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4 Simple Steps to R.E.A.D. Your Bible Better
Dr. Terrence W. Smith
According to pollster George Gallup, 3 out of 4 Americans believe the Bible to be the actual or inspired word of God!1 While this is an encouraging find, less than half of these believers are reading the Bible daily or weekly, which equals one third of all Americans.2 Reading the Bible more is great and beneficial, but how well are we reading, interpreting and understanding?
Here is a simple four-step plan to help us understand and interpret the Bible better, based on the acronym R.E.A.D. The first step is found in the first letter "R", which stands for Research. We must research or make "an extensive investigation"3 into the Word of God. We are implored by 2 Timothy 2:15 to "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."4 In order for us to "accurately handle" the Bible, we must understand and apply three rules to reading it right; context, context, context! Sound familiar? Much like the three rules of real estate, context holds the greatest value in unlocking the meaning of the biblical text! Once we know the proper context of a Biblical passage, we have or are very close to having the primary meaning of the text we are studying. Context is defined as "the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect."5
The way to find the context of a single verse is to read the whole chapter before concluding the verse's meaning. Then the greater context is the book or letter itself, and then the whole Bible for the big picture (chronological Bibles are great for this), where you compare passages that say the same or similar thing. Reading other translations is also very helpful in providing understanding as they may use words and phrases that are more familiar to us. Avoid studying from paraphrases or non-translations (e.g. The Living Bible).
To make our reading more effective, we need to learn to focus. When we focus on the passage in front of us and ignore all distractions around us and in our minds, we can zero in on our reading. Sometimes it takes a lot of discipline, but it is well worth the effort when we see the results and we begin to truly understand the passage we are studying, and even better--hear God speak!
There are many tools today that we can use to help us get more from the biblical text. The most commonly known one is the concordance, which is a listing of all Bible verses using a specific word, which has been arranged in alphabetical order. Most concordances also have numbers linking them to the original Hebrew and Greek words which have definitions in the back of the book or in another companion book called a lexicon. So if you find a word in a verse that you don't understand or you think may mean more than its face value, this will help you understand the passage better and hopefully unlock its primary meaning. Computer software does this more easily; as simply as double clicking on the word you want (e.g. Wordsearch and Logos). There are also websites like Biblehub.com and Netbible.org that offer the same tools for free.
A topical Bible is another tool that helps immensely when you are doing a topical Bible study by providing a biblical outline of the subject matter. Add to this a Bible dictionary, which as you guessed, is a dictionary of biblical people, places and events. Bible encyclopedias, handbooks and atlases provide much supportive information in the areas their names suggest. Bible commentaries are listed last because it is far better for the Bible student to read them after they have some sense of the interpretation, as the commentators generally provide it, yet their conclusions often vary drastically! Ask a mature believer who you trust to offer some direction on good commentaries like Warren Wiersbe's Bible Exposition Commentaries.
A good study Bible has some or many of these tools included (e.g. The NIV Study Bible by Zondervan, also available in other translations), although some are often abridged too much.
The next step is to Evaluate the information you've discovered. Bible teachers normally call this the interpretation phase. Here we want to sift through the information from our observations of the biblical passage, and funnel it all down to determine what it all meant to the original readers and hearers, and then what it means to us today, both personally and corporately (the church).
When discussing personal examination in preparation for the Lord's Supper, the apostle Paul gave us an insightful heads-up about God's judgment of us and our opportunity to avoid it--"But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:31-32) Further, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, [thoroughly] equipped for every good work."
The "A" in the acronym reminds us of the necessity to Apply what we have learned. James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (NIV) James 4:17 adds, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."
One additional practice that helps immensely with research, evaluation, and application is memorization. Before the invention of the printing press, the Bible and all things written, were copied meticulously by hand or memorized and passed on orally. Psalm 119:15-16 says, "I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. 16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. (NKJV) Psalm 119:11 adds "Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you." (NKJV) And Jesus said, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5b) Here are three practical ways we can use our God-given R.A.M:
Repetition - repeat a phrase often and you will remember it.
Association - line up a new thought with something familiar.
think carefully and much about what God said.
And finally, Devote yourself to regular and continual research, evaluation and application, and of course prayer! This is where the idea of "devotions" comes from, that Christians all over the world commit to daily. James charged us with a promise to "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8) A little accountability goes a long ways too. Ask someone for help and encouragement, "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews 3:13) Also, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
R.E.A.D. = Research + Evaluation + Application + Devotion
Great Websites: www.biblehub.com, www.netbible.org and www.biblestudytools.com
4 All Bible verses are quoted in the NASB unless otherwise noted.
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Science in the Bible by Terrence W. Smith
The Bible makes many scientifically accurate statements about our universe and our earth. Here is a list of just ten of these amazing statements, most of which were made over 3000 years ago!
