Saturday, January 31- Not Everyone is an Ear!

BA3462-001     1Corinthians 12:12-21 says, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into Christ’s body by one Spirit, and we have all received the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? Suppose the whole body were an eye — then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

I have always loved that passage. Well, to be entirely honest, when I first started being exposed to Scripture in general, I thought that one was a little…dumb…and more than a tad…obvious. But THEN, I actually began to better understand and appreciate Scripture! And so NOW…I love that passage!

I think what I like the most about it is the fact that it points to a radical sense of equality. It totally, and I mean TOTALLY, looks beyond things like the color of our skin, our gender, our age, our heritage, our economic status…whatever it is that separates us. Instead, it points to that radically equality that God offers.

Think about that for a moment- when we are out in the world, we are FAR from equal. We SHOULD be equal…but we’re not. All of those things I mentioned above, plus about 99,000 others, drive a HUGE wedge between us- one that is hard…if not impossible…to overcome by worldly approaches. But when we are in the presence of God, we are radically equal. Not just equal, but RADICALLY so.

Now you might thinking, “This whole thing SOUNDS good, Pastor, but I have BEEN to church. And those people can’t even get along with each other, let alone think anybody NEW is ‘radically equal”!” And to that I say, sadly, “Amen”. I too have been to churches where this concept is lip service at best, reviled at worst. But I have also been to churches that take seriously the notion that we are all…ALL…children of God. In fact, I serve just such  church now!

Don’t misunderstand- this church isn’t perfect. I mean…we ARE human, after all! But I am regularly amazed at how welcome these people are. It doesn’t matter who it is that walks in- I honestly see no snubbing, ignoring or avoiding going on. And that, my friend, is pretty rare and pretty awesome! We ARE radically equal in God’s eyes. And so we should treat each other that way.

Are you an ear? An eye? A finger? A toe? A spleen? A duodenum? (Google it!) Whatever part you are…you are welcome in God’s world, God’s house! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Bible Isn’t “One Size Fits All”

Friday, January 30- Angels Watching Over Me

angels-16667308-1024-768

In 1984, Christian singer Amy Grant recorded and released a song called Angels. The first verse is:

“Take this man to prison,” the man heard Herod say. And then four squads of soldiers came and carried him away. Chained up between two watchmen, Peter tried to sleep. But beyond the walls an endless prayer was lifting for his keep. Then a light cut through the darkness of a lonely prison cell and the chains that bound the man of God just opened up and fell. And running to his people before the break of day. There was only one thing on his mind, only one thing to say.”

And that “one thing” that he said is found in the chorus:

“Angels watching over me every move I make. Angels watching over me. Angels watching over me every step I take. Angels watching over me.”

The 2nd verse is:

“God only knows the times my life was threatened just today. A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way. Near misses all around me, accidents unknown. Though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home. God, I know they’re all around me all day and through the night. When the enemy is closing in I know sometimes they fight to keep my feet from falling. I’ll never turn away. If you’re asking what’s protecting me then you’re gonna hear me say…” and then- back to the chorus!

What do you think about angels? If you believe a lot of art, they are either chubby, cute little children with doe eyes and wings OR they are beautiful young women with flowing hair and…wings. If you believe the cartoons I watched as a kid, as soon as Daffy Duck or Sylvester the Cat died in some ill-conceived plot they had hatched, they became transparent. And then, complete with robe and…wings…they floated to heaven. If you believe the sentimental American understanding, our loved ones become angels the moment they die, complete with…wings…and they watch over us. But if you believe what the Bible says about them, well…that’s a whole different story.

The Bible portrays angels with male names. Words like “archangel” are bandied about. And it seems clear from the various Biblical stories that they are heavenly beings, created by God to be His messengers.

One of the four separate Bible studies that I teach each week is currently focusing on this topic- angels. We are walking through both a study guide and Biblical accounts to see what we can find out about angels.

So many questions come up in this conversation: are they people who once walked the earth and now are heavenly messengers? Do our loved become angels when they die? When we lose someone, did God need “another angel”? Do we have a guardian angel? What IS the dealio?

