Selective Exegesis

I “love” how many Christians read this verse for its first part, the part where God keeps His covenant throughout generations. But then they fail to add the last part of the verse, that this covenant keeping is with those who keep their agreement with God. This was true in the Old Testament system. Though God is a god of grace and mercy, especially when we don’t deserve, this verse very clearly dictates terms. We may lean on God’s grace for all things, but it seems disingenuous when we ought to know better, and have been told what He expects of us. We become selective in our exegesis, conveniently eliminating those pieces that we feel we don’t need anymore, because we are “under grace and not under law.”

Did we forget that under The grace of Christ, He still expects us to keep His commands as proof of our love for Him? He still expects us to make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey His commands. The New Testament is not a “do what you want! It’s all good!” But “do this and you will be saved!” “Do this because you are my disciples!”

When quoting Bible verses, quote them in context. Don’t pick and choose translations to best for what you want the verse to say. Study all of them, for they all contain nuance of the languages behind the translation. Study your Bible. Don’t just read it. This is the Word of God written down for your benefit. Don’t go praying to the heavens for a “WORD” from the Lord until you’ve exhausted the written word and wrung out all its meaning. Read. Pray. Study. Learn.

God bless you today.

No Empty Words

You ever say something you didn’t mean? I know I have. Or sometimes I say something out loud I didn’t mean to say, and then have to say, “I didn’t mean it. I was joking.” To tell on myself a little, there are sometimes people say, “Keep me in your prayers.” And then I say, “Sure.” Honestly I would not be able to track of such a prayer list.

But the words of God are never empty. He never says anything He doesn’t mean. He is always intentional in His words. Even those large tracts in Leviticus are meaningful and intentional, though it’s a challenge to read through them. That’s why when someone says, “God told me” I really have to question it. Because when a person who is not known to be a prophet invoked this absolute authority of the Word of God, I have to wonder if these words are truth. You really can’t joke about this, or overstate your case. If God spoke to you, in actual words, then they would be on the level of Scripture. If you had a feeling or a conviction after reading a particular verse, then God spoke to everyone! And you just happened to finally get it. Please don’t assume the mantle of prophet, because God’s word also says to kill anyone who pretends to speak for God. Just fair warning.

James 3 says that those who teach are held to a much higher standard, because they are assuming the mantle of speaking the word of God. We must do so accurately. Why is this so important? Because it is the word of God. His word never fails, and everything He says is truth. We cannot play fast and loose with Scripture. Read with caution, but speak the truth.

God bless you today.

A Sharp Word

Ouch! I hate having my toes stepped on by truth, yet here we are again. The Bible doesn’t pull punches, doesn’t care about my feelings. It simply states truth and I have to decide if I will follow or ignore. It may be 2019, but the Bible hasn’t changed it’s message.

This hit me a few days ago. The Babylon Bee (one of my new favorites) had a short article citing one person saying to another “It’s [calendar year], get with the times!” As if to say that because the calendar has changed (“It’s 2019!”) we should change with it. It is not 1950, or 1900. It’s not even 2000 anymore. But do our lives and values fluctuate with the date? Because it’s 2019, does that mean that gay marriage is ok now? That abortion is no longer murder? That socialism is suddenly preferred? Do we check the date before we check our morality? That’s absurd.

“ R10 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”  Isa 40:8

The calendar changes; our culture changes. Time passes. But the word of the Lord will always remain. As I’ve noted before, as our culture becomes more accustomed to the gray area, the idea of black and white will become more offensive. The sharpness of the word of God draws sharp distinction between light and dark, good and evil, black and white.

Warning: if you choose to live your life by the Word of God and not by the calendar, people will call you narrow-minded, homophobic, anti-choice, maybe even racist and bigoted. They will say you don’t see the big picture, or appreciate the greater good. They will accuse you of being deluded, following fairy tales, and ignoring reality.

I’ve been around for four decades. I’ve never seen the Bible proven wrong. I’ve seen it challenged, but never overcome. Science and philosophy both have tried. Neither has been able to do that the Bible can, explain the world and reality in a way that is consistent and makes sense. I will grant that maybe I’ve been too long in it, and don’t know enough of the way of the world. But for me, you can keep it. I’ve seen enough of the brokenness of the world. I’ve seen enough of the vain attempts to try it without God’s word and found them wanting. Nope. I will hold to the word of God. I may cut myself on it occasionally, but that is surely better than the alternative.

God bless you today and stay in the Word!

Gone too far?

Yes. You read that right. I couldn’t believe it either. Wherever you stand on the social justice movement, I hope you won’t go so far as to change the scripture to justify it.

Now I’m usually a live and let live kind of person. Yes. I see unrighteousness and injustice around me. I’m not blind. I see criminals walk the streets. I see people who are here illegal walking free. To me that is not just. But of course, that isn’t what justice means anymore.

Let me define what I believe Social Justice to be today. It means that what is mine is yours and what is yours is yours, especially if you are poorer, or care more about people than I do. Social Justice ignores ethnic and economic boundaries. Social Justice doesn’t care if have a deed or a receipt. It allows for theft and redistribution of wealth in the name of compassion. It calls good evil and evil good. Social Justice May have had a good and noble beginning, but like every other good cause, it has been hijacked by the left. So when you change even one word of scripture, it has profound implications.

