Guest post by Vincent Brattin, one of our church members.
Consider Well (2/3/2014 by VJB)
Does your church take a stand against moral decay
Or are they afraid of what people might say?
Does your music uplift, and teach real Christian truth
Or do you have drum sets to placate your youth?
Tell me true, is your pastor just “one of the guys”
Wears t-shirts and jeans, never jackets or ties?
And is your congregation so large over there
That only a fraction gets pastoral care?
Is the sermon you hear now so watered and thin
That you’re never challenged to deal with your sin?
Are you being prepared to face worlds of wrong?
Instead, will you fall when that cult comes along?
Does your Bible translation still honor what’s true?
Or rather, will your paraphrase have to do?
Do you help out the missions with treasure and prayer?
Or maybe you act like they aren’t even there?
You attend Sunday morning—well, that’s a good start
Or do you think “Finished! Now I’ve done my part.”?
Do you enter your church and think “what can I do?”
Or do you think “serve” is what happens to you?
Consider well your house of worship—
Are you where God would have you be?
And are you growing as a Christian?
Just ask the Lord to help you see.
Here's a nice little book about the spiritual gift of tongues. It sticks close to Scripture and its organization is easy to follow:
The lengthiest chapters are the 8 and 9 regarding 1 Corinthians 14. Zeller has an interesting thesis in chapter 9 that has to do with 14:21, which says:
In the law it is written: "With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me," says the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:21 NKJV)
Zeller notes a repeated pattern in the Old Testament, and in the New, that goes like this (p. 78):
The point is that tongues are a sign of judgment against unbelief. This view is not novel, as I have heard it preached by other dispensationalists. I have not heard about this idea in the recent debate on continuationism—but it would be interesting to hear the continuationist response. The "tongues for judgment" view is fairly convincing, as the pattern is evident from Babel through the major prophets and then into Acts 2. As such, it baffles me why some Christians are so insistent on wanting a spiritual gift that has to do with judgment and has such a low edification value (1 Cor. 14:5).
Zeller then uses this as the basis of his argument that tongues must have only lasted until the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 because step 4 of his paradigm (dispersion) was completed at that point and therefore tongues had served out their purpose. This is intriguing, but I am not convinced. (I understand the termination of tongues contextually from 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 2:20.)
The book is by George W. Zeller, God's Gift of Tongues: The Nature, Purpose, and Duration of Tongues as Taught in the Bible, Wipf & Stock Publishers 2005, 126 pages including bibliography. This book was earlier published by Loizeaux Brothers in 1978. It is available at Amazon. A better way to get the book is to send me an email request through our contact page. I will get you in touch with Brother Zeller and he can get the book to you at a reduced price.
NPR and newspapers around the country recently printed a political cartoon by Signe Wilkinson supporting gay marriage. In the cartoon, Rev. Frank Schaefer is shown reading a suspension letter. He was defrocked for officiating at his son's gay wedding and "not denouncing gay marriage." The second panel shows a sympathetic caricature of Jesus saying that he did not denounce gay marriage either.
That would be convenient, if it were true, but any honest reading of the New Testament would not be able to come to that conclusion—not if the reader takes the text at face value. Certainly Jesus did not "denounce" gay marriage using Westboro Baptist methods. He did not get on a soapbox and preach against gays or one or the other specific form of sexual sin. He didn't express hate toward sinners trapped and dying in their sin. But he did set out the positive expression of God's holiness, and that is one man joined to one woman for life:
And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matthew 19:4-6 NKJV)
Jesus also set forth the principle that all sins, not just sexual ones, come from within the heart of man, that center of personality and will that is the real person.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Mathew 15:19 NKJV)
Not only did Jesus himself teach these things; his followers, the apostles, were even more pointed in their letters, which form most of the New Testament. Jesus authorized and superintended the writing of the New Testament, so he is "implicated" in all of its contents. Consider:
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13 NKJV)
The apostles came to this important conclusion in an early church council:
As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. (Acts 21:25 NIV)
Sexual immorality is any sexual activity outside of marriage, defined as one man and one woman joined together permanently.
