I really hope this column will bless you. You can read the most recent column below and previous columns at the archive.
Recently, I have been thinking and writing about the myriad reasons people reject the Bible as being the reliable, trustworthy and revealed word of God.
There is one objection I am forced to concede. Some have observed that the Bible is simply a cultural relic that reflects and affirms cultural values that are no longer relevant. Author, atheist and former Christian preacher John W. Loftus raises the objection this way, “Let’s just face it. The Bible and the people who produced it were barbaric and superstitious. The only redeeming qualities about the Bible or the Christian tradition are those things that civilized people agree with them about, and hence they are irrelevant to modern, scientifically literate people.”
There are a lot of rules in the Bible I don’t like. I find them inconvenient because they prohibit me from doing exactly what I want to do. Fortunately, some of those rules do not apply to me. For instance, Ephesians 6:1 commands, “Children, obey your parents.” Because I am no longer a child, that rule no longer applies tome.
This is not unique to the rules, commands and injunctions in the Bible. Our own secular law is similar. Off-duty policemen, district attorneys and judges have a different set of rules for carrying concealedfirearms than other citizens do. As a clergy person, I have a different and greater legal obligation to report abuse, neglect and threats of harm to self or others than other citizens do.
I inherited a curious habit from my grandmother. When I meet someone new, I immediately begin trying to figure out what people we have in common. For instance, a man recently began attending my church. When we met, he told me what he did for a living and I immediately began running through all the people belonging to that profession in my mental Rolodex. I discovered that we both know John.
There is a word that, depending on who you are, may draw you in, or it may push you away. To some it inspires fear and to others it awakens excitement: philosophy.
Whether the subject excites you or worries you, everyone is a philosopher. Everyone has a set of presuppositions and beliefs that shape the way they live their lives and how they make decisions. Not everyone, however, is a good philosopher. Some have unexamined presuppositions and beliefs. Still others have presuppositions and beliefs that don’t make sense together.
“I am a servant, and I will die some day.”
Some time ago, I was listening someone talk about the practice of daily affirmations. These are the things you repeat to yourself everyday to foster a positive mental attitude. This person’s affirmations were things like, “I am beautiful” and “I am valuable.” These things are true, but I discovered a more valuable daily affirmation that I began to repeat to myself every morning when I wake up: “I am a servant, and I will die some day.”
I remember playing Telephone as a child. We’d sit in a circle and one person would whisper a message in the ear of the child next to him. He would, in turn, whisper what he heard into the ear of the person on his other side. The “message” would travel around the circle to the last person, who would then repeat what he heard out loud for the whole group to hear. Most of the time, it was completely wrong.
As I teach the Bible lately, I’ve been interested in examining perspectives not traditionally examined in a text.
For instance, when Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, people often look closely at Jesus’ perspective on the story because Jesus is the named character. They look at the way he draws the woman into a conversation and how he broke down her guard to share the gospel with her.
In the throes of preparing for battle against enemies attacking Israel, Jephthah began to do what many people do in times of stress: He started making promises to God that he could not or should not keep. In this case, Jephthah promised to make a burnt sacrifice to God out of the first thing to come out of his house to meet him if God granted him victory (Judges 11:30-31).
After he won the battle, Jephthah returned home. As Jephthah approached his house, his daughter came out dancing to celebrate his victory and return. The text seems to indicate that Jephthah, being a man of his word, killed his daughter and offered her as a burnt sacrifice.
The Bible is simultaneously the most popular and most hated book in the world.
The idea that a collection of ancient religious literature is singularly inspired by God, uniquely communicates his nature and will and holds authority over every human endeavor is an incredible claim. If we’re being honest, it bears noting that the majority of humanity does not believe that the 66 canonical books of the Christian Holy Bible measure up to their own claims. As irrational as it sounds, even large swaths of Christianity do not believe in the absolute authority of revealed scripture.
But I do. And I’d like to spend the next couple months explaining why.
In the middle of yelling at someone for saying thoughtless and evil, Jesus said something profound, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34b).
Our literature and movies paint the ability to know what people are thinking as a supernatural power, and certainly the things in minds of other people are largely unknown to us. But don’t the things in our hearts speak more of us than the things in our minds? We can know what is in the hearts of others by listening to what they say. More accurately, you can know what is in your own heart by listening to what you say.
So there’s the question of the day: What is in your heart?
I recently finished something I haven't been looking forward to.
Every year, I read through the entire Bible, but I never read it straight through, cover to cover. I skip around so that I can procrastinate reading one particular book: Leviticus.
My mentor in ministry taught me something I pray you will also remember: You will always find what you’re looking for.
In the next paragraph, it will seem like I have drastically changed the subject. When I do, remember that you will always find what you’re looking for.
I have been blessed in my relatively short ministry to have had the opportunity to work with people from almost every imaginable walk of life: disadvantaged youths, millionaire businessmen and everything in between. The thing they all seem to have in common (at least the ones who believe in God) is they want God to do something extraordinary in their lives. They want their families to be miraculously better. They want their health to be miraculously better. They want peace that passes understanding. Some just want their loved ones back.
Receiving eternal life through trusting Jesus and his death and resurrection is nothing short of a miracle. Holy God declares sinners righteous and cancels their debt through simple belief in a work that was already done for them. There is no greater miracle. Healing bodies is one thing, but healing souls is something greater and longer lasting.
I’m not sure about the context, and I don’t remember where I saw it, but the picture immediately resonated as true. An older woman was sitting at a table in a restaurant with a teenage boy, presumably her grandson. She was looking at him with a less-than-pleased look on her face. He was wearing noise-cancelling headphones and looking down at his phone. The caption read something like, “Put your phone down! She just wants to talk to you.”
I wonder what happened when the waiter came by. I wonder if the promise of food finally prompted the boy to put down his phone. He might have very quickly engaged with the people around him when he wanted something from them, but I wonder how quickly the headphones went back on when the waiter left.