Christianity 201

November 3, 2016

The Bible’s Proper Place

by Clarke Dixon

Imagine this scenario: The teenagers of our church have grown up into their twenties and have left town to attend colleges and universities elsewhere. Meanwhile society has shifted and governments have changed so that there is now a hostile climate for Christianity. In fact, officials have stormed our church service, rounded us all up and sent us to prison. We learn that we are all to be executed. We also learn that while things are not as bad for our youth away in other towns, things are not good there either. We can send a letter to them. What would you write?

This is not unlike what we have in the book of 2nd Timothy where Paul is in prison in Rome awaiting execution. He has the opportunity to send a letter to a young pastor in Ephesus named Timothy. What does he write?

10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 2nd Timothy 3:10 – 17 (NRSV)

Let us summarize: “Timothy, you will be surrounded by bad people, but as for you, be good, keeping the scriptures central.” This is just as important a message for us in our day. In fact we can consider how “be good, keeping God’s revelation front and centre” is proper for us as individuals, families, churches, and as a nation.

For individuals – Be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

When Paul speaks of “the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” in verse 15, we may immediately think of salvation in terms of what it means for us when we die. The Scriptures do instruct us on such things as they help us see our need for, and God’s provision of, grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. But salvation is a two-sided coin. On the one side we may think of the destination, eternity with God. On the other we can consider the journey, life with God now. The Scriptures also instruct us for the salvation journey as the Holy Spirit transforms us step by step along the way. This second side of the salvation coin, the journey, is in mind when Paul goes on to say that

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work

So as individuals, be good, keeping God’s revelation central!

For families – Be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

It is sometimes said that faith is a private and personal thing. This is actually a ridiculous statement for how can it be? As I respond to the call to be good, keeping God’s Word central, how can my family be unaffected? As God transforms individuals, He also transforms the experience of those in relationship with those individuals. There is a direct impact on my family and friends when I seek to be good, keeping the wisdom of the Bible central in things like avoiding drunkenness, alcoholism, gambling, adultery, pornography, and the like. There is also a direct impact when I seek to be good like Jesus, as I read about him in the Bible, learning to bear a cross, learning how to love and forgive, and the like. There is a direct impact on my family, friends, and even enemies, when my life evidences the fruit of the Spirit:

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSV)

The Holy Spirit uses scripture to awaken in us a greater desire for such fruit than the kind of fruit Adam and Eve went after. It is good for families, indeed all relationships, to be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

For churches – Be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

Ask what makes for a good church and you can get a wide variety of responses like good parking, good facility, great speaking, great music, great programming and so on. You can build a great organization without ever cracking open a Bible. However, to form a good people you will need to open the Bible. The Church is not an organization that happens to made up of people, it is a people who happen to get organized. Though not very organized sometimes! To have a great church, we will want to be good, keeping the Bible central.

For our nation – Be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

What makes Canada great? Some people will say that it is our multiculturalism. However, are we really all that multicultural? There are things that appear to be acceptable, or even promoted in some other cultures that we would think barbaric here. Even the most ardent proponent of multiculturalism in Canada has their limits. So we are not as multicultural as we think we are, for there is a sense of Canadian culture, of limits in what is not acceptable. Where do we get this from? Though we are moving away from it, our culture still owes a great debt to Christian ethics. The Bible has given us a good foundation on which to build a nation. We should not be surprised by this as we are told the Bible is useful for “training in righteousness” (verse 16). Consider, for example, how the opening chapters of the Bible teach us about the dignity of every human being. Those who who would push us to become a fully secular state have difficulty accounting for why, objectively, we ought to value every person. This is just one example of many.

I am a secularist in the sense that I do not think a person should ever be compelled to be a Christian to be a Canadian. Nor should a non-believer be forced to pray a believer’s prayer. However, I also see how Biblical values have served our nation well. We are a nation that enjoys a bit of multiculturalism and a bit of secularism. We can appreciate that. But our nation has also been marinating in Christianity for a long time. So as a nation we can appreciate what Paul tells Timothy; be good, keeping God’s revelation central.

What Paul knew to be good in a time of crisis is good for all time including our time. Don’t be like the rest when the rest have lost their way. Be good, keeping the Scriptures central, sticking close to Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And remember, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit. We also have the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ for when we fall on the journey and need to get back on our feet, dust off our Bibles, and start again.


Follow Clarke Dixon at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon or on Twitter

July 11, 2015

Reverse Engineering The Promises

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
 2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT

Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete. (same verse + 21 and 22, The Message)

A few days ago, we re-ran a piece on Thinking Out Loud that has also appeared twice here at C201, though not for three years. Apparently this time around, it really resonated with some people.

The idea was to look at areas in my life where it might seem like “it’s not working” and ask ourselves if maybe we’re doing something wrong.

We need to watch the logic of this however. A Biblical statement of promise such as, “If you do _____, then I [God] will do ______ …” is of the form “If ‘A” then ‘B’.” But we can’t logically automatically assume from that, “If ‘not-B’ then ‘not-A.” Moreover, some of the promises in scripture are guiding principles of how things work. For example, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it;” is a statement of general principle, but not an iron-clad assurance that every child raised in the love of Christ will not wander from the faith. Clearly, some do. (I realize some will say, ‘I have to believe that eventually they find their way back, or the Bible isn’t true.’ I guess we can debate that some time!)

All that to say, here’s what I wrote as it appeared (without this long introduction) a few days ago…
 
 

If I’m not getting the desires of my heart,

Maybe I’m not delighting myself in the Lord


If I’m not finding my paths being made straight,

Maybe I’m not trusting in the Lord with all my heart.


If I’m not finding God is adding good things to my life,

Maybe I’m not seeking first His Kingdom.


If it doesn’t seem like God is working in all things for His glory,

Maybe I’m not loving God or trying to live according to His purpose.


If it doesn’t feel like God is hearing from heaven, healing the land and forgiving sin,

Maybe it’s because as His people, we’re not humbling ourselves, seeking his face and turning from our wicked ways.


