Week 2 | The Scripture Is A Lens, Not A Manual

Reading Challenge for this Week:
Read EPHESIANS everyday. All SIX chapters. It will be a challenge. Stretch yourself. Trust God to speak.

I did not get a chance to explain the reason for reading this much in such a short period of time last week. So here it goes.

The reason is, the more familiar you are with the text of Scripture the better chance you have of hearing from God THROUGH the text, not just IN the text. There is a difference here. What we want is to be able to know, for sure, that God is speaking to us. Not in some vague, “I had this feeling that maybe God kinda wants me to do this or that.” This is not how a healthy relationship develops or is sustained. When we speak to God there should be genuine communication, and God should also speak to us.

What I am not saying is that we are looking for information outside of the biblical cannon. Rather, I am saying that what we hear/learn/understand/contemplate should never contradict what the Bible teaches. It is informed by the text. What happens is that we begin to grow in our ability to understand what God is doing in us and through those around us. That is another point to remember. If you are not connected to other people who are reading with you, you will not have the checks and balances that you need to make sure that you are not straying from what the Bible is saying. (Invite someone to join you. You just might be amazed at what you discover!)

We have to learn to hear the God OF the Bible, not merely try to find the God that the Bible describes. The Bible, as wonderful a gift that it is, will never capture the totality that is God. What this means is that we should not use the Bible to give us the greatest picture of who God in God’s self. This is not what the Bible was designed to do. Only God can fully reveal and express himself. The logical question that we should be asking then is this, “What is the purpose of the bible?”

The purpose of the bible is to point
us in the right direction so that we will
not miss God when we encounter him.

Are there commands to be obey? Yes. Are there suggestions for daily living, and wisdom for daily practice? Yes. But, these are secondary purposes. The ultimate purpose of the Bible is to direct us toward God so that He can reveal himself to us.

Too often I have tried to conjure up the God IN the Bible, rather than allow the text of Scripture to serve as the lens that focuses my attention on God when he is moving about in the world, and in my life. The purpose of reading one entire book of the bible at a time is to better grasp the message that is being communicated. When we chop up the letters or gospels or histories we are make one critical mistake:

We are choosing what is important in the story
that God has communicated.

We should never be the ones choosing what is or is not important. We must allow God to direct our minds, affections and direction as we interact with him through allowing the word to me an intermediary. This idea was confirmed as I have been reading Donald Whitney’s book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health [Paperback | Kindle]. I have provided some quotations from the book to help here. (The references are from the Amazon Kindle edition.)

“…it is through His Word that our experience with God, including our perception of His presence, is mediated.” (Location 515)

“Shouldn’t we expect to experience God’s presence primarily by means of that which He gave explicitly for the purpose of making Himself known to us: His Word?” (Location 580)

“When we seek the presence of God mediated-directly or indirectly-through Scripture, we are not imagining God as we would like Him to be. The basis of our experience with God is God-revealed truth, not our individual, idiosyncratic opinions about God.” (Location 528)

“Without a mediated sense of God’s presence, how can I know I have indeed encountered the God of the Bible? How can I be sure that I haven’t delved into the recesses of a mysterious…” (Location 545)

“Go often to the place where God has revealed Himself most clearly–the Bible.” (Location 577)

“Martyn Lloyd Jones said of God’s Word, “The more we know it and read it, the more it will take us into the presence of God. So if you want to set the Lord always before you, spend much of your time with regular daily reading of the Bible.'” (Location 577)

So how do we avoid becoming the arbiter of God’s truth? We avoid it by reading larger sections of the bible, whole books if possible, and allowing God to speak to us where we are. This is a tremendous act of faith. It is not easy at first, and it can be very disconcerting when you do not hear anything. Give it time. Get familiar with God’s word first. Get used to the ryhthm and timbre of God’s voice.

This new way of reading will lead to a new way of living. Do not forget the goal: Be a disciple of and for Jesus, who makes disciples of and for Jesus.


