“You’re Reading It Wrong” – 2 Mistakes of Interpreting Scripture

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Admit it, at one point or another you have misinterpreted what the Bible has said.  Sometimes we do it by accident while other times our intentions are quite clear.  

The Bible was written by many different people, but we do believe that the Bible was “God breathed”.  That being said, Jesus was the only perfect human to have walked the face of the earth, therefore all other people, including those who wrote the bible, were imperfect.  Each writer experienced life through their own filter and each writer faced their own imperfections.  This doesn’t mean that all the writers of the Bible were bad people, but rather that each struggled with the realities of life and with their own humanity.  Understanding this is important when we read the Bible.  Though we know that God is the same today as He was in the past as well as the future – He is being written about through the life experiences of very human (sometimes very earthy) people.   

This brings me to my point – be careful how you interpret scripture!  Many cults have begun just by taking one single passage in the Bible out of context and applying it to something it was never intended for.  If we are true seekers of The Way then we will want to pay extra attention to the ways we apply scripture and its meanings both then and today!  There are two mistakes that I would like to highlight today for us here (I know there are more) and I hope it will help you as it has helped me. 

2 Mistakes of Interpreting Scripture: 

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1.  Context – 
New Christians and even “seasoned” veterans of the Word often do not do the “homework” when reading passages in the bible.  The context of what is written is vital to our interpretation of what is being said.  I have known people (myself included) who at times have simply opened the Bible and pointed to a passage and thought “this verse was meant for me” without studying the initial context.  Of course God can work that way but we should spurred on to really study the deeper meanings and implications of what is being said.  

Questions to ask when studying a passages might include: 
      a.  When was this written?
      b.  Who was this written to?
      c.  Why was this being written? 
      d.  What did it mean for the people then? 

Once we have asked these questions (and possibly more) we can then ask the question – “What does this mean for me today?” 
Context is extremely important!

2.  Culture

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Culture in the Bible was vastly different from our culture today!  This doesn’t mean that the Bible is obsolete or out of date it simply means in order to interpret the Bible correctly we have to understand the culture of biblical times.  For instance in Jesus’ day Women were not equal to men nor did they possess many of the rights that men possessed.  Jesus was counter-cultural (even revolutionary) in His day to include disciples who were Women.  

Secondly this becomes apparently clear through the writings of Paul when He says things like – “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” 1 Corinthians 14:34  To understand this we need to understand the Apostle Paul a little bit more and also the context of what is being written.  Paul addressed numerous issues in the early church including a few women who were causing trouble and creating dissension.  The problem becomes worse when many traditional churches take these specific passages of scripture out of context to mean in our day and age Women should act the same when in fact Paul was writing to very specific situations.  There is a danger in painting with large brush strokes here because then we begin to lose the detail and meaning of the words written in Scripture.  

Culture played a big part in biblical times and it still does today.  That doesn’t mean that culture shapes the Word but rather humanity continues to change and alter yet Biblical truths and the words of God are always consistent despite the seemingly inconsistencies of some of the biblical writers.  Make sure when we interpret scripture that we attempt to understand not only context but the culture of the time that passages were written.  

 

Wrapping it up

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Be careful not to take liberties with scripture!  Don’t pick and choose passages that best suit your needs, but rather read it for what it was intended for.  Some are historical narratives, others are prophetical for a specific people and time, while others are meant for instruction of an early church.  One truth should always stand out above the rest:  God desires a right relationship with us.  Throughout the Bible God is always seeking this with those who encounter Him.  There is punishment for those who disobey yet a remnant always remains because God never gives up on us.  In the finality of things Christ comes into full view and we can see just how far God’s Divine love will go to reach us.  The rest of scripture leads us to this place through some very imperfect writers and people – and so are we.  

I could write so much more on this topic…but for now I am thankful to the many instructors and teachers that I have had along this journey…and I am still learning.  

Just something else to Ponder today 

“From ‘Worst’ to Faithfully Appointed.”

