Christian Hard Rock Bands that Rock

There are all kinds of Christian hard rock bands out there. When I was a kid most of them were really lame so I never listened to it. Come to think of it most praise music was lame—as far as listening goes, still love to worship with some of those old tunes—so I did not listen to that either. Today there are all kinds of great Christian rock bands. I’ve built a decent database of music. Here are just a few of my favorite Christian hard rock bands.

  1. OK. Here is my favorite and I knew about these guys before they were big. I tookour Youth Group to a free concert in 07′ and this Christian hard rock band was the opening act. The band is Decipher Down. I recommend End of the Grey.
  2. 2nd hardest rocking Christian band I know—Flyleaf. This band is on a major label and tours with all sorts of secular bands so many people do not even realize they are listening to and even singing about God in many cases. I saw them live at Hallelujah Jamboree at Magic Mountain an while back. They didn’t disappoint. Look for their self titled album, Flyleaf.
  3. If you are into progressive metal or death metal and are looking for a Christian alternative, check out Underoath. You may actually already have them in your collection. My favorite album is The Changing of Times. It definitely demonstrates their progressive style.
  4. I discovered Falling Up recently. They have a very mellow, modern rock sort of trendy sound. I like it a lot. I own Captiva.
  5. Switchfoot is a great Christian hard rock band from So Cal. Many of their songs are a little on the sillier side, especially on older albums, but they still rock either way. Highly recommend The Beautiful Letdown.
  6. I was listening to Air One and I heard a song by The Rocket Summer. Very cool album. Definitely Christian, but I would not call it hard rock. It made the list because it’s really great. I own Do You Feel.
  7. Found this one under ‘Christian Orchestral Metal’ on some site or another. Divinefire sounds like a band out of the 80′s glam era with a orchestral and at times benedictine monk thing going on. If you want to hear something totally different and totally cool get this one. I have Glory Thy Name. I like to put this into a mix when I have people over so they go, “What is this?”
  8. Demon Hunter is really cool. I have several of their albums. They are all good and all different. I can’t say I have a favorite, but it was their self titled—Demon Hunteralbum that I picked up first that got me hooked. This band goes the gambit of hard rock styles from metal to hard core to hard rock.

Should I Muzzle the Ox While He is Treading Out the Grain?–1 Corinthians 9.1-18

HarvestWhy does Paul feel the need to defend his position as an apostle? (vv. 1-7)

First of all, Paul was not a follower of Jesus’ prior to the resurrection. He was not known as one of the 12, nor was he the one that was chosen to replace Judas. He was actually chosen by Jesus without the knowledge of anyone. In Acts, it becomes clear to the apostles that Paul is a true apostle, but given his reputation, it is understandable that there would be some question about it. Still, this is not likely the reason that they question Paul’s apostleship in this account.

The word ‘examine’ as used in verse 3 is a legal term. It is the preliminary investigation. Those that are ‘examining’ Paul are sizing him up. They are comparing him to the other apostles to see if he is the real deal. And, they find a glaring difference. All of the other apostles as well as the other prominent leaders (the brothers of the Lord), receive their provision from the church. Paul and Barnabas don’t. It’s not exactly certain why this matters except that it is different. Perhaps it appears that the church is not willing to support him and it is a challenge to his credibility for that reason—although this assumption is not true because Paul actually takes up a collection at least once and takes it to Jerusalem to support the church there.

What did Paul do for money?

Paul and Barnabas were tent makers. This sounds a bit odd, but it is more likely that they were tanners by trade. Tanners often were hired to make tents out of leather and this took a very skillful tanner. At any rate, what is important is that they were tradesman who made their own living in addition to preaching the gospel.

Are Paul and Barnabas at liberty to accept wages? (v. 8-11)

Absolutely. Fist of all Paul knows the law and has authority to proclaim it. He quotes Deuteronomy 25.4. To muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain is to deny the ox a share of the grain in exchange for his labor. The process of treading out the grain is using an ox to stomp on the grain in order to break it apart from the chaff. Then they used a process called winnowing to remove the chaff, leaving them with just the grain. So, it’s basically saying, “look, he does the hard work, so let him have a snack while he works and he will work better.” Paul could do the same. If the church supported him financially, then he would have even more time to work for the gospel.

I love that Paul identifies God’s lack of concern for the oxen. It is his sarcastic way of saying that it is about us, not better farming tactics; that if we are called to serve God by proclaiming His word, we have a right to be supported by the church. Paul implies that since he sows spiritual things, it is very little that he could reap material things.

So why doesn’t Paul accept wages from the church? (v. 12)

Paul was not the only teacher that was influencing Corinth at this time. There were false teachers who taught bastardized versions of the gospel for the purpose of being supported by the church. Paul refers to these men in verse 12. Paul is not suggesting that he has more of a right to be supported than the other apostles or other qualified teachers; he is saying that he has more of a right than the false teachers.

Now we are starting to get the point of why Paul does not want to accept wages. If he did, he would be identifying with them and this would be a hindrance to the true gospel. Paul would rather deny the provision in order to be set apart from the false teachers so that he will not be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

What is Paul’s motive? (vv. 13-15)

Possibly it is just an English thing, but Paul comes off a bit arrogant at times. Is it too much to think that Paul might have been trying to underhandedly pressure the Corinthian church into forcing financial support on him so that he can receive both the provision and maintain a higher state of humility? Yes, I think it is a bit far fetched and Paul addresses this.

