Thursday, December 27, 2012

Biblical Commentary

In the preface of their commentary on the Psalms, Tony Ash and Clyde Miller suggest that "everyone should write a commentary on the psalms." What they seem to be saying is that the intense study of the psalms that went into the writing of their commentary was such a blessing that they feel everyone should attempt such a process, although obviously few would to carry it to completion.

Their words sparked a different thought in my mind.

Let me suggest that every Christian does produce a commentary not only on the psalms but on the whole Bible. Perhaps none of our commentary is committed to writing, but that does not mean that it fails to speak to those around us.

If we do not allow scripture to mold our lives we are teaching that the Bible is of no importance. This can be done by refusal to study the Bible, or by approaching the Bible cafeteria style -- studying the parts we like, ignoring the rest. Such behavior indicates an arrogant faith in ourselves as wiser than God.

But if we allow the Bible to mold our lives then we effectively point others to the book as one that is practical and useful in life. Such a life points our the true interpretation and application of scripture.

The words of scripture should be on our lips in daily conversation. Our lives should show evidence of an effort to live by its teachings. We should often be found reading scripture and gathering with others to study it. Such actions are a biblical commentary of the very best kind.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Start Where They Are

Jesus began by asking for a drink (John 4), because water was on the mind of the woman at the well. Peter started with an explanation of the odd sounds people were hearing on Pentecost (Acts 2). Paul quoted Greek poets to the people of Athens (Acts 17).

What people really need is the gospel. But to get them to hear the gospel we must begin with what is on their minds at the moment, or at least with something with which they are familiar.

This time of year, people are thinking an odd jumble of thoughts: about a stable, a baby, a fat guy in a red suit, and something about making resolutions. We can condemn them for errors in their celebration of Christmas, or we could start where they are and try to move them toward the gospel. I think that the Lord would prefer the latter approach.

There are all kinds of facts that are really not worth an argument. The odds of Jesus actually being born on December 25 are less than a 1 in 365. The fact that he was placed in a manger does not prove that he was born in a stable, since poor people often kept animals right in their houses. The Bible never says how many men came from the East to worship him. It could have been three, but could have been thirty-five for all we know. These are all unimportant matters.

An important question might be, "What does the birth of Jesus indicate about us?" [Our desperate need for a savior...] Or, "What does it indicate about the Lord?" [His willingness to save...] These are better points on which to begin.

I am glad that people think about Bethlehem this time of year, because it is easier to get their minds from Bethlehem to Calvary than to get to Calvary from Wall Street or Washington or the football stadium. Let's start where they are and lead them where they need to be.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 16, A Date That Should Live In Infamy

No, I am not a week late. I am not thinking of December 7, although that date deserves what President Roosevelt said about it. I am thinking of today, December 16. Do you realize the things that have happened on this date? There were some things that you might consider good -- like the Tea Party in 1773 -- but there have been plenty of tragic events as well.
On this date in 1811, a series of earthquakes began in Missouri which rerouted the Mississippi River. Imagine what that would be like today.
On this date in 1838, the Afrikaners (Boers or Voortrekkers) under General Pretorius defeated the Zulu in the battle of Blood River.
On this date in 1864, the battle of Nashville took place. Have we forgotten that more Americans died in that war than in any other in history?
On this date in 1942, Heinrich Himmler ordered the Roma (Gypsy) peoples moved to Auschwitz for extermination.

I might be wrong, but I suspect that nearly every day of the year is the anniversary of some tragic event. History is full of injustice. It could be depressing. It would be depressing if it were not for one other event.

Today we gather not to remember any of the events mentioned above but the one event that makes all else bearable. Every first day of the week we remember that the most tragic event in history was reversed, three days later, into the most wonderful event in history. The death of Jesus was the most unjust and depressing event in history; but the resurrection of Jesus, three days later, gives us hope in the face of all discouragement.

No matter how many battles are fought and lost, no matter how many depressing things happen, we have hope. We have hope that the same power that raised Jesus can raise us as well.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Healthy Lifestyle

Americans spend a lot of money on health food, exercise equipment, gym memberships and other health related things. Still, we are unhealthy, overweight but undernourished.

The problem, for many of us, is that we are not consistent. We exercise hard for a day or two, we eat well once in a while, but we do not maintain a consistent pattern of healthy living. We do healthy things occasionally, but we do not have a healthy lifestyle.

Spiritual health works much the same way. We should not expect to develop good spiritual health on one or two healthy meals per week. We should not expect to develop good spiritual health when we get no spiritual exercise. Consistent spiritual feeding through Bible study, and consistent spiritual exercise through worship and service are essential to the development of, and the maintenance of, spiritual health.

Do not blame the doctor if your lifestyle - unhealthy eating and lack of exercise - ruins your physical health. Do not blame the Lord (or the preacher) if the same pattern exists in your spiritual life. We need a healthier spiritual lifestyle.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wrong Question

I received a message today that asked, "Forty years after the Roe vs. Wade case, are we winning or losing?"

I am sure that there could be all kinds of answers given to this question, and other questions like it. But, unless I am greatly mistaken, "are we winning or losing" is not the kind of question we ought to be asking. I do not recall that the Lord ever indicated that we should shape any part of our lives on the basis of winning or losing. The Lord's call is not to winning or losing, but to faithfulness. Again and again he calls on us to be faithful. I do not recall him ever asking, "Don't you want to be on the winning side?"

I can imagine what some of you may be thinking. "Doesn't he promise that we will be 'more than conquerors'? Does that not indicate that we will be on the winning side?" Yes and no.

In the book of Revelation the term conquer or conqueror occurs quite often. Look at those occurrences some time. Look at them carefully. Ask yourself, "In this book, what does it mean to conquer?" The answer, I think you will often find, is that to conquer means to be killed for your faith. What Jesus calls being a conqueror is what the world calls being a loser, being defeated, being conquered.

If forced to answer most of the "winning or losing" questions, I would probably have to say that the righteous appear to be losing -- in the world, in this country, and even often in the church. But what we ought to be asking ourselves is "Are we being faithful." If we can honestly say "yes" to that question, the other one does not matter.

The Bible tells me which side is going to win in the end. It also tells me that the side that wins in the end is going to appear to be losing most of the time between now and the end. Our responsibility is not to worry over winning or losing. Our responsibility, win or lose, is to be faithful.