Books of the Bible and Application to 20 Somethings

In teaching 20s & 30s on a regular basis I am finding the need to be relevant more and more important. It is not that relevance didn’t used to be important. It just seems theology disconnected from real life application tends to fall on deaf ears a lot quicker in young adults than in my experience in teaching older adults. Can anyone relate?

While all the books of the Bible have relevance and application there are several that stand out to me that seem to resonate very quickly with where many in their early adult years find themselves. Here are a few. What would you add?

  • Gospel of Mark – action packed, to the point, and it doesn’t get any better than studying about Jesus when it comes to spiritual and identity formation. Today’s young adults are people of action and Mark tends to resonate well with them.
  • Joshua – Trusting God’s lead & promise going into uncertain circumstances.
  • Ephesians – I love them emphasis on where God has brought us from and where he is taking us to. This is spiritual formation and transformation at its best. So many of our young adults have not grown up as Christians, just like many in the first century, and can relate well with letters like Ephesians.
  • Psalms – Are young adults aren’t afraid to express their emotions, much like David in the psalms. The full range of emotions and the since that the psalms are very real is appealing and attractive to young people.
  • James – oh, so practical. Straight to the point with no beating around the bushes. So why not add Proverbs too.
  • Proverbs – See James.

There are so many one could add to the list (again, all are relevant in their own way). What would you add and why?

Pocket New Testament With Leviticus and Habakkuk

kjvOne could only wish…Have you ever seen a pocket New Testament paired with the Old Testament books of Leviticus and Habakkuk? I know I haven’t. These diminutive mini-me sized New Testaments are always paired with Psalms and Proverbs because those are the two books of the Old Testament that are helpful through all the seasons of life and are often frequented by Christians. The Bible does such a great job reflecting real life. It doesn’t gloss over problems, failures and pain but it also doesn’t paint a picture of hopeless gloom and doom either. One reason the psalms are so popular is because no matter where you find yourself in life there is something there that resonates with the raw emotion of your current situation. One interesting fact about the psalms is that there are just as many praise psalms as there are lament psalms…talk about balance. I often wonder if we are far too concerned over bothering God too much. If the psalms are any indication maybe He wants to be “bothered” by us more often than we like to think. I think Walter Brueggemann said it best, “It is a curious fact that the church has, by and large, continued to sing songs of orientation in a world increasingly experienced as disoriented.” I think we could say the same thing about our prayer lives…that far too often we pray “right side up” prayers when our world seems “upside down.” If the Bible itself serves as an example in this then one message it might be trying to tell us is that God would actually like to hear how we really feel even if everything isn’t so rosey.

Parenting and Proverbs

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
– Proverbs 22:6

This is one of the most quoted texts of the Old Testament people use when talking about parenting and discipline. Another very popular verse people quote is Proverbs 13:24 – “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” That verse is often paraphrased “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” When we think about discipline from the book of Proverbs we often think about justifying the use of punishment on children to correct and train them. Specifically what is often being justified is spanking or corporal punishment as a means of correction. I am not going to go into that right now and may do that in another post but my point is the Proverbs have a lot more to offer than merely serving as a rationale and justification for spanking a child.

Look at the first verse again. When we read that we normally think “discipline” and “correction.” That is what it takes to “train a child”. But notice the very next phrase “in the way he should go.” Punishment trains a child not to go a bad way. That is one side of discipline but the other side of the discipline/training coin is reward. If you are going to do what the proverb says and “train a child in the way he should go” then we need to make sure that the other half of the discipline equation is in play – rewarding appropriate behavior. Kids need praise. Kids need reward. Kids also need punishment and an awareness of where the boundaries of appropriate and inappropriate behavior meets. But the point is training takes both sides of discipline to be effective.

How many people do you know who got plenty of the rod but very little of the idea of how much they were loved by their parents? How did they do later on? Did they depart from “the way they should go”? I know many who have because they never had motivation to do the right thing. They never had someone cheering for them. They never had someone wiser than them letting them know which way was the right way. We see this in parenting all the time. It is much more likely for a parent to yell at a kid for jumping on the couch than it is to catch them sitting nicely on the cough and letting them know how much you appreciate them using the couch appropriately and respectfully.We have to be diligent in making sure our discipline involves far more than a tutorial in the “what not to do’s” and far more encouragement in the “to do’s”

For more on these concepts see these posts on parenting.

