My Year in the Bible

“But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.'”

Matthew 22:29

Have you ever read the Bible? I am willing to bet that most Christians would answer right away “Of course I have read my Bible! I’ve been going to church my whole life!” You would probably get a similar response if you asked someone if they know God. The sad truth is that many people know about God, less people really know God.

Maybe you have never really thought about it much. Like me, you probably just kind of assumed you knew the Bible and knew God. What if there were things you thought you knew about the Bible, but maybe you were wrong? What if there were things you thought were in the Bible, but maybe they really aren’t? Maybe God didn’t really say that thing that you always assumed He said. Would you want to know?

I grew up in church. I attended Sunday School as a child and was even part of a weekly scripture memorization club during my school age years. I went to youth group, then to a young adults class, and then on to small group Bible studies. I am no stranger to church. Being a regular church attender is great, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you any kind of true spiritual closeness with God. In fact, routine, checklist religion may just be the thing keeping you from intimately knowing Him.

I know a lot of people who would say they are Christians that have never read the Bible. They have read portions of the Bible, but they have never read through the entire Bible. I was also in this camp for most of my life. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I realized the importance of regular Bible reading. I guess I really always knew it was important, but that fact still didn’t seem to get me to pick up the book and read it on a daily basis. Even after I started reading my Bible “regularly”, I still felt like it wasn’t enough to just read a few scriptures a day and go on with my life.

Eventually I felt this conviction that I needed to read the entire Bible (yes, even the seemingly boring family history parts). I just came to this sudden realization that I was claiming to know the Bible, claiming to know God’s will, and even telling others about it, yet I had never actually read the whole thing for myself. Yeah, I had read most of it. I knew all the stories and the major themes, but I could not honestly say I had read the whole Bible word-for-word. That bothered me, and if you are a Christian that hasn’t read the entire Bible, it should bother you too. How can we fully share Christianity with others if we don’t know the whole story?

If you have read my previous post, “Daily Pursuit”, from 1/5/18, you have heard me talk about the importance of reading the Bible for yourself all the way through. I would compare a Christian who has never read the Bible to someone who says they are a dedicated fan of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Twilight but have never actually read the books. Maybe they’ve seen some of the movies, or read parts of the series, but that is about the extent of their knowledge. I think I would have a hard time believing that they were totally sold-out fans if that were the case.  I think the same is true of Christians who don’t read their Bible. Hearing the stories secondhand from a Sunday School teacher or a pastor is a start, but you can’t count on others to build your relationship with Christ. Only you can do that. Think of it this way: would you go on a Lord of the Rings themed trivia game show with someone who hasn’t read the books? Of course not! You want someone you can count on to know their stuff if you are going to be on national TV with money and prizes on the line! Then why do you think your non-Christian friends want to trust your word about the Bible if you haven’t read it? For them, there is more on the line than money.


My “Bible in a Year” Experience

I have now read the entire Bible on my own! Every book, every chapter, every page, and every verse. I can now truthfully and with certainty say “I have read the Bible!” Accomplishing this goal was such a monumental moment for me, for a lot of reasons. I used a “through the Bible in a year” plan so I could read it, in its entirety, in one calendar year. You’re probably thinking “That’s a big book. There’s no way I could read the whole thing in a year!” To be honest, it was not as difficult as I thought it would be! Starting out, I was pretty intimidated too, but just a few days into the plan, I realized it wasn’t so hard. With the plan I used, there was only about 15-20 minutes of reading per day. That is a much smaller time commitment than I originally thought it would be.

I am not going to say reading the Bible every day for a whole year was a breeze. In fact, there were days when I missed my daily reading and would have to make up for it other days. You will likely have to do the same at some point, and that is okay! There were even some days when I would be traveling or driving and would listen to my set of scriptures on an audio version of the Bible to stay caught up.

I learned a lot of things during my “Bible in a year” journey. I learned that God has so much to say to me, and I am not hearing it if I am not reading His Word. Everyone wants to hear from God and know His will. Fortunately for us, He has written it all down for us! We have access to all of that information in this book! All we have to do is open it and read it. That is great news! I have learned more about the heart of God and what He wants for me, and for all people.

So many things make more sense to me now that I have read the whole book start to finish. When we just read a story here and there, or a few verses at a time, it makes it very difficult to understand the meaning behind them. It is important to know the context of the verses you are reading. For this reason, it is crucial that you read the verses before and after to make sure you know what the author is talking about. There are also a lot of passages that might not make as much sense if you didn’t realize those same subjects were referenced in other parts of the Bible. For instance, if you only read the New Testament, there would be a lot of quotes and topics that you would pass over without fully understanding them because they are references to the Old Testament. You are missing out on a lot by not getting the whole picture.

Look, just because you read the Bible all the way through does not mean you will know all the answers to every Biblical question that ever comes up. It does not mean you will know everything there is to know about God. The truth is, we will never know it all. We are constantly learning and growing in Christ (Read Endless Pursuit from 4/6/18). That’s what I love about the Bible: the more you read, the more you discover. You can read a passage and it may speak to you in a totally different way than when you read it before. That is because God is constantly revealing things to us through His living and active Word. (Hebrews 4:12). For this reason, I will continue to read through the Bible each year. Daily Bible reading has become such a part of my routine that I would feel like something was missing if I were to stop. I want to continue hearing from God every opportunity that I get! The best way for me to do that is by reading His book.


Next Steps

I encourage you to read the Bible in its entirety. I know it may seem like a daunting task. I know you are probably busy and don’t have a lot of extra time to sit and read. Trust me, I get it. I hope that you will at least give it a try. There is more than one way to read a Bible, and I would love to help you choose a manageable reading plan.

  • Start by using the helpful guidelines from Daily Pursuit to choose a manageable reading plan that works for you.
  • Next, set aside a time of day when you can dedicate 30 minutes or less of uninterrupted time to reading the Bible and communicating with God.
  • Set a goal: Decide how often you want to read and determine when you want to complete your Bible reading. (Do you want to read through the Bible in a year? Two years? Three years?)

Personally, I decided I wanted to read through the Bible in one calendar year. I started on my birthday. For me, that was a great time to commit to starting something new and create a new healthy habit. It also gave me something to look forward to, as if it was a birthday present to myself. The feeling of accomplishment and the added closeness to God that I had was a pretty great birthday gift!

Whatever you do, don’t wait much longer. You don’t know what you are missing by putting this off. You have so much to gain and you won’t regret reading through the entire Bible, start to finish (Isaiah 55:11).

5.19.18

*For more information, or help picking out a plan that is right for you, please contact Rugged Pursuit through this website, or on Facebook by searching for @RuggedPursuit and send us a message. You can also contact us by email at ruggedpursuitdevo@gmail.com. We would love to help you find a resource that assists you in your journey with Christ.

Not My Messiah

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because He has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19

The Jews in the Bible had their own idea of what the Messiah would be like and what he would do. They expected a descendant of David to come and rule over Israel forever (Psalm 89:4). In the first century, the Jewish community was living under an extremely corrupt government system. They expected a Messiah to overthrow the oppressive Roman empire and take back the throne of David by force. They undoubtedly assumed this would be accomplished through brute strength, and a physical military victory. Their hope was that he would redeem them and reestablish peace to their nation.

This type of victory did not come from Jesus. He did not start wars, did not encourage His followers to commit violent acts against Roman officials, and He did not overthrow the throne. How then could this man be the Messiah? He came, He saw, but He did not conquer, at least not in their opinion. This rabbi fell very short of their expectations for a savior.

These first century Jews were not seeing the big picture. They were thinking very short term. The legacy of Jesus Christ extends way beyond His short life on Earth. He had plans too big to be confined in this world alone. He was achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs the things of this life (2 Corinthians 4:17). The problem is that they had a very temporal view of an eternal God.

In the book “The Forgotten Jesus” by Robby Gallaty, it says

“The people had built up in their minds a picture of what the Messiah would be like according to their own expectations, and they would not be able to accept what He had come to do.”

-Robby Gallaty, The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi, HarperCollins Publishers

Forgotten Jesus

Isn’t this exactly what we are doing to Jesus now? When He doesn’t work in our lives the way WE think He should, we discredit Him.

“If Jesus cared about me, I wouldn’t be unemployed.”

“If Jesus really loved me, my spouse wouldn’t have left me.”

“If God was real, He wouldn’t have let this happen.”

We judge God, and the goodness of God, based off of standards we have made up ourselves. These standards in no way reflect the personality or the will of God. We expect the Messiah to save us from all discomforts and all earthly pain. In reality, He came to do so much more than that. We are limiting God’s abilities. We tend to only see things from our point of view. We can’t see the big things God is doing because we are so focused on Him fixing our little things. If we don’t stop blaming Him for all of our “light and momentary troubles” (2 Corinthians 4:17), we are going to miss the fact that He is continually redeeming the world and everything in it.

Just like the Jewish community in the Bible, we yearn for a Messiah that works for us and grants our wishes and earthy desires. We selfishly think we can use Jesus to our own advantage. We live in such a self-obsessed culture that it is hard for us to imagine that there could be a greater plan at work that does not cater to our personal satisfaction and comfort. It is far past time that we come to terms with the fact that we do not know what is best for our lives, or our world. We don’t get to assign the benchmarks for what a Messiah is, or is not. Following Christ means that you take a back seat and trust His leadership.

It is true that the Jews needed a savior to rescue them from their oppression. What they could not see is that their tribulation was so much worse than physical bondage. What they needed was someone who could redeem a spiritually broken world, full of sin, and put it back together. Still today, we need someone who can erase the sins of our past and make us blameless in the sight of a Holy God. Jesus did just that when He, as a completely guiltless man, died a brutal death in order to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Jesus is still the Messiah, even if He’s not the kind you expected.