I have found, both through this study and many other conversations I have had with folks on the subject, that most people have a relatively passionate belief about angels. What I don’t mean to imply by that is that I think everybody believes in them. I have had conversations with folks who basically said, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard! Angels? Pffft!” Likewise, I have talked to people who are sure their deceased mother or father is their guardian angel, watching over them, guiding them, protecting them.

What do YOU think? I’ve tossed out a LOT of possibilities. Which one(s) do you adhere to? What…or who…are angels?

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Not Everybody is an Ear!

Thursday, January 29- Last of the Big Spenders!

date night

My wife and I have…Date Night! We do it every week. 9 ½ out 10 times, we go into a city that is about 40 minutes away. We have dinner and then…party animals that we are…we get groceries! (I know what you are thinking- “Those people live such a wild and GLAMOROUS life!” Let me assure you, it’s not always as glamorous as my description of Date Night would make it seem!) It’s an important time for us. Our goal is NOT to have a unique, special…expensive time every week when we go out. Instead, our goal is much more simple than that- to spend some “alone time” together. (Is that an oxymoron- “alone time together”? On another note, I was called an oxymoron once. At least I THINK that’s what they said!!)

This week, other schedules precluded us from leaving town for Date Night. But that’s OK, since the goal is to spend some time together. We dropped our younger son off at a school event he had and then went out to dinner. It was my turn to pick the restaurant. My wife asked where we were going. I told her that A. I had picked a place and B. I wasn’t telling! She assured me that it didn’t matter where we went, as long as we got to be together. My reply? “Alright, Baby. Prepare to super-size your fries- McDonald’s it is!”

We actually went to another restaurant in town that has a “casual dining” part of the menu as well as a “more upscale dining” part. The waitress told us that the special was a burger of your choice, a side of your choice AND a drink…all for the low price of $4! That’s right, my friends- $4! An appetizer of fried dill pickle chips was also $4. (If you’ve never tried them, stop rolling your eyes and making that face. They may sound odd, but they are GREAT!) So, for $12 plus tax and a tip, we had a total of 2 REALLY good burgers, an order of hand-cut fries and an order of seasoned fries, about 47 cups of coffee AND an order of fried dill pickle chips with ranch dressing. As we walked out to the car, I said, “Wow! $4 per meal. That was even cheaper that the super-sized Value Meal I was going to get you at McDonald’s!” It’s a miracle the woman even married me in the first place!

The time that we spend “alone together” is very important. Between a son in High School and one in Chicago, two parents living with us and a demanding job, we are OFTEN, to quote that great theologian Barry Manilow, ships that pass in the night. If we don’t intentionally carve out time for each other, it’s SO easy to slowly…and unintentionally…drift apart.

What about you? Do you set aside time…intentional, regular time…for the important relationships in your life? WE tend to give EVERYONE our time…except the people that matter the most to us. We tend to think that they will understand. But I am convinced that’s why a decent amount of the marriages that break up do so. Couples spend less and less time together. They lose that intimate connection.

Look at your life. Name the relationships…THE relationships…that are the most important to you. I pray that God is Number One with a bullet on that list. That’s awesome AND how it should be. But who is Number Two? Number Three? Are you giving them the time and attention they need…and deserve? If not, why not? How can you correct that? They deserve it..and so do you!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Angels Watching Over Me

Wednesday, January 28- A Branch From the Tree of Jesse: Counsel

branch from the tree

A businessman was in a great deal of trouble. His business was failing, he had put everything he had into the business, he owed everybody it was so bad he was even contemplating suicide. As a last resort he went to a pastor and poured out his story of tears and woe. When he had finished, the pastor said, “Here’s what I want you to do, put a beach chair and your Bible in your car and drive down to the beach. Take the beach chair and the Bible to the water’s edge, sit down in the beach chair, and put the Bible in your lap. Open the Bible; the wind will rifle the pages, but finally the open Bible will come to rest on a page. Look down at the page and read the first thing you see. That will be your answer, that will tell you what to do.”
A year later the businessman went back to the pastor and brought his wife and children with him. The man was in a new custom- tailored suit, his wife in a mink coat, the children shining. The businessman pulled an envelope stuffed with money out of his pocket and gave it to the pastor as a donation in thanks for his advice. The pastor recognized the benefactor, and was curious. “You did as I suggested?” he asked. “Absolutely,” replied the businessman. “You went to the beach?” “Absolutely.” “You sat in a beach chair with the Bible in your lap?” “Absolutely.” “You let the pages rifle until they stopped?” “Absolutely.” “And what were the first words you saw?” “Chapter 11.”

