The Life Application Study Bible (3rd Edition): Answering the So What Question

“Faith is not an achievement, it is a gift. Yet it comes only through the hearing and study of the Word.” – Martin Luther

In teaching public speaking, I tend to reiterate one question to my students: “So why should we listen to you? So what about your topic?” This question gets to the heart of their speeches. It informs the audience why it is important to listen, to interact, and to use the information that is being presented.

Studying the Bible is exactly the same. We can listen to a sermon, read a devotional, and read the Bible, but our hearts ask one question: “So what?” Answering this question is key for growing as a Christian. We can know the “whats” of the Bible, but we go deeper when we know the “whys.”

This is where The Life Application Study Bible (3rd Edition) can help.

Clarity in Language

In dealing with the “why,” we need to be able to understand the Bible in order to answer that question. The Life Application Study Bible has taken on the task to make every verse, note, and application understandable. The theology is beautifully woven into simple notes. You do not need a theology degree to understand this study Bible. What you do need is an open heart to read the Bible and be changed by it.

Clarity for understanding and application can only come from when the language of the material is comprehensible. This study Bible (in all its aspects) makes that possible.

Guiding Us to the Heart

One of the best features of The Life Application Study Bible are the many opportunities to get to the heart of every passage. The notes and character sketches guide us to answering the “so what” that plagues our minds. It isn’t enough just to know a passage in-depth. There has to be application. These features point us in that direction.

Guidance in Bible study is beneficial as we wade the waters of life with the Word as our guide. The Life Application Study Bible is an excellent guide into knowing, interacting, and living out God’s Word.

Make Sure to Check the Back

One thing that sets this study Bible apart from the others, is what can be found in the back. Not only are the notes and other features inside the Bible helpful, but the items found in the back are a gem. We can study and apply the Bible to our lives; however, being a disciple of Jesus does not end there. We need to know how to make disciples of all nations; as Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:19-20. If we did not make disciples, our faith and Christian life would be like the Dead Sea. It does not go anywhere. It does not pour into another body of water. A good body of water feeds into another.

The articles in the back of The Life Application Study Bible put us on a good course for fulfilling the Great Commission. “How to become a Christian,” “How to Follow Up with a New Believer,” and “So You’ve Been Asked to Speak…” are some of the articles found in the back. Each of these can develop the skills to make disciples. This does not say church and the fellowship of the believers are not important. But, these tools can help in this process.

Check the back. There are great articles and tools to help you individually, and help others know Jesus and grow in their relationship with Him.

So What’s the Difference?

There are many changes to The Life Application Study Bible. Has the Scripture itself changed? No. What has changed is the culture in which we live. The first edition came out in the 1980’s. Today, in 2019, there have been many changes culturally, linguistically, and societally. This study Bible has done a great job of updating the user friendliness of the Bible, as well as the notes to reflect a Biblically-based way of applying the Bible to our lives today. Some of the issues that we face are wrote about more and provide better answers to walk with.

Here is a short video to help you understand the changes in this edition:
The Life Application Study Bible – 3rd Edition Changes

Studying the Bible and Applying to Life

The Life Application Study Bible is one I have used for many years. I go back to it with every project, paper, sermon, or lesson I am working on. The third edition has helped me in applying the Bible to issues around us that were not around or as prevalent compared to ten years ago. This study Bible is a tool that should be on your shelf. Studying the Bible is how we grow in Christ. Living out the Bible is how faith is put into practice. The Life Application Study Bible helps us walk each step in that process as we navigate each issue from a Biblical worldview.

Purchase The Life Application Study Bible here

*I received a free copy of this study Bible from BibleGateway to review as I am a member of their Blogger Grid

A Controversial Movement Benefiting the Church

“Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good.” – Zwingli

Throughout history, there have always been movements. A movement can be defined as, “a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas.” In our own country of the United States, movements have been apart of our society since its beginning. The American Revolution started with a movement to separate from England. The Abolition Movement sought to end slavery. The Women’s Right Movement, which first started in 1848, sought for various rights for women. Currently, the Climate Change Movement and Black Lives Matter Movement have had significant impact on our culture.

When we step back and analyze these historical movements (and even current movements), we need to see if a movement is beneficial or hazardous to our culture. There are many that fit both the good and the bad. Something that is beneficial, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as “producing good results or helpful effects.” When we see movements like the Hippie Movement, Black Lives Matter, and Abolition we can legitimately discover if that movement has benefited society (Abolition) or not (The Ku Klux Klan Movement).

As a church, we need to do the same with every social movement. As a new movement marches the streets, Christians are responsible to not react to these movements. Christians are to look to Scripture and see if there is any way this movement can help the church.

A movement benefiting the church would need to bring helpful effects. However, to clarify what this looks like, we need some criteria.

The Criteria

As Merriam-Webster defines, a movement that is beneficial needs to produce helpful affects.

Therefore…

A movement beneficial to the church would need to push us in our gospel-focused interactions with people.

A movement beneficial to the church would need to cultivate a deeper Biblical thinking and study of the Word.

A movement beneficial to the church would need to affirm our stance on God’s Word.

A movement beneficial to the church would need to assist us in our gospel proclamation.

We can all agree if a movement came along that fulfilled these criteria, that movement would beneficial to the church. For example, the Abolition Movement fulfills each of these criteria. We learned to study the Word deeper and cultivate a Biblical thinking on the issue of race and slavery. We were forced to push our gospel-focused interactions with people of different races. We were forced to stand on what God’s Word said about slavery and race rather than mans’ misguided teaching. We have been pushed to contextualize the Gospel to other people groups and not white-wash our churches and the Gospel.

