is sitting. Stephen has just finished preaching to the Jews about Jesus and they are about to kill him.

And Jesus is standing.

Why is Jesus standing? Maybe he is telling Stephen he has done well and remained faithful.

How much I long for this. I long for Jesus to stand at the sight of me one day. Not because I want glory for myself, for why in the world would I want Jesus, the only one worthy of glory to give me glory in his presence. Rather, I want Jesus to confirm that I was faithful. It’s like how a son longs to hear his father say, “I’m proud of you, son” or that moment when a father tells his son that the son is now a man.

We are really big on saying that our good works cannot please God and that is absolutely true in a salvation sense. We cannot please God with our works to merit eternal life. That is all by Christ on the cross.

But he expects us to live faithfully. When you look at Christ on the cross, you see that there is nothing you can do to save yourself. But when you look at Christ on the cross, you see that if you know him, there is nothing you can do but live for him.

If we really love Jesus and are his follower, we should do everything in our power to live for him in our thoughts, words, and actions. Of course we will screw up and Jesus forgives us there. But no matter what it takes, we must seek to live as Jesus lived. Anyone who claims to live in God must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).

I want Jesus to stand from his seat one day in recognition of his acceptance of the life I lived for him. I may not successfully do that. But I will do everything in my power to. I will press on for the goal of the prize of the call of God in Christ (Philippians 3:14).

Followers of Jesus, will you join me?

Tug of War and Forgiving Others

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In the past year, I have been wronged by a lot of people, whether it was a big offense or a very light offense. In fact, nearly every person in my life has sinned against me in some form or fashion in the past year.

But worse than that. I have surpassed all their sins in the sins I have committed against them. If I were to post the top 10 sins I’ve committed in the past year on this blog post, it might be flagged by certain parental control programs for inappropriate content.

The fact is, I am a sinner. Jesus summed up the law in two sentences. Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. So when I fail to love God fully at any point and when I love myself more than my neighbor in any way, I sin.

But despite how putrid my soul is, despite how stained with sin I am, God didn’t hold that against me. He didn’t let that interfere in his love for me. Rather, he came into my realm as the man, Jesus Christ. Instead of holding my condemnation against me, he took the punishment for my sins upon himself and died the death that I completely deserve. He forgave the massive debt that I owed.

If you are a Christian, this is your story. You have been forgiven by an immeasurably great God! He has cast your sins as far as the east is from the west. He has forgiven all of your sin past, present, and future. There is no more condemnation for you. He will no longer have anger against you. Now, you can know him! You can love him!

With that in mind, I turn to a passage of Scripture I have been dwelling on heavily for a long time now. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Do we grasp this? God in Christ has forgiven us so immensely that we will praise him forever for it! And that is our example of how we are to forgive other people. I understand it’s hard. And I have no idea what other people have done to you. I only know what I have done to other people and what others have done to me.

God has forgiven me for everything I’ve ever done wrong. So why in the world would I not seek to forgive others. It doesn’t necessarily happen right away. I don’t always just decide to forgive right when I am wrong. Sometimes it takes me days or weeks to work it out in myself. Sometimes, I have to stay up for an hour past when I was going to go to sleep just to spend time in prayer and not let the sun go down on my anger.

But forgiveness is the only route to go. The alternative is to hold a grudge against a person for your entire life and hate them, which is disobedient to the Lord and will tear you apart on the inside until you are a very bitter and cynical person.

A mentor of mine was preaching a couple weeks ago on forgiveness and he made an incredible statement regarding it. Forgiveness is like tug-of-war. As soon as you finally let go, the war is over.

Dwell on the fact that God has completely forgiven you, if you are in Christ, and then let go of the rope.

Sanctification in Ice Skating

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Last night, I went ice skating……if you could call it that.

I went with 10 other friends from seminary. I’ve roller bladed maybe twice in my life and I didn’t do that correctly at all. I was hugging the wall the whole time. So, I never learned how to move my feet in a way that would actually move me in skating.

So, when I tried to ice skate, I failed. I didn’t know how to move at all and hugged the wall the whole time. Thankfully, some of the people there with me helped me. I had a person holding my left arm, a person holding my right arm, someone in front of me, and someone behind. It looked kinda like I was Santa’s sleigh and they were the reindeer. It was pretty pathetic and I got pretty frustrated. I didn’t fall very seriously at any point. I did go down a couple times but they all let me down slowly and helped me back up.

God has given me a weird ability to be able to find a Christian lesson in just about anything during daily life. So, a lesson was running through my head while I was on the ice.

Picture me as a new believer, the ice rink as the Christian life, and my friends there as the church. The second I step on to the ice rink is when I come to faith in Jesus. And now I have to navigate the waters (or in this case, ice) of being a Christian.

If no one comes to help me, I will not get anywhere. I will hug the wall the whole time, slip and fall, and bust my face open. But when the body of Christ comes and grabs a hold of me to help me learn how to do it, I will become stronger and be able to know what I am doing. If I fall, they can help me to go down slowly and then pick me right back up.

Christians, this is what the church is. Discipleship must be done as part of the church and so older believers must latch on to new believers to teach them how to be a Christian. If not, they will never grow up into maturity. They will grow only in years of being a Christian and be a 30 year old that looks like a baby.

Grab on to someone at church and teach them how to follow Christ. It’s the whole purpose of the church.

Why Your Prayer Life Isn’t Growing

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes, my prayer life is lame.

Lately, I have noticed that every morning when I pray, my prayer is typically the same thing. I don’t mean that I am repeating verbatim the same words, but I pray for the same thing every morning. Lately, this has been the format of my prayers:

-I start with some kind of praise statement based on the passage of Scripture I have just read.

-Then I pray for about four or five people in my life.

-Finally, I pray for a few things for myself, mostly that I will know and love Jesus more.

-I close by surrendering my life to Jesus and saying amen.

Sometimes, I find myself saying something at the end of my prayer. A feeling comes over me that my prayer life is lacking something and I say this:

“Lord, please help me to grow in prayer. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Then something hits me in the face.

If you want to grow in prayer…..you have to pray.

You can read all the books you want on prayer. You can do a deep Bible study on all the passages on prayer. You can watch 100 sermons on prayer.

But until you actually start praying, you can’t work out your problems in prayer.

You have to pray, in faith that while you are praying, God is going to teach you to pray better. The same that you can’t share the Gospel better without doing it, you can’t read the Bible better without doing it, you can’t preach better without doing it, you have to spend time in prayer for your prayer life to grow.

God understands that you are not perfect at prayer. He doesn’t expect you to be. But he does expect you to be seeking to grow in it.

8 Things to Consider Before Writing Christian Content Online

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I’ve been writing online for at least 3 years. Before this blog, I had another one that is not in existence anymore. I use social media as a means of sharing truths about the Christian faith. Many of my tweets and Facebook posts are Christian related.

On a daily basis, I see Christian things written on the internet, whether blogs, articles, or just Facebook statuses that are terrible. I’m not meaning that in a critical way. I’m not saying they don’t necessarily know what they are trying to say. Their theology could be really good. They could have a good heart in it. But writing is an art form. If you don’t do it correctly, the results could be damaging to you, the view of the Christian faith, and the view of the church.

In the time that I have been writing Christian content, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been very arrogant. I’ve criticized the church in ways that I shouldn’t have. I’ve made my posts a place for me to vent my anger instead of glorify God. And I still make a lot of mistakes today.

So I want to offer 8 things to remember before you post Christian content online in hopes that you won’t make those mistakes.

1. It’s Not For Everyone

This is of first importance. God gives Christians different gifts. Some of us have the gift of hospitality. Some have the gift of preaching and teaching. Some have the gift of music. Some have the gift of knowledge. Some have the gift of writing. If you don’t have that gift, maybe you should just refrain from writing Christian stuff online. I understand you want to express your faith and you should use the gifts God has given you to do that. Don’t try to use a gift God hasn’t given you. If someone didn’t have the gift of preaching, I’d never want them to express their faith behind a pulpit. That could be disastrous. The same with writing.

2. Be Careful of Every Word

Every word you write will play an impact on how people read your stuff. Just think if the writers of Scripture had written their message in a different way, using completely different words. We’d still have the story of Jesus, but we’d arguably view it in a different way. Ultimately, everybody perceives words differently. What you write as a normal sentence could come off as very condemning to a reader. Don’t post anything Christian online without making sure every word doesn’t come off wrong and correctly tells the message you are trying to.

