Thursday, September 20, 2018

Remember the Bible?

Remember that thick book at the bottom of your TBR stack? The one you look away from whenever you see it, guilt plaguing your mind? I really should read it. I know I should . . . but I'm too busy. I have to update my social media status first. Then I'll read a bit.

Two hours later: Well, I guess it's too late now. I'm really tired and have to get up early tomorrow for work, and then there's that birthday party I'm going to afterward. I won't have time tomorrow, but I'll be at church Sunday so that's alright.

So often in today's American culture a family might own ten Bibles. The majority of them sit on a shelf collecting dust, and maybe one per family member rests on a bedside table to be used twice a week. Reading the Bible frequently seems like a chore. Something that should be done, but is more of a task to get over with than the privilege that it is. Compare this to the 1400s and early 1500s in England.

Each week people would attend church services spoken in a language they were unfamiliar with. The Bible would be read in Latin and interpreted by the church who changed the meaning to match its own agenda. Translating the Bible into English was forbidden. People didn't own a single Bible they could understand. They weren't able to study the Bible at leisure. If they were caught with an English Bible, their punishment would be death. In 1519, seven fathers were burned at the stake for teaching their children the Lord's Prayer in English (Piper). Stop and imagine that for a moment. Parents wanted their children to understand what they were praying, and they were murdered for this.

Why? Why would the church execute Christians, seeking to read the Bible and understand it? Wasn't the church supposed to want people to learn more about God? No. The church wanted people to hear specific things about God (some of these things altogether faulty), and think they knew God. The church was unwilling to lose the power it held over people by making them believe they were saved by good works.

Enter into the scene: William Tyndale.

As Pastor John Piper, founder of, summarizes Tyndale's life, Tyndale was “always singing one note.” His single-minded focus in life was getting the Bible translated into the common tongue and the hands of every person in England. In Tyndale's famous declaration, he audaciously stated his ambition: “I defy the pope and all his laws . . . If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.”

Tyndale recognized the importance of people reading the Bible for themselves. Mastering several languages, Tyndale devoted his life to translating the Scriptures to English, despite being wanted by the law and living in exile in Germany for it. Upon completing the Greek New Testament, Tyndale smuggled at least 3,000 copies into England. After studying Hebrew, he published a revised edition of the New Testament in 1534, as well as translating parts of the Old Testament. Piper explained that Tyndale's translations were so accurate, many of his exact translations have remained through today. He estimates that the English Standard Version of the Bible (the translation I primarily use) is over 70% of Tyndale's direct work. Tyndale's Bible was certainly the basis for both the King James Version and Geneva Bible.

While Tyndale dedicated every moment to translation and distribution of the Bibles, the church in England retaliated and burned as many of his Bibles as they could find. Because people had accessed the Scriptures and read them for themselves, more and more started standing against the church's contrary teachings and for the truths they found in the Bible. The number of martyrs grew—for doing nothing more than reading the very book you have three copies of sitting on your shelf, virtually unused. It's a shocking revelation to realize that simply owning only one of what you have multiple copies of would have made you a martyr a few hundred years ago.

Tyndale never was able to complete the Old Testament translation, because he was betrayed by Henry Philips, who Tyndale had thought was a good friend, and arrested in May of 1535 for heresy. The generally accepted date of his strangling and burning is October 6, 1536. While the exact year of his birth is contested, Tyndale was somewhere around the age of 40. He'd spent 12 years of his life in exile, and a long, hard twelve they were. Tyndale died so you could have the Bible in your own language. So that you could read and study it—not leave it lying somewhere unused. Allow George Mueller to remind you of the value of studying the Bible from his own life:
“I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it. . . . What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and . . . not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.”
The next time you see your Bible shoved in between the dictionary and the edge of the shelf, take some time to pull it down, dust it off, and read. Remember the sacrifices people made for the same privilege you have in abundance. America is still a free nation, and you still can access the Bible everywhere you turn. It's an honor. And a command. “Blessed is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1.1-2). Remember what a treasure the Bible is.

Note: Another post I wrote on a similar subject as reading your Bible is one of my favorites, Dear God, Where Have You Been?

