Nov 282014
 

disagree with bible 2Last week we started to look at the reasons why people disagree with the Bible. We talked about the correct interpretation of the Bible, “hermeneutics”. We also looked at the importance of interpreting the Bible based on various historical and cultural factors, original language and context in which the passage was written. This then helps us understand the original meaning, enabling us therefore to fully grasp what God is actually saying to us. We cannot simply interpret it in any way we choose, nor completely disregard certain passages simply because we don’t like them.

This week we will look at some reasons why people disagree with the Bible.

The first problem which may be encountered is the fact that the Bible is very honest in describing God as He actually is, not how we think He is. We are inclined to make God in our image rather than the other (proper) way round. If a particular Bible passage describes God in a way that is uncomfortable to our 20th century, western, comfortable sensibilities we can get quite upset. This can be heightened if we don’t truly understand the context in which the passage was written. We can get so hooked up on the fact that God is love (and He clearly is) that when we see the ‘just’ or ‘righteous’ side to His character, we recoil. We can perversely think that loving people is somehow letting them off all the time. This is not love! Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to bring discipline as correction.

As human beings, we are inclined to believe we have a divine right to live full and trouble free lives and we get upset when it doesn’t quite turn out like that. God’s holiness would truly be served if He killed us as soon as we sinned, but actually His love and mercy allow us to live many more years than we deserve, even living them in rebellion to Him. We get upset at the wiping out of entire people groups in the Old Testament, yet fail to fully see how sinful and evil these races were and how long God allowed them to continue in this state. God is so much more patient than any person on this planet and we need to remember that sometimes many years have passed between one chapter and the next in our Bibles. If we were in God’s position we would not be able to stand for the injustice witnessed for a fraction of the time that He does.

We have a tendency to seriously underestimate the holiness of God. We can be naturally accommodating of sin, especially ones we consider small. God is not like that; He is supremely holy and therefore cannot stand sin in any measure.

Even when we get past God’s character and nature, we can find ourselves feeling upset with some of the things He says. The Bible describes certain behaviours and attitudes as right or wrong, no matter what society says. This is probably the most common reason the Bible causes offence. The Bible states that “…There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).

Many things may seem right to us, but that doesn’t mean they are. Our society gets very upset when we proclaim something as wrong. They want to call it an ‘alternative viewpoint’. This is because human beings will go to great lengths to defend their own decisions and behaviour. When we uphold the Bible’s standard we are accused of being intolerant. Society doesn’t like judgemental statements. But God is our highest authority and He can say and do as He likes; this is what greatly upsets people and may be perceived as unloving: “Who is God to tell me what I can and can’t do?”. But the fact is, He knows us because He made us and He knows what is right and wrong. He says it for our own good as a loving parent, much like a parent who tells their child not to play near the road. The parent is in a much better position to see the danger than the child who thinks the parent is spoiling their fun.

So how should we approach the Bible, especially when we read bits that we really struggle with?

(1) Pray

Ask God to change your heart and desires. We live in the world and we can so easily subconsciously take on the world’s values without even noticing it. If we read the Bible with an openness to learn and a love for God in our hearts, He will help us and change our hearts. He does this because we are His children and He loves to speak to us and direct us. The passages we struggle with and the reasons we struggle with them could well be God’s vehicle to remove false idols and bad attitudes from our lives.

(2) Study

Make sure that you are reading and interpreting correctly the passage of Scripture in question. Does it really say what you think it does? Follow the principles of hermeneutics as highlighted in last week’s blog and keep digging. Get a good study Bible or a good commentary. The more we study the Bible and understand the story as a whole, the more we learn that the parts that seem hard to understand on their own make much more sense within the wider context of the whole Bible.

(3) Understand that our culture is not ‘normal’

Our culture is not to be the means by which we judge things. Actually, our culture is permanently shifting its beliefs and attitudes. Things we believed 50 years ago are very different to what we believe now and what we will believe in another 50 years time. God’s word is constant, eternal and unchanging. Be willing to look at your worldview, culture, and the values around you and understand that just because they are what you are familiar with, this does not make them right or good. As a Christian, the Bible should always be your highest authority

The most important thing is to keep reading and keep trusting God to bring clarity. Sometimes we simply have to accept that He knows best and we need to trust Him.

