Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Would you die for a paperweight?

Know how libraries have banned book months? Where some books just have content that’s too extreme to be allowed?  I worked in a library all through high school and college, and the banned books events always fascinated me–mostly because I thought it was ironic that libraries seem to boast about how many banned books they keep in their catalog.

Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of it being banned? Always made me smile.

Have you ever read a banned book? There are lists all over the place, some comprehensive and others not so much.

Well, the Bible is the ultimate banned book. People have died for this book, and that can’t be said of Huckleberry Finn or The Color Purple. Both great stories, but nobody died because they owned a copy.

So why are people afraid of the Bible? What is it about the Bible that scares people so much?

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Ephesians 5:8-14.

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible.

The Bible calls itself the Word of God over and over again. All throughout Scripture, the Bible is called light because it is Truth. And the problem with Truth (and Light) is that it reveals what’s hidden in darkness, and revealing what’s done in the dark makes people uncomfortable. It demonstrates that we’re not as good as we think we are, that we need a Savior, that we are not the final decision maker in our own lives, that our lives (in fact) don’t belong to us anyway.

Christ-followers don’t talk about the Bible as much as we should. Maybe that’s because it intimidates us. Maybe that’s because we don’t think it’s relevant. Maybe we’ve never tried. But the fact is, Christ followers know what we know about God from the Bible.

So why don’t more Christians know what’s in the Bible? Honestly, I meet more Christians who know more about reality TV than they do about Scripture. And, believe me, I like entertainment, but the life lessons (worth keeping)that  you can pick up on TV didn’t begin on TV. They started in Scripture.

The Bible can be intimidating, that’s for sure, especially if you’ve never tried to read it. But there’s something about the Bible that might make it more interesting, if you think about it.

Whether you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God or not, you have to recognize how many people have given up their lives or their freedom simply by owning a copy and refusing to give it up.

Regardless of what is written in it, first take into account how it has changed the course of human history, how it has changed the lives of people who read it, and how it seems to terrify governments everywhere. Have you ever thought of that?

Without even mentioning that there exists more evidence to the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible than any other historical manuscript in the world, how it changes people should get you interested in what it’s about. Irrelevant books don’t change people.

(And, yes, the change in people’s lives comes from the power of the Holy Spirit, but you know what I mean.)

If you’re looking for an undeniable source of truth to base your life on, realize how many others have chosen the Bible. Again, I’m not saying you should believe the Bible is truth just because so many others have. But I’m saying you ought to take it seriously. And, if nothing else, it ought to make you realize that reading the Bible isn’t as impossible as people seem to think it is.

Uncounted Christ-followers in the age of the Early Church were murdered for their faith. That hasn’t changed either. More people are killed for their faith today than in ancient times.

I’m not talking about dying for their faith. I’m talking about being murdered for their faith. There’s a big difference there.

People don’t die for coffee table paperweights. These are real people, with real lives, real choices–and they are willing to give up their lives (often in brutal or sadistic ways) rather than give up their faith.

So whether you’re ready to accept what the Bible is or not, at least recognize that it’s more than fairytale. Be willing to really consider it. Be open to researching what it really is and where it came from, who believed it and who died for it, and I think you might surprised.

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Handwritten poster of Psalm 19:8-10 in Kekchi on the wall of a church in Peten, Guatemala

Making life make sense

I love the Bible. I love its stories. I love its characters. I love everything about it. But there’s so much more to Scripture than just stories about God and about people. I’ve always been amazed that when the Bible speaks about history or science, it’s never wrong. And, yes, the Bible does speak about science. It’s ironic how much science is actually in the Bible when so many people consider it to be unscientific. But that’s a post for another time.

The Bible is more than a book; it’s God’s Word. And everything in the Bible was written to help us. So I’m not sure where we got the idea that the Bible isn’t relevant to our culture. I’ve heard more than one person say it, known more than one person who think the Bible is outdated. And I’m not sure if it’s because they’ve only read the King James Version or if they’re just taking other people’s opinions for their own without looking into it themselves.

