Search This Blog

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Believer's View of God's Word

I'm not sure where the saying originated, but I hear it quoted from time to time. It's a warning that we should be "worshiping Christ and not the Bible". On one level it sounds quite logical and godly, but behind it is the idea that the two are mutually exclusive. That's not what I see when I read Scripture. Scripture itself tells me that it is "God-breathed" [2Tim3:16-17], that it contains "the oracles", the very words, of God [1Pet.4:11] and that I am to crave it as a newborn baby craves milk [1Pet.2:2]. God's Word reveals God. If we are worshiping Christ, we need to be doing so in Truth, as He has revealed Himself to us. Otherwise we're worshiping a false Christ, an idol of our own making.

John 4:23 "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him."

How then should we view Scripture? Dr. Mayhue's book ["How to Interpret the Bible for Yourself"] gives an edifying summary:

1. A Commitment to Receive It
1Th 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

Paul preached an eternal message. Scripture contains the mind and the word and the will of God. It's eternal, non-negotiable, never-changing and absolute. It "is at work in...believers". Those who are "in Christ" need to receive it for what it truly is.

2. A Commitment to Feed On It
Job 23:8-12 "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food."

Job finds himself in circumstances he doesn't understand. He thought he had a good understanding of God, but now he finds himself groping in the darkness. He's trying to find the reality of God in the midst of horrendous circumstances. Where does He turn? He trusts in God's words - and the KEY is that this has been Job's lifelong experience. He didn't wait for disaster to strike. He had received and been consistently and continuously feeding on "the words of his mouth". It was MORE important to him than his daily nourishment! May our souls be satisfied because they've fed on that which is spiritually healthful and worth more than gold. We also need to be consistently and continuously FEEDING on God's Word.

Psa 19:7-10 "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb."

3. A Commitment to Obey It
Num 14:24 But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.

Moses sent 12 men into the land. They all viewed the same scenery, they all experienced the same feelings, they all came back with the same report - there was a tough road ahead. But they were divided in their advice concerning what to do next. Ten concluded it was too difficult and they had better not go. Two, Joshua and Caleb, knew it wouldn't be easy... but concluded that they needed to go because God had said He would be with them.

What does God say about Caleb in the above verse? He calls him "MY servant". The servant of God "has a different spirit" and follows Him fully. God doesn't want a 70% follower, or a 90% follower....He wants a 100% follower! How can we be that? By knowing His Word and obeying it.

1John 2:4-6 Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

4. A Commitment to Honor It
Neh 8:4-6 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose... And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

After the return from the Captivity Ezra read the Scripture to the people. How did they respond to it? They worshiped God. Our response, every time the Word of God is opened, should be worship, for in the pages of Scripture are seen the majesty and the greatness of God. There is only one right response to the living God, and that is to bow down and worship Him. Scripture reveals God! It's a privilege to have it, to know it and understand it, to receive it, to feed on it, and obey it. And one day, God will hold us responsible for it.

2Tim.2:15 "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Psalm 3: Readjusting Our Point of View

We can learn a lot from Psalm 3. David wrote it during the time he was trying to escape from his son Absalom, a tragic situation both as a father and as King.

Vv. 1-2 concern the circumstances David currently finds himself in. It is "the Seen", the reality of the situation from his earthly point of view. His circumstances don't look good - his adversaries have increased, many are rising up against him and many are saying God has either abandoned him or is unable to deliver him from this situation.

But in vv.3-5 David is reminded of how things REALLY are, "the Unseen" - the reality of the situation from God's point of view. God is his shield [protecting him], his glory ["kabod", the same Hebrew word used of God's glory in Exodus, etc. In this context he's probably talking about his "honor/dignity/reputation" being God-ward. God's opinion, not man's is what ultimately counts!] God is the One who hears him and sustains him! God is the One who makes sure David is even able to awake in the morning!

In v.6 David then readjusts his thinking in light of God's Truth- the Unseen Reality. He comes to understand that his circumstances aren't what he initially thought they were and he responds by readjusting HIS own view to that of God's. NOW he looks at the situation through the lens of God's truth/ultimate reality, instead of through his own limited point of view. Are his immediate circumstances any better? No! But his reaction to them has completely changed.

Finally, in vv.7-8 David reinforces what he has just learned. He reminds himself how God has delivered in the past. He reminds himself of God's sovereignty and power. He reminds himself that God is the One who will bring ultimate deliverance - in spite of how things may currently appear.

May we learn from David! How encouraging God's Word is!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Truth and Theory

I've been reading C.S. Lewis' "The Discarded Image", an introduction to Medieval and Renaissance literature. Now don't glaze over on me here... stay with me. Lewis does a wonderful job explaining the Medieval World View. They especially had a love for the written word...ANY written word. If something was written in a book, it was considered to be true. At the same time, they believed that ALL this disparate information must somehow fit coherently into one, complex and harmonious mental "Model of the Universe". Any apparent contradictions, therefore, must be harmonized.

In constructing a theory for such a "Model", a few basic rules became established:
1) It was necessary "to save the phenomena/appearance", which meant that a Scientific Theory must "save" or "preserve" the appearances, the phenomena, it deals with - in the sense of getting them all in, doing justice to them.