If it doesn’t seem like God is lifting me up,

Maybe I’m not humbling myself in His sight.

 

June 6, 2013

Use Your Bible

The scriptures today appear as links, and I really hope you’ll take the time to read each one; especially since the theme today is about using your Bible to the fullest.  This is from the website Unlocking The Bible where it appeared under the title 14 Ways to Use the Bible.

The Bible is wonderful because it gives us a knowledge of God, of men, of the universe, and of redemption.

No other book can be compared to it in this respect, but it not only informs us about these important truths, it also tells us what we are to do with it.

We have within the Bible itself instruction as to our attitude toward it.

In it we are exhorted to:

1. Read it.Nehemiah 8:8. And may I suggest that it be read slowly, carefully, prayerfully, in large portions, repeatedly, reverently and with a willing spirit to follow its precepts.

2. Believe it.Romans 10:8. Because it is the Word of faith. It has been given to increase our faith in God and His working in the Universe.

3. Receive it.James 1:21. Here it is the engrafted word that is to be received as the soil received the seed, or the tree receives the graft. Taking the Word of God in our heart life, allowing it to grow and bear its own fruit in motives and actions.

4. Taste it.Proverbs 19:10. For it is the good Word of God. Some seem to be afraid of the Bible for fear it will require them to do something they do not wish to do. Be not afraid; it is good and right in all its requirements.

5. Eat it.Jeremiah 15:16. This process suggests that we not merely taste but actually live by it, as Jesus said, “Ye shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4.

6. Hold it fast.Titus 1:9. It is a faithful word. All its promises are true; all its history is true; and its statements are truth. Therefore we are to rest our faith upon it.

7. Hold it forth.Philippians 2:16. Because it is the Word of Life. All who come under its beneficent rays feel its life giving power.

8. Preach it.2 Timothy 4:2. Here it is called simply the Word. It suggests that we are not to preach any one part of it or any one phase of it, but preach it in its entirety and fullness.

9. Search it.John 5:29. This suggests work and patience. The Greek word carries the idea of “ransack” as the housewife goes through the home at housecleaning time; or “to track” as the hunter laboriously follows the game through the brush, so we are to search for truth and run down the lines of God’s revelations to man.

10. Study it.2 Timothy 2:15. Here is a word that means close application to the Word of God, as the builder minutely studies the plans of the architect before erecting the structure.

11. Meditate on it.Psalm 1:2. This word has much the same meaning as “eat” for it means literally “to chew the cud.” Turning the Word of God over and over in the mind till the sweetness of its truths feed our souls.

12. Compare it.2 Corinthians 2:13. This is not so much what we do with the Scriptures as what the Holy Spirit does with them in our hearts. This is a divine commentary always at hand. Or as John puts it in 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

13. Rightly divide it.2 Timothy 2:15. This is not an arbitrary division of subjects but the following of a line of truth from the first place mentioned to the last place mentioned; noticing it in all its relation to other truths and as the word literally means “the cutting of a straight line” of truth in the Bible.

14. Delight in it. Psalm 119:92. Seven times in this Psalm the Psalmist speaks of delighting in God’s word. This should always be the heart ambition and attitude.

“Study it carefully; think of it prayerfully;
Deep in thy heart let its precepts dwell.
Slight not its history; ponder its mystery,
None can e’er prize it too fondly or well.
Accept the glad tidings, the warning, the chidings,
Found in this volume of heavenly lore,
With faith that’s unfailing, and love all prevailing,
Trust in its promise of life evermore.”

*Adapted from portion of W.H. Pike’s beginning remarks in Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament.

Bonus item:

I know that this type of article isn’t typical of what we do here at C201, but as long as we’re doing lists, here’s one that appeared a few days ago the blog Deep Thoughts by Gman under the title Old Versus New.

Old Covenant vs. New Covenant
Gifts and Sacrifices for guilt of sin vs. Self-sacrifice by guiltless Christ
Physical Building where One goes to worship vs. Reign of Christ in hearts of believers
Limited promises vs. Limitless promises
External standards vs. Internal Standards
Limited Access to God vs. Unlimited access to God
Legal Cleansing vs. Personal cleansing
Obey the rules vs. Serve the living God
Forgiveness earned vs. Forgiveness freely given
Repeated yearly vs. Completed by Christ’s death.
Human effort vs. God’s grace
Available to some vs. Available to all.

July 6, 2012

Four Myths Attacking God’s Word and the Church

Today’s thoughts are from James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel and host of Walk in the Word.  Click through to read this at source, and learn more about Harvest, Walk in the Word, and the upcoming Vertical Church tour of North America.

2 Timothy 4:3-5
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Let’s grow in our capacity to discern. Make a note of these four myths attacking the church today. Some you might be aware of, others maybe not at all. They are messages crafted for itching ears that damn the souls of men.

1: The Word of God is not sufficient. The Word of God does not have all of the answers that people need for the complex problems of the twenty-first century man. Instead of the message of the Word of God, we need psychology—literally, the study of the soul.

Almighty God has already written a book on the soul. Any contributions from psychology have not seriously upgraded what God calls “all things pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). If you have a problem, a burden, or a struggle, the answer is not found by running away from God’s Word and going to a counselor, month after month, who never opens the Word of God, who never prays with you, or who is not ministering in the power of God’s Spirit. If the answer to your problem doesn’t leave you closer to God, it wasn’t God’s answer for you. I don’t judge those who don’t know the Lord for doing the best they can and finding relief along the broad road, but the people of God should not be clamoring for the world to solve what God, in His Word and in the power of His Holy Spirit, wants to give. God help us to love the truth and pursue the truth for the answers to the burdens we carry and the issues we face.

2: The Word of God is not sophisticated. If you really want to reach people—boomers, GenX’ers, post-moderns—you need a more sophisticated hook than the Word of God.

