Chew on this during your week – James 1:19-21

 Good morning readers. First I want to thank those of you who participated in the discussion last week regarding infant salvation and baptism. I believe it is a sensitive topic, but one that scripture is clear on. It is certainly one of those issues that will test the faith of anyone who happens to lose a child.

Second, I want to let you know that I am changing the format of the weekly memory verses. Or rather, I am changing the expectations. I realize that some, if not all, of us are unable to memorize the verse(s) each week. This can become discouraging and may end up turning you away from simple meditation on a selected passage. So, for those of you who are nodding your head at this, myself included, you can expect to see a change in the expectations regarding these weekly passages. I want you to meditate first, and if memorization comes out of that time then great, but that is not our goal. 

The goal is not to be able to say a verse on command; the goal is to read a passage over and over again so that through doing so you begin to truly ponder the words, meaning, and application. How does this sound to you?

To kick off this new view, I want you to chew on the passage from James below (my wife and I are reading through the book of James, so expect a lot from this book here):

James 1:19-21 (ESV)

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person  be quick to hear,  slow to speak,  slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore  put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with  meekness the implanted word,  which is able to save your souls. 


How are we to apply 1 Corinthians 7:25-28 today?

Good evening. You will not typically read an article here in the evening hours, but in an effort to be spontaneous I thought I would go ahead and publish something tonight anyways. Consider it a bonus post 🙂 
1 Corinthians 7:25-28
The command Paul gives to the unmarried virgins in the Corinthian church is to “remain as you are…Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife” (vv. 26, 27, NIV). This command must be understood within the context (as with any passage). In verse 9, speaking to the unmarried and widows, Paul states, “if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Paul’s main point in this section of Scripture (7:1-35) seems to carry with it a theme, “God’s commands is what counts…each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to…time is short…this world in its present form is passing away…be free from concern” (vv. 19, 24, 29, 31, 32). In summary, and in my own words, “while you are here in this life and on this earth, focus on God.”
But, what are we to make of this command to the virgins to remain as they are? How are we to apply this? There is no doubt that although this is not an explicit command from the Lord (v. 25), it is sound advice through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s concern at his time of writing, and to us today, is that we are able to focus on the Lord, keep his commands, and live according to how we are each called to live. For some, this means marriage, for others this means remaining a virgin (v. 7). Paul recognized that marriage would cause hardship to the husband and wife (v. 28). Times of trouble, persecution, and other hardship are difficult enough as a single person, but they are much greater when married, and even more so when children come along. 
With all of that in mind, as well as the context of our passage (vv. 25-28), I believe it is safe to apply this command, or advice, entirely to our world today (directly transferable). Virgins, remain as you are unless you are burning with passion or believe that you were called to marry (given the gift to marry, v. 7). If you do marry, you are not sinning (v. 28), but will need to be prepared to face hardship (v. 28) and allow the troubles that come along to draw you closer to the Lord.
What are your thoughts on this passage? Do you agree with my conclusion?

A Lamp to my Feet, Focusing on Christmas – Isaiah 7:14

December. Christmas. Crowds. Spending a lot of money. The usual, right? This is what Christmas has become and it couldn’t be more distracting. Christmas is a time for us to remember, reflect, and worship because of God sending his one and only Son to us in the form of a baby who would grow into a man and eventually give his life on a cross for those who would believe in him (John 3:16). That is why we celebrate Christmas. 

This week is a simple verse. Actually just one verse. I want you to spend as much time on this as you have with the passages in the past. Really study this and think about what it says. You are probably familiar with it, so that will cause you to read it very fast and glaze over it. Fight that urge and take your time. Do some research and bible study (remember to do so with the context in mind). This will be a rewarding exercise and I look forward to seeing what you learn through he week.

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 
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I look forward to discussing this verse with you on Sunday!!

When Studying the Bible, Always, Always, Always, Know the Context

Watch the TED Talk from 2010 below. In it, Doctor and epidemiologist Ben Goldacre shows how witholding test data on drugs is being used to push drugs on the market, to say that certain drugs are better than others, and that a drug will do a certain thing most of the time. This is bad science.

As a student of the Bible (both as a Christian and as a student in a University’s Religion Department) there is one thing in particular that this video made me think of.

A classic example will flesh this out for you.

A young man is in a dating relationship with a young woman. This young man is uncertain about how to proceed with the relationship. So, like any good young man, he looks to God. He first stumbles across 1 Corinthians 7:36c, which says, “They should get married quickly.”

His heart rate goes up. God wants me to ask her to marry me! But, when?

He then stumbles across John 13:27, which says, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”

His questions answered, and having heard directly from God on what he should do and when he should do it, he closes his Bible and goes to sleep, dreaming of marrying his girlfriend.

What’s the problem with this? Well. Everything actually. What he read is in the Bible, yes. But, what he read has what we call context. If there is one thing that should be drilled into every Christian’s head when it comes to teaching, preaching, and learning from the BIble it is that context determines meaning.

If our eager young man would have bothered to read the context surrounding his snippet of text he would have noticed two things. First, that Paul was writing a specific instruction to a specific people. There was a problem in the Corinthian church of engaged couples acting as they shouldn’t (like married couples). In this light he says, “GET MARRIED!!” Second, after this verse (v. 36), there is a conjunction…”but.” Our young man should have continued reading. Paul instructs that if the young men are able to practice self-control and have decided to not marry, they should not. He concludes by saying this, “So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better” (v. 38).

And, obviously, John 13:27 is a quote of Jesus telling Judas, he betrayer, to do what he is going to do quickly, his betraying of Jesus, which has nothing at all to do with marriage and thus does not apply to our young man’s question of when to marry.

Context, context, context. In light of the video above, data, data, data.

“We cannot make decisions in the absence of all information.” – Ben Goldacre

A Note to My Readers: Compassion International

If you read the articles published on this website by coming to the actual site (instead of reading it in your RSS reader or some other way) you may have noticed two new items. On the right sidebar there is now a promotional item for Compassion International, and if clicked will take you to a page on the Compassion International website where you can learn more about giving clean water to those in need of it. This same type of promotional item is also located in the footer (the bottom) of each page and article. Seeing these may have raised a few questions for you, which I would like to answer below.  

What is Compassion International?

Compassion International‘s goal is to take a child who is living in poverty and help them from “economic, physical, social and spiritual poverty, enabling them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.” Compassion partners with a local church, where the child lives, and works with the church to develop programs that will help a child living in poverty receive the education and spiritual growth they will need to grow out of the poverty they are in. Compassion then partners with people like you and me to sponsor a child so that they can be a part of the programs developed by Compassion and the local church. Learn more about Compassion by reading through the Compassion FAQ page.  

Why is Compassion International on this website?

First, I (Aaron), gain absolutely nothing from what you decide to do with the information you receive about Compassion from me on this website. If you decide to sponsor a kid because of reading something here, there is nothing in it for me. I am writing about Compassion International and their efforts because they are a part of the wheel that is Evangelism. I do not receive any monetary support of any kind from Compassion and do not aim to. My aim with writing about Compassion is to introduce you to them, and some of their ministry partners, so that you are aware of needs around the world that you can help with. Questions? Ask them in the comments below 🙂 

What can I expect to read or see about Compassion International and their ministry activity?

I am a part of the Compassion Blogger team. I am one of approximately 1,100 other bloggers who have decided to help spread the word about Compassion and their mission through the use of my website and writing. Compassion sends us (bloggers) “assignments” that help to show a need or highlight a specific part of their ministry. You will see videos, read testimonials, and learn how you can become involved. Absolutly nothing pushy (see below).  

What do you believe about “pulling on heart strings?”

Great question. I don’t believe in pulling on heart strings. That is to say, I don’t believe in pulling on the heart strings of people to make them do something. A huge problem that I see in churches is that there is such an emphasis on emotional response that people do not really know anything substantial. They do not know why they bleieve what they believe. They believe it because that is what the pastor or their parents have told them.  
I sat in a church service once where the pastor used his pulpit, and the forty minutes he had to preach, to try and guilt me and the rest of his congregation into sponsoring a child. I walked out of that service very upset that he tried to use emotion and guilt to have me sponsor a child. I did not sponsor a child. I will not sponsor a child soley based on an emotional reaction, and will not encourage you to either. I do not want you to make an emotional decision when it comes to sponsoring a child. Hear me on this: I do not believe that true heart change (in this case, concern) will come through emotional response only. It must be grounded in God’s Word.  
All that I am going to do here is give you information and tell you what you can do. I then want you to continue studying God’s Word and praying. Allow what I tell you to prompt you to seek more from God and his Word. Allow his Word only to make the change in your life, not what I write here. Understood? Good 🙂 If not, fire away in the comments below. 
I am extrememly excited to begin writing about Compassion International (you can expect the first writing assignement to appear tomorrow) and look forward to telling you more about what they do and how you can get involved.