Therefore…

The Proposition

The LGBT+ Movement benefits the church.

The LGBT+ Movement is dedicated to gaining rights and normalcy for those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and any other category in this group.

First, we need to remember that we do not bend where God’s Word stands on this issue. What God’s Word says about this lifestyle or this worldview or however we want frame it we do not compromise. What God’s Word says goes.

Second, this means there will be disagreement between Christians and the LGBT+ Movement over what is sin and what is not sin. As Christians, we stick with Scripture. However, it does not mean that the LGBT+ Movement can’t benefit the church. As we will see, the LGBT+ Movement fulfills our criteria; and therefore, is beneficial to the church.

Image of God Interactions

Genesis 1:26-27. God creates all human beings in His image. Men and women are created by God, personally, in His image. God did not make us like the animals. He did not make us like plants. We are the crowning glory of His creation.

Each human bears the image of God. Genesis 9:5-6 states that any murder of a human is heinous in God’s sight, because it is destroying someone who bears God’s image. We would agree that abortion is murder because it is destroying the image of God.

James 3:7-9 takes the destruction of God’s image bearers even further. Not only is murder destroying the image of God, but according to James the slandering and verbal degradation of another person is degrading the image of God.

Not only actions and words, but attitudes that degrade the image of God are condemned in James 2:1-13. We are not to show favoritism. We are all made in the image of God. Therefore, having an attitude that one is inferior than another is still degrading the image of God.

When we look at the LGBT+ Movement, what comes to mind? Do we call them the “alphabet soup”? Do we see them as freaks in society? Do we avoid having friends who identify with this group, because we see them as inferior to us? How do we see the sin of homosexuality? Is it a sin no one can be forgiven of? Is it a sin worst than any other? Or, is it a sin like stealing, lying, and idolatry? When the topic of the LGBT+ Movement came up in your life, how did you respond?

Romans 3:23 clearly states that all have sin (including us), and all have fallen short of the glory of God. I Corinthians 6:9-10 condemns all of us. We are all not without sin.

The LGBT+ Movement benefits the church, because it challenges how we view each other as fallen image bearers of God in need of a Savior. All of us are lost in sin. All are in need of Jesus Christ. We will continue to degrade the image of God in those who identify with the LGBT+ Movement until we see them as God sees us – Fallen image bearers in need of a Savior.

When we do not see them as image bearers, we assume the worst about their motives and interactions with the world around us. The American government did the same thing with Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pear Harbor. People did the same thing during the Red Scare with their trials. Lastly, Christians did the same thing during the Salem Witch Trials.

When we forget to see people as the image bearers of God, we treat them under suspicion. Everyone needs Jesus. The LGBT+ Movement benefits the church by challenging us to continue to see people as made in the image of God who are fallen and need a Savior just like we do.

A Deeper Bible Study

One of the most reoccurring themes in the pulpit today is that of Bible study. Pastors and teachers in the church continually challenge us to read and study our Bibles with depth in order to know God and to know how to live for Him.

Titus 1:9 is a forgotten reason for studying the Bible. We are to study the Bible with such a depth that we are able to answer those who try to contradict what the Bible says.

In recent news, we have seen many instances where the LGBT+ Movement contradicts Scripture. However, we tend to react to those things. We stiff arm and say, “that is wrong.” But, we do not have a reason. We have not studied the Bible in-depth in order to come to a Biblical response to the LGBT+ Movement.

The LGBT+ Movement challenges us to study the Word deeper and to come to a Biblical response to what is happening. This is a benefit to the church. Instead of reacting the this movement, have you seen it as a God-given opportunity to deepen your Scripture study? If we all claim II Timothy 3:16-17 as a promise of what God’s Word does in our lives, then do you not think it is sufficient to answer the questions and concerns of this movement? If you have been pushed to study your Bible deeper for God’s glory, then it is benefiting the church.

A Firmly Founded Stand

Sometimes there are ideas and movements in our culture which make our faith seem to wobble under pressure. We are unsure what to do. We think we know the truth, but we are scared to stand for the truth. The pressure comes, and we feel like cowards towards God’s truth. However, the issues of the LGBT+ Movement forces us and challenges us to stand firm on God’s Word.

Paul’s final exhortation, in I Corinthians 16:13, urges us to stand firm in the faith. He commands us to be courageous and strong. He would not give us this exhortation if it was going to be easy to stand on God’s Word in faith. In fact, throughout the New Testament we are urged to stand firm in our faith and to stand on God’s Word no matter what movement or government is sweeping society (Ephesians 6:10-18; Philippians 4:1; Colossians 4:12; II Thessalonians 2:15; I Peter 5:12)

Any person, movement, government, or anything that forces us to stand firm in our faith in beneficial. The reason is because we live by faith, and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7).

Contextualizing our Outreach

As missionaries plant themselves in other countries to make disciples, they have to learn to contextualize the Gospel. Contextualizing the Gospel is not changing the message of the Gospel. It is adjusting the presentation of the Gospel in order for a people group to understand it. Paul clearly contextualizes his Gospel presentations throughout the book of Acts. In Acts 13:13-52 Paul preaches to a group of Jews. He uses a lot of Old Testament references in order to reach the Jews. However, in Acts 17:16-34 Paul takes a whole different approach to reaching Gentiles with the Gospel. He uses their own culture to reach them by using the altar to the unknown god as an illustration and expounds on a point using one of their poets.

