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Archive for the ‘Bible study’ Category

“We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:19-21).”

It’s only about 7oo0 words long, but its impact on the world is enormous. I am talking about the Constitution of the United States of America.

George Washington, the first President of the United States, said of the document,” The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.” Thomas Paine said of  it, “The American constitutions were to liberty what a grammar is to language: they define its parts of speech and practically construct them into syntax.”

The main issue with understanding the Constitution today is that it was written by men using English of the late 18th century in America. In addition, while the Constitution is said to be a paper which the common man of  the time could grasp, it still contains some specialized legal vocabulary.

Indeed, the website USConstitution.net says,”The Constitution is often hailed as a marvel of brevity and of clarity. It was, however, written in the 18th century, and many of the ideas, concepts, words, phrases, and euphemisms seem odd to us today, if not down right foreign.”

Furthermore, the website USConstitution.org adds that the words of the Contitution are the ideas of people long dead. As a result, interpreters  note that we must develop “mental models of their mental models” in order to come to a proper understanding of the document.

The website expands on the “foreign” nature of the language of the Constitution:

This leads to the admonition that the English used in the Constitution and other legal documents of the 18th century should be read as a foreign language, putting aside today’s meanings of what seem to be the same words we use today, and attempting to decode the meanings from various clues we can find. This is not only wise for 18th century English, but for almost any communications, even among people who communicate with one another daily, because no two people mean precisely the same thing by the same words on every occasion. When both speaker and listener are alive they are able to interrogate one another to arrive at a common meaning, but when the author is dead we have to find evidence in other things he or his correspondents wrote.

There are those today who want to interpret the Constitution as a “living, breathing document”.  Proponents of this view believe that the Founders wrote the document in broad terms so that it could evolve in later generations.

Thus, the essence of those who see the Constitution as “living” is that its meanings can change over time. This allows for pragmatic interpretations consistent with the times.

Personally, I tend to come down on the side of the originalists, i.e., those people who rely on the original sources and intentions of the authors. I suppose this is because I hold to this view when I interpret an even larger and more important document: the Bible.

The same kind of debate concerning interpreting the Constitution is common today among believers in Jesus Christ. Thus, hermaneutics is an extremely important aspect of a student’s training in a Christian Bible college or seminary.

I was taught in a school which held the Bible to be inerrant and infallible. It saw the Bible as the Word of God. I still personally hold to this teaching.

One of the former presidents of my biblical seminary, Robertson McQuilkin,  and one my former professors, Brad Mullen,   have written: “Although Scripture is infallible, one’s intepretation of it is not infallible in every detail  because understanding is limited by one’s preunderstanding, spiritual receptivity, level of intellectual acumen, mastery of and faithful adherence to the disciplines of hermaneutics (classically defined) and the amount of hard work invested in the effort.” Thus, as an individual Christian I have to be careful how I interpret the Bible and not lean to hard on my own personal understanding of it.

However, my former seminary professors, while noting the necessity of using valid hermaneutical principles to delve into hard to understand pasasges, also say,”But the major teachings of Scripture are so plain that Bible believers have uniformly recognized and affirmed them, as seen in the great catholic creeds of the Church.”

 The authors add that there are at least 600 clear commandments in the New Testament alone. Here is the rub.

The real problem with my Christian life is not one of understanding, but one of obedience to what is clear in the Bible. Somehow, over the course of my life, I have gained some vague sense of questioning when I think of what the Scriptures clearly say. I sometimes question the validity of these truths somewhere in the recesses of my mind.

This questioning or perhaps lack of faith in the clear words of Scripture has  lead to my personal disobedience. “Why, God doesn’t understand my situation”, I might say in such incidences where I  succumb to temptation.  This is only one  example of  an excuse I might use for sinning.

Yet, I agree with McQuilkin and Mullen when they write that the words of the Bible correspond to reality. They also add another aspect besides the truth of the text itself which should influence my obedience: my ability to receive it.

