Be Humble and Content

It may be a small book in the Bible, but it tells it like it is. Go James!

James 4

Friendship with the World

1Why do you fight and argue with each other? Isn’t it because you are full of selfish desires that fight to control your body? 2You want something you don’t have, and you will do anything to get it. You will even kill! But you still cannot get what you want, and you won’t get it by fighting and arguing. You should pray for it. 3Yet even when you do pray, your prayers are not answered, because you pray just for selfish reasons.

4You people aren’t faithful to God! Don’t you know that if you love the world, you are God’s enemies? And if you decide to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5Do you doubt the Scriptures that say, “God truly cares about the Spirit he has put in us”? [a]6In fact, God treats us with even greater kindness, just as the Scriptures say,

“God opposes everyone who is proud,

but he is kind to everyone who is humble.”

7Surrender to God! Resist the devil, and he will run from you. 8Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Clean up your lives, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you people who can’t make up your mind. 9Be sad and sorry and weep. Stop laughing and start crying. Be gloomy instead of glad. 10Be humble in the Lord’s presence, and he will honor you.

Saying Cruel Things about Others

11My friends, don’t say cruel things about others! If you do, or if you condemn others, you are condemning God’s Law. And if you condemn the Law, you put yourself above the Law and refuse to obey either it 12or God who gave it. God is our judge, and he can save or destroy us. What right do you have to condemn anyone?

Warning against Bragging

13You should know better than to say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to the city. We will do business there for a year and make a lot of money!” 14What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? It is nothing more than mist that appears for only a little while before it disappears. 15You should say, “If the Lord lets us live, we will do these things.” 16Yet you are stupid enough to brag, and it is wrong to be so proud. 17If you don’t do what you know is right, you have sinned.

Source: BibleGateway.com (Contemporary English Version)

It’s not easy for some to be content with what they have. The desire to keep up with friends and family can consume us. Especially when those same people continue to succeed and are able to afford to live such lifestyles … OR when they can’t really afford it but rely on credit cards making it appear to others that they can. But that’s beside the point. The point is that we think, for some selfish and covetous reason, that we need such things in order to be happy and content.

We should just be still and realize that we can be content with much less. We truly can be content with fewer and less elaborate possessions. Homes don’t need to be decorated like display homes. Yards don’t need to be adorned with beautiful gardens. While visually pleasing, that shouldn’t be what we desire as a means of happiness and self-fulfillment. To live life believing that having such things proves your worthiness of living among a certain “class” of society is a such a falsehood. If that’s what it takes, then I’m not so sure I would want to live among that class.

In search of the humble and content class! :D

The Case for The Bible | Evidence

I bet you thought I left yet another thing unfinished. Nope! I may get sidetracked, but sooner or later, I do get back to what I started. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes years. In this case, it has been 2.5 months since I started reading New Evidence and blogging about it.

Saturday was my first full day off after working 12 days in a row, so I spent about six hours of it getting through part one of four in this book. Part one was “The Case for The Bible”. After a bit of history explaining how we got the Bible, including the materials used to write it, some interesting things were pointed out. First of all, Christ himself witnessed to the Old Testament talking about the law, the prophets, the writings (Psalms), and the martyrs throughout the entire OT from Abel to Zechariah. (I like how that’s A-Z!)

When speaking to the historical reliability of the Bible, more interesting points were made:

  1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable.
  2. Fallible interpretations do not mean fallible revelation.
  3. Make sure you understand the content of the passage.
  4. Interpret difficult passages in light of clear ones.
  5. Don’t base teaching on obscure passages. The main things are the plain things. If something is important, it will be clearly taught in scripture, and probably in more than one place. When a passage is unclear, never conclude that it means something else or opposes another plain teaching.
  6. The Bible is a human book with human characteristics.
  7. Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it’s false. Sometimes things are complimentary, not contradictory.
  8. New Testament citations of the OT need not always be exact.
  9. Context will dictate whether a word should be taken literally or figuratively.
  10. General statements don’t necessarily mean universal promises.
  11. Later revelation supersedes previous revelation. God did not reveal everything at once, but that doesn’t make contradiction.
  12. Archaeology has found evidence that proves the accuracy of the Bible.
  13. The Bible is trustworthy and historically reliable.

