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A New You in the New Year?

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

I don’t mean to throw a wet blanket on your plans, but according to my friend, Gerry Lewis, 25 percent of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions after one week and 60 percent of people abandon them within six months. The average person makes the same New Year’s resolution 10 ten separate times without success. Wow!

So do you want next year to be different? You’ll probably need some help, especially if you’re wanting to make real changes in your life, and even more so if you want to make changes in your walk with God.

In addition to the normal issues with trying to make life changes, spiritual changes are even more challenging. Why? Because there’s a war for your heart! Proverbs 4:23  says they we have to guard our hearts above all else because our life springs from our heart!

Have you ever wanted to know God in a more personal way? Have you ever intentionally tried to know Him? If we are His children, He speaks to us through several ways, including “the still, small voice”, Bible teachers and yes, even preachers! But how do you know that the “word” you heard is really from God, as opposed to feelings of indigestion? I know of no better way to hear God than to spend time reading the Bible! You can discern His voice with the Bible, weighing every other “word” you think you may be hearing. He’s the God of Truth. He’ll never contradict Himself!

So where do you start?

Check out the Bible App (iOS, Android, Windows8, and Blackberry) or head over to YouVersion.com if you don’t have a smartphone or tablet. Sign up for a free account and choose from one (or more!) of their Bible reading plans. They have plans for just a few days to plans that last all year. They have plans to read through the entire Bible in a year, or just parts. Pick a plan, then  take a look at this practical article: http://ow.ly/GzHTd.

Not only will the Bible App help you with planning your Bible reading, it can remind you to read your Bible at a particular time of day. The App will even send you an email if you’re running a few days behind … and suggest ways to catch up! You can even share your reading plan with friends and help each other!

And for some additional incentive, the Bible App is offering a 21-day challenge! #BibleFor21

In 2015, I’m going to change things up a bit. The past few years I have read through the whole Bible. In 2015, I’m going to slow down a bit and read the New Testament in five minutes a day, five days a week. Join me! Follow me using the Bible App and let’s be as iron sharpening iron as we sharpen each other!

Bible reading isn’t about reading the Bible. It’s about getting to know God in a deeper way. Don’t end 2015 with no more knowledge of God than you do here at the end of 2014.

So what’s your plan?

Is “Praying the Prayer” Biblical?

One of my concerns over the years is the popular idea of encouraging people to “pray a prayer to accept Jesus into their hearts”. According the new International Mission Board President, David Platt, doing this is superstitious and dangerous.

I took a class on World Religions when I was at UNC-Chapel Hill. Obviously, this class was not taught from a “Christian perspective”. And that was a good thing. It was good to hear an academic description of the major world religions because it gave me an idea as to how lost people look at the world.

One day, our professor began to explain Pure Land Buddhism. As he described the concept of “salvation”/”achieving enlightenment”, I began to feel chills creep up my spine. According to that religion, all you need to ensure your “salvation” was to speak a particular phrase. You could live your life however you wanted before and after speaking these words and you were still guaranteed “salvation”.

So why did I get chills? Because there’s not much difference between that religion’s concept of “salvation” and much of our evangelistic training and mindset!

Let me ask… When you think about when you became a Christian, do you believe it happened because you prayed a prayer, or walked down an aisle? If one must do any or all of these things, then why don’t we see either of those things mentioned in the entire New Testament? Or in the writings of the Church Fathers? Or in the writings of the Reformers? Even baptism — as important as it is — isn’t given as being essential to salvation. In fact, such easy believe-ism is completely counter to everything we read in the New Testament, and the writings of the Church Fathers and the Reformers.

The concept of praying a sinner’s prayer is a modern convention, perhaps shaped by the Western mindset of “being a soul-winner”, similar to being a successful salesman who always presses for the decision and closes the deal. I even remember some of my evangelism training including asking the prospective convert if he/she could think of any reason why they shouldn’t pray the prayer and if not, they should bow and pray.

As Dr. Pratt says in the video above, doing this is dangerous, and even damning.

How many people will stand before God on Judgment Day, claiming that they should be granted access to eternity in heaven because they prayed a prayer, walked down an aisle, shook a pastor’s hand or were baptized?

The prospect of that Day scares me! And it should scare you, too! Jesus took it a step farther, saying that on that Day, many will claim that they had done some pretty spectacular things, but would still wouldn’t enter heaven because He never knew them. (Matthew 7:21-23)

Biblical salvation is more than just praying a prayer, walking an aisle, and being baptized. Salvation is receiving eternal life and eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3). Salvation begins when we exchange our life (all of our sin) for Jesus’ life (all of His righteousness) in order to be put in a right relationship with our Creator and King, against Whom we have all committed High Treason. Without accepting that free exchange, we are all worthy of nothing better than an eternity in hell and separation from God. Salvation continues as we live according to that new standing as adopted children. And salvation is fully realized when we cross over to the other side of eternity.

Does praying a prayer save you? No. Prayer is a natural response to receiving the New Life in exchange for our Old life and being accepted into a new family by a loving Father. And prayer can express our repentance as we turn from our sin and toward God.

What are your thoughts?

 

New Resume Posted!

I have just updated my resume and a letter from the Parker County Director of Missions, John Thielepape. Perhaps I might be a good fit for your church as a Supply (fill-in) Preacher, Interim Pastor or Pastor. Let’s talk! Contact information is on the resume or click here for a contact form.