McQuilkin and Mullen note:

Any bilingual person knows how words lack precision, especially when referring to incorporeal or abstract concepts. But evangelicals have traditionally held that words can convey truth without error, can express accurately what is in the mind of the speaker. Merely because one can demonstrate that we are incapable of comprehending all truth, even about any given subject,does not prove that we cannot apprehend a portion of the truth with accuracy. Our contention is that God’s nature as the determined Communicator,and his deliberate plan to create us on his pattern so that we can receive that communication with saving efficacy, demands some correspondence theory of truth. But it is not merely that our theology demands this. The Bible views itself in this light.

Take for example the biblical exhortation for me to pray. I do pray, but part of me questions why I should do it. After all,  God knows what I need.

However, when I read about godly men in the Bible, they don’t ponder such ideas as mine. They just pray because they believe God responds to prayer.

An Old Testament story illustrates what I mean. Samuel was a the chief justice  of his day, and he called all of Israel together. He told them to gather in one town and he would intercede with God for them (I Samuel 7:5).

The Israelites were facing a tough enemy in the Philistines. When their enemy mobilized, they were afraid.

However, they had learned their lesson from Samuel. They told him,”Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines (I Samuel 7:8).”

I read nothing in this story of Samuel and the Israelites about a debate over the need for and the efficacy of prayer. It was obviously a part of Israelite tradition in their role as God’s people, and there were numerous earlier Scriptures testifying to its use and powerful results.

 While the Constitution is a wonderful document, it is not the Word of God and I cannot necessarily apply biblical interpretation principle to understanding its meaning..  Still, I get a little nervous when I read such statements as those from the website USConstitution.net:

“The Constitution is many things to many people.”

” There is no one right way to interpret the Constitution, and people often do not always stick to one interpretation.”

I try to imagine believing these ideas in the realm of Scripture interpretation. Such thinking applied to approaching the Bible gets me extremely frustrated.

I also get shaky when modernists rely on their own opinions or the opinions of those they trust instead of on the written Constitution. The Founders made a provision for updating the Constitution. They’re called amendments.

I would rather trust in the words of the Constitution and the intent of those who wrote it. The document has served us well for over two hundred years.

The Constitutions as written is powerful today. One of the principles of constitutional construction (interpretation) is that its words have power.

One constitutional source notes:

None of the words are without force and effect, except those superseded by amendments, unless such amendments are repealed. Except for the statement of purpose in the preamble, every word was intended by the Framers to be legally normative, and not just advisory, declaratory, aspirational, or exhortatory. Verba intelligi ut aliquid operantur debent. Words should be interpreted to give them some effect. (www.constitution.org)

Furthermore, Abraham Lincoln said of the Constitution,”Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.

The written Word of God similarlly protects my freedom in Christ. How much more should I put my trust in the words of the Bible. They are the supernaturally powerful words of the living and breathing God, whose Spirit is in my heart.

The Bible isn’t just advisory or a source of inspiration, although it can be both at times. It is authoritative.

Therefore, I ought to closely heed its words and obey them. What I think doesn’t matter.

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“When tempted, no one should say,’God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:13-17).”

I came out  this morning to get some real work done, but  I can’t seem to get into it. I sit now in a grocery store writing this instead of doing the grading and marking required of a teacher.

I suppose you could say I deserve a break. I work pretty hard, and have for years. However, procrastination in my job can lead to disaster because the papers and other student work becomes an avalanche if I’m not careful. Thus, knocking off some of this work daily is a priority.

Yet, here I sit in a grocery store, writing. Why in heaven’s name am I in a grocery store at 9:30 am, one may ask.

I came here because they have free Wi-Fi and a comfortable place to sit. They also have cheap doughnuts.

I have been wrestling for an hour now whether to spend a dollar on a couple doughnuts. These days even a buck is a lot of money.

A little bit of my attitude is today is,”Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die.”  I am pretty tired and life lately has been hard. Yet, I have maintained enough self control to avoid going to the doughnut rack and spending the dough (pardon the pun).

The Bible seems to frown on casting caution to the wind in the face of adversity. Indeed, it is the origin of the above quoted phrase concerning eating and drinking. Faced with an enemy, and its leadership having fled, Israel (i.e., the people of God) engaged in partying instead of soberly going to God for help (Isaiah 22:3,11-13).

