Why Reading the Bible Is Not Enough

I believe the Bible to be inspired by God, if nothing else because of its incredible, unprecedented preservation. That alone is a miracle. I make it a priority to spend time reading it everyday. But merely reading a copy of the Bible or learning the Greek and Hebrew or having theological discussions about certain passages does not mean you have actually studied God’s word.

It took three centuries for Christians to have access to what we now consider the inspired Word of God, and another millennium before it was available to the masses. This tells me that there is a whole lot more to studying God’s word than merely reading the pages of a book. In order to understand which writings were true and what to believe, early Christians had to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit (personally and through other believers). They had to actually KNOW Jesus: both through conversation (prayer) and experience.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1,14). He is the perfect representation of God (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15). God’s word, His message, to the world is, simply, Christ.

To truly study the Word of God, we must intently focus on Jesus (James 1:25). This primarily comes through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit who only says what Jesus says (John 16:13).

Reading and being immersed in the Bible is powerful and essential but should be done with prayer and discernment from the Spirit because that is the primary communication between God and man. You cannot understand the truth of the Bible unless the Spirit illuminates it to you.

I cannot stress, enough, my belief that the Bible is inspired by God and should be taken literally and COMPLETELY. You can be certain that God will not tell you to do something which contradicts the absolute truth He has already spoken through the Bible. But knowing the Bible does NOT mean you know Christ. It may lead you to a deeper understanding of who Christ is and His characteristics, just as a detailed map of LA helps me get around. But studying a map is not equivalent with “getting around” and actually KNOWING Los Angeles. The Bible may be a love letter from God, which is pretty awesome, but no lovers are ever satisfied with only letters. They want real interaction.

C.D.

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Got Any Change?

A year ago today I was headed over to Asia with my sister, brother and sister-in-law (my sister and I for two months). It’s crazy how much change happens in a year. I definitely miss Asia and all the experiences we had over there…

But what if we got our wish? What if we could stay suspended in time at our favorite moments? Sure, it would be a blast for a while, but we would eventually become bored and resentful at God. Because life is like a dance and every good dance needs good timing: ups and downs, slow and fast, smooth and bouncy.

I hate change, I hate goodbyes, I hate disappointments–if I could remove them, I would. But in order to remove them, I’d take away the movement of life’s timing and the dance would flop.

So let’s embrace the movement which change brings to life–because that’s pretty much what life is: constant change. Remember that the Master Choreographer is GOOD and knows what He’s doing. Every old and new move is according to His grand plan.

I loved Asia, more than I expected. My bones have been aching to go back and I probably would have hit pause, if possible. But I experienced so much rich LIFE since then that I’m glad I didn’t.

But coming home from a fun trip to Asia is not the extent of the change I’ve experienced. About every year and a half or so, half of our household moves away and is replaced by new people. Strange, right? You see, my family houses the volunteers for the ministry we work for, unfortunately, their terms are only a year or two long after which they move on with their lives. Every time one of them moves on, I get a little bitter about the whole change concept. But invariably when I look back and see where they are and where I am today and the relationships I’ve made with the new volunteers, I would not have it any other way. See, God does know what He’s doing after all.

And then there’s death. One of the irreversibles of change. Everyone will experience death, in some way. If someone does not experience losing a loved one, it means they died first. In every marriage, someone will experience the death of a spouse, most children lose their parents, some parents lose their children. Everyone will die.

But therein lies Hope. Because death does not have to be a period, separating one sentence from another. It can, and should be, a comma, which is a mark of transition, or a colon: emphasizing why. Those who are hidden inside Christ will overcome death and be raised to a glorified life where there is no separation (death) or pain–but if I know the Master, there will probably be change.

Thank God!

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Obeying God: Does Doing All This “Christian” Stuff Really Matter?

