Hi-ho, hi-ho

You know how Hebrews 4:12 says the Bible is living and active? While the verse continues to move on with how it specifically affects us, the first phrase is what stands out to me today.

I don’t know how many times I have read the first three chapters of Genesis. From the creation account, to the Fall, to being banished from the garden, it is probably the most read and referred-to passage in the Old Testament. Yet, I still find myself being taught new things from little bits that I hadn’t noticed before

Recently, I was having a conversation with my Father-In-Law, much like we normally do about Biblical topics. He brought up the question of what kind of things we would do in Heaven or on the new earth in regards to work.

Now, my initial thought was, No way will we be working in Heaven. Work came as a result of the Fall. I was thinking of 3:17-19, “…In pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you ; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground…” So, naturally, I disagreed with his thinking.

But then he pointed out there is another verse, before this one, that references work. So, I looked it up. Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

How had I missed that before? How was I under the impression that work was a curse, as a result of the Fall? I mean, I had even built entire chapel sessions at camp around these three chapters and had never noticed this detail.

That is when Hebrews 4:12 came into my mind. Yet another well-known verse, many people in the church have it memorized. But how much do we truly believe “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”?

You see, we get into this awful habit of “knowing too much” about the Bible. Those passages of Scripture that we have grown up on, we tend to skim over because we have heard them so many times before. But, how powerful and life-changing can John 3:16 be for us after 5 years with Christ? 15? 50?

“The word of God is living and active…” The Holy Spirit is constantly working and continually pushing us towards Christ IF we let Him. As challenging as it can be to digest and meditate on every part of Scripture, incredible things will happen in our lives. The promise is given in the rest of the verse. “…sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Christ is interested in who we are – right here, right now. He doesn’t want us to “get cleaned up” before we come to Him. He doesn’t want us to feel “good enough” to come to Him, because, honestly, we never will be. He wants us to come to Him now, so that He can do the work and discern our thoughts and intentions – which is something that we can’t do on our own.

So as I share what I am learning and continually being challenged by in life, I encourage anyone who happens to stumble upon my space to take this to heart – this simple concept I have been shown through Scripture. Whether we are just starting fresh with Christ or are a seasoned veteran, there are endless possibilities of what we can learn through God’s word.

Wish We’d All Been Ready

Think about the first time you had ever had to make a crucial decision. A decision that would potentially impact you for the rest of your life. The kind of decision that people tend to think about for months on end, only to come to the conclusion that they don’t know what to do. Do you have a moment that stands out?

For me, it was which candy to buy from the convenience store with my parents money.

While it may not have had a lifelong impact, I was forced with a decision. Of course I couldn’t buy everything, so I was faced with a choice – life is filled with choices.

Perhaps the most impacting decision I have made was to marry my wife. Sure, I hadn’t had any second thoughts or doubts toward the situation, but it absolutely would affect me for the rest of my life. The most intimidating decision we made together (thankfully I didn’t have to make it on my own), was purchasing a house.

Did I ever get to the point where I could say, “Man, I feel ready to be married. I know exactly what I’m in for”? Absolutely not. But one of the the exciting things in life is getting to figure it all out as we go, making many mistakes along the way.

If we take this concept and look at it through the lens of faith, the same thoughts and doubts fill our mind. Recently, I was watching a sermon by Carl Lentz about how we, as Christians, should be evident in the streets and make our streets the home for ministry. When he was 19, when he accepted Christ, he was told that he should gain more Bible knowledge and credentials before ministering to the lost and sharing the love of Christ.

Something about that didn’t sit right, so he did what he thought he should do – he started to pray. He prayed for his friends and those he was close to who didn’t know Jesus. One by one, over the next few months, he saw each person he prayed for come to Christ and start attending church on a regular basis.

In John 14:6, Christ makes it blatantly obvious, stating that, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We are given a decision, right there, of what we are going to do with the gift of salvation, the greatest decision we could ever make.

Yet, I still see people with the excuse that they are not ready. For some reason, we feel a need to get our life cleaned up before we can enter into a relationship with Christ. He wants us, exactly as we are, to come to Him and allow Him to do the work in cleaning up the trash.

Once we take the leap of faith, the decisions don’t come to an end. We will still find ourselves standing at the crossroads quite frequently. Are we ready to get baptized? Are we ready to talk to a stranger about what we believe? A friend? A family member?

How about this one: are we ready to give up the thing we know is keeping us from completely and utterly submitting to Christ?