Translated text of the Bible compared to that of 1,000 years earlier proved to be word for word identical in more than 95% of the text. The other 5% were merely variations in spelling – nothing that affected the message. In 184 cases, evidence shows that for 2300-3900 years, the text of the proper names in the Hebrew Bible have been transmitted with minute accuracy.

Then, of course, there are the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Part two is “The Case for Jesus” – just over 200 pages. Will it be a week? Two weeks? Another 2.5 months? My goal was to finish by the end of January. I’m changing that to finish by the end of March!

Agnosticism, Skepticism, Pick an ‘ism’ | Evidence

The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict

This is the fairly large book by Josh McDowell that I found in my closet the other day. I remember buying it years ago when the left side of my brain took over and started looking for proof of many things in the Bible. I was already embarking on other Bible studies and reading the entire Bible cover to cover, though. By the time I finished those, I was satisfied … for a while.

I read “A Case for Christ” and was also satisfied with this historical facts listed in that book. I believe Jesus existed, and he was a good man. What I still struggled with were the supernatural acts of a being that no one could see, hear, or touch, and that this being was Jesus’s father and also Jesus himself. Immaculate conception???

So I picked up “A Case for a Creator” and was overwhelmed because it was a much harder read than the other book. I never finished it and have no idea what happened to either book. So I’m hoping that this Evidence book will fill in some blanks for me.

The series of posts I write while reading this book will be called “Evidence”, and it will be a place where I share my questions, feelings, doubts, answers, and revelations. My first question that I even jotted down right in the book after reading the author’s note in the beginning is this…

Why do people need to rely on something (God, Jesus, etc.) to be a loving, forgiving, generous, unselfish person? It is possible to be all of these things without believing in something you can’t see, touch, or know is real.

Josh (the author) said it himself in his note…

How could something as flimsy as Christianity stand up to an intellectual examination?

This is something very personal, and I know there are a lot of people out there who think you shouldn’t discuss “religion”. I think they’re wrong. You probably shouldn’t push your own beliefs on others, but there’s nothing wrong with discussing religious or spiritual beliefs. So feel free to reply to any post in this series with your thoughts, insight, or questions. {All replies are subject to approval. Any blatant attacks on other comments will not be approved. I invite healthy, civilized discussion only.}

I want to describe where I stand going into this study, but I don’t know how to explain thoroughly enough and still keep it brief or easy to follow. My mind is hyperactive!

OK, so I’ve already mentioned my struggle with the supernatural-ness of it all. My mind wanders to all the cults out there and how people say they’re so bad. People are easily swept into believing all sorts of things that Christians say are false. How do I know Christianity isn’t also a cult? I’m not saying it is! Don’t get your panties in a bunch! I know it’s so much bigger than any other following, but it clearly has many of the same characteristics of what we call cults.

My biggest issue with organized religion is the recitation of creeds in unison to profess our faith. These things are not in the Bible. Why do we have to do this? The Lord’s Prayer is in the Bible. I have no issue reciting that one in unison.

Then there’s the belief that “the Lord will provide”. This is even straight from the Bible, but it’s certainly tossed around by many. How do we know this supernatural being will provide? What if things turn out how they do simply because that’s how they were going to turn out – period? If God knows the number of our days and knows what will happen, then how can prayer change things? Those two things are contradictory. If we change things through prayer, then what God already knew would happen isn’t going to happen that way anymore. Is your head spinning yet? Do you have an answer for that one? Where does this free will come into play if He has already planned our days? Do we have a point A and point B in place but alter that path along the way by our own free will? Is that how it works?

These are just a few of the things I psychoanalyze. How do I know the whole concept of God isn’t purely psychological? The power of suggestion is a just that – a powerful thing! Couldn’t the idea of a Holy Spirit dwelling within us be a powerful psychological suggestion?

To the other extreme, science would have us believe that humans began as an amoeba and slowly evolved over time. They also have said that we evolved from apes. If so, then why are they still in existence? However, if you think about how life develops now from two single cells that join together and create an entire body full of vital organs and an elaborate central nervous system in just nine months, there’s no denying how amazing that is!