Have you ever thought how you would share the Gospel with someone in the LGBT+ Movement? How would you share with them how to be reconciled with their Creator through the work of Jesus Christ in faith? The message of forgiveness of sin through Christ will not change, but how we present it will change.

The LGBT+ Movement benefits the church by challenging us to present the Gospel in a contextualized way that will make sense to those who identify with this group. If we all agree we are all created in God’s image who are fallen and in need of Jesus to save us, then we need to know how to present that to everyone so they can understand it and make their faith in Jesus personal.

Conclusion

Movements come and go throughout history. Our country has seen many. Our churches have seen and interacted with many. We have been benefited by many; like the Abolition Movement. However, some movements we react to and forget there might be a benefit in disguise. The LGBT+ Movement is one we tend to react and stiff arm. We forget to Biblically respond.

The LGBT+ Movement does benefit the church. We will disagree on the issue of sin. However, that does not excuse the church to write off this movement. We can learn and grow as Christians from things we Biblically disagree with. God brings things into our lives to grow us. Do you not think the LGBT+ Movement can be used to grow our faith and churches? God uses everything for His glory as He uses the church to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

The next time you come across the LGBT+ Movement or someone who identifies with this group, what are you going to think? How are you going to approach this group? Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). All nations mean all peoples. All people include those in the LGBT+ Movement. This movement does benefit the church as we seek to fulfill the mission of the church to make disciples of all peoples.

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And the Award Goes to…

“Man’s sanctification is never to the glory of a man, as though man could glory in any holiness of his own.” – Martin Luther

One of my favorite times of the year in the media are the award shows. The red carpet, the fashion, the nominees, the winner, it is all exciting to see. When you hear, “The winner is…” you can’t help but think how that person’s life has now been changed. Each actor, designer, and director have been striving for this one moment. The moment to win the award to show they have made it. They have joined the other greats who have made the mark.

Those in film, music, theatre, and the other performing arts train to become the best in their field. They want to stand out. Others who do not win the award go back the drawing boards. Emotions of disappointment are worked through, and more plans are constructed as a scaffold is built in order to reach the award.

Awards are an interesting phenomenon in our culture. The ceremony of giving awards can be seen as way back as the ancient Greeks. Everyone wants to be recognized. And, everyone wants to meet the benchmark.

As Christians, is there a lesson we can learn in our own practices?

The Christian Award Phenomenon

You have probably been in a Christian school, institution, or even a church that has recognized someone and presented an award for Christian Character, Christian Perseverance, or Christian Service. Names are chosen for who is best exemplifying Christ in their lives. Many of the reasons for these awards is to provide an example to others around us.

You might be surprised to know that when I researched a history of Christian awards, I could only go back to the 1960’s. There were no records further back. Christian awards are a modern phenomenon. In comparison, the Oscars first started in 1929. They came about with the film industry. Christianity has been around much longer. Yet, Christian awards are not seen throughout church history.

The question must be asked, “Why is this a thing in Christian culture? Is it biblical to give out awards such as a Christian Character Award? What are the potential blessings and dangers as we think about Christian awards?”

The Bible and Awards

When we first think about the Bible and awards, we think of Matthew 5:11-12 claiming our reward is in Heaven. Crowns of life tease our imagination as an award found in James 1:12. Awards connate honor, and the biblical phrase “Honor to those you owe honor (Romans 13:7)” rolls right off the tongue.

Before we open the envelope to unveil the next winner, let’s consider the contexts of these award-giving passages. There are others, but I would like to deal with these popular passages.

Matthew 5:11-12 falls at the start of the Sermon on the Mount in the section known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). Jesus reveals what is meant by a blessed life. In the final two verses (vs. 11-12), He tells us that it is blessed to be persecuted. He says it is good to be glad and rejoice when we face persecution. Why? Because we have a great reward in Heaven. Notice the location of our reward: in Heaven.

James 1:12 is apart of a larger section in which James is writing about how to endure trials (James 1:2-18). Verse 12 is a promise for those who endure trials. God has promised a crown of life. Take note that it is God who is giving the award.

Finally, Romans 13:7 find itself in a discussion about the Christian and government (Romans 13:1-7). Paul is encouraging Christians to submit and respect their government. He even goes as a far as saying to pay taxes and give honor to whom honor is due. The context has nothing to do with awarding people. It has to do with our response to government and paying our taxes as one action in honoring our government.

When looking at two of these passages, we come to the conclusion that God is the giver of awards and they are not found on earth, but in heaven. In fact, Revelation shows us that everything we are and everything we gain can be cast back in honor of our Savior (Revelation 4:9-11).

Awards as a Benchmark

The unfortunate aspect of awards is that all do not receive an award. Yet, all Christians receive the award of eternal life with their Savior. So what are Christian Character awards? They are dedicated to those who display extraordinary Christian living. Recipients can be perceived as those who have reached a benchmark in their sanctification. It can almost be seen as having arrived at what true Christian living looks like.

Biblically speaking, benchmark sanctification is far from the truth. Paul (Romans 7:14-25) confesses his struggle with sin. He is a good example of one who could have said “he has made the mark” with his sanctification, but clearly confesses he is not perfect. He still has a long way to go.

This is a potential danger with Christian awards. We present them to the one who displays Christian character. However, for the recipient it sets up a potential pedestal of pride which can lead to a fall. There are many Christians nationally famous, and others who are not, which after a while of receiving an award for their Christian faith have walked away and led others astray. On the flip side, those observing can feel shame and frustration as they have prayed and fought sin, but still have not made the “award benchmark.” This may not happen in all situations, but it is a danger that can lead us astray in how we view sanctification. Our sanctification is about Christ’s work in us for the glory of God.