The truth of the matter is that you can’t make it through this life as a follower of Christ without trusting the Bible.

Handwritten poster of Psalm 19:8-10 in Kekchi on the wall of a church in Peten, Guatemala

Handwritten poster of Psalm 19:8-10 in Kekchi on the wall of a church in Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Romans 15:4.

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

The Bible is our road map, our instruction manual, and our life coach. It answers our questions, gives us insight to who God is, and reminds us what this life is actually all about. And if you want to know how to stay focused on living the right kind of life, knowing the Bible is essential.

The Bible is full of promises. On every page God makes a promise or refers back to a promise He already made that He will keep, and because the Bible reveals who God is, we can trust that God will keep those promises. True, He won’t do it when we expect it. Either He’ll wait “too long” or He’ll move “too fast” for us, but that’s just because God operates on His own timetable (which is superior to ours anyway).

I’m working on staying focused right now because my life is so crazy. With church, work, home, family, and personal things all piling up on top of each other, I feel like I’m treading water under Niagara Falls. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get my head any further out of the water, and if I stop swimming, the force of everything is going to push me underneath the water until I drown.

When life gets that crazy (because I know I’m not the only one facing this sort of overwhelming flood of life right now), it’s easy to lose focus and just look out for yourself. It’s easier to just watch your own back. But God doesn’t allow all these things into our lives without reason, and He doesn’t expect us to face them alone either. He’s right there with us, and all we have to do is ask for His help. That’s what the Bible says. That’s what God has promised.

So, read the Bible. But don’t just read it randomly. Read the Bible with purpose. Read the Bible with expectation. Google verses on certain topics and then instead of just reading the one verse, read the whole chapter. Get books on topical Bible verses. I think a lot of times people just pick up a Bible and go to some random page and start reading and expect that God will provide the answers to their biggest questions. I suppose He could do it that way, but that’s not real seeking. That’s a lazy way of reading the Bible. Just opening to a page and reading and refusing to actually study? I’m not sure if God will honor that the way He would if you put some real effort into looking for your answers.

Get your Bible out today. Or go to a Bible site online. And when you start reading, tell God what you’re looking for. Whether you’re looking for an answer or just encouragement, I promise you’ll find it. God gave us Scripture to help us thrive in this life, to help us get to know Him, to give us the boost we need when life gets too heavy. The Bible is like a pair of glasses that are custom designed for your vision; it brings the world into focus.

Don’t try to make sense of life without it. Without Scripture, the world is fuzzy and blurry.

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

A Kansas driver with Florida plates

Identification is important. We carry government-issued IDs to prove who we are and that we have a license to drive a car. You carry a library card to prove that you have a right to check out books. You carry a passport that identifies you as a person who can exit and reenter countries. You drive a car with a license plate that tells what state you’re from and even what county.

Well, the latter is true if you’re driving your own car. If you rent a car? Not so much. Example? Today is our last day in Miami, and we needed a car when we arrived here on Tuesday. So we rented one (a manly Nissan Versa … hamsters included). This car has Florida plates, but the driver is from Kansas. So we’re out on the highway with all the other millions of people who live here, and because of our Florida plates they think our driver knows how to get around in this city. Well … they’re wrong. I’ll let your imaginations fill in the gaps and just say it’s been an exciting couple of days.

Everyone carries identification of one sort or another. But not all identification that we can see is real.

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

The verses for today are Matthew 7:21-23.

Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

This is Jesus speaking, and even as a child, this set of verses chilled me. I struggled with my salvation when I was a young teenager because I just wasn’t sure that God had saved me, and every time I would see this verse, I would get really scared. Because how did you know for real if you were saved? What did it actually mean to do God’s will? I thought I was doing it, but was I really?

If I had read this verse in the Message as a child, I might have found some comfort because the context is a little clearer.

