Category Archives: Theology

Questions for my Bible

With the new year upon us, I am certain (ok, hopeful) that many people have included Bible reading as one of their goals and/or resolutions in 2017. But before you just start plowing through a book of the Bible, or the whole thing, you should consider what you are going to do with all of that knowledge. Here’s a post I wrote back in 2014 which can be helpful in asking your Bible the right questions so you get the most out of your daily reading.

As Christians, our need to read the Bible is imperative. I am sure (or would hope) that immediately after you became a Christian, the first thing you were told to do was read the Bible. Simple enough right? Not quite.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Bible is a complex book, bringing together one grand narrative in which Jesus Christ is the only hope for a lost world. There are many components to the Bible. Approaching the Bible can be very overwhelming and while jumping right into a book can be fruitful (like the oft recommended Gospel of John for new believers), a little bit of guidance can go a very long way. With that, I would like to share with you some wisdom that was passed on to me in regards to reading the Bible daily.

Ask questions

A good friend and fellow pastor shared some great tools with me a while back that have helped me to get so much more from my daily Bible readings. I have gained an expanded view of who God is, why I need him every single day, and how I can serve him in a greater way.

It is good to be in the word of God each and every day. I typically do so first thing in the morning before the distractions of my day get started (I’m currently reading through the book of Mark for Easter). I suggest that in lieu of a daily devotional, or in addition to one if you are an overachiever, you choose a book of the Bible to read all the way through so you can challenge yourself to think independent of a commentator or writer.

It is very helpful to have guidance through what you should be looking for and asking. When you get to a place where you feel the author’s thought is over, or maybe to the end of a marked section or chapter, ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. What does the Scripture say? (Scriptural question)
    • This is your opportunity to say, in your own words, what you have just read. This may be a sentence, or a paragraph. Don’t try to use big words and don’t try to get creative, just right what you believe it says.
    • If you are reading through the Gospel of John, and you read John 3:16 specifically, you may say “God the Father sent his Son down to earth to die so we wouldn’t have to.”
  2. What does it mean? (Theological question)
    • Don’t wrestle too hard if you feel like you are just learning about God and/or the Bible. Take this question as a way to think through what you believe the passage to mean. Sometimes this answer and the answer to number 1 above may be similar.
    • In John 3:16, you may say “God is a loving God who cares so much about us that instead of punishing us for our sins, he sent his Son to take the punishment in our place. That shows me real love that nobody else can give me.”
  3. Why don’t I believe it? Why do I struggle with it? (Apologetic/heart question)
    • This becomes a very hard question, and one I have to think through quite often. Answering this question honestly doesn’t necessarily mean you doubt who God is or the fact that the Bible is God’s true word. It may mean that you are struggling to live out the truth of the passage in your own life. The goal here is to get to the root of doubt, unbelief, or even sin in our lives.
    • In John 3:16, you may say “I don’t understand how God could love the whole world yet allow people to go to hell. It just doesn’t make sense.”
  4. How is Jesus the hero? (Christological question)
    • We want to see why each and every passage of scripture points to Christ as the hero of the story. Everything, and I mean everything, points to him in some way. It is not always implicit, but it is there. Maybe it shows the need for a better king, or more humble servant, or even a calm word in a tough situation. All those point to Jesus.
    • In John 3:16, you may say “Jesus came to do what I never could.”
  5. Why does this matter for my mission? (Missional question)
    • Every Christian is on mission for God. We were saved so we could glorify Him, and lead more people to Jesus. How does reading the specific passage inspire this for you personally?
    • In John 3:16, you may say “Because God sacrificed his Son for me, I am willing to sacrifice myself and all my possessions in order that others may see Jesus in me.”

Get started

In order to do this well, you need the right tools. I suggest you get a good Bible (I recommend the ESV) and a journal for writing down your questions and answers. You then need to set aside some time in your day. Thirty minutes is a good chunk to start with (though fifteen is a great start), and it will allow you to read and journal. Make it a priority and if you have to, get rid of a bit of social media in the morning or tv at night.

If you approach the word of God with an open mind and a humble heart, I guarantee God will speak to you in ways you never thought possible, whether you just came to Christ or you’ve been following Him for fifty years.

Excuse the Mess

This blog was originally written for and published at

Most of us have invited someone into our homes and one of the first things we said was “excuse the mess.” Whether it truly looks like a bomb went off, or we spent (ok, really our wives spent) all day cleaning, that is typically a default statement. We do this to make sure that if indeed something is out of place, the guests do not think that we are less than perfect.

What about when it comes to our life? As Christians, we do our best to “walk in a manner worthy of the gospel” (see Phil 1:27) but it doesn’t always work out. And maybe that is due to a lack of effort, but that’s not what I would like to address today. What I would like to address is the other side of the spectrum. This is the side that belittles and breaks down. It is the side of us that is never happy with who we are (both on the inside and outside). Is this how we are to look at ourselves?

Set apart

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Ps 139:14

David here recognizes that God “fearfully and wonderfully made” him. In addition, we can see in this same passage that being fearfully and wonderfully made is likened to being “set apart (see ESV study Bible).” God not only formed and fashioned David, and us, but he set us apart for himself. This is great news!

Amazingly, God did not stop there. After setting us apart, God puts into motion a process in which he gives us a new heart (regeneration), declares us righteous (justification), and works to bring us to perfection (sanctification). Let’s take a look at this process in a few passages of scripture.


“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” Ephesians 2:1-5

God set us apart but did not leave us alone. He was actively involved in turning our messiness into beauty, giving us a new heart.