Psalms 102:25-26 confirms the Law of Entropy; "In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded." Isaiah 51:6b adds; "the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies." In Matthew 24:35 Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away…" The Law of entropy, or the 2nd Law of thermodynamics, states that things left to themselves will wear out or decay. When the Bible was written there was no observable evidence that things were wearing out. The consensus of the scientists was that it was not decaying, but getting better, leading to modern evolutionary theory. This agreement between the Law of Entropy and the Bible gives the Bible great credibility as a scientific document, since its writers were so incredibly accurate!
Jeremiah 33:22b tells of the innumerable stars in our universe; "…as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore." Astronomers used to believe that they had a count of the total number of stars in the universe--until the invention of the telescope. They soon found out that the bigger the telescope, the greater the number of stars there were to be found. Now we know there are at least 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and several hundred billion other galaxies! With the enhancement of the Hubble telescope, more stars are still being discovered!
Psalms 19:6 revealed centuries ago that the sun moves; "It (the sun) rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat." We now know that the sun follows a circular path within one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way at 600,000 mph! Astronomers used to think the sun was a fixed point in our galaxy, and before that, that the earth was the center of our galaxy, and that our galaxy was all that existed.
Isaiah 40:22a informs us that our planet is a sphere; "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth." The earth is a round like a ball. Scientists used to think it was flat, while the Bible correctly taught about its spherical shape hundreds of years ago!
Job 26:7 teaches us of the earth's suspension in space; "He (God) spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing." Modern science agrees, the earth is suspended in space, which the Bible told us several millennia ago! It is interesting to note that the book of Job is believed to be at least 4000 years old.
Hebrews 11:3 acknowledged the invisible particles of matter; "the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." Scientists tell us that things in the universe were apparently made from nothing; all matter is made of particles that are not visible in natural light.
Psalms 8:8 is where Matthew Maury, the "Father of Modern Oceanography" got the idea for ocean currents; "the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas." Maury showed us the predictable paths or currents in the oceans.
Job 36:27-28 describes the earth's Hydrological Cycle; "He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the stream;28 the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind." Contemporary scientists agree this is an accurate depiction of the earth's hydrological cycle.
Ecclesiastes 1:6 explains global wind currents; "The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course." Solomon's description of the global wind currents concurs with the understanding of modern meteorologists.
Ecclesiastes 1:7 describes the earth's surface water cycle; "All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again." The answer to the dilemma of how and where surface water goes is found here and so understood today.
There are at least 100 of these amazing statements in the Bible, written at times when scientists did not have the ability to determine their validity! When the Bible speaks of natural knowledge, it has been proven true over and over again by modern experimentation and technology! Its words are not theories, but facts.
One final note. The word universe actually means "one" (uni) "word" (verse), (or "turned into"; versus), referring to God speaking or turning all matter into existence as Psalms 33:9 notes, "For when He spoke, the world began! It appeared at His command."
Scientists Who Believe(d) in Jesus Christ as the Creator (to name a few):
Johannes Keppler, Matthew Maury, John Ambrose Flemming, Michael Faraday, Blaise Pascal, Louis Agassiz, Everett C. Koop, Wernher Von Braun, Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson
For more Scientists visit rae.org, read "Professors Who Believe" (Vols. 1&2) and Paul M. Anderson, IVP, and "On the Seventh Day, 40 scientists" … John F. Ashton, MP
Everyone is C.A.L.L.E.D. Six Keys to Unlock Your Calling by Terrence W. Smith
Have you ever asked yourself questions like, "Am I meant to do something more with my life? Am I bored, dissatisfied and unhappy with my job or current life status? Do I long for something else--something more fulfilling than what I am doing now?"
If you have been asking these questions, maybe you need to consider a new "calling", or put more commonly, a new vocation. It has been wisely concluded that "if you love your job (calling) you will never work a day in your life."
There is more than one type of calling, especially for Christians. In the Bible we are told that Believers are called to salvation, spiritual growth, suffering and service, but most of the time we struggle with the specific service God is calling us to. It is no wonder that it is so difficult for us, since we have so many options, and so many enemies--the world (rebellious mankind), human nature (rebellious selfishness) and spiritual darkness (rebellious spirits-Satan and demons).
To make this easier, we must seek God in prayer and study of the Bible, which is His "word" to us. The Bible records several characteristics of God's calling that are helpful in understanding it.
God's call is obvious. Matthew 4:18-22 recounts the first calling of the disciples by our Lord Jesus, where He approached Peter and Andrew and spoke to them clearly and authoritatively. How do we know this? We know it because of their response--they obeyed Him immediately! When God calls us it should be unmistakable.
God will call when you are giving your best effort in your present situation. Acts 9 records that this was true with the conversion of Saul, where Jesus called him to apostolic service. We find that Paul was striving to serve God to the best of his ability and power (partly by eliminating what he saw as the Christian cult). Jesus knew Paul's real passion was to please God, so He stopped him on his way to Damascus and confronted him, calling him to preach and suffer for His sake. Paul was busy serving God when Jesus called.
God will call in His time. Certainly Paul and Ananias were surprised at God's timing when he contacted them. Saul and his companions must have been shocked at Jesus' appearance on the road in front of them in the middle of their trip. Saul lost his sight and they lost their voices. The timing was so completely unexpected! Ananias questioned the Lord because of Saul's recent persecution of the saints and was probably struggling with his specific call, yet he was obedient. For us, God is full of surprises--He is far above our human condition and level of understanding, "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD. 9 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isaiah 55:8).