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“I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service.”  -1 Timothy 1:12

The man once named Saul, persecutor and murderer of Christ-followers has been redeemed.  Now, Christ’s ambassador, a humble servant renamed Paul writes to Timothy his protege and for all intense and purposes adopted son.  Paul is nearing the end of his life.  He knows that time is now running out for him.  He isn’t bitter.  He isn’t scorning and cursing his captors – Rome, instead he is making the most of his remaining time.   He writes this encouraging letter to Timothy as a father would lovingly pen words on a page to a son.  Paul considers himself the worst of sinners and even says son in his letter to Timothy.  

Is there regret from his previous life, before Christ cast his light of salvation on him on a dusty Damascus road?  Yes.  But has this regret stopped Paul from living for Christ alone?  No!  Though Paul considered himself the worst of sinners, he indicates to Timothy that Christ had also deemed him worthy of calling. 

What made Paul worthy?  Was it his own hard work and effort to be ‘good’?  No.  How can a killer of Christians now be considered worthy & faithful?  It becomes a matter of the heart.  What lives inside our hearts only we and God know.  What we feed on within out thought processes only we and God know.  Paul was convinced, and the evidence of his ministry results are apparent, that Christ had judged him faithful and appointed him to serve.  

What about us today? 

Do you feel worthy of being called by God?  Are you willing to serve Him wholeheartedly like Paul did?  We don’t need to have a theological degree to serve Him.  We don’t need to be highly educated to gather a towel around our waist and wash the feet of those around us for His glory.  We don’t need to be preachers like Billy Graham to share this message of hope to the world around us.  We just need to be faithful.  Christ Jesus can and will strengthen you as well, just as He did with Paul.  If we say ‘yes’ to His calling (whatever that calling looks like that enables us to serve Him) he will judge us faithful and then also appoint you as well to whatever task He needs you to serve Him in.  

You may consider yourself in your own minds to be the worst of sinners also.  You may think that God cannot forgive you for what you have done in your life…and you would be wrong!  Christ is willing to forgive you if only you will let Him.  When we open ourselves up to Him and His holy cleansing we will find love, grace and hope…we will find new life!  And in this new life, we too will be judged as faithful servants of the Most High.  

Are you willing today to trust Him?  Are you willing to allow Him into your life?  If you say yes to His calling on your life, watch out!  You will never be the same again!  Because the Apostle Paul said ‘yes’ to Christ many, many lives for changed including Timothy who did carry on in Paul’s footsteps.  Because Paul said ‘yes’ to Christ the very world was changed because of His testimony.  Today, this world needs more Pauls to boldly step up and say ‘yes’ to Christ…may you be a Paul today in your answer today!

-Just a thought.  

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Get Moving…into Spiritual Fitness

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There was sweat pouring and pooling on and around the collar of my workout shirt. It hadn’t taken me long to break a sweat. ‘Is that normal?’ I wondered to myself as I continued to pump my legs up and down as I strained towards another invisible incline on the elliptical machine. I stared straight ahead, bored to tears at the lack of scenery in my living room all the while motivational ‘cardio’ music pumped through my earphones. ‘Don’t look down’ I kept saying to myself, ‘don’t look down’. One would imagine I was walking a tightrope a thousand feet in the air if they had heard my mantra. Yet my eye inevitably looked down upon the elliptical machine’s work out clock…I still had plenty of time yet to complete. My work out was far from over. I groaned.

Scolding myself for looking down again, I tuned into the music which pumped out another fast rhythmic beat. I matched the rhythm with my strides on the elliptical. I was determined to make it over the next incline. I gritted my teeth and pushed through the discomfort and the screaming protests of my muscles. The effort would be worth it, I kept telling myself. There was a goal in mind, to lose weight to feel healthier and to live a longer more productive life. I knew that there would be miles and a miles of invisible inclines to go but my goal was worth the sweat and tears. My goal would payoff in the end.

It got me thinking. Isn’t that the image that we get when the Apostle Paul talked about running and about the prize of eternal life?

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Check this out:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” -1 Corinthians 9:24

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:14

Application:
The Apostle Paul, a former persecutor of Christians, humbly and openly admitted that he was not there yet. He hadn’t crested that imaginary incline of faith. He knew that there was still work to be done within his life. He still was lacking and coming up out of breath spiritually. Yet his short comings were not going to deter him from seeking and attaining his goal.

