How to Read the Bible by Casey Shirley

When I was growing up, I thought I knew how to read the Bible. I would open it up to somewhere near the end because someone told me the most important stuff was in the short books near the back and memorized verses, took notes, listened to sermons, and I knew all the right Old Testament stories. 

When I was growing up, I thought I knew how to read the Bible. I would open it up to somewhere near the end because someone told me the most important stuff was in the short books near the back. My checklist for bible literacy consisted of memorizing verses, taking notes, listening to sermons, and knowing all the right Old Testament stories.

In fact, everything I needed to know about God and life was found within the pages of Scripture, right? But all too often, I felt like I was hitting a dead end. How did the 80% of the Bible I wasn’t reading relate to the 20% I was reading the majority of the time? And when I did try to read other parts of the Bible it was confusing… and weird. 

Finally, I realized that I struggled to read the Bible because no one ever really taught me how.

Until, that is, I was a freshman in college and I joined a ministry on my college campus. Those four years transformed the way I engaged with Scripture and brought the depth and gravity to my Bible reading that I longed for. 

Here’s the thing, what I learned wasn’t a secret method or incredibly profound. In fact, it was simple… just like what I’m going to share here. But these simple adjustments to the way I read my Bible have made all the difference. 

What is the Bible, really? 

Before we talk about how to read the Bible we need to talk about what the Bible is. First of all, it’s not just a book, it’s actually a library of 66 books. Long before the printing press that gave us our first bound manuscripts (aka books), the Bible was comprised of separate scrolls that were mostly read aloud in community. Each book of the Bible has a specific literary genre, or style of writing, but every book presents a unified story that leads to Jesus. You’re going to want to know what genre you’re reading before you start! 

You could think about it this way, you wouldn’t read a riveting spy novel the same way you’d read a book on time management. In the same way, you wouldn’t read Psalms the way you’d read Genesis. But before you get overwhelmed, let me encourage you, knowing what you’re reading is going to be one of the biggest keys to getting the most out of your time in Scripture. 

Before You Begin

Before you get started reading any book of the Bible, there are a few questions that you should be asking:

● In what style is the book written? (Is it prose, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature, historical narrative, or apocalyptic literature?)

● Who wrote it? 

● Who was it written to? (Keep in mind, these are ancient texts written to an ancient people!)

● When was it written?

● Where does the book fall within the unified story of Scripture? 

In addition to this, the simplest way to do this is to ask, “Is this before, during, or after the earthly ministry of Jesus?” As you learn more about the historical setting of the Bible you’ll begin asking more specific questions, but this is a great place to start! 

TIP: The Bible Project has short overview videos for every book of the Bible. So check out these before you start reading and you’ll know the answers to all the questions I’ve listed above!

Old Testament Books
New Testament Books

Bible Reading Basics

Now, it’s time to start reading! Because of the way many of us have learned to read our Bibles we often start our scripture reading by asking “What does this mean to me?” That’s because we want the Bible to make a real difference in our real lives, and that’s good! But if we’re not careful, we’ll come to the Scriptures with us as the central figure of the story rather than God. The Bible is all about God revealing Himself to humanity in His Son Jesus. It’s all about Him, what He has done, what He is doing, and how He is calling us to participate! 

Below I’ve listed three simple steps to Bible reading (and Bible study) that are going to help us keep this in mind.

• COMPREHENSION – WHAT DOES IT REALLY SAY?

Slow down. Take your time. Make observations. Ask questions. 

TIP: If you want to dive a little deeper consider printing out a passage, double-spaced, with wide margins, and mark it up! Circle, highlight, draw arrows to connected thoughts, write your questions and observations out to the side.

• INTERPRETATION – WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN? 

Put yourself in the shoes of the author and the original audience. Interpret the passage with their culture and circumstances in mind. 

TIP: A question you should ask yourself is, “Would my interpretation of this passage make sense to the original audience?” If your answer is “no”, you probably want to do some more digging!  

• APPLICATION – HOW SHOULD I RESPOND? 

Finally, ask God to show you how to apply what you’re learning through each passage. He will lead you! 

TIP: Pray! Before, during, and after your reading time. The Holy Spirit is there with you, to help you think and act more like Jesus as you spend time in the Word! 

If you’re having trouble knowing where to start then I would recommend starting with the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). These are four separate accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. 