4.20.18

Endless Pursuit

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

One thing I love about the outdoors is that you can never learn all there is to know about nature. It is wild, free, untamed, and unpredictable. Every time I go into the wilderness I learn something new. The animals change their routes and routines. The weather can switch from calm to angry in the blink of an eye. The wind even changes its direction and blows wherever it pleases.  No matter how much I learn about the land, the animals, and the terrain, I will never have it all figured out. I love that. I love that I am constantly learning and growing as a woodsman.

As much time as I have spent watching wildlife, I still find it extremely challenging to pattern the whitetail deer. Just when I think I know what their next move will be, they give me the slip and take the long way around my stand, just out of reach. One day you will see them on one side of the field, the next day they will be on the other. While this can be frustrating from a hunter’s viewpoint, I can still appreciate the canny abilities of these clever creatures, and it keeps me wanting to pursue them even more!

The same is true of the Bible. No matter how much I read or study, I will never know it all. The Bible tells us that the Word is alive (Hebrews 4:12). No matter how many times I’ve read a particular passage or story, I still have times where it speaks to me in a completely new way. Sometimes I am learning something for the first time. Other times I recognize something that had previously gone unnoticed. And many times, I will read a verse that applies to me differently than it did in the past, depending on my current circumstances. God’s Word is alive and active and can meet you wherever you are.

I will never know all there is to know about God. His ways are often a mystery. His actions can be unexpected. There are some things that I will just never understand, until the day comes when I can ask Him face to face, and I am okay with that. In fact, I love that! It keeps me wanting to come back for more. It makes me want to learn as much as I can about God’s will, His wisdom, and His personality. If I already knew every step of God’s plan, there would be no need for faith. Plus, if I already knew every detail, where would the adventure be? As with deer hunting, a lot of the fun is in the pursuit. And if there is no challenge, there is also less reward.

It’s amazing the way God speaks to our very souls through nature and His written Word. Ultimately, they stay the same, while our understanding or perspective may change. As we learn and grow, we become more observant and aware of the amazing ways in which God is working and moving.

If you’re looking for a double dosage of excitement, take your Bible out into the deep woods, find a good log to sit on, and listen to the choir of chickadees sing as you dive into the Word. If you’re lucky, you just might learn more about both the Creator and His creation, all in one trip!

4.6.18

 

God Speaks Through Nature

In His hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to Him.
The sea is His, for He made it,
    and His hands formed the dry land.”

Psalm 95: 4-5

I feel closest to God when I am in the great outdoors. There is just something about being in nature that helps to revitalize my spirit. For me, there is no better way to get in touch with my Creator than by spending time enjoying His creation. I love to hunt, fish, hike, bike, and anything else a person can do outside of the boundaries of four walls. If it involves a forest, and lake, or a dirt road, count me in! This is just the way I am wired, I suppose, and I wouldn’t change it if I could. Whether drawing back on a bow string or casting a line in a mountain stream, every day is a good day when you are surrounded by nature.

I often get my best inspiration when I am outside enjoying nature. It is here, in the quiet places, where I don’t have any worries or distractions. I can watch the trees swaying peacefully back and forth, hear the birds whistling in the distance, and feel the wind on my face. Times like these bring to mind the scripture from Isaiah 55:12

“You will go out in joy and be led by peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (NIV)

All stress and responsibility fade away as I soak it all in. Fresh air fills my lungs as fresh insight fills my soul.

God Speaks Through Nature

Psalm 19: 1-2 says

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” (NIV)

I hear creation pouring forth speech quite clearly when I am outside in solitude, listening for the Creator. I hear His voice in the rustling of corn stalks, dried from the sun, ready for harvesting. I hear His voice in the rain, slowly pattering on the tree canopy above my head. I hear His voice in the animals, singing, bleating, and gobbling as they communicate back and forth. All of the unbelievable wonders of nature point straight to the mind-blowing, perfect design of God Almighty.

A big reason why I feel so much closer to God when I am in the outdoors has a lot to do with the fact that I consider myself an outdoorsman. I would rather be hunting and fishing than about anywhere else! I find great satisfaction in both preserving and enjoying the natural resources given to us by God. I feel a deep sense of obligation to be respectful of the land and responsible with the use of its wildlife. However, I don’t think that enjoying those particular hobbies is the only reason I feel closer to Him. A lot of it has to do with just being away from distractions, interruptions, and diversions. Physically removing myself from the hustle-and-bustle, fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world is the best way for me to clear my mind and focus on my relationship with God.

This thought process is the reason I started Rugged Pursuit; to get away from distractions and meet with God. The way I do that is through nature and outdoor activities. The whole idea behind Rugged Pursuit is based on the verse from Luke 5:16 that says

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (NLT)

*You can read about my inspiration for Rugged Pursuit devotionals in my introductory post called  Withdraw to a Quiet Place

Getting out into the woods and talking to God is just one more way I can strive to be like Jesus. And, honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way!

