Training in Righteousness – Part 2

2 Timothy 3

14But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.
(2 Timothy 3:14-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few weeks ago, I shared a post with some devotional thoughts from Proverbs 11:17, entitled, “Can Golf Nourish Your Soul”.

The idea behind that post is that we can actually train ourselves to live righteously. Just as a golfer takes thousands of practice swings in order to perfect their technique and ensure proper form when they’re out on the course, we too can train our souls to act righteously by doing the right thing, even when we might not feel like it.

But that begs the question: how do we know what the right thing is?

Paul gives the answer to Timothy in this passage, which includes the popular verse:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
(2 Timothy 3:16)

This verse tells us that there are 4 functions of God’s word:

    1. God’s word teaches us what is true. We know what is right and what is wrong because God’s word tells us. By reading God’s word, we get insight into what God says is right and what is wrong.
    2. God’s word shows us what is wrong in our lives. With God’s word as our barometer for truth, we can determine when and where we’ve strayed off course.
    3. God’s word tells us how to straighten out our lives. When we stray off course, God’s word gives us the blueprint for how to get back on the right path.
    4. God’s word teaches us what is right. Some versions say that God’s word is useful for “training in righteousness”.  In other words, just as a golfer can create muscle memory in his or her swing through increased repetition and practice, so we too can train ourselves to respond the right way through repetition and practice, creating habits that are imprinted upon our character.

We know what the right thing is based on what God’s word (Scripture) tells us.

The Scriptures give us insight into God’s character and direction regarding what is moral and true.

By aligning our lives and our actions with God’s word and its description of moral truth, we can train ourselves to be righteous.

One of the problems in our culture today, however, is that everyone has their own view and understanding of what is right and what is moral. Even many Christians dismiss portions of Scripture that don’t align with their preferred morality in order to support their own life choices.

Whatever standard of morality one chooses to adopt and follow will shape their soul and their character. If we adopt God’s standard as outlined in the Scriptures and consistently obey and follow his guidelines and statues, we will be training our hearts and souls to live righteously.

However, if we adopt some other standard of morality, whether it’s one promoted by the culture, or even a personal standard that is only loosely based on Scripture, we will be training our hearts and souls to live unrighteously.

In some circles, Christians talk about making Christ Lord, not just Savior. The idea is that Jesus, through his death on the cross, saves us from eternal condemnation and punishment. But if we want to experience the full spiritual life that Jesus desires for us, we must submit our will to His, making Him Lord in all areas, including the area of personal morality.

Reflection

What is the basis for your own personal moral views? What is the source for how you determine what is true and right?

Trusting Jesus for salvation is only one component of the Christian life. It “saves” us from eternal punishment but if we want to experience true spiritual life now, we must make Jesus Lord. Is Jesus Lord of your life? If not, why not? What keeps you from submitting to Jesus fully and completely?

In what ways have you seen Christians compromise their morality, dismissing biblical views for their own personal morals that are contrary to the Scriptures?

What are some practical steps you can take to begin to adopt a moral understanding of truth and righteousness that aligns with God? 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Is Christianity an Exclusive Religion?

1 Timothy 2

1I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. 2Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. 3This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4for he wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus. 6He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message that God gave to the world at the proper time. 7And I have been chosen—this is the absolute truth—as a preacher and apostle to teach the Gentiles about faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-7, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

One of the criticisms I often hear when talking to others about Christ is that Christianity claims to be exclusive. These claims of exclusivity are seen as a negative in our culture, which values freedom of thought, and in the name of tolerance, often validates any and all views, no matter how outlandish or illogical.

It’s absolutely true that Christianity claims to be true and  on certain doctrinal matters it is exclusive.

In this passage of 1 Timothy 2, Paul is urging his audience to pray for everyone, including kings and those in authority. I previously wrote about the need to pray for our political rivals here.

Paul gives the reason why we should pray for others, even those who are in authority over us and with whom we might disagree – God wants everyone to be saved and understand the truth.

Two questions naturally follow: what does it mean “to be saved” and “what is the truth that people need to understand?”

When the Bible talks about being saved, it’s referring to being rescued from punishment. The picture is that we are on a trajectory that will lead to disaster but because of God’s help, our crisis is averted.

One of the questions that every religion seeks to answer is “how can people be reconciled to God?” Or another way of putting it is, “what must a person do in order to be accepted by God and enter into His presence?”

To be reconciled means to be brought back into a favorable relational status. What must I do to please God, to earn His favor and gain His acceptance?