Or you can jump into a reading plan! Here are a few you might want to check out:

M’Cheyne One Year Reading Plan
Bible Project One Story That Leads to Jesus
Bible In One Year with Nicky Gumbel 

Our friends at the Bible Project did a series of podcasts and videos on how to read your Bible and it’s fantastic! You can find it here: 

BIBLE PROJECT: HOW TO READ YOUR BIBLE

Some days you might read a few verses and some days you might read a few chapters, and that’s okay! In fact, the quality of your Bible reading is more important than the quantity. If you apply just a few of the things I’ve suggested above you’re only going to grow in your love and knowledge of the Bible! Happy reading, friends!

A Blog by Casey Shirley

Check out another blog from our team next: What is Discipleship?

What is Discipleship? by Lee Martin

I love to climb mountains.

It’s been a passion of mine since I was a teenager. A couple years ago, my best friend and I got to climb one of our dream summits, Mount Rainier, in Washington state. Mt. Rainier is one of North America’s premier mountain climbs, in part, because the whole upper half

I love to climb mountains. 

It’s been a passion of mine since I was a teenager. A couple years ago, my best friend and I got to climb one of our dream summits, Mount Rainier, in Washington state. Mt. Rainier is one of North America’s premier mountain climbs, in part, because the whole upper half of the mountain is covered by a glacier. Ice that’s hundreds of feet thick and continually moving at a few inches per day down the mountain. Cracking and splitting as it creeps along.

A mountain

Needless to say, this climb was not a simple “walk up.” It required specific skills, new tools, and an experienced guide. The danger of sliding off the side of the mountain, or falling into a crevasse (a huge crack in the ice), or freezing to death in the sub-freezing temperatures were real concerns! But that didn’t stop us from embarking on the adventure anyway. Why? Because we longed to see and experience things that simply cannot be discovered down in the flat lands. When I’m in the mountains I feel fully alive! This is a picture of discipleship.

Discipleship is just another word for following Jesus. Jesus was a Jewish rabbi and the followers of a rabbi are called disciples. A disciple is just a learner, an apprentice, someone adopting the ways of another. That’s what it means to follow Jesus, BUT there is so much more to it than just that. 

Discipleship is an adventure! 

Our mission at Church on the Move is to introduce people to the real Jesus. Why is that so important to us? Because when you meet the real Jesus you discover the real you. It’s the path to life, the capital “L” Life that Jesus offers. 

There is an enemy that comes only to kill and to steal and to destroy. But I have come that you might have life. And have it to the full.” — John 10:10

The most important element of climbing on the glacier of Mt. Rainier was our rope team. 3 climbers connected behind our guide by a long rope, spaced about 20ft apart. The purpose of the rope was safety. More accurately, survival. If one of us fell in a crevasse or off a sheer face of the mountain the other 3 could quickly drop to the ice with our ice-axes buried under our weight and stop the one who was falling. Without the rope team one small misstep could be fatal. Connected together and following our guide we were secure. Well, more secure.

Unfortunately, life itself is not without the danger of tragedies and trials. And following Jesus is not a guarantee we will be spared such hardships. But Jesus is a trustworthy guide. He teaches us new skills we will need along the way, offers us useful tools that ensure safe passage, leads us forward and upward, to places we could never discover on our own. But he warns us of the danger of trying to travel alone. Success on this journey demands having the support, encouragement, and security of a “rope team.” Those who willingly connect themselves to us, and us to them, no matter were the Jesus-journey leads. 

Sometimes the way is steep and the path is narrow as a disciple, but the way of Jesus leads to unbelievably wonderful things to see and experience that we would never discover if we chose not to follow. That’s what discipleship is all about, stepping out in faith and following. 

This is the incredible invitation of Jesus. The invitation to come fully alive!

He is the one calling and we must go! Everyone comes to their discipleship journey from different places. Some come with lots of knowledge and experience, some come with none at all. The invitation is still the same no matter where you are in your life. No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been walking with Jesus your whole life, we believe there is more Jesus has for you. For all of us. But how? 

Here are four elements of discipleship:

We don’t believe it’s complicated. Following Jesus just means taking small steps with Jesus while being “roped up” or connected to others. We’re not saying it’s always easy, but it’s simple. And we believe the scriptures have given us a clear discipleship path, or way of following Jesus that can be explained through 4 equally important elements. 

