I am that guy….


Everybody knows that guy. You know, the person that you just don’t hang out with. The kind of guy that has a different set of moral standards than you. He’s a little weird with his world views and outspoken opinion. Did you see what he had the audacity to post online yesterday? Where does he get off dressing like that? Why can’t he just get a grip and quit thinking that way? I might like him better if he would just be me more like me!

Really we could be talking about a man or woman. Doesn’t matter how much a person claims to be open-minded we all know “that guy”. That one person that you just don’t like. The problem is we are judgmental beings. Let’s look at two different guys in the Bible.

Luke 18:9-14 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

This is that guy you would expect to be at church every Sunday. He knows scripture, is fluent in the customs and traditions of church service. This guy would never even consider stopping with the boys after work and having a couple of beers. In his mind it’s justifiable to look down on others. After all, other people live in a dark, dirty world that is unfit for the presence of a righteous man!

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

This guy is comfortable in his dark, dirty world where profanity is common vocabulary. The world this guy lives in has a set of standards that are dictated by social acceptance rather than moral absolutes. This guy doesn’t know how to sing worship songs and is very uncomfortable when the offering plate is passed in front of him. Just the fact he is in church at all is a small miracle. In his mind others judge him because he is not “religious” enough. But this guy knows he is a sinner in need of forgiveness.

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Some days I am the Pharisee and sometimes the tax collector. I can push people away with my self-proclaimed righteous behavior. It is easy to judge others by their actions, clothing, speech, or a variety of other things. But sometimes the mirror is not so foggy and I can see the filthy wreck of a man I am. What a blessing it would be if I was that guy who always understood how God views him!

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

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Conflict


Conflict is an inevitable part of life. The real problem is when emotions are elevated beyond reason. A wise person said when logic and emotion enter the battlefield emotion always wins.

The local church congregation, being made up of humans, is not immune to the possibility of personal conflict becoming a destructive force. With some advanced thinking and preparation it is possible to prevent conflict from escalating. The essence of conflict management is not prevention as much as it is to find a resolution. Conflict management is a subject of such depth that it would require multiples of hours of discussion to explore all the concepts available. In this post I will briefly overview five levels of conflict and some tips to assist in resolution. My desire is that you are able to apply the information presented to your ministry and personal life.

In order to understand any concept we first need to define it. The definition we will use for conflict is; “Striving for one’s own preferred outcome, which, if attained, precludes the attainment by others of their preferred outcome, thereby producing hostility”.

Some things to know about conflict

Not all conflict is sin. Here are a couple of verses to ponder;

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Not all conflict is unhealthy. Appropriate conflict management is a sign of health for any relationship. If you think about it a game of checkers is a form of conflict.

Conflict does not always have a long-term negative outcome. In fact the gospel message spread because of conflict. (Nero persecuting the church). The position of deacon came about because of conflict. (Acts 6)

Progress is rarely made without conflict. Conflict is the companion of change! There are times that conflict is predictable such as;

  • Change in leadership
  • Economic change
  • Change in tradition
  • Change in a program or system
  • Change in team members
  • Changing lanes in traffic in a large truck, or maybe that’s just me…..

Most conflict issues begin with poor communication and not taking the time to understand or be understood. It is essential to learn and use biblical conflict management skills. That is not the same as using the Bible to beat someone with. Conflict does not go away just because we ignore it. Typically it will grow and escalate until we have no choice but to deal with it.

In Matthew 18:20 Jesus said “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (NIV), but I say where two or more gather there will be issues to resolve.

There are different degrees or levels of conflict. Speed Leas is credited for defining five levels of conflict that must be addressed in different ways.

I.  PROBLEMS TO SOLVE (Annoyance)

At this level people feel discomfort in one another’s presence. Level 1 conflict is a daily part of life. A few example causes of level one conflict are;

  • A slow driver
  • A fast driver (ever notice anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster is a maniac)
  • Speakers that don’t use “your style of talking”
  • Falling asleep in church
  • Aunt Bertha bringing that green jello dessert to the holiday dinner. (Okay, I added that for humor……)

At this level people are focused on problem solving. It is possible to have short-lived anger or even denial of hostile feelings. Rational thought and clear communication is present. People are open to other opinions.