Nearly every religion answers this question by providing a list of actions one must complete or avoid in order to gain favor. These actions form the basis for evaluating a person’s devotion to God and the quality or “goodness” of a person’s life, which in turn is used to determine their worthiness for entering God’s presence in the afterlife.

But here lies the problem. Nobody can follow all the rules that any religion might establish. These “rules” create a legal system for following God which people inevitably violate. One doesn’t have to read very far into the Old Testament to see that the Israelites were constantly abandoning God’s laws and rebelling against His statutes.

So what is the “truth” that God wants everyone to understand?

The truth is outlined in verses 5 and 6, which state:

For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message that God gave to the world at the proper time.

The truth is that the ONLY way to be reconciled to God is through Christ Jesus. His death on the cross purchased freedom for everyone.

So reconciliation to God does NOT occur by keeping a list of religious requirements. Instead, it comes by placing one’s faith in Jesus to make the payment for us.

Is it exclusive? YES and NO!

It’s exclusive in that Jesus is the ONLY one who has made a payment for sin. No other religious system even offers a solution to how imperfect people can make themselves righteous enough to enter into the presence of an infinitely holy God. Every other religious system keeps people trapped in the religious hamster wheel of endlessly attempting to make oneself “worthy” before God, only to experience moral failure through everyday sins.

Fortunately for us, Jesus rescues us from this religious trap and provides a way for us to actually be reconciled.

But it’s NOT exclusive in the sense that the freedom Jesus offers is available to EVERYONE, not just some select group. ANYONE can access God by coming to Jesus!

This is the truth that God wants EVERYONE to understand, which is why Paul urges us to pray for all people to ultimately understand this truth so that they might experience God’s mercy.

Reflection

What is your view on how a person is “saved”? In other words, in your view, what does a person need to do in order to make it to heaven and live with God for eternity?

What is the basis for your answer in the previous question? In other words, what is the source of the views that you hold? 

People often say that Christians are too exclusive in their views. Do you agree that Christianity is exclusive? If so, why is this seen as a negative to people? Does being exclusive mean that it is automatically wrong? Why or why not?

The essence of Christianity’s exclusive claims is found in verse 6, which says, “He [Jesus] gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” How would you explain this concept to someone else? What does it mean that Jesus gave his life? What does it mean that he purchased freedom?

 

Photo by seabass creatives on Unsplash

Who’s Your Daddy?

John 8

31Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. 32And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone on earth. What do you mean, ‘set free’?”

34Jesus replied, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free. 37Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because my message does not find a place in your hearts.38I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”

39“Our father is Abraham,” they declared.

“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were children of Abraham, you would follow his good example. 40I told you the truth I heard from God, but you are trying to kill me. Abraham wouldn’t do a thing like that. 41No, you are obeying your real father when you act that way.”

They replied, “We were not born out of wedlock! Our true Father is God himself.”

42Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 43Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It is because you are unable to do so! 44For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! 46Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God. Since you don’t, it proves you aren’t God’s children.”

48The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”

49“No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. 50And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God wants to glorify me. Let him be the judge. 51I assure you, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

52The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say that those who obey your teaching will never die! 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Are you greater than the prophets, who died? Who do you think you are?”

54Jesus answered, “If I am merely boasting about myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who says these glorious things about me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ 55but you do not even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But it is true—I know him and obey him.56Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

57The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”

58Jesus answered, “The truth is, I existed before Abraham was even born!” 59At that point they picked up stones to kill him. But Jesus hid himself from them and left the Temple.
(John 8:31-59, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In 2004, after two consecutive outings in which the rival Yankees had roughed up Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, the future Hall of Famer quipped,

“What can I say? I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.”

From that moment on, whenever Martinez took the mound against the Bronx Bombers, the fans would chant, “who’s your daddy?” as a means of heckling the oft-dominant hurler.

The phrase, “who’s your daddy?” has come to be associated with dominance over an opponent and is often expressed as a way to mock or ridicule.

In John chapter 8, Jesus doesn’t use the phrase, “who’s your daddy?” with His audience, but He does bring to the attention of His listeners that they are under the ownership and influence of either one of two possible “father” figures.

As was often the case with Jesus, many of those who followed Him never really believed He was God’s Son. Despite the many miracles Jesus performed, His sinless lifestyle and His authoritative teaching, there were many skeptics who were simply looking for a reason to prove that Jesus was the religious charlatan they always had believed Him to be.

This group of people had already made up their minds about Jesus and nothing that Jesus could say or do was going to change their view of Him.