Listen to what some church sites are posting in their attempts to reach people. “Our church is growing large and strong with an emphasis on the importance of every individual.” “Our church is not just a church; it’s an adventure.” “We’ll make sure that the first face you see when you approach our church has a smile on it.” “We will give you the resources and the opportunity to reflect upon yourself, to develop a balanced lifestyle and discover the healthy whole person God designed you to be.” Those are not the answer to anyone’s problems.

How much different does the promise of this church sound?  “A people who desire to know Christ and to raise the Cross over Hollywood.” Do you see the difference, see the vertical focus upon Christ Himself as the answer for searching souls? But these myths, tragically posing as the ministry of Christ, claim the Word is not sufficient nor sophisticated. And tragically, when they fail, people feel the Lord has failed them, when He has not been truly involved at all.

3: The Word of God is not settled. The Word is still emerging—the message is still changing.

My brother sent me an e-mail about a church that’s attempting to adjust the biblical teaching on the role of women. The rationale they give for explaining away the clear teaching of Scripture is that folks like us take a static approach to God’s Word, “but we take a redemptive approach,” they say. My brother wondered what that meant. In essence, they are claiming: “Don’t think the Bible always means the same thing through all of the centuries. We believe that the Bible means different things to different people. Centuries ago it meant one thing, but now to modern, more sophisticated culture it means this.”

As soon as I hear that, I want to throw up, because that message confirms people in their sin and gives them misguided authority to sin against their own conscience.  All around us are those that have adopted the “redemptive” approach to studying the Bible. My greatest concern isn’t even about the role of women—we celebrate women leaders in our church in every area except those restricted by Scripture. My burden, however, is not women preachers, but the perversities in society that are standing in line behind that comparatively innocent issue, waiting to say, “Oh beautiful! We get to take the parts of the Scripture that are an affront to our perversity and dismiss them as no longer relevant.” It’s the idea that the Word of God is not settled, when it is—that the Bible needs updating, when it doesn’t.

4: The Word of God is not sure or reliable. Christ is not unique, and His unique message is to be rejected in a world of pluralism.

We live in a day where the name that is not welcomed is the Name that is above every name. As the God of this age heightens His attack upon this world in these last days, the dividing lines are becoming incredibly clear. I believe with all of my heart that in the days to come, to cross that finish line, it is going to cost us more than it has ever cost us before. It is going to cost us relationships when we continue to proclaim, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We trumpet the message of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6). To those who do not have the Spirit of God within them, the Scripture says, we are the aroma of death, 2 Corinthians 2:16.  People are not kind to those who become a stench in their nostrils.

What should we do! Spend all of our time attacking error? Some of that is needed, no doubt. But Paul’s exhortation to Timothy [above] has a lot more to do with actually continuing in his own biblical ministry and being deterred by others.

“…be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

~James MacDonald

Christianity 201 is a repository of some of the best devotional and Bible Study material in the Christian blogosphere. Selections come from a variety of doctrinal and theological viewpoints. You’re encouraged to read articles at source, and if you like what you read, click that blog’s header to discover more about the writer/ministry and consider subscribing.

May 8, 2012

The Truth of Scripture is Accessible to All

Today we return for a visit to the blog Jesus Carries Me, where Lila wrote this post under the title, 

Who receives Understanding of the Scriptures?

Scripture Reference: Matthew 13:36-43  (link takes you to NIV; NLT is below)(NLT)13:36 Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.”

37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.

40 “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

For many Christians the answer to this question is rather obvious, but it never was for me. If one has been fed lies for years like I was, it is an exceedingly exciting time when the Truth intersects your life and enters your heart. Burdens of deception and lies are hurled to the ground and light fills the heart.

You see, for years one of the lies I was taught was that you have to have the title “apostle” in the specific church I grew up in to receive understanding of the Scriptures. This also excluded anyone outside of the borders of this denomination. Only these “apostles” received insights and that meant it was kind of useless to read the Bible since you won’t understand much of what you read anyway. Since I never knew God then (although I religiously attended church), I didn’t understand most of what I read no matter how hard I tried. Consequently I never questioned this lie.

But thanks be to God, one day the Truth entered my dark heart and with that a desire to read the Bible. Not only that, I now understood what I read. I found the treasure I longed for all my life. I found the Truth. I couldn’t get enough of reading the Bible and God proved His faithfulness by first taking me to the Scriptures that would make these lies come crashing down. At first, I didn’t know where to start. But, although I was alone in a room with my Bible, He was there too. He took me from one Scripture to the other and over time taught me His liberating Truth with the precision and timing of a perfect Teacher. One example is this portion of Scripture in Matthew 13:36-43.

After Jesus told the parable of the weed sown among good seed, the disciples approached Him wanting to understand what He just said. Those who love the Lord and His word will desire to receive more enlightenment and will ask for better understanding. Many others may think of the Lord’s word as a nice little story. Some may disregard His words in an off-hand way and some may even mock His word. Folly always mocks anything it doesn’t understand. But His true followers will ask to understand what He says. They realize they don’t know it all and that He is all-knowing. These are the ones to whom He reveals the deeper meaning of His words. I learned that this privilege is not reserved for people with religious titles, but for anyone who humbly comes to the Lord in faith and ask for greater understanding.  As we read here, we can see how Jesus gave an exposition on the parable of the seed and the weed to those who asked. He shows them how there will be a separation of the righteous and the unrighteous at the end of time.

Jesus concludes His exposition by saying that this is open to the understanding for all who have “ears.” This is a non-exclusive term. It is open to all who desire to know more. It is not a promise made exclusively to people who flaunt religious titles. Instead, the Lord, in His generous nature, is eager to teach anyone: “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” So, the Lord invites anyone with a sincere desire for wisdom and understanding  to ask and it will be given to them. The verses below further confirm that there is no exclusivity. God does not show favoritism.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:27) 

[These words were written for all believers, not exclusively to church leaders]

April 20, 2012

Diggiing Deep Into God’s Word

Apologies to those of you who came yesterday and couldn’t find the devotional. I only found out 24 hours later that it got posted to the wrong blog — I manage eight different ones — and it’s now available.   

