Consider the comparison between the Bible and other ancient documents.
The writings of John Murray were much of the stimulus for my new book Bound Together. Below is one of my favorite Murray quotes.
John Murray (you can read more on Murray here) of Westminster Seminary:
But what I am going to stress is the necessity for diligent and persevering searching of the Scriptures; study whereby we shall turn and turn again the pages of Scripture; the study of prolonged thought and meditation by which our hearts and minds may become soaked with the truth of the Bible and by which the deepest springs of thought, feeling and action may be stirred and directed; the study by which the Word of God will grip us, bind us, hold us, pull us, drive us, raise up from the dunghill, bring us down from our high conceits and make us its bondservants in all of thought, life and conduct (Murray, Collected Writings Vol. 1, Banner of Truth, 3).”
Church leaders would do well to memorize Nehemiah 12:43. It envisions joyful worship.˚
In the past, I have objected to Proverbs 29:18 being used as the rationale for a church vision statement (See “Where there is no vision the people perish, one of the most miss applied verses in the Bible”). Proverbs 29:18 calls for the proclamation of God’s Word rather than writing a mission statement.
Having said that, local churches clearly do need a vision of how they dream their local church will move forward. And the vision for any local church should include joy. Currently, I am memorizing Nehemiah 12:43. You don’t need to be a Hebrew scholar to appreciate how this thought from Nehemiah should shape our vision for the days to come.
And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away (Nehemiah 12:43).
I am thankful that Pastor Bob Bixby of Morningstar church has responded to a Rockford (IL) pastor who wrote a guest column for the Rockford Register Star explaining why he is a “proud ally of Pridefest. Solberg (of 2nd Congregational in Rockford) wrote:
I am part of the GLBTQA community. Specifically, I am included in the “A” of the acronym, which stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allies.
Saturday, there will be a Rockford PrideFest for the first time. The event is meant to affirm all people as they are, including those who do not understand themselves to fit in “traditional” norms of human sexuality. I am glad such an event is being held in Rockford, and I hope the general trend in our society toward acceptance of gay and lesbian people will continue, including in Rockford.
My words may surprise some, given that I am a Christian pastor. I believe, however, that love and commitment are central to human sexual expression, not simply gender. Surely the Bible contains several references that reject same sex sexual activity. But I believe Biblical authors were influenced by their cultural surroundings, not exclusively by revelation from God.
Bixby effectively shows the many flaws in Solberg’s logic.
Pastor Solberg appeals to us who disagree to listen to the life stories of gays and lesbians, but I ask which life stories, which gays and lesbians? He creates a false dichotomy and complies to the popular narrative: If we disagree, we are probably not loving and listening.
We are listening, and some of us do, in fact, love gays and lesbians. We love adulterers, too. And liars. But we cannot affirm people. We affirm God. We do not think of ourselves as any better. Their sins do not disgust us. Our sins disgust us. But we know that something is wrong, not because culture says it is, but because God said it is. Conversely, just because culture says it’s good doesn’t mean that it is.
Read the whole thing here.
Below for Christianity.com, I answer the questions, “How is the Bible Relevant for Today?”
If you need to be moved from one place emotionally to another: (1) Identify a Psalm that relates to your experience. (2) Systematically memorize it over a period of time. (3) As you do so, experience the movement of the Psalm and be transported by the Spirit in conjunction with the Word.
Psalms are poetry. This means that they are truth to be experienced. The idea with poetry is not that we simply learn objective truth. Rather, poetry, particularly in the case of the Word of God, transports us through an experience.
You might respond, “Well, when I read Psalms, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”
We cannot experience poetry with a quick read. Rather, we need to hear the Words – - to reflect on them – - to prayerfully take in delight at pondering the images. There is no better way to accomplish this than through memorization.
Below are two pages from my moleskin that picture how I went about memorizing Psalm 65 this summer. While you wouldn’t be able to read my writing even if it was larger, you can see that my basic approach was to mediate on the Psalm by saying it over and over again.
If you were to turn to the next page, you would see notes that I made while memorizing the Psalm – - ways that the Psalm moved me.
I appreciated this Psalm initially, but nowhere near the degree to which I savor it now.
Why Psalm 65?
I chose Psalm 65 initially because of verse 6, “The one who established the mountains being girded with might.” I was staying in the Lauterbrunnen valley (see below) at the time, arguably the most beautiful valley in Europe. My goal was for the poetry of the Word of God to interpret the beauty for me so that I could move from the place of initial awe to one of worship.
What I discovered by memorizing the Psalm – - was that this is a Psalm about joy and happiness. Indeed, the place where it moves the prayerful “meditator” is to one of celebration.
One of my favorite things to do in the Lauterbrunnen Valley was watch this cog wheel train wind its way up the side of the mountain. It was as though I was watching a life-toy train. What a joy to meditate on the truth that the Triune God established these mountains, being girded with might (Psalm 65:6).
Which is the right Psalm for you to begin memorizing? There are only 150 to chose from. So it shouldn’t take that long to identify one.
Here is a summer science project. Do this one at your own risk.
Choose an afternoon when the summer sun is burning down, get a magnifying glass and a pile of some dry combustible material. Dried leaves will work just fine. Gun powder will be more exciting.
Put the burning material down on the sidewalk and then use the magnifying glass to focus a beam of sunlight onto the material. You will be amazed at how quickly smoke begins to curl away. My boys and I do this and we think it great. Jamie rolls her eyes.
You know: the magnifying glass does not provide any power of its own. It serves only to direct the power of the sun. But, when it does, it brings light to a burning focus and things ignite.
That is what the local church is supposed to do. By itself, the church, God’s people, do not offer any power. But, a church is like a magnifying glass that God uses to focus and direct His power. Paul says in Ephesians 3:10 that God is pleased to make declaration of Himself both to people and the Heavenly realms by means of the church.
Maybe in your life, the presence of Christ does not seem powerful. You keep waiting for change and power to ignite in your life but it’s just not happening. If that is the case, then try another experiment this summer. Look for a church that centers on the Lord Jesus and His Word. Put yourself right underneath the magnifying glass on a warm Sunday and wait for Spirit and Truth to ignite in your heart.
This summer our church will be meeting at 9 on Sunday mornings. We have nothing to offer ourselves. But, it is our dream to be used to focus and direct the glory of Christ. And, we want to use gunpowder, not just dried leaves.
Justin Taylor posts:
You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always laboring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.
To be safe you must . . .
Read the rest here.
Understandably, the below line is a lot to think about, but it’s worth considering carefully. The statement tells us that we know the Bible is God’s Word because it is self-authenticating.
Some may object to the Word of God should be confirmed by some other source of authority such as history or science. But if a source of authority appeals to some other source of authority, than the source to which it appeals is ultimate authority.
Westminster Q 4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the Word of God?
A. The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity, by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very Word of God.
Christianity.com recently asked me to answer common questions people have about the Christian faith. Each clip is only 2-4 minutes long. Here’s the first one.