How Does It Read To You?

     If you listen to or watch enough religious programming you can hardly come away without thinking there are a lot of conflicting opinions being proclaimed over the airwaves.  Contradictions abound and it is easy to throw our hands up in frustration over the confusion of ideas and competing beliefs.  The same problem exists in print media as well.  There are those who agree and disagree with the things I write.  What should you believe?
     It is a concern to hear someone who should know better say something completely unbiblical, or try to explain some difficult doctrinal view when it seems clear they do not understand it themselves.  And most of these people are well-meaning and sincere in what they preach, but I often feel like invoking the unwritten beatitude, “Blessed is he who has nothing to say, and cannot be persuaded to say it.”     
     In an interview with Christianity Today earlier this year Billy Graham said, “The central issues of our time aren’t economic or political or social, important as these are.  The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature.”  That statement is both profoundly simple and profoundly true.  Debates will continue about the sovereignty of God and will of man in salvation, when the world will end, and when Christ will return.  But, those are all in the future, what about now?  How do you treat others?  That is the essence of morality.  What is the nature of your relationship with God?  That is the essence of spirituality.    
     The most divisive issues in our nation today are about morality and spirituality.  These matters are addressed in the Bible straightforwardly and in plain language easy to understand.  Morality addresses how we handle our relationships with others and spirituality addresses how we handle our relationship with God.  When it comes to Christianity it does not get more basic than this.  Of course, when our relationship with God is right our relationship with our fellow man will be right.    
     And all of this depends upon the viewpoint with which we approach the Scriptures.  There are scholars who believe the Bible is little more than a book of myths, a kind of collection of Aesop fables so to speak.  This perspective leads to an interpretation of the Scriptures that is highly subjective.  If the people, places and events recorded in the Bible are not a true historical account, then the meaning of the text is at the mercy of the interpreter.  After all, how can a fairy tale be accurately interpreted?    
     In contradistinction, there are scholars who believe the Bible to be a reliable historical record from which we can derive a factual account of the interactions between God and man.  To those who hold this viewpoint, the story of Adam and Eve is believed to be a true historic account; they are not thought to be mere characters in a fable.  This makes their marriage a reflection of what marriage is meant to be, not just some vague guideline.    
     Peter addresses this issue of the interpretation of Scripture in his second letter.  He writes, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy [proclamation] 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).”  According to Peter we are not at liberty to interpret the Scriptures as we please.  When God “moved” men to pen His word, God had a very specific meaning He was conveying.  It is the responsibility of the modern day student of God’s word to understand what God was saying then, and how to apply it now.    
     A lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus responded, “What is written in the Law [i.e. the Scriptures]?  How does it read to you?”  Jesus’ first question was asked to glean if he was aware of what the Scriptures say about eternal life; and the second question was asked to determine if he understood their application.  When the lawyer responded, Jesus told him he had answered correctly.    
     When it comes time for each of us to give an account to God for how we lived, the questions will be similar.  Do you know what the Scriptures say?  How did it read to you?  Like an earthly court, ignorance will not be a defense.  Each of us has a responsibility to know, understand and live the Scriptures.  Reading the Bible has a way of dispelling confusion and shedding light on what is true.  After all, these aren’t fairy tales.

Thanksliving

    There are a host of Scriptures that enjoin us to give thanks to God.  In the midst of prayer, when we are asking Him for things, we should always be mindful of what He has already accomplished for us, what He is doing on our behalf, and what He has promised in the future lest we seem ungrateful.  In the midst of an ungrateful culture possessed with a sense of entitlement, bound by materialism, and blinded by hedonism, the Christian should be distinguished by an “attitude of gratitude.”  For the Christian, thanksgiving is not celebrated just one day out of the year; our daily lives should be characterized by “thanksliving.”
     Of the ten legally recognized Federal holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two that have a religious heritage.  Although the term “holiday” is a compound derivative of the term “Holy Day,” the other eight federal holidays are secular in nature in that they merely memorialize an important event in our nation’s history, or they recognize the contribution a group or individual has made to our country.  Calling them secular is not to slight their importance.  The secular holidays help form our country’s national identity predicated on our history.  And our history is “His story” displaying the sovereign hand of God shaping our nation’s destiny and its role in the history of mankind.
     But our two religious holidays are significant as well.  Christmas is a decidedly Christian holiday and while thanksgiving for God’s providence has a long established tradition in the Jewish economy of worship, but in this country its practice has been adopted and sustained by the Christian community.  Historically speaking, it was the Pilgrims of Plymouth that introduced its practice to the New World and whose purpose for settling here was declared in the Mayflower Compact.  These Christian pioneers made it clear that their colony had been “undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.”  While the pluralistic perspective in our culture leads some to say we are not a Christian nation, the historical record says otherwise regarding our inception.
     I am not saying that our country has maintained the Christian consensus that existed in our nation’s formative years.  One can hardly ignore the fact that many in our society have drifted from their spiritual moorings to lash their hopes to false gods and false religions.  The words of G. K. Chesterton speak with fresh relevance to our generation.  He said, “It has often been supposed that when people stop believing in God they believe in nothing.  Alas, it worse than that, when they stop believing in God they will believe in anything.”  For many, this is where our country is at, away from God.  But it is an ever present truth that when people break the law of God, ultimately, the law of God breaks them.  God’s commandments are meant for our good.  Just as a father would warn his child of danger, God tells us not to do things that are inexorably self-destructive.
     It has been this way since the beginning.  While the sin of Adam and Eve broke God’s heart, it was they who suffered the consequences.  We do not break the law of God as much as God’s law breaks us.  When we break God’s law it is we who suffer the consequences.  It is my prayer that this nation will experience revival and a return to the God of our fathers, the God of the Bible.
     Thanksgiving means many things to many people.  For many it will be a day away from work and time spent with family and friends.  Even the poorest among us will dine on a feast and eat enough to probably feed a third-world family for a week.  Then there is the entertainment.  There will be parades and football games galore for your viewing pleasure.  Wikipedia says Thanksgiving Day “was a holiday to express thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation to God, family and friends for which all have been blessed of material blessings and relationships.  Traditionally, it has been a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest.  This holiday has since moved away from its religious roots.”  Given the distractions afforded by our affluence many probably have “moved away from its religious roots.”
     Here’s a news flash for Wikipedia; we are still depend on a bountiful harvest.  We are still dependent on twelve inches of topsoil and some rain at the right time or we would all starve.  Given that truth would it not be wise to return to our “religious roots,” to return to the Lord of the harvest.  To my family in the faith I say celebrate this Thanksgiving by “keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2).”  Then practice “thanksliving” the other 364 days.
Yours in His service,
 
Gary B. King, Pastor
WayWord Ministries
 
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Isaiah 40:8 (NASB)