Tag Archives: Scripture

Building Faith the Wesley Way!

Devote, grow, abide, and go are essential elements in our relationship with God through Jesus. But how can we devote ourselves to a God we don’t understand or grow when we’re unsure of how? Abide in what and how if all we have are words thousands of years old without context, sound guidance, or meaningful application? And go where and why?

The truth is that faith, devotion, and staying power are built by hearing, seeing, experiencing, and supernatural guidance. John Wesley understood this and developed a four-pronged approach to understanding the things of God and, I would argue, enjoying spiritual growth. The four parts we call the ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral’ are Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. I’ll add one more: the supernatural. Let’s unpack each.

Scripture. The Bible is central to our faith. Authoritative information in it should frame our thoughts and actions. Of course, this can only happen when we correctly read it, understand what we’ve read, and apply what we’ve learned. This is where tradition, experience, and reason—all formed by correctly interpreted and applied Scripture—come in.

Tradition. We’re 2,000 years removed from the New Testament authors. Most of us aren’t Jewish, know nothing about the TaNaKh (the writings, the Law, and the prophets Jesus referenced), or read biblical Greek or Hebrew. And most people understand nothing of the original poetry or figures of speech that made the Scriptures so rich and applicable. Our ignorance has often resulted in destructive doctrines and unholy practices. Wesley believed that doctrine must align with orthodox Christian traditions, probably to reduce that risk. In other words, we must consider how the earliest Church understood and experienced biblical texts or concepts.

Experience. Belief about God and Christ without action is useless, fruitless, and fuel for destruction. Faith must be experienced in several ways, including love, justice, mercy, and introducing God’s Kingdom to others. It then becomes an experience for the giver and receiver, the teacher and the learner. One more thing: everything in the Scriptures was born out of experiences. God created and spoke through prophets; someone wrote it down. History and genealogy happened; someone wrote it down. A vision was received or a prayer happened; someone wrote it down. You get the point.

Reason. God gave us a brain to help us make sense of things and rationally defend what we believe. For instance, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD (Isaiah 1:18). Also, check out 1 Peter 3:15. Don’t divorce logic from faith!

The supernatural. God’s Spirit, given freely to Jesus’ followers, provides wisdom and helps clarify otherwise difficult things.

In summary, the Bible, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, should frame our traditions, experiences, and theological reasoning. These things working together help us understand God’s nature and what He desires and apply what we learn meaningfully. Next, I’ll take you on an exciting journey about our Supernatural God.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley, MDiv, DMin.

Adopt a Bible!

Disappointingly, our plea for Bibles for Africa recently yielded no results despite the knowledge that most Africans have no Bible (including most Christian teachers and leaders!).

How can the people learn about God or become disciples effectively with no guide?

How can we who are wealthy by comparison and have an abundance of Bibles and Christian literature be obedient to Jesus’ commandment to ‘tell’ and ‘make disciples’ without doing our part to rectify this incredible disparity?

So, I thought I’d take a different approach by asking everyone to ‘adopt a Bible’. A donation of only $10 will buy one Swahili Bible. Obviously, Africa needs more than one Bible but if everyone buys at least one, we win in our obedience and Africa wins by being able to learn and teach their Faith.

Will you adopt a Bible for Africa by donating here? http://findingrevelation.com/FindingDiscipleship/Africa%20Bibles.htm


Ron Braley, findingdiscipleship.org & ronbraley.com


Who’s Your Life Coach?

Everyone (even the casual Christian) seems to be looking for the latest self-help book or some kind of life coach these days. A silver-bullet approach to fixing ourselves or quick, easy fix toward self-improvement are high on the list of priorities for many.

Seems like a good pursuit. Right? I guess that depends on why we think we need ‘fixing’ or the standard to which we’re comparing ourselves and repairing what we perceive as damaged. And it could be anything from physical improvement to emotional well-being . . .

Well, if this describes you and your direction, you’re in luck! Your creator – the Father of Spirits – has provided you with everything you need to know to redirect your steps toward righteousness, perfection, and the ultimate self-help path that will also keep you from His incredible judgment and destruction to come!

For instance, Jesus tells us that we’re to be obedient to His commandments if we want to live (John 14:21-24). And, He and the Apostle Paul warn us of the behaviors that will land us in hell (Matthew 25:31-46 and 1Corinthians 6:9-10). Going further back in time, we can even learn about behaviors that can aid in healthy living (e.g. the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy).

Speaking of the Apostle Paul: We learn from him that immersing ourselves in the Scriptures (the Torah from which the Old Testament was formed) can keep us on the right track and help us discern right from wrong and truth from fable (2Timothy 3:16 and 1Timothy 4:6-7).

So, what do we do when we realize we’re heading down the wrong path? We repent – a change in behavior that comes from a change of heart (Acts 3:19 and 11:18; Romans 2:5).

The Spirit of God can also provide us with tools and gifts we can use to live well and for eternity (John 14:26 and 1Corinthians 12:7-11). In fact, those who believe in, and follow, our God, and, therefore, receive His Spirit, display characteristics such as peace, joy, and self-control (John 7:39; Acts 19:2; Galatians 5:22-23).

So, allow the words of God, and His Spirit, to be your life coaches. Learn. Commit. Grow. Improve. Live!

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part IV

“No Weapon Formed Against me will Prosper” & “I can do all things Through Christ”

Let’s continue our Apocalyptic Misquotes with a look at more abuses that support a false and dangerous spiritual rock star mentality.

Misquote #1: “No weapon formed Against me will prosper” I’m continually amazed that we’ll justify our lack of biblical study in part by claiming that the Old Testament doesn’t apply to us. And, yet, we’ll pluck Scripture out of its context to support bad doctrine. Here’s the abused reference for this week’s misquote #1:

 “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.—Isaiah 54:17.

In this example (in its entire context), God is issuing a warning and promise through Isaiah about Israel’s current disobedience and loss of protection, and last-days reconciliation with Him. This is part of a near-far prophecy where God is basically saying to Israel, “You’re going to get a smack-down because of your unfaithfulness, but I’ll bring you back to me in the end and no one will harm you because of My protection.

Unfortunately, out-of-context abuse of this reference bolsters today’s Christian spiritual rock star doctrine that God will give us anything we want and nothing bad will happen to us. So, when someone’s prayer isn’t answered the way they believe it should have been and when bad things do happen, common responses from within or by others include, “The devil must be after me!” or “There must be something wrong with your spiritual walk!”.

Neither is necessarily true. First, Satan has no authority or influence on true followers of our Christ. Second, neither God nor our Christ ever promised earthly prosperity or escape from sickness or danger. We’ll talk more about ‘why bad things happen’ in a future blog; however, Jesus’ true followers can expect tribulation now and in the last days (e.g. Matthew 24:9 & 21; John 16:33; Romans 5:3 and 12:12; 1Thessalonians 1:6; Revelation 7:14, 13:10, and 14:12). We’re told to ‘count the cost’ (Luke 14:27-33). And, try telling the apostle Paul that there must’ve been something wrong with his spirit life because of all the trials he had to endure . . . (check out 2Corinthians 11:23-27).

Misquote #2: “I can do all things Through Christ” Here’s yet another verse that, when taken out of context, lends itself to spiritual rock star and superhuman ways of thinking.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13.

This verse is abused because it, like the others we’ve studied recently, has been taken out of its context. Read the entire chapter to determine the intent of the writer, and you’ll find that Paul is saying he has learned to be content in any situation.

Remember 2Corinthians 11:23-27 from Misquote #1? Good. Then you should understand that Paul had persevered through many trials experienced while doing Jesus’ will: preaching the good news of salvation from God’s coming judgment to the lost – all in support of the Father’s overarching will, which is to reconcile mankind to Him.

Christ’s strengthening and resulting perseverance were possible because Paul was doing the will of our Christ and God as he sought the ‘kingdom of heaven’ (cf. Matthew 6:33).

So, if you want the Spirit of God to strengthen you in your activities, aiding in perseverance, then make sure that whatever you’re doing is in pursuit of the will of God as you seek His kingdom before all else.

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Next week, we’ll look at another great example of personal interpretation and bad hermeneutics as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture. The next topic: “God needs an audience to show up – where two or more are gathered . . .”.

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part III

“Jesus Can Come Back at Any Moment”

Let’s continue our Apocalyptic Misquotes with a look at an abuse that gives birth to an erroneous end-of-the-world timing and reflects poor hermeneutics.