“Last fall, I had to make a decision. Being the first year after my Mom’s fatal car accident made 2013 one of the toughest years of my life, as you could imagine. When grieving loss such as the death of a loved one, or even a lost career, a divorce, a cross-country move, chronic or terminal illness or any kind of major loss or change, the regular pains of life intensify. Last year my family and I saw the regular up-and-down’s of life taken to extremes. In the midst of all the raw emotion, I fell into a type of depression. And that is when I was bombarded by the questions and decisions.

As anyone experiencing similar grief, I had a lot of questions about life. I felt like Job who wanted to “take God to trial.” But from all the questions, one monster protruded out from the rest: “Why am I doing all this Christian stuff?” And then all the little monster questions followed right behind: “Why am I hanging onto all these convictions? Why do I follow and obey God? Who’s going to care? Why don’t I just go do my own thing?”

Let me ask you: Why do you do what you do? Teenager, why don’t you have sex whenever you want? Why do you hold on to your convictions? Why do you work hard to obey God? After all, you are saved because of God’s grace through faith — not because of what you do. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about modesty: why does modesty matter? Why don’t we lust and flirt? Why should we bother to live peaceably with each other and strive for reconciliation? Why don’t we murder? Why don’t we lie? Why do we follow the Bible? If none of this adds or subtracts to our salvation, then why bother?”

continue reading…

Obeying God: Does Doing All This “Christian” Stuff Really Matter?

Quit Being So Negative!

How do you view God? Do you see Him as hard to please?

Consider this statement for a moment: You fall short of God’s grace and love and there is absolutely no way for you to ever please Him.

Sounds Biblical right? But how do you respond? Are you drawn to God? Does it quicken your heart to respond in repentance? Maybe. But most likely you feel discouraged. A subtle, subconscious feeling of hopelessness enters in and negative thinking is introduced into your mind.

The problem is that yes, the above statement is true, but only partially. You DO fall short of God’s grace and love—but He extends it ANYWAYS. There IS absolutely no way for you to ever please God ON YOUR OWN STRENGTH. God finds much pleasure in you when the blood of Jesus Christ has COMPLETELY cleansed you of anything that would displease God.

So when these thoughts run through our minds, we slowly become discouraged and lose interest in God. We see daily just how much we fall short. We feel condemned, fearful, and hopeless. And we either give up, or start living out of a drive to please God.

God does not operate through negativity. SO STOP IT! Just stop.

The King came to His enemies, not to condemn, but to LOVE. In response to His love and KINDNESS, we, His enemies, forsake our old lives and become His friends. Once we are His friends, He makes us His very own children. And as His children, we are given power, bravery, endless access to His throne, and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Fear, doubt, and condemnation are not of God’s kingdom so STOP allowing them to reign in your mind. You have the freedom to do this. Christ has given you permission to quit thinking negatively about yourself and others.

Jesus cares for you. Give HIM your fear, doubt, condemnation, lust, pride, unforgiveness, and all your negativity. You were lost and deserve God’s wrath, but Christ took that upon Himself. He has found and freed you. Think on THAT! Rejoice. You are free to rejoice! Get rid of whatever is keeping you from joy, trust God AND REJOICE!

When I allow this truth to reign in my heart, I am DRAWN to Christ: I am drawn to pray and to read His word; to love and serve Him.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge [condemn] the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” – John 3:17

[The sinner] said, “No one [condemns me], Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” –John 8:11

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

“We love [Him], because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

C.D.

When Life’s Hard… Breathe In

WHEN LIFE’S HARD… BREATHE IN

“Take a deep breath in. Now breathe out. God is active in your life. Breathe in, again; breathe out. God is active in your life. Breathe in, breathe out. God is active.

Every single breath that you breathe is a gift from God — a deliberate act of God’s will to give you yet one more breath of life, and another, and another.

God is not done with you.

Look all around you. There is life! Look up at the sky, marvel at the mountains, admire the trees—see the people? There are so many people! People with their marvelous relationships: there’s the stability of childhood “besties” and college buddies and the complexity of guy-girl relations. There’s children and elderly. There’s black and there’s white. Some people live in dry deserts; others live in swamps and rainforests, or in cold tundras. There’s life, and beauty — diversity and unity. And it’s all good! And all good things come from God. Every single pure pleasure, worthy word, and splendid sunrise comes straight from the heart of God.”

Keep Reading: http://bit.ly/19KN3f6

I’m Angry at God | The Rebelution

I wrote the following article for the Rebelution dot com. I praise God for the way He works and leads. It was a very vulnerable piece for me to write, but the response has been OVERWHELMINGLY uplifting and encouraging, through the comments, emails, and messages I have gotten. I don’t deserve it, but I am grageful that God can use me even in my brokenness. As one song says: “You make beautiful things out of the dust; You make beautiful things out of us.” I want to allow God to bring beauty out of my dirt, no matter how hard it is.

“‘I just feel so dead. I am so torn up inside. Worthless. Believing lies [and] feeling incapable of believing truth. But I just have to. I am desperate. Angry. I need God yet I feel extremely angry at God. I feel hopeless. This battle never ends. I just want to die.’

I penned these words in my journal not two years ago, not nine months ago, but yesterday and they expressed what I wanted to scream at God in that moment — and I did when I was alone.

I’m not proud of it, but I cannot deny: I’m angry at God.

Pain, lots of pain—and anger—along with frustration, confusion, and despair pretty much describe my relationship with God right now. Sounds really Christian doesn’t it? Aren’t Christians supposed to abide in the love of God and rest in His peace?

I wish I could supply some answers. I like to have my life under control. I like to know what is going on. I hate struggle. If something is bothering me, I like to know why and I like to deal with it. I hate confusion. I hate not knowing which way is up.

But God has chosen to devastate my life like an eruption devastates a volcano. And this frustrates me. It makes me angry that He took my Mom in a car accident nine months ago. I resent the feeling of disconnect from God that I feel. I can’t sleep well; it’s hard to concentrate on work.”

Continue reading: http://bit.ly/angryatgod

Worship Is Living

Here is a recent article I wrote for the Rebelution. Check it out if you can.

“God gives us dreams and desires and He likes to see us set goals and pursue excellence (maybe this is doing hard things and developing personally). 

But as we pursue excellence we must remember to maintain a spirit of worship. We must pursue excellence as an expression of worship to God, as means of communicating to God that He is all that matters to us and we will give everything to serve Him.

If developing personally becomes more important to us than worshiping God, then we have a wrong focus (not necessarily wrong actions, but wrong focus).

In reality, personal growth is a lessening of ourselves and an abounding of Him in our lives. And the only reason we need personal growth is so that we can be more effective in the kingdom of God.

If in pursuing excellence we are not building the kingdom of God, we are wasting time, because our sole purpose in life is to build God’s kingdom by glorifying Him (worship).

The greatest tool we have for building the kingdom is not our tracts, our eloquence, or our talents, but our lives. When we go about our lives in constant worship of the Almighty, ministry happens.

If we are committed to following Christ [worshiping God] it will not be difficult to find hard things to do. Following Christ will invariably involve following Him right into hard things.”

Read the rest of the article: Worship Is Living.

“I Love You Too!”

The other night as I sat with friends and family in the Miller living room, it suddenly felt like Jesus silently walked in, sat beside me, and whispered “I love you!” In disbelief at first, I ignored it. “I love you!” he seemed to repeat. It seemed like He wanted me to respond. So I did. “I love you too!” I thought awkwardly.

This is relationship. I had real interaction with Jesus Christ, the Creator and Sustainer of life! I think that this type of interaction really happens many times, but I usually doubt it and dismiss it as simply emotion. I will always cherish this brief interaction with Jesus, and look for more. It amazes me how loving and good God really is. Even in His wrath, He is still loving and good.

Yesterday morning, as I sat in on a chapel service, the speaker showed a YouTube clip about persecution in Indonesia. In the clip, Muslims were slaughtering other Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Although it was only six minutes long, I kept thinking to myself “Just make it stop already! Just make it stop!” I thought the clip would never end, but I knew I had to watch as much of it as I could stomach. I had to see. This brutality is the price these people have to pay in order to follow Christ. And then I thought about how this is what Jesus had to pay to set us free! Not only was He mocked and ridiculed, but He was beaten and bruised, and His flesh was torn apart. He suffered immense pain, agony and separation from the Father [God] so that we could be forgiven of sin and unified with the Father.

And I realized how pathetic my love for Him is. Could I honestly bear His name, while having half my scalp chopped off? I’m not sure I could, save by His incredible grace.

I desperately desire deeper love for Christ. I long for stronger faith so that I can stand firm on the Rock, Jesus Christ. I want to trust Jesus, rather than doubt Him or His love. I want to be convinced of God’s goodness. By realizing my security in Christ and knowing that He is completely good and loving, I can endure the pain He may call me to.

Someone once said something like: “to the degree that we suppress pain, we also suppress joy.” I desperately want to be surrendered to this concept: that to experience great joy, I must also allow myself to experience great pain.

I think in many ways I have tried to suppress my pain. I have tried to be strong. But I think there is something beautiful about just letting yourself hurt and allowing yourself to be weak. The picture that I get is a big and strong middle-aged man kneeling before a gravestone bawling and letting his pain out by gasps and screams.

Many times we get knocked down and we can’t get back up. We need a helper, a savior, a healer. Jesus Christ is that Healer.

I do not know if I have responded well to the pain and hard things in my life, but I want to do better. I want to allow myself to hurt: to grieve loss, struggle with change and allow Christ to bring healing when it is time.

I don’t like pain—I run from it. I pursue happiness just like everyone else. But there is health in bleeding; there is relief in flowing tears. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Finally, I am beginning to understand this verse. Jesus is saying, “Allow yourself to hurt, because I will comfort you!” And we will hurt, but we can’t “bottle” it up, or we’ll burst.

Keep battling on. Keep hurting. Keep healing. Keep relating. Keep living. The end is in sight, just a few more years. God is faithful, by His strength we can do this!

Poured Out Like Wine

Hugo McCord

Would you be poured out like wine
upon the altar for Me?
Would you be broken like bread
to feed the hungry?
Would you be so one with Me
that you would do just as I will?
Would you be light and life
and love My Word fulfilled?

Yes, I’ll be poured out like wine
upon the altar for You
Yes, I’ll be broken like bread
to feed the hungry
Yes, I’ll be so one with You
that I would do just as You will
Yes, I’ll be light and life
and love Your Word fulfilled

Where He Leads Me

Ernest W. Blandy

I can hear my Savior calling,
I can hear my Savior calling,
I can hear my Savior calling,
Take thy cross and follow, follow Me.

Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

I’ll go with Him through the garden,
I’ll go with Him through the garden,
I’ll go with Him through the garden,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

I’ll go with Him through the judgment,
I’ll go with Him through the judgment,
I’ll go with Him through the judgment,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

He will give me grace and glory,
He will give me grace and glory,
He will give me grace and glory,
And go with me, with me all the way.

Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

In the Despair — a Poem of Hope

I believe that all men

At a point in their life

Do arrive to a state

Of despair.

 –

“Oh my God,” cried the king,

“Where are you in this world?”

We do fear that the Lord

Is not fair.

 –

But despite our small thoughts

Our Lord God who redeems,

Keeps us in, close to Him

And His care.

 –

We can

Surely

Know He

Will not

Falter

On His

Promise.

 –

In the times of confusion

Trust in God’s substitution.

 –

On the cross in the East

God did die for our release.

 –

There is trouble

There is pain;

But in all

Can be gain.

 –

Even when

God seems far,

Don’t despair

For you are

On a journey

That is good,

And will make you

More strong than wood.

 –

So look up to the sky,

And whisper to God:

“I will trust you

I will serve you.”

