Life Is a Highway

If there were a dusty intersection of ordinary life, country music, and faith, Gary LeVox would be sitting there on the back of a pickup singing about it. Gary is an award-winning songwriter and lead singer of Rascal Flatts, the best-selling country vocal group of the past decade. But he’d rather just be the guy who sings the soundtrack to your life’s most memorable scenes.

Thanks to Pixar and computer-animated cars, you’ve almost definitely hummed his hit song, Life Is a Highway.

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long

Canadian rock star and humanitarian, Tom Cochrane, first penned Life Is a Highway after a trip to Africa which he called mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting. The experience resulted in an early-morning songwriting session that churned out one of the most upbeat and encouraging songs of the last 25 years.

God does that. He turns our mourning into dancing. That line came from another singer-songwriter, King David, whose life was also full of mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting scenes. Yet, he wrote the Psalms, arguably the Bible’s soundtrack for life. In Psalm 16, David wrote in the midst of crisis. Yet, in verse 11, you can almost hear him cheer up and belt out something like, “Life is a highway …”

Ask God: If life is a highway, where am I headed?

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Being Clothed in His Righteousness

The church is our mother, but it is Christ’s bride. In this role, we are the objects of Christ’s affection. We, corporately, are His beloved. Stained and wrinkled, in ourselves we are anything but holy. When we say that the church is holy or refer to her as “holy mother church,” we do so with the knowledge that her holiness is not intrinsic but derived and dependent upon the One who sanctifies her and covers her with the cloak of His righteousness.

As the sensitive husband shelters his wife and in a chivalrous manner lends her his coat when she is chilled, so we are clad from on high by a husband who stops at nothing to defend, protect, and care for His betrothed. His is the ultimate chivalry, a chivalry that no upheaval of earthly custom can eradicate or make passé. This chivalry is not dead because it cannot die.

The bride of Christ is soiled but will one day be presented spotless to the Father by the Son who bought her, who loves her, and who intercedes for her every day. If we love Christ, we must also love His bride. If we love Christ, we must love His church.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Ask God to rekindle your love for members of the body of Christ, the true church.

Five Point Strategy for Living in Victory

This section provides a 5 point Bible-based strategy for effectively dealing with sin and temptation. Putting this plan into action is one more way of giving God first place in your life!

1. UNDERSTAND THAT GOD SEES YOU AS PERFECT, HOLY AND BLAMELESS, through the work of Jesus Christ. (Read II Corinthians 5:21.) Many times guilt and shame are the most destructive of sin’s consequences. Understanding that there is no condemnation for those in Christ, regardless of the sin, is fundamental to victory (Romans 8:1).

2. CONFESS YOUR SINS. (Read I John 1:9.) Confessing our sin means acknowledging those sins first in our own hearts and minds, and then confessing them to God. Confessing our sin does not necessarily mean making them public to others. Confession is between you and God.

3. BE ACCOUNTABLE. (Read James 5:16.) Finding a close trusted Christian friend, pastor or family member in whom you can confide is an effective way to introduce accountability and prayer support into the battle.

4. AVOID THE SOURCES OF TEMPATION. (Read James 1:13-15.) This is the most challenging point to implement, and requires some creative thought and planning. The truth is if you can avoid the temptation, you’ll avoid the sin.

5. READ GOD’S WORD. (Read Psalm 119:11.) God’s word tells us plainly that as we “hide it in our heart,” it gives a special strength to say no to temptation and sin.

God has Given You First Place in His Heart

What would you think if someone told you that God sees you as if you have never sinned? The fact is, because of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, that is exactly how God sees you. As Christians, we are forgiven, cleansed and free!

That means you are a saint: one who has attained a special standing of righteousness in Christ. You are perfect, holy and blameless in God’s eyes. He calls you His child, an heir to His abundance, and His friend.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9

Truly understanding how God sees us begins with how we see Him. God is not watching from a distance just waiting for us to make a mistake in order to punish us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider what this verse says:

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13

God sees each of us as His own precious child. He is a loving Father showering favor and care to us out of His endless compassion. Some scriptures in the Song of Solomon illustrate the incredible intensity of God’s love for us by comparing it to the intimate love of a husband and wife. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that God is a rewarder of those who seek him.

God sees each of His children in a profoundly different way than most of us see ourselves. Understanding how God sees each one of us is founded upon the work that Christ began in our lives the moment we received salvation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” II Corinthians 5:17

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:21

This new creation is God’s divine work; a complete transformation of our spiritual condition and inner person. He has completely forgiven and cleansed us from our sin – past, present and future. We are in right relationship with Him.

“…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions (sins) from us.” Psalm 103: 12

We are God’s people presented to Him without any blemish of sin; truly as His righteousness through the work that Jesus did on the cross. God has indeed given us first place in His heart!

