Friday, February 1, 2019

Serpents and Doves

When I was teaching at our Missionary Training Center in Missouri, a group of us would get together once a week for “Caffeinated Conversation.” We had a policy: BYOC—Bring Your Own Coffee! We enjoyed discussing such things as hot button theological topics or problem passages in scripture. I missed those discussions after moving to Florida. So I asked a couple of guys here if they would want to do something similar. They did and we meet once a week for “Caffeinated Conversation” but usually without any coffee.

Last week’s discussion focused on how to present a controversial topic without losing your audience. Recently, I was asked to speak on a much debated subject pertaining to a proper understanding of the gospel. There are strong feelings on both sides of the debate and I am pretty sure that both views will be represented in the audience that I will be addressing. I’m also sure that many have never even thought about the topic. Given a situation like this, my tendency is to simply “tell it like it is” and “let the chips fall where they may.” But as we discussed the topic, I kept asking myself, “Do you want to win a debate, or persuade the hearts and minds to consider the truths of God’s Word?”

Years ago, I was given a few words of advice from a mentor of mine in my early Christian days. Borrowing Jesus’ admonition to His disciples, he said that in certain situations, you need to be wise as a serpent yet harmless as a dove.

I would appreciate your prayers on my behalf as I prepare for this message. I definitely need wisdom in how to be both wise and harmless.

I am also kept busy teaching at Sanford Bible Church. We have several men who teach God’s Word there so I do not shoulder the responsibility all by myself. I love the plurality aspect of the ministry there.

By the way, we just got our own domain name. Check us out at: sanfordbiblechurch.org. And “like” us on Facebook. Our page is: facebook.com/SanfordBibleChurch.

In Christ,

Bob

* * *

True faith is man’s weakness leaning on God’s strength.

-D.L. Moody

 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

What is the correct posture for prayer?

It’s 11:55 Sunday morning. As the preacher transitions into his closing prayer he says, “with every head bowed and every eye closed.” This scenario raises a question. What is the scriptural support for this tradition? Where do we find people bowing their heads and closing their eyes for prayer in the Bible?

In the Bible, people prayed using various postures. For example:

o   Praying while kneeling (1 Ki. 8:54; Eph. 3:14)

o   Praying while lying face down (2 Chron. 20:18; Mt. 26:39)

o   Praying while standing (1 Sam. 1:26; Mk. 11:25)

o   Praying while looking to heaven (Mk. 6:41; 7:34; Jn. 17:1)

o   Praying while not looking to heaven (Lk. 18:13)

Using various postures for prayer was also true in the early church. For example:

“We cannot affirm that any single posture of prayer was universal among the early Christians.” Blunt, A. W. F. Studies in apostolic Christianity. London: J.M. Dent, 1909

In Luke 11:1, the disciples of Jesus said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Interestingly, Jesus did not mention anything about a correct posture for praying in His reply. Why not? Possibly, because Jesus knew the condition of the human heart. The perverse heart of mankind has an unhealthy propensity toward ritualism. Sadly, that is not only true of unbelievers but also believers.

In Numbers 21, the children of Israel grumbled against the Lord. As a result, God sent deadly snakes among the people and many died. The Lord told Moses to make a bronze image of a snake and mount it on a pole. When anyone who was bitten looked at it, then that person would recover. Israel kept that bronze image as a memorial. But years later they began to worship that memorial. Eventually, Hezekiah destroyed the bronze image that Moses had made, because the people of Israel made offerings to it (2 Kings 18:4).

Perhaps God purposely left the topic of posture in prayer open ended in scripture because of mankind’s propensity toward ritualism.

As soon as the religionist prescribes a method or formula, his followers will adopt it as a means of manipulating God. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, I think that He purposely avoided any teaching on prayer posture to circumvent the ritualistic propensity of mankind. Every time I see a professional athlete ritualistically perform the sign of the cross, I want to say to them, “rubbing your lucky rabbit’s foot will do you as much good.”

