Bad Bumper Sticker

Monday, Feb. 27                             

I’m indebted to R.C. Sproul for this one.  A bumper sticker:  “God says it.  I believe it.  That settles it.”   What’s wrong with that?  It says that the Bible is only true when I believe it.  That’s pure nonsense.  It should be “God said it.  That settles it.  I believe it.”  Same words, different order.  God’s Word is true no matter whether anyone believes it.  To say otherwise is to say that God is not God.  Whoever came up with the bumper sticker probably had his heart in the right place, but needs a little help with his theology.  It leads me to say that there are a lot of people around the world that are saved and going to heaven, even though their doctrine is not entirely accurate.  Some doctrinal issues, however, are crucial; and I think there are many people who think they are going to heaven who don’t have a clue as to how to get there.  They need help and we have a job to do.  Getting bumper stickers right may or may not be a high priority, but we are our brother’s keeper, and that should include our potential brothers.

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Sunday, Feb. 26                             

I’m not going to stroke your ego with this one.  I just hope I don’t offend you.  When Jesus drove out the money changers in the Temple (John 2:12-16), he said “My house will be called a house of prayer.”  It is easy to pass right over this.  It was a major rebuke, and Jesus went on to express his disapproval by driving out the money changers with a whip.  His disciples remembered what was said about Jesus in Ps 69:9, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  Jn. 2:17.  Our churches today do not focus much on prayer.  How often do you see the word “prayer” included in a church name—or on a church marquee for that matter?  There is a good deal of preaching and teaching in our churches.  There are Sunday school classes, Bible studies, pot lucks, business meetings, youth groups, sporting activities, clubs, et al.  Of all the hours of activities in our churches today, how many hours are actually spent in prayer?  Probably less than 3 %.  And most of that prayer is perfunctory, routine, shallow and ritualistic.  How would you answer a person coming into your church for the first time who wanted to know where the prayer room was?  Then we wonder why there is so many problems and divisions within the church and so few unbelievers won to the Lord.  Obviously, the people of Jesus’ day were not paragons of prayer, either, or Jesus would not have reacted the way he did in John 2.  I’ll grant you that there is some effective prayer outside the church building.  A few people make prayer a priority, but most Christians would be embarrassed to answer questions about their prayer life.  For the record, I’m one of them.  Our messed up churches are because of lack of prayer.  “What causes  fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?   You want something but don’t get it . . . because you do not ask God . . .  you ask with the wrong motives.”  James 4:1-3.   We are told to pray without ceasing.  1 Thes. 5:17.  Paul said that centuries ago, but the message still applies.  He said what he said to bring about a change.  May it be so!

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Thinking in Paragraphs

Saturday, Feb. 25                        

“We need to think in paragraphs, not sentences.”  This comment by Tom Thieme in our Monday night men’s Bible study caught my attention.  The thought behind this is that we too often focus on one small part of a big issue.  It reminds me of the blind men describing an elephant.  The elephant is much more than a tusk, a trunk, or an ear.  In terms of understanding God’s Word, it’s so easy to pick out a single statement and build it into a major doctrine.  I suppose that we all have done this at times.  An example of this: “God is love.” 1 John 4:8.  That’s a true statement, but to use it to mean that God will not allow anyone to go to hell is ignoring other equally true Biblical statements.  Because God loves us he died on a cross in our place. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  OK, I used two single verses in two different books, but the rest of Scripture supports my position—which is my point.  His dying on the cross in our place was motivated by love.  But we still don’t have the whole story.  Jesus’ death was a necessity because we are incapable of living a holy life on our own, it is a free gift of grace, and it is received by faith alone, without our having to do anything to earn it.  So Tom’s statement, though true, could be expanded.  Not just to think in paragraphs, but to include the entire Bible.  I’m with you, Tom.  A pertinent bit of advice.