Tonight, we continue our current Sunday night sermon series- A Branch From the Tree of Jesse, looking at 7 gifts God gives us, as found in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah 11:1-3, and the impact they can have on us…and those around us. Every week, we are walking through those gifts, unpacking them and seeing what they have to offer us. But first, a reminder about what “the tree of Jesse” means. Jesse was the father of King David. The Tree of Jesse is symbolic of his descendants and, more importantly, the ancestors of Jesus.

Romans 14:1 Accept those whose faith is weak. Don’t judge them where you have differences of opinion.

The first week we considered “wisdom”. The 2nd week, the topic was “understanding”. Tonight, we look at “counsel”. So let’s start where I often start when talking about a specific word- the dictionary. When we were first married, we had a dictionary that would hurt a person…and probably KILL a small child…if it fell on them. It…was…mammoth! And frankly, in that time and place, it got used decent amount- enough that it began to wear out over the years of use and moving. And when i was time to “retire” it, we did NOT buy a new one…because they have this little called “the internet”! So what does dictionary.com have to say about “counsel”? Well, as it all turns out…a LOT!

“1. advice; opinion or instruction. 2. the advocate or advocates engaged in the direction of a cause. 3. to give advice to; advise. 4. to urge the adoption of, as a course of action. 5. to get or take counsel or advice.”

THAT is a mouthful! But the bottom line is that, as a noun, it is advice or instruction. It is also the PERSON who offers the advice or gives the direction. As a verb, it is to either give OR receive that advice. The act. The thing. The person. Keep that in mind as we look at the Scripture that accompanies this series.

 Isaiah 11:1-3- A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord– and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears.

It was snowing heavily and blowing to the point that visibility was almost zero when the young woman got off work. She made her way to her car and wondered how she was going to make it home. She sat in her car while it warmed up and thought about her situation. She finally remembered her dad’s advice that if she got caught in a blizzard she should wait for a snow plow to come by and follow it. That way she would not get stuck in the snow drift. This made her feel much better and sure enough in a little while a snow plow went by and she started to follow it.
As she followed the snow plow she was feeling very smug as they continued and she was not having any problem with the blizzard conditions. After quite some time had passed she was somewhat surprise when the snow plow stopped and the driver got out and came back to her car and signaled for her to roll down her window. The snow plow driver wanted to know if she was alright as she had been following him for a long time. She said that she was fine and told him of her dad’s advice to follow a snow plow when caught in a blizzard. The driver replied that it was OK with him if she continued to follow him…but he thought she ought to know that he had finished the WalMart parking lot and was getting ready to head over to K-Mart next!

So counsel can be you seeking advice from someone else. Or it can be someone else seeking it from you. You can be on the giving OR receiving end of it. Tonight, we are going to look at 4 steps that speak directly to the issue of counsel- regardless of on which end of the equation you find yourself.