A missionary to a remote people group in South America wanted to teach the new believers dependence upon the Lord to meet all their needs. Before taking a long canoe trip with these new believers, he prayed out loud for God’s protection and success on their journey. He bowed his head and closed his eyes before praying. As he prayed, he assumed a kind of Tim Tebow-like prayer posture. The canoe was tied to a nearby stump, so he raised his right leg and put his foot on the stump. He rested his right elbow on his knee and curl his hand into a fist. Then he bowed his head and rested his forehead against his fist. He began to wonder what he was actually communicating to these new believers. As he continued to pray out loud, he opened his eyes and looked around. To his dismay, he saw that every single man was imitating his exact prayer posture. The only problem is that none of them had a stump to put their foot on. Instead, they were all standing around like a bird on one leg.

When God looks at us from His throne in heaven, I wonder how many of us look like silly birds standing on one leg as we pray to Him.

Just sayin’!

On a personal note, my neighbor and I have been playing a lot of music together. I’ve been learning a lot with respect to both guitar and mandolin. I’ve also been able to attend some music workshops for guitar and mandolin at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement which is about 40 minutes from here.

The end of the Spring planting season is over here in Florida. The Fall planting season starts in September. I still have pepper plants that are doing well growing in 5 gallon buckets. I did notice the other day that I have a volunteer tomato plant growing in a bucket with a pepper plant.

I have a couple of events that I will be involved in this Fall. I will be in Missouri at our Missionary Training Center in October and November to take part in the course there. I was also asked to speak at the Fall Bible Conference in Duluth Minnesota which is the first week in October. It should be a great time as there are a number of excellent Bible teachers who will be there.

I would sure appreciate your prayers as I gear up for these events in the Fall.

In Christ,

Bob

* * *

The Grounds of Justification

To be justified on the grounds of the shed blood of Jesus plus a preliminary work of reformation or subsequent work of sanctification the natural can easily approve of. But to be justified on the grounds of the shed blood of Jesus and that alone, is totally beyond his comprehension.

 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The pastor stole our spoon!

Recently two pronouns in Revelation 1:3 caught my attention. It says, “blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy…” In N.T. Greek verse 3 literally reads, “blessed the one reading and the ones hearing…”

Immediately a question popped into my mind. Why is there a singular pronoun for the one reading and a plural pronoun for the ones hearing? As I thought about it, I remembered that in the early church typically one person would read a portion of scripture while the rest would listen. Why was that? First of all, the literacy rate in the first century was pretty low. Very few people knew how to read. Secondly, people did not own a personal copy of the Bible to read. About the only exposure to the written Word of God was hearing it read in a local fellowship on Sunday.

The Gutenberg printing press was invented around 1455. Before the advent of the printing press, the only way to duplicate a document or book was to copy it by hand. In the Middle Ages, the work of copying the Scriptures began in earnest by monks living in monasteries. By the late Middle Ages, the production of both religious and secular literature was taken over by professional copyists. Booksellers placed shops near the universities and the book trade began to increase. However, most people in the Middle Ages were illiterate, and could not read the Bible for themselves. John Wycliffe believed that every Christian ought to study the Bible because “it is the whole truth!” Wycliffe inspired the first complete translation of the Scriptures into English.

For the first 1500 years of church history, the vast majority of Christians did not own a Bible. And even if they came across a copy of the Bible, most could not read it if they wanted to.

By comparison, we are privileged to live in a world where we take the ability to read and write for granted. For a Christian living today, owning a copy of the Bible is the norm rather than the exception. Not that long ago, it cost a year’s salary to actually own a complete copy of the Bible. We are certainly a privileged people.

I am reminded of a story about a pastor who had dinner at the home of a couple in his church. After he left, the wife said to the husband, “I think he stole our spoon!” This bothered her for a while. A year later the couple had the pastor for dinner again. Unable to resist, the wife asked, “Did you steal our spoon last year?” The pastor replied, “No, I put it inside your Bible.”

The vast majority of first century Christians could only receive the blessing of Revelation 1:3 by hearing someone else reading the words that John penned. Today we can read those words ourselves from a Bible that we actually own. That should be a challenge to us to make use of our privileges rather than take them for granted.

In Christ,

Bob

* * *

Can You Sleep When the Wind Blows?

Years ago, a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals.

Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. “Are you a good farm hand?” the farmer asked him. “Well, I can sleep when the wind blows,” answered the little man.

Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man’s work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, “Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!” The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, “No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows.”

Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down.

Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.

Moral: When you’re prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm. We secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Word of God. We don’t need to understand, we just need to hold His hand to have peace in the middle of storms.

 

Monday, June 4, 2018

I’m not the one who moved!

In the book of Revelation, we find 7 letters written to various churches in Asia Minor. Chapter two begins with the first of those 7 letters which was addressed to the church in Ephesus.

By all outward appearances, that church in Ephesus was a sound, doctrinally correct church which opposed the errors of that day. The Lord Jesus recognized them for their works, labor and patience. They were intolerant of evil and opposed false apostles. They persevered with patience in the face of opposition. They labored tirelessly in the name of Christ. They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Yet, they were rebuked for one fault. Jesus said, "I have this against you, that you have left your first love (Rev. 2:4)."

They were not guilty of some gross, overt sin. But that love relationship they first had with their Savior was lacking. Over the years they gradually drifted from Jesus' love which had captivated their hearts at the beginning of their Christian journey.

Their problem reminds me of the elderly couple who were driving down the road. The wife, sitting in the passenger's seat, said to her husband, "Remember how we used to sit next to each other in the car when we were first married. What happened?"

Her husband, sitting behind the steering wheel, replied, "I'm not the one who moved!"

In the case of the Ephesian church, someone had moved, and it was not the Savior.

In verse 5, Jesus offered them a 3-step solution to their problem. He said, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works." They were to 1) remember, 2) repent and 3) do the first works.

They needed to remember the early days of their salvation. They needed to be reminded of their "first love." There is an old saying: "Familiarity breeds contempt." In the case of the Ephesians, the word "contempt" would probably be an overstatement. I don't think that they had "contempt" for their Savior. However, they probably fell into a state of complacency or self-satisfaction. They had an unhealthy comfortableness. They began to take their salvation for granted. The Ephesians needed to remember those days of their first love. They needed to recall that moment in time when they first understood what Jesus did for them on the cross. They needed to reflect upon Jesus sacrifice on the cross and upon their debt of sin that was forgiven because of Calvary.

The second step in the process was to repent. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word "repent" as "to turn from sin." But the Ephesians were not being accused of gross, overt sin. Yet they had a problem for which they needed to "repent." If you look up the Greek word in Thayer's Lexicon, you will see that it means "to change one's mind." We might say that they needed a change of heart or they needed an attitude adjustment. Before you can deal with a problem, you first need to recognize that you have a problem.

The third step in the process was "to do the first works." But what were those "first works?" As I pondered this question, I noted that verses 4 and 5 speak of their "first love" and their "first works." I kind of wonder if their might be a "play on words" here. The Greek word prōtos not only means first in the order of sequence, but also first in the order of importance. Jesus told us to "seek first (prōtos) the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33)." In other words, our first priority should be God's Kingdom and righteousness. The church at Ephesus left their "first" love. They left that love relationship that should have been first on their priority list. So, in order to be restored they needed to go back to square one and do those first works which brought them to their first love.

Now here is the problem: Salvation is not by works but by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Since salvation is not by works, then this could not be referring to that moment when the believers at Ephesus first came to the Savior! Or could it?

One day a crowd following Jesus asked, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus replied, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent. (Jn. 6:28-29)"

The Philippian Jailer asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…. (Act 16:30-31)"

Paul wrote, "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him (Col. 2:6)." How did you receive Christ? It was by faith. How are we to live our daily life? We are to live by faith. From start to finish, the Christian life is a life of faith.

In John's first letter, he speaks of another "first." He wrote, "We love Him because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19)."

There is a legend in the days of the early church about a wealthy merchant traveling through the Mediterranean. He was looking for the Apostle Paul when he encountered Timothy, who arranged a visit. Paul was, at the time, a prisoner in Rome. Stepping inside the cell, the merchant was surprised to find a rather old man, physically frail, but whose serenity and magnetism challenged the visitor. They talked for hours. Finally, the merchant left with Paul's blessing. Outside the prison, the concerned man asked Timothy, "What is the secret of this man's power? I have never seen anything like it before."