In this chapter, Jesus has another such encounter with the crowds, in which Jesus states that those who truly want to be His disciples will obey His teachings and “the truth will set you free.”

Some in the audience take issue with Jesus’ verbiage, claiming that they have never been slaves and therefore have no need to be set free and also appealing to Abraham as their father.

Jesus’ spiritual message is obviously lost on these folks but Jesus uses this opportunity to explain to his challengers who their true father really is.

According to Jesus, those for whom God is their father are characterized by this one quality – an openness for truth. Those who oppose truth cannot be from God and God cannot be said to be their father because God is a god of truth.

Jesus then explains to his critics that even though they technically are descendants of Abraham, they don’t follow his example, because if they did, they would not be seeking to kill Him simply for telling the truth.

When His enemies continue to resist and argue, Jesus brings the hammer down, telling them that the reason they can’t understand what He’s saying is because they are unable to do so, “For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.”

This exchange between Jesus and His adversaries underscores a critical question – what happens when a person is confronted with truth that contradicts their current understanding?

For those who claim to be followers of God, Jesus says that they will be open to the truth that confronts them, recognizing that all truth is God’s truth because God is a god of truth.

Those who resist God may employ any number of strategies and tactics to hold on to their preferred narrative. One such tactic is to employ confirmation bias, which is to take in only information and facts that support your preferred narrative while discarding anything that would challenge it. I wrote about a biblical example of confirmation bias here.

Another tactic is to place oneself in an echo chamber, which is the scenario in which a person surrounds themselves only with people who agree with you and who don’t challenge your thinking, even when you’re wrong. I wrote about an Old Testament Echo Chamber here in my previous post.

Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. He states clearly that those who reject the truth that is right in front of them are not God followers. Instead, their father is the devil, who is the father of lies. The reason people reject God and resist truth that plainly points to God is because they are under the influence and authority of Satan, who owns them and is thus, their father!

So, who owns you? Is it God or is it Satan?

Or to put it in today’s vernacular, “Who’s your daddy?”

Reflection

What are some examples from your own life where you or someone you know has rejected plain truth in order to preserve their own personal viewpoint?

None of us really like to be wrong. So the idea that we might resist new information that would challenge our thinking is not reserved for just some people but is a struggle that any of us can have. What are your typical responses when one of your views is challenged?

How do you handle personal feedback and criticism? What factors make it harder to digest? What circumstances might make it easier to handle?

What steps can you take to ensure that you are one of Jesus’ disciples who obeys Him and is open to truth instead of being one who claims to follow Him but is actually resistant to truth?

 

Photo from TheLowedown Collection on Topps Bunt21 (a digital card collecting app available in the App Store or Google Play store)

Does Paul Advocate Moral Relativism?

Romans 14

1Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won’t. And those who won’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

5In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter. 6Those who have a special day for worshiping the Lord are trying to honor him. Those who eat all kinds of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who won’t eat everything also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. 8While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord. 9Christ died and rose again for this very purpose, so that he might be Lord of those who are alive and of those who have died.

10So why do you condemn another Christian ? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. 11For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,‘every knee will bow to me and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.’”

12Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. 13So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.

14I know and am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15And if another Christian is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16Then you will not be condemned for doing something you know is all right.

17For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. 19So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

20Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. But it is wrong to eat anything if it makes another person stumble. 21Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble. 22You may have the faith to believe that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by doing something they know is all right. 23But if people have doubts about whether they should eat something, they shouldn’t eat it. They would be condemned for not acting in faith before God. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. (Romans 14:1-23, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Romans 14 is a critical chapter in which Paul dispenses guidelines that are invaluable for helping us to know how we are to interact with other believers who have different views and perspectives on common issues.

Paul makes two statements that almost sound as if he’s advocating moral relativism.

Specifically, in verse 14, Paul says that “I know and am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong.”

Paul further says in verse 23 that “if you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”

Both of these verses seem to communicate that right and wrong is determined by the individual and not God. This would mean Paul is advocating moral relativism.

The basic tenet of moral relativism is that there is no moral standard of truth that is the same for everyone. Instead, morality is determined by the individual, hence, it is relative to each individual person.

Is this what Paul is saying?

The short answer is no, Paul is not a moral relativist and he’s not communicating that truth is determined by the individual instead of an external standard, such as God.