II.  DISAGREEMENTS (Arguments)

Level 2 conflict is not yet a win/lose destructive level; however, it is more difficult and emotionally charged than level 1. People involved in level 2 conflict are less concerned with solving a problem and more concerned about self-protection. Some indicators of level 2 conflict are;

  • Involving others in their discussion to justify their case and plan a strategy
  • The language shifts from specific to general, (“I am not interested in what you are talking about” becomes “you are oblivious to reality”)
  • People involved tend to withhold information that may enhance the other or hurt themselves.
  • Hostile humor
  • Labeling (name calling)
  • Distancing
  • People begin to choose sides.

This is the point when things start to get hairy. People can permit arguments to linger by not responding properly. If someone is involving you in their discussions of someone else ask clear questions such as “did you see or hear that yourself?”, “were there any witnesses?” Be sure of the context of the issue and pray with the person for a peaceful resolution. DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Remember “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge” (Proverbs 15:1-2)

III.  CONTESTS (I want my way)

This is the point where the conflict enters the win/lose stage. The focus shifts from self-protection to winning. Competition enters in as one party wants to win while making the other party lose. Level 3 is more complicated and usually has more than one problem to resolve. Perceptions of the real problem are very different, and people begin to depend on their gut feelings rather than on the facts.

Level 3 conflicts usually require a third-party to intervene.  These types of conflict can be hard to resolve.

Occasionally we encounter a divisive person. A divisive person usually tries to turn any difference of opinion into a contest. NOT ALL PEOPLE IN A LEVEL 3 CONFLICT ARE DIVISIVE PEOPLE. If in fact it is a divisive person, it is best if someone of authority tries to work with the person through proper counseling. The goal of counseling is to help the individual grow through the process. Titus 3:10 says “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that have nothing to do with him.”

IV.  FIGHT/FLIGHT(Someone has to go)

At level 4 the goal of the parties changes from wanting to win to wanting to hurt or get rid of the other. At this level people will not even speak to each other.

V.  INTRACTABLE SITUATIONS (War)

This level is unmanageable. At level 5 the situation is out-of-control and the conflict is not solvable unless there is divine intervention and the parties are open to that. The mentality is “How can I destroy the other side?” Annihilation is the goal. The other party is viewed as harmful to society at large and needs to be removed. It is possible for one person to be at level 5 conflict while the other is at level 1.

There are situations that a person is completely justified in getting mad. We are given emotions as a gift and tools, not as a punishment. But remember, you may have the right to be angry but you never have the right to harm yourself or others!

The goal of conflict should be to reach resolution 

Resolution usually does not always prove one side totally wrong and the other side totally right. Keep focus on the issue. Keep one issue on the table at a time. Cooperation and understanding should be the goals even if both sides are in opposition to each other. If the issue does not call for moral compromise or a legal action, allow that the other person has another opinion. Healthy disagreements can strengthen relationships and be a positive force. However, not dealing with conflict in a manner consistent with healthy principles is harmful to relationships and even organizations.

Show humility in your attitude. Admit when you have made a mistake and accept correction that you may learn from it. The antithesis of humility is pride, which is a magnification of self-importance and self-esteem.

Micah 6:8 He has shown you O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I encourage you to consider the other persons opinion when conflict arises. By understanding the issue to be resolved it is easier to begin a plan of resolution. It is wise to discuss how the future will look as conflict is resolved. Conflict is never over until a plan or goal as to how the people will function in the future is agreed on. As Christians our goal should be fulfilling both the great commission and keeping the great commandment. Remember that mature people seek truth and immature people want to win, no matter the cost.

Keep in mind the definition of conflict is: “Striving for one’s own preferred outcome, which, if attained, precludes the attainment by others of their preferred outcome, thereby producing hostility”.

I will end on this thought;

Albert Einstein is credited with saying “We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Christianity 101- Part 4 of 4


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One area of Christianity that puzzles most is the idea of freedom. Within the western culture the concept of freedom has lost most of its value and meaning. As a result we  do not readily embrace freedom in Christ. What some declare as freedom is embracing a life of immorality and that is really being a slave to sin. For sake of discussion the definition of immorality is any activity or choice against the will of God. That includes using scripture to justify personal behavior not consistent with God’s commands. An example is to show hatred toward a people group of differing beliefs although we are commanded to love our enemies. To understand freedom we must recognize the boundaries that keep us free.

