Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why Study The Bible? Here Are Five Reasons!

Earlier this year, I wrote a series of articles on personal devotion centering on prayer (which you can read here).  I’m starting a new series here centering on Bible study:

There is good news and bad news on the Bible literacy front.  According to a 2014 survey conducted jointly by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society, half of all Americans strongly agree that the Bible contains everything one needs in order to live a meaningful life.  In addition, half of all Americans believe the Bible has too little influence in American life.  In our increasingly secular society, it is rather surprising to find out that half of all Americans still believe these things.  This same survey also states

 that 88% of Americans own at least one Bible.  However, only 19% are actually “Bible engaged”-which this survey describes as those who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God.  This 19% is also the number of Americans who now consider themselves Bible skeptics.  That number has almost doubled from 10% to 19% in almost three years.  Thirty-nine percent of Millennials never read the Bible at all. 

Biblical literacy is indeed falling.  One of the reasons is that the secularization of our culture has brought about lack of understanding as to why it is so important to be a student of the Bible.  So, before I write about how to study the Bible effectively, we have to grapple with this question:

Why study the Bible?  

1.     The Bible is the inspired Word of God – How can I claim this?  I could give many reasons, but here are three:
·        Although the sixty-six books of the Bible were written over 1600 years apart by over forty human authors who come from a variety of backgrounds (including shepherds, farmers, fishermen, physicians, kings, and priests), the message of the Bible is remarkably consistent.  It is the story of God’s relationship with humanity.  It tells the story of the creation and fall of mankind as well as  the redemption of mankind in the person and work of God’s son, Jesus Christ.  That redemption is available to all who repent of their sins and follow Christ. 
·        If you were going to make up a story, would you make yourself look good or bad?  I think most people would honestly say that you would make yourself look as good as possible.  However, the Bible is just the opposite.  Consider that the Old Testament was written by a variety of Jewish writers, yet it details repeated instances of disobedience and gross sin even by some of such Biblical heroes as Noah, Moses, and David.  Here is one New Testament “head-scratcher” for those who are skeptics of the Bible.  In 1st century Palestine, a woman’s testimony was not considered credible, yet the Bible writes that it was three women who first discovered that Jesus rose from the dead!  If a 1st century Jew made it up, why would you choose people who your society does not see as credible?
·        There have been countless archeological finds that support the veracity of the Bible.  These are being discovered almost constantly.  Just this summer, an article was published about a find in the valley of Elah just west of Jerusalem.  An ancient piece of pottery contains the name of one of David’s rivals, Eshba’al.  This name had never been found in any writing outside the Bible until this was found. Another example is found in this article on the possible discovery of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha.
2.     The Bible is culturally relevant – Our culture is steeped in phrases and concepts that are uniquely Biblical.  Yet, sadly, most people don’t realize this.  Consider these phrases
·        “I’m at my wits end!
·        “I escaped by the skin of my teeth!”
·        “Don’t cast your pearls before swine”
·        “A house divided against itself cannot stand”
·        “He was a good Samaritan”

Where did these phrases come from?  You guessed it…the Bible!  (If you want to read more about this, here is a list of 122 phrases that we use in everyday life that come from the Bible.)  In fact, I don’t think you can consider yourself educated without knowing something about the Bible.

3.     The Bible supplies a moral framework for your life – How do we know what is right and wrong? 

Some will say that you just know these things intuitively.  However, what we think is intuitive is not intuitive in all societies.  In many societies in the world, rape, incest, and even murder are not considered sinful.  The Ten Commandments in the Bible as well as many other passages in the Bible reveal to us God’s view of sin.
4.     The Bible is a source of great wisdom – We live in an age in which knowledge is abundant but wisdom is rare. One of the definitions of wisdom that I found is “the natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand.” Another way to describe wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge that is applicable to a given situation. What good is knowledge without the ability to apply it? That is where the Bible comes in. In fact, the Bible has one entire book (Proverbs) that is just devoted to wise sayings. There is more wisdom in any chapter in that one book than you will get in any secular college or university for four years!
5.     The Bible is the means to encounter God – Anyone who has ever spent significant amounts of time in study of the Bible will understand the meaning of Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s word is alive!  I have no idea the number of times that I have encountered God through his word, but is certainly hundreds of times.  I will often read a passage that I have been through dozens if not hundreds of times in the past and yet will see some facet of that passage that I have never seen before.  God has spoken to me by using His word so many times in my life as I have gone about my regular activities.  God still speaks today and He is not limited by His word alone in the way He can speak to us, but I have found that the primary way that He speaks to His people is through His word.  But He can’t speak to you through His Word if you don’t know it!  Want to encounter God?  Spend time getting to know Him in His Word!

Want to read more?  Here are a few links to related articles on this blog:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Living A Christian Life In an Anti-Christian World

As I shared in my article "Stability For Our Times" earlier this summer, this is not an easy time to be a Christian. Our culture is swiftly turning against so many things that were for many decades part of our Judeo-Christian heritage.  From the sanctity of marriage to the sanctity of life, we have largely turned our backs on the clear teaching of scripture.  So what are Christians to do during these increasingly anti-Christian times?

