A COLLECTION of THOUGHTS and IDEAS,
Explaining the Gospel,
the Good News about
the Kingdom of God,
Suggestions for Christians
who want to learn Biblical truth
and grow in their faith.
Especially for those who are isolated.
John 13:35 (NLT)
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Bob and Margaret Orchard
Updated 2007, 2017
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
The NLT, like all English translations, has errors, but I feel that it has a special edge on making difficult passages clear.
In Rom 3:4 (NKJV), Paul makes the statement,
“... Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar ...”.
And we should always keep this in mind. The only sure truth we have is the recorded words spoken by God in its original form (John 17:17, Mat 4:4). Those of us who don’t read and speak Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek, also have to rely on translators moving the truth from the original language to our language. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen in a totally accurate manner. I will explain what I mean by this a little later when we talk about the nature of God.
The point I want to make, is that God always speaks the truth, but we always have to evaluate what a man says, regardless of his position or achievements in life.
All men and women make mistakes (James 3:2 NLT).
All have sinned (Rom 3:23, 1 John 1:8), and will probably do so again in the future - or at least the potential to do so is there. Once Eve took the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2 & 3), sin has been with all mankind ever since, and we need to keep this in mind when we consider what men have to say. Therefore we need to have our wits about us and be as ”wise as serpents” and “beware of men” (Mat 10:16,17 NKJV).
Constantly evaluate what you read and hear. I too, have made many mistakes in my life, so don’t assume that this collection of thoughts and ideas is any different than all other religious material you can have access to. I have prayed for help, and we have tried to be accurate, but it is still the work of men.
Our desire is that after reading the story of how we have come to understand more of the plan of God, you will be able to rely more on the original words of God, and have less and less need for the words of men.
Hosea 14:9 “Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those who are discerning listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But sinners stumble and fall along the way”.
As we turn our lives over to be used by God, He in turn will help to smooth out some of the bumps.
But for those who are righteous,
the path is not steep and rough.
You are a God of justice,
and you smooth out the road ahead of them.
Christ gave us a thumb-nail sketch of the three phases of life in John 3:3-8 NET. Jesus replied, "I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (4) Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother's womb and be born a second time, can he?" (5) Jesus answered, "I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must all be born from above.' (8) The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Our first birth occurs when our mother pushes us out of her womb, as a flesh and blood baby. Our walk down the road of life has only just started. Our next birth occurs when we come up out of the water of baptism after repentance (full immersion as an adult) (v5). Having believed in and accepted Christ's sacrifice as payment for our sins (past and future), we set about trying to show God why we would like to go through the third birth of the Spirit (v6). Once we experience the birth of the Spirit, we leave the physical world behind and start to experience eternal life (v8).
So the road we should be on as a Christian, is the road that takes us from the physical to the spiritual.
The original Bible does not support man having an immortal soul (Ezek 18).
But don’t expect an easy ride into the Kingdom. Christ spells out the dangers in Mat 10:16-42.
We should also make sure we have our priorities right.
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. 24 NLT But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know Me and understand that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken!
Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.
We have to put effort into trying to understand the things of God.
Search for the LORD and for his strength, and keep on searching.
“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.
1. Who are We?
2. The What and Why of this Paper.
3. The Bible - the Source of Truth.
4. Creation or Evolution?
5. The Cost of a Christian Life.
Summary of the Basics.
The Ten Commandments.
Understanding the Two Covenants.
Understanding the Plan of God.
The Daily Christian Life.
The Weekly Routine.
The Monthly Routine.
The Yearly Routine.
The Seven Year Routine.
The Fifty Year Routine.
The Lifetime Routine.
[This is the same as the "Who are We?" in the menu on the first page. If you have already read that you might like to skip to the next chapter]
The whole focus of this collection of papers is to get people looking to God and Christ for guidance and direction in life, and not looking to men. However, it is still nice to know something about the background of the people who are communicating with us.
I was born during the Second World War in Sydney, NSW, Australia. When I was nine months old, my father joined the Army (later transferring to the RAAF). When I was old enough, my mother worked in a woolen mill (labour was needed for the war effort) and I was cared for during the day by neighbours in the street where we lived. The war impacted lives in many different ways, and it certainly impacted our family. When my father returned from active duty in 1946, the family moved to a small country town in the Hunter Valley. Growing up on a dairy farm involved a lot of hard work, but also meant that I grew to appreciate the ways of nature. Good seasons, droughts, floods and fires, all have a greater impact when life is dependant on what you can grow to feed cows. We also had the freedom to take long walks and climb many of the local mountains. While we were on the farm, my brother and sister were born.
While there were some bright spots in my childhood, for the most part it was full of stress and disturbed thoughts. The effects of the war had greatly affected my father, and the years away resulted in a lack of bonding between us. I was physically looked after, but it was in a love vacuum, and that left deep scars. My Dad had a terrible temper in those days, so life was lived like you were walking on egg-shells. As a child I could see no logic in when Dad would be OK or when he would explode, and when he did, I felt that it was somehow my fault (he often told me it was). All this resulted in some low self-esteem. Later in his life, my Dad went through a crises period, and the Department of Veteran Affairs was able to step in and give him much help. He died a different Dad than the one I grew up with.
The first year after school was spent at the RAAF Base at Point Cook, but I failed Chemistry in the exams and was automatically dropped from the course. My first job in civilian life was at the Dairy Factory in Hexham. It lasted 11 years, and during this time I married my first wife and we had a daughter and then a son. Also during this time we came in contact with the Plain Truth magazine - produced by Mr Herbert Armstrong. Our first personal contact was in 1963, and we were both baptized during the Feast of Tabernacles in 1964 - in a very cold outdoor swimming pool at Blackheath. We attended Newcastle’s first Worldwide Church of God service in January 1965, and I was ordained a deacon in 1967. In 1970 I left the Dairy Factory when the Holy Days started to conflict with a 7/24 milk factory environment, and spent two years with the Newcastle Water Board. In 1972 I was offered a job in the computer department with the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), which at that time was located in North Sydney. Two years later, the office was moved to Burleigh Heads (in 1974), and most of the computer department functions were absorbed by Headquarters at Pasadena USA. We moved to Brisbane where I was ordained a Local Church Elder in 1979 at Dorrington.
The rest of my working life has involved working with medium and small computers as programmer, analyst and manager - and has involved moves to Darwin, Adelaide, Melbourne and then rural Ballarat in central Victoria.
In 1994 my wife died after a long battle with cancer. There is no doubt in my mind - looking back with the benefit of hindsight - that life-long stress from a number of sources was a contributing factor. Towards the end of Mr Armstrong’s life, and especially after his death in 1986, things were done and said in the Church that we did not feel were right. However by then the ministry had - what seemed to us - a cult-like control of what went on, and there was nothing we could do to change things. Of course we should have removed ourselves from the organization a lot earlier, but back then the concept of “leaving the Church” was on a par with the “lake of fire”. I have since learned that God’s true Church is a Spiritual organism, and has little to do with physical organizations formed and controlled by men.
In 1995 I walked out of WCG - something that had totally absorbed and influenced my life for 32 years.
In many ways, the years of 1994/1995 proved to be a major turning point in my life. Through unusual circumstances, I met and later married Margaret. Like my father, Margaret’s father was also involved in the Second World War, and also came home deeply scarred. Not long after Margaret was born, her mother and father separated. In order to earn a living (there was no single mother’s support in those days) Margaret was left to be brought up by her grandparents. Though given a good education at one of the top schools in Adelaide, the lack of both parents to bond with as she grew up did have some effect, and was a big disappointment in her life.
Having left WCG and later UCG, and then a couple of the smaller churches, most of our previous friends turned their backs on us. However, being taken off the “treadmill of church life” and being forced to make our own way, we were free to explore the Bible with a fresh approach. We wanted to know why the “wheels fell off” WCG so quickly after Mr Armstrong died, so we printed out and read piles of reports and papers, and most of Mr Armstrong’s Coworker Letters in time sequence. Slowly it became clear that there were a number of things that were not quite right with what WCG taught prior to Mr Armstrong’s death, and then after his death matters only got a lot worse.
Our thoughts as to why all this happened can be read in the open letter to x'WCG members [later changed to an Historical Document] - "A Possible Reason Why the Church of God Does Not Have as Much Spiritual Power in 2006 as it did in 30-70AD, or even 1927-67.” See under the Miscellaneous Index.
It is now our hope and belief that God the Father and His Son will move to strengthen the spiritual Church of God, and once again and make available the power of the Holy Spirit in great abundance. We feel that the Church will need much power to cry out against the evils of the world as the Beast Power prepares for his moment of glory. [2017 update: that hope has been dashed. I now think it will take the tribulation to get people's attention].
Using the principles of Acts 5:32 ( NET ... the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.) and 1 John 3:22 ( NET. ... because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing to him.) , it is our understanding that the more we whole heartedly embrace truth and the Commandments, the more likely it is that God and Christ will look on us with favour, and support our efforts to educate people about Him.
Heb 3:12-14 NLT Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. (13) You must warn each other every day, while it is still "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. (14) For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.
At this point in time we are putting most of our energy into trying to identify the “errors” that have accidentally and deliberately been put into our English translations of the Bible, and then try to establish true doctrine with the remaining Scriptures that better reflect the instructions from God's mouth (Mat 4:4). [2017 update: Since this was first written, a further complication has been found. The NT was first written in Aramaic, and numerous attempts to translate into Greek has left us with 3000 Greek NT's - but they are all different. Getting back to the original Aramaic now seems impossible. Hence - the first rule for reading the Bible, now becomes more important].
This collection of thoughts for Christian growth has come about because of life’s experiences - the school of hard knocks - as some would say. It is not intended to be the last word on anything, but rather the first word, or how to get started. It is not designed to be a powerhouse of knowledge, but it is intended to show how to unlock the vast reserves of knowledge that is already in the world. With Satan encouraging men to contaminate the Bible with error, people lose sight of the "big picture". Showing that there is away around these currupt verses, opens up a new deminsion in understanding the plan of God. This paper is to encourage people to roll up their sleeves and search for the original Bible truth that has been scattered throughout many different organizations, and recorded in many books and papers. Sometimes truth can be found by just talking to older people, and drawing on their life experiences.
Let me be up-front and say that what I am trying to say may not suit everyone. If you are happy and contented with your current religious life, then there may be little this collection of thoughts and ideas can add to your situation. If you are looking for someone to tell you what to believe, so that you can just blindly follow, you are probably looking in the wrong place as well. However, there are people who - for various reasons - are not able to study the basic meanings of Hebrew and Greek, so what is given here can still be checked out by living it and putting it to the test. If you are just starting your search for God, or live in a somewhat isolated area, or have been “burnt” by some previous religious experience, then we hope we can get you started on your first - or renewed - relationship with your heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Let me also be up-front in saying that there is a fundamental difference between what you will read here and what you will generally find in the world. That statement becomes obvious when you realize that for the "truth" presented here, we have had to ignore a number of verses in the Bible because of copying errors, mistranslations, or conflict with the words spoken by God. Trying to "harmonize" the errors and the truth has caused a great deal of variation in what Christians believe. Getting rid of the errors (as best as we can) leaves a much clearer picture of who God is and what He (as our creator) wants us to do in life. Also, most religions and religious groups believe that you have to belong to “their” group, or one very similar, in order to receive salvation and the eternal life promised by God. This collection of thoughts and ideas is written with the understanding that attending a “church” or “group” is optional, and very secondary to receiving eternal life. However, we all do need to be in the Church of God (1 Cor 1:2), which is a spiritual organism, and which can not always be determined with human eyes and ears.
In Rom 10, the apostle Paul explains that in order for people to call on the Lord (v13), they first have to be told about the Gospel so that they can become believers (v14). There is no benefit in calling on the Lord, unless you first believe in God, understand His plan for mankind (to become part of His spiritual family), and value the sacrifice our Lord made on our behalf. This collection of papers has the goal of helping people understand these essentials, and then to go on - especially those in difficult or isolated circumstances - to build and develop a working relationship with their God and His Son. This is done in two ways.