God will often call through mature believers. Ananias was informed by the Lord in a vision that Saul would be His "chosen instrument" to carry His name "before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Ananias was God's man to help Paul see with both his eyes and his soul. Proverbs 15:22 reminds us that a person with many counselors is wise and chapter 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Listen to the godly people around you, like Paul listened to Ananias.
God will call in worship. We find in Acts 13:2 that the Holy Spirit spoke directly to the worshiping believers about Paul and Barnabas' calling: "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" All believers are called to minister to the Lord (praise, prayer, offerings, etc.) and should be doing so faithfully, and to minister for the Lord (discipling, caring, witnessing). If we are busy serving and worshiping, God will call us there.
God wants to use your gifts and skills. There are at least twenty-one gifts mentioned in five different passages of Scripture1 and countless skill sets described throughout it. There must be something in these lists that you and I are to use for God's Kingdom work! Romans 12 (and 1 Corinthians 12-14) teaches that believers are part of a body (v. 5) possessing different gifts for each other's benefit (v. 6; 1 Corinthians 12:11). The Lord also told the Church in Corinth (Corinthians 13) that His gifts are to be motivated by and exercised in love (v. 31) and they are worthless if not so used (vv. 1-4).
The Bible and Christian experience provide at least six keys to unlock your calling. When you are C.A.L.L.E.D, you will have:
Conviction of God's will to do something. You possess an inner passion, desire and sense of anointing for a task. God may call you personally through; His word (the Bible) as you study it and pray about it, His Spirit as He ministers to yours (remembering that the Holy Spirit's weapon is the Bible, Eph 6:17), instruction from His servants (preachers and teachers), and less commonly2 a visit from one of His messengers (angels) and visions and dreams.
Awareness of your wiring (the way you think and act), gifts (natural and spiritual), talents (abilities and resources) and personality style (the way you interact with others).
Leadership counsel and approval; like Christ's call and approval of His disciples in Matthew 4:19-22, and of the Apostle Paul after the resurrection in Acts 9. Or Paul's exhortation to Timothy and future disciples in 2 Timothy 2:2, and church leaders in Ephesians 4:11-13. Further, the Bible uses the terms elder, shepherd and overseer interchangeably, revealing an ordained authority of pastors to teach and lead with the guidance of the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
Lasting desire and commitment. If God is at work in your desire to serve Him in a specific way, the passion for it will not soon leave you.
Energy and fulfillment experienced by doing a certain work. You find yourself satisfied and joyful with the tasks you have completed. You come away feeling like your work has had value for the Kingdom of God.
Done the work already. You've come to realize that you have been involved in the specific work all along, maybe as a hobby or just for the fun of it. So why not continue what you enjoy doing as an occupation? Don't you really want to "never work another day in your life?"
One note of caution; without leadership approval and counsel, our view of our calling can be entirely self-sided! Please remember, God's will for us is not about us! It is about Him--obedience and service is what matters most; "So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." (Ephesians 5:17-21)
1 Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 12:28-30; Ephesians 4:11; and Exodus 31:1-5; 35:31-33.
2 Even in the Bible, visits by angels are rare, as are visions and dreams.
You are a VIP! Created in God's Image!
by Terrence W. Smith
When God first made mankind, He created us in His own image! Genesis 1:26 says, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...'" (NASB) That is pretty cool isn't it? But what does it mean? What does it mean to be created in the "image of God?" The words "image" and "likeness" are defined similarly in Hebrew, except that the word "image" adds an extra dimension to the idea of being like God. It means that there is a respectability aspect or honor to mankind like that of God's. It certainly is not saying that we look like God physically, especially since God is spirit (John 4:24), but certainly our spirits are like His, possessing this splendorous respectibility! God has made mankind to be much more like Him than anything else in all of creation! That should make us all feel better about who we are!
"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (soul)." Genesis 2:7 (NASB)
Theologians talk about this honorable appearance unfolding in several different ways. They say that the image of God can be seen in men through imparted transcendence. In other words, just as God is above and greater than all of creation, so man is also above it. Of course there still is a great difference between God and man, as God does not need any of His creation. Man on the other hand, while transcending the natural world, absolutely needs it for his own physical survival. Further, man is designed to rule over creation according to Genesis 1:26-28. So the first two of the amazing gifts of God to us in this gloriously shared image, are transcendence and rulership.