Paul starts by reiterating his right to receive support from the church, but then negates any possibility that they would offer him anything by saying, “I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so it will be done so in my case.” So we see that it is quite the opposite. Paul remains humble by forsaking his liberty for the sake of the gospel. Paul’s motive is simply that the gospel be proclaimed in it’s purest form even if that means the sacrifice of his own comfort.

What is Paul’s boast? (vv. 15,16)

This is not the sort of arrogant boast, but a boasting in the Lord. Paul has an incredible testimony. That is his boast. “Look what God has done for me!” He knows that if he exercises his liberty to be supported by the church, then the gospel will be hindered. I get the feeling that many people would walk away from their faith. Many others that would have listened to his message would walk away, because his reputation would be so damaged. Remember he would look the same as the false teacher. There are tons of possible scenarios. These things would make his boast empty. How can you boast when you have lost sight of the goal—sold out to the man?

Verse 16 appears to contradict 15. He is not saying that he has nothing to boast about though. He is saying that he has no grounds to boast in himself, only in God. If he were to receive compensation for his efforts to preach the gospel, the he would be open to the opportunity to boast about his great teaching—look how great I am, they gave me X amount of money. He is saying that by not receiving any compensation, he lacks any motive of his own and does so only because of the compulsion which comes from the Holy Spirit. And woe to me if I do not do what the Spirit has called me to do.

Stewardship? Reward? (vv. 17,18)

Paul is saying that if he were to exercise his liberty and take compensation for preaching the gospel, then he is still a steward of the gospel. It would be OK. He holds a great position of service to the Lord. But, he has identified that there is a great reward for him if he chooses to not exercise this liberty. His reward is that he can present the gospel free of charge; that by withholding his God given right, he is able to maintain assurance of a pure motive for his service.

Now most of us are not really in this position, but there is definitely a few hard lessons we can learn from Paul based on these verses.

1. Wise use of liberty.

First of all, we must be wise about how we use our liberties. If our liberty will in some way hinder the expansion of the gospel, then we should prayerfully reconsider. You are a steward either way, but is there a reward for making a wise decision? Remember also that Paul said we have been given liberty by God to do all things—“all things are lawful, but all things are not profitable”—including sin. Sin is the first and foremost point when we can know it is not good to use our liberty (1 Corinthians 6.12).

2. Do what the Spirit has called you to do.

It is to our benefit to listen to God’s voice. Woe to me if I do not do what the Spirit has called me to do. Paul was called by the Spirit to proclaim the gospel to the gentiles. Since his liberty would impede that work, he did not make use of the liberty. How do I know what the will of God Is?—Romans 12.2

3. Preventative motive maintenance.

Why are you serving the Lord? There is only one right answer and that is, “for His glory.” Any other motive would be self centered—1 Corinthians 10.31

Image Credits: rdd, sxc.hu

avarice

Fruits of the Holy Spirit—Galatians 5

Fruit bowlBefore we get into talking specifics regarding the fruits of the Holy Spirit, let’s talk about what fuits of the Holy Spirit actually are. Galatians 5.22,23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I want you to recognize that the verse starts by saying, “But.” These verses are in direct opposition to 19-21, which are the obvious acts of the sinful nature.

In order to obtain the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we must be opposed to the acts of the sinful nature: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (vv. 19-21).

The most important thing to understand when talking about the fruits of the Holy Spirit is that we will not obtain the full extent of the fruit while on earth. As we let go of the acts of the sinful nature, we draw nearer to Christ and experience a greater depth of the fruit. Many people will ask why they lack joy or peace. The answer is that they probably are not completely lacking, but that they have very little because they have not fully opposed the acts of the sinful nature.

Let’s go ahead and look at what the fruits of the Holy Spirit are. These are just brief descriptions. For sake of understanding, let’s look at the acts of the sinful nature as well.

Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Love—This is not the emotion of love. This is brotherly love. See Mark 12.31 and John 15.13

Joy—Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is intermittent; this makes me happy, this doesn’t. Joy is a consistent form of contentment with what God has provided. See Nehemiah 8.10.

Peace—This is a supernatural peace, not what you experience when you hit the couch with a glass of red wine after putting the kids to bed. It is the indescribable “peace that transcends all understanding” (See Philippians 4.7).

Patience—This is what is often referred to as long-suffering. It is perseverance and persistence at it’s best. By nature, we get frustrated with all sorts of things, but through the Holy Spirit, we can endure all things and we can do all things. See Proverbs 25.25 and Romans 9.22.

Kindness—This is where it gets interesting. As we reject our sinful nature and draw nearer to Christ, we actually become more like Him. We actually will become more kind towards others because of our diligence for righteousness.

Goodness—This is fairly synonymous with godliness since all goodness comes from God. Now goodness has more to do with motive than action. All people do “good” things, but often we do it for selfish reasons—“I gave to charity because I needed a tax write off.” Goodness is “I gave to charity because there are people in need.” See 2 Peter 1.5 and Hebrews 6.5.

Faithfulness—I think that this is the act of faith; that as we draw nearer to Christ, our actions begin to quantify our faith. This is the real change that takes place in a believer as they place more and more of their trust in God.

Gentleness—This is a fruit which I rarely see in myself, but have witnessed in many others, so many times. It is virtually inexplicable. It is the supernatural ability to present convicting and challenging truth in a way that is loving and caring, so that it is well received. It is also a way of dealing with those in pain—emotional or physical—without causing further pain.