How Often Do Bible Verses Make You Laugh Out Loud?

I just love this translation of Proverbs 6:6-11 in the NLT. How often do verses in the Bible make you laugh out loud?

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
Learn from their ways and become wise!
7 Though they have no prince
or governor or ruler to make them work,
8 they labor hard all summer,
gathering food for the winter.
9 But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?
When will you wake up?
10 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”

The Power of Positive Parenting – Definition of Discipline

I am going to be referring back to principles contained in this post in upcoming posts so it is important that if you are going to follow this series on parenting that you understand the concepts contained here.

When we think of discipline we often think of punishment for doing the wrong thing. That is only one side of the coin. The other side of discipline is giving reward or reinforcement for doing the right thing. My working definition of discipline is

A sequence of positive rewards and negative punishments administered to
increase desirable behaviors and to decrease undesirable behaviors.

Punishment teaches children what is wrong and what not to do the next time. It discourages inappropriate behavior. Parents often find themselves saying “Stop doing that.” “Don’t touch that.” “You better not go in your brother’s room.” Okay, now they know what they are not supposed to do. That is half of disciplining a child. The other half of discipline informs a child of what is appropriate and gives them positive feedback or reward for appropriate behaviors in order to encourage those behaviors to happen more often.

One problem is a lot of parents give non-specific (what some called “unlabeled”) praise. These are praises like “thank you” or “good job.” This often leaves younger children wondering which part of what they did was right. A better way of giving praise is more specific (what is called “labeled”) praises. These tell the child exactly what the parent liked about the child’s behavior. These are statements like, “Thank you for using your inside voice” or “I like it when you sit on the couch like a big boy.” Discipline works best when rewards and punishments work together to teach a child what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. I am going to spend more time on positive reinforcement and negative punishment in an upcoming post. I am just trying to lay down some basics here.

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” We have often interpreted that verse to mean that we must punish children for the wrong things they do in order to discipline them. Notice that verse says we are to train our children in the way they should go. Punishment shows them the way not to go. If we want to train our children to grow into a healthy maturity level they need both sides of the discipline equation – rewards for appropriate behavior and punishments for inappropriate behavior. More on that in future posts.

Part 2 – Understanding Functional Behavior

How God Defines Beauty

We studied how God Defines Beauty in our LIFE groups this week. I am going to start uploading all of our lessons to Kingdom Living rather than just linking to our church website. Here is the pdf of How God Defines Beauty. I want to add to this the role of consumerism in forming our definition of beauty. Most of our ideas of what is beautiful comes from people who want to sell us something. The way to generate sales is to breed dissatisfaction so that the consumer feels a need for their product. There is no way to develop a healthy sense of beauty much less a healthy self image by surrounding yourself with messages that say you aren’t good enough unless you buy this, do that, etc. The good news of scripture is that you are valuable and beautiful no matter what anyone else has to say

Here is the text of the lesson.

Icebreaker: Where do most people get their definition of beauty?

We live in a “touched up” world. The Dove Campaign is beginning to show how much touch up work goes into the average photo you see on the newsstand, billboard, or internet. What you see is no longer what you get. We are surrounded by a made-up and make believe world that tells us beauty is basically unattainable unless you starve yourself. That is not how God views us. God sees us as beautiful because that is how he made everyone of us.

Outward Beauty:

Gen 1:26, 31

With what two qualities did God make mankind?

· He made us in his image

· He said that what he had made was good.

Every culture is different in how they define beauty. Because different cultures say different things are beautiful we see that the way culture defines beauty is arbitrary. It is not arbitrary with God. God’s view is, If you exist, you are beautiful to him. Our culture defines beauty and then tries to sell the product that will help make you the way they defined it! That is crazy. You can never be happy or satisfied with that kind of standard. In Genesis God said what he made was good.

Psalm 139:13-16

What does this scripture say about God’s involvement in creating us?

· God is hands on. God is actively engaged in his creation. God loves who and what he makes.

How does the psalmist respond to the idea that God created him this way?

· He responds with praise.

