Appreciation to Study

aaronLife, Questions, Uncategorized1 Comment

One of the things I am trying to get a better appreciate of is art.  To be honest so much of art I do not understand and because I do not understand it, I do not appreciate the skill of the artist or the genius of the piece.  However, I have found that when I take time to study the piece and understand what the artist is communicating, I really appreciate what I am looking at. For instance, recently I was taking time to study Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.

At first glance you might look at the painting and see that the artist had skill and some creativity but until you truly examine the painting you miss out on how great this painting is.  The closer you look at the picture you will soon discover that the artist used thousands upon thousands of dots to create this painting.  It took Seurat two years to complete this masterpiece.  The painting is massive measuring 6 ft 10 in x 10 ft 1in.  As I learned more about the artist and more and more about the painting, my appreciation for this painting has grown immensely.

I think that too often as Christians we do not value or appreciate the Scriptures because we to do not take the time to study and understand what the Bible is communicating.  The Bible has gone from being a book that is to be diligently studied to find out what the original context was and what the author was communicating to the original readers, to a book of independent verses without any true story being told.

It is most unfortunate that the Bible has become almost a mystical book and superstitious book rather than God’s Word to us.  As Christians we hunt and peck throughout the Bible trying to find a verse that we can claim as our own without first trying to understand what the verse means in its context, then applying it to our lives.

Here are a few practical suggestions to help you be a better Bible reader:

1.  Read the Old Testament.  Too often as Christians we either do not read the Old Testament or when we do read it we look for only moral stories rather than seeing how the Old Testament is pointing us to Jesus.  As we better understand the Old Testament we have a greater appreciation for the New Testament.  Remember the Bible Jesus had and the Bible the early church had was the Old Testament.  Do not over look the tremendous value of the Old Testament.

2.  Read the different books of the Bibles as books.  If someone was to write you a letter would you start in the middle of the letter?  No.  You would start in the beginning and work your way through it.  Just as letters have a beginning, a middle, and an end, so do the books of the Bible.  Instead of opening up your Bible to a random page and reading what is on the page, pick a book and read through it.

3.  Take the time to get to know the context of each book.  Is the book written to a particular church, person, or group of people?  Why would the author write this letter or book to them?  What are some key themes throughout the book?  There are so many great resources out there that can help answer these questions for you.  I would encourage you to purchase the ESV Study Bible. I think this is the best study Bible on the market and does a great job giving the context of each book.

4. Slow down as you read.  Do not just try to speed read through the Bible.  Remember the Bible is God’s Word and is holy and precious.  As you read Scripture you are reading the very words of God!!

5.  Pray.  The Bible teaches that God gives us wisdom if we ask for it.  Ask God to give you wisdom as you read.

As much as we can learn and appreciate from studying art, how much more can we learn and appreciate God’s Word if we study it.  In God’s love he took over 1000 years to write his Bible, using 3 different languages, over 40 different authors, who ranged from kings to shepherds.  He did this so that we might know his Son and the glory of his salvation.  Praise be to God for his mighty Word.

The Voice of God

aaronLife, Questions, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

One of my favorite movies is “Field of Dreams” which tells the story of a man who puts everything on the line to create a baseball field on which players from yesteryear who have long passed, including his father, to come play.  Throughout the movie the man hears a voice, presumingly the voice of God, that not only tells him to build the field but also directs him in the different steps he was to take.  The movie ends by the man playing catch with his dad and thus restoring their broken relationship.  One can’t help but think how great it would be to have God audibly speak and provide answers to questions and guidance in life.

How great it must have been to be Moses and hear God audibly speak at the burning bush (Exo 3) or be at the baptism of Jesus and hear God the Father speak from the heavens declaring Jesus to be his son in whom he was pleased (Matt 3).  It would seem that life would be so much easier and our faith so much stronger if God would do such things.  Who would not want a voice from heaven telling them who to marry, which job to take, or give answers to the great questions of life. To have this audible voice would seem to be the best way to live life–until we read 2 Peter.

In 2 Peter, the Apostle Peter reflects back to when he was with Jesus during his transfiguration, where Jesus displayed his glory to Peter, James, and John.  As Jesus was displaying his glory, God the Father spoke from heaven once again declaring Jesus to be his son with whom he was pleased (Matt 17).   This no doubt had to be one of the greatest experiences any human has ever had.  The three disciples not only saw the glory of God in Jesus but also heard the voice of God confirming what they saw.  As great of an experience that must have been for Peter to hear the audible voice of God, he wrote in 2 Peter concerning the voice from heaven that “we have something more sure, the prophetic work, to which you will do well to pay attention” (2 Peter 1:19).  As glorious as it was to hear the voice from heaven Peter declares the written word of God, the Bible, to be of even greater assurance than voices from above.

When we come to the sacred text of Scripture we have full confidence that as we read the words on the pages we are indeed hearing from God.  This should bring us great joy and great hope.  Our God is not a God that has abandoned us but has left us his Word.  If this were to be true, that the words on the pages of Scripture are the very words of God, we have the greatest gift that we could ever imagine.  Do you have struggles in your marriage?  If so see what God has to say in Ephesians 5.  Are you struggling in making financial decisions?  If so read the Proverbs.  Are you dealing with pain and discouragement?  If so read the Psalms.  The Bible is the greatest tool and indeed our only true tool that we have to make it in this life.

Even more important than giving us wisdom and guidance in this life, the Bible ultimately is a book that tells us about Jesus.  It tells us of our sin that separates us from a holy and just God.  And it tells us that through a wooden cross and an empty tomb we can be made right with God because of what Jesus did in our place.

Throughout the movie “Field of Dreams” the voice repeats that if the man would build the baseball field “he would come”, which referred to the man’s father.  The Bible has a similar promise that if you would believe the words of Scripture–that Jesus came and died, paying the penalty of sin–and that if you would make Jesus your greatest treasure and master of your life he, meaning Jesus, “would come” and bring you into eternity with him.  Would you respond today to the prophetic words and confess Jesus to be your Lord?

Love of the Father

aaronGospel, Life, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

Tomorrow my family and I are celebrating our youngest daughter’s Avery first birthday.  It is hard for me to believe that it has already been a year since she was born.  As I think on the blessing that Avery has been to my family my heart wells up with the love that I have for her as well as our other daughter, Madison.  One of my great joys is to spend time with Avery.  I love to watch her play.  I love to hear her laugh.  I love to see her act silly.  I do not think I can love her any more than I already do.  I would do anything for her and from the bottom of my heart I want nothing but the best for her.

As I reflect on my love for my girls it causes me to stop and think of God’s love for his children.  The Bible is clear that mankind is sinful and selfish, and yet despite that we are capable of showing love and giving good gifts to our children (Matt 7).  If it is true that a sinful man can want what is good for his children how much more does God in his perfect love want what is good for his children?

The love of God has to be the grounding for how Christians are to look at life. Without question there will be times when things are difficult and trying as a Christian.  I can not help but think about those around the world who are suffering for the sake of the gospel even as I type; yet even in moments of struggle Christians can rest in the truth that God loves his children and is for them and not against them.

Too often we judge God’s love for us by what we have or what we don’t have in regards to this material world, rather than looking forward to living with Christ in the New Heavens and New Earth.  How great is God’s love for us that he sent his only son to redeem his children who were lost, broken, and evil?  How great is God’s love for us that not only would he forgive us of our sin but make us co-heirs with Christ in the life to come?  How great is God’s love for us that he is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called to be his children?  This love is a radical love–a love that he has lavished on us, a love that conforms his children to the image of his Son Jesus Christ.

The type of love that God has for us should bring us to tears of joy because we are so unworthy.  This type of love that God has is the only love that can sustain us through hard times and should be the only kind of love that our heart seeks after.

If you are a Christian I encourage you to spend time marveling in the love God has for you.  Let this love be the motivation of taking the gospel to the nations.  If you are not a Christian I encourage you to turn from sin and make Jesus the greatest treasure of your life so you too can know the love of God.  As my family celebrates the birthday of our daughter Avery, heaven throws a party for all those who put their faith in Christ and are born into his Kingdom!

Praise be to God for the great love that he has for his children!

Loving the church—- empowering the church member

aaronCommunity, Uncategorized1 Comment

Recently I had a conversation with a man about the Scriptures and the things of God.  He told me how he loves the Bible, how he loves to hear good preaching, as well as the burden he has for the direction many churches have headed with their gospel-light message.  As the conversation continued I asked him of what local church he was a part, only to be surprised to find out that he really has no church that he calls home or a local body that he serves.

In the internet age that we live and the access we now have to hear our favorite preacher online as well as the many Christian TV and radio programs as avenues for Christians to hear the preaching of the Word, I wonder how many people are in the same boat as the man I talked with.  They have a high view of Scripture yet find other places besides the church to get their diet of God’s Word.

While I obviously do not have anything against preaching that you can view online or watch on TV as a supplement,  I do have a problem with those who are not investing themselves in the local church.  I do not think one can truly love God’s Word if they do not love his Church.

Over and over in the New Testament we read about the importance of the local church.  It is the church who is both the body of Christ as well as the bride for whom he is returning.  While I do realize at times the New Testament talks about the church in a universal sense, meaning all true believers, more often than not it is talking about the local group of believers.  One of the greatest joys and blessings a Christian has is serving and investing in the local church.  To love God and his Word is to love his church.  You can’t truly love God without loving and serving the church.

That being said, I think too often we want to blame individuals for not serving the church without recognizing that many times it is the churches who do not put people in position to utilize their gifts.  I believe that is one of the big reasons why so many people are either not serving in their church or turning to the internet or TV to be their sources of spiritual guidance.

In too many churches the only areas where Christians can serve are either in a teaching position (which James 3 tells us not many are called to), the nursery, or as an usher.   It is important not only for the church to recognize different gifts people have but also empower them to use their gift–even if that requires the individual to use their gifts outside the four walls of the church building.  Churches need to empower the evangelists in the church to spread the gospel through a park ministry, empower the prayer warrior to fulfill their calling, empower the mercy shower  as they head to the children’s hospital and so on.  Not only should churches empower people, they also need to see individuals who use these gifts as a part of them–a part of their local body.  When the evangelist is in the park sharing the gospel he needs to be seen as serving the local church in their evangelist function.

There is no greater joy a Christian can have than using the gifts God has given them and no greater responsibility a church has in the discipleship process than in finding and empowering individuals to fulfill their gifting.

Praise be to God for the church and the gift of serving him through it!

Imago Dei

aaronLife, Meetings, Theology, Uncategorized1 Comment

Just recently my family and I got a new puppy.  Almost instantly our 3 year old, Madison, became great friends with the dog. It is fun watching the two of them interact with each other.  Just last night I was amazed that Madison in a simple way understood one of the greatest truths of Scripture revolving around “Imago Dei”,  the image of God.  Madison spoke to me how our dog is different than us and is only a dog.

In the beginning pages of the Scriptures the Bible tells us that mankind is different than all of creation because we are created in the image of God.  There is debate over what that image exactly is, whether it involves the ability to think and reason or whether it is tied to having a soul–or a combination–but the important thing is we are special.  Because of this image as Christians we fight for the rights of the unborn, and we value all human beings regardless of color, physical and mental capabilities, and age. The language of image is a theme that is also carried throughout the Bible and is a facinating study that I encourage you to do sometime.

After the fall, although mankind is still an image barrier, the image of God has been distorted.  After the distortion image changes from something that was glorious to something that representes the fall of mankind.  A variety of different images began to receive worship rather than God.  Because of this false image worship, God put a prohibition on it which is found in the Ten Commandments (Exo 20).  Like all of the other laws God gave to his people they did not follow this law, and throughout the Old Testament we read how God’s people continue to worship false images rather than the one true God.

However, as we get to the New Testament we learn about a different image, the True image–Jesus Christ (Col 1).  This true and perfect image has come to restore what was lost at the fall because of Adam’s sin.  The Bible is clear that those who put their trust in the finished work of Jesus are being conformed to the image of Christ, which is one of the more amazing truths of the gospel.

As you go about your day spend time marveling in the fact that God would love us so much that he would create us in his image, and despite our sin and shame that distorted this image, he sent his Son to fix what we have broken.  Also, as you think about this image remember those people that you might not like are still created in the image of God, thus making them of great value.  Finally, make it the joy of your heart to tell others that because of Jesus this broken world that we live in will some day be restored for those who put their faith and trust in Jesus!

The image of God is so obvious that even a 3 year old knows enough to see that mankind is different from the rest of creation, and the image of God is so profound and glorious that the True Image of God is our great hope.  Would you put your faith in Jesus today making him the joy of your life?

To God be the Glory!!

-If you would like to read more about the image of God I would recommend to you the book “Created in God’s Image” by Anthony Hoekema.  This is one of the best books I read in seminary.