How to Read the Bible Part I: Why??

Each Christian can benefit from basic instruction for reading the Bible. Sure, we can read it at a high level and understand most simple messages. For instance, God’s desire to reconcile His creation through Israel and then Jesus is understandable. He loves the world, so He gave. Jesus’ mandate to respond with the same kind of love through obedient charity and personal purity is also pretty straight-forward. However, many messages can be challenging without essential guidance. Reading alone isn’t always enough, though – the texts are often meant to transform us through meditation and application. So, why should we care?

First, we need help in understanding the meanings and applications of things written thousands of years ago. Also, biblical texts in the form of poetry, histories, proverbial wisdom, and instructional letters were often written to or for particular people in a specific place for a unique reason. For instance, the apostle Paul wrote several letters to solve specific problems in particular churches. We’re not those people, and we’re far removed in language, culture, politics, and geography. We may not have been the original intended recipients, but we get a good shot of understanding the author’s intended messages if we use a few basic tools, which I’ll give you starting next week.

Second, we’re responsible for understanding biblical messages – especially if we pass on what we may think we know to others. Be careful: there’s a massive penalty for anyone who teaches anything other than God’s truths, even if out of ignorance (e.g., 2 Peter 2)!

Third, we can’t be what we don’t learn and internalize. In other words, we’re called to imitate Christ and reproduce that image in others through discipleship and godly living. We must become Christ in our communities. The process requires (1) learning truth through reading the Bible aided by tools such as commentaries, a concordance, or a theological dictionary and through illumination by God’s Spirit, (2) meditating on what we learn, (3) applying what we’ve taken in so that it becomes a part of us. Learning can also be aided by applying fundamental concepts such as using sound grammar principles to ‘follow the theological breadcrumbs,’ considering author, audience, and purpose, and thinking about the scriptures’ context.

Next week, I’ll begin giving the techniques I promised and will provide some very provocative examples of how carelessness has resulted in many rotten Christian understandings and sayings. We’ll unmask “Where two or more are gathered . . .” and “God has a special plan for my life . . .” And, you’ll learn about idioms (cultural sayings) and how not to turn them into the religious stuff.

Oh – here’s your first golden nugget of biblical truth: There’s only one meaning to a text but often multiple possible applications. Tune in next week for Part II: How??

Questions or comments? Email

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Why Bad Things Happen, Part III: Do & Don’t!

Last week, we continued examining “Why do bad things happen to me or any good person?” We learned that there are several reasons for our misfortunes, including others’ actions, everyday risks, and our poor decisions. This week, we’ll uncover some things that restrict and enable God’s intervention in people’s lives.

As we’ve previously covered, our relationship with God and Christ is a covenant – a two-way spiritual union where we seek to please them through our actions and we, in turn, are transformed and saved from the judgment to come. The Spirit also comforts, guides, and teaches us along the way while we look forward to Jesus’ return and our gathering after this short life. Can we cause ourselves to block intercessions, healings, and blessings during those times when God would like to give them? How?

Not responding to God’s “I will if you will” call will certainly prohibit His intervention, and not treating God appropriately or our fellow man charitably (e.g., 1Peter 3:7) doesn’t help. Refusing to set aside time for prayer, study, and meditation to allow communication with God and spiritual growth can also restrict God’s ability to work. Furthermore, God disciplines those he loves (cf., Hebrews 12:5-13), and what seems wrong might be blessings or growth opportunities. The discipline or tribulation can be akin to a bodybuilder’s breaking down the body to make it stronger. Without pushing the limits physically, we’ll never grow stronger. The same is true for exercising our mental abilities or psychological and emotional strength. So, we have a choice to make when adversity strikes: use it for good or let it get the best of us.

Knowing why seemingly bad things happen is fine, but we should learn how to respond during those times.

Minimize risk from our human-made world. Drive safely, don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. Stay emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. Fellowship with Godly people and stay out of risky situations.

Learn lessons from each situation and improve your life. The approach will allow you to become better aligned with healthy living.  It will also enable God to effectively discipline for strength or prepare you for whatever He may have in store for you in life or ministering to others. Decide to use what you learn to help others. Think of the witness and healing power of someone who has overcome addictions or other adversities!

In summary, bad things happen because we’ve separated ourselves from God and created an environment full of risk and corruption. We must now live with the consequences, although God does often intercede on our behalf and help. We can minimize the risk of bad things happening and better-enable God’s help through obedience, right living, prayer and scripture study, and charity. Next week, we’ll begin our journey to become students of the Bible by learning how to study it effectively. Prepare to be energized!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley


THEOLOGICAL THUGGERY. Yep, I think it’s a thing.

