Mistakes I’ve made, when reading the Bible.

Two situations lead me to this text today:
The more important first, a talk with my young adults about the relevance of the Bible in today’s world and culture and secondly a rather simple article, nevertheless catching my attention with the title:  “Seven mistakes I made in my twenties”.

Here a few of the mistakes I’ve made reading the Bible.

Good Monday Morning to this week 44 of 2019

1. Looking for insight rather than a personal application.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. – Matthew 18:20
A great verse for all small group leaders, pastors and gatherers of people!

Although God is always with us when believers gather together, it doesn’t mean that He is not with us when we are alone because God is omnipresent meaning He is always with us no matter the circumstance.

2. Failing to research the context.
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” (Mark 9:43)
The Broadman Bible Commentary nicely writes: “… if what you desire to do, or the places you long to frequent, or the things you are greedy to possess… would entice you into a path departing from the way of life, whatever sacrifice is necessary must be made to return to the path of life!

3. Sticking to only one translation. (this now comes so much easier now with so many translations available on the internet)
When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David. (NIV) 1 Sam. 18:28
But when Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that all Israel loved him. (RSV)
Quite a difference here!

4. Thinking the only way to read the Bible is by looking at the words on a page.
And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die … meaning: “Don’t tear your clothes”, if you only read the words on the page it leads to a strange interpretation.
It’s good to be sensitive to distinctions between Israel and the Church and Old Covenant and New Covenant eras/requirements.

5. Not using the Bible to help interpret itself!
Interpretation, based on the author’s intention of meaning and not the reader.
Get into the author’s context, historically, grammatically, culturally and the literary forms and conventions the author was working in. Interpretation in the context of the passage. Interpreting of Bible not only literally, allowing for normal use of figurative language.  For example, Isaiah 55:12 states the trees of the field will clap their hands. Since trees do not have hands or clap this must be a figure of speech.
Interpretations come to life, once in the context of the passage, as with the trees of the fields clapping their hands!

5. Not forming your own interpretation. Some questions to ask as you form your  interpretation in prayer and in the company of the Holy Spirit:

What do I learn about God in this passage?
What do I learn about people?
What do I learn about relating to God?
What do I learn about relating to people?

How would I say this verse in my own words?
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. Proverbs 11.3

Formed in my own words: Be an honest person of integrity, this will keep you on track, all else will destroy you.

6. Sometimes I look for verses that “only” fit the topic or theme I have in mind:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

This is a verse where an infinite, all-powerful God meets very finite, not-so-powerful human beings. Sure, the possibilities are endless with God. The spiritual gifts, holy callings and life journeys available to the Jesus follower can be endless. The keyword is simply can. Do you see the words should or will? Isn’t the emphasis on the infinite God and not on us here?

I’ll conclude with Deuteronomy 31.6 (NIV the interpretation that I grew up with!)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Moses sharing this with Joshua at the age of 120, knowing he won’t continue to the promised land as a consequence of his own sin, yet knowing a God that has lead him faithfully in all his ways, he now lays this promise on Joshua.  Moses animates the people to the perseverance of hope when God declares that He will be their helper even to the end. Faith corresponds with God’s promises, and is, in harmony with them, it, therefore, extends itself to our whole life, even beyond death itself; for God removes all doubt as to the future by these words, “I will not leave thee nor forsake thee.”

Wishing you a blessed week!
Philemon 

Lost in reality

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again. In his joy, he goes away and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Good Monday Morning to this week 43 of 2019

The opposite of being lost could be: found, located, situated, here, present
in, owned, retained, there, adequate, enough, sufficient, accounted for, at hand
in attendance.

Last week we looked at secrets hidden in scripture and discovered the chiasms found in many texts. Lost and found are concepts and words also very often mentioned. The world “found” is quite popular in the KJV, with it being mentioned 470 times.

In this parable, we could speak of the “being lost” or the “being found”.

There is a man, and there is a field, these two things are immediately recognizable. Where could this lead us? The man in these parables  … Jesus himself. And the field, the world of humanity, the human race, all of society. With these clues, a key to this first parable is opened. Jesus came,  found a treasure hidden in humanity. Something was hidden, lost in the human race, but to then be uncovered it. And then he did an amazing thing and covered it up again, buried it again. Then he went and gave all that he had and bought that field of humanity. The purpose is not lost, the treasure is not lost. It was found, unveiled and hidden again. God emptied himself, being equal with God, he didn’t keep the treasure but gave all he had as he walked the mystery of darkness before being found again. A treasure was uncovered for a brief time the secret revealed but then hid again. And then he went and gave all that he had and bought the field in which it is hidden. Here we see the narrative to the story unfolding. The owner of the land now becomes the owner of the veiled or hidden treasure. The owner is now in control. He bought the field in order that someday he might use that treasure. This treasure is now hidden or “Lost in reality”, hidden in the now, in today.

Later Jesus drives this point home with his statement in John:  “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one”. Hidden yet revealed, the perspective of the interrelationship between, this age, our reality, the coming age and the interplay of the various elements in our lives.

To find love you must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God. Thomas Merton.

Wishing you a wonderful week, being present, located in the field of the hidden treasure, with the field already in the hands of the eternal owner.

