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veryone seems to "know" what Christianity is, but few can agree about how to live it. It's easy if you follow the original model, Jesus; it's easy to get off base if you take your focus off of Him. Much of what people think is Christianity is really religion. There is a difference. If you are not sure what the differences are, I suggest you read my article True Verses False Christianity, and then return to these pages to learn how to live a healthy and productive Christian Life.
ust as prayer is open communication between you and your Father, the Bible, God's Word, is a love letter to you from your Dad. If you look at it from this perspective, you will keep it from becoming rigid, dull, and legalistic, it will keep you grounded and focused on relationship and love.
Studying and interpreting Scriptures should follow some basic guidelines. Read a phrase of a Scripture verse in relationship to and within the context of the complete sentence. Read the complete sentence in the context of the whole paragraph. Read the paragraph in the context of the whole chapter. Read the whole chapter in relationship to the whole book. Read the whole book in balance with the whole Bible. Read the whole Bible in relationship with the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh. If you see Him, you see your Father God. Everything that Jesus said, thought and did agree with God, and is the Bible in living form. How Jesus ate and slept, laughed and cried, taught and corrected, healed and comforted, got angry and rebuked, was patient and listened, accepted and loved, died and rose again is the Bible. So, take whatever you think a certain passage means, what you have been told or taught it means, and hold it up in comparison to Jesus. Now remember, He is not some doctrinal, religious, codified Jesus, but the living breathing person Jesus Christ. If they match, well done; if not, then not only do you need to rethink your interpretation, but perhaps also your understanding of Jesus.
It is also good to look at Scriptures in relationship to their historical and cultural settings. You might be surprised what you learn. In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 18, Verses 35-43, there is the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man sitting by the side of the road. As Jesus passed, he called out to Jesus, and His disciples went back and got the man. Jesus asked him, "What do you want?" The man replied, "I want to see, have mercy on me." Jesus replied, "According to your faith, so be it." He saw. In those days, if you were poor or sick you went to the priests, they examined you, and you wore a coat to show you could legally accept donations. If you read the same story in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10, Verses 46-52, this is the only version that says Bartimaeus "threw away his coat" when he got up, before he got to Jesus. Jesus saw it, so no wonder Jesus said, "Your faith has made you whole." Looking at the Scriptures from an historical and cultural setting can help you understand what is going on, to whom it applies, and why it was written. Do not allow yourself to interpret something out of context, or not applicable to your life. This is another good reason to compare your interpretations with Jesus.
If you do not understand a verse or part of the Bible, do not be discouraged. Ask God. The Holy Spirit lives in your heart, to help you understand this love letter to you from your Father. There are also many good study bibles, with study aids in the margins. There are other study guides, such as concordances that list every time a certain word appears; so, if you want to do a study on "joy," you can look up all the verses that talk about joy. There are Bible dictionaries, to help you understand different people, cities, and events. You can find them in any bookstore or at your local public library.
God gave you a brain as well as a heart. Let your heart lead your brain. So, be open to different ideas or interpretations of Scriptures. Use your brain, look at them, consider them, and let your heart decide, not your head. Logical can sometimes take you places you should not go. I have seen people use the Bible logically to conclude things that are not Love, not from the heart. An example of this is the teaching it is acceptable to be gay in orientation but not in practice; this teaching comes from good meaning people who are trying to find ways of accepting us gays. But, this interpretation violates Christ's teachings that thought and action is the same thing, to think something is the same as doing it. This interpretation is obviously not Love, it prevents a person from being true to self, and living a full and abundant life, despite the fact it seems so logical and well thought out. Use your brain, but follow your heart, where the Holy Spirit resides who understands all things.
Scriptures are full of promises for you, God's son or daughter. You can claim those promises, stand on them because they are for you who trusts in God through the work and Blood of Jesus Christ. They are not magic charms or formulas to get whatever you want, or make God do what you want. Use them responsibly, in accordance with what is best and right for your life, in agreement with Christ's Law of Love. What might apply to you, might not for someone else, what might be love and lawful for you, might not be for another, but all always agrees with God's Love. Scriptures reinforce to you your position in God's family, and God's view and opinion of you. Meditate, think and reflect on them, day and night. Use them to grow and be edified.
If, while reading Scriptures, you become aware of something lacking in your life, go to God in prayer and ask for Jesus' guidance and assistance. If you become aware of some fault, weakness, or error, ask God for forgiveness, to empower you to become an "overcomer." Do not beat yourself over the head with the Bible; remember, the Bible is Jesus, so I do not think Jesus wants to be beaten over your head, HaHa. Use the Bible to edify yourself.
Do not listen to people who say you cannot mature as a Christian unless you read the Bible every day, or so many hours a day. I know people who read the Bible constantly, but are ignorant of Jesus and God. What will lead you to maturity is recognizing the Bible is not formulas, but fellowship. It is always about family, and relationship. How much time you spend with God in fellowship, using reading the Bible as one way of doing so, will determine the depth of your relationship together.
You can spend a lifetime with Jesus, and still barely know the depths of His love for you. You can spend a lifetime reading the Bible, and if you are open to God, you will always find something new, sometime to help and bless you. It is a living document leading you to its Author. Your relationship with God will suffer if you do not regularly communicate. The Bible is one way of doing it. So, read and study it regularly.
Psalm 119:11, 103, 105, 130; Jer. 15:16; Mark 4:14-15; John 1:1-5; John 5:39; Acts 17:11; Romans 15:4; Eph. 6:17; Col. 3:16; II Tim. 2:15; II Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12; I Peter 2:2; II Pet. 1:21.
See Also: How to Be a Gay Christian, True Verses False Christianity, Good News (Scriptures for the Gay Christian), What Do These Scriptures Mean?, How to Interpret Scripture, Books: Gays, Lesbians and Christianity.
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