Archive for May, 2011

Common Sense & The Bible

May 31st, 2011 Posted in Excerpts | Comments Off on Common Sense & The Bible

By Maria Kneas
Author of Strength for Tough Times

We can’t live biblically unless we have confidence that the Bible means what it says, that it is reliable, and that it is credible.

Many problems that people have with Scripture are caused by heeding Scripture “experts” who don’t use common sense. For example, Jesus gave the “Sermon on the Mount” and the “Sermon on the Plain.” Some “experts” consider that to be a contradiction. Was it a mount or a plain?

They have forgotten something. Jesus was a traveling preacher who taught for three years. Therefore, He taught from many mounts and many plains and from ships and from seashores and in houses and from every kind of place that a person could preach from.

Similarly, some people raise questions because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have different versions of a parable or a teaching. Again, they have forgotten that Jesus was a preacher. And in real life, traveling preachers use the same teachings and illustrations many times, with small variations in how they present them.

Some people are troubled if Matthew, Mark, Luke or John have differences in how they relate something that happened. For example, with the blind beggar Bartimaeus, one of the Gospels mentions two blind men but the others only mention one blind man.

Well, in real life, if you had four people witness an event and write about it, you would have variations in the reports. Different people would focus on different things. So, with the four Gospels, we have four independent eyewitnesses writing of their observations rather than four story tellers comparing notes and copying from one another.

As far as the number of blind men goes, there were many beggars on the roadsides, and some of them were blind. It would not be unusual for a blind beggar like Bartimaeus to have friends who were also blind beggars, and to want to be with his friends. So one account mentions Bartimaeus’ fellow beggar, and the other accounts don’t. There is nothing unusual about that. It’s the kind of thing that often happens in real life.

Another thing that causes problems for some people is differences of writing style in Paul’s letters. In real life, writing style and vocabulary depends on whom we are writing to and on the subject matter. We should expect Paul to write to Gentiles differently than he writes to Jews. We should expect him to write to mature Christians differently than he writes to immature Christians who are having a lot of problems. We should expect him to write to Timothy (a fellow minister who was close to him) differently than he would write to people he hasn’t met.

Think about your own letters and e-mails. Would you write to your boss the same way that you write to your son or your daughter? Would you write to a nonbeliever the same way that you write to your pastor? Would you write about a football game the same way that you write about a research project you are doing at school?

Sometimes Greek verb tenses can cause confusion. For example, 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” So John is saying that we all sin. But later, in 1 John 3:6 he says, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” Now that could be confusing. The problem is the Greek verb tense. 1 John 3:6 is saying that if we abide in Him we do not keep on sinning—it’s not a one-time event but a lifestyle. Any Christian can sin and repent. That is very different from purposefully making a habit of sinning.

Some scholars say that the Sermon on the Mount is a compilation of teachings rather than one sermon. They have forgotten something. We live in a televised world where many people have short attention spans, and many preachers have short sermons. Back in 1858, when Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas (the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates), each debate lasted for three hours. So people in those days were able to do serious listening for three hours straight.

I did an experiment. I read the entire Sermon on the Mount out loud, at a slow, conversational pace. (It’s the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7.) It only took 15 minutes. Surely Jesus preached longer than that to people who may have traveled several-days journey to listen to him. He was only going to be with those particular people one time. So He had to get as much truth to them as He could during that one time of preaching.

We know that Jesus and His followers did some lengthy preaching. On one occasion, the Apostle Paul preached all night long, until daybreak (Acts 20:7-12).

Therefore, I would expect that what the Bible gives us from the Sermon on the Mount is only a selection out of many teachings that Jesus gave on that occasion. And the quotations from Jesus that we have may only be the conclusions that He gave following longer teachings about those issues:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. (John 21:25)

Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount is the result of the Holy Spirit showing Matthew which of the many teachings that Jesus gave should be included in the report, and which statements Jesus made should be quoted. It is also the result of the Holy Spirit enabling Matthew to remember accurately. Jesus promised His disciples:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

Jesus’ Teachings Made Sense
Matthew 5:38-42 is a good opportunity to use some common sense. Jesus basically told people to be loving and forgiving instead of quarreling and vengeful. For example, He said:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38-39)

