When have we sufficiently read the Bible?: on individualism and community

I came across this article the other day on The Gospel Coalition, Let’s Be Honest: Reasons Why We Don’t Read Our Bibles. Erik Raymond suggests 5 reasons:

1) It makes us uncomfortable

2) It’s too hard

3) We are undisciplined

4) We think it’s stale and lifeless

5) We have a dysfunctional relationship with God

He gets to the crux of the matter with this statement;

Let’s be honest: if you don’t read your Bible it is because you don’t want to read your Bible. And to bottom line this further, this is indicative or your relationship with God. We cannot separate a love for the Word of God and the God of the Word.

person holding bibleNow, a lot of this really resonated with me since I’ve written similar prescriptions of why we might find Bible reading boring. Anyone who has followed this blog for any amount of time knows my passion for believers being serious about Bible reading and comprehension. In fact, I would expand on his 2nd point about the Bible being too hard in that Christians really need a framework to understand how the 66 books fit together as God’s complete story of redemption. When I consider my own trajectory in Bible reading, my comprehension of the holistic Christ-centered nature of Scripture has evolved and is evolving over time because of the direction of others. But especially because of how it is emphasized in the preaching and teaching of the Word at my church. Over the past decade, I have been increasingly exposed to preaching that considers the holistic nature of Scripture not just cherry picked verses to support whatever instruction the preacher wants to provide so that I do x, y and z. Continue reading

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Preaching Problems and Seminary Slaps

Pastor Holding BibleThis article came to mind that I wrote 1 1/2 ago 7 Reasons I Think Pastors Should Preach Through the Bible. Now I’ve been exposed to all kinds of preaching. But the past several years I’ve been fortunate to be part of churches where the pastors thought preaching through books was really important. Here are my reasons;

1) It connects the narrative to the whole meta-narrative of Scripture.

2) It anchors the congregation in one theme of thought for an extended period of time.

3) It treats the Bible as it should be treated as the revelation of God and not a self-help manual for living.

4) It teaches people how to approach Scripture on their own.

5) It keeps the pastor from focusing on pet agendas.

6) It keeps the pastor grounded in their task to connect people to God’s word in ways that are interesting.

7) It confronts everyone with hard truths.

But here’s the thing about preaching through books of the Bible, it takes skill and training. This is something that is learned in seminary, how to preach faithful to the text in ways that reach your audience. Now that’s not a commentary on whether women should preach or not, so don’t go there.  I’m often amazed when I hear pastors/preachers deride seminary as unnecessary as if they have actually been exposed to what seminary teaches. And yet just this training alone in preaching methodology is worth the price of admission for any pastor that dares to get in front of people and take responsibility for teaching them God’s truth. Continue reading

When the Goal of Criticism is Love

woman consoling womanI know that sounds strange. When we think of criticism, we think of something negative and destructive.  But being critical does not necessarily have to be a negative thing. Judging something critically involves an intense analysis of what is being presented and measuring it against an objective criteria. Now that can be done in an unloving manner. The blogosphere and numerous pulpits demonstrate show no end of unloving and vicious criticism.

But the other extreme is considering any mention of criticism to be mean-spirited. In the wake of the Shai Linne Fal$e Teacher$ brouhaha, it is no surprise that this charge is levied against him and those who support his song – charges of self-righteousness and unloving criticism. I have encountered it myself, at times when I tried to point out how so-so and so’s teaching didn’t line up with the message of Scripture. I’ve been told that it was corrupt to engage in such criticism.

However, when I look at Paul’s letter to Timothy, I see a different picture.  Young Timothy is the pastor of the church at Ephesus. Now Ephesus was as pagan as it comes and Timothy was a bit timid in confronting some funky stuff that was seeping into the church.  Paul as an apostle commissioned by Christ is giving him instruction concerning the church;

As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do now know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm (1 Timothy 1:3-7) Continue reading

A Woman of Substance

henrietta_mearsI came across the name Henrietta Mears (1890-1963) several years ago when thumbing through her book What the Bible is All About as I waited for a prescription to be filled. Since that time, I have been fascinated by her. She was a Christian educator and influenced the likes of Bill Bright and Billy Graham. She was definitely complementarian, but smashed the idea that women were only suited for roles of support to their husbands and children. Never married, she dedicated herself to the task of teaching the word of God, holistically, purely and simply and the development of quality resources to accomplish the task, including teacher training and development.  Talbot School of Theology did a nice write up on her. I encourage you to read the whole thing, including the quotes at the bottom. But here’s an excerpt that I think really sums it up.

Henrietta Mears as an influential woman in ministry was something of an anomaly-a woman far ahead of her time. When one searches for contemporary examples of conservative Christians who have changed the way people view women in Christian service, she leaps to the forefront. The scope of her ministry and the variety of leadership positions she assumed was remarkable, given the fact that vocational ministry opportunities for women were fairly limited during her lifetime. It might be fair to say that she has broken ground and raised the consciousness of those of both genders concerning options open to women within and outside the church. Continue reading

Galatians and Beyond

Every Sunday morning, I have a bible study with a small group of believers at my church, Fellowship Bible Church Dallas. The group emerged out of a 10 week class called Starting Point, that gives the basis of the Christian faith – the gospel – and a place to ask the hard questions that many seekers, returners and new believers have. Towards the end of the 10 weeks, some of the group members were hungry for more and I was eager to teach, so a new group was formed.

Compatible with my ministry philosophy of teaching Christians who God is and what he has provided, I like to focus on teaching the bible through this lens – the self-revelation of God. It fuels love for Him as we discover  his grace and mercy. So we spent the first few weeks discussing how the bible was put together, how it reveals God, his progressive revelation and culmination in the Son. This gives a parameter of how we consider the 66 books and read through them. We then spent several months plodding through the book of John, always connecting Jesus actions and his revealing of the Father. Next, we spent several weeks in the book of Acts to show how the apostles carried out the testimony of Christ and the establishment of the church. Both books were incredibly rich studies and brought many expressions of awe of our great God.

We started in Galatians today and I was reminded once again, of our tendency to trust in behavior of right and good, instead of placing faith in Christ. Grace is hard because there is something within us that makes us believe that we need to contribute something in order to be accepted by God. Faith in Christ is not enough, says our humanness that relies on human merit. And this was the problem with the disruption that was going on in the churches and why Paul was upset. Burdens were placed on belief. But faith plus some type of human endeavor for approval from God is a distorted gospel.  In fact, Paul says it is really no gospel at all. Continue reading