The apostle Paul on the other hand had perspective. He looked forward to the resurrection and the eternal kingdom of God ruled by Jesus Christ. He knew he was an officer in the war with evil, and that having an “eat, drink and be merry” philosophy was short term thinking (I Corinthians 15:29-32). Paul knew he was in a dangerous conflict, and couldn’t let down his guard.

However, the wisest man who ever lived had something of a contrarian view on this “eat, drink and be merry” concept.  After discovering that despite all his wisdom, he really knew nothing compared to God, he threw up his hands and said,”So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun (Ecclesiastes 8:15).”

I dig his view. Life can’t always be pain and drudgery. This morning, as I faced another work day, I understood that.

However, I was caught at the center of biblical tension. I thought life is to be enjoyed, but even spending a dollar for a couple doughnuts seemed to be indiscrete.

God solved that problem for me. As I sat up my laptop, a grocery store employee set up a tray on a table near me, looked at me and said something to the effect,”I don’t know how I can set this up and not eat any.”

I didn’t quite get what he said. Then I got up and took a look. On the table was a sign that read “Free samples.” Underneath the paper on the tray was a variety of pastries.

Thus, without spending a dime, I have been given the desire of my heart this morning.  I didn’t have to do anything but to receive the gift, and I didn’t have to violate my conscience.

Solomon once wrote concerning how one should interact with a king. He said,

Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm,
       and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.

 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
       though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him.

 Since no man knows the future,
       who can tell him what is to come?

 No man has power over the wind to contain it ;
       so no one has power over the day of his death.
       As no one is discharged in time of war,
       so wickedness will not release those who practice it (Ecclesiastes 8:5-8).

Satan hasn’t given up his war and his troops are still fighting. God  hasn’t issued me my discharge papers yet either.

It’s up to General Jesus when and if I get a three-day pass to enjoy myself. He knows when it’s appropriate to issue it. If I unwisely leave the fight without orders for my own pleasures, I become a deserter.

This morning I didn’t desert for dessert. However, Jesus came through with the goodies I was thinking of providing for myself inappropriately.

 It took a little Bible study and a sweet object lesson from God, but I learned some things this morning. I learned to interpret the Bible with the Bible to get a full perspective. I also learned that true goodies come from God.

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“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd.  Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.  Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.  Now all has been heard;   here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,  for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:11-13).”

At the moment I am sitting in the public library surrounded by books, magazines, computers with Internet and DVDs. Information overload.

When I find time to read, I pretty much read history or fiction these days, or I read the news and sports. How to books, especially from Christians, is out.

This is because I believe that most people have very little to say. In some ways, I think we live in an age of arrogance, in which people think they know, and tell others about it.

I suppose I could be accused of that just writing a blog. That’s media today:everyone has access to getting their thoughts out.

I listen to very few people when it comes to practical advice about living. These are people I trust. Listening to anyone else in my view is risky.

There is one other Person I listen to: God.  This probably makes me a crackpot or nut in a lot of people’s eyes in our modern world, but I don’t care.

I thought about how crazy Christians must seem to those who do not believe in Jesus Christ this morning.  This is because I saw a crazy neighbor, who in the end, only looked nuts.

I was sitting in my car waiting for my kids to get in so I could take them to school when a slightly overweight, middle-aged man came walking down my street in the  fog. He was wearing what looked like a pith helmet. He looked like somoene out of the hit flick “Bridge Over the River Kwai.”

I thought to myself,”This man is weird.” I even hoped my children wouldn’t come out of the door as he came by because I feared he would spot them and I feared for their future safety.

Then he passed my driver’s side window. He was singing “This is My Father’s World.” Here are the full lyrics:

“This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres. 
This is my Father’s world: 
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise. 
This is my Father’s world: 
he shines in all that’s fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. 
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet. 
This is my Father’s world: 
why should my heart be sad? 
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! 
God reigns; let the earth be glad!”