1. Discipleship is KNOWING GOD

No one can believe what they do not understand. And so at Church on the Move we value teaching and training. When our minds are enlightened to the things of God our hearts follow in obedience and integrity. So we will always be pursuing a richer knowledge of God and His Word and inviting others along the way so that we can have a richer, deeper experience in life. 

This is why we preach the Gospel in our weekend services, why we have high quality Bible studies taught by amazing communicators, why we encourage daily reading of God’s Word and praying and listening for His voice. 

2. Discipleship is GROWING IN FREEDOM

All of us are hindered by our past. Sins and failures, abuses and wounds, pain, disappointment, and brokenness. These are the hallmarks of being human and none of us are immune. But Jesus is a rescuer. He meets us in our brokenness and heals us, sets us free, and makes us whole. And He does this through His church. The church is the community where healing and freedom are discovered, together. 

Discipleship happens in community. This is why we gather in groups, why we build real relationships that go beyond the surface, why we care for one another, and build one another up. This is why we connect ourselves to Jesus and each other so we can successfully keep moving forward toward more freedom and life.

3. Discipleship is DISCOVERING PURPOSE

God didn’t just save us from something, He saved us for something. And every experience, desire, gift, or ability you’ve been given is whispering something about the purpose of your life. We believe this process of discovery happens best in community and leads to fulfillment and significance. Howard Thurman was an influential pastor in America during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. He said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come fully alive. Because what the world needs most is people who have come fully alive.” Discovering our purpose brings us meaning, but it also brings life to those around us. 

This is why we offer classes and courses on discovering your spiritual gifts, understanding your unique personality, and narrowing in on your most meaningful areas of service and contribution. This is why we believe that EVERYONE in the family of the church has a unique role to play and when we discover it, everyone wins.  

4. Discipleship is GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

The journey of following Jesus was never meant to find its fulfillment in us. Jesus’ whole message was wrapped up in his words from Mark 10, “The the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. And to give his life as a ransom for many.” To follow Jesus is to put others first. To make a tangible and meaningful impact on the world around us. And to continue to introduce people the real Jesus. He is, after all, the greatest thing we have to offer anyone. Real disciples live and love in such a way that it results in others becoming real disciples too.

This is why we serve and volunteer at church and in our communities. We believe the real Jesus ought to make a real difference in the real world. And we are called to be his hands and feet. This is why we give of our resources. Not only because it demonstrates our trust in God for our financial needs, but because it is used to bring good news to people in Tulsa and all over the world.  

The invitation to follow Jesus is a life-changing adventure. It involves every part of us and Jesus asks for nothing less. He came to rescue, to heal, to save, to set free, and to offer life to the full! We take that very seriously at Church on the Move because we want everything He has to offer. And we want that for you too. 

Jesus is calling, and we must go. Come, go with us. 

A Blog by Lee Martin

Read our next blog: Have you met the real Jesus?

Rest Over Hurry by Amanda Torres

Ever heard of it? I bet you’ve felt it. It’s a real thing and it turns out that most of us have it. How many times do you find yourself speeding through traffic or evaluating which line at the store is the shortest to save time? We are living in a hurried world and we’re slowly deteriorating because of it. As John Mark Comer, author of Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, puts it, “Hurry is violence to our souls.”

A few years back I was in a familiar scene of hurry. I was late getting kids to an appointment. If you have ever tried to get kids in the car in a hurry it’s the equivalent of nailing jello to a wall. It’s virtually impossible. So you can see my peril. One mom, four kids, running late… I lost it. Full on psycho mom, complete with yelling and arms flailing all while blaming the kids for being late.

Not my finest moment. As I got in the car, I knew I messed up. Everyone was silent and likely traumatized. I felt horrible. The only thing I knew to do at that moment was pray. Lord, I messed up. Show me how to make this right.

It wasn’t a second later that I remembered the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, & Self-control

What I had just shown my kids was the complete opposite. I had been frustrated, angry, impatient, rude, destructive, unpredictable, and completely lacking any self-control.

But why?

It was how I started my day, how I had been starting my days for too long, and how I was spending my weeks. In Romans 8:5, it says when we live by the flesh, our minds are on focused on the flesh and when we live by the Spirit, our minds are on the Spirit. I was totally living by my flesh. Instead of renewing my mind each morning by showing up for my Chair Time, I allowed myself to sleep in. Instead of taking the time pause in my day to breathe and silence the chaos around me, I was pushing harder to achieve what I thought needed to be done.