3. Be Mindful of How People Will Look at You

People view me in all kinds of different ways because I write Christian content online. Some view me as a super-Christian who never does anything wrong. Some view me as a guy with way too much time on my hands. Some view me as a know-it-all. Some view me as a really smart guy. I honestly don’t like having any of these views attached to me, but ultimately, if you take up a ministry of writing Christian content online, it will affect the way people look at you.

4. Avoid People Pleasing

There are a lot of times that I post things on Facebook that I take down within the next five minutes because I did it for the wrong reason. I did it, not to glorify God. I did it because I was hoping it would get a lot of likes. Sometimes, I’ve even hoped certain people would like it, perhaps a certain girl. If you want to post Christian stuff online, you have to avoid the luring temptation of trying to please people instead of pleasing God.

5. Less is More

Along with writing being an art form, getting people to read your entire article is a skill very few have. I have a ton of friends who write blogs that are great, but I rarely read all of the article that they post because it is too long. We must recognize the fact that most people in today’s time do not have a very long attention span. I have a minor in Journalism and one of the things we were taught in regards to blogs is that if a person has to scroll more than 2 or 3 times, they probably won’t finish reading the article. A skill you need to work to acquire is that you can present your message in as few words as possible.

6. Avoid Post-Event Ranting

There was a time when I had a blog that I basically used to vent my frustrations at American Christianity. My most common time to post blogs was Sunday at 2:00 pm. I would come home from church, frustrated with something a pastor had said, something I had heard a church member say, or just something I noticed at church. And so, I would sinfully assume that that represented the entire church of the United States and write a ranting blog post about why American Christians needed to start following Jesus because they weren’t doing it right now. If you get frustrated about something related to Christianity, give yourself some time to cool down. Then, when you are cooled down, either you won’t feel the need to write the content anymore, or you will be calm enough that you can do it with tenderness instead of rashness.

7. Beware of a Critical Spirit

Two of my spiritual gifts are knowledge and preaching. Sometimes, that can make one arrogant. So, at times, I have a very critical spirit. The Lord is working in me with that, but it’s still there. And, a lot of writers have that as well. You’ve seen those articles going around Facebook, right? “10 songs we should stop singing in church”, “8 reasons people aren’t singing in church”, “12 reasons your church is unbiblical”, “5 reasons you aren’t a Christian if you’re not a Calvinist”, “25 reasons your spiritual life stinks to God”.

If you write Christian things, you have to be careful that you don’t attack the bride of Christ. I don’t know many husbands that like it when someone speaks against their wife. Your job is not to tear down the church, it’s to build it up. If what your saying can’t spur the church on to growth through love and encouragement, maybe you should not post it.

8. It’s Just Seed Planting

You must recognize that you probably aren’t going to see someone come to faith in Jesus based on something you post online. It’s a good prayer and all things are definitely possible with God, so it’s not necessarily not going to happen. But typically, it’s not how people surrender to Jesus. It takes more work than that. But posting Christian stuff online definitely is a way to plant seeds and begin work among people who don’t know Jesus.

Remembering My Salvation Date

I am in my seventh year of being a Christian. For my entire time as a Christian, I have never known the exact date that I became a Christian. It happened over a period of time, so I never remembered the exact moment that I made the decision.

Last night, I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep and a million thoughts were running through my head. In the midst of that hurricane of thoughts, it just came to me. Somehow I knew when it was. I wasn’t searching through the database of my mind for an answer. It wasn’t even something I was thinking about, but it came to me.

It happened in my sophomore year of high school. I knew that much, but I didn’t know the date.

On my first day of high school, I thought I was a Christian. I had walked the aisle in a small country church on July 13, 2003 and repeated everything the pastor said and I was baptized right then. Looking back, I did it that day because I was encouraged to. I wanted people to be proud of me. And I didn’t want to go to hell when I died.

Fast forward four years, I was a sophomore and my life had changed none since 2003. I was still seen as a well-mannered teenager that mostly obeyed his parents and took his homework seriously. But I know what my heart was.

