Mary, Martha…and Scripture?

I’ve been pondering this past Sunday’s sermon on Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

mary at Jesus feetWhile I have heard sermons on this passage dozens and dozens of times, I’ve not quite heard the inextricable link of sitting at Jesus’ feet and believing God’s word. I had typically heard the sermon on this passage in the context of prayer, worship, “being still,” etc vs. the busyness of doing. But in consideration of the redemptive narrative of Scripture, making Jesus the priority is more than the activities we engage in but the orientation of our hearts, which starts and ends on the surety of Scripture – what God has actually said. Considering that Scripture testifies to the incarnate Word, this connection made perfect sense to me.

The other day I came across a blog post with yet another progressively oriented Christian proudly patting herself on the back that she had moved away from the doctrine of inspiration. She was so pleased with herself having resolved the mystery of God’s breathed out word through human authors. They were, after all, merely human and probably got a lot of things wrong, she reasoned. It was ok to no longer wrangle over the unpleasant parts of Scripture because it’s too stressful to handle the tension of believing this is what God says and does when confronted with all the inconsistencies the mind cannot fathom. How many people claiming to sit at Jesus feet have said this? Continue reading

Why pursuing shekinah glory can leave Jesus behind

OT_templeI can’t harp enough on how important it is to understand the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. When we don’t make proper connections, this impacts how we understand the events of the Old Testament apply to us. In a way, I suppose this post is a follow up to You Can’t Read the Bible Any Way You Want.

One such way is when Christians pursue the “shekinah glory” remiscent of how the glory filled the temple in the Old Testament. I spent many years in church circles where this was a common occurrence, especially at special conference type of events. The thrust of pursuit was worshipping hard enough so that that “atmosphere” was charged and that glory can fill the physical space.

I recently started reading Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative, by Sam Storms. I purchased the book because of my shifting views on eschatology (end times) and seeing more and more, especially in context of Revelation, how biblical prophecy points more to what is accomplished in Christ than literal, physical interpretation of events. But I have another post on that! So this post is not necessarily about eschatology but about how we understand the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.

I really appreciate Storm’s straight forward easy style of writing. In his first chapter, he appropriately lays the foundation that Jesus is the center of the Old Testament. Specific to the glory of the temple he explains what the shekinah glory in the OT means for the NT; Continue reading

Christians, you cannot read the Bible any old way you want – Part 2

As a follow up to You Can’t Read the Bible Any Old Way You Want-Part 1, which really was a primer for this one, I first want to express why I’m so passionate about this topic. One of the greatest tragedies of my Christian life is how I read the Bible. And from day one of trusting in Christ as my Lord and Savior, I had a firm desire to know what his word said. But because I did not know the framework of how the 66 books fit together, I read it in a very disjointed fashion, imposing whatever philosophies influenced me through the teaching I was under, which for many years was pretty wretched.

I came across an article recently on docetism and Scripture, which resonated with me in terms of how I would approach Scripture. Docetism was one of the earliest heresies that infiltrated the church and the pre-cursor to Gnosticism. Docestists placed emphasis on the “spiritual” to the neglect of the physical. You can see docetic approaches to Christianity in some sectors of Christianity today, where the Holy Spirit acts as a rogue agent;

A docetic approach to the Bible is one that allows any text to have any meaning to which we might consider ourselves led by the Spirit. The human dimension of the Bible is ignored so that the careful exegesis of passages and a sound hermeneutic are regarded as unspiritual impositions on the Word of God. What the Spirit makes the text mean to me is what it means! It is true for me even if it isn’t true for you. What is worse is that any fanciful interpretation of Scripture is then attributed to the Holy Spirit’s leading. But the Word is inspired by the Spirit, and his leading is always testable against the responsible exegesis of the Word.