First he said, don’t try to get revenge. Then he said to allow someone to slap you on the cheek. Being slapped is unpleasant, but it is a relatively mild degree of pain and hardship. Jesus did not say that Christians should passively allow people to rape their wives and murder their children. He didn’t even tell Christians to passively submit to persecution. He said:

But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another. (Matthew 10:23)

Similarly, Jesus said that if someone sues us for our tunic, we should let them have it, and even our cloak as well (Matthew 5:40). That is just some clothing. Although clothing was more difficult to obtain back in those days than it is now, it was still just clothing. Jesus did not say that we should allow people to take our home and our farm or business, so that we and our family become homeless and destitute. By comparing Scripture with Scripture, we can see that Jesus had a very balanced view of how to live at peace with our fellow man.

Here is another example of interpreting Scripture with Scripture. It also comes from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)

Some people interpret this as meaning that we should never criticize anything that other people say or do. However, that cannot be the meaning of this passage because later on in the same chapter Jesus said:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. (Matthew 7:15-17)

How can we beware of them if we can’t recognize them? How can we warn our friends and family to beware of them if we aren’t allowed to say anything negative about anybody? According to what Jesus said, He expects us to be able to recognize false teachers and to discern the difference between good and bad fruit in a person’s life.

How do we reconcile that with not judging people? According to my study Bible, Jesus warned us against condemning the motives of others because only God knows their hearts and their motives. We cannot condemn people. However, we are expected to be “fruit inspectors” who can tell the difference between people who teach Christian truth and false teachers (Matthew 7:15-20). This is why Paul did not hesitate to name names when it came to identifying those who teach destructive heresy (2 Timothy 2:17). In addition, Jesus commanded us to “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

Here is a practical example from real life. If we have reasons to question someone’s morality and their level of responsible behavior, we cannot condemn them because only God knows their heart. However, we should not let them babysit our children. And it would be foolish to become business partners with them.

If we come across a passage in Scripture that doesn’t make sense to us, we can ask God to help us understand it. If we pray, and consider that passage some more, and we still can’t understand it, then we can just set it aside and go on reading. There have been times when a Scripture passage that I didn’t understand before suddenly makes sense. It’s like a light goes on, and I can see it.

Reading Scripture is a lifetime adventure. What we do understand is more than enough to guide us and help us know the Lord better. Let’s use what we can understand and trust God to take care of the rest of it in His own good timing. (From Strength for Tough Times, pp. 35-41)

Excerpt: Stories from Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires

May 2nd, 2011 Posted in Excerpts | Comments Off on Excerpt: Stories from Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires

Stories-From-Indian-Wigwams-and-Northern-CampfiresMissionary work among the Indians, like that in all lands, has its hours of sadness and discouragement as well as of hope and rejoicing. We look back with thankfulness that it was not only our privilege to go forth weeping, bearing the precious seed, but that in addition the Master of the harvest gave us the joy of the reapers. It was our great happiness to see “many a sheaf both ripe and golden” gathered in. The work was one of peculiar hardships to both Mrs. Young and myself, but the conversion of scores of souls every year amply repaid us for the sufferings and anxieties of that life so isolated and lonely as it must necessarily be in mission fields so far from civilization. Many encouraging incidents were constantly occurring to cheer the hearts of the lonely toilers and to stimulate them to labor on in the blessed work. It is a joy to record some of these trophies won not only through our own feeble instrumentality, but also through the loving, consecrated efforts of our loved brother missionaries. One of these dear brethren, writing, says:

“A young Indian who was very sick had his friends bring him twenty-five miles to the home of the missionary. He wept when he came into his presence, and said he wanted to learn about Jesus before he died. He said, ‘I am very wicked, and I want to get a new heart.’ When urged to pray he replied, ‘I can’t pray; I don’t know how.’ The faithful missionary, with a conscious sense of the nearness and infinite compassion of the Divine One, earnestly pointed him to the Lamb of God. Next day, when the missionary called upon him, the poor sick man, holding out his hand, exclaimed with rapture, ‘Jesus has heard my prayer and made my heart good. Now pray for wife also.’ He began from that time to recover from his sickness, and a few days later his wife also accepted Christ as her Saviour, and now both are rejoicing in Jesus.”