Freedom and boundaries in Christ

Scripture tells us in Romans 6:6-8 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.

Plain and simple our freedom is from slavery of sin. As a believer we have access to the power over sin and that is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

Personal faith in Christ allows you to choose to be free from sin. It really is that simple. But that freedom is set within boundaries. The Bible gives much instruction about freedom and boundaries for those who submit to Christ. It is not possible to cover many of them in this post so we will look at few traps that people are often caught in.

One trap is believing that once you accept Jesus into your life there is no reason to stop sinful behavior. Romans 6:1-4 tells us Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

The short of it is you now have a choice to continue in sin or not. Prior to receiving Christ you had no choice because you were a slave to sin! Knowing you have a choice can lead to another common trap of guilt, shame, and fear.  It may be that there is a past that causes you to feel shame. Many people are afraid to be honest about their struggles because of fear of being judged.  Read what Romans 8:1-8 says;

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

Okay, here is the secret to escaping condemnation for sin, just repent. To repent is to turn away from sin, not continue in it. It is possible to be a true Christian that still struggles with addiction. However, choosing to remain in addiction is different than struggling with it. Making a choice to continue in sin is an insult to God.

Moving beyond regrets is a tough thing for most people to do. Those memories like to pop up at the most inappropriate times. Those pesky negative thoughts like to intrude at moments when you are trying to be a loving Christian. As frustrating as the past choices may be to live with, try to remember Jesus has forgiven you of ALL your sins.

The last trap I want to mention is thinking we must do more. Our salvation is paid for. There is no more debt! Religion is about doing things but Christianity is about what is done! Jesus died on a cross for all our past, present, and future sins. All we have to do is accept that forgiveness and turn away from them. So why bother with going to church and all that jazz? The answer is to build upon and grow in a relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord and savior. All relationships, physical and spiritual require communication and contact to maintain them. True freedom in Christ allows us to be free from the bondage of sin. The cost of that freedom is submission to God’s authority.

 

Jesus is quoted in John 14:15-17 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

Think about the fact that we cannot in our own strength keep from sinning. As a support God provided the Holy Spirit to help us! In other words we ain’t in this fight alone. We have an advocate that will never leave us and will guide us in truth. Here’s the deal, we have to seek the help. It is a personal responsibility to strive for right living. When personal desires are in alignment with God’s will His answer is always yes. That is true freedom within proper boundaries.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Christianity 101-Part 3 of 4


Often people new to the Christian faith express an awkwardness about prayer. It can feel weird to talk to an entity you cannot see. Then after getting past that you are faced with the fear of praying in public. There are times as a seasoned Christian that a sense of insecurity rises up in me when praying publicly. Not to minimize the feeling but it is natural to feel self-conscious about public speaking and that includes praying publicly.

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PRAYER 101

Many people have told me they don’t know how to pray. Prayer is having a conversation with God. As my wife reminds me, a conversation requires talking and listening. It is a learned discipline that requires practice to get good at. There are no magic formulas or phases that make one prayer superior to another. Like conversation, prayer does not need to be lengthy to be beneficial or meaningful. Ever notice how old friends can easily communicate with just a few words and yet they can still find things to talk about for hours? It is the same for talking with God. The more familiar with Him you become the easier it is to pray.

There was a day when the men who walked with Christ on earth asked Jesus to teach them to pray. As a response Jesus gave them a model to follow. The model prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV) 9 This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

For centuries the Lord’s Prayer has been recited and memorized by followers of Christ. Many books and articles have been written about it. Much teaching has been given on it. Yet we still have not fully grasped the incredible power of prayer. For consideration of the model Christ gave us, here is five different expressions of prayer found in the Lord’s Prayer are;

  1. Praise and adoration. “Or Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Through adoration and praise, the Holy Spirit shifts our focus away from ourselves and onto God. Praise lifts our eyes above the futility of life and sets the tone for meeting with God.
  2. Intercessory prayer. “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” An accurate understanding of intercession is developing quietness in the heart, listening for God’s voice, and aligning ourselves, our prayer, with God’s will and purpose.
  3. Prayer and petition. “Give us today our daily bread”. Bringing our requests to God reminds us of our dependence on Him.
  4. Prayer of confession. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive.” Sin puts a wall between us and the holy God. This wall must be torn down if we are to experience intimacy with God.
  5. Spiritual warfare. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Satan (or the evil one) is depicted as a master of disguises, presenting himself as an angel of light. To counter his schemes, we must be well acquainted with the truth. Our battle against Satan is a spiritual battle and must be fought in God’s strength.