Today’s post is a little longer than what’s normally here, but it’s a subject that we all need to be reminded of.  When the early church was birthed in Acts 2, the thing that everyone noticed wasn’t the education or skill in oratory of the disciples, it was that they had spent time with Jesus.

This is from a blog that was new to me, Answers from the Book, and appeared earlier this month under the title Be A Berean. As always, you’re encouraged to click that link and read at source. If for some reason you stay here, please note there’s a page break in this one; be sure to click through to read the whole article. 

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:10-11)

A couple of weeks ago, I received a comment on a post that disagreed with my interpretation of a particular Bible passage. This was not the first time someone has shared a dissenting point of view and, I am quite certain, will not be the last. To be completely honest, I welcome thoughtful, sincere comments whether they agree with what I have written or not. Opposing viewpoints can have a way of sending us back to the Word of God to re-evaluate our position and to make sure that Scripture really supports it. Anything that leads us to spend more time in the Bible isn’t a bad thing, is it?

What concerned me about this specific comment wasn’t the fact that it criticized my conclusions, it was the reason the person gave for disagreeing. Apparently, this individual had heard a Bible teacher speak about this particular passage of Scripture on Television. The conclusions reached, according to the writer of the comment, were significantly different from what I was sharing in the article. Rather than offering Biblical support for these conclusions or citing corroborating passages, the only basis for accepting the interpretation seemed to lie in the identity and credentials of the man on the T.V. Program.

A Matter Of Authority

There is a great deal of overemphasis placed in the credentials and identity of individuals when it comes to Bible teaching and preaching. I remember browsing through a website a few years ago that advertised openings for pastoral positions in various churches across the country. It amazed me how many listings put the educational requirements first and foremost in their posting. “Must have a Doctorate in Theology or Pastoral Studies” was at the very top of a great many of the advertisements. Now, it is understandable that a church would not want to install a novice, ignorant of the Word of God, into their leadership, but it struck me as ironic that qualifications such as “must be of sound moral character”, or “must exhibit Christian virtues in their daily life” were listed at the bottom of the posting more often than not. It was almost as if these attributes were an afterhought! The most relevant credentials, in the minds of many of these church boards, had more to do with where a pastoral candidate attended school than the spiritual guidance he would bring to their congregation.

It seems that many people would rather put their trust entirely in the educational and experiential background of another person than evaluate their message against the Word of God. If a Bible teacher is famous enough, or has the right academic degree, then they are ready to unquestioningly accept any and all teachings that the person gives. But such a practice is never taught nor commended in the Bible itself. If anyone in Scripture had the authority to rest on His credentials, it would have been the Lord Jesus. Yet even He never urged anyone to accept His teachings uncritically, but frequently backed up His Message with references to the Old Testament (e.g., Mark 12:10, 12:24, Luke 24:27, 24:44, John 5:39). Luke describes the people of Berea in the Book of Acts as “noble” because they not only accepted the teachings of the Apostle Paul with an open mind, but because they “searched the Scriptures daily” in order to verify whether or not what he was teaching was Biblically sound (Acts 17:11). (more…)

April 18, 2012

When the Bible Bites!

Sometimes it seems like the Bible has teeth!

Should a caution sticker or warning be put on each copy of the Bible?  “Warning may cause change in lifestyle and worldview…”  Some people may wish that.

In today’s post, Wayne Stiles — whose boss is Chuck Swindoll — notes that some people want a Bible that doesn’t say the things it says…  This appeared at his blog under the title Undesirable Side Effects of the Bible.

The Bible has many undesirable side effects. So what do we do with them?

As we drove to church one week, Cathy read an article to me from an issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. The magazine doesn’t claim biblical orthodoxy by any means—it simply claims to publish issues in historical archaeology. But occasionally it tosses a live grenade at its readers by inserting something unrelated to archaeology—to dig up controversy as well as artifacts.

In a section called “Milestones” (a euphemism for “Obituaries”), BAR noted the death of one scholar who had been a champion for ecumenicism and a voice for women and minorities. The article ended with a quote from this scholar that dropped my jaw. Read his words carefully:

The Christian Bible includes sayings that have caused much pain, both to Jews and to women. Thus I have felt called to seek forms of interpretation which can counteract such undesirable side effects of the Holy Scriptures.

What grieves me about such a remark is not the desire to comfort or to give a voice to those who have been hurt, abused, or mistreated. I applaud that. My concern is with a mindset that elevates self above Scripture—or really, above God. My concern is with the idea that somehow God’s Word stands in contradiction to God’s love.
The Jefferson Bible in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.

One of my daughters said this statement reminded her of the Jefferson Bible we had seen in the Smithsonian Institute. I have heard that Thomas Jefferson read the gospels with a pair of scissors in hand, cutting and keeping only those parts of the life of Christ that seemed authentic to Jefferson.

I shared the BAR article at a staff meeting at Insight for Living and one of our writers, Derrick, noticed the similarity between this scholar’s quote and another quote, more familiar: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? . . . You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman (Gen. 3:1, 4, emphasis added).

No doubt, the Bible has MANY undesirable side effects. But they seem undesirable only because we prefer to choose our own standards rather than to submit to those God has revealed. God’s Word, by its own admission, purposes to shape us through grace into a holy people. It isn’t there so that we can conform it to be like us.

Can’t we comfort those who have been mistreated and abused without apologizing for God? And if the Word of God is the offender, shouldn’t we first consider why it offends us rather than redefine its meaning?

If I stand before a judge with the line of reasoning that I don’t interpret the law the way he does, it will make no difference to his verdict. Meaning lies with the author or originator of a text—not with the reader.

Rather than seek to change the meaning of the text (which, in effect, makes it meaningless) would not it seem more honest to change ourselves?

