Christianity 201

June 3, 2020

Pre-booking Your Choices

The excerpt from Thinking out Loud which follows is a principle I’ve always held in high regard, but was surprised this morning to find I’ve never shared it here at C201. (You’ll see why I looked in the second half of this devotional.)

Our kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson. I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

One author suggested that this is what the book of Proverbs is about. It’s a father saying to his son something like, “Look, this stuff is gonna happen; here’s how it’s gonna go down…” and then describing the benefits of wisdom and not be the proverbial (!) lamb to the slaughter of temptation.

Proverbs is a great book to teach your kids. 31 Chapters, one for each day of the month. Lots of easy-to-understand translations out there; and you need to spend money if you really don’t want to; just read it off the tablet at suppertime from BibleGateway.com. ICB, NCV, NLT, The Voice, all recommended for the younger set, in that order. Start each new month with the same chapter in a different translation. (Yes, a few of the verses are explicit, but you can skip over those until the kids are older.)

What got me thinking about this was an excerpt at Devotions Daily from a recently published book by Kathi Lipp, Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Home for Any Crisis Big or Small (Zondervan, 2020). You can read the full devotional — which contained some very practical advice — at this link, or learn more about the book at this link.

…Predeciding is when you make a decision before you get into the thick of a situation. It can be as simple as making a menu plan for the rest of the week so you don’t get to five thirty each night and have to figure out what in the world you are going to make for dinner. Or it can be as hard as deciding that the next time I see Aunt June and she mentions how much weight I’ve gained—because she lives for that kind of thing—I’m going to say, “So good to see you,” and then give my husband the preagreed-upon signal to get me out of there.

Predeciding takes most of the emotion out of decisions because we are not in the midst of the situation. We can use logic and wisdom instead of adrenaline and anxiety. And that will make our decisions—for us and our family—so much better, healthier, and wiser.

One of the biggest benefits of predeciding is giving ourselves and our loved ones the confidence that if something scary happens, we have a plan.

Throughout the Bible we see God honoring those who made decisions before they were ever tested who remained faithful to their plans.

Here are some other examples:

  • RUTH 1: When Ruth decides to stay with Naomi, even though her husband has died and Naomi has nothing to offer Ruth.
  • DANIEL 3: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow down to the king’s image and were thrown into the fiery furnace but were preserved from harm.
  • ESTHER 4: When Queen Esther went before the king and made an appeal for the lives of the Jewish people, she declared, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (v. 16).
  • LUKE 10: Mary choosing to sit at Jesus’s feet even though she was receiving pressure from Martha to get up and help with the preparations.
  • PHILIPPIANS 4: Paul’s decision to focus on God, and not his circumstances, while in prison awaiting trial.

These are just a few of the circumstances where God empowered people to set a course and follow it, despite hardship and temptations to choose a different route.

Predeciding is an invaluable skill. Making a decision about how you will act before a crisis comes will save you pain and heartache in everything from parenting to budgeting to handling an emergency…

Taken from: Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Home for Any Crisis Big or Small by: Kathi Lipp Copyright © 2020 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan. zondervan.com

 

August 29, 2017

Precept Upon Precept

When I wrote this article for Thinking Out Loud, I was expecting to write about three paragraphs. When I was finished it was much longer, and something that I felt would have been a good of not better fit here…

It began with a  conversation I had last week at the local Christian bookstore concerning Bible features. As the guy was looking at one in particular, he said, “Oh good, it’s got the precepts.”

The first time, it didn’t really register. Then he looked at another and said something like, “Does it have the precepts?”

Huh?

It turned out he was talking about what most of us would call cross references; the notations of other passages either in a center column or at the end of the verse where something related may be found.

The idea of ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ is taken from Isaiah 28:, 9-10 in the KJV. The NASB has:

To whom would He teach knowledge, And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast?  “For He says, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.’”

The NLT is really contradictory to this idea on its rendering of this:

He tells us everything over and over–one line at a time, one line at a time, a little here, and a little there!”

implying that the learning or teaching or knowledge is linear, but not necessarily cumulative. In other words, one line at a time, doesn’t mean that line B is necessarily building on line A, but to say upon is to imply that it is or does.

(In case you’re wondering if there’s any irony to be found, you’re wrong; the verse itself is reiterated in scripture, albeit 3 verses later in verse 13.)

As we discussed this the idea of “Out of the mouth of two [or three] witnesses was brought into the conversation. This is found in the Old Testament twice.

The one condemned to die is to be executed on the testimony of two or three witnesses. No one is to be executed on the testimony of a single witness. (Deuteronomy 17:6, Holman)

A solitary witness against someone in any crime, wrongdoing, or in any sort of misdeed that might be done is not sufficient. The decision must stand by two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15, CEB)

Those OT passages are cited in the NT by Jesus and by Paul.

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Matthew 18:16, NIV)

This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  (2 Corinthians 13:1, ESV)

In the Corinthian example, you have to go back to the previous chapter to get the context. Paul is speaking about sorting out matters concerning people who have been found in sinful practices.

Capital crime. Wrongdoing. Sin. Denial of Sin. Nowhere do these passages suggest something related to “the establishing of doctrine.” But don’t get me wrong:

I believe the Bible always corroborates itself on matters of important doctrine.

In other words, it’s internally consistent. I’m just not sure that we need to force it [scripture] into a situation where everything has to be said twice or three times in order to establish a doctrinal pattern, or make it conform to an overarching systematic theology. Or, to come at it differently, it may reinforce something but in an entirely different way than our Western way of thinking can process too simply.

I think to do so is to doubt the value of what we read the first time. It’s saying to God, ‘Now, if you’ll just show me one more time where you say this, then I’ll obey.’ I think that undermines the text somehow. That doesn’t mean to imply that at a crossroads of life we don’t ask God for confirmation of what we are to do. There is the example of Gideon, who put out a second fleece.

So what are precepts? Yourdictionary.com says

precept pre·cept. … The definition of a precept is a guiding principle or rule that is used to control, influence or regulate conduct. An example of a precept is a commandment found in the Ten Commandments.

At that we would need to get into the differences between a rule and a principle. Principles are timeless, never location-specific, widely applicable. Rules apply to one group of people in one particular situation at one unique point in time. The rest of that we need to save for another day.

A cross-reference is simply:

•noun: cross reference; plural noun: cross references
–a reference to another text or part of a text, typically given in order to elaborate on a point.

Anyone who has been reading the Bible for any length of time knows that sometimes the Bible editors have chosen to take us to a reference to a rather obscure part of the verse, not something which indicates its overall meaning. There are times when I have been completely mystified as to the inclusion of a particular reference. Many of you know the danger of over-spiritualizing things, and I don’t want to be guilty of under-spiritualizing something, but… They’re. Just. Cross-references.

Here’s my concluding statements on this:

We read scripture not so much because we’re trying to learn precepts as we are recognizing the importance of understanding the ways of God.

and

If God is saying something to us with unmistakable clarity through a scripture passage, we don’t need to start hunting around looking for a second verse.