Paul was another of Jesus' commissioned writers:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV)
It is instructive to note that the sins of homosexuality, sodomy, fornication, adultery, thievery, greed, drunkenness, and others are placed on the same "level." Good Christians are not out to pick on one sin more than others. Christians want to live holy lives as a reflection of the purity of their God and Savior Jesus Christ. They proclaim an upright kind of life.
There are lots of reasons why people think of some sins as worse than others. In some cases, the earthly consequences of certain sins are heavier than the consequences of other sins. And in other cases, sins are especially distasteful to the Christian because they seem unnatural. Paul gives warrant for this thought in Romans 1:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:26 NKJV)
Paul's statement about the natural order doesn't require that we be obnoxious in our presentation of the truth. Unfortunately, supporters of gay marriage will normally perceive the Christian to be obnoxious just because of the content of what he is saying, regardless of his manner.
Back to the original question then: did Jesus denounce gay marriage? Basically, yes. He set forth the right way to do things, and commissioned certain ones to write further details on it in which he, together with them, spoke against gay marriage.
Or is it?
There are many people who would agree that the Bible is fiction. They would argue that Costco should have kept the category as is because it is accurate. But on what basis do they make that claim?
The news articles did not impart information that would help readers to know whether the Bible is actually fiction or not. Here are some thoughts to fill in that gap.
The first four New Testament books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) are biographies of Jesus written by eyewitnesses and close associates. The fifth book, Acts, is a history of the early church, also written by an eyewitness. As they consist of eyewitness accounts and have been confirmed in many points by archaeology, they can hardly be called fiction. Those who suggest these writings are fiction would do well to consider the historical evidence for Jesus in comparison to any other major figure of the ancient world whose existence they acknowledge.
The remainder of the New Testament books are letters from Paul, James, John, Peter, and Jude to particular recipients. As such, they are first-century "epistles" of great historical value that discuss the Christian faith. Such letters are not in the fiction genre but are rather of the epistolary genre.
As for the Old Testament, the first five books were written by the hand of Moses. They record events before his lifetime, such as creation, and many events in which he was a firsthand participant. Many of these events, again, are substantiated by archaeological evidence. No one can doubt that the law of Moses was a historical reality and greatly influential upon the Jewish people. Joshua and Judges and the books of the Hebrew Kings (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles) are also historical books. The prophets basically predict Israel's demise and call the nation back to faithfulness to its covenant with God made through Moses. These are ancient documents of no small import, many replete with fulfilled predictive prophecy and prophecies that have not yet come to pass. The argument can be sustained that none of these books are fiction.
The poetic books are the remaining section of Scripture that I haven't mentioned. These books, such as the Psalms, contain Israel's hymnody and wisdom for living. These may be called poetic in genre, but not fiction. Many Psalms, for instance, reflect back on the historical realities of the nation of Israel. Proverbs mirror the historical Mosaic covenant.
True—our atheist opponents will say that the Bible's content is fictional. Some events recorded in the Bible, such as the creation account, are rejected in favor of evolutionary origins. Other parts of the Bible are rejected because they are not convenient to an un-holy lifestyle. But all this is a reflection on a belief system or worldview, not on the Bible itself. The Bible presents itself as non-fiction.
Sometimes I run into a handy list that serves as a good reminder. Other times I create one. I thought I'd collect such lists here both as a place to store the summary of what I learned, and to hopefully help my readers. Enjoy!
I was asked a question about the general role of vocation. As a Christian, how should I use my vocation? Is it OK to have a non-great-commission job? Here's a first cut at an answer.
Is it OK to have a non-great-commission job? Absolutely. Not only is it OK, but it is necessary for most people. There might be one-half of one percent of the population who are pastors and full-time Christian workers in any denomination. This means that the vast majority of people will have "regular" jobs. However, it may be that if you are asking yourself that question, you should dig a little deeper. Are you gifted for ministry? Would it be better stewardship of those gifts if you entered full-time ministry? Do you desire to be in ministry?
Assuming for the moment that you confirm your place in a secular vocation, how can you use your job as a Christian?