First we try to do a “hand-holding” exercise, and take you through some of the daily steps that are helpful for a Christian. As we "do" Christian things, we start to "think" more like Christians.
Secondly, we will try to explain enough of the Bible and its history, so that Christians can read it and work out for themselves what God is trying to get across. We will try to help you to be able to identify "corrupt" verses, and show you how looking for "themes" through out the whole Bible is a safer way to go, than just looking at a single verse (which may or may not be "truth").
It is fully intended for Christians to grow out of using this paper and be in a position to throw it away - or better still, give it away to someone else.
you were to ask a hundred people at random the question, “Why
life?”, you would probably get a hundred different ways of
saying that they are not sure. In one way this is not surprising. The
vast majority of people alive on earth today, have never been taught
about the reason for life. Even in the so-called religious groups,
there are a great number of different answers, causing conflict and
uncertainty. To understand why we have been born, is like being given
a pearl of great price. This knowledge is precious, and should not be
used in a frivolous or disrespectful manner. Nor should the knowledge
you are going to learn from the Bible ever be used to attack or “put
down” someone else.
The world around us is made up of a physical creation (things we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch), and a spiritual creation. The Bible tells us that all these things were brought into being by God, or more specifically, God the Father. As small children we probably asked the question “Where did God come from?”, and no doubt the question is still there in the back of our mind when we reach adulthood. Again, the Bible simply says that God has always existed, and if we want to please God, we have to have faith (Heb 11:6) and part of that faith is to be prepared to wait until we have grown up more spiritually before our Father will tell us more of the story. For now we should just accept the fact that God “is”, and be grateful that He is a kind and loving God to those who are trying to please Him.
The spiritual side of creation is further broken down into forces for good and forces for evil. On the side of good are our Father and His Son, along with various ranks of angels. Angels usually work as invisible beings, but can manifest themselves as looking like humans if they want to (Heb 13:2). Angels have the job of assisting those who God has called (John 6:44,65, Heb 1:14). To define “called”, we use the term to describe the situation when God has opened the mind of an individual so that they can begin to understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:9-16). Once given this ability, humans still have the choice of whether they want to grow in understanding, or reject God’s offer.
Thus the people of the world can be broken down into three groups. The first group is made up of those who have been “called” by God and are growing in their understanding of spiritual things, and the second group are those who are still waiting for their calling, and can only understand spiritual things in a superficial way. There is a small third group, made up of those “called” but have rejected God’s offer. Those not called at this point in time, are not “lost” - even at their death - as God has a timetable of when He is going to give them their opportunity to grow in spiritual knowledge.
The concept that everyone has to be saved “now”, is not backed up by the Bible when you fully understand it. God’s Holy Days suggest that only a few “first-fruits” are being called now - to help establish the Kingdom of God - and the greater harvest of people will be near the end of Christ’s one thousand year reign which starts when God and Christ come down to live in the New Jerusalem..
On the side of evil is Satan - also called the Adversary and the Devil - and fallen angels who are now called demons. Satan was once a very beautiful creation (Ezek 28:12-15 - see the Companion Bible to understand why the same things are said to a physical and then a spirit being) [the King of Tyre, at that time, was a type of Satan], but did not develop the character to resist pride (Ezek 28:16,17, Isa 14:12-17). Instead of helping God - as he was designed to do - Satan is now opposed to all God is doing, and all those who want to obedient to God’s ways. However, God is able to use Satan and the demons as part of the test that Christians have to pass to show that they are - unlike Satan - fully committed to wanting to be like God. Satan cannot directly affect any human without God’s permission (Job 1), but he does try to influence the direction of human societies, and has great influence with any people who reject God and turn to evil.
A baptized Christian (one who has repented and accepted Christ’s sacrifice to cover their sins) has to live a physical life in the physical part of creation, but is also affected by the stresses and strains that come from the opposing spiritual forces (Dan 10:12,13) as they operate - unseen - around us.
Back to the question, “Why Life”?
As I see it, one of the main reasons why non-Christians and Christians can not agree on the answer to the question “Why life?’, is that they do not keep God’s Holy Days, as laid out in Lev 23. The Sabbath and the seven annual Holy Days spell out the plan that God has for man, and hence the reason for life. We will look at each of the Holy Days in more detail later, but a quick summary is as follows. For those of our readers who have only known the Easter and Christmas, what follows may seem a little strange, but in due time we will show how the Scriptures back it up.
In Gen 1:1 we are told that God is the one who created the heavens and the earth. That was the start of the physical creation. However, God is not physical, and He has something more in mind. In Eph 3:14,15 we are told that God is creating - from the first physical creation - a spiritual family, called the God Family. This "family" aspect is also mentioned in John 1:12,13, 1 Pet 1:14, 1 Pet 2:2, and 1 John 3:1-3. The steps God is taking to build/create this family are laid out in the story behind the seven annual Holy Days.
First comes the Days of Unleavened Bread, with its two Holy Days (Lev 23:4-8). The beginning of the first Holy Day (remember God’s days start and end with sunset, Lev 23:32, Gen 1:5) was the time the first Passover was eaten. The spilt blood of the Passover Lamb (killed around 3:00pm in the afternoon before the Holy Day) painted around their doorways saved the Israelites from the death angel. In the same manner, the spilt blood of Christ will also save us from eternal death. The Days of Unleavened Bread show us that the putting out of leaven is a reminder of the day and the speed (Deut 16:3) Israel came out of Egypt - a type of sin (Ex 12). When God moves in our life to bring us out of sin, we too need to respond with speed.
On the Day of First Fruits (Pentecost) after the Exodus from Egypt, God made a covenant (now called the Old Covenant) with Israel and restated to them His law engraved on stone. On the first Feast of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection, Christ gave the Holy Spirit to His Church, and the era of the New Covenant began. The Holy Spirit, usually coming after baptism (the birth by water) and the laying on of hands, is a necessary part of being born into the Family of God. The Feast of First-fruits also points out that only a relative few people are being called at this point in time (the Spring harvest is small compared to the Summer harvest). There is no struggle to “save the world”.
Then comes the Feast of Trumpets, picturing the return of Christ and the time when God the Father and His Son will put their hand to teach all people the truth (Isa 11:9-12). They will be assisted by the 144,000 first-fruits (Rev 14:1-5), who will be resurrected spirit beings by this time.
The Day of Atonement - an annual Sabbath and a fast day - points to the time that all men will be reconciled to God. To help bring this about, the day shows us that eventually the penalty of sin will be placed on the head (Lev 16) of the one who brought sin into the world (Satan). It points to the time when all will be “at-one-ment” with God, and no longer need physical food to live.
The Feast of Tabernacles points us to the seventh one thousand years of human life on this earth - the seventh day Sabbath is a type - when the Kingdom of God will be set up, and there will be peace everywhere on earth.
The last Holy Day is the Last Great Day, or the Eighth Day of the Feast, and points to the time when all those who have lived and died but did not understand the plan of God, get their first chance - after their physical resurrection - to make their own decision about whether or not they want to submit to God and be given eternal life. One of the big jobs during the 1000 year reign of Christ as Lord of Lords, will be to get things ready to house, clothe and feed these billions of people.
Understanding God’s plan for all humanity, we can now answer the question - “Why life?”.
Physical life is just a training ground and a time of testing, to see if people do indeed want the “pearl of great price” or the “hidden treasure” (Mat 13:44-46). For those who know nothing about the plan of God during their short life on earth, it is an experience that demonstrates the futility of life without the Holy Spirit. It also helps to demonstrate the huge benefits of spiritual life over physical life.
Physical life gives us time to demonstrate if we really do want to - ” love the Lord your God with all our heart, with all your soul, with all your mind” and to “love your neighbour as [if they were] yourself” (Mat 22:37-39). Always “doing the right thing” requires character, or as the apostle Paul often refers to it “self control”. A definition of character given to us by Mr Armstrong is - “the ability to know right from wrong, and then the strength to do the right and resist the wrong - even under intense temptation to do otherwise”. Physical life gives us many opportunities to practice building character. It makes sense that those who develop the most character will also be given the greater responsibilities and rewards in the Kingdom, because they can be trusted to do the right thing.
As I mentioned before, basically there are three groups of people in the world today. First the majority prior to Christ’s second coming fit into the category of knowing nothing, or virtually nothing, about God’s plan for mankind and what Christ’s sacrifice means. The second group are those who have been called, gone through the "water" birth, and are working through the process. The third group are made up of those who have seen the plan of God, but will not submit to God the Father and His Son. In other words they have knowingly rejected the Kingdom of God. They wait in the grave, to be resurrected and then thrown into the lake of fire. This is not everlasting punishment, but rather total destruction and the end of the road for those who reject God.
The “called now” group consists of those who have been called by the Father (John 6:44,65) and are trying to work through the obstacles put in their path by Satan, so that they can demonstrate their desire and will to be part of the God Family. In the parable of the sower (Mat 13:1-23), our Lord shows that the obstacles to a Christians life can include, a lack of understanding (v19), tribulation or persecution (v21) and the cares of this world (v22).
Our Lord summed up the reason for life in John 3:3-8. We first have to be born of blood - that is we go through a physical birth as a human being. When we have matured, we should go through the water birth (v5). This is coming up out of the water of baptism after we have repented and accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrifice as payment for our sins. After this “being born of water”, we receive a down-payment (2 Cor 1:22) of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. We then begin to really understand what is happening in the spiritual world, and about our potential to be born into the Family of God. Our birth of the Spirit (v5) is our third and final birth, and comes at the time of the first resurrection, or the return of Christ (1 Thes 4:16,17). We are then spirit beings that can move around like the wind (John 3:8).
Why life? To give every human ever born, the chance to demonstrate that we want the eternal life offered by God, and we desire to live with and serve our Spiritual Father and His Son forever. If we show that we don’t want eternal life, or that we don’t want to be subject to God’s laws, then we can be destroyed forever in the “lake of fire”.
Of course, there is nothing we can do to get eternal life - it either comes as a gift from God, or it just doesn’t come. But there is much we can do to show God how fervently we desire His Gift, and to prepare ourselves for an even greater reward in the Kingdom. Heb 11:6b shows us that we have to believe in our reward just as much as we believe that God exists.
If you can understand what I have written above, perhaps you can see the cunningness of Satan when He deceives people into thinking that they already have eternal life. Why would you try to prove your desire to God for something you think you already have? False doctrine drains the energy of those seeking God. We have to learn to separate truth from fiction - and we hope this document will help you to start doing just that.
The Bible has had a rough journey to get to us today.
The OT - though still containing errors - is not too much of a problem as I see it. A big plus is that it is a straight translation from Hebrew or Aramaic to English. But it has been copied many, many times.
The NT is a much bigger problem. It was first written in Aramaic (the language spoken and written by Christ and the disciples), and then when Greek converts joined the newly formed church groups, someone from the local group would make a Greek translation for them. Often, the person making the translation was not an expert in both languages, so some serious errors were introduced.
With all these "well intentioned" but inaccurate translations floating around the local churches, we ended up with around 3,000 Greek NT's - but - they are all different. In fact they sometimes contradict each other in places. There is no "Received Text" - that is just a term a book seller came up with to promote his particular selection out of the available Greek texts.
The whole point of this collection of thoughts and ideas, is to help people pick up their Bible, and then to read it and be able to understand the intention of the original authors. In order to do this we need to understand something about how it was written, the errors that have crept in after many centuries of being copied, and how we go about studying it.