1. Identify the need for counsel- Is this a simple problem that I can solve on my own? Are there trusted friends that I can turn to? Have I asked for God’s guidance? This step is impacted by our particular gifts and graces. If my car breaks, down I take it to a garage because I barely know where the GAS goes! You, however, may know more about cars and can handle some of the problems that come up. On the other hand, if you need a haircut or style, you go to a professional. Me? Not so much! If I have medical needs, I go to the doctor. If he or she says I need medicine, I go to the pharmacy. Those seem rather cut and dried.
But we are often less likely to look for counsel on spiritual issues, relational or emotional issues. When my career is not fulfilling, what do I do? If my marriage is in trouble, if my kids are having problems, if I’m in the midst of great emotional struggles…do I seek counsel? Our nation was built on what I call Bootstrap Theology- pull yourself up by them, that is. Spit on it. Rub dirt on it. Walk it off. Boys don’t cry. Buck up. We’ve all heard it before…and it tends to seep into our soul deeply enough that we fear we will be perceived as “broken” or “weak” if we need help. Don’t misunderstand- there is power and affirmation in a level of self-sufficiency. The danger is that, in the long run, a shortcut is not always a short cut.
God is always walking this discernment path with us…if we will seek Him wisdom AND pay attention to it. He doesn’t always guide us to someone else to help get through it. Sometimes He enrolls us in His own special “training program” by design. There is intentionally nobody around to hand the ball to- and He equips us to carry it into the end zone ourselves.
Insisting on doing it ourselves can become destructive if we’re doing it because we’re not willing to humble ourselves and ask for the counsel we need. There’s a point when being self-reliant turns into being self-absorbed- prideful. We all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Are you just recycling old solutions that don’t work? Is it time for a fresh perspective? Is there a problem you’ve struggled with for years without any resolution but instead just a recurring cycle of failure and defeat? That’s a sign that it’s time to seek counsel. Are you facing an important decision that seems to require more expertise than you have? That’s a sign that it’s time to seek counsel.

2. Identify the right source for counsel. Seeking counsel isn’t enough. You need the right kind of counsel if it’s going to make a difference. There is truly a passionate search for spiritual answers in our society. And that’s awesome. But the truth is that not every source of counsel is actually…you know…helpful. Some are seductive. Some are misleading. And some are downright destructive. And society and the media are more than willing to tell us what we should do. In both subtle and not so subtle ways, they recommend the “next best thing” through TV, movies, the internet and other media. I’m often amazed at the counsel some folks will seek as an answer to their problems. Their kids are giving them trouble, so they go to someone whose kids are totally messed up and ask them what to do. People having trouble with their marriage go to someone else whose marriage is in the dumper and ask them what to do. If you can’t grow a decent field of corn to save your soul, it’s probably not the best choice to go to you for counsel on farming. Many of my seminary professors had the same story, “I pastored a little, TINY church out in the middle of nowhere for three years…it didn’t go very well. Now…let me teach YOU how to pastor a church!” To quote that great theologian Pete from the movie Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?, “That don’t make no sense!” If you’re going to seek counsel, then find someone who’s had some success in the area. Seek counsel from somebody whose life reflects both godliness and competence.

3. Evaluate the counsel that’s given to you. Even though you have carefully selected someone’s counsel, you still have to take responsibility for your own decision. It doesn’t mean you should just do the part that you WANT to do. It doesn’t mean that you should approach the whole process with that attitude that you’re just wasting your time. You should approach it intending to hear the counsel…and be ready to act on it. But there ARE some yardsticks that any advice should be able to pass before you implement it. First, it has to be consistent with the nature and teaching of God. No matter how reasonable someone’s advice might seem, if it contradicts God’s Word then it can’t be right. The end does NOT justify the means. It needs to reflect God. And that’s why we should be in worship regularly. That’s why we should read the Bible regularly. That’s why we should be involved in Bible Study. Those things are not just things we just do to fulfill our religious obligation. They are preparation for wise decisions and Godly living.
Now, if you already know what God wants you to do…then be like Nike- just do it. It’s wrong-headed dangerous to seek someone else’s counsel when God has already given you a clear picture. If you already know God’s will about something, you don’t need to ask anybody else for advice. You might share it with others, seeking confirmation. But if God speaks…listen.

4. Implement the counsel you receive. You can navigate the first three steps to perfection. You can recognize your need for counsel. You can seek out godly, competent counselors. You can properly evaluate their counsel. But if you don’t actually do anything about it, then the whole exercise was for naught. Once God speaks, it’s our responsibility to obey. You can’t just consider what God is telling you- you have to act on it. Somebody’s opinion is one thing. It’s not always a BAD thing, but often an opinion and a dollar will buy you a Coke out of most machines in the country. It’s quite another thing to receive a God-breathed direction, either directly from Him or through someone else.

Proverbs 2:14-15 Many good things come from what a man says. And the work of his hands rewards him. The way of a foolish person seems right to him. But a wise person listens to advice.