In addition, man is like God in his personhood. Man is a person just as God is a person. God is not human, but he is a person and He has personality. In that same vein, God is sociable and therefore so is man. Man is made to be a socially responsible human being and therefore has the awesome opportunity to experience a relationship with God! God said "let Us make man in Our image", which is believed to be a reference to the Holy Trinity--God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. So just as God is three persons in one, man is made up of both body and spirit (and some add "soul"), and can even have oneness with a spouse. Remember, God said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." (NIV) Or as the NLT says, the two become "...united into one." (Genesis 2:24)
God also made mankind creative and procreative. Showing his creativity, Genesis 3:20 tells us Adam named his wife, and with meaning: "Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living." Also, we read in Genesis 4:21 of Jubal who was "...the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe." Music was one of the many creative traits of the image of God given to man. In reference to his procreative abilities, Genesis 4:1 states, "Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, 'I have gotten a man child with the help of the Lord.'" Obviously none of this could happen apart from God's power, yet in His sovereignty He gave man and woman the ability to conceive a child together as a result of their choice and action.
Another way in which God made us in His image was productivity. He designed mankind to work the garden of Eden and make it productive. According to Genesis 2:15, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." The NASB translates it, "to cultivate it and keep it." Just as God worked, so man must work. And just as God rested after the sixth day, so man must rest after six days of work (Exodus 20:8-11).
The final manner in which we are created in God's image, is goodness. In Genesis 1:25, after creating everything but mankind, the text says that "God saw that it was good." After creating man, however, verse 31 notes that God then acknowledged that it was "very good." Also, a few verses later, chapter 2 verse 17 teaches that God gave Adam and Eve (humanity's parents and representatives) the potential to choose goodness with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were good by God's design, but now they were afforded the opportunity to remain so, or by choice, fall from grace and possess knowledge of both good and evil. Subsequently, humanity became victims to their own flesh. Romans 5:18 states, "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass (Adam's) was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness (Christ's) was justification that brings life for all men." (NIV)
These seven characteristics of the image of God in which man was originally created, have been distorted due to sin. But when a person acknowledges God as creator and Lord, and confesses their sin before Him, they have the opportunity to restore much of the image of God in themselves. In fact, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if we are in Christ, we are a "new creation" and this verifies that we can be restored to our original image. Because of this transformation, we can be more like Christ and less like mankind. Being aware of who we are in Christ, is extremely important to our spiritual growth. This should encourage all of us who are believers to know that we are His special creation!
Romans 8:14 tells us that true Christians are the sons of God, and are led by His Spirit! Verse 16 names us the children of God and according to verse 17 we are heirs to God's kingdom! Colossians 1:13-14 tells us that we are forgiven, Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved, and Galatians 3:13 and Psalm 107:2 says that we have been redeemed! In other words, we have been bought with a price by God because He loves us so much and we are special to him! First Corinthian's 5:7 says we've been sanctified (cleansed, made holy), Romans 5:1 says we are justified, and Colossians 1:13 says we have been delivered!
Psalm 91:11 says we are safe, Philippians 4:19 says we are blessed, and Deuteronomy 28:6 says we are blessed continually! First Peter 5:7 says we can be carefree and 1 Peter 2:24 says we are healed! First John 5:11-12 says we possess eternal life, Ephesians 6:10 and Philippians 4:13 say that we are strong, and Romans 8:37 says that we are conquerors! Revelation 12:11 and 1 John 4:4 say we are over comers! 1Corinthians 4:17 says we've been made faithful, Romans 12:1-2 says we are renewed in mind and in Matthew 5:14 Jesus said we are "the light of the world."
There is so much more the Bible says about who we are in Christ, but isn't this a great start? We should be encouraged by these verses, and we will be wise to look at them from time to time as a reminder of His goodness and thank God for all he's done for us!
Time Management: A Plan You Can D.E.P.E.N.D. On by Terrence W. Smith
"If I plan to learn, I must learn to plan."
Steps to managing your time effectively… Creating a Plan That You Can "D.E.P.E.N.D." On!
Develop daily time for prayer, study & planning.
Prov 16:3 "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."
Luke 5:16 "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray."
Establish goals – short & long term.
Prov 21:5 "The plans of the diligent lead to profit…"
Prioritize tasks & goals. Establish what is most important in your life such as your relationship with God, family, ministry and work. Don't forget to schedule for Sabbath rest!
Prov 3:5 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
Employ a calendar/day-timer. Write things down so you will remember later the important things you need to do, as well as other responsibilities.
Prov 15:23"A man finds joy in giving an apt reply--and how good is a timely word!"
Nab a friend - find an accountability partner. Ask someone to correct you when you err and advise you when you are uncertain.
Prov 15:22 "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."
Determine your course of action - analyze & streamline your schedule.
James 4:17 "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."
Five Steps to Discovering Your Spiritual G.I.F.T.S. by Terrence W. Smith
Have you ever wondered what your spiritual gifts are? Have you considered that you may have more gifts than you are aware of? A good starting point to discovering them is to take a spiritual gifts inventory test.* It is a multi-page questionnaire which you can answer and then tabulate the results to find your gifts. The problem with this approach, is that it is completely one-sided. It guides you by your opinion and thoughts of yourself, which can be too lofty or too lowly. It would be much more objective to have someone who knows you, fill it out with you, but of course, that would take quite a bit of someone's time and still be somewhat subjective. This brochure uses a more well-rounded approach to discovering your spiritual gifts, summarized by the acronym GIFTS:
Glean from the Scriptures. Study the lists and uses of spiritual gifts in the various Biblical passages and gather all the information you can. Passages like Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10,28-30; and Ephesians 4:11 will provide plenty of information. Secondly, examine the function of the gifts in the lives of believers. Read the book of Acts and Romans chapter 16.