Today I happened upon an interview of Billy Graham by Larry King. I was taken aback by his answer to a question about abortion in the case of violent rape. The question at 10:40 was, what is "your stand on abortion in the case of violent rape"? Graham's answer starts at 11:40:
I would be for abortion in violent rape. I am against abortion...except in cases of violent rape and in cases where the mother's life is in danger.
Now, this is not meant to be a Graham-bashing post. I will let the facts speak for themselves for this particular interview. This post rather is meant to challenge you to re-think the issue of abortion in such a case, and I use Graham's statement as a template that probably fits many people who believe the same way he does.
So, do you support abortion in the case of rape?
One more question: would you support capital punishment for the rapist?
I am thankful that God has permitted us to live in an age where we have the computer as a tool to carry on the work of the ministry. Furthermore, I am thankful that we have at our fingertips a lot of freely available software. Some is produced by commercial entities trying to drive their bottom line, and some is produced by communities of open source developers. I thought I would take a minute to share a few of the key software programs I have used.
Chrome, Firefox, and Adobe Reader
These tools are probably well known to you. Chrome and Firefox are popular alternatives to the Internet Explorer web browser on Windows computers. Adobe is the standard PDF reader program. It is not the most lean, but it works.
Need to talk to and instant message with missionaries across the globe, and do it cheaply? This is the tool for you. It has grown to have a lot of other features, like connecting with facebook. When I travel for the missionary work that I am involved in, I love to have this so I can video call my home and see my wife and children, and even read to them before bedtime.
This email and rss reader program has been mentioned on this blog before. But I use it to aggregate together all seven of my email accounts so I can read them in a single place and store messages in a single database. Perhaps in the future I will describe how I use it to quickly store email messages in predefined folders with a keypress, or how I use it to do an "email merge" so I can write a personal letter to all our church members.
Open Office 4
This open-source, free office productivity suite has a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation program, drawing program. It obviously competes with Microsoft Office. I have used this since back in version 2; the spreadsheet and database were helpful to me at various points. I did have a bad experience with a corrupted database, at which point I moved to Microsoft Access (may it never be!). I use the database for maintaining my list of contacts and church members. Also, I hope sometime to convert my Excel library catalog into a database.
This program is an "FTP client" which means that it understands the File Transfer Protocol" and lets you transfer files back and forth easily with an FTP server such as your webhost. We use this weekly to upload content to our church website, such as sermon audio mp3 files.
Gimp is the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, another open source project that provides functionality like Adobe Photoshop. It does what is called raster grahpics, which basically means pictures and other images made up of a bunch of pixels. It used to be a toy, as the experts say, but it is the real thing today. It does have a bit of a learning curve, but once you learn basic selection tools and how to manipulate layers, you can do a lot with it to develop graphics for fliers and web sites.
If you think Photoshop = Gimp, then you can think of Inkscape = Adobe Illustrator. Inkscape is a vector grahpics program, which means that it represents images with mathematical formulas. Images designed with this tool scale very well to different sizes.
Last but not least is Scribus. It is like Quark Express or PageMaker of old, and can substitute somewhat for Adobe InDesign. Adobe has adopted a new subscription pricing model that will keep many small-time users out of the market for it. In other words, with the new editions, there is not a way to buy it once and forget it for awhile. This makes software like Scribus even more desirable. I picked up Scribus and used it to do the layout of a one-page flier in a couple of hours. I had some experience as a news editor of my high school newspaper with PageMaker on the Macintosh platform, so I am familiar with some of the concepts of desktop publishing. But I believe familiar with Word can learn to navigate around fairly well in this tool. It outputs PDF files so you can share them with your print shop or on the net.
These tools are ideal for a small church or church plant because they don't break the budget. You will probably come to a point when you need to hire help for graphics and printing, but these can get you started. The amount of work that has gone into creating these software packages is incredible--and they freely available. What a blessing.
Today our family received an envelope with a nice letter full of Scripture and a monetary gift. It was sent anonymously, and we are unable to guess who sent it. We thank the Lord for His provision. And we thank you, whoever "you" are, who were thoughtful and generous enough to send it. May the Lord bless and keep you too!
