How Does This Scripture Apply to Me? – WRONG QUESTION

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Early in my Christian walk, I read the bible to understand what Christianity was about.  I saw it as a collection of stories & history that explained how we (gentiles) came to believe in God, who Jesus was & why the crucifixion was needed, and to understand what awaits us in the future.  In time, as I would mature in my walk, I would begin to see that this was more than just a collection of information that justified or explained my faith.  It was the true Word of God, it had an enormous amount of value.  The scriptures are filled with stories of people, just like me, who failed miserably but that God could and would redeem.  It became a book of Hope for the weary, Faith for those who love Him, and Promises of an eternal heavenly future.

Under the teaching of some very respected bible teachers, study authors, and church leaders… I began to read the scriptures differently.  I was taught to read the scriptures and ask “How does this apply to my life?”. Now, in some cases of scripture, that is a really easy question to answer.  The Proverbs are full of wisdom that can be applied to every day life.   But there would be times, when I would read a passage of scripture, that I was left scratching my head.  It just didn’t seem to apply.  I wasn’t like the person in the story, the situations I was dealing with in life were different than the point of the story.  I just couldn’t figure out how it applied to me, at all.  In those cases, I would cast it aside for the time being.  My reasoning was that it just didn’t apply at that moment.  But, I figured God revealed it to me because at one point it will.  I will recall reading it, and at that point in the future, I will know where I can return to find the wisdom and encouragement I need.

I am certain many of you who are reading this, are shaking your head in agreement.  But, what if I told you … we are totally wrong.  What if I said that is not the right question to be asking?  Hold on to your hats, if you are, because I am about to rock your socks.

I had an opportunity to attend an amazing conference that would forever change how I viewed the Bible.  I have never looked at a passage of scripture the same.  I study the Bible in an entirely different way.  It came from a group of very well known teachers, that a new question was posed.

You see, the scriptures are not about you and I.   The Bible is the collective story about God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

The Old Testament serves as a witness, or testimony, to how fallen God’s people are.  God gave us everything, perfect and in union with Him.  Man’s choice to go against God’s wills happened in the very beginning… when Eve and then Adam, took a bite of that forbidden fruit.  As the Old Testament unfolds, we illustration after illustration of a repetitive cycle of sin and redemption.

God sets rules.

Man breaks or can’t keep rules.

Man should be punished.

God ultimately saves them from themselves.

They thank God, renew promise to follow his rule.

They do for a while.

Then the cycle repeats itself… again and again…. and again.

Because man continually repeats this cycle, atonement has to be made for these sins.  The Gospels of the New Testament deliver to us a Savior, who will be the final lamb sacrificed for sins of a stiff necked people.  The New Testament continues, with the Good News spreading to new areas, the real life experiences believers faced, and leads us to the end… when Christ comes back for His church.

The Bible from start to finish, isn’t about you… or me… it is about Jesus Christ, our Savior.  The question we should be asking, first and foremost, when we study scripture is:

How does this passage reveal Jesus Christ to me?

Does it reveal the promise of his coming, his birth?

Does it parallel his life to death, on earth?

Does it reveal the need & promise of his sacrifice?

Does it reflect the call He puts on those who follow him?

Does it establish his person-hood, his divinity, his character, his love, his compassion, his mercy, his grace, his obedience… his example?

The Bible was written about Jesus Christ, for you. For you to see that you are not alone in your failures, that just like others in the scriptures you can be redeemed.  But that comes by first KNOWING HIM, and you will get to know Him best when you look for Him in God’s word, before you look for yourself.

I am not suggesting we don’t ever ask how it applies to our life, if that were the case there would be no need for the wisdom scriptures.  I am suggesting that before we can understand the wisdom & themes of scripture (as they apply to us), we have to understand the ONE whom the wisdom originates.  We have to understand how these pieces of scripture, stories and history relate reveal Jesus, first.

