One of my favorite passages of scriptures says…
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)
What makes this verse one of my favorites is that it shows us the glorious mysteriousness of our God. You see, while the stuff of this world is all to often boring, predictable, and repetitious, our God is just the opposite! The book of Revelation speaks of creatures who surround God’s heavenly throne 24/7 and never do they suffer boredom! In fact, they are so constantly struck with awe that they never stop crying out….
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8)
Truth seems to be in short supply these days. I think many would agree with that statement, but, in order to agree (or disagree), one must understand what I mean by truth. When I speak of truth I’m speaking of something that is objective. The words “constant,” “solid,” “unbending,” and “unyielding” come to mind when I think of truth. When we say the bible is true we are not simply saying it is factually accurate. We are saying what the bible teaches is accurate and true for all time. In other words whatever God has said in the Scriptures is just as true today as it was when written and will forever be true. Now, that is just fine if we like what the bible says. But what do we do if we do not like what the bible says? Continue reading
A common saying I hear today when someone has been going through an extended period of distress is, “They deserve some happiness.” The implication is, based on how bad things have been, it’s time for some easy living. The idea that we deserve some happiness is a gross misunderstanding of our true situation. No one deserves anything but God’s wrath and judgment. Anything we experience other than that is due to God’s mercy and grace, both the common mercy and grace he shows to all people and the special mercy and grace he shows to his elect. When it comes to believers that are enduring some type of suffering, many times the expectation is, when the particular difficult circumstances end, life will be better. After all, when Job’s suffering was complete God restored to Job twice as much as he had before (Job 48:10). This is not always the case, though. One of the churches mentioned in Revelation is an example of this.
So the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled 5 to 4 that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right; thus, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. We used to say much ink will be spilled but I suppose now it is more appropriate to say many bytes will be consumed over this. It is a sad day on the one hand and a day to rejoice on the other. I’m sad because marriage has been completely redefined. According to Scripture marriage can only be defined as the union of one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-5). For the whole of human history, up until this generation, marriage has been defined the same way. So, it is folly for any government to legalize same-sex marriage since same-sex and marriage cannot coexist. By legalizing same-sex marriage the Supreme Court has redefined marriage, and, by extension, become the ultimate authority for the definition of marriage. When my wife and I were married, marriage was defined only as the union of one man and one woman. The definition did not include the union of one man and one man or the union of one woman and one woman. Including same-sex couples is a new definition of marriage not an expanded definition of marriage. The definition of my marriage originated with God. The new definition of marriage originates with the government.
Many churches have signs that display messages. Sometimes the message is the scripture passage and title for next Sunday’s sermon. Other times the message is announcing an event at the church. Many times, though, the message is meant to inspire or encourage the reader. Unfortunately these messages often cause me to sigh and shake my head.
Recently while driving home from out of state we passed a billboard with the message “Lust will drag you down to hell – James 1:15.” As one who does not want to go to hell I found the billboard’s message interesting. In particular I wondered what was the goal of the billboard. Did the person or persons who erected the billboard hope to keep people out of hell, stop people from lusting, or both? Also, what type of lust is being denounced? Typically when I see the word lust without any context I think of sexual lust. Is this billboard against pornography and other sexual sins? The referenced bible verse says
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:15 ESV)
The King James Version uses the word lust instead of desire.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:15 KJV)
Evidently the creators of the billboard were thinking of the KJV rendering. However, using the word lust on the billboard without the original context of the verse misses the true meaning. Continue reading
God blessed me with a wonderful father. He went to be with Jesus when I was just 27, which is half my current age. Memories fade over time, but one thing in particular I remember about Daddy (yes I’m from the south) was his wit. Between my sophomore and junior year of college he and I traveled from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to Las Vegas, Nevada to help a new church with Vacation Bible School. The Vacation Bible School lasted a week, and, instead of heading home, we decided to tour California. From Las Vegas we went to San Francisco, drove the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles, then went to San Diego. While in Los Angeles we went to see the game show Password Plus. Game shows record a week of shows in one day. The same audience is used for the first three shows, then a new audience is used for the last two shows. We were in the first audience. As we were leaving the studio we passed by the people waiting to enter for the final two shows. All of a sudden a voice cried out, “Cecil Carpenter!” Well as it turned out a couple that lived in Hattiesburg and knew Daddy were waiting to enter the studio. The woman said, “What in the world are you doing here?” Daddy replied jokingly, “Well, everybody has to be somewhere.”
This is the third and final part in this series. In the first part I introduced the concept of biblical hermeneutics, which are principles for interpreting the bible. We need sound principles of interpretation because, even though we have the right to read and interpret the bible ourselves, we have an obligation to correctly interpret the bible. The second part introduced some interpretive principles focusing on the importance of “Scripture interprets Scripture,” and it included an example from the New Testament. In this concluding article I show how vital is the principle of “Scripture interprets Scripture” when interpreting the Old Testament.
In the first part of this series I introduced the concept of biblical hermeneutics, which are principles for interpreting the bible. We need sound principles of interpretation because, even though we have the right to read and interpret the bible ourselves, we have an obligation to correctly interpret the bible. This part introduces some interpretive principles focusing on the most important principle.
Years ago when I was still a boy I remember hearing a particular sermon illustration. I don’t remember what the sermon was about, and I don’t remember exactly how the illustration was presented, but I do remember the gist of it. Two grandsons were talking about their grandfather. The first grandson says, “It’s amazing that grandpa is 90 years old and he still doesn’t use glasses.” The second grandson replies, “Well maybe he just likes to drink from bottles.” The illustration is not particularly funny, but I think you get the point. The first grandson was referring to eyeglasses, and the second grandson thought he was referring to drinking glasses. The first grandson made what he thought was a literal statement. The problem was the second grandson gave a different literal meaning to “glasses.” The second grandson incorrectly interpreted the statement of the first grandson because he had a different primary meaning for “glasses.” Maybe the second grandson always referred to eyeglasses as eyeglasses and drinking glasses as glasses (or drinking glasses). Now I’m sure most of us would have understood “glasses” to mean eyeglasses. The problem, though, is there was not enough context to fully clarify which type of glasses the first grandson was thinking of, and, evidently, there were no other conversations about this particular subject that would cause the second grandson to realize the first grandson was referring to eyeglasses.
So what’s the point? The point is this is why we have differences in interpreting the bible. One person reads a verse and it means one thing, and another person reads the same verse and comes up with a different meaning. If I’m dependent only on my understanding of what words mean and ignore the context and what other parts of the bible have to say on the subject, I have a very subjective interpretation. It is subject to my education (secular and religious), my life experiences, my culture, and my version of common sense. In other words if I interpret the bible by what I consider to be literal I could easily come up with an incorrect interpretation.