Freedom for All!

Following today’s #SCOTUS ruling in favor of the Green Family of Oklahoma City, I wrote the following on Facebook:

Just to clarify, in case you missed the real issue behind the emotionally-based headlines…. Today’s Supreme Court Decision in favor of the Green Family (Hobby Lobby, Mardel, etc. stores) does *NOTHING* to prevent access to contraception. It does *NOTHING* to prohibit access to abortions. It does *NOTHING* to restrict the ability for women to get healthcare.

What the ruling *DOES* do is to allow people to express their First Amendment Rights of Free Speech and Religion through their privately-held businesses. And it limits the Federal Government’s power … just like the Constitution does.

The Green Family’s employees are *free* to purchase their own birth control. They are *free* to purchase their own abortifacients (abortion-causing drugs), and they are *free* to purchase their own abortions.

Limits on Government. Freedom for the People. Today’s SCOTUS Decision protects Constitutional Freedom for everyone!

Happy Independence week, everybody!

‪#‎freedom‬
‪#‎scotus

I recommend that you also check out Ed Stetzer’s great article, “Hobby Lobby Wins: Where Do We Go from Here?

The only thing I didn’t say is that, “Everybody wins, except for unborn babies.” That is still an issue to pray about. Perhaps one day, the Supreme Court will — just like they did with African Americans — affirm the “personhood” of the unborn, thus confirming Constitutional Rights upon them.

Side note: Abortion is disproportionately high for minorities. And abortion clinics are disproportionately placed in minority neighborhoods. So, although the Supreme Court affirmed the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for African-Americans, abortion providers like Planned Parenthood wish to rob them of those rights by disproportionately killing their children. There. I said it.

I will moderate comments for spam, but I promise to post all on-topic comments, whether or not I agree with them.

 

 

How to Read Through the Bible in 2014

Yesterday I suggested that we approach our Bible reading as a means of growing our relationship with God, rather than looking at it as something we’re supposed to do like eating our veggies and flossing daily. Yesterday, we looked at the right “why” of reading the Bible

Today, I want to look at the “how” of reading the Bible in 2014.

Assuming you have the right approach, knowing that you are eager to hear from your loving Father, how can you go about reading through the Bible in a year? Given the fact that there are about 775,000 words in the Bible and most people read about 200-250 words per minute, you can read the whole Bible in about ten minutes a day. Just saying, “I’m going to read the Bible for ten minutes a day.” may not be enough planning for everybody. So what is one to do?

Which Bible Reading Plan?

There are many ways to read through the Bible and none is the “best”. It comes down to asking what do you want to accomplish? Do you want to read through the Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation? Do you want to read the Old and New Testaments together each day? Do you want to read the Bible in a more chronological way? Do you want to just read the New Testament? If you want to read just the New Testament, do you want to include readings from Psalms and Proverbs?

A few years ago, our church read through the Bible using a plan developed by the 19th Century pastor, Robert Murray M’Cheyne. The plan had four readings from roughly two chapters from the Old Testament and two chapters from the New Testament. M’Cheyne’s plan is tried-and-true, but many of us found it to be a bit disconnected and lacked continuity as we read a little bit from four different Bible books each day. You may want to try this plan; if you do, you might want to check out Donald Carson’s “For the Love of God” blog which adds a devotional commentary to the daily readings.

The next year, I chose the Blue Letter Bible’s reading plan that covered readings from the Old and New Testaments. We found it to be much easier to follow.

Last year, I thought it might be better to get a chronological view of the Bible, so we went with Dr. George Guthrie’s plan based on his book, Read The Bible For Life. I used YouVersion’s free Bible App (works with iOS, Android and web) because it keeps track of where I am in my readings. I found the plan to be ideal and will use it again next year, however the Bible Eater Plan looks interesting.

For other thoughts about Bible reading plans, I highly recommend you take a look at Justin Taylor’s very helpful blog post. and you can find even more Bible reading plans at your favorite online Bible resources.

Though I think most people underestimate what they’re capable of, there’s always The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.

Once you have chosen a plan, you need to choose a Bible. Some Bibles come with their own reading plans built in, such as the hugely-popular One Year Bible.

 

Which Bible Translation?

People used to be able to say that they couldn’t understand the Bible because they don’t understand all the thee’s and thou’s. Through its 400-year history, many believers have benefited from the King James translation of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. I don’t know about you, but I don’t speak Elizabethan English like William Shakespeare did, and I have as many issues trying to understand the King James Bible as the next guy! I have briefly discussed modern Bible translations elsewhere on this blog.

Since you’re reading this on a computer connected to the Internet, you have access to many Bible translations in your native language on numerous websites, including YouVersion, Biblia, and BibleGateway to name a few.

So how do you know which one to use?

That depends on what do you want to get out of it. If you want to get the general “feel” of the message from the Scriptures, you may want to use the New Living Translation or the New International Version. If you want to get more specific about the words used to convey the message, you may want to use the English Standard Version.

 

Now what?

You know that the reason to read the Bible is to grow in a relationship with God. You know that there are many plans and translations to choose from. But please don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with all the choices. And don’t run out and spend a bunch of money on a fancy Bible. Ask God to guide you and then “get after it!”

This time next year, you’ll be glad you did; you’ll have a better understanding of who God is and how He works to bring people into a relationship with Him.

 

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