Piper, John. “Always Singing One Note—A Vernacular Bible.” Desiring God Conference for Pastors. Desiring God. 31 January 2006. Conference Presentation.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Looking Into James: James 1:22-25

A few mornings ago as I read my Bible, a passage in James stood out to me. James 1:22-25 reads:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

I read this, then went back and read it a few times over, trying to understand the mirror analogy. Through personal reflection and discussion with my family, I noted two major takeaways from the passage. The first point I noticed lies in not forgetting. So often, even in my own experience, I go to church, youth group, a Christian camp, hear a message, and forget about it within an hour. If you asked me the following day what the sermon covered, it would take me a few minutes to remember, and after several days, I might not have any idea. In these cases, I am being "a hearer of the word and not a doer." What good is it to sit in church and listen to a teaching if you then neglect to apply it to your life and grow from what you heard? Sometimes, it's a challenge to pull a practical aspect out of a lesson, but I've found that the times I do this, the more I get out of it. When I take the effort to find a practical application and truly work to practice this in my own life, that's when I make progress in my spiritual walk. Growing closer to the Lord takes work, and that includes finding and applying spiritual lessons. For me, this may be hearing a teaching regarding self discipline, then asking myself what areas of self discipline I'm not good at, how to be better, and then doing so.

My second note regarding this passage concerns self-examination and relates to the point I made above. My best understanding of the mirror analogy is this: When we study ourselves, and find areas that we need to improve upon (as we always will), we are foolish if we do not then go and work to fix those areas. Like I mentioned earlier, it does no good to hear a message or notice ways we should be better in our spiritual lives and not work to become better. The entire point is to notice things to improve in ourselves, and then find ways to do so. Otherwise, we are being lazy, and honestly very foolish. We're concentrating on our short-term, earthly lives, not on honoring the One who gave His own life for us. We're being focused on the temporary, not eternity-minded. Remember, even if we neglect to grow spiritually and examine ourselves, God knows. If you lack insight, ask Him and read your Bible. Hebrews 4:12-13 points out:
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
So next time you are at church, youth group, or God reveals something to you, ask yourself how you can grow through it, and apply it to your life. God will honor your efforts and help you grow stronger in Him. "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Defending the Faith 5: Compromising Truth

In today's society, compromising truth has never been easier for Christians due to great societal pressures. Pastors sway under pressures from “science” and teach that Genesis is figurative. Churches agree not to discuss any potentially “divisive” doctrines. Christians neglect to speak out when the opportunity arises and cower instead, afraid to be called judgmental. Some Christian colleges insist on editing out news stories from school newspapers that don't follow their agenda.

According to WORLD Magazine's September 1, 2018 issue, this is the compromise in Liberty University's journalism department. Journalism students are taught to write accurate stories, but when it comes to practicing their skills in the school newspaper, the Liberty Champion, their informative articles are placed under extreme criticism. When they write about a topic the president of the university, Jerry Falwell Jr, doesn't wish to have made public about campus policies, he forces them to edit it out. Similarly, if they write accurate but unflattering information about the United States presidential candidate that Falwell was an advocate for, he either forces the students to remove it from the newspaper or also state which candidate they themselves are voting for. While it's not necessarily wrong to include warning readers of an author's potential bias, being forced to specifically state your choice of candidate is. Time and again, the article asserts, the students try to simply write truthful articles about topics they find fascinating, only to have them be struck down by a president who would rather hide and compromise the truth. Erin Covey, the Champion's news editor, states her frustration and confusion. “The level of oversight we have does make it difficult to pursue the accurate journalism that we're taught in classes.” When the students stand up for what they have been taught is right, the consequences are drastic. Former editor-in-chief, Jack Panyard, ultimately was fired from the position and lost the $3,000 scholarship each semester this job earned him. The president of the college that instructs the students to write truthful articles in class, teaches the students not to do this in a “real world” environment—and this is in a Christian setting. If this is true, then it's no wonder that so many lies circulate through our secular society today.

No longer are Christians as determined to uphold truth. Many have compromised on one of the most important aspects of life. As Randy Alcorn put it,
Suppose a professor or inspirational speaker says, 'What’s important isn’t finding the truth, it’s searching for it.' Try applying the same logic to your search for a life preserver when you’re drowning! Or, 'Truth is whatever you believe, as long as you’re sincere.' Certainly, you can step off a building sincerely believing you won’t fall. But gravity cares nothing about your sincerity. Even sincere people are often wrong, sometimes catastrophically so.
Finding truth and holding fast to it are key elements of living a life glorifying to God. As Christians, we shouldn't be compromising truth, we should be standing firm for it, and doing so with gentleness, grace, and love. C. S. Lewis makes an outstanding point. “The glory of God, and, as our only means to glorifying Him, the salvation of human souls, is the real business of life.” A Christian's job is to glorify God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) We glorify Him through helping point people to Christ. How can we point them to Jesus if we are inconsistent and compromising in our other Christian beliefs?

If we hide some truths because we'd rather not think about them, and give in to secular pressures (or even pressures from other Christians), how can we honestly expect people to trust us when we say that we know the Truth? If we claim that Genesis is figurative because “science” disagrees with the Creation and Flood accounts, then what right have we to say that our Savior was born of a virgin, performed true miracles, battled demons, and resurrected? Science says those are impossible as well.

When we compromise on truth, we are compromising any reason we have for others to trust us and our beliefs. We are giving into worldly pressures to hide truths that might be a bit “messy,” uncomfortable, or embarrassing. Even if you do not recognize your own inconsistencies, others will point them out. If you say the gospels are true and accurate accounts of Jesus, then you cannot also claim other parts of the Bible are figurative.* You can believe that all of the Bible is true, or none of it, but you cannot compromise and believe both.

Don't give in to pressures from society and “science.” Stand for what you know is true. It won't be easy, and sometimes will be very uncomfortable, but it's worth it. Don't compromise truth. 

*I'm not saying some parts of the Bible are not figurative. Some certainly are, and are very clearly so. I'm specifically referring to Genesis, which contains plain, straightforward language and is put forth as a very literal book.

Crotts, Charissa. Rieth, Elizabeth. Johnson, Isaiah. "Papered Over." WORLD Magazine. 1 September 2018: 40-45. Print.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Summer 2018 Highlights: 100 for 100 Challenge

Hey, everyone! I know I haven't been around lately, but I'm hoping that will change and this was just a season of exceptional busyness in my life. Maybe I'll get a chance to recap my summer for you. However, as for today, I'm here to highlight one sliver of it—my writing.

From mid November of 2017 to late May, 2018, my writing had fallen to the wayside. It wasn't that I didn't want to write, or didn't necessarily have the time, it was more that I didn't know what to write and didn't have the drive. None of the stories I was working on at the time were quite matching my mood, so I simply stopped writing. I recognize it seems contradictory to say I missed writing but also didn't feel like it, still, for whatever reason I didn't write for nearly six months.

Then . . . the 100 for 100 Challenge hosted by Go Teen Writers started, and I jumped on the bandwagon, wondering whether I would even survive writing 100 words a day for the first two weeks. Long story short, last Friday was day 100 of the challenge and I made it! The premise of the challenge was to write at least 100 words a day for 100 days to total 10,000 words by August 31. The exceptions: you got one "grace week," and one day off a week if you chose. In all, I had to take off 10 days combined from when I was attending camps. For the other 90 days though, I wrote consistently! This was both a massive battle and blessing for me. Some days my eyes kept drooping closed and I was writing at midnight to squeeze in my 100 words to barely scrape by. At times I just didn't feel like writing but I had to push through anyway. On occasion I couldn't decide where to go with my story, and had to force myself not to quit.

But other times, I woke up eager to write and determined to continue through the challenge. Sometimes I would write 500 words a day or more. Honestly, I had no idea that I had it in me to push through the difficulties and remain steadfast over that length of time. At the start, I wasn't sure how to manage writing when I would be gone so much over the summer, but somehow I managed. And not only did I make 10K, but I ended up with a grand total of 26,543 words! :) Though that's not much to some, it was a huge accomplishment for me. I started and completed a short story For Better or for Worse (22,760 words), and began another to finish the final days.

A hearty thanks to all who urged me on through this challenge, and encouraged me to write every day. It's only because of your consistent prodding that I managed some days. Thank you to those who are eager to read For Better or for Worseit's encouraging to have people want to read my writing! And thank you bloggers at Go Teen Writers for hosting and providing me an opportunity to test my limits and come through victoriously!

To read the synopsis and an excerpt from For Better or for Worse, click on the story title anywhere it appears in the post. Let me know what you think!