Somehow as this man approached, in the recesses of my heart, I knew he was a believer. He was strange. He was different. And that’w what we are.

This man ministered to me. In my miserable state on a Monday morning, He reminded me that there is a loving God who owns this place and is in control.

There are not a lot of wise people out there, but I think this crazy looking dude was one of them. He had understanding out there doing his morning constitutional which at that early hour I did not have.

A wise man of Proverbs knew his own limitations, too.

“I am the most ignorant of men; 
I do not have a man’s understanding.

I have not learned wisdom, 
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.

Who has gone up to heaven and come down? 
Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? 
Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? 
Who has established all the ends of the earth? 
What is his name, and the name of his son? 
 Tell me if you know (Proverbs 30:2-4)!”

This man knew where to get understanding he didn’t have. After the above lament, he wrote  “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him (Proverbs 30:5).”

 The problem today is that too many people are trying to be mini-Gods and Jr. Holy Spirits and tell people how to live. I gather there is nothing wrong with this in principle. We all need advice.

However, a lot of so-called wisdom comes from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. They influence people wrongly, and are dangerous, now and eternally.

 Mr. Proverbs also wrote,”Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar (Proverbs 30:6).” Sounds good to me.

The best thing to do in this day and age is to find a couple people who really know God and His Word, and add a little common sense to the mix. Safety lies there.

If the rest of the world thinks that strange, too bad. They’re the ones in the wrong. Sing on my weirdo brothers

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“The eyes of the LORD keep watch over knowledge, but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful (Proverbs 22:12).”

Group Captain James Stagg was in a no-win situation.  Stagg was in charge of giving weather reports to the Allied generals in charge of the D-Day invasion scheduled for June, 1944.

His circumstances were “damned in you do and damned if you don’t” in nature because the Allies needed good weather to avoid having their landing craft swamped and their air support cancelled. Thus, if he was going to make the generals happy, he had to give a positive report.

On the other hand, if he made a mistake, gave a good weather forecast and the skies turned bad, he would go down in history, in a bad way!  Historian Anthony Beevor records a black joke told to Stagg by the chief planning officer for the invasion: “Good luck, Stagg. May all your depressions be nice little ones, but remember we’ll string you up from the nearest lamp post if you don’t read the omens right.”

The signs on the weekend before the invasion did in fact point to bad weather.  However, the professional metereologists under Stagg’s command couldn’t agree what they meant. Stagg decided to err on the side of caution. Asked by General Dwight D. Eisenhower to give an extended forecast, Stagg replied,”If I answered that, Sir, I would be guessing, not behaving as your metereological adviser.”

Only when it was clear that the forecast was indeed poor did Stagg give a confident picture of gloom. Even then, it was not a popular report.  The generals and advisers in the room sat stunned.

On top of the pressure from the commanding officers, Stagg could look outside and see beautiful sunsets and clear skies as he gave his reports. One nice morning, he was ashamed to meet his fellow officers.

Stagg was indeed a marked man.  I am sure he felt as if he had been set up for a fall.

As we all know now, the succesful D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 was one of  the key events of the 20th century. There are no books on the effects of the incompetent reports of Group Captain James Stagg. He weathered the storm (pun intended).

It is hard to explain to people outside of my field how hard people work at my job.  I teach in a very intensive university program for international students. They are in class 20 plus hours each week to learn how to read, write, speak and listen to academic English so they can attend American schools

My colleagues and I have our own black humor about the long hours we spend teaching and preparing.  We joke at my office about the need for cots there so people can spend the night. Teachers are coming and going all hours of the day and night and on weekends where I work. The coffee pot is on a lot.

In some ways, we too are in a similar no-win situation as the one James Stagg faced.  The boss expects happy students who are satisfied with their training.  That, of course, is not always within a teacher’s control.  Human beings are as uncontrollable as the wind and the weather. 

Even if they are happy, the teacher gets no real plaudits for it. After all, it’s expected. It’s only when they’re not happy does the teacher get a reaction: “Hang him from the highest yardarm!”.

