Category Archives: Scripture

The Wise & Foolish Builder

In Matthew 7, Jesus tells a parable of two builders: one wise and one foolish. Without even reading the story, you already know which builder you would want to be, right? Nobody wants to be foolish. Before we say anything else, read the passage again.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I have heard this passage hundreds of times (not counting the times I sang the song that goes with it), yet I just read some thoughts on it that made me stop and think. Here is what the footnotes say in the Archeological Study Bible.

“The sand ringing the lake (Sea of Galilee) was rock hard during the hot summer. But a wise builder would dig down, as far as ten feet below the surface sand to the bedrock, knowing that this was the only way to erect a foundation able to withstand the winter rains, which were notoriously torrential and capable of causing disastrous flooding.”

For some reason, I have always pictured the wise builder finding a rock formation that was on the sand and building on that. This would have taken time and forethought, but not a lot of extra energy. The foolish builder, on the other hand, was pictured as simply lazy or apathetic, unwilling to notice the foolishness of not using the rock formation.

During part of the year, the foolish builder’s house would be perfectly stable and secure. He would have no worries or fears. His house would be safe… but only because there was no outside dangers. As soon as something negative began happening, the foolish builder’s house would be in danger of collapse.

The wise builder – who took the time to build on a strong foundation – would also have no fears or worries during the good part of the year. But even when the danger came, his house would stand firm because it was built on bedrock which would not collapse. The danger would be real and he would certainly feel some affects of the storm, but he would outlast the danger.

Jesus says that anyone who hears His words AND puts them into practice is like the wise builder.

As a follower of Christ, I have to ask myself one question. Am I putting Jesus’ words into practice in my life?

As a youth minister, I have to ask myself another question. How am I helping students put Jesus’ words into practice in their life?

Are you helping others be wise or foolish builders?

Book Review: Nelson’s Biblical Cyclopedic Index

Thomas Nelson’s Biblical Cyclopedic Index is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the Bible. From its simplistic format to its rather extensive amount of information, you will find many positives in this $20 reference book. Unlike some Biblical reference books I have on my shelf, this book is smaller than a DVD case (it is much thicker, though).

The cover claims this is the “best Bible subject index ever” and it is difficult for me to argue with that. Nelson’s Biblical Cyclopedic Index contains more than 8,000 subjects (names, places, things, concepts, events, and doctrines). On top of this vast collection of subjects, with sub-headings and a limited number of references, you will find 300 word studies. Each word study gives you the Hebrew or Greek word, a good definition, several references and the Strong’s number for that word – so you can do further study if you want.

This little book is great for anyone wanting to learn more about the Bible; from teachers to students. Nelson’s Biblical Cyclopedic Index will make a great first purchase when you begin gathering resources for deeper Bible study.

**I reviewed this book as part of the BookSneeze review program**

My advice (rating) – buy more than one and give out copies (5 out of 5)

different take on pew Bibles

I recently found a pew Bible at church with a sticker inside that reads:

Dear Friend,

These Pew Bibles were given in memory of *****. She loved to read the Word and it was precious to her. In this way you have access to scriptures that are shared during the services. Feel free to use it.

Because of her love of the scriptures, if you don’t have a Bible at home and would like this Bible – take it. It will do more good in your home than sitting in our pews. Read it with the same passion **** had and it is sure to change your life.

Despite the few capitalization issues, I really like the statement this sticker is making.

The one thing that really stuck out to me was that this Bible, given in memory of someone else, was available to be freely taken. Most items that are “in memory of” become sacred cows and cannot be moved, let alone taken from the church building.

What would happen if church leaders had this mentality about more things around the church building?

I really like the part that says the pew Bible will do more good at your home than sitting in our pews. Isn’t that the point of ministry – helping the people in the congregation make God and His Word part of their daily lives. It is not our goal to be the only source of spiritual growth each week, we should be the springboard to ongoing thought.

Shame on us when we want people to feel that a service on Sunday is sufficient for their spiritual growth.

Life, Death, & the Uncertainty of It All

(I wrote this after a car accident took 2 young lives and severely injured a third. When something tragic happens in a small community everyone is affected and this accident was no different. Life is short and it is a precious gift. I pray this reminder might stir someone to think more about their life and strive to live it to the fullest.)

Average life expectancy is somewhere in the 70’s, with women usually living longer than men. This number has increased since the 1900’s, thanks to advancements in medicine and a better knowledge of diseases. But there is one thing to always remember when you hear about “life expectancy” – no one knows how long they will live. There is no guarantee that you will reach the age of 70, or even 10. Life is a gift, not a guarantee.

The ultimate authority on life is God, since He created it and everything, and He never told us we were guaranteed a certain number of days. In fact, in James 4:14, we read the exact opposite. “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” We are a mist and mists do not last long. So instead of assuming we will live to retirement in a nursing home, we need to live each day to its fullest. Do not assume you have tomorrow, because tomorrow has never been promised!

Life is a gift. Eternal life is a promise. “And this is what he (God) promised us – even eternal life.” (1 John 2:25) When a young person dies, it is easy to start blaming or questioning God. How can a loving God allow this to happen? Why didn’t God save them? What kind of God would allow such a young person to be taken from this world? Why…? These questions are understandable, but I believe they are also misguided.

I believe “bad stuff” happens because there is sin in the world, not because God is not all-loving. Nor is God surprised by a sudden and tragic death. Often, after a tragic death people wonder, “Where was God when _________ died?” God was in the same place He was when His Son died.* Although God wants the best for us and loves us more than we can imagine, He will not intervene into a situation just to save us from pain and suffering. Instead, He provides us with two things that are so much better. First, God offers us a peace that passes understanding- “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Second, He offers us eternal life with Him. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

These two options are far better than anything we could ever come up with. With the promise of eternal life with God and a peace beyond understanding, you can make it through each day and experience joy, even when something awful and uncomprehensible happens. It does not mean you will understand or that you will not hurt. It only means that when we trust in God and lean on Him for guidance, He will give us comfort.

Knowing the days of our life are numbered, and God is the only One who knows that number, should cause us to determine to live each day as if it might be our last. Each day is a gift, not a promise. Every morning you wake up, thank God that you woke up with breath in your lungs. Every night when you go to bed, thank God for the day of life He gave you. When you practice this simple habit, you will start to move away from the tendency to take life for granted.

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* I first heard this while reading an article Mike Yaconelli wrote for Youthworker Journal entitled “I Don’t Know” (Nov. 2001). In the article he attributes the thought to Leslie Weatherhead, a minister in London during the Second World War.

Book Review: Called to Worship by Vernon Whaley

(This review is for anyone, but might be especially helpful for a minister who works within an area of “worship.” The lessons you will gain from this book would be a great small group study or as part of a lesson series on worship. You might even consider using this book as a study material for members on the worship team – whatever that looks like in your congregation.)

Called to Worship is not like other books on worship that you have read. Vernon Whaley has taken a look at what worship looks like from Genesis to Revelation. The reader is taken on a journey through the Scriptures exploring the good, bad and ugly sides of worship (of God and anything else). Reading through these pages is equal to taking a college class on the history of worship. You will read about the beauty of true worship and the destructive nature of false worship.

I enjoyed the layout of the book: a progressive journey from Creation to Eternity. Along with the wisdom (and humor) packed inside each page, the reader will find an unbiased look at worship within the Old and New Testaments. You will glean new information on old stories – stories you thought you knew well. This information will add new angles to your application and interpretation of familiar Biblical stories. Each chapter ends by looking at principles that can applied to your life, which would make a great lesson outline (and reinforcement of lessons you should implement into your own personal life).

As a youth minister, I find great potential in Called to Worship to become a go-to resource when I teach on worship. I will recommend this book to anyone looking for a book on worship; whether an introduction or scholarly study.

My advice (rating) – go out and buy it (4 out of 5)

Learned from Twitter: week ending August 22, 2009

Gained a few more twitter gems this week. Just had to share these ones with you. Enjoy.

1. snavenel (Len Evans) shared a great link that churches need to look at.

We Love Our Youth Worker http://www.weloveouryouthwo… 7 promises churches make to ensure they properly care for their youth worker

2. pattigibbons (Patti Gibbons) will bring a smile to your face (if you’re a youth worker) with this quote from VBS.

Comment from VBS ldr after lesson on sin: “What’s not fun about a room full of pre-K & K kids and a pooping snake?”

3. giveawaylist (Big List of Giveaways) posted a giveaway that could be very useful (if you won) for some great foll0w-up material for your ministry.

New giveaway listed – check it out! : 250 5X7″ Custom Greeting Cards http://bit.ly/10c0VW

4. snavenel (Len Evans) suggests all youth workers (especially those who teach) read this free e-book.

Josh Hunt is giving way a free e-book Good Questions Have Groups Talking http://www.joshhunt.com/goo… great tool 4 Youth & SS teachers!

5. FlowerInTheRain (Janelle Painter) offers a great piece of advice. Read and take to heart.

Slow down. From what we know, Jesus never said, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you. I need to be in Jerusalem by sundown.” Pace your life.

6. AdamLehman (Adam Lehman) shared a great moment from his ministry – a “thank you” from a student. These are the things that keep a youth worker going for months.

Got my first “thank-you-for-what-youre-doing” text from a student: “Thanks for getting people together to play xbox. It was lots of fun.”

What did you learn from Twitter this week?

Book Review: Read and Share Toddler Bible

(This review is for anyone with little kids at home or someone who works with the children’s ministry at church. You might want to look into this Bible as a good resource for having in the nursery or for gifts to parents of toddlers.)

Colorful illustrations, interactive activities and an animated DVD are all a part of the new Read and Share Toddler Bible. This Bible is designed with the toddler in mind. Each Bible story is short and includes three things: an easy-to-understand retelling of the story, colorful illustrations and an activity for parents to do with their child(ren). As a parent, one other feature I really found helpful was the Scripture references at the beginning of each story. This feature will allow parents to read the story and discover more details on their own.

The Read and Share Toddler Bible is a good first Bible for your little ones. Since there are forty Bible stories covered, your toddler will only hit some of the more well-known stories. The bright colors and easy-to-read stories will draw your toddler in, creating a great opportunity to teach about God’s Word. As your child grows, you might want to allow them to read the stories on their own.

The DVD that comes with the Bible contains fourteen short animated stories. These are stories that are included in the Bible, though not every Bible story has an animated version. The videos and fun to watch and can be used to help your toddler follow along in the Bible.

RefTagger: a great Bible tool for your blog

Recently I ran across RefTagger when I was searching some information on www.carm.org. As soon as I saw it in action, I knew it was a feature I wanted to add to my blog.

What is RefTagger, you ask? Here is what the website says:

RefTagger is an amazing, free new web tool that instantly makes all the Bible references on your site come alive! Bare references turn into hyperlinks to the full text of the passage at Bible.Logos.com, making it easy for your readers to access the text of Scripture with just a click. Even better, RefTagger brings the text right to your readers by generating a tooltip window that pops up instantly when they hover over the reference. You can also have RefTagger add an icon that is hyperlinked to the passage in Libronix—ideal if many of your readers use Logos. So if your website says, “One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28,” RefTagger will instantly turn it into this: “One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28.”

RefTagger takes citing Bible references to a whole new level. All you need to do is copy the customizable code that we provide for you below and paste it into your website’s template file(s), and it will instantly be applied to your entire site—all past and future content! It doesn’t matter how big or small your site is. RefTagger does it all instantly—saving you hours of time linking verses manually! Because RefTagger uses JavaScript, it doesn’t actually change the code on the content of your site’s pages. If you decide to remove RefTagger from your site, it’s as simple as deleting the code from your template file(s).


If you ever reference Bible passages on your blog (and you probably should every once and awhile) this little plug-in is a great addition to your blog. It will be a welcome improvement for your visitors who will not always have each passage memorized.

Book Review: Storylines by Andy Croft and Mike Pilavachi

Have you ever read a verse in the New Testament and noticed a reference to a verse in the Old Testament? Did this cause you to wonder how the two passages are connected to each other? If you answered yes to these questions, you need to read Storylines. With this book, Croft and Pilavachi have set to help Christian better understand the themes that run throughout the Bible.

Storylines helps connect six themes by taking an in depth look at how they are connected in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Another aspect of the book that I really like is the first chapter, “The Bible in 20 Pages,” where Croft and Pilavachi guide the reader through a brief look at the entire Bible. As you read about the six threads: Jesus, covenant, presence, Kingdom, salvation and worship, be reminded that the Bible was not put together by accident. God has been very intentional throughout history in his dealings with man and understanding how events are connected will help you see how your own life is connected to these very themes.

Reading Storylines is like taking a Bible college class on the Bible without having to actually go to class. This is a great resource for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of how the books in the Bible are connected to each other.

My advice (rating) – buy more than one and give out copies (5 out of 5)

6 Saddest Verses in the Bible

There are verses of Scripture that bring hope to you every time you read them. But, at the same time, there are other verses that bring sadness for one reason or another. Below are six verses that I think are among the saddest verses in all of Scripture.

6 Saddest Verses in the Bible:

1. John 6.66
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

2. Judges 16.20
“But he (Samson) did not know that the LORD had left him.”

3. John 12.43
“for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”

4. 1 Samuel 15.10-11 & 1 Samuel 16.14
“Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.”

5. 1 Samuel 16.14
“Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.”

6. Mark 14.21
“The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Which verses did I miss? What verses would you add to the list? Why?