Self-Control—This is the most amazing gift. It is the ability to overcome the desires of the flesh in mind, will and even emotion through the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Acts of the Sinful Nature

Sexual Immorality—I doubt I need to explain this in depth, but it is any sin of the sexual nature that results in the defiling of God centered design for marriage. It is any form of premarital fornication, adultery or even pornography as well as acts of homosexuality, bestiality and things of that sort which God did not intend for man.

Impurity and Debauchery—To be impure is to have unrepentant sin. Debauchery is to indulge in sensual pleasures in excess—that is things to do with the senses. It is in essence living for sensual pleasure rather than for God. These two together challenge us to let go of worldly pleasures, to repent of our attachment to the world and to live for the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Idolatry and Witchcraft—Bet you think this doesn’t apply to you. You would be wrong. Idolatry is placing anything over God in terms of priorities. Witchcraft is supernatural forces which are not accredited to God. It’s like if you got a raise at work and you said that you worked for it instead of recognizing that God blessed you. Ultimately, we do that because we idolize ourselves.

Hatred—This is to live in spite of people instead of to live in service to them. After all, the greatest commandments are, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12.30,31).

Discord—This is to live in opposition to others. We all know someone who is characterized directly by this trait. It is the ‘I know everything’ and ‘I’m always right’ person. Paul says that knowledge is nothing, but love is everything. Let’s live without discord.

Jealousy—This is not just desire, it is resentment. It is to reject your brother because of their blessing. Instead, embrace these people and learn from them.

Fits of rage—This is obvious. It means fits of rage. Get a hold of yourself.

Selfish ambition—This means that all you do is for your benefit. How can I live better? We are called to live for the benefit of Christ and the gospel; the expansion of the church.

Dissensions, Factions and envy—These are people within the church who create divisions because of theological or traditional differences. Aren’t we all one body?

Drunkenness—This is submission to worldly substances which remove your ability to focus on Christ. It is not forbidding a glass of wine, more like a bottle.

Orgies—This one is difficult to explain briefly, but it has to do with improper use of God’s blessings. If God blesses you with a new computer, he did not do so in order that you would use it for sinful purposes such as pornography.

…and the like—What do these all have in common? The like is anything which is in opposition to the will and purpose of God.

Image Credits: atroszko, sxc.hu

The Meaning of the Number 666 in the Bible

the-meaning-of-numbers-in-the-bibleThere is a lot of controversy surrounding the number 666. In reality it is mostly speculation. I’ll attempt to answer a couple of the big questions about 666 without too much speculation, as well as discuss what the Bible actually says about it.

What is the mark 666 gonna be in humans?

This is complicated and unclear at best. 7 is a holy number. Trinity symbolizes completeness. We could argue that 777 is God’s number; complete holiness in God. 666 is the beast’s number AND man’s number; this may symbolize complete submission to the beast. I think ultimately what is being said here in Revelations 13 is that man, by nature, is completely unholy.

If we take this literally, it says, “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead “ (Revelations 13.16). Since this is prophesy, however, I don’t think we can be certain that it will happen in exactly this way.

I would wager to say that it will be more like Deuteronomy 6 where it says of the LORD’s commandments to, “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (v. 8). I think that in the final days, the wickedness of man will be incredibly obvious, as tied to our foreheads and hands. In reality, we will probably only know when the time comes. Or maybe we are already there and we won’t know for sure til we get to heaven. Either way, if it were all that important, the Bible would be clear on what 666 will look like in humans.

Is 666 in all barcodes?

Yes and no. Surely by design, 6 as well as 666 is an incredibly common number. It comes up by default in all sorts of calculations, not excluding, random number algorithms, like the ones used to create bar codes. Do I put any stock in 666 showing up on my shampoo bottle? No. I actually find it comical. I have noticed it so many times when I get change at the gas station or grocery store or whatever, as well as many other places. It doesn’t mean I’m going to hell.

Based on the previous question, though, it could mean that I am a sinner and that by nature I am wicked at heart (and I am, as are all men). But, I am redeemed through Jesus Christ, so 666 in a bar code, need only remind me of my savior.

Is it bad if i see the number 666 everyday?

No. See previous question. Seeing 666 everyday simply is a phenomenon, although I doubt it is a coincidence.

What does everyone need to know about 666, the mark of the beast?

Ya know. It all depends on who you are and why you care. Remember the mark of the beast, 666, is also the mark of man. We aren’t waiting for this judgment to come. It’s already upon us and has been since the fall of man.

The only real reason that anyone needs to know anything about 666 is if they have some sort of internal struggle which is causing their faith to suffer. And to that person I can give advice. In Revelations 13 it says in regards to the mark of the beast, “This calls for wisdom” (v. 18). Go get wisdom if your faith is suffering. Read God’s word, all of it, constantly seeking Him through prayer in order to place His wisdom upon you. What I believe you will find is that you have no reason to fear the coming wrath, so long as your faith is in Jesus Christ.

How many times is 666 mentioned in the bible?

4. I could leave it at that, but I can tell you a little more, I suppose.

1 Kings 10.4 and 2 Chronicles 9.13 both address Solomon’s yearly income of 666 talents of gold. Certainly, you can argue that since the money is the route of all evil that the amount was referring to Solomon’s judgment, but that would be ridiculous. Solomon was in control of his worldly possessions, he messed up on a spiritual level when he took foreign wives and erected temples to their gods. No, I believe 666 is an arbitrary number; arbitrary, referring to a seemingly random number, which may have been designed to appear more often as discussed above.

Ezra 2.13 refers to the descendants of Adonikam who returned to Jeruselem after the exile. There were 666 of them, although Nehemiah says it was 667 (Nehemiah 7.18). Maybe a child was born between the two accounts. Again, arbitrary. There does not appear to be any significance to the exact numbers of people who returned of any of the families.