I wasn’t allowing any space for God to work on and in me before I encountered other people.

Looking back, the day I completely lost it was monumental. God took what was a huge mess up, grabbed my attention, and reminded me what His Word says about rest. I began intentionally designing my week to have space for Sabbath. I used my six days to get it all done, so come Saturday night our family could kick off our Sabbath and truly rest on a regular basis. This has rejuvenated our family and given us the peace we were trying to achieve on our own.

I also began a consistent Chair Time. For a long time this had been hit or miss. Now, it’s a non-negotiable. Some days, I have 10 minutes and other days I have an hour or more. The point is having the space to pause and submit myself to the One who knows me better than I know myself. That precious time realigns my thoughts, which shapes my actions, which eliminates the constant need for hurry.

It’s not about finding perfection in the Sabbath or your Chair Time. It’s all about the submission. It eliminates my constant need to achieve and puts Hurry Sickness to bed. These two small exchanges have allowed my family to walk in the freedom Christ offers us. What one step can you take this week to elevate rest over hurry?

Peace Over Anxiety by Lyndsey Vigil

Let’s talk about putting peace over anxiety!  I’ve been actively working on putting peace over anxiety in my life for about 4 years now. God has worked through counselors, Doctors, Small Groups, friends, and family to introduce me to new practices and new thinking, and I want to share some of those practices with you today. If you attend Church on the Move in Tulsa, you might remember my story.
Listen to me tell my story at Church on the Move Tulsa.

Here are 5 practices for putting peace over anxiety:

1. Godly Friends 

It’s crazy how much truth there is to “don’t do it alone.” The first step in putting peace over anxiety in my life was surrounding myself with good, Godly people who listened to me and shared honest feedback. You need people who call out your faulty thinking and share different perspectives with you.

2. Cutting Out Coffee 

 The most recent change I’ve made is cutting out coffee! You can laugh at me, but this was a pretty big step for me. (I really loved coffee). I switched to tea—London Fogs are my favorite! The switch helps keep your mood regulated throughout the day. I really had no idea how much coffee was negatively affecting me. I’d highly recommend cutting it out!

3. Real Jesus Small Group

I can point to two HUGE steps toward peace in my life that happened in my Real Jesus Small Group.

• At the end of the curriculum, you write your real Jesus journey. When writing mine, I realized where some of my anxiety triggers came from.

• About midway through the group, you’re supposed to go to coffee with someone and tell them your struggles. I went with a young lady I barely knew and shared some of my deepest struggles. She did the same.

In that conversation, I felt totally liberated and ready to move forward. (P.S., I still go to coffee with that young lady once a week.)  Find a group at Church on the Move by searching “Real Jesus” on the finder.

4. Breathing

This one is super practical. A lot of people who struggle with anxiety live in FIGHT/FLIGHT mode, and one of the best ways to calm your brain is BREATHING.

 For 3-5 minutes, 3 times a day:

Breathe in for 4 counts
Hold for 2 counts
Breathe out for 6 counts

*Focus on counting; as random worries enter your mind, acknowledge them and go back to counting.

5. Prayer & Journaling

When I feel down or overwhelmed, I read and pray through Phil. 4v4-9, and add a little, “God help me to ____” in front of each verse.

 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”
— Philippians 4v9

After some prayer, I like to journal with these prompts from verse 9:

1) What have you learned?
 2) What have you received?
3) What have you heard and seen?

When I started this journey 4-years ago, I had no idea how God would use little, seemingly useless steps of obedience to bring peace to my life. These practices are almost involuntary for me because God introduced them to me slllllloooooowwwwwly, and through them, He has reshaped the way I think.

I hope these practices are beneficial to you and help you begin to put peace over anxiety in your life.

– Lyndsey Vigil

Read more about Anxiety: What to do when you don’t know what to do.

Intimacy Over Porn by Blaine Bartel

Let’s talk about porn—Have you ever held a loaded gun? I have. Except someone told me and swore on their life that it was unloaded. So I believed them and when they encouraged me to take aim and pull the trigger, I did. Can you guess what happened? BOOM.

Friends, the problem with playing with an unloaded gun is it might actually be loaded—a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. There are some things in life that you simply don’t take chances with.

