Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes (Book Review)

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes

I learned more from the introduction to Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes than I have from many entire books.

When it comes down to it, there are really two categories of books that I enjoy—those that confirm what I am already preaching and those that teach me something new. This book definitely falls into the latter category.

I tend to think I have a pretty decent grasp of the Scriptures, include their context, but E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien very effectively showed me just how much I’m still misreading.

The Story of God in Spoken Word (Video)

Matt Papa

I just wanted to share a video with you that I came across recently. I know the whole spoken word thing is getting a little tired, but this one is really good, I promise!

The video is by Matt Papa, whom I have mentioned here before. In only ten minutes, it provides a great overview of biblical history, God’s plan of redemption, and our call to action (ironically similar to Multiply, actually).

Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan (Book Review)

Multiply

What books do I think every Christian ought to read? If you had asked me that a few weeks ago, without hesitation I would have said to read Francis Chan’s Crazy Love and Forgotten God.

It’s not that Francis said anything new in his books. They just restate what is found in the Bible. The problem is that the church seems to have forgotten what it is that God has called us to do. And Francis has been doing a tremendous job of calling us back to what we should have been doing all along.

With that in mind, I was thrilled when I found out that he was writing a new book, calling the church to accountability in a hugely misunderstood and neglected area of our faith—discipleship. Having now read the book, I can say that it absolutely lives up to my expectations.

More on Giving

A while back, I wrote a post about Jesus’ command to “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30, NASB).

A little while later, my wife wrote an excellent post on her blog about “Blessings and Thankfulness.”

And just recently, I read a great article by Brant of Air1 on being reckless with our giving.

Well, all that seems to have conspired together recently and dragged me into quite an extended debate on Facebook about the topic of giving and exactly what is required.

There seems to be a lot of misunderstandings going around, based largely on my own post. Perhaps I did not word things clearly enough. In any case, I’m going to try to clarify.

I did not mean to be misleading, and if I was, I apologize.

Updates and Exciting News

You may have noticed that my blogging has slowed down a bit recently. Also, a certain series I started has come to a standstill. (I will get back to that, I promise!)

This is simply because I’ve been busy.

Several new and exciting things have been happening to take my time away from this blog. I’m just going to give you a brief update on them, so you can know what’s going on.

Thoughts on the (Other) Election

Vote

Today is Election Day in the United States. Naturally, I’ll be talking about something else entirely.

I’m going to take a look at a much more important election—one that occurred before time began.

This election was not voted on democratically. A single person had absolute say in the matter.

Though the election was decided long ago, it has over the years created more controversy among Christians than the US election could ever hope to.

But it seems to me that most Christians argue about the wrong aspect of this election.

Happy Reformation Day

Wittenberg

On this day 495 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. (Well, actually the nailing-to-the-door bit is probably legend.)

Nonetheless, he did deliver his theses, which outlined the problems he saw with the church of his day.

It was a bold move, and it had a huge impact in the Protestant Reformation. Many changes for the better occurred as a result of his actions.

New Blog: Christian Books Free

Christian Books Free

I hinted yesterday about some exciting news regarding “Free Books Monday.” I can now tell you that it has become a separate blog of its own!

Check it out at www.christianbooksfree.com.

I was really having fun with the “Free Books Monday” posts, but many of the books I found were expiring before Monday came around.

With a separate blog, every free book I find will have its own post right away. And the free books won’t be cluttering this blog any more.

Be sure to subscribe to the new site if you want updates about free Christian books. You can also follow Christian Books Free on Twitter and Facebook for quicker notifications.

Broken Window and Stolen Purse

It’s Free Books Monday! Well, sort of. Actually, I have very exciting news about that, but I’m running short on time, so you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow.

For now, I’ll give a brief update on weekend happenings. On Friday, our car window was smashed in, and Tessa’s purse was stolen. Here’s an excerpt from her blog post about it.

Remember that post I wrote a few days ago about giving to everyone who asks of us? Yeah...well, that came to mind too. While this person didn't exactly ask, they went ahead and helped themselves to what they thought they needed. I can't say what their intentions were - for drug use or otherwise, but I do know that what God wants me to realize through this whole thing.