2) Occam's Law/Occam's Razor added a 2nd Rule - Any theory of the "Model" should be able to do so with the fewest possible assumptions. The simplest theory is the most likely. For example, reading Shakespeare we discover that some plays are not written as well as other plays. Two possible "theories" might arise to explain this. Either (a) the bad plays were all put in by later adapters, or (b) Shakespeare wrote them when he was not at his best. Both Theories "save the phenomena/appearance", but Occam's Law would make us choose the one with the fewest possible assumptions. We know that there really was a writer named Shakespeare and that writers are not always at their best. We must, therefore, provisionally accept the 2nd Theory. If we can explain the bad plays without the assumption of a later adapter, then that is the better theory. [By contrast, today the "newness" of a theory often carries intrinsic weight!]

3) The third point is that any Theory is just that, a theory- which COULD be replaced in the future by a better theory. So, on the highest level, then, any theory concerning the "Model" was recognized as provisional.

Why am I bothering to go into all this? Because I can't help but compare it to the modern World View. Lewis writes, "In our age...the ease with which a scientific theory assumes the dignity and rigidity of fact varies inversely with the individual's scientific education." Ouch! How true! [Ever listened to talk radio? Read about "science" on the Internet?]

Two of Lewis' points particularly strike me:
(1) In our age people easily mistake "theory" with "fact"... and do so rigidly! [Ever heard of the theory of evolution?]

(2) Those with the least scientific knowledge are often the most dogmatic concerning what is true. [Ever consider the inadmissibility of "experiential evidence"?] And I certainly wouldn't limit this phenomenon to the field of science! [Consider Bible interpretation!]

Lewis brings out one further point. "The mass media which have in our time created a popular scientism, a caricature of the true sciences, did not then exist. The ignorant were more aware of their ignorance then than now." Ouch! How true!

We've actually institutionalized the notion that all opinions are equally valid. The idea of an "informed opinion" is archaic. Some of you may recall my mentioning the HS girl who critiqued Homer on I kid you not...this young lady felt fully qualified to tell Homer how "The Illiad" could have been improved! She knew absolutely nothing about Bronze Age Greek culture, she knew absolutely nothing about the literary structure, and she had read the book ONCE ... but she felt completely qualified to offer her criticism. As the ancient Greeks would have said..."What hubris!"

And we thought we had advanced since the Middle Ages?! Observations? Comments?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Herod's Tomb

By now you've likely heard about the recent discovery in Herodium of what is thought to be the tomb of Herod the Great. The archaeological world has been expecting it to be found at this site...they just didn't know exactly WHERE. Herod built a fortress-palace in Herodium, one of his many amazing building projects. He also built a city, Lower Herodium, at the bottom of the hill. Sections of the city have previously been excavated, including a synagogue and mikveh for ritual bathing.

Ehud Netzer has been working at this site for over 35 years. Herod's probable tomb was found on the side of the hill, quite low down. Netzer speculates that the podium [approx. 32' x 32'] once supported a Mauseleum, with the actual tomb located beneath. Architectural elements of such a Mauseleum, dated to Herod's time and of "kingly" quality, were found.

The sarcophagus inside the tomb was found smashed into pieces. Any identifying inscriptions did not survive the desecration. Vengeful participants in the First Jewish Revolt against Rome were known to have destroyed the tomb and sarcophagus about 70 years after Herod's death.

The chances of now finding definitive evidence to positively link the tomb to Herod the Great are pretty unlikely. But the probability is quite high that this was indeed where he was buried. I came across some of Netzer's pictures and thought you might like to see some "close-ups" of the find. Most shots I've seen in the media have been archive footage of Herodium. Enjoy this sneak peek of the actual find!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Biblical Stewardship

In the current edition of Mission to the Military's "Messenger", there's an article by my good friends, the Hammons, missionaries at Ft. Bragg. I was particularly struck by a quote from one young Christian soldier they have been working with concerning his own ministry as a steward of God's grace. He said "His current task is an unexpected deployment to Iraq".

He's absolutely right! That IS "his current task" from's NOT an "interruption" of his plans or an "unforeseen circumstance" or a "tragedy" that he was deployed to Iraq! It was the "current task" God had given him to do. I was reminded of the Apostle Paul presenting the same point of view in Phil.1:12-14, and its background in Acts 28:17-31.

Paul was under "house arrest" in Rome, with rotating Roman soldiers perpetually guarding him as he awaited the hearing of his case before the Emperor. But Paul didn't look at it as "a tragedy" or as "an interruption" to his evangelistic efforts. He saw it for what it truly WAS - God's current plan for his life. He writes:

"I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole Imperial Guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." [Probably because they had been observing Paul's actions and attitude!]

Paul didn't sit around downcast, "waiting for the trial to pass". He viewed the situation for what it REALLY was - his next assignment from God! When he settled in at Rome, Acts 28 tells us:

"After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews...When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets...He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness..."

Paul, and that young soldier from Ft. Bragg, understood something so many believers do not - Stewardship concerns properly using what God has graciously given every believer - our faith... our resources... our spiritual gifts... our entire lives. THAT glorifies Him!