My wife and I have been married for just over six years.  To some of you, that may seem like forever.  To others, it’s just a drop in the bucket.  To us, I think it is a little bit of both. 

Regardless, we are still learning a lot about each other.  It may sound weird, but after six years we are still getting to know each other quite a bit.  One thing that I have noticed recently is how differently we interpret things.  We can have a conversation with each other and come away with two completely different conclusions.  Or we can hear somebody else say the exact same thing and come away with our own individual interpretations.

I think that is similar to the way that we all hear from God in different ways.  We know that He is speaking to us.  We know that the Holy Spirit was sent to guide us.  Yet, it seems like we all hear from Him in our own special ways.

A friend of mine often tells a story about his decision to leave a particular job.  He and a friend of his were praying about that same thing at the same time.  After several days of prayer, reading, and meditation, they had lunch and discussed their final conclusions. 

My friend announced that he felt God leading him to move on to something else.  Each time he prayed, he felt the Holy Spirit leading him to leave his job.  His friend said that he had decided to stay in his job.  After hours and hours of praying with no leading whatsoever, he heard an audible voice say,”Stay.”

My friend was amazing and in awe.  God has spoken to his friend audibly, and he thought that was incredible.  He told his friend that he was jealous.  His friend’s reaction surprised him.  As he turns out, he was also jealous.  Yes, he had heard an audible voice.  But he never felt lead by the Holy Spirit.  He felt completely in the dark and he was in a very confused place for a long time.  To him, being able to feel the presence of God leading in a specific direction was preferable to waiting days and days to hear one word.

I guess that is one of those “the grass is always greener” scenarios.  However, it taught me a very important lesson about how God talks to us.  For some, including me, the Holy Spirit leads through a feeling within your soul and will not let you rest until you respond.  Others hear from God through dreams or visions.  Some are granted wisdom that comes from above.  There are people that feel the only way they can see God’s direction for them is in the Bible.  And, like the other guy in my friend’s story, God literally talks to some people.

How does God speak to you?  Is it primarily through one method or does He use a variety of ways?

 
In case you didn’t know, gospel means good news.  And the Bible is absolutely full of it.  Probably the best news that it gives, aside from the whole salvation thing, is that God keeps His promises. 

God promises that we may be redeemed through Jesus Christ.  God promises that He loves us and He will work for the good of all those that love Him.  God promises grace to everyone and forgiveness to anyone who wants it.  God is awesome, and He keeps His promises.

But also, remember that God keeps His promises.  God promises that those who choose to rebel against Him will be punished.  God promises that He is just.  God promises that His plan will be fulfilled no matter how hard we try to get in the way.

Looking throughout the Old Testament, even some of God’s most beloved followers and those we consistently celebrate (Moses, David, Solomon, etc.) ultimately fell victim to God’s wrath at some point in their lives.  He promised to lift them up and use them for His glory, and also promised punishment if they turned away from Him.  They all saw great victories and triumphs as a result of God’s promises.  And at some point or another, they all lost their way and God fulfilled His promise to hold them accountable.

God does offer grace and salvation.  He does forgive.  But we should not take advantage of that because we need to remember that God is just and He ALWAYS keeps His promises.  Even the ones we choose not to talk about because they are frightening. 

Love God.  Follow His commands.  Do all that you can to see that those promises we all seek are fulfilled.  The gospel is that He loves to keep those promises.

 
Before I started writing for this blog every day, I really struggled with reading the Bible.  Actually, I struggled with pretty much every aspect of it.  I couldn’t make myself establish a habit of reading daily.  I couldn’t make myself dive into the Old Testament.  I had serious trouble memorizing scripture.  And worst of all, I was finding pretty much zero application to my everyday life.

So…what is that?  0 for 4?  Yeah, it was pretty much a disaster.  And while I still have my issues and continue to work on growing in this area, I have found some tips that have been very helpful.  Some have come from my pastor through sermons and such.  Others have come from tips from other spiritual mentors.  And there are some that I have learned from experience.  So please take the following tips just as they are, tips from someone that has benefitted from them.