If, whilst reading this, particular bible passages that you struggle with have come to mind, why not contact me and I’ll see if I can provide an explanation. I enjoy a good dig!

 November 28, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Bible No Responses »
Nov 212014
 

Disagree with bibleThe Bible is undoubtedly one of the most controversial books ever written. It has been discussed and argued over for centuries and continues to be hotly disputed today.

Some claim the bible is irrelevant. However, its amazing claim to be the very word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) demand that it at least be looked at and considered. I have real problems with people who claim it to be irrelevant, and yet have never really read it properly. I find that attitude very arrogant. Usually people dismiss it and claim it to be irrelevant simply because they heard it somewhere, or read a newspaper article from some so-called intellectual, believing this person’s view to be correct due to his reputation.

I would strongly advise to check everything out personally. Never assume that worldly intelligence equals wisdom or that intellectuals know everything about what they are talking about. One day God will ask you what you made of His word and it will seem pretty feeble if we quote some atheist or sceptic who disagreed with the God of the universe!

I suspect that people who dismiss the word of God may be secretly worried that it might actually be true. This being the case, it would then mean major upheaval in their lives, therefore they don’t really want to dig any deeper. If you have stumbled upon this site and you are of that opinion, I challenge you to take more than just a cursory glance.

Since the Bible claims to be the inspired word of God we should definitely sit up and take notice of what it says. By not reading it, surely we are telling God that His opinion doesn’t count, or that we find other things more important. But even if we don’t believe in God, it at least makes sense to be open to exploring the Bible’s claims so that we can say with integrity “I’ve looked into it closely and I believe it leads nowhere”.

Even people who read and study it closely can fall into two camps. Firstly, there are those who believe it is just another ancient book, interesting from a historical point of view but not really relevant for us today. When people take this view it is very difficult to persuade them to change their lifestyle based upon what it says. Then there is the second camp of people who believe the Bible is true, that it is the Word of God, but find themselves interpreting certain parts of scripture in vastly different ways from each other. We can very easily interpret the Bible based on our own beliefs and make it say what we want it to, explaining away the difficult passages as not being relevant for today. Clever and persuasive people can twist the Bible to say anything they want to and they can often sound extremely convincing. I don’t know about you, but if (as I believe) the Bible is the inspired word of God, then I want to know exactly what God is wanting to say, not someone’s opinion of what they think He is trying to say based on their own prejudices and opinions.

So how can we work through this ‘minefield’ of interpretation?

The ‘science’ of interpreting the Bible is called “hermenuetics”. Good hermeneutics helps us to be confident that we are interpreting correctly. This process involves ‘digging deep’ and is the key to good bible study. There are such precious truths in the Bible which are not always obvious from just a surface reading. They are like gold nuggets set deep in a rock which need to be chipped away at in order to be discovered.

One of the most important principles of hermenuetics is to interpret the Bible from its main meaning, by this I refer to its most obvious meaning. This is our starting point and if it then disagrees with other passages, we dig deeper and we search for more understanding whilst still remaining faithful to its intended meaning. To get to the intended meaning we need to have an understanding of the history (culture and background). We also need to understand any grammatical nuances of the original language it was written in. Then finally we put it all into the context in which it was written.

Are there any parts of the Bible that you simply don’t understand and therefore ignore? Or is there something that you just don’t agree with and causes you a major problem? Next week we will look at some reasons why people don’t like what they read in the Bible and how we can handle our own disagreements.

 November 21, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Bible No Responses »
Nov 142014
 

What shall I doI thought I would have a break from writing a blog this week. I have been writing a weekly blog now for about 2½ years, totalling 139 blogs. If you haven’t been following me from the beginning, you may find it interesting to take a look at some of my previous blogs which can be found in my archive (see above menu). Alternatively, you could choose a subject you are interested in from the tag list on the right hand side and see what comes up.

I would really appreciate some suggestions for future blogs. Is there something within Christianity that you don’t quite understand or something from the bible that has always puzzled you? It could be that you would like me to explore a certain subject, or you may like some ideas for a talk you are preparing. Why not put a suggestion in the box below? I can’t make any promises but I’ll try and give it my best shot.

