One-liners

Who doesn’t like a good one-liner?

I, for one, have never been very good at coming up with one-liners on the spot and therefore I have much respect for those who have a quick wit. Most of my “on-the-spot” one-liners are thought of moments after the moment has past and thus my one-liner because irrelevant.

One-liners can be funny or destructive. They can draw people in. One-liners can emphasize a point, but whatever the case, they are not meant to be deep and necessarily thought provoking but rather meant to pacify a moment and then move on. That may serve a purpose for a short time but if you want something deeper you need a longer conversation with that person. You need more than just one line.

For those who are friends with me on Facebook and Twitter, you have grown accustomed to me posting “one-liners” (a.k.a short Bible verses) on (nearly) a daily basis. Lately I have gone away from that; not because I am not reading my Bible but because of a Facebook post from a friend that I read a while back about “one-liners”. The post went something like this:

Never read just one verse in the Bible. Read a bunch of them. Read a paragraph; a chapter or more.

The idea of that post is to communicate that by reading only one verse you can lose important context. And as many of you know, you can take nearly any Bible verse and twist it to mean something completely different if you pull it out of it’s original context. Therefore you need more information.

So…

I am doing something a little different now on social media. I am not ceasing my one-liners but rather giving one-liners based on my reading of a whole chapter of the Bible and then directing people to that chapter to “verify” and/or read the context themselves. For me personally, this has proven to be a great spiritual discipline as I reflect on a chapter and then formulate a summary in my head to share. Instead of a scripture one-liner I am sharing a chapter one-liner. My attempt is to be more biblical faithful.

Sure, there may be certain verses that speak to you and ones that are worthy for further reflection, but do so in context. Reflect on your verse but read the paragraph and/or the chapter that contains that verse to make sure you don’t miss the intended meaning. Get the context and by do so, you will be more faithful to scripture and more faithful about your spiritual growth.

One-liners can be good and grab attention, but make sure your focusing attention on the right things.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

THE Authority

This is an old German Bible, from 1905, that has been in my office for a long time.
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It’s tattered, delicate and well-used. Beautiful, isn’t it? Don’t ask me what page I opened to since this is all Greek German to me 🙂

The reason I  have this Bible close by, on my desk, is to serve as a reminder of Salem’s past (an old German congregation) but also of a past that seems to be dwindling away. I look at this Bible and I think about those people 110 years ago reading this and I wonder if they ever imagined a day when the Bible would not be the sole authoritative source and norm for faith and life for many people. I wonder if they ever imagined a day when the Bible would be picked apart for “errors” in order to support a certain belief or way of life. I wonder if people 110 years ago imagined a day when the Bible would become just another authoritative source among many others. I wonder if they ever imagined a day when experience or cultural majority or feelings would trump the Word of God.

And it saddens me to think about such things. How have we gotten to such a point? I know Bible scholars and theologians can answer that question better than me but no matter what is said, it’s not going to help.

So i’ll just say it straight, right now, in case there is any doubt:
I believe the Bible to be THE inspired Word of God; inerrant and authoritative. It is THE sole authority for me. If any outside “authority” conflicts with the Bible then the Bible wins out. Holy Scripture is not to be tampered with. Sure, there are parts that I don’t like or understand but it is the Word of God and I except them. I understand that fallible human beings copied manuscripts over and over and over again but since this is THE inspired Word of God, I believe God would have never allowed errors to be repeated over time that would lead people away from the Truth. Now some may call me naive to hold such a view but that’s fine; I can handle that. For me, the Word of God tells me what I need to know for salvation and to bring glory to God; everything else flows from that authority.

So with this high view of scripture, I approach the Word of God with fear and trembling, but also with excitement, because think about it:
Those words are God’s words.

GOD

The Creator of heaven and earth

The Almighty

The Sovereign

GOD

If that doesn’t give you goose bumps go back and read that list again and this time pay attention. Holy Scripture contains the very words of God and they are given to you and to me. No other authority can trump it.

As Christians we need to cling to the Word of God tighter than ever before and not allow anyone to demean it’s authority. We need to read and study this Word and then read and study it some more. We need to pray and then listen to this Word; and then pray some more and listen again. We need to confess our shortcomings (and God knows I am far from perfect) and seek the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you worship a book but rather worship the One whose words are contained in this book; listening and obeying.

