Swept Away: Pursuing Knowledge in Changing Tides

When I was asked to speak at the retreat, I knew that I wanted my focus to rest on the importance of Biblical Literacy.  To know God, is to know His word.  It is how he reveals himself, his character, his desires for man to us.  Long since are the days where man has walked with the Lord in the garden, long since are the days where man has walked with Christ on this earth.

scripsign

As I began to prepare for my topic, I was considering how the pursuit of knowledge was important in changing tides.  Is that not the very thing that hangs people up on reading scripture?  They see the world has changed, is continuing to change.  How then are these words written so long ago applicable to today’s challenges?

We understand that knowledge is all of the information me have acquired on any given subject; gained through study, life experiences, skills, training.   Knowledge is easier to acquire today, than ever in history, because of our access to information.  We can become an expert on any subject with a simple google search.  We can create amazing works of art or carpentry by watching a few youtube videos.  As our world changes, knowledge is key in navigating those changes.

But, as I was researching…. I was stopped in my tracks.  Has the world really changed that much?  Or, is the changing tide how we are responding to the world?

Ecclesiastes 1:9 reminds us that:  “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

In truth, there is nothing we deal with today, that isn’t mentioned in the Bible.  Every day obstacles to the big controversial subjects are found in the pages of scripture.  Premarital sex, drinking, getting tattoos… they are covered.   Transgenderism, homosexuality, abortion… they are covered too.    Social injustice, discrimination, corrupt leaders, adoption, homelessness, etc… they are all covered.

We can rest assured, however, that if the scriptures are going to address these issues… then the scriptures are also going to provide us with direction on how to respond.   When we hunt these questions down, and see the biblical response…. we can NOT but admit that it is not the world that has changed.  Man’s response to the world is what has changed.  We pursue knowledge in order to learn how God would want us to respond in order to navigate our way through this world.

So, how do we gain Biblical knowledge?  We do so through intentional study of the word.  Too often I hear women tell me that they have no time to read their Bible, yet they will make time for reading devotion books or emailed scripture readings from some site.  They will listen to a sermon or podcast of a notable speaker while at the gym.  Yet, they are neglecting the very book that many have given their lives and freedoms to put into our hands.

Knowledge of the scripture, direct knowledge, is an indispensable tool in navigating our faith, our life, and our world.

Knowledge of the Scriptures Reveals Who God Is – we learn everything we need to know about God in His word.  His nature and character, how God views sin, and how God responds to sin.  We learn what God’s will for His people are.  His word shows us the history of how God’s people responded to sin, how God dealt with that sin, and reveals a love for us so great that God would send his son to die for us.  We learn to embrace the loving God, as much as the just God.  Forgiveness is just as much of His nature as His judgement and discipline.  We must love the Old Testament God as much as the New Testament Jesus… because they are one.   The scriptures reveal His consistency and unchanging nature.   They also reveal how God changes men and women, becoming new creations in Him. 

Knowledge of the Scriptures Reveals Who God Is Not – The scriptures repeatedly warn us of false teachers and false prophets, we are also warned to be students in the word so that we speak the word of God accurately. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to test everything against the truth, so we know what is good and what is not…what is true and what is false.  If we ourselves do not know the scripture, then it is impossible to discern when we are hearing truth or something is just tickling our ears with what we want to hear.  How can we test of a television preacher, popular author, or famous religious personality is speaking truth?  How can we test what other well meaning Christians share with us is from the Bible or repeating something they have heard?  The pursuit of Biblical knowledge isn’t just about us knowing scripture verbatim, but also about knowing how to find information when we are uncertain.  The more you learn of God, when you are presented with a verse or statement that seems off…. you know where and how to find the truth.

Knowledge of the Scriptures Reveals God’s Will for Man – We are navigating a fallen world, and human nature actually desires a clear direction on what we should and shouldn’t be doing.  We want to know what is ok and what isn’t.  It’s why women flock to Proverbs 31, because they want that neat and tidy list to check off.   But ladies, remember, that we are image bearers of God and his WHOLE word applies to us, not just the pink ones that reference being a woman, wife, and mother.  2 Timothy 3:16 says that ALL scriptures is profitable.  There are lessons for us from cover to cover.   If we want to know His will for our life, we must look to His word.  We learn to navigate the controversial waters, and become united with other believers in His word based on His truth not our own opinions or interpretations.

