What It Is

The Bible as we have it is what it is. It probably isn’t what you wish it were. It isn’t a handbook for life or the missing manual. It doesn’t have an answer to every question. It isn’t always a happy book with blessings and sunshine for your daily devotions.

Instead, it is a very messy book full of very messy people and very messy situations. It is full of teachings to we pay no attention to if we don’t want to. We like the things we like and pound on about those things, ignoring other things that we don’t like.

Your interpretation of the Bible will take a turn for the better if you are practically realistic about your view of scripture.

  • Not every propositional statement is the truth.
  • Most of the truth is not in propositional statements.
  • You can’t trust every speaker. People lie and people are mistaken.
  • Not every character is a good example. In fact, good examples are hard to find.
  • Not every prophecy comes to fruition. God sometimes changes his mind.
  • There are lots of seeming contradictions, making it hard to know what God is saying.
  • People get orders to do things our modern sensibilities tell us are wrong.
  • There are punishments and requirements (death penalty, ethnic cleansing, Jubilee, etc.) that are never seen to be carried out in real life.
  • Even if we could assume verbal inerrancy (and we cannot), there are still lots of things verbal inerrantists disagree on: Free will vs. Predestination; Baptism; Church government; You Name It.
  • You can’t live in a canon-within-the-canon (such as Paul’s letters), nor in a canon-within-the-canon-within-the-canon (such as Romans, like most neo-reformed Piper Cubs). There is a whole Bible out there. Explore it.

Interpreting the Bible is really, really hard. The ability to do it well takes lots of time and effort. Also, it takes an open mind — which few of us have.

Read your Bible and read it hard.

False Shepherds

I offer the following passage, without comment, as an indictment against the modern ideas and ideals, and especially the practices, of “leadership”.

The word of the LORD came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.

Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  Thus says the Lord GOD, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Eze 34:1–10.

Don’t Tell Me

I am interested in what the Bible has to say. I am far less interested in philosophical, and even theological, constructs. It’s fair to say that if you present me with a theological or philosphical idea, you’d better back it up with some scripture, and I don’t mean a prooftext or two.

For example …

  • don’t tell me that God can’t change his mind, because God does it all the time in the Bible.
  •  don’t tell me that people can’t change the mind of God, because they do it all the time in the Bible.
  • don’t tell me God always knows the future, because God tests people to see what they will do.
  • on the other hand, don’t tell me God never knows the future, because sometimes God is said to know the future in the Bible.
  • don’t tell me there is only law in the OT and only grace in the NT, because there is plenty of each in both.
  • don’t tell me the God of the OT contrasts with the Jesus of the NT, because they are the same.
  • don’t tell me that all I have to do is say a simple prayer and I’m eternally secure, because the Bible talks about a lot of things I need to do if I am to be a faithful follower of Jesus.
  • don’t tell me I’m going to heaven when I die, because you can’t find that in the Bible. We will await resurrection and then live on the new earth.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Read your Bible.

Will not be the Church

The evangelical church in the US will not be the church we are meant to be …

until …

we care less about …

  • Who is president
  • Who is nominated to the Supreme Court
  • Trying to get “prayer back in schools” (as if it were out)
  • Keeping evolution out of schools
  • Whether Muslims worship the same God
  • Making our churches bigger

and more about …

  • Figuring out who our neighbors are
  • Arranging our schedules for others and not ourselves
  • Pleading with God to remember us before we fade away
  • Being honest with ourselves about ourselves
  • Living the life Jesus set out for us
  • Being committed in allegiance to Jesus with more than lip service

That would be a good start.

Pacifism?

John Goldingay does some of the best and most balanced work on pacifism and the Old Testament that I’ve seen. I highly recommend Chapter 5 Section 3 of the referenced volume in his Old Testament Theology. He talks plenty about the New Testament, too.

Goldingay, John. Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Life. Vol. 3. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009.

Jesus is Lord Redux

Jesus is Lord.

  1. What does it mean when we say “Jesus is Lord”? It means Jesus is Lord of all creation. He is the king. Even when things are out of control, he is the king. Even when he seems absent, he is the king. He has plans for creation and his plan is to restore the whole mess to its original beauty and purpose, as when he created it in the first place and said, “It is good.”
  2. We ought, as Christians, to also mean that he is our Lord. He is the king of our church and the king of our lives together. We owe allegiance only to this king and no other. We listen to him and obey him — we build our house on the rock.