I was full of pride. I thought of myself as the best young man around because I wasn’t smoking, drinking, partying, or having sex. My mind was full of lust. I really wanted a girlfriend, not because I was interested in her, but just because I wanted to have make out sessions. I looked down on those less fortunate than me, the bad kids, people of a different ethnicity, and especially the students who just wanted to copy off me in class.

I wasn’t the type of person you would consider a bad sinner (one who gets drunk at the bars and goes to strip clubs), but I was just as bad. I saw myself as the god of my universe, but I was a deity not worthy of your praise.

Then came September of my sophomore year. My hometown was experiencing the worst heat wave I remembered in my life. My dad was driving me home from school and the sun was shining in the window. I pulled back out of the rays and complained, “Ugh, when is this heat going to end?!”

My dad said, “I think we are getting close to the end of time.”

Now, seven years later, we are still here, but as a 15 year old, he could have told me my grandfather died and I might not have experienced as much fear in my heart. Despite that I saw myself as my own god, I still generally believed that God and Jesus existed and that what the Bible said was true.

Growing up in a small town in the Bible Belt, I had been taught a theology known as the rapture. This is basically the idea that everything will for the most part be hunky-dory on earth until Jesus appears in the clouds, takes the Christians out of the earth, and leaves the world to chaos, ruled by the Antichrist for seven years before returning for good and destroying all evil. As I have studied the Bible, I don’t hold to this theology today, but it was very real to me at that time.

I didn’t want this to happen. Firstly, I believed that because I had walked the aisle in church in 2003, I would have been taken from the earth if the rapture happened (but I wouldn’t have). Secondly, I wanted to live my life before Jesus returned. Surely, he would return when I was about 50 and all my body started to go bad, right? Save me from the bad stuff of life, because remember, I am the god of the universe. Everything should serve to my interests. Let me get married, start a career, learn to drive, and have kids before you interrupt my life.

So when my dad and I got home, I began to look up the end of the world on Wikipedia. Not a good idea if you are scared of it, because you will start to find all kinds of theories of when it’s going to happen. The next theory of when it would happen was October 12 and so until that day, I was scared to death. It didn’t happen that day.

In my research, I came across a book series called Left Behind. This is a 16 volume series of novels that tell a fictional account of the rapture and the seven years following it. I was set that I wanted to read the series to figure out what it was going to be like.

On October 31, 2007, I went on a field trip with my high school BETA club to Louisville, KY. We were going to be in Louisville for 3 days. While we were out to eat downtown, I saw a Barnes and Noble, so I asked for permission to go in and buy a book. I purchased the first Left Behind novel that night.

When we arrived back at the hotel, I wanted to immediately dig into it. Most of the students on the trip went to hang out in someone’s room. I sat down in the hallway outside of my room and began to read. I read the whole first chapter, which details the actual rapture event.

That night is when it happened. I didn’t fully understand it, but I was convinced that Jesus was the route that I had to take. I didn’t yet understand the theological things that took place at the cross. I didn’t understand that all the stories in the Old Testament were pointing ahead to Jesus coming. I didn’t understand much of anything. But I knew I wanted Jesus. And I was willing to submit to him as God.

My story for the past seven years began. It has been a bumpy road. Honestly, for the rest of my time in high school, I was more like the devil than Jesus. I don’t mean that I was living in sin, though I was still struggling with it. What I mean is that I was walking around as an accuser. I was pointing out people’s sin and being mean about it. I made myself God’s hall monitor. I’ve had to repair a lot of relationships that I damaged then and probably still have more to come. When you become a Christian, you are born again. You have to grow up over time. In my first years as a Christian, I was like a whiny baby, because I hadn’t yet grown up.

In a lot of ways, I still have tendencies to be like a whiny baby. As I pursue Jesus more, he helps remove those things and I long for the day when I will be a fully grown adult when I am with him.

But I wouldn’t change any of those times of me being arrogant, rude, or a pain to live with if I could. I’d never be where I am with Jesus today if I hadn’t went through those phases.

But I know now that October 31, 2007 is the day that I became a Christian. My story is one of irony.

The one who thought of himself as the god of the universe surrendered to the God of the Universe.

