Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Read, Mark, and Inwardly Digest

...more Scripture, that is.
Don't just take your priest or pastor's word for it, see what God's Word has to say for itself!

  • Good theology reads and asks questions, faith is strengthened by doubt. 
  • Bad theology makes judgments and assumptions and uses the Bible to justify political, social, philosophical, or even economic agendas.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Read for yourself!

"The word exegesis comes from a Greek word meaning 'to lead out.' As I have said, you start with the text and draw out its meaning, Eisegesis, on the other hand, is when you start with an idea or conviction, then search for verses in the Bible to prove your point. I was warned against eisegesis, and rightly so. The danger in this is that we can take verses out of context to support just about any point of view." ~Francis Chan, p.24 'Forgotten God,' 2009 David C. Cook, publisher.

People are constantly working eisegetically on the Bible, on the Constitution, on statistics, on science. I am only 40 pages into Chan's book, but already he has emphasized several times that while it is important not to simply make up your own extreme doctrines without accountability, it is also important to let the God speak through His Word rather than come to it with your own preconceived agenda, using Scripture to support what you've already made up your mind about.

If we are going to call ourselves Christian, don't we need to 1) actually read God's Word? 2) not just read it casually but really dig in and read mark and take it to heart? and 3) use Scripture to help us understand and interpret other Scripture?

One of my favorite teachers made a point of always encouraging his students to "check it out, don't just take my word for it, look it up yourself!" This is the best advice about all thinks Biblical, but more than that, it is important advice for everything; spiritual, philosophical, political, and scientific.Don't assume, don't blindly follow. Question EVERYTHING.

This policy may seem like it flies in the face of "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7), but in this book about the Holy Spirit, Chan points out that Saint Paul praised the Bereans for not just blindly following his teachings, but examining Scripture every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).

If you're afraid of your own doubt, or if you're scared that I'm some false prophet trying to unsettle your foundations, like the serpent challenging Adam and Eve, "did God REALLY say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?" Just remember, you're going directly to God's Word to find out what He REALLY said. Not a televangelist, not some politician, not your neighbors, not a devotional book or a pastor or priest, but God's own Word itself.

If we take the trouble to actually read the Bible ourselves, and ask God in prayer to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to what He has to say to us while we read it. We might just be surprised at how different God's ideas and our own have been.

Someone once said, "sitting in church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in the garage makes you a car." If you REALLY want to know Jesus, trust Jesus, and follow Jesus, you can't let someone else do it for you. You can't be lazy. You have to read His Word for yourself.

Likewise, if you're going to be a responsible, informed voter, you can't just let some TV commercial or some direct mail voters' guide tell you about the Constitution, you really need to get a copy and look up the amendments for yourself.

God doesn't just want you to say you're on His team or for you to pledge your loyalty to Him or to defend His traditions- H wants a personal relationship with you. And He gave us His Word so that we can get to know Him and grow closer to Him every day by reading what He says to us.

Give it a try. You don't have to read whole books at a time. Start with something easy, just a chapter, Matthew, Mark, or the Psalms. Find an easy to follow translation or paraphrase like the NIV, Eugene Petersen's 'The Message,' the Living Bible or 'the Story,' but don't put it off till next month or till New Years and don't just read it once a week- make an effort to read it every day or at least three or four days a week.

If you do, not only will your assumptions about God and Christianity get challenged, but you will see everything in a new way, including (if not especially) other people.

Before you assume that you know what good and evil are and what the world's ways and God's ways are, don't just use a verse here or there to try to back up some political point of view- actually commit to reading the Bible every day for a month. You will be humbled and you will know that all of God's Word points to Jesus, His love, forgiveness, mercy and grace and that you won't ever have to win arguments again or defend God's ways- because He already won the ultimate victory and He really doesn't need your help. He wants your heart.

James 3:13-4:10
New International Version (NIV)
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive,because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]?But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:“God opposes the proud    but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We must all become prophets

"Today we are worshipping the gods of metal, the bomb. We are putting our trust in physical power, militarism, and nationalism. The bomb, not God, is our security and strength...We must all become prophets... We must all do something for peace. We must stop this insanity of worshipping the gods of metal. We must take a stand against evil and idolatry. This is our destiny at the most critical time of human history. But it's also the greatest opportunity ever offered to any group of people in the history of our world—to save our world from complete annihilation."
- Father George Zabelka
former Catholic Air Force Chaplin, speaking at a Pax Christi conference in August, 1985
What a great quote, right? It was part of Sojourner Magazine's Daily "Verse & Voice" email which I subscribe to. Everyday they have a Bible verse, an inspiring quote, and a brief prayer.

This one got me thinking about what idolatry is. Putting our trust, love, or fear into anything or anyone other than God. That's pretty much what it means to have other gods.

I saw a Bible study  advertised at a church recently that made me apprehensive. It offered a series of video presentations on the differences between God's values and philosophies as opposed to the worlds'.

My thinking is that God wants us to value people and relationships rather than material wealth or possessions. I assume that God thinks of success as bearing the Fruit of the Spirit rather than having a great career or influence or authority. I'm pretty sure that God wants us to trust Him rather than armies, policies, missiles or a defense budget to keep us safe.

But how much do you want to bet that this class is about wedge issues like homosexuality and reproductive rights? Maybe with some creationism and school-prayer thrown in for good measure?

Bottom line, God- not our philosophy or world view, God- not our political party affiliation, God- not absolutism and avoiding relativism, God- not our nationality or traditional values or way of life, God is God, and we are not. Even more than pacifism or disarmament, that is at the core of what Father Zabekla was saying in this quote.

We must constantly come to Him and ask Him to help us keep Him and no-one and nothing else on His throne in our hearts. And once we do, we must all remind each other to do so too- THAT is what it means to be a prophet. Because many, MANY of our fellow Christians only think they are worshiping Christ, when really they are worshiping Christianity- or better put, "Christianism."

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Awesome Hymn to Pray

Awesome hymn today. Think of it as poetry. I may use this as a prayer, because I need every one of these stanzas pretty much every day.

O God, My Faithful God
By: Johann Heermann

O God, my faithful God,
True fountain ever flowing,
Without whom nothing is,
All perfect gifts bestowing:
Give me a healthy frame,
And may I have within
A conscience free from blame,
A soul unstained by sin.

Give me the strength to do
With ready heart and willing
Whatever you command,
My calling here fulfilling.
Help me do what I should
With all my might, and bless
The outcome for my good,
For you must give success.

Keep me from saying words
That later need recalling;
Guard me lest idle speech
May from my lips be falling;
But when within my place
I must and ought to speak,
Then to my words give grace
Lest I offend the weak.

When dangers gather round,
Oh, keep me calm and fearless;
Help me to bear the cross
When life seems dark and cheerless;
Help me, as you have taught,
To love both great and small
And by your Spirit’s might
To live at peace with all.

Hymn # 371 from Lutheran Worship (#696 Luth. Service Book)
Author: Ahasverus Fritsch
Tune: Was Frag Ich Nach Der Welt
1st Published in: 1630