Only Jesus Can Make Sense of Disease and Pain

I came across this video of Kari Jobe singing “Healer” to a young girl who, from the video, is obviously suffering from something. I don’t know what it is. I don’t need to know. What I know is that only Jesus can make sense of this.

There are many reasons, now after 13 years of dedicated service to Jesus, that I believe that Jesus and the faith that he calls us to is the one true faith available to all mankind. Christianity is the only religion that calls us to accept and trust the dying and humiliated prophet INTO death as the means of passing through from this expression of life to the next.

Probably the most remarkable conversion story related in the bible is found in Luke 23. Why do I say this? I say it because the man that “accepted” Jesus couldn’t have made a bigger mistake. It had to have been the most irrational decision he could have made. Look at it for yourself.

39One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, ESV)

Where was the man when he placed his faith in Jesus? He was on the cross right next to Jesus’ cross. The image that must have been before him was not an inspiring one. As graphic as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was, it did no justice to the reality that the robber witnessed. The idealized images of Jesus are not what converted this man. It wasn’t even the hope of resurrection that motivated the wish of redemption (it could hardly be categorized as hope).

This is the same criminal who earlier had joined in with the crowd to make fun and mock Jesus!

44And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. (Matthew 27:44, ESV)

I am getting to place where I am running out of clever arguments for why someone should believe in Jesus or that God exists. I am starting to understand why the cross is foolishness to some.

20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25, ESV)

I am more convinced that only Jesus can make sense of the insensible. And I have made some peace with the fact that I will never fully understand all that takes place on this earth. As a matter of fact, I am growing to enjoy the fact that I don’t know everything and that everything doesn’t need to be explained to me.

Reflections on a Tragedy | “What I Should Have Said”

On Wednesday night David Austin Balfour, a member of my high school graduating class, died in a car accident.

Since I heard about David’s death I have had this gnawing feeling in my gut. It’s one of those feelings that just won’t go away. When these kinds of events happen I can’t help but think about it. And when the event includes something that just doesn’t make sense I really have to try and make some sense of it. I have to think about it over and over until some clarity comes. It came to me this afternoon as I read and re-read what so many who cared about David said and wrote on his Facebook page.

There are so many questions that we want answers to. There are so many thoughts about what was and what could have been. Even what should have been. There are so many memories of good times and hopes for “soon” times. There are so many words, ideas and desires that were shared. But, that is where our grief and heartbreak crash headlong into our regret.

While it has been many years since I have seen David, I understand the emotions that come in moments like this. My brother-in-law also died in a car accident a year ago. He was 24 years old. I get it. I do. What makes these hours and days since David’s death so painful is the reminder that while many things WERE said, and many things WERE shared, there remains this feeling of “What I Should Have Said…” still lingering.

The questions that come to mind are like these:

  • Did he know how much I cared for him? About him?
  • Did he understand how much he meant to me?
  • Why didn’t I ever tell him how much it meant to me that one time he did… fill in the blank.

All of these ideas run through our minds because the thought that something that should have been said was left unsaid begins to fray at the edges of our sanity. Regret is the constant reminder that something was left unfinished. There is something incomplete about all of this. Take it from me, don’t go there. Don’t do that. It won’t change anything. And it may do more harm than good.

What we have to do is to not let this tragedy be in vain. Would we prefer that David were here with us? Yes, there is no doubt about it. I don’t know of anyone that wouldn’t want that. But, we don’t get to make that choice. That one, that one choice, is outside of our reach. But, there is another choice that we can still make. It’s a choice that I think both honors David and helps us all to heal if we make it.

Make the decision to never again worry about, “What I Should Have Said.” Make the decision, that from today until the end of your days, you will strive to not leave any unfinished business. Right now, today, tell that someone, the one you are thinking about right now, who needs to hear from YOU that thing that you have been waiting for the “right” time to say.

There is no better time than now.

There will never be a better day, than today.