My blog has moved, along with our church's website, from one host to a new one. The new RSS feed url is http://www.fbcaa.org/cms/feeds/MAPBlog/, accessible above in the title next to the orange RSS icon. Sorry for any inconvenience that this might impose on you. I hope you continue reading!
On January 4-5, 2013, the second Preserving the Truth Conference will be held at First Baptist Church in Troy, Michigan. Please visit truthconference.org for more information.
Mark and Heather Snoeberger have written a helpful two-part article on surviving seminary as a family (here and here). I greatly appreciated the principles that they promoted, such as unity in their marriage, maturity, spiritual growth and formation of their family, hard work, and frugality. Particularly noteworthy is their testimony of treating the seminary education as a shared task between husband and wife. My wife and I find that pastoral ministry requires the same kind of shared view of things. Trying to carry on in ministry while the husband pulls the load and the wife heads in another direction is a problematic situation. But that is not my point in this post...
In response to the article, a prospective seminary student asked me some questions related to time management and how to "balance" seminary with work, church attendance and ministry, and personal life. He is concerned about providing for the family so that his wife can fulfill her biblical role of keeping the home and working with the children. He is concerned about attending and serving in the local church in a way that he is faithful and not skipping meetings. Finally, he is concerned about maintaining his spiritual/devotional life as well as his physical health.
About work: Mark did not say if he had to work full time or part time during his seminary education. During the M.Div., I had the blessing of being self-employed and working afternoons (not the afternoon shift--just afternoons). Travel for my work was required on only a few occasions. This left my mornings available for classes and evenings and weekends for study. Students who are fully supported are greatly blessed because they can devote themselves entirely to their studies. I think that is a rare situation, at least in our circles. Many students struggle to work about 40 hours a week and then try to divide the remaining time for their wife, children, church, and personal health.
About church: I was able to be fully involved in the ministry of the local church as I went to school. When Fellowship Bible Church called me to be their senior pastor, I was taking the Th.M. During the first months of the pastorate, I took some time off from classes to focus on the initial ministry. As far as the seminarian's attendance at church goes, it is unacceptable for the student to be so consumed with work and seminary that he does not attend all the regular meetings of the church. If it comes down to it, it is absolutely appropriate to dial down the number of classes taken during a semester and take more years to complete the training. It is not very important to finish seminary in three years anyway; there is no need to be in a rush. A good case can be made that taking somewhat longer is better--it gives more time for the material to sink in. I took the M.Div. in four years; the Th.M. in six, with one year of overlap between the two.
About physical and spiritual health: Taking the M.Div. in four years (the majority of it in three with summer classes thrown in to help) was a challenge. It was at once spiritually filling and spiritually draining. Physically I was ill on a number of occasions due to exhaustion and dehydration. Trying to learn while you are dead tired is not the wisest approach. My questioner is rightly concerned about his spiritual health as well. It is easy enough to downplay 'devotional time' for a seminarian--after all, he is deeply in the Word in all his classes, right? What value does a skimpy devotional life have compared to that? To the contrary, the reality is that academic studies are of a different sort than personal spiritual maintenance. You might object that seminary shouldn't just be academic. Indeed! But when there are so many classes, so much material, tests that are looking for specific information, papers to write, etc., it is all too easy to pursue studies in an unattached, academic way that does not fully engage the soul along with the mind.
Seminary education is not to be treated lightly. It is a huge commitment. I fully believe that at the right seminary, it is an investment that is well worth the effort. However, a sense of proportion in the elements mentioned above will help you to succeed. You don't want your program of study to overwhelm the day-to-day concerns of church attendance and ministry, physical and spiritual health, and family. MAP
Here is another question for my Great Commission and Church Planting class: How do you view the two churches I describe below? Do you view them as very different?
You walk into the first church and begin to notice that all the people there are old. Say 70 years old or older. The pastor is likewise elderly. You begin to look for another young or middle-age family like yourself. You don't see any. What do you think of this church?