I believe that the things we are called to do today are strikingly simple but incredibly important.  Let’s look at a few of these things that we are called to do in order to be effective “salt and light” in our times.  These things may seem so obvious that it may seem silly to even spend the time writing about them.  However, I fear that the most obvious things are the things we overlook the most.  Now, God had the Ten Commandments.  I don’t rate nearly that high, so I’ll call these my Ten Suggestions:

  1. Attend church regularly - In this increasingly secular age, it is vitally important that we Christians participate in the life of the body of Christ at the local level.  Watching sermons on television, listening to Christian radio, and reading good spiritual books or articles (like this one, I hope!) may all be helpful, but nothing can substitute being part of a loving, Bible-believing, and spiritually-alive body of Christ.  If you are part of such a body, thank God every day…and then attend!  If your church meets multiple times a week, be sure to be a part of the life of the church as much as possible.  Hebrews tells us that we are not to be “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some…(Hebrews 10: 25a NASB).  If you are not currently part of such a body, start prayerfully looking for one.  There are a lot of good churches out there!  (P.S. If you are in the Evansville, Indiana area and are looking for a home church, here is a link to the website for my church Fair Haven Christ's a great group to be a part of!)
  2. Be prompt in your attendance –  Satan loves lukewarm Christians…and nothing says “lukewarm” better than consistently showing up late to meeting.  A church with members who show up late consistently doesn’t attract very many new people…and why should it?  If a guest attends your church at the announced starting time, and many of the members show up late, what would this tell him or her about the church? He or she may not be that interested in coming back! Frankly, it is greatly discouraging to your pastor and church leaders to see members drag in late week after week   By the way, a great way to encourage your pastor and church leaders is to get there not only on time but a little early.  Bottom line…be there and be there on time!
  3. Encourage one another daily – As the second half of the scripture quoted above states “…but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25b) Being a part of the body of Christ means to encourage one another every day, not only in church but in our everyday lives.  We need each other! Here’s an idea…when was the last time you had another family from your church over for a meal?  We usually don’t get to know each other well during the short periods that we are in church.  We get to know each other better when we spend time with each other during the week.  Here’s an even better idea…How about inviting another family from your church that you don’t know very well over for a meal (or out to eat if you are more comfortable with that)?  New families will tend to stay when they make more connections.  Be one of those connections!
  4. Develop the habit of spending time in God’s word every day -  It’s been almost twenty years since I read an article by Pastor Jack Hayford that changed my life.  He stated that for decades he had made it a practice to “not turn the light off until he had turned the light on.”  In other words, he wouldn’t turn his bedroom light off at night until he had spent some time in the light of God’s word…the Bible.  Since then, I have, by God’s grace, tried diligently to put this into practice.  There have only been a handful of days in the last two decades that I haven't spent some time during that day in God's word.  Because of this, I believe I am a much more stable and mature Christian than I was then (though I know I certainly still have a long way to go!)  This is not a law but a habit.  A habit is just something that one chooses to do time after time after time until it just becomes part of you.  Make reading the Bible part of who you are!
  5. Develop a habit of daily prayer – As I shared in my series of articles on prayer earlier this year, prayer is simply talking to God in faith.  It is laying aside my agenda to find out what God’s agenda for my life is.  (If you’d like to read my suggestions on how to improve your prayer life, please follow the links at the end of this article.)
  6. Spend moments with Christ throughout your day - As important as it is to have a regular devotion time with God daily, it is equally as important to realize that God wants to hear from you throughout your busy day.  As you go about your daily activities, be aware that you can bring your petitions before God anytime…day or night!  Something troubling you? Take it to One who can take care of your trouble…then just trust Him!
  7. Listen to God! - Not only does God want to hear your prayer, but often (believe it or not!), He may have something to say to you.  He may want you speak a kind word to a co-worker, help someone in need, or just bite your tongue when someone says something that bothers you.  God still speaks today! (To read about a particular instance in my life in which I found God speaking to me, read my column, "God Can Do Things In Prayer That Are Just So Cool!".  Also, here's a short video of my pastor Mike Douglas sharing about hearing "The Voice of God."  It's good!)
  8. Be an example to your family members - My pastor often states that we men are called to be the "high priests" of our families.  I believe that's right.   As a husband, father, and grandfather, it is my
    responsibility to live a life before my family members to make them want to come to Christ.  Are you being that model for your family?  Wives have a similar charge.  Both parents are commanded to raise their children in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4 KJV). (Here's a link to another short video of Pastor Mike sharing about being a witness to your family..."Tell Them About God!")
  9. Read (or watch) stories of faith – One of the best ways that I know to strengthen my faith is to

