8 – The Bible Works for You Too

When the Bible teaches about a topic, it addresses a wide array of situations and has meaning on multiple levels of geometric measure.

Too often and sadly, so-called “Bible teachers” will say, “That Bible passage was in the context of [whatever Bible context], so you can’t claim that as any promise for your own life.”

Never believe it.

The ENTIRE Bible happened in a specific context for a specific time and place and audience. The miracle of the Bible is that those events have application today—and, not just the usual “I know history” application.

For example, God told Israel that if His people, called by Him, would humble themselves and pray, He would forgive them and restore their land. Some people claim, “That was only for Israel when God was taking them away as a punishment. Therefore, this passage only teaches us that God cares for Israel. If you think that promise applies to other countries, you misunderstand.”

This is the teaching of someone who doesn’t understand the Bible.

Other parts of the Bible make it clear that God welcomes anyone who repents. His promise to Israel comes in that greater context. If this passage teaches that national restoration and repentance are reserved only for Israel, then it would need to include something to that effect, but it does not.

When God promised to forgive and restore His people who repent, He continued His precedent to forgive and restore all people who repent. What God plans specifically for each nation and time differs, but the overall promise remains.

Never let any so called “context” Bible lesson abuse context to convince you to interpret the Bible against what the Bible says.

If God shows love to one person in the Bible, He can show love to you also. When the angel appeared to the shepherds to announce Jesus’ birth, he didn’t say, “I bring great news only in context,” he said, “I bring great news for all people.”

God would not have sent the angel to announce God’s plan to save all people through Jesus’ self-sacrifice unless God had His aim on opening His truth and His promises to all people from the very beginning.

Exodus 34:6-7, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 51:17, Luke 2:10

9 – Fear Is Marketing

Fear is always selling something. It might be selling despair as a paralytic toxin to render all who fear as helpless. It could be selling a false hope, some super-duper cure-all.

Many parents in Asia spend enormous amounts of money on education for fear that their children will not graduate as first in the nation—never doing the math that only one graduate can hold that position. After all, fear inhibits reason. Insanity is another thing fear often sells. But, if you don’t graduate at the top of your class from the best school in the solar system, then your life is over, right?

Sometimes fear takes the form of grandiose goals—goals that are physically or computationally impossible and would serve no useful purpose even if they weren’t. It’s great to be able to calculate complex geometry in your head, but it is grandiose to think your life depends on it—or anyone else’s. Once your head gets too big, your ego pops like a balloon and you are left in fear of seductive ambitions that never existed.

It is difficult to overcome a fear of something that doesn’t exist. Thus is the nature of fear. All fear is unwarranted. It won’t do you a lick of good.

If it is inevitable that you will die, there’s no use in dying fearfully. Of course, Death gets us all. So, that’s one angel we need not fear.

If your bills are late or the odds look dark, if you need breakthrough by a certain time or if you’re running out of options, sobriety and calmness will be your best friend. Whatever person, business, or demon wants to sell you fear has some sort of purpose that is less than noble.

God commanded Israel not to fear. It wasn’t a suggestion. It wasn’t an “encouragement”—it was a command: Do not fear!

Anyone who knows God knows that only God is worthy of fear. Whatever you fear you also revere. If you fear anything other than God, get a Biblical life!

Understanding anything begins with fearing the Lord God only. Next time you see something scary—an advertisement promoting fear—concentrate on fear’s competition: Fear God.

Deuteronomy 6:13; 31:6, Joshua 1:9, Psalm 23:4; 111:10, Proverbs 9:10, Isaiah 40:10, Luke 12:4-6, John 14:27

10 – What Is the Bible?

The Bible is a collection of literature and history spanning at least six thousand years. It is the oldest, most-banned, and best-selling book in the world. History collaborates the claims of the Bible. In the few times when the manuscripts disagree, there is no question about the historical accuracy, teaching about God, or meaningful intent of the text.

The Old Testament has 39 books and 17,000 documented manuscripts proving that they are accurate. Additionally, agreeing with the Old Testament are the Samaritan Pentateuch, (400 BC), the Greek Septuagint (280 BC), the Dead Sea Scrolls (0 AD), and the Latin Vulgate (400 AD). The New Testament has 27 books and 25,000 documented manuscripts proving that they are accurate.