We have already talked at length of the account of 666 in Revelations, the only place where it is referred to as the mark of the beast.

We can speculate more about the number six. Man was created on the sixth day (Genesis 1). Noah was 600 years old when the earth was flooded—judgment (Genesis 7). The lampstand wich was made for the tabernacle had six branches—speculate if you must (Exodus 25). Free your slave after six years of service–debt paid? (Deuteronomy 15). The Philistines had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot (2 Samuel 21).

I could go on, but I won’t. I think the search for meanings of numbers can ultimately distract. God’s message is simple and upfront. The hidden things are great to contemplate, but not if they will distract from true worship.

The Meaning of Numbers in the Bible

Love Your Brother—1 Corinthians 8.1-13

Let’s say that you have a friend named Bob. Bob is a great friend in every way. But, you have a really obnoxious habit and it drives Bob crazy. One day, Bob have enough of you and your antics, so he tells you, “I can’t hang out with you any more if you are going to continue doing that.”

How can you deal with this situation?

A. Stop doing the obnoxious thing and you can continue to be great friends.

B. Refuses to stop and you cease to be friends.

It is not inherently wrong that Bob is bothered by you—it may lack love, but we aren’t too concerned with Bob’s problem, so much as your own response. There is also not anything inherently wrong with either of your responses to Bob.

Let’s take a look at the text.

The Corinthians were dealing with this problem: Some of the members of the church would eat food that was sacrificed to idols and they would even do so in the temple as part of the ceremony to a false god. This bothered others who did not do it and this was causing distentions.

Paul tells them that everyone has knowledge. Those that eat in the temple know that it is OK. Those that refuse to eat in the temple know that it is not OK. But, neither opinion is right or wrong here. The problem is love. Knowledge causes arrogance against those who believe something different, but love builds up and therefore brings people together. Knowledge is nothing then, but love draws us closer to God through the building up of other believers (vv. 1-3).

Paul says that an idol is nothing because the god is not real. He says that there is only one God, God the Father and only one Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, to sacrifice to an idol is to sacrifice to nothing and so it is just meat. In practice, it is not sinful (vv. 4-6).

Paul then tells us that not everyone knows it’s OK. They are so trained that the idols are real gods that to them it seems that they are worshiping another god, when in fact they are not. This person is weak in this matter and their understanding is defiled (vv. 7-8).

It’s interesting here that Paul does not give us liberty to correct the weaker brother. We are in no position to correct them with our understanding—knowledge—but instead we should simply love them. He goes on to explain how to love them.

(NOTE: This applies to things which are not sinful. We should challenge a brother who is in sin.)

Now it is not sin to eat the meat or to not eat the meat. To eat is to exercise our freedom, and to not eat is to not exercise our freedom. If we are going to love the weaker brother, we must be sure that we don’t cause them to stumble. What does stumble mean? In this context, we are talking about causing the weaker brother, who believes that to eat the meat is to worship a false idol, to do what they believe to be sin. If they begin to eat the meat because the other brother eats the meat, then they will in heart be worshiping the false god, because they lack the true knowledge. To one it is just meat, but to the other to eat it is idolatry (v. 9-10).

Here is an analogy. Let’s say we have a friend who was addicted to pain killers and is now clean. If I hurt myself, it is not sin for me to take a Vicodin to ease the pain. But, if I am to take a Vicodin, ??? I must make sure that the practice does not cause my friend to stumble. This means that I should not take it in front of them. I certainly should not offer to share. It might be wise not to talk about it around them. It would be a good idea not to leave the bottle out when they are around…and so on and so forth.

Paul takes this to a greater extent. He says that to cause the brother to stumble is to sin against them and not only that, but to sin against Christ. Notice the last verse. Paul is so concerned about sinning against Christ that he would rather never eat any meat again, become a vegetarian, rather than cause one of his brothers to stumble. Notice that he doesn’t say he had to do that, simply that were it necessary, he would do it (vv. 11-13).

In the Vicodin example, we could say that in an extreme circumstance, it would just be better to suffer the pain than to cause your brother to stumble. Are we willing to suffer physical pain or discomfort for the benefit of our brothers in Christ?

This applies in so many other ways, though. Let’s go back to the Bob example. Bob is the weaker brother. Your obnoxious behavior is not sinful, but because of Bob’s weakness, he asks you to cease what you are doing. This passage is about the decision you should make, not Bob. If you refuse to stop the behavior, then you sin against Bob, because you did not express love towards him, but if you sacrifice of yourself and stop the behavior, then you expresses true love. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15.13).

The application, then, is that we should not be so concerned with changing others, but if we are truly to love our brothers in Christ, then we should be willing to change our lives, to lay down our lives, for their benefit; that they might be able to walk closer to Christ because of our sacrifice.

Christian Work at Home Jobs

Free eBook

I have recognized an increased need in the ‘blogosphere’ for Christian work at home jobs. It seems many moms and even dads are looking for extra work to make ends meet. Good news! The internet does have some good options.

There are a lot of work at home jobs available to Christians. The problem is that most of them really do not make reliable money or that they are not worth the hours that you have to put into it. There is one Christian work at home job which I highly recommend.

For almost a year, I worked at home as a writer. You don’t have to be a professional writer to do this. I wrote for eHow and Bukisa creating web content. Now, many people have done this unsuccessfully, but it doesn’t need to be that way. In fact I still pay my mortgage off of royalties that come in from when I used to do this.