The Next Step in Your Bible Reading: Find a Great Commentary

A good commentary is every bit as much a gift to the church as are good sermons, good video, audio and web resources, or good counselors.

If you are a serious Bible student, you will eventually want to secure or have access to a good commentary for each book of the Bible. There really is no completely satisfactory one-volume commentary.

How, then, does one evaluate a commentary? First, you do not evaluate on the basis of your agreement with the author. If the commentary is really a good one, and if you have done your own exegesis well, more often than not you and the better commentaries will be in agreement. But agreement is not the basic criterion.

Moreover, you do not evaluate on the basis of its “turning you on.” The point of a commentary is exegesis — what the text means — not homiletics — preaching the text in our day.

There are at least seven criteria you should use in judging a commentary. But the one crucial point is: Does this commentary help you understand what the biblical text actually said?

The best way to get at all this is simply to pick one of the really difficult texts in a given biblical book and see how helpful a commentary is in giving information and answering questions, and especially how well it discusses all possible meanings. One can initially evaluate the worth of a commentary on 1 Corinthians, for example, by seeing how the author discusses 7:36 or 11:10. For the Pastoral Epistles, check 1 Timothy 2:15. For the book of Genesis, 2:17 would constitute a “checkpoint.” For Isaiah, it might be 7:14 – 17. And so on.

Let us repeat: You do not begin your Bible study with a commentary! You go to the commentary after you have done your own work. The reason you eventually consult a commentary is to find answers to the content questions that have arisen in your own study. At the same time, of course, the commentary will alert you to questions you failed to ask but perhaps should have.

The Indispensable Tool for Biblical Interpretation: A Good Translation

The sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible were originally written in three different languages: Hebrew (most of the Old Testament), Aramaic (a sister language to Hebrew used in half of Daniel and two passages in Ezra), and Greek (all of the New Testament).

The very fact that you are reading God’s Word in translation means that you are already involved in interpretation — whether you like it or not.

To read in translation is not a bad thing, of course; it is simply the only thing available and therefore the necessary thing. What this means further, however, is that, in a certain sense, the person who reads the Bible only in English is at the mercy of the translator(s), and translators have often had to make choices as to what in fact the original Hebrew or Greek author was really intending to express.

The trouble, then, with using only one translation, be it ever so good, is that you are thereby committed to the particular exegetical choices of that translation as the Word of God. The translation you are using will, of course, be correct most of the time; but at times it also may not be.

It is probably a good practice to regularly read one main translation, provided it really is a good one. This will aid in memorization as well as give you consistency. Also, if you are using one of the better translations, it will have notes in the margin at many of the places where there are difficulties. However, for the study of the Bible, you should use several well-chosen translations. The best option is to use translations that one knows in advance will tend to differ. This will highlight where many of the difficult problems of interpretation lie. To resolve these matters you will usually want to consult one or more commentaries.

But which translation should you use, and which of the several should you study from? No one can really speak for someone else on this matter. But your choice should not be simply because “I like it” or “This one is so readable.”

The Two Essential Tasks in Interpreting the Bible

Our First Task: Exegesis

The first task of the interpreter is called exegesis. This involves the careful, systematic study of the Scripture to discover the original, intended meaning. It is the attempt to hear the Word as the original recipients were to have heard it, to find out what was the original intent of the words of the Bible.

Essential Tools for Good Exegesis

For the most part, you can do good exegesis with a minimum amount of outside help, provided that the help is of the highest quality. Three such tools:

  • a good translation,
  • a good Bible dictionary,
  • and good commentaries.

There are other kinds of tools, of course, especially for topical or thematic kinds of study. But for reading or studying the Bible book by book, these are the essential ones.

A good translation (or better, several good translations) is the absolutely basic tool for one who does not know the original languages.

Our Second Task: Hermeneutics

Although the word “hermeneutics” ordinarily covers the whole field of interpretation, including exegesis, it is also used in the narrower sense of seeking the contemporary relevance of ancient texts — asking questions about the Bible’s meaning in the “here and now” This matter of the here and now, after all, is what brings us to the Bible in the first place.

So why not start here?

We insist that the original meaning of the text — as much as it is in our power to discern it — is the objective point of control. For example, we are convinced that the prosperity evangelists’ advocating of the American dream is a Christian right on the basis of 3 John 2 is an improper interpretation. The error is in their hermeneutics, precisely because their hermeneutics is not controlled by good exegesis. They have started with the here and now and have read into the texts “meanings” that were not originally intended.

A text cannot mean what it could never have meant for its original readers/hearers.

Or to put it in a positive way, the true meaning of the biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken or written. This is the starting point.