Misquote/False Statement: “Jesus can come back at any moment!” This is perpetuated to support faulty end-times imminent return and pre-tribulation rapture doctrines. It’s made possible by taking texts like Matthew 24:36 and 1Thessalonians 5:2 and out of context and misquoting them at the same time (the Day of the Lord refers to the judgment of God to come in every case, which will come as a surprise to the wicked, – not to the gathering of the Saints).

so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. . . . But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. . . . Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. . . . But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” — Matthew 24:33-44.

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord [referred to many times in the Old Testament end-times prophecies] will come just like a thief in the night. —1Thessalonians 5:2.

You may be tempted at a glance to think that the return of our Christ will indeed be a surprise and could happen at any moment.  However, look at the verses leading up to and including Matthew 24:33 and you’ll find that Jesus gave signs to watch for.

What you’ll also learn through study of Scripture is that the return of our bridegroom at a ‘day and hour known by the Father alone’ reflects His fulfillment of the traditional betrothal and marriage processes whereby the Father determines when it’s time for the marriage supper to take place. He alone, after all preparations have been made including the building of the house for the new couple (remember, this is just one of several things Jesus referred to in mirroring the betrothal and marriage processes!), will send the groomsmen into the streets with shouts and trumpet blasts to announce that the time for the marriage supper had come. Related marriage fulfillment references to check out:

  • Betrothal – The Father has chosen us as a ‘bride’ for His son: Ephesians 1:3-5 and 2Corinthians 11:2
  • Betrothal – The cup of contract/covenant (cup of Ketubah): Matthew 26:28
  • Betrothal – The Father and Son preparing a place for us: John 14:2-3
  • Marriage – The gathering at the trumpets/shouts of the groomsmen once preparation have been made: Matthew 24:31 and 1Thessalonians 4:16
  • Marriage – The marriage supper/second cup of the covenant – ‘cup of blessings’:  Matthew 26:28-29 and Revelation 19:6-9

And, regarding abuse of 1Thessalonians 5:2: Paul is reminding Christ’s followers that the judgment and destruction of the wicked will be a surprise to them but that we, as followers, should NOT be surprised . . .

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Please join me next week when we’ll continue teaching about (and hopefully correcting) bad doctrine and misquotes with these common abuses: “No Weapon Formed Against me will Prosper” and “I can do all things Through Christ“.

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part I

“God has a plan for me!” & “The Last Generation”

Today’s Jesus culture and its focus on experience over obedience have left the Church largely scripturally illiterate. This is supported by statistics reporting that 95% or more of people who say they’re Christians don’t’ study the Bible regularly or thoroughly or actively engage in discipleship. Evidence of this sobering trend pops up regularly in the form of misquoted and abused Scripture spouted as out-of-context clichés or carelessly misrepresented words of God, our Christ, the prophets, or the apostles.

My use of Apocalyptic in the title is two-fold: One, to represent the unfortunate abuses of end-times / apocalyptic references twisted to support manmade end-of-the-world doctrine and, two, to represent the incredible magnitude of inadequate training of the Saints and the resulting lack of faith building and scriptural abuse. So, we’ll look at two examples weekly with one related to the return of our Christ (or at least related to apocalyptic literature or prophecies) until I’ve run out of low-hanging examples.

Let’s begin Apocalyptic Misquotes Part I with a look at abuses that give birth to a spiritual rock star mentality and erroneous end-of-the-world timing.

Misquote #1: “God must have a specific plan and purpose for my life!” This is a common Christian culture cliché based on taking Jeremiah 29:11 out of context. First and foremost, we are compelled by Christ and others (like the apostle Paul) to follow; that way may be difficult and costly (from a worldly point of view). Second, the context is God’s admonishment to Israel during her exile to Babylon and is a reiteration that He has a last-days plan for that nation to be reconciled to Him. Abuse of these words of God today plays right into a spiritual entitlement mentality and promotes the question, “Common God – what do you have for Me?” instead of “God – what can I do to help You in Your desire to be reconciled with Your creation?

Misquotes #2 & #3: “Jesus said the generation that sees Israel become a nation in 1948 will see His return!” and “Jesus said the generation witnessing the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD will see His return!” Both are wrong and are abuses of the following verses in the support of pre-tribulation (former) and preterist (latter) end-times views.

  • Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.  —Matthew 24:32-33.
  • Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. —Matthew 24:34.

In context, Jesus is just telling His disciples that the generation that sees the signs He’d just revealed in verses 21-31 will see His return (‘when you see this, you will see that’) to gather His ‘bride’ for the marriage supper in heaven. (See Matthew 24:30-31 and 26:29, and Revelation 7:9-17 and 19:5-10 for examples of prophetic and apocalyptic glimpses of the betrothal and wedding shadow Jesus is fulfilling (and will complete) with those who will enter into a covenant with Him.

By the way: the original idea of a 40-year generation and a 1988 return of Jesus didn’t happen (as you can surmise) so the debates about longer generational lengths such as 70 years rage on as men struggle to validate faulty doctrine.

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Next week, we’ll look at bad doctrine related to tithing and 1,000-year-long God days as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture.

How to Study the Bible . . . or NOT!

True faith – confidence – is based on our exposure to, and understanding of, God’s words and testimonies contained in the Bible. How we interpret it is vital to ensuring we “get it right.” Getting it wrong could have devastating consequences. Those who mislead others will be judged accordingly. Ignorance could lead to experiencing God’s wrath, disappointment, deception, a falling away from the Christian faith, etc.

Rule number one of Bible interpretation: do everything possible to determine the writer’s original intent. Rule number two of Bible interpretation: see rule number one. Figuring out what the text writer meant to say to the intended audience should be your primary focus.

The next goal of Scripture interpretation should be to find out how the message applies today (there’s only one meaning of the text, but possibly multiple applications). A good understanding of grammatical principles and attention to format and message context will help ensure your success.

Here are some tips for effective biblical study:

  • Be prepared to study through guidance by God’s Spirit (having a teachable spirit and a good attitude, etc.)
  • Take Scripture literally whenever possible and look for the simplest meaning first
  • Consider the author and audience
  • Consider historical/cultural background first
  • Compare translations for consensus
  • Consider apocalyptic symbols and look for explanation in Scripture (nearly all are explained somewhere in the Bible!)
  • Use study tools (like e-Sword) and aids whenever possible (i.e. concordance or dictionaries)

Work to understand what God, His son, the prophets, or the apostles intended to say to their audience – not what you’d like their words to mean to you. Remember: only one meaning, many potential applications.

God gets the Final Word!

We hear the phrase, “the Word of God!” quite often. And, we quote Paul who told Timothy that, “All Scripture is inspired by God . . .” But, what is that Word of God or Scripture? The fourth-century Vulgate? The 1560 Geneva Bible? The 1611 King James Bible? ‘Our Daily Bread’ devotional? None of them, actually.

The Scripture Paul referred to is the Torah, or Old Testament, available in Hebrew and in Greek in the first century. It was what the Bereans used to hold Paul accountable for his teachings of the prophetic fulfillment of the coming Christ by Jesus.

The word (lower-case ‘w’) represents the words spoken by God as when He spoke the world into existence or when He spoke of the coming Christ and our reconciliation with God through Him. In fact, the Word (upper-case ‘W’) is the manifestation of the reconciliation word(s) of God (i.e. Revelation 19:13).

So, what is the Bible and where does it come into play if not necessarily the Word of God? It’s a collection of ancient texts consolidated by groups of men after much arguing and debate; it contains the Torah and many first and second-century documents.

The Old Testament Torah is a collection of oral traditions, historical documentation, personal reflections of wisdom and love and lamentations, and prophecies – both current to the times and futuristic in nature. These were inspired by God and written by men.

The New Testament is a similar collection of historical and eyewitness accounts, letters full of wisdom from apostles, and prophetic and apocalyptic literature. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension were reiterations of what was spoken of or influenced by Jesus as was the Revelation given to John later. This collection was also recorded by men.

We’re creatures of free will and of differing intelligence levels and backgrounds. So, it’s truly amazing that God entrusted us to record anything related to Him or our Christ. But, despite that and the transliterations, translations, and interpretations that have introduced minor discrepancies in today’s Bible, the core words of God that promise hope of the future through the Word – our Christ – stands untarnished and remains intact.

What Word do you subscribe to?