1.  Version – Choose a version of the Bible that you can understand.  If you are a “King James only” type of person and you have real trouble understanding it, you may want to explore a more modern translation.  Or maybe you have tried several translations and just never found a version that speaks to you.

Luckily, modern technology provides us with several ways to find a compatible version without buying 30 Bibles.  Check out Bible Gateway and browse through their translations to see which one you might like.  Then purchase a paper Bible in that translation.  I know some folks are getting into exclusively using electronic versions, but I am still a big fan of having a sword you can highlight, write in, and tote around with you without worrying about a gadget failure.

2.  Consistency – If something is not a part of your daily routine or schedule, it will more than likely not happen on a regular basis.  Even if you have to write it into your calendar or set reminders on your phone, find a way to have a consistent reading time each day.  We are creatures of habit, and we get to choose whether to establish good habits or bad habits.  Daily Bible reading is one of the best habits you can have.

The very best time to do this is right after you brush your teeth.  The sooner you start soaking in the word, the more God-filled the rest of your day will be.  So find some time in the morning, during breakfast or your morning cup of coffee, to spend some time in God’s Word.  Then be amazed at how much easier your day is.

3.  Pace – Retaining information is difficult for most people, especially when we try to take in too much at once.  Reading the Bible is not a race.  There is too much great stuff in there for you to speed through.  For some, even a chapter can be too much to really soak in each day.  So start out with a paragraph or two.  You may be able to do more later, or you may not.  Regardless, reading a paragraph each day is much better than reading a chapter every two months.  Pace yourself.

4.  Pray – Each time you sit down to read, pray that God will speak to you.  Pray after you read that God will allow what you read to soak in.  Also pray that you will be able to take the scripture and apply it to your walk with Him.  Pray a lot.  That’s actually a good rule of thumb for all situations.

5.  Repeat – Don’t be afraid to repeat a passage.  If you pray over your reading and take in a paragraph that you just don’t get, pray over it and read again.  Then pray and read again.  Rinse and repeat.  If you are just reading a small section, then you will have time to read a passage an extra time or two.  It is more important that you are able to experience God through your reading than it is to get through the Bible in a set amount of time.

6.  Discuss – If you have a question after reading a particular passage or if something just blows you away, talk to somebody about it.  God wants us to utilize each other to come closer to Him.  Ask questions.  Share your experiences.  Praise God through discussing his Word.

Like I said, these are a few tips that have helped me greatly as I continue to work on my practice of daily Bible reading.  Hopefully one or two of these will help you as well.  If you have any other tips that have helped you, please share in the comments below.  I’d love to hear some new ways to improve my reading experience.

 
The Men’s Ministry at my church is sponsoring a fantasy football league this year, and it is off to a pretty good start.  We recently had a live draft where one of our deacons wore a suit and played the role of the league commissioner.  He announced each pick up at the podium and we put the selections up on the big screen.  It was pretty cool.

In having to rank the players and make decisions about who to add to my team in what round, I have grown fairly addicted to the draft process.  I went on last night to select my daughter ahead of my son in the “Boggs Children of 2012” draft.  Fiber One is the favorite to be the number one pick in this morning’s “Cereal of the Day” draft.  And I am currently ranking the people that work in my office to see who might make the cut if I ever become the boss.

Then I started wondering how I could work my new addiction into the Knowledge Dropper realm.  So I have decided to launch the first ever “Ministry Squad” draft.  I am going to give you a list of ministry icons below and ask you to decide who you would take with your pick in the draft, assuming they are all available.  Here we go…

Paul – From prosecuting to proselytizing, Paul took Christ’s story and love from Damascus to all of the gentiles.  In addition to writing about 32% of the New Testament, Paul took the show on the road and became everything to everyone to spread the gospel.

Peter – “The Rock” that the church was built on, Peter was the foundation for teaching the Jews how Jesus had fulfilled the law and is, indeed, the Messiah.  Sometimes butting heads with Paul, Peter was the leader of the Christian movement from the start and took the book of Acts by storm as he went on a quest to personally fulfill the Great Commission.

Martin Luther – If you are Catholic, this German monk is probably not for you.  However, if you are a part of a protestant denomination, you have to consider this guy.  Tired of seeing folks purchase forgiveness with their Mastercards, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in an act that began the protestant reformation.  If it wasn’t for this guy, the Knowledge Dropper would be quoting the apocrypha much more often.

John Newton – Who’s John Newton?  Ah, yeah…he’s the guy that wrote Amazing Grace, the most well-known hymn ever.  He probably deserves a roster spot somewhere, right?

C.S. Lewis – From The Chronicles of Narnia to The Screwtape Letters, this guy has spread the good news “novel-style” as well as anyone ever.  Reaching children and adults alike, Lewis has introduced the Lion to millions of people through his writing and the cinematic adaptations.

Billy Graham – Probably the most well-known evangelist of our time, and the spiritual adviser to every president since LBJ, Graham may seem a little young compared to the others on this list.  However, among his contemporaries, he is a ministerial icon. 

Wow, this list could possibly go on forever and I have another draft to get to.  Feel free to choose from this list or go with a “sleeper” pick and select an underdog.

You are on the clock.  Who would you pick on your “Ministry Squad?”

 
I am not the most intelligent person in the world.  There is no doubt about that.  (Please stop nodding…not cool.)  So, in order to not let my ignorance show, I try to be witty and clever.  I try to stay one step ahead as much as my slow mind will allow.

I’ll have an occasional one-liner.  I’m fairly efficient as solving riddles.  And, at times, I can get away with an antic or two.  (Are you still nodding from earlier?)

However, no matter how hard I try, and no matter how clever I can be, I have yet to be able to put one over on myself.  For some reason, I am always aware of the shenanigans that I am trying to be sneaky about.  Even when I am at my most devious, I am horrible at hiding things.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. (Matthew 6:3-4 NIV)

No matter how careful I am, my right hand cannot seem to do anything without my left hand finding out.  And if that is supposed to be the goal, why is it that I have trouble keeping other people from hearing about my good deeds?  Is it even my fault that others happen to find out about every single good thing that I do for others?  Why yes, yes it is.

When we break this command from Christ, we usually try to dress it up like something else.  Maybe it’s a prayer request, perhaps it is to promote “our favorite charity,” or maybe we even do it as a request for help.  Whatever form it takes, it seems that we all too often find a way to let our giving be known.  Yet, we are supposed to keep it so close to the chest that we forget about it ourselves.

Why are we so bad at this?  The answer is easy:  pride, recognition, notoriety, whatever you want to call it.  It makes us feel good to have others praise us for our good deeds.  Even others knowing how generous we, even if they don't applaud us, are can help us feel more accomplished.

The sooner we all put a sock in it, the better off we will all be.  The sooner we realize that giving is not about us, the more readily we will be able to give.  The more we put the focus on meeting the needs of others and less on our own contributions, the more people we will be able to help. 

So let’s all work on keeping our giving a private matter.  I’ll start.  Come on, left hand.  Let’s shut the right hand up.

 
Throughout the Bible, we see people singing praises to the Lord. We also see people being commanded to worship the Lord through song. In the last 15-20 years, we have seen worship music in churches take a dramatic turn. While old fashion hymns are still a large part of worship in some churches, it seems that contemporary worship music has become the dominant form of music in most churches today.

For some, worship is the part of the church service when individuals feel closest to God. But why should it end there and be confined to a sanctuary ?  In Hebrews, we are commanded to continually praise the Lord through song. In today’s society, it should be very easy for us to always have some Christian music on hand that we can worship with. Whether you have an iPhone, an iPod, a Zune, a MP3 player, a cell phone that plays music, or a portable CD player (do people still use those?), you have the opportunity to listen to Christian music virtually all the time. 

It can be hard, however, to start listening to contemporary Christian music if you are not used to it. Maybe you don’t know any of the bands. Perhaps you don’t know the words to the songs. Or maybe you have no clue what kinds of contemporary Christian music are out there and no idea about what you might like. 

Fortunately, there are resources readily available that can help you get started. There are websites out (like Ministry and Media and Extreme Youth) there that can help you identify specific Christian artists that have a similar sound to what you usually listen to. For example, if you like the smooth melodies of John Mayer, you should check out Andrew Peterson or Switchfoot. If you like to rock out to Lincoln Park, you should check out Pax 217, EDL, Pillar, or Skillet. A couple of Christian alternatives to the Black Eyed Peas would be 1 Way or Group 1 Crew.

Since we are called to continually praise the Lord, let us soak in music that will glorify him.  Music is a great way to worship no matter where we are, and a great tool to remind us of where our focus should be. 

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name."  (Hebrews 13:15 NIV)
 
I have a degree in mathematics.  I tend to look at things logically and try to figure out what plans and solutions make the most sense.  I really like math, and I don’t care who knows it. 

Most people get annoyed with that attitude because they don’t enjoy math as much.  Folks get frustrated when I use the transitive property while comparison shopping.  I get odd looks when I use the distributive property in buffet lines.  It’s a struggle…but I’ve learned to live with it.

If anybody is still reading this, I have another property that I believe may actually apply to you.  I called it the Continuation Property.  It has nothing to do with math, but everything to do with becoming more awesome.  I have recently fallen into the habit of exercising regularly and eating responsibly.  I am quite a bit thinner and about 43% healthier.

In addition to learning how to make gross food taste edible, I have learned a huge lesson in this life-changing process.  As it turns out, exercising in the morning makes it easier for me to eat healthier meals throughout the day.  Somehow, running two miles during my lunch break gives me the strength to turn down cupcakes in the afternoon.

Being disciplined in one area of your life makes it easier to be disciplined in all areas.  Practicing one healthy habit can give you the backbone you need to establish others.  Committing yourself to excellence in one area of life overflows and excellence spills all over everything else.  That is the Continuation Property.

When I started writing this blog, I committed myself to being more disciplined with my daily reading.  I come to work a bit early each morning and read my Bible before I do anything else.  And, just like working out helps me eat healthier food, I found that my disciplined reading regimen impacted every other area of my faith.  My prayer time has become much more fruitful.  My conversations have become much more God-centered.  And my understanding of my relationship with God has grown in leaps and bounds.

I have said none of this to brag on myself.  None of it has been easy, and I have done very few things very well.  However, I have found that the Continuation Property applies as much to Christianity as it does to anything.  Discipline yields discipline.  And if you seek excellence in the foundational elements of your relationship with God, all of the other areas will fall in line. 

Also, and most importantly…math is awesome!

 
Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies.  It’s got Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones.  It’s about baseball.  There’s corn and ghosts.  What is there not to love? 

This may come across as hypocritical from a guy that bases his personality and the majority of his dialogue on witty movie banter, but Field of Dreams is not a film that you should model your ministry after.  Yeah, there are some good lessons about following the leading of the Holy Spirit even if it means taking a big risk.  And there is a great scene that illustrates sacrifice when Moonlight Graham gives up his spot in the game to save the life of a young girl.

However, as we seek revival and to grow the kingdom of God here on earth, it seems that we have adopted a philosophy of Field of Dreams evangelism.  We do everything that we can come up with to get people to come to our churches.  I’ve heard so many church leaders talk about strategies to get the lost to come through the doors and how to fill the seats each Sunday morning.  It’s like we are constantly chasing a whisper that says, “If you build it, they will come.”

We put creative verbiage on our church signs, we mix popular music into our worship sets, we supply snacks and coffee, and we spend hours and hours talking about how to be more welcoming when visitors arrive.  Don’t get me wrong, those are all good things that seem to draw people in.  These strategies are effective at ministering to certain populations of people.

But if we are talking about reaching people, if we are trying to love on those that may be the hardest to love, we can’t just put a baseball diamond in our cornfield and sit there and wait.  If we are to be the hands and feet of God, then we need to get off of our butts and go out into our communities. 

We need to spend time planning ministry events that take place where people are instead of inviting people to our ministry events.  We need to hang out in the neighborhoods that we avoid driving through at night and find reasons to loiter in places where Christ’s love is not written all over the walls.  If we truly want to reach the lost, we need to get out of our comfort zones and work our way into theirs. 

I’m fairly certain that this is implied in the Great Commission, but we all need a reminder every now and then.  So let’s stop spending all of our time planning new ways to get strangers to come to church and start going out and making friends that we can bring to our worship services.  That is ministry.

 
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.”  Do you agree with that statement?  Wait…you probably don’t have enough information to make that decision yet.  Kevin Spacey said it in a movie.  Now…do you agree?

I don’t know about the “greatest trick” part, but it does bring up an interesting topic.  As we continue to ignore the evil forces out there, does that give them more power?  If we completely forgot about Satan’s existence, would that make it harder for us to stay pure and righteous?  I think so.  In my opinion, you can’t defend yourself against what you don’t see.  So the quote makes perfect sense if you believe that we have convinced ourselves that he isn’t out there.

However, if Christians read the same Bible that I do, it is pretty impossible to ignore the existence of an enemy that is working to pull us away from God.  So if that isn’t the devil’s greatest trick, what is?  I’m not sure what the greatest is, but I do struggle with one that seems to be pretty effective.

You see, people are made to be in relationships…with God, and with each other.  Just as the early church did, Christians are called to share their lives with one another.  But as we creep further and further away from the establishment of Christianity, it seems that the community piece is one that we tend to have a hard time hanging onto. 

You can give the devil credit if you like, but ultimately it seems that we have allowed a little too much pride to creep into our lives.  When we are struggling with a sin, we often do all that we can to bury it so that nobody will ever know.  We convince ourselves that we are the only person struggling with this issue and that it would do nothing but damage to let anyone else in on our dirty little secret.  We keep telling ourselves that we are alone, and that we can’t ask for help.

Even though we are responsible for making the decision to not ask for help, the devil delights in seeing us isolate ourselves away from other believers.  He wants us to feel alone so that our sin can eat away at us and do serious damage to our relationship with God.  I’m sure that even Kevin Spacey would agree that this is a pretty good trick.

If you are struggling with a sin or a conviction that you are afraid to act on, please ask for help.  If you are feeling alone and don’t think anybody else could possibly understand, find a spiritual mentor that you trust and seek their counsel.  If you are letting your pride build a barrier between you and God, pray that He will break it down and give you the courage to speak up.  You are not alone.  Ever.  And don’t let anyone, including yourself, convince you that you are.

 
My job is amazing.  I get to work with college students every day, and watching them grow is one of the most rewarding compensations that a high salary can’t buy.  I see them come in as who they have been told they have to be, go on a journey to find who they think they want to be, and ultimately stumble upon who they really are.  It is a beautiful thing.

However, all of this growth cannot take place without a little pain.  Changing your identity is never an easy process, as you can spend most of your time feeling confused.  Maybe you are being pulled in opposite directions.  Perhaps you are having trouble breaking old habits.  Yet, unlike many Christians that hold onto their habits, at least these college students have an excuse.

When a person becomes a Christian, they also go through an identity change.  When you declare Jesus as Lord of your life, you are supposed to give up everything to follow Him.  However, we usually end up hanging onto the things that we really like or those that would take the most effort to change.  We give God most of our lives but keep a small percentage for ourselves.  We try to be simultaneously selfless and selfish, completely dependent on Him but independent on our own, who He wants us to be and who we have always been.  See the problem there?

Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  (James 3:11-12 NIV)

You can’t follow Christ and hang onto your old habits.  You can’t sell out for your faith and still dabble in debauchery.  You can’t change and remain the same.

You either surrender your life to Jesus Christ or you don’t.  There is no in-between.