Mark Twain once wrote, “The trouble I have with the Bible is not parts I don’t understand, but the parts I understand all too well” (paraphrase). That is my problem. I really appreciate the Bible but when it starts getting “personal” it starts meddling with my life. I revert back to a Mark Twain mentality.
A minister ran into his deacon board chairman into an elevator. He asked how his daily devotions were. The man answered that it was not going to well. He stated that he was using the King James and did not understand anything. The minister suggested that he use a modern translation. The deacon switched to the NIV.
A month later they met again. “How’s it going?” the minister asked. “Well, it scared the hell out of me, so I switched back to the King James.”
Been there; done that!
I became a Christian in 1963 while a student at the University of Nebraska. It was such a fantastic change in my life. I had come from a Methodist background which was considered a bastion of liberal theology and social concern. It was an era when people came to church because “it is the thing to do”! Evangelism was considered coffee and donuts between services because that “brings them in”. Of course, the point was not to share the Gospel (that might offend the visitor), but to share the donuts. I loved it because I love donuts!
I went away to college thinking I was a Christian. I had been confirmed, taught Sunday School, an officer in the youth fellowship, and sang in the choir. What a winning resume. From my youth group I learned how to carry a Buddhist prayer wheel. The only sermon I remember from my youth was the pastor telling about his trip to Paris (he and is wife went to “les Folies Begere” which he shared in the sermon). Other than that we had a lot of reviews of the Saturday Review.
My church left me out in cold because it never preached the Gospel.
My freshman year of college I met a student who shared with the claims of Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace. To learn I was a sinner and needed to accept Christ in my life was the devastating confrontation I needed to face. My church had offered me donuts. This person offered me Christ.
After my first year at the university I transferred to a small mainline church college. Our religion professor, an extreme liberal, made the observation that evangelicalism would become “liberal” just like the main-liners. He was not being belligerent but stating historical trends of religious movements. I, of course, stood up for my evangelical convictions and said that would never happen.
Unfortunately, I think that day has arrived and though we are not liberal like my childhood church the Gospel seems to have been left behind for another message. A message that “tickles the ear”, issuing warm “fuzzies”, psychologically sound sermons or “that’s entertainment” more than proclaiming the evangelical gospel of repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ.
Now I am sitting in the church bistro with my cup of coffee reading my pastor’s latest book (which I got at a tremendous discount!) wishing he was in the pulpit long enough so I did not have to buy his books. This time there are no donuts but once again I am out in the cold
Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at a church in Lincoln. I should have known it was going to be an interesting service. I got out of the car and reached for my Bible with the notes inside. I quickly realized it was sitting on the counter next to the coats at home. As Marilyn observed, “We can’t run home an get them”. Home was a mere 43 miles to the South!!
Long ago a wise Texas pastor gave me these words of advice. “If you can’t remember it long enough to preach it, how can you expect anyone to remember it!” Game on!
Before the service I noticed that the microphone had been duct taped to the mike stand. I ran my thumb over the tape to make sure it was secure. Wrong move! Half way through the service the mike fell off and swung like a pendulum banging into the pulpit with amplified thuds. I was able to retrieve it but had to lay it on the pulpit. That, however, made the pulpit “live” which meant every time I touched the pulpit the noise went though the sound system so everyone could hear. No one slept through the service.
Oh, by the way, I could not get the candle lighter to work when I attempted to light the advent candle. . . the safety switch would not unlock!
If you need a “comedy of errors” some Sunday . . . I come cheap!
Today I opened Facebook to discover a notice: “So ‘n So’s” birthday is today. Normally I would be pleased to see this and to respond properly to it. The unfortunate circumstance is that my high school friend had died during the past year and his account had not been deleted. The tragic part of this episode was the number of people who with great intentions wished him a happy birthday!
On my birthday I did a google search and was pleased to see a birthday cake in honor of my big day on the search page. But then I realized that it merely a computer responding to an analog sequence!
All this to say, we live in world that appears to be highly personal. Our names are spelled correctly, our birthday recognized, and our tablets and phones talk to us. But all these are merely machines. They are not real.
Compare that to our Heavenly Father:
Isaiah 49:15-16 (RSV)
“Can a woman forget her sucking child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
16 Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands . . . Isaiah 49:15-16 (ESV).
The clear word of Jesus:
14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, 15 as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep John 10:14-15 (RSV).
When we walk with Christ Jesus we are not a number or a marketing target. He is not a computer program set to “respond” at the proper time and “appear” human. He is the one who came into our world to show us how much we are loved by God. Who knows us, sin and all, and yet never stops pouring his love upon us.
Just a thought! A group of us meet once a week to discuss anything and everything. We are a diverse group with both working and retired. Politically we extend from one end of the spectrum to the opposite. All of us come from professional backgrounds. It is so encouraging because we do not agree on many things, but we listen to one another. Often we leave asking ourselves why we hold a particular position, return home, and assess our positions
How different from the too many bigoted postings on Facebook. (for those who do not know the definition: biɡədəd/adjective bigoted “having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others.” Seems to me most postings are not posted for discussing issues but to put down others who do not hold the same position which I believe is called bullying.
When will we ever move beyond this and start listening, learning and becoming more human. Just a thought
I receive a number of ministry webpages geared to help the pastor do a more productive job in ministry. . . creating ministry, using one’s time more effectively, etc. What is becoming apparent is the lack of biblical dependence by the writers. It is most like there but hidden (I hope this is the case). But I fear this is not the case. It is academically more impressive to refer to the Atlantic than the Bible.
I grew up mainline until I accepted Christ in university some 54 years ago. My pastor came out of Boston University and gave us a diet of Saturday Review and the Atlantic. There was the nod to Scripture from the lectionary and that was it. Eighteen years of Saturday Review and the Atlantic.
My concern is that as evangelicals have we ditched the Bible for other sources in our quest to be relevant? This is not a call for “proof texting”. It is a call for serious, scholarly grappling with God’s Word and how it relates to world today. It is a call to be shaped once again by Scripture and not by the world.
I am a retired minister. I am first and foremost an evangelical Christian who had the opportunity to study at one of the greatest evangelical seminaries in the nation studying under the founding voices of the evangelical movement. I am eternally grateful to God for this opportunity. I believe in the sovereignty of God, the saving grace of Jesus, and the inspiration and authority of God’s written Word.
I am here to examine life under the scrutiny of God’s Word.