What Paul is communicating in this passage is that some issues, such as the day of worship, may have a diversity of opinions and views. Sometimes, our personal preferences determine our different opinions. For example, I like McDonalds but you prefer Burger King. Neither is right or wrong, it’s just a difference of opinion based on our preferences, just as there is no right or wrong day to set aside for worshiping the Lord.

Still other times, our different positions are determined by our relative maturity and understanding of an issue.

In this chapter, Paul talks about the issue of eating meat or not eating meat. An issue that came up in the early church was whether or not it was acceptable to eat meat if you knew that it had been sacrificed to an idol.

Paul’s position is that all food has been made acceptable by God and therefore, it’s definitely ok to eat. However, some who were newer to the faith had not come to that understanding yet. Though they may have come to an accurate understanding of salvation and trusted Jesus as their savior, they may not have come to a completely biblical understanding regarding other issues. Therefore, their conscience and moral understanding was still linked to their old belief system and their old understanding of right and wrong.

Instead of correcting them and potentially embarrassing them, Paul’s advice is to refrain from practices that others might find offensive, even if you know that what you’re engaging in is not sinful.

So when Paul says that if a person believes something is wrong, then it is wrong for that person, he’s saying that if a person goes against their conscience, they are sinning, even if the actual act isn’t sinful. Paul is not saying that the individual can determine for themselves what is right and what is wrong; he’s saying that we should not purposefully go against what we think is wrong, because that would be willful rebellion, which is sin.

Over time, by reading the Scriptures and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, younger believers will come to a more complete understanding of right and wrong and thus their thinking on these matters will be adjusted. This is all part of the process of spiritual transformation.

In the mean-time, it is not the job of older believers to constantly correct younger believers regarding every false theological position or skewed moral belief.

Instead of pushing my moral views on them, even though I’m convinced my positions are biblically correct, the loving thing to do, according to Paul, is to give up my freedom for the sake of the “weaker brother.”

Reflection

What are some doctrinal positions or moral issues on which you’ve disagreed with other believers? How did you handle those disagreements?

What are some common issues today that you see as potential stumbling blocks to other believers?

Why do you think it is so difficult for Christians to give up their freedoms for the sake of others?

What guidelines or principles can you glean from this passage that will allow you to more effectively love and serve your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?

 

Photo by Emerson Vieira on Unsplash

“People Fuel” by John Townsend – Book Review

People Fuel: How Energy from Relationships Transforms Life, Love, and LeadershipPeople Fuel: How Energy from Relationships Transforms Life, Love, and Leadership by John Townsend
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People Fuel is an important read for those who are wanting to experience growth and change and realize that people are necessary to help us experience transformation in our lives.

Townsend identifies a number of “nutrients” that are necessary for growth and he identifies how these nutrients are received and delivered via our various relational networks.

Townsend spends ample time talking about the kinds of relationships we need in order to receive the right nutrients, but he also gives plenty of examples to show how it works out practically in our relationships.

I found this book to be an enjoyable read as Townsend’s writing style is easy and engaging with plenty of relevant information mixed with real life stories and examples.

But this book was also challenging, particularly during Covid, where building relationships has proven to be more difficult with lockdowns and restrictions that make it more difficult to interact and engage with others.

As a slight introvert who has struggled to build relational intimacy in the past, I found this book to be challenging yet hopeful at the same time.

There’s a lot of great content and helpful information in this book and I can imagine this being one of those books that gets re-read and referred to frequently as I seek to grow in my own relationships, but also as I mentor others.

View all my reviews

A Tree With No Fruit!

Luke 13

6Then Jesus used this illustration: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. 7Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s taking up space we can use for something else.’

8“The gardener answered, ‘Give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. 9If we get figs next year, fine. If not, you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In the first house we owned we had a tangerine tree. It was awesome. There’s nothing like fresh squeezed tangerine juice.

When we moved to our current location, I dreamed of having a tangerine tree so we could have fresh squeezed juice just about whenever we wanted.

It took a couple of years to clear some of the bushes and get the back yard exactly the way we wanted but we finally bought a dwarf tangerine tree and planted it in the corner.

The first year there was no fruit, but I figured, it was still growing. The next year, it looked like it was ready to start producing as I could see a couple of tiny tangerines beginning to grow.

And then we got a puppy.

If you know anything about puppies, they like to chew things and one of the things our dog chewed on was that tangerine tree. I put some mesh wiring around the base of the tree to keep the dog from destroying the tree but I wasn’t sure if it was too little too late.

Lo and behold, the tree was saved and it began to grow back (see photo on top left). But it’s been almost five years since then and we still haven’t seen one piece of fruit.