The Endeavoring Encouragement

As we have seen, awards come from God. Our Christian character is a working of the Spirit as we walk with Him, and not on benchmarking ourselves with each other.

What would happen if instead of awards, we gave the opportunity to give a testimony? Ephesians 4:19 outlines a way to encourage each other through song. Could we use the same principle and encourage each other through God’s working in our lives? Then we will be fulfilling Hebrews 10:24-25. Do awards really provoke us to love and good works? Or do awards spark a sanctification based on comparison?

Many people are famous in church history, not because they won an award, but because they died for Christ and proclaimed His Word. People to note in church history did not win an award, but voiced a Biblical response to bring Christians back to biblical thinking. It is not about winning an award that makes or breaks our sanctification or makes us famous. That is the world’s way of thinking. Christ is the one who makes our sanctification, and it is when we stick to the Word we can win the best award when we hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Sanctification and holiness is not for our own glory, but to give glory back to Jesus who saved us through an award-winning work where he receives the Kingdom and the title “King of kings.” Awards can be good, but it is better to hear “Well done” by our Savior than an applause of a crowd.

This Is My Father’s World

There is a signature of wisdom and power impressed on the works of God, which evidently distinguishes them from the feeble imitations of men – not only the splendor of the sun, but the glimmering light of the glowworm, proclaims his glory.
– John Newton

Some weeks ago, my wife and I were getting ready for church. My wife came into the bedroom exclaiming, “The cats are going nuts at the slider door.” We do not live on the first floor, so I thought it might be a bird. But there were loud meows and so we decided to investigate. We opened the blinds and saw a kitten sitting on the railing of the deck. She was quite small and dirty. Rebeca went out to investigate. The kitten hopped down and came right to her purring. It was going to rain that day so we brought her inside. She wasn’t small in size, but her weight told us she hadn’t eaten in days (possibly weeks). Our examination of her began. Dirt and bugs covered her fur. After an hour long bath and brushing, we got the bugs off and once brown fur revealed to be white along with her brown tiger stripes. Matted fur was untangled and soft again.

As we put her in a box with a blanket, the little kitten curled up after some food and went to sleep. After sharing with vets and other people this story, we were able to piece together this kitten’s story. This little one was most likely abandoned at 6 months old. She had probably been on her own for 2-4 weeks. Shelters were full. We were told that she most likely would be put down if a home was not found in a short time. Then Rebeca looked at me and said, “Why are we going to let that happen to this kitten, when she did nothing wrong? Why punish her for someone else’s lack of responsibility?”

We tend to use phrases like that when it comes to the issue of abortion. But, I had never connected it with an animal’s life. Yes, a human life is more valuable than an animal’s life, but can that phrase connect to animal life? These thoughts led me to search out what is the Christian’s life in relation to animals. Not only that, but what is the Christian and environment have to do with each other. Animal rights and the environment are hot button political and social issues in our culture today.

But the question must be for Christians, “What does the Bible say about animal life and the environment?”

A Quick Reaction is Not a Biblical Response

When most of us think about animals and the environment, some images come to mind. We might think of tree huggers stopping a company from cutting down trees. We might think of “Save the Whales” signs and cleaning up trash from the ocean. We might think of the ban of drinking straws or emotional UN speeches or marches for solutions to climate change.

We might even think of one political party or another. We might think of hidden agendas. We may look at the ban of drinking straws to help save the sea turtles, laugh, and then go by 100 straws just to prove a point. Or, we may shut down the issue as a liberal hidden agenda. A person may begin speaking about the environment or animals and we close our ears or throw out their ads or laugh at their commercials. These are not responses. These are reactions.

It may be possible that people are using the issue of climate change and animal right to hide an agenda, but we can’t think about that unless we have proof. That is a reaction. As Christians, we need to a biblically-based response.

Proverbs 12:18 says that a rash or reactionary word can hurt, but the word of a wise response can bring healing. Colossians 4:6 tells us to have our answers to anything be seasoned with salt and be gracious. This would include answering the issue of animals and the environment. Harsh reactionary statements turn away people. Thought out responses allow people to listen, and our responses can open the door to give the Gospel.

So what does the Bible say about the Christian’s relation with animals and the environment?

In the Beginning…

Genesis 1 has to be our place to start. Before we talk about the environment and animals, we need to start with verse 1. God is our creator. He created the environment all around us. He created the seas, the sunsets, the canyons, the fall colors, the cold snow, the high mountains. He created your dog or cat. He created the spiders, the fish, the birds, the lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh my, there is much more to creation than us. We tend to see the awesome creation of our favorite place or animal, but God did create those mosquitos too.

The animals around us, and the environment we live in and enjoy came from God. He is our Creator, and he is their Creator too.

Our Place to Work

When we finally get to Genesis 1:26-28, we see how we are made in God’s image and how we are to be fruitful and multiply. However, have we skipped over something? We are given the job to rule over God’s creation. We are to be his ambassadors on earth.

In fact, in Genesis 2:15 God puts Adam (specifically places him) in the Garden to look after it and work in it. The first job humans had were to take care of God’s creation. That is the first command in Scripture to humans. We are to look after God’s creation. We are not meant for another world as some people would say. We were never created for heaven. Heaven is temporary. We were created for the New Earth (Revelation 21). Our God given place and purpose are on this earth and will one day be redeemed and found on the New Earth.