Timothy replied, "Paul is in love."

The merchant looked bewildered. "In love?"

Timothy answered, "Yes. Paul is in love with Jesus Christ."

The merchant looked even more bewildered. "Is that all?"

Smiling, Timothy replied, "That is everything."

I hope these thoughts might be an encouragement to you.

In Christ,

Bob

* * *

Faith

D.L. Moody wrote:  I prayed for Faith and thought that someday Faith would come down and strike me like lightening.  But Faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the 10th chapter of Romans, "Now Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."  I had closed my Bible and prayed for Faith.  I now opened my Bible and began to study, and Faith has been growing ever since.

 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Believe your beliefs ...

Someone once said, “Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.” Too often we get that reversed. We end up doubting our beliefs and believing our doubts. I think that was the case with John the Baptist.

In Matthew 3:11-17, John was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. This truth was confirmed to John when God spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” But in Matthew chapter 11, we see a disillusioned John the Baptist sitting in a Roman jail. Herod Antipas had imprisoned John in the fortress of Machaerus east of the Dead Sea. Herod’s wife, Herodias, was infuriated by John’s condemnation of her marriage. She was seeking an opportunity to have John executed. This must have weighed heavy on John’s mind as he sat day after day simply rotting in that Roman prison cell. His doubts grew until he could no longer stand it. He had to know if he had been mistaken about the identity of Jesus.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Mt. 11:2-6)

Many of Jesus’ followers were looking for a political Messiah who would deliver the nation of Israel from their bondage to the Roman Empire. No doubt John had this image of judgement in mind when he proclaimed that the coming Messiah had a “winnowing fork is in his hand” and that He would “burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.” In John’s mind, that occupying Roman army must have been included in the chaff that the coming Messiah would surely burn with unquenchable fire. But Jesus did not seem to be living up to John’s expectations of a political Messiah who would deliver Israel from Roman bondage.

What exactly was going through John’s mind to change his previous convictions about the Messiah into serious doubts? I think that Jesus’ reply to John may give us some further insight into the troubled mind of John the Baptist.

The prophet Isaiah painted a picture of what the coming Messiah would do. According to Isaiah, when Messiah arrives He would proclaim, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. (Is. 61:1-2)”

While Jesus was in Nazareth, He entered a synagogue and read these words of Isaiah. After doing so, Luke tells us that Jesus “rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Lk. 4:20-21)”

Jesus not only claimed that He was the Messiah, which Isaiah and the Old Testament prophets predicted would come, He substantiated that claim through the miracles He was performing. To alleviate the doubts of John, Jesus laid out His Messianic credentials. He said, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

This list of credentials parallels Isaiah’s predictions concerning the coming Messiah. However, we find a glaring omission. We see nothing about proclaiming liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. Instead, Jesus said, “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

As John sat in that Roman prison, he must have compared his circumstances with the Old Testament prophesies concerning the coming Messiah. I can imagine that the words of Isaiah must have haunted him. The coming Messiah will proclaim “liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” John must have asked himself, “if Jesus is the Messiah, then why am I stuck here in the prison with a death threat hanging over my head?!” John found himself doubting his beliefs and believing his doubts.

Notice Jesus’ reply to John. Jesus did not say, in a generic sense, “blessed are those who are not offended by me.” Rather, His reply was personal and specific. He said, “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” In essence Jesus was saying, “John, there will be a blessing for you if you can just get past this stumbling block of unmet expectations.”

We can certainly take a lesson from John the Baptist. When nagging qualms begin to enter our thoughts we need to believe our beliefs and doubt our doubts.

In Christ,

Bob

* * *

No Other Gospel

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Gal. 1:6-7)

“Any other gospel is another gospel and is not the true gospel. Without the creation, the gospel has no foundation; without the promised consummation, it offers no hope; without the cross and the empty tomb, it has no saving power.”

-Dr. Henry Morri

Friday, April 6, 2018

Lost in the Translation

Have you ever tried reading an instruction manual for a product that was manufactured in China or Japan? You recognize the words as being English, but you have no idea what it means. Obviously, something was lost in the translation.

As a kid I would ask my dad what a certain Finnish word meant. At times he would pause to think about it. Then he would reply, "there just isn't really a good way to say that in English." I never quite understood that, until I began working with various languages at New Tribes Language Institute. It's not that my dad could not translate the word into English. It's just that it loses some of its meaning in the process of translation. That is often true when trying to convey meaning from one language to another.

An example of this problem is found in Hebrews 12:2. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to be "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." But what does "looking unto" actually mean?

The Greek word (ἀφοράω; aphoraō) translated "looking unto" occurs just twice in the New Testament. According to Thayer, it means "to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something." English really does not have an equivalent word. The best we can do is to attempt to describe the Greek word with an English phrase. For instance, here is how some English translations have attempted to render that Greek word:

  • (ALT) looking with undivided attention to Jesus…
  • (Amplified) Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus…
  • (Darby) looking steadfastly on Jesus…
  • (HCSB) keeping our eyes on Jesus…
  • (ISV) fixing our attention on Jesus…
  • (NCV) look only to Jesus…
  • (NIV) fix our eyes on Jesus…
  • (WNT) simply fixing our gaze upon Jesus…

I'm told that German has a word which means "off-looking." In other words, look away from everything else and focus on the object of attention. A. B. Simpson wrote, "There must be a constant looking unto Jesus, or, as the German Bible gives it, an off-looking upon Jesus; that is, looking off from the evil, refusing to see it, not letting the mind dwell upon it for a second."

I think that this concept of "off-looking" is important because as human beings we get easily distracted. If we were to ask the apostle Peter about the importance of "off-looking", he would have some words of wisdom for us.

In Matthew 14:29-30 we read, "Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.'" Had Peter kept his eyes fixed on Jesus and not been distracted by the storm around him, he would have fared much better.

After we are exhorted to be "looking unto Jesus" we are also told in verse 13 to "make straight paths for our feet." I believe that the concept of "off-looking" helps us to do exactly that. How do we make straight paths for our feet? By keeping our eye on the goal and not getting distracted by things that would get us off track.

Recently, I read an account of a boy learning how to drive a tractor. He wrote:

Dad had this notion that you should never look back when plowing. You should pick out a spot, such as a tree or fence post, at the end of the field (sometimes hundreds of yards away) and never take your eyes off of it. Keep focused and never look back. I thought, "How dumb! How are you going to know if you are plowing straight if you don't look back sometimes to see how you're doing?" Throwing Dad's advice out the window I decided to do it my own way, just once. Looking back I tried to make a straight furrow. Problem is, you can't steer very well looking back. You keep trying to jerk the wheel one way or another to overcompensate.

We make straight paths for our feet as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus so as not to be distracted by the myriad of other things that would get us off track.

Before the invention of the GPS or the Loran Navigation System, sailors navigated by the North Star. The reason the North Star is so important for natural navigation is that it sits directly over the North Pole. It is always constant. It never changes. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (13:8). Jesus is the one constant in an ever-changing world. We need to keep our eyes fixed on Him!

I don't know about you, but I get easily side-tracked. Has something like this ever happened to you? I leave my office and head to the kitchen to get a cup of water. As I am walking down the hallway, I realize that I need to pick up some milk and eggs when I go shopping for groceries. My mind begins to compile a shopping list of everything I need to purchase. By the time I get to the kitchen, my list is almost complete. Unfortunately, I have no idea what I need to do in the kitchen. I have totally forgotten about the cup of water that I came to get. It seems like distractions are the curse of my life lately.

Luke wrote:

Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Lk. 10:40-42)

Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus will help us to avoid those pesky distractions that are attempting to crowd into our lives to get us off track from the goal.

In commenting on Hebrews 12:1-2 Spurgeon once wrote: "It is ever the Holy Spirit's work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan's work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, "Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you'll never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold on Jesus." All these are thoughts about self, and we will never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that "Christ is all in all." Remember, therefore, it is not your hold on Christ that saves you — it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you — it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument — it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ, but to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope — look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. We will never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by 'looking unto Jesus.' Keep your eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh on your mind; when you wake in the morning look to Him; when you lie down at night look to Him. Oh! let not your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail you."

