Monthly Archives: December 2013

Spiritual Freeze Tag – Galatians 6:1

snow_miserEarly Saturday morning before play practice, about a dozen kids were racing around our church playing Freeze Tag. In this game, if the Freezer catches up to and touches an individual, they become frozen and unable to move. The others in the game can unfreeze that frozen individual if they can touch them without themselves being nabbed by the Freezer. Watching the children reminded of the following verse:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1).

Christ designed his church that we would be in fellowship with other believers and under the supervision of a plurality of elders so that we have protection and support. We are prone to being frozen in our sins and transgressions and often need others to help unfreeze us. If we isolate ourselves and try to walk the Christian life alone, we have no one else to assist us in these times of need. There is also the warning in this verse that we must keep our eyes on the Freezer while we try to help our brothers and sisters, lest we too be tempted by sin and the devil and frozen ourselves.


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Prescription or Description – Hebrews 5:9

And being made perfect, he [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9)

How we approach the Bible often drastically impacts how we read many verses, including the one above from Hebrews chapter 5. Is this verse giving us a prescription about how we must behave in order for Jesus to be the source of our salvation? Or, is the verse describing the behavior that is seen in those for whom Jesus is the source of their eternal salvation? To put it simply:

  1. Does Jesus save me because I obey, or
  2. Do I obey because Jesus has saved me.

toby_keithI believe how we answer this often comes back to our view on the central character of the Bible.  Do we believe the Bible is about God and how he is accomplishing his glorification. Or is the Bible primarily about us? In the words of Toby Keith:

I wanna talk about me
Wanna talk about I
Wanna talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see

The Bible certainly paints us as the high point of his creation. In thinking about that fact, we can easily miss that little ol’ fact that even if I am the high point of creation, I am still just a creation. Not the Creator. Big difference. In fact, an infinite and eternal difference.

So, looking back again to Hebrews 5:9 through the correct interpretive lens that puts God front and center, we can see that answer 2 must be correct. Particularly when taken in context with the whole book of Hebrews. Jesus does not save us “after all we can do.” Rather, we do all we can because Jesus has saved us.

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I am the Grinch

The_GrinchI am the Grinch.There I said it. I am the Grinch.

At least it often feels that way this time of year. I love Jesus and am absolutely blown away by the Biblical account of his birth. We just read about it last night in our church Bible study, and I was again awestruck.

But the time between Thanksgiving and New Years always seems far less satisfying than I think it should be. Is it even okay as a Christian to admit that I really am not a big fan of the Christmas season? Can I admit that I really do not like any of the following things?

  • Thinking about shopping
  • Thinking about what I should buy for people when I go shopping
  • Actually shopping in the stores (which I try to avoid, thank you Amazon)
  • Fighting traffic and crowds when I go shopping
  • Thinking about how much money I may have wasted buying something that perhaps no one wants
  • Thinking about what I would like for a gift for when people ask. And after this post they may quit asking! 🙂
  • The Little Drummer Boy
  • Unpacking and putting up Christmas decorations
  • Living in the somewhat cluttered house full of Christmas decorations
  • Taking down and repacking the Christmas decorations
  • Driving here, there and everywhere. Always lots of driving this time of year.
  • Christmas parties for work
  • Giant inflatable lawn ornaments of wiener dogs in sweaters and penguins on sleds

I could probably go on and on, but you can plainly see that my heart is definitely 3 sizes to small.  Sure, it was fun decorating cookies with the little kids, and most Christmas carols are great, and I love the joy and excitement of the children, but bah humbug! All this whining despite that fact that my too kind wife does exactly 99.9% of the Christmas shopping and decorating. Yet those things still drive me a little nuts.

I can try to make myself look better by saying that most of those things in that list are just the secularization of a Christ-less Christmas. But, every day I should be joyous because I know and believe what the angel declared to those frightened shepherds 2000 years ago:

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

That is truly good news of great joy. Unfortunately, my limited joy during the Christmas season does not represent Christ to those around me and especially to my family. The secularization of Christmas should make me hurt for those who are missing out on salvation in Jesus Christ, but it should never be able to touch my joy. Likewise, shopping, driving, and dealing with Christmas decorations should never affect the joy I have in Christ and the love of God that I reflect to others. You can all say it, “Dale is selfish.” Yes, I am the Grinch.

buddy_the_elfShame on me. But even if my heart were to grow 3 sizes today and I were to begin spreading Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear, I would still have a sin problem. Thankfully my Grinch-like sins were nailed to a wooden cross. For that was why my God and Savior had to be born as a little baby into this dirty, broken world. Emmanuel. God with us. Not just good news, but the greatest news.

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Well, obviously…

The other evening while emptying the dishwasher and puttering around the kitchen, I clicked through some local radio stations and settled on two gentlemen who were going through a study on Revelation. Specifically, they were working their way through Revelation chapter 6 which covers the famed four horsemen of the apocalypse.  I have no idea whose these two guys were and I only listened for perhaps ten minutes. What struck me about their conversation was that they twice said, “well, obviously” and went on to explain how their particular interpretation of the imagery in these passages was perfectly clear and, well, obvious. For example, they read Revelation 6:2 which states:

I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

They discussed how most people believe that the “bow” described here is a weapon; as in a bow for shooting arrows. Having a bow and arrow at your side when you head out to conquer seems like a pretty natural interpretation in this context. Plus, according to the concordance I reviewed the original Greek word “toxon” supports this meaning of bow as well .

These two gentlemen took a different path and said this “bow” was the type made from fabric. Okay, maybe it is a bow made from fabric rather than wood. Maybe it is not a weapon of war. My issue here is not so much with their interpretations, but their use of “well, obviously” to preface their statements. This is a pretty commonly employed logical fallacy in Biblical interpretation. It was number 15 in James Sire’s list in his book Scripture Twisting. The goal is to close all discussion, and quite frankly, make you feel dumb for even thinking about disagreeing with them.

yellow_flagWhen we read the Bible, we certainly want to work to discover the true meaning of the text. And, there is a true meaning because God is the perfect communicator. However, that does not mean it is always easy given our limited and sin-riddled brains. But, be on the lookout whenever someone uses words like “well, obviously” or “everyone knows” to explain their interpretations of difficult passages. That should raise at least a yellow flag of warning that perhaps they are just trying to scare you into not asking questions.

And besides, everyone knows that the term “bow” in the passage obviously refers to the front of ship. 🙂

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Scripture is living, active, foresees, and preaches – Galatians 3:8

Last week in adult Bible study we were studying Holy Scripture itself. Our leader, Greg, started us at Hebrews 4:12 which says the word of God is “living and active…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I wish I had recorded during class all the verses he covered that further discussed the issue of Scripture being alive. One example I do remember was:

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).

I was struck, yet again, by the powerful words used by the Bible to describe itself as God’s living word. Here in Galatians we see the quote of Genesis 12:3 in which it is the LORD (Yahweh) speaking the promise to Abram. Clearly in Genesis it was God speaking to Abram verbally. But, when we read it recorded in Galatians 3:8, it is Scripture that is speaking. It is these Scriptures that were breathed out by God.

God spoke out loud to Abram many thousands of years ago. Those very words recorded in Scripture also continue to speak today through the working of the Holy Spirit. The words of the Bible continue to foresee future events, preach the gospel, discern our thoughts, and plumb the depths of our hearts. The words of God really are living and active. I am so glad I have that sure foundation to lead me to know and better understand the LORD my God!

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