What is your goal? What are you striving to become within God’s kingdom? Are you serious about your pursuit of personal holiness? Are you committed to that seemingly invisible incline of faith? God doesn’t want to leave us (nor will He) at the Altar of our initial sanctification (our salvation story)! His Holy Spirit wants to do a work within us. An amazing work within us! He wants us 100% committed to Him for His purpose and mission! But we have to be willing to move from spiritual infancy to a deeper more lasting spiritual maturity. This move takes place when we get serious about our relationship to Christ. It’s deeply personal and only we can make the decision to move. The Holy Spirit will prompt, prod and even convict us but we are the ones who have to make the conscientious decision to get up and move. There will be sweat and sacrifice, of that we can be sure of. Yet if we make the move, we begin to tap into the very power of the Holy Spirit who can help us and sustain us in this discipline of holiness.

What are your personal goals as a Christ-follower? There is a purpose for each of us as fellow sojourners. God does not want us to settle for mediocrity in our faith. Nor does He want us to become out of shape (spiritually), lazy and without missional purpose. There is so much more He wants of us, but in order to accomplish anything for Him, we have to have the right priorities in place in our lives.

Prioritizing Spiritual Fitness:
These priorities begin with our daily spiritual workout. That spiritual workout consists of our daily even moment by moment conversations with God. How can we train, how can we run in this faith without first being plugged into the very source of our hope and salvation? A daily discipline of feasting on the word of God, coupled with our prayerful conversations with Him will set us in the right direction of forward progress in our personal and spiritual growth. Without these two main components placed as top priority in our lives, we face the possibility of becoming utterly lost in our jumbled world which could be full of empty pursuits. The Holy Spirit can shape us and mold us, if we allow Him to, but it takes effort and willingness on our part. We have to be available and willing to move.

Are you ready to work out? Are you prepared to sweat and strain for the goal of being Christ-like in your life? Then it’s time to get up and move. Don’t ignore the Holy Spirit’s promptings in your life, He wants to complete that work in you…are you willing? Are you ready? Let’s go.

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No Regrets!

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2 Timothy 1:11-12 (MSG)
This is the Message I’ve been set apart to proclaim as preacher, emissary, and teacher.
It’s also the cause of all this trouble I’m in. But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.”

I find it fascinating and invigorating to think of the Apostle Paul living out his convictions even in the midst of certain and eventual death. Paul wasn’t a waffler, he wasn’t some guy who couldn’t make up his mind, in fact faith and conviction led him to proclaim the message of Christ and His kingdom even when it would cost him his life. That’s conviction.

A few years ago the “No Fear” labels appeared and were very popular in our culture. Why? Because it evoked this brazened mentality that no matter what took place in life, the one wearing the “no fear” label would approach life’s problems without fear. That too is conviction that doesn’t waffle or change. I’m reminded of Tom Petty’s song “I won’t back down” where it states this; “I won’t back down, no I won’t back down, you can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down.”

Living a life without regret isn’t easy, in fact it is the hardest thing to accomplish. The tides of life sometimes cause us to doubt, circumstances beyond our control sometimes challenges us to quit, and living without regret, at times, seems impossible. But I want to encourage you that living a life without regret is possible. Paul did it, and so can you. But here’s how we are even able to think about living this regret free life: Zechariah 4:6 says;
…” ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Now this verse comes from a different time, and different circumstances sure, but what it says to me and I hope what it says to you is that God and His power can overcome anything in this world!

Our convictions and hope should be rooted in the one who created everything around us! Jesus even said in John 15:5;I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Did you catch that? Apart from Him, we’re a lost cause. Living a life without regrets, begins with where our convictions are rooted in. If they are rooted in our own self confidence, something or someone will eventually come along and uprooted them and we will be greatly disappointed. If our convictions are rooted in other people, chances are those other people will eventually let us down or our expectations will not always be met. If our convictions are rooted in anything but the relationship and love that God has for us first and foremost then we will eventually experience regret in this life. Living a life without regret, like Paul lived begins in our convictions.

What are your convictions today? Are you living a life without regret?

If not, perhaps re-evaluate where and in whom you place your trust and convictions. We too, like Paul can bold state: “But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

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