1 – The Moral Compass from Above

As humans, we are partially responsible for who we are and partially responsible to accept what we cannot change about who we already are. One thing we cannot change is our need for a moral compass. Like open source software and peer-to-peer relationships, we must do to others as we would have them do to us. And, like the turtle dove, bald eagle, lar gibbon, prairie vole, albatross, French angelfish, black vulture, barn owl, black-necked swan, shingleback skink, pot-bellied seahorse, European beaver, sandhill crane, and macaroni penguin—humans are hardwired to mate for life. When the alpha male and alpha female gray wolves mate for life, it establishes a social structure that protects the pack. Humans also depend on social structure, another thing we cannot decide nor change.

Human society is sadly plagued by an idea that circulates like an invasive virus—that we can construct our own moral code and that each different moral code is equal to all others. For man-made morals, this is true; insufficient, they are all equally wanting. The Bible teaches that lies, including man-made morals, are promoted by the devil, who prowls like a lion seeking anyone to devour. Don’t take the bait.

That devil wants to destroy our lives, starting with his lie that we can survive life with our own morals. He wants us to think that any moral code is sufficient, so we will ignore the morals that protect us from injury.

A moral code for humankind cannot be created by humankind. Morals relate to those things we cannot change—but must accept—about who we already are. Such insight can only come from the source of our existence.

The Bible claims that it comes from God, through the personalities of its many authors, and that studying it regularly produces good results. That makes it a candidate for a moral compass—not from ourselves, but from above. The Bible proves itself to be from God, not with its overwhelming archaeological, scientific, and historical supporting evidence—but the Bible proves that it is what it claims to be by doing what it claims to do through the positive effect on our lives as we read it daily.

Joshua 1:8, Isaiah 2:8, John 8:44, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Peter 5:8

2 – What Is ‘Theology’?

Theology is a combination of Greek word parts. “Theos” meaning “god” and the suffix “-logia” suggests “interest” or “study”.

Many people who have not studied theology have their own superstitious definition of the word, unofficially yet predictably meaning things like: overly-complicated, big words, confusing concepts, and esoteric speech patterns reserved for self-important egg heads. That’s because theology can come across that way when expert theologians talk on their expert level in the presence of a novice.

But, herein lies a dilemma. Words must be defined by their definitions—if they are going to help us understand. When pop culture commandeers and derails the meaning of a word, that word loses its ability to help humanity.

“Capitalist” around the year 2000 meant much the same as the term “Republican” around 1900: rich elitist. Actually, a “Republican” is a member or supporter of the political party started by Abraham Lincoln, that’s all. “Rich elitist” means “rich elitist”. Likewise, “Capitalism” only means that people can do what they want with their own money—being born into a “lower class” doesn’t mean you can’t buy certain clothes; rather, you can buy whatever clothes you can afford. Capitalism delivered the world from old Feudalism in Europe. Pop culture definitions might be fashionable, but they don’t bring understanding.

Just the same, don’t let the word “theology” scare you. Don’t let it give you a big head. Theology means “interested in God”. A theologian is someone who carefully studies and learns about God with great interest.

“Why does God___?” is a theological question. All of us are theologians in a sense, that is if we have any opinion about God at all. However, not many people are very diligent theologians.

Studying God means studying things we can never fully understand. The ultimate conclusion of any good theology is our own humility. God is bigger and to be respected. That is a basic concept of theology—a concept many good people easily forget.

Martin Luther said that the ultimate theological question is not, “What do I think about God?” but, “What does God think about me?

Theology is not a quest for a mere opinion, but for understanding the Giver of goodness, wisdom, and love.

1 Chronicles 16:11, Psalm 14:2, Jeremiah 29:13, Acts 17:11

3 – What Is ‘Biblical’?

The term “Biblical” means that something is told in the same format as it is in the Bible—including doctrine, theology, and even a simple story. Pop Christianity often presumes that “Biblical” means “true”, but it does not! For example, the Hittites told Israel that they were from outside of the land of Canaan, but they actually lived in the land—the “Biblical” story includes that the Hittites claimed they were from Canaan. If that story were told “according to truth”, we might clarify right away that the Hittites were lying, but if we tell that story “Biblically” or “according to the format of the Bible”, we would first tell what the Hittites claimed, then later on learn that they had been lying.

This might not seem to be an important distinction, but it is part of understanding “Biblical” morals and critical thinking.

“Biblical” teaching can often mean an idea is “true”, but not necessarily. A “Biblical” view of God includes that God is “Most High”, existing in Eternity Past and on a level deeper than atoms, light, and even thought itself. That is because this idea can be found in the Bible, what we might call a “Biblical Doctrine”. According to a “Biblical” worldview, this is true. So, the relationship between being “Biblical” and being “true” is much like a Venn diagram; they can be the same, but not by definition alone.

Just as the term “Biblical” includes the format of the Bible, it also includes the “contents” of the Bible. If an idea is not found in the Bible—whether it is true or not—it is “extrabiblical”, “extra-” meaning “outside” or “in addition to”. Thomas Aquinas said, “All truth is God’s truth,” which meant that we can teach the truth as truth even if it is not “Biblical” truth AKA if it is “extrabiblical” truth. Math and Science do not need to be found word-for-word in the Bible to be true.

“Biblical” truth, however, is special. The Bible tells us things that we would never figure out on our own. Not in ten billion years could humankind figure out sufficient knowledge about God to recognize Him—without insight from uniquely “Biblical” truth.

Psalm 19, Proverbs 14:12, Romans 1:20, 2 Peter 1:21

4 – What Is ‘Systematic’?

It is very important to tell the difference between “Systematic Theology” and “Biblical Theology”. “Biblical” theology has the same format as the Bible: “Systematic” does not.

A “Biblical” theology of Jesus might be “Jesus according to Matthew” or “Jesus according to Paul’s letters”. Matthew’s personality is in the choice of words throughout his story of Jesus life. The first four books in the New Testament are stories about Jesus’ life told by different people; they are called “Gospels”. They all tell the truth, but with different personality. The Gospel of Luke is somewhat like an investigative journal while the Gospel of John is more of an empty stage theatrical playwrite. Even when one Gospel quotes Jesus, the words may be slightly different from another Gospel retelling the same story. “Exact quotes” were unheard of at that time, so they accurately include the “voice of Jesus” rather than the “words of Jesus”; though different, they do not disagree. This type of difference is what we find in a “Biblical study of Jesus in Matthew” vs a “Biblical study of Jesus in John”. We can do “Biblical” studies on many things.

When we study a topic from many books of the Bible and compare them so as to paint a more complete portrait, this is called “Systematic” Bible study. You could also call it “Topical”. “Biblical Theology” studies Bible teaching by book; “Systematic Theology” studies Bible teaching by topic, using many books at the same time. It is very important to develop Biblical theology first, then Systematic theology later.

Once we develop a Systematic theology from the Bible, we have what is called a “Doctrine” or a “Teaching”. The best example is the “Trinity”. The word “Trinity” is not “Biblical”, but theologians use that word to describe the Systematic theology that God is Father, Son, and Spirit. So, the “Doctrine of the Trinity” could also be called a “Systematic Theology of the Trinity”.

If a Doctrine is against the Bible’s teaching, however, this is called “Unbiblical”.

In 1989, John MacArthur published the book “The Gospel According to Jesus”; in 1991 Don Carson published “The Gospel According to John”. One was Systematic, the other Biblical. Know the difference.

Proverbs 16:25, Matthew 28:19, John 16:12-15; 17:20-23

5 – Strength in the Fight

Victory implies a struggle.

When God promises victory, He doesn’t mean it will be easy. Call it what you will—immaturity, youth, ignorance, superstition, unrealistically imposed expectation… assumption—presuming that any victory comes easy is a miscalculation.

Don’t set out on life thinking that “everything’s gonna’ be rosy” now that you have a… whatever—new job, club membership, acceptance letter, contract, romance, plane ticket… Jesus…

The concept of “strength in the midst” is one of those countless Biblical enigmas. Heaven’s view seems upside down compared to ours—it seems that way, anyhow. The idea that God will give us strength, then march us right into the pit of Hell doesn’t fit any of our fairyland, utopian, presumptive ideals.

Yet, on a practical level—which Heaven is best at—it makes sense. Why would God give us strength if it weren’t to invade Hell’s occupation of Earth? Think about it, we complain about why God doesn’t get rid of evil, God gives us the power to defeat evil, God marches us to the place of evil, and we still can’t connect the dots? No wonder Jesus compared us to sheep.

The underlying “conflict” slumbering deep within our psyche is that we aren’t that valuable. When one presumes that one is not important enough to make a difference, being given both challenges and the tools to overcome seems like a punishment rather than a path to—well, a path to victory.

