You don’t understand…


I have been mulling the last few weeks over the age-old question and dilemma of the Church, “How do we best disciple someone”?  Jesus Himself came and spent three years with twelve guys who knew the Jewish faith and traditions.  He spent three intensive years teaching them, empowering them, sending them out and helping them understand their successes and failures.  He taught them Scripture, He explained to them prophecies and revealed to them that the missing factor in the religiosity of the day was love.  If someone had purposefully set out to know the Old Testament Law (the religion and practices of the day, and the foundation on which Jesus came), he would see that the first commandment of the ten is:

“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

– Ex 20.3

God is concerned with our heart being first and foremost His.  The Shema, the foundation of the Jewish faith which is the opening of ritualistic prayers, is what Jesus quoted as the greatest commandment:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

– Deut 6.4-9

It is a strange thing to command someone to love.  We know what love looks like, we equate it with an emotional experience, but how often do we expect ourselves and discipline ourselves to love someone?  We want it to be easy.  We want it to be natural.  If it is not easy, then we assume it was not meant to be.

And it is based on this commandment to love God that my thoughts have been affected today.  When someone newly comes to the faith, we must teach them how to read and study the Bible.  We cannot simply tell them what it says, for then they will be dependent on us.  Teach a man to fish, right?  There are historical facts and themes that are helpful to illuminate, and explaining how the pieces of the Bible fit together gives this new believer a foundation on which to build, but the primary factor is teaching and exhorting this new believer to love God.

Most people, when they first come to faith, have no problem loving God.  They realize the weight of their burden of guilt and their expectation of death and damnation, and the relief, joy and love that replaces that burden at the moment of salvation is almost tangible.  If a person truly understands his salvation, he is ecstatic about it.  Then we plunge into the discipleship process and we who have lost that passion force the new believer into a routine of loveless obedience and legalism.  Get up, read your Bible, pray for fifteen minutes, go about your day, pray when things go bad, go to church, and tithe 10%.  Or worse, we set an agenda to teach specific doctrines and cram weighty issues down their throats trying to make disciples of ourselves instead of disciples of Jesus.

“If you’re doctrinally correct, but don’t reflect the love of Jesus, you don’t understand the doctrine you’re correct about.”

– Matt Chandler

Doctrine is extremely important.  Paul wrote most of the New Testament for the sake of correct doctrine, and Jesus Himself praises the Churches in the end who maintained pure and right doctrine and kicked out false teachers.  New believers must be taught how to understand Scripture and interpret doctrine.  All of us are standing on 2,000 years of Church History, we have forefathers who translated the Bible, wrote study Bibles and concordances, who have written books and developed extra-biblical terms like “trinity” to help us understand deep and difficult truths.  We should not rob a new believer of these tools for the sake of letting the Spirit alone teach.  God has given us the gifts of language, printing tools, study tools, and forefathers to teach us, so let’s utilize them to their fullest and help people learn how to do the same.


It all must be founded in love.  You cannot force someone to love God.  You can teach him how to study all day long.  You can teach him how to pray.  He might even develop the same disciplines as you and become a morally upstanding citizen and Church member.  But the main factor, the basis of discipleship is falling in love with Jesus.  And only God can affect that in someone’s heart.  It is the Spirit who calls.  It is the Spirit who breathes life into a dead body.  It is the Spirit who takes away our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh.  It is the Spirit who convicts of sin, and it is the Spirit who enables us to die to sin and live to righteousness.

We must trust the Spirit.  If a person falls head over heels in love with Jesus, he will desire to be in the Bible.  He will eat it up!  He will be in it every chance he gets.  He will read the Old Testament and have a lot of questions.  He will study the epistles and desire to obey and apply the commandments expressed therein.  We must not focus primarily on the doctrine.  We must teach the doctrine – we cannot ignore it or consider it secondary.  But it can only be built on the foundation of love.

Do you love God?  Do you love His Word?  Do you obey as an outpouring of love?  Honor the doctrine that you hold so deeply by loving Him and your neighbor.  And if you do not yet know the doctrine, find someone to teach you, because in it you learn the heart of God!

People in the Bible were not perfect.