The Idolatry of Mother Earth

However, you might be thinking, “I know where this is going. We are going to become tree huggers and animal right activists.” Again, that is a reaction, and not a thought out biblical response.

Many people who fight for the climate and the animals refer to the earth as Mother Earth and having this one planet for humans. While it is true that we just have what God has given us for this life, we must address the issue of Mother Earth. When people forget God is the Creator of all animals and the environment, they tend to worship at the feet of Mother Earth. When anything replaces God as Creator and Lord, that is an idol. When we get too focused on animals and the planet and forget our other God given responsibilities and forget Him, we are committing idolatry. So, taking care of our earth and animals is biblical; however, if we are not careful (like with anything) we can find ourselves worshipping at the feet of Mother Earth -just like we can find ourselves worshipping the sermons of Pastor Pillow or worshipping the Town-Crier TV.

Consider a Biblical Response

Matthew 6:26 and 28-30 calls us to consider various things in creation. We are told we are more valuable than these, yet God takes care of them. God takes care of creation, yet he has given it to us to be his ambassadors and stewards on earth. This goes back to Genesis. Just as who God is, we are to follow and steward what is important to him. According to Matthew 6, creation and the smallest parts of creation are important to God. Therefore, they should be important to us.

So, it is good for Christians to take care of the animals around us and be good stewards of our planet (Proverbs 12:10). This is our earth given to us by our Creator to showcase his glory. Is it glorifying God to let litter kill his creation? Is it glorifying to God to abandon our animals because we don’t feel like taking care of them anymore? Is it glorifying to God to let our yards over grow and not look well kept? Giving glory to God is found in every aspect of our lives, and not just in our relationships with believers and unbelievers around us.

However, we cannot get carried away. We must take care of our families and the people around us. But, it is not an excuse to neglect God’s creation. We must have a balance.

Romans 1:20 states that all creation points to God. Why would we want creation to be destroyed when it all points to our creator?

Now I am not saying let’s go protest and give speeches. But, we can take care of our environment and animals. We can help the abandoned animal. We can help shelters. We can lessen our garbage. We can be good stewards of the earth and all that is in it. This is not a government issue. It is an individual issue. When we see who our Creator is, we will want to take care of his creation that he has entrusted us with.

When we stop reacting to the political and social issues and political parties, we can see what Scripture says about these issues and align our actions with God’s Word.

Psalm 24:1 says the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord. His glory is seen, not just in us as humans, but also in the creation and animals around us. He is their creator too. We marvel at God’s creation. Why destroy it with our reaction to political issues? Let’s go back to Genesis. Our first job is to take care of God’s creation as his stewards. God’s attributes and glory is seen from his creation. Let’s do our best that creation and our stewardship of creation can be a testimony to a dying world.

This is my father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres

This is my father’s world
The birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white
Declare their maker’s praise

This is my father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought

This is my father’s world
Oh, let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet

– “This is My Father’s World” by Franklin L. Sheppard

Communion: In Remembrance of What?

“We ought carefully and with the utmost seriousness and consideration attend the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: this was appointed for this end, to draw forth longings of our souls toward Jesus Christ.”
– Jonathan Edwards

Preparing for a wedding can be a wonderful, yet a chaotic time. There are many details that go into creating a wedding. However when families find out a wedding is coming, it seems like everyone comes out of the woodwork. Everyone has an opinion about how a wedding should be done. The dress, the music, the vows, the rehearsal dinner, the reception, the invitations, etc. Each element has an opinion.

My wife and I have only been married a year-and-a-half. We remember putting together our wedding. We had ideas. Each family member had ideas. Each friend had ideas. Pinterest had ideas. Yet, one thing kept us going: our wedding was about celebrating us. Our wedding was not ignoring family, but it wasn’t about everyone. The wedding was about us and vowing to be loyal to each other and love each other as Christ has loved us, and be an example of a godly marriage to the world around us.

We did things some felt were “unconventional.” Yet, again, we wanted the wedding to celebrate the main thing: our marriage.

“Keep the main thing the main thing” is a popular phrase thrown around today. It is true that we need to keep a main priority on things that are important; however, sometimes good things tend to rise above and overshadow the main thing.

Communion (or the Lord’s Supper) is a sacrament or ordinance in churches that is celebrated many times throughout the year. Recently, my wife and I took part in our church’s observance of communion. As we were reflecting as the elements were being passed, a thought hit my mind and I began thinking.

“In remembrance of what?”

The Story of Communion

The night of the Passover had arrived. The disciples found an upper room to observe the celebration of the Exodus with Jesus. They gathered together. Reclining at the table, the disciples’ eyes were fixed on Jesus. He talked about suffering and not eating the meal until it was fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus took the bread. He gave thanks and broke it. Yet, His words spoke something unusual, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).” After they had consumed the bread, Jesus grasped a cup. He gave thanks. Again, His words were unexpected, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (Luke 22:20).”

“My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

The disciples did not realize that these words were not symbolic. These words became a reality not even twenty-four hours later.

Jesus the Son of Man, the Miracle Worker, the Great Teacher, the Messiah was arrested. He was tried, beaten, and flogged. A leather whip with ends of bone and other sharp objects ripped through his flesh like a lion tearing at prey. His beard was ripped out of his face. A crown of thorns was wedged on his head causing blood to stream down his face. He was unrecognizable. Yet, he did not protest. He freely gave over his body.

The bloodied Christ, burdened with a cross, was led out of the city to be crucified. His muscles were so weak and torn, that another man had to carry Jesus’ cross.