I understand that for a good portion of my readers, this a “DUH” moment.  Either because you already know it, or you are simply trying to figure out how you missed it.. it should be a given.  It is very easy for human beings to get so wrapped up in themselves or the situation they are seeking guidance through the scriptures for, that they forget to start with Jesus.

This past summer, I had an opportunity to do an in depth study of the book of Nehemiah.  It was conducted by a panel of biblical scholars; who worked independently on their assigned sections of Nehemiah, while making sure they stood in agreement as team under the Word of the scriptures.

On the surface, you could easily pull out some very “me centered” themes.

* It’s a story about a man who chose to make a difference in his community.

* It’s a story about a man who brings his community back together, back to God.

* It’s a historical point of time, regarding the city of Jerusalem.

* It’s a story about what we can accomplish, when we work together, for the glory of God.

On their own, none of these things are bad.  However, they do not truly reveal the point of the book of Nehemiah.  They don’t get to the heart of the story.  They don’t get to Jesus.

If you really take time to look through the scripture in Nehemiah, you will find that is parallels the ministry & purpose of Jesus.

The city is in ruin, the people are far from God.

Nehemiah leaves his comfortable position, with the king to go to the city & restore it.

While Nehemiah is present, restoration begins.

Nehemiah sets the example & standard.

Nehemiah returns to the king, leaving the people to continue on their own.

The people fail miserably in his absence.

Nehemiah must return.

When you look at the book of Nehemiah, with intention of revealing Jesus… it’s right there, plain as day.  You just have to get yourself out of the way to see it.  This is why, we must come to the scripture first, seeking to reveal Jesus.  It’s not about us, it’s about Him.  Always has been, always will be.

I challenge you to start looking for Jesus, when you study the word.  You will find him. 

In the next installment, we will address what the second question you should be asking is.

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WHAT WAS THE LESSON IN THIS?

MBA

It was an ordinary afternoon, driving my middle child home from school, when I passed a scene on the side of the road.  A pick up truck was backed up to a load of sod spilled across the road.  Based on the position of the sod, you could tell it had slid off when turning the corner.  I saw a man who was easily 15-20 years older than I, sweating and struggling, moving that sod back on the truck.

Normally,  I have my garden gloves in the trunk (I am part of a community garden).  Today, I didn’t.  There also wasn’t a safe place to park, so that I could help him while my child sat in the car.  It was a busy intersection and I didn’t want her out there helping me or doing Lord knows what, while I was distracted.  So, we drove by.

But, I didn’t like it.  It was eating at me, I should help this man.  I don’t know if I could says I was “younger and stronger”, but I was certainly capable.   The further I drove, the more it bothered me.  In my head, the scene played out that someone would see me stopped helping him… and they too would stop and help.  Then in short order, with all the the help, he’d be on his way.  I had this vision of community coming together.

I pulled in to my driveway, ran into the house, grabbed my garden gloves and left my teenager in charge.  I drove back to find the truck gone, and the sod still there in the road.

Huh.

I drove by, found a parking lot to turn around in… and decided to head back home.  In the amount of time it took me to turn around and get back to that spot of the intersection… THREE vehicles stopped to take some of the sod.

It all began making sense.  The sod was dropped, most likely, by a larger truck.  Probably from one of the local sod farms in the area.  It wasn’t worth it the effort for them to load it back up.  The man I saw was just one of many taking advantage of a blessing in the road.  Clearly, not greedy, he took just enough and left the rest for others to glean from.  (It makes me think of the fields in the Bible and how they would leave the remnants for the poor and widowed to glean from ).

But I couldn’t help and wonder… if I wasn’t there to help this man, why did I have such a burning conviction to turn around?

This could have been an exercise in obedience.

But, I think… more than likely, it was a lesson for my children.  One of those moments where they see someone respond to a need.

