Tear Out The Dividing Page!

how-to-study-the-bible

When Christians distance themselves from their Hebrew roots it’s like cutting the branch off that they stand on.

The entire Bible is built on Hebrew themes and context. The New Testament, while written primarily in Greek, is an explanation of so many of the things that the Old Testament laid the foundation for. God used the Hebrew people as a means of revealing His character to the nations. God instituted His feasts, first among the nation of Israel, as a way to teach His redemptive plan seven times a year. Yeshua (Jesus) is our Hebrew savior. He taught using the Hebrew text and customs for illustrations. He was given titles understood best in the Hebrew context (Lamb of God, Messiah, the Word, Son of Man, etc…). He used people of Israel, His disciples, to take His message to the world and seek and save the lost.

Romans chapter 11 makes it pretty clear that non-Jewish believers (gentiles) were grafted into the tree of faith that God had been growing through the nation of Israel. We didn’t become an entirely new tree. We entered into a covenant relationship that existed for over a thousand years before the first “Christian” church ever met. Jesus came to bond the nations through His sacrifice.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:11-13 (ESV)

We have been adopted into a family of faith, that is rich, and so beautiful. To know our Hebrew roots unlocks so much of the magic in the Bible. To disregard the importance of our spiritual ancestry is to walk blindly towards key elements of our faith. That single page that divides the Old and New Testament is a relic and a unhelpful distraction from reality. The Bible is one unified story from beginning to end. To live exclusively in Matthew to Revelation is like only knowing half the story. Same goes for those who stick so tightly to the Torah and rarely venture to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. God gave us seven beautiful feasts to learn from and celebrate year around. He gave a law that reveals so much about who He is and what holiness looks like. And He spoke hundreds of prophecies about our Savior, His plan for our lives, and the course of the world. The story of Israel is the story of us. We can see life experiences through theirs. It’s time for that page that divides our Bibles to be torn out, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Because Jesus tore it out spiritually.

…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 3:26-29 (ESV)

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Be the Proof

Throughout my years as a Christian, I’ve had to work through my faith like anyone else. I’ve had to try to reconcile my purpose, what it means to be a Christian, how good works fit in to the equation, and so much more. Conflicting messages have only served to complicate the search. Denominations have been formed over these same basic questions. Debates have long divided societies. If you’ve found yourself struggling to resolve similar questions in your own walk of faith, let me offer you something to contemplate.

On my most recent journey through the Bible I locked on to a passage late in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is a valuable source because it records the commission given by Jesus before He ascended to heaven, the giving of the Holy Spirit to His followers, and records of how that Spirit used Christ’s early followers. The book focuses on many different followers but a big portion centers on the apostle Paul’s missions. He is one of our greatest examples of what it means to follow Jesus, and he laid out his mission statement for us all. It comes in Acts chapter 20 verse 24.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

It’s simple, and yet very deep. It’s one line but all consuming. Paul’s entire life had the purpose of pointing others to Jesus. Whether by his words or actions, Paul wanted the world to see Jesus in his way of life. When Paul encountered Jesus, everything changed for him. Jesus consumed his heart and every affection, and he had to tell everyone.

Paul said he was propelled with the purpose of testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. To testify is far more than just telling people. It also means to serve as evidence or proof. Our life, as a Christian, is supposed to be the evidence of God’s grace. That means we love greatly, unconditionally, serve everyone, forgive quickly no matter the offense, put others before ourselves, and lay our lives down for the cause of bringing others to God. Every single one of those things, Jesus did and then extended His hands in invitation for us to do the same. Our lives should show the world that the grace and love and power or God are very real and available to everyone.

You can’t share something you don’t have

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One night, my four year old daughter refused to let me leave her room because she was afraid. It was bedtime, and for those of you with children, you know that bedtime can be a challenge. I’m convinced that children are born with the innate ability to negotiate. All of a sudden they are starving, or dying of thirst, have an urgent need to go to the bathroom, or just have to be with you. The routine is often the same in homes across the globe. But occasionally, our children are genuinely scared and need our consolation. There are those moments when fear and loneliness stir their precious little hearts. That was the case for my daughter on that particular evening.

“Daddy, please don’t leave my room,” my daughter says.

“What’s wrong sweetheart?” I asked.

“I’m afraid!”, she responds.

“What are you afraid of?” I inquired.

She paused for a brief few seconds and said, “I don’t know…I…I just don’t want to be alone. I’m scared.”

From there I had to assess whether or not she was sincere or just postponing the inevitable moment that she would have to succumb to sleep. I truly believe she was really shaken that night. I didn’t know why. She couldn’t explain it. We hadn’t watched any movies that could’ve scared her, and her day was very ordinary. But she was scared, and that’s what mattered.

For the next 5 to 10 minutes I tried to calm my daughter’s fears by reminding her that she is never alone. I told her that mommy and daddy are in a room not too far from hers. More importantly, I tried to get her to see that Jesus is always present in her life. Have you ever tried explaining that to a toddler? It’s extremely difficult. But I did my best and then we prayed together. I told her I loved her and we called it a night.

When I left her room I was overwhelmed by what had just happened. My daughter’s struggle with fear and loneliness is not all that unlike adult struggles with the same issues. We may not squirm and fuss like a toddler does. No, we’ve gotten much better at keeping it inside. We get afraid, often of our own imaginations. And loneliness hits everyone and some point and time. We’re made to be relational beings which makes being alone really difficult sometimes, especially if we never learned to cope.

What I prayed for my daughter, and what I tried to tell her, was that our hearts can rest at peace. That we never have to be afraid. That joy can fill our minds and our hearts at all times. Then it hit me. Do I even experience that? Am I trying to tell me daughter to have something I don’t even have? Am I at peace? Do I have unspeakable joy continually in my heart? It was challenging…extremely challenging.

Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.

Philippians 4:6-7 (CEV)

When it comes down to it, I can spout out bible verses like the one above, all day long and give my daughters consoling pep talks about their security, love, and acceptance in Christ. But if I’m not showing them those truths by my attitude and how I carry myself…well then, it’s potentially very empty. Our children are likely to forget most of the things we say to them, but they will always remember how we affected them.

If I don’t feel accepted and cared for by Jesus, then I can’t expect them, or anyone else to. If I don’t overcome fear and doubt by choosing to believe that God has my best interests in mind, always, then I offer them nothing. I don’t want to merely give others, especially my children, words on a page. I want to give them a real way of life. I want to show them that they have a real Savior who died for them, and loves them, and will never leave them. Will I be perfect? Not even close. But I hope to be genuine.

Marriage Series #2: One not Two

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This is the second post in a five part series on marriage. In the last post I talked about how we need to view our purpose in getting married. This post is more focused on what happens to people when they do “tie the knot” as the old adage goes.

I think that a lot of conflict in marriage results from having a two person mentality. What I mean by that is that we still view a marriage as two people in a relationship with one another. Isn’t that what it is? Not exactly. I’m going to try and use a rough illustration so bear with me please. Lets pretend that the lovely couple getting married are two companies (weird I know). Many people look at marriage as though the two companies are signing a contract to work together on a joint venture. Contracts are mutual agreements and if one party doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, the contract is off. Two companies that write up contracts to work together remain two companies with separate identities. However, marriage isn’t meant to work like that. God designed marriage to be a merger. In a business merger, two companies see the advantage to joining forces and instead of signing a contract, they unite into one new company. Usually one company will take on the name of the other. I think you probably see the parallel I’m trying to draw.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24 (NIV) [my emphasis]

I know, I know, many people have taken this to mean that husbands and wives are to consummate their union through physical means. I’m not about to argue that it doesn’t mean that. I’m just saying that, like with the rest of scripture, there is far deeper implications than the surface level. When you get married, you are uniting with your spouse into one new entity just as the merging companies did in the illustration. As a result, you and your spouse are now meant to be joined in purpose and direction. Imagine if two merging companies decided on a different purpose and direction and pursued them. The new company would disintegrate pretty rapidly. There would be plenty of internal squabbling and unrest until they finally reached the point of “irreconcilable differences.” On the other hand, merged companies with a united purpose and direction will operate much more smoothly and be able to resolve differences in order to achieve the desired outcome.

This is an incredibly difficult concept to grasp, mainly because you are still you when you get married and your spouse is still your spouse. You don’t actually become one person physically. To operate as one, while not physically being one, is the essence of the marriage union. Success in this area requires extreme intimacy and openness. When communication breaks down, so does the system. There also has to be a high level of servant hood on the part of both members. A unique challenge to marriage is that two people, with two sets of dreams, two sets of talents, and two backgrounds, are now trying to coexist as one.  To overcome this challenge each person needs to commit to forming a new dream that they can help one another in achieving together. Each person also has to use their talents to compliment the other’s. That means we have to admit we aren’t perfect and the strengths of our spouse can help us overcome in areas of weakness. Each person should also commit to the new life they have begun together and only draw off of background experiences that can nourish their relationship. All of that is far easier said than done, I know.

Some may fail at this because they want to be the bigger company that their spouse is merging into. They place demands and expectations on their loved one rather than seeking to meet them half way. They place priority on their dreams, refusing to change course, while not even stopping to think if its God’s design for their life or consulting their spouse. They continue pursuing a life with, yet separate from, their partner. Over time their lives drift in different directions and resentment bubbles under the surface.

When we get married we have to realize that our spouse becomes as much of us as we are of ourselves. I hope that made sense. We have to embrace an entirely new outlook on our future because it is now inextricably linked with another. Jesus tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. When two people get married, they become one new house, one new person, with a direction that is meant to be unified. A couple that is joined in purpose and direction can endure, even the most difficult of times.

No matter where you are in your relationship, Jesus can be the captain of your course correction. He is our healer so there is no marriage that is too fractured. Jesus also has to be the unified vision of our marriage. Pursuing Him brings us together in a real and very spiritually deep way (More on that in a later post). If you’re not married, this is a great time to consider what it will mean for you if you make that commitment some day in the future. You’ll be saying goodbye to yourself and hello to the new you that is joined with the love of you life. That’s pretty awesome.

Follow Up: These are great things to ponder on your own or use to talk with your loved one. Blessings!

1- Have you been pursuing your own dreams, possibly at the expense of your spouse?

2- Do you have a unified vision as a couple that you help one another to reach?

3- Is your ‘house’ divided in any way? If so, what part can you take to bring unity?

4- What talents does your spouse have that compliments you and helps the marriage to thrive? What do you bring to the table?

5- Are you pursuing Jesus as a couple?

Paying Attention to Your Christianity – Old Path Musings

(Not original photo)

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Paying Attention to Your Christianity

Paying attention to how your Christian life is going is important.  As things in this world get more and more debased, we need to pay closer attention to what is being taught.  That is because the heart and mind can easily be drawn off course.  In the book, Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian, more than once, got off the Celestial Pathway for one reason or another.  Most of the time, it was because he failed to heed Evangelist’s instructions.  He let some things slip in his life and listened to other people, like Mr. Civility, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and others.

An Urgency to Living Right

When we give earnest heed to something, we make it a priority in our life.  Earnest means that it is urgent, it needs to happen now and cannot be put off.  It takes an urgency to live right.  There is often just a short time from when a temptation is presented and a decision is made to move toward sin.  You need to be paying attention so that you are not drawn away by your own lusts, that reside in your heart.  When you let something slip, it means you lose traction, you lose stability.  When we let Bible teaching and doctrine slip out of our heart and mind, we are letting our walk with God slip.  That is why we need to be in church regularly, read our Bible each day, and put good, godly thoughts in our mind all day long.  Make sure you are paying attention to your Christianity today.  If you don’t, eventually, you are getting out of the race.

by Dan Cler | Nov 4, 2016 | 

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