Inquire of others. Get the opinion of mature believers you trust to assess and confirm your gifts. Proverbs 15:22 supports this; "Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed." (NASB)
Feel it out. Experiment with your gifts. Try serving with your gifts in your church or mission and see how it goes. Observe whether or not you have found satisfaction and fulfillment while doing so, or if someone you have served has been encouraged in their faith. "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:16)
Think it through. Reflect, evaluate and pray about all of the information you have collected, earnestly asking God to reveal His gifting and calling clearly to you. Ephesians 6:18 instructs us to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." And finally;
Serve with your gifts. Offer your abilities to the Lord by serving in the area of your giftedness in your local church or mission. "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others." (1 Peter 4:10)
With all of these suggestions considered together, you should be a short way from finding what your spiritual gifts are. Once you know them, use them! You might be a hand, and my what the body can do with its hands! "Now the body is not made up of one part but of many... Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:14-27)
For a free Spiritual gifts test, go to www.spreadinglight.com/biblestudy/gifts
F.E.A.R. of God: Remedy for Temptation
by Terrence W. Smith
Everyone faces temptation. No one is exempt. Even Jesus Christ, who was God in human form, was "tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus set a great example for us, and He is able to sympathize with our weakness when we are tempted because of His experience. You might say, "Yeah, well, Jesus was God and I'm not, so what hope is there for me?" There is hope for you because the Bible says that God is at work in us who believe. Philippians 1:6 states, "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Since God is in this relationship, it has to work--no it has to thrive! Especially if we will learn to FEAR God. The following acronym (FEAR) suggests four practical steps to take when staring temptation in the face:
Fear and love God. Because He is Holy, "Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?" (Psalms 77:13) Revere God because He sees all, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13) Also, we should have a healthy respect for God because he is the final Judge, "...He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts..." (1 Corinthians 4:5b)
Escape from what tempts you. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises that "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 2 Timothy 2:22 adds, "Flee (run from) the evil desires of youth, and pursue (run after) righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with (run with) those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
A great little poem to help us remember when to flee is, "Flee is three (seconds), because eight is too late."
Apply Scripture. James 1:22 challenges us; "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." In Philippians 4:8, the Apostle Paul advised, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." 2 Timothy 3:16 informs us that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Also Hebrews 5:13-14 stresses, "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
Remain Faithful to Christ. Hebrews 3:14 tells us "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." When sharing the Parable of the Talents, Jesus said the owner commended the faithful servant and rewarded him, "'Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.'" (Luke 19:17, NASB)
An important part of remaining is our prayer life, as Romans 12:12 adds, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." When teaching the disciples how to pray, Jesus said to pray about temptation also, "...And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one." (Matthew 6:13, NLT) Keep praying: sharing your cares and concerns with God your Father, because He cares deeply for you! (1 Peter 5:7)
John Owen, an early American Puritan hit it dead on when he wrote about the dangerous effects of sin and how to address it, "Be killing sin, or it will be killing you." Tough words for tough times--and especially relevant for today. One final word from Dr. Seuss who wisely reminds us that we make the choices that decide our future, "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose" (Oh the Places You'll Go!)
Why Not Jesus? How Non-Christian Worldviews Ultimately Fail by Dr. Terrence W. Smith
► "The way someone thinks about the world." - Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary
►"1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group." - The Free Dictionary
►"It can be compared to a pair of glasses. How a person makes sense of the world depends upon that person's "vision," so to speak. The interpretive "lens" helps people make sense of life and comprehend the world around them. Sometimes the lens brings clarity, and other times it can distort reality. - Reasons to Believe, http://www.reasons.org/articles/what-in-the-world-is-a-worldview
Two Main Types of Worldviews
1. Christian Worldview and 2. Non-Christian Worldview
There are two types of Non-Christian Worldviews:
1. Non-Christian Non-Religious Worldview and 2. Non-Christian Religious Worldview
Question: Why do we elevate a Christian worldview to such a high position among the myriad of worldviews?
Answer: We live in a religious world, where Christianity is #1.
A religious world
For the period 1970–2020, several global trends related to religious affiliation are apparent. In 1970, nearly 82% of the world’s
population was religious. By 2010 this had grown to around 88%, with a projected increase to almost 90% by 2020. Religious
adherence is growing largely due to the continuing resurgence of religion in China. In addition, in 1970 Christianity and Islam
represented 48.8% of the global population; by 2020 they will likely represent 57.2%.