We begin this pursuit of knowledge by looking at the WHOLE story of scripture, beginning to end.  We recognize that this is not a collection of books and stories about us, but GOD.  It is about HIS creation, HIS redemption plan. It is HIS plan unfolding  before us.

We continue this pursuit as we look to CHRIST; so that we see the Old Testament point us toward the Messiah, the gospels revealing the Messiah, and the rest of the New Testament as a continuation of His work… not the work of man.

It concludes where we then see how WE FIT into that plan, not how that plan fits into our lives.  We learn to turn to the scriptures for guidance, hope, and promises.  We see how God would want us to respond to the situations that life throws at us.  We allow the HOLY SPIRIT to work in our lives, and we follow that lead.

To do this we need, our Bible.  We approach it in PRAYER, before we start out study.  We pray the Lord will give us the ability to put ourselves aside and seek His truth.  We pray for conviction, clarity, guidance, knowledge, and wisdom.  We pray that God will help us to prioritize the study of His word in our life, avoid distraction, and have focus. We pray that the Lord will remove interruptions and give us the Holy Spirit to guide our interpretation.  Jen Wilkin states that “prayer changes our pursuit of knowledge into a pursuit of God himself”.

We must also make the SCRIPTURES our number one resource in our pursuit.  God has given us the ability to understand His word, we do not NEED someone else to tell us what it means.   If you only have 5 minutes a day, skip the devotional and head right to the Bible.    We need to accept that this is a lifelong pursuit that is not going to be wrapped in a 365 day bundle to accomplish.  The more we know His Word, the more we know who He is.  Jen Wilkin says that “the heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”

Additionally we need to surround ourselves with a CIRCLE OF BELIEVERS whom we can talk scripture with, sharing knowledge and growing in wisdom together.  A safe place to talk about your questions or hang ups in study… knowing that those who will be guiding you are also trusted students of the word.  Iron will sharpen iron, among this group, and there will be accountability to the Word.  Yet, we are also safe to test their words against the scripture without worrying we will offend someone.  Because, we all desire the same goal.  To know HIM.

FRAYED – A Church Unraveling

fabricrip

My longest posts are, generally, the ones where I am pouring out my heart.   So, consider this your warning.  Grab a cup of coffee and get comfy, we may be here a for a while.   My heart is heavy to day.

In recent days my eyes have been opened to how others view the church, more so than ever.  In particular, it has been most apparent as more church/Christian scandals break the news.  From a popular Christian family (who is caught up in the sinful decisions of one of their sons), the Ashley Madison leak (which exposed the names of Christian men and women wrapped up in adultery), bakeries and state clerks (caught up in the gay marriage SCOTUS decision),  and into the press and debates over the released Planned Parenthood videos (and the push to defund Planned Parenthood).

We are called hypocrites for standing against gay marriage, while divorce is still rampant within the church.   In other words, they wonder why we consider ourselves an authority on what a healthy marriage actually looks like… since we can’t seem to get that right ourselves.  We lost our integrity.

We are called hypocrites for standing against something when our own past, or current hidden sins, are being exposed for the world to see.  We lost our transparency.

We are called a “hate group” because of the words of our mouths and behaviors/actions are anything but Christ like. We say the most terrible things about people who are not “just like us”.  We lost our love.

We tear apart people we have never even met based on what a news article says about them.  We cry paranoia over news reports and internet articles where we are only receiving part of the story.     We lost our discernment.

In stead of loving people, we feel justified in screaming “murderer” at a women who had an abortion.  Without any knowledge of the events that brought her to the clinic that day.  We don’t take the time to understand people, but feel justified in judging them.  We lost our compassion.

What does the world see, when it looks at us?  What are we known for?

By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35 (HCSB)

We have become our own greatest obstacle.

We argue over translations of the scriptures, then we wonder why the world doesn’t trust the scriptures to be accurate.

We argue over personal interpretations of scriptures, to the point that we have divided from a unified body of believers into denominations.  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust that we know what we are talking about.

We rake leaders and teachers, over the coals in public and social media forums.  These are our own sisters and brothers in Christ!  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust us with their failures and short comings.