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Friday, Feb. 24                               

The account of the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) harbors a host of interesting questions.  John obviously chose a different format from the synoptic gospels.  He chooses just a few events in Jesus’ life, some of which are also recorded in the synoptic gospels.  This event, the first of  the chosen events, John calls a “sign” (as he does with the other chosen events).  Each event is a miracle which is a sign pointing to Jesus as the promised Messiah, which is John’s stated goal as recorded in John 20:31.  My “questions.”  1. Changing water into wine seems an odd way to start.  No critical need such as a demon to cast out, a blind man to heal, or feeding a multitude of people.  2. Then we have an odd assortment of people involved, most of them not named—the wedding couple, the master of the banquet, the servants.  3. No mention of the wedding ceremony, just the banquet.  Was it before or after the wedding ceremony?  4. Jesus’ mother is mentioned first as being invited to the wedding.  But Jesus and his disciples were also invited.  No mention of Mary’s other children.  5. The very first statement having to do with the wedding was that the wine had run out.  6. Mary evidently expected Jesus to do something about this, but did not stipulate exactly what he was to do.  7.  Jesus rebuked his mother, saying that his time had not yet come.  8. Mary was not dissuaded by the rebuke, turning to the servants to tell them to do whatever Jesus told them to do.  9. Jesus then went ahead and performed a miracle—with the implication that it was to please his mother?  10.  There were six stone water containers, each capable of holding 20-30 gallons of water, a total of  between 120 and 180 gallons—obviously enough for the entire population of the village to get drunk.  And the biggest question of all:  Why did John use this miracle—one that is not recorded elsewhere—to launch his core message? I confess I don’t know.  Maybe it was to catch our attention.  It obviously caught mine.

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Lions and Lambs

Thursday, Feb. 23                          

God’s ways are really past finding out.   I hope I don’t offend anybody with this, but why do men have nipples?  OK, let’s move on.  Isaiah 11 depicts a time when the wolf will lie down with a lamb, where lions will eat grass along with a cow, and a child will play with vipers.  The implication is that things will revert to normal after sin is eradicated.  If this describes the way God intended things to be, then why did God create lions and their kin with jaws and teeth that are designed to eat meat?  Maybe it’s a metaphor and simply designates a time of peace, which I have trouble with.  The passage includes too much detail to be a metaphor, plus it seems to be an obscure way to describe a time of peace.  Maybe my implication is wrong.  Maybe I don’t have the right perspective on the context.  Or I can simply say that this little bit of Scripture is one of those “past finding out” things.  I don’t plan on deleting Isaiah 11 from the Bible.

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A Formula for Salvation

Wednesday, Feb.  22                

Theologians have grappled for years as to how the gospel should be presented to non-believers.  No one really likes a set formula, yet every one wants it to be totally accurate in terms of what part is God’s and what part is man’s.  The issue is one of grace vs. works.  A person can think he’s a believer and act like a believer without being a believer.  Likewise, a person can be a believer without clearly demonstrating it, so the issue is relevant.  The Old Testament doesn’t focus on repentance unto salvation, trusting Jesus, accepting the gift of salvation, etc., but the core issue is not ignored, either.  The issue comes up with the very first two born into this world, Cain and Abel, one representing human effort (works) and the other a dependence on God (grace). The issue evidently was well known during the antediluvian world.  Only Noah’s family was spared, and that on the basis of believing God.  Abraham lived in about 2000 B.C.  That’s several hundred years before any of the Old Testament was written.  Paul says that Abraham was “reckoned” as righteous in Rom.4:3, and that it was because he believed God.  Belief is the core issue for being accepted by God in all of Scripture.  It seems fairly simple.  It is something that comes from the heart, not always clearly observable by man, but no problem to God.  Many people that Jesus met obviously were welcomed into the family of God without going through any set pattern.  Maybe we should focus on belief and dispense with the rest.

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The Message of Numbers

Tuesday, Feb. 21                      

God has a thing about numbers.  He invented them, of course, and as usual, there are some things way beyond our understanding.  The number “one” is fairly important.  God is one.  And right off, we have a problem.  God is also three.  So three can be one.  I’m not going to pursue that here.  The number two is important, too.  Jesus had two natures, a divine nature and a human nature.  Again, a problem.  He was fully man and fully God at the same time.  So two can be one.  Put those two observation together, and logic says that three can also be two.  And then he ordains marriage for human reproduction—two become one.  Some people try to make that three.  It’s called a triangle.  I’m not going there, either.  There seems to be a spiritual significance with the number “seven” and the number “twelve,” too.  Some people have gotten so captivated by “numerology” that they blow it out of proportion, much like those who allegorize Biblical events beyond a reasonable interpretation.  And then there’s this thing of infinity.  Mathematicians have a special symbol for this, a tipped over figure eight—which may or may not have some significance.  Anyway, numbers have no end.  You can add zeroes ad infinitum without ever coming to an end.  Numbers can get so small that they approach zero, too,  But they never get to zero.  My conclusion.  God is revealing by mathematics that he is beyond understanding.  He has other ways to teach us the same thing.  Think of the universe.  Scientists tell us that the universe is expanding all the time.  Is the outer boundary of space expanding?  Or is there a boundary at all?  Let me know when you get that one figured out.  And if we don’t get the message that we are almost infinitely finite, it’s because we are almost infinitely finite.

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