Philemon

 

 

 

Secrets of God

Good Monday Morning to this week 42 of 2019

He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. Ephesians 1.9

Jesus answered them, “To you, it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been granted. Matthew 13:11

In this passage of Matthew 13, Jesus answers in terms of the elect, God’s chosen people, defined by those who have genuine faith in God in contrast to those with rebellion, spiritual dullness and unbelief.

Jesus answers with a well-structured chiasm. (Two ideas are interwoven in one narrative.)

“Chiasmus, the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism”

Jesus said:

While seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘you will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes,

otherwise

They would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and he would heal them. Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men
desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The literary beauty of the chiasm is apparent.

Another example of an ABCB’A’ chiasm in John 4.

A – But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth:
B – For the Father seeketh such to worship him.
C – God is a Spirit:
B – And they that worship him
A – And must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Chiasmus is not a secret Bible code, although it is often hidden by translations which may obscure the occurrence of repetitions of keywords and phrases, and sometimes it is hidden by numeric verse and chapter divisions.

Jesus himself taught in chiastic structures. Take the parable of the workers recruited for a penny a day recorded in Matthew 20. The parable is bounded by the classic chiasm.

“The first shall be last, and the last first” which is repeated at the end of this parable but in reverse – “the last shall be first, and the first last”!

In between, the parable is a dramatized chiasm – the first laborers are called up last, and vice versa. This clearly demonstrates that chiasm is a conscious technique in the mind of Jesus for teaching disciples.

One more meaningful Chisam.

No one can serve two masters;
for either, he will hate the one
and love the other,
or he will be devoted to one
and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matt 6:24 NASB)

Chiasms are usually arranged in the same top-to-bottom form as they appear in the text:

A – No one can serve two masters;
B – for either he will hate the one
C – and love the other,
C – or he will be devoted to one
B – and despise the other.
A – You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matt 6:24)

In Western cultures, we are trained to look for the emphasis at the beginning and/or the end of the text. Therefore, we naturally believe that this verse is about serving either God or money.

Looking deeper at this chiasm, you see two places of emphasis: the center point focuses on loving the right master and the first/last elements focus on serving that master.

While serving God is good and proper, love and devotion to Him should be our driving force.

Wishing you deep insights this week as you look at the mysteries or secrets of God and discover beauty, right in the depth of the living Word.

Have a blessed week

Philemon

(21+3) Quotes of faith and more

Good Monday Morning to this week 41 of 2019

It’s always good to learn from the past. Since I like reading quotes, I looked through the centuries (sounds amazing I can do that nowadays) and found one I liked to each period. Between the 10th and 12th, it was harder to find any. It seems like they were too busy preparing the crusades, with Pope Leo, Gregory and Urban completely occupied with another separation within the church.

Listed are 21 quotes of Christian Theologians. At the end, I then added three odd quotes in completion.  I wish you much inspiration as you read and discover!

1st Apostle James
For the one who does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.

2nd Tertullain
Hope is patience with the lamp lit.

3rd Marcus Minucius Felix
The poor man is he who, having much, craves for more.

4th Basil of Caesarea
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

5th Augustine of Hippo
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

6th Gregory the Great
The spiritual director should not reduce his attention to the internal life because of external occupations, nor should he relinquish his care for external matters because of his anxiety for the internal life.

7th Isaac of Nineveh
There is love like a small lamp, which goes out when the oil is consumed; or like a stream which dries up when it doesn’t rain. But there is a love that is like a mighty spring gushing up out of the earth; it keeps flowing forever, and is inexhaustible.

8th John of Damascus
He who longs alway after God, he seeth Him: for God is in all things. Existing things are dependent on that which is, and nothing can be unless it is in that which is. God then is mingled with everything, maintaining their nature: and in His holy flesh the God-Word is made one in subsistence and is mixed with our nature, yet without confusion.

9th Johannes Scotus Eriugena
Christ wears “two shoes” in the world: Scripture and nature. Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God.

10th Anselm of Canterbury
God does not delay to hear our prayers because He has no mind to give; but that, by enlarging our desires, He may give us the more largely.

11th Peter Abelard
The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.

12th Hildegard of Bingen
You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.

13th Thomas Aquinas
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.
To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

14th William of Ockham
Keep things simple.

15th Catherine of Siena
Speak the truth in a million voices. It is silence that kills.

16th Ulrich Zwingli
Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary, it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good.

17th John Owen
The growth of trees and plants takes place so slowly that it is not easily seen. Daily we notice little change. But, in course of time, we see that a great change has taken place. So it is with Grace. Sanctification is a progressive, lifelong work. It is an amazing work of God’s grace and it is a work to be prayed for.

18th George Whitefield
Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you. Fight the good fight of faith, and God will give you spiritual mercies.

19th Charles Spurgeon
A dark cloud is no sign that the sun has lost his light, and dark black convictions are no arguments that God has laid aside His mercy.

20th Reinhold Niebuhr
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

21st Eugene Peterson
I’m bankrupt without love. Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.

2nd Martin Luther King, Jr.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

23rd Dallas Willard
We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.

24th and the last quote of this series by Miroslav Volf
Faith is the way we as receivers relate appropriately to God as the giver.
It is, empty hands held open for God to fill.

Wishing you a wonderful and inspired week.
Philemon