Knowing vs Knowing – Sep 23, 2022

Forty years ago I wrote a research paper on Plato, the Greek philosopher.  I remember that he lived in Athens and was the student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle.  I remember he wrote “The Cave” and, with a little review, I could list his other works.  I believe there are three primary works that have stood the test of time.  So it’s fair to say I “know” Plato.  Four years before I wrote that college paper I started dating a girl in high school.  Forty-four years later she is still the central (human) player in my life.  So it’s also fair to say that I “know” Kelly.  Readers, you probably recognize that there is a qualitative difference between the way I know Plato and the way I know my wife.  Context, and a little knowledge, is what clued you in.  It would probably be grammatically accurate to say that I know about Plato and I know my wife, but often we only get context, not grammar clues.

Attached is a great article about the Hebrew word for “knowledge” (Da’at).  Turns out that in most cases when speaking of knowledge of God (as in Proverbs 1:7), or knowledge of the Bible (as in Psalm 119 where David uses “keep,” “meditate” and “understand” long before he uses da’at in verse 66), we are instructed to know experientially!   Consider that definition of “knowing” as you contemplate your knowledge of God and His Word.  It’s great that I can recite Genesis 1:1; it’s even better that I talked to my Creator just this morning! 🙂 

Blessings,

Pastor Scott

Cultural Interpretation – September 16, 2022

Had a great text question two weeks ago when I was preaching on the Ant & the Sluggard in Proverbs.  At some point in the message I must have discussed saving for retirement, because the texter wondered if that was just us reading American values back into the biblical text.  The short answer was yes, but from whence were those values formed?  It seems to me that saving in a time of plenty against a time of want isn’t just in Proverbs; it was exemplified by Joseph’s management of the famine in Egypt.  Perhaps as those teachings, of frugality and saving for lean times, passed from the Old Testament practices to the New Testament believers they were incorporated into the culture.  On the one hand it can easily be seen that it’s wise to have something put away for tomorrow.  On the other hand, the Bible is rife with warnings about loving money and trusting in it, about discontentment, and about being uncharitable in the face of another’s need.

How each person balances all those scriptural admonitions is up to them, but I’m also sure it’s heavily influenced by their culture.  When I was in the Canary Islands I witnessed many generational homes.  Each family built on according to their income and ability, while taking care of their parents and children, with the certainty that their kids would do the same.   So the wise thing for them was to invest in the family homestead. In America, as we have moved into the city, it’s considered responsible to save something so as not to be a burden (2 Thess 3:10), but that cultural interpretation doesn’t mean that an American Christian should fail to honor his Father and Mother, nor does it mean that the Islanders should be sluggards.

Never stop learning!  Explore other (traditional) cultural views of Scripture to see how they might add to understanding, but don’t forget that translation and interpretation is the Holy Spirit’s primary function.  Trust Him to handle your understanding as you dig into the whole of Scripture*  and don’t discount our traditional understanding unless there is a clear contextual reason to do so!! 

Remember when the Holy Spirit translated in real time?  

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.  And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.  Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”  So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”
Acts 2:1-12 NKJV
Thinking about Babies and Bathwater,
Pastor Scott

*Remember context is king!

The Problem of Sin – September 2, 2022

“Why didn’t God just create me ‘good’?”  Have you ever felt that way?  Questions like these come up when we’re witnessing.  C.S. Lewis had a great answer.  Spend a few minutes internalizing his logic so you are more ready next time someone asks for the reason you have hope!  ~Pastor Scott

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 47-48.

GhostWriter – August 26, 2022

Right before the time block labeled “Write this week’s blog” I received this blog post via email.  Seemed like a Holy Spirit prompting.  ~Pastor Scott 😊

I Think I Will Try the Good Figs (Jeremiah 24:2)

August 24, 2022 by Kenneth Yates 

I can’t remember the last time I ate a fig. I vaguely remember that I didn’t particularly like them. The last time I thought about figs was when I was in the Army during the Iraqi War. The prime minister of that country famously said that his country did not fear the United States. He said that his people could eat figs for years and could survive to fight against us, the enemy.

So, when the Lord showed the prophet Jeremiah two baskets of figs in front of the temple, either in a vision or in reality, I am not sure what they would have looked like. We are told, however, that one basket was full of really good figs and the other was full of really bad, rotten ones (Jer 24:2). I also assume that you can tell a good fig from a rotten one by simply looking at them. You can do that with an apple, so why not a fig? If you were going to eat one, you would choose the good fig. I am also told that lots of people really love a good fig. I guess I don’t know what I have been missing.

We don’t have to guess at what the two baskets of figs represent. The Lord clearly told Jeremiah. The nation of Judea was in terrible straits. About 600 years before Christ, the Babylonians had taken the brightest and best of the land into captivity to Babylon. They would be forced to serve their enemy. This included people like Daniel and Ezekiel. The Babylonians had also taken those skilled in building palaces and monuments because they were needed for such work in Babylon. The rest of the Jews were left in the land of Judea.

One basket of figs represented the people taken as slaves to Babylon. The other the people left in the land. Which group was pictured as the bad figs and which was pictured by the good figs?

The people left in the land saw themselves as the good figs. Those taken away by the Babylonians had been forced to leave their homes and lands, and such things now belonged to the people still in the land. Those that remained in the land became instantly richer. They also had access to the temple in Jerusalem. They claimed that all of this showed that they were blessed by God (Ezek 11:14-15). The captives in Babylon were forced to live as slaves in a pagan country. They were clearly the bad figs in the eyes of the people. We would all initially agree with that assessment.

But the Lord showed Jeremiah, the people, and us that such conclusions were absolutely wrong. Looks can be deceiving. The slaves in captivity were the blessed, good figs. The people left in their home country were the rotten figs. In ten years, the people in the land would be decimated by famine, plagues, and war. The temple would be destroyed, and they would be ridiculed by the nations around them (Jer 24:8-10).

The captives in Babylon, on the other hand, would experience a spiritual renewal. They would learn in that land to give up their idolatry. God would return them to the land of Judea, where they would serve Him (Jer 24:5-7). He was going to bless them.

That is not what we expected. But it is a common theme in the Bible. God often blesses His people through difficulties. We may look at those believers going through difficult times and be thankful we are not in their shoes. We certainly should have compassion and sympathy for them. But we should not lose sight of the fact that God often uses such difficulties for the good of His children.

When we see economically poor believers, for example, we universally are grateful we are not in their shoes. But looks are indeed deceiving in that case. James says that God often uses such poverty to make those believers rich in the faith and rich in the coming kingdom (Jas 2:5). The Jews in Babylon were really the rich ones, not the ones with all the homes and land in Judea.

Many people today, including believers, are worried about what is going on in our country and world. The very fabric of our society seems to be falling apart. If the Lord doesn’t return soon, we fear we are facing very hard times for ourselves and our families. Even if we don’t think that is the case, we all go through difficulties at various times in our lives. When and if we do, our lives may seem like a basket of rotten fruit. We may look at those who are not experiencing such things and see their circumstances as like a big bowl of juicy cherries.

  • But the Lord knows what He is doing. He knew what He was doing with His people in Babylon, and He knows what He is doing with us. When He places us in these situations, let’s look at it like choosing between rotten and good fruit. Let’s be glad He lets us eat from the good basket.
Ken_Y

by Kenneth Yates

Ken Yates (ThM, PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary) is the Editor of the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society and GES’s East Coast and International speaker. His latest book is Hebrews: Partners with Christ.

Persistent  Perseverance in Prayer – August 19, 2022

Yesterday we celebrated the life of a woman who has attended this church since the 50’s.  She raised her 5 Children here, prayed her husband to Christ here, and has contributed to the health of this body by selfless acts of service and PRAYER.

Prayer was such an active part of her life (rolling lists were found of each adult child’s family), that the song her Children picked was Randy Travis’ “When momma prays.”  I must admit I found it hard to preach right after that one played, but even more than that I’ve been thinking alot about perpetual prayer, especially for spiritual victories.  

  • Remember that Israel cried out to God for 80 years before Moses came to redeem them
  • Remember that Jesus compared our prayer life to an obstinate widow before an evil (reluctant) judge.
  • Remember that patience is a fruit of the spirit.

Consider the words of James and the Story of John Knox below, 

Prayerfully yours,

Pastor Scott

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.  You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!  My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.  Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

James 5:7-18; Emphasis Added

While very ill, John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, called to his wife and said, “Read me that Scripture where I first cast my anchor.” After he listened to the beautiful prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, he seemed to forget his weakness. He began to pray, interceding earnestly for his fellowmen. He prayed for the ungodly who had thus far rejected the gospel. He pleaded in behalf of people who had been recently converted. And he requested protection for the Lord’s servants, many of whom were facing persecution. As Knox prayed, his spirit went Home to be with the Lord. The man of whom Queen Mary had said, “I fear his prayers more than I do the armies of my enemies,” ministered through prayer until the moment of his death.

Our Daily Bread. April 11

Ask the Pastor* – Aug 12, 2022

Question #1:  How does defending my faith play in the current culture without feeling I have to defend my God who needs no defense?