The Bible is THE Word of God. Period. I know I fall short in so many ways; I’m a sinner after all. I know I don’t always treat the Bible the way I should. I know I don’t always appeal to it’s authority as I should. But I ask God to grant me the faith to trust His holy Word as THE Word of Life. So let’s not mess with it but rather read and listen to it and live by it’s words.

God’s Word is life and salvation, so commit yourself to the reading of it (private and public) and take it’s words seriously.

Holy Father, it awes me to think that You have given us Your holy Word in such a way. May we never take these words of life for granted but rather let us be shaped by them. May the Bible hold authority for Your people in this dark and evil world. Holy Father, speak to me that I may speak. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Gazing and Reflecting: A Holy Moment

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I was captivated by this figure from the first moment I saw it and was honored that my wife’s grandfather wanted me to have it. It’s a simple piece; beautifully carved in Mexico that, by some divine providence, has made it’s way to my study; where it now sits (actually, it’s kneeling). The figure is seemingly bowing it’s head in prayer as it meditates on scripture; showing me a faithful engagement with God through his holy Word.

The figure’s face is determined, peaceful and focused as it holds the Word of God. I Imagine him reflecting on a passage he just read and listening; listening intently for the voice of God, hence the determined face. He’s at peace because not only is he cradling the Bible but he feels cradled by the promises of God that he is reflecting on, hence the peaceful face. He also seems to be in his own little world as he meditates on God’s Word; not drawn away by the lure of cultural forces, hence the focused face.

I gaze at this figure and notice the cross dangling at his knees. For him it is not just some piece of jewelry or something to adorn his outfit. The cross is something that brings him great joy and hope (as it does me), thus the attitude of worship that I also see emanating from his face.

I gaze at this figure and I almost feel guilty; like I am invading his privacy as he worships. Sounds weird and goofy and maybe a little disturbing, but as I am gazing I notice something else. I notice that I am being drawn into worship as I reflect on him reflecting and on whom he is reflecting. I find myself drawn to enter a time of prayer; engaging God through scripture; and I like this. For there is much the world wants me to embrace as truth but I refuse to embrace that truth. For me, THE Truth is God almighty through Jesus Christ my Lord. And that Truth is found in God’s most holy and inerrant Word.

I gaze at this figure and see a person; loved by God and loving his God. I see a person who would readily acknowledge that he is a redeemed sinner. I see a person who devotion to God is not only in his moments on his knees but in every moment of his life. And I like what I see.

I gaze at this figure and see a beautifully crafted piece of wood but I also see a God who loves me beyond anything this world is able or willing to do. Weird, goofy, disturbing; call it what you may, but for me, I will gaze and listen and pray and listen and worship and listen and read and listen and remember and listen and…

Holy God, I am thankful for the many ways You speak to me and proclaim Your amazing love to me. You do so through Your most holy Word. You do so through people in my life. You do so through “usual” means which just shows You are not limited by anything or anyone. Thank you, Father, for the right to be called a child of Yours, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

As you gaze at that figure, what do YOU notice?

The Pastor -|—

Touching the Word

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That is my bookshelf in my tiny church office. This used to be a badge of honor; all those books up there (many of which I haven’t read), but today I hardly notice them. It’s a rare moment that I even look at this with the intention of looking for particular book. Nowadays, I either consult my Kindle library or search Google. Part of me wonders why I even keep these books anymore.

When I attend conferences I will still browse the bookstore but rarely will I buy anything. If I find a book I like I search for the Kindle version on Amazon and then add it to my wishlist to buy later. If there is no Kindle version then I am force to discern how bad I really want/need the book. I remember not so long ago going to these conferences and coming home with tons of books, but no more.

And then there’s my Bible.

For the most part, I am reading my Bible through my YouVersion Bible app on my phone or my tablet. I do use my paper Bible in worship and in Bible study, but generally I go to the electronic version for my Bible reading, but sometimes I just need to hold a paper Bible and read. It’s not that it’s more holy or anything but in a weird sort of way I feel closer to the Word when I can actually touch the paper.

Is that strange?

And so I keep a paper Bible always close at hand. I am actually trying to recondition myself to use it more often and only use my Bible app if I absolutely need to or if I want to quickly share something on social media.

And so…

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…I’m off I go to read;

touching the Word of God;
listening to the pages
and feeling a little “old fashioned” (but that’s OK).