About a year ago, I wrote an ebook, specifically designed for Christian work at home moms and dads looking for jobs online. For a while I was selling it (and you can still buy it if you want), but I worked out two other programs to get the book for free so that you can benefit it without having to spend the money. I figure anyone looking for Christian work at home jobs, probably does not have the money to spend on the book.

If you are interested in picking up a copy of the book so that you can make some extra cash online, please take a look at my other website, Need Extra Cash. God bless! I hope this works out for you. If you have any questions, contact me via the contact form and I will get back to you.

Motivational Bible Teaching

ExplanationBiblical teaching can be an extreme challenge. The person with the strongest knowledge of the Bible is often left with little to no ability to teach it in a way that will actually motivate people to learn. The following three sections outline the major facets of motivational teaching. Motivational Bible teaching is relational, progressive and personal.

Motivational Teaching is Relational

Teaching is first and foremost a relationship. Many people don’t look at it this way, but the principle is there. For teaching to be successful, there must be interaction between the teacher and the student and therefore, it is relational. Take Jesus for example. He came to earth as a man, specifically a Jew in order to teach men, specifically Jews. Because of this, we must understand the relationship between the student and the teacher as well as the relationships among the students.

The teacher must figure out how to relate to the students. I think of when I was a teenager and I had a Sunday School teacher who was in her seventies. She was a great teacher, with a sound knowledge of the Bible, but she simply had no way to relate to the class. Now I teach the youth of our church and I struggle with it at twenty eight. The way that I relate to them is by sharing my testimony, that I walked away from the church at eighteen, and how I love them so much that I want to guide them so that they don’t do the same. It’s my ‘in’. Every teacher must have one in order to relate to the students.

Group dynamics are important too. It’s easy enough to wrap your mind around a class of teenagers because they are all at the same place in their lives, but if you were to throw in a handful of adults and small children, then the dynamic changes. You have to find a common thread. What is it that all of them need that you can provide through the teaching? In many cases it would be wise to teach several classes according to age range, but it is not always possible, so a common thread must be identified. Again we can take the example of Jesus, the master teacher. He repeatedly gave very specific instruction to very specific people. For example, the rich or the pharisees or the disciples. He understood the dynamic, yet when the group was mixed, He was still able to teach to all.

Motivational Teaching is Progressive

Learning must build on itself in every way. First, a lesson must build on itself. It must progress. It has to build up to a main point. In every Bible passage you teach, there is a reason that God put it in and you must identify that point and build up to it (even 1 Chronicles 1-9). I’ve sat through many classes where the teacher spends the entire class uncovering background and history of verses and even provides advice, but never get’s to the point of a passage. Scripture lacks meaning if a purpose cannot be identified. “Scripture is…useful for…training in righteousness” and with no purpose, then there is no life change and if there is no life change then there is no training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3.16).

Second, teaching must be structured, building upon previous lessons. If every week you come before the class with a seemingly random topical lesson, then you will lose your audience. The most common way to do this is to teach through a book of the Bible. This is not to say that other methods are not acceptable, so long as they are structured. As an example, I am teaching on Sunday mornings through Corinthians, but on Thursday nights I am teaching on worldliness. I am teaching lessons that are thematically consistent and build upon each other, all reinforcing the same ultimate point. So where the Thursday night lessons are topical, they are still structured and progressive.

Finally, the teaching must be relevant. You cannot assume knowledge that hasn’t been previously taught. In many cases, you will be able to identify relevancy based on the groups dynamics, but often it will be by referencing (and reinforcing) things which you personally have taught them previously. Teaching structurally makes this part of progressive teaching much more attainable.

Anyone familiar with progressive rock music can understand this. A progressive rock song does not follow a traditional musical format. It will begin with one theme that develops and changes. Where a typical rock song would change and then return to the original theme, a progressive rock song will move on all together, through new grooves and new themes and will only occasionally return to a metamorphosis of a previous theme in order to reinforce that it is still the same song. In teaching we can do the same thing. As we teach through a structured structured series, where every lesson builds upon a main point, we return to thoughts from previous lessons, only momentarily and as necessary to reinforce relevancy and scriptural consistency.

Motivational Teaching is Personal

Teaching must be personal. Again, knowledge of group dynamics is going to be really important here. The lesson must be engaging to the students in order to encourage learning. In my classes I often do an engagement session prior to the lesson to get the students thinking about the subject on their own before I teach them what God’s word says about it. In a recent lesson on worldliness I wanted them to observe how much Christians can look just like everyone else, so I read them the MySpace profiles of many Christians and Atheists that I found online and asked them to identify their religious understanding. This exercise worked great with teens, but I’m not sure it would have worked at all with senior citizens or four year year old’s, for that matter.

It must be stimulating in order to keep their attention and because stimulating teaching will be easier to remember. Great tools for stimulation are metaphors, analogies, similes and other forms of imagery. Use compare and contrast to begin to uncover the meaning behind the imagery for the class and encourage them to discuss in order to uncover it themselves. “As they progress…students can use the process on their own to stimulate a wide-ranging exchange of ideas” (Marzano et al., 2001). In essence, they will learn to uncover these truths on their own. They will become so engaged that they will teach parts of the lessons themselves through guided discussion.

Finally, it must be applied. If there is no application, if the students can’t walk away with very practical ways to apply scripture, then you fail as a teacher. We are only successful as teachers if our students experience life change as a result of our teaching. If we don’t accurately apply scripture, it’s like cooking Thanksgiving dinner and feeding it all to the dogs. It’s a waste.

