Archive for the ‘Application’ Category

But How to be Godly?

A friend recently told me that what he needed to know was not what to do to live a godly life, but how. He knew that he needed to love well, trust in God, and follow his leading. But how?

For example, he knew he needed to do what the Bible said. But that was not enough. He had concluded that his human fortitude was not going to keep him from worrying, acting lazy, and overeating. He needed to know how to tap into the supernatural to do what the Bible said.

But how?

Why Is Knowing the How Important?

Without knowing how we can’t obey. We may have good intentions, but that’s not good enough.

Knowing how to love well is just as important as knowing that we need to love well. What good does it do us to know that we need to love God and others well, but don’t know how or what it looks like?

Learning the How

We are able to know and do the how as we operate in God’s wisdom. Using God’s wisdom is how to live the Bible. We need to pray for this wisdom and he promises to shower us with it (James 1:5).

For example, many of know that God wants us to love our wives. But how? In my case, every day I ask God for his power and wisdom to love Adele in the practical details of life. Today, I included a trip to the ice cream parlor to cap off a date with her because I knew she liked ice cream. I believe that this idea came from God in answer to my prayer for wisdom to treat her with dignity and respect.

Another way we learn the how is to be mentored by someone who is doing the how. These mentors not only know truth but have applied it to the details of everyday life. Jesus taught his disciples the how largely by living with them. They got more than a sermon from Jesus. They got his deep beliefs, values and motives as he lived with them 24/7.

Another way to know the how is for us to not accept lazy sermons. These sermons stay parked on what a passage teaches, rather than also delving into the painful process of how to live it. Sadly, I think one reason we don’t get more of the how in sermons is that the pastors are not living more of the truth they teach.

In addition, we need to cultivate the habit of responding to the truth that we learn. We all have the tendency to be hearers but not doers. Just taking one simple step to obey what we have learned can help us learn the how. We begin with one small step and grow from that.

Another way we learn about the how is by reading biographies of godly men. I remember reading about the great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, to learn about his secrets about how to pray. His example taught me a lot about how to be a godly man.

A final suggestion about how to learn the how is to simply try. For example, we learn to be a leader by leading. We learn to love our wives as we join forces with Jesus and love with the wisdom and power that he gives.

May we not be deceived by just knowing what we are supposed to do and think that is good enough. Without learning how to depend on God to do what we are supposed to do, we fail to be transformed. May we learn the how and grow to spiritual maturity.







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Rethinking Life

Most of us have no idea how much we need to rethink life. We are molded by our homes, peer groups and society to think certain ways. But those ways often need to be changed if we want to see life the way it really is.

For example, as a young man, I thought that if I impressed people and achieved a lot I would be more important. This proved to be wrong. I thought that earning the respect and approval of certain people would make me more loved. This proved to be wrong as well. I also believed that I had to plan and carry out the responsibities of life without any help from God. This proved to be wrong too.

Why Rethink Life

I have marveled at how some of my friends were able to follow the script that they were given from childhood into seemingly happy and productive lives. But I had to do a lot of rethinking. My script didn’t work that well. And I think my friends also needed to do more rethinking. Why rethink life?

Because God says to do it. He says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing (rethinking) of your minds” (Romans 12:2). He also says to put off the old and put on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24). We all need to be transformed by changing our thinking to conform to God’s thinking.

Our pasts often fill us with foolish ideas about what is true and how to live life. We can change this by rethinking life according to what the Bible says. God says, “The truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). But only as we compare our thinking to what God says in the Bible and change our thinking, will we be set free from the limitations of false thinking.

How to Rethink Life

The first step to rethinking life is to become aware of what we think and how we feel about life. We can tell what we think by what we depend on to tell us what reality is. For example, if we are afraid of the disapproval of certain people, we are thinking that acceptance by people is needed for us to avoid painful rejection. But God says he will never reject us! (Hebrews 13:5). Rethinking gets us to the point that we never have to fear rejection for it will never happen. However, we can be snubbed or hurt by others, but that is not devastating like true rejection.

Once we are aware of what we think and feel, we need to compare this to what God says reality is. “I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws” (Psalm 119:59, NLT). When we find that God’s reality is different than ours, we need to cooperate with him in rethinking life. For example, if we think that we aren’t very important and God says in Isaiah 43:4 that we are precious and honored, who are we to believe? We are to believe God and continue the painful process of separating from depending on our false thinking.

Another way to rethink life is Scripture meditation. A habit I developed early in my Christian life was to put on small cards a verse or two that ministers to me. I carry these small cards with me and memorize the verses and meditate on them at various times throughout the day. I ask myself the question “What is God saying to me right now through this verse?” Over the years, God has used this habit to help me rethink my life in many ways.

Recently, I was challenged to rethink how I saw myself. I came into adulthood thinking I wasn’t very important without achieving, not free to be myself in all areas, and needing to impress to feel loved. Over the years, I have done a lot of rethinking about these things and regard them as lies, but they still influence me to some extent. So, I listed my old thinking about myself, and then listed how God thinks of me. What a difference! God sees me as very important, enjoyable, and deeply loved.

So, I burned the list of how I used to view myself and buried the ashes. I then took the list of how God sees me, tied it to a helium-filled balloon and let it soar into the sky. These acts symbolize how our old thinking needs to die in the face of embracing God’s glorious thinking about life.



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Are You Wise?

We are a people who greatly respect those who are well educated and intelligent. We marvel at people who can speak well and who write books.

However, what I have grown to admire even more is someone who is wise. Someone who is wise has taken their knowledge, experiences and intelligence and have made good decisions. These would be decisions like right priorities, having a good marriage, taking care of oneself physically, and living a moral life.

Who cares how smart someone is if they haven’t applied that smartness to living well?

What Wise Living Is Not

Living wisely doesn’t mean having the same standards of honesty as everyone else. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God?” (James 4:4). It is never wise to be dishonest, even if we succeed in the short-run.

Sometimes it means being different. And being different is often costly. A few years ago I tried to teach to my church new ways to grow spiritually that I had learned in seminary. I will admit that some of the teachings broke with tradition, but they all were biblical.

But alas, the teachings were rejected and I was rejected from leadership. But I wouldn’t have been wise to compromise and only teach tradition instead of what God wanted taught.

Living wisely often means living differently than the respected members of our society. The Bible tells us that not many influential, powerful, or rich people are wise (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Yet, we are prone to model our lives after them.

Living wisely is not seeking what most people seek. Things like pleasure as a major focus, flashy cars, and promotion at the expense of the family. God tells us, “All that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from [Me] but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-17, ESV).

What Wise Living Is          

Living Wisely

Living Wisely

Wise living begins with following God’s will for our life. Does this mean that I wasn’t living wisely until I became a Christian in 1971?

Well, what do you think it means when God says in his Bible, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10)? It means a lot of us are not wise from God’s perspective, no matter how highly others regard us.

Wise living means that we apply the Bible to our life, and not just listen to it. Yet, many of us have been seduced by intellectualism that neglects the clear teaching that only knowledge that is used makes us wise (Matthew 7:24-28).

Wise living is “peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17, ESV). It is not selfish, envious, and boastful (James 3:14-16).

Wise living is being cautious, careful to avoid evil, and being meek (controlled strength).

So, are you wise? Do you want to become wiser? I hope we all can answer with a strong yes to at least the second question.

A promise I often claim is the following:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all [people] generously and without reproach, and it will be given to [them]” (James 1:5.)


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One of the beliefs in many of our churches today seems to be that all we need to do is know the Bible and we will become spiritually mature.

But God says, “spiritual maturity comes by relying on the Bible to live life” (Hebrews 5:14, paraphrased).

We seem to move heaven and earth to understand the Bible from every angle possible, but seem to think it relatively unimportant to actually live the Bible that we now understand.

Or, we seem to think that maturity just happens when we understand the Bible.

Whatever the reason, we often lack the teaching and support to live the Bible from the heart.

But God warns us not to deceive ourselves by becoming knowers of the Bible only, and not doers as well (James 1:22-23).

I was reading the Bible yesterday in the book of Jeremiah about how God warned Israel time after time that if they did not change their ways that he would punish them. They knew God’s word. But they did not listen to God’s word and change their ways- and God had to punish them.

Living the Bible is what God wants from us, not just knowing it.

Certainly, becoming godly begins by knowing the Bible. But we don’t just park there. We move ahead and learn to rely on the Bible. And that means changing. This is where life can become messy because often we don’t want to change.

I think this is why it is so easy for us to fall for the deception of acquiring more and more knowledge and think we’ll doing great. We don’t take the time “to consider the direction our life, and change our ways to God’s ways” (Psalm 119:59, paraphrased). We can become so distracted by acquiring knowledge that we avoid the awareness of our need to change.

Knowing the Bible was intended to be a living experience where we allow God to work in our hearts. It is to be experiential knowledge, not just head knowledge. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, ……. and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Knowing the Bible was not intended to be only an intellectual experience. Yet, many of us approach reading and studying the Bible as a philosophy or history experience. We substitute Bible knowledge for an intimate relationship with God.

In Psalm 119 God says, “I want you to hope, obey, receive comfort, meditate, and delight in the Bible.” He wants us to respond to what we know in the Bible.

So, knowing the Bible is not enough. We need to also respond to it. May we have the courage to allow God to transform us and lead us according to his Bible.



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I know the truth that God helps, guides, strengthens and upholds me all the time. I even memorized a verse that promises all of this help (Isaiah 41:10). But it dawned on me the other night as I faced a situation experiencing much fear that this truth was not helping me one bit.

I realized in a fresh way that God does not want me to just know the truth. He also wants me to trust it (Hebrews 11:6). But what happens if it isn’t true and I fall flat on my face?

God says for us not to be fooled. “Don’t think that listening to a sermon does you one bit of good unless you rely on the truth I tell you through the pastor” God says to us in James 1:22.

However, the problem is that we have a whole collection of idols we already rely on instead of God to meet our needs. Idols like our understanding, our achievements, people’s approval, and good circumstances.

Some of you may say, “But the Bible says that the truth shall set us free.” But God’s response is that we are only set free when we rely on the truth (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Look at the mess that Israel made of their lives in the desert by simply knowing the truth but not relying on it. God said,  “Follow Me and I will give you the Promised Land” in Numbers 13. But they refused to rely on this truth and chose to lean on their own understanding- and the consequences were tragic. None of them experienced the Promised Land (Numbers 14:22-23).

We also lose God’s blessing when we refuse to rely on the truth that we know.

So, how do we rely on the truth?

It is often hard. God says “Pound on a fool all you like-you can’t pound out foolishness (Proverbs 27:22. MSG).” When we refuse to lean on the truth we are acting foolishly.

To trust the truth, we will have to endure the anxiety of giving up the familiar idols to gain the unknown help of God.

For example, God says he loves us. However, we have been trained to rely on peoples’ approval, meeting our standards, and achieving certain things to earn love. It is hard for us to reject this thinking in order to rely on the truth that God loves us period.

So, when we say, “The heck with it, I am going to depend on the fact that God loves me no matter what and not fear” we can become terrified because our old beliefs tell us otherwise.

But paraphrasing Luke 9:23, God says to us, “If you want to experience my love, you must quit relying on trying to earn my love, and learn to rely on my love as a gift as you depend on Me to make this truth real for you.”

Ask God to show you one truth that you know but are having trouble relying on it. Ask God to help you to believe that truth. “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).


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Let’s Get Practical!

Haven’t you learned a lot of things in life that you have never used? Doesn’t that frustrate you sometimes? For example, I have never used calculus outside of a classroom. How frustrating since it took so much time and energy to learn it. I am sure you have learned a lot that you makes you wonder what good was learning that?

The Bible teaches that when it comes to growing spiritually that learning the Bible without getting practical is stupid (James 1:22). Yet, some churches seem to park on Bible knowledge and keeping it abstract on purpose. I wonder if they fear the messy world of getting practical where routines and being comfortable get threatened.

I would rather learn an ounce of truth and apply a pound of application, than learn a pound of truth with an ounce of application. Yet, this does not seem to be the pattern in many churches. Perhaps, this is because of how pervasive intellectualism has gripped our society. We think that if we know, we will be. We skip getting practical.

Paul says get practical like him, as he gets practical like Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1). Observing Paul living out of his knowledge in daily life imitating Jesus is how to get practical and become godly. We are not to stop at sermons and bible studies. If we refuse to get practical, we have missed the mark in living life in God’s power (Deuteronomy 5:29).

The source of getting practical is our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). We cannot get practical without God changing them. Out of who we are determines how practical we are in living like Jesus. May I encourage you to get practical by allowing God to take your knowledge and make it real in your heart. Your journey begins and continues with this prayer.

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