Category Archives: Bible Study

Blind Leading the Blind

The problem with spiritual blindness is that those who are spiritually blind don’t know it.

This is why we are exhorted in the Word to make a self-examination.

(See 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB), “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?”

 The point here is that there actually is a test.

  • No, it is not one of those multiple choice kinds.
  • This test involves applying the Word of God in your life, examining the results, and then testing the again.

In 1st John 4:1 (NASB), it says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

  • The Lord clearly instructs us to put everything to the testeven His own Word.
  • How do I know this? Look at the verse, notice the words, “to see whether they are from God.”
  • This clearly shows that God not only has no problem with us testing His Word but that He wants us to do so.
  • This way we can come to learn how to tell the difference between His Word and the voice of others.

Notice this confrontation between the Lord and the Pharisees found in John 9:38-41 (NASB), “And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’ Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

  • Can you see (pun intended), the Lord is saying that the Pharisees failed the test.
  • In their case, they would remain blind, because they did not want to see.
  • They were face to face with God in the flesh, and they did not recognize Him because He was not behaving the way they believed He was supposed to behave.

Additionally, Matthew 13:13-17 (NASB), says, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

  • This is Jesus explaining that He uses certain techniques to get His message across to those who really want to hear, and understand while allowing those who do not want to change to keep on acting like they do not understand.
  • Notice as well, that it tells us that there are those who are blessed because they can “see.”
  • This ability to “see,” for these people is a “blessing,” or rather, a gift from God Himself.

In the Bible, this inability to understanding things is referred to as being blind.

  • Spiritual blindness comes about for different reasons.

One of those reasons is found early in the Bible in Deuteronomy 29:4 (NASB), “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”

  • Here we can see that God not only is capable of “blinding” people spiritually but obviously, He actually did it.

Why He would do this is also something that would have different reasons for happening.

  • One of those is that the people involved are not ready to understand,from God’s point of view.
  • This could happen because He is not ready for them to understand and do the right thing because His plan calls for something different.
  • As an example, He hardened the heart of Pharaoh, so that the king would not release the Jews and God could take the opportunity to demonstrate His power to the world.

Another reason why God would keep some people from “seeing” is found in Romans 11:25 (NASB), “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

  • Because God has a plan and that plan must work out the way He wants it to, He has kept Israel from understanding some things about who Jesus truly is, so that there would be ample time for people who are not Jews to get saved.
  • See also Romans 11:7-8 (NASB), “What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.”
  • See how God intentionally kept Israel (the Jews) from understanding and acting on that knowledge, until He is ready for them to do so, until then, they will remain “blind.”

Another reason why some people are “blind,” is found in 2nd Corinthians 4:3-4 (NASB), “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

  • Satan has been given the power to “blind” the eyes of those who are not going to be saved.
  • If they were to understand that Jesus Christ is the Lord, then they might get saved, and that is not part of the plan in their case.
  • These people, who do not see, but act as if they do, often turn out to be people who also end up fooling true believers with their erroneous religious beliefs.
  • The book of Galatians speak clearly of this problem.

Jesus’ response to us, regarding these blind people is to, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14 (NASB))

In our case though, we have different instructions from the Lord, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 (NASB)).

  • In this verse we see the process which God expects from us so that we may be able to really “see,” and know that it is truly God speaking, and not some other voice.
  • In our heads we have three voices.

o   One of them is the voice of God, the second is the voice of the enemy, and the third is our own voice.

  • Which is the most powerful of the three, you might ask? Your voice.

o   Too often our voice is so strong and powerful in our heads, that it actually sounds like what we would expect God’s voice to sound.

  • In truth, God’s voice is the still small voice which you have to stop and listen to, so that you can recognize it and know it truly is His voice.
  • But, we do not always know if it really is God’s voice.
  • To know this, we must become “transformed.”

o   This means to stop thinking the way we always have, and start thinking the way God wants.

  • Once we start thinking His way, or as the Word says, by using the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), we will be able to know it is His voice, as best as we can.

This transformation, or rather the ability to see and not be blind, requires us to use the tools He put at our disposal.

  • Those “tools” are simply the Word of God. Notice what Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) says. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
  • It is the Word of God that “transforms us,” opens our eyes so that we may see, so that we may use it, and lead others to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The way we learn to use the Word of God correctly, and use this tool in the proper way is to follow the instructions of the Lord in 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB), “Be diligent (study) to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
  • The study of the Word, the testing of the Word, and the application of the Word, is what will be required to stop being “blind,” and “seeing.”

The final question is this:

  • Are you able to take God’s Word as the truth, just as you take a scientist’s word at what they say is true.
  • When there is a conflict regarding what scientists say and what the Bible says, how do you decide which to believe?
  • Your answer will decide whether you are blind or not.

What Does It Mean To Love Jesus?

I asked myself, “Do you really love Jesus?”

Pastor John Piper said, “If you don’t love Jesus, you don’t love God, and if you don’t love God you don’t love Jesus.”

I came across a dilemma, not long ago. I questioned myself about my love for the Lord. I asked myself what it meant to love God. Was it some feeling I was supposed to have, or was it solely to be proven in obedience? In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” In other words, He said, you will show me that you love me if you do as I have commanded you. Was He saying that the obedience alone demonstrated my love for Him, or was He saying that because I did love Him I would obey Him?

I grew up without a father. He left me when I was three years old. I grew up hating that man. I hated even thinking of him. Because of his cowardice, I learned to distrust all authority figures in my life. I grew up angry and full of rage. I expected people to reject me, to abandon me, and not to love me. I never considered the possibility that someone would actually want to be with me for real. It was not that I went around belittling myself, or thinking the worst about me, it was that I never believed I was worthy of someone loving me. I did not even love myself.

As I grew older, I began to search for importance. I want to be someone special. I wanted others to look up to me. I wanted to be famous. I wanted more than I had. This drive for importance led me to many decisions that resulted in bad consequences in my life. As a young man, I spent much of my time in juvenile homes. When I got a little older, I spent two years in maximum security for assault with attempted murder. After I was released, I met a young woman and married her. I thought I had finally found someone who would love me, but the marriage lasted six months and she divorced me. My anger ruined the relationship and I became violent with her.

After that, I got one job after another, constantly getting into trouble and being fired. I became an alcoholic and started on a downward spiral. About that time, I heard of a group of people called the Brown Berets. This seemed like my chance to become important. I became the Prime Minister of the organization. For many years, I came out on TV, newspapers, and radio talk shows. The Brown Berets became a stepping stone for me to gain importance, but that importance was not real. After nine years in the organization, I became disillusioned with the groups success. I began to doubt the goals and objectives of the group.

Around this time, I got married again, to my present wife. At first, it seemed great. She loved being with me; doing the things I wanted to do. Little by little, my anger and bitterness crept into that relationship as well, and things started getting bad. My disappointment in the Brown Berets, coupled with my bad marriage, led me to start using cocaine. I became addicted to the drug and it only made things even worse for me. I quit the Brown berets and started dealing with the divorce proceedings my wife began against me. I remember thinking about my life and wondering whether it would be better for everyone if I would just die. I knew there was something wrong with me. I didn’t know what to do, or even how to get started to try and fix things. I had spent 32 years of my life wanting to be important, to be loved by someone, and all I found at the end was my anger, bitterness, and my hatred for the coward who left me when I was three years old.

But, there was a little light at the end of that dark, dark, tunnel in which I found myself. I had an eight year old son, Nino, and a second son, Chicho, which had just been born. I thought of them, and I decided that I would not be like my father. I would not leave them. They became my motive for change. I wanted to be a better father. I wanted them to grow up and know that I never left them, no matter how bad things got. I determined to change for them. They gave me another chance, another reason, to be important.

The divorce proceedings between my wife and I were bad. Every time we met for any reason became another chance for her to attack me and say hateful things against me. But, I knew I deserved them. I still got angry, but I knew that I had done this. I turned her against me. Still, I did not want to lose the marriage, and I kept asking God to please save my marriage. The only thing He would say to me is, “Let me change you. Let Me change you. Let Me change you.” I would get so angry at Him. I wanted God to have mercy on me, even though I knew I deserved everything that was happening to me.

One day I was invited to attend a seminar at which David Wilkerson, a preacher from New York, was speaking. I remember him saying, “God wants you to give Him a chance to prove to you that He can do what He says He can do.” I responded and said, “God doesn’t need any chances, I am the one who needs a chance.” I prayed that night and told God that if He could change me, then He could have me.” I have never been someone who does things halfway. If I messed up, it was all the way, if I did well it was all the way. I knew what I was telling God, if He could change me, I would belong to Him the rest of my life.

Not long after that, I was summed to child custody court, and the court took my boys away from me and gave them to their mother. The court also ordered me to leave my home, and restricted me to be able to see my sons only twice a month. I could not understand this, I wanted to be with my sons, and they took them away from me. I wanted to get angry at God, but I kept reminding myself that He was the owner now. He had the right to do with my life as He pleased. The anger would build inside me, and come dangerously close to an explosion. But The Lord would always remind me that He was now in charge, and that He wanted me to let Him do whatever He thought was best.

Later, we ended up in divorce court. I kept wondering how the Lord was going to stop the divorce proceedings. But, we ended up before the judge who heard all the accusations my wife had against me. Then the judge slammed his mallet on the desk and pronounced us divorced. My world seemed to stop. God had not stopped the divorce. I had lost my family. I wanted to get so angry at Him, I wanted to shout at Him, I wanted to hurt someone. But, instead I walked out of the court feeling defeated one more time in my life.