You will notice that there were no legalistic rules laid out by these principles. “Ultimately, professional development is personal. No two teachers are alike” (Marzano et al. 2001). Similarly, no two classes are alike. A teacher must find what works for them in order to properly teach God’s word and to actually accomplish applied learning. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching” and it deserves to be taught as such (2 Timothy 3.16).

References

Marzano, R. J., Norford, J. S., Paynter, D. E., Pickering, D. J., & Gaddy, B. B. (2001). A Handbook for   Classroom Instruction that Works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum          Development.

Image Credits: harrykeely, sxc.hu

Biblical Rules for Marriage and Relationships–1 Corinthians 7.1-17

boy and girl Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, (1)each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. (2)The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. [because] The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. [therefore] Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command. (vv. 1-6)

It can be argued here that ‘not to touch a woman’ is referring to not marrying, which Paul brings up later in the passage, however it doesn’t appear that Paul is using imagery here. The Corinthians were very familiar with immorality and so I think this passage can be taken very literally; just keep your hands to yourself.

(1)’But’ or ‘instead of touching people you shouldn’t be,’ everyone should have only one husband or wife—as is appropriate. In the ancient cultures, marriage was not a governing institution like it is today. It was, however, a lifelong commitment established upon consummation. Many cultures were in the habit of not marrying because of the lifelong part. So, Paul is saying that instead of touching many, each person should choose just one partner. When he says everyone should have one husband or wife, he is condemning promiscuity because it is immoral.

(2)The second thing he condemns is sexual deprivation. Paul recognizes further in the chapter that uncontrollable sexual desire in itself is reason enough to get married. And so if the sexual desire is not met within the bonds of marriage, then it is a door for Satan to enter into to tempt with immorality; specifically adultery. He says that in a marriage, your body is not your own, so you have no authority to deprive your partner, except in the case that you are devoting time to God, and even then it should only be for a short time.

Lastly, Paul says that this is a concession not a command. He is saying, “this works,” but you don’t have to do it. If for some reason you are able to avoid immorality, then another ‘model’ could be acceptable. The immorality is the part that is sin. However, I think it is highly improbable that any other model is likely to work. To be clear, the variable part is not in the number of wives or husbands nor is it to do with touching, he means that the nature of sexual interaction within marriage is up to your discretion so long as it is not immoral. I also don’t think deprivation is by design according to Genesis 2, so I think that he means that the nature and frequency of interaction is ultimately between the husband and wife and should not be taken legalistically.

Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (vv. 7-9)

This passage is simple. Paul was unmarried. Some people will argue that Paul had a wife before he was an apostle, but it is not really important either way. What is important is that Paul recognizes that all people are different. I think of the jokes where people say, “when God was handing out such and such…” In a sense, God did give us all different bodies that come with different chemical levels and we all have different minds and different emotions. We are physically, mentally, emotionally, and often spiritually relative. And since we are all different, having different ‘gifts’ or traits, then we can’t all be expected to live in the same way. Paul is able to remain single. Others shouldn’t attempt it because they cannot control their sexual desire.

This makes me think of people who push their children to get an education before they get married. Where this can be a good practice, I think it is important that the desire for our children to become successful does not overshadow our desire for them to remain pure. If our children ‘burn with passion’ and lack self control, we have to be ready for the only thing that the Bible allows in order to meet that need, which is marriage. I think that promiscuity might not be such a widely accepted practice in our culture if we did not put a larger weight on education than on purity. Parents are not exclusive to this perspective. We are as individuals ultimately responsible for our own purity and cannot use cultural expectations such as an education higher than what God has called us to. Yes, I am saying that you should find a husband or wife if you honestly are unable to control yourself.

But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. (vv. 10-14)

Let’s talk about the ‘not I but the Lord’ and the ‘I say, not the Lord.’ First of all, ‘all scripture is God breathed’ including both of these verses. I think these verses give us some insight into what it means that God breathed the scripture or that scripture has been inspired by God. What I believe this shows us is that when Jesus spoke, the Lords words were put to paper very practically, but when Paul wrote letters that would later be made scripture, he wrote Paul’s words according to the will and Spirit of God. What we find here is that Paul is paraphrasing Jesus’ teaching regarding marriage. Jesus said that no one should divorce or separate. Then he put’s in his two cents (according to the will and Spirit of God) and presents the rules for when one party is a non-believer. Both are scripture. One was inspired by God through the Spirit and the other was inspired literally by the mouth of God when Jesus spoke.

OK. For all married, believers or not. A wife should never leave her husband. It is always better to be reconciled. If for some reason, the wife does leave—not divorce—then the husband should not divorce her for leaving. He should pursue reconciliation. I know that concession was made for divorce on account of adultery, but God does not desire that anyone divorce in any situation. We commit adultery against God regularly and where He has the right to divorce us, He chooses to be reconciled instead.

For marriages with one believer and one non believer. The believer should not initiate separation. The reason is out of love for the other person. Doesn’t the believer want their partner to believe? The believer should pursue reconciliation because through the believing partner, they will experience the love of God; they are sanctified, set apart to experience all that God has designed for them. To separate is to deny the unbeliever the sanctification that might bring them to Christ. In the same way, the children are made holy when the parents remain together, because they too will see the love of God in them. For the parents to separate is to make them unclean, hindering their likelihood of seeing Christ.

NOTE: Believers or not, if a divorce takes place, it causes the children to be unclean. Also, this passage is not suggesting that it is OK for a believer to marry an unbeliever. According to 2 Corinthians 6, we should not be yoked to an unbeliever in any relationship, including marriage.

Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk And so I direct in all the churches. (vv. 15-17)

The previous was a command for the believer not to leave. This passage addresses the unbeliever leaving. The believer is not bound to the requirement to stay together if the unbeliever leaves, however we are called by God to peace, so reconciliation should always be the goal. The unbeliever, however, can leave and the believer cannot force them to stay in the marriage because that would only cause unrest.

The last verse really gives some peace for all of these matters addressed above regarding marriage. As believers, we have all been called to a specific life as it has been assigned by the Lord. And we should walk as we are directed to do so. This reminds me that we should constantly be looking for God’s will.

Romans 12:2—Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This is how we know God’s will. We do not conform any longer to the ways of the world and we do this through the renewing of our minds. That means that we are constantly in prayer and in God’s word, changing our minds and our habits from worldly ones to righteous ones. Then as our minds are renewed, we will gain discernment in order to be able to know God’s will for our lives, which is good and pleasing and above all, perfect. In a sense, if our minds were renewed, then we would be able to figure out how to act in our marriages according to our own God gifted discernment.

Image Credits: ralev_com, sxc.hu

God, My Heart and Stuff–Worldliness Lesson 5

old stuffSeveral years ago, there was a building right here on the corner of T and 87th (down the street from our church). The place had a wall made out of plywood. Inside were numerous sheds and a quite large, albeit dilapidated, house. Inside the house lived one old man. After he died, the family decided to have an estate sale, to clear the place out. I went because word was that he had lots of musical instruments; and did he ever. Every room was filled with various different things. One was full of typewriters, another full of TV’s and another, musical instruments. Outside, all the sheds will packed with machinery of all kinds for wood working and metal working. And when I say full, I mean that they had to drag stuff out into the open just to make enough room to walk through the ‘stuff’. This guy had a lot of stuff and had clearly been collecting it his entire life.

worldliness

When someone has this much stuff, it is safe to say that they do not need it all, because there is no way that he was possibly using it all. Not even close. This guy’s life was dedicated to his stuff and for what? For a glorified garage sale? Jesus said, “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12.15). The Contemporary English Version translates it this way, “Owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe.” And isn’t this what we do? We want to be safe, satiated, provided for, so we get all the right ‘stuff’.

Stuff in the World

Here is the world view of stuff. J. Paul Getty, “The best things in life…are things.” The idea here is that the world only knows how to please itself through what the world has to offer. We can only try to meet this need for safety and provision with stuff. But the Bible calls this desire for stuff coveting. Coveting is desiring for the purpose of provision, safety or joy.

We are going to talk about the Biblical way of provision, safety and even joy, but first we have to talk about why we can’t live for our stuff. “No one can serve two masters…you will be more loyal to one than to the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16.13). Check this out. The word here used for money is ‘mammon’ which actually means ‘material wealth’, not specifically cash. It is our stuff, our hoard of TV’s and typewriters, if you will. We are explicitly forbidden by Jesus to serve our stuff. Not only that, but mammon is also used to personify our desire for stuff, sometimes as an evil spirit. It is personified in order to point out the very direct idolatry that takes place. We are, in a sense, serving the spirit of materialism and consumerism instead of God and we have a jealous God. We are commanded to “have no other gods before” Him (Exodus 20.3).

The Vanity of Worldly Riches

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

(Luke 13.16-21)

There is so much to talk about here, but we are going to hit a few major key points. First of all, the man decided to stockpile his ‘stuff’ and then pursue laziness and arguably gluttony and foolishness until his stuff ran out. How often do we think in this way; if I just had that new car, that new computer, that game, that movie, then I will be content. I actually used to work this way. I would get a job for a while and save up money so I could quit and do nothing for a while. It’s ridiculous.
Not only that, but the parable is saying, “So what!” Even if you succeed in accomplishing your goal of gathering enough stuff to make you happy, the moment it happens, you could easily die and what then? Will there be a garage sale where your stuff is sold too? See, to be rich by the worlds standards is in vain and anyone who is rich according to the world is NOT rich towards God.

*** A quick note: This does not mean that anyone who has an abundance of stuff is not rich toward God, but anyone who pursues material wealth for provision, safety and joy instead of God.

Where does my provision come from?

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

(Luke 13.22-31)

Now the way for our provision, safety and joy. God takes care of the birds and the lilies. The point is that if God takes care of them, then how much more as the most beloved creation will he take care of us? The principle is simple. Don’t worry about your life. Just do what God calls you to do and nothing more. All the other things will be given to you. Seriously, isn’t God faithful? Why should we seek after ‘stuff’? Seek the kingdom and if God decides to bring you joy, provision and safety through stuff, then great.

Does this mean that we can’t have stuff?

Chains that bind us to the world—4 lies that we tell ourselves.

1.My stuff makes me happy

Deuteronomy 16.15—There is a principle here, which we will not uncover, but ultimately the truth is that if you are obedient to do what has been commanded, “your joy will be complete.” ,
Psalms 4.7—“You [God] have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.” The greatest, most complete and eternal joy comes from God and nowhere else.

2.My stuff makes me important

1 John 2.16—“For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Look how prideful we have become! We boast in what the world provides, which is meaningless. It doesn’t come from God at all. Our addiction to ‘stuff’ is not godly, it is worldly and it is sin.

3.My stuff makes me secure

Matthew 6.34—This is a parallel account from what we just talked about in Luke. We have no security in our stuff. We could die tomorrow and it will not save us, no matter how much stuff we have. Our salvation comes only from doing the work from which we are called to in Jesus Christ.

4.My stuff makes me ‘rich’

Genesis 14.21-23—“The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’” The king of Sodom has just submitted to Abram and now pleads for his men, that Abram would allow him to keep them, rather than take them into slavery. He offers Abram all of his riches. Abram, however, trust God for his provision, safety and joy, so he refuses to accept anything, so that only God can have the glory for the blessing which would come upon him.

Image Credits: ischerer, sxc.hu

Glorify God With Your Body–1 Corinthians 6.9-20

I want you to imagine that you are in a foreign country and that you are about to take a road trip. Let’s say that you are hired to transport something to another city as soon as possible. You are given a fueled up car and a road map and an address. What do you do? The logical thing to do is to plot out the best route on the map and follow it in order to get there as quickly as possible. Still, some will accept the job, then be led astray and take their time to get where they are going, possibly going the wrong way intentionally, running out of gas, food, getting lost, etc. In the same way, we have a goal that we are challenged to reach in life and that is addressed by this passage (in addition to other things). Read the 1 Corinthians 6.9-20.

9,10. Implication from the previous section is that the lawsuits are unrighteous and the unrighteous do not have an inheritance in heaven. Paul contrasts the lawsuit issue with more extreme examples of immorality and says that they too do not have an inheritance in heaven.

11. Paul identifies that some of them were guilty of some of these sins, but now they are forgiven (washed), life transformed (sanctified) and pardoned (justified).

12. In saying that all things are lawful, Paul is saying that God will allow us to do whatever we want, even as Christians, including sin. In spite of this, sin is not good for us because, as it is implied, sin will master us if we allow it to be a part of our lives. So instead of serving Christ, we will serve ourselves, our sinful nature.

13. It seems here that we could try to justify immorality on the grounds that it is our nature, as humans to be involved sexually with one another. Where there is some truth to this—the first command was to multiply and fill the earth—it is not an excuse for sexual immorality. Paul acknowledges that the reason we have food is because we have a stomach that needs it, but we do not have a body which is designed to serve sex; rather it is designed for serving God.

14. In the same way that Jesus’ body was raised and transformed into an imperishable heavenly body, our physical bodies will also be raised up and transformed to be just like His. I think Paul brings this up to imply that the effects of our sin, will be a part of us for eternity. We won’t have guilt or pain because of it, but I do believe we will remember our sin even though we have been forgiven of it. Certainly those who do not accept Christ will spend eternity troubled by these scars.

15-17. Since in the act of committing sexual immorality, you are becoming one in flesh with another, and you as a believer are already one in spirit with Jesus Christ, then you are in essence binding Christ to a prostitute. Now it is not that the prostitute could not be forgiven or that Jesus would not be happy to forgive a prostitute; it’s not that at all. Jesus would happily bind Himself to a prostitute that recognizes the need for a savior and repents of sin. If we commit sexual immorality, we are binding Christ to the practice of immorality. It’s like we talked about in chapter 5; we are defaming the name of Christ.

18. Immorality, where it is equally as forgivable as every other sin, it is different. It is a sin which is inside the body, while others are outside. This means that we are effected internally by it. This is likely a reference to STD’s. One thing is certain, and it is clear still today; there are consequences for your physical body from practicing sexual immorality. These could be STD’s or unwanted pregnancy. It is in this way that you are actually sinning against your own body, not just against God or other people.

19. Your body is a temple. This is not a direct reference to the physical side of the body, rather it is a reference to the spiritual. If they Spirit resides inside you and you commit internal sins, then it is like a Hebrew taking a prostitute beyond the veil and into the Holy of Holies where God resides. Our bodies are not our own and while we have freedom to do this, it is not good. In Hebrew times it would have been promptly punished with death.

20. We are not our own because we have been purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must glorify God, not just in action, but also with our bodies. “…whatever you do, do for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10.31).

There is a very specific application when we talk about sexual immorality. Let’s take a quick look at the details of what is meant by immorality as addressed in verses 9, along with modern equivalences of them. Notice that the sins in verse 10 are all addressed in chapter 5 as being equally as bad as immorality. We won’t go over those again.

  • Fornicators: Those who have sex outside of wedlock and/or with multiple partners. Promiscuity.
  • Idolaters: Idolatry is worship of false gods or worship of anything except God. In context I would say that this is anyone who places their sexual needs higher than their call to follow Christ, either intentionally or because of a lack of self control.
  • Adulterers: This is someone who has sex with someone who is not their spouse.
  • Effeminate: This is a specific reference to the ancient practice of catamites, specifically in Romans and Greeks. It is a mature man who takes a young man as a prostitute in exchange for physical things (in most cases). I think this translates into modern times into all forms of molestation and sexual interaction with children, voluntary or involuntary.
  • Homosexual: This is specific to homosexual offenders; those who have a sexual relationship with a member of the same sex. It should be noted that homosexuality is forgivable and repentable. A homosexual must repent of the offense of it, but not be expected to change sexual preference or to marry someone of the opposite sex. In most cases it will mean refraining from all sexual contact and never marrying, since their desires lead only to sin.

In the end, I don’t think there is any argument that these sins are bad and that they should be avoided at all costs, but there is a more specific application that we can take from this. Like in the driving example, we have accepted the challenge to follow Christ. Where we are at complete liberty to go off the path which we are on, there will almost certainly be consequences of doing so. Yes, our sins are forgiven for all sin, past and future, but if we allow sin in our lives, especially of the kind addressed in this chapter, there will most certainly be long term and possibly eternal consequences.