Of course, no one is going to sit and devour the Bible in one setting. It makes sense that we only read a little bit each day. But it helps to put whatever we’re reading in context – in context of the author’s theme, in context of the genre and in context of the placement in the redemptive narrative. That means we just can’t read it anyway we want to. Continue reading

Reading Revelation with fresh eyes: why I’m excited about my latest book arrival

Beale_Revelation commentary coverI just received this commentary in the mail having ordered it about a week ago. I normally wouldn’t write a post about how excited I am about my latest book purchase. But this one is a bit special because it fits with the particularly trajectory I’ve been on regarding how I understand the 66 books of the Bible fit together in terms of God’s outworking of his redemptive history.

In a separate post, I’m writing about my departure from dispensationalism a couple of years ago. Now, if you’re not familiar with the term but have spent a significant amount of time in non-denominational churches with baptistic, pentacostal or charismatic leanings, my guess is that you are a dispensationalist and probably don’t realize it. Dispensationalism is a system of seeing the Bible as segmented into separate and distinct dispensations in which God is outworking his purpose with his creation. Dispensationalism considers that Bible prophecies are fulfilled in a literal, historic way such there is a distinction between Israel and the Church. A natural consequence of this distinction is viewing the book of Revelation in exclusively futurist terms in which God will bring certain events to pass in order to save Israel before Jesus’ final return but not before taking the church out of the way through the Rapture. If that is how you read the book of Revelation and believe that God is bringing about a separate plan for Israel than the church, congratulations, you are a dispensationalist.

Now this is a very brief and generalized sketch since dispensational theology has evolved since it’s formal articulation with John Nelson Darby in the latter 19th century. Following Darby’s work, earlier articulations treated God’s distinct treatment of the Israel vs the church in such disparate ways that it left Bible students and scholars thereafter to continually pursue how these distinctions related to God’s redemptive plan through Christ. Earlier articulations, such as under C.I. Schofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer (founder of Dallas Theological Seminary) considered the church as an interruption (or intercalation as Chafer proclaimed) of God’s plan for Israel such that the kingdom of God was deferred until the millennium reign from Jerusalem since it was at that time Jesus would fulfill the Davidic covenant (Rev. 20–interpreting of course that Rev. 20 refers to a literal 1,000 earthly reign). It’s easy to see the charged of two-ways of salvation, especially with Chafer’s dual covenantalism (the reference of new covenant in the NT as something different than the reference in the OT). Revised dispensationalists, such as Charles Ryrie brought some correction to the unnatural dualistic nature of God’s outworking but still considered a future for the millennial kingdom in which God would bring salvation for Israel. Continue reading

Post-modern Pietism and the Bible

woman eating healthyI came across the term “post-modern pietism” in a twitter exchange regarding this article from Stephen Altrogge, God doesn’t care what you eat. The thrust of the article is how we can create spiritual elitism out of food preferences, most notably the Daniel Diet. Altrogge states,

Jesus’ point is that food in and of itself is not spiritual. It goes in the mouth and comes out the other end. Eating a particular food does not make us more or less spiritual. Vegetables are not more godly than meat. Organic is not more godly than processed. Oreos and Cheez-Whiz are just as holy as homegrown basil. An Eden diet is not more pleasing to God than a Paleo diet or South Beach diet. All foods are clean and can be eaten and enjoyed.

Why does this even matter? Do I care if you are on The Eden Diet or The Daniel Diet or The Maker’s Diet? Nope, not one bit. If a particular diet helps you lose weight, great! But, we Christians have a tendency to moralize our preferences and create artificial spirituality. If we say that God wants us to eat a particular food group we are on the verge of creating spiritual cliques in the church. The most godly people follow a particular diet, the less godly people eat processed food. A diet can become a stumbling block to the gospel and a source of spiritual elitism.

He strikes to the heart of something that has bothered me about how we treat the Bible, especially the Old Testament, as a prescription for life principles today. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe that the Old Testament instructs us in the right character that we should have. But it does something so much more. When Jesus indicated that all Scripture is about him (Luke 24:27), he was pointing out that everything that occurred prior to the Incarnation was about him. As Paul notes in Col. 1:16, all things were created through him for him. Continue reading