    read biographies of great Christians who have lived out there faith.  Not a reader?  Well, you should be!  Seriously, there are also some great movies and documentaries out there about great men and women of faith that will strengthen your faith.  One of my favorites (both the book and the movie) is “The Hiding Place” – the story of Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. If you've never read this Christian classic, I would encourage you to pick up a copy! When I read about the obstacles that these men and women had to face and they with God’s help were able to overcome, it makes my troubles seem small in comparison!
  10. Develop a winsome personality to outsiders – Scripture teaches us that we are to be a  “sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” (II Cor. 2: 14b).  Do you and I carry that aroma…that fragrance of Christ...wherever we go?  The world is tired and fed up with “bible thumping” Christians (as they caricature us).  What they can’t turn away from are people who are joyful no matter what the circumstances.  Do we reflect that joyful spirit around others?  Or are we grumpy around them most of the time?  I’ve heard Jewish talk show host Dennis Prager say that the greatest advertisement for religion are those adherents to a religion who do good in their God’s name…and the greatest advertisement against religion are those who do evil in God’s name.  Which kind of advertisement are you?
As Christians, we could bemoan our status as "outs" in a society that increasingly marginalizes us and treats us with contempt.  Or we could just go with the flow and take in the secular worldview that is so prevalent today (as unfortunately so many "Christian" churches are doing).  However, we are not called to do either of these things.  The Lord calls us to be courageous.  In fact, the last words that Jesus shared with His disciples are good words to share with you as I close: 

 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33 NASB)
Want to read more?  Here are links to related articles on this blog:

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Horrific Iran Deal

Below is a letter that I wrote to my Congressman, Larry Bucschon, and both of my senators in Indiana, Senators Coats and Donnelly. "If you feel as strongly as I do about this horrific deal (I use that word "horrific" very sparingly.  It is well-deserved in this case!), I would encourage, I implore you, to speak up against this deal.  Let your Congressmen know.  Write a letter to the editor.  Don't let this moment pass without doing something about it!  (By the way, you are most certainly welcome to use anything from this letter when you write.)

If you are not familiar with the facts of this agreement, I would encourage you to educate yourself.  I have included some resources at the bottom of this post that will help you be more informed about this.

August 10, 2015

Dear (Congressman/Senator),

There are many important issues facing you in Congress when you get back from August recess.  However, I believe there is nothing more important facing Congress than the vote on the Iranian nuclear agreement.  This is very likely the most important vote that you and your colleagues will ever make.  It could be the most important vote in Congress of the decade.  Perhaps even of the century.  It is that important.

It’s hard to even write these words, but our government has made an agreement with a radical terrorist state.  A state that is the prime sponsor of terrorism in the world.  Worse than Al-Qaida.  Worse than Boko Haram.  Worse even that the Islamic State.  With this agreement in place, Tehran will have $150 billion dollars at its disposal, which it will most certainly use to fund its vast terror network.  The Iranian regime has vowed for decades to annihilate Israel.  No other nation in the world has publicly stated as one of its goal to annihilate another country.  We will be aiding and abetting Iran in its quest to destroy Israel.  We are in fact becoming an accessory to what could be one of the greatest crimes in the history of civilization.  God will certainly judge us for this. Not only this, but there is nothing in this agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring ICBM’s, which they are doing as I write this.  As you know, there is only one reason for a country to acquire Intercontinental ballistic missiles.  That reason is to send nuclear missiles to another continent.  Guess which continent Iran wants to send these missiles to?  It’s not Antarctica!  As much as Iran hates Israel, it hates the U.S. just as much.  Every Friday, the regime sponsors “Death to America” chants in its mosques.  They call Israel “The Little Satan”.  America is “The Great Satan”.

This deal is worse than Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich agreement, which paved the way for World War II.  In 1938, no one knew of Hitler’s plan to annihilate the Jews in Germany.  In 2015, everyone knows that Iran desires to annihilate the Jews in Israel.  In 1938, nuclear weapons had not been invented.  The Iran deal of 2015 will actually pave the way for the fanatical regime in Tehran to get nuclear weapons.  (Although it could conceivably take fifteen years for this to happen…a time period Charles Krauthammer calls a young man’s idea of a long time!... I don’t believe that it will take nearly that long.) The Munich agreement of 1938 did not usher in a European arms race.  The Iran deal of 2015 is ushering in a Middle East arms race as we speak.

As a follower of Christ, I take the injunction of Genesis 12:3 seriously.  Speaking to Abraham, God says in this passage:

And I will bless those who bless you (Israel),
And the one who curses you I will curse
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

I truly believe that one of the reasons that God has blessed America in the almost seventy years since the founding of the modern state of Israel is that, up until very recently, we have stood with Israel.  Tragically, since President Obama has taken office, we are now opposed to Israel in almost every conceivable way.  In fact, if this agreement takes place, we will be in the position of having to defend Iran against Israel if the Jewish state chooses to attack Iran to prevent its own destruction.  Words fail me to describe my revulsion at this thought!

Imagine if we could have done something to have prevented 9/11.  Well, we have the opportunity to help prevent a catastrophe that would be worse than a thousand 9/11’s.  Your vote against this deal is critical to the future of our country.  Indeed, your vote is critical to the future of civilization.  I implore you and your colleagues to vote a resounding “NO” against this unconscionable deal!

Sincerely yours,

Wayne Nall Jr

The Iran Nuclear Deal (Prager University 5 minute video)
Worse Than We Could Have Imagined (Charles Krauthammer article)
Charles Krauthammer explains why iran nuclear deal terrible 2-minutes
The Iran Deal's Collapsing Rationale (Wall Street Journal article)

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