A beautiful story is told by one of our earlier Indian missionaries of a proud and powerful chief who, under the preaching of the Gospel, became deeply convicted of sin. Trembling under a sense of his guilt, he came to the missionary and offered him his much-prized belt of wampum to have his load of guilt removed. When told that the Lord Jesus did not want this offering he went away very sad and depressed in spirit. Soon after he returned and offered his gun and favorite dog. “These are not what Christ wants,” said the missionary. Again he went away sorrowful, but after a time he returned and offered his wigwam and family. The faithful missionary, who saw the struggle that was going on in his heart, refused for his Master even these, saying that “the Saviour could not accept even these as a sacrifice for sin.” The poor convicted, half -despairing Indian then threw himself down upon the ground, and, lifting up his tearful eyes, exclaimed, “Here, Lord, I can do no more. Please take poor Indian too.” The answer of peace and pardon was not long in coming.

Many more delightful instances could be given of the Gospel’s power to save even the poor Indian. We give more fully in detail the story of the conversion of Joe. It has been made a blessing to many. We trust the placing it here on record will cause it to be a stimulus and blessing to many more. How true it is that it is not always that the greatest results for God are obtained when the surroundings are most favorable! The crowded, enthusiastic audience does not always yield the greatest number of converts. How often has it been seen by the faithful minister or devoted Sunday-school teacher that their work seemed specially owned of God when under difficulties and discouragements they sacrificed self and personal comfort to be in their place and do their duty!

Many can look back to some cold, wet Sunday or other apparently very unfavorable time, from the human stand-point, when, because they were in their place, precious immortal souls were then influenced by the truth and heartily, believingly accepted Christ as their personal, conscious Saviour. Little did I dream, as I stood up before the little company on that Dakota prairie and preached that short, simple sermon, that it was to be one of the successful sermons of my life. (from chapter IX of Stories from Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires by Egerton Ryerson Young, Lighthouse Trails, 2011, Retail: $15.95)


May 1st, 2011 Posted in Book/DVD Reviews | Comments Off on BOOK REVIEW: STRENGTH FOR TOUGH TIMES

This is a small book but it is full of scriptures, poems, hymns, and essays to encourage us that no matter what the circumstances, God is there and will see us through it. The author herself has been through tough times, watching her husband die and she herself is a cancer survivor who can testify of God’s faithfulness. . .  The book is divided into chapters about trusting God, strength from scripture, common sense and the Bible, blessings in disguise, overcoming obstacles, forgiving, and facing the unexpected. Throughout are black and white photos and illustrations that add even more beauty to the words. It is a book that will bless anyone who is struggling, and will provide life-giving focus on the truth of who God is. It would also be a great gift for someone you know who is going through a tough time.

Book Review: A Small Price to Pay

May 1st, 2011 Posted in Book/DVD Reviews | Comments Off on Book Review: A Small Price to Pay

Mikhail Khorev grew up in the communist Soviet Union during World War II.  His family was often homeless and starving because of the government’s intolerance of Christianity.  Raised by a father who died in prison for preaching God’s word, and a mother who never lost her faith, Mikhail grew up to be a minister of the gospel despite the constant threat of imprisonment.
A Small Price to Pay is about how Mikhail was imprisoned repeatedly for the “crime” of sharing his Christian faith with others but each time he saw it as an opportunity to reach other inmates for Christ.  At times the conditions and torture became unbearable but each time the Lord sustained him.

Book Review: The Color of Pain – Boys who are sexually abused and the men they become

May 1st, 2011 Posted in Book/DVD Reviews | Comments Off on Book Review: The Color of Pain – Boys who are sexually abused and the men they become

BOOK REVIEW BY BOOKS AND CHOCOLATE[The Color of Pain] is [Gregory Reid’s] story but it is also a book of facts that includes topics such as looking for the signs of sexual abuse, where predators hunt, myths about abused boys, what a victim looks like, why men and boys don’t talk about their abuse, and what not to tell abused boys and men. I felt the author did an excellent job in addressing the pain and issues surrounding abuse without being graphic.
I’m grateful that this is not something I know about first-hand (at least not that I’m aware of), but after reading this book I feel I can recommend it as a valuable resource to anyone who has been a victim, knows someone who is, or is a professional counselor, pastor, teacher, or parent of sons who needs to know what signs to look for and how to respond.

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