Thus, we teachers walk a fine line, and we expend a lot of time and energy to get it right. I am sometimes amazed at the efforts, competence and professionalism of most of my colleagues. I try hard to emulate them because we all have a severe responsibility.

This is why the Bible makes it clear that only a select few should be teaching the Word of God.  James writes, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check (James 3:1,2).”

Yep, people should not be teaching others unless they have a handle on what they are talking about.  None of us is perfect, and some of us tend to run off at the mouth, extemporaneously saying whatever comes to mind.

I tend to be like that in the classroom myself. This is why I have to keep a tight rein on my tongue and watch what I say.

Not everything written  ended up as part of the biblical canon. God was pretty strict about orchestrating what was included and what wasn’t. One set of writings that did make the cut was some proverbs written mostly by Solomon. Here’s what he says about his own writings: 

“Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the LORD,  I teach you today, even you. Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge, teaching you true and reliable words, so that you can give sound answers to him who sent you (Proverbs 22:17-21).”

God watched what He said when He inspired men to write His words in the Scriptures. You can take His words to the bank. You can trust the Source.

This doesn’t mean God and His Word don’t get crticized.  In addition, being a good Bible teacher doesn’t preclude attacks from others either. In fact, it is almost guaranteed that those who faithfully teach the Bible will get criticized.

James Callahan didn’t run for the hills when asked for weather reports,  even though he probably wanted to. Neither should we, if we know the Bible well enough .  We can trust it, and its Author (Psalm 11:1).

Being a student and teacher of  the Scriptures is time consuming and takes a lot of energy. However, all the hard work is worth it.

Those who teach anything have a high responsibility, and those who teach the Bible especially so. We owe it to our Boss who took such care to put it together, and to our students who want to learn it well.

If we teach the Bible, we also owe it to ourselves to get it right. Then we can stand with confidence in front of our Boss and hearers, just as James Stagg did with his.

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Pleasing the Judge

“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.  Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:12-14).”

Attending one of the games of the local minor league baseball team is a lot of fun.  Not only are fans treated to good baseball, but they also are amused by ongoing contests and games.

Selected participants, many of them kids, entertain the rest of the crowd by a variety of means in between innings.  For example, every game a youngster goes on the field and tries to  to catch a flying rubber chicken in a box. Another seeks to toss bags into a hole from a distance.  In between one inning, two kids race each other on a couple of inflated animals. It’s all a lot of fun.

The winners of these contests receive small prizes.  Sometimes its a T-shirt. Other times it’s a coupon for free food or a gift certificate.

Normally, the “winners” are the people who accomplish the required tasks successfully, but not always. It depends on the whims of the “judge”, or in some cases, the “judges”.

At times the entire crowd is asked to declare the winner. They do this by screaming the loudest for their favorite.  From a competitor’s point of view, the decisions made by the throng may seem arbitratry because the winner is not always the best at the competition.

Two competitions last night illustrated this observation. In one contest, kids tried to dunk a basketball into a low-set net.  There were a bunch of boys, including one  kid with what the announcer called “an advantage”: He was tall. In the midst of all those boys was the cutest little girl tyke you will ever see. Guess who the crowd chose as their favorite.

In another instance, two people competed in a karaoke contest.  One woman sang her song beautifully.  Then her competitor was asked to sing. The music played and nothing came from him. Then the crowd began to rhythmically clap with the music to encourage him along. Soon, a not-so-good version of the song aired into the mike.

The man won the contest, by a large margin.  You see, he was severely disabled and in a wheelchair. The warmth of the crowd for that man was one of the most moving sights I have ever seen.

Solomon wrote:”The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise  or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned (Ecclesiates 9:11).” At least not always.

God has different criteria for judging success than a lot of us. His thinking on matters is on a completely different plane than ours (Isaiah 55:9).

For example, God puts a higher premium on what’s in a person’s heart than He does on their physical attributes. He chose David to be king of Israel over a whole slew of brothers based on the quality of His inner man (I Samuel 16:7). The Lord takes more pleasure in a person’s inclination to delights in and fear Him than he does their athletic abilities (Psalm 147:10,11).