I’ve started a new category of posts that celebrates the natural resources that we are so fortunate to have been given. You can find these soul-refreshing writings by clicking the RP Outdoors tab on the main page. God has given us dominion over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all of the animals on Earth (Genesis 1:26)! So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy it!

3.9.18

Daily Pursuit

“…for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11

We have been told time and time again that reading the Bible every day is important. As Christians, we know we should be reading our Bible, but how do you find the time? Between work, school, your kid’s sporting events, and grocery shopping, your schedule is pretty well booked. With so many other responsibilities and activities in our lives, it’s hard to dedicate a slot just for reading your Bible. Isn’t it time you start being more productive with how you spend your time? Shouldn’t the things you give your time to have more of a lasting, even eternal, value?

Reading the Bible on a regular basis directly effects your relationship with God. How so? Well, the Bible is the Word of God. It’s one of the ways He communicates with us. When we read the Bible, we’re receiving guidance and instruction straight from the Creator of all things, the Author of our existence. Reading His Word gives us direct communication with Him. The Bible was written for us! It contains everything we need to live a Christian life and know God personally. It reveals to us His plans for the world, His intentions for us, and His very heart! If you want to know God, you need to read His book!

I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of putting Bible reading on the back burner. For most of my life, I did not read from my Bible daily. Maybe every week, sure, but not every day. I had a lot of other things to do. It isn’t that I didn’t think it was important, it’s just that I didn’t make it a priority!

Think about this scenario: You run into another shopper at the bookstore wearing black frame glasses and a lightning bolt ball cap. They recommend a series of books to you. The conversation goes something like this:

Shopper: “Let me tell you about this awesome series you should read! It’s about a boy who is attending wizard school! It’s so great! I’m a HUGE fan! I’m so on fire for these books! You probably won’t meet anyone who loves it more than me! I decorate my house with wizard pictures, I bought an authentic magic wand replica online, and every summer I go to the theme park based on the books!”

You: “That sounds interesting. How many books are in the series? Which is your favorite one?

Shopper: “Oh, I’m not really sure. I’m not much of a reader. I’ve only read a few chapters of the first book, and a couple from the third, and I read most of the last one. But I saw the movie! Well, part of it, I had to leave in the middle to pick up my son from practice. But what I saw was pretty cool.”

You: “So, you haven’t even read them? But you are telling me I should? I thought you were the biggest fan?

If this person was really a huge fan of these books, don’t you think they would have at least actually read the whole thing? I mean, how can they be the biggest fan but not really even know for sure what the books contain? I would have a very hard time believing they were really as big of a fan as they claimed to be.

Isn’t this exactly what we do with the Bible though? “I love Jesus! Jesus is my BFF! God is my co-pilot! I go to church every Sunday! That TV series about the Bible was so interesting! I have the coolest Jesus picture on my living room wall! It totally ties the room together.” Yet, we’ve never read the Bible all the way through. We have read enough of it to know the general theme. Our Sunday School teachers told us about it. We know all the key stories: Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, Jesus in the Manger. But do you really KNOW your Bible. Do you understand why all these stories are so important to the overall history of the world?

When you dedicate yourself to a regular routine of reading the Bible, you will begin to see that all of these books and stories fit flawlessly together into one big story revealing God’s perfect plan for the world and for YOU! You will quickly see that, amazingly, books written thousands of years ago apply directly to your life today. You might not believe that could be possible until you pick it up and read it yourself.

When I thought about that bookstore situation I mentioned earlier, I started to feel really convicted. “How can I claim to be a follower of God when I haven’t read the whole story? Can I really be as big of a follower as I thought when I’ve only heard the stories told by other people, read some portions here and there, and read some Christian themed books.” Over the years, I have read much of the Bible, probably even most of it, but I could not honestly say I had read the whole Bible. I decided right then that I would begin a plan to read every verse in the Bible in one year. I know what you are thinking. It sounded like a huge task to me too. I didn’t know how I was ever going to find the time to read such a large book in just one year. However, I knew it was important to do if I was going to really follow Christ in the best way I could. I used a plan offered through my church that already had all the verses mapped out. Each day there would be a portion of scripture from the Old Testament, and a portion from the New Testament. Once I began, I realized that most day’s readings only took me about 15-20 minutes. I was shocked to realize just how easy it was to get into a reading routine when you have a solid plan and break it down into manageable portions.

Choosing a Reading Method

I believe it is crucial to be reading the Bible regularly, if not daily. It is the best way to learn more about the God who created you and what His ultimate plan is for you. It is easier to commit to reading the Bible when you have a clear plan though. So, I have offered a few suggestions for some different ways you can get started. The plans below will help beginners starting out, as well as long-time Christians wanting a fresh look at scripture.

  • Read Through the Bible in a Year

I prefer this method over all others because it allows me to get the complete story of God’s word in a relatively short amount of time. Because you are reading every single verse in the Bible, it requires the most commitment, but I personally prefer to not miss anything! Here are a few different options for reading the Bible in one calendar year:

-Cover to Cover: start at the beginning of your Bible in Genesis and read straight through, ending with Revelation. Pros– it’s easy to keep your place. Simply put a bookmark where you stopped and pick it up the next day. Cons– It’s easy to fall out of the routine if you don’t have a plan of how much you need to read per day. Also, some portions of the Bible may be a lot to take in during one sitting. For instance; family genealogies. You may feel like you haven’t learned much when the day’s readings only consisted of people’s names on a page.

-Chronological: There are Bibles that are set up to read chronologically. This means you will read the Bible in the order the events happened in history. Bibles are not normally set up this way.

-One Year Bible: These Bibles are dated so you know exactly which verses to read on each day. Pros– very easy format to follow. Simply read the verses under the current date. Cons– the books and chapters are not in the same order as your regular Bible. For this reason, you would want to keep your “One Year Bible” handy so you don’t lose your place in the plan.

One Year Bible

Click to Shop One Year Bibles

-Various “Bible in a Year” Plans: There are hundreds of different reading plans available that allow you to read through the Bible in a year. Most are set up in a checklist style so you can be sure you’re reading the correct number of verses per day to allow you to finish in a year. These are available in printable versions, booklets, or even small folded pamphlets that are easy to carry. These small printed checklist plans are easy to tuck into any Bible so you’ll always have a reference to know that day’s verses.

  • New Testament Only

-There are plans set up to allow you to read through only the New Testament in a year. Or, you could simply use any “Read Through the Bible in a Year” plan and only read the N. T. verses that it lists for that day, and skip the Old Testament ones. Pros– You won’t have as much to read each day, which is good for people with minimal time. A good way for beginners to start reading the Bible regularly if they never have before. Cons– You will miss out on most of the Bible. I do literally mean most. The Old Testament is the majority of the Bible. There are many things you will read in the N. T. that are references to the O. T. that you may not understand if you haven’t read both. Also, “Old” doesn’t mean irrelevant. You have to remember that the Old Testament is the Bible that Jesus read when He was studying the scriptures and “The Law” when He was on Earth.

  • Bible Overview Plan

“The Story” by Zondervan Publishing: This book allows you to read through the Bible as one seamless story, much like reading a novel.

The Story 2

Click to Buy “The Story”

F-260 Plan by Replicate Ministries: a 260 day plan that gives you an overview of the Bible, without reading every single verse. There are five days of reading per week, allowing for “catch-up days” if you get behind.

F260

Click here for more on the F-260 Plan

Pros– These type of plans are great for people who are not use to reading the Bible on a regular basis, or for those who have never read the Bible before. These will give them a great foundation for understanding the basic themes and story of the Bible, without being overwhelmed.

  • Audio Bible

Listener's Bible

Click to Shop Audio Bibles

-Listen to the Bible on CD, through a cell phone app, or online. Audio versions of the Bible have two main styles. Single Voice versions will have one person reading the Bible. Dramatized versions will have multiple voices representing different characters, sound effects, and even background music, making it a more exciting experience. Pros– great for those who travel or commute to work. Also, good for catching up on days you didn’t have time to sit down and read. Cons– it’s easy to get distracted by other things going on around you. I also find it harder to remember what I’ve heard because I have no reference as to where one verse ended and another began.

As you can see, there are many tools and plans you can use to get into a regular Bible reading routing. However you decide to do it, just make sure you do something! Reading the Bible is crucial. Don’t just take someone’s word for it when it comes to learning about scripture. Just like the people in Acts 17, read it for yourself and see what you might be missing out on! I can guarantee you will feel closer to God! It’s hard to feel distant from God when you are reading His Word each day!

1.5.18

*For more information, or help picking out a plan that is right for you, please contact Rugged Pursuit through this website, or on Facebook by searching for @RuggedPursuit and send us a message. We can also be reached by email at ruggedpursuitdevo@gmail.com. We would love to help you find a resource that assists you in your journey with Christ.

Blood On Your Hands

“When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.”

Ezekiel 3:18 (NIV)

          Many Christians don’t feel equipped to “minister to the lost.” Most people find it difficult to talk about their faith at all, let alone to strangers. This is especially true if those strangers happen to be people they don’t particularly like. We hear all the time that we need to tell others about Christ. From the pulpit, they tell us to “evangelize” and to “make disciples,” but do we really even know what that means? What do we tell them? When do we tell them? How should we tell them? And is it really even that big of a deal? Out of all the people in the world, do we really have to be the ones to tell them about God? I mean, isn’t that what preachers get paid to do?

          Let’s take a look at a story from Ezekiel chapters 2-3. Ezekiel is told to be a prophet to Israel. At this point in time, Israel was a rebellious nation who had turned from the Lord. That meant that this task might be dangerous for Ezekiel. So, Ezekiel has to go risk his well-being, in order to preach to a stubborn nation, that may not even listen him! I have to wonder what Ezekiel is thinking about this assignment. It doesn’t exactly sound like an easy task.

What happens next is pretty bizarre. Ezekiel sees a hand holding a scroll stretched out to him. Verse 2:10 describes the scroll by saying, “On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.” The story carries over into Ezekiel chapter 3 and only gets stranger! Verse 3:3 says, “…eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” Then Ezekiel is told to go address the Israelites. Ezekiel 3:14 says he “went in bitterness and in the anger of [his] spirit.” That basically tells me he wasn’t thrilled about going, but feared the Lord even more than he feared the Israelites. The Lord tells Ezekiel to relay the following message to the people: Ezekiel 3:18-19 says,

 “When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.”

Whoa! That is quite a bit of responsibility. Either he tells them the message that God has for them or they will die, and it will be his fault. Notice that God didn’t say to Ezekiel “Go tell the priest to speak to the people” or “Go invite the Israelites to go to the temple with you to hear the message I have for them.” Instead, He says, “Go now to your people in exile and speak to them.” (v11).

What it comes down to is: we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Everyone needs the message God is sending to the Israelites. As Christians, we have a responsibility to tell people that they’ll die for their sins. If we do not tell them, we will be held accountable for their fate. If we don’t tell our family about Christ’s love and they die without knowing Him, it is our fault. If we don’t tell our friends about Christ’s grace and they die without following Him, it is our fault. If we don’t tell our coworkers about Christ’s sacrifice and they die without accepting his forgiveness, it is our fault. I know that sounds harsh but it is true. You are obligated to share Christ’s love with others, and when you don’t, the results are horrific.

So, what evil things are these people doing that will cause them to die? Sinning. What sins, specifically, would cause them to die? All of them! Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” It doesn’t say “some sins equal death”, or “certain sins equal death”. All sin kills. Ultimately, what our sin is causing is an eternal death, forever separated from God. That is what a person faces if they do not commit their lives to Christ and follow Him. There is good news though! The end of verse 23 gives hope! It goes on to say, “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin kills, but Jesus saves. We don’t have to die for our sins because Jesus already did it for us! Jesus is offering us a way out of our sentence. That is the message that is so important for us to spread!

Even once we have realized the importance of telling others about Christ, we still have some reservations. What if the person has questions? What if they disagree or get defensive? There are a few things we learn from Ezekiel that can better prepare us for taking God’s message of hope to the people around us.

  1. Listen to God’s Direction– (2:1) Always be prepared to rise to the occasion. Be in constant prayer and keep your eyes open to the opportunities God may want to reveal to you.
  2. Trust in God’s Provision– (2:6) Believe that God’s hand of protection will be on you as you carry out His plan. Know that the evils of this Earth are no match for the power of God.
  3. Fill Yourself with God’s Word– (3:1-3) Feast on the scriptures. Read God’s word and store it in your heart. Read your Bible while you eat your breakfast so you’re prepared to share it throughout the day. Always be filling yourself with the Word so it will pour out of your life. Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8), then go tell others about His goodness.
  4. Give Yourself to God’s Cause– (3:14) Do what God asks, even when it seems difficult, uncomfortable, or even dangerous. You may just find that it starts making more sense with each new step you take in His direction.

Don’t be afraid to fail. One thing to remember is that you are not responsible for saving the souls of the people you come into contact with. Only Jesus can save. However, you are responsible for telling them about Christ. Who else is going to tell them? If not you, then who? This isn’t a commandment for only a select group of people. It isn’t a message for pastors, or missionaries, or those “called to evangelize.” We are all called. If you are a Christian and you are breathing, you are called to tell others about Jesus. What if they turn you down? So what? You did what was asked of you. The rest is between them and God. Just do what God has commanded of you. If we are truly a people who love Jesus and follow Him with our lives, our hearts should be breaking for those who do not know Him. Our hearts should be breaking at the thought of a life without Christ. And our hearts should be breaking knowing that our loved ones are dying in their sin.

9.29.17

-Rugged Pursuit on YouTube-

Not Your Battle: pt 2

*This post is the second of a two part series. “Not Your Battle: pt 1” was posted on 7/4/17*

“…Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s…You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…”

2 Chronicles 20:15-17

          In “Not Your Battle: pt 1” we talked about what to do in seemingly hopeless situations. We read the story about the Aramean army coming in to capture the prophet Elisha so they could get the upper hand against the Israelites. When it seemed Elisha and his servant were surrounded and outnumbered, God revealed Himself in a big way and spared their lives. They didn’t rely on their own strength to fight off the Aramean army, but instead handed the battle over to God.

          When we come up against dark forces in our own lives, we don’t always turn our struggles over to God right away do we? Just like Elisha’s servant, we tend to let our fear cast a shadow over our faith. However, there is another story I want to share with you. A story of another man who was also up against a vast army. Even though he was in a similar situation, his response was much different.

          Read the full text of 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. In verses 2-4 we read,

“Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea.” Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek Him.”

We can learn a lot from King Jehoshaphat. He hears terrifying news of a large army coming to attack him and his first response is to inquire of the Lord. Is that your first response? Or more of a last resort? All the people of Judah fasted along with Jehoshaphat so they could focus their attention on seeking the Lord for help and guidance. They were so serious about seeking God that they ceased eating for a designated time so they could devote more time praying. Now that is the response of a people who are pursuing God wholeheartedly!

          Next, Jehoshaphat stands in front of the assembly of people and begins crying out to God. He begins his prayer by recognizing God’s power and His rule over the world. Then, he recounts several instances throughout history where God has come through for them. Lastly, he asks God for help. In verse 12 he says “…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” If we want to get a response from God, why not use King Jehoshaphat’s model of prayer shown here? Let’s break it down:

  1. Hears devastating news
  2. Drops everything to devote himself to prayer
  3. Recounts all the times God has accomplished great works in the lives of his people
  4. Admits he is helpless without God’s hand in the situation
  5. Keeps his eyes on God while he awaits God’s action

          A response from the Lord is exactly what King Jehoshaphat received! The Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel as he stood in the crowd. He relays the message in verse 15, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” The Lord goes on to give instructions and where to go to find the location of the enemy forces. In verse 17 He says,

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” 

Once again, they didn’t pick up their swords or their bows right away and lead a charge on the enemy. Instead, Jehoshaphat appointed men to… sing. Yes, sing. I know. Weird. I am willing to bet that singing isn’t a very popular tactic in today’s military, but this just reminds us that God’s ways aren’t always our ways. He is often unconventional. Throughout the Bible, God provides victories in ways that don’t seem to make sense to us, just so there can be no doubt that it was His doing, not our own.

          There’s more to this story so keep reading to find out exactly how King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered. Isn’t it interesting how God can work in our lives when we just let Him? He loves to provide, we just don’t like to ask. The next time I am faced with an obstacle, I am going to remember this story. It will be a good reminder to praise God at all times (maybe play some worship music!), give up control, and let God work!

8.4.17

*To read the second post in this two part series click  “Not Your Battle: pt 1”  (posted on 7/4/17)*

-Rugged Pursuit on YouTube-

Not Your Battle: pt 1

*This post is the first of a two part series. Click link for Not Your Battle: pt 2*

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

2 Kings 6:16-17

          Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt like you were outnumbered, outgunned, hopeless, and helpless? I’m sure you can think of at least a few times when you were vulnerable or defenseless. Sometimes we feel like we are surrounded by strong forces, whether it be human or spiritual. Your boss is coming down on you. Your family cuts you out. Your peers gang up on you. You just can’t seem to measure up to the expectations others have for you, or you fall short of the goals you have set for yourself.

          These things cast a dark shadow over our lives. You start to feel inferior or incapable. You are scared about what the future might hold for you and you are afraid you won’t be able to face the challenges ahead of you. You might be tempted to just run and hide from the things that you come up against, but there is hope. Our hope comes from knowing we don’t have to face our enemies alone. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of God intervening and taking charge of these kind of situations. Today we will focus on a story of Elisha and his servant from 2 Kings 6:8-22.

          The Israelites and Arameans were at war with one another. The prophet, Elisha, was providing intel to the king of Israel on the plans and whereabouts of the Arameans. This, of course, enraged the king of Aram so he demanded his officers to tell him who was betraying them to the Israelites. They told him, “Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” (verse 12). The king then found out where Elisha was and sent horses and chariots and a strong force to capture him (verse 14). They snuck in at night and surrounded the city.

          When the servant of Elisha woke up the next morning, he saw that they were surrounded by a large Aramean army. Naturally, he was terrified. He asks Elisha, “What shall we do?” In verse 16, Elisha tells the man not to be afraid because “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” It certainly didn’t seem that way to the servant, and I’m sure he was feeling doubtful. However, in verse 17, the Lord revealed to him what Elisha was referring to. His eyes were opened and he was able to see that the hills were full of heavenly armies. The servant was unable to see this at first. He was blinded by fear. He was so afraid and overwhelmed by his situation that he couldn’t see that God was already protecting him.

          This man lacked faith. Do you ever have a lack of faith when you come up against unconquerable obstacles? Maybe you don’t have soldiers knocking on your door, but you still have battles to fight. You wake up to emails pressuring you to finish the project faster. You wake up to kids that require more of you than you think you can give. You grapple with habits and addictions that you just can’t shake.  So what do we do? How do we face the uncertainty? Let’s learn from the story in 2 Kings 6.

Here are a few steps we can take:

  1. Ask
  2. Open Your Eyes
  3. Give it to God
  • Ask– the servant asks “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” We don’t always have all the answers. We need the help of other people. A different perspective can give great clarity. Surround yourself with Godly mentors that can guide you through tough circumstances. More importantly, ask God. Prayer isn’t always the first thing we do in a crisis. Usually we try to think of everything we can do to fix a problem on our own. When we can’t fix it, hide it, or pay money to make it go away, then we let God try, as a last resort. That’s backwards. Just ask.
  • Open Your Eyes (and your heart)- Look through the eyes of faith. God has more resources than we could ever hope to have. Spiritual resources are more easily obtainable than we think, even if we can’t see them. “God of Angel Armies” is more than a clever lyric from a church song. God’s armies are always there, fighting battles that we don’t see through our human eyes and protecting us from dangers we don’t even know exist. If you don’t see the ways God is working in your life, ask Him for a spiritual eye check.
  • Give it to God– Once the servant was able to see the vast armies around him and Elisha, he realized that he was no longer outnumbered. What happens next may come as a surprise. Elisha and his servant don’t pick up their swords and charge the enemy, like we might have expected. They let God take over and do as He pleases. They give the battle over to God. We sometimes forget that step. We don’t have to fight every war. We just need to give up control so God can deliver us.

          Next time you come up against a hurdle that you can’t clear, ask God. Take a look around with clear eyes, and let God work. You don’t always have to have a solution, you just need to trust in the Master.

7.4.17

*To read the second post of this two part series click Not Your Battle: pt 2*

-Rugged Pursuit on YouTube-

Cultural Trends & Fair Weather Friends

“So, because you are lukewarm -neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:16

1st century Jews were expecting a Messiah that would rescue them out of their oppression, strike down their enemies, and lead them to victory. They were expecting a king, a warrior, a powerful leader. What they got was Jesus. Now to you and I, having Jesus means everything! But to them, it was a disappointment. He wasn’t the man that fulfilled their expectations for a messiah.

Imagine how this timeline played out:

  • First, they hear news of a messiah coming to deliver them.
  • Next Jesus shows up and people are ecstatic. They think all their days of mistreatment are finally going to be reconciled.
  • Jesus gains tons of fans and is treated like a celebrity.
  • Shortly after, He is killed by hanging from a plank of wood.

Many of the 1st century Jews now believe they’ve been duped. They thought He was going to overthrow the government and rule them as king. How could He deliver them if He’s dead? They lost hope when He was crucified. Many gave up on Him and went their own ways, no longer believing He was who He said He was. He quickly went from stardom to disappointment in their eyes.

Then 3 days later, He came back to life. The people who witnessed it and heard of it were once again ecstatic at the news. Those who knew Jesus and His mission knew He was the risen Messiah and He was fulfilling exactly what He said He would do. But not all believed. Not nearly as many as before the crucifixion. His followers went around spreading the news of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven so that people would once again believe in Jesus.

And here we are now, in the present. I think we’re still on the mission of getting everyone back on board with the belief that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah. So where do we take it from here? Do we continue believing in Him and trusting that His words and teachings are true? Or do we start going along with the general consensus of the culture; that Jesus is dead and is no longer relevant? Do we still believe in Christ when His ways are questioned? Are we still His fans when His worldview conflicts with ours? Will we be yet another generation to turn our backs on Jesus just because He moved in a way that didn’t meet up to the expectations we created for Him?

When He died on the cross and was abandoned by that crowd who gave up on Him, it only proved who the true believers were. It separated the followers from the mere fans. The hot from the cold. I wonder if something similar is happening in our world again now. When biblical principles don’t match up to our cultural or political beliefs, how do we determine which to lean into? There are things the world accepts, embraces, and encourages that the scriptures are simply against. But many are too afraid to stand up for Christian values because they fear that they might be labeled judgmental or intolerant.

This used to really trouble me. However, there’s something I’ve come to realize. This doesn’t really mean people have changed their minds about Jesus, necessarily. It only shines a light on those who were never really fully committed to Him in the first place. When situations get sticky, people who aren’t “all in” throw in the towel and stay out of the mess. Sure, we may be noticing less people are claiming to be “Christians” than in years past. But I don’t think that really means people are no longer following Christ. I think it just means that the posers have decided to take off their masks. I think the roadblocks Christians are facing today are just hurdles and obstacles that allow only the truly committed to press on. We all have to decide how far we are willing to go to follow Christ. Will we hold to what the Bible says is true, or go along with the trends and agendas of the times?

Revelation 3:16 shows us that we need to pick a side, because we can’t be on the fence when it comes to God. Are we hot, or are we cold? Are we with Him, or are we against Him? There aren’t less Christians in the world. There are just less people pretending to be Christians. And that’s okay, because Jesus doesn’t want fair weather friends. He wants fully committed followers.

6.17.17