Have you ever stopped to consider that the Bible is a narrative, and not every action depicted therein is exemplary?  Perhaps this is common sense to you; Adam and Eve disobeyed God and brought the curse of death and suffering on the entirety of humanity.  No, we should not follow that example.  King David, the “man after God’s own heart” had an affair with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, and then he had Uriah killed when he was incapable of covering up his sin, only to take her as his own wife.  Yep, not a good example to follow either.

Sometimes, however, when we get into the New Testament, moral observations are not offered in the stories, and we forget that books like Acts are historical narrative and not instruction or exemplary of how we should act, function as a Church, or build our doctrine.  But it is also a historical narrative that, while it does offer specific moral and ethical instruction, it also tells us a history and there are often little nuggets of truth and encouragement that we can see through the characters.  One of my favorite examples of this is the relationship between Paul and John Mark.

Paul and Barnabas were serving at the Church at Antioch, and the leaders of the Church were compelled by the Holy Spirit to send the two men out “for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13.2).  They took off on their first missionary journey and hit many cities, planting many churches and getting kicked out of most every city where they worked.  After a season of ministry, planting many churches, being stoned and persecuted, they made their way home for a time of encouragement and refreshment.  While they were there a debate arose over whether or not the non-Jews needed to be circumcised so Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to discuss the debate with the apostles and Pharisees who had believed in Jesus.  After concluding that they did not need to be circumcised, the apostles sent Silas and Judas along to help out with the work.

After everything settled down, Paul and Barnabas decided to retrace their first missionary journey to go visit on all of the churches they had planted.

Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also.  But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.  And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.  But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.  And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

– Acts 15.37-41

While they were out on their first missionary journey, John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas.  We do not know what happened in Pamphylia, chapter 14 simply says that they went there and preached the word.  But for whatever reason John Mark deserted them, and Paul was so angry about it that he was unwilling to work with him again – at the expense of his partner Barnabas.

Dealing with deserters has been a struggle for the persecuted church since the beginning, and we see exemplified here in Acts 15 that Paul wanted nothing to do with John Mark.  Barnabas, however, saw his repentance as genuine and wanted to work with him to the point that he was willing to take him out and part ways with Paul.  I guess his name, “Son of Encouragement” was fitting (Acts 4.36)!

Perhaps Barnabas was quick to restore the fallen as he himself had fallen into the hypocrisy of refusing to eat with the Gentiles (non Jews) along with Peter, James and John even though they had been given the calling of taking the Gospel to the Gentiles (Gal 2.9-14)!

But we finally see, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, that Paul not only had made peace with John Mark who deserted them in Pamphylia, but asked Timothy to bring him:

“Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.”

– 2 Tim 4.11

In the book of Colossians, Paul commends Mark to them but calls him Barnabas’s cousin (Col 4.10), in the book of Philemon Paul refers to him as a fellow worker (Philemon 1.24), and by the time Paul wrote 1 Peter, he called Mark “my son” (1 Peter 5.13).

I guess Paul got over it.  Just like Jesus forgave Peter.

But if we quit reading at the Acts account, we would not know the full story!  We would think that Paul set an example to despise and not associate with those who fall in a moment or season of weakness – deeming them un-restorable.  But when we look deeper we see that not only was the deserter restorable, but that he became to Paul a partner and ultimately like a son.

Aside from Jesus, no one in scripture is perfect.  And unless the passage clearly denotes instruction, we should not assume that the actions of the characters are examples that we should follow.  We know that all of Scripture is breathed by God, and if it is instruction then it is instruction from God that we should obey.  If it is narrative, then we need to contrast it against the instructions and see if it lines up.  Because even Paul made mistakes.

I’ve been praying about this…

The couple had been married for years.  They fell in love, got married and had a family.  Their children were now teenagers and they all went to church regularly and engaged in family devotions, speaking about God and seeking to honor Him in their lives.  When the husband’s high school reunion rolled around, he and his wife were excited to go; he to see old friends and reconnect, and she to meet people from his distant past and support him.  When they arrived, he quickly saw his old girlfriend.  They chatted.  And the night was over.

But the connection was made.

It all began to unravel.  They started talking, emailing, meeting up and ultimately he left his wife and children to begin a new life with this love from the past.

When confronted by the church about his decision, he stated that God had led him to the High School reunion to reconnect with his true love.  His justification was this:

“I have prayed about this, long and hard, and I have a peace about it.”

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ve been praying about this and I feel…” and follow it up with something outrageous?  Sinful?  Absurd?

