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Don’t be discouraged when confused by Scripture!

Confused by Scripture - confused person looking in maze

Every Christian has been confused by Scripture at times. Here’s part of a message I received from someone after a study I taught:

Last week, I took the entire chapter [from the study], copied it to Word, and then made spaces for notes. I thought I was prepared. But I wasn’t as prepared as I was hoping. I will just keep working on it.

I can tell the person was discouraged, and this is something I’ve encountered regularly. Here are two passages that should discourage us from being discouraged:

  1. “Our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand“(2 Peter 3:15-16). The Apostle Peter himself read Paul’s letters and found them difficult to understand at times.
  2. “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating” (1 Peter 1:10-11). The prophets were given the very words of God. Even they had to “inquire” and “search carefully” to understand the revelation in each other’s writings.

Why does God allow certain parts of Scripture to be confusing?

God’s Word offers wisdom that can’t be found anywhere else. This makes it unbelievably valuable and reveals why it is is compared with precious jewels: Continue reading Don’t be discouraged when confused by Scripture!

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Why we should follow the script (or Scripture)

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

We homeschool our children, taking them through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons when they’re around four. We’ve been pleased with the book, including the way the instruction is presented like a script. The words Katie is supposed to say are in red, and our child’s responses are in black. There’s a response provided if a child answers correctly, and a different response if a child answers incorrectly.

“Don’t deviate from the script!”

Corrective Reading
Corrective Reading

When I taught elementary school, I was taught a very similar program, called Corrective Reading. I remember thinking at the training, “Anyone could do this!” One of the most common instructions they told us was, “Don’t deviate from the script.”

Unfortunately, when I went back to the classroom to teach my own students there were times I completely disregarded the instruction I was given:

  • Sometimes I thought something was unnecessary.
  • Sometimes I thought I could say it better myself.
  • Sometimes I thought it would be better if I added something.

Here’s what I noticed very quickly:

  • When I followed the script, things went well.
  • When I deviated from the script, there were problems.

If I had to say why I deviated from the script, I believe the answer is obvious. I thought I knew better than the author. Continue reading Why we should follow the script (or Scripture)

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The mistake we make (that we think we don’t)

There’s a mistake most Christians make, and ironically it’s a mistake we tend to think we don’t makeThe mistake is that we tend to think everything we believe is grounded in Scripture. To be clear, I know for most of our beliefs this is the case, but we also have some beliefs that are shaped more by our backgrounds:

  • The way we were raised
  • The churches we’ve attended
  • The friends we’ve had
  • The books we’ve read

Marriage Gods Way author Scott LaPierre - The mistake we makeEssentially anything that has influenced our lives is going to influence our beliefs. If your background is Baptist, Catholic, Calvary Chapel, Nazarene, home church, Reformed, charismatic, etc. you’re going to have some beliefs that are affected by those experiences. This leads to convictions, preferences, and practices that are different from those with different backgrounds. And generally when people have had strong beliefs for some period of time, they can become more resistant to having those beliefs challenged or changed.

A refreshing conversation

Some time back I noticed a friend had some strong beliefs about something that I didn’t think was unbiblical, but I couldn’t think of any verses in support. I suspected the person might have acquired these convictions from someone the person often quoted. I asked, “Do you think you would feel this way if you never listened to this teacher?”  Continue reading The mistake we make (that we think we don’t)

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Don't Test God

In May 2012 Mark Wolford died after handling a rattlesnake during service. He’d just turned 44 and he said, “It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good ‘ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers.” Yesterday I read about Jamie Coots who died Saturday after he was bitten by a snake and refused medical treatment. He’d previously survived a bite that cost him most of the middle finger on his right hand, not seeking medical attention then either, letting it rot to black before it finally broke off. It’s unfortunate the first incident didn’t serve as a gracious warning to stop what he was doing.

Maybe Mark and Jamie had really good intentions. Maybe they wanted to show their faith in God. Maybe they were trying to make God look good. Maybe they were trying to increase the faith of others. Maybe they were trying to convince people that God protects His children. Instead, they created tragic situations. Wives lost their husbands. Children lost their fathers. Parents lost their sons. People lost their friends. There can never be a good outcome when there’s at best a misunderstanding of Scripture, and at worst a twisting of it.

Jamie, Mark and others with the same beliefs base their actions on Mark 16:18 (and if you’re interested, here’s a great message by John MacArthur and an answer on GotQuestions.org  discussing Mark’s Gospel ending at verse 8, excluding this often misunderstood and misapplied verse). The only parallel situation in Scripture is when Paul was bitten by a snake and unharmed (Acts 28:3-5), but it would be wrong to look at that situation and believe it’s normative or prescriptive for us.