You walk into another church the next week and there are tons of children running around. There are many youthful looking families. The pastor looks young too. The place is bustling with activity. In contrast with the church you visited last week, you don't notice any elderly folks. What do you think of this church?
A common first impression of the elderly church is that it is dying, not reaching out to its community, and somehow it is "bad." The younger church seems vibrant and alive, and it is somehow "good."
But why would we think of the church this way? What if the elderly church happened to be in the middle of a retirement community? And why do we think that a church with no elderly people is better than a church with no young people? Don't both churches have a key missing demographic—in other words, both are lacking something they really ought to have?
Regarding your post at The Actual History of King James Onlyism pt. 1, I tried to post a comment around April 11, and again on the 13th, but perhaps they didn't make it to you. Below is the substance of it. In the interest of public criticism, as you suggested in your post today, I'm putting this out there to see if it might be of help to you. Here goes...
Your case has a logical flaw. Combs states that there were a few "odd" individuals who claimed perfection for the KJV. In your rebuttal, you quote three sources as if they are not "odd" individuals who support your view of perfection of the KJV. They might not be odd, but they are most certainly not making a case for KJV perfection. If you look at each quote, what they basically say is that each group decided to use the KJV and to circulate it as their standard. The fact that they did not see a need to correct it, nor wanted to use resources to correct it, nor saw a need to add notes or comments, is not proof that they thought it was a perfect translation. They seemed to think it was a very good translation and they focused their attention on things other than re-translating. They were interested in distribution, not translation. Similarly, a church today can decide on a standard translation without necessarily meaning that they believe in the perfection of that translation.
Do you think I am missing something?
The Bible reading plans for 2012 are now available. There are three of them:
I hope you will read along with us. If not on this schedule, use some other schedule. This is how to hide God's Word in your heart. --MAP
I saw it too. The snippet of the Piers Morgan interview of Joel Osteen and his wife that was posted on Al Mohler's blog.
Here is a cheat sheet that Osteen is welcome to borrow for the next interview. I've simplified the questions to get to the point.
Question: Is capital punishment OK?
Answer: God permits the governing authority to restrain evil by ending the life of certain criminals. I support capital punishment as long as it is coupled with strict rules of proof and evidence including multiple eyewitnesses, as specified in the Bible.
Question: How can you support capital punishment and be against abortion since both, in your view, end a human life?
Answer: The answer again goes back to the Ultimate Authority--God. God makes it clear that capital punishment is permissible and necessary as a consequence of some serious sins. The criminal is killed as a consequence of his sin; the unborn baby is killed for convenience or some other reason. So yes, capital punishment does kill someone, but it is not murder because it is the lawful taking of a human life, where the law we are talking about is God's moral law. Abortion is murder because it is the unlawful taking of a human life. God in the 10 commandments prohibits murder and thus prohibits abortion.
Question: Is same-sex marriage sin?
Answer: Yes. The Bible makes that very clear.
Question: Would you ever marry two gay people?
Answer: No. I couldn't participate in that sin. Besides, such a "ceremony" is not a marriage in the first place.
Question: Would you ever attend a gay marriage?
Answer: No. I could not support sin that way.
Question: What if Texas brings in a law legalizes same-sex marriage?
Answer: That doesn't change a thing in my view. The state would be wrong in that case. Same-sex marriage would be legal under Texas law, but it would still be immoral and a sin. Similarly, abortion is legal in the United States, but it is still a sin.
Question: Shouldn't Scripture be dragged kicking and screaming in the modern age?
Answer: No. Rather, we should submit ourselves to the authority of God rather than expecting Him and His word to bow to us.
The Spirit of God tells us through Solomon:
"And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end; and much study is wearisome to the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." (Ecclesiastes 12:12-13 NKJV)
My wife Naomi and I were talking about this recently, and she wrote to me the following paragraph.
