In my view, anyone who elevates the Bible above all other literature, cultures, and morays is doing it a disservice. The Bible should be interpreted in context alongside all the other bodies of knowledge handed down through generations. Was the gospel Paul preached written prior to him preaching or did he claim a new Spirit revealed gospel? In the 1st century, he was labeled a heretic by the religious community. His gospel survived because he fashioned it to answer a dilemma regarding the salvation of Gentiles and their status with Jews. It was in his mind a new revelation and he suffered to give it Birth. We have such challenges to salvation in our time that need bold voices to speak and reveal what God is saying in our time. Anyone who lives by scripture and verse has not allowed the Spirit to speak. Even Paul cautions against such dogmatic positions. I’m sure Paul did not envision his letters being canonized in a book by an oppressive regime and given as the final Word of God in any matter. In fact, Paul urged people to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for understanding and deeper insight. Even the Law of Moses was not final for Jesus in many sermons reinterpreted it and issued a new edict based on a higher knowledge of God’s Intention. We should be students of the Word engaging our total being in a conversation with God and the Word people have shared regarding God’s Word revealed to them. The Holy Spirit empowers such boldness and I pray for more disciples like Paul who will take the steps to hear a fresh word from God in this season and not a stale cultural bread steeped in the past.
The Bible reveals a mind boggling history between a people and their God. Stories abound that chronicle both the negative and positive interactions among a people, their God, and their neighbors. Some stories rise to epic heights and Hollywood creates movies to capture there grandeur, i.e. “The Ten Commandments.” Other stories depict the people at their worst and are often told infrequently or in low budget fashion. These stories are found in what is called The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible.
Generations later the New Testament also reveals this people’s history with this God. Yet this new history devotes itself to the influence and ideals of one person. This New Testament links the history of this people by purporting what is called a “progressive revelation.” In other words, from Genesis to Revelation all roads lead to Jesus of Nazareth.
John concludes “This was written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Everyone who was someone wrote about Jesus. Luke opens his story by saying, “Many have attempted to write about what had taken place among us. They received their information from those who had been eyewitnesses and servants of God’s word from the beginning, and they passed it on to us. I, too, have followed everything closely from the beginning. So I thought it would be a good idea to write an orderly account for Your Excellency, Theophilus. In this way you will know that what you’ve been told is true.”
Luke’s story is not the only story; however, it is a good story. I recommend it to you. Luke clearly announces that Jesus is the main thesis of the Bible: his lineage, his life, his purpose, and his triumph. That is why one can not read the Bible and leave unaffected: when you put down the Bible a decision is required. And as Moses said, “I set before you life and death, choose life that you and your children may live.”
Atheist, Agnostics, and Non Theists contest the existence of God. Their main points of argument are the lack of scientific proof and the horrific conditions of violence and suffering in the world. How can a loving God remain silent, inactive among so much tragedy?
Their arguments are compelling, rational, and valid. They have challenged theologians for centuries. Some became theologians. Paul Tillich was such an agnostic who found his faith by redefining God. His treatise “The Courage to Be!” is used in major seminaries today.
Notwithstanding, suffering, violence, injustice, and evil continue to be problematic. These life conditions have proven to withstand theological dogma, confessions of faith, and even powerful preaching.
The Bible says a lot about why bad things happen without giving definitive answers for every situation. The key for people of faith has been relationship. Consistent, committed personal experiences with God over time produce powerful, transforming convictions.
Habbakuk, a prophet wrestling with these issues concluded he would base his life on a simple proposition. He writes “Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle— even then, I will be happy with the Lord. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. The Lord Almighty is my strength. He makes my feet like those of a deer. He makes me walk on the mountains (Habbakuk 3:17-18a).”
The Bible says the just shall live by faith; one version says “The just shall live by his faith.” Faith in God contingent on existential proofs can be shaken by life. But a holistic approach is powerful. It says, “through it all I’ve learned to trust in God.” My relationship with God validates my faith; it’s personal.
“The words of a person’s mouth are like deep waters. The fountain of wisdom is an overflowing stream. It is not good to be partial toward a wicked person,thereby depriving an innocent person of justice. By talking, a fool gets into an argument,and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin. His lips are a trap to his soul. The words of a gossip are swallowed greedily, and they go down into a person’s innermost being.” (Proverbs 18:4-8 GWT)
When we belittle, mock, or devalue someone’s life or livelihood, we do a great disservice. Words have power; words are seeds that once planted take root deep in a person’s mind. Wisdom has taught me, “We grow by lifting others up, not by tearing them down.” I’m a work in progress and so are you. The key is to stay clear of gossip; do not allow your mouth to write a check your “ass” can’t cash. The writer of Proverbs says that only a fool does that. I have said much that I regret and have been forgiven. Thank you Jesus!
I know it’s hard to discipline your tongue, especially when your emotions have been charged. But I can assure you, working on this discipline is invaluable. Oh that gossip and slander were not so salacious. Prayer, true prayer, however will help you muzzle unkind words. When you gossip a crowd will gather and chime in; when you pray, they will stay away.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father we confess that our words have often been daggers rather that elevators. We ask your forgiveness and that you strengthen our resolve to be kind. Help us to discipline the words we speak so we may be a help and not a hindrance. In Jesus Name, Amen.