The soldiers arrived with Jesus at a place called “The Place of the Skull.” He was stripped and became vulnerable for all to see. His arms were pulled to each end of the beam while spikes were hammered through his wrists into the wood. His feet suffered the same.

Jesus, the one who healed a woman with the issue of blood, the one who cast out demons and put a man in his right mind, the one who saved a woman about to be stoned, the one who fed hungry souls was lifted on a cross for all to see. The soldiers then dropped the cross into a hole tearing his ligaments and dislocating his shoulders.

In agony, Jesus had to gasp for breath. In pain, he stretched his bloodied form to fill his lungs. After a while, he looked to heaven and said, “It is finished.” No more air entered his lungs. His kind eyes grew dim. Jesus was dead.

“My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

His lifeless body was taken down and buried. Yet, three days later. Jesus rose from the dead. He was not a spirit. He had a physical body and ate in front of his disciples. He lives. His disciples were changed and began to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world.

One thought permeates their message to the world, “My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

In Remembrance of… our Purity

The story of communion is sobering. We come to communion based on this story. However, what is it in remembrance of?

I have sat through many communion services and observed one thing that really sticks out – “Take time to pray and get your heart right before God. Christian, if you are living in sin, you cannot partake until you are restored with God.”

I Corinthians 11:27-32 is the basis for comments like this. Paul commanded the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were partaking in the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. Why? 11:17-22 gives us the answer. The Corinthians were abusing the Lord’s Supper. They were partying and stuffing themselves like a pagan celebration. There were factions among the rich and poor. The Lord’s Supper looked no different than what happened at the pagan temple. The Corinthians had lost sight of the purpose of communion.

Similarly, the pendulum can swing the other way. Have we forgotten the main purpose of communion? In our churches, we tend to belabor the point of repentance and being right before God that we make communion in remembrance of our purity before God. When we pass the bread and the grape juice (or wine depending on the church’s beliefs), we tend to figure out who took the bread and who has not. Our minds quickly race, “What is going on in his life?” “What is she hiding?” We tend to make communion a memorial of our purity before God.

Sure, we are not celebrating and abusing it like the Corinthians. But, we are making it about us. Communion is not about our purity before God. That is not the main point. When we belabor and focus on our purity and confession before God during the Lord’s Supper, we have missed the purpose of communion.

In Remembrance of Me

In the book of Luke (Luke 22:14-23) and in I Corinthians 11 (I Corinthians 11:17-26), a phrase is repeated: “In Remembrance of Me.” Twice in I Corinthians 11 it is repeated.

The main purpose of the Lord’s Supper is remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is remembering the incarnation, remembering his life, remembering how he redeemed us and signed a new covenant in his blood, and sealed it with his resurrection. The Lord’s Supper is in remembrance of Jesus as we look forward to his coming and restoring everything as he brings about the New Earth where he reigns and we are living like we were originally created to (Revelation 21).

We break the bread with our teeth, we drink the juice and we are to remember Jesus. Our righteous standing has nothing do with our efforts or the number of prayers given. It has all to do with Jesus. As we partake the Lord’s Supper, we are proclaiming the new covenant God initiated in Christ. The temple curtain is torn. His blood is there for us to paint our doorposts with. It is all about him. We eat and drink communion in remembrance of him.

In Remembrance of Him… We Pray

Are we just supposed to throw out making sure our hearts are right before God? No. The Christian life is a lifestyle of repentance. The fruit of salvation is repentance. Too often we come to communion with fear of the judgement that comes if we eat in an unworthy manner (I Corinthians 11:27-34). Have we forgotten that in Christ there is now no condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)?

We are not condemned. We are free from sin. This is why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Yes, we need to examine our live. But, we do not have to fear because we are adopted as heirs and sons of God (Romans 8:15-17).

When we remember Christ, we praise God for his salvation and we bow in humility as we know we do not deserve it. Communion is a reminder of our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we come to that realization we cannot help but repent of our lukewarm hearts. It is not out of fear, but out of longing for the satisfaction that Jesus gives. It is a longing to be with Jesus when he comes again. It is a longing to finally see our Savior face to face and touch the body he took on and kept.

So, shake off the spirit of fear. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial celebration of thanksgiving to our God. We repent because we marvel and remember the great work Christ did for us on the cross and in his resurrection.

“My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!
– Martin Luther

Saved unto a List or Saved unto a New Life

“Though there is not always grace where there is the fear of hell, yet, to be sure, there is no grace where there is no fear of God.”
– John Bunyan

This week I handed out the requirements for my students’ next project. As the students got the list, they quickly began looking at the details and what would happen if they did not fulfill those requirements. As I went over this simple sheet of paper, each one was frantically underlining, highlighting, and starring each point in order to not miss a single one.

A hand popped up with a concerned face connected at the end. “Mr. Field, what is the penalty of missing one of these requirements?” My response sent shivers down some of their spines, “I will return your outline back to you, and you will receive a late penalty when you turn it in corrected.” The seriousness of following the requirements set in, and since then I have had many students come to me asking to check their outlines to see if they are on track.

I pondered on this simple academic situation. It is not unusual for this type of experience to happen at the college level. Yet, there is an important spiritual truth to be seen.

The Great Gift of Salvation

It is no denying that the greatest gift God has given to man is salvation. We were dead in our sins, and we were on our way to eternal condemnation. But God, who is rich in mercy, saved us by His grace to a new life (Ephesians 2:1-10).

When we come face to face with the holiness of God, we see the wretchedness of our sin and the glorious forgiveness of Christ. It is only through the death and resurrection of Christ we can be fully set free from the burden and slavery of sin, and be made alive to God.