The best and really only way to begin a prayer life is start praying. Using the model prayer as a guide can help you find the right thoughts and words when praying. It is easy to be so distracted with everyday life to stay focused when praying. A tip my Pastor gives is when praying talk loud enough to hear yourself, that way you’re less likely to be distracted. This tip is especially valuable when spending time alone in prayer. There are plenty of times during the day to pray silently as well. Remember prayer is a learned discipline.

Staying committed to prayer requires dedication. At times it will be frustrating that some prayers are not answered immediately or in a desired way. Keep praying regardless of your circumstances. If you think prayer is the last resort of a desperate person you have not really experienced its power.

 

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

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Christianity 101- Part 2 of 4


This is part two of a four-part series on the essentials of being a Christ follower. The series began with Bible basics. This article may be hard to accept by many in the Western culture because it assumes belief in a spirit world. The metaphysical is not something that can be easily catalogued, studied, or proven and therefore is often dismissed as imagination. To embrace the possibility of an entire other realm of existence is scary and challenging. There is a real heaven and a real hell and choosing to not believe in them does not make them go away. There is not an argument that can be made to convince someone about the existence of God. That is why faith is so important. The best explanation of faith I can give is Hebrews 11:1  Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

The spiritual realm is not something I have a great intellectual understanding about. In a similar way I work with electricity on a regular basis. I do not fully understand it. Nobody has found a concise way to explain electricity. In fact all we really know is ways to utilize the electric power that is not readily understood by most people. All that being said, try to explain electricity to someone who has never seen it in use.

I feel it is necessary to mention a core belief of the Christian faith and that is the Holy Trinity. This is difficult to explain about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. They are the three parts of the triune God, that is the Holy Trinity. In other words the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are the one true God. My finite mind cannot fully comprehend this and it is certainly a worthwhile study, but it goes beyond the scope of this article to explore this subject further.

JESUS CHRIST AND THE MEANING OF BEING A CHRISTIAN

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It would be utterly impossible to discuss Christianity without talking about Jesus Christ. After all, it’s all about Jesus! How many times have you heard that phrase? Have you considered what that phrase means? There are many attributes of Jesus Christ that could be discussed. History acknowledges the historical figure of Jesus. No other person has had as much impact on the social and political landscape. Jesus Christ is the most debated figure in all of human history. An overwhelming amount of books have been written and sermons preached from various views about the man called Jesus. With this in mind it is not possible to accurately cover every aspect in a single article. However, in this post we will take a brief look at some essentials of Jesus and what it means to be a Christ follower.

The first thing to know about Jesus is he is the Son of God sent to earth as a man to save humanity from sin. The primary role Jesus had on earth is summed up in John 3:16-17 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Here is the condensed form of the good news of Christ. God created man to be in fellowship with Him. The first two humans (Adam and Eve) disobeyed the only commandment given to them. Disobedience to God is known as sin. That one sin brought sin into the world and separated man and God. Furthermore sin brought death into the world because death is the punishment for sin. As a result God established a system of sacrifice to atone for sin. Most people intuitively want to reconcile with God so they try to be a good person. This takes many forms such as being a law-abiding person, or going to church, giving to the poor, etc. The problem is all the things we do to reconnect a broken relationship with God fall short. God, in His loving mercy, sent His son Jesus to earth to live as the only perfect man and ultimately be the perfect sacrifice for sin. The moment a person believes that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the grave to pay for their sins, and turn from sin, they are forgiven of sin and are able to be in true fellowship with God. That relationship is what gives us the hope for eternal life in heaven and we become what is known as a Christian.

The term Christian means little Christ and was first used as a derogatory term some time after the scriptures were written. That is why the term Christian was not found in the original manuscripts of the Bible. The first believers were called followers of The Way referring to Jesus. That’s because Jesus said of himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” in John 14:6. In short to be a Christian is to be like Christ. That is our ultimate goal.

The best way to become more and more like Christ is to study about him in order to imitate his ways. In order to help us Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as a guide and teacher. Look at John 14:23-26 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

To be clear, salvation is a free gift. Jesus came to save the people who think they have screwed up too much to be forgiven by God.  Jesus shows  love for people like me who can’t hardly make it through the first cup of coffee in a day without finding a way to sin. Jesus did not come for the self-righteous and he does not expect perfection. Look at this passage from Matthew 9:9-13  As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. 10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” 12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Certainly Jesus gives us some commands to follow as we mature in our faith but that is not for salvation. Be encouraged that regardless of your past salvation is available to all who seek it!

 

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Christianity 101- part 1 of 4


It has been on my mind for several weeks to write a series of blogs on the subject of the essentials of Christian belief. The intent of these posts is to help new believers in Christ grow deeper in their faith as well as a reminder to mature Christians of some basics of our faith. Most discipleship programs require some knowledge of the Bible to begin with. I believe it is best to start with Bible basics because we live in a biblically illiterate age.

BIBLE BASICS

First let’s take some intimidation out of reading scripture. The Bible is a single book composed of sixty-six books written by about forty humans inspired by God. It is divided into Old and New Testaments. The Old testament was written by about thirty authors and covers history, events, and prophecies prior to the birth of Jesus. The New Testament was written by about ten people and covers Jesus work on earth, guidelines for Christian living, and prophecies about the kingdom of heaven. The books of the Bible were written over a span of about 1,500 years. Consider the scriptures like a mosaic. Each verse represents a small part of a bigger picture. The big picture gives us a snapshot of God’s plan for humanity that centers on Jesus as Lord and savior.

Like any book the Bible has an index near the front cover that lists the content. Most books list by chapter but the Bible lists by book names. Be encouraged to use that table of contents to find a book in personal study or a group setting. If you are in church and do not know where to find the book referenced by the preacher just turn to someone else and ask for help. If you can’t find someone to help then find another church to worship in. As a point of fact, if you open your Bible to  middle you will find the Psalms.

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The Bible is divided into books, chapters, and verses. The name of the book is generally found at the top of the page. The chapter will be denoted as a large bold number. The verse will usually have a small number at the beginning. Think of books, chapters, and verses like addresses of the Bible. As an example Romans 3:23. Romans is the name of the book, like a town name. 3 represents the third chapter, like a street name. 23 represents the verse number, like a house number. Some books, such as Jude, are too small for chapter breaks so generally only the verse is given.

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Words that can cause confusion are translations or version of the Bible. To clarify these terms it needs to be understood that the Bible was written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) and was later translated into other languages. From that we get literal translations word for word or phrase for phrase. Great care has been taken by scholars to preserve the meaning of scripture as accurately a possible. Of the multiple translations you will need to decide which one is easiest for your personal reading comfort. Some translations are actually paraphrases (such as the Message Bible) and are more like commentaries. They have value but should not be the main translation for daily reading and study.

The importance of establishing a Bible reading plan is to build on a relationship with God. It is not possible to maintain a healthy human relationship without communicating and the same holds true for spiritual relationships. The Scriptures are God’s written word for us. By reading and thinking about those words God literally speaks into our lives. I know that may sound hokey but once you have experienced it the truth is undeniable. In a future post the value of prayer will be discussed as an additional way of communicating with God.

As a rule of thumb it takes fifteen to twenty minutes a day to read the entire Bible in a year. Probably the most overwhelming task of reading the Bible is where to start. Most people that begin in Genesis (the first book of the Bible) only get a few chapters before giving up. I encourage people to start in New Testament, usually with the book of John or Luke. It is quite acceptable to just read a few verses or a chapter a day to begin with. As you read try to see if there is any thoughts that grab your attention. A verse may encourage, correct, or challenge you. The important thing to strive for is consistency. It may be that you can only read five minutes a day to start but do not be discouraged by that. Write down questions that come to mind and learn about them from other believers or some may answer themselves as you read more. Devotionals are also great resources as they will take a verse or passage of a few verses and explore them for deeper meaning. Your Pastor will be able to recommend a devotional that may be suited to you.

In this age of electronic media we have a valuable tool at our disposal called “the Bible App” also known as “You Version” that is free to anyone. You can download it onto a phone or tablet and have dozens of translations to choose from. With this app you can listen to or read the Bible at your convenience. Some churches set up links through the Bible  app to go with the message. You will find reading plans and devotionals available along with other handy stuff. It is not possible to cover all the features in this post but it is easy to use and again it is free.

The last point I want to make is the value of Bible verse memorization. Remembering verses is a great way to help learn the Bible. You will experience times of trials and refreshing. Bible verses that have been committed to memory will be like a comforting blanket. I recommend to memorize the first verse of the Bible. It is Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This is the bedrock my faith foundation is built on. A good exercise would be to try and memorize a new verse a week.

In a  nutshell that is the basics of reading the Bible. I hope this is both encouraging and informative. Feel free to ask any questions about this post at Revburtschwab@gmail.com

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Stop playing church!


As a young boy in Elkhart, Ks. I received a call on my life to be a pastor. Filled with great passion I set up a cardboard box in the front yard, put my Bible on it, and preached whatever sermon I heard on Sunday. To the rest of the world it appeared I was playing church but it was serious business to me. That short-lived church did not see great multitudes of lives changed but my passion never faded. Throughout the years that boldness and passion has at times been used in a destructive manner but it never faded. I only set up church in the yard a handful of times and yet, without a doubt in my mind, there are many adults still playing church. Putting Christian memes on Facebook and an hour later taking selfies at a bar only proves my point. In great frustration of recent events I posted the following on social media.

So let me get this straight. I am to accept any behavior that is contrary to sound Bible theology in order to be relevant to the majority. This includes not challenging church attenders and accept any sinful lifestyle by “believers” in order to be loving.
The atheists believe all this too but they make no pretense!
Laws and social agenda is not the answer folks!
Turning an egotistical blind eye to truth does not stop negative outcome of choices!
I challenge you to go to church to grow as a Christian or get out of the way of those who are done playing church!

I was talking to a minister friend the other day at his office. On the whiteboard by his desk was four questions. The words were so profound that I asked to copy them. He said “sure you can, but I didn’t write them.” He told me how he encountered them in some notes in a Bible he has been reading. Here are the four questions:

If everyone gave as you gave what would this church do?

If everyone prayed as you pray would God’s kingdom be blessed?

If everyone attended as you attend would we grow spiritually?

If everyone served like you serve what would the church be like?

These questions could be asked by anyone of themselves in any church in any place. We are in a time of great need for real Christians being honest with themselves. Within many churches are people who have placed themselves in a position of authority and will not take responsibility. It is clear that we have embraced the notion that humans are the ultimate authority and not a supreme being. Just look around at what is being asked for. There is a great outcry for more laws to combat social injustice. The dependency on government subsidies is epidemic. The idea that choosing a President among ungodly, unethical, self-serving politicians will somehow bring about peace and order is evidence that God has been replaced by government. We have lost vision of what God has set up for His kingdom on earth and that is the local church! One last question I would ask is, are you playing church?

The world is full of broken and hurting people. This includes those of us who are believers in Christ. Scripture is clear that we will have trouble in this life. Trouble will come with or without faith in God. The difference is with God we have the hope of an eternal life. If this message is expressing what you feel and believe please share it with others.

Revburtschwab@Gmail.com

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The need to teach and be taught.


One funny memory I have is teaching my daughter how to drive a manual transmission car. It was her first car and I got into the passenger seat to begin the training. As I start to instruct she informed me “I know what to do dad, I watched a video!” So I let her do it her own way. In my daughters mind it did not matter how many years I’ve driven because an online tutorial seemed more authoritative. After multiple attempts and still in the driveway she asked me what she was doing wrong. My facetious response was “I don’t know. What did the video say to do?” That did not help matters by the way. At that point my daughter was willing to take instruction and in short order was able to drive her car.

Some things cannot be properly taught watching videos but need to be experienced with proper instruction. Throughout all of man’s history every trade and skill was taught through a form of apprenticeship. Traditionally this has been one person teaching one or a few others at a time. The teacher would generally be a master of the craft being taught. All that changed with the “need” for more production and faster training. As a result we no longer embrace the idea of being mentored.  You hardly ever hear the term apprentice anymore and when it is spoken it is usually in a negative connotation, at least in the trades it is.