~Wayne Stiles

February 2, 2012

Condense Your Faith Essentials into a 4-Minute Video

There’s been much reaction online to a spoken word video produced by Jefferson Bethke, which is now over the 18,000,000 mark in terms of page views.  Maybe you’ve heard it already, but I’ll post it here for those who haven’t run across it.  What is important to you?  What is the greatest point you would want to make if you had access to a worldwide, diverse audience?  For Jefferson, it was the contrast between Christianity and religion.

For David Bowden, it was the scriptures.  I found this today — it was posted back in September — on the blog of Stephen Cole who is a worship leader at Lifechurch.tv who introduced it with this:

The word of God, the Bible, is so necessary in the walk of a Christian. I know that’s not new knowledge but it’s a reminder of the power and gift we have in the Word. In our times of doubt, in our times of need, pain, frustration….the word brings us truth, hope, perseverance, and encouragement to keep on keeping on. I know in January … we all make these commitments to “do something different”. My challenge to us is to “be something different” . And not according to what “we” believe is the right way to live but the way “He” believes we are to live. We can’t just figure that out in glimpses of the Bible. We must fully submerge ourselves.

A friend of mine, David Bowden, put this spoken word piece together. This is what I’m talking about.

So…..Do you believe in the scriptures? And if so, does your life reflect them?

There are tons of resources out there but one way I engage God each day is through YouVersion, a Bible app and website my church put together. There are tons of reading plans and it’s always with you. Very useful in my walk with the Lord. Like I sad, there are a ton of ways to do it. Just be intentional.

So what would your four-minute video look like?  Or sound like?  Or say?

Personally, I might go with something like this.

December 1, 2011

A Strong Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura

Hold your fire!

Please put down your weapons!

Don’t shoot!

Today Christianity 201 is going more Christianity 401.  I think today’s post will certainly stretch some of you, while for others, it may not be such a big stretch.  First of all here’s how Jim Greer at Not For Itching Ears introduced this article:

I just couldn’t resist reposting this article by Father John Whiteford, who happens to be an Eastern Orthodox priest.  If you are a Protestant like me, then you may have never even heard of the Orthodox church, I know I had not.  I am very grateful that I have discovered them.  The following is a very well thought out rejection of one of the cornerstones of the Protestant Reformation:  Scripture Alone.   Read it with an open mind and then share your thoughts with the rest of us.   I think he makes some good points.  It is a very long article, so I will break it up into 4 parts.  Here’s Part 1:

And here’s the article; there’s a link at the bottom to parts 2, 3 and 4.  (And if you think this is controversial, you don’t even want to know what Jim posted yesterday, November 30th.)  Again, remember, this is an Eastern Orthodox view, but the Orthodox church is part of the broader family of Christian believers.  (If you comment, mention if you are referring to just this part, or if you read the entire article.)

“If we are to understand what Protestants think, we will have to first know why they believe what they believe. In fact if we try to put ourselves in the place of those early reformers, such as Martin Luther, we must certainly have some appreciation for their reasons for championing the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura (or “Scripture alone”). When one considers the corruption in the Roman Church at that time, the degenerate teachings that it promoted, and the distorted understanding of tradition that it used to defend itself -along with the fact that the West was several centuries removed from any significant contact with their former Orthodox heritage — it is difficult to imagine within those limitations how one such as Luther might have responded with significantly better results. How could Luther have appealed to tradition to fight these abuses, when tradition (as all in the Roman West were lead to believe) was personified by the very papacy that was responsible for those abuses. To Luther, it was tradition that had erred, and if he were to reform the Church he would have to do so with the sure undergirding of the Scriptures. However, Luther never really sought to eliminate tradition altogether, and he never used the Scriptures truly “alone,” what he really attempted to do was to use Scripture to get rid of those parts of the Roman tradition that were corrupt. Unfortunately his rhetoric far outstripped his own practice, and more radical reformers took the idea of Sola Scriptura to its logical conclusions.

PROBLEMS WITH THE DOCTRINE OF SOLA SCRIPTURA

A. IT IS A DOCTRINE BASED UPON A NUMBER OF FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS

An assumption is something that we take for granted from the outset, usually quite unconsciously. As long as an assumption is a valid one, all is fine and well; but a false assumption inevitably leads to false conclusions. One would hope that even when one has made an unconscious assumption that when his conclusions are proven faulty he would then ask himself where his underlying error lay. Protestants who are willing to honestly assess the current state of the Protestant world, must ask themselves why, if Protestantism and its foundational teaching of Sola Scriptura are of God, has it resulted in over twenty-thousand differing groups that cant agree on basic aspects of what the Bible says, or what it even means to be a Christian? Why (if the Bible is sufficient apart from Holy Tradition) can a Baptist, a Jehovahs Witness, a Charismatic, and a Methodist all claim to believe what the Bible says and yet no two of them agree what it is that the Bible says? Obviously, here is a situation in which Protestants have found themselves that is wrong by any stretch or measure. Unfortunately, most Protestants are willing to blame this sad state of affairs on almost anything — anything except the root problem. The idea of Sola Scriptura is so foundational to Protestantism that to them it is tantamount to denying God to question it, but as our Lord said, “every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a bad tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17). If we judge Sola Scriptura by its fruit then we are left with no other conclusion than that this tree needs to be “hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 7:19).

FALSE ASSUMPTION # 1: The Bible was intended to be the last word on faith, piety, and worship.

a). Does the Scripture teach that it is “all sufficient?”

The most obvious assumption that underlies the doctrine of “Scripture alone” is that the Bible has within it all that is needed for everything that concerns the Christians life — all that would be needed for true faith, practice, piety, and worship. The Scripture that is most usually cited to support this notion is:

…from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (II Timothy 3:15-17).

Those who would use this passage to advocate Sola Scriptura argue that this passage teaches the “all sufficiency” of Scripture — because, “If, indeed, the Holy Scriptures are able to make the pious man perfect… then, indeed to attain completeness and perfection, there is no need of tradition.”1 But what can really be said based on this passage?