In the older translations, the word used for justice in this text is righteousness. With this word, the verse speaks of seeking personal righteousness, trying to do better in one’s own life. Every Christian should seek to improve, to grow as a disciple. Many Scriptures support this.

But with this new word, now Christians are called to hunger for justice. 2000 years ago those concepts may have been synonyms. But now? For a Christian to seek justice today isn’t about personal holiness, but about seeking to make sure everything is “fair” as far as he sees it. God is just, and the very example of justice we are told to follow. God does not deal with us justly however. For those who follow Him, He gives grace, forgiveness of sin, and we are not judged according to our sins. So what exactly are Christians to do here? What kind of justice? God’s Justice as we see Him practice? Or the fashionable social justice we see practiced around us?

Believe what you want. But don’t mistranslate the scripture to support your argument.

Sorry for the rant. God bless you all.

Treasure the Word

Recently, I’ve seen attacks against the inerrancy of Scripture, the truthfulness of Scripture and its reliability. These are subtlely different issues between themselves. I’ve not seen the Bible “proven” wrong. Sure there are attempts to show that it is inaccurate, or it’s chronology is off, or something else people will point to as gross error, only to realize it is a matter of understanding history. I have seen people take and run with one of these supposed errors and use it as their reason for not believing the whole thing. It’s frustrating that they give up so easily. It’s like their threshold of error is so low they intentionally don’t want to believe. Serious inquiry? Forget it! I heard that King so and so didn’t really rule for five years but four. Therefore I won’t believe any of the Bible. Really?

I have seen that people who study and believe the Bible live much more peaceful lives than those who don’t. That’s an argument from pragmatism, but it is a good one. The Bible is a far more useful and accurate history of the ancient world than we give it credit. It is more reliable historically than most of the ancient historians we are aware of. If only for that, we can trust the Bible.

But more than that, the Bible speaks of a God that no man would invent, let alone 40 men over 1500 years, most of whom did not know one another. Yet they God they speak of is consistently transcendent. He is consistently above and beyond our imagination. He is never depicted as just “the old man in the sky” but glorious, wonderful, and too holy for mortal eyes. Anyone who took the Bible seriously would know this.

I know know this is little heavy for a Thursday, but like I said, I’ve been seeing this lately and wanted to address it. God bless you all!

Free Living

it would be really easy to take this out of context. Here’s the whole verse.

Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

Both a command and a warning. How interesting. This is how most heresies get started. People see a snippet of a verse like the picture above, and totally forget that the passage has a context, a particular meaning colored by the text it is found in. Peter is saying that because we are Christ’s we are not bound by this world, however, we are bound to Christ, and we are to live for Him, and not use our freedom as license to do whatever we want, which is the implication of the picture.

Never take one of these verse pics for granted. Please take the time to consider the verse in its context.

God bless you on this Wednesday.

Oh How I Love Your Law!

Just as prayer is the breathing out of our conversation with God, so the reading of His word is the breathing in. So this month, it is time to take a deep breath.

God’s Word says that it is sharper than a two-edged sword. It cleaves even the soul from the spirit. It is so sharp that it can divide the old man from the new creation. It is a useful tool to have, a lot like a pocket-knife.

When I was much younger, my dad gave me my first pocket-knife. It was a camping knife, with one blade and several utensils, including a can-opener, fork and spoon. I didn’t carry it around much then because I really didn’t need all these tools all the time, and of course, you couldn’t take it to school. So I never really appreciated that knife. But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to see my pocket-knife as an indispensible tool.

I’ve moved up to a multi-tool knife, with the requisite knife, but this one also has a couple screw-driver heads, wood saw, and even a corkscrew, for those special occasions. On countless occasions, when I’ve needed to tighten a screw, or install a piece of hardware for the bathroom or a computer, just having that piece of metal in my pocket has made the difference between looking for a tool, and getting the job done.

I’ve found the knife useful over the years, but nearly lost it in St. Louis. I was attending a Glenn Beck – Bill O’Reilly tour date and got all the way up to the gate. But there I saw that security was scrutinizing everybody, looking through pockets and pulling out anything that looked dangerous, including pocket-knives. I started to panic, because I didn’t want to lose this knife. I managed to hide it in the bushes outside the entrance. And I worried about that knife all the way through the show, until I could get my hands on it again on the way out. It is a rare occasion that I do not carry this knife.

So, like my pocket-knife, I hate to go anywhere without a copy of the Word somewhere on my person. I feel naked without it. Whether it’s a physical copy or an electronic one on my cell-phone, the Word of God is that important. I hope that by the end of this month, you will feel the same way. The Word is far more useful than a pocket-knife, and nourishes the soul. May you learn to love the Word, and cherish it. Breathe in, breathe out.

