Category Archives: Communication

How Christians Should Be Like Dust

How Christians Should Be Like Dust

How Christians Should Be Like Dust

This past week my family and I took a vacation to Colorado. It was amazing! Believe it or not, it was the first time I’ve ever seen the mountains up close and personal. Talk about amazing and inspiring…I could stay in the mountains for a LONG time and write and study and write and study… I’ll post a few of our pics on Instagram. In addition to sightseeing, hiking, and fishing, we participated in some pretty adventurous undertakings too! We did some summer alpine activities on a mountain in Breckenridge. We ziplined through the mountains (in the rain!), and we also went white water rafting.

While we were there, we also had an opportunity to attend a church bible study in Canon City with some family. The kids weren’t quite as excited as I was about this activity, but I sure enjoyed it! Call me crazy, but I eat that kind of stuff up. It’s super fun for me. I especially love gleaning wisdom from older, more experienced people. However, the coolest bit of insight I gained at this study was from my 15-year-old cousin. And of all things…her insight was about dust.

We are like dust

One of the passages we studied was Genesis 28:10-19 about Jacob’s dream at Bethel. My young cousin focused on verse 14 in this passage:

“Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions–to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” Genesis 28:14 (NLT)

She explained how this made her think of Christians being like dust, pointing out that dust spreads in all directions and gets everywhere. Then another lady brought up a verse that came to her mind which also indicates that we are like dust:

“For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:14 (NLT)

Their conversation got my wheels turning about the qualities of dust and how we are to exhibit some of those same qualities as Christians. This also reminded me of when I studied salt and wrote previously about the qualities of salt and how we should be like it.

Let’s talk about some of the qualities of dust that we should emulate… Continue reading

Be Kind and Gentle to Gain Respect

Be Kind and Gentle to Gain Respect

Be Kind and Gentle to Gain Respect

“A kind and gentle woman gains respect but violent men gain only wealth.” Proverbs 11:16 (ERV)

We must be KIND and GENTLE to gain the respect of others and win people over. When I read this verse a short time ago I thought of the mean ol’ bitty lady at the family reunion I attended recently. Actually, Eric and I had just been discussing how mean she was and how she has a negative impact on people because of it. She could have a lot more influence if she’d only be nicer and less harsh (i.e. more kind and gentle…like the verse says!). She goes on and on about the family reunion dying out and the lack of attendance as the older generations are passing away. Her continuous reprimand each year is that the young people need to take over so the family, its stories, and the reunion will live on.

However, she then proceeds to belittle the younger people and act condescending toward them lashing out constant insults. She’s bossy and harsh with her mannerisms and words. Quite honestly, she’s really just flat-out rude. Because of this, she’s turning and driving the young people away. She’s losing her influence. More than likely, she’s having the exact opposite effect of what she wants. After all, who wants to keep a family tradition of meanness, rudeness, and condescension alive?

On the other hand, if she would do as Proverbs 11:16 says showing kindness and acting more gentle, she would earn the respect of the younger generation to whom she is trying so hard to pass the reigns. They would probably bend over backwards to help out and keep the family traditions alive if only she would be kind and gentle.

A bad first impression of this less than kind and gentle lady 

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Proverbs 31…It’s Not Just For Women

Men should possess the Proverbs 31 characteristics too. These same character traits this passage praises the Proverbs 31 woman for having are also desirable for men. They are not gender-specific. ALL people, men and women alike, should strive to have this type of character.

Proverbs 31…It’s Not Just For Women

Proverbs 31 is one of those chapters that I think a lot of women sometimes read and then feel deficient. It’s almost like we can never measure up to her. I mean, really, who can do and be proficient at ALL of the things that she does? Talk about a Renaissance Woman!

However, recently I had some different insights while reading Proverbs 31 in The Message translation. As I read through the verses about the Proverbs 31 woman, I jotted down her characteristics in my journal. It dawned on me that it’s not necessarily the activities that she does that matter, but the character and traits she possesses are what are truly important. That should be our primary takeaway from the reading. Thank goodness because I don’t think I’ll EVER be proficient at sewing!

In Proverbs 31, verses 10-31 form an alphabetic acrostic, used here as a type of Hebrew poem about a woman who exemplifies godly character and wisdom from A to Z. J.A. Motyer says, “In the common form of acrostic found in Old Testament Poetry, each line or stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order. This literary form may have been intended as an aid to memory, but more likely it was a poetic way of saying that a total coverage of the subject was being offered — as we would say, ‘from A to Z.‘”[1] So in this case, the Proverbs 31 woman exemplifies godly traits and wisdom throughout and completely. She’s the full package.

Proverbs 31 is not just for women

In part of my recent study of the Proverbs 31 passages, I came across a really good article by Rachel Held Evans. In her post, she mentions that the “target audience” of Proverbs 31 is actually men. I did not know this! Rachel mentioned that she learned from a Jewish friend of hers that in the Jewish culture, it’s the men who memorize the passage, not the women.

In fact, the men actually sing or recite it to the women as a way of praising and blessing them! This special “Eshet Chayil” song is typically done each Friday night before the Sabbath or Shabbat meal.

Here is a video of a traditional Eschet Chayil song with the Hebrew lyrics and English translation shown:

I LOVE this English rendition by Ari Lesser as he sings to his wife:

I also realized these are NOT just characteristics that a woman should possess. Men should possess the Proverbs 31 characteristics too. These same character traits this passage praises the Proverbs 31 woman for having are also desirable for men. They are not gender-specific. ALL people, men and women alike, should strive to have this type of character. 

Proverbs 31:10-31 in The Message Translation

Below is a look at my takeaways about character from the passages. I use the feminine pronouns “she” and “her” when describing her characteristics, but read through them keeping in mind that we should all endeavor to display this type of character in our lives. Continue reading

Stop and Take Time to Listen to God

Learn how to Stop and Take Time to Listen to God...

Stop and Take Time to Listen to God

Taking regular time to stop and listen to God is not a strong suit of mine. I do hear from God on a fairly regular basis. I know his voice and how he talks to me. Unfortunately I hate to admit that I kind of stink at being intentional about taking time to listen to God. This topic isn’t what I was going to originally write about this week. It was only because of taking time to listen to God that I decided to write about listening to God!

My notes are lost

I seem to have lost my notes for my original topic. I’m serious – I can’t find them anywhere! I searched my quiet time journal. I’ve looked through my Bible and sermon notes. I looked through my computer documents. I’ve looked through my phone notes. I even looked around for random post-it notes where I may have written some things down. Nothing. Now, I can’t even remember if I even wrote the notes down to begin with, but I could’ve sworn that I did.

After searching around frantically for my notes for well over an hour, I decided to just pray about it and ask God to help me find them. Then I remembered my quiet time about stopping and listening to God. It was about taking time to just stop and be quiet. So I decided to do that after I prayed about losing my notes.

Maybe they were “lost” on purpose

I began to think that maybe my notes were “lost” on purpose because God had other intentions of what he wanted me to write about this week. If I’m right, it’s what he’s been gently correcting me about recently. It’s about making time to stop and listen to him on purpose.

While listening, I had the thought, “Well, maybe they’re lost on purpose because I’m not supposed to write about them. Maybe I’m supposed to write about something else. I usually pray every week about what I’m going to write about, but I don’t think I did this week. I think I just decided last week what this week’s topic would be and then didn’t really spend a whole lot of time in prayer about it. Well, I guess it serves me right!” Leave it to God to conveniently cause my notes to go missing when I try to do things my way without consulting him or listening to him!

Oh, the irony

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How to Conduct Research

How to Conduct Research

How to Conduct Research

Recently, I wrote a post on Barabbas and discussed how I encountered some conflicting information. I decided to do some research. During that process I found both credible and not-so-credible resources. The thought came to me that some people may not know how to discern if material is reliable or not. So this week I thought I’d share just some basic tips on how to conduct research and evaluate information.

They do teach some of this in high school and in college. So many of you might already know how to do this effectively. Sometimes though it’s nice to have refreshers. You might also learn a few tips and tricks of which you may have been unaware. I think you’ll also find some techniques very helpful when doing some Bible study and research.

Additionally, there may be some readers who find this helpful—especially in our current culture of biased media, people throwing out inaccurate data, and a world full of activist agendas. Even if you feel proficient in conducting research, feel free to watch the short video clips and learn a few tricks for web searches and such.

The CRAAP Test

I teach the CRAAP Test in my college classes. Sounds kinda crude doesn’t it? I joke with my students that this is the method they’ll use to recognize fact from crap! 😉 In all seriousness though, it’s a method used to help you know how to evaluate sources and material. It will help you determine which is good information and which isn’t.

Basically, CRAAP is just an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. This handout by California State University, Chico is one we refer to and distribute in my classes. However to give you a basic rundown of what it entails, I’ll describe each step. Continue reading

Defining Tolerance

Defining Tolerance

Defining Tolerance

Tolerance is a word that’s tossed around a lot these days. People are constantly accusing Christians of being intolerant, bigots, and closed-minded. Then, we in turn accuse the accusers of being intolerant based on their very definition of tolerance! If we are intolerant because we refuse to embrace their worldview as equally valid, wouldn’t that consequently make them intolerant of us as well? It seems like a vicious cycle doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, the word “tolerance” is abused in our current culture. It seems as if the problem lies in the definition of tolerance. So maybe if we start by defining what tolerance truly is and what it is not, we can come to some common ground.

What tolerance is NOT:

  • Agreeing with another’s belief system or opposing worldview
  • Acceptance of an idea, belief or lifestyle (especially if it opposes your own) as being true or equally true
  • Refusing to believe in objective or absolute truth
  • Conceding that somebody is right, when you believe that they are wrong
  • Believing that others’ opposing views must align with your own

What tolerance IS:

  • Allowing for differences, disagreements and opposition in a kind, compassionate and respectful way
  • According to the Oxford Dictionary, tolerance is defined as “the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behavior that one dislikes or disagrees with.”
  • Another definition listed is “the capacity to endure continued subjection to something such as a drug or environmental conditions without adverse reaction.”

Note the secondary definition. Taken from a relational perspective, this would mean to endure opposing conditions (or people) without reacting adversely or in a hostile way. 

My favorite take on tolerance

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Controversies of the Paschal Pardon and Barabbas

Controversies of the Paschal Pardon and Barabbas

Controversies of the Paschal Pardon and Barabbas

Last week I mentioned that while doing some research I came across some controversy about Barabbas and the Paschal Pardon. Some scholars and skeptics have debated a few different issues of perceived inconsistencies and misconceptions. Honestly, I had never even heard of some of the criticisms. So that you won’t be surprised like I was when you hear them, I’ll give you a brief overview of what some of the debate has been about.

Was the Paschal Pardon fabricated by the apostles?

First, some critics argue the validity and truth of the Paschal Pardon. Some contend that it was made up and was not an actual custom. Their argument stems from the fact that the custom has not been mentioned in any historical documents outside the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John). Their claim that there is no evidence of a Paschal Pardon aside from the Bible is accurate. Nowhere else is this exact practice mentioned besides the Bible.

However, scholars speculate several plausible theories explaining this perceived discrepancy. Some explanations include similar customs in Roman history, Hasmonean customs, and possibly even ancient Jewish/Talmudical customs. [1] [2] According to these sources there were several events in history where pardons were offered to prisoners at festival times.

Furthermore, the Bible itself has been proven a valid historical document. Therefore, simply dismissing information because it only appears in scripture is fallacy. Even non-Christian historians recognize the validity of the Bible as a historical document. In her book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, Natasha Crain explains in detail why we can trust the Bible as a historically accurate document.[3] I highly recommend her book to learn more (and teach others) about why we can trust the Bible.

Is the Paschal Pardon inconsistent with Roman authority?

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Lessons from Barabbas at Easter

Learn the symbolism of Barabbas in the Easter story

Lessons from Barabbas at Easter

I’m super excited about this week’s post! Although, it’s a bit delayed due to taking some extra liberty and time with some extended research. In fact, I went all “college professor” on this one, even researching some books and scholarly articles to examine some history and expert opinions. With this being Easter Week or Holy Week, I’d like to share a bit of what I learned about Barabbas.

Not long ago Pastor Brent Troxell, one of the pastors at my church, gave a mini-message of sorts before we took communion together at church. In less than 5 minutes, he spoke something so profound that impacted me as much as an hour long sermon. He shared part of the crucifixion story, specifically about Barabbas, in a way I’ve never heard before. It made such an impact on me that I made a note to go and study it further on my own, which is what I’ve done over the past week.

Pontius Pilate was convinced of Jesus’ innocence

After Jesus was arrested, questioned, and falsely accused by the Jewish authorities, he was handed over the next day to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea (Matthew 27:1-2, Mark 15:1, Luke 23:1-2, John 18:28-29). Pilate questioned Jesus and was convinced that Jesus was innocent (Matthew 27:23-24, Mark 15:14, Luke 23:4, 13-16, John 18:38).

Paschal Pardon

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