Insurance vs. Assurance

Piggy Bank

I’m probably going to step on a lot of toes with this post. I apologize for that, but I do hope you will prayerfully consider what I have to say.

My place of employment was visited this morning by a man selling life insurance.

I don’t begrudge my employers for allowing him to come and present his case. However, his handling of Scripture in an attempt to validate life insurance was inexcusable.

Free Books Monday! (October 22, 2012)

Free

Update: “Free Books Monday” has moved to a separate blog with daily updates. Check it out at www.christianbooksfree.com!

I’ve scoured the Internet to find you these free books for the week.

I do not endorse any of the books listed here. It is quite possible that I strongly disagree with them. They simply represent the free books I have found that seem like they might be of interest to some. Since I have not read them yet, I could be wrong.

The book descriptions are taken from their pages on Amazon.

These books are usually free for a limited time only. Grab them right away if you’re interested.

What about the Other Great Commissions?

Disciples

I’ve often wondered where we get the idea that Matthew 28:19–20 represents the “great commission.”

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20, HCSB)

Free Books Monday! (October 15, 2012)

Free

Update: “Free Books Monday” has moved to a separate blog with daily updates. Check it out at www.christianbooksfree.com!

I’m going to try something new.

I’ve talked before about how to get almost any book free. But many of the best ways to find free books take some work.

Since I’m already doing the work to keep up with free books, I figure I might as well summarize the best findings here on my blog for your convenience.

Please note that I am in no way endorsing any of the books listed here. These simply represent free books I have found that seem like they might be of interest. Since I have not read them yet, I could be wrong.

Those Other Teachings by Jesus on Money

Money

Jesus had a lot to say about money. I’ve previously examined these things on several occasions.

The overall thrust of Jesus’ teachings on money is this. Don’t worry about it. Trust in God. Seek his kingdom. He will provide all you need.

That said, there were a few other things Jesus said that could appear to contradict the straightforward teachings he gave elsewhere.

What if Ministries Stopped Asking for Money?

Money

First, what this is not: I’m not in any way attepmting to condemn or speak ill of ministries that do ask for money.

What this is: Just a thought I’ve been pondering on. That’s all.

What if every ministry that bears the name “Christian” simply stopped asking for money?

What would happen?

The Plan Bible (Book Review)

The Plan Bible

This is unlike any chronological Bible you’ve seen before!

Jeff Swanson spent over 20 years developing The Plan: The Chronology of God's Word from Creation to Completion, and the result is quite intriguing.

You’ve no doubt at least heard about Bibles that have been arranged chronologically. But this one goes much further than I have seen in any other examples.

Everything Is Chronological

Rather than just moving the passages around, The Plan meticulously places every single verse in Chronological order.

Understanding the Church, God, and Each Other

Family Room

One of my favorite blogs is The Assembling of the Church by Alan Knox. If you’ve followed my blog for any period of time, you know that I reference his blog a lot.

Earlier today, he tweeted a link to a series of posts he wrote a few years ago that define the church through our relationships with God and each other.

Alan very clearly laid out the foundation for understanding what the church is, how the church should meet, and what the church should be doing.

What Does It Mean to Love One Another?

Heart

This post is link three in a chain blog initiated by Alan Knox on the topic of “one another.”

Alan started us off by describing the mutuality of these reciprocal pronouns. Then Swanny reminded us of the universality of the command to love one another.

Who Must We Love?

When Jesus affirmed the command to love your neighbor as yourself, he specified that “your neighbor” includes even Samaritans.

Listen to “Christian” Music Discerningly

Mountain

Modern Music

There is a segment of Christianity that preaches the sinfulness of bringing modern “worldly” music—with all of its drums and electric guitars—into the church.

I personally see no scriptural basis for the idea that any musical style is inherently sinful.

However, I do have a serious problem with much of the lyrical content of “Christian” songs today.

More on the Church as a Puzzle

Puzzle

My recent post comparing the church to a puzzle has generated a lot of feedback. Donald Borsch Jr. expanded on the idea at his blog, The Unapologetic Prophet. And Alan Knox reposted my observations at his blog, The Assembling of the Church.

I thank you both, and I thank also the many who have commented.

One of the commenters, David Bolton, let me know of a similar analogy he had previously written about.

Salvation: The Origin of Death

Graves

Today, I’m getting back to the salvation series. We’re examining Scripture to answer the question of what it is we are saved from.

I recently looked at salvation in Job, and found that this oldest book of the Bible speaks of salvation from afflictions and salvation from death (both by preservation and by resurrection).

I promised that I would go back and examine the origin of death and afflictions from which salvation is needed.

Just One Piece of the Puzzle

Puzzle

I really will get back to the salvation series soon, but this is on my mind today, so I want to post it now.

There’s a song that is currently very popular on Christian radio. It’s called “Here I Am” by Downhere, and it includes the following lyrics:

In this mess, I’m just one of the pieces,
I can’t put this together but you can.

That got me thinking about the church as a puzzle. Each member is “just one of the pieces,” and God is the maker and assembler.

Quick Reference Guide to Job

Job

I just examined salvation in Job. I will come back to the salvation question, but I figured that now would be a good time to bring up a related side-issue.

Job can be a tricky book to interpret properly. This is because multiple long passages were spoken entirely by men who were ultimately rebuked by God for what they said (Job 42:7–8).

Thus we simply cannot trust many individual verses in Job.

Salvation in Job

Job

We’re exploring the question, “What are we saved from?” I want to go through the Bible with you, examining the concept of salvation and how it is applied.

I’m going to start our examination in Job, as it is most likely the oldest book in the Bible.

Words Used

Multiple different words are used that all relate to salvation. I’ll try to avoid describing all the Hebrew in detail, but suffice it to say that I am primarily interested in words that relate to the Greek word soteria (from which we get soteriology—the doctrine of salvation).

Salvation: What Are We Saved From?

Saver

Christians talk a lot about salvation.

We talk about “being saved.” We talk about those of us who are “saved.” We talk about how we are saved. We talk about who saves us. We talk about what saves us. We talk even more about what doesn’t save us.

But I almost never hear Christians talk about what it is we are saved from. It seems to me that this should be our very first point of discussion.

Where Is Yahweh in the New Testament?

Jesus

God’s Missing Name

I previously wrote about God’s missing name in the Old Testament. I discussed the fact that God’s name occurs thousands of times, but most modern English translations simply render it as “Lord.”

In a comment on that post, Jochánán asked the question, “Why is there no word about JHVH (or Yahweh, pick one) in the NT?”

What’s the Difference Between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven?

Mustard Seeds

Two Kingdoms?

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all include references by Jesus to the kingdom of God. However, Matthew also includes references to the kingdom of heaven. This has led many theologians to draw a distinction between the two.

The kingdom can be a confusing topic in the first place. But we make it even more confusing by trying to separate the various terms used.

Stop Worrying

Flowers

Worry is perhaps one of the easiest sins we permit. Yet it is no less of a sin than any other.

When we worry, we demonstrate a lack of trust in God. We essentially say that God is incapable of caring for us.

Instead, we place our trust in our own ability to provide for ourselves. Or we place our trust in someone or something else to provide for us. In either case, our trust is not in God where it belongs.

The Curious Case of God’s Missing Name

Burning Bush

A Problem

The vast majority of English translations of the Bible share a common problem. They completely leave out God’s personal name from the Old Testament.

It is certainly present in the Hebrew manuscripts. His name occurs thousands of times. But chances are your Bible just renders it as “Lord” in all caps.

Superstitions

The history behind this poor translation is a rather interesting one. It started with a Jewish superstition that prevented them from speaking God’s name out loud.

The Great American Bible Challenge

Bible Pages

I had the privilege of writing a guest post for Seventy8 Productions today.

GSN has launched a new game show “thirty-four hundred years in the making.” Hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, The American Bible Challenge offers contestants the chance to show off their knowledge of Bible trivia and win money for their favorite charities.

There seems to be plenty to like about this show. No doubt it will be a fun, clean program for families to enjoy. It’s great that the contestants aren’t just earning prizes for themselves. And perhaps a few folks will even be introduced the God of the Bible as a result of all this. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if such a show is not an indicator of a widespread problem among Christians today.

Continue reading at Seventy8 Productions.

Do We “Accept” or “Receive” the Word?

Sower

Unfounded Claims

Sometimes well-meaning Christians make claims which simply are not accurate. Their intentions are good, but their conclusions are based on their own reasoning rather than the Bible.

I have heard many say that it is wrong to use the word accept when speaking of salvation. Rather, they say, we must use the word receive.

Their thinking is that the word accept places too much emphasis on man, while receive keeps all the focus on God. This is admirable, but it is not biblical.

In fact, Jesus made quite the opposite distinction.

Did Jonah Die in the Belly of the Whale?

Jonah

Jonah

People have long wondered how Jonah could have lived for three days inside the belly of a fish. Upon being swallowed, he would have faced being crushed, digested, and suffocated.

It would have truly taken a miraculous intervention for Jonah to survive.

I have absolutely no doubt that God could have overridden the laws of nature to allow Jonah to stay alive during that time. But I wonder if that’s really the best explanation.

The Gift of Tongues in 1 Corinthians 14

Paul

1 Corinthians 14

This is the fifth post in an ongoing discussion about spiritual gifts. I started by explaining why I am neither a cessationist nor a charismatic. I then established the biblical definition for tongues in from Acts. Yesterday, I examined the gift of tongues as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12–13. And today I will go through each reference in 1 Corinthians 14. Please read the previous articles before continuing.

In chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, Paul really focused on the prideful use of the gift of tongues (languages). The gift was intended as a sign for unbelievers first and for building up the church second. Yet the Corinthian believers were doing neither of those, seeking rather to selfishly build up themselves.

The Gift of Tongues in 1 Corinthians 12–13

Paul

1 Corinthians 12–13

This is the fourth post in a series on spiritual gifts. I would recommend that you read the previous posts before reading this one, “Why I Am Not a Cessationist,” “Why I Am Not a Charismatic,” and “The Gift of Tongues in Acts.”

At the very least, please do read the post about Acts, as it is essential to have a biblical definition of tongues from Acts before trying to understand tongues in 1 Corinthians.

The Gift of Tongues in Acts

Pentecost

Acts

This post continues a series on spiritual gifts. If you have not yet done so, please read “Why I Am Not a Charismatic” as an introduction to this post.

Today, I am going to examine the gift of tongues as found in Acts.

The Day of Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech. (Acts 2:1–4, HCSB)

Why I Am Not a Charismatic

Hands Raised

Tongues

This post is a continuation from my earlier post, “Why I Am Not a Cessationist,” and it is in participation with another post on Donald’s blog, Covenantal Organic Christianity [no longer available].

Over the next few posts, I will present my understanding of the gift of tongues and why I believe they must be intelligible languages. This is why I do not consider myself to be a charismatic.

Please note that while we may have different understandings about this, I consider the issue of tongues to be a relatively small matter. In no way do I wish to demean those who believe they speak in them, nor do I feel any need to break fellowship with such people.

Why I Am Not a Cessationist

A Gift

Spiritual Gifts

This post came about in part as the result of a discussion in the comments of a post on Alan Knox’s blog that transferred into a post on Donald Borsch Jr.’s blog [no longer available]. Expect more to follow on the topic of spiritual gifts.

Cessationism

Cessationism is the idea that certain spiritual gifts, such as tongues and healing, though given to the church in the past, are no longer given today. I do not hold to this idea for the simple reason that I see no scriptural basis for such an assumption. We have the same Spirit inside us today that the early Christians had, and God is just as capable of giving the same gifts.

How to Get (Almost) Any Book Free

Books

Update: I started a new blog with daily updates for free Christian books. Check it out at www.christianbooksfree.com!

Books

I love reading books.

I love reading the Bible, first and foremost, but my next favorite things to read are non-inspired books.

The problem is that books usually cost money.

Thankfully, I’ve found several ways to get free books. So I’d like to share a few of them with you now.

Why Don’t I Capitalize Divine Pronouns?

Writing

Can Pronouns Be Divine?

A “divine pronoun” is simply a pronoun (you, he, etc.) that refers to God. Quite a few people believe we ought to capitalize such pronouns out of reverence for God. I am not one of those people.

It is not my purpose to attack those who who hold to this belief. Nor do I intend to convince you against capitalizing divine pronouns. Rather, I would just like to explain why I have chosen not to do so in my own writings.

The Kingdom According to Jesus (Book Review)

The Kingdom According to Jesus

Gregory Johnson has a passion for the kingdom of God. He desires to see the church truly live according to kingdom principles. But as stated on the back cover of his book, The Kingdom According to Jesus, “Church today is not always what Christ intended it to be.” I could not agree more with his premise, and Greg has done a great job of fleshing it out in a number of specific areas.

He started by answering the question, “What is the Kingdom of God?” Johnson wrote, “God did not define His Kingdom to us in the old covenant, nor has He revealed His Kingdom to us through church doctrines and traditions. Instead, God revealed His Kingdom to us in the person of Jesus Christ.” He continued, “We must explore Scripture, which enlightens us to the teachings and the life of Christ, developing in us a solid understanding of the Kingdom.”

God’s Attributes as Defined by His Actions (Not the Other Way Around)

Attributes of God

God

God is loving. God is just. God is gracious. God is holy.

These and more are absolutely true of Yahweh, the God we serve. We know that these attributes belong to God because they have been revealed as such in the Scriptures. We know what these attributes mean based on God’s actions revealed in the Scriptures. Yet so often it seems that we try to assign actions to God based on his attributes.

Brothers, we dare not do so.

I Blame Traditions

A Cathedral

I want to highlight an excellent post by Alan Knox today. The title is a mouthful, but it’s well worth the read. “Unity – like love – is part of God’s nature – but not always part of God’s children: Why do God’s children struggle so much to demonstrate that unity – or love?” In it, he wrote the following:

The problem is not with our traditions or their traditions. The problem is not with our hierarchy or their hierarchy. The problem is not with our denomination or their denomination. The problem is not with our system of theology or their system of theology.

The problem is with submission to God as his child and living in the power of the Spirit in order to demonstrate the nature of God – which includes unity with God and unity with his children.

Why Do You Read the Bible?

Reading

Reading the Bible

I had a brief discussion on Twitter this morning about reading the Bible. Someone I follow posted a quote by John Piper saying, “If you are having trouble reading your Bible with deep and affecting meaning, imagine that you will die in about eight hours.” I found this to be a rather odd statement. If I knew I was going home in eight hours, reading the Bible would be the last thing on my mind.

Now please remember, I’m as committed to God’s revealed word as they come. I absolutely believe that children of God should be reading the Bible and reading it often. But I fear that many do so for the wrong reasons.

Free Book: Dreaming of More for the Next Generation

Dreaming of More for the Next Generation

Free eBooks

David C Cook gives away a free eBook every week. The one for this week is called Dreaming of More for the Next Generation by Michelle Anthony. I have not read it yet, but it looks like it may be good enough to be worth sharing. I may review it at some point, but I’m going through several other books right now, and the giveaway only lasts for a week.

Dreaming of More

The website describes the book as follows:

Filled with stories from one ministry professional to another, Dreaming of More for the Next Generation includes practical ways to equip parents to partner with the church in faith formation, inspiration and ideas for incorporating remembrance and celebration, creative ways to motivate children and teenagers to step out of their comfort zones and rely on the Holy Spirit, and insight into how God uses each person’s life as part of a unique story that is told throughout the generations.

“Give to Everyone Who Asks of You”

Give

A Command

“Give to everyone who asks of you.” (Luke 6:30, NASB)

What if we actually obeyed this command from Jesus? What if we obeyed it all the time?