Where are you looking? If our eyes are not fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, then we are headed for trouble.

Someone once said:

  • If you want to be distressed, look within.
  • If you want to be defeated, look back.
  • If you want to be dismayed, look ahead.
  • If you want to be discouraged, look around.
  • If you want to be delivered, look to Christ.
  • If you want to be delighted, LOOK UP!

Let's continue to keep "off-looking unto" Jesus as we press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Speaking of goals, I have finally finished writing the textbook on "Issues in Interpretation."

In Christ,

Bob

 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Objectivity and Bible interpretation

Missionaries living in a remote village in the Amazon were beginning to learn the language and culture of the indigenous people that they hoped to reach with the gospel. As they began to develop friendships, there was one particular couple who caught their attention. From their Western perspective, this couple seemed to be “very much in love.” Unlike other married couples in the village, these two “love-birds” did everything together. The missionaries were quite confused when the village elders announced that they were going to have a “marriage counseling session” with this couple who seemed to be hopelessly in love. There was a reason that this couple seemed to be so “close” with one another. In reality, the two were extremely jealous and suspicious of each other. They didn’t dare let their spouse out of sight for fear of adultery. In this Amazonian culture, spouses typically do not “hang out” together as they go about their everyday routine. The missionaries came to the wrong conclusion because they viewed the indigenous people through their Western perspective. A proper grasp of the language and culture of the people helped them to avoid future mistakes as they progressed in their understanding.

Reading the Bible through the lens of our own cultural perspective can only result in drawing wrong conclusions. As students of God’s Word, we need some principles and guidelines that will help us obtain objectivity in our interpretation of Scripture.

When it comes to Bible interpretation context is king! Someone once said, “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” Understanding the context of a passage in scripture is vital for obtaining an objective interpretation.

The method of literal, grammatical-historical interpretation is also important to obtain an objective understanding of the Biblical text. The goal of literal, grammatical-historical interpretation is to discern the author’s intended meaning. We can discover the author’s intended meaning by 1) piecing together the world that he lived in (historical interpretation); 2) studying the entire discourse (literary section) to obtain the context; and 3) considering the grammatical issues within the text.

We need to consciously separate the author’s meaning (interpretation) from the significance for today (application). We need to first ask, “What did the author mean?” Only after that question has been answered should we ask, “What does this mean to me?” Unfortunately, many people skip the first question and jump immediately to the second question.

These are some of the issues I address in the textbook on Issues in Bible Interpretation. This writing project has been a tremendous learning experience for me. I only have a few more chapters left to finish. I would appreciate your prayers as this project nears its completion.

In Christ,

Bob

* * *

Christianity Stands or Falls with the Bible

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. (2 Tim. 3:16)

Christianity is based on a book. It centres in a Person. It expresses itself in a message. It authenticates itself in an experience.

That basic book is the Bible. That central Person is Jesus. That expressive message is the Gospel. That authenticating experience is the new birth.

Think here about that basic book. Christianity stands or falls with the Bible. It is no use saying, as the liberalists or modernists do, that so long as we have Jesus we do not need an infallibly inspired Bible.

Nay, all that we know authentically about the Lord Jesus we owe, and shall keep on owing, to the Bible. To say that so long as we have Jesus we do not need the Bible is about equal to saying that so long as we have the sunshine we don't need the sun.

I have said it many a time, and am surer of it than ever, that the life and death issue of Christianity is the inspiration and authority of the Bible.

If the Bible is uniquely and inerrantly inspired, then we have certainty; we may know real truth about God, about man, about origins, about morals, about the race's future, and about human destiny on the other side of the grave. But if the Bible is not the uniquely and inerrantly inspired Word of God, then (let us be blunt) we do not have certified truth about God, about man, about origins, about morals, about the race's future, or about human destiny in the hereafter: we are only groping.

If the Bible is provenly inspired by the divine Spirit, then Christian theology is truly a science, for by it we may truly "know". But if the Bible is anything less than provably inspired, then Christian theology instead of being "the queen of the sciences", is merely religious philosophy and human speculation.

—J. Sidlow Baxter