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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Quantum Spirituality–James 1:2-4

E=MC2Let’s talk a little bit about math. Yes math. I think the history of math is really interesting. It started out with adding and subtracting then multiplication and division; today, quantum physics. And still mathematicians have ultimately uncovered that there is infinitely more to be known about math. The important part of math, and the reason mathematicians don’t find their work to be done in vain, is that it produces application along the way. Math has facilitated the most phenomenal inventions of the modern world and even many of the simplest things that we can’t seem to live without.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

In the beginning of James we find that this pattern is not foreign to God’s design. We are commanded to consider trials a joy and this because trials produce endurance. The more that we are tested by God, the more endurance we have. And as a result of that endurance comes the perfect result. The result is the spiritual maturity that we gain from the trials—the result itself being the perfect result of the trial, not a perfect man.

Now the more we experience trials, the more endurance we get. The more endurance we get, the more perfect results we get, that is the more mature we become spiritually. And the more mature we are, the more trials we will have and so on and so forth, so that a perfect result is continually being produced in us.

All of this takes place, ultimately producing spiritual maturity, so that we may actually be [or become] perfect and complete. This will take place on the day of the Lord when we go to be with Him in eternity. We will have become, through His blood perfect and therefore be lacking in nothing. For He who created all things will be among us and we will have no needs: physical, spiritual or emotional.

This is ultimately the same as the mathematician. We, as Christians, work our way through trials in life, the same way mathematicians work their way through the trials or problems that math presents. In a micro-chasm, we attain maturity, but there is infinitely more maturity to be gained. In a micro-chasm, the mathematician succeeds as well, solving one problem at a time, but there is infinitely more problems to solve.

The take away from this passage is that we should find joy in trials. When we suffer in this way, we can be confidant that we will gain endurance and ultimately more maturity. And ultimately, we will attain perfection when we go to be with Christ for eternity. Therefore take joy in the trials that you encounter in life.

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Putting Media and Music in its Place–Worldliness Lesson 4

worldlinessWe have talked extensively about music and media in the past couple sections. You should be able at this point to identify the heart problem with music and media. Today we are going to talk about how exactly we go about doing that. What does the Bible actually say about media consumption? We are going to have to draw some lines. There are three areas that must be taken into consideration, our time, our heart and the actual content.

TIME

There are a lot of ways we can attack the subject of time. I am referring to the amount of time which is spent on media and music. The best way to look at this is to prioritize time into our schedules. The Bible has a lot to say about how to arrange your schedule and the beauty of it is that everyone’s priorities are going to be a little different even if they are biblical priorities.

Some priorities look like this.

  1. God
  2. Marriage
  3. Parenting
  4. .…
  5. .…
  6. .…
  7. .…
  8. .…
  9. .…
  10. Music and Media

Where this appears biblical at first glance, God does not call us to make Him first in our lives,       He calls us to make Him first in every area of our lives. A better standard would be this.

  1. God in Marriage
  2. My Wife in Marriage
  3. My Self in Marriage
  4. God in Parenting
  5. Education in Parenting
  6. .…
  7. .…
  8. .…
  9. .…
  10. God in Media and Music
  11. Entertainment in Media and Music
  12. Relaxation in Media and Music

Here’s what this looks like. If I am going to watch a movie, I need to make God first in that movie. And I am talking about time, so immediately consider the following things which are commanded of us.

  • “Do not let the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (Joshua 1.8). This is taken slightly out of context as Joshua was a leader of the people, but the principle is there, that we should be daily in the Word so that we will know it and follow it. If we have not spent time in God’s word, truly seeking His wisdom, we are simply wasting time on media and music.
  • In Daniel 6.10, we learn that Daniel would go to his upper room and three times a day, get down on his knees and pray to God. To get on your knees is to show submission. When was the last time you were so humbled by God that you were moved to pray on your knees. How many days do you go without saying a genuine prayer at all? God desires that we seek a relationship with him, not a relationship with the world.
  • “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2.42-47)
  • Notice the way the early church dealt with fellowship. Being an active part of the lives of fellow believers was part of day to day life. In many ways, media can actually help fellowship, but the       most valuable fellowship is actually attained in direct human contact like what is described    here. Are you sacrificing fellowship for media and music?
  • Are there any other things that you have been commanded by God to do, that you simply are not doing because of an overexposure to media and music?

HEART

We talked about the heart in pretty explicit detail before hand. The important thing to remember is to look at your heart and ask yourself why you are exposing yourself to the specific type of media. “The LORD searches every heart and understands every motive…if you forsake Him, you will be rejected forever (1 Chronicles 28.9).  God knows your motives and you will be judged according to your motives. Make sure you understand the motives of your heart.

CONTENT

There are lots of reasons to be concerned about content. Ephesians 4.3 says, “among you there should not be even a hint of…immorality.”Colossians 3.5 says to “put to death…whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” Understand that if when you accept Christ, you simply move sin from your actions and put it into your mind instead, that you have not conquered the sin. Jesus wants your mind and emotions, not just your will, your actions.

Let’s return to the idea of priorities. Not only should we be concerned about the time that is involved, but we must prioritize our reasons and our motives (our hearts) as well. If we are not putting God first, then that is where you draw the line. I hope you can see at this point how everyone’s line will be in a little bit different spot, but based on these biblical standards, we should all be in about the same ball park.

At this point, if anyone is not sure on what a healthy level of media is, talk to me about it and we will see if we can’t identify the motives.

Taming the Fire of the Tongue–James 3.6-8

TongueRecently, in California, we had a crazy fire that burned for 52 days, across two counties, consuming over 250 square miles. It consumed 89 homes and took the lives of two fire fighters. For the first couple weeks, the fire containment was under ten percent. The wind, combined with the mountainous terrain and abundance of fuel made the battle difficult. What was amazing to watch was the way that the fire spread daily, seemingly exponentially, consuming more and more homes and wildlife.

And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

James 3:6-8 (New American Standard Bible)

In James, chapter three, we are told that our tongue is a fire. This means that our speech bears the same characteristics as fire. If our tongues are set on fire by hell—that is we allow ourselves to speak sinfully—then the sinfulness spreads like fire, defiling all the members of the body. This means that if we allow ourselves to speak sinfully, then we will act more and more sinfully in more and more ways as well.

Man was put on earth and commanded to ‘subdue’ it (Genesis 1.28). Where man has been successful in subduing at least most of the earth, we have been unsuccessful in subduing the tongue. That is because the tongue is incapable of being tamed. It is one of the reasons men are naturally sinful; because we are unable to tame our tongues.

This leaves us with a dilemma. If we are called to righteousness, then how can we ever come near it without taming the tongue? Aren’t we in fact sanctified through Christ? James does not say that most people can’t tame the tongue. He doesn’t even say that no one can tame the tongue unless they have the strength of Christ. He says no one, meaning not anyone at all.

It is only Christ who can do this good work in us, and this work is done by heavenly wisdom, not worldly wisdom. James addresses this further in the chapter when he says, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown by those who make peace” (James 3.17,18). This is why no one can tame the tongue, because we cannot accomplish it with anything we know, only through heavenly wisdom.
Many times I have been asked, “What does this look like?” As Christians, we know we should have “no unwholesome talk” (Ephesians 4.29), but accomplishing that seems impractical. We must do it through heavenly wisdom. The practical is this: study the word of God, meditate on it, pray through it and you will receive the wisdom that comes from heaven and from Jesus Christ. Then and only then, will the tongue be tamed, not of our own strength, but by the strength of Christ alone.

Image Credits: nr49, sxc.hu