Anyway, I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blogs and I hope you have found them useful. I hope to hear from you.

 November 14, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Uncategorized 2 Responses »
Nov 072014
 

fruit of the spirit self controlThe word “self-control” indicates that there is a battle within us. This battle involves bad or wrong desires within us that we need to control. If we don’t control them, they can completely destroy us.

The bible recognises the problems that can occur when we lack self-control:

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). Especially in bible times, a city without any walls was extremely vulnerable and open to attack at any time.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32). Having self-control is better than any temporary victory you may achieve, as self-control will keep you going long after the victory has been forgotten.

First, we need to understand what “self-control” is not: It is not having great will power; really wanting to do something bad but somehow, through sheer determination, resisting giving in to it. It is also not extreme concentration, having a sort of ‘zen’ mastery over “self”.

The apostle Paul gave an excellent example of what the word actually means. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” An athlete goes into strict training because he has his eyes on the prize. We cannot win a race by not training; it takes discipline and practice, doing the same things over and over again. It is not just trying our hardest.

As in all the fruit we have been looking at, it is important to continually remind ourselves that this fruit comes from the Holy Spirit. So although we are working hard, it is His strength that gives us the ability to keep going. It’s important, I believe, especially with self-control, to recognise what ‘training’ we need and what actions will help us to develop this particular fruit in our lives. Let me list a few:

(1) Keep your eye on the prize

The prize is Jesus; we are running this race for Him, to please Him and to finish the race well in preparation for spending eternity with Him. When we focus on this, we can handle anything. This view of the prize also helps us when we don’t feel like praying or reading our bibles etc. We can look beyond how we feel at any given moment.

(2) Read the bible

Saturate yourself in the scriptures, they will always turn your focus back onto Jesus (see point 1). When Jesus was confronted with problems, it was clear that He knew the scriptures; His responses were automatic because He had obviously soaked Himself in the word.

(3) Be in community

The Christian walk is not individual, it is corporate. We need one another to check up on each other, to watch our backs and to be accountable. It’s called ‘self-control’ but it is actually much more than just ‘self’.

(4) Tests

Testing produces the best self-control. We don’t know how self-controlled we are until we are tested. These tests in turn throw us onto reliance upon God.

The next question to ask is, “in what areas do we need to exercise self-control?” There are a number of common areas which can make us slip up again and again. Let’s look at just a few:

  • Finance– Without self-control in our spending we can easily fall into debt. Are you the sort of person with holes in your pockets, can’t wait to spend the money you have? The money we have is a gift from God and needs to be stewarded wisely.
  • Eyes– What we allow ourselves to look at and linger on can quite easily cause us to stumble. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Proverbs 31:1 NIV). This obviously applies to pornography but also anything else which can cause us to give in to temptation. For some it could be gazing lustfully at a huge cream cake in the bakery window!
  • Speech – the book of James has a lot of wisdom about our speech: “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19); and also: “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5). Our tongues can get us into so much trouble, whether with angry words, proud words or gossiping words. There’s not a better piece of advice than to ‘bite your tongue’ before we speak. We mustn’t forget that we don’t have to say what we think!
  • Our bodies – Along with the rest of our lives, our bodies belong to the Lord. Are you self-controlled with what you put into your body? The sin of greed is given very little ‘weight’ (forgive the pun) in our modern lives. It is so easy to give in to excess. Exercise is also beneficial and has some value, as it says in 1 Timothy 4:8. I believe we honour God when we pursue a healthy lifestyle in order to look after our bodies.

This is now the end of this series on the Fruit of the Spirit. We have seen how these fruit all work together and are intertwined. However, I don’t think it is a coincidence that “love” is mentioned first and “self-control” at the end, almost like two book ends. I believe that these two together make all the others effective. I like to think of it as ‘love’ being the fuel and ‘self-control’ being the motor that powers the rest of the engine. Let’s continue to seek these fruit in ever increasing measure as our lives give glory to God.

 November 7, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Fruit of the spirit, self control No Responses »