What Will You Do With the Word of God? (Blogs Revisited)

What Will You Do With the Word of God? (Originally posted July 19, 2014)

“I was writing in my journal the other day about my desire to have a closer relationship with God. Not just a “see you at worship service” relationship, but a “walk alongside him” relationship. I thought, what better way to get closer to him and learn more about his will than to read the bible more. Sometimes we think its hard to feel God’s presence or that we can’t figure out his will for our lives, but the truth is, he gives us everything we need for life and godliness in his word. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how powerful and informative God’s Word can be.  The words of the bible are his very thoughts.  Jesus is the Word manifested in the flesh.  So in order to have a relationship with him, I need to be studying his Word more. 

The thing is, what do we intend to do with the word of God?  In James 1:22, we are reminded that if we hear the word and don’t do it we deceive ourselves. Satan is the great deceiver, but sometimes we make his job easy for him. He’s likely thrilled to watch some of our worship services. He’s probably sitting there thinking, “Sweet!  Look at all these “Christians.”  They gather to hear a message from God that they’re not going to apply. They deceive themselves. My job is done.”  But that is not the reaction that God wants when we hear or read his word. He is a God who desires repentance, change, of actually turning away from the world and following him.

If we’re honest, there are several ways that we can respond to God’s word, only one of which he would be happy with.

  1. We respond with disbelief (We can hear something from the word of God and flat out not believe what it says. We can assume that God didn’t really mean that, or that he’s a loving God who would not really punish us. Against our better judgement, we walk away from what we know in our hearts to be the truth.)
  2. We respond with “That doesn’t apply to me” (Somehow, Christians have gotten into the habit of cherry-picking the bible, thinking that some parts apply to my life while others do not. God’s word is perfect. We cannot throw some of it out because we disagree or it doesn’t match the life we want to live. It’s our responsibility to mold our lives to fit what God wants, not the other way around.)
  3. The word “breaks us” but we do nothing (Sometimes we hear a well-delivered message from God’s word or we read a passage that really hits home.  We dwell on how important it is, how right and true, but no change is made. Like the soil with many thorns, we get sidetracked worrying about our lives. We forget that God’s word has no effect on us until it is applied.)
  4. The word “breaks us” and we change (“The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it- he will be blessed in what he does” -James 1:25.  A disciple is a follower of their master. They listen to instruction, and then put that instruction into practice. Like Romans 12:2 says, we are to be transformed by renewing our minds with the word of God. Only then will we know his will.)

Next time you open your bible to study or you’re listening to someone deliver a message from God’s word, read or listen with a purpose. Ask yourself, “What will I do with the word of God?”

It’s amazing to look at the Bible sitting on my desk next to me and think of the amazing importance of that text.  I know this to be true, but it still stuns me at times to realize that these are the very thoughts of the God that I believe in and worship.  I’m astounded by the Bible’s permanency and its power.  I’m encouraged by its message of hope and grace.

I think, as Christians, we lose track of that at times.  We talk about how important the Bible is, but we don’t necessarily show that daily in the way we live or respond to the world around us.  We proclaim that the word of God has the great ability to transform lives, but it may not be entirely evident that it has transformed our own.

I wrote the above post many years ago to provide a reminder that we cannot only read God’s word or even memorize it or quote it when trying to prove a point.  We must be changed by it!  It should be evident in every aspect of our lives that the transforming power of the word of God has taken control of us.  That by reading it we respond to our sin with remorse and repentance.  That we take seriously our calling to make disciples of all nations.  That we realize that the grace and forgiveness that God has given us was meant to be passed on to others as well.

Ask yourself, “What will you do with the word of God?”  Will you set it aside in disbelief or pick it apart to eliminate the inconsistencies with your chosen lifestyle?  Or will you relish in the saving words of a God who loves you dearly and choose to daily follow his commands?

-Joe Butler

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What is the Christian Life…A Rich, Abundant Life (Blogs Revisited)

What is the Christian Life… A Rich, Abundant Life (Originally posted April 29, 2014)

“So being a Christian is synonymous with having an abundant life right?  Great…where do I sign up?  Has God promised us a rich, abundant life?  Well yes and no.  Today’s post on living as a Christian will focus on what a rich, abundant life really means in God’s eyes. First let’s look at the verse that sparked this study, John 10:10.  Jesus said in that passage, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”.   Some versions refer to it as an abundant life.  There is no doubt that God provides us wonderful physical blessings but many have interpreted this verse to mean that God promises what we would call the good life.  Wealth, power, life on easy street.  If you’ve taken the time to read much of the rest of bible or study the lives of Christ’s followers, you’ll know practicing a Christian life is anything but easy.  So what does this “abundant life” mean?  We must shift into eternal thinking and read some other passages to fully understand this concept.

Lets look at 2 Corinthians 9:8.  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  The abundant life is about the grace of God as well.  It’s about using that grace through the work we do for others.  God blesses us so we can then bless those around us.  It’s a beautiful way to show the love of God to the world and praise Him for the love he shows us.

The abundant life is also a life of power, or better yet, of God’s power living through us. Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever.”   We need to view ourselves as vessels carrying the message and power of God throughout the world.

Finally, the abundant life is having our needs met.  “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  Suffice it to say that needs and wants are two very different things. But as the parable of the talents teaches, those who use God’s gifts wisely will be blessed with more.  God has always provided for his children…the entire bible speaks that message.  All we need to do is put our trust in him, obey and practice his teachings, and he will give us that abundant life we all hope for and dream of.”

For today’s “Blogs Revisited” post, we’re going to take a look at post I wrote as a month-long series back in April of 2014 answering the question of what is a Christian life.  I chose the topic of the rich, abundant life because this idea is so misunderstood and misinterpreted.  Of course that’s easy to do when we only use our physical world as a means of understanding Scripture.  As we grow more spiritually mature, we can hopefully understand the eternal ramifications of God’s word and the promises that lie within.

The idea of a rich and abundant life is a good example of thinking that God’s promises have to do with the here and now.  For sure, this passage of Scripture found in John 10:10 does promise us blessings, but we may have misinterpreted that God wishes for us to live a carefree life full of financial and material success.  As the post above mentions, one need only to study the Bible in its entirety to see that Christians throughout history have not always lived a life that we would consider comfortable and easy.  And if we only think of this life here on earth, it would make sense to think in this way, but God is preparing us for eternity and gives us the blessings (grace) we need to do the good works he wishes for us to do.  God does indeed meet our physical needs in this life and he does promise to bless those who are good stewards with more, but that abundance is meant to be shared rather than hoarded.

There’s no doubt that Christians should approach life with the mindset that they are rich in Christ.  But those riches have nothing to do with the physical things we have here in this life.  The riches of God are attributes like peace, contentment, joy, wisdom, and love and if you ask me, those things promise a much more abundant life than what this world could ever offer.

-Joe Butler

Powerful Words (Blogs Revisited)

Powerful Words (Originally published May 28,2013)

“As a reading and language arts teacher, I love to read and write.  In fact, writing is one of my favorite things to teach because it truly is an art form.  I tell my students to “paint a picture with words” just as a painter does with paint or a sculptor does with clay.  Good writing is meant to be read and the reader can take these vivid words and descriptions along with their imagination and create an image in their mind of what the writer was saying.  Writing is not like the finite rules of math or the provable laws of science.  Writing is fluid and takes its shape from its creator.

This very thought led me to look at God’s word this way as well.  The inspired word of God is very descriptive and can be used in many ways if we will open our hearts to receive it.  Hebrews 4:12 says that, ” the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  This passage is one of the most important verses in the Bible because it tells us how powerful the rest of His word is.

-HIS WORD IS ALIVE!  God’s word is not only relevant to the time in which it was written.  It applies to us today and is active in teaching us things we need to know.

-HIS WORD IS SPIRIT!  God’s word can cut right to our souls if we will receive it.  When we open our hearts and allow God’s word to penetrate, His power can then work within us to effect real change in our lives and our being.

-HIS WORD IS JUDGE!  God’s word can literally judge our attitudes, thoughts, and intentions.  We may be able to fool others with false Christianity or a false servanthood, but we can’t fool God.

As we can see, the word of God is very special…as important as God Himself.  He is the word and when we read and study our Bibles, we are literally conversing with and learning from our God.”

I still love to read more than ever, probably even more so than when I wrote the above post back in 2013.  And while I’ve gained a lot of enjoyment and insight into Christianity while reading other books, there’s no better place to turn to learn about God and his will for our lives than the Bible.  As the above post mentions, we are literally conversing with and learning from God when we read his word.  It’s as though he is speaking to us directly, instructing and encouraging us in our walk with him.

I love the fact that his word is literally living.  It doesn’t change over time or transform with the beliefs of the day, but the Bible can be used to answer all of the questions that life may throw at us, even in the 21st century and beyond.  Because his word is Spirit as well, it can change our hearts from the inside, making us more like Christ as we live our lives for him.  Also, there is no escaping the simplicity of the word and it’s command on our life.  The Bible easily judges our thoughts and actions and holds them to the highest standard…Jesus himself!

As a Christian, I would encourage you to delve deeply into the word of God on a regular basis.  Meditate on his commands and principles and see that his word can assist you in anything this life may offer.

-Joe Butler

The Christian and Carnal Warfare

I don’t know about you, but there are many questions in our day-to-day lives that are just hard to answer.  Some are of little importance while others hold such tremendous theological significance that we would be wise to study and come to a godly discernment of the topic.  While reading a book outlining the sermon on the mount (“Outlines on the Sermon on the Mount” by Leslie G. Thomas), I came upon a section addressing the Christian viewpoint regarding carnal warfare.  To be honest, it’s not a subject I have spent much time studying, and yet the book opened my mind to the realization that it is a very important topic indeed.  It addresses our very real and serious command not to kill, our requirement to submit to our formal mode of government, and our job as followers of Christ to be peacemakers in the world.

I’ve spent just over a month reading and researching the different sides on the topic of carnal warfare, and I’ve poured over what the Bible has to say as well.  I’ve also taken into account the writings and examples of the early church in the hopes of presenting a well-researched and compelling treatise in regards to war in general and whether or not a Christian should participate.

I will say up front that not everyone may agree with the conclusions that I’ve drawn.  We all tend to have our own preconceived ideas on weighty topics such as these, and we tend to be swayed heavily by the popular opinion of the day.  I ask that you read with an open mind and prayerfully consider what God’s word has revealed to us regarding the life and behavior of a Christian.  I will present the topic of  “The Christian and Carnal Warfare” in three separate parts:

  • “The Case for Pacifism”
  • “The Case for Non-Pacifism”
  • “Where to Stand”

I greatly encourage you to read all three posts and weigh the facts presented before drawing a conclusion.  And as always, pray that the Holy Spirit will help you to discern the underlying meaning and intent of God’s word as it relates to war and how we live our lives in general.

-Joe Butler

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Doesn’t Matter What We Think

We’re pretty smart…at least we’d like to think so.  We humans of the 21st century are convinced that we’ve got the world’s mysteries all figured out.  Well, maybe not all of them, but we sure do have an opinion on everything.  And while I’ll freely admit that the combined wisdom of mankind in our age is something to marvel at, we really haven’t scratched the surface of what there is to know.

I mention this, because it always amazes me when people try to interject their opinions in matters of religion and Christianity.  People say they believe the Bible as the inspired authority and word of God, and then some go about trying to change it to meet their preconceived ideas or needs.  The truth is, yours and my opinions don’t really matter at all, at least in the sense of trying to change God’s word. What matters is what God says!  We may want to disagree with God’s view on things and say that the times have changed or that we have a better understanding of his word today than people of previous generations.  But the truth is, God’s word stands just as firmly today as it did when it was first written down.

We shouldn’t take the liberty to force our viewpoint or interpretation on God’s word.  That’s the job of the Holy Spirit.  It is He that allows us to understand the thinking behind God’s commands and promises.  It’s not fair for me to change those commands if they don’t coincide with the way I’m living my life.  It’s not right to add contingencies to God’s plan of salvation and accuse Him of not being loving if He doesn’t follow my advice (Galatians 1:6-9).  What we should do is study God’s word for what it says and pray continually that his Spirit will bring us into a better understanding of it (John 16:13).

This is probably most important as I take more opportunities to preach publicly and through this blog.  I must always remember, as does anyone who claims to teach God’s word, that it is God who does the teaching, not me (John 7:16-18, James 3:1).  I can study and use analogies to convey to others what the Bible is asking of us Christians, but I’m not free to add to or take away from God’s message (Revelation 22:19).  He knows far more that I will ever know (Isaiah 40:28).  Who am I to challenge the understanding and validity of the one who created me in the first place?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I think.  All that matters is that God’s truth is proclaimed!  All that matters is that He is honored and glorified!

-Joe

Victory in Jesus

victory“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

(Hebrews 11:1, 12:1-3, 22, 24, 28)

-Joe

 

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

imageToday, I’m just posting some verses about God’s instruction on worry and anxiety.  It’s been a season full of stress and activity lately and I personally needed to read these passages over again to remind myself that God is always in control and my worry does nothing to fix the difficulties that I face in daily life.  I hope these verses encourage you today to find your sustenance in God and understand that he knows the trials that you face.  Remember, he’s never far away.

James 4:13-15“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 

Matthew 6:25, 33-34- “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”  “ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

John 14:27- “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Psalm 16:8- “I keep my eyes always on the LordWith him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Philippians 4:6-7- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

-Joe