Is there a decision or issue in your life that requires you to humble yourself and ask for counsel? You’ve tried all your solutions…over and over…and they simply have NOT worked? Recognize your need for counsel. Seek wise counsel. Evaluate the counsel you receive. Then…do it. And throughout, make God the foundation upon which you build your decisions…your life.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Last of the Big Spenders!

Tuesday, January 27- Thank You For Proving My Point

thank you     I have decided something about this ol’ world in which we live. And what I’ve decided is actually rather simple- you’d THINK I should have figured it out a while back. BUT…I am not always the sharpest tool in the shed!

Anywho, what I figured out is to not get too bent out of shape by people who continue to make bad choices and who love to try and build themselves up by tearing others down. You know the type of people about whom I speak- they are always right. They are always smarter than everybody else. They always want to tell you why you’re wrong and why, if you’d just listen to them, life would be SO much better. And what they are most committed to is to NOT let the “big picture” or “the facts” confuse them away from what they think.

I am always a bit…torn…when one of those kinds of folks says or does something that simply proves the point I am making today. The painfully human side of me…and BOY does that exist…wants to say, “Well THANK you for proving my point for me!” The Christian/Pastor side wants to close my eyes, shake my head and pray for them.

What about you? Do you HAVE to be right all the time? Are you convinced that everything would be all kittens and moonbeams if everybody else would just wise up and listen to you? If so…be careful. I had a wise boss tell me once, “If everybody around you seems to be a jerk…you may need to reconsider who the jerk is!” Ouch! But it’s true. Don’t worry about the speck in your brother’s eye until you have addressed the log in your own. Jesus said, “Love God…love neighbor.” But He NEVER said it would be easy!!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- A Branch From the Tree of Jesse: Counsel

Monday, January 26- Random Thoughts on Communion

The church I currently serve celebrates Communion on the first Sunday of every month on Sunday mornings and every week on Sunday evenings. I have people ask, “So, is that when Methodists take Communion?” And the answer is a decided…maybe! The reality is that there is no “set in stone” schedule for serving Communion by which individual United Methodist churches serve Communion- it is left up to the discretion of each congregation. Some serve it weekly, some serve it month, some serve it quarterly…I would hazard a guess that none serve it less frequently…but I don’t know that for sure!

Communion is a fascinating topic- it has been around for about 2,000 years, and subject to interpretation for about 2,009 of those years! Some folks serve only unleaven bread, some serve other types of bread. Some serve only wine, some serve only grape juice, some make both available. In some denominations anyone can serve Communion while in others only clergy can serve. Some faith traditions have guidelines about how old one has to be before they can take Communion…others do not. Some churches only allow members to take Communion, others allow all to partake.
Frankly, just about ANY derivation of the basic “bread and cup” format that you can imagine is being done somewhere. For some, that is a cause of stress. They worry that theirs is the only way to serve Communion and if it is not taken that way…then it is flawed. I have a different view, which is frankly one of the reasons I chose United Methodism.
I feel that the example of Communion given to us in the Gospels was, like Jesus’ baptism and other things, contextual…that is, it happened in a certain setting, a particular time and place. And because of that contextual nature, it was done the way it was done. In other words, I feel that the specifics of Communion are NOT found so much in the HOW as in the WHY. For me, it is a representational meal that is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ- when I serve or take Communion, I am stating publicly that I choose to be a follower of Jesus. Further, by having an “open Communion” (anyone is welcome), I am reinforcing Jesus’ Gospel message that His grace and salvation are for everyone!
How do YOU take Communion? What is YOUR understanding of what it is, what it means? Notice I said “I feel” and “I think” in this article. Your thoughts are just as valid as mine. So…what are they? How do you view this rather mysterious rite of the Church? I’m curious to know!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Thanks For Proving My Point