 “Unfair!” we say.” We’re not God. How are we supposed to know what His criteria are for success?  His value system seems so capricious!”

Well for starters, we get some indication of what God values from His creation. The Psalmist says that people all over the globe can find out what God is about from the heavens (Psalm 19:1-4).

During and on the way home from the game last night, we were treated to something as entertaining as the baseball and other amusements. There was a gorgeous crescent moon in the night sky, accompanied by Venus. From this, the observer can see that the Lord values beauty.

There’s something even more delightful than the night sky that will light up our world: God’s Word, the Bible. God says His precepts and commands give joy and guidance.  They radiate guidance from Him (Psalm 19:7,8).

Yep, we might think that God is like a crowd at a baseball game, choosing criteria over and above the requirements, to declare a “winner” in life.  However, most of His value system is right there in the Scriptures.

If we want to please the Judge, we have to learn to distinguish what makes for success with Him and what doesn’t. This knowledge doesn’t come easy. Like anything else, if we are going to attain favor with Him, developing the ability to think like Him will take some blood,sweat and tears.

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For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…(I Timothy 2:5).”

Angela Merkel can’t win for losing.  Faced with a collapsing Greek economy and euro,  the German chancellor  still was reluctant to sign on to an expensive rescue package. 

Then, she met up with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who threw a table-banging tantrum over her reticence.  After Sarkozy’s emotional display, and a phone call from President Barack Obama, she finally agreed to the euro bailout.

Now the German people and media are mad at her.  They are accusing her of giving up too much to the European Union (EU).  Some Germans are beginning to doubt their participation in the EU, thinking that they are sharing too much of the load. Agreeing to the bailout even led to an electoral defeat for Merkel’s party in a German state.

Like politicians, believers are not immune to criticism and misunderstanding.  They are at times damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

Sometimes the attacks come from those closest to us, even our spouses. For example, Sarai, the wife of Abram, was frustrated over her inability to have a child. So she went to her husband and offered her maid Hagar as a wife through whom they could have a child. Abram agreed to this and Hagar became pregnant.

However, the results of this union created dysfunction in the family.  Hagar began to rebel against Sarai.  This upset Abram’s wife, and she turned around and blamed him for the whole episode. (Genesis 16:1-5).

Best friends can also be the source of unfair judgments.  Job had just lost his children and his health.  He was miserable, and expressed his suffering verbally to his buddies.

One of them, Eliphaz the Temanite, made a strong inference that Job’s problems were the result of his own sinfulness.  Somehow, in Eliphaz’s view, his “formerly righteous” friend must have blown it, and the suggestion was that God was punishing him (Job 4:1-8). A good reading of the book of Job will show that he did not submit to the opinions of Eliphaz or his other friends.

It’s difficult to stand up for our convictions when influential people, even spouses and friends are opposing us.  Yet, we are responsible before God for our own actions. 

Job could have done what his wife asked him to do.  In the midst of his suffering, she said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Nice. Instead of folding, Job rebuked her.   He replied, “You are talking like a foolish  woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” The Scriptures say Job avoided joining into the God abuse (Job 2:9,10).

Abram’s failure to stand up to Sarai and Job’s lack of concession to the faulty opinion of  his wife should give today’s Christian husband pause.  In this day and age when men and women are coleaders in marriage, believing husbands need to be courageous and consider their responsibility to be the head of their households.  Ultimately, a truly believing wife will appreciate it. 

In addition, Job’s eventual stand against the opposition of his close friends should instruct all believers today. We are too ready to submit to the opinions of those close to us instead of giving allegiance to God and the Scriptures. 

We aren’t subject to the opinions of others, even those close to us. Martin Luther espoused the priesthood of all believers. He determined that the Bible says that we all have equal access to God, that we are not to go through other people for our relationship to Christ.  Luther hoped that “”we shall recover that joyful liberty in which we shall understand that we are all equal in every right, and shall shake off the yoke of tyranny, and know that he who is a Christian has Christ, and he who has Christ has all things that are Christ’s, and can do all things.”

