How Do I Understand What the Bible is Saying to Me?


“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training so that every person may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17

Must Use a Proper Hermeneutic 

The Bible is full of profound messages and soul gripping truths. Yet, it can also be a source of great division and animosity if misinterpreted for our own agendas or taken out of context. Wars have started over misinterpretations of a single verse! Therefore, it is crucial we use proper hermeneutics when studying the Bible.

Hermeneutics is the art of interpreting the Bible. I use the word “art” because it involves a developed skill and a curious, imaginative mind. Curious because the more you explore and unpack Scripture, the more nuggets of treasure you find. Imaginative in that, the more you can put yourself in the mindset of a Hebrew farmer, a God-fearing Gentile, or a Roman soldier, the better you will understand the setting of the Scripture. A work of history never veers far from its historical setting, lest it be fictitious or erroneous. The Bible is no different in that sense.

Each Book in the Bible Had Its Own Setting and Circumstance

The Bible can only be understood properly in its historical setting and each book comes with a whole different circumstance and place to understand. If you study James, then you will want to know of the diaspora—the scattered ones. It is crucial to know that James is written to the Jews scattered all around Jerusalem because they were persecuted and had to flee the Holy City. If you are studying Revelation, you need to have understanding of apocalyptic literature. You need to know about the reign of Nero and why John wrote in “code.” Without the context, you can’t know the author’s intention. God inspired Scripture, but man’s imprint is there. In studying the languages, you will see a vast difference between Luke and Paul’s usage of Greek. Luke wrote precisely and with great articulation; no surprise, as he was a doctor. Paul often wrote in run-on sentences and used emotive, and even evocative, language often. Two very different styles between these two but both inspired by God to write His message.  God wrote this for men to comprehend, and that means it is written in the setting and situation of the times.

Context Makes the Bible Come Alive

The Bible comes alive when you take the time to get into its context. Understanding the difference between things like wheat and tare, importance of circumcision, the feasts of the Jews, the Pax Romana, the shipping routes to the cities beside the sea, the idols of the day, become vital to properly understanding what the biblical authors were saying.

If we fail to do this, we can be guilty of what is called isogesis. This is when we “read into the text whatever we want it to say.” Many are guilty of this today—from the prosperity gospel to racism, from holy wars to those who disdain Scripture. All of these make the Bible fit their agenda. We must let the Word speak clearly what it says, interpreting Scripture in light of other Scripture. Never build a theology on one verse! We must recognize that there are some difficult passages in the Bible to understand, and the best way to understand them is in light of other Scripture. These difficult passages cannot be passed over but given thoughtful reflection in light of context, genre, author’s intention, syntax, and in light of other Scripture.

Interpret It First for Your Soul Not Theirs

Before you interpret Scripture for someone else’s benefit, make sure it speaks to your heart and mind first. Let me say it this way: Don’t read the word as much as you allow the Word read you. The Word is alive as the Holy Spirit takes it and moves in our lives with it. I have found this movement of the Spirit starts with my dedication and diligence to study. It doesn’t happen without real investment in the Word.

As a Christian, the Word is our authority. In speaking to those who are skeptics, they will dismiss Scripture as authoritative. Yet, for a believer, it is the Word that is the voice of God. You have nothing of supernatural consequence to say outside of the Word. If they reject that, then you have done what you can. I don’t mean stop loving them. But arguing with them is fruitless.

When we read Scripture, we don’t check our mind at the door. It is important that we use sound, interpretative principles. I suggest investing in these resources to bring more depth and accuracy to your study of God’s Word:

Concordance—This allows you to find the occurrences of a particular word throughout the Scriptures. This is very important in understanding how that word is used in different settings and context. The more you see it used, the clearer it becomes in its meaning. A good study Bible has this in the back. The Internet has good tools for this as well.  Here is just one—http://biblehub.com/concordance/.

Study Bible—A study bible will have notes, usually at the bottom of the page, that will help interpret the Scripture for you. It also gives introductions to each book so that you know the date, author, setting, and occasion. I recommend the ESV Study Bible, MacArthur’s Study Bible, or the new Christian Standard Study Bible.

Bible Dictionary—A Bible dictionary allows you to learn more about a topic, not only within Scripture, but the greater world at that time. For example, if you looked up the word “crucifix,” you would read about the Romans use of it and why they used it. You would have a much clearer understanding of what it meant for it to be the way in which Jesus died. Here is a great source for several solid Bible dictionaries: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/.

Let us be diligent to read the Word and to take time to understand it within its context and setting. Our study will not be in vain. Riches await!

God Doesn’t Need You To Try So Hard


Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1

If I got a B on a paper I would sulk and pout and lose sleep for days over it. I couldn’t take anything but perfection when it came to grades, which I had to constantly fight to try and achieve. I stressed myself out in school, constantly worrying about my grades and my future. When I would make the grade, I could not enjoy the moment because another paper or test was pending. It was exhausting.

Any overachievers relate to me? Anyone plagued by perfectionism? Do you ever feel guilty if you don’t work yourself to death on something? Are you what some might call a control freak?  Here is a news alert… God doesn’t need you to try so hard. In fact it could be detrimental to your soul.

The Christian life is a paradox in many ways. We gain our life only when we lose it. The least will actually be first. Giving is better than receiving. When it comes to how we are to live, God is not interested in how much we can achieve for Him. That might shock you but you won’t find verses in the Bible that says, Thou shalt achieve great things for God.

He doesn’t want our efforts as much as He wants our surrender. He put His Holy Spirit in us and gave us the authority of Jesus to accomplish life altering, earth-shattering, transformative things for Him. That doesn’t come  via talent, hard work, ingenuity, or anything else we could accomplish on our own. That comes through the power of God, the Holy Spirit, in us.

It doesn’t mean God doesn’t want our best effort or to use our talents but His word is full of stories of uneducated, unqualified, unprepared participants who didn’t have any influence or position yet changed the world around them. When we read the stories of these men and women, we are not noticing what a great person they were but rather, what a great God they served!

Reality check… you are not capable or equipped to do this life your own strength in a way that will honor God. You need help. You need Jesus. Your greatest efforts will fall short of the eternal, kingdom advancing work God wants to do through you.

Some of you have worn yourself out trying to change your spouse, train your kids, make a business successful, maintain a family on the verge of falling apart, all by your will power and effort. It leaves you weary and on edge. You are frustrated on how little control you have to make things happen. Truth is God doesn’t call us to juggle all of this. He isn’t testing us to see how much we can achieve. This stuff is too big for us!

You want to be a great parent to your children? You want to be an influential grandparent on your grandchildren? You want to live for something greater than a paycheck and two garage house? Then you will have to surrender your talents, your wisdom, your control, your effort to the Lord and allow Him to inspire you, empower you, and lead you into His purposes.

That’s great Dax but what if it doesn’t work?  What if I do that and my kids, grandchildren, or job do not cooperate? Instead of getting frustrated you rest in the knowledge that you are trusting them to God and that He will work in The best way and at the right moment. You find peace in a God who sympathizes with you when those you love make horrible mistakes and refuse to change. You rest in the fact that God is doing things you can’t always see and will always prove Himself faithful.

Whatever you are going through right now, which one of these questions best speak to your approach: Am I putting more effort into trying to fix what I perceive as the problem OR more effort into submitting to the Holy Spirit to receive whatever He would have me to learn and do in this situation? There is a Grand Canyon difference between these two perspectives. One is a futile attempt to do things you cannot do. The other is a place of rest and peace as you surrender to His will. Which one you choose will make all the difference in what kind of person you are.

What Do I Say To An Atheist?


The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good. Psalm 14:1

Have you ever noticed that atheists get highly offended by a God they claim doesn’t exist? What’s up with that? Conscience is the answer.
We were all born with a conscience, the ability to discern right from wrong. From early on we know certain things are wrong without anyone having to tell us. Studies have been done where small children are observed hitting other children. After they hit their body temperature rises, heartbeat increases, and pupils slightly dilate. They feel panic that often is arrivistes to being caught in a wrongdoing. Most begin to look around to see if they are in trouble. You don’t have to teach them that hurting someone is bad. Their conscience tells them this. You merely reinforce what they already know to be true.

What does that have to do with an atheist? Well if we are born with a conscience, defined as a law written upon hearts, then we have to ask who put it there? There cannot be a law without a law giver. C.S Lewis makes this argument for the existence of God in his book, Mere Christianity. My point is that atheists have a conscience that lets them know something greater than themselves is out there but they refuse to acknowledge it. They bow instead before science and reason. So why are atheists so offended by a God they don’t think exists? Because in their soul they know He does. His fingerprints are all over His creation (Romans 1). His law is written upon their hearts (Romans 2:15). So how do we share the gospel with an atheist?

My suggestion to Christians who are sharing the gospel with someone who is an atheist is to consider these things:

1) Dont apologize for faith . When I share the gospel and someone says the Bible is a fairy tale or God is a figment of my imagination, I don’t throw something at their head or fall on the floor and throw a tantrum. I simply tell them I believe the word and that God exists by faith. If they demand proof, I don’t panic or try and accommodate.  I tell them that faith is the only way. I don’t have to try and convince them or prove it to them. If it were that easy we wouldn’t need faith. I simply just tell the truth and if they reject it then they do. I can’t talk them into salvation. I can only share the truth.

2) God doesn’t need you to defend Him. Sometimes when I witness to an atheist they get harsh against God. What kind of God would let people die they might say. When this happens I explain that this world is sinful and that evil things happen. If they go on to attack God, I do not defend Him. He doesn’t need me too. I just simply stay calm and confident in the Lord. If we get defensive for God then we might be showing our own doubt in Him. If we get anxious and argumentative we are saying that their words hit a chord with us. Maybe we don’t trust God as much as we think we do? But when we are calm and confident and we don’t let their words move us, then we communicate that we are sure of God and don’t need to try and get them to think better of Him. They don’t need to think better of God; they need to fall at His feet and worship Him.

3) There are really no such thing as atheists. Atheists say they do not put their faith in a higher power but that is simply not true. Their high power might not be God; instead it might be science, reason, math or astronomy or maybe money, power or fame. Whatever it might be they worship something. They are not an atheist in the truest sense. Doesn’t exist.

4) Always share with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be prepared at all times to give a reason for the hope that is in us. When we share we are to do it with two approaches: gentleness and respect. No matter how angry or mean the atheist gets, we should be gentle, compassionate, patient, and kind to them. They are lost and in desperate need to hear the truth we have to share. We don’t need our attitude, or temper, or pride to get in the way of that.

5) Your only authority is the word of God. You can’t reason an atheist into heaven. You can’t prove God’s existence with mathematical certainty. What you know to be true about God comes from His word. That is your authority. If they reject the word then they will reject the gospel. You can’t seperate the two.

I hope you will look for opportunities to share your faith. Apply the above and trust God to use your faithfulness.

Dax

Tips for A Christian at the Ballot Box Tuesday


From a Christian perspective, we must not lose sight of the real battle. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against Satan and his demons. Just because you don’t see them waging war does not mean that it is not happening all around you. In the spiritual realm is where the real war wages.

So what about politics? Should we still care about who wins the White House? Sure we should. We are Americans and we care about our country. The person in that seat decides a lot of things for us. But that is not where the war is won. It’s much greater than that. This is an epic battle of supernatural forces. So pay attention and be ready to do your part but don’t lose perspective.

A few things to consider as the election looms:

1) Voting for the moral platform is our duty as Christians.

Go out and cast your vote. Make an informed decision. But being aware of the real war means voting for the candidate that upholds the morality of God’s word. What their stance is concerning issues like abortion, same sex marriage, and separation of church and state are issues that have eternal repercussions. Don’t let any other agenda guide you more strongly as a believer. Don’t let their stand on taxes or immigration or unions be the deciding vote for you as a believer.

2) Voting for the true Christian candidate.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, pretty much every candidate claims Christianity in some form. Their words and actions show  their faith often to be a ruse. As a believer you should be looking for the following from a candidate in order to know them by their fruits:

  • A clear acknowledgment that their faith is in Jesus Christ. Make sure they clearly state their salvation and not just religious  jargon from their speech writer. Be wary of cliches like church goer or believer in God.
  • That Jesus is the only way to salvation. Be wary if they speak in terms like:  Jesus is my way but your way might be different.
  • That the Bible is their source of authority for life.
  • That their views match up with their professed faith. If they claim to be a believer but hold to different morals than what the Bible proclaims then there is an issue.

3) Don’t see the winner as either savior or devil.

So many speak about the election as if the very fabric of Creation hangs on the ballot box’s thread. God is bigger than the election. His church will not fail. There is no reason to fear. Do I think there is a lot at stake with the election? I definitely do but my hope is not in a politician or a government. It never will be placed in them because they are not worthy of my faith. My faith is in Christ and He will never abandon us.

4) Be informed before you speak about candidates.

So many Christians are making statements publicly about candidates without having all the facts. Be informed on what candidates stand for and what they believe. Take time to research it and speak informatively. Let’s be a witness for Christ by speaking hope and peace into a tumultuous environment. Encourage other believers not to fear but to trust.

5) Should I vote for the lesser of two evils

Let’s first recognize that unless we are voting for Jesus we are always voting for the lesser of two evils as no candidate will be without sin. When Christians face two morally corrupt individuals, they should not justify a vote for either. In a case like this we would be better off voting for a write in candidate who did uphold Christian principles. They won’t win you say? Most likely true but you didn’t compromise either. I cannot vote for evil. It just flies in the face of a holy God. For those who would come back at me that we at least get some good things with one candidate versus another, I would say put your trust in God and not in a morally bankrupt person you are hoping follows through on their political promise to do moral good. If Christians would ever unite and be work together we could shape every election in our country!

You have to make the decision to vote your conscience. I cannot do that for you. We just need to know that we are accountable for our actions. I am for mine and you are for yours.

Don’t lose perspective. The battle is beyond flesh and blood and we are squarely in it. I have read the last pages of scripture and the victory is ours in Christ Jesus. Praise Him.
Dax

Diary of a Wimpy Parent: Raising A Teenager

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

There is a lot of things I want for my teenager  but her thinking I am the coolest dad around is not one of them. Now I am as cool as the next guy, at least in my own mind, but I want to be something else to my daughter than cool. I want to be her role model, her rock, her guide, and maybe even one day her hero. I am not willing to do what it would take to be her cool friend. I don’t want to be a wimpy parent who lets my teenager set the tone for my relationship because I want her to like me.

Now don’t get me wrong… I take the time to find out what she is listening to in her music, what she is doing on Instagram, and who she is hanging out with. I want to be engaged and not clueless about what she cares about. But I want to be the parent and not one of her friends. Too many parents want their kids to like them so much so that they let things go in order to not come across stuffy. That kind of compromise sets the wrong tone for a teenager.

Thing is our kids don’t mean it when they act like they are put out by our being a person of authority . They don’t really want their parents to be hip. Rather they want boundaries and direction from us. Sure it seems like they fight it with every breath. If my daughters’s face ever froze with some of the looks she gave me when I was parenting, it would terrify you. But don’t believe their outcry, they want you to stay strong with them.

Here are a few principles I suggest you implement in raising your teenager, regardless if they think it’s cool or not.

1) Ask your teenager if they have prayed about it when they mention a struggle and take time to pray with them over that struggle.

We have to teach our children that God is more vital to us than someone we just mention on Sundays. That talking to him is crucial for life. Not only should we challenge them to pray but model it for them. Pray over them. Will they roll their eyes or make a sarcastic comment? Quite possibly. But don’t let that deter you. They desperately need you to set the spiritual tone in their life.

2) Monitor what they do on social media continually.

How can I stress this enough? Think this kind of urgency:  there is a fire in the house and you need to get out. Social Media can be an evil place. A place of cruelty and sexuality and vulgarity. There are so many ways for your teenager to get into trouble. Set the boundaries and monitor them! Get a filter like BeSafe and block their accessibility to graphic sites. Our daughter cannot add or erase apps from her iPhone. Only we can do that. Does she like it? Nope but we do it for her own good. We check her texts. We keep her off of snapchat and other sites we believe are used by many irresponsibly.

3) Listen don’t lecture

Teenagers are beginning to become adults. They want to be heard and their opinions to be respected. They don’t what to be treated like a child. Give that to them. Listen to what they have to say and don’t always be quick to correct. Let them have an opinion, and if it is not hurting them, let them learn for themselves if they are wrong. Try not to lecture them. They listen to lectures all the time at school and in church. Let them talk about life as they perceive it and be slow to correct their thinking unless necessary. When you need to correct do so patiently and encouragingly.

4) Be Consistent and Strong

It is so hard not to give in when they are upset with you. Don’t do it. Don’t let them play you. My daughter has me wrapped around her finger and she knows it! Stay strong. Be consistent. Teach them that you mean what you say. It will help them be consistent and strong themselves one day. We are not teaching them well when we give in just to keep the peace. It is not fun being the “bad guy” but it is for their own good. You got this!

5) Don’t stop hugging them

My daughter turns into a limp fish when I try to hug her right now. It’s like I have cooties, leprosy, and body odor all wrapped up into one  scent that repels her. Sure I would rather go hug a cactus than be made to feel like I’m being completely rejected, but you know what… I wouldn’t stop doing it for anything. My daughter needs her daddy’s affection. No matter how awkward it gets I won’t quit. She needs affection and I much rather her get the right type of affection from me than seek it out from a teenage boy! I love on my daughter and won’t stop even if she does act like I am tortuting her by my every touch.

This list is not exhaustive but has been helpful in my raising of my teenager. Please share it with others if you found it helpful.