Roman catacomb art contains consistent evidence of Christianity before the fifth century. Additionally, the entire New Testament could be reconstructed merely from the Church fathers quoting from it; they lived shortly after it was written, the “apostolic fathers” being contemporaries of the apostles in the New Testament. Proof of this evidence is widely and freely available.

With neither electronic technology nor high speed transportation, numerous copies, all hand-written and nearly identical, quickly distributed over a wide region indicate even earlier, accurate copies.

About every 400 years since Jesus’ time, institutions went through extreme transformation, embedding the Bible into the fabric of society. This means that the Bible cannot have been recently invented.

  • October 28, 312 AD, Constantine wins the battle of the Milvian Bridge, paving way for Christianity to become the Roman state religion in 380 AD.

  • December 25, 800 AD, Pope Leo III crowns Charlemagne Holy Emperor of Rome, establishing a Christian empire over Europe.

  • September 2, 1192 AD, Saladin and King Richard I come to an agreement about Jerusalem that Christians can make pilgrimage there.

  • November 11, 1621 AD, the Pilgrims sign the Mayflower Compact founding what would become Northern States and the first society where literacy was normal, their purpose being to read the Bible.

The man who continues to change the world more than any other to this day, Jesus, has no tomb or dead body, validating the Bible’s claim about Jesus’ life, resurrection, and ascension into the sky. Whether you or I believe the Bible, history does. If that book encourages you, that’s a good thing.

Isaiah 40:8, Daniel 2:21, Acts 13:15, Hebrews 4:12-13

11 – Think on the Good

There are enough problems in the world to go around. There is no shortage of bad news.

It is rather sad that many people think that all news is bad by definition. They don’t claim this outright and they would never admit it to themselves unless confronted in an environment where they could sit down lest they faint upon realizing their own folly. Whenever they report a story, it has a bad twist and they rarely find anything good to say. All of us are like this by birth. So, don’t expect it to be easy to be otherwise and don’t hold it against anyone else—being negative about negativity would be a hypocrisy.

The only way to be a “positive person” is to be intentional. People do not become happy in all moments by accident. Even then, we have our bad days and must at least enjoy the rain from our self-made rain clouds. Even without our sin nature weighing us down, there is always more to learn about God and goodness and glory and wisdom and all mysteries wonderful. Light requires energy consumed.

Sadness doesn’t help. Blaming, attacking, berating, belittling, smearing, insulting, demeaning, whipping, beating, threatening—these things do not cause people to rise up and become stronger than they knew they could be. Sometimes we need to have the sin scared out of us, but that is not negativity—rather an encounter with Eternity. Life and death is about Eternity, after all. But, the reality that death faces us all and constructive criticism are two far cries from dumping toxic emotional waste on to people thinking it will make them strong.

Light is the commodity needed by all life. Even mold that grows in darkness depends on organisms that flourish in the light. Light is what we needs. Light is what we often struggle to find. Light will make you valuable. Light will guide yourself, others, and make you a precious gem in the lives of others.

To have your own light, you need oil. Do what is right, especially when you don’t feel like it. Say an encouraging word today, even if you failed yesterday. Entertain yourself with anything fueling light.

Colossians 3:1-4, Philippians 4:4-9

12 – Arguments That Change the Subject

Whenever talking, stay on topic; don’t change the subject.

First, you must know your subject of discussion, which many people don’t. Second, understand that trying to change the subject is just as dangerous—yes, dangerous—as allowing other people to change the subject. But, if you don’t first know which subject you are discussing, then it’s hard to stay on topic at all.

People who change the subject either don’t know the subject much at all or know the subject all too well—and are doing it intentionally.

When answering questions at a Q&A, educated teachers will often begin their answer by explaining the broader subject that the question relates to, usually a section and row of books in a library. One of the best textbook examples is Ravi Zacharias. Every question relates to a topic that has almost always already been written about in exhaustion. People ask those questions, usually, because they may not even know that the subject itself exists. So, identifying the subject of the question is the first part to a proper answer.

When you say, “That employee does a bad job,” don’t accept the answer, “He worked here for 20 years.” It is not on topic. Your initial statement was about job performance; the response was about history, familiarity, defense of personal character, perhaps even cronyism or even nepotism; “He is my friend, my own son.” Of course, it might not be your place—you might not have enough information—to be accusing an employee of doing a bad job in the first place. In that case, a more appropriate response to your initial statement might be, “He has worked here longer than you.” In that case, it is you who are off topic—the topic of focusing on one’s own job performance.

By knowing your subject, you will avoid switching topics in conversation. That will help you avoid unnecessarily ugly arguments and to be resilient against populism. For this, it is good to familiarize yourself with “logical fallacies” on your own: red herring, straw man, emotional appeal, ad hominem, appeal to the stone, argument from ignorance, illicit minor, argumentum ad populum, appeal to authority, appeal to hypocrisy, and many more.

Proverbs 19:8, John 9

13 – Arguments That Don’t Change the Point

There is such a thing as a distinction without a meaningful difference. When a Muslim or Jew is asking about the food, clarifying whether the roast beast is ham or pork won’t matter since it all comes from a pig.

Knowing what things don’t make a difference is a sign of education and upbringing.

In high school, I sat on a committee voting on my school’s curriculum. A pastor on the committee made a motion and I seconded the motion. After discussion, when it came to a vote, I voted against it. The pastor was far more entertained than insulted and gave me a comical look during the vote. After, and over a good laugh, we decided that I was not allowed to vote against a motion I had seconded, but that had I first withdrawn my second, someone else would have made a second second, and the vote would have passed just the same. So, in the greater rules of procedure, that absurd process could have been deemed moot at best and, more likely, at worst an interference with order.

The question is whether the result is the same.

Quite often, children argue with their parents about technical details that would not affect the outcome. It doesn’t matter if you hit your brother because he hit you first or called you a “silly face”, you shouldn’t ever hit your brother.

Unfortunately, many people do not outgrow this practice. It is not a mere question of adulthood. Parents easily know that their children’s attempt at filibuster are beside the deciding point. But, lawyers and judges debate among themselves the value of specific points in the final decision, even into senior years, even at the highest of courts.

Know yourself whether a distinction will make a difference. Limit yourself to ideas that affect the outcome. When others make non-differentiating distinctions, politely and comically call them out on it. Be proactive in policing your own conversations, especially your own thoughts.

Years of practice in knowing what distinctions matter will help you make better on-the-spot decisions and give you better direction in your goals, vision, values, mission, choosing friendships, settling disagreements, or even simple decisions in grocery shopping.

Proverbs 3:13; 17:28, 1 Timothy 6:4-5

14 – Value of Conscience

God created us with a conscience. The conscience connects one’s soul in the Eternal dimension to one’s body in the physical cosmos we know as the universe. Martin Luther pleaded “conscience” when he left the Catholic Church. Having a conscience is part of what it means to be a sentient creation, the very Image of God.

Every conscience has some guidelines that cannot change, yet some rules that must be trained. Some people have a physical, chemical, or mental condition that causes their consciences not to work. Some researchers have argued that people with such tendencies can be trained by helping them to connect choices, actions, and consequences. Ultimately, people who grow up seemingly without a conscience have had that link of action and consequence interrupted.

Children must learn that good and bad choices have good and bad consequences. Parents must allow those natural and fair consequences to have their day. If a youth makes plans that parents often interrupt or makes good decisions rarely rewarded, that youth may start deceiving or manipulating friends at school, alienating classmates, and no one might ever figure out why. By disconnecting the justice between action and consequence, the parents have, in effect, numbed the youth’s conscience. Chaotic homes create killers.

A conscience can be damaged or trained. Germany exterminated two million Jews, all in good conscience; Holocaust deniers claim the number was “only” a few thousand, likewise in good conscience. Many people in developing countries lie to their governments all the time, even Christians, since government laws contradict themselves as do government inspectors; they can’t survive and not lie. Some Asians feel overwhelming guilt for stabbing chopsticks into a bowl of rice—stabbed food is for the dead, after all.

Sunday morning culture has its own conscience modifications, which is one reason “church-goers” often struggle with the “real world”—their consciences can be unusual and not necessarily “Biblical”.

Every conscience must be taken captive to the Bible. No conscience is infallible. Train and retrain your conscience, tend to it diligently, never ignore it. Conscientious feelings governed by higher morals will safeguard your path and could prevent your becoming the CEO who accidentally ends up drowning in massive scandal.

Acts 23:1, Romans 8:33-34, Colossians 2:16-19, 1 Timothy 3:8-9; 4:1-4, Hebrews 10:22, 1 John 3:19-4:6