Matthew 7:21-23 (The Message)

Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Serious obedience. Not just a show but doing what God says to do in Scripture. That’s how you can identify yourself as a Christian.

It’s so easy to sit back and see preachers on television or people doing good deeds all over the world and instantly put them in the Christian category, but I don’t know their heart. Granted, because I don’t know their heart means I can’t say they’re not a Christian; but by that same token, I can’t say they are either.

What matters is that I can say I am.

I don’t want to be that person who presents an image of Christ on the outside but on the inside is only interested in what “being a Christian” can get me. I don’t want to be that person who uses religion to rope people in and manipulate them. I don’t want to be that person who puts on a show. None of that is about Christ, and none of that really makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

Doing what Christ says is the only way to help others. Obeying the Bible. Listening to the Spirit and doing what He says. And being serious about it. Loving others and loving God, and then not only will you know for sure that you are a Christian, but others will know too.

God’s Word won’t do you any good if you don’t listen.

Today’s verse is Matthew 24:35. And, as is normally my habit, I went ahead and read the rest of the chapter just to understand the context. And I tell you what, if you have a moment this morning, you really should read the whole chapter. Wow. That’s all I have to say. The whole chapter is both electrifiying and terrifying. And I don’t know about you, but verses 9-14 sounds awfully like the world we’re living in today. …

Matthew 24:35 says this:

35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

I was trying to think of something really deep and powerful to say about this verse this morning, but the beauty about Scripture is that I don’t have to be deep. Scripture is deep enough on its own without me trying to explain it. And–actually–that fact in itself pretty much explains this verse.

The Bible is the most unique book ever written. It’s the No. 1 bestseller of all time. It’s been translated into more languages than any other piece of literature. And parts of it are considered the oldest pieces of “literature” that still survive. There may be some argument that the Epic of Gilgamesh is older but I think Job may be the same age. I can’t remember. Anyway, it’s old. But even though it’s old, it’s still relevant to our culture.

Believe it or not, it is. If you have trouble believing the Bible is relevant to our world today, get a translation that makes sense to you (New Living Translation or the Message) and then read it again and you’ll understand that there isn’t a single event or circumstance in our modern world that hasn’t already happened in the Bible. There isn’t a single problem anyone has that God hasn’t showed us how to overcome through Scripture.

And I guess the thing about the verse this morning that leaves me speechless is the fact that Jesus said that His words would never disappear — and they haven’t. The Bible has been around for thousands and thousands of years. And it’s still intact. That’s what boggles my mind.

And I’m not going to go into the details of manuscript preservation and accuracy of the original manuscripts. If you want to discuss that, there are other places for that. But I’ve done the research, and anyone who can believe that the Bible isn’t 100 percent what God wanted us to have right now hasn’t read it. Anyone who can believe that the Bible is just a book of stories about morality hasn’t read it. Anyone who believes that Bible doesn’t make sense hasn’t read it.

So if you believe any of those things … read it.

Ha! And if you don’t believe any of those things … read it.

The Bible is God’s Word. It’s the way He communicates with us. Yeah, there may be a few people who God speaks to directly. I’m not going to dispute that (be careful with that, though; here’s another good reason to read the whole chapter of Matthew 24). And there are definitely times when I have felt the Holy Spirit urging me to do something but not exactly in an audible voice. The vast majority of the time, if God wants to tell us something, He’s already told us … in Scripture. And we just have to read it to find out what He wants us to do.

So you can carry a Bible around all you want or have them sitting all over your house. But they won’t do you any good if you don’t read them. And they won’t make any sense to you if you don’t study them.

So what are you waiting for? The words written in Scripture are the same words God spoke thousands of years ago. They’re the same words Jesus spoke. They’re the same words God moved prophets to write, kings to sing, shepherd boys to compose. They haven’t changed. And they won’t change. So instead of just taking peoples’ word for it, why don’t you read it for yourself?