The world’s message of beauty is designed to create dissatisfaction with self and forms an ideal that is unattainable. Why would it be hard to praise God for creating you if you are dissatisfied with yourself?

· Because you wish you were not the person God created you to be.

· God created you with value, worth, and beauty because He chose to make you, you.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-14

How many things has God made beautiful?

· Everything

God says over and over again that he is head over heals for us! Revelation 2 even calls his church his bride who is being prepared for the great wedding day with Christ. He thinks we are beautiful. But not just on the outside. Society dwells on outward beauty because they do not realize what inward beauty can be. God thinks you are beautiful but not just because of how he made your outside. Even moreso God sees you as beautiful because of how he made you inside.

The Value of Inward Beauty

Outward beauty is not all there is to life. When we spend our time and money chasing that and not tending to our souls we have gotten our priorities out of line.

Proverbs 31:30 & 1 Samuel 16:6-7

The proverbs say there is something more lasting and substantial than outward beauty. God gave us a clearer picture of what that is when he selected David to be king. When the people selected a king they picked Saul because of his physical characteristics (he was head and shoulders above the rest). When God picked a king what was he looking at?

· The inner person—the heart, soul, and character.

People use all sorts of products to makeup the outward person. What can we do to really develop the quality of our inner self?

· Through relationship with God, trusting God, faith, Bible study, prayer…all the things that put us in touch with God and his people.

· Time invested in those things will never go to waste.

1 Peter 3:3-4

Beauty is not skin deep. As we already saw outward beauty fades. What type of beauty does Peter say never fades?

· Beauty that comes from a gentle and quiet spirit.

· God puts a great value on that.

God sees past all the outward adornment straight into our hearts.

Application:

Where have you gotten your cues of what makes you beautiful?

When you get ready for your day which gets more prep time the outside or the inside?

What does God see when he looks past all the makeup, all the nice clothes, and jewelry right into your soul?

God thinks you are beautiful through and through. God says we are valuable and that it more important than what anyone else in the whole world has to say about it.

Ananias & Sapphira – A Closer Look (Acts 5)

After the earlier post on The Providence of God in Acts 1-10 I received the following email that I thought was interesting and I wanted to address it here to see if anyone had any other thoughts on the matter…

Good Morning Matthew …

As a “New Garment” Christian, I don’t allow myself to fall for many of the “old garment” fables.

For instance … claiming that God “killed” Anannias and Sapphira is not true because scriptures does NOT support this. For instance, we all know perfectly well that neither the OT or the NT state a thief or a liar should be SENTENCE TO DEATH. On the contrary, Eph 4:28 and Provs 6:30 both say to “put the thief to work”. Further, it is also not written anywhere that liars should receive death. In fact, Peter LIED THREE TIMES about knowing Jesus, and Judas STOLE from the money bag…and neither were “killed” by God. (Judas killed himself.)

Please be also advised the Hebs 13:8 states God NEVER changes His mind or His ways. And He will not DEFY His own word … not even to illustrate a point just once ! ! !

Therefore, it would be truer to say that … the devil killed these people. Based on John 8:44 Jesus said anyone who “works” for the devil “belongs” to the devil. He also identifies the devil in John 10:10 as the true killer of mankind. Therefore, the devil owned them “legally” and was in fact their “father”. Additionally, they were married and of one flesh. This means they carried equal parts of the same demon spirit … which is why they dropped dead, exactly the same way!

Please do not think for one moment that the devil cannot kill people and “collect them” to hell whenever he wants to. Notice that hell is stacked full with MILLIONS of people as we speak, whom the devil claimed and collected … legally.

While I applaud the attempt to keep a systematic view of God’s dealings with people I think there are a few things that need to be addressed.

The overarching principle behind her argumentation is that God cannot change and will not contradict himself. Heb 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Because of that she says God would apply the same punishment to a thief and/or a liar across the board. Peter lied three times and he didn’t die so God couldn’t kill another person for lying since he didn’t kill Peter for it. She then appeals to two verses that say thieves should be put to work, not death. If all of that is true you would have to draw the same conclusion she did. If God didn’t kill them who did? The devil?