Sunday, January 25- The Bible Isn’t a Weapon

What the Bible Isnt Week 4

I grew up out in the country. My parents bought a bit over two acres on the corner of my grandpa’s 150+ acre farm, built a house on it and raised a family. I spent a LOT of my “growing up” years running around the countryside, including my grandpa’s farm. One summer night, two buddies and I decided to go camping back on my grandpa’s property. We had a few “select” spots where we liked to camp, and that particular night, we chose a spot on the “farm road” to ran along/around all of the fields on his property. We took our gear back there, including my friend’s Honda mini-bike, set up camp, and then went out walking. We were about halfway down my grandpa’s ¼-mile driveway…that cut straight through the woods…headed out to the “hard road” when a truck suddenly started coming down the drive! It was almost 9 o’clock at night and frankly, NOBODY came down my grandpa’s driveway that time of day, so we did what any self-respecting 12-year olds would do- we dove into the woods before the headlights caught us! From the safety of the brush, was watched the truck pass us and head toward my grandpa’s house. I knew that A. whoever it was, they didn’t belong there and B. our stuff was unguarded! So we started running back toward the house.
When we got to the edge of the first field and rounded the corner, we could see our campsite. And the truck was parked RIGHT there! They were stealing our stuff…including my friend’s mini-bike! I sprang into action! I ran to my grandpa’s house, slid open the pantry window (the door was locked!), climbed in and went to my grandpa’s bedroom. A widower by that time, he was in bed reading and was MORE than a little surprised to see me burst into his room! I was nearly beside myself! “Grandpa- somebody is stealing our stuff!” Stunned, he replied, “What?” “There’s a truck and they’re stealing our stuff!” Still trying to get his bearing in the presence of this babbling grandson, he replied, “What?” I could see I was getting nowhere…at breakneck speed! SO…I went straight to the meat of the conversation, “Where’s your gun?” Apparently choosing to stick with his current line of conversation, he replied, “What”?” “Your gun! Where is it?” My grandpa then made a HUGE tactical error- he actually TOLD me where it was! I mean, I was 12…AND babbling like a complete idiot (insert your joke here!)…and he actually TELLS me where the gun is! (Pointing) “In the closet. Why?” I didn’t have any more time for idle chit chat so I said not a word but went straight to my work! I got the gun, a rifle, out of the closet…and ran out of his bedroom!
When you left his bedroom, you were immediately in the dining room. Through the swinging door at one end of the dining room and you were in the kitchen. The pantry window that I climbed through was also in the kitchen. As I burst through the swinging door into the kitchen, I turned toward the window through which I had climbed…and there was a man climbing IN the window…after me! At that moment, I did what any self-respecting country kid would do in that circumstance…I squared off, pointed the rifle at his head and yelled, “Don’t move!” There was moment…that felt like a lifetime…and then, this guy put his arms up in front of his face and yelled, “Don’t shoot…it’s Uncle Jerry!” It was my mom’s brother, checking up on us! After he changed his shorts, we had a very uncomfortable laugh about the whole thing!
Proverbs 25:26 Sometimes a godly person gives in to those who are evil. Then he becomes like a muddy spring of water or a polluted well.
When we talk about what the Bible is, we seldom stop to consider what the Bible ISN’T. Today, we continue our current sermon series, looking at that very thing- What the Bible Isn’t, looking at 7 things the Bible isn’t. Today, we will look at the fact that the Bible isn’t a weapon. The jumping-off point is that the Bible, at its core, isn’t a club we use to gain political power or force others to obey our rules. I have shared that some of these “what the Bible isn’t” topics might be a little controversial. This is one of them. Why? Well, 2Corinthians 10:4 says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” “That sounds like the Bible IS a weapon, Pastor! So why are you saying it ISN’T?!” Good question! Let’s look at that.
   Matthew 26:50-54 So Judas went to Jesus at once. He said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then the men stepped forward. They grabbed Jesus and arrested him. In that moment, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword. He pulled it out and struck the servant of the high priest with it. He cut off the servant’s ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him. “All who use the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I can’ t ask my Father for help? He would send an army of more than 70, 000 angels right away. But then how would the Scriptures come true? They say it must happen in this way.”