For starters, we should ask what Paul is talking about when he speaks of the Scriptures that Timothy has known since he was a child. We can be sure that Paul is not referring to the New Testament, because the New Testament had not yet been written when Timothy was a child — in fact it was not nearly finished when Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, much less collected together into the canon of the New Testament as we now know it. Obviously here, and in most references to “the Scriptures” that we find in the New Testament, Paul is speaking of the Old Testament; so if this passage is going to be used to set the limits on inspired authority, not only will Tradition be excluded but this passage itself and the entire New Testament.

In the second place, if Paul meant to exclude tradition as not also being profitable, then we should wonder why Paul uses non-biblical oral tradition in this very same chapter. The names Jannes and Jambres are not found in the Old Testament, yet in II Timothy 3:8 Paul refers to them as opposing Moses. Paul is drawing upon the oral tradition that the names of the two most prominent Egyptian Magicians in the Exodus account (Ch. 7-8) were “Jannes” and “Jambres.”2 And this is by no means the only time that a non-biblical source is used in the New Testament — the best known instance is in the Epistle of St. Jude, which quotes from the Book of Enoch (Jude 14,15 cf. Enoch 1:9).

When the Church officially canonized the books of Scripture, the primary purpose in establishing an authoritative list of books which were to be received as Sacred Scripture was to protect the Church from spurious books which claimed apostolic authorship but were in fact the work of heretics (e.g. the gospel of Thomas). Heretical groups could not base their teachings on Holy Tradition because their teachings originated from outside the Church, so the only way that they could claim any authoritative basis for their heresies was to twist the meaning of the Scriptures and to forge new books in the names of apostles or Old Testament saints. The Church defended itself against heretical teachings by appealing to the apostolic origins of Holy Tradition (proven by Apostolic Succession, i.e. the fact that the bishops and teachers of the Church can historically demonstrate their direct descendence from the Apostles), and by appealing to the universality of the Orthodox Faith (i.e. that the Orthodox faith is that same faith that Orthodox Christians have always accepted throughout its history and throughout the world). The Church defended itself against spurious and heretical books by establishing an authoritative list of sacred books that were received throughout the Church as being divinely inspired and of genuine Old Testament or apostolic origin.

By establishing the canonical list of Sacred Scripture the Church did not intend to imply that all of the Christian Faith and all information necessary for worship and good order in the Church was contained in them.3 One thing that is beyond serious dispute is that by the time the Church settled the Canon of Scripture it was in its faith and worship essentially indistinguishable from the Church of later periods — this is an historical certainty. As far as the structure of Church authority, it was Orthodox bishops together in various councils who settled the question of the Canon — and so it is to this day in the Orthodox Church when any question of doctrine or discipline has to be settled.

b). What was the purpose of the New Testament Writings?

In Protestant biblical studies it is taught (and I think correctly taught in this instance) that when you study the Bible, among many other considerations, you must consider the genre (or literary type) of literature that you are reading in a particular passage, because different genres have different uses. Another consideration is of course the subject and purpose of the book or passage you are dealing with. In the New Testament we have four broad categories of literary genres: gospel, historical narrative (Acts), epistle, and the apocalyptic/prophetic book, Revelation. Gospels were written to testify of Christs life, death, and resurrection. Biblical historical narratives recount the history of God’s people and also the lives of significant figures in that history, and show God’s providence in the midst of it all. Epistles were written primarily to answer specific problems that arose in various Churches; thus, things that were assumed and understood by all, and not considered problems were not generally touched upon in any detail. Doctrinal issues that were addressed were generally disputed or misunderstood doctrines,4 matters of worship were only dealt with when there were related problems (e.g. I Corinthians 11-14). Apocalyptic writings (such as Revelation) were written to show God’s ultimate triumph in history.

Let us first note that none of these literary types present in the New Testament have worship as a primary subject, or were meant to give details about how to worship in Church. In the Old Testament there are detailed (though by no means exhaustive) treatments of the worship of the people of Israel (e.g. Leviticus, Psalms) — in the New Testament there are only meager hints of the worship of the Early Christians. Why is this? Certainly not because they had no order in their services — liturgical historians have established the fact that the early Christians continued to worship in a manner firmly based upon the patterns of Jewish worship which it inherited from the Apostles. 5 However, even the few references in the New Testament that touch upon the worship of the early Church show that, far from being a wild group of free-spirited “Charismatics,” the Christians in the New Testament worshiped liturgically as did their fathers before them: they observed hours of prayer (Acts 3:1); they worshiped in the Temple (Acts 2:46, 3:1, 21:26); and they worshiped in Synagogues (Acts 18:4).

We need also to note that none of the types of literature present in the New Testament have as their purpose comprehensive doctrinal instruction — it does not contain a catechism or a systematic theology. If all that we need as Christians is the Bible by itself, why is there not some sort of a comprehensive doctrinal statement? Imagine how easily all the many controversies could have been settled if the Bible clearly answered every doctrinal question. But as convenient as it might otherwise have been, such things are not found among the books of the Bible.

Let no one misunderstand the point that is being made. None of this is meant to belittle the importance of the Holy Scriptures — God forbid! In the Orthodox Church the Scriptures are believed to be fully inspired, inerrant, and authoritative; but the fact is that the Bible does not contain within it teaching on every subject of importance to the Church. As already stated, the New Testament gives little detail about how to worship — but this is certainly no small matter. Furthermore, the same Church that handed down to us the Holy Scriptures, and preserved them, was the very same Church from which we have received our patterns of worship. If we mistrust this Churchs faithfulness in preserving Apostolic worship, then we must also mistrust her fidelity in preserving the Scriptures. 6

c). Is the Bible, in practice, really “all sufficient” for Protestants?

