Living in Reality

in the series "How to Live the Bible"

The only way to live a stable, healthy, and fruitful life, is to live in reality. There are many ways by which we could live in fantasies and illusions that will set us up for certain disappointment and maybe worse. The fantasy that we are able to have or control whatever we wish is one. The illusion that we are entirely helpless is another. The Scriptures give us a true and reliable picture of what is true about life. The Bible offers reality—not spiritual platitudes that are merely wishful thinking.

Romans 8 is a passage that anchors us in reality. It speaks of true pain and stresses and losses in life, on the one hand. And it offers genuine hope on the other hand. The passage speaks honestly about suffering, calling it “frustration,” and “bondage to decay” that leads to “groaning.” This is true of all creation, and so it is true of us.

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Guilt and Shame in Everyday Life

in the series "How to Live the Bible"

Though all people are created with conscience—the ability to sense the difference between right and wrong, or good, better, and best—it is possible for to become so hard-hearted that is seems one does not even have a conscience.

Conscience is part of the hard wiring of human beings created in God’s image. Romans 2 says that all people have consciences and inner thoughts that sometimes accuse, sometimes excuse. Some people are plagued with a sense of supposed guilt, of active shame.

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Voice of Conscience

in the series "How to Live the Bible"

We all know, deep inside, that we need some basic values that can keep our lives on track, keep us out of trouble, and lead us toward virtue rather than vice. In the modern world one value that sometimes is raised above all others is “be true to yourself.” Or “let your conscience be your guide.” In some ways in the modern world “conscience” is given an ultimate value. Even a substitute for the voice of God.

All that matters, many say, is that you follow your conscience, and no one can tell you you’re wrong if you do that. But we all know of times when people we know or we ourselves did something with a clear conscience that was completely wrong. We need the voice of conscience, but we should not consider it infallible.

The Bible speaks of an inner voice or awareness that can guide us toward what is good and righteous. There is no one word for it in the Hebrew Old Testament, but in the New Testament a word does emerge—syneidesis. There are 28 occurrences of the word in the New Testament, two-thirds of them in Paul’s writings.

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What is the Role of “Law” in Living the Bible?

[Special note… see Mel Lawrenz’s “A Prayer for the Christmas Season,” text, printable PDF, or audio HERE.]

It is inevitable that, when we talk about “living the Bible,” our minds will drift toward verses and passages that are commands or laws which seem to beckon us toward obedience to God. “You shall not commit adultery,” or “you shall not murder,” or “you shall not steal,” and other parts of the Ten Commandments, for instance, seem pretty straightforward.

But the New Testament writers tell us that, with the coming of Jesus, everything has changed. It is not that the old covenant has been contradicted, but it has been fulfilled. Whereas the covenant God gave the Israelites included the more than 600 laws in the first five books of the Bible, in the new covenant God has advanced his relationship with us by internalizing the law: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33).

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Books Make Excellent Christmas Gifts

You may have friends or family members whom you want to encourage. Books are excellent Christmas gifts because they are meaningful, they can keep giving for years, they send a message, they can be shared, they can be easily mailed. Books can change lives. Books can transfer eternal truths.

Below you’ll find links to six different book offerings for 2017, most at reduced prices.




Moral Crisis, Moral Possibilities

in the series "How to Live the Bible"

It is hard not to be utterly dismayed by the lack of basic morality in society today. It is a crisis within the lives of individuals, in groups and organizations, and in institutions. And at the highest levels of leadership it is challenging to find men and women of unassailable moral character—not sinlessness, but basic integrity.

Even making this observation runs the risk of drawing ridicule from those who think morality is a quaint notion of a bygone era, or worse, a rigid and repressive self-righteousness, almost always hypocritical.

Yet morality is one of the most essential and highest human characteristics.

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Grasping Reality

in the series "How to Live the Bible"

[Special note… see Mel Lawrenz’s “A Prayer for the Christmas Season,” text, printable PDF, or audio HERE.]


Some people live their lives disconnected from reality. There is nothing solid beneath their feet because their view of life is based on some fantasy. They may have been raised on lies and so they perpetuate the pattern, believing that there is no one who tells the truth, so why even try to find truth? Or their fantasy-based lives might be a way of escape. Or it could be that they are so afraid of the world, or of themselves, that they create a make-believe world over which they have control, which is, of course, impossible. You can’t control a dream.

Not living in reality—being truly “in the dark”— is one of the most dangerous ways to live. It is to be oblivious to both our greatest dangers and our greatest potential. A false view of ourselves can come out of pride and arrogance, or it can be based on doubt or self-loathing, or it can result from hearing lies your whole life. Any false view of the self can only lead to disappointment.