Christ said that the words spoken by God (if they have been recorded and copied accurately) is truth (John 17:17, Mat 4:4), and are the words we are to live by. He also said that He did not come to do away with the law (Mat 5:17,18) - but to fulfill it, or as we might say, to give it full expression. He continues in v19 to show that keeping - or not keeping - the law will affect our position in the kingdom of God. If the Law is important, then the Old Testament is important. Without an understanding of the Old Covenant (as outlined in the Old Testament) we will have great difficulty fully appreciating the benefits of the New Covenant (as outlined in the New Testament).
Yes, there are different lesson to be learned from each of the Testaments, but the words spoken by God are the most important, followed by the words from His prophets (and Christ was a prophet), then the Apostles, then wise men, followed by ordinary men. The words or actions of a lower authority should never be used to override the words of a higher authority. This means that for as far as Christian living goes, there are many verses in the Bible that we just have to ignore (because they contradict the words spoken by God).
A quick example. In Prov (Prov 22:15, 23:13,23:14) men living under the Old Covenant tell us that it is OK to beat our children with a rod - but that is NOT OK for a Christian living living under the New Covenant. Yes, children need discipline, but in a much more loving way.
As I see it, there are many errors in our English language translations that we have available to us today. Some estimates by Bible scholars put it as high as around 3000 verses. Of course, not all these errors are serious, and often it is possible to work out a suitable correction. However, even 200 to 500 major errors (the actual number is not known at this stage) means that we need to be careful not to put too much weight on just one Scripture, just in case that it too is in error. If you have never been told of this large amount of potential errors and corruption of the original manuscripts, then you may be wondering about what value the Bible has in such a condition. The good news is that we still have a large number of verses that are direct quotes from God, or are words from the prophets that God told them to pass on.
The fact that Satan has been able to influence men to change some of the verses in the Bible, goes a long way to explain why there are so many different Christian churches and doctrines. What seems to have happened in the past, is that a church or group have picked up one of Satan's lies, and then found a way to force this wrong understanding into the rest of the Bible. Once a wrong concept is put into a group, it soon becomes "tradition" and then becomes very hard to change. A simple way to avoid this same mistake is to use Bible "themes" and not individual verses to create our religious understanding. Two examples of this are, who we are baptized into (six verses say into "Christ", one says into "the Father, Son and Holy Spirit"), and who created the world (over 150 verses say "God the Father", around 20 say "Christ").
The world is quick to take the verse that has been corrupted to support the Trinity concept as their doctrine, and just simply ignore the other six verses. However, if you are searching for the truth, then you will hold onto the verses that teach us to be baptized into Christ (a theme), and ignore the one verse modified by men to push the Trinity.
If we are going to search out the truth of the Bible, then we need to use a different technique, than just taking a verse that we "like" or suits our traditions. In the past, men have found a verse (or two) that "proves" they are "backed up" by the Bible. In other words, they have found their "proof text" - a verse that proves their point. With Satan inspiring men to plant errors covering many topics, this is fairly easy to do. Instead, we should establish what the verses not corrupted by men, have to say about the topic. Obviously this takes more time, but the results are far more reliable.
Sometimes people pick up the Bible and start reading it from cover to cover. Because large portions don’t make a lot of sense the first time you read them (and especially if you don’t have prior instruction), they tend to get frustrated and give up. That is a pity, but I can understand why it happens. Instead of giving up, we should make reading and coming to understand the Bible, a life-time project. It is a bit like building a brick house, which is built one brick at a time. Our understanding of the Bible is built up by coming to understand the truth a point at a time. Each time we read the Bible from cover to cover, more understanding will come.
First up, there is a flow of history from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible starts with the creation of the world as we know it today, and ends with a description of the Wonderful World Tomorrow - the time when God the Father and Christ will be ruling the world and all people will know about God and His plan for mankind. In between Genesis and Revelation are the stories of many people and many nations. Some of these stories are positive, but many are negative, showing the consequences of sin. 1 John 3:4 defines sin as lawlessness, or as the KJV puts it - “sin is the transgression of the law”. In simple terms, nations, families or people are blessed when the keep God’s Law, and cursed when they don’t. Often, the blessing or the curse do not happen immediately, as God gives us time to continue to do good, or time to repent and change.
We also need to read the Bible with the overview that when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of "the knowledge of good and evil", the "tree of life" was put off-limits. In very simple terms, God cut man loose and gave mankind around 6000 years to see if they could come up with a better system than living by God's Commandments. God still controls the world in general, but at this point in time, He does not force people to obey Him. We have the "freedom" to keep God's laws or to break them. Rape and murder are the result of people choosing to break the Commandments. God hates it as much as the people who suffer from such crimes, but if He stepped in and stopped it, we would never learn the consequence of rejecting the "tree of life".
This next point is an important part of our attitude as we study the Bible.
Job 28:23-28 “God surely knows where it [wisdom] can be found, (24)for he looks throughout the whole earth, under all the heavens. (25)He made the winds blow and determined how much rain should fall. (26)He made the laws of the rain and prepared a path for the lightning. (27)Then, when he had done all this, he saw wisdom and measured it. He established it and examined it thoroughly. (28)And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘the fear of the LORD is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’”
Ps 111:10 “Reverence for the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom.
The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him.
his name forever!”
We need a good attitude, and the correct fear and respect for God. We also need to understand that our obedience will affect our wisdom. We also need to understand the principle given in Ps 40:16 and repeated in Ps 70:4
16“But may all who search for you
be filled with joy and gladness.
May those who love your salvation
repeatedly shout, “The LORD is great!”
To find the truth about God and the Kingdom, we need to go searching for it. See also Mat 13:44-46, Prov 2:1-9, Prov 3:5,6, Mat 7:7,8.
What God has to say (or has inspired His servants to say) on any one topic, can be spread anywhere throughout the Bible. We have to search out each “precept” and then put them all together. In order to search the Scriptures in our own mind, we would first have to memorize the whole Bible. This has been done by a few people, but for most - myself included - there is another way. It is called a concordance. These books list every place a certain word is used in the Bible, and give us the book, chapter and verse so we can look it up. The one I have used the most is Strong’s Concordance because it includes Hebrew and Greek dictionaries, but Cruden’s Complete Concordance has been useful too. There may be better ones on the market now.
For an example, if we looked up the word “Noah”, we would see that it is used most in the beginning chapters of Genesis. However there are other references in the New Testament that give us additional information. We need to put it all together to fully understand the story of Noah, and his significance for the years ahead.
If you have and can use a computer, I would strongly suggest that you have a computer program to do the searching for you. Programs like Quick Verse are designed to help you do the searching. There is also a good free one off the Net called E-Sword, and it can be down loaded from *www.e-sword.net . It can be a bit slow at times, but the price is right.
The nice thing about e-sword is that it has a special edition of KJV (KJV+) so you can see what Strong’s dictionary has to say about a word by just putting the cursor on the number. You can also search by a number (that is the original root word) rather than looking up all the ways it has been translated into English.
So, what I am trying to say, is that we should read the Bible in two completely different ways.
First, get two book marks, and then read at least a chapter (or a page) of the Old and New Testaments every day. By reading each Testament in sequence, we will eventually cover all the points that God - through the Bible - has made. The more often we read through the Bible, the easier it will be for our mind to recall the correct Scriptures to help guide us through specific situations, and the better we can group certain passages together for a fuller meaning.
The second way is to use a Concordance, center margins and other helps, to group together all the verses that have input to a topic. For instance, if we list out all the Scriptures that have something to say about the Holy Spirit, and then read them, we will have a good idea of what the Bible says about that topic. Having mastered the art of doing that, we then should take it to a deeper level.
The English words in our Bible are what the translators “think” is a “best fit” to the original word. Often, two or three English words are all suitable translations for the original word - which is fine - but by using different English words to translate the same original word, our simple Concordance search will not find ALL the Bible has to say on a particular point.
This deeper searching, looking for all the places the original Hebrew or Greek word has been used, can be done by such books as the King James Concordance, or by computer programs such as e-Sword. Once we have all the possible meanings of the original word, and all the places it has been used, we can look to see if a better translation is possible. For example. If we note the Strong’s number for “mystery” in 1 Cor 15:51 (#3466), we can see from Thayer’s Dictionary that it can mean “hidden thing, secret, mystery”. The King James Concordance shows us every place this Greek word was used, and also tells us that of the 27 times, 22 it was translated as “mystery” and 5 times as "mysteries". However, when we look at Mar 4:11, we can see that “secret” may be a better translation, and in 1 Cor 2:7, it is obvious that “hidden thing” is a better translation as Paul is talking about something being hidden. So it is profitable to review all 27 usages of #3466.
We have no way of knowing why the translators chose “mysteries” over “secrets” or “hidden things”, but their choice can affect our understanding. Once a secret is known, it is no longer a secret, but “mysteries” implies that we may never understand it. Since God wants His truth to be known (Mat 28:19,20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8) “mysteries” is not a good choice in my view.
And so we come to something that many people will find hard to accept. The English translations we have today, do not always reflect the meaning of the original language, or the original words of the Scriptures. This makes our job of searching harder - but not impossible.
Unfortunately, the King James Bible seems to have set a trend that has been followed to one degree or another, by all our English translations. The Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition, explains some of the reasons why the KJV Bible was not as accurate as it could have been. King James wanted the structure of the Catholic Church retained, even though he did not support the Pope. He also asked that the traditional wording of the Bishop’s Bible be retained as much as possible, so any Trinity and other errors already in that bible were carried forward.
Another complication that had an effect on the King James Bible, was that it was produced to be a political document as well as a religious document. Remember, the man (King James) who had the final say over what went into the Bible, was a politician. The translators drew on at least four of the current English translation, as well as the Latin Rheims-Douai. The King's instructions were to follow the Bishop's Bible - but with many rewrites, Tyndale's Bible became dominate as far as language was concerned, but significant errors of the Bishop's Bible were retained. As the title suggests, the Bishop's Bible was written by the Bishops of the day to counter the Geneva Bible - much loved by the people of the day because it reduced the power of the ministry. For instance it correctly translated G1577 (Ekklesia) as "congregation" and not "church".
On the whole the translators working under King James did a good job in coming up with a very readable Bible in the "Shakespeare style" English of the day , but some significant errors were retained, and others inserted, that still cause us problems to this day.
A good description of some types of errors retained in the KJV can be found in the paper by Norman S. Edwards called “How Does The Eternal Govern Through Humans?”, and can be downloaded from *www.servantsnews.com .
I will give some examples of the types of errors we can detect in our English translations today, but you would need to do a lot more reading and research before you would have good understanding of the extent of the problem.
(a). The word “church” was used when “congregation” or “assembly” is a more accurate translation. This has a big bearing on verses like Mat 18:17. Currently the Churches of God use the incorrect word “church” to mean the ministry, but if it was translated as “congregation” then it is clear what Christ was telling us. The “assembly” decides who can attend a certain group, not the “ministry”.
(b). This leads into another error that was promoted by the KJV. One Greek word “diakonos’ #1249 has been translated with three different English words - minister/deacon/servant. If just “servant” was used, then the false office of “minister” is not created.
(c). The practice of “ordination” is not supported by the original Greek. What is supported by the Bible is men and women holding an office because of the fruit that they bear and evidence of the gifts given to them by God. No two translations agree on where to use the word “ordain”, but the KJV is by far the worst at forcing the word into the English text, using 12 different Hebrew words and 14 different Greek words. “Ordination” and all that goes with it, gives power to men - a power never intended by God.
(d). The Greek word “episkopos” #1984 should only be translated as “overseer” and not “bishop”. It does not mean “a boss over many congregations” as the word “bishop” is used today.
(e). The Greek “poimen” should be translated “shepherd” all the time, and not “pastor” sometimes.
(f). Words with more than one meaning have been selectively translated to support the Trinity concept - especially that Christ existed before His birth. For example Col 1:16 “For by Him ... All things were created through Him and for Him” can also be translated as “Because for Him ... All things were created before Him and for Him”.