"I also recently came to the realization that of the making of blogs there is also no end! I guess they fit right in there with the books. While it is encouraging to read Christian blogs and books, we should always remember that, no matter what advice or opinion we may read, the end of any matter is to fear God and keep His commandments. There are so many people who are influenced by books they read--particularly books on parenting, husband/wife relationships, church matters, etc... There are lots of wonderful resources out there with good and godly advice and encouragement. But we must remember the only infallible guide is the Bible. Sometimes book-advice can have implications or results that can also produce fruit that is contrary to the Word of God. We must make sure that, rather than following any given book, that we are following THE Book—the Bible."
This goes along with what I've said for a long time: If you don't have time to read the Bible, you don't have time to read anything else.
The Bible is the sufficient rule of faith and practice for us in parenting, marriage, church, and all things.
“Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young—Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God” (NKJ).
Well, in our case, it is not sparrows, but a pair of robins that have found a home above the front door of our church's building. You can see the babies in the shot below:
Photo credit: Vincent Brattin.
I was alerted yesterday to the upcoming Evangelical Exegetical Commentary that has been revived after some uncertainty as to its fate.
It is slated to be a commentary set that will help pastors in sermon preparation and seminary students in their exegetical research. It will be of a scholarly caliber yet still be accessible, and it will uphold God's word as inspired.
This morning I published the personal testimony of a friend named Jeremy Wichert. It is an outstanding account of God's grace in the life of a young man. I would like to commend it for your reading. Check out this part:
“...I knew that I needed Christ. I knew that I did not have a real relationship with God. I knew that I was of my father – the devil...I then told the Lord that I knew that I had trusted in myself and the words that I said that day when I was five for my salvation. I confessed that I knew that it was only through Him that I could be right with God. I knew that I needed His righteousness to be placed to my account. I asked him to become my Savior. James 1:18 sums up my experience so well! It says, 'Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.' ”
In granting his permission for me to publish the testimony, Jeremy wrote, “I will pray that the Lord will use it for His glory.” I trust the same. SDG.
Read the whole testimony at The Personal Testimony of Jeremy Wichert.
I like to have a printed copy of each of the NT and OT schedules and use them as bookmarks in my Bible. As I read the assigned section for the day, I cross it off with a pencil or pen. This helps me keep track when I (inevitably) get behind and need extra encouragement to catch up.
Another way to follow the reading schedule is to use this website. In the right hand column toward the top of the page you will notice the Bible reading section. That is updated each day with the assigned sections for the day.
As you read, feel free to ask questions about the reading on our question page.
FBC's Bible reading schedule for the NT is now out. The basic idea of the schedule is to read through the New Testament twice in the year, by reading two chapters each weekday.
The reading schedule is available in PDF for the New Testament.
I adapted this schedule from bibleplan.org.
The Old Testament schedule should be out soon.
The thought struck me recently that love and purity go together. If you love your spouse, you keep yourself pure for her. If she loves you, she keeps herself pure for you. And if we love God, we ought to keep ourselves pure for Him (see 1 Timothy 1:5, 1 John 3:3).
Tonight, our pastoral intern Andy Bennett gave a very good message on Matthew 5:27-30 on the issue of adultery, lust, and how to deal radically with sin. In today's licentious society, this message is much needed. Give it a listen if you have about 43 minutes to invest in your soul. You can find it on our audio sermon page.
A helpful bit of advice from missionary George Black, who served with Gospel Mission of South America in northern Chile until past the age of 100:Do it when you're told to;
Many folks in our church have finished their reading through the New Testament this year for the fourth time this week. Next year, we embark on another journey through the Bible, this time twice through the NT and once through the OT. The reading schedules are available in PDF for the OT and NT. I adapted these reading schedules from bibleplan.org.
Feel free to join us in reading through the Scripture!
Are they figments of people's sinful and creative imagination? Or are is there something more sinister behind them?
