Christianity 201

March 4, 2016

“For I Know the Plans” Reconsidered in Light of Other Texts

Today we want to introduce you to a new online resource, Start2Finish.org which includes various blogs, podcasts and Bible study materials materials available on everything from a phone app to print. Click the title below to read today’s article at its source, and then use the navigation bar to check out the rest of the website.

Jeremiah 29:11 is Not About You!

by Chris McCurley

We see it on bumper stickers, inspirational posters, and graduation cards. We see it embroidered on pillows or tattooed on a person’s body. It’s the words of the Lord as spoken through the prophet Jeremiah and it reads, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).’” Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland and other “prosperity preachers” use this verse to cater to our culture’s selfish and individualistic mindset. IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU! YOUR BEST LIFE NOW! GOD JUST WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY! HE WANTS YOU TO HAVE IT ALL! Even in the realm of religion, I am still the focal point. And many have bought in to this sentiment. As a result, Jeremiah 29:11 becomes a signature verse for the “Name It and Claim It” theologians. But Jeremiah 29:11 is not about you. The dead give away is found in the heading of this chapter. It reads: “MESSAGE TO THE EXILES”

It’s easy to read a verse like this and individualize it. Here’s what we would like it to say, “I know the plans I have for you, Chris McCurley.” But not even the original hearers of this message could have individualized these words. Jeremiah’s message was meant for the elders, the priests, the prophets, and the people, many of which would not be around in 70 years to see this promise come to fruition. This was a promise of future welfare for the nation at large, not a promise of prosperity for any one particular person. I feel quite certain that the people hearing this message for the first time would not have responded as we often do today. We read this verse and we zero in on the prosper part. We focus in on how God is going to bless us in amazing ways. However, the message to God’s people is that everything’s going to be alright…eventually. After years and years of suffering they’re going to come back home and be restored; not them, per se, but their kinfolk. The grim reality surrounding Jeremiah 29:11 is that hard times were in store for God’s people. Someday there would be restoration. There was hope on the horizon, but only after decades of harshness.

So, is there a take away from this verse for us? Can we still claim Jeremiah 29:11 even though it has nothing to do with God personally prospering us? The answer is, “Of course.” All scripture is beneficial to us, and all scripture can be claimed by us, just not always in the way we would like to claim it. Does God have a plan for you and me? Absolutely! Does He plan for our welfare and not our calamity? Certainly! Does He give us a future and a hope? Without question! But we are dead wrong to assume that the plan involves a long life of comfort and convenience with perfect health and mountains of money.

What about the gentleman whose mother, wife, and three children are all killed in a car accident? What about the young mother of four small kids who is diagnosed with Stage Four cancer? What about the man who works hard but gets laid off from his job and his wife leaves him for another man? What about the family who must deal with the horror of having their child abducted and murdered? Is this God’s plan? Do you see the danger in grabbing hold of certain “Life Verses” and assuming that they represent the totality of God and Christianity? What happens when the miracle you prayed for doesn’t come? What happens when God doesn’t heal your loved one? What happens when the man of your dreams finds someone else? Is God not good? Does He not care?

The apostle Paul stated, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18). Thousands of years from now, it won’t matter how much wealth and status you had. It won’t matter how much pain and suffering you had to endure. This is not about how good one can have it while alive here on planet earth. This world is not our home. This is our temporary residence. We don’t belong here. We are exiles in a foreign land (1 Pet. 2:11). Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if I am healthy and wealthy in a physical sense. It doesn’t matter how good I have it in the here and now. All that truly matters is that I have the hope found in the abundant life Jesus Christ came to give (Jn. 10:10).

My friends, God has been honest enough to tell us that there will be trouble in this life. This life is hard, but God has also made us a promise. There is hope on the horizon. There is a glorious future awaiting us. Though we are exiles on this planet, some day we get to go home. Let’s not get things twisted. This life is all about kingdom living, not earthly pursuits. If we don’t have a penny to our name, we are among the wealthiest to have ever lived because of WHO we belong to. A life lived in Christ is the most prosperous life of all. So let’s get busy living it!

June 19, 2014

Exegesis and Isogesis

Taking Bible Verses Out of Context

Mark 4:22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” 24a “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued.

II Tim. 2:14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

While you’re scratching your head wondering what today’s title means, I’ll tell you that today’s article is by Paul Burleson, who we featured here six months ago, and who has been in pastoral ministry for 54 years.  He has some scripture examples in the text of some of the problems in Bible interpretation you or someone you know might encounter.  Click the title below to read at his blog.

FRAGMENTING BIBLE VERSES AND ALTERING THE MEANING OF SCRIPTURE

There is a two-headed coin often used with Bible verses that leave both sides losing. With neither side of this coin, is there a, “Winner, winner, chicken dinner,” as a favorite friend of mine loves to say when the OKC Thunder or OU wins,  [I say it with her, by the way.]

Let me explain the two-sides first.

One side of the coin [heads we’ll call it] is fragmenting a verse. This means taking a PORTION of the verse or taking a verse ALONE, without it’s context, and applying it to situations, or worse, quoting it TO someone as if it’s the answer to whatever is troubling or discouraging them.

A case in point is that Matthew 18:20 verse where Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them.” This is usually used to assure people, preachers are especially guilty here, that when only a few people show up for church services, be assured God is there, so all is well. I’m sure He is present since He is, in fact, Omnipresent. But that isn’t the meaning of the verse in context. More on the meaning in a moment.

The other side of the coin [tails we’ll call it] is what is called “isogesis” which means to read INTO a verse something not intended, as opposed to “exegesis” which means to take FROM a verse the meaning that is there in language and context. Isogesis is really nothing more than introducing one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into the meaning a verse instead of taking out of the verse what the language and writer are actually saying. In Bible study or knowledge, were you to flip this coin, either side will come up a loser.

Now to the meaning of the Matthew 18:20 verse. The real meaning is found in the context which is where someone as a believer has been willing to personally confront another believer over an issue and they didn’t respond very well. But the problem is so serious they were willing to take someone with them as they go again.  The verse is saying in THAT context God is with you and in a very meaningful way. If you’ve ever been in that situation, and I have, it’s really encouraging to say the least.

No one is saying that God ISN’T where two or three believers have gathered to worship. He really is. It isn’t WRONG to assure the people that HE IS THERE. Just don’t quote the Matthew 18:20 verse as if it’s the Bible PROOF He’s present in a poorly attended meeting. It means something far deeper and grander than that.

Another example

That I can ACHIEVE “anything,” when I’m trusting God as my strength, is taken as an absolute promise by some people. To prove that, they quote Philippians 4:13, which happens to be my life-verse by the way.

The problem is this verse is NOT dealing with ACHIEVING anything.

People are usually thinking about scoring touchdowns or making a basket in a championship game. Or worse, charging things on a credit card trusting God for the ability to pay later or making an effort to get someone to change their bad behavior because they desire them to and are helping them. Because God is my strength I can do this, is their thinking, this verse says so!

But that isn’t in the ballpark of what Paul was saying. He had faced hard times, many times, and had found that he could endure being rich or poor, hungry or filled, and in context, in prison or out of prison, and no matter THE CIRCUMSTANCES, he found the wherewithal to face them because of the Lord being his Life. For Paul, the issue wasn’t “I can achieve anything,” but one of “I can endure anything.”

What a difference the context makes. No one is saying the former thought, achieving some good thing, is a WRONG thing. [On second thought maybe it is if you’re thinking you can sow wild oats and NOT reap a harvest.] It just can’t be proven with this verse and be getting the true meaning of what is being said by Paul to the Philippians. For THAT you HAVE to see it in context.