God revealed himself to me through a theology that I don’t even believe anymore.

On the day of the year that people associate with death (Halloween), I came alive.

I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.

Young, Restless, and Taking Ourselves Way too Seriously

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I am in my twenties. In our current world, that means I am dubbed a millennial. However, in the current Christian world, that means I am part of the generation of the Young and Restless movement.

The Young and the Restless movement consists of a lot of hipster young adults and overly-ambitious college students. In a nutshell, this movement is all about changing the world and doing really big things in mission. Hence they are called restless.

So these young, hip men and women are always found sitting around coffee shops reading books like David Platt’s Radical or Katie Davis’s Kisses from Katie. They are very adamant about the causes they are passionate about.

These people like to go to conferences and get really excited about movements. One example is the annual Passion conference in Atlanta, GA. I love Passion. I went in 2013. Half of my favorite worship songs come from Passion.

I don’t want to go to Passion again. It’s the same stuff every year. John Piper is going to preach a sermon that you barely understand, Francis Chan is going to cry, the band is going to sing a song with massive jumping and dancing, and they are going to get you to draw red X’s on your hand in order to release 27 million people from slavery.

People go to Passion to change the world. “By going to Passion, we are shining a light on slavery!” “We are going to save all those people from slavery before we die!”

No you’re not. There will be slavery until Jesus returns. No matter how many Instagram pictures you post of your red X, those people are still in slavery.

This is my hang up with the Young and Restless movement: We take ourselves way to seriously. We sit around coffee shops talking really passionately about things like ending slavery, but in reality, we never do anything about it, except give money to a cause. 99.99999% of us are never going to pull a Liam Neeson and save a slave from their captor. And if we do, we’d have to do it 27 million more times to successfully end slavery. We are just going to talk about why everyone else needs to.

I do have a friend in Germany as a missionary working with women in slavery, but most people are going to be used by God for mission in the context of where they live. Most of us are like Timothy (doing ministry in one spot) instead of Paul (traveling around).

The Young and the Restless have great passion and energy, but we need to realign our focus. We need to stop thinking so global/big picture for ourselves and think in our actual context. The Kingdom of God doesn’t operate like a tidal wave, pouring over the entire land all at once. According to Jesus, it operates like a seed. (Mark 4:3-8; Matt. 13:31-32)

Jesus calls us to make disciples. (Matt. 28:19) This happens slowly. We have to plant a seed and nurture it as it grows. No forest springs up over night. It takes decades, even centuries for a forest to reach it’s full beauty. The church of Jesus Christ does not consist of individual persons each building their own forest. It consists of a group of people working together to build one massive forest by each individually cultivating a few trees.

It takes a lot of time. You aren’t going to build a fully learned disciple over night. In fact, they won’t be fully developed until Jesus returns. (Phil 1:6) It is going to take a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of meeting with that person to grow them as a disciple. This year is my seventh year being a Christian and I have grown exponentially since I chose to follow Jesus, but I still have more imperfections than I could list in this blog post. I still have to be cultivated and nurtured by other Christians to grow more.

So Young and Restless movement, I love your vision. Your passion to see things done for the Kingdom of God is great. But start putting words to your actions. Stop thinking extremely big picture and get down to your actual context. You are not going to obliterate modern day slavery or bring the entire nation of India to Christ in a single day. But you could make disciples of a few people in your life. These people will in turn make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples and it will all spread.

Disciple making happens in small amounts. Jesus made 11 in his whole ministry, who each made disciples until the whole world was reached. So stop trying to change the world and start building the church.

Jesus doesn’t call us to be restless, but to be faithful. Truly being radical in your faith doesn’t mean you have to go across the world, though you can do that if you want. It means that you are fully surrendered to Jesus. Your heart is completely his. Whatever he says to do, you will do.

Let us lay down our restlessness at the feet of Jesus. He is standing in front of us saying, ““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

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.

Stop Blaming God; Start Blaming the Devil

When bad things happen, people are really quick to point a finger to the sky and scream, “Why did you let this happen?!” But is this the correct posture?

Let’s establish something to begin. Jesus is the exact image of God. (Col 1:15; Heb 1:3) Therefore, whatever we accuse God of has to be able to be seen in Jesus. Everything that God is can be seen in Jesus (however, not everything that Jesus does is something God does. Jesus gets exhausted. He takes naps.)

With this in mind, let’s visit the accusations brought against God. When something bad happens like a school shooting, a terrorist attack, a loved one comes down with cancer, or any number of other things, is God responsible?

Let’s first say that God is sovereign. While some would say that God being sovereign means that he causes everything that ever happens, I would define it as he either causes something to happen OR allows it to happen. Nothing happens outside of God’s knowledge. So when bad things happen, God certainly knows that it happens. But does he cause it?

If everything about God can be seen in Jesus, let’s look at what Jesus did when he was on earth. Did Jesus cause bad things to happen? I would have to say no. There certainly are times that Jesus causes things that could be seen as negative. He flips over tables in the temple and runs people out with a whip. (John 2) This wasn’t negative, but certainly wasn’t peaceful. He also curses the fig tree and it dies. (Mark 11)

But we never see Jesus causing harm to people. Certainly, he does cast judgment upon people as God does. God is patient with people for a really long time and then he passes judgment on them if they don’t repent.

But the bad things we are speaking of are not judgments, but rather, injustice and evil. When a gunman walks into a mall starts shooting people, that is not a judgment. It is evil. And we never see this kind of evil done by Jesus. He never hands a rifle to Peter and tells him to go kill people in the market. He never causes people in Judea to have cancer. He never causes drunk drivers to kill people in Galilee.

No, it’s the opposite. Jesus comes on to the scene to heal. He comes to change people’s lives. He comes to befriend the drunk driver and lead him out of drunkenness. He comes to heal the cancer. He comes to make the gunman into a missionary.

The majority of the miracles that Jesus performs are miracles of healing and blessing. If all of who God is can be seen in Jesus, what does it look like God does? He doesn’t inflict evil on people just to do it. He comes to heal the brokenness.

We always seek to cast blame on somebody for evil. If we can’t do it with God, then who do we blame? It’s really simple. We blame the devil. He is the one who causes evil in the world. He’s been doing it since the first sin. It was not the Lamb that tempted Adam and Eve to sin. It was the serpent. It was the devil. God did not cause sin to happen. (though he gave man the freedom to make that choice) The devil is the one who gave that temptation. He is the tempter and accuser.

Jesus said it best. “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Cancer, terrorism, and everything else bad in the world are the result of sin. That doesn’t mean that if someone gets cancer, they are being punished for a sin. Rather, all of creation is damaged by sin (Rom 8:20), therefore, all of our bodies are prone to get cancer because we are damaged.

Anywhere that we see stealing, killing, or destruction, that is the work of the devil. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)

God certainly allows evil to exist in the world, at the time being. And when evil things like cancer or a shooting happens, he finds a way to use it for good in the lives of those who love him. (Rom 8:28) However, God wants to bring healing to the world, not harm.

Maybe you ask, “Why doesn’t he just get rid of all evil? He is all-powerful, after all.” One day, he will get rid of all evil. He will give evil men a very long time of patience, in order for them to have the chance to repent, before he finally returns and destroys them. However, if he were to do away with evil right this second, there would be a lot of unnecessary death. A lot more people would go to hell than what God wants. Frankly, everyone who is not a follower of Jesus would go to hell. And that is the majority of the world.

God is waiting for more people to receive forgiveness of their sins through following Jesus before he obliterates evil from the world. And when that day comes, there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. (Rev 21:4) Evil will be gone.

Maybe you have one final question. “It seems that when Jesus was here on earth, he healed everyone. So if God can fully be seen in Jesus, why doesn’t he heal everyone? Why do some continue to die of cancer?”

Jesus healed everyone that a story in the Gospels says he healed. However, I don’t know if he healed everyone in the known world at that time. Frankly, he probably didn’t.

I don’t know why God doesn’t heal everyone. He has all knowledge, so he probably knows better than any of us why some still die of cancer despite God’s nature of seeking to bring healing. All I know is that God doesn’t cause cancer or terrorism. The devil does.

So when bad things happen, we need to stop looking at God and accusing him of being responsible.

Stop blaming God; start blaming the devil.

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