Prayer is a powerful tool whereby we can connect with and commune with God.  When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the punishment for our sins and removed the barrier of our guilt so that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence that he hears us when we pray.  On our own.  We do not need a priest or intercessor – other than Jesus – to get us to God.  Prayer is a beautiful, powerful, wonderful gift.  And many times God uses it to change our hearts to understand His will for a given situation.

But friends, if you are seeking peace about a decision, and you close your eyes and say, “God, I want to leave my wife because I love another, show me your will” and you conclude that God’s will is for you to do exactly that, that decision and peace is not from God.  God will never condone or affirm a sinful decision, even if you pray over it.  You have only murmured your desires enough to callous your heart to the truth, but since you spent time in meditation on the topic you can justify that the “peace” you feel is a gift from God.  But truly it is the absence of conviction that you have spent days, weeks or months suppressing through fake prayer.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

– 2 Peter 1.2-3

In the written Word of God, we have everything pertaining to life and godliness.  What does that mean?  It means that whatever decision is before you, you can turn to the Bible and find God’s heart in the matter.  Would God ever condone abandoning your wife and children because a woman from your past has reemerged?

Let your fountain be blessed, 
And rejoice in the wife of your youth.

– Prov 5.18

And the two shall become one flesh; so that they are no longer two; but one flesh.

– Mark 10.8

What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.

– Matt 19.6

No.  God’s heart is never giving up one wife and family for another.  The two are one flesh, God has joined them together, and no one should separate them.  He has given us His word to speak finally, clearly and decisively on the issue and He will give no further or different revelation through prayer.


But someone might say, “Our culture is so advanced!  We are more enlightened than the people of Jesus’ day, or Moses’ day.  The Bible has to adapt to our culture because we see so much more.”

That which has been is that which will be, 
And that which has been done is that which will be done. 
So there is nothing new under the sun.

– Ecc 1.9

What is it that is new today?  Scientists believing that they are more informed than Scripture?  Romans 1 says,

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

– Rom 1.21-23

Since the beginning, people have exchanged the glory of God for images of man, animals and crawling creatures.  Did God create the universe?  Or did we all emerge from primordial slime which had no genesis?

Is homosexuality new to today?  Are we enlightened because men love men and women love women?  Romans 1 also says,

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

– Rom 1.26-27

Paul gives a first hand account of worshiping creation and homosexuality as prevalent cultural norms.  2,000 years ago.  We are not advanced and God has not changed his mind.  There is nothing new under the sun, and spending time “praying” about it when we are merely seeking God’s approval is a waste of time.  God will not approve what He has forbidden and declared sinful.

Rather, if we persist in it, He will turn us over to our passions and depravity:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers,  haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

– Rom 1.28-32

We often consider ourselves justified because we have the hearty approval of others.  But the approval about which we should be concerned is God’s.

Every generation has faced the temptation to consider the Bible outdated and uninformed.  Every generation has sought to add to it, to make it more “up-to-date”.  Even Jesus and Paul would have known Adam, Abraham and Moses as historical figures.  In fact they were more distant to Jesus than Jesus is to us.  But God has promised us everything that we need for life and godliness in His word.

Therefore, when we pray, we must pray with our eyes open, reading His Word.  We must say, “God I have this desire, help me understand your heart on the issue” and examine His word.  The Bible might not use terms like computers, internet or retirement, but it speaks to the principles involved therein.  There are godly ways to approach every subject and sinful ways.

So the next time we are tempted to justify ourselves by saying, “I’ve been praying about this”, let’s be ready to defend our peace and conviction by the Word of God.  And let us learn to differentiate between the peace and guidance of God from numbness due to self-justification and unchecked passion and desire.


New Beginnings

It’s 2014!

Another New Year is here!

Today I offer no extraordinarily deep thought for reflection, just a simple challenge.  Give yourself anew to the Lord this year.  Set a goal to spend intentional time with Him every day.  If you have never done it before, choose a Bible reading plan and read through the entire Bible this year!  There are many plans out there!  I personally have used a plan that is simple:  Three chapters of the Old Testament and 1/2 to 1 chapter in the New Testament ever day, straight through.