Do you remember the day you were saved? Do you remember the Spirit pushing the weight of sin on your mind? Do you remember not being able to do anything else but cry out to God for salvation? The moment of being justified and reconciled with our Creator is the sweetest thing in life.

Salvation. It seems so simple, and we praise God for it. But, have we missed the great gift of Salvation and unwrapped a false salvation?

Saved from Fear to… Fear?

Romans 6:16-18 states we are set free from the slavery of sin, and are now servants of God. Romans 8:15 claims we are set free from the slavery of sin and set free from a spirit of fear. Instead, we are given the spirit of adoption where we are now called the children of God and heirs with Christ.

Yet, have we listened to a “salvation” that frees us from a spirit of fear and, in return, given us a different spirit of fear?

I am talking about the list. Many in churches today see salvation as praying a prayer, and then following a list of do’s and don’ts their church culture made from application of Scripture. We will not admit to it, but we say a prayer, write the date down, and then we carefully follow the check list:
– Attend church services every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and
Wednesday evening
– Give to the church
– Read your Bible and pray
– Serve in the church
– Look the part for church
– Hand out tracts
– Give of your best to the master

The list can go on and on. Yet, when we doubt our salvation we turn to the date in our Bible and look at our checklist. We fear hellfire because we do not believe enough in a date or our fulfilling a checklist of chores.

This is not the spirit of adoption. This is not being saved to a new life in Christ. This false salvation is a belief in a date written in your Bible and your faithfulness to a list. This is superstition. It becomes about your work and your ability.

Following this mentality leads to being saved from fear of hellfire to being saved to the fear of your ability to believe and do enough. Biblically speaking, it is no different than the issue of the Galatians of trying to justify themselves through the works of the law (Galatians 2:15-16).

We no longer become servants of God. Instead, we are like puppets fearing what would happen if we mess up on our list and not hold fast to the date in our Bible. There is no grace in this attitude. We become more fearful of hellfire and the people in our churches, rather than being fearful of God and falling on our faces before Him to rescue us.

We have traded the burden of sin and death for the burden and fear of the church and a list of requirements. This is not salvation.

Saved to a New Life

So, what are we saved to? We already know that we are saved from the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23). We know this.

But, are we not saved to a new life to live a new way? Yes we are. The classic passage is Romans 12:1-2. Because of all that God has done for us, we are to be living sacrifices to Him. Because of Romans 1-11, we see the mercy and grace of our great God and Savior as He reached down and saved our souls when we could not help but die in our sins. However, we tend to get this passage mixed up. Our minds quickly breeze through verse 1 and go straight to “do not be conformed to this world” found in verse two. We look for what we need to do first. But, we need to take the passage exactly as what God gave us in His Word. We are to glory in the mercies of God and be. We are to be His living sacrifice ready for His will. There is no doing yet. We bask in his mercy and grace of no longer being condemned, but being adopted, and having a new life for God. This makes drives us to be a living sacrifice, and then begin doing. Paul reiterates this point in Galatians 2:20.

We no longer have to fear condemnation from anyone. We live, and have our being, and have our purpose in life because of the grace and mercy of God. Fearing God is not fearing hellfire. Fearing God is seeing who we are before Him, rejoicing in His work and gift of salvation, and living our lives for Him because of who He is. It is an awe in the God who is our Creator, Savior, Father, Justifier, and King of kings.

The Fruit of Salvation Lived

Oswald Chambers says, “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” When we fear, we use a list as the “fruit of our salvation.” Then, when someone is not following the list, we quickly state, “You will know them by their fruit.”

The fruit of salvation is not a list. The fruit of salvation is repentance. Matthew 3:8 shows us that it is not about being from a family, or following laws, or completing a list. The true fruit of salvation is repentance. It is not just and one and done deal. Repentance is a lifestyle of constantly turning from our pride and sin to be our our God, and running to the cross to find forgiveness as we learn to live our new life in Christ. From this lifestyle, the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) blossoms from a once dead tree made alive through the blood of Christ.

A.W. Tozer says, “Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.” We no longer have requirements. Instead, we live by faith because we see who God is and we want Him more than a list and more than anything in this world.

We are saved from sin, slavery and fear. We are saved to God, purposed in a new life, serving God in Christ, because of Christ. This is salvation. This is living our new life poured out from the grace of God.

All I was I lay aside now dead to sin
To God alive! Born again into a new identity!
Once asleep to God in sin, now wakened by the blood and cleansed!
Born again to be who He called me to be!
All I have I lay aside, run the race to gain the prize
For the sake of knowing Jesus Christ in me!
I cannot yet fully see all I’m truly called to be,
Knowing Christ reveals my hope and destiny!

He calls me child! He calls me to his side eternally!
He calls what once was lost now found, once bound to sin – now free!
He calls me holy! Calls me righteous! By the blood redeemed!
He calls me overcomer, crowned with victory!
This is my destiny!

What once bound me is no more! What was stolen is restored
By the resurrection power of my King!
What was old has been made new; lies and doubts replaced by truth!
What was silent now resounds, “I am redeemed!”

He calls me servant, calls me warrior; calls me royalty!
He calls me resurrected one! He calls me His redeemed!
He calls me higher, calls me for beyond my wildest dream!
He calls my heart to come and be all he can see!
He calls me chosen! New creation! Trophy of his His grace!
He gives me strength to fight the fight and run to win the race!
He tells me he delights in me while singing over me,
Accepting me as His beloved bride-to-be! This is my destiny!