There are several Biblical texts that indicate that false gods are often (if not always) fronts for demons. Leviticus 17:7 mentions idolatrous sacrifices to the goat-demons. Deuteronomy 32:17 speaks of the practice of "sacrificing to demons...to gods...new gods." The term "gods" is thus equated with "demons." Psalm 106:36-37 says the Israelites served idols and sacrificed their children to demons. This is probably a reference to sacrificing children to Molech through the fire (Leviticus 18:21, 20:2-5, 2 Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 32:35). Paul reflects the OT teaching when he refers, in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, to pagan sacrifices idol/demons. 1 Timothy 4:1 has "doctrines of demons" which seems to make the demons a bit more active in their false systems than just a plain-old idol. Finally, Revelation 9:20 teaches that some people did not repent of their demon-worship.
Whether we can say in every case that a false god is a creation of a demon, or whether it is fully a product of a human's sinful imagination, or whether the demon took advantage of the human's departure from the living God to become a "god" to that person, is hard to say. Suffice it to say that it is ultimately dangerous to dabble with false gods because of the demonic influence over them.
At Fellowship Bible Church, we have been systematically reading through the New Testament. We are on our third time through, just now in the middle of Romans. It has been a great help to many of our people, and I wanted to take the opportunity here to encourage you to work through some systematic Bible reading plan.
Our approach is simple: read three chapters each day. This will get you through the 260 chapters of the New Testament in three months--and even give you a day or two off! We have a printed schedule for each month that allows us to check off each day as we complete the reading, but this is just a practical help. All you need to do is remember: 3 chapters, 3 months, repeat. This kind of reading allows you to go over the NT text repeatedly, four times in a year. Another practical benefit of reading several chapters in a row, day after day, is that you are able to better grasp the context than if you just read a chapter here or there.
We are also reading together portions of the Bible in our Sunday evening service. Our purpose is to be obedient to Paul's injunction to give attention to the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13). Various men volunteer to do the reading, usually two or three chapters in each evening service. In the last year or so, we've been able to read this way through Ruth, Nehemiah, the first thirty of the Psalms, Acts, and Romans.
If you want Christian growth, read, re-read, and re-re-read the Bible!
This post is a little out of the ordinary for this blog, but a little frustration with Mozilla's Thunderbird software induced me to write. Hopefully someone "out there" will see it and get this suggestion to where it should go. I searched around for an easy way to do this but did not find one after some searching.
I use the Thunderbird email client. A potential way to improve the software came to mind this morning as I was filing some emails. Right now, Thunderbird offers a quick way to file an email to the same folder that you used to file your last email. On the popup menu it says "Move to "Folder" againâ€¦ This is helpful, but it would be even more helpful if Thunderbird would observe and learn how I file emails and offer a quick-pick that is relevant based on that learned information. For instance, I file a lot of emails into folders I've named "Firstname.Lastname" based on the sender of the email. Some other emails I file based on topic. But the point is that if Thunderbird observed my behavior, it could easily capture a lot of my behavior for email filing and provide a quicker way to file many emails than scrolling through my long list of folders to find the one I want, then dragging the mail to it. The popup menu could change depending on who the sender is--and based on what it has learned from my past behavior it could say "Move to "Firstname.Lastname"â€¦
UPDATE: I've since discovered Nostalgy, an add-on for Thunderbird, and it does about what I need it to. It's learning function isn't quite like I envisioned above, but it saves me a TON of time. Thanks to Mr. Frisch!
Beyond the mere issue of a software improvement, might I suggest that we always keep ourselves open to suggested improvements? In our churches it would be good to provide an easy way for folks to suggest improvements for us personally, or for the policies and practices of the church. We should not make it hard to find where to suggest improvements, nor should we present an attitude that is resistant to improvements, as if our way is the best way.
One of our families brought some relatives with them to church on the weekend of February 2-3. On the Saturday, they were planning to visit the Bible display at the University of Michigan called "The Evolution of the English Bible: From Papyri to KJV" and they brought with them their own replica edition of the 1611 KJV. The next day, they brought their Bible to Fellowship Bible. I got the above picture holding the Bible. It weighs 35 pounds and is a very nicely done replica.
I joked with everyone that I was going to switch to using this for my preaching Bible. The only problem was, the 1611 style of the text was a little hard to read, and the Bible left no room on the pulpit for my sermon notes! One other downside is that it contains the Apocryphal books.
Please do not worry--I am not going the KJV-only route!