Victory comes from strength in the fight. The notions that we will either always have an oppressive opponent while mostly losing or else we will be “on top” of every situation are part of our tendency to follow our own auto-created human morals.

Always consider victory through troubles exploited.

We don’t know where the storm comes from. The devil might bring the storm, we might have created it ourselves, or the storm just might be God Himself descending in fire and smoke.

In any case, God brings the storm to us, then He gives us the strength to stand. Whatever clouds cover the sky, the sun always shines and once they pass we will be stronger—not despite the storm, but because we stood through it.

Deuteronomy 20:4, John 16:33, James 1:2-4

6 – Holistic Transformation

The Bible’s power is not in casual reading—though casual reading won’t hurt any. We could all use more casual time so beneficially spent. But, if you want the Bible’s power in your life, you must allow it to transform your thinking—from cognition to unconscious heart inclination.

Only in reprogramming the core and whole of one’s worldview with the Bible can there be any test of the Bible’s legitimacy.

Many self-important “experts” pick and choose which ideas from the Bible they wish to adopt, as well as the degree to which they adopt them. It can’t work. When they prove themselves to be hypocrites, this only proves the Bible’s legitimacy all the more: The Bible only helps when we ingest it all-in, without stops, without preconditions, and without expectations. Half gets you zero.

Even one’s expectations of what the Bible will do must come from the Bible, not our own made-up superimposition.

The concept of being “holistic” applies. Once we pick and choose, we’re no longer obeying the Bible and our failed results can’t be owed to the Bible. You’re welcome to test and sample, but there are no promises except that the Bible doesn’t work until you dive in head first.

When any Biblical teaching takes root in our core being, our own friends may not even recognize us. The world will tell us we are wrong. We will face unexpected challenges and unwarranted enemies—seemingly for no reason. People will even say, “You must be doing something to irritate them, people don’t just treat you this way for no reason.” It’s called jealousy, though what specifically they are jealous of may never be known.

The Bible will re-rout your thinking, newly, every day you read it. Things will make more sense. You will develop new questions. The “code” of life on Earth won’t seem such a mystery, then again you will see mysteries you never knew existed before. Things will bother you that other people can’t see and won’t believe exist. You’ll be happy about things just the same.

In some cases people might persecute you. Better, you will make friends you never dreamed of—or who never dreamed of befriending you.

Proverbs 23:26, Matthew 10:34-39, Romans 6:17, James 4:8

7 – Dream

Don’t let anyone tell you what your dreams should be.

God gives every one of us a dream. Most people ignore the dream, belittle it, or even throw it in the trash—because they think it’s impossible. Because they think it’s impossible, they tell themselves it’s unreasonable. Once they believe it’s unreasonable, they rationalize dismantling their dream as “irresponsible” and “a waste of time”.

But, they can’t stop at stopping their own dreams.

Anyone bent on eradicating their own dreams can’t allow themselves to think that dreams can have any value, including other people’s dreams. By allowing other people to dream big they would have to accept that their own dreams might have value. They attack other people for dreaming so they can sleep at night, dreamlessly.

They say that it can’t happen, taking ten minutes, hours, even days to finally get to their point that they just don’t like dreams. “We must be practical,” they preach, though everything starts as a dream.

Why do anti-dreamers do this? Perhaps they once had a dream and were attacked by anti-dreamers themselves. Like being bitten by a vampire, they turn into what they once despised; having been dreamers, they become the greatest persecutors of dreaming.

The secret about dreams is that they come from somewhere. Just like morals, dreams for a life greater than we  imagine must come from above.

We can’t achieve our dreams on our own. Those who try fail and become the party-poopers, the rain clouds on parades, the cynics who shoot down other people’s happiness to avoid remembering what they forsook.

It takes God’s help to achieve a God-sized dream—the same God who gives dreams.

Don’t let people tell you what your dreams can be. Don’t daydream of small, covetous, “average” ambitions that only seem worthy to “reasonability”.

Think of the unthinkable. Lay down whatever mediocre ambitions you strive for and accept a much wider, larger vision. Dream big. Dream for others—not to conquer them nor to induct them into your own dream, but to inspire them to chase whatever dreams you could never grant.

True dreams only come from God and no other and only He can make them reality.

2 Chronicles 15:7, Psalm 20:4, Psalm 37:4, Galatians 6:9