I once knew someone who would never set out on a goal like this.  “I am just setting myself up for failure” he used to say, and then say that it led to legalism and insincerity.  Yes, these things can be true if your heart is set on reading as a way to gain favor with God.  For me, however, the more time I spend in the word, the more I simply fall in love with him and am amazed at who He is.  If you are married and you set aside time every day to talk on the phone with your spouse over lunch, does your spouse think, “He does not really care about me because he calls me at the same time every day”?  Or does your spouse think, “Wow, look how much he loves me, he gives me his lunch break every day just to check in and say hi”.  If you want to build a strong marriage and you set aside a night every week where you both have intentional check-in questions that you ask, “How are you feeling?”, “Am I doing anything that is bothering you?”, “Is there any way I can make you feel more loved?” – do these structures make you feel like a robot?  Or do they help you understand and love your spouse better?

This is not a favor-earning endeavor.  Set out to know Him.  And if you miss  day or a week, spend an hour catching up!  There is not guilt intended here, only you can guilt or glorify yourself for keeping a daily plan.  This is personal.  So give yourself grace as you need it and discipline as you need it.

I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I wait for Your words.My eyes anticipate the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.

– Ps 119.147-148

Let us follow Jesus’ example:  “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there” (Mark 1.35).  Devote yourself to prayer, for the purpose of knowing and enjoying God.  Do not beat yourself up if and when you miss a day, and get to know Him better.

Without vision, the people perish.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish:  but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

– Prov 29.18

Have you ever been part of a vision casting meeting?  Spent hours plotting out a faith-based strategy?  Or just wrestled with planning your life?  Has this verse been offered you as foundation for needing a clear vision and goal for anticipated end?

It has been presented to me.  And it is scary.  I do not want to perish – or live a life of meaninglessness for lack of vision.

Many of the Biblical Proverbs are written in what is called “antithetical parallelism”, where a single point is made from two perspectives.  For instance:  If you eat, you will be satisfied; but if you do not eat, you will starve.  Two viewpoints that state the same truth.  Usually one is a positive statement and the other negative.

This Proverb is written in such a format.  Dr. Andrew Sargent wrote an insightful article on this proverb and suggested that a better translation for the Hebrew would be:

“When the prophetic voice (commonly represented in the sacred scriptures) is absent from a community, those in that community cast off moral restraint to their own harm, but when people dedicate their energies to living life in keeping with divine instruction, they find a stable, productive, and both earthly and eternally rewarding existence.”

The keeping of God’s Laws and ways is the the cause, eternal reward is the effect.  When understood that both clauses would affirm the same objective, it is clear that the vision denoted at the beginning of the proverb would be a Godly perspective, His desires and/or the Law.  Perishing carries the weight of eternity more than happiness, however it can be understood from the original language that eternal satisfaction and fulfillment is the goal.

Vision, however, is not necessarily a bad translation.  Some other biblical translations for the same word are revelation, divine guidance and prophetic vision.  We can apply this to our lives in a variety of ways.  We must have a clear and purposeful “vision” or divine guidance (the Bible) in addressing our daily lives and choices.  We must chose the morally and ethically upstanding option when making a decision to honor God and avoid sinning and consequently grieving the Holy Spirit.  When choosing between two morally neutral or good options, we must evaluate God’s heart for the World and for the Church and chose that which will best honor God in such situations.  It might be good to do X, but it might be better to do Y.

And then as believers our hearts become progressively more aligned with the heart of God and we build a vision for our lives based on His priorities.  His ultimate priority is His glory (Is 42.8).  Does your 5-year plan glorify God?  10-year?  Lifetime?  Our primary duty as believers is to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28.18-20).  Does your 5-year plan focus on and strive after that?  10-year?  Lifetime?

Jesus is extremely clear that we are not to lay up for ourselves treasures on Earth but in Heaven (Matt 6.19-20).  He speaks of the foolishness of a man tearing down barns in order to build new ones to house all of His harvest and excess when he will only die the next day (Luke 12.16-20).

However, Scripture also exemplifies for us that we cannot plan our lives in their fullness, or precise detail.  Paul was called to be a missionary to the Gentiles (all non-Jews).  He had a desire to go to many places, but at times the Spirit forbade him to go – at times the doors were closed (Acts 16.6).  Once he actually had a vision of a man asking him for help in an area where Paul did not intend to go (Acts 16.9)!  He regularly told the churches that he had planted of his desires to see them and his plans to come through if possible (Rom 1.11).  He relied on God to open doors for the Gospel, for travel and for Church planting (Col 4.3).  Thus our vision cannot be so narrow or so hard that God cannot move within it.