Sometimes, all it takes is the faith to take the first step and trust that God will carry us through. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). If we have faith – true faith – we are putting our trust in something that we have no control over.

When my three-year-old son told me he wanted to jump off the diving board at the pool, I would have put money against the idea because I was so sure he would back down. As he stood at the edge of the spring board, he was forced to trust that I would catch him. His hesitation and uncertainty of a new activity is totally natural, but the decision he makes from that moment, as he stares down at me in the deep end of the pool, shows how much trust he truly has in me. He was left with two choices: jump or don’t jump.

He jumped.

The excitement that welled up in me was incredible – so incredible, in fact, that I can’t put it into words. His excitement to jump again, as well, was off the charts.

Instead, if we put ourselves, filled with uncertainty, on the wobbly spring board and have God in the water, He is there waiting for us to jump.

Garbage in, Garbage out

An uncomfortable subject, no doubt, but we all have garbage in our life that we need to eradicate.

“Just because I believe something doesn’t mean I have to do it.” A close friend of mine once made this statement when his parents questioned a CD he was showing me in their basement. I remember sitting there thinking that statement is absurd, because it is. If you truly believe something, your life would reflect it. 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Bad company corrupts good character” and, with social media being so prevalent, this verse also extends to our online lifestyle.

I mean honestly, most of our life is spent online. We fill our time being busy and make every moment loud, so how does this correspond to the noise?

Growing up, my parents would filter nearly every movie I wanted to watch through the website Screen-It, where every movie was broken down and analyzed through a Christian filter. Categories include language, violence, sex, even peoples’ bad attitude. At the time, I thought it was stupid that they relied on such a website in order for me to watch a movie. After all I was 15, a whole two years older than the recommended PG-13 rating!

As with most people when they start to mature, I now look back and see the value to the rules set in place. I greatly appreciated my parents going to such length to protect me in order to prevent that garbage entering into my mind. After all, in the years to follow, I would receive more than enough garbage to fill my dinky little mind.

The Bible spends more than enough time talking about the fact that we need to be careful not to let the world drag us down. Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We are incredibly good at filling our time with anything we can find and it becomes so important that we filter the things we spend our time doing, just like my parents did for me. In Philippinans 4:6-9, Paul shows us that prayer is the basis, the foundation, to build a healthy life in order to follow Christ to the best of our ability.

First and foremost, prayer is the greatest tool we have – the most powerful. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Tie this with “Pray without ceasing,” and instantly, wer see that prayer is to be apart of everything we do and in every area of our life.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to give us the outcome if we follow this format. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” How much more clear could it be! Our hearts and our minds will be guarded.

Then we get a list of what should replace the garbage coming in. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We are to fill our minds with things that fall into these categories. If that book you’re reading, or the movie you’re watching, or the friends you hang out with don’t fall into this category, then we need to take a big step back and question if we should be continuing down this path.

Lastly, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

The main thing that I see with this entire passage is there is no question about it. IF we do this, THEN this WILL happen.

It’s amazingly difficult to make changes in our life that include the things we have grown to love, but we are given a promise that if we see what’s best for us, then our life will be infinitely better because we have Christ.

The greatest example I have ever witnessed involved my roommate at Bible college. He absolutely loved Tim Burton and, when he saw that the love for the movies had started to consume him and affect him in negative ways, he acted. Sitting in our room, he smashed discs and ripped books to rid himself of those things.

Sure, he didn’t need to destroy those things, as he could have simply thrown them in the trash, but the symbolism was so important that he felt he needed to. From that point on, the transformation he underwent was incredible to see, living out this passage.

If we are serious about our relationship with Christ, we need to see change. Psalm 1 is one of my favorite chapters in this regard, because it always reminds me to check whether I have become complacent or not. We see a progression, slowly becoming more comfortable with the garbage around him. He goes from walking, to standing, to sitting. But we are given a promise: If we do not become comfortable, we are like a tree planted by a stream, who is prosporous. Matthew 7:17, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”

If You’re Appy And You Know It

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love that there are Bible apps. They give us great connectivity to God’s Word 24/7, allowing us to carry the Bible with us everywhere we go. The problem I have is that these apps are becoming the go-to source for many people in the church.

I strongly believe that the Word of God has great power and authority in whatever form we choose to read it (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The issue I see is that believers seldom carry a Bible with them anywhere, let alone to church. Next time you’re in a Sunday service, take a look around and count how many Bibles you see around you. Is one of them yours?