Two hunters from got a pilot to fly them out into the backwoods of Canada to hunt deer. Four days later, the pilot returned to find that they had bagged six big bucks. They started loading them into the plane, but the pilot stopped them. “The plane can only hold up to four deer.” The two hunters objected strongly. “Last year we shot six, and the pilot let us put them all on board; he had the same plane as yours.” Reluctantly, the pilot gave in and all six deer were loaded. However, even at full power, the little plane simply couldn’t handle the load and crashed just a few moments after take-off. Climbing out of the wreckage, one of the hunters asked the other, “Any idea where we are?” The other hunter thought for a moment, then said, “I’m not SURE…but I think we’re pretty close to where we crashed LAST year!”
So how is “the Bible as a weapon” a bad thing? Well, In the 1860s, Southern preachers defended slavery by taking the Bible literally. They used as their ammunition Ephesians 6:5, which says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” and Titus 2:9, which says, “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect”. God-fearing Christians who wanted to preserve slavery could find words in the Bible to back them up.
The preachers of the North had to be more creative, but they also found a way to argue that God was on their side, emphasizing that the Union had to be preserved so that the advance of liberty around the world wouldn’t be stopped. One Boston preacher preached, “If the Union is lost, the world is lost.” Some preached that God insisted that slavery be ended at all costs. The Battle Hymn of the Republic even points to that fact- “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me. As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, while God is marching on.”
70 years earlier, George Washington had all but foreseen this reality and offered this warning, “Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.” But maybe Abraham Lincoln offered the best perspective on religious warfare. “My concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”
How else is the Bible used as a terrible weapon? Did you realize that, ironically, the Westboro Baptist Church is picketing a variety of churches in the Quad Cities right this very minute…as we speak about the Bible not being a weapon?
We all know they’ve been outspoken about their hatred of homosexuals. Did you know that they picketed the funeral of a young man named Matthew Shepard simply because he had the audacity to be beaten to death by men who didn’t agree with his orientation? Did you know that they have also attacked Catholics and Jews? Did you know that, at some of their “rallys”, they have stomped on the American flag? Did you know that they have also picketed at the funeral of American soldiers killed in the line of duty? They’re bullies.
Bullying is more and more being addressed and dealt with in the schools. And it should be. Anybody who chooses to pick on or harass someone else simply because…they can…is a coward. But it’s still a problem. Christian bullying is also still a problem. Using the Bible to try and bully others is NOT part of God’s plan. It’s GOOD to have your own, strong spiritual beliefs. But it’s NOT good to try to force others to have the same beliefs. If you are sure of your faith- that’s awesome! But it is NOT a reason to proof text the Bible in an effort to show others why they’re wrong.
In fact, making others feel bad, telling them they’re wrong- it’s probably the worst way to encourage them to have any interest in searching for God. Why would anybody seeking more and deeper meaning in their life be inspired to go to the church of a person who tries to scare or shame them? Aren’t we supposed to encourage others to look for God, instead of driving them away? Our role of is not to put others down, but to live a life of love, charity, humbleness and joy…so that others notice and want to know more about what we have.
We can’t use the Bible to proclaim God’s love and grace while at the same time use it to flaunt our righteousness and shame someone else. We can’t use the Bible to encourage people who mourn and also use it to tell them they’re doing it wrong. We can’t use the Bible to celebrate the diversity of all who bear the image of God and also use it to demand that everyone think exactly the same thing. We can’t use the Bible to exalt Jesus and also use it to shield ourselves from its truths. In fact, we can’t “use” the Bible at all! And that’s the problem. We try SO hard to USE the Bible to further our own agenda instead of simply letting it reveal the truth of God to us. We want to use it…like a tool. And that does NOTHING but cheapen it.
I have heard Christians, trying to “explain” to someone else why they’re wrong, say, “You just need the Bible!” Sometimes, people use the Bible to stop a conversation. Sometimes, people use the Bible to beat someone up. Sometimes, people use the Bible to prove that they’re “right”. If we’re not careful, the Bible becomes a tool that makes us feel good about ourselves. It justifies our opinions and our worldviews. It makes us feel…correct. If we’re not careful, the Bible stops being something that reveals our hearts and instead becomes a weapon designed to kill a conversation and diminish a threat.
Don’t get me wrong- basing our worldview on the Bible is absolutely what we should do. Having our beliefs formed by the God’s Word instead of our own opinions is the right approach. The Bible is indeed a weapon, but it’s a weