Posts Tagged With: Bible

Biblical Literacy … again

While listening to the radio the other day I heard an artist lament the lack of art history knowledge among art students today. He decried the lack of historical reference markers that enabled an intelligent discussion of art and its presentation in today’s society. Students had no knowledge of the historical scaffolding upon which they were trying to present their artistic expression.

This is also a good metaphor for biblical and theological discussions today. In the wall to img_1469wall debates we are currently hearing on the radio, TV and internet with regard to same sex marriage I am astounded at the lack of biblical literacy by those representing various iterations of the church. The lack of understanding of Christianity’s foundational text, a poor comprehension of Church history and thoroughly shoddy theology leaves one aghast at those representing and giving voice to many denominations in Australia today.

 

I am not alluding to disagreements about what the text means. That has always been an issue within the church and between denominations. My beef is more about the manner in which the Bible is used and abused. Issues such as the nature of the Old Testament, different genres within the Bible, the meta narrative that holds the Bible together and so on are so often missing in action.

The consequence is that we hear phrases like “I feel” or “the vibe” of the Bible/text/book. The subjectivity within discussions is quite alarming. The over arching idea presented in many of these debates is that we can make the Bible say anything we want it to say. Worse still, we read the Bible through the lens of the spirit of our age rather than asking what God’s message and intention is for our times.

If churches are to learn anything from our current discussion I think there can be no better lesson than to return to a serious and intentional study of God’s Word. Maybe that is the Reformation needed today.

 

Categories: Bible, Christianity, Church, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Preaching and the SSM debate

Scandinavia crossI haven’t written a post for a long time but the current debate about “Same Sex Marriage” has had me pondering. I have been particularly disenchanted, on the whole, by the debate among Christians and I believe the quality of the debate (or, more correctly, the lack of it) reflects a far deeper malaise in our churches, that is, Biblical illiteracy. This has is a problem that has been a long time coming and which I believe has been caused by a poverty of preaching in general.

This poverty can be observed in two distinct ways:

The first is the shallow level of argument. Cheap proof texting and casual Bible references of deeply profound biblical concepts such as “love” and “marriage’ is just one example. I would have to say this has come largely (but certainly not exclusively) from pro SSM Christians. Too often the Bible is not seen as the eternal word of God and has not been read with depth and integrity it deserves. I will not disparage the motive because this has often come from those who have a deep compassion and proximity with those struggling with their identity.

The second, largely, comes from those against SSM:

I take as my example the “Nashville Statement” – a conservative evangelical statement which the signatories declare to be a biblical summary about marriage and sexuality, which, to be honest, I have no problem with as far as it goes. My problem arises in that it doesn’t go far enough.

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery or Zacchaeus, (and we could add many others including the disciples) he didn’t begin with a “Nashville Statement”  he began with a relationship and only after that was established did he go further and reveal how they could be released from the problem we all have – human brokenness.

It maybe just me, but a “Nashville Statement” without that aspect of encountering our common brokenness has the smell of Phariseeism about it. This smell has been especially repugnant in recent generations because churches have been overwhelming silent and slow to act against abuses within their communities and have had to dragged into courts kicking and screaming.

Churches, in my opinion, are struggling with two key problems. How to read the Bible, the inerrant, eternal Word of God, richly and how to apply and live that Word in a way that is relevant and Christlike in 2017. Is this easy? Not at all! All the more reason to get on our knees, pray for forgiveness and return to His Word with urgency. Our response needs to be around the question, how do we apply the truth with compassion? Jesus was gentle with the broken and tough with those who should have known better. Too many of us have swapped that approach around.

That takes me back to the introduction. This confusion arises when preachers/teachers are not taking their God given role with the awe and responsibility that it deserves.

Categories: Christianity, Church, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

From Generation to Generation

Another blog post from my wife.

A while ago I found a book in a secondhand shop near our home. It had a title that caught my eye – “Portrait of Jesus” by Alan T Dale. I bought it and put it on my bookshelf, alongside all my precious children’s Bible books.
Recently I took it down and discovered what a true gem it is. But more than that, I found potraits of Jesusone of those award certificates pasted onto the facing page.
Amazingly, I know both the Sunday school student who was given the book 28 years ago, and her teacher.
I held the book open at this page and stared at the names. I could see those women before me. A older woman who encouraged me when I was ministering to the children in our church, and a young lady who gave such dedication and devotion to the children in her care that she was an example to me. And now I was using the book to prepare for another teaching moment.

The older woman happens to be a neighbour, so yesterday I went for a walk, with the book tucked under my arm. She answered my knock on her door, invited me in, and listened as I explained what I’d found. Yes, she remembered her student from 28 years ago.
We sat together marvelling at God’s goodness. He gave all three of us faith. He gave us opportunities to share that faith. He placed us, briefly, in the same time and space so we could encourage each other. And then He sent us onto our next mission.

Here in my hands I hold the testimony to this truth.

Categories: Children, christian, Church, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

The Origin of Prophecy

Flinders text

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Sola Fide

Here are some texts that remind us of the importance of “Faith Alone”.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17. The Passage that transformed Luther’s thinking.

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

Acts 16:31 Paul and Silas to the Philippian gaoler

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

John 5:24  Jesus to his persecutors.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Philippians 3:7-9 Paul again.

Categories: Bible, christian, Christianity, Five Solas, Sola, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Whose Side, Mine or Yours?

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face-down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” Joshua 5: 13 – 14

sunsetJoshua was given a simple but profound lesson. He was told, simply, that he was serving God and His kingdom and not the other way around. God had plans and purposes to initiate a King and a Kingdom. Joshua was part of that plan even though he could never comprehend the vastness or majesty of the outcome.

How often do we make the same mistake that Joshua made, that is, making God the servant of our whims, or at least, trying to. God’s plans are eternal and perfect. We should be grateful that He includes the likes of Joshua, and us. Like Joshua, we have yet to see the majesty and perfection of the return of the king.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Reflections | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Old Testament Advent Poem No 5

Joshua and Jesus Deut 34:9 Joshua 5:15

Joshua:

YHWH rescues

Xmas '[pemsA faithful, young
obedient leader
took God’s children
by the hand
into the land of promise
to receive their
God given
inheritance.

Jesus:

YHWH rescues

Is God
whose hands were nailed
to a tree
so that we
could receive
our God bought
inheritance.

Categories: Advent, christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Poem, poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Unity With God Through Christ

The other day a friend directed me to an article in Christianity Today:

The Key to a Purposeful Life (click to follow link)

It’s not imitating Christ, but union with him that makes the difference.

It is a great message on how we can be connected to God through Christ and how that in turn reflects in the way we can live our Christian life. The Author, Sarah Lebhar Hall begins by reflecting on our fears and dashed hopes and then states:

“The good news from the Scriptures is this: No follower of Jesus is an isolated entity, living out a solitary, potentially tragic plot line. The life story of a disciple is inextricably linked with the life story of Jesus.”
 

Another line that particularly jumped out at me:

“Because of our union with Jesus we can join the Trinity’s family embrace”  

What an amazing truth to reflect upon!

This article is both challenging and encouraging and well worth reading in its entirety.

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The Living Word of God

Keldby Church, Denmark

Before anybody gets me wrong, a caveat: I am really pleased we have the written Word of God available to us daily!

Now to my point. Universal literacy is a relatively modern occurrence. Going further back to the period covered by the Old Testament, the stories, history, laws and commandments were carried by word of mouth from generation to generation.

In medieval times church attenders were often reminded of the stories through pictures on the wall or windows. I love the naive pictures on the walls and ceilings of village churches in Europe – particularly Scandinavia. Without books and literacy there is the need to know and remember the stories in order to pass them on. For that to happen, the stories need to be an integral part of  the person so he or she can share them with children and others.

Is it possible that we have become lazy because we have the Bible in a book, on a shelf which can be readily accessed. We have concordances (even easier now with computers) which help us look up a word, text, passage or name in an instant.

Keldby Church, Denmark

How do we encourage each other to know the Word of God deeply and to eschew our C21st  habit of using Scripture as we do a fast food outlet – quickly and superficially?

I have observed some good programs and apps that encourage memorising the Bible. I have also heard of friends who challenge each other to memorise a chapter or book of Scripture

One of my favourite memories is of an old lady dying of cancer and she was nearly blind. She only spoke Dutch. So, as a keen young pastor I would practise a Psalm in Dutch. When I read the Psalm to her in my halting Dutch she would continue from her memory and get to the end before I could. Over a number of months I tried to catch her out with a Psalm she didn’t remember. She never failed. She had learned all the Psalms as a small girl on a barge that plied the canals of Europe 100 years ago. She had very little schooling, but the Word of God was in her heart and mind.

Would we be able to call on our memory to recite God’s Words to ourselves in a time of need?

Categories: Bible, christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Reflections | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Son-King

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, Colossians 1:13

In the process of reading Scripture there are those wonderful moments when a verse or part of verse that you know well, resonates anew. There is a wonderful passage in Colossians 1 vv 9-14 where Paul paints a glorious picture of the journey of the Christian’s redemption. A phrase in our staff devotions the other morning that sent tingles down my spine was “and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves“.

When this part of the passage was read my mind immediately drifted into a reverie and, I must confess, I missed what was said after that. (Sorry Bruce!) A majestic king, regal and magnificent came to mind. Majesty and awe intertwined with the fact that I have been invited as a citizen of this Kingdom. I have been “brought in”. What an immense privilege! Me! A citizen of the Kingdom of the father’s son!

Moreover this Kingdom is anchored in the love the Father has for His son-king. This is no ordinary human kingdom. “The kingdom of the son He loves” is different from imperfect human examples. Rather it is pristine, perfect and eternal, underpinned by grace and relationship, from the Father to the son-king and to me.

I awoke from my reverie and it was time for prayer. But the moment away in my thoughts was special.

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