Archive for January, 2015

Following Directions


In 2005, the USA Today described how a group of bewildered shepherds near Istanbul, Turkey stood helplessly by as one of their sheep jumped to its death over a cliff.  Then, to their dismay, some 1,500 additional animals followed the first one.  In the end, about 450 sheep lay dead in a heap at the bottom of the cliff. The losses would have been far greater had not the fall of the later jumpers been cushioned by the pile of carcasses at the bottom of the heap.

Sometimes people behave like these unfortunate sheep, failing to look before they leap.  This is a particularly difficult problem for many Christians in the west today. First, compared to most generations who came before us, we live in relative splendor with adequate shelter, clothing and food.

Secondly, we live in a post-Christian era, where most of society neither agrees with nor respects our fundamental beliefs. In such an environment, it is easy to simply shrug one’s shoulders and go with the flow…go along to get along!

Such was the case for the early church in Laodicea, as Revelation 3:15-17 tells us:  “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (ESV)

The late Steven Covey, renowned businessman, author and keynote speaker, cautioned against such behavior, saying, “If you decide to just go with the flow, you’ll end up where the flow goes, which is usually downhill, often leading to a big pile of sludge and a life of unhappiness. You’ll end up doing what everyone else is doing.” 

Put simply, if you follow the group instead of the path you know to be right, your risk ending up at the bottom of the heap like those unfortunate sheep in Turkey.

 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.

                                                                                                                     —Isaiah 53:6

If you have ever assembled a piece of furniture purchased at Ikea or built a prefabricated entertainment center like those sold in big box store you understand there is a right way and a wrong way to assemble such pieces. I can’t count the number of times my wife has seen me struggling with a project and asked me, “Did you read the directions?”

Maybe it’s a man thing, but more often than not my answer is, “not yet.”  After receiving such a gentle nudge, I usually pick up the directions manual and finish assembling the piece fairly easily. In the end, I find myself wishing I’d followed the directions from the start.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 

                                                                                                                                             —2 Timothy 3:16-17

Through Scripture, God has provided us a directions manual for putting our lives together.  Unfortunately, most people, Christians included, never take advantage of learning what the directions say.

In 2013 the American Bible Society conducted a survey on Bible reading in America.  Of the 2,083 respondents,  88 percent said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4   Sadly, only 26 percent of the respondents said they read the Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week).

God offers us true intimacy with Him through the presence of His Holy Spirit in our lives. In Hosea 6:6, God says, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”  God’s desire for each of us is that we come to know Him better with each passing day.  God wants us to know him better.  One needn’t be a Bible scholar to study and learn from the scriptures.  Through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit, the scriptures are revealed to those who ask.

The beginning of a New Year is a great time to begin a Bible reading program.  I recommend the Bible Gateway website, where you will find a variety of offerings to help guide your daily study ( Many printed versions of the Bible contain a suggested daily reading schedule.  You don’t even have to read the Bible from start to finish.  It’s OK to begin with reading a variety of selections daily.  Read the directions daily.  They’ll help you stay on the right path.

The Bible does not thrill; the Bible nourishes. Give time to the reading of the Bible and the recreating effect is as real as that of fresh air physically.   —Oswald Chambers