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For the love of money is a root of all the evils, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1Timothy 6:10

Materialism is a mindset that substitutes the things of this world for the promises of God. This includes security, comfort, peace, joy, etc. In the Scriptures, materialism is called by another name:  Idolatry.

The use of “wandered” – in the verse above – is interesting. In the Greek, it means “to go astray, stray away from”.  It is a passive action; like a child wandering away from his mother.

In other words, materialism is not something we actively set our minds to pursue, like adultery or murder. It comes to us like an unseen toxin or cancer, many times wrap in attractive packaging. We don’t have to ask for materialism; it is an active agent – a catalyst for many kinds of sin.

Most American Christians are born into materialism. It is a big part of our culture – an inherent measure of the American Dream. “Keeping up with the Joneses”, once viewed as a negative pursuit, has now become an obligation. Homeowners’ association and our kids demand it. We have been deceived into thinking that making our neighbors and children happy is a redeeming activity. In reality, it is simply an excuse to procure more stuff.

From a Romanian pastor: “In my experience, 95% of the believers who face the test of external persecution pass it, while 95% of those who face the test of prosperity fail it!” Church leaders in China are recognizing the same threat. While persecution serves as a catalyst for church growth, China’s newfound prosperity is drawing believers away.

Assuming that Americans are somehow immune to this disease is both arrogant and dangerous – for ourselves and our children. To avoid or break free from the poison of materialism, we must recognize and respect it as our enemy. We must set our minds against it.

Once we acknowledge the potential for brokenness in the set of our mind, we become free and empowered to a healthy suspicion of the way we think and the affect that thinking has on our hearts. At this point, we must be particularly cautious.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Sometimes we use the word “reality” to mean the truth about something. I am trying to work from a bigger context here, so bear with me.

For a reason I trust is good, God has led me into an exploration of metaphysics. I have become increasingly interested in why we think the way we think, what we are really thinking about, and how that thinking occurs. From a spiritual perspective this relates to a favorite Bible passage.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Conformity and transformation are matters of the mind. To “repent” is to change one’s mind (from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). Therefore, repentance is a change of mind that leads to the repurposing of our heart and the resultant change in our behavior. Repentance begins in the mind.

God has determined that renewing our minds is key to our being made in the image of His Son’s glory.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2Corinthians 3:18

So, here I am… encouraging you to consider your mind.

BEWARE!! Your mind will resist the exercise. The carnal mind has been operating unnoticed (i.e., subconsciously) for years. It does not want to be exposed. Do not underestimate its persuasiveness!

In order to avoid a total freak-out rejection, I am offering an introductory low-threat and practical application. I trust God will introduce you to other considerations in the near future. In the meantime, don’t forget: The carnal mind must be overcome. Read the rest of this entry »

The Greek language was created by God for the recording of the New Testament. I am not a Greek scholar, by any means. However, I have learned that the Greek is a much more dynamic language than our Americanized English.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are all called to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God (1Corinthians 4:1-2). Logically, our first step will be to search out the mysteries we have been given to steward – as treasures in a field. This is to our benefit.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
Proverbs 25:2

Here are a couple of examples for your encouragement (to search) and edification:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Many translations of this verse end with “that we should do them”. This is a mistranslation. God did not create us to do good works. That is His job. Our responsibility is to walk in them – as vessels and instruments of righteousness. In light of this (no pun intended), the mystery of Matthew 5:16 becomes revelation.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Jesus’ command is not for us to do good works. It is to let our light shine, so that the Father will be glorified. That light is the very life of Jesus (John 1:4) – the perfect representation of the Father.

Example 2 – Set or Make

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

Many translations encourage us that “the truth shall set you free”. In this context, the difference between “make” and “set” is enormous. “Set” is an event; “make”, a process. Jesus said, “I will make you…”. He is the Truth.

Additionally, the mental image is much different. A bird can be set free… and recaptured. You cannot unmake a cake – or a disciple.

Searching out the mysteries of God is one of the most rewarding adventures of the Christian life. It is finding that which has been entrusted to us by our Maker. Once found, it can then be shared – for His pleasure and glory.

So, pass on what you have learned here. Be a faithful steward.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

As stewards of the mysteries of God, we are invited to search out the Scriptures for the “matters” that God has hidden there. The purpose of this article is to share a hidden mystery (or two) and to encourage you to do your own searching.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
Proverbs 25:2

Generally, there are three types of Bible translations. There are thought-for-thought translations; where the translators have taken a verse or passage and translated what they believe to be the thought of the writer. This includes a few of the more popular modern translations: NIV, REB and The Message.

There is also what are called word-for-word translations. Included in this group are the KJV, NKJV, and NASB. These translations are considered more reliable than thought-for-thought translations because they avoid much of the latter’s inherent human interpretation.

To improve readability, word-for-word translations include the rearrangement of sentence structure. This accommodation introduces a very small opportunity for mistranslation. However, as we will soon discover, small mistakes (e.g., the exclusion of a “the”) can make for some very BIG differences. Read the rest of this entry »

Reach OutA dear friend of mine, who owns a business directory company (ChristiansinBusiness.com), recently asked me to search out and write an article about God’s way for resolving conflict between businesses and their customers – particularly in light of the growing importance of online reviews. I am blessed and excited that he intends to develop a system that will honor and please God. As a business owner or customer, I hope the following encourages you to find God’s way for conflict resolution.

The Potential Impact of Online Reviews

Customer reviews and ratings have become the “word-of-mouth” for 21st Century shoppers; with two noteworthy differences: Their reach is exponentially broader and, consequently, their impact can have significantly greater impact. This is particularly true for the small business owner.

According to an article on Psychology Today, “People are more likely to choose things based on their need to avoid negative experiences, rather than their desire to get positive experiences … psychologists concluded negative experiences or the fear of them has a greater impact on people than positive experiences.”

According to USA Today, “Harvard business school research says that a one-star increase on Yelp can lead to a 9 percent increase in sales. Four out of five consumers, or 80 percent, reverse their purchase decisions based on negative online reviews.

If people remember negative reviews more than the positive ones, which one would you want your small business to be remembered for? This is an important question for both business owners and their customers – particularly when those owners and customers are brothers or sisters in Christ. Read the rest of this entry »

the light of GodSearching out the matters of God is a great adventure. Sometimes we find connections that expand the meaning of both passages and enlarge our faith. Other times, it is what we don’t find – initially – that leads to the treasure of truth.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. John 8:12 NKJV

Before I tell you what I didn’t find and what it means, let me point out that my discovery would not have been possible had the man that is discipling me not shown it to me. In turn, as Jesus commands, I am showing it to you. And so, what are you going to do with it?

What my friend showed me is that most translations – including word-for-word translations like KJV, NKJV and NASB – omit the direct article “the”, in many places; as many as eighty, though I suspect there are more. John 8:12 contains two of them. Can you guess where they are? Young’s literal translation will help.

Again, therefore, Jesus spake to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who is following me shall not walk in the darkness, but he shall have the light of the life.” John 8:12 YLT

That’s right; darkness and life have direct articles in the original Greek manuscripts. To understand the meaning of the first, let’s look at the definition. Read the rest of this entry »

the light of GodThe Holy Bible is a treasure of hidden treasures, written in a very deliberate way, through pens called men, by the Holy Spirit.  The languages used in its writing were deliberately created by God; to reveal the word of God.  Furthermore, in His sovereignty, God determined that it was good to hide things.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
Proverbs 25:2

God works all things to good; even the fallacies of man. Over the ages, godly men have done their best to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leading in collecting and translating the Holy Scriptures into the other languages of man. It is understandable that even the most inspired and insightful endeavors were influenced by their culture, and their personal way of thinking. It would serve us well to assume that the same is true for those of us that are reading those translations.

Before I get in trouble with you, let me say that this is not about the validity or perfection of the Holy Bible. The Lord’s encouragement in this article is for our desperate need to read the translations we prefer with a heart to search out the matter; with at least a mild suspicion that things might not be what they seem. It is not a matter of the infallibility of the Scriptures; but of the paradigms of both translator and seeker of the truth.

To better explain, let me share something I discovered in reading a short passage in 2Thessalonians (using my favorite translation, the New King James Version). Read the rest of this entry »

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