I am speaking especially to Christian men here, and to myself.  It’s time we become the heads of our households, or like my close friend Tom likes to say, it is high time we  “manned up”.  If this sounds cave-mannish, so be it.

There’s a time when collaboration is needed, sure. We were watching one of these old Moody Bible Institute science programs today where the speaker was discussing how for the purpose of our national security, cooperation with others was required.  

He mentioned how people were asking “What can I do as an individual in such times to make a difference?”.  These folks were in his view throwing up their hands and washing them of responsibility.

But to this scientist/preacher, there was plenty they could do.  They could open their Bibles.  He decried that, even though it was a best seller, the Bible was just collecting dust on shelves. To this man, going to God through the Scriptures and following them was an individual responsibility, not a matter of collaboration.

It’s time we Christian men end the tyranny of the culture, and even of close relations, and be the leaders in our homes and societys that God calls us to be. We are ultimately responsible to Jesus Christ, our King,  for our actions and decisions, and not to fallen people, even our wives, children and close buds.

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 “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).”

Yesterday was the last day of classes for this term at the school where I teach.  You could almost hear the collective sigh coming from both teachers and students.

This is because our method of teaching and studying is intensive.  The students receive a lot of material in a short period of time, and are expected to produce results.  The teachers spend a lot of time producing this material, coaching their students to grasp it, and evaluating the results. 

The effect of all this after several weeks is that we are all tired.  Tomorrow grades will be in and then we will gather for a picnic at a local park. Time for some rest and recreation.

Solomon wrote,” Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body(Ecclesiastes 12:12b)”.  I can almost hear the collective ‘Amen’ from my colleagues and our students along with their sighs.

All one has to do is go to any bookstore or bookseller’s website to confirm the truth of Solomon’s words about books.  The plethora of printed material out there is almost beyond belief.  Most of it is probably not worth reading.

Mankind is certainly capable of accomplishing a lot with words.  God observed this in the early days of our sojourn on this planet when a particular culture began a massive building program. 

At that time, everyone spoke the same language, and people were effective in using their words.  This came as no surprise to God, as He created men in His own image.  Noting their potential, God thought it best to mix things up and confuse their language.  Otherwise, He figured they would be able to accomplish just about anything (Genesis 11:1-8). 

Allowing humans to go hogwild in their creativity wasn’t a good thing in God’s view.  He knew that  many of our achievements would be evil and contrary to His plan for us, as we are a fallen race.  The evidence is there even today that God was wise in thinking this.  We only need to read today’s newspaper to find scientific experimentation gone awry.

Part of the reason we are so effective at creating wondrous technology today is because the effects of God’s actions at the Tower of Babel have been rescinded in this age of globalization.  In fact, I could be accused of aiding and abetting this restoration of a lingua franca because I teach English to speakers of other languages.

 It is unfortunate, though, how we use words today.  Our communications are used to demean, deceive and confuse our fellow man.  Words are also improperly handled in other ways.  For example, a recent president became famous for his ability to parse words to his benefit.  Another one was renowned for bungling his use of the English language.

There’s only one document on Earth where language which is efficacious from God’s perspective can be found: the Bible. Matthew Henry quotes John Selden, one of the most learned men in 17th century England, in relation to the value of the Bible over other books.  Henry says, “The great Mr. Selden subscribed to this when he owned that in all the books he had read he never found that on which he could rest his soul, but in the holy scripture…”.

Solomon is an example of a biblical author who can be trusted.  After all, he was the wisest man in history, having his wisdom conveyed to him by God himself.  He was a conscientious writer, teacher and thinker. He was careful about his choice of vocabulary and his content was “upright and true” (Ecclesiastes 12:9,10).

If godliness and rest for your soul are goals in life, then reading and studying the books of Solomon in the Bible is a good place to start . He wrote three of them. Indeed, reading the rest of the Scriptures is advisable also.

When I was a young man, the objective on my resume stated that I wanted to “use words to influence people”.  There’s no better people to pattern myself after to accomplish this objective  than Solomon and the other biblical authors.

As John Selden said, the Bible is food for the soul, good for nourishing ourselves and others.

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