This whole thing may seem like a completely foolish argument to some, but we need to separate technology from some important things in life. Our phone is used for most things in our life and holds its fair share of distraction. Living such a busy life, we rely on our phone to keep track of things for us. We receive notifications to remind us of tasks. Our alarm clock is built in. It has become our note taker, our calendar, our television. Our busy life and our devices go hand in hand and I don’t think it’s justifiable to add our personal time with God into the mix.

When we spend time with God, we are to get away from those distractions so our focus can be solely on Him. Numerous times, Jesus went away by Himself to pray and spend time in God’s presence (Matthew 14:23, 26:36, Luke 5:16, 6:12, Mark 1:35). He removed Himself from situations that were distracting so He could connect with His Father in an intimate setting.

I have always preferred reading a book by holding the physical copy instead of a screen – it gives me a much more intimate and personal feel, a way to get away from my every day life. One of our favorite things to do, my wife and I, is to go to Chapters for a couple hours. We rarely buy anything, but the atmosphere is something special and our kids love it. We could sit and watch a movie, but it’s no different from any other time we spend time on our phone. We could play a board game on the tablet, but it’s so much better to sit at the table and physically handle the pieces.

One key element in Christianity is the relationship with Christ. Too many times I have been out at a restaurant and seen families or friends sitting at a table, separated by holding their phone in front of their face. The art of face to face communication has been lost because of technology. Relationships need to be grown through intentional, personal communication, even if uncomfortable.

If Christianity is indeed a relationship, then we need to be spending regular time growing that relationship. There is certainly a time and a place to have a texting conversation with our friends, which I think gives us a great picture of what our prayer life is to look like. Apart from that, we certainly need to spend intentional blocks of time with them to really get to know them on a deeper, personal level.

So, with those two things established, being a relationship and believing that the Word of God is God-breathed, I strongly believe that we should be starting there, at the intimacy of the Bible.

YouVersion Bible App

First and foremost, I don’t have anything against YouVersion or the work they are doing. They are doing amazing things to get the Word of God into the hands of as many people as possible and making it as easy as possible as well.

Our phones feed our A.D.D. lifestyle, which is the direction that our society has been leading us. I receive multiple notifications per day from the YouVersion Bible app. I get a notification to remind me of my reading plan, a notification for the verse of the day, and notifications to continue my daily streak of time spent in the app.

It’s okay to have healthy snacks throughout the day, but we still need meals of substance. When we get down to the root of it, we can’t survive on bits and pieces of anything. Instead of fitting Him in whenever convenient, we need to remove ourselves from our busy life to allow Christ into it.

Often times, the most comfortable sweater in our closet is the oldest, most broken-in sweater, often filled with holes and rips. It has shaped itself to our body and the bond that was created between us makes it difficult to throw in the garbage. There is something special about marking up a Bible, taking notes, causing wear through years of use, making it your own. Though I have never achieved this myself, the greatest gift I have ever received is from my father: a hardcover Bible that he had read through in one year making notes specifically geared towards me. That gift is irreplaceable. When using my phone, the intimate feeling just isn’t there.

Getting to know the Bible is an important concept that is slowly getting lost. When I was a kid, we did sword drills as a regular practice at kid’s club (shout-out to Club DJ and the ministry they have there). I learned to navigate the Bible, which a lot of people aren’t learning as well because we rely on technology so much more. A hard copy Bible can stand the test of time; it will never change once it’s printed. We don’t hold the same security with technology. As society continued in a downward spiral, parts of the church are going to follow, accepting more controversial ideologies in.

The Bible app makes reading the Bible convenient, but I’m scared that Christianity has become something of convenience. I’m guilty of it myself, skipping past the things that I truly need to take to heart. When I was younger and trying to root myself in the Word, I was told that I will “never find time, I have to make time”. That’s why I’m here, right now, writing this. I have grown to have a heart to address the issues I see in myself and others, because I need to start with the plank in my own eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

When I look at someone with earbuds in and their phone in front of their face, I assume they are scrolling through some sort of social media or playing a game, so I can only assume that I am not the only person thinking this. If you were to take the two instances and put them side by side, they would look very different from the outside: holding a cell phone looks like every other person holding a cell phone, holding a Bible is such a rare occurrence that people would take a double look.

So, before I beat this dead horse, I’ll end with this: Both formats have their strengths and weaknesses and I’m going to continue to use my phone to read the Bible, but I think we need to reevaluate our motives for when we are using our devices.