“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26

The response of a regenerated heart is the reception of Christ as Lord and Savior. At that moment, God declares us as righteous. This is not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ did for us (see 2 Cor 5:21).


“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” Philippians 1:6

Set apart and declared righteous are wonderful things God has done for us. But when we examine our lives, we don’t seem to be “perfect.” While we were declared righteous, we are also being made righteous. This process is known as sanctification and it is the way by which God refines us so we become more like Jesus, until one day we are with him.

Please excuse the mess

If each of us is striving to “walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel,” we are exactly who God wants us to be and where God wants us to be in the present. He fashioned each of us individually. He sets each of us on different paths. No two people are alike so no two “progressions of” sanctification (that’s my term) are the same.

We musn’t be ashamed of who we are in Christ. We musn’t make excuses for the “mess” we are (or have made), but stand proud in our identity as children of God. And while you’re at it, don’t worry about the house. We all live in a little bit of mess there too!


Pure Knowledge

The more I study the Word of God, the more I realize that pure knowledge of God is the true key to a radical life lived for Christ. Think about the Apostle Paul for a second…

Paul went on journey after journey being opposed, beaten, and imprisoned. There isn’t recorded a single statement of doubt on Paul’s part or disobedience to God’s call on his life. Instead, Paul said he answered the call “because of the surpassing worth of KNOWING Christ” (Phil 3:9). He believed in an absolutely sovereign God and would not back down from his convictions (read the story of him going before the all the non-believing leaders in Acts 21-28).

There could have been a big danger in all of Paul’s life. You see, had Paul made claims about Christ without ever showing evidence of living them out, the recipients of his letters wouldn’t have listened and neither would we. How about us? Should we strive for pure knowledge? Do we? What dangers does seeking knowledge present? The Book of Proverbs speaks to this often. But knowing verses alone isn’t helpful so let me offer some practical cautionary thoughts in this light (and then go read the Book of Proverbs):

  1. Negating the importance of correct biblical understanding and an impenetrable view of Christ leads to watered down Christianity. We will not be motivated to do the “hard things” and will seldom invest in the call to go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). Instead we may just sit back and watch as others do which is a waste of the life God has called us to or we may take shots that miss far and wide which wastes valuable time in proclaiming the gospel to those who are perishing.
  2. Relying on a “surface level understanding” of Christ leads to stale Christianity and a potential bad witness. “Even Satan knew and acknowledged God” is an oft-used statement (which I totally agree with), but we don’t think of it’s implications for us. We usually use that to talk about others who claim Christ but aren’t really Christians. But isn’t it possible for us to know all the right answers without living them out? Can we preach a message to others that we should be preaching to the mirror?

Regardless of which of the above we run the risk of associating with, we need to look back to the Word and Paul’s life for our reminder…

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Phil 3:12-16

We are inspired and motivated by Paul because he talked a huge game and then lived it out. We must do the same. We cannot live radically without pure knowledge (right thinking). So dig deep into God’s Word and PRESS ON!

Encouraged to Believe

I remember the first time I was truly exposed to the thought of Calvinism. A good friend shared with me in disgust that he found out two of our favorite musical artists were indeed Calvinists. “Ugh, that makes me sick!” was one of my first reactions. I couldn’t believe two men who would share such amazing music could believe in a God “like that.” That was 2009.

“Ugh, that (Calvinism) makes me sick!”

Fast forward to this morning. I sat with a young man over a business meeting. A few minutes in, he mentioned that my email signature and other “subtle hints” led him to believe that I could be a Christian. I confirmed his assumption and went on to say that I was a pastor. He seemed relieved that was my answer to his question. We went about our business meeting on a new playing field. My message didn’t change, and I don’t think his did either, but because we knew where each other stood, things just went a bit “different.” The meeting went great as we talked business ownership, family balance, and more. As we wound down, he asked if I was familiar with his local church. I told him that other than mentions from a few people, I didn’t know much. Then he let the cat out of the bag…..

“We are a little different than many other churches” he said. “Like how?” was my reply. “Well, we are a bit Calvinistic…err, reformed” he hesitantly responded. “Ha, us too!” I said. At that point, we stood up and began walking out the door.

What then transpired outside was something I needed personally after some weeks of theological discussions, challenges, and debates. He proceeded to share that years earlier he was faced with his dad telling him that Calvinism was supported by the teachings of the Bible. “I denied it and wouldn’t have it” he said. But as time went on, he searched the scriptures. He began to reluctantly discover that God was fully sovereign, thus in total control. He saw that God did the saving and his own “failed” attempts to save friends wasn’t failure at all, but the result of a God working apart from his human ability (or lack of it). He realized that God wasn’t disappoointed with his life struggles, but actually supportive and more in love with him than ever before. All this came at a time when depression and thoughts of suicide were prevelant in his life. And then, as he got teary-eyed mid-sentence, he said that practically overnight “this new view of God removed the thoughts of depression and suicide.” He no longer had to measure himself for God. He was free to live as God called him and trusted that if he gave all he had, God would take care of the results.

“This new view of God removed the thoughts of depression and suicide.”

I don’t need to be a Calvinist but I do need to be a Christian.

I don’t need to line up with a man’s interpretation of scripture but I do need to line up with what I believe scripture teaches.

I don’t need a God that manipulates but I do need a God that is always in control.

I don’t need to convince anyone to believe as I do but I will encourage it because often times, it’s the only thing that gets me through the day.