We put on a false purity, holiness, righteousness, knowledge, wisdom, and illusions of “Christianity” instead of being authentic, transparent, and vulnerable.

We use judgement as a way to sit above others making our sin look smaller, because they are so much worse than we are.

We sell ourselves to the world as people who “have it all together” or “have all the right answers” and then we stumble and fall and discredit ourselves and our faith.  When the reality is that none of us have it all together or the right answers.  We are not spared trials and obstacles.  We simply have a hope that carries us through, and a trust that nothing we do when we fail can separate us from the LOVE OF GOD!

I find myself over, and over again, praying the Holy Spirit would convict us all to get beyond this place of division over foolish arguments and reconcile us to a united body of believers who stand in one accord, sharing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  That we can be like Paul, who admitted of the sinners he was the worst.   Using that as our platform to woe people to Christ, instead of our “holiness”.

We have become slaves to the traditions and human commands of what a “Christian” should look like, that we have neglected what the scriptures say.  These human commands, they sound good and right, but if we are not testing them to the scriptures, and not praying for the Holy Spirit to help us discern truth… we become trapped.

Colossians 2

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ.[a] All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.

I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature[b] dwells bodily[c] in Christ, 10 and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah.[d] 12 Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. 14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.[e]

16 Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.[f] 17 These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is[g] the Messiah. 18 Let no one disqualify you,[h] insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his unspiritual[i] mind. 19 He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.

20 If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. 23 Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.[j]

The hard truth is the greatest obstacle to our sharing of the Gospel, has become ourselves.

We are not known for our love, hope, and faith.

We are known for hate, judgement, and we lack the basic understandings of our faith.

We are guilty of quoting scripture out of context; or stating the Bible says something that can’t be found in any book, chapter or verse.  We look past certain scriptures as being “out dated” or part of a different “culture”  in one breath, while claiming we believe in the full authority of the scriptures in another breath.

We are unable to defend our faith, because we have not learned it.  We are not students of the word.  We are repeaters of other teachers.  And, even worse, we are repeaters of the teachers who say what we want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:3)

We look to the scriptures to learn about ourselves.  How does this pertain to me, when we should be asking how it pertains to God.

We are no different than many of the churches in the NT days.

And difficult times are still ahead.

2 Timothy 3

But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men who are corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress, for their lack of understanding will be clear to all, as theirs[a] was also.

10 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, 11 along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 1Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God[b] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We think that this warning in 2 Timothy 3 is about the world alone, but it isn’t.  This was a letter written to the church, about the things happening within the community and within the church.

We… the body of believers…. will become:

Lovers of self.

Lovers of money.

Boastful and proud.

Blasphemers.

Disobedient and Ungrateful.

Unholy, unloving, irreconcilable.

Slanderers, without self control.

Without love of what is good.

Traitors, reckless.

Conceited and lovers of pleasure over God.

We will hold to the form of godliness, but deny it’s power.

We will become so focused on loving people, that we will distance ourselves from The Word.  Or, we will become so legalistic to the Scriptures, that we will distance our selves from the people who need to hear it the most.

The lion doesn’t go after the animals in the pack, he goes after the one who is isolated, alone, and hurt.  Isolated from the body of believers, as we miss corporate worship.  Isolated from our sisters in Christ, as we hold grudges and fight against reconciliation.  Hiding from our family, instead of embracing them.  Isolated from the Word as we become more dependent on what others say about it, versus reading it for ourselves.  Isolated as we become too busy to – pray, study, attend service, fellowship with other believers.

Our “righteous” divisions are isolating ourselves from the greater body.

And we think we are being holy.

That we have some greater knowledge than they do.

That our self gratifying interpretation is better.

We argue with fellow believers instead of loving them.

We have become proud, and our pride is literally festering and manifesting itself in every area of our lives.

And then we wonder why we are not known by our love?

Our love, has been overshadowed.

We have overshadowed Christ, with our own self righteousness.

We want the world to see us, how holy we are, how knowledgeable we are, and how much will live “in accordance to the scriptures”.

But we are told that all of that means nothing, if we don’t have love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Being right, has become more important than love.

If you wonder why no one seems to listen to you, I wonder…

Are you the sound of love?  Or, are you just making noise?