Why a hard copy Bible is best

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I tried the tech thing for a few years. It’s not working. I do not think this is an issue of generational shifting. I got scolded in elementary school for handing in a printed essay, I grew up techy when it was know as being a nerd. Some things are not replaceable. A tech Bible is such a thing. We need a hard copy Bible.

1) A hard copy has the benefit of legacy. It is much harder to toss a meaningful book away than digital notes.
2) Tech is often distracting when there is pressure against being still and knowing He is God. Stillness with the word is huge for sermon prep.
3) You can make the Bible digitally accessible and even preach from a tablet while still having a hard copy as your main Bible.
4) Hard copy Bibles don’t crash and are instantly available when the power is out or a recharge station is no where to be found.
5) A hard copy Bible inspires beyond your earthly life. Think beyond conscience and thing longer term.>

Prayer Mentoring: Jesus

IMG_3319Jesus
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. ~John 15:5-7

Jesus is key to our prayer life. Our identity, our power and our effectiveness is Jesus. Often if our prayers seem to hit the ceiling if we feel overwhelmed or if we think we’re bigger than we are, it is time to go back to basics: Jesus.

In Christ
The greatest weapon we have in the spiritual warfare of life is Jesus. Too often we think it is about us. It isn’t. It never is. When we remember who we are in Christ, ministry is tremendous, prayers powerful and God moves. Why? God acts to glorify his name.

Jesus is present
When Jesus gave the church it’s mission to make disciples of him, he promised his presence. Jesus didn’t die and raise again and then that’s it. Jesus is still involved in leading and building his church. Jesus is the boss and CEO of the church. Elders, deacons, trustees, etc work for Jesus. He rescued us and enables us to serve.

The word
Sam Wolfe in his book “Building the House of Prayer” states this: Christ in us – Presence. His word in us- Power. Jesus said If my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. Living out the Word of God is key to an effective prayer life. It means being so in tune with God’s wishes that it’s a no brainer for him to act on our request.

Jesus saves, Jesus sends
Getting our focus back on Jesus isn’t just about Jesus saving us; It’s about Jesus sending us! God sent the son to reach us. Jesus sends us to reach others that belong to him. You cannot separate the mission from the savior. If our hearts are not about the mission, we’re not letting the words of Christ abide in us. Jesus saves us and then he sends us to proclaim what saved us.

In Jesus’ name
We close our prayers in Jesus name because Jesus is our great high priest who went and goes before the father on our behalf. Our fruit, success, power, effectiveness is in Jesus and the finished work on the cross. Because of Jesus we have a relationship with God, access to God and are able to effectively serve God. Abiding in Jesus is central to a great prayer life.

Forgotten Gifts of the Spirit

Church is team. It takes diversity for a unified church body to work, both within the local church as well as the universal church. Smoldering in the back of my head is the issue of Seminary, thanks in part to Pastor Tim Raymond. Back in May, Pastor Tim, a peer in seminary and a man of God I had the privilege to growing up with, wrote a series on the importance of seminary (Part one Part Two Part Three Part Four). Here is the opening to the series:

“For decades, seminary education has endured the slings and arrows of bad jokes, unkind mockery, and downright slander.  If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard a disillusioned preacher intentionally misspeak, recalling his years in “cemetery, I mean seminary,” I might be able to buy something edible.  It would be easy for the average Christian to think wrongly, like Nathaniel did with Nazareth, that nothing good can come out of seminary.”

Wisdom & Knowledge
Wisdom & knowledge seem to be neglected gifts. Bill Hybels mentions often how leadership is often not developed or neglected in churches. For a long time, I believe that to be true. As I look over the course of my lifetime, it seems wisdom and knowledge are largely neglected. Churches rarely promote the life of the mind. Wisdom and knowledge feeds solid leadership and solid pastoring. It gives tools to evangelism and mercy. In the fear of heresy, apathy and/or elitism, we’ve neglected two vital gifts.

Seminary is vital
The church both local and universal need places of scholarship where those gifted with wisdom and knowledge can develop and build the body of Christ. I believe it is a duty of a pastor to be a theologian. Having the gift of leadership or shepherding doesn’t give us an excuse to be lax in our theology. It does mean we need to lean on those gifted in ways we are not. I’d be lost preaching through Romans if it were not for those gifted with wisdom and knowledge. While true knowledge can puff up and love edifies, Paul also argues for the importance of the mind in 1 Corinthians 14.

Disciples were diverse
Often the argument against scholarship, like seminary, is the disciples were average men. This is partly true. They were also men who went through a rigorous three-year training program by a master teacher, Jesus. Afterwards the Holy Spirit instructed them. While peter was “blue collar” Paul was clearly an intellectual. While John spoke profound truths simply, Luke and the writer of Hebrews were academically astute. We need all gifts. The formation of God’s Word illustrates this.

The Bible
Biblical and theological literacy are at an all time low. The need for biblical counseling stands at an all time high. There is a relationship between these two things. Perhaps the church is reaping the costs of neglecting the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. What good is leadership or shepherding if it’s not on the firm foundation of God’s Word? Confusion on the Gospel, in worship and the church relationship to culture flow from not heeding wisdom and knowledge. We need to heed Hebrews 5:11-14.

The bottom line:
We need seminary and seminaries don’t need to be places where people lose their faith or passion. Like Tim, I found this to be quite the opposite. I’m immensely grateful for the discipleship Baptist Bible Seminary provided. While I understand that not all will or can attend seminary, I do think one should if at all possible. We need places where we can benefit from those gifted with wisdom and knowledge.

Prayer Mentoring: Praying through challenging times

Life in a fallen world means we’ll be facing hard times. Often these hard times are a means God uses to draw us to Himself.

Pray
We say prayer should be a first response not a last result. Prayer is really both. The challenge of hard times comes when all we can do is wait.

Pray Scripture
The Bible gives us many patterns for prayer. Paul particularly records prayer thoughts for our benefit. The Bible says that if we ask according to the will of God we know we have that what we ask. Praying through Scriptures is helpful in this regard.

Psalms
When going through a challenging time the best word of advice I received was to find a Psalm, grab hold of it, and pray through it regularly. So, step one- search the Psalms and find one that speaks to your situation.

Meditate
Biblical meditation is filling our mind with Scripture. It’s an act of focus on God’s Word. This is different from Eastern meditation that focuses on emptying one’s mind. Choosing a Psalm helps in filling our minds with Scripture. So, step two- read and focus on this Psalm regularly.

Journal
This can take on many forms, but one thing you want to do is to record God’s faithfulness. By choosing a Psalm it can guide you about what to write. Step three- write what Gods is doing.

The bottom line:
Prayer is key to navigating hard times. Often we don’t know what to pray as we wait for God to show up. Pick a Psalm and grab hold of it. It will guide and sustain you through challenging times.

Prayer Mentoring: How

Just talk to God as if He’s right there with you, because He is. Communication involves three key things: the sender, the message, and the receiver. Prayer is communicating to God. It’s that simple.

God talking to us
God’s communicates to us through creation (Psalms 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23), the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21), the Spirit (Romans 8:14; 1 John 5:6) and God’s people (Ephesians 4:15; 5:18-21, Colossians 3:16). We’ll explain these areas further in the future.

Us talking to God
Prayer is the means we use to talk with God. We already looked at the various words for prayer. What is amazing is God hears our prayers and wants us to communicate with us!

Elements of prayer
When we pray we address God the father (Matthew 6:6,9; John 17; Romans 8:15; Ephesians 3:14). We are able to have access to God the father because of Jesus (1 Timothy 2:1-7; Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16). Jesus and the Holy Spirit help us in our prayers, the Spirit even acting as an “autopilot” when we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8:26-39; Hebrews 7:25)! Because of these things, we close our prayers “in Jesus’ name” (John 14:13-14).

Content
When praying, we should ask in faith (Mark 11:12-14, 20-26). God’s Word is key to this. Even more so as we should ask according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15). When we pray according to the Bible and in harmony with God’s promises we should expect to receive (1 John 5:14-15; Matthew 7:7-11). If we do not ask or ask with wrong motives, we should expect nothing (James 4:2-3). A bulk of future posts will deal content.

Where
We can pray anywhere. But, I’d take to heart the message Bill Hybels shared about “the chair.” Find a place where you regularly meet with God for Bible reading and prayer. It’s the foundation for growing your relationship with God. Relationships take time. Find your chair.

The bottom line:
Prayer is simply talking to God. We address God the father because we have access to Him through Jesus. Not only that, but the Spirit also helps us in praying.

Assignments:

  1. Pray.
  2. Find your chair. (Place to meet with God.)

My guide to becoming a recovering fundamentalist: The conclusion

“Be holy for I am holy” ~God
“We can make God’s Word say what we want if we’re not careful” ~A Mentor

I want to close this guide with the final two good things that come from fundamentalism. Granted these two areas have been tainted by what was discussed earlier. We should still look at two key things. Holiness and a love for God’s Word is the baby. Legalism is the bath water.

Holiness
God wants us to be holy. While the pursuit of holiness and the process of being set apart for God may be distorted by legalism, any movement that at its core seeks to be holy is commendable. Jesus came to forgive us our sins. Jesus is in the process of purifying His bride, the church. An emphasis on holiness isn’t legalism, it’s a focus on godliness. “Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound” is a struggle all Christians face. I commend fundamentalism for its desire for holiness. We all should.

The Bible
Authorial intent of the Bible, a significant tenet of fundamentalism, is an essential element to the faith. We can make the Bible say what we want if we’re not careful. Along with sticking to the Bible, however, is the adage you can’t make everyone happy. As Jesus’ life proved, sticking to God’s Word can cause conflict. The Bible is critical as faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Too often movements play fast and loose with the Bible. It should be the authority for faith and practice.

Now what?
Every movement has or will have issues. Throughout church history movements have risen and faded. We must be careful to not treat a movement as a strawman. Rather than reacting we should seek God and the Scriptures and act accordingly. Reacting instead of acting is often what sets movements in the wrong direction. Writing off fundamentalism is just reacting. Looking at heart issues and identifying what is good and what needs to change is acting with proper measure.

The Cross
Any error is covered by the cross. As long as there is breath in our lungs, there is opportunity for repentance. I understand that many have been abused or deeply hurt in highly (hyper?) fundamentalist churches. For one thing, not all fundamentalists are like that. For another, people can get hurt by other churches and movements too. Why? Because Jesus isn’t done with us yet. We must ask ourselves this: Is there a sin so great that Jesus forgave it at the cross but we can’t? The cross covers all, and our hurts should be left there as well.

The bottom line:
We have two choices in what we can boast in: the cross or ourselves. It doesn’t matter the movement. Fundamentalism promotes the Gospel, pursues holiness and highly views the Bible. These are essentials to the Christian faith. The lack of humility, legalism and unbalanced view of separation may have clouded fundamentalism. For sure there is a need for “self-policing” that needs to happen. Again, this is true for any movement for they’re issues of the human heart. We all struggle in these areas. To become a recovering fundamentalist takes three key things: 1) Boasting in the cross, not self. 2) Choosing grace. 3) Keeping the Gospel first and central.

Brush your teeth… A parable

Perplexed and scratching his head, the man could not figure out why his presence people dread. His posture, clothing and appearance were fine, it was his breath that was far from divine.

To flashback a time or two is to visit a statement when the dentist was through. He said to the man most perplexed what at the end of the day he should do next. “Brush your teeth, floss & rinse, this will keep you like a prince.” With an eye roll and a droll sigh, the perplexed man waved goodbye.

I am fine this I see in how everyone one interacts with me. A week or two went by without so much as a leave or cry. But as time progressed each week and day, something told people they should not stay. Each week it became clear, the smell of his breath you had fear.

So the perplexed man sat wondering what to do about peoples’ reactions that were no longer new. He ate things minty and sweet, but that only lasted a moment before defeat. Then he remembered his scoff to a dentist’s advice given so soft. Perhaps the man was right and was trying to help not fright.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” ~Ephesians 5:25-27

Read your Bible!

My guide to become a recovering fundamentalist: Part 1

“Hi, I’m Ty, and I’m a recovering fundamentalist.” The men in the room laughed, and the lead pastor stated humorously, “No, its true, he is a recovering fundamentalist.” I grew up in what I’d call a community church, but in college and through most of my ministry was a part of fundamentalist circles. There is a lot of un-health in fundamentalism, and this is the first in a series of posts.

What is a recovering fundamentalist
A recovering fundamentalist is a person who was/is part of a fundamentalism and wants to embrace the Gospel and chuck legalism. To use an old cliché, it’s to rescue the baby from the putrid bath water. Being a recovering fundamentalist means getting back to Scripture as guide, the Gospel as central and grace the a mandate. It’s a call to repent.

What it is not
If you want accolades in Christianity, just bash fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a bit of a strawman (just like the word religion is). This isn’t a “Let’s bash fundamentalism” tirade. I’ve seen too much of that. It’s understandable that some do that, fundamentalism has casualties in its wake. Reacting can lead to just more problems and not health. Being a recovering fundamentalist is about acting, not reacting. It’s about healing and repenting, not another tirade.

Act don’t react
Act don’t react is a proverb I often go by. A pattern I’ve observed in human history, especially church history, is we react to a previous movement. Reactionary movements are inherently unstable and lead to error in a different way. Fundamentalism in large part was a reactionary movement. It centered on key “fundamentals” to the faith. This can be known as “historical fundamentalism.” What we have today is “hysterical fundamentalism.” Reactionary movements have a hard time discerning when the fight is over.

Patton
In the movie Patton a German officer is tasked with being an expert on General Patton. Germany lost and the officers are burning everything. The officer makes this statement as he lights General Patton’s picture, “The lack of war will be his end.” This plays out in the rest of the film… Historical fundamentalism won the day. Most of evangelicalism holds to the fundamentals of the faith. There will always be those who don’t, but essentially the battle was won. The lack of the fight lead to being hysterical.

Hysterical
Hysterical fundamentalism has two idols: 1) Separation and 2) Theological “correctness.” I say idols because the focus is on separation over mission under the guise of “purity”. I put correctness in quotes because the focus is on a particular articulation of theology, often lacking humility. As the doctrinal battle was essentially one, methodology took the banner. Given the protective and isolationist nature, there became uniformity of doctrine, but the challenge of one’s doctrine softened. So, a hysterical fundamentalist has to look, act and talk a certain way. This allowed legalism to take root.

The bottom line:
Being a recovering fundamentalist is repenting. It’s a return to the Gospel being central and the Bible as our guide. It isn’t about attacking fundamentalism, but it is recognizing a difference between historical (a focus on the Bible and the Gospel) and hysterical (focus on separation and a particular methodology) fundamentalism. In this call to repent the win is to live God’s instruction to Joshua: “do not turn from [Scripture] to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.”

If you were God…

…How would you make yourself known? Would you even bother? Which would you chose?

Creation: Make a perfect paradise for all to enjoy!
(+) There are no struggles. It’s perfect. As God, you get to walk among the world without getting mad or frustrated at imperfection.

(-) People will reject you made it or will choose to focus on creation and not you.

Miracles:  Supernatural events that go against your created laws of science.
(+) There is clear demonstration of your power that also demonstrates your compassion for people.

(-) People will say ya right, attribute them to something else, or deny it happened all together. Those who benefited or appreciate the act done will soon forget it and move on, things getting back to normal.

Mass-disaster: This can take on a few forms, but it results in massive destruction and death.
(+)This approach clearly demonstrates your power, builds fear and in some ways, like the flood, cleans out most of the problem people. It satisfies your justice.

(-) Long term the reason behind the disaster is forgotten. Short term people will adjust out of fear or will just get mad and more offensive toward you. Injustice remains.

Chosen people: Choose a specific group of people to declare and prove your existence.
(+) There is a constant and tangible revelation of your existence. There is also a model of how you would like people to interact and live among each other.

(-) Your chosen people can become arrogant and/or stop doing what you ask of them. Eventually, people may grow tired of you all together. Your chosen people may not be capable of following your instructions anyway.

A special object: Create or decree a special object as pointing to your existence.
(+) There is a visible and verifiable object pointing to your existence that is more tangible than mere creation. It can become a focal point for people to come together in community.

(-) People will end up worshiping the object instead. Others will try to get the object and use it for their own purposed. Some will get tired of the routine and begin to ignore the object all together.

Become a man: Add to yourself humanity so you can live and interact among people.
(+) You demonstrate humility, a virtue you most admire. You can better claim empathy and sympathy for the plight of your creation. You are able to model and teach in a way no one else can, cutting out the “middle man.”

(-) Plato’s Republic said that if a perfectly just man existed, we’d kill him. Likely those who are in error will become jealous. People may just refer to you as a good guy or teacher. Other will accuse you of being divisive. Oh, and you have to walk among unholy imperfection.

A Book: Have people record who you are in a book by telling them what to write.
(+) Words transcend time. They cannot be completely blocked or stopped. It can act as a guide to how people should live, declare who your are, and give your perspective. After all, words and ideas started massive movements in human history.

(-) People will ignore it or say it is not accurate. Others will abuse it for their own purposes. Even if you divinely keep its accuracy, people will charge that since it was written by man it’s not 100% accurate, or since its details cannot be verified, it will be relegated as myth or primitive. Many will take what you say out of context.

The bottom line:
Place yourself in God’s shoes for a moment. You can choose to reject there even is a God. You can choose to reject absolute truth (doesn’t work in math). You can even chose to not bother to make yourself know. But… If you chose to make yourself know, how would you do it? Do you think it would work?

Maybe God isn’t the problem. God did all the things and people in history to now took the negative of each point… no matter how clear or vague the chosen route is.

God is not stupid

I understand the plight to focus on essentials and not have a hostile environment when it comes to theology or the deep questions of life. In these conversations I cannot help but sense an eerie feeling. Do we think God is stupid and or modern man is evolved and enlightened?

Creation:
Instead of creation described poetically, what if God poetically created?

The creation account is written poetically. Days 1-3 God creates spaces and Days 4-6 He fills them. Upon completion God creates rest on the 7th days, and hence our week. The debate over creation vs evolution within Christianity will likely not go away, and should always be congenial. I have to ask, why can’t God poetically create?

While we may not like the way some defend the young Earth view, creationists do show plausibility of a young Earth and catastrophism. Are all discussions sound, bulletproof and complete? No. Neither is evolutionary thinking, which has changed demonstrably since its inception. Early humans maybe naïve, but I don’t think God created humans as intellectually inept. Why do we often view earlier humans as incapable of clear or deep thought? Who is to say that God created in the way He did for no other reason than the discussions about origins today?

Bible:
If an all-etc being, can He not communicate both timelessly, accurately, and use man at the same time?

We act based on what we believe. I wonder if we truly believe God is all-powerful or all-knowing. I mention this because we don’t seem to apply that to the Bible. Why can’t God use fallen man to communicate accurately and sufficiently?

Words and language move people. How many movements start based on an idea? Putting ourselves in God’s shoes, if we wanted to communicate who we are with clarity, how would we do it? Based on history, it seems we prefer to write things down: narratively, poetically, playfully. We learn best through narrative, it gives context, tone, color, and a depth mere bullet points or technical writing cannot. Are not the best story tellers those who are both cunning and correct and the greatest of these stories true?

Grace:
Isn’t freedom of choice as much an act of grace as freedom from consequences?

In hard times we yell at God, asking why He could allow bad things to happen. He could have stopped tyranny, death, destruction, but He has not…yet. While Naive, knowing neither good nor evil, God gave Adam the ability of choice, much like a parent knowing what the outcome will be. There was revealed, demonstrable and verifiable evidence of God’s existence, and yet Adam chose pride. Would we do better?

We often think of grace covering the consequences of our actions, but grace also covers our choices. Even in good times we often forget where they come from or worse that we are deserving of them. God hates sin, but yet he allowed people to sin and create the mess we’re in today. Do we not value our freedom above all else?

Rights:
Why does pursuing our rights lead to so much frustration?

Over the course of human history we, both big and small, pushed for our rights. Wars and quarrels, pain and suffering resulted and resound over rights. We either vocally or deep down demand them. We feel entitled to them. We blame God for allowing the violation of them. If He is love and peace, then why…?

I sense we wish God was more like us. Maybe we should reverse that and look at how He wants us to be more like Him? God has the right to wipe us all out, but He patient. God has the right to shun accusations or anger towards Him, but He listens. God has the right of full worship, yet He came humbly and unjustly executed as a criminal. God has the right to make us all puppets, but He gave us a choice. Maybe the answer to much of our suffering isn’t for God to be like us, but for us to be like Him?

The bottom line:
God is not stupid. When discussing the deeper questions of life and theology, we must not forget that. Human depravity and naïvety is a variable, but truth and God are a constant. If God is truly who He claims to be, then perhaps He overcame people’s problems while still choosing to communicate through them. We may not like or understand how or why God chose the path He did, but we should remember that God is God and we are not.