2.3% 1.9% Other
4.4% 1.8% Atheists
4.6% 3.4% Ethnoreligionists
6.2% 5.7% Chinese folk-religionists
6.4% 7.1% Buddhists
14.7% 8.9% Agnostics
12.5% 14.0% Hindus
15.6% 23.9% Muslims
33.2% 33.3% Christians
(Religious adherents, 1970 & 2020 Center for the Study of Global Christianity, June 2013)
Non-Christian Non-Religious Worldviews: Several Types of Non-Believers
"Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods. Atheism literally means 'no' God or 'without' God."(http://www.dictionary.com/browse/atheism)
According to a recent study by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga*, there are 6 types of Atheists:
1. Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic (IAA) - "... includes individuals who proactively seek to educate themselves through intellectual association, and proactively acquire knowledge on various topics relating to ontology (the search for Truth) and non-belief."
2. Activist (AAA) - are individuals who "... are not content with the placidity of simply holding a non-belief position; they seek to be both vocal and proactive regarding current issues in the atheist and/or agnostic socio-political sphere. This sphere can include such egalitarian issues, but is not limited to: concerns of humanism, feminism, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered (LGBT) issues, social or political concerns, human rights themes, environmental concerns, animal rights..."
3. Seeker-Agnostic (SA) - "...consists of individuals attuned to the metaphysical possibilities precluding metaphysical existence, or at least recognizes the philosophical difficulties and complexities in making personal affirmations regarding ideological beliefs. They may call themselves agnostic or agnostic-atheist, as the SA simply cannot be sure of the existence of God or the divine. They keep an open mind in relation to the debate between the religious, spiritual, and antitheist elements within society."
4. Anti-Theist - One who is in "opposition to belief in God or gods." (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Anti-theism) - They believe religion is harmful. The "New Athiests" fit in here, like Richard Dawkins. (http://www.alternet.org/story/155685/no_religion_7_types_of_non-believers/) "... the more assertive in their view, some cases labeled as 'new atheists,' the Anti-Theist is diametrically opposed to religious ideology. As such, the assertive Anti-Theist both proactively and aggressively asserts their views towards others when appropriate, seeking to educate the theists in the passé nature of belief and theology. In other words, antitheists view religion as ignorance..." (UTC)
5. Non-Theist - "not many individuals identified themselves as this type... a few terms may best capture the sentiments of the Non-Theist. One is apathetic, while another may be disinterested. The Non-Theist is non-active in terms of involving themselves in social or intellectual pursuits having to do with religion or anti-religion. A Non-Theist simply does not concern him or herself with religion. Religion plays no role or issue in one’s consciousness or worldview; nor does a Non- Theist have concern for the atheist or agnostic movement... Simply put, Non-Theist’s are apathetic non-believers."
6. Ritual Atheist/Agnostic (RAA) - "holds no belief in God or the divine, or they tend to believe it is unlikely that there is an
afterlife with God or the divine. They are open about their lack of belief and may educate themselves on the various aspects of belief by others. One of the defining characteristics regarding Ritual Atheists/Agnostics is that they may find utility in the teachings of some religious traditions. They see these as more or less philosophical teachings of how to live life and achieve happiness than a path to transcendental liberation. Ritual Atheist/Agnostics find utility in tradition and ritual. For example, these individuals may participate in specific rituals, ceremonies, musical opportunities, meditation, yoga classes, or holiday traditions."
* University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) Departments of Psychology and Learning and Leadership, completed research focused on nonbelief within the United States (completed June 6, 2015). This project was designed and implemented by Christopher F. Silver doctoral candidate and Thomas J. Coleman III an undergraduate student at UTC. The research sought to explore the complexities of nonbelief identity in the United States.
"1. a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
b. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
2. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something." (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/agnostic) Agnosticism is "An intellectual doctrine or attitude affirming the uncertainty of all claims to ultimate knowledge." (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/agnostic)
Three Types of Agnosticism:
1. Strong agnosticism views God’s existence as unknowable, permanently and to all people.
2. Weak agnosticism can mean simply “I don’t know if there is a God,” or “We collectively don’t know if there is a God but we
might find out in the future.”
3. Alternately, the term can be used to describe an approach to knowledge. (http://www.alternet.org/story/155685/no_religion_7_types_of_non-believers/)
"One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions."
(http://www.thefreedictionary.com/skeptic) "A person who doubts received religious dogmas... has put critical thinking at the heart of the matter... a majority of their effort to debunking pseudoscience, alternative medicine, astrology and so forth. They broadly challenge the human tendency to believe things on insufficient evidence." (http://www.alternet.org/story/155685/no_religion_7_types_of_non-believers/)
► Free-Thinker (Freethought):
"... says that opinions should be based on logic and evidence rather than authorities and traditions."
"... centers in on a set of ethical values. Humanism seeks to promote broad wellbeing by advancing compassion, equality, selfdetermination, and other values that allow individuals to flourish and to live in community with each other. These values drive not from revelation, but from human experience. (http://www.alternet.org/story/155685/no_religion_7_types_of_non-believers/)
"A person who believes that God created the universe and then abandoned it." (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/deist)
"...who didn’t believe in miracles or special revelation through sacred texts but thought that the natural world itself revealed a
designer who could be discovered through reason and inquiry." (http://www.alternet.org/story/155685/no_religion_7_types_of_non-believers/)
"1. One versed in natural history, especially in zoology or botany.