I see how happy and content people with strong faith are; how full of joy they are. I want that. I also see how uncomfortable some people are around those who are exuberantly overflowing with their love of Christ. I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. Then I see the worst – people who call themselves Christians but turn their backs on people who don’t believe exactly what they believe. I can’t accept that. Love others as you love yourself. Live as Jesus lived. I don’t remember reading anything about Jesus turning his back on anyone. If I’m wrong, please give me chapter and verse so I can look it up.

Now that I’ve laid this all out here, it should be interesting to document what I learn from this book, which is technically not a true book but a compilation of notes prepared for the author’s lecture series, “Christianity: Hoax or History?”

Primping – How Much is Too Much?

Fancy hairdos, jewelry, and fine clothing is pretty much poo-poo’d in the bible. So would this be wrong to wear?

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. ~ 1 Peter 3:3

So how much is too much? Obviously we have to wear clothes. Going naked certainly would be even more of a shocker in the eyes of strict Christians, no doubt! I respect the belief of the Amish, but I don’t think we all need to go to that extreme either. I think when we place too much importance on what we’re wearing, that is when there’s a real issue. We don’t need to care so little that we dress in rags or are a disheveled mess wherever we go. I prefer to dress for comfort and to look comfortably put together. I don’t seek out popular designer labels, and I prefer not to have the name of any designer outwardly visible if at all possible. Even if I had much to hang out, I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting it. My cleavage (or lack thereof) is not what I want people to notice just as much as I don’t want to advertise who made my clothes or accessories.

There are some other religions that don’t wear any jewelry (not even wedding bands). It’s funny … I don’t wear a lot of jewelry most of the time as it is, but I like to make it. I rarely put earrings in and if we go out anywhere, I’ll put on my wedding ring and maybe a bracelet or necklace that I’ve made. Occasionally, if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll put a ring on my other hand. :D

The hair is another story. I don’t do braids, and I entertained the notion of letting it go gray naturally. Then I couldn’t take it anymore and covered the gray with a color as close to my natural color as I could get. However, I do pull my hair back to get it out of my face, and I fasten it with some sort of hair clip. I’m not concerned about drawing attention to it – just getting it out of my face. I considered putting highlights in it again and even made an appointment for later this month, but I think I’m going to cancel that and just keep up with the cheap, store-bought remedy for the grays.

Bottom line for me… I prefer a classy, slightly trendy, pulled-together look for myself in fashions that aren’t too young or too old for my age and that work with my body type. Simple, no muss/no fuss works for me! Every now and then, I may add a tiny bit of bling to accessorize. On the other hand, if you happen to drop by when I’m working during the day, you’ll likely find me in comfy pants and a plain old T-shirt. This verse doesn’t mention makeup, but even that is fairly minimal for me. Just enough to highlight my eyes and even out skin tone for the most part to look as natural as possible. And there you have it! Not plain Jane, but not one to seek attention by my appearance.

The more I think about it, I’m gathering a different meaning. You can spend an extraordinary amount of time primping and adorning yourself until you feel beautiful on the outside, but it means nothing if you don’t possess inner beauty that shines through all of that!

Are You Texting in Church?

Bible app on phone could raise this question!

No! I wasn’t texting or reading Facebook updates during church. :) I have a Bible app where I can take notes and even send versus to social network sites. I downloaded the YouVersion Bible app, which was promoted by LifeChurch. No more worrying about remembering to bring a pen. No more wasted paper. Everything I need – compact – easy! Technology!

Navigate to book & chapter. Select verse(s), then tap & hold or double tap to bring up menu.

 


Enter a title and notes.

Share on social network sites if you wish!

How to Pray | Matthew 6:5-8

Do you bow your head submissively, or do you lift your face & hands to the heavens?

When given The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, we’re told to pray in private:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

There are probably just as many references in the Bible to bowing in submission as there to lifting up faces and hands. When you raise both of your hands and hold them out, palms up, in private, what do you feel? If you’re out of shape, you probably tire quickly. :) But seriously, you may not feel much of anything. If you’re not too self-conscious to raise them in a group or in church, what do you feel? Exposed? Vulnerable? I do!

I understand that bowing our heads shows that we acknowledge that we are weak and the Lord reigns over us. There’s a place for that. When confessing our sins and praying for forgiveness, sure! When bringing requests to God in prayer (as in praying for the sick), we humble ourselves before Him by bowing our heads to show that we accept His will. When praising God, I can totally see lifting up our hands and faces to Him. Here’s an interesting article on “How We Pray“.