How would Jesus approach the topic of Porn?

Jesus approached sexual lust with just such caution. His take on adultery in the Sermon on the Mount is direct… and should leave us all slightly unnerved.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
(Matthew 5:27-29)

Jesus makes this point: If you even lust in your heart towards someone, you’ve already committed the act of adultery.

First, let’s be clear on what Jesus is not saying:
1) Jesus is not saying to go ahead and commit adultery since you’ve already sinned in your heart.
2) Jesus is not saying if you look at someone that is attractive to you, that you’ve sinned.

What is Jesus saying?

The Greek word for lust in this verse is epithumeó, which is defined as “focused passion.” A look becomes lust when we allow a thought to expand into a focused passion to illegitimately have them for ourselves.

Now here’s what Jesus is saying:
1) If you don’t control your fantasy world, your fantasy world will eventually dominate you.

Our lustful thoughts are not harmless.

Is porn harmless?

Don’t fall for the lie that porn is harmless. 

Those who believe porn is harmless are the same people who watch Jaws backwards, and believe it’s a heartwarming story about a shark who gives arms and legs to disabled people.

The truth is porn is devouring souls and marriages at the highest rate in history. 

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that 56% of divorces in America are a direct result of one spouse having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.

IT’S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE THE UNDOING OF A PRECIOUS PART OF YOUR LIFE … HAPPENS.

If you’re taking a spin in the porn world every so often or flirting with someone online or at work, trust me, it’s only a matter of time before the undoing of a precious part of your life… happens. 

Thoughts become actions. Actions have consequence. 

Jesus was also saying…

Jesus wasn’t trying to make it more difficult for us to keep the commandment against adultery. He was wisely saving us from ever getting there, by stiffening our resolve to rigorously guard our thoughts.

2) Sexual lust is so destructive that Jesus tells you to gouge out your eye if necessary.

Now, He isn’t literally saying we should get rid of our eyes, right? But let’s not miss the point. If you actually did gouge out your eye, we would all come to three conclusions about you:

a. You are pretty dang serious about overcoming sin.
b. You are ok with radical discomfort to overcome sin.
c. You are a tad unreasonable in finding ways to overcome sin.

That’s precisely what Jesus is saying about lust. Get serious!

Make uncomfortable decisions.
Be unreasonable if you have to.

People constantly ask me… “Blaine, what did you have to do to get free of your addiction?”

Are you kidding me? Everything! What didn’t I have to do??
I got serious.
I got uncomfortable.
I got unreasonable.
I threw away my laptop.
I threw away my smart phone.
I spent $30,000 on rehab and counselors.
I went to four men’s groups a week.
I changed my schedule.
I quit traveling.
I reported to advocates weekly.
I read and studied incessantly.
I could go on… and on.

I WOULD HAVE GLADLY HAD A DOCTOR CUT MY EYE OUT

If you want to know the truth… I would have gladly had a doctor cut my eye out and sport a patch the remainder of my life if that’s what it took to be free.

Why? Because sexual lust kills.

It’s a loaded gun. My lust killed my marriage. It killed my relationship with my boys. It killed my career. It killed me financially. And it came close to killing me.

Jesus wasn’t threatening eternal damnation.

When Jesus said, “it’s better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell,” I don’t believe he was threatening us with eternal damnation.

The word translated hell in this verse is actually “Gehenna,” which is was an actual valley outside Jerusalem where they not only cast all kinds of refuse, but the dead bodies of animals and of unburied criminals who had been executed. It was an awful real life reality.

Jesus was warning us, lust will literally destroy you right now. Don’t play with it. It will utterly dismantle everything you hold dear in life.

Now let’s end with a little good news.

Jesus can save us. Jesus can heal us. Jesus can set us free. Ten years after my personal Gehenna, life is better than I could have ever imagined possible. That’s the Gospel. That’s Jesus. Beauty for ashes. The oil of joy for mourning.

Brother or sister, if you are bound by lust, get help before the opportunity passes. I’ve met many a man who has looked back crestfallen with regret — and uttered the words… “If only.”

I said it myself. “If only I had reached out for help earlier… in one of those wake-up call moments… all the pain and destruction that could have been avoided.”

Do you have a porn problem? Are you having an affair? Are you flirting with disaster?