An accepted mindset is that to be able to instruct requires a college education and without it a person is an inferior leader. As an example, I recently received a rejection letter from a small church that is seeking a Pastor. In this letter it was stated that as a candidate I do not have enough education in an accredited Bible college. It is clearly understood that some church congregations, due to their size, need a Pastor who is well-educated to handle the various aspects of church organization. While there is value in any college education, this illustrates a common myth today about being qualified to preach and teach.

For over twenty-five years I have served in church congregations as a teacher and sometimes a preacher. Teaching is a part of my life, at work, in public, and in private. In addition to that I have completed a three-year track in a ministry school. The perception is that a four-year degree from a college is superior to a life devoted to study and teaching the Bible. There is no biblical support for this idea just an accepted view. I am resolved to preach the word of God with or without a congregation to shepherd and certainly without man’s judgment about my qualifications!

Timothy was qualified as a church leader based on a life of faithfulness, not an educational accomplishment. To start with Timothy grew up under faithful examples. 2 Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded, now lives in you also. It was clear that Timothy was a man of strong faith. His knowledge of scripture and qualifications as a church leader began from allowing others to speak into his life.

Look at Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:1-5  I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

The call Timothy had on his life was bigger than any university could prepare him for. Timothy had faithful people speaking into his life. It is difficult to change a widely accepted mindset. The perception that the best leaders are those who have written the most books or have the biggest following can mask the fact that people are readily accepting of anyone that does not challenge their beliefs. To be mature believers we must take an honest look at our lives and behavior. To grow in faith a person must be willing to accept correction. To only accept teaching that satisfies personal desire is to not accept the entire gospel message.

Be teachable and be open to teaching others. We need mature Christians to step up as disciple makers as well as new or young Christians to accept instruction. As a body of believers this needs to be a priority. As with any cultural mindset it will require determined people who do not waver in their beliefs to see change occur.

Revburtschwab@Gmail.com

 

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Freedom in boundaries


My dog has a shock collar to contain her in the yard. I call it her freedom collar because with it she is free to roam in the yard. This device uses radio frequency to set a determined area that is safe for the dog. If the dog gets close to the perimeter the collar will start beeping as a warning. If the dog crosses the line she receives an unpleasant shock. The training included placing white flags along the boundary as a visible aid. Once she was fully trained I rarely have her wear the collar. It is just as effective to place the white flags if the dog needs a reminder. Sometimes, after she has not had the collar on for weeks, my dog wanders into neighboring yards. When that happens I put the collar on her for several days to reorient her with the boundaries.

When our country declared its independence the leaders set up boundaries. They were in the form of physical territory as well as governance. The constitution of the United States of America can be seen as a form of boundaries that allow freedom. In a free society laws and commandments are intended to form appropriate safe zones. Violation of these laws result in punishment in various degrees. That is how freedom works in a nutshell.

Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. Jesus was not imposing harsh rules rather providing freedom within appropriate boundaries. Knowing that our own desire would be to wander he provided a means to keep his commands. John 14:16-18 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

We are not left to wander blindly into dangerous territory. We have been given the Bible and the Holy Spirit to provide guidance and show us proper boundaries in life. Sometimes all of us wander outside those approved areas and may receive discipline because of it. If we stay within the approved guidelines our freedom is complete.

As we celebrate Independence Day think about the freedoms we enjoy but also think about the greater freedom Jesus has provided through his loving commands.

 

Revburtschwab@Gmail.com

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A cheerful giver


I posted this over a year ago and it was on my mind today. Enjoy!

Rev. Burt Schwab

Have you ever given a child a piece of paper and a pen and received back a “work of art”? My fridge has been decorated many times over the years with such masterpieces.

I remember a little girl that picked dandelions from my yard and gave them to my wife as a bouquet. As a response my wife gave her a hug and told her thank you for the beautiful flowers. The little girl smiled and was truly joyful for her reward.

Do you struggle with the idea of giving to God? Giving back to God is often thought of in more complicated terms than necessary. 2 Corinthians 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

The attitude Paul is referring to in this verse is as a child offering you a heart felt drawing or handful…

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