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The Barriers of Ignorance and Hypocrisy

in the series "How to Live the Bible"

When believers talk about believing the Bible, respecting the Bible, following the Bible, but do exactly the opposite, the resulting damage is enormous. It damages the reputation of the church. It gives skeptics and doubters reasons to disregard the Bible. It defiles the name of Christ. It would be better that we not talk about living the Bible, unless we are serious about it.


Two of the greatest barriers to living the Bible are 1) ignorance; and 2) hypocrisy.

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True News, Fake News, Good News

Some people believe the Bible is true in what it asserts. Skeptics, on the other hand, may view the Bible as a collection of falsehoods and superstitions. These are entirely different attitudes. It is analogous to today’s tensions about what may or may not be believed—the difference between true news and so-called “fake news.”

Scripture is not fake news, and, while it is true, it is more than true news. It is good news. The word “gospel” in the New Testament literally means “good news.” The core message of the New Testament is “gospel,” as is evident throughout:

Jesus: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).

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On This Day, the World Changed

That may seem like hyperbole, but it is not. On this day, October 31, exactly 500 years ago, a set of seminal ideas were released that began a rediscovery of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This was the day when a young Martin Luther posted on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, his 95 theses. These propositions raised questions about forgiveness, authority, grace, and other core principles.
Bestselling author of the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas, has given us a fresh new accounting of the life and impact of Martin Luther. Eric’s book is getting rave reviews. On this day you can get the book HERE.
And, here is a short video showing the spiritual influence of Martin Luther.

The Word That Saves

in the series "How to Live the Bible"

Living the Bible is a blessing, not a burden. It is a gift, not a loss. To “live the Bible” is to draw close to our Creator, not to scale a ladder to God.

Living the Bible is an organic process, like the seed of God’s word landing in rich soil, sprouting, growing, and bringing a harvest. Life from life. Or, as John 1 puts it, speaking of Christ the Word, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4). Living the Bible is not about worshiping a book. It is about having the word of the living God—in Christ and in Scripture—go in deep, and make us different.


To be more precise, what we mean by “living the Bible” is continual life transformation through the work of the Holy Spirit using the implanted word of God. Let’s take that definition one phrase at a time.

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Good Seed, Good Soil

part of the series, "How to Live the Bible"

I know that early in life I thought the Bible was a good guide to living, and protection from danger like the guardrails along a dangerous road. But that is really a stunted view of what Scripture has to offer. Living the Bible means the essential qualities of our lives are shaped by the truth of God. It is about life itself.

Living the Bible, in other words, is about the Bible—the word of God—living in us. It is a living word, because it contains life and prompts life.

As Psalm 1 puts it, the person who delights in God’s word is “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields

its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” But this does not happen automatically.

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How to Live the Bible—Beginning the Journey

When I was in eighth grade my church gave me a brand new black Bible with red-colored edges and my name embossed in gold on the cover. It smelled fresh, and crackled when first opened. I felt a special connection with this Bible.

I tried many times to read that Bible, from page one to the end, like a book “ought” to be read. But frustration grew as I got bogged down in Leviticus, and then completely stalled out in Numbers. So most of the pages of that Bible remained clean, but I was vaguely glad to have it on my shelf.

When I was seventeen someone gave me a New Testament in a fresh new version that was very easy to read. I had met some lively, enthused college-age kids who saw the Bible as a book full of life and light.

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Emptiness and Silent Joy

A friend gave me today this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor and martyr who stood up to Hitler. What he is saying here is exactly what I have been experiencing since the death of my daughter, Eva, in June. These thoughts are a precious blessing to me today. I think a lot of people would be helped with this understanding. Worth sharing. Bonhoeffer writes…

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

[Bonhoeffer wrote this from his prison cell to Renate and Eberhard Bethge on Christmas Eve, 1943, fifteen months before his own death by execution. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), letter no. 89, page 238.]

Coming to Terms with Treachery

how Scripture helps us on the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11

Occasionally, in this life, we face treachery, as we did sixteen years ago on September 11, 2001 when airliners were turned into weapons by treacherous men carrying out a treacherous plan. Psalm 25 says “they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.” Today we may pray with the psalmist: “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.”

Mel Lawrenz

[This text adapted from a message originally given the weekend after 9/11/2001 at Elmbrook Church.]

Psalm 25 begins with these words:

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse

On some days evil men with evil intent wantonly destroy scores of people. Unthinkable. Shameful. Diabolical.

There is a word for this: treachery. But what do you do on the other side of the terrorist’s attack? What can we say in the face of pure treachery?

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