Bowing our heads, closing our eyes, and folding our hands may feel like hiding (praying in private). I get that. Lifting hands is hard for many because it’s out of their comfort zones. I get that, too. It’s easy to get “swept away” if you let go and just lift your hands, though. There’s an energy that fills you completely when you lift your hands in prayer. No matter what your beliefs are, you can’t deny this. Whether it’s the Holy Spirit filling us or other energy that runs through all existence in ways we will never understand, it is there. Either way, I believe it’s possible that it’s all one and the same.

One in a Million, by Priscilla Shirer | Women’s Study | What’s My Stronghold?

I joined a video & workbook based study group on this “One in a Million” series because the description in the newsletter read:

” “One In a Million” – Do you hear about the power and greatness of God, but seldom experience it? This six-week, video-based study features Priscilla Shrier, author, Bible teacher, and conference speaker, as she helps us to understand how to experience His power, hear His voice, and live in the abundance He promises.”

That sounded exactly like what I needed right now. I want to know how to experience His power, hear His voice, and live in the abundance He promises. So the first video was OK, but the five days of homework in the workbook wasn’t what I expected. It focused on understanding what’s holding us back from a closer walk with God. Many questions tried to get us to single out lifestyle sins standing in the way. Maybe I’m not understanding this because I ran through the list of “thou shalt nots” in my head and seriously couldn’t think of anything.

I don’t have any other “gods” before Him.
I don’t worship idols I’ve made myself.
I occasionally say “God damn it!” and more than occasionally say “Oh my God!” (Is that taking His name in vain?)
I’m not great at keeping the Sabbath day holy.
I honor my parents – I have respect for them and love them but also have my own mind.
I don’t murder.
I don’t commit adultery, nor do I even think of it.
I don’t steal.
I don’t bear false witness against my neighbor.
I don’t covet anything my “neighbor” has. I’m quite satisfied with what I have.

So what am I missing. I don’t understand what she means by “lifestyle” sin. What choices am I making that would be a sinful hindrance to my walk with God? My main problem is that I struggle with handing absolutely everything over to a “power” and “presence” that I can’t see, feel, touch, or truly know. This is where the Tao makes more sense to me. It’s logical. It’s not evil, and nowhere does it express that God does not exist.

The next newsletter had this description for the study:

“God has abundant life waiting for those who allow Him to take the lead in daily living. ―One in a Million is an opportunity for you to experience your deliverance from strongholds, to conquer your wilderness living, and to claim your God-given inheritance.”

I suppose I do have some sort of stronghold. I think it’s just my own mind trying to analyze and make sense of what I can’t see. Good and bad exist. I can understand that. Yin and Yang – there’s a balance. When you translate it into supernatural beings, God and Satan, I have trouble grasping that as fact.

Curiosity is killing this cat. We missed church this morning because we’re sluggards! But I’m going to get dressed and go to this class. I want to see where this is going and if I can figure out my invisible stronghold.

A Letter to God Regarding Time

Dear God,

I was wondering if I might put in a request for the addition of one day to the week? I know it would completely obliterate the original story in Genesis, but perhaps we could revise the Bible to say that on the seventh and eight day, you rested. Technically, on our seventh day, we don’t completely rest because we have to get up early and rush to get ready to gather in Your house to for worship and fellowship. An eighth day would be marvelous to be able to sleep in and just lounge about the house the entire day.

This wouldn’t change work or school schedules of course! Work and school would still only be five days per week. We would have a three-day weekend, though. How many times do you hear pleas for more hours in a day? So give us a whole 24 hours more and call it a day!

Amen

Hello 2010! – “Do the Tao”

Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching

Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.

Happy New Year!

Hello 2010!  January 1 is essentially just another day.  It is yesterday’s tomorrow and tomorrow’s yesterday.  However, we choose to look at it as a new beginning and not just a continuation of the preceding days.  We wipe our slates clean – start over with a blank canvas – resolve to improve various areas of our lives.  So on this first day of a new year, I’m dipping my brush in some fresh paint to begin filling my blank canvas. Continue reading