Hebrews 13:8 in context is an exhortation for the Christians being written to to continue in their faith and not waiver. In 13:7 they are told to, “remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. In 13:9 they are told to not be, “carried away by all kinds of strange teachings…” Why not? Because just as Jesus Christ has always been the same, we are not to waiver. In context this verse does not say God or Christ cannot change their mind or deal with people differently (See Romans 9!). God never changes who he is or his attributes: such as holiness, omniscience, etc. But God does and has dealt with people differently even in the pages of scripture.

If there is even one case where God punished two people differently for the same offense in scripture then the above argument that God could not kill Ananias and Sapphira cannot stand. Again, I respect the angle taken to come to that conclusion and think there are some really good motives to think that way but I don’t think it really stand when the context of the scriptures mentioned and additional scriptures are taken into account.

Murder:

  • What God said – Numbers 35 is clear that someone who murders another is to be punished by death.
  • God doesn’t always do it the way he laid it out:
    • Moses murders an Egyptian in Exodus 2:11-13 and receives no punishment from God.
    • David has Uriah murdered and commits adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11-12). Nathan’s charge against David, “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own…” (12:9). It is clear that the guilt for this murder is on David’s hands even though he did not personally kill him. God sees him as guilty of murder.

Adultery:

  • What God said – Lev 20:10 – “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”
  • God doesn’t follow through with that toward David & Bathsheba (see references above)

Stealing:

  • What God said – Leviticus makes it clear that the punishment for stealing is restitution and often a repayment of more than what was stolen (Exo 22:7, Lev 6:1-7, etc)
  • This is not the case with Achan who stole at Ai and was punished with death (Joshua 7)
  • God said what Achan had done – “They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions…” (Joshua 7:11) Achan’s confession of his sin – “I coveted them and took them…” (7:21). The penalty – “Then all Israel stoned him…” (7:25).

What about Jesus who forgave people of their sins unlike others who had committed the same sins but had to offer sacrifices? The list could go on and on. The point is, God doesn’t treat everyone the same. Does that mean God changes? Of course not.

I see a lot of similarities between Achan and Ananias/Sapphira. They both stole (God says that his people had lied as well which points toward Achan). Both moments were times when God’s people were trying to define themselves as a holy people/nation. Achan’s sin came as the people were finally going into the promised land and God was teaching them to be holy. Ananias and Sapphira’s sin came as the church was being established and God was teaching them to be holy. God doesn’t need to use Satan to do his dirty work. Satan doesn’t need to be legal to kill someone. The point is, God doesn’t contradict himself to treat two people different. It happens all over the place in scripture and doesn’t mean there are contradictions or violations.

Any thoughts?

Proverbs 31:10-31

This is an acrostic poem where the 22 verses start with each of the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet which may signify an attempt at a complete A-Z description of the ideal wife.

A few things to consider (to read Proverbs 31, click here).

What stands out the most in this proverb is her diligence. She is busy providing for her family and breaks down cultural walls as she engages in many of the activities reserved for the males (buying fields and engaging in commerce). This is what we typically hear about in Mother’s Day sermons.

What is slightly more subtle but even more significant is her wisdom. You cannot conclude the ultimate book of wisdom in the Old Testament without mentioning wisdom in a significant way. This is primarily seen in two verses. The first is 31:26 – “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” This verse has two of the most significant words in the Hebrew Old Testament. The first is “hesed” which is at the heart and soul of covenant loyalty. Hesed has overtones of covenant loyalty, faithfulness, and loving kindness. The second word is paired with hesed and it is Torah (law) which we tend to think goes totally against kindness as it imposses restrictions on people. For the Hebrews, these two were inextricably linked. The NIV translates this phrase “faithful instruction” but it could be translated many ways – “the law of loving kindness” or “instruction of loving kindness” are two possibilities.

The second place wisdom appears is in 31:30 – “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman/wife who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” What makes her most beautiful and noble is her respect for God. Out of that loyalty flows the rest of her noble character that makes her as beautiful as she is. That is the ultimate form of wisdom in a wife. The ultimate manifestation of wisdom for the husband is the selection of a wise wife who brings the family honor, is diligent, but most importantly has wisdom rooted in God.

Often we use this chapter to praise women for their diligence but miss the greater point. Women who love and respect God and speak the law of God’s loving kindness to others are worthy of even greater praise.