– “This is My Destiny” by Dennis Jernigan

Getting into the Water: A Review of a Study Bible for New Believers

“In the divine Scriptures, there are shallows and there are deeps; shallows where the lamb may wade, and deeps where the elephant may swim.” – John Owen

I remember sitting in French class in college not knowing what I got myself into. I felt lost and confused. I needed lots of help at the beginning while adjusting to this new study.

We all have been there. A new phase of life begins and we feel lost or confused and need help as we get started.

The new life in Christ can be overwhelming at the start. You gave your life to Christ. You are forgiven of your sins. You are now apart of the Body of Christ, the Church.

And, as the story goes… As soon as you make a profession of faith, someone hands you a large book called the Bible. You are told this is your guide to life. Read it, and study it with care. This is how you get to know Jesus and understand how to live your new life in Him.

Getting a Bible when starting your new life with Christ can feel daunting. The book is larger than most books you have read. There are many books within the Bible. The language may seem archaic and strange. How in the world are you supposed to study and understand everything in this book?

A Study Bible to Start Your Quest

Zondervan recently rereleased the NIV Quest Study Bible. This Study Bible is a great tool to start your new journey as a Christian.

The contributors on the Quest Study Bible have taken the task to create a study Bible that is understandable, easy to access, and easy to use for those who are new to the faith as they seek to know God through His Word.

I have personally used this study Bible in the past and have found it helpful in my Christian walk with God. There are so many aspects of this Bible that are beneficial to new believer that I would like to walk through a few of them as you consider this Bible as a tool to start your walk with Christ.

A Study Bible that is Easy to Understand

The NIV translation is a great place to start when studying the Bible. The language of the NIV is easy to comprehend as one makes their way through some of the tougher passages and long paragraphs. Paul can be confusing sometimes, but the language of the NIV can clear some of the confusion up.

Also, many of the other study Bibles have notes that involve Greek and Hebrew key words, deep theological notations, and other such things. The study notes in the Quest Study Bible are set up as questions. These are quite helpful when studying the Bible for the first time. Not only are the notes at a good level to understand the Bible, but the questions help the reader begin to ask questions of the Bible. This is a great way to begin studying the Bible with some depth. The questions are found on the side margins of each page and are linked with the passages next to it.

When one feels lost or confused with a passage, just look to the side and a question will help you on your way. The language of the study notes help clear the confusion, and at the end of the note are references to other passages and notes to help with clarity.

The study features in the Quest Study Bible aid new believers in the ability to study the Bible for themselves. Taking Bible classes or attending Sunday School classes on how to the study the Bible is great. However, the ability to study the Bible on one’s own time is a crucial skill for the believer. The Quest Study Bible‘s question format helps develop the individual’s skill of studying the Bible with clarity.

A Study Bible to Guide your Quest

When approaching Bible reading and study, many believers take a Bible reading plan, and by about the second month the feeling of being overwhelmed can easily set in. This can happen to new believers, and can cause great discouragement when starting out.

Those who put together the Quest Study Bible thought up a brilliant solution to this issue. In the front of the Bible (as opposed to in the back like many other study Bibles), the reader will find three different “courses” of Bible reading. Course 1 is an “Introduction to the Bible”. Course 2 is a “Guided Tour of the Bible.” Course 3 is “Every Word in the Bible.” Each course takes a different amount of time to complete. The Quest Study Bible‘s reading plans start with a good survey of the Bible and end with reading through the entire Bible. This is a brilliant pathway to work your way from the shallow end of Bible study and into the deep end.

Another helpful tool, that is found in the front of the Bible, is an overview of each of the books of the Bible. Understanding a brief statement of the contents of each book helps the reader develop a map to navigating each book.

A Study Bible to Keep the Motivation of the Quest Going

Lastly, a good study Bible will help the reader stay motivated throughout their study. Even though knowing God deeper and living His calling out to the fullest is the ultimate motivation for studying the Bible, a new believer has a different perspective. A new believer has just had their world turned upside down and needs help staying motivated in their pursuit of knowing God.

This is a great feature of the Quest Study Bible. When one begins a book, the first thing to notice that, instead of seeing who wrote the book, the question of why should I read this book is answered. Knowing the why can help motivate one to read each book of the bible – even the so called “boring” books of the Bible (i.e. Leviticus).

Also, sprinkled throughout like a trail of bread crumbs are the numerous vignettes of special notes (i.e. Top 100 Questions, maps, charts, and other articles). These help a reader dive deeper into the depths of God’s Word and interact with Scripture through the maps and charts. All of this helps keep the motivation throughout the quest to study the Bible.

Come on in, the Water is Great

New life in Christ is an adventure from salvation till we see our Savior face to face. Getting to know our Creator and Savior by studying the Bible can be overwhelming and daunting for new believers. The Quest Study Bible is a great way to start and a great tool to have on your shelf and on your lap.

Making God’s Word understandable, accessible, and usable is a challenge, and the contributors of the Quest Study Bible have done an excellent job. I highly recommend this study Bible to new believers as you start your walk with Christ. This study Bible will help you learn how to study on your own, and study deeper without the discouragement that can come as one begins to study the Bible.

II Timothy 2:15 says to do your best to handle the Word of God. This is a great study Bible to start just that.

The quest may seem overwhelming and wonderful starting out. Yet, the Quest Study Bible can help you take those first steps in Bible study.

Purchase the Quest Study Bible Here

*I received a free copy of this study Bible from BibleGateway to review as I am a member of their Blogger Grid