This passage from Luke reminds me of my tangerine tree. I’m about ready to toss it out and get another tree, perhaps one that is more fully developed – one that I know will yield me the fruit that I’m so often craving.

Henry Cloud appeals to this passage to illustrate what he refers to as “The Growth Model.”

When you’re thinking about growth and development, Dr. Cloud says there are three ingredients that are necessary: grace, truth and time.

In this example, the tree is not producing fruit. That is the reality. The owner wants to chop it down and put something else in its place, something that will produce fruit.

The gardener urges the owner to give the tree “one more chance”. The gardener wants to intentionally apply these 3 necessary ingredients for growth to see if the tree will respond and begin to produce fruit.

The time is the extra year. What is the truth in this scenario? The truth is the special attention gardener promises to give the tree.

But what is the grace?

We often think of grace as unmerited favor – the free gift of salvation that is given to us by Jesus through His sacrificial death on the cross.

In this illustration, the grace is the fertilizer. It’s the ingredient the tree cannot provide for itself that comes from an outside source.

Like that tree, we also need grace, truth and time in order to grow and develop. Truth is reality. It’s the realization that we have an issue or problem we need to work through.

Grace is the ingredient that you cannot provide for yourself. It may come in the form of support or motivation or help from someone else.

If we have appropriate levels of grace and truth in our lives applied over time, we can experience grow. We will be like the tangerine tree, producing sweet fruit that is evident and enjoyed by many!

NOTE: For a real life example of how grace and truth helps promote growth and change, read my post from December 15 on “Discipleship and Change Through Coaching.”

Reflection

Which of the three elements do you need in your life to experience growth in an area where you may have struggled to see improvement?

What are some areas of your life where you’ve struggled to experience real change?

How can you apply the principles from this passage to help you see progress?

 

Photos by Dave Lowe

 

 

Are You an Idol Worshiper?

For my daily devotional reading, I’ve been following the Grant Horner Bible reading plan. I’m in my third year of following this plan, which invites the reader to read one chapter a day from each of 10 different segments of the Bible (Gospels, Old Testament Pentateuch, New Testament Letters #1, New Testament Letters #2, Wisdom Literature, Psalms, Proverbs, Old Testament History, Old Testament Prophets and finally, the book of Acts) for a total of 10 chapters each day.

One of the unique elements to this plan is that you begin to see how the scriptures are related to each other as you see certain themes and topics show up in completely different segments of your Bible reading. This was again the case for me a few days ago when I read the following similar verses from completely different chapters and segments of the Bible:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. 16They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; 17they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. 18Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. (Psalms 135:15-18)

They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’** 41That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made.  (Acts 7:40-41)

Idols have always been an issue with people. We see the theme of idols repeatedly throughout Scripture. In the Psalms passage (and many other locations in Scripture) the author writes about the sheer irony of a person fashioning a figurine out of metal or wood or some other material – giving it eyes and ears and a mouth, even though it cannot see, hear or speak, and then bowing to that figurine as if it had some power to grant to us whatever we might request. It’s utter foolishness. To do this, the Psalmist says, will make you just as senseless as the idols you’ve created.

In the Acts passage, Stephen, who is about to be stoned, is giving a short history of the nation of Israel when he recounts this incident that occurred while Moses was on Mt. Sinai communing with God and receiving the 10 commandments. The people weren’t sure what happened to Moses or why it was taking him so long to come down from the mountain so they asked Aaron to fashion a gold calf which they subsequently began to worship as their God.

It’s easy to read passages like these and wonder how the Israelites could be so dumb to think that something they have just created with their own hands is somehow a god that will do your bidding! How can something you have created have the power to give you whatever you want and do whatever you ask?

People today are still in the habit of creating idols. We may not fashion figurines that we place on the mantel and worship, as we see in the Scriptures, but we create an idol any time our image of God suits our preferences instead of reality.

Think about it this way – in the Bible, we see people fashioning idols to represent gods the way they see them, whether they are in the form of an animal (calf) or people (eyes, ears, mouth). Even if we don’t create a physical representation of God via some figurine, we are still creating an idol any time we create a mental image of God that doesn’t comply with how God is revealed to us in the Bible.

In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to appeal to a “god” that bends to my political views and my cultural preferences.

Because God is infinite, there is always going to be a sense in which our views of Him are not completely accurate. So how can we avoid worshiping an idol? The key is our heart. God doesn’t expect that we would know everything about Him perfectly but He does exhort us to seek him with our whole heart and to worship Him as He’s been revealed.

This is another reason why it’s so important to read and understand God’s Word, for it’s the primary source for truthful information about who God is and what He’s like.

Reflection:

What are some ways you may be tempted to bend your understanding of God and His nature to fit your own views or preferences?

What is the source of information you have about God?

What steps can you take to increase your understanding of who God is so you are worshiping Him in spirit and truth?

 

To learn more about the Grant Horner daily Bible reading plan, you can google it, or go to this blog post, which I found to have a very thorough description.

Dealing With Doubts about God

While scrolling through my Twitter feed recently I saw a post from Sean McDowell with the title “Hawk Nelson’s Lead Singer Shares He Has Lost His Faith in God.”

My heart sank as I thought, “Not again.”

If you’re not familiar with Hawk Nelson, they are a Christian pop/rock band that has produced a number of top songs, including the enormously popular “Drops in the Ocean” and “Diamonds” from their 2015 mega-hit album “Diamonds”.

Jon Steingard, front-man for the Christian pop/rock band Hawk Nelson, recently announced via Instagram that he no longer believes in God.
Photo by Dave Lowe

I clicked on the link and read the article, as well as the 2200 word Instagram post from the lead singer, Jon Steingard, where he declared to his fans and to the world that he no longer believed in God.

What happened?

Steingard grew up as a pastor’s kid in a loving Christian home. Church was a way of life and since everyone he knew was a believer, he naturally became a believer. It was all he knew. He discovered his musical talents early on, participating in church worship and ultimately joining the Christian band, Hawk Nelson.

Steingard described his slow deconstruction of faith like wearing a sweater with a loose thread. As he pulled on the thread of doubt, the sweater of faith slowly began to unravel. Eventually, there was no sweater left.

What are the doubts that caused Jon Steingard’s sweater to unravel? The doubts mostly seem to stem from unanswered questions about the nature and character of God and the veracity of the Bible.

Steingard compared his faith deconstruction like a sweater with loose threads that began to unravel
Photo by rocknwool on Unsplash

For example, Steingard began to question the evil in the world. If God is loving, why wouldn’t he stop it? And what about natural disasters? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Steingard wondered why God seems so angry in the Old Testament and yet so loving in the New Testament.

Steingard also questioned various Biblical contradictions he saw and wondered how these inconsistencies could occur if God was really the author. He finally concluded that the texts were not authored by a perfect God but were the product of fallen, imperfect people like himself. It was at that point that Steingard realized there were no more threads to pull.

It’s a sad reality that more and more young adults like Jon Steingard are abandoning the church and the faith with which they grew up. There are a myriad of reasons for this but doubt and uncertainty about the truthfulness of the Bible and the Christian worldview is a common “thread” (pun intended) in the stories of many prodigals. The truth is, doubts are common. But they don’t have to be an onramp that leads to the deconstruction of your faith.

How should we handle doubts?

First, I think we need to acknowledge doubt and do our best to give space to those who have real questions without making them feel like 2nd-class Christians. Highlighting those who have struggled with doubts and allowing them to share their stories could go a long way to helping de-normalize the phantom-Christian caricature (who never doubts) that many hold.

Doubts and questions, while common among Christians, don’t have to be an onramp to deconstruction of our faith.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Secondly, while we acknowledge that doubt is real and common, we also can affirm that being a Christian does not mean being anti-intellectual. It’s popular in our culture for people to promote the idea that faith is anti-science (whatever that means). The reality is that faith and science aren’t in opposition to one another and Christianity is and always has been based on truth.

Third, we need to help those with doubts to reinforce the loose threads on their sweaters instead of pulling them and unraveling their faith altogether. We do this by helping them to see the truth in the foundations of the Christian faith. This is a primary role of apologetics.

The questions Jon Steingard wrestled with are not new. They are the same questions Christians have been wrestling with for two thousand years. The good news is that there is a lot of scholarship that affirms the Christian position and provides reasonable responses to many long-standing doubts and questions.

How is your sweater of faith? Are there loose threads of doubt? If so, reach out to someone who can help show you appropriate ways to reinforce your faith with a foundation of truth.

Nobody, whether Christian or non-Christian has all the answers. Life is complex and chaotic. But we believe God has revealed himself to us clearly through the Scriptures and through the person of Jesus Christ. This isn’t just some Sunday school fairy tale but is based on solid evidence.

If you’re struggling with doubts, let us know. We don’t have all the answers but we can point you to resources that you may find helpful.