(g). Mat 16:18-19 has been mistranslated to make it look like that Christ is giving power to men. When the correct translation is used, men can only bind or loose what has already been bound or loosed in heaven.
I hope this brief introduction into the condition of the English translations we have today, will help you to understand the size of the problem. We have to be careful about ourselves or others putting a particular word or verse under a microscope, and then drawing a conclusion. That particular word or verse may be different from what the original manuscript intended, thus making our conclusion an error. As I understand it, truth will harmonize with the spoken words of God, so it is better to get our truth from an overview perspective, rather than a microscopic examination. That said, word analysis can still reveal some gems of wisdom - we just have to be careful how and when we do it.
One final point about the Bible at this stage. More than a quarter of the Bible is prophecy. To show that God is totally in control of world events, he tells us in advance what is going to happen, and then makes it come about. Some prophecy has been fulfilled - such as prophecy about Christ’s first coming - but most is for the time still ahead. While prophecy is interesting, and it does strengthen our faith to see how much God is in control of things, we should not let it sidetrack us from studying the Bible to find out what God wants us to be. Being Christ-like is far more important than just knowing about future events.
And remember, prophecy is for us to see how much God is in control - when it comes to pass, not for us to set dates in the future.
If you are just starting to learn about Christian values, then the chances are that you have not spent a lot of time thinking about the effects of the Evolution Theory. I have purposely called it a theory, because to date there has been no hard evidence presented to prove it beyond the theory stage. You might be surprised to learn that it still has yet to be proved, because in our media today it is constantly being presented as fact. All too often we hear of big numbers being confidently declared by “experts” about how old this or that might be. For every guess about how old this or that bone fragment might be in thousands - or in some cases millions - of years, there is also a simple explanation that places it within the last 6000 years.
Why do people push the Theory of Evolution?
I can’t speak for other people, but it comes across to me that the Theory of Evolution does away with the need for God, or at least reduces His influence and position.
Or to put it another way, people who believe in Evolution cannot also believe in God as Creator and supreme being of the universe. It is like water and oil - the two won’t mix. To be a Christian that is pleasing to God and able to keep the First Great Commandment (to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all strength), we first must crush all desire to explain life in terms of evolution. Either God created all things as the Bible tells us, or He didn’t. It is my belief that a Christian will not make much progress in establishing a relationship with His God until he has broken all ties to the Evolutionary Theory.
As I said before, this collection of thoughts and ideas does not have all the information that you need, and Evolution is a case in point. There are many books and other sources of information that you can turn to in your search for the truth. A browse through a Bible Book Store is a good place to start. United Church of God and Living Church of God both offer free booklets explaining the proof of God as the Creator.
However you do it, you need to establish in your mind the proof of creation or evolution. If you believe that evolution is somehow involved, then there really is not much point in reading the rest of this paper. To understand spiritual things we need the help of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:9-14), and that Spirit is given to those who obey God (Acts 5:32). How can you obey the first and primary command to love God, and still have doubts about His capacity to create something from nothing? Or perhaps worse still, try to dilute God’s incredible power and might by saying that God had to wait for His creation to “evolve”. A God that can produce abundant water straight out of solid rock any time He wants to (Ex 17:6, Num 20:8, Ps 105:41), is a God that is not limited to human thought or human ways.
Right now, whether you realize it or not, there is a dividing line drawn through the human race. On one side are those who embrace God as Creator, and on the other side are those who have been tainted - to a large or small degree - with the Theory of Evolution, or are agnostics [there is no God]. It is my view that to make progress in your relationship with your God, you have to be on the side of those people who embrace God as creator. As Christ said, “With God, all things are possible” (Mat 19:26).
Some of you reading this, may have come across the notion allowed by some Christian religions, that each day of Genesis 1 is a thousand years. Again, Satan has done a great job of mixing some truth (day) with error (a thousand years), and has given the Theory of Evolution a toe hold. Satan often starts with a small wedge of doubt, that he can work on later. The Bible is clear that each day that is described in Genesis, starts and ends with sunset (Gen 1:5,8,13 ..., Lev 23:32). Also, we know that certain animals are totally dependant on particular plant life. For instance, birds that live on the nectar of flowers. But the opposite is also true. Some plant life is also dependant on birds and animals to propagate. Since plant life was created on the third day, and birds and animals were not created till the fifth and sixth days, some plants could not have survived a thousand years on their own. Trying to make 24 hours into a 1000 years is the work of men, and detracts from, rather than helps, our desire to know the true God.
Take some “time out” and study God’s creation - from the distant galaxies to the complexity of the smallest cell. The discovery of DNA has convinced some scientists to admit that there had to be a “higher mind” to bring about such a well programmed molecule. Get some material and read about it yourself, if you haven’t already done so. If you are able to do so, get yourself a telescope and some star charts or a magazine like “Astronomy [20xx] Australia” and become familiar with some of the planets and star clusters. The moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn can be seen on a good night with quality binoculars, and these have the advantage that you don’t have to take the time to “set things up” and they are easily stored.
What ever way you chose to do it, I suggest you study the vastness and minuteness of God’s creation until you are convinced that such a wonderful and complex achievement could not happen “by chance”. Creation needs a creator, and design needs a designer.
In the Life Application Bible, as part of the introduction of 1 Corinthians, they have a short comment that packs a lot of meaning. Page 2059 in the NIV Life Application Bible.
“On a bed of grass, a chameleon’s skin turns green. On the earth, it becomes brown. The animal changes to match the environment. Many creatures blend into nature with God-given camouflage suits to aid their survival. It is natural to fit in and adapt to the environment. But followers of Christ are new creations, born from above and changed from within, with values and life-styles that confront the world and clash with accepted morals. True believers don’t blend in very well.”
One of the big costs of being a Christian, is that there will be times when we have to move against the tide of public opinion and standards. If we try the chameleon’s approach, and avoid standing out in the crowd, the cost will be a diminished relationship with our Father (Mat 10:33). If we stick with what we know is right, we will have many people - possibly close family as well - who will try to make things hard for us (Mat 10:34-36).
Eph 2:2 (NLT) has several important points to make, “You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.”
First up we can see that if any person is not actively trying to obey God, then by default, they end up obeying Satan in one way or another. Satan spends most of his time here on earth, as “the mighty prince ... of the air”. Of course God and Christ are available for us at any time, and God is involved in bringing about the fulfillment of prophecy, but for the most part, God has backed away and given mankind around 6000 years to try the fruit of “the knowledge of good and evil”, which Eve thought looked good.
With these points in mind, how does a Christian stick out like a sore thumb, in the world today. Many of the “trends”, “fashions” and life-style examples that consume the mind of ordinary people in the world, have been encouraged and fostered by Satan. The primary motivation of these things is not to bring honour to God or to show love to our fellow man, but rather to express a very human way of doing things, and to gratify the self. So when a Christian tries to show love, they have to do things differently.
For instance, a Christian woman will understand from 1 Pet 3:1-6, that it is not right to follow the mini-skirt fashion, or to wear tight fitting clothing in general. The men will understand that we can no longer be part of “office” or "syndicate" gambling tickets. Drugs are out and drinking with the mates till all hours has to change for the men. Our speech has to be pure and free from references to swear words or oaths. And so it goes. If a Christian begins to stick with God’s values and not the “popular” ideas broadcast by Satan, then people will begin to notice a difference. Anyone who is “different” is usually picked on by others, to a larger or smaller degree.
But that is just part of the cost of being a Christian.
God also requires part of our money to be spent in a special way. We are to give up "our" sports and entertainment on the Sabbath. He asks that certain types of “unclean” food (Lev 11) should not be eaten. He states that men should be head of the household - not to be a dictator, but to be a loving benefactor. He makes statements about how long and how short men and women should wear their hair.
If you decided to do an act of love, it will cost you. Sometimes in terms of money, but also in time, and in the fact that while you are helping someone else, you are not getting your own things done. Yet we are expected to do it - time and time again.
Baptism should cost us our life - not literally - but in terms that we no longer seek our will, but we seek the will of God. We give our lives to Christ in the hope and belief that He can do a better job than we did without Him.
The Bible repeatedly warns us that persecution will be the lot of those who chose to follow Christ. For example, Mat 5:10-12, Mat 5:44, John 15:20, but also tells us to love those who do the persecuting Rom 12:14.
But God is not unfair. If we are willing to endure what Satan, the world, and what our friends and family try to do to us, God has some great rewards to give us - including the priceless gift of eternal life.
value do you put on eternal life?
At this point in the paper, I want to give some of the key Scriptures and principles that will affect the lives of Christians from here on out. Hopefully these Scriptures will give you enough of an idea of what is expected of someone committing their life to God’s will, so that you can make a decision of whether you want to continue down the road I’m trying to describe, or not. For my part there is no attempt to “talk you into it”, or twist your arm to get you to make a decision that you are not comfortable with. As I understand it, God has allocated 144,000 positions (Rev 14:1-5) for resurrected Christians as spirit beings to help Christ as part of the Kingdom of God. It is like a big exam spread over all the people living during the first 6,000 years. If we do our best to put God and His Kingdom first, then we have a good chance of being in the first resurrection (1 Thes 4:12-18). If we are “half-hearted” then we may slip below the cut-off point and have to wait for an additional 1000 years before being resurrected. Of course by then, the original job selected for us will have had to be filled by someone else. Still, as David said, it is better to be a door keeper in the Kingdom than not be there at all.
At some point in our lives, we need to make a decision about whether we want the reward that God wants to give us. Heb 11:6b ... “and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Rev 22:12 “... and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”1 John 3:1 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!...”. This is the most important decision we will ever make in our life and will affect what we do for all eternity. Christ makes it clear (Luke 14:26-35) that it is an all or nothing decision, and one in which we should “count the cost”. Having put our “hand to the plow” (Luke 9:62) and making the decision to put God and His Kingdom before anyone or anything on this earth, we are not to “look back” as Lot’s wife did (Gen 19:26). God wants everyone to take up His offer as their turn comes around, 2 Pet 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
This doesn’t mean that we do it all perfectly from day one. We have to learn as we go, and that takes time - years of it. Just as a small baby (Heb5:11-14) moves from milk to solid food, we too should grow from the simple basics of the Bible to the more complex issues. But first we have to lay a good foundation on rock (Christ) not sand (men).
Since creation and the time Adam and Eve hid themselves from God, men have come up with all sorts of attempts to explain things about God. Sometimes a man will get some points right, but far too often they get something wrong as well. Remember, the fruit Eve stole was from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Each of us has the capacity to do good or to do evil, and we all have to make a choice of what we will do. If there is no choice made, then often evil is the “easy” option. However, even when we do make the choice to do good, evil can still come out the winner (Rom 7:13-25) - especially if we are “down” on the power of Christ within us. If we are ever going to leave the “milk of the Word” behind, we have to have an unbending rule that we always check up on what men have to say, and where possible, do our own research into the topic as well. Many times I will give the Scriptural reference to backup what I am saying - but sometimes I won’t (to avoid the text becoming too cluttered). If you are not already familiar with the Biblical principle I am talking about, then I suggest you take the time to search it out.
The Scriptures and principles that follow give a summary of the type of things that I believe a Christian (one who follows Christ’s teachings) should understand and believe, if they want to make progress in establishing a working relationship with their God.
The two main principles that I feel are are an umbrella over all others are found in Mat 22.
37 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
38 "This is the first and great commandment.
39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as [if they were] yourself.'
40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
What ever we do in life, should always fit in with these two Great Commands.
For instance, what God says [in the Bible] should always carry more weight than what men “think” God is saying. What another person (or the world in general) might think or might say, should never stop us from doing what God requires of us. No entertainment, hobby or sport should squeeze out the time we have set aside to be with God (prayer and study).
You might be wondering why I started with the Ten Commandments, instead of having something to say about God. I have no problem with the order being reversed - and perhaps it should - but the way I see it, without acceptance of the Ten Commandments, there is no way we can properly know and honour God. God is love (1 John 4:8). If we love one another - by following the Commandments - God abides in us (1 John 4:12).
One way we can make sure that we follow the Second Great Commandment, is to imagine ourselves in the other person’s position, and then ask how we would like to be treated. When you are driving, imagine yourself driving the car in front of your car, and then ask the question, how close would you like the car behind to be? Then make sure you don’t drive any closer. Would we like to be killed by another person - no - so we don’t take up arms and kill someone else. However, we also need to understand that the majority of people do not understand God’s plan for humanity, and so nations will feel the need to go to war, rather than to rely on God’s protection. Christ’s return and the establishment of the Kingdom of God, will mark the end of war, but right up to, and including that time, we are told (Mat 24:6,7) that wars will continue.
What Christ gave us in Mat 22 is a very easy way to remember - and hence apply - a summary of the ten commandments. However, each of the Ten Commandments have a more specific application. See 4 in the Index. For now, just keep in mind 1 John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments....”
One of the strongest themes we have found in the Bible so far (over 160 verses), is the need to keep the Commandments in the letter and in the spirit. Let me explain what I mean by "letter" and "spirit". The "letter" of the seventh Commandment tells us not to commit adultery. In Mat 5:28 Jesus tells us that to look at a woman with lust is to break the "spirit" of the law. The physical action breaks the letter of the law, the thought, breaks the spirit of the law. However, both actions puts us "off-side" with God. Fornification and pornography also break the "spirit" of the seventh Commandment.
You can not have a close relationship with our heavenly Father, without trying to keep His Commandments.
1Jn 2:3-4 NLT And we can be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments. (4) If someone claims, "I know God," but doesn't obey God's commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.
1Jn 3:24 NLT Those who obey God's commandments remain in fellowship with Him, and He with them. And we know He lives in us because the Spirit He gave us lives in us.
1Jn 5:2-3 NLT We know we love God's children if we love God and obey His commandments. (3) Loving God means keeping His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.
2. Understanding God.
I feel that it is crucial that we understand that there is just one God - our heavenly Father.
The Trinity concept of God has been manufactured by man (it is not in the original Bible) in an attempt to muddy the water, and "excuse" man's lack of obedience. In the New Testament, both "word" (logos) and "Holy Spirit" have the neuter gender. Sure, they are masculine in Greek (which has no neuter gender) but when correctly translated, are an "it" in English. If you have not already done so, you might want to read "The Nature of God and His Son" - No. 3 in the Index.
Christ taught us to pray to Our Father (Mat 6:9), and as our spiritual parent, we need to understand what sort of family (Eph 3:14,15) we have the potential to belong to. God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is light. God is invisible. In His normal state we would die if we tried to approach Him, but He is able to appear like an angel to mankind if He wants to (Gen 22:15-18, Ex 3:2-6). Christ confirmed that there is only one God (Mark 12:30-34), (and so does James 2:19), and that the Father is greater than Christ (John 15:28) . God is the father of Jesus, and was so much a part of His life - they enjoyed a special unity (John 14:10, John 17:20-23) - that Jesus was able to live a sinless life. This sinless life was then offered up as a sacrifice for all mankind. I have expanded on the nature of God and His Son in point 3 of the Index. In the meantime it might be good to reflect on some of the words of Moses in Deut 10:12-20.(NLT)
12“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires you to fear him, to live according to his will, to love and worship him with all your heart and soul,13and to obey the LORD’S commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good. 14The highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the LORD your God. 15Yet the LORD chose your ancestors as the objects of his love. And he chose you, their descendants, above every other nation, as is evident today. 16Therefore, cleanse your sinful hearts and stop being stubborn.
17“The LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and takes no bribes. 18He gives justice to orphans and widows. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. 19You, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. 20You must fear the LORD your God and worship him and cling to him."
3. Understanding Man.
Understanding the Scriptures that describe the nature of man, I believe is fundamental to our forward progress as a Christian. Because religious organizations have to rely on members to exist and grow, there is often a reluctance to be brutally honest about how rotten human nature can be. The need for members and their money, often make the traditions of the group more important than the truth. For instance, it is a lot easier to “sell” the concept that mankind has an immortal soul, rather than explain that if we don’t start - with God’s help - to change our nature, we will die in the lake of fire and be gone for all eternity. If you are on your own, then you are able to experience the big plus of being free to explore what the Bible says and not what the “group” says.
First there is the “animal” part of man - the bones, the mussels, the heart pumping blood, and the lungs giving us oxygen, and so on. This is the first birth, our blood birth, or the “birth of the flesh” (John 3:6). Also at this birth we are given “the spirit of man” (Ecc 3:18-21, 12:7, Zech 12:1), which enables us to think more like God than all the other animals. We can make plans and create physical things. We also believe that this spirit of man also holds our memory, our DNA details, and anything else that is required to resurrect us. However, at this point, man is not like God in nature. Due to the sin of Adam and Eve (Rom 5:12) in taking and eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we all are able to sin, and have done so many times (1 John 1:8-10). Any sin, past or present, will bring about our death - the opposite to the lie told to Eve by Satan - as Rom 6:23 reminds us. So we are between a rock and a hard place, as they say.
Of course, God - using the sacrifice of Christ - has a plan and a way out. However, to appreciate the gift that is being offered, we first have to come to the realization that man, of and by himself, can do nothing to change the fact that all men can experience evil thoughts. To come to the point where we can truly appreciate the love, mercy and grace of God, and the gift (pearl of great price) that He is offering us, we first have to see how rotten our human nature is from God’s perspective - not man’s (Isa 64:6). In the world, positions and jobs are not usually given to people who say that before God they feel like a worm (Job 25:1-6). And hence, to get ahead in the world, men and women build a facade around themselves, and/or excel in something the world will accept to take the spotlight off the not-so-good parts of their life.
A large part of our repentance before baptism, and our continuing repentance after baptism, is the admission to God that we are nothing - in our natural state - compared to God.. Man can build cities and great bridges and satellites, but he always ends up dead in the grave, and without hope, if it wasn’t for God and the sacrifice of His Son. There is a great gulf (Luke 16:26) between physical life and spiritual life, and of ourselves there is nothing we can do to bridge it. Accepting our true worthlessness without God is where we should start if we want to appreciate God’s gift.
Rom 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Jer 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”
Jer 10:23 O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
Jer 9:23 Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD.
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Isa 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
Luke 13:4 "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
Gal 5:16-18 (Phillips) Here is my advice. Live your whole life in the Spirit and you will not satisfy the desires of your lower nature. For the whole energy of the lower nature is set against the Spirit, while the whole power of the Spirit is contrary to the lower nature. Here is the conflict, and that is why you are not able to do what you want to do. But if you follow the leading of the Spirit, you stand clear of the Law.
Isa 66:2 For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist," Says the LORD. "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.
4. Understanding the two Covenants.
Our Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments. It would probably be more accurate to call them the Old and New Covenant. People get confused about what it all means for us today, and some even refuse to read the Old Testament, which in turn creates a real problem if they want their relationship with their God to grow. As I hope to show later, the Old Testament is a real mine of practical and spiritual information for us. However, we do need to understand the difference between the two Covenants and how it affects people living under each.
In the Old Testament we are told about Covenants (or agreements) that God made with people (such as Noah and Abraham) as well a family that had grown into a nation (Abraham’s descendants - Israel). Moses reminded Israel just before they entered the promised land, that God had indeed made a covenant with them.
Deut 5:2 (NLT) While we were at Mount Sinai, the LORD our God made a covenant with us. 3The LORD did not make this covenant long ago with our ancestors, but with all of us who are alive today. 4The LORD spoke to you face to face from the heart of the fire on the mountain.
What was this covenant about.
Exodus 19:5,6 (NLT) Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the nations of the earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’
Deut 4:5-8 (NLT) 5“You must obey these laws and regulations when you arrive in the land you are about to enter and occupy. The LORD my God gave them to me and commanded me to pass them on to you. 6 If you obey them carefully, you will display your wisdom and intelligence to the surrounding nations. When they hear about these laws, they will exclaim, ‘What other nation is as wise and prudent as this!’ 7 For what great nation has a god as near to them as the LORD our God is near to us whenever we call on him? 8 And what great nation has laws and regulations as fair as this body of laws that I am giving you today?
The nation of Israel was given special laws and instructions, so that they could become world leaders in living God’s way, and be an example for all other nations to look up to. As I understand it, the nation only came close to doing this - and then only for a few years - under David and Solomon. Remember Queen Sheba coming to Solomon to learn wisdom? The point we should understand right now, as we struggle to become a faithful Christian, is that the Old Covenant was all about physical life. If the people obeyed God’s laws, they were blessed. If they disobeyed God’s laws, they were cursed (Lev 26). There was no promise of eternal life. No matter how perfectly the people kept the law, their blessings all came during their lifetime. The daily sacrifices and many passages of Scripture all pointed to a time in the future when a Saviour would come and change this, but until that happened, most people had no access to eternal life. No wonder Paul called the law weak, when we compare it to the New Covenant.
Many people believe that Christ came to do away with the old laws, but Christ was very specific that none of the laws would be done away (Mat 5:17-20). God is love. The Ten Commandments teach us the basic principles of how to love God and our fellow man. Christ said that if we are to love Him, we are to keep the Commandments (John 14:15,21). If we want to enter into life, we are to keep the commandments (Mat 19:17). If we want our prayers answered, then we must keep the commandments (1 John 3:22). Commandment keeping and loving God is a test we must pass before we can say that we love the children of God (1 John 5:2,3).
Can you begin to see the disaster that is caused when men say that the law is “done away”? Again, this gives weight to the argument that we should look to what the God is telling us, and not what men think He is telling us.
The law is a foundation, but it doesn’t go far enough. It is a good “tutor” (Gal 3:24) because it teaches us what is right and what is wrong. However, under the Old Covenant, once the law was broken - that is, a person sinned - no amount of further law keeping could make up for the wrong that was done. People could get “peace of mind” by sacrificing an animal - which is a type that points to Christ’s sacrifice - but people could never be justified by the works of the law (Gal 2:16).
So this is where the New Covenant comes in. Christ’s sinless life was given as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. If we have faith in Christ and believe that His sacrifice can cover our past sins, we can have forgiveness and be reconciled to our Father, plus - and this is a big plus - Christ is willing to come into our life and help us keep the law, not only in the letter, but more importantly, in the spirit.
Gal 2:16 "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified”.
Gal 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”.
So what do we need to understand about the difference between the Old and New Covenant?
First, under the Old Covenant, God’s laws had to be kept by personal will and strength. Unfortunately, most people did not have the heart and self discipline to do this. Deut 5:29
“'Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!”
Under the New Covenant, after accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, we get the help of the Holy Spirit - the form of God that operates remotely - to keep the law of love. Please note, it does not do the law keeping for us - it just makes it possible for us to keep the law.
Second, the laws of God outlined in the Old Testament are not “done away”. Sure, just keeping those laws will not get us eternal life - we need something more - but those laws still must be kept if we are going to demonstrate our love towards the Father and His Son.
The symbols of the Memorial service provide a useful “hook”, on which we can hang our understanding. The Old Covenant Passover was celebrated at the end of the 14th day of the first month, and into the beginning of the 15th (Ex 12:1-6). The three main symbols were a lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The lamb was a symbol of our Saviour’s future sacrifice. The unleavened bread was a reminder of the speed that God was able to use to bring Israel out of Egypt. The bitter herbs were, I think, a reminder that people were to have a humble and contrite heart.
The New Covenant Memorial (Last Supper) is celebrated at the beginning of the 14th (just after sunset) and the three main symbols are the foot-washing, the bread and the wine. The foot-washing is to remind us that we called as Christians to serve others and not to be served (Luke 22:24-27). The leavened bread (a symbol of Christ’s body, which was beaten for us) points us to the “Bread of Life” (John 6:48), and as Christ said, unless we partake of His body we have no life in us (John 6:53-58). The wine (a symbol of Christ’s blood) is a type of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), and also a reminder that Christ’s blood had to be spilt so that we can have our sins covered.
Do not be deceived by men who may try to tell you otherwise. The Old Testament is a rich source of knowledge, instruction, history and prophecy. While it is a useful part of the whole, we also need to acknowledge that just keeping laws - any laws - will never give us eternal life.
5. Understanding the Plan of God.
Or we might subtitle that by saying we need to understand where we fit into the universe. There are some things about God that, for now, we have to take on faith. To help us to do this, God does reveal enough (but not all) of His plan to create a God family, in the Scriptures. By attaching enough importance to the things we do know, we can still proceed in confidence without having all the knowledge of God, in this physical life.
So what do we know about the plan of God? Since the angels were around when the earth was originally created (Job 38:4-7), we know the angels were created first. Also, because they sang for joy over the creation of the earth, we can assume that the earth was created in a beautiful condition. However, when we are introduced to the world in Gen 1:2, it is dark and without form and void. How did this happen? One explanation involves a serious rebellion within the ranks of the angels, before the creation (or maybe we should call it - recreation) as described in Gen 1:2. Rev 12:3,4 indicates that Satan - the dragon (Rev 12:9) - caused one third of the angels to rebel, and set up in opposition to God on earth. Ezek 28:11-19 and Isa 14:12-15 indicate that Satan was once a beautiful archangel, but then got caught up with his pride and vanity, and tried to take over from God. Some form of cosmic fight took place, and Satan and his demons (fallen angels) were kicked out of heaven and confined to earth.
While the Bible has little to say about the fight, there is much evidence both on earth and within our solar system that what took place prior to Gen 1:2 was of mega proportions. If you look at the rock strata exposed when roads are cut through the sub-soil, you will see how the once level rocks (laid down under water) have been pushed, bent and folded. It would take something catastrophic to cause such a world wide upheaval of rocks that were obviously laid down under much more placid conditions.
Within our solar system, the evidence also points to earth as the place of most destruction. If you are able to get close up photos of all the planets (taken by Voyager I & II), you will soon see that the moon has most craters and has suffered the most from incoming debris. Then the planets closer to earth - of those we can see - also have many craters, but the outer planets such as Uranus has only a few pock marks.
I mention this in an attempt to bring some life and understanding to some verses in Rom 8.
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
These verses give us a glimpse into the future, and what we will be doing as part of the God family. The creation - specifically the earth and its solar system to start with - are waiting to be cleaned up and restored to their former beauty. I don’t think God is going to hand out garden rakes and tell us to smooth off the moon, so we are going to have to learn some new skills of the spiritual kind.
Satan’s rebellion and the resulting destruction has to be cleaned up.
The Day of Atonement specifically looks forward to the time that Satan will have to carry the weight of sin that he brought into God’s creation. For now, Christ is willing to carry our sins on our behalf, but Christ is not expected to carry them forever.
On one hand, we have a future possibility of working with God as part of the God family, to restore the universe to its former glory, yet on the other we are still human, and trapped in a physical body that sooner or later is going to die. Knowing our place in the plan of God is - and should be - a “carrot” to encourage us to put out effort now to get ready for our future job. Regardless of what the job is, we will need the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26) and we will need character so that we will always do the right thing - even to our own hurt if need be. We need to more and more reflect the character of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. If we don’t try to grow in character, and don’t make an effort to overcome ( Rev 2:7,11,17,26, 3:5,12,21 Rev 21:7 "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son”), then there is the “stick” of being thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.)
Getting our names recorded in the Book of Life is so very important.
We do that by following the example of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:21), our older brother (Heb 2:11), and instead of doing our own thing, we submit to the will of God (John 6:38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.)
It is a great and marvelous thing to know of, and understand the plan of God. It gives us a framework into which we can insert all the events of life. We understand that when people die, they are “asleep” in the grave (Ecc 9:10), and are waiting to hear Christ’s voice in the resurrection ( John 5:24-30). We can also understand that there is an element of time and chance that can affect us all (Ecc 9:11), so we should not be surprised when unexpected things happen to us. How we handle the situation will show God how well we are doing, and no matter what happens to us, God is always with us and is helping things to work out for our good. As has been said by others, God is very good at turning lemons into lemonade.
Something we should be aware of - is that the Bible indicates that the best character is formed within us when we are placed in the crucible of fiery trials (1 Pet 4:12). Don’t be like some people, who take on “religion” expecting God to remove all the “bad” things of life, and only let them enjoy the “good” things. Sure, God at times will protect us from some “bad” situations, and at other times He will pour out blessings on us too, but it is my understanding that a Christian will also have to endure some really tough times along the way. Our aim should be not to avoid problems, but to grow - by developing endurance and patience - as we work our way through the problems.
If you have any doubt that suffering is part of a Christians lot in life, then please take the time to read the following Scriptures. Deut 8:2, Mat 5:10-12, Luke 6:22, Acts 5:41, Rom 8:17,18,35-37, 2 Cor 12:9,10, Phil 1:29, Phil 2:17, Col 1:24, Heb 10:34, Heb 11:36-38, 1 Pet 4:16, Job5:17, 1 Pet 1:6-8, 2 Pet 2:9.
Obviously there is much more that could be said about the basic understandings of being a Christian, but I think enough has been outlined for now. Let’s move on to where the rubber meets the road, as they say. What should a Christian do day by day?
The things that I am going to suggest that make up part of the routine of each day in a Christian’s life, are just that. They are suggestions. Outside the guidelines given here, there are undoubtedly many variations that work for others. So what I am giving here is what I believe would be a good way to get started. Put it into practice for six or seven weeks, and then look back and evaluate how you are going. If you are growing and your ideas about God and His plan for mankind are changing, then the obvious choice is to keep going. If you are not making forward progress, even though you have been diligent to apply the suggestions outlined here, then you should try some other daily routine.
It is my experience from my life and from watching other Christians struggle with their beliefs, that this minimum daily routine will work, but as I have indicated, don’t be bound by it. Over time, work out your own way of staying in touch with your Creator, if you feel that this is not the best way for you.
A big part of any family situation is getting the communication right.
It needs to be a two way thing, with any family member able to express any idea or question without drawing a negative reaction from the other members. Sometimes too, we know what we are thinking, but don’t choose the right words to express our ideas. Other family members should come to our aid and by asking questions and talking about it, help to paint a better picture. It is my experience that our life in the God family is very much along these lines. Sometimes we have to bounce ideas and questions around - at times over many years - before we see the answer clearly. However, our understanding will grow if we persist in our communication with God (Mat 7:7-11), and as the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 shows us.
God can help us “get the point” in a great variety of ways, but it is my experience that the major way He conveys information to us is through His words in the Scriptures. We should - in my book - consider any day that we don’t open a Bible and read something, as a day that has been at least partially wasted. This may happen when we are traveling or emergencies are thrust upon us, but our aim should be to keep these days to a minimum.
There are a number of books around that show us different techniques for reading the Bible. No doubt they all have merit in one way or another. If you come across one that works for you, then please use it. However, I use a very simple system, and I find that it works. You simply have two book-marks - one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. Each day you read at least a chapter (or a page or two) from both. Then during the day you try to bring back what you have read and then think about it. If a chapter is particularly heavy with a number of good points, then I reread that chapter the next day before I go on to the following chapter. If a chapter is short or easy to understand, then read the next chapter as well.
At this point in time, I have found the New Living Translation to be good for starting our daily reading. I think it is more important to understand in a general way what God is saying to us, then to always zero in on a particular verse or a particular word. (Of course, over time you will read many different translations).
Then just keep doing it.
Obviously using this method you will read the New Testament more times than the Old Testament, and that is how it should be for a Christian. When you read a chapter for the fifth time, you will see things that you glossed over four times before. And the same thing will happen when you read something for the tenth time. The information contained in the Bible is scattered throughout the Bible. By continually reading the Bible we can draw out the truth - piece by piece. As we grow in understanding in one area, this makes it possible for our understanding to grow in another. People who read the Bible once and then give up are selling themselves and the Bible short.
What I have outlined so far is a basic minimum. It works - but it can be made to work better, if you have the time. When you have read the chapter, read what a good commentary - such as Believer’s Bible Commentary, or the Life Application Bible - has to say about the chapter. Remember they won’t always have everything right, but many times they have good additional information about the chapter. If we understand the date and the conditions that were prevailing at the time the book was written, it can help us to have more feeling for the writer and what he is trying to say. Also we can look up any key words in a Bible Dictionary, and look at alternative meanings for the original word. A God fearing Christian that keeps the Commandments and God’s Holy Days, and hence understands the plan of God, is in a better position to select the right translation of a word, than a translator who believes that God is a Trinity and ignores God’s Holy Days, and the Sabbath.
There is no answer that I can give that would be correct for everyone, and not all people will have access to all translations. What ever translation you can get your hands onto is better than no translation at all. However, for my daily reading where I am trying to keep the “big picture” in mind, and are looking for concepts and principles rather than words and grammar, I find that the New Living Translation (NLT) is outstanding. If you can afford the extra, the Deluxe Text Edition is good because it has foot-notes that often indicate where the translators have had difficulty in working out the best translation. Again, if you can afford it, the New Living Translation that has been combined with the Life Application Bible Commentary is even better, and puts a lot of information on one page, and is a very powerful in presenting the Bible in an understanding way. The NLT Full Verse Cross Reference Bible is useful for bringing out themes as you are reading.
While the New Living Translation is not perfect (we have found translation errors in all English Bibles) it is absolutely brilliant in making most of the Bible easy to understand. The overall clarity more than makes up for the “errors” that are there as well. It is a “dynamic equivalence” translation, or a thought-for-thought translation, and can be quite different from the word-for-word type of translation. For someone just starting out to read the Bible, understanding overall principles can be very helpful. Later on we can get more into the individual word study, and that is where word-for-word type of translations (like NKJV, NET,NIV) are better. Let me give you four verses to illustrate what I am trying to say.
The Holy Bible, New King James Version
by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for
the law is the knowledge of sin.
now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being
witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 2even the righteousness of God, through
faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation
no one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his
commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we
aren’t obeying it.
now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not
by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. 22We are
made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.
And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have
done.23For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
For the more serious verse study, I prefer to use the New King James Version (NKJV) and the New English Translation (NET), and as a connection to Strong’s Concordance, the King James Version (KJV). For reading in public, I prefer the NET Bible. From time to time I also consult the New International Version (NIV), J.B. Phillips, Moffatt, and all the translations available on e-Sword. Some people feel that the NASB is one of the better translations, but I haven’t got one as yet.
Each translation has its merits and pitfalls, so the final choice comes down to what you feel comfortable with. You can always add other translations to your library from the second-hand book stores, or when the Bible book stores have a sale. In Australia, Word Bookstores will keep you up to date with what is available via catalogues if you put yourself on their mailing list, or you can check up on their Web site.
Having absorbed some of God’s communication to us via His recorded spoken words, we also need to communicate back to God. We call this our daily prayer life. In another paper I have expand on the points Christ suggested we pray about, so, for now, what follows here is just a summary. See Mat 6:9-15, Luke 11:1-13.
We are to address our prayers to God the Father. Because He is so great and good, we should want to see His name honoured - by us and also the world. We pray, understanding that life under the rulership of Christ (the Kingdom of God) will be much better for everyone than what we have now, and that is when all the problems the world faces now, will be put behind us. We should also acknowledge that only in heaven is God’s will being done, but that all mankind would be better off if it was done here too.
In asking for our daily bread, we need to keep in mind that Christ said that “man shall not live by bread alone”, and that He also said “I am the bread of life” (Mat 4:4, John 6:48). Yes, we can ask for the physical food we need day by day, but more importantly we need to ask for the spiritual food we need as well. How to correctly apply the Scriptures to every situation that comes our way through out the day, can only happen if Christ is living in us. This situation - of Christ living His life within us - is the real bread we should crave day by day.
Next, we need to acknowledge the state we are in. Every day we sin, either by commission - the way we treat God and others - or by omission - the way we should have treated God and others but didn’t. Then as Mat 6:14,15 bring out, any forgiveness we receive from our Father, has to be preceded by our forgiveness for those who have hurt us. At this point in our prayers, it is good to pray for others - especially those who have been against our Christian endeavors - and ask God to reveal His will for their lives to them at this time.
We also need to acknowledge that we do not have the strength to stand up to Satan by ourselves, and we need Christ to be in us because He has overcome Satan (Mat 4:1-11). Then we can conclude with some words of worship for our great Father in heaven. From John 16:23,24 we usually ask in Christ’s name or, through Christ our Lord. The word “amen” at the end of a prayer just means “so be it” and is our affirmation that we want God to grant our requests.
Christ is very specific in Mat 6:6 that our normal daily prayer time should be private and not in public. We don’t take this to mean that it also includes family members, and a husband and wife getting in prayer in the same room and at the same time can help with the time schedule for the day. Also praying in front of young children as they lay quietly on the floor, can be a good introduction to what they themselves will do as they grow up.
Apart from prayer being private, and usually given while we are on our knees, there is not all that much instruction about how to do it given in the Bible. If you feel that your prayer position/location is working for you, then stick with it. For those who are new or others who may want to reevaluate, I can only relate from experience that I find kneeling on a cushion in front of a bed or a chair enables maximum concentration and the least discomfort. There are times you may want to look up towards God (in heaven) and even raise your arms in supplication, but usually it is head down and maximize the time you have available in heartfelt communication with our Father. No special position of the hands is required or desired.
The way Christ used the expression “give us this day ...” makes it clear to me that God expects at least some prayer each 24 hours. Again, my experience has been that two times a day is better than once, and three times is even better again - if you can fit it in. If you haven’t tried it as yet, I can recommend that you set aside a week and get in prayer three times a day. I suspect that you will find that your prayer time becomes much more “conversational” and you tend to pick up where you left off a lot easier. The indication is given in Scripture that great men like David and Daniel prayed three time each day.
How long to spend in prayer will somewhat depend on your personal circumstances, and the priority you place on your time in communication with the greatest power in the universe. For the beginners, I suggest that you should aim for something between 30 and 60 minutes per day. Unless there are special circumstances, I feel that more than 60 minutes a day is getting unbalanced, and something else that is also important will be left undone. Two lots, one around 30 minutes and one around 15 minutes, is a good starting point if you are working and there is no private place at lunch time. If you are new to the Christian way of life, and 30 minutes seems like a long time, don’t panic. First you need to work your way up to that sort of time, and second, when you list out all the things that need to be prayed about, you will be leaving some things out for lack of time. Not to worry, you can start with those things next time.
In one sense, our prayers are not required as God knows what we need before we ask Him. So, why does Christ ask us to pray everyday? Obviously, how we pray and what we pray about, tells God a lot about the character we are or are not developing. Are we on the same wave-length as our Father? Are our prayers selfish, or are we showing love and concern for others too? What do we see as priorities? Sometimes it helps to put our thoughts into words, and prayer is a good aid in doing this. Just as we learn about other people via communication, we also can learn about God from the way He answers our prayers. Remember, God’s answers can fall into three categories - yes, no, and wait - so a delayed answer is still an answer. Don’t write God off just because He doesn’t do things by our timetable.
Our Lord used the very intimate word of “Abba”, when He was praying in the garden (Mark 14:36), and Paul on two occasions (Rom 8:15, Gal 3:6) indicated that we too should use the same personal title when we are talking to God. Since the word has dropped from our general usage today, I feel it is up to each person to make a decision about whether they feel comfortable using it or not. However, the close intimate expression does indicate that our prayers to our Father should be “up close and personal”. Since our Father already knows the number of hairs on our head - and therefore everything else about us - we can completely confide in Him. We should explain how we feel about different aspects of life, and ask for His input to our thinking. We should pray, at times, with the whole world in mind, and then at other times for our own personal needs; from the Kingdom of God to our daily bread. A lot of people have grown up without the example of a good father in their life. Try to rise above this set-back and imagine God our Father being the perfect father - which He is. Pour out our hearts before Him in deep meaningful conversation, called prayer.
I have left the most important aspect about prayer till last, and hopefully it will make a lasting impression. The key to effective prayer is faith. It often comes up in the Gospels that our Lord was concerned about the lack of faith (or trust) in the disciples - “Oh you of little faith” as He called them. It would be a good idea to go and read all the Scriptures that tell us about faith (trust), and especially about the faith of Christ. I will include three from the New Living Translation.
Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. 23
you that you can say to this mountain, ‘May God lift you
up and throw you into the sea,’ and
your command will be obeyed. All that’s required is that you really believe and
do not doubt in your heart. 24 Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you
believe, you will have it. 25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you
are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins,
Mark 9:23 “... “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
1 John 3:21,22 Dear friends, if our conscience is clear, we can come to God with bold confidence. 22 And we will receive whatever we request because we obey him and do the things that please him.
In the last days of our Lord’s life as a human, on the way to Jerusalem one morning He cursed a fig tree. When the disciples pointed out the withered tree the next morning, He made a statement that very much applies to prayer and faith. Mark 11:22-24. (NKJV)
22 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God.
23 "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain [big problem], 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
24 "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
It has been my experience that this sort of “mountain (problem) moving” faith does not come quickly or all that easy. We have to work at (1 John 3:22) becoming more obedient, and sacrificing our will so that we do more things to please God. In my mind, I think Christ used the example of a mountain as a type of something that is impossible to do for a physical man. A situation that we can not solve - but through prayer, and faith, and God’s help, it can be solved.
Since faith is so important to prayer, we might keep in mind the answer our Lord gave the disciples when they asked Him for more faith (Luke 17:5). The answer in v10 has two parts to it. First we are not to consider ourselves worthy of praise [stay humble], and second, we are to get on with doing our duty. As we obediently follow God’s instructions, our faith will automatically grow. Also, we shouldn’t be like the Pharisees, and constantly want “signs” to boost our ego.
So far I have outlined just two things in the daily routine in a Christian’s life - Bible reading and prayer. It is my belief that these two activities are “not negotiable”. You can experiment with the time, place and manner, but as soon as you allow either of these two activities to come to a stop, you are in trouble as far as maintaining your relationship with your Father is concerned. To put it another way, if family members stop talking to each other, haven’t they stopped being family?
Yes, there will be emergencies from time to time, and yes there will be times when you feel that you didn’t have enough time to do them both justice, but they are just warning shots across the bow to remind us to get our priorities right. A different situation than just not getting around to doing one or both.
Pick a time for Bible Reading/study and prayer, and then make them a habit.
In the story of Christ feeding the five thousand - and other places - He gives us the example of giving thanks for our food before we eat. In Mat 14:19 the word translated as “blessed” is Strong number 2127 and means “to speak well of”, or “to give thanks”. In one sense, “to speak well of” something is to also “bless” it , and so the translation in the NKJV is "sort of" correct. But care is needed, and we need to understand exactly what Christ did. Christ spoke well of the food - He did not ask His Father to "speak well of" the food. When people ask God to “bless” the meal, they are in reality asking God to “speak well of” the food, and this is not our example. It is easy to see how people get it around the wrong way, and with hindsight it may have been better for the translators to use the full phrase “to speak well of”.
So, before we eat, we should express our appreciation (“speak well of”) the food that is before us. In public we do this in our individual minds, and at home it is usually done as a short family prayer. Sometimes there are things about the day or the weather that we want to include, and always we need to be mindful that in all things - physical and spiritual - we need God’s help to do things right. While the husband and wife (if they are around) will take the lead more often, the children also need to be included, as part of their education for when they are older. I do not feel that it is appropriate to ask God to take away the poisons in the food. We have the knowledge (or at least it is available) of how to avoid inappropriate food, and we should exercise our responsibility.
Taking time to just think about where we are in life and how we are going, and how well we are responding to God’s calling is important. I was impressed with a statement made by Spurgeon (15th Aug AM) “Meditation chews the cud and extracts the real nutriment from the mental food gathered elsewhere”. Before you get out of bed is a good time to think about what you want - with God’s help - to do with the day. Then before you go to sleep, think about how it all went, and where improvements could be made tomorrow. Then make special times - in a special place if you can - where you can just think through all that God is doing for you. Meditate on the greatness of God, and how fortunate we are to understand at least a part of His great plan.
Each day we need to be mindful of how we are doing in putting God first. How are demonstrating that we love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength? Obviously communicating with God via study and prayer is a good start.
Through out the day, we will interact with all sorts of people. Do they feel refreshed because of our cherry attitude or words of support? Do we go out of our way to help people? Remember, to show love has a cost to it. Are we willing to pay that cost?
Coupled right in with the Second Great Commandment, is the need for spouses to spend time together, and the father and mother to spend “one-on-one” time with each family member. Young children need to be read to each day, and this can be one way to be close enough together so that questions can be answered, comfort and reassurance given. My parents didn't read to me, and so I didn't read all that much to my children - and so two generations missed out on this special time. We must be on the lookout for the fact that Satan would love to drive a wedge into the family by making it appear that doing the physical things is just as important as showing love. From God’s perspective - it isn’t. Don’t get caught up with the tread-mill of life. Slow down and give all the family the time and love they need. The fifth commandment reminds us that this goes for the older generation as much as the younger.
For the bread winner, going out into the world and earning money is just the start of our daily responsibilities, not the end. Watch out that you pace yourself throughout the day. The worker needs to arrive home with enough energy and goodwill that they can throw themselves into lifting the family spirits. I had to learn this one the hard way.
What I have listed as part of a Christian’s daily routine, is just some basic ideas to get you started. Each point can be further expanded and additional points brought in. However, if any point I have raised is ignored, it is my belief that you will not get the full flow of the Holy Spirit that could be available to you. In other words, you are selling yourself short. Be careful that we don’t (indirectly) blame God for something that is clearly our fault. If we ignore our responsibilities then we can’t complain if God withholds some measure of His blessings.
The highlight of the week should be the Sabbath - the day of rest and worship.
The other six days are ours to earn a living (if you are in that age bracket), get all the necessary physical things done to support our life style (grass cut, washing done, garbage disposed of, and so on), and to spend some time at our hobbies and sports. However, the most important part of “our” six days, is the time we spend interacting with others, and especially with our family members. Again in my experience, Satan will try to make more physical things available than we have time to cope with, so that the time we have for other humans will get squeezed out. Each day is a battle to get the balance right.
The Sabbath commandment is clear that we should not work at our usual labours from sunset Friday till sunset Saturday, and this includes the whole household and our animals. Some people like to go to extremes and try to get through the day without any physical exertion at all - for some it goes to the point of having the toilet paper pre-torn into pieces. Again we need to keep the balance on these things. Christ said we can untie an animal and take it to water on the Sabbath. We can pull an animal out of a ditch on the Sabbath - in other words deal with emergencies - and we can take a walk and pick some corn to eat. As I understand it, the restriction about fires on the Sabbath applies to “community” fires used to make things for the Tabernacle. Home fires for cooking and warmth on the Sabbath are fine (as I understand it).
Since I have mentioned fires - and for some of us that will mean wood fires - I should also mention the tradition the Church has of the Preparation Day (Friday). There is no direct command (that I know of) to set aside a Preparation Day, but it is mentioned in the Gospels, and it makes good sense. The day before the Sabbath (or even during the week) we try to get as many things done as we can, so that we won’t have to do them on the Sabbath. So if we are going to have a wood fire on the Sabbath, we make sure we have enough wood cut and kindling ready before Friday sunset. This can also include having the house clean and tidy, and any food preparation that can be done ahead of time. The type of menu you have during the Sabbath will depend on the individual family situation, and is something that should be discussed with all the family members. Remember, the Sabbath is not a feast day, though the Church does carry a tradition of having some nice “treats” that we normally would not have on other days of the week - to make it special. It certainly is not a day to be slaving over a hot stove all day, so some "easy to prepare" meals are in order. It was created at the very beginning to be a day of rest - even in “sowing and in harvest” - and we should make sure we keep this primary function in mind.
Having taken our usual labours out of the day, this should leave us a reasonable amount of time that we can allocate to other uses. From the example of Christ and the Apostles, we can see that attending some form of church service or prayer meeting (Acts 16:13) is one of the things we can do. We also should be able to spend more time doing our own personal study, prayer and meditation. Just as we pause and take stock of each day, and evaluate how we are going, the same should apply to the Sabbath. We are told in 1 Cor 11:31 that we should judge or discern our own actions, so that we can mend our ways and avoid judgment or condemnation, and so it is healthy to this on a weekly bases.
Since this has been written for people who are on there own or don’t have a regular church gathering that you can attend, the question of attending a church service is probably out of the question. However, circumstances may change in your life, so it is good to at least think about what your options might be.
I have no problem with attending any church service for a wedding or a funeral. You are there to honour the people involved and not to endorse that particular church’s doctrines. I would also not have any problem attending any “Church of God” (keep the Sabbath and Holy Days) service on a casual bases. What you feel comfortable with is up to you. However, for me to attend regularly and be a part of the activities, and not feel that my beliefs are being compromised, the Church would have to have the following points in common with my beliefs.
Believe that there is only one God - God the Father who created all things.
Jesus - the Son of God - started His life when He was conceived in Mary’s womb.
Keep the Friday sunset to Saturday sunset Sabbath.
Keep the Holy Days of Lev 23, with the Feast of Tabernacles always occurring after the equinox.
For the Last Supper service, have real bread and real wine, as I believe Christ did.
Understand the difference between the Old and New Covenant. Or to put it another way, that salvation comes as a gift and through the belief that Christ should be living in us.
If you can find a Church that fully endorses your beliefs, then fully immerse yourself into it, but never to the point that “church” activities impinge on or interrupt your relationship with God. Churches are there to serve you, and help you serve others - not so that you can serve the leaders of the Church. If they keep the Sabbath, but the Holy Days are only sometimes right, then you probably should think about only attending such a Church on a casual bases.
Each day of the week will present its own challenges, and we have to try to deal with them as best we can - seeking God’s help in everything. However, we should see the Sabbath - the day set apart for God - as the highlight of the week. If ever it isn’t, then analyze the situation and take what ever corrective action is necessary to get balance back into the week.
Each month in the Bible calendar starts soon after a new moon. This means that by looking at the moon, we have a good idea of how far the month has progressed. The first quarter marks of one week, the full moon marks off two weeks, and the last quarter three weeks. To keep in tune with God’s way of keeping track of time, we need to mark the start of each lunar month on our Roman calendar.
Then, to make sure we highlight the event, we need to do something special on the evening of a new month. It could be a simple as a special meal, with the new moon being mentioned when we give thanks for the food. If you want to go further, you could set aside some time that evening for some extra Bible Study. To me, how we remember the start of the month (New Moon) is not as important as the fact that we do recognize it.
As an aside, if you have Internet access, you may want to look up some sites like *www.BreathofSalt.com and try having a salt bath on the new moon. The salt should be natural crystal salt or unprocessed sea salt. (A cup to a bath full of blood temperature water, and nothing else, like soap or oil.)
In Ex 12:2, we are told that the Spiritual Year - from God’s perspective - starts at the beginning of Spring (Northern Hemisphere), and then runs through to the beginning of Autumn. The yearly routine consists of observing the three Holy Day seasons - Spring, mid Summer and Autumn. These three seasons further break down into the seven annual Holy Days.
While the Bible is clear that we should have a seven year routine, very few people are actually keeping one. One reason why this is so, is that we have lost track of when they start and finish. However, we can start our own seven year cycle - people usually pick their baptism as a starting point - and at least get a partial feel for what God is trying to get us to learn by keeping it. Obviously it works much better when all the community is in sync with their seven year cycles.
For the first six years of the seven year cycle, we give a tenth of what is produced from the ground (grains, fruits) - Lev 27:30 “A tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy”. We do not harvest during the seventh year - so no "produce of the land" to tithe on for that year.
For all seven years we give a tenth of our animals raised. - Lev 27:32 NET All the tithe of herd or flock, everything which passes under the rod, the tenth one will be holy to the LORD.
If we have, say, 25 lambs born in a year, then two are given (or sold and the money given) to the Church. Remember, it is the tenth one “under the rod” (Lev 27:31) that is the tithe. This is called the “First Tithe”, and goes to support the ministry (Num 18:21, Neh 10:37-39). A second tenth, called the “Second Tithe”, is put aside on the first, second, fourth and fifth years, and is used to attend the Holy Days, and especially the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut 26:12-19, 14:22-27). It should not be spent if we are staying home. On the third and sixth years, this second tithe is given to the widows, fatherless and the poor, so that they can eat and/or attend the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut 14:28,29).
There is no direct command to tithe on wages, because these did not come as a direct result of God blessing us with sun and rain. The tithe on animals and fruits is a way of saying “thank you” to God for the blessings He first gives to us. However, Mal 3:8 indicates that we can rob God by not giving offerings. While a tenth is not required of our wages, certainly an offering should be given to maintain the functions of the Church. The New Testament has much to tell us about offerings and the attitude with which they should be given.
On the seventh year, there should be no harvesting, so the tithes will only come from any increase in live stock. If you like, the seventh year is our vacation year. It should also be a time to release any of our brethren from debt (Deut 15:1-18).
11. THE FIFTY YEAR ROUTINE.
After seven lots of seven year cycles (49 years) the 50th year (actually the first year of the next seven) is a special Jubilee year. Any land that has been rented out during the previous 49 years is returned to the original owners or their family. Again, our real problem at this time is that we don’t know the time that the Jubilee year should be kept.
12. THE LIFETIME ROUTINE.
The things that are important to us should change over our life time. At a very early age, we should be taken up with learning and understanding and being able to experience as many different things as we can. Our parents should be encouraging us to use our minds and teaching us how to remember. It is a great pity that usually when their children are young and can benefit the most from interaction with the parents, the parents are too busy trying to get ahead in their line of business. As we are able, we should try different sports and have a go at musical instruments. Listen to all kinds of music - I’d leave out punk and heavy metal - and read mostly non-fiction books (life is too short to spend it on daydreams).
The thirst for knowledge and understanding should continue throughout life - and especially the knowledge about God and His great plan for mankind. As older children and teenagers we need to be taught how to socialize with others, and how to handle the various situations that can come up in life. If we are a male, we should know that part of our role in life is to protect women and uphold the rights of the disadvantaged. Our strength is there to protect, not so that we can attack or crush. If we are female we should be starting to see our special role in life - not to compete with men, but to work alongside of them and support them, just like all humans will end up doing for Christ. Women need to learn that their sexual powers - and yes, all females do have this power - should be developed and kept for their future husband. Clothing should be feminine but still modest, with low cut, tight fitting clothing not being worn in public.
At around 40, people should be mature enough to start to take their place in positions of responsibility. Not everyone has the desire or ability to lead others, but if the opportunity comes we should be willing to put our “shoulder to the wheel”.
Our most important work for our lifetime will probably start after we turn sixty, so this is when we want to be fit and healthy. All our life we should be taking responsibility for our health. While other medical people can help along the way, we should keep up-to-date with the pros and cons of certain foods and supplements. We also need to be aware of the side effects of our present day drugs. The drug companies make huge profits which they in turn can use to encourage people to use even more of their products. As I see it, many doctors (GP’s) today are dispensers of pharmaceutical products, and in most cases put aside instructing their patients in life-style changes that could help the situation.
Drugs and antibiotics have their place, but it is up to us to make every effort to bring our life-style and eating habits into harmony with God’s laws of health before we resort to these more extreme measures. Just as Satan has deceived the world (Rev 12:9) about spiritual matters, so too He has deceived mankind about health. The god of mammon encourages men to make money out of health - and this is done regardless of the ultimate fate it forces on mankind. For instance, two "cheap" foods that are put into most processed foods today are "sugar, in all its forms" and "polyunsaturated oils and trans-fats". Both classes of foods are to be avoided. They basically did not exist 100 years ago, and today cause health problems.
The land was intended to have its sabbath rest so that the organic component - and hence the living microbes - would be increased. But instead of resting the ground, man has learnt how to force more profit out of it by using chemical fertilizers. He then grows hybrid or genetically modified plants - again for profit and not health - sprays poisons over them, and then when it comes to milling, separates the fiber from the carbohydrate. To have any chance of staying healthy, you must be very careful about what you buy in a supermarket. Read the labels well. Added sugars (corn syrup especially) trans-fats (modified fats as used in margarines, biscuits), vegetable oils and coal tar colours should be avoided as I understand it. Go for fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and dairy in moderation, and then be careful about what manufactured products you add to the basket. Always keep in the back of your mind that for the most part, food manufacturers serve the god of mammon and not the God of love. As it has been said, eat things that will spoil - but before they do. I repeat, all our life we need to be educating ourselves about health.
As we get older, we will find that more of the people we grew up with, or looked up to as we grew up, are starting to die. If you have the opportunity, visit those who are facing death. It has been said that the last facility to stop working is our hearing, so talk to people as though they can hear you even thought it might look like they are unconscious. It just might be that they are unable to respond.
We too should be thinking about our own death, and how we can make our transition out of this life easy for others. Several times in the Bible it talks about people “putting their things in order” before their death. Even at an early age, we all should have a will, and update as we get older. This will help with the legal transfer of assets, and save those who come after you a lot of hassle. Over and above that, we should also make a list of what to do with the many nick-nacks and personal items about the house. This also helps those who are left to sort things out. Speak to the family about what your wishes are.
As I see it now, physical life is to give us experiences so that we are in a better position to appreciate the real life - eternal life - that God is offering us, and Jesus Christ has made possible by laying down His life as a sacrifice for us.
To become a member of the God family, we
first have to go through our "blood" birth. We start out in
life knowing nothing but what our instincts tell us.
As an adult, we have make the decision to accept God's offer of eternal life, and His Son's sacrifice that will cover our sins, and go through a "birth by water" or baptism (our second birth and the confirmation of understanding spiritual principles).
If we make a big enough effort to show God that we do indeed want His reward (a position in the Government [Kingdom]) of God, we will be resurrected in the first resurrection - when God and Christ come down to earth (with the New Jerusalem) - which is our third birth. If we just take it easy, and don't qualify to be in the first resurrection, then our third (of the Spirit) birth will be after the second resurrection (again, if we qualify).
If we reject God's offer, then we are totally destroyed in the lake of fire.
After our baptism we have to fight on three fronts.
First is our own human nature, which constantly wants to put "self" first, take "short-cuts" and/or tries to downplay the importance of keeping God's law - the Ten Commandments and all they entail (Rom 7:13-25).
Second is the world around us, and our peer pressure, that also wants us to slack off on keeping to God's standards (1 John 2:15-17).
Third is against the crafty wiles of Satan, who is constantly trying to get us to move from being on God's side, to being on his side (Eph 6:10-18).
Along the way, as we go through
the life cycle from birth to death, we should be striving to create
character - growing in the knowledge of what is right and wrong from
God's perspective, and growing in the ability to do what is
right even under pressure not to.
Or to put that another way, we should be growing/overcoming as Jesus did so that we will always do our Father's will in all the different situations that will confront us during our short physical life (Mat 7:21).
Bob Orchard 2007, 2017
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