As much as Mark and Jamie’s deaths hurt those closest to them, the greatest tragedy is the shame their actions brought on Christ and His Church. Unbelievers look on and say, “Man, Christians are crazy.” When Mark died I remember the number of comments I saw criticizing Christianity, and with Jamie’s death the same is taking place. After David’s sins with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam 11) God told David, “By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Sam 12:14) and that’s what I think whenever I read about situations like this.

There are at least two errors at work in these situations:

  1. First, there’s a misunderstanding of Scripture. This goes all the way back to The Fall when the serpent tried to get Eve to question what God had – and hadn’t – said: “Did God really say…? (Gen 3:1). The devil has always wanted people to question and misinterpret God’s Word.
  2. Second, there’s a testing of God. Even if it’s under the guise of faith, you’ve got people trying to force God to act and submit to their will, instead of humbly submitting to His will.

Snakehandling

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Vitamins are bad???

I think we all know people who seem to know a lot about a lot of different things. I’m not one of those people. There were a number of years I was really into working out, and if you’re going to be even remotely successful when it comes to fitness you have to know as much about nutrition as you know about working out; you could say you have to know as much about what you do in the kitchen as what you do in the gym. As a result, nutrition became one of those areas of my life where I invested a lot of time learning. If you walk through the supplement section in stores, you can see the huge number of products. While there’s some disagreement about which supplements are best, there’s virtually no disagreement about one supplement that everyone should take and that’s a multivitamin. If you talk to the most hardcore bodybuilder or the most committed health enthusiast you’ll be told, “Make sure you take a multivitamin!”

That’s why a recent editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine made a splash in the fitness and even non-fitness community: “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.” I saw that and thought, “Are you kidding me? Now we’re being told not to take multivitamins?” It was sort of like: “Is there ANYTHING that doesn’t change? Is there anything we can believe today that will still be true later? Is there anything we can invest time and energy into doing that we won’t find out later was a waste…or even worse was detrimental to us?” Believe it or not there are actually some people saying not only are multivitamins unnecessary, they’re unhealthy!

Now you probably see where I’m going. No, I wasn’t primarily wanting to talk about health; I wanted to discuss one of the many reasons I’m so thankful for God’s Word: it doesn’t change. I know I’ll never find out I believed something wrong. I know I’ll never build my marriage, family, life, etc. on something and have regrets later. There’s a tremendous safety for pastors in God’s Word: I’ll never look back with frustration about what I taught…as long as I’m teaching God’s Word. One of the most sobering aspects of being a pastor is giving people counsel…because people might actually do what you say, but if the counsel you’re giving people is from God’s Word (whether you’re a pastor or anyone else for that matter), you can always have peace that it’s true, correct and unchangeable.

618_348_reasons-to-keep-taking-multi-vitamins

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When the Old Testament is quoted in the New Testament…

There’s a tendency to think when New Testament (NT) writers quote the Old Testament (OT) that they’re using a verse because it captures what they want to say but the context of the OT verse is unimportant. The HUGE problem with that thinking though is many times the reason the verse is quoted is BECAUSE of its context. Let me give you a simple example from Ephesians 4. Paul is talking about Jesus distributing spiritual gifts: 7 Each one of us has been given a gift through Christ. 8 That is why it says, “When He (Jesus) ascended on high (referring to The Ascension), He…gave gifts to His people.” Then it goes on to say Jesus gifted some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (v. 11).

When it talks about Jesus ascending on high and giving gifts to men, Psalm 68:18 is being quoted, which David wrote after he brought the ark into Jerusalem. It was a time of real celebration (especially when considering how it went the first time David tried to bring in the ark). After it was done, David gave gifts to his people: 2 Samuel 6:19 Then David gave all the people…a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. David was the king and at this tremendous occasion he gave gifts to his people; therefore, Paul quoted Psalm 68:18 because of its context and wonderful parallel: Jesus is our King, and after His ascension – a tremendous occasion – He gave gifts to His people.

We’re going through Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness on Sunday mornings and when the devil asks Jesus to turn a stone into bread, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It’s best to look at Jesus’ response as the tip of the iceberg; here’s a tremendous amount going on behind Jesus quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. It looks back to Israel’s failure(s) in the wilderness when they were tested for 40 years contrasting that testing with Jesus’ testing in the wilderness for 40 days.

The main point is this: the context of the verse Jesus quoted to the devil (Deut 8:3) is vitally important to appreciating why Jesus responded the way He did. It wouldn’t be too much to say one of the only ways we can really understand and appreciate the NT is to be familiar with the OT. Some people say, “Oh, I just focus on the NT.” Focusing on the NT is great, but if you don’t understand the OT, you’re not really going to understand the NT.

If you’d like to hear more about Jesus’ response and the parallel between Jesus in the wilderness and Israel in the wilderness, here’s the sermon I preached on Jesus’ response to the devil’s temptation, including application we can learn from the Lord about dealing with temptation ourselves: Luke 4:4 Responding to Temptation.