The Enemy at the Gate

In 597 BC the enemy was Babylon, and the gate opened to Jerusalem. King Jeconiah, who had only been on the throne a few months at age 18 knew the end was coming. The Babylonians had warned them, but Jeconiah’s defiance would now be the ruin of his kingdom. Even the prophet Jeremiah had given him a personal warning from the Almighty, “You will have no sons on this throne” (Jeremiah 52:31-34)

Jeconiah (also known as Jehoiachin) was a wicked king. Like many of the kings who preceded him he had no love for God. Yet his grandfather Josiah had been the spearhead of religious reforms that were short-lived. His example still resonated in the mind of his grandson. Though Jeconiah was not good, he was smart, which is almost as good. He realized that if he resisted Nebuchadnezzar’s will again, he would die. He chose life. He surrendered his household to Babylon. Years later in 2 Kings 25:27-30 we find that Jeconiah was released from prison with his family and treated like royalty at the King’s table.

Jeconiah’s story is significant because he stands on a hinge of history. Matthew 1:1 and 17 recall that Abraham, David, and the exiles to Babylon are the three important hinges of the history of the Messiah. Abraham was called to an unknown country. David was called to be King. Jeconiah was called into exile. While not glamorous, Jeconiah’s decision to surrender preserved the people of Judah, and the line of the Messiah to come. Even in his defeat, God still worked through him.

I want to remind you of this. Right now, you may feel defeated. You may even see your enemies gathered at your gates. But this may be exactly where God wants you to be. Because God wants you to surrender, not to the whims and desires of the enemy, but to himself. God wants you to surrender to His will, power, and His best for your life. The same prophet who pronounced doom on Jeconiah pronounces hope for you. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:11-13, ESV)

What is Worship?

IMG20057It seems we’ve argued for decades about the nature of worship. From the revival tunes of the 19th century to the Jesus Movement in the 1960’s, to the wave of Contemporary Christian music that still permeates much of Christian worship today.  But all of this is about music, time signatures and instrumentation.  And while these things have a psychological effect that can lead us to worship (such as the hypnotic effect of a steady drum beat), these are no substitute for true worship.

So what is real worship. I can tell you that that real worship doesn’t depend on music. In fact, music can interrupt authentic worship. I can remember many times of sitting quietly and worshipping in the presence of God during Communion, that is, until the music starting playing. Then it distracted me with half-remembered words of the hymn it was repeating.

There is this verse of Scripture which points to worship music, and points to what Christian music ought to accomplish:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
(Col 3:16)

Do you ever wonder why the Psalmist never recorded the music to the Psalms? Certainly if God thought certain tunes were worthy to use in worship, couldn’t He have found a way to help us record notes? And yet, the only thing we have in our Bibles are the lyrics to the Psalms, and certain notations where titles of long-forgotten tunes are recorded. And yet don’t we often quote the Psalms for their content? “The Lord is my Shepherd”, “Be still and know that I am God”. As Colossians suggests, the most important part of worship music, or music that helps us worship, is the lyrics, the words which are intended to teach truth.

When I was in school, I was told that the best way to learn certain facts, like the states and capitals, or the Books of the New Testament, was to put them to music. I learned my alphabet this way, and I sure you did too. I still know the alphabet song, and remembering the tune also helps me remember exactly what order the letters are. Music was designed to help you remember. That’s why we are better at remembering the songs we loved in high school than the facts of US History.

So Colossians recommends, use music as a tool for helping teach Scripture. Music will help you remember. This is also why church music needs to be sing-able as well as memorable. I have sung a few new Church hits recently, but if you tested me, I wouldn’t be able to reproduce them, because they aren’t really that easy to sing. But I can pick up my guitar and belt out “Amazing Grace” or “The Old Rugged Cross” no problem. Worship music is an easy first step to apply when trying to get into worship.

And important second step is to use that music to teach truth, which I really don’t see much of in modern worship music. I see a lot of choruses, repeating the same phrases over and over, but often find these choruses theologically bland. “I Love Jesus” times 20. Am I trying to convince myself that I love Him? Does He really want me to say that? Would my wife want me repeating that same phrase 20 times in a single setting? Why not tell Jesus 20 different reasons that I love Him? He died for me. He set me free. He paid the price. He sacrificed. I mean, just going through all the different reasons I love Him would be a proper theological exercise and spiritual reflection than repeating the same phrase ad nauseum. I feel we often run afoul of Jesus’ warning about vain babbling.

The third step to worship is that inner reflection, that personal response to the truth of Scripture. Than can be through a song, a hymn, or a spiritual song, but it can also be through verbal praises (“Hallelujah!”) or physical praises (lifting hands) or in prayer, (“Thank you Jesus for saving me and making me whole”) or just a worship perspective, seeing your position in God’s love and enjoying that. It might mean sitting down and writing a journal entry or a blog post. Worship is the moving of the heart toward God. It is emotional, involving the heart. It is relational, involving the spirit. It is motivational, involving the will. It is intellectual, involving the truths impacted into your mind. It is physical, requiring changes of posture or position.

The point of this post is this: Don’t rely solely on worship music to worship. Music is a part of worship, but only a part. It is a tool to help move you into worship. Don’t let your worship be just about the tool.