Protestants frequently claim they “just believe the Bible,” but a number of questions arise when one examines their actual use of the Bible. For instance, why do Protestants write so many books on doctrine and the Christian life in general, if indeed all that is necessary is the Bible? If the Bible by itself were sufficient for one to understand it, then why dont Protestants simply hand out Bibles? And if it is “all sufficient,” why does it not produce consistent results, i.e. why do Protestants not all believe the same? What is the purpose of the many Protestant study Bibles, if all that is needed is the Bible itself? Why do they hand out tracts and other material? Why do they even teach or preach at all —why not just read the Bible to people? The answer is though they usually will not admit it, Protestants instinctively know that the Bible cannot be understood alone. And in fact every Protestant sect has its own body of traditions, though again they generally will not call them what they are. It is not an accident that Jehovahs Witnesses all believe the same things, and Southern Baptists generally believe the same things, but Jehovahs Witnesses and Southern Baptists emphatically do not believe the same things. Jehovahs Witnesses and Southern Baptists do not each individually come up with their own ideas from an independent study of the Bible; rather, those in each group are all taught to believe in a certain way — from a common tradition. So then the question is not really whether we will just believe the Bible or whether we will also use tradition — the real question is which tradition will we use to interpret the Bible? Which tradition can be trusted, the Apostolic Tradition of the Orthodox Church, or the muddled, and modern, traditions of Protestantism that have no roots beyond the advent of the Protestant Reformation?”  

Read  Part 2 of this post.

Read Part 3 of this post.

Read Part 4 of this post.

October 17, 2011

Prophetic Wisdom

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:27 pm
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When I was younger, I played a form of the “match game” with a set of cards identifying different species of birds.  The cards were actually a premium item when you purchased a particular brand of tea, though I don’t remember that much tea consumption going on.  I think some other people were saving them for us.

Many of the birds look very similar until you study the drawings more closely, but every once in awhile a card would turn up that you might have forgotten was in the deck.

I think the book of Proverbs functions in a similar fashion.  There are definitely verses — especially about the value of wisdom itself — that seem to repeat from chapter to chapter.  You could cut them out and shout “match!”

But then there are little nuggets of wisdom that are entirely unique, like the one I spotted this morning:

Unused fields could yield plenty of food for the poor, but unjust men keep them from being farmed.  (Prov 13:23, Good News Bible)

In a world where people get paid not to grow certain crops; in a world where we are told that we have sufficient food to meet world demand, but the issue is distribution; in a world where relief and development agencies ship grain overseas but corrupt political groups prevent it from being made available; in a world where all these things are happening at once, we see the Bible has already been there, it has already made the necessary observation.

So Proverbs — in a situation it somewhat shares with Psalms — remains essentially what it is, a book of wisdom, but sometimes speaks with a prophetic voice.  We look back at what some consider an ancient book, and with that book in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other, we discover the Bible already has the story covered.  

And we clearly see, in this one verse, that the problem is not overpopulation, or global warming, or economics; but injustice.

July 18, 2011

Discovering God’s Word for the First Time

I’ve mentioned before that when I started this blog, C201 was meant to contain original devotional content each day, but the pressure of life and the maintenance of other blogs quickly turned it into a “best of” the Christian blogosphere.  So I have a great respect for those who write original devotions or studies each day, but I have even greater respect for those who attempt to get doctrinal concepts across to children.

Today’s reading is from Bible Drive-Thru.  Violet describes this as a daily devotional kids that allows readers to sample something from every book of the Bible over the course of a year.   Kids?  I’ll bet this story from II Chronicles will be new to a couple of you adults, which is ironic because the selection  is about a king who discovered God’s word for the first time.  And you can answer the questions at the end in the comments if you wish.

If you have children, consider Bible Drive Thru as the basis for spending some time together daily in the Bible.  They’ll love the ‘fast food’ layout of these studies, with a “to chew on” section and a “supersize it” section for deeper reading.  (Violet recommended our including a different devotional, which I decided, in a rare back-to-back posting, I’m going to include tomorrow, but if your kids are bit younger, they might enjoy it today.)

Finding a Special Book

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Chron 34:14-19 & 31

TO CHEW ON: “Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.” 2 Chronicles 34:18,19

When King Josiah turned sixteen something changed. Perhaps after being king for eight years he realized what a hard job it was. Maybe he wished he had help and wanted to be sure that God was on his side. He may have asked, which god? For the people in Judah worshiped many gods.

Perhaps he remembered his grandfather, King Manasseh, and thought of how he had smashed the idols and taken down the Asherah poles after he got back from prison. Then he had told everyone to worship the unseen God of the temple.

However it came about, over the next four years, Josiah took down every altar and high place and pole connected with idol worship. Then he decided to clean up the temple too. He put the priests and Levites to work. One day as they were clearing out garbage, they found a book. It was the book of the Law that God had given Moses.

When Shaphan the secretary showed Josiah what they had found, Josiah wanted him to read it. So Shaphan read God’s laws to Josiah. He had never heard them before.

He became so upset and afraid, he tore his clothes. Then he asked Shaphan and the priests to pray to God for him and the nation, that they would be spared the terrible punishments God had promised.

Hilkiah the priest and others prayed for Josiah. God answered that He would punish Judah just as the book said. But if Josiah would keep on doing the right things, this punishment would come after his lifetime.

We have God’s book with us today. It is the Bible. Unlike Josiah’s time, Bibles today are not lost. They are plentiful and common. But in order for the Bible to help us as it did Josiah, we need to follow his example. We need to read, respect and obey it.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to read and obey Your word. Amen.

SUPERSIZE IT: Bible Search
1. How many Bibles or parts of the Bible do you have in your home?

2. Which is your favorite Bible?
Why?

3. What is your favorite Bible verse?
Why?

Adult readers – DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo’s

January 21, 2011

A Psalm 119 Moment


And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. ~ Joshua 1:8 (The Message)

I think it’s rather ironic that Psalm 119 has become associated with the weariness some people have with Bible reading.  Its 176 verses are simply too much for some people, and yet, it is a Psalm that is all about having a love of God’s word.

In David’s time, the “scriptures” would refer primarily to the books of the law.  Many people reading this feel about Leviticus the way they feel about Psalm 119; it epitomizes something that seems to just go on and on and on.