 

I HAVE A PET PEEVE

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I am a person who will read bumper stickers.  Pretty much whatever is ahead of me, I’ll look.  I will admit that I have been known to even position myself in traffic, if one catches my eye that looks interesting, in order to be behind the person at the traffic light.  Maybe it is the reader in me, that is compelled to consume words.  Or, perhaps, it could be simply my humor seeking out something to make me chuckle.  Occasionally, I shake my head for wasted time.   Then there are the times, my jaw will drop and I hope that none of my children we reading along with me.  To this day, I don’t believe my children know that I am reading bumper stickers at traffic lights.  I do try to keep my crazy under wraps, as much as possible.

There is one pet peeve I have, in regards to bumper stickers.  It is when I see a bumper sticker that alludes to the driver being a Christian, particularly when their behavior on the road is anything but Christ-like.

I’m a fairly good driver, if I do say so myself.  I can drive an automatic and a manual.  I can parallel park, near perfectly, despite the fact I only have to do it about once a year or so.  I’m not overly aggressive, nor timid.   I don’t rake up tickets or have lots of accidents.  People are not afraid to drive with me, and in fact I have taught quite a few people how to drive.   But, I am also human.  Which means that it is entirely possible that I might make a mistake.

Each day, I drive our three children to three different schools.  I then make the same run in the afternoon.  My children are in 3 different schools, but, I actually pass through a total of 6 school zones, twice per day… five days a week.  Yesterday, as I was on my final trip home, my daughter had asked me a question & I was thinking through the answer.  What I didn’t realize is, in my distraction, I had mistaken the speed limit sign for the “End School Zone” sign.  (Both are white, rectangular signs with black lettering)  So, I began to accelerate to the normal speed limit for that area.

That was when the man, who had the “Real Men Love Jesus” bumper sticker on his truck, rolled down his window & began to yell and wave his hands at me.  Yes hands, plural.  Meaning he didn’t have his eyes on the road, nor did he even have a single hand on his steering wheel.  All the while, his daughter is in the seat next to him.  Yelling, at a woman in a car with her daughter.  At first I really had no idea what his commotion was about, then I saw the actual end zone sign.  I realized my error.

I wondered after the incident….

Did that scare his daughter?  Did he care that it scared my daughter, and potentially me?

Did he not realize that he was just as guilty of making a mistake as I was?

Did he not think that instead of yelling at me, he could have waited until we were stopped at the traffic light, rolled down his window… motioned to me… and calmly said “Hey, you know that you were still in a school zone?”.

Did he really think it was appropriate for a man to speak to a woman that way in the first place?

And then, I thought about his sticker…. and wondered….

Did he realize that every where he drives in that truck, where that sticker is plain for all to see, that he is a public witness to Christ?

Is that how Christ would have talked to me, to anyone?

Is that how we want to represent Christ to the world, when we make a spectacle of our selves like that?

The word says:

James 1:19 — My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Proverbs 14:29 — Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

Psalm 37:8  — Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Proverbs 222:4  — Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered

That was just a sampling of the scripture that warns us against our anger toward others.  Scripture also offers us the suggestion of how we are to treat others, such as:

Ephesians 4:29 — Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

We are supposed to forgive as we are forgiven, to extend mercy and grace in the same measure (if not more) than it has been extended to us; and we are supposed to help each other by guiding, shaping, building up, redirecting, mentoring.

Ephesians 4:32  —  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

There was nothing wrong about this man choosing to address the mistake I made, but there was definitely error in the manner in which he did it.  The world was watching, because we were not to the only two people on the road.  There were cars around us.  I bet they saw that bumper sticker too.

Which reminded me of another situation I saw recently.  A man was wearing the t-shirt of a ministry he works with in the local grocery store.  It was vivid and caught my attention, but only after I heard this 40+ year old man yelling and berating his elderly mother.

When we walk out the door in that Christian t-shirt, or drive off in our car with the Jesus fish bumper sticker…. we are openly professing our faith & people are watching.

What do they see?  Do they see Christ in you?  Are they blessed by their encounter with you?

Or, do they see something else?