Somewhere in the Theological Foundations section of my doctoral dissertation, as I considered the religious context in which I find myself in Taylor, I realized something interesting and sobering:

From outward appearances, it seems as though we Christians often believe that our job is not partnering with God to reconcile [all] creation but to beat other Christians into doctrinal submission.

Apparently, the task is to convince others of faulty theological thinking.

The funny thing is that all human-made Christian doctrines are flawed, some worse and more dangerous than others. Perhaps most can be traced back to one human and his or her baggage and philosophical influences.

Anyway, I’m guessing that THEOLOGICAL THUGGERY is not God’s mission or desire. So, learn well, live well, love well, and teach well … without doctrinal debilitation, theology thuggery, or biblical bullying!

Blessings and peace,Ron Braley

Why Bad Things Happen, Part II: Why??

Last week, we began examining “Why do bad things happen to me or any good person?” and learned that humanity separated from God, which introduced death and pain. We walked away from perfection and must deal with the consequences. This week, we’ll dig deeper into why bad things happen.

First, everyone is subject to fortune and misfortune, blessings, and catastrophe. Some wicked people will prosper – often because of deceit and injustice. Others will suffer from natural disasters or others’ bad choices despite their love for God and people.

Second, we experience the actions of others. Anyone can choose to harm us or who live carelessly.  But we know this – otherwise, there would be no need for end-of-the-world judgment and consequences. People will drive drunk and take lives. Some will steal and cause poverty and hunger. Others will, out of their anger or addictions, cause harm.

Third, we suffer from our actions at times (e.g., Matthew 26:52). Our lifestyles introduce risk. People who drive or ride in vehicles run the risk of being maimed or killed in accidents. Those who jump out of airplanes may die. Sportspeople may be killed or seriously injured, and so might those of us who participate in the national or local defense.

Also, our technology creates many risks! Cancer increases may be related to chemicals and carcinogens with which we pollute the air, water, and food. Genetic engineering may increase crop and livestock bounty but introduces the risk of human mutation and illnesses. God didn’t force us to employ electricity, vehicles, or chemical or genetic engineering, and yet we blame Him when we reap the consequences associated with our lifestyles and environments!

Finally, faithful followers of Jesus may suffer trouble out of faith (Luke 14:27-30):

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”

Next week, we’ll continue this train by considering how we can restrict, or enable, the presence of God in our lives. So, join me for Part III!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Why Bad Things Happen, Part I: It’s Not God’s Fault!

When exploring the answer to “Is God Judging Us?” last week, you may have wondered, “Why do bad things happen to me or any good person, for that matter?” And rightly so. I wish I could tell you that there’s a “one size fits all” explanation or a silver bullet that would take away the pain of whatever you’ve gone through or are going through.  But I can’t. The truth is that humanity separated from God, which introduced death and pain, and now we must live in the aftermath.

On a positive note, our Creator has given us His Spirit to help navigate this life while we await the new world and perfection to come. But, while God and our Christ do often intercede on our behalf in this human-made mess, it’s essential to start our conversation by taking the bad-stuff focus off of them and putting it back where it belongs: us. First, a foundation for discovering why bad things happen:

1.                God doesn’t tempt or mistreat us (James 1:12-14).

2.                We make choices & often choose poorly.

3.                No one is ‘good’ . . . “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18).

4.                Things weren’t always like this (e.g., Romans 5:12 & 1Corinthians 15:21-22).

Remember ‘free will’? God obviously has it and, because we were created in His image, so do we. It gives us the freedom to do what we ought and provides us with the ability not to do what we shouldn’t. Choice also trips us up sometimes. We’ll learn over the next couple of weeks that choice brings freedom and consequences. Sometimes, they can be useful – such as the Spirit and eternal life that come when we choose right living and a relationship with God through Christ. Sometimes, the consequences may be undesirable – as with environments we’ve created, or the judgment and spiritual death many will suffer at the end of this age (Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 6:20-23, for instance). The truth is that we make our own bad choices or suffer consequences of our actions or from those of others.  We can also keep God from interceding on our behalf (i.e., Psalm 66:18; 1Peter 3:7).

So, our misfortunes aren’t God’s fault. On whom or what should we blame them? Ourselves? Other people? Stuff that just happens? Technology? The devil? Please tune in next week for Part II of our discovery of Why Bad Things Happen to find the answer!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley