Do You Understand The Words Coming Out of My Mouth?

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As Christians, we throw out “faith jargon,” assuming everyone knows what we mean by them. Truth is I think we sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to many… wa wa wa wa wa. The words either don’t compute or they mean something completely different to them than we intended. We are flippant in our words, not thinking about the harm we might be doing if misunderstood. I hope you have come to realize the power of words and their ability to both help and harm:

Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day. -Unknown

We need to think through very carefully how we speak our faith. People who are not of the faith won’t get what we are trying to say unless we are careful and patient to explain it well. Of course this means we must understand our own words enough to explain them. If I use words I don’t really comprehend then I probably cannot explain their meaning to others! We tend to use doctrinal terms (sanctification, saved, lost) in our conversations with those outside our faith that can be misunderstood or even offensive. Before you say the gospel offends, realize the problem is not when the gospel offends but when you do! Yes the truth can be confrontational but we often don’t present the truth clearly, but rather a mixture of words and cliches that leave people wondering what we are really trying to say. Some things we say sound plain weird to one who is not in the know (eat my body). One of the biggest challenges facing Christians today is to understand that in a postmodern world our words can be taken several different ways.

Let me give an example: Ask someone if they believe in God and most will say yes. Not everyone will but a high percentage of people still believe in some higher power. If they say yes does that really tell you anything? My professor used to say, “the worst distance between two people is miscommunication.” Someone says they believe in “God,” they might mean that tree is god, or maybe they have a generic understanding of god as some transcendent other that has no connection with his creation, or he might even believe that he is, in fact, a god. “God” can mean so many things and that has never been more true than it it today. When I say I believe in God is it a monotheistic (one god) understanding or is it a polytheistic (many gods) understanding? Do I believe God is personal or distant? Do I see him as sovereign or limited? You see, asking if someone believes in God tells you very little about what they really believe.

We need to learn to speak differently if we want to engage others in our faith. This starts first with us not speaking at all but rather being willing to listen to what they have to say. Too many times we are guilty of wanting to be heard but not showing the slightest interest in listening to them. The Bible tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We are often the opposite,  If we want to engage others in our beliefs we should be open to hearing first what they believe.

When you think about it, it is truly arrogant to come at someone using jargon they probably will not understand and to do so in a way that gives the impression what they have to say doesn’t matter; they just need to listen to the truth and buy into it!

My friends, that was not the way of Jesus. He met people where they were and instead of telling them a bunch of obscure doctrine he listened and spoke to where they were. He could only do this by observing and knowing who they were and what they were about. This meant he had to listen and care enough to find out. We could learn a lot from Jesus on how to talk to people about our faith.

Jesus listened and he cared. When he saw the people of Israel it says he had compassion. That word means to “hurt in the gut.” His care was so deep it pained Him to see their travail. If all we want is to hammer them with words, while failing to listen and to care, then we should be shunned and ignored as heartless bullies.

Jesus listened; he cared; he was also bold. I don’t think we lose our boldness to call out sin or to speak challenge to others by being sensitive to them. Jesus definitely did not hold back! He called the Samaritan woman out; he laid into the Pharisees; he showed the adulteress woman grace but told her to sin no more. Jesus did not mince words. If we are willing to listen and to care, we will find others more open to letting us speak into their lives. We need to earn the right.

Flip that around. You would be same way. If someone came at you with words you didn’t know and made it clear they didn’t want to hear what you had to say but wanted you to just listen and then they spoke strong challenges to you, you would close your ears and have none of it! How dare they!?

We need to dialogue with others about our faith but this means thinking through the jargon we use, listening better, caring more, and speaking boldly for their good and not out of frustration or judgment.

Peter said it best: “ but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

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!

Ten Things Every Church Member Likes To Hear From His or Her Pastor

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I am super blessed to serve at Heartland Worship Center. Like all churches, it is made up of infected saints, but it truly is a family. They love their pastors well and trust them to lead. Not only that, they are a joy to lead.

Most pastors feel like I do, but are they saying it? Here are ten things every church member would like to hear from his or her pastor:

  1. “I love you.” Whether the budget is in excess or deficit, attendance is high or low, or whatever good or challenging times are about, the church needs to hear their pastor say the words. It cannot be assumed. It needs to be said and said often. The people need to know pastors care for them.
  2. “I want to be here for a long time.” It is so common today for pastors to have a short tenure. The average is less than five years. With such a short stay, it is hard for churches to fully follow their pastors as they wonder when they will leave. Churches need to hear from pastors that they desire to stay long-term. If you cannot say this as a pastor, then you need to find somewhere you can for the good of the church.
  3. “I will provide a vision that is biblical and obtainable.” People without vision perish, the Scriptures tell us. The people of God need to know what they are called to do. They need a compelling vision to unite them. A pastor needs to inspire them to follow a vision that makes the name of Christ famous and glorifies the Father.
  4. “I will say the hard things even if it offends you.” Pastors should not set out to offend their people as some kind of spiritual marker, but there are things that need to be said that will not always sit well with sinners. Pastors have to stand against abortion, abuse, sexual sin, immodesty, immorality, homosexuality, and anything else that is offensive to God. It matters not if it is popular to say or not. A pastor’s standard is not the will of the people but the will of God.
  5. “I will put my heart and soul into my preaching and teaching.” The people of God are desperate to hear God’s Word. Every week, they need to be confronted by its truth in their lives. The pastor must use every opportunity to bring it with passion and clarity, depending on the Holy Spirit to take the Word and penetrate the hearts of the people.
  6. “I will not cater to a few.” Pastors cannot give preference to their buddies in church. They serve all the people, even the ones they disagree with or whom annoy them. It hinders the church if pastors cater to the powerful, wealthy, or popular of the church.
  7. “I will pray for you daily.” How can a pastor be effective for his people if he does not pray for them daily? They need to hear often that he is interceding for them. A praying pastor is an effective one.
  8. “I will share my faith with the lost.” Pastors must lead in evangelism. It is crucial we share the faith outside the walls of the church. Pastors must be on the front lines of this. This means developing relationships with lost people and not just Christians.
  9. “I fail often in my walk with Christ.” Pastors need to be vulnerable with their people about their failures. We are all infected saints. It is crucial the people don’t feel preached down to but preached in to. This will only happen when the pastor shares his own convictions brought on by the Word of God. Good shepherds are honest about their struggles with their people.
  10. “I will communicate with you what is going on in the church.” Church members desire to know what is going on in the church. This means clear and consistent communication. There is no way to get the word out on everything perfectly, but the people should feel the pastors take the time to let them know what is going on.

Pastors are called to people, and those people need to hear the above from their pastors. It is an honor to serve the Lord and our people. Let them hear it.

Ten important “What if” questions I like to ask you…


1. What if I told you ten years from now your life would be exactly the same as it is now? Why are you afraid of change? God wants us to step out and take risks. Don’t stay the same because you haven’t arrived yet to where God wants you.

2. What if I told you that no one on Facebook really cares what you are doing today? We give people to much control in our happiness. We need them to approve of us to feel wanted. Why? We have the Lord who calls us His child!

3. What if 99 of the 100 things you are worrying about all the time never happen? Was it worth being robbed of life so you could be consumed with worry? Where has it gotten you? Instead, trust. Trust in the Lord who has you in His hand. He will see you through.

4. What if you woke up this morning and you only had left those things which you had given thanks to God for yesterday? Our selfishness makes us forget to be thankful for what we have. Are you content? You should be. God has blessed you!

5. What if you are trusting in a bunch of lies that you have convinced yourself are true? If we buy into the lie that this life is all about accumulating stuff, achieving, and having fun then we will miss the real purpose of life.

6. What if instead of thinking the grass is greener somewhere else you found value, purpose, and joy in where you are? Until we learn to be content in having the Lord nothing else will ever really satisfy us.

7. What if in all your struggle to gain your life you only get further away from ever really finding it?  To really gain life you have to be willing to lose it. When we come to the end of ourselves we find out who we really are.

8. What if  we set forth to accomplish things with no fear of failure? God wants us to live radically. He would have us seize the day and live adventurously. Quit letting fear paralyze you.

9. What if how we perceive a problem is actually the biggest part of the problem? Perspective is key. How we see things will determine how we respond to it. Make sure your perception lines up with the will and word of God.

10. What if you forgave yourself? How long you going to live in defeat for your past mistakes??? God forgives you if you look to Him. You can’t control anyone else’s feelings toward you. Move forward and quit reliving  your failures.

Ten Ways You Might Be A Baptist

Christi and I were driving home from Nashville and we were bored so we came up with a list of ten ways you might be a Baptist. I didn’t grow up Baptist but she did. She resonates with many of these. What about you?

YOU MIGHT BE A BAPTIST IF…

1. You think the wedding feast in the Bible is a potluck.

2. You think the front pew is reserved for the Holy Spirit because you sure aren’t sitting there.

3. You’re mad at the pastor for going past 12:00 because you couldn’t beat the Methodists to your favorite restaurant.

4. You think John the Baptist was your first member.

5.  You think your pew was reserved for you for life.

6.  You are scared to show any emotion while singing, lest someone might think you are charismatic.

7. You are very sure the “wine” in the Bible was unfermented grape juice.

8. Your neck tie stops an inch above your navel.

9. You think God’s presence is strongest in the back three pews.

10. You consider Sunday lunch part of the service.

In all seriousness I am honored to be a Baptist. They hold strong to the word of God and are willing to be unpopular to stand for truth.

Divine Appointments Happen Everyday

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

When I worked at the bank, every day brought a divine appointment. What do I mean by divine appointment? Glad you asked. It is an opportunity to share the gospel with someone who has crossed your path. Might be a stranger or a coworker or a family member. Regardless, it is someone that you encounter where opportunity arises to share your faith.

For me, I helped people with their finances. That afforded me many counseling sessions as people looked to build homes or manage their money. Personal stuff always came up. Daily I was set up for a great opportunity to share Christ. Problem is… I rarely took it. I would hear people share their struggles or fears, creating a great launching pad for me to share the gospel. I would discuss with them concerns over their marriage and children. Fears about investments and retirement.  I always offered advice but never mentioned Jesus. A little bit of advice is one thing but Jesus takes it to a whole new level.

I always wanted to share Jesus. I had it in mind but I always talked myself out of it. They are not here to be preached at… this is a bank not a church… they will feel awkward… I will feel awkward! I rarely went through the  door God opened for me.

I would hint at things like church or the Bible or prayer. I saw this as seed planting but honestly it was just me being scared to speak the gospel. They were sharing with me their hurts and pains. I had the answer for that! I just needed to share it. Whether they received it or not was not my mission. I was to share Jesus with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). I was not to be ashamed of the gospel because it was the only thing that had the power to save them (Romans 1:16).  

Then I had a client die. She had bought a motorcycle and I did the financing for her. She had told me she was struggling with some things and wanted to ride to spend more time away with her husband. I listened and offered some quick wisdom but no Jesus. On her first trip on her bike she lost control and hit s guard rail. She passed on the scene. To this day it haunts me that I didn’t seize the opportunity to share Christ with her. I pray she knew Him.

The issue is getting started. Where do we begin? Here are some good conversation starters to sharing the gospel with those you encounter during the week:

  • What is your view of God and His role in your life?
  • Have you ever thought that God wants to help you deal with that issue?
  • How specifically can I pray for you?
  • May I tell you how God helps me with my issues?

Once you have started the conversation you what to share with them the gospel. Sharing the gospel means leading them to an understanding of sin, Christ’s sacrifice, and their need for Him. The Bible needs to be shared here to lead them to Christ. Here is a suggested plan:

  • Romans 3:23– all of us sin. Sin means missing the mark. We don’t meet the standard God demands for us to be acceptable. His standard is perfection. None of us are perfect.
  • Romans 6:23– Sin has a consequence. It is eternal death. Because of our sin we fail to meet God’s standard and therefore we will be found unworthy. You are not right with God on your own merit.
  • Romans 5:8– While we were unworthy, Jesus did something for us that we couldn’t do for ourself. He took on our penalty and died in our place. Because of  his sacrifice, we can have forgiveness of sins (John 3:16).
  • Romans 10:9-10,13– How do you receive the benefits of all Jesus has done and get right with God? You have to believe. You respond with faith, believing that your sins are covered by Jesus. You submit your life to Him and your sins are no longer held over you.
  • Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17– You are now a new creation. You have been transformed by the gospel. You need to now live by faith and trust in Christ.

We are given divine appointments every day to share the faith. Don’t pass on them hoping someone else will share. God wants you to share your faith with them.

Dax