“The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.”

– Prov 16.9

We must have a vision. But that vision must be no more narrow than God’s revealed will:  Our sanctification (1 Thess 4.33) and the salvation of the world (Matt 28.18-20).  If we function within those statutes, seeking God for guidance and direction, we will not perish.  We will be “happy”.  Eternally.  With Him.

How far is too far?

How far is too far?

This question plagued my youth group while I was in High School.  Everyone wanted to know where exactly the line had to be drawn in their physical relationships with their boyfriends/girlfriends.  Students, in general, were not concerned about honoring God in their relationships, they only wanted to know at what point they were sinning.  And being a single thirty year old, I am realizing that people are still asking that same twisted question.

Unfortunately, Scripture tells us that by asking that question we are already sinning.  Why?  Because anything apart from faith is sin (Rom 14.23).  What that means is that if you are not holding hands with your significant other in faith to the glory of God, then it is sinful.  If you are not eating in faith to the glory of God it is sinful (1 Cor 10.31).  If you are not speaking or working your job in faith to the glory of God it is sinful (Col 3.17).

Have you ever stopped to consider the evolution of line drawing?  Two generations ago, going to the movie theater was unthinkable for Christians.  Playing cards was an offense worthy of being kicked out of the Church.  One generation ago, the Church unanimously considered bars forbidden.  In fact, many Christian members of the baby-boomer generation and generation before would not eat at restaurants if they served alcohol.  It was illegal to make, sell and drink alcohol in the United States from 1922 to 1930.

Where is the line today?  The church is more diversified in some of their line drawing, but many Generation X believers frequent bars.  Their ethical line is drawn at strip clubs.  Can you imagine that your grandparents could have felt about movie theaters the way you feel about a strip club?  That playing a game of solitaire would be as reprehensible as paying for a lap dance?

I recently went to a question and answer time at a church where anyone from the community could come in and ask the pastor any question they had about Christianity.  The premise was to engage the community where they are, let them feel out the church, and let Christians and non-Christians alike find Biblical answers to whatever it is that would hold them back from belief.  It was held in the church building.  And they served alcohol.  80 years ago that would have been illegal.  Two generations back, you could have been kicked out of the church.  And today we use it as a meeting ground.  Will the next generation of Christians find strip clubs morally acceptable?

My intention here is not to discuss the moral acceptability of kissing, movies, restaurants, bars or strip clubs.  My intention is to observe the fact that the Church, when operating in legal freedom, has wrestled with defining the line.  But the fact that we would set up for ourselves lines by which we can flirt with sin exemplifies a lack of Spiritual transformation in our lives.  If we set up ethical or moral boundaries and function without consideration of glorifying God within those boundaries, we are white-washed tombs.  We are paving our path to Hell in gold.  We are defaming Christ.  Why?  Because we have not been transformed and we would call ourselves “Christians” – people who are like Christ – when we are living for ourselves and our own consciences when we have not sacrificed or suffered or fought any battles with sin.

Therefore, we must be confident of our daily activities that they are not only morally acceptable to God, but that they are done in faith and to His glory.  If the Bible says to honor the marriage bed (Heb 13.4), can you in faith obey God making out with your significant other?  If the Bible says that liars are sinners (1 Tim 1.10), can you in faith fudge on your income taxes or tell white lies to keep peace with coworkers?  If the Bible says that cowards and unbelievers’ place is in Hell (Rev 21.8), can you live by faith in fear and doubt?  If the Bible says do not store up treasures on Earth (Matt 6.19), can you buy a vacation home, expensive clothes or a fancy car in faith?

Ask the Spirit.  He will guide you.  He will reveal sin in your life.  God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor 14.33).  If you ask Him to reveal sin in your life, He will not ignore your request.  Just be ready to hear the answer!  And we must search out His will in Scripture, because His will is our sanctification (1 Thess 4.3).  The Bible says do not get drunk (Eph 5.18).  We do not need to ask Him about that.  The Bible says do not fornicate, have affairs, have idols, practice homosexuality, steal, covet, gossip and swindle others (1 Cor 6.9-10).  No need to wrestle over His will on those things.  He will not change His mind.  But He will give you the strength to overcome, and a way out of the temptation (1 Cor 10.13).  We all have our sins of disposition.  Perhaps you are prone to lying.  Perhaps alcoholism runs in your family.  Perhaps you are physical hypersensitive and are what psychologists would call a “sex addict”.  We all have sins of habit and entrapment that are natural to us.  But God transforms us from the inside out, giving us clean hands and a pure heart (Ps 24.4).