And yet, these books, Leviticus included, are what David says he loves.  Every single verse of the Psalm talks about his love of God’s laws, statutes, commandments.

Is David the kind of guy who gets excited reading the complete federal tax codes?   Does he enjoy studying the Motor Vehicle Act?   Would he actually study the instruction manual that come with most consumer electronics?

I don’t think so.  But I think he really sees the character of God expressed in the laws he gave.  And he believes that they were written for his good.

I say all that to tell a story.

This week we were in a Goodwill donation processing center, a place, we are told, where merchandise is returned from various stores for final sale prior to being destroyed.  These are the shoes no one wanted, the t-shirts that didn’t sell, and the books that were picked over.

Yes, books.  And among those books were three New Testaments.

Now you need to know four things about me:

  • We’re not loaded with money; the 50-cents a copy they were asking for these was a bit of a stretch, especially after my wife had already selected some other items.
  • Our house is already full of books; we didn’t need three more; there truly is no place to put them.
  • I didn’t have anyone in mind who I was going to give them to.
  • I sell Bibles for a living.  I have a vested interested in selling new books, not used books.

But I bought them.

They were in reasonable condition, and I couldn’t handle the idea of them being pulped for recycling into other books.

I could spiritualize this and say that it was because I have ‘such a great love for God’s word.’  I could say, ‘The Bible is so precious to me, I couldn’t bear to see one thrown out.’   I won’t do that here.   It was simply my WWDD — What Would David Do? — moment.

My Psalm 119 moment.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your love of scripture, your love for God’s word?

January 16, 2011

Psalm 23 Continues to Comfort

Doug Koop is the editorial director of Christian Week, Canada’s national Christian newspaper.  This appeared at his blog under the title, Why Psalm 23 Comforts Christian Souls

Psalm 23 is often on my mind. This is partly because the well-known shepherd’s psalm is source of great comfort to many. Partly it’s because as a boy I memorized it in old-fashioned King James English. And it stuck. I can still recite the words by heart. They come quickly to mind especially during hard times, especially in the dark watches of the night when sleep is elusive and the cares of life weigh heavily.

To repeat a psalm like this verbatim is not the same as saying that I know it by heart. I like that phrase, “by heart.” It somehow imbues a mere collection of words with great meaning and significance. It implies deeper understanding and more profound belief.

Psalm 23 has a powerful reassuring effect on many people, myself included. And although it is the Scripture of choice for funerals, it’s really about life in this world. It describes a perfect, pastoral setting and speaks to the yearning of every human heart. We all want our every need provided. Everyone wants to be protected. Everyone wants a soul at perfect peace. Everyone wants to live well.

But everyone also knows that the world we inhabit is rarely this hospitable. Many people lack even their daily bread. Hostility harries both innocents and aggressors. Those who live in great comfort and safety are still at risk for distressed spirits. There are very few truly righteous people in this world, which can be a very hard and lonely place.

Perhaps the reason why this psalm is so comforting is precisely because it speaks a strong message of hope in full awareness of the harsh realities of our deeply troubled world. It acknowledges want. It embraces the vexatious presence of enemies. It admits death.

The key to its comfort is that Psalm 23 confronts these situations with the mighty hope of a loving God. Its core message bombards the power of evil with images of bounteous provision, total protection, glorious honor and a soul at peace amidst even the most severe of circumstances.

Sustenance, deliverance and restoration speak to our most basic human needs, addressing the deepest desires of our heart and the yearnings of our very beings. It satisfies them with good things.

The psalm ends on a note of casual confidence—calm assurance—in the benefits of knowing God and living according to His will and ways. I like that word “surely.” The psalmist concludes with shameless certainty that the pathway of those who put their trust in the Good Shepherd leads to eternity in His loving presence, and that their legacy will be heartening to others.

“Surely,” writes the psalmist, those who follow the Lord leave a trail of goodness and mercy in their wake. They are harbingers of comfort and joy. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

~Doug Koop, Winnipeg, Canada

December 26, 2010

Five Reasons to Read the Bible

  1. For the truth about God. The world gives us a multiplicity of meanings as to who God is and what He is all about.   The Bible gives us a proper standard for truth by which to test everything else we hear or read.  For the LORD gives wisdom;  from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.  (Proverbs 2: 6, 9 NIV 2011)
  2. To keep our thoughts focused. Living in the world, we think worldly things.   That can cut off our focus on God and our communication with him.   It’s a tug of war.   God’s word will draw us to Him even as the world tries to draw us away.   Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NLT)
  3. Because we need direction. Just as our thoughts can be drawn away from God so our will and decision making can be drawn away from His best.   Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.  (II Tim 3: 16, 17 The Message)
  4. As an act of obedience. If we love God, we will want to do the things that please Him.   He should keep it with him all the time and read from it every day of his life. Then he will learn to respect the Lord his God, and he will obey all the teachings and commands.  (Deut 17: 19 NCV)
  5. As a weapon of our spiritual warfare. The Bible is described as the “sword of the Spirit.”   It can be used against the ideas that Satan confronts us with through others, or simply puts into our minds.   Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”  (Matt 4:10 ESV)

November 12, 2010

The Ten Commandments of Biblical Interpretation

This is from Skye Jethani’s blog.   There is some really helpful detailed annotation after each one that I’m not going to reproduce here, so you’ll have to click through.   Just reading what’s below is cheating, okay?

I. You  shall not make for yourself an idol out of Scripture.

II. You shall honor the Scriptures as sufficient.

III. You shall remember the metanarrative and keep it wholly.

IV. You shall honor the Church as the recipient and the guardian of the Scriptures.

V. You shall not neglect the context.

VI. You shall not ask questions the text does not want to answer.

VII. You shall embrace both the form and content of Scripture as inspired by God.

VIII. You shall study Scripture for wisdom and not merely knowledge, and never for pride.

IX. You shall exegete your culture and not merely the Scriptures.

X. You shall remember that the simplest interpretation is usually, but not always, correct.

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