Technology can greatly improve many things but it can never replace the paper Bible. I’m OK with ebooks and downsizing my former badge of honor in my tiny church office but I hope our world never gets to the point where paper Bibles are obsolete; found only in museums under glass.

The Pastor -|—

Don’t Be a Frog (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you. [1 Timothy 6:20-21]

These verses from my morning Bible reading snacked me in the face; for this spoke volumes about what is going on in our culture and the Church. It’s a warning that desperately needs to be heeded today.

In these verses, the apostle Paul is warning his young companion and partner in the ministry to remember what he came to believe and whom he came to believe in:

guard the deposit entrusted to you.

Paul then goes on to warn Timothy to avoid the “knowledge” that some claim to be biblical and godly; for these people have swerved from the faith. People are trying to distort the Gospel for their own purposes. Some oppose the Gospel and are trying to make it something that it is not. There are many false prophets going around and some claiming to be speaking the truth.

And this is very dangerous. It’s the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing thing. It looks and sounds good but really it’s irreverent babble and contradictions. As I have preached and taught before, anyone can stand in front of a group of people; wave a Bible around and make godly sounding claims that really have no basis in scripture whatsoever. The sure defense to this, though, is to guard the deposit entrusted to you. Remember what you came to believe and know your Bible. One of the joys of theology is that it does not change. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So if a new thing about God is being taught; be very, very leery. If someone is trying to tell you what the biblical writers “really meant”, run away fast.

And this is exactly what is going on today. Thousands of years of Church teaching is changing. But the problem is that it has been changing at such a slow rate that many in the Church haven’t noticed a thing. Remember how to boil a frog? You don’t throw it into boiling water but rather into cool water and slowly increase the temperature so they don’t notice they are being boiled to death.

The Church is being boiled to death,

but very few people are taking notice. Instead they are engaging in irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,”. We need to guard that deposit and remember what we came to believe in and whom we believe. We need to remember that the Bible (ALL of the Bible) is God’s word. We need to honest with ourselves but more importantly we need to be bold and courageous in our faith.

The time to jump out of the water is now, before it is too late.
Don’t be a frog.

guard the deposit entrusted to you
Remain faithful
Cling to and proclaim THE Truth
Don’t swerve from the faith

And…

Grace be with you.

Holy God, You have entrusted the Church with the Truth of the Gospel. May we cling to that Truth and proclaim that Truth, all the while avoiding irreverent myths and false knowledge. May You be glorified. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

You can’t replace scripture

As I was browsing Twitter this morning, I came across an account I follow that had a picture of two theology books and a cup of coffee. The caption of their photo was this:

“Pretty much the perfect way to start the day.”

I get the coffee part and even a good dose of theological reading but immediately I noticed something missing.

Do you see it?

For me the perfect start to my day is prayer and then some Bible reading along with my cup of coffee and then later on, maybe some theological reading. So I responded to that Twitter account saying that the Bible was missing. The response I just received (as I am typing this post) was:

“There is so much Scripture in these books we could probably repiece the original manuscript together!”

Really? To which I responded:

“I get what you’re saying but these still can’t replace scripture itself.”

What I believe they are trying to say is that those books were excellent resources but they are only excellent resources because of what makes them excellent resources. So therefore, without the Bible, that picture is lacking.

Maybe I am being too picky but I just don’t want the Bible minimized and hopefully I didn’t come off as judgmental. Maybe it was an innocent mistake but if it was an oversight, does that say something? Am I over analyzing?

So now, as I get ready to hit “post” I received this response from that account:

“Definitely. I have my ESV on my phone…”

Praise be to God for that. Then let’s highlight, promote and put it out there:

The perfect start to your day?
~ Prayer
~ Scripture
~ (and of course) coffee 🙂

Rant done…have a great day.

The Pastor -|—

Bible reading

Are you looking for a New Year’s resolution? Call it a plan. Call it a goal. Whatever you call it consider reading your Bible. The link below is the one I use and I love it.

http://bible.com/r/O
M’Cheyne One Year Reading Plan

If a one year plan is too much right now, read through a book of the Bible and go from there. The YouVersion app I use has a lot of different plans.

Whatever you do, though, get into your Bible and read and listen. This is God’s story of salvation for you. And this will be the best book you read all year (and ever).

Happy New Year!

The Pastor -|—