Let us not walk the line.  Let us run with the freedom granted to us and glorify God with our whole beings, humbly submitting to His standards and walking in faith.


Speaking all things into existence

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and  upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.”

– Heb 1.1-4

I absolutely love the book of Hebrews.  It is unsigned, and many people would argue that Paul wrote it, but irregardless, the book is solid.  If you need to fall in love with Jesus for the first time or for the fiftieth time, just read the first few chapters.

These first few verses are deeply implanted in my mind.  The little phrase,

“He upholds all things by the word of His power”

blows my mind.  I wrote before on how God used this verse to radically free me from a random and short lived fear of flying, and praying that verse back to God daily for months and meditating on the magnitude of the reality therein has regularly rocked the foundations of faith on which I live.

Jesus is continually speaking you, me, this computer on which I am typing, and everything in the world into existence.  His creative power is so vast and powerful that He is upholding the universe – just by commanding “exist”.

For years I planned to practice medicine, and my undergraduate degree is in Biology.  As I child I loved to be outside, I would take my younger sister on “nature walks” through the woods, and catch all sorts of critters.  I used to rescue baby birds that had fallen from their nests and raise them, housing them in an old robin’s nest and feeding them worms.  I enjoy to look at nature, creation, the way things work and while I have always known that there is a time when the answer to the question “why” is “because that’s how God made it”, in studying biology I thrived on continually learning one more step between what I understand and God’s creative force.

God created the natural laws.  He established gravity, the orbits of planets, the spin of the earth and the moon to control tides.  He also created the molecular makeup of everything in existence; DNA, the transcribing of genetic material into RNA and ultimately into proteins, the exact function of each part of the molecule, and He knows the depths and expanse of everything in creation.  It was not too long ago that scientists believe the atom to be the smallest particle in creation – undividable.  And God has not only known, but he imagined, created, and continues to speak atoms and all of their makeup into existence.  The micro and macro realms of reality all exist by His spoken word.

And us.  He speaks you and me into existence.  Ps 139 is one of my favorite Psalms, it speaks to God’s knowledge, sovereignty and power over us as a comforting force.  And one of it’s strongest claims is the simple fact that He knows and has ordained the exact number of our days:

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.”

– Ps 139.16

Nothing is too big for God.  He is speaking you, me, our DNA and the universe into existence.  But he also has sovereign power over these forces, as creator, he can change the way things work or temporary interrupt the natural laws:  and this is what we understand as a miracle.  The parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River, turning water into blood, Jesus being born of a virgin, His resurrection from the dead, miraculous healings, Jesus walking through walls, ascending back to Heaven on a cloud, transporting Phillip instantaneously from the wilderness to somewhere else;  these are all ways that we see God disrupt the natural laws that He has put in place for His divine purposes.  He can speak things into existence and He can change things by the word of His power.  Therefore, let us trust God.  He is in control and He has a plan.  He is speaking you and me into existence, and He has the exact number of our days ordained and planned.  He can change things, He can disrupt the natural laws and He will see his perfect end attained.  Therefore live boldly, trust Him, and obey His statues, for His word does not return void (Is 55.11).

Did Adam & Eve have bellybuttons?

I enjoy to ask the deep questions and meditate on the revelations of God in His Word to us.  I think this, at least in part, was learned through my upbringing.  My parents are quite clever and engaged my and my sisters’ curiosity towards the things of Scripture by asking questions that required thought, reasoning and sometimes were just for fun.  One of the household conundrums, for as long as I can remember, is:

“Did Adam and Eve have bellybuttons?”

Is this an essential question to the faith?  No.  Does it affect the grace of God over my life?  Of course not.  But think about the implications necessary to meditate on such a silly question:  God’s created order, the literal appreciation of the Genesis creation account, the reliability of Scripture.

Is the Bible true?  It is accurate?  Is it without error?