2. One who believes in and follows the tenets of naturalism." (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/naturalist)
The naturalist believes "...that the laws operating within the natural realm are the only laws governing the universe..."
"An advocate of secularism; someone who believes that religion should be excluded from government and education."
Secularists "... argue that moral standards and laws should be based on whether they do good or harm in this world and that religion should be kept out of government. (http://www.alternet.org/story/155685/no_religion_7_types_of_non-believers/)
These Non-Christian Non-Religious Worldviews Fail Because:
1. They offer no hope for the present. There is no God who cares for them, who loves unconditionally, forgives, provides, blesses, offers peace and fulfillment, and answers prayer. There is no Divine Sovereign who controls the cosmos and the kings, and has your best interests at heart.
2. They provide no hope for future. There is no divine plan for one's life, provision and protection, no destiny, no afterlife of peace and bliss.
3. There is no meaningful explanation of origins. Just theories that life happened by chance.
4. There is no working solution to the problem of man's depravation, addiction and shame. E.g. Government sponsored addiction recovery programs that operate as secular, average less than 10% success rate, where similar Evangelical Christian programs like Teen Challenge average about 80% success rate.
5. There are such things as absolute truths. If truth is relative, then the statement that truth is relative is an absolute truth and would be a self-defeating statement by proving that truth is not relative. But, if truth is absolute, then the statement, "truth is
absolute," is true and not self-defeating. It is true that truth exists. It is true that truth will not contradict itself as we have just
seen. In fact, it is absolutely true that you are reading this paper. If we can see that there is such a thing as truth in the
world, then we could also see that there can be spiritual truth as well. It is not absurd to believe in spiritual absolutes
anymore than physical or logical absolutes. Furthermore, all belief systems cannot be true since they often contradict each
other in profound ways--and truth is not self-contradictory.
Non-Christian Religious Worldviews
Define: all religions that do not accept Jesus Christ as God who came to earth in human form.
1 John 4:2-3 "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God..."
Non-Christian Religious Worldviews Fail Because:
1. their god(s) are dead.
- History attests to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His empty tomb.
- Ancient contemporary critics recognised the integrity and love of Christ's followers and their worship of Him as a God.
- Ancient contemporary writers acknowledged the authenticity of the disciples and their writings.
- Christianity grew to millions in less than 100 years.
2. they have no credible source(s) and external evidences for belief.
- Unless the Bible is one of those sources, which is usually mis-interpreted and mis-quoted, their own writings do not have historical, archaeological and other scientific support. E.g. The Book of Mormon's teaching that native Americans were bred with early Israelites has been disproven through DNA testing and analysis, de-bunking the Book of Mormon's claims about history.
- The Bible is the only religious book attested to as credible by historians, archaeologists, geologists, physicists, astronomers, microbiologists, linguists, philosophers, sociologists and psychologists (Christian, Jewish and secular). Note: See "Manuscript Evidence for Superior New Testament Reliability" and "Extra-Biblical Accounts of New Testament Events/People" handout.
3. their beliefs are full of error and contradictions.
- E.g. Jehovah's Witnesses have many failed attempts at predicting Christ's return: 1914, 1918, 1925, 1940's, 1975.
- E.g. Islam's "religion of peace" motto contradicts the fact that they possess the most terrorist groups in the world.
- They can't all be true.
4. they do not provide answers that result in complete positive life change – spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially, physically and even financially.
- many groups help in some of these ways, but not all or most of them, as is often the case in Christianity. Even miracles and healing are testified to in practically every church within Christianity.
- Christianity is responsible for most of the religious benevolence around the world such as hopitals and medical clinics, feeding and housing programs, schools and universities, etc.
5. they coerce people to faith rather than invite them.
- E.g. Ex-Mormons talk of extravagent gifts and bribery to get them to join or stay in the faith.
- Sometimes non-Christian religious groups are uncommonly friendly, often only at the beginning.
- They usually teach they are the only keepers of the one true faith.
6. they indoctrinate rather than educate and stimulate to practice faith.
- adherents are forbidden to question the beliefs and practices of the faith, its leaders and their writings. They are often punished or harshly ex-communicated for their lack of faith.
7. they demand work from people to earn salvation, rather than offer free grace. E.g. Islam's 5 Pilars.
J.P. Moreland wrote, that if you are going to choose a religion, you should choose one:
1. whose picture of God harmonizes with what we know about God.
2. that does the best job of diagnosing the human situation and solution.
3. that requires a supernatural act to explain it.
4. that gives you all of Jesus, not just bits and pieces.
5. that gives you a devotional experience.
Christianity, because of Christ, does it all!
Textual Reliability New Testament
If critics want to disregard the New Testament, then they must also disregard other ancient writings by Plato, Aristotle, and Homer. This is because the New Testament documents are better preserved and more numerous than any other ancient writing. See the chart below:
If Jesus was crucified in 30 A.D., then that means that the entire New Testament was completed within 70 years. This is important because it means there were plenty of people around when the New Testament documents were written who could have contested the writings.