The command is very simple. It’s perfectly straightforward, requiring no level of hermeneutical skill to interpret and understand. Yet among many who claim to follow Christ, this command is almost entirely ignored.

What If Someone Never Hears the Gospel?

Tribesmen

Recap

Yesterday, I addressed the question, “Is the Age of Accountability Biblical?” I concluded with the idea that the answer depends upon having a right view of the atonement. I believe, based largely on 1 John 2:2, that atonement was made for all mankind. Christ’s sacrifice has already provided forgiveness for all of our sins, thus we are not eternally punished for them. Rather, such punishment can only be the result of rejecting Jesus and the salvation he provided. If you have not already done so, please read my post from yesterday before continuing.

After posting, I received many excellent comments. I really do appreciate the feedback, so thank you! I’m now going to address one of the questions that was raised.

Is the Age of Accountability Biblical?

Child

Age of Accountability

This is a response to a question I received on Facebook. Kevin asked the following:

I have always wondered about the idea of “The Age of Accountability.” As I have younger ones, I read Scripture and study with them. I am just curious as to the origins of this idea.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the age of accountability (hereafter referred to as AOA) is the idea that children who die before a certain age (or maturity level) do not go to hell, since they never had the chance to choose Jesus for themselves.

Happy Chick-fil-A Day!

Chick-fil-A

You can blame Dan Cathy for my short blog post today. I didn’t have a chance to write one last night, and that always means writing one on lunch break. But my lunch break today is going to being taken at Chick-fil-A!

I’m not normally one to get caught up in boycotts or support movements, but I really do appreciate the stand that the Cathys are willing to take on the biblical definition of marriage. I also worked at a Chick-fil-A for a summer, so I suppose I still have a bit of loyalty from that. But do you want to know the real reason I’ll be dining there today?

They make great food! (Seriously, who doesn’t love those waffle fries?)

Translation or Transliteration: What’s the Difference?

Angel

Transliterations

I use the term transliteration a lot, but I realize that it is an unfamiliar concept for many. So I figured it would be good to define it for you now.

Translation is quite a familiar concept. A translator takes text in one language and converts it to the equivalent text in another language. In the case of biblical translation, a translator takes the ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic text, which is unreadable to the majority of Christians, and converts it to the equivalent text in English (or the common tongue for another culture).

“Only God Is Awesome!” … Really?

Awesome

Words

I believe in using words properly. In fact, I’m kind of a stickler for it (just ask any of my friends). Words have meaning, and we ought to apply meaning appropriately. It bugs me when people use words incorrectly.

That said, it bugs me even more when people actually insist upon a misguided use for a word. Worse yet is when that misguided effort is based on a misapplication of Scripture. Such is the case with the effort by many Christians to “reclaim” the word awesome for God alone.

What I Want from You on This Blog

I want you.

You didn’t really think I was going to let you get away with being a passive reader, did you? It’s no fun blogging all by myself. I want to build a community around this.

I want us to all participate in mutual edification. I want to see you living out the Christian faith and truly being the church. Remember, biblical knowledge is good, but it is utterly useless if never put into practice.

Yesterday, I gave you my seven promises for this blog. In return, I have just a few things to ask of my readers. Help me with the following seven requests:

My 7 Promises to You for This Blog

Bible

The problem with writing is that it’s more or less permanent. Sure, you can delete a web page, but it’s still out there in the archives. And people will have still read it.

More importantly, by starting up a blog of this nature, I’m assuming upon myself somewhat of a teacher position. That’s not something I take lightly.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. (James 3:1–2, ESV)

It’s Not About the Numbers

Counter

Counting

Don’t get me wrong; I like numbers. Numbers can be very useful. Statistical information is invaluable for planning and strategizing. But there is little place for them in our ministries.

Unfortunately, we tend to place a rather large emphasis on numbers. We count church memberships. We count attendance. We count offerings. We count conversions. We count baptisms.

Before I forget, let me remind myself that I’m just as guilty. I count clicks on links I post to Twitter. I count followers. I count likes and shares on Facebook. I count page views on my blog posts. I count email subscribers.