Jesus is Lord. I need to say it more often.

Neither Competent nor Equipped

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, in order that the person of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., )The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), 2 Ti 3:16–17.)

Usually the discussion is about what “inspired” means.

I would rather talk about how we are to use the scriptures, which is the Old Testament, of course.

  • For teaching. This is my special love and competency. I’ve spent too much time teaching the New Testament and not enough teaching the Old Testament. I probably don’t have time to balance it out in my lifetime, but I’d like to try.
  • For reproof. This is where we find out that we aren’t always living right. My hobby (I guess you could say) is to show the church where — at least I think — we are heading in the wrong direction. Something I must do as part of my call to teaching.
  • For training in righteousness. Not training in information, but training in righteousness. Righteous is about the way we live, not about what we know. We the church do poorly at this because we are not following our commission to make disciples. We have been satisfied with making converts, and that is not enough. People are neither competent nor equipped until they are following Jesus with the full allegiance and commitment of a life lived totally for him. It is debatable whether a person not doing so could even be called a person of God.

If you aren’t being taught in such a way, you are in a huge club of people who have grown up in a church culture that is misguided. You must teach yourself, meaning that you need to go outside your local church resources to get what you need.

Read your Bible. And make sure you read the Old Testament.

How long?

How long, O Yahweh? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul,
and sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Yahweh my God.
Give light to my eyes
lest I sleep the sleep of death,
and lest my enemy should say, “I have overcome him,”
lest my enemies rejoice because I am shaken.
But as for me, I have trusted in your steadfast love.
My heart will rejoice in your deliverance.
I will sing to Yahweh
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

(The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Ps 13)

  • It is ok to ask God hard questions.
  • It is ok to get in God’s face.
  • It is ok to call God by name.
  • It is ok to be angry with God.
  • It is ok to feel abandoned by God.
  • In the end, we should trust God. He is trustworthy.

The true light was coming into the world

Capto Capture 2017 04 09 02 07 37 PM

Comments:

  1. There is no light without Jesus, and that light came into the world in the form of a man.
  2. The world — which he made himself — did not know him.
  3. The people — which he made himself — did not generally accept him. In fact, he was killed for being a heretic, more or less.
  4. But some people did accept him. They are born of God; they are children of God. They have a different status than all the other people who did not accept him.
  5. I suppose the same is true today. Some accept him but most don’t.
  6. What does it mean to accept him?
    • “believe in his name”; John uses the Greek word pisteuō, which is the verb form of the noun pistis.
    • The verb is usually translated as “believe”, as it is in the NRSV here. The noun is usually translated as “faith”.
    • It’s very easy to translate the words as they have always been translated. I mean, John is written on an almost elementary level, which is why most first year Greek classes start by reading John. I’m self taught in Greek and I’m pretty rusty, but I can still read John without referring to other books for help. But I think that pisteuō carries more baggage than just a simple “believe and that is that”. That easy believing is what has the church in trouble today. That’s why we have a church full of people who say they believe in Jesus, but they don’t really follow him and they don’t really obey him. Therefore, I submit, they aren’t really children of God.
    • We say Jesus is Lord. This chapter of John tells us he is God. To pisteuō in him is not a little thing, done by repeating the sinner’s prayer after a supposed gospel presentation. It means something more than that.
    • To pisteuō Jesus means to pledge allegiance to him. It means we are committed to him no matter what happens tomorrow or next week. We are his. (And he is ours — a pretty good benefit for our commitment.) This is a strong, strong, strong meaning. Nothing easy about it.

Get onboard the allegiance train. Think of it as a feudal lord pledging his fealty to the king. Think of it as a solemn vow with great seriousness and ramifications attached to it. Think of it as counting the cost of discipleship. Think of it as truly following Jesus and being under his command.

Let’s help our churches get out of this sorry state we are in. Perhaps more than half of all the supposed Christians in our churches are on dangerous ground. They’ve been told they are safe and they are going to heaven (as if that were some kind of goal of the gospel) and they are resting easy. They need to become disciples of Jesus just like everyone else — by being committed to him, allegiant to him.

Read your Bible!