  1. Armor protects the one wearing it and it protects those that stand behind it.  We face an onslaught of anti-God, anti-biblical sentiment in this nation and we wear the Armor of God to keep from being spiritually KIA and to protect those whose armor is still forming.  Our job isn’t to take Satan out. That will happen at the end of the tribulation. Our job is to stand!  Or in other words, a win for us is keeping our faith from being wrecked, not “winning the argument.”  (Ephesians 6:10-18)
  1. If by “defend” you are referring to 1 Peter 3:15, where “defend” is the word from which we get “apologetics”, then we need a plan.
  • We need to make sure we are serving Jesus (sanctify in your hearts) and not acting out of pride.
  • We need to have a well reasoned explanation (testimony) for the hope in us.
  • We need to endure suffering with joy so that people will ask why we are different.
  • When they ask we need to explain our hope.  (1 Peter 3:8-17)
  1. If by “defend” you are referring to witnessing, Jesus shows there comes a point when you have to dust off your feet and move on.  (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5).  In Acts, Paul says of his brethren, “Your blood is on your own heads”; it got to that point when they started to blaspheme (Acts 18:5-6).
  • Paul, in an attempt to get the Corinthian Church to stop choosing up sides reminds us that God, not the evangelist, is responsible for anyone’s salvation.  (1 Corinthians 3:1-9)
  • Pray!

Question #2:  I feel I need to pour myself out in love for Christ to reach others, yet I am often trampled.  Do I retreat or keep going until I damage relationships beyond repair?  I feel retreating is vital to save relationships yet I sometimes feel I’m compromising for an easy day.  Oftentimes I feel I have cast pearls before swine because I felt that was the wisdom needed yet I did get quite lacerated in the aftermath for holding my ground. HOW does one navigate some of these hard waters?

  • John ends his first epistle encouraging us to pray for those in sin.  James ends his encouraging us to rescue them – so your impulse is correct.
  • Being trampled is what happens in the world.  (1 Peter 2-3)
  • The issue, however, is complicated when it’s our own family. 
  • Loving a prodigal used to be a matter of praying for them to come home.
  • Today prodigals don’t leave; they stay and want to be accepted. So…
    • Pray hard
    • Don’t let yourself be baited (James 1:19-20 tells us to listen before we speak and to remember that our anger is of no profit).
    • Set boundaries, even if they are just in your own heart – have an escape plan (I like Paul’s handling of blaspheming Jews, but that’s hard for a parent – so maybe a timer?).
    • Seek peace via agreeing to disagree and not rehash old arguments over and over (casting pearls).
    • Love through action not unrequested advice.
    • Take time to heal – if needed after each visit (I am thinking of 1 Kings 19 when Elijah fled Jezebel, but I’m reminded that even Jesus took breaks – Mark 1:35)!
    • Keep answering softly.  It does turn away wrath!  (Proverbs 15:1)

Serving in the same trench as you,

Pastor Scott

*Ask the pastor was my regular column back when the newsletter was a monthly mailing.  It’s harder to come up with a question each week, but I love it when they come!

Saved via Fire? August 5, 2022

I was googling a reference and this post, from a branch ministry of GotQuestions, popped up. I’m going to post it here because I think it shines light on one of those questions that always seem to be percolating. Happy Reading! ~Pastor Scott

What does 1 Corinthians 3:15 mean?

A fiery test is coming that will reveal the quality of the work of everyone who helps to build the church of Christ on earth. Paul’s metaphor pictures the church, the community of believers, as a structure that may be raised with either high-quality or poor building materials. He seems to equate these building materials with teaching that is true and helpful about the way of God versus that which is distorted and misleading (1 Corinthians 3:12–13).

Even structures built from cheap, weak materials may appear good and strong to casual view. Fire will reveal what the building is really made of. That fire will come with the judgment of Christ on the day of the Lord. This is a judgment of the work of Christians, not the Christians themselves (Romans 8:1). Non-believers must face a very different judgment (Revelation 20:11–15). Scholars disagree whether, in this case, Paul is describing the works of all believers or only of Christian leaders (James 3:1). In either case, all Christians will experience some judgment of their works (2 Corinthians 5:10).

We know this is not a judgment of whether a person is saved or not (Titus 3:5). It’s not God’s judgment on sin. Those who trust in Christ have been forgiven for their sin. Jesus already received God’s judgment for it. Paul made it clear at the very start of this letter that the Christians in Corinth, though many were still living “of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:3), would stand guiltless before God in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:8).

There will be loss, however. Those whose work is burned up, found to be worthless by Christ’s judgment, will suffer some unspecified loss. No detail is given, but it may be the simple loss of seeing all of one’s effort in this life revealed as nothing more than selfishness and wasted potential.

Even that person, though, with his or her sins covered by the blood of Christ, will be saved by God’s grace because of faith in Christ. Paul adds, though, that it will be as if they have gone through fire. Again, there is room for uncertainty about what this means.

Context Summary
First Corinthians 3:10–23 expands on Paul’s earlier point that it is God, not human beings, who are worthy. Each person must build their ”works” on a foundation of Christ. Those works will be subject to judgment, to see what has eternal value. Lasting works are based in valuable, durable, precious things like wisdom and truth. Cheap and fragile materials won’t stand the fire of God’s judgment.
Chapter Summary
Paul cannot call the Corinthian Christians ”spiritual” people. Though they are in Christ, they continue to live to the flesh. They are spiritual infants, not ready for solid food. Divisions among them prove they are still serving themselves, picking sides in a senseless debate between Christian teachers. Paul insists that both he and Apollos are mere servants of the Lord and co-workers. They are not in competition. Those who lead the Corinthians must build carefully because their work will be tested on the day of the Lord. Christian leaders who build the church will have their work judged by Christ to see if they have built on the foundation of Christ. All human wisdom will be shown to be futile and worthless.

Satan’s Word Switching – July 29, 2022

I was born in the middle of the 20th Century.  During most of my life, “sex” was a dirty word, and “gender” was the word we used in place of “sex of a human being.”   I know that words morph and develop, I know that English is a hodgepodge language and our words come from all over.  But sometimes we have to take a stand and say, with Inigo Montoyo, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means!”  I, for one, insist that God only made two genders!

Amen?

PS

P.S. Below is a condensed etymology of the word “Gender.”

c. 1300, “kind, sort, class, a class or kind of persons or things sharing certain traits,” from Old French gendre, genre “kind, species; character; gender” (12c., Modern French genre), from stem of Latin genus (genitive generis) “race, stock, family; kind, rank, order; species,” also “(male or female) sex,” from root *gene- “give birth, beget,” with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.

The “male-or-female sex” sense is attested in English from early 15c. As sex (n.) took on erotic qualities in 20c., gender came to be the usual English word for “sex of a human being,” in which use it was at first regarded as colloquial or humorous. Later often in feminist writing with reference to social attributes as much as biological qualities; this sense first attested 1963. Gender-bender is from 1977, popularized from 1980, with reference to pop star David Bowie.

gender (n.) Online Dictionary of Etymology

Since you read this far, I will confess that this article was written because of another word quibble I have.  Sunday we sang an ancient hymn, “Be Thou My Vision.”   Afterwards I couldn’t help but remember how the word “vision” is also misused within the church.   Tim Challies makes my point pretty well. 

https://www.challies.com/articles/where-there-is-no-vision-proverbs-2918/
Strong’s Concordance:  VISION from chazah; a sight (mentally), i.e. A dream, revelation, or oracle — vision.

Accountable for every word – July 22, 2022

“Don’t we have to account for every careless word?”  I was asked, by an individual, in a moment of self-appraisal.   “Yes”, I said, but I was bothered that it didn’t seem to fit into my theology in general.  Thought it might be worthy of further study.  

Let’s start with the Biblical context.  Turns out the phrase only appears once, in Mathew 12.  Jesus says in verse 36, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”   On its face, that gives me pause.  I try to speak the truth in love. I try to make sure my conversation is full of grace, seasoned with salt.  Yet, I carelessly joke, tease, grump, and complain with the best of them.  Does that mean I’m in big trouble at the Judgment Seat?

As you look a little deeper you see that Matthew 12 records a debate between Jesus and the Pharisees.  As the chapter opens the Pharisees are taking Jesus to task because his disciples were gleaning handfuls of grain as they walked the fields on the Sabbath.  Jesus states that He is the LORD of the Sabbath and then asks them if they wouldn’t rescue a sheep from a pit on the Sabbath?  Matthew 12 then records them accusing Jesus, after He cast out demons, of being in league with the Devil.  Jesus’ response is to point out that if Satan’s house is that divided, it wouldn’t be standing, after which He pronounces judgment in this way:

He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.  Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.  You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.   But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  

Matthew 12:30-37 – emphasis added

The warning against careless, or idle, words is given in the context of denial or affirmation of Christ’s deity.  It doesn’t seem like Jesus has in mind a comment about the color of house you drive past or a quip during a canasta game with friends. He is cautioning us to speak carefully about His and the Spirit’s work.  I’m not implying that it’s “anything goes” in terms of our speech; Ephesians 4:25ff, makes it clear that our speech matters, but the words by which the unrepentant will be condemned and the redeemed will be justified are the words of blasphemy of, or faith in, Jesus! 

I, for one, need to trust more and worry less,

Pastor Scott