If you seriously want freedom, reach out for counseling or jump into a small group. Men, look for our brand new mid-sized group in the Spring called Katharos – The Jesus Path to Sexual Purity. 

– Blaine Bartel

 

Want more info on putting intimacy over porn? Watch Intimacy over Pornography from Church on the Move.

About Going Deeper: Exploring the Life of Jesus

Life in Motion is a podcast hosted by Heather George and Jamie Jobe. It’s a show where two best friends talk about life, family, and the hard things we all go through.

Our Going Deeper blogs are all about helping you take scripture and apply it to your life.

Going Deeper - Woman holding a Bible Reading

Taking the life and teachings of Jesus found in scripture or a church service and using it to change who you are, the decisions you make, and the way you relate to the rest of the world takes time and practice.

So in addition to our weekly church gatherings, we put together In Motion Going Deeper Blogs for you to explore the life of Jesus, better understand your role as a Christ follower, and ultimately start a life that is constantly in motion toward Jesus.

Meeting the real Jesus

We want to help people meet the real Jesus. It’s easy to think if you give God your good behavior, in return He’ll protect you. Or if we read the Bible or say a prayer every now and then, He’ll bless you. Sometimes we end up thinking of God as a sort of vending machine. But to really have a relationship with God, to know Him for real. We find Him to be more than useful, we need to find Him to be beautiful.

We need to find God beautiful.

God desires relationship with you, and there is life in that relationship. God is our creator, and connection to Him is connection to life itself.  In other words, the deepest, most meaningful thing about existence is that we’re connected to this Creator. So to get closer to Him, is like getting closer to the source of life and everything good. It’s like the sun on a plant, there’s growth. Finding God beautiful is really the journey of what it is to be human, to become fully yourself, and fully alive.

Through these blogs, we want to help you make Jesus the object and focus of your affection. We want to help you consistently move toward Christ with every decision you make.

Read our next blog: About Life In Motion or About Spirit In Motion.

Contentment Over Materialism by Hannah Zapf

Let’s talk about contentment—Do you ever wonder why you always want the new iPhone? Why you want a new car when yours still runs great? Why you want to go to Target when you feel sad?

Girl smiling

They say the average American sees over 5,000 ads per day. Our society is overrun with consumerism that is aimed at your subconscious. In the 1950s, advertisement agencies started using propaganda tactics developed by Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays. His business partner, Paul Mazur said, “We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture.… People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”. It worked. In the last 50 years, the average house size in America has doubled and the average wardrobe has tripled, not to mention the $15K in credit card debt the average American has.

What’s the big with contentment?

The thing is, the state of well-being has been on the decline since the incline of materialism. Consumerism is promising happiness, status, and value, but not delivering. I have been there, emptying my Target bag of clearance things I didn’t need, using After Pay for shoes I couldn’t afford, buying a new car, the list goes on. Where I expected to feel elated, I felt, well… nothing. Beyond that, we often don’t stop to consider the impact consumerism is having on creation. And what about the slave labor used to keep up with the demands, treating image-bearers of God as commodities.

Where does Jesus fit? 

Jesus is always after the heart. He knows there is a fine line between having things, and things having you. Did you know that 25% of Jesus’ teachings are about money and possessions? He warns about their power to rule our hearts. In compassion, he shows us that true joy is when he has our heart. He warns in Luke 12:15, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

“Jesus is always after the heart.”

How do we break free from our need to consume, for things to define our status and value? 1 Timothy 6:6-8 gives us a clue, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.Gratitude and contentment reorient our lives to see what we have as a gift. To see God as the giver of all things and our true source releases us from the need to grasp and grab.

In Hebrews 13, we are told again, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” We can trust that what we have today is enough and we are promised tomorrow’s provision when it goes on to say, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Practicing gratitude and contentment is not the same as renouncing possessions, it’s about putting possession in the proper perspective.

Let’s wrap it up!

By consuming less, we are not only relying on our God for our fulfillment, but we create margin in time and money. Acts 20 tells us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That word blessed means “happy” in greek. With the time you spent mindlessly shopping online, you could use it to build relationships, volunteer, or enjoy nature. And the money you save on not buying unnecessary things? Well, I don’t have to tell you the good you could do with that! When you practice gratitude and contentment, you realize your blessings and make room to spread it to others.

A Blog by Hannah Zapf

Read out next blog: Have you met the real Jesus?