There are a few verses in the bible that have become like an over-stuffed fleece blanket to me (and we Minnesotans LOVE our fleece blankets). Some days I need to curl up in Psalm 46 and remember to be still before God. Other days I need to sit in the stories of Jesus and just bask in his awesomeness.
Then there are the other verses, the one’s I’d rather white out and give them the don’t ask don’t tell treatment. These verses make my wince and squirm in my chair.
Lately, I’ve been a little rocked by this verse:
All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16
Well, shoot. No mention of white out. No room to skip over the icky parts. No option to put the book in the freezer.
Yes, theologians, I know this verse is more complicated than it seems. I know there are cultural contexts and sophisticated translation protocols; I know there are verses written for all times and others written for a specific people at a specific time.
Yet as I step back and look at the landscape of Christians today, I can’t help but see some verses many of us have decided to conveniently disregard. Like a pack of trail mix, we pick out our favorites and leave the rest at the bottom of the bag with the nasty raisins.
There are a lot of words in that Bible thing people, but if all scripture is God-breathed, maybe it’s time we wade into the verses that don’t have us running to Instagram.
1. James 1:2-5 (MSG)
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
Consider sheer gift? You’ve got to be freaking kidding me. I thought believing in God guaranteed comfort, safety and prosperity. What do you mean I’m going to go through hard times and I’m supposed to linger in that place…
Here’s the thing about struggle—it forces your hand. It’s an “opportunity” to decide where you truly stand. When things get crazy tough do you run to a bottle, an image on a screen, someone else’s bed, your work, or 87 hours on the elliptical to make it go away?
Struggle is not a sign that you are unfaithful or God somehow hates you, it’s a result a broken, fallen world. Now how we respond to that struggle, pressing in with God or running from Him, that makes all the difference.
Challenge: Don’t numb the pain, walk it out with Jesus and with a community who loves you. Worship and Praise God even when it really sucks and you don’t feel like it. Look at your struggles as an opportunity to grow and use them to bless others who are struggling too.
2. Phillippians 2:14-16 (VOICE)
Do all things without complaining or bickering with each other, so you will be found innocent and blameless; you are God’s children called to live without a single stain on your reputations among this perverted and crooked generation. Shine like stars across the land.
Hold up, not only am I supposed to love “tests and trials,” I’m not allowed to complain about it? Thiiiiiis is not what I signed up.
This verse is just stupid. I need to complain about how hard my life is. I need to complain about how exhausting my job is. I need to complain about every horrible thing that has ever happened to me ever. How will I ever tell everyone just how hard I’ve had it if I can’t complain?
Here’s the thing: there is good in every day for the one who looks for it. There are millions of things we all can be thankful for right at this moment, but we have to look for them. Even when we need a magnifying glass to find them.
Choose to be obsessively grateful for every good thing God has brought into your life. Force your brain to be positive, especially when you don’t feel like it. Decide to be the light to those around you instead of bringing them down.
Challenge: Take a one-week no complaint challenge. See how much better you’ll actually feel and how much more people will enjoy being around you.
3. Luke 6:32-36 (NIV)
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
This verse is just plain horrible. What do you mean I am supposed to LOVE the unlovable people in my life? CAN’T YOU SEE THEY ARE UNLOVABLE. dumb.
What do you mean I am supposed to reach out to people who look differently than me, who have different values, who don’t fit the perfect, sweater-vest-wearing Christian mold? Jesus, can’t you see that is 49 shades of uncomfortable.
True love, the kind of love God shows us every single day, takes more grit and forgiveness than we’d ever choose to show on our own. God calls us to love the unlovable people around us because he chooses to love the unlovable in us.
Challenge: Start training your brain to see people how God see’s them—as a beautiful work in progress. Forgive and try again. Do good to those who are horrible to you. Be reckless in who you talk to and who you invite to church. You never know when one conversation might change the trajectory of someone’s entire life.
4. James 5:16 (NIV)
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
I’m so jealous of the Catholics for getting this one right for so long.
Personally, I HATE this verse. When I screw up I don’t want to tell anyone. I don’t want anyone to know I’m a… *whispers* sinner. (gasp!)
Newsflash: we’re all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) And as Paul so eloquently says in his first letter to Timothy: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15).
Seriously. You’re the worst. AND I’m the worst. Pretty much we all suck. We all have mud on our face and blood on our hands. We all have things to confess every single day we be on this planet.
So stop. Stop pretending you’re perfect. Stop pretending your sin isn’t as bad as Mary-Lou’s half-sister who got the herpes or George’s great uncle so-and-so who smokes the Ganja. Nobody’s buying your holier-than-thou attitude anyway. If you’re struggling with a habitual sin in your life you have to tell someone. Tell a trusted friend, pastor, or family member who can walk with you in the mess. If something is keeping you from being your best self, why wouldn’t you do everything you can to break free?
Whenever I live this out, I feel worse at first and then way better. Plus now I have people who can check in and hold me accountable. It’s almost like God knew what he was doing… annoying.
Challenge: Confess your sin to someone. If you don’t have a group of people you’re doing life with, get your bottom off the couch and go find them. Put yourself out there. Pursue people who will walk out the joys and sorrows of this world.
5. John 13:35 (NIV)
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”(MSG)
Hmm… I think I missed the point of this verse for a long time. I don’t think he’s talking about loving everyone around us (while that is certainly something to strive for), I think he’s specifically calling out how we treat other Christians.
We should be loving our brothers and sisters so hard that people want to be a part of whatever we’re doing. They should want to be a part of our friend groups and families because there is something different and real about the way we’re doing life.
To do that, we as Christians (ALL CHRISTIANS) have to…
Stop fighting and bickering about every little, stupid detail. (See #2 above)
Stop making 47 new denominations every hour because some new social issue has come along we can’t all perfectly reconcile.
Stop posting even one hate-filled rant on an internet message board in a never-ending battle to be “right.”
Stop the rabid civil war among God’s people.
Challenge: STOP treating one another like the enemy and see that it’s time to love one another as disciples of the Church – as the global body of believers. It’s time to take a deep breath and find common ground. It’s time we actually listen to this bible verse and love each other well.
6. 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NIV)
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Oh no, now he’s brought sex into the conversation… I’m outta here.
Somewhere along the line, sexual sin became the norm instead of the exception. Most men’s groups I’ve been a part of, it seems like the standard of “trust” is if you can say pornography or masturbation and sex before marriage is barely discussed at risk of offending someone.
I am not claiming to be the expert or the perfect example of living this out, but the bible is pretty clear on sexual sin and sex before marriage. Yet it seems like for most circles, this verse is merely a suggestion. But, the thing is God actually has a better plan than the world around us. God knows things about sex and sexual sin that science is proving.
Challenge: Get to know what God says about sex. If you’ve pushed too far, confess, apologize and start again. Trust God’s plan in every area of your life, especially the one’s that are drastically different than the culture we live in.
7.Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Want to do something for Jesus? Um no, don’t play the drum for him little drummer boy… kids.
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Just to be clear—I don’t believe we need to accomplish anything to go to heaven (John 3:16). But I also think anyone who truly loves God and wants to be a disciple of Jesus can’t help but love the poor. It’s kind of like one of those tiny-printed side effects on the pill-bottle you never read until it’s too late. What? KIDNEY STONES?!? Noooooooooo!!
When you ask God to break your heart for what breaks His, you find yourself stocking shelves in a food pantry or wiping poopy butts in Haiti. You start doing crazy things like the How Can I Help Project. You start doing the work for Jesus not out of guilt, but out of love for the people he loves.
If we, the Church are not the light of the world, inspiring people and saving the world, who’s going to?
So get your cape out and let’s do this people. Start by meeting the physical needs of those around us like my man James says:
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? -James 2:16
And while you’re loving them, you can tell them about this amazing God guy who is crazy about them. WIN!
Challenge: Let your actions speak louder than you words. Put down the megaphone, pick up a hammer and get building. Create something that helps those who desperately need it. Catch a vision on how you can make one small corner of this world a better place and never stop fighting for a better world.
Lately, I’ve been stuck on this messy truth: sometimes following Jesus is really hard. It’s uncomfortable and challenges you to be strong and courageous. It asks you to do things that seem impossibly tough. It asks you to do things that don’t make sense to the world around us.
Following Jesus means trying to see challenges as a gift and learning to love unlovable people. It involves being positive and abandoning our deeply human need to complain and bicker. It asks us to tell our friends how much we suck sometimes and pray for forgiveness. It means running from the instant gratification of the sexual sin and waiting for God’s plan. It means having a deep, overwhelming love for the least of these around us.
And that’s only 7 verses…
Instead of getting bogged down by all the ways you could be more like Jesus, just choose one. Choose one of these challenging verses and focus this month on changing that aspect of your life. Set a goal. Reach out for help. Take action towards shaping your life to look a little more like Jesus’.
Then just freaking smile because despite all the ways we screw this whole faith thing up, we are ferociously loved and endlessly forgiven. And that, my friends, is kind of the greatest thing ever.
What verse are you going to focus on this month? What verses would you add to this list? Let me know in the comment section below!
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