Extra-Biblical Accounts of New Testament Events/People
Dr. Terrence W. Smith & CARM
1. Flavius Josephus (AD 37?-101?, a Jewish historian, not a Christian) mentions John the Baptist and Herod - Antiquities, Book 18, ch. 5, par. 2.
"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism."
2. Flavius Josephus (AD 37?-101?) mentions Ananias the High Priest who was mentioned in Acts 23:2.
"Now as soon as Albinus was come to the city of Jerusalem, he used all his endeavors and care that the country might be kept in peace, and this by destroying many of the Sicarii. But as for the high priest, Ananias (25) he increased in glory every day, and this to a great degree..." Acts 23:2, "And the high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him [Paul] on the mouth."
3. Flavius Josephus (AD 37?-101?) mentions James the brother of Jesus - Antiquities, Book 20, ch. 19.
"Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others."
4. Flavius Josephus (AD 37?-101?) mentions Christ - Antiquities, Book 18, ch. 3, par. 3.
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a
teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
Note: There is debate among scholars as to the authenticity of this quote since it is so favorable to Jesus. The most prevailing view of scholars today is that Josephus did write this passage, but did not intend to call Jesus "the Christ."
5. Tacitus (A.D. c.55-A.D. c.117, Roman historian) mentions "christus" who is Jesus - Annals.
"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius…" http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.mb.txt
6. Seutonius (A.D. 125) mentions the same persecution and reports Claudius' banishment (A.D. 52).
"Jews, who stirred up by Christ, were causing public disturbances." (see Acts 18)
7. Thallus Circa AD 52, wrote of the eclipse of the sun. Thallus wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean world from the Trojan War to his own time. His writings are only found as citations by others. Julius Africanus who wrote about AD 221 mentioned Thallus' account of an eclipse of the sun.
"On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun." Is this a reference to the eclipse at the crucifixion? Luke 23:44-45, "And it was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 the sun being obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two."
Julius Africanus, Extant Writings, XVIII in the Ante–Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), vol. VI, p. 130. as cited in Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996.
8. Pliny the Younger mentioned Christ. Pliny was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Pliny wrote ten books. The tenth around AD 112.
"They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up."
Pliny, Letters, transl. by William Melmoth, rev. by W.M.L. Hutchinson (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), vol. II, X:96 as cited in Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996.
9. The Talmud, "On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged…" (hanged on a cross).
Gal. 3:13, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."
Luke 22:1, "Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. 2And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people." This quotation was taken from the reading in The Babylonian Talmud, transl. by I. Epstein (London: Soncino, 1935), vol. III, Sanhedrin 43a, p. 281 as cited in Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996.
10. Lucian (circa 120-after 180) mentions Jesus. Greek writer and rhetorician.
"The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws."
Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11–13, in The Works of Lucian of Samosata, transl. by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949), vol. 4, as cited in Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996. McDowell, Josh, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, San Bernardino, CA, Here's Life Publishers, Inc. 1979. Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996. Encarta on the Web at http://encarta.msn.com .
11. H. G. Wells discusses Jesus & Christianity as factual history in detail (The Outline of History pp. 417-448, 1920).
"... a great teacher... Jesus of Nazareth." (p. 419)
"Weakened and ailing people were heartened and healed by His presence." (p. 421)
"Is it any wonder that to this day this Galilean is too much for our small hearts?" (p. 426)
"Witnesses were found to declare that they had positively seen him go up visibly in his body." (p. 429)
"They found out prophecies of the crucifixion in the prophets." (p.431)
"...the immense influence they have had upon the whole subsequent life of western mankind." (p. 433)
12. Will Durant wrote a 672 page volume entitled, "Caesar and Christ" (1944) as part of his multi-volume work, "The Story of Civilization." See pp. 553-561.
"The Christian evidence begins with the letters of Paul... almost universally accounted as substantially genuine. No one has questioned the existence of Paul or his repeated meetings with Peter, James and John, and Paul enviously admits that they had known Christ in the flesh." (p. 555)
"No one reading these scenes (Gospels) can doubt the reality of the figure behind them. That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic, and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels." (p. 557)
13. The Encyclopedia Britannica gives 15 pages to Jesus Christ, 7 to Christianity, 6 to John's Gospel and only 2 pages to Mohammed, and 1 paragraph to Allah (1959 Edition).
14. Larry King – "Jesus was the most influential man in history."
Some great links for Bible study:
Biblehub.com - compare Bible translations, search for words and verses, find meanings of Greek and Hebrew words & more.
NetBible.org - parrallel Bibles, Greek & Hebrew definitions & parsing & more.
Links for Free and Low Priced Christian E-Books:
DccEbooks.com - David C. Cook Publishing offers weekly free and low cost ebooks. Download a free Kindle App from Amazon to read on your computer or phone.
GospelEbooks.net - free and low cost ebooks daily from many different publishers. Now requites a small membership fee.
Links for Defending Christian Faith:
AIIAinstitute.org - many resources, links to good sites (on the "Resources" tab) and opportunities for apologetics.
RZIM.org - Ravi Zacharius Ministries offers many articles and resources.