Even if you feel

Under a curse,

Know that Christ

Loved you first.

 –

There is a hope

Midst the sorrow.

I will wait

For tomorrow.

C.D.

Higher Heights

Recently, my family and I took my two cousins and my aunt (Mom’s sister Becky) out to the coast, near Malibu, California.

Just out of Malibu there is a massive rock that sits on the ocean side of the road in a very prominent place. Since it is at the point of a minor bay, it can be seen from quite a way off.

About half way between the beginning of the bay and the massive rock, is a sandbank that rises very high against a large, steep hill. We have climbed that sandbank in the past, but this time my cousin Lynnwood challenged us guys to try to scale even to the very top of the ridge. This is no easy task, as the cliff is about as vertical as it could get without actually being vertical. The cliff is made up of loose rock, sand, sagebrush, and small bushes, as well as cacti and yuccas.

So as all the other sand climbers took it easy and remained content with their view of the ocean, my Dad, Lynnwood, my brother Asher, and I took up the challenge to reach the ridge.

As I, in flip-flops, struggled up the hillside, slipping and sliding on the loose rock, my mind pulled itself out of its nothing-box and began to think.

Way down at the bottom were lots of contentedly happy and comfortable people who could see the ocean just fine, while we four crawled up the rugged hillside as if trying to imitate Frodo and Sam ascending Mount Doom. Yet every time I turned around and focused on the ocean, I was impressed by the beauty of the higher perspective. As I climbed closer to the top, my perspective of the ocean became more and more complete. I could see nearly the entire bay in one glance. When I finally summited the summit, the view was extraordinary. I could see the wooded green hills that extended farther beyond my ridge. I could see the blue ocean shimmering in the sunlight. I could see the massive rock saluting the opposite point. And I could see the little people far below enjoying their very limited perspective of this marvelous sight. They had no clue.

Such is life. Many people have a fine view of God. They are not sinning nor in rebellion toward God. They see Him and love Him, but because they are not willing to scale new heights and dive to new depths, their perspective of God remains limited and shallow.

Greater perspective of God takes greater struggle. Our hearts are drawn toward pursuing greater heights, but often we get so enamored with the sea level experiences that we do not do what it takes to experience God in greater ways. And sometimes, in our struggle, others can look at us, or we at ourselves, and think we are doing things wrong; but in reality our struggle is born out of our pursuit of a greater perspective of God.

The glorious characteristic of Jesus is the fact that He loves us no matter where we are at—even if we are running away from the “ocean” [God]. This characteristic intrigues us and compels us to pursue this awesome, mysterious God.

I am challenged to search my heart and identify what is keeping me from pursuing a greater perspective of God. I believe anything that obstructs my path to God is an idol and should be destroyed. Unfortunately, I not only am unable to destroy such obstructions on my own but I often hang onto them. I thank Jesus that He continually calls me and gives me opportunities to let go of those things which are too close to my heart. I want to continually surrender them and submit to His love for me and His love for His own glory.

As a Child of God, Heaven is the ultimate height I am pursuing. Heaven has the greatest perspective. Heaven is the only reality. One day, we, the Adopted of God, are going to wake up in Heaven and everything that happened on earth will be outshone by the brilliance of Heaven. It will be like waking up from a dream. We might not forget life on earth, but it will be of little significance compared to magnificent Heaven.

What amazes me, though, is that, from my understanding of the Bible, apparently seeing the face of Jesus will be so awesome that seeing my mom’s face will be a glorious but minor benefit. Now that will be an awesome experience.

Let’s keep embracing struggle and pursuing greater perspectives of God.

May God bless your journey.

C.D.

In Pictures

2013-03-16 15.42.302013-03-16 16.23.37   2013-03-16 17.21.272013-03-16 17.09.06  2013-03-16 17.28.382013-03-16 16.47.402013-03-16 16.31.592013-03-16 16.32.312013-03-16 16.51.15