A couple of days later, my attorney called to ask if I had her from my wife. I answered that he meant my ex-wife. “No,” he said, “I mean your wife. She hasn’t singed the papers yet, and they are looking for her to sign them. I started at the phone for a long time. I did not understand what I had just heard. After a while, I called my wife and she answered. I told her that they were looking for her to go and sign the papers. She said that she knew, but that she had decided not to sign. She said she was going to give me one more chance. After we hung up the phone, I thought of all the anger I had had against God. I thought about how I had wanted to give up on Him. I thought about how much He loved me.

As a man I respect very much said to me not long ago. “I may not be the best husband, but I am a better husband now. I may not be the best father, but I am a better father now. I may not be the best man, but I am a better man now” And I added, “I may not know how to love God that way He wants from me, but I will spend the rest of my life learning to love Him with all my heart.”

So, do I really love Jesus? I hope so.

I am going to spend the rest of my life ministering to others, counseling others, helping others, serving others. That is the best way I know how to show Jesus I love Him, and loving Jesus is the best way I know to show God that I am so appreciative of what He did for me. Yes, Lord I love you, but help me learn how to love you better.

How Do You Know?

 

During a recent conversation with a fellow Christian who was arguing that he wanted to start digging deeper into the things of God, I challenged him with what seemed a simple question.

I asked him, “Do you believe that the earth is spinning at 1,000 miles per hour?”

He paused a moment and answered, “Everyone knows the earth spins.”

“How do you know that for certain?” I asked.

“Because that is what we have been taught all of our lives,” he said with much confidence, then he hesitated, “Right?”

I asked him another question, “Do you believe that the earth is round?”

With a frown of suspicion on his face, he responded, “Of course!”

“How do you know that for certain?” I asked.

“Because …” he said slower this time, “that is what we have been taught all of our lives. What are you getting at?”

I smiled, “Well, in Genesis, the Bible teaches that God created the earth and that it was just formless water. Then, God opened a space inside that water, like a giant air bubble, and caused dry land to appear. After that, it says, He put into that same space, in the water, the stars, the sun, and the moon. Do you believe that?” I asked him.

He stared at me for a moment, as though he was trying to see through a dirty window.

Then, as though he had caught onto something, he asked, “That’s a trick question, right?”

“No,” I smiled again, “That is the truth.”

“So you’re saying we live in a giant air bubble inside a lot of water?” he asked incredulously.ancient-hebrew-view-of-universe

“Whoa!” I replied smiling even more, “I didn’t write the Bible, nor did I inspire it. Read it for yourself. Genesis 1:1-17”

He snatched open his Bible and started reading out loud. I waited until he finished and asked him, “Do you believe what the Bible teaches about the creation of the earth?”

This time, though, he just stared at me, then down to the Bible he was holding, and back up to me. He opened his mouth to say something, then looked back down at the Bible, then back up to me.

“This is very different from what we have been told, right?” he said.

There are many godly believers who want to “dig deeper” into the Bible, as my friend said, but the first thing they have to confront is the question whether they are prepared to believe what they read and whether they are ready to change their minds about what is true.” Too many believers want to learn more about Bible teaching but will struggle greatly when they are confronted with something that differs from their existing beliefs.

globeFrom the first day you entered a school class, you were faced with a globe of the earth. The concept of a round earth was immediately implanted in your mind, and then it has been reinforced continuously since then. We hear about space, and trips to the moon, and possibly other planets. We are told the earth spins around at 1,000 miles per hour, and 67,000 miles per hour around the sun, and over hundreds of thousands of miles per hour through the Milky Way Galaxy. We are told that nothing existed, but that the nothing exploded and, due to that, we now have a universe. I could keep on going with all that we have been taught, and we have accepted all of that with little to no real proof. If the scientists say it is true, we accepted it as truth. You can go outside this very moment, look up into the sky, and if you pay attention to your natural senses alone, you will notice nothing that proves the earth is spinning. Yet, regardless of what your senses tell you, your mind will argue that the earth is spinning. Why? Because that is what you already believe.

On the other hand, people who claim the name of Jesus, will read the Scriptures and love them and want to hear about them. But, when they run across a teaching which challenges what they already believe is true, they will depend on their senses. My friend, after reading the Genesis passage, looked up into the sky. He looked up and then spanned across the whole sky.

“I don’t see any water up there,” he said as if that alone was the entire proof that it did not exist.

“Can you feel the earth spinning,” I asked him.

“No.”

“So, you believe that the earth is spinning, even though your senses have no proof, but you cannot believe the Genesis teaching because your senses tell you there’s no proof, right?”

My friend is typical when it comes to those of us who claim to believe in a God. When people hear what they already believe, proof or not, they will accept it without question or challenge. Evidence is not required or expected. But, when the Bible teaches something that is challenging, people will immediately consider their senses, life experiences, and what they already believe as the test before they will accept the Word of God. The teaching in Genesis is a perfect example of this conundrum in which many believers find themselves often. They believe scientists much more readily than God Himself.

God, in and of Himself, is a real challenge for us as humans. Just the idea that some being exists which is capable of impossible things, is all-powerful, knows everything that has, is, or will happen, and can be in one or more places at the same time, is intimidating.  Next to a being like this, we are seemingly nothing but tiny specks. No wonder the atheists don’t want to believe in a God, it diminishes them. Any person who can consider the existence of such a being without unnerving awe is crazy. Yet, “believers” throw the name of Jesus around as though it was something easy to grasp.

Think about what we claim to believe. First, that there is actually an alien being that is that powerful, and that the most solid “evidence” we have of His existence is the Bible. I put quotes around the word “evidence” because I am using the word loosely. Using evidence to prove anything requires that you first decide what you will accept as evidence. One group of people may accept somethings as evidence, while others may reject the same. In any case, we all know the Bible was written by men, who the Bible itself claims were inspired by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Bible claims that it is its own evidence. Other than the Scriptures’ own claim of evidence, there is no other evidence that the Bible is the actual “Word” of God. We either will accept this or not. This is a simple decision of the mind.

prove-it

I don’t know about you, but I do not accept anything as truth until I am able to put it to test. I have had to do this with everything I have believed my entire life. I have believed things, in the past, which turned out to be lies or error. Those times resulted in bad decisions, problems I did not need to go through, and loss of relationships or benefits. Just because I believed that something was true, did not prove it was. The results eventually taught me the truth. So, I changed in how I accept the truth. I challenge everything, and what is true will prove itself through acceptable evidence. When I deal with the Bible, the Word of God, I do the same. I do not believe anything until I find enough evidence to support what the Scriptures claim. One caveat, though, I have no problem allowing the Bible to be its own evidence. On the other hand, I will challenge the Scriptures. I know there is nothing wrong with this because the Scriptures themselves teach that God is just fine with being tested. In the third chapter of Malachi, in the 10th verse, the Word claims that God issued a challenge to believers. It quotes the Lord as saying, “Test Me.” I, for one, will not argue with God. If He says, “Test Me,” I will test Him. This is not some attitude problem on my part, it is obedience. My senses tell me that I should just “humble” myself before the Lord, and grovel at His feet, just because He is God, I mean, who the heck do I think I am? On the other hand, am I going to disobey God because my senses tell me different? Notice in the book of First John (4:1 NASB), “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” If I just accept everything I read, or am taught as being, in the Bible as the truth, I might deceive myself. God is warning me to pay attention. He does not want me to fall for lies, and start believing heresy (stuff that sound like the truth, but is not). So, He instructs me to “test” and see if it is from Him or not.test-me

You probably remember the Biblical story of Jesus’s forty day fast (not eating for that time period). Satan appeared to Him and tried to tempt Him. At one point, the enemy even quoted Scripture to the Lord. Do you understand? The devil himself read from the Bible, word for word, and he was still lying. Just because the Bible says something, it is not enough to prove it is from God. The Bible truthfully quotes Satan as saying something, but it also teaches that everything Satan says it a lie. Satan is quoted in the Bible, right? But, we should never take what he says as truth, just because it is quoted in the Scriptures. That is why God instructs us to test the spirits to see if they are from Him. Along with this, we have the problem of hundreds of version of the modern day Bible. Each was translated according to the understanding of the translators. One person may understand the meaning one way, while another person will understand it differently. On top of that, we have the problem of word usage. Modern words are affected by culture, tradition, region of the country, slang, work related terminology, and so on. In the days when the Bible was written, they had the same circumstances. This means that without careful study and research, one may end up with false interpretations. It almost sounds as though we may not be able to get the correct meanings and therefore the actual truth to which God wants us to come to an understanding.

How can we really know the truth? The Bible gives us that answer as well. In 2nd Timothy 2:15 (NASB), the Word says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Notice the phrase at the end, “Accurately handling the word of truth.” There is a right and wrong way to “handle” the Word of God. God’s own challenge to His children is the right way, “Test Me.” To do this we have to, first

When I use the word principle, I am using this definition, “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.” This means that the principle will become my foundation in determining how I will or will not act or respond in certain situations or circumstances. For example, in Proverbs 3:7 it says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is…” The principle is, “People do what they do because they believe what they believe.” Now, with this principle I can make certain and specific decisions, and come to certain and specific conclusions. I can know that humans will always behave in some specific manner, or make similar choices, because of what they believe. So, if a person believes he is superman, he will then start dressing up in a costume with a big “S” in front of it and try to fly. Sure, they are probably crazy, but they believe what they believe, so they do what they do. In regards to believers in God, those who believe that God blesses those who tithe and give offering will then pay tithe and give an offering. If a person believes that God can be trusted, he or she will then live calmer lives, because they believe God will help them through those tough times.of all, identify what we will accept as evidence. My opinion is that we must accept the Bible itself as our foremost evidence. To accomplish this, we must study and research the various Bible versions, and make a decision which we believe is best for our use. Then, we must find, within those pages, the evidence it espouses, then study and research it. My method is to find the principles it teaches, and then put them into action, and see the results. My personal argument is that the results will tell you if what you believe about God and His Word is true or not.

Now, if the principle I mentioned above is correct, anyone can use it to make certain and specific decisions and choices in their lives. If the principle is applied correctly, it will have the expected results. This, in and of itself, will become part of the evidence which in the end will either sustain the belief that God is real or not. The beauty of using Biblical principles as evidence is that they are not dependent on our feelings or senses. They either work or they do not.

My friend decided to do some research on the question of how God created the earth and heaven. He is still researching, but he does admit one thing. If he reaches the conclusion that the Bible is correct about how God created the heaven and the earth, he had some rather big changes to make in his idea of reality. But what about you dear reader, how do you know what the truth is?

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Savior, But Not Lord!

Not long ago, while counseling a client, I came to a conclusion I had not thought about before. The client was struggling with “trying” to follow the process I counseled, but kept failing. The client was struggling with the desire to view pornography and the desire to be a “good” Christian, at the same time. He and I began the counseling months ago with exploring various possibilities of why he got started and why he continues. Each aspect we discovered and dealt with helped him to understand another part of his character, and cause him to become more determined to change. Though he would have success, he would also fail again. We were almost to the point of running out of probable answers, when I received an inspiration from the Lord.

Before I explain, let me make one point clear, there are no “good” or “bad” Christians. There are just Christians who are in the process of change and growth. They are not responsible for changing themselves, that is the Lord’s work (Hebrews 12:2 (AMP), ”… Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].”) Our job, as it were, is only to obey Him. As we obey, we change. Little obedience, little change. Big obedience, big change.

Now back to my earlier point. I received an inspiration from the Lord regarding what was happening to the client. I could tell he was serious in his efforts to curb the watching of pornography, but I could also tell he could not understand why he still chose to do it.

untitledhi3“When Jesus died on the cross,” I explained to him, “one of the things He accomplished was giving us liberty. That means complete freedom to do as we choose, right or wrong.”

Galatians 5:1 (NASB), “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” We used to be under the power of Sin, and therefore we would not do what is right, because it had a hold on us and moved us to do so. The death of our Lord on the cross set us free from the bondage of Sin, and we do not have to continue doing what is not right. On top of that, as you can see from the Galatians verse, we are told not to “be subject” (which means to not put ourselves under the control) of Sin again. This clearly means that we have a choice to stay free or go back to slavery under Sin. At the same time it also shows that we have been given freedom to choose. This means the freedom to choose to disobey God as well. Freedom is not freedom, until it is freedom (the complete liberty to make our own choices). If God is controlling our choice about something, then we do not have the freedom to choose.

When God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth,” in Genesis 1:26 (NASB), I believe that the “likeness,” referred to there, includes the ability to (as God can) freely choose to obey or not to obey. The only way we truly seem “god-like” (as in “Our image”) is that we can actually choose to disobey the creator and Lord of this universe. When the Christ died on the cross, He did not take away our freedom to disobey, He freed us from the power of Sin, which used this ability against us to get us to choose not to do what is right. But, I contend, that the Messiah maintained that freedom when He freed us from Sin, as pointed out in the Galatians verse above. Notice also the following argument made in Galatians 5:13 (NASB).

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Notice the wording here, “do not,” as in, “You have the power to do or not do.” The Lord would not tell us (through Paul) that we could keep our freedom from turning into “an opportunity for the flesh,” if we could not make the decision (have the freedom) to do so. God has given us a gift that is beyond my words to express the greatness and unfathomable measurement of it. In essence, and to a point, it gives us the ability to go beyond the control of God, as no other creation of His can. Though He is God, Creator and Lord, over all of the creation, He has chosen to limit Himself to this certain aspect of the human condition; we have self-will (complete freedom to choose not to do what is right), and the Lord did not take that away on the cross.

In fact, 1 Peter 2:16 (NASB) shows as much. In that verse, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God,” we are told to “use” our freedom. Only free people can “use” their freedom, and, if they are not able to choose the manner in which they use this freedom, they are not truly free. When Jesus set us free through His death on the cross, it was for true freedom; the liberty to live and choose as we want. Right or wrong, we are to make that choice.

I explained to my client that this was part of the problem he was struggling with. He was expressing his freedom, even from God Himself. He may have accepted Christ as his Savior, but he had never accepted Him as his Lord. The Apostle Paul understood this clearly. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 (AMP), “All things are legitimate [permissible—and we are free to do anything we please], but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome). All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life]. Notice the words carefully, “We are free to do anything we please.” Yes, that’s right, anything, but not all things are good for us.

The problem my client was having, was that he still had “rights.” He still saw himself as this free Christian who could do as he pleased. And, isn’t that what the Christ wanted for him anyway, freedom? Of course He did, but not to do what is not the right thing. Remember, as it says in James 4:17 (NASB), “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” The word “sin” here means to fail to do the right thing. See the words? “Knows,” and “does not do.” These are clear indicators that the person is in full control of their decision. They have freedom; the liberty to do what is not right.

So what’s the answer? The simple answer is accept Him as your Lord. Reread 1 Peter 2:16 again, and you will run into the phrase “bondslave.” What is a “bond-slave?” Well in Peter’s time, when people owed more money than they were able to pay off, they would either be taken into slavery, or volunteer to become slaves, until the debt was paid off. Some people owed so much that they would often be someone’s servant for many years. Every once in a while, some of the slaves would serve enough time to be set free, and the debtor (master) would inform them and tell them they could leave. In some cases, the freed people would consider their circumstances. While they were slaves, the owner provided all their food, their clothing, a place to live, in some cases even took care of the wives and children, paid all the bills, and so on. If they left, freely, they would have to get jobs, find a place to live, pay rent or mortgage, buy their own food and clothing, basically meet all their own needs. In many cases, they chose instead to remain slaves to the master. They rationalized that being his slave was better than being free.

This is what the Apostles Paul, Peter, and the rest came to understand. That being free was not what is was cut out to be. Freedom meant that you would probably choose not to do what is right. They may not have done this specifically, but I believe they weighed the differences in their hearts, if not in their minds. I can use this freedom which the Christ has given me, and I can make all my own choices, decisions, live as I believe is the right way to live, and obey the instructions I believe are right. I may “sin” once in a while, but I have already been forgiven of all my sins anyway. Or…

I can give up my freedom. I can acknowledge Christ Jesus as my Lord, and willingly become His “slave.” In which case, He will decide what I want, and when I will want it, what I am to choose, how I am to feel, what I am to believe, and who I am to be. I will become His servant in ministering to other people. I will become His eyes, His mouth, His hands, His feet, and His heart, when it comes to fulfilling His plans. I believe that the Apostles chose a life of “slavery” (bond-slaves) rather than to live a life of freedom, because this was what God wanted from them.

I told my client, God wants you to accept Him as your Lord. He wants you to willingly choose to become His “slave.” He wants you to give Him control over your life so that He can keep on with the work of changing you. My client asked, “Will that mean I won’t sin anymore?” “No,” I said, “Humans “sin,” as you say, just because we are human. Humans will always struggle with failure and error. This is “sin” too, just not the kind you are thinking about.” James 4:17 says that “sin” is when someone knows the “right thing to do and does not do it.” This means that even when we are trying to do the right thing, and get it wrong, or do not do it perfectly, we have sinned (we failed or erred). On the other hand, there is the other kind of “sin.” This is where we willingly choose to do the wrong things. To get to this point, the person must first not do the “right thing.” The “right thing” in this case is to obey God. If we choose to disobey God, we then will be able to choose to do all the wrong we want. If we choose to obey God (be His slaves and let Him do the choosing) then we take away our ability to do what is wrong. The two concepts cannot continue at the same time, in the same person. If we choose one, then, and therefore, we choose against the other. We will either live as though we have rights, or live as though we are servants of God.

“So,” he said to me, “If I make God my Lord, and place myself under His control, then I won’t do wrong against Him?” “Yes,” I said to him, “If you give up your freedom to Him, allow Him to make your decisions for you, and if you obey His instructions, you will never do wrong against God.”

All Christians have accepted Christ Jesus as their Savior, but too many have yet to accept Him as their Lord. How about you? Have you?

What is MY Calling?

This is an excerpt from Rev. Juan M. Perez’s book, “What Does God Want From Me?” You may find the full book, for FREE at: SmashWords.

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As a young child, I lived a life of uncertainty. My father and mother split up when I was three years old. They had a rocky relationship which seemed to always turn sour over any little thing. My mother “suffered a nervous breakdown” when I was five or six, and me and my two younger brothers were left with a foster family who terrorized and traumatized us. I grew to hate my mother, almost, if not more than my father. I never felt safe, but I was always angry. I started out a sissy, picked on by everybody and their grandmother at school. I then turned into a bully who had little to no mercy on the weaker kids. I got into a gang as soon as I was old enough, and got into many legal predicaments in my youth. It seemed to me as though I served more time in Juvenile Centers, than free time on the outside, from age 13 to 17.

I quickly learned one thing about myself, I had the ability to use my words in ways that others around me did not. I learned I could make people believe things just because, and how, I said them. I humorous time I remember, I had been arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, for some tickets I owed. They took me to jail that Saturday night. When I arrived I noticed I was the only Chicano, and there were three scraggily looking white guys at one end of the jail tank. I immediately became afraid, because I thought that they may decide to bother me.

I walked to the opposite end of the tank and sat there staring at the wall in front of me as though I was trying to figure out what it was. The guys at the other end were laughing and would constantly turn to look toward me. I figured they were trying to decide what to do about me. As I stared at the wall, I noticed one of them got up and walked over to me. He was taller than me, and seemed bigger. I realized that in a fight he might beat me, and then there was the question of whose side his friends would fight on. Right?

When the guy got near me, he asked, “Why are you in?” I thought about it for a moment and slowly turned to face him. “Murder,” I said, without showing emotion. The guy hesitated a moment and then asked, “Who did you kill?” I slowly turned back to stare at the wall and said, “This guy who was bothering me.” The white guy turned around and went back to his place with his friend and they left me alone.

Throughout my younger life I was constantly confronted with the awareness that I could use my words to manipulate people. I started using this technique on people on purpose to see if really would work, and I found that the more I did it the better I got at it. The weirdest thing of all of this is that even though I was obviously a manipulator, many of those around me would still, on occasion, come to me for advise on how to do this or that.

By the time the Lord saved me, I had become an expert at verbal manipulation and coercion. It seemed to me that I was constantly having to use this skill to get this advantage or that opportunity from others. Though I was conscious of this ability, I never considered using it for anything but my selfish reasons. I found that I was overly conscious of how I used my words. I had just gone through a near divorce due to a terrible marriage where I used my words (and physical violence) to hurt my wife. I helped her in destroying her own self-worth, her self-esteem was at the lowest in her young life, and I recognized my part in damaging her in the way I did.

As a new Christian, I still noticed that people would listen to me. I realized that as a Christian, some people might not fear me as much. When I was approached by others concerning problems in their lives, I noticed I was able to help them see other options that were available to them, when they had already come to the conclusion that there was no solution. I came to accept that the reason I could use my words so effectively was because I could deal with the abstract better than some people around me.

Abstract is the ability to express something apart from the object itself. In other words, and for example, I could imagine a globe of the earth in the air in front of me, and I could “see” the clouds moving over the globe. If you were to point to a spot on the “opposite” side of the globe, I could tell you what country you were indicating. I started applying this new knowledge of myself to the things of the Lord. Where some people would hear one thing from the Bible, I found I could hear more.

I started asking myself some hard questions regarding God and why He did what He did. As I continued, I started getting more and more answers. Most specifically, I paid attention to the promises and principles taught in the Scriptures. These were also words. Yes, God’s Word, but nevertheless, words.

I mentioned to my pastor some of these insights that I was having. Though he seemed not to completely understand what I was trying to explain, He recognized that it was something that God was working in me. He started out teaching me about counseling. After a short while of him trying to teach and encourage me, I realized he was unable to take me further. I appreciated his help, but I took over the training process.

I started reading every book I could get my hands on, and that interested me, regarding counseling. I began reading the Bible through the perspective of counseling, and found that I was understanding many teachings in ways I had not before. I developed a love for studying the Bible to see how much I could gleam from it to help in my counseling. Even as a pastor of a church for 13 years, I still continued counseling people and still continued studying to enhance my skills and abilities in this area.

Without realizing it, I had found my calling from God. I recognized the calling came in three forms; primarily as a counselor, secondarily as a teacher of the Word, and finally, also as a pastor.

During the first years as a Christian, I got involved with many ministries. I helped feed the homeless, I found I did not like doing that. I went to prisons to minister to the inmates, I found I didn’t like doing that. I helped pass out leaflets and brochures on the streets, I found I didn’t like doing that. I preached at the local city jails, I found I didn’t like doing that. I tried many different things, and each time I found I didn’t like doing that.

But, when it came to teaching the Bible or counseling, I was as happy as a fat flea on a lazy dog. I loved it. I jumped at every chance I got to either counsel or teach the Bible. As a pastor, I had countless opportunities to preach. I enjoyed preaching, but I enjoyed much more the opportunity to move people in the direction God wanted them to go.

I find that I am still able to manipulate and control, but now I am conscious of how I use my words. I am fully aware that God is ever-present and wants me to use these skills and abilities of mine to serve others. Service to others is the primary reason why I now exist. God will keep me on this planet until he decides it’s time for me to rest.

I found my “calling” by trial and error. I tried some ministries and found they were not for me. But, I did not just wait around for God to send me some sign, a sun ray from the sky, or for some other person to give me a “word from God” about what God wanted me to do. You will probably need to do the same. Don’t wait for something to happen, it may not. Instead, you speak to your pastor, ask him or her to help you identify your calling. If they are unable, then ask them to help you find someone who can. Once you start getting ideas of what your calling is, then get out there and start “working.” Remember, you are allowed by God to get it wrong. You may also find that some ministry or other is not to your liking. That’s okay.  But, I promise you, if you get started, and you keep it up, you will learn what you calling is.

Please make time to read the story of Elisha, in the Bible, You will find a man who was called by God, ran into obstacles trying to fulfill his calling, and finally became the person God wanted him to be. You will find the story started in 1st Kings 19:19-21 and it picks up again in 2nd Kings, chapter 2, verses 1-14. Elisha had many reasons to just quit and do nothing but believe in God, instead he decided to follow his calling, and he became a great tool of God for service to others.

How To Read (Study) The Bible

HAVE A REASON AND/OR PURPOSE FOR READING

1. Read with a purpose; have an objective in mind.

Decide why you are reading the Word that day or time period. The Bible says that people “perish” for a lack of vision. When you choose a topic, issue, concern, or question to consider as you read and study, you will garner more from the Word. Some people read daily, because they enjoy just reading the Word. Some people read regularly, as part of a planned program, such as to read the entire Bible from beginning to end. Others find verses, passages, and even chapters to memorize. But, the Bible itself gives us one more reason to explore our Bibles. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB) – Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Diligence involves a thorough attentiveness, not only by reading, but by challenging what we read. The Word of God can stand up to any “testing” on our part. As a matter of fact, it instructs us to test it (Malachi 3:10; 1 John 4:1). If we test the Word of God, and find that it works as it teaches it will, we will better “handle” the Word (not use the Bible in wrong and harmful ways). As well, we will feel confident when we tell people that God will or will not do this or that, without worrying that it will not work.

2. Follow the thought as you continue.

Once you have decided your purpose, goal, or objective for reading and/or studying the Word, stick to the subject to the end. There are some things to keep in mind when reading and studying the Bible.
• Are there other verses, passages, chapters, or parts of the Bible which will agree with what you are reading, as well as, is there something in the Bible which might argue with what you are reading? For example, the two verses above (Malachi 3:10; 1 John 4:1) clearly show that we are to test God, or at least, test something to see if it is of God. On the other hand, Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12; and Acts 5:9, seem to say just the opposite.
• Are there other verses, passages, chapters, or parts of the Bible which may better clarify the lesson or point of the passage you are reading or studying? For example, James 2:14-26 speaks of faith, and how it must be demonstrated. If you read Hebrews 11 (the whole chapter), the lesson will be emphasized, expanded upon, and better explained. This will help the reader to better understand something, which he or she may have decided by reading James alone, that they already understood.

3. Don’t get sidetracked

A “rabbit trail” in research is something that catches your attention and distracts you from the point at hand. For instance, you may be reading about Balaam and his talking donkey, and get distracted by the angel who was about to kill Balaam, and start reading up on angels. By the time you put down your Bible, you will have forgotten poor Balaam and will not have learned the lesson of his experience with the talking donkey. If you allow yourself to keep being distracted, you will learn bad reading habits which will work against you learning the Word of God, and its teachings, in a beneficial manner.

CHECK ALL REFERENCES

To begin with, references are notations in your Bible indicated by numbers or letters (usually small ones) next to, before, or in some cases, after, a verse, word in a verse, passage, chapter heading, and along the margins of many Bibles. These notations tell you that there is another verse or number of verses, which apply to the topic at hand.

For example, James 2:16 (NASB) says, “and one of you says to them, ‘aGo in peace, 1be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” The little “a” before “Go” in the verse refers to 1st John 3:17, which says, in the NASB, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” This reference reinforces the idea that charity is more than just feeling good about people, that actions must follow the sentiment.

The little “1”before the word “be” refers to a clarification of the point by emphasizing that the meaning here is “or warm yourselves and fill yourselves.” The idea is for the reader to understand that words, regardless of how nice they may be, are empty without action to back them up. References are important for several reasons.

1. The references will show you if you are on the right track.
Often a reader will assume that they understand the point made by the verse or verses, just because they can read English well enough. References and notations could end up demonstrating that the reader is off base and needs to reconsider his or her opinion as to what they believe the Bible means in the part they are reading. On the other hand, as you check out the references, you may find that your understanding is confirmed, and that you are on point.

2. They will also help to clarify the message or lesson.
Sometimes, the reference will direct the reader to another location in the Bible where a verse, passage, or story, is found which, when you finish reading it, will help you to better understand the concept of the previous reading. For example, Proverbs 3:5 tells the reader to, “trust the Lord with all your heart, and not to lean on you own understanding.” A reference point, or notation could be listed here directing the reader to 2nd Kings (chapter 4) where a widow was challenged to do something that seems impossible to resolve a serious problem in her life. If she trusted in her “own understanding” she would have missed out on the solution from God. As you can see, the redirection from the probable notation or reference led the reader to a second source which supported the first, and even clarified the understanding.

3. Use additional resources, such as the following examples:

A. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Word
B. Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
C. Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon
D. Hebrew-Greek dictionary.
E. A Bible Encyclopedia with Bible Study Tools.

FOLLOW BASIC INTERPRETATION RULES

1. Bible interprets Bible – this means that the main source for deciding the correct interpretation is the Bible itself. If you follow the instructions found in this handout, you will be following this rule.

2. Bible trumps personal experience and worldview – Many persons make Bible interpretation decisions based on their personal life experiences primarily. To them if this or that happened in their lives, then the Bible must mean this or that. God does not teach us things which necessarily will agree with our personal experiences. In fact, often what the Scriptures tell us is true, may seem to disagree with our experiences. We must always decide that what the Bible teaches is true, and that what we experienced was just that, an experience.

3. Be cautious regarding version differences – there are many versions of the Bible. Some have wide appeal, while others are shunned by many. Some are designed for serious Bible reading and study, while other are like newspaper editions of the Word (easy to read). Depending on how serious you are going to be about studying your Bible, you will find that there are many options. You should pick a version which will be comfortable to you personally.

If you are not sure, ask the pastor which version he has, and why he chose that particular version. Go online to a site such as BibleGateway.com, and browse their many versions and find one that you will feel comfortable reading and understanding. If you decide you like one, then go to a Christian book store and check out the version in person. There may different types of that version. For example, the New American Standard Bible has a regular reading Bible, a Bible designed for serious study, a Women’s Bible, and so forth.

4. Biblical time period application trumps modern application. Many persons who have trouble with correct interpretation of the Bible do so because they interpret the Bible using a 21st Century perspective. They seem to think the Bible book writers (such as Paul, Jeremiah, Moses and so forth) had modern concepts in mind when they wrote their books. When you take into consideration that the writers were impacted by the circumstances surrounding their lives, such as politics, the weather, personal fears and doubts, expressions of faith by those around them, and so forth, you will have a better idea of what the writers meant when they said what they said.

As well, their customs, culture, languages, and more, of the writers, had a real impact on the examples they used. For example, you will find many references to gardening, and farming, because they had an agrarian society (or agricultural society), which is any society whose economy is based on producing and maintaining crops and farmland. So, many of the examples used by the writers had to do with the land and its harvest.

5. When in doubt, ask for help and counsel from a more mature Christian.
Probably the handiest resource is a more mature Christian. Sitting down with a mature believer will allow you the ability to bounce ideas off someone who can respond immediately. Reading and studying many of the resources mentioned in this handout will still not provide you the ability to question the source and get a response, but speaking with a person allows for a back and forth conversation. On the other hand, this will still be the understanding and interpretation of that person. Even if you have a complete trust in the individual, you should always compare their perspectives with the Bible.

ONE LAST POINT

You are responsible for your own understanding and interpretation of the Word. No matter what your resources tell you, or what another person’s opinion is, or what seems to be the truth, you are responsible for studying your own Bible, and presenting “yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

What Do You Believe?

Print out and Circle all that apply

1. If you really believe that ALL your sins have been forgiven, do you:

a. Still worry that you might sin in the future?
b. Not worry about sinning at all, but make real effort at not doing so?
c. Continue sinning because you know you are already forgiven?
d. Just not think about the subject anymore?

2. If you believe that the Christian Bible is God’s Word, do you:

a. Believe everything it says without question, and obey it.
b. Challenge the teachings and test them before applying them in your life?
c. Obey what you understand and ignore the rest?
d. Read it everyday?

3. If faith is, “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see,” (Hebrews 11:1 – NLT), then, do your actions and behavior prove:

a. That you believe that you will really go to heaven?
b. That you hope God grades on-the-curve, and that He will let you in to heaven even if you are not perfect?
c. That you think you may not make it, but that you hope you’ll somehow sneak in?
d. That you are not sure there is even a real heaven at all?

4. The Bible teaches that God will do certain things if we do certain other things, do you believe that this means:

a. That you need to find out what the rules are so that you can get God to do some of the things you want?
b. That you need to find out what the rules are so that you can do only what God wants, and not what you want?
c. That you will never be able to get what you want, because you do not know the rules and don’t know where to find them?
d. That you are in trouble, because you didn’t even know there were rules?

5. The Bible teaches that God loves all people, does this mean:

a. That He loves everyone unconditionally, meaning that He does not have some personal motive in mind?
b. That He loves everyone unconditionally, meaning that they can commit any sin they want to and that He will not reject them?
c. That He accepts all persons, without placing a condition on them?
d. That He never punishes or disciplines to those He loves?
e. That He does punish and discipline those He loves, and that there is a condition for his acceptance of them?
f. That He loves people because He is love?

6. If you believe that you are a Christian, then do your actions and behavior show:

a. That you act and behave as Jesus would in all situations?
b. That though you believe that Jesus existed in the past, but that things are different today and new rules apply?
c. That you believe that Jesus doesn’t expect you to be perfect, so you just don’t worry about all that stuff?
d. That you apply in your life all the teachings as you learn and understand them?

7. Which of the following best reflects what you believe concerning what faith really is:

a. If you really believe in something, then you have faith.
b. You don’t have to do something, you just have to believe to have faith.
c. If you have faith in something, then your actions and choices in life will show it.
d. Everybody can show faith in different ways, and it is still faith.

8. If you really trust God, then you:

a. Live a perfect life before all men?
b. Worry about everything, until God fixes things?
c. Never worry about anything, no matter how bad it is?
d. Just believe that God will take care of everything?
e. Put a smile on your face before others even in bad times?

9. The promises in the Bible are:

a. Meant for everyone alike?
b. Only for those to whom they were given at the time?
c. Only to those who meet the conditions for the promises?
d. For different people, depending on who they are?

10. Jesus expects all Christians to:

a. Try hard to do the right things, even though He knows they just can’t really do it all the time?
b. To obey His instructions, even if you don’t fully understand them?
c. To obey what they understand, and just ignore the rest for now?
d. Be perfect and always obey, not matter what?

11. You know you’re a Christian if (circle all that apply to you):

a. You just plain believe in God.
b. You just plain believe in Jesus.
c. You go to church as often as you are able.
d. You go to church every time the doors are open.
e. If you just believe that you are.
f. If you have faith that you are.
g. You read the Bible as often as you are able.
h. You pray as often as you are able.
i. Other people can see it in you.

12. People complain that the Bible is hard to understand; what do you believe:

a. That the Bible is clear and plain to understand for everyone?
b. That many parts are harder to understand and require much research?
c. That the Holy Spirit helps some people understand it, while letting others stay confused?
d. That those who are “saved” will have no trouble understanding, but others never will get it?
e. That pastors, preachers, teachers of the Bible, and other people “of God,” have a special gift for understanding the Bible better than other Christians?

13. The Bible teaches that God can heal people; do you believe that:

a. God heals all people who get sick?
b. God heals those who ask for it?
c. God heals those He likes?
d. God heals those who meet the conditions for the healing?
e. God heals only those who are obedient?
f. God heals those who will believe in the healing?
g. God does not heal people today like He used to do in Bible days?

14. The Bible teaches that God helps people; do you believe that:

a. God helps those who help themselves?
b. God helps those who can’t help themselves?
c. God helps those who at least try to help themselves?
d. God helps those who won’t help themselves?
e. You really don’t know who God helps, if He does at all?
f. God helps those He wants whenever He chooses?
g. God helps those who submit to Him?

15. Interpreting the Bible correctly has always been a very big concern; do you believe that:

a. The Bible can mean different things to different people?
b. Only those who have been blessed by the Holy Spirit can interpret the Bible correctly?
c. There are certain rules one has to follow to correctly interpret the Bible?
d. Even if there are two different interpretations of the same passage, they can both be right?
e. Nobody really knows how to interpret the Bible correctly?

16. The statement that tells us to “have faith in God” means that:

a. We must believe in God?
b. We should understand that He is God?
c. We are to have faith in God?
d. We should live without sin in our lives?
e. We should trust God?

17. When the Bible says that we must love one another, it means:

a. That we should treat everyone nice, no matter what?
b. That we should treat those we love better than others?
c. That we should love other Christians more than non-Christians?
d. That we should never get angry at other people, no matter what they have done?
e. That we should let others hurt us, without defending ourselves (“turn the other cheek”)?

18. Giving is better than receiving, says the Bible, does that mean:

a. That we should never want to receive anything?
b. That we should give away everything we have?
c. That it is okay to want things, if we also give away things?
d. That we should only want to give and never to receive?

19. The Bible teaches that God forgives sin, what do you believe:

a. That you have to earn His forgiveness?
b. That He forgives only those that He loves?
c. That once He forgives your sins, He can never remember them again?
d. That God may forgive you, but that you also have to forgive yourself?
e. That once He has forgiven you, all your sins are forgiven; past one’s, today’s, and future ones?

20. If you really believe in God then you:

a. Live a perfect life before all men.
b. Obey all His commands and instructions at all times.
c. Never do wrong and always do what is right.
d. Keep on sinning and hope He doesn’t notice.
e. Continue to sin while trying not to sin.
f. Trust that He will get it right, and quit worrying about it.
g. Pray, read the Bible, and go to church.

21. If you believe that everything in the Bible is true? Then do you believe that:

a. A donkey talked to a man and saved his life?
b. Dead people got out of their graves and preached?
c. One man killed thousands of enemies with a bone from a donkeys head?
d. Trees walked under their own power?
e. A dead man came back to life?
f. Someone else besides Jesus walked on water.
g. A man could see through walls.

22. When Jesus died on the cross, He accomplished what?

a. The forgiveness of all your sins?
b. He made you holy?
c. He sanctified you?
d. He made you the righteousness of God?
e. You were transformed?
f. You are a super-Christian now?
g. You will never sin again?
h. You are free to live any way you want?

To get the “answers” CLICK HERE

Psalm 23

ShepherdThe 23rd Psalm is a useful outline of the things we can learn about how God wants pastors to treat His people. He is the Shepherd, and we are His under-shepherds. The pastor who can grasp the leading of the Lord though this simple Psalm, will gain the knowledge which God wants applied to His church. Those pastor will reap the benefits of obedience, and bring in more members as a result.

  1. The LORD is my shepherd.

Sheep are able to feel safe when they know that the shepherd will do the right things, which will be to be benefit, as well as his. His actions will make sure that they do not lack in those things they really need. In the church this translates to mean that the pastor makes sure he leads, not just orders, his people in what should be done.

  1. I shall not want.

He makes sure that their needs (spiritually and as a congregation) are met. If he cannot accomplish this by himself, he trains others (sheepdogs), or brings in others (people who can help train sheepdogs), to help him with this obligation. In this manner he makes sure his congregation gets what they truly need to grow as Christians.

  1. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

Green pastures are those whose grass have grown back after the last time the sheep were there to eat. If the pastor is not careful, the sheep will eat grass in an area until they ruin the pasture. In the church this translates into our understanding that pastors are to be conscious of moving his people from one point of Christian growth to the next. If people stay too long in one level, they become stagnant and frustrated. As people mature and grow, they “move on to green pastures” and are able to “lie down,” that is remain there for a while, until they are ready to move on to the next.

  1. He leadeth me beside the still waters.

Sheep will not drink from moving waters. It is not clear why they won’t. But the analogy is that moving waters represent unclear and questionable instruction and preaching from the pastor. If the preaching and leading is unclear, confused, and open to question, then the listeners will also be unclear as to what is expected of them. They will then not “drink” (accept and apply) what they are hearing. The Word of God is our “living water,” we need to drink from it. But people who are distracted by the berating’s, admonishments, and constant exhortations of their pastors will tend to refuse to “drink.”

5. He restoreth my soul.

As with humans, sheep are “restored” in strength and health by drinking water. The pastor who is careful to provided healthy drinking water (i.e. unbiased Word of God, clear teaching from the Word, and leading by personal example). A pastor who “walks along” with his parishioners helps to restore them.

  1. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Leading is the act of doing something first, and then allowing others to copy our example. If a pastor wants his people doing something he must be doing the same himself. If a pastor does something one once, or only a few times, or just keeps telling people what he did before, then he is showing them that they should do the same. As Paul said, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” The pastor must have a life style (the way a person lives everyday of their lives), that demonstrates that Jesus is Lord, so that the congregation will have an example of how they should also live.

  1. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.

All Christians will deal with sin in their lives. Just like sheep, they will often not know what they are doing, and sometimes do those things on purpose. Either people feel safe coming to our churches, even though they know they sinned. Or they are afraid that once they show up, someone will confront and attacked them for the sin. Do the people of your church already know that they are safe from attack, or do they tend to avoid the attack they believe is already coming?

Our churches are to be places of safety for the sinner, to come and turn that sin over to Christ. People should be confronted about their sins, but not beaten up for them.

  1. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

When sheep strayed, sometimes the shepherd had to break the leg of the lamb, and then carry them until the leg healed. A church without discipline is destined to become a safe-house for those who would continue to do wrong. On the other hand, a church that is too legalistic and harsh in their discipline, is destined to remain small in numbers, and eventually die out. Christians need discipline, and sometimes they need to suffer the consequences of the disciplinary process of the church. Consequences help us to recognize the dangers of our actions. Pastors are to impose the consequences of church discipline for the purpose of maintaining a safe environment for the rest of the membership.

  1. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.

The good shepherd makes sure that the sheep have enough to eat, drink, and their other needs are met. This is done to the point that the wolves, see that attacking a sheep is not to their benefit. The good shepherd has his sheep dogs alert, keeps his weapons near him, and is always vigilant.

In the church, visitors who may have wrong intentions, should find that the people are so well trained and cared for that they would find it very difficult to try and perpetuate harm to the church membership. People who are happy with their church, and who trust their pastor, are not easily distracted and drawn away from the safety of their home church, and its doctrine.

  1. Thou anointest my head with oil.

Anointing was the act of identifying a person for a special purpose. It was a way of choosing someone to accomplish something that just not everyone is going to do. There was the sense of purpose in the person’s life. The good pastor develops a clear and achievable vision and mission statement for his congregation. People who understand their church’s vision and mission, and also agree with it, are more motivated to achieve it. It is these people who become the sheep dogs. They will be those that the pastor can depend on.

  1. My cup runneth over.

Filling up the cup of a guest, was the sign of great respect, in those days. Keeping it filled was a sign of admiration, along with that respect. Making sure it was filled to the point that it would run over, was a sign of love for the person. You just did not want them to run out of the enjoyable drink.

The happier and more satisfied the sheep were, the more wool they gave, the more meat one could get from them, and so on. Happier members will do more, because they are happy members.

 

Proof That God Exists.

I have been a Christian for about 33 years, and I have had the question asked of me many times. What is the proof that God exists? I have heard many variations of the same question as well. All the variations have the same idea in mind, when asked by certain questioners. The argument is usually that there is no valid proof of the existence of God.

One of those times that I was asked whether I could prove God’s existence, I answered that I could. The gentleman who asked the question almost rolled his eyes at me, but instead smirked and challenged me to prove God to him. I smile at him for a moment, and told him that he was confused. I explained that I said I could prove the existence of God, not that I could prove the existence of God to others. He argued that I knew what he was asking, but I argued that I could not read his mind any better than he could read mine.

The real question of proving God’s existence, at least in my own opinion, has more to do with whether the believer himself or herself can explain what proves God’s reality to them, not others. Though we are exhorted in the Scriptures to share “the word with others.” There is no part of the Bible that obligates believers to prove the existence of God to those same people, or anyone else for that matter.

People who will not believe in God will believe no proof presented to them anyway. The Lord could appear to each of them, heal people, walk on water, turn water into wine, and they would explain all of that away. The people weren’t actually ill, they just believed they were, and Jesus just coaxed them into thinking they had been healed. They would claim it was a “mind over matter” situation. As for walking on water, they would point out that Criss Angel, the magician, did the same thing on YouTube, and that he is no God. As far as the turning water into wine, they will argue that slight-of-hand was probably the real culprit there. There are some magicians who are so proficient in their craft that they can do their magic in front of you, and sometimes even slowly, and you will have real trouble proving that it was not real.

We live in a wondrous time, especially when it comes to special effects in movies, television shows, and then there’s Photoshop. We have flat panel computer and TV screens, just years ago, that was something fantastic. I am old enough to know that if someone had shown me a device, when I was nine years old, which could make phone calls, play music, show movies and TV programs, be used as a flashlight, and could guide me through the streets as I searched for an address, I would have thought your cell phone was a miracle. Now, with all of that said, try convincing people that someone is God because they can do this or that.

I have no interest in even trying to prove God to anyone. The real question, concerning His existence, is whether I can prove Him to myself. Is there proof that God exists? Yes. The problem, though, is deciding what the evidence will be that will be acceptable as solid proof.

Scientists used certain standards for establishing acceptable and valid proof or reality. Common sense, which is one of the Christian standards for proving God’s existence, is not an acceptable standard. Why? Well, common sense depends on certain things, which can change depending on the perspective of the person, circumstances in his or her life, the culture they come from, the color of their skin, whether they are male or female, and so on. Common sense is supposed to be that which is understood similarly by all people. For example, we all “know” the world is round, but from the view of a person standing on the ground, it can seem flat. We all know that the earth rotates around also circles the sun, but from an earth point of view, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. We all “know” that the earth spins at over 1000 miles per hour, but for the average person the earth seems not to move at all. All of these things are why common sense is not a good measure of proof.

On the other hand, science uses what is referred to as “evidence for the unobservable via inference.” (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/sciproof.html) This is where they “demonstrate the existence of phenomena that cannot be observed directly.” In other words, they believe that they can prove that something exists, even though it cannot be seen directly. One can argue that many of the most important scientific discoveries were “inferred” using this method. For example, humans cannot actually see a black hole. This is a phenomenon that supposedly exists in the center of galaxies (like our own (Milky Way Galaxy), which suck everything into themselves. The scientists say they know that a black hole is there because they can see the stars and planets which circle the black hole, as they slowly are drawn into it. The argument is that you can prove something by using merely the symptoms or causes of the thing. I believe that I can prove that God exists, using the same method, at least to me. I do not have to prove God to anyone else, but I can share with you what I believe does prove God exists to me.

I once was eating lunch at one of my jobs, and I was reading my Bible at the time. A lady I had seen in another department, asked me if she could sit at the table I was at. I said sure. She prepared her lunch, and raised her sandwich to bite it, when she asked me a question. “You do realize that the Bible was written by men, right?” I looked up, smiled and said, “Of course.” “That means,” she went on, “that it could have errors and just be wrong.” I pondered her statement for a moment, and asked, “Have you ever been to Hawaii?” She wrinkled her brow and answered, “No.” “How do you know it exists,” I asked. She smirked and said, “It’s clearly on the map of the world.” I smiled and said, “And, who drew up the maps we see, monkeys or humans?” “It’s not the same thing,” she complained. I smiled and continued, “So you are saying that if men write the Bible then it must have errors and possibly be wrong, but if men make maps they never err and would never lie to us about places that might or might not exist?” She did not say anything, so I continued, “The question is not who wrote the Bible, the question is does it work the way it says it does.”

That was the question that I had to consider from then on. I still don’t know if Hawaii exists, but I will accept the evidence provided by men in form of maps. As far as God is concerned, that is His existence, I set out to prove it. I asked myself what the evidence standard needed to be. I realized that the implications of the woman’s question were valid, and worthy of healthy argument, but the main problem with her perspective is that it was based on her common sense. H¬er “common sense” was not mine. My common sense was affected by my new epiphany: I was no longer just a human, but I was now a human who had God living inside of him as well. If my understanding of who I now was, was in fact real, then I was not limited to a “common sense” of people who did not have God living in them. Either this was true or it was not. I did not allow any other possibility in the matter. As well, I found that all other persons who also believed that God lived in them tended to have a similar “sense,” therefore, they and I have a more common “common sense.”

From the perspective of people who believe that God lives in them, the impossibility becomes not as impossible. We tend to accept that what we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste, are “real,” but that with God in the equation, even these senses can fail to tell us the truth. For example, just because I cannot see God, that does not prove that God does not exist. On the contrary, if I use just the scientific method of using “evidence for the unobservable via inference,” I find tons of proof that God exists. The only question I have to answer is what evidence I will accept as valid.

I cannot see the wind, but I can feel it. It has a physical effect on me. The wind can make me feel cooler than the temperature of the day. So I accept certain evidence as proof that the wind exists:

1. You can physically feel it, but I can take measures to cover myself, and so then I would not feel it.
2. It affects other physical objects, such as trees, though it may not always affect them in the same manner.
3. It can cause me to react to it by responding with shivers, due to the temperature it can affect.
4. If used in a specific manner, I can depend on it to have the desired results. For example, to blow out the candles of a birthday cake, or knock down a building.

If I use just these four criteria as evidence the proof for the wind’s existence, I believe that I can prove to myself that the wind exists, and I have.

Now, let’s apply the same criteria to proving God’s existence.

1. You can physically feel it, but I can take measures to cover myself, and so then I would not feel it.

Many Christian believers give witness to physical sensations when they came to salvation. Some speak of chills they experienced, others claim a sense of peace that engulfed them, and other proclaim other physical manifestations. I did not experience those things at the time I was saved, instead I noticed an emboldening in me. I was suddenly more confident about how I would deal with Christian “truths” that I had seriously doubted before. This confident feeling, or sense, was as real to me, as the wind I could feel.

2. It affects other physical objects, such as trees, though it may not always affect them in the same manner.

One of the practices of Christianity (and maybe all religions) that I had always had a problem with was getting money from the believers. I had told myself before I was a believer that the church was just one giant scam that fooled people out of their money. As a believer, I decided to put the practice to test. The Bible itself urges the test as well (Malachi 3:10), so I did. I started tithing immediately after conversion, and continued.

Just as scientists will repeat an experiment over and over until they are convinced that it either worked or did not, I chose to keep the “experiment” going until I could make a fair and mature judgment. Months later I was driving along and my car broke down. Apparently the strut on the right wheel had finished out its days as a useful part of my car. Due to that, the car was further damaged when the strut broke, and it left my car leaning and not drivable. When I finally got it to the repairman, he told me that I was facing a high charge (about $1,500) for the repairs. I told him to check out the car and to give me a final amount. I knew that I had to get the money either way. Interestingly, I had just gotten my pay check and I seriously considered not tithing that time so I could add the money to the repairs I needed, I told myself that if I did, God would understand.

Later that evening, at church, I decided not to withhold the tithes, and turned them in. I prayed and asked God to show me what I needed to do to bring in the money I needed, without getting further into debt. The next morning the repair guy called me and mentioned that the total cost was actually $1,750. I started to complain that I did not have the money on hand, when he interrupted me to tell me that when he checked with the dealer to get the parts, that he was told that there had been some recall or something like that. They told him that because the part was known to break and cause damage, they would cover the cost of the repair, and that they had no problem with him doing the repairs himself. He finished by telling me the only charge he had for me was for the towing of the car.

I knew at that moment that God had helped me. I believed that He had somehow orchestrated the world of cars, and the manufacture of my specific car, so that I would have the charges covered. Just as the wind can cause something to happen, which will have repercussions much later on, God did the same for me. This was only one situation of this type, it was years later that I came to the conclusion that I arrived at.

3. It can cause me to react to it by responding with shivers due to the temperature it can affect.

When I had been a Christian for about two years, my pastor decided that I should be trained to preach. I responded to the training like a duck reacts to waddling, I just did it. I did so well that during one of our church meetings the pastor announced he would be going on a trip to preach at another church. The date was for two weeks away, and I was chosen to preach both the morning and Sunday evening services.

The next week, at the meeting, the pastor surprised us all by stating that he had come to a new conclusion, regarding practices at our church. He said that from then on he had decided that anyone who preaches there would have to wear a tie. I did not respond well to his decision. I complained that Jesus did not wear a tie, and he told me that if Jesus refused to wear a tie then He would not be preaching there either. I became incensed. We were only two days before the pastor would leave on his trip, and I felt it was unfair that he would suddenly bring up something he already knew I would not receive well. Due to my reaction, he decided to cancel his trip. I became even more angry, I had invested much time and research into preparing the sermon, and he just took my opportunity away so easily.

I complained to my wife, who agreed with me. I searched out the Scriptures for something that would help me argue my point, but instead I found the opposite, Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

The next Sunday I showed up at church, not only with a tie on, but in a coat. I noticed a smile on my pastor’s face. The wind (God in this case) caused me to shiver (react to it) because of temperature change (circumstances that are uncomfortable to me).

4. If used in a specific manner, I can depend on it to have the desired results. For example, to blow out the candles of a birthday cake, or knock down a building.

Throughout the Bible there are many principles. These principles are presented as teachings. These teachings are intended to provide humans with direction for their lives, as well as instructions from God on holy living. All of this is nice, but the question here is do they work? Can we depend on these principles to function as advertised?

I have counseled people for over 27 years, and have seen much success and failure in people’s lives. Over the years I have paid attention to why those who had succeeded did so. Success, as you may agree, is relative. It depends on what the person considers as success. In the case of the individuals and couples I have counseled, the criteria for success was that the problem they came to counseling for was resolved.

To help people resolve issues and make positive changes in their lives, I teach the principles which are found in the Bible, and others which have proven effective for the situations involved. For example, Galatians 6:7 states, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (NASB). Even if you leave the first part out, you are still left with counsel that works. If a man sows potatoes, he will reap potatoes, right? So if the man wants to actually reap potatoes, he knows not to plant yams. Some people will argue that this is so simple that it did not require mentioning, in other words “common sense.”

Counselors anywhere will tell you that it is far from “common” sense. A vast number of people repeat bad behavior, over and over, but keep expecting things to turn out better. Too many times in those people’s minds, they are doing the “right” thing, because they are doing what they want to do. Once these persons come to understand that they are in fact working against themselves, they open to the possibility of change. If they are able to capture the concept the principle teaches, they will start having different results. Therefore, if they realize that repeating bad behavior (sowing) will always have the same bad results (reaping), then they will change their behavior (sowing) and benefit from changed results (reaping).

Therefore, using the scientific “evidence for the unobservable via inference” process, which they say proves that something exists even though it cannot be seen, just because of the evidence available. I have given real evidence, and shown actual results, and have inferred the reason for the results; God.

If you are a believer, this means you have had that epiphany which allows you to have the perspective necessary to recognize the above as evidences which are valid. If you are someone who chooses not to believe, then your perspective will be tainted by the lack of willingness to accept the criteria as I have described above. In either case, we have to agree that any person who looks at the evidence, and is willing to accept the possibilities that the evidence implies, will probably arrive at the same conclusion: it is possible to prove something not observable by the observable evidence via inference.

It is this way that I can prove God exists to myself. I came to the clear and unequivocal conclusion that God exists because His Word works as it is taught in the Scriptures. That is, that when the principles taught in the Bible are applied as intended, they will produce the results which were intended, and that the person applying the principle can depend on the results. If God’s Word works then He exists, to me.

Why You Should Study The Bible

As a Christian I can only speak about us, and even then I can only speak of those who believe as I do.  I started off my Christian walk with lots of questions. Who and what is God? What is this thing called sin? Why are there so many groups and denominations within Christianity? What makes Christianity different, and maybe better than the rest? And, many, many, more questions.

I came to be saved at a time when I had just gone through a difficult time in my life. Many other believers have similar experiences. Something bad is happening, it may even be their fault, but due to this they turn to God as the answer. Some people, who were not believers, looked down on this. They’re perspective was that religion was a sort of crutch. To them believing in God was a sign of weakness, not something positive. I understood their complaints, I also believed in the same manner, before I became a believer. I saw religion, but Christianity specifically, as a flaw. Only dummies and fools believe in a God they cannot even see, was the way I saw it then.

I came to know Christ as my Savior as an educated man. My intelligence was never in question, though if you knew me back then, you would have questioned my maturity. As a new Christian I struggled with using my intelligence to understand the teachings I received from my pastor. He would teach or preach on some things which made my brain hurt. I was not hostile toward the teachings, but too often they did not make sense. I’m sure he was teaching everything in the right way, but my mind heard differently. Just have faith, trust God, walk like Jesus walked, keep your eyes on Jesus, and so forth. These phrases and many others were used in the teachings and preaching quite often. They seemed to make sense to the teacher or preacher, but I struggled to understand what they were trying to get across to me.

I remember one conversation with my pastor after one of his teaching sessions. He had been speaking of Satan and how he had governed over the world until Jesus died on the cross and put an end to it. I listened to what he was saying, but it seemed to conflict with Scripture. (See 2Co 2: 4) I approached him privately after the meeting and asked him how he arrived at the conclusion he did. I mentioned that the Bible teaches Satan is still the “god” of the world. He gave me a bothered look and said, “Brother, Satan may be your god, but he is not my God.” After this he walked away.

I was not sure what had happened. Here I am a new believer and I have questions, and my teacher gets annoyed when I questioned something. I would have understood his reaction if I had challenged his authority or something, but I sincerely had a valid question. I was a new believer and needed to learn whatever it was God wanted me to learn.

Before I came to be saved, one of my most interesting and pleasurable times was when I was in college. I did not know what to expect in college, but before then I assumed it was like High School. I went to High School for just one year. I went to my 10th grade class for one day and then I dropped out of school altogether. I went through several years not caring about my education, until I heard about this program where they paid you to go and study for your G. E. D. I laughed out loud when I heard about it. I thought it was hilarious that someone would pay others just to go to school. I jumped on the opportunity. I figured I would ride the gravy train until the money ran out and then do something else.

The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) had partnered with a local program SER, which primarily worked with Latinos. I showed up and enrolled in the GED program and started getting paid. I was on “cloud nine” about the whole thing. I even took the GED tests. Unfortunately, I kept failing them. Even though I used the program to get some easy money, it kept bothering me that I wasn’t able to just breeze through the tests.

One day the program counselor called me to his office and told me he felt I was not trying. He was right, but I wasn’t going to admit it. I argued the tests were made hard on purpose for non-Whites. He told me I was making excuses. I told him I didn’t have to take anything from him, that I could quit. He responded quitting was exactly what he expected me to do, he called me a quitter and told me I could leave. He added that at least they would be able to give my spot to someone who really wanted help. I yelled at him that he could not call me a quitter, and that I would prove him wrong. I told him I would take the tests again, and I would pass them. He just smirked and said, “Sure, big talk. Okay then prove it.”

I had failed the tests at least twice before, and the one I had most trouble with was the one involving math. I went back to my class determined to prove him wrong. I studied hard for another two weeks, and then went to take the tests. I passed the first four, but there were five. I passed the first four in one day, and had to go back the next day to take the math test. I did not sleep well that night. I knew I could throw the first four passed tests in the counselor’s face, but knowing him, he would just ask for the math test, and then call me a liar because I didn’t pass it. He really did not think that way, I just imagined him that way because I was angry with him.

I showed up to the testing facility the next day and took the math test. I had studied hard the last night, but I was apprehensive about my chances of success. After the test, the man there told me to go back to the SER program, and he would relay the score back to me as he was quite busy at the time. I was back in my room when I was told I had a phone call. I went to the office and spoke with the GED man on the phone. He told me I did not do as well on the math test as I had on the others, but that I had met the minimum required score and had passed the test. I drove to the GED place and picked up my copies of the test results and went back to the SER program. I went to the counselor’s office and tossed the results on his desk in front of him. There was another employee in the room with him at the time.

I gave him my best “I told you” look, and said, “You were wrong, I passed all the GED tests!” I expected him to start apologizing and admit he was wrong. Instead, he said, “I knew all along you could do it. I had to challenge you to try harder, because you were about to quit. Before you entered,” he said, pointing to the other employee, “I told him you were capable of much more than you believed.” I looked toward the other guy, and he nodded in agreement. I later found out I had been the first “graduate” under the CETA program in Dallas, Texas. I changed my mind about learning after that. After I got married, my wife and I agreed I should go to college, while she worked and brought in the necessary income. I really enjoyed college.

I realized I found some classes interesting, while others seemed mostly boring. When I finally came to take history, I thought I was going to be bored. The professor changed that, what he did was divide the class in two groups and one group became the “Indians” (Native Americans, to you politically-correct people), and the second group became the Whites. Our job was to get enough data to support our perspective, and enough evidence to prove the other side wrong. I was in the “Indians” group.

I loved the way I had to do research to gather the information I needed. I learned to pay attention to details which otherwise would have eluded me. I learned more about the U. S. Government and their relations with the native population, in this manner, than I would have otherwise. The one thing which stuck with me was that to get to the truth one often had to go through a lot of half-truths, near-truths, and some which were not complete lies, and sounded truthful. That forced me to be more careful about what was being said, not said, and often mis-said (meaning someone is trying to say the truth, but are getting something not quite right). This is what I carried with me into my walk with Christ.

I started reading the Bible and paying attention. As a new Christian, there was much in the Word which I just did not understand. Much seemed clear, but then I would hear someone preach or teach on the same and they would come up with a completely different point of view. This confused me. I kept finding myself in situations where I would question the teacher to learn more, but instead they would react as though I was questioning their intelligence. I kept on butting heads with people until I realized I was going about it the wrong way.

I had been under the impression I had somehow entered the “college” of God and that those who had been “saved” longer than me would obviously know more than I would. I had met lots people who had been “Christians” for many years. But I also found that too often many of them had trouble backing their beliefs with “chapter and verse.” While I am not saying every believer has to know every chapter and verse for every single thing they claim to believe about God, I am saying that limiting their answers to some esoteric statements or conclusions of theirs was just wrong.

I especially struggled with those Bible teachers and preachers whose answer show an obvious lack of serious study and research. It’s kind of like they want you to believe what they say just because it was them who said it. That kind of teaching and preaching is not enjoyable to me in the least.

As I grew more in the lord, I also grew in my understanding that if I wanted to mature more, I would have to be careful who I listened to, and what I believed. I have had six pastors in my process of maturity. The first divorced his wife and ran away with the church organist. The second one was a temp. The third (who took over for the temporary pastor) died. The fourth was a wonderful pastor, but the church moved out of Dallas, and I moved to another local church. The fifth pastor accused me of wanting to take over his church, I left. The sixth pastor, again another wonderful pastor, also died. After this, I became my own pastor, and now I pastor other pastors.

My walk has been a troubled one, to say the least, but my maturity has increased due to those troubles. I came to understand that learning more about God and what He wants for me and in my life, was going to be dependent on me alone in the long run. I have encountered many good and studied Bible teachers, and have met pastors who had obviously taken time to pay attention to what they have gleamed from the Word.

As well, I started learning to look for God’s leading in ways I had not before. As I attended various seminars, conferences and other similar venues, my eyes, as it were, began to be open. And, along with that, I started asking the same questions I had from the beginning of my walk with the Lord. Those questions I had before which were not answered, became my immediate motive as I started researching the Bible.

I vowed to myself that regardless of whether or not others asked those same questions, or whether they even tried to get real answers, I needed to find the answers. In my case I started this by holding my own Bible studies. Even when I did not have as many answers as I do today, in those Bible studies I started dealing with subjects which were not popular in church sermons and teaching. Some people who came to those meetings did not come back, for whatever reason, but those who stayed did so because we were discussing and studying questions which were relevant and immediate to our lives.

Think about it, do you know where in the Bible to find the answers for any and all problems with which you deal? Just to say, “Keep your eyes on Jesus,” and, “Trust God,” does not tell you what steps to take to change things. Only lazy people will trust in phrases. To find real answers which are practical and will produce real change in your life will take time and effort in the study of the Word of God.

Are you in a Bible study at church? If not, are you in a Bible study at someone’s home? Are you taught how to research and study the Bible? Do they choose the topics of study for you and then lead you to specific answers? If you had to choose the topic or do the research for the class, would you know how? Do you know what the Bible says is the reason why we should even study our Bibles?

Early on in my walk I found out there were books like a concordance, lexicons, Bible dictionaries, commentaries by many writers, and so forth. I realized these were tools which could help me better understand the Scriptures. Maybe it was because of my experience in college, but I took to them like a dry sponge dropped in water. I sucked up all the knowledge these tools help me get. The more I learned, the more I started realizing how much I did not know about the Bible. My excitement involved more than just knowing some stories, or the names of some people who lived thousands of years ago, or even remembering some chapters and verses of things I read. My excitement stemmed from the fact I was learning stuff I could put into practice today, and see results today in most cases.

Heaven is great, and I am will enjoy it when I get there, but even if there are “golden streets,” that “gold” cannot help pay the bills here on earth today. What about the “crystal sea,” can it help quench one thirst here on earth? And, what about all the jewels which will be found on the city walls, how much monetary value do they have here? Heaven is in my future, but practicality is in my today. The question is not what will happen later, but how does he Bible impact my life today? Can it help me save a marriage today? Can it help me make important decisions today? Can it answer the tough questions of life today? Can it make a difference in my life today, or do I have to wait many years to see the benefits or results?

The Bible is full of practical instructions which will yield fruit today. You can learn to save a marriage by starting today to apply the principles taught in the Bible. You can starting changing your character today by following its instructions. You can benefit greatly starting today, from financial teaching found in the Scriptures. You can find answers today for many of those hard questions which have run around in your head for a long time now. The Bible is as much for today as it is for tomorrow.

The instructions found in the Bible are practical. For example, regarding finances, it teaches we should save money, lend only if we are able to deal with the loss of the money if we don’t get it back, never co-sign, have a budget and stick to it, invest wisely for the future, give to the poor, don’t be greedy, and much more. If we learn the principles the Bible teaches regarding finances and start applying them today, we will start seeing the results, reaping the benefits.

When you stress more on the practical things of the Bible, and less on the religious implications, you start to see how God uses His Word to show you His power. If He can get you to start doing some of those things in the Bible, the way He wants them done, He can also teach you to use the teaching to deal with things in your life, as well as help others do the same. God wants to bless you much, but not just because He wants to bless you, He wants you to use your blessing to minister to others in whatever way you have been blessed.