Traditional and conservative Christian thought affirms that yes, the Bible is true, complete and without error.  There are different kinds of Scripture.  There are direct quotations of God Himself:  “Thus says the Lord” is stated 417 times in the Old Testament, followed by a statement directly proceeding from the mouth of God.  There are indirect quotes of the Lord as well as poetry, narratives and historical accounts, parables and didactic writings just to name a few of the literary types exemplified within the fulness of Scripture.  But we know one thing:

“All Scripture is inspired by God [literally “God breathed”] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

2 Tim 3.16-17

What exactly does it mean that the Scriptures are inspired or God breathed?  Peter states it in another way:

“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

2 Peter 1.20-21

God used the personalities and minds of the authors, but His Spirit at work within them led them to pen the exact words intended by God to teach His people.  And if the inspiration or thought came from God we know it is truth because God cannot lie (Titus 1.2).

Now, you might make the observation that at the time Paul wrote this statement, they only had the Old Testament Canon established – and therefore Paul was clearly speaking of the first 46 books of the Bible (39 of which were already grouped together by the time of Jesus).  Yes.  You would be correct.  But Paul, in 1 Tim 5.18 quotes sections from both the Old and New Testaments together and credits them both as Scripture:

“For the Scripture says, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages'” (1 Tim 5.18).

The first quote here is from Deut 25.4 and the second is from Luke 10.7.  We also see Peter, in 2 Peter 3.16 referring to the work of Paul as Scripture; many of the short letters that you find after the Gospels are letters by Paul.  The New Testament was compiled and accepted as Scripture primarily in practice, and the authors were referring to one another as having written Scripture, and the final compilation was suggested by Athanasius in 367 AD and was confirmed by the Senate of Carthidge, a panel of early-church leaders, in 397.

Having established the entirety of the 66 books of the Bible as we have it is Scripture, what exactly does that mean?  Is it without error?  Conservative and Biblical Christianity would say yes, the Bible in it’s fulness and original language is without error.  There is room for scientific and poetic discernment; for instance we would not say that the Bible is in error for saying that “The sun rose” when we know scientifically that the Earth revolves around the sun.  We all use that terminology and to use it does not mean that we do not understand the nature of gravity and the orbit of the planets.  Another contention would be estimates on numbers.  If Scripture does not claim absolute exactness, we can assume that numbers can be rounded at times.  We must look primarily at the author’s intention, if he was documenting censuses, like the book of Numbers, or if he was telling a story and estimating numbers.

I do not intend to evaluate all the depths of the inerrancy of Scripture and the surrounding discussion here, but just to scratch the surface to observe the foundations of the doctrine.  Is it circular reasoning to use the Bible itself to define it’s own accuracy?  Yes.  It is.  Unfortunately, the very nature of defining most laws rests on that which is discovered within the law examined.  Does 2+2=4?  If so, can you explain that apart from using mathematics and basic rules of addition? Therefore to assert the authority of Scripture is to affirm the Scripture’s own claim to authority as so.  It has not been observed in failure yet, and Christianity continues to remain the largest world religion.

Can we test and prove the inerrancy of Scripture?  No, you cannot study inerrancy scientifically as the scientific method is defined by tests and provability.  I must conduct a test, documenting all of my variables, and you must be able to recreate my test and arrive at the same outcome.  There is no way to scientifically test the authenticity of a document.  Therefore we turn to rules of Law which rest on the account of witnesses.  The Bible is by far the most widely copied piece of literature in antiquity, with minimal variation; most variations being found are spelling.  Again, I will not exhaust this argument, but if you desire to study more – two very good introductions to the discipline are “More than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell and “The Case For Faith” by Lee Strobel.  Both authors began as atheists who were intent to disprove Christianity in their own expertise and training.

So.  Did Adam and Even have belly buttons?  Scripture says that God created Adam from the dust.  Then he put Adam to sleep and used one of his ribs to form Eve.  The belly button is technically a scar left over from the umbilical cord.  So if God just formed them straight up, if they were never in the womb, would they have the scar?  But if God can create something out of nothing, would he create man and woman to look the same as their children would appear?  If God can create people, he can create them with a scar…

The Bible Alone Is The Answer To All Our Questions.

First of all I will confess quite simply – I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and little humbly, in order to receive this answer.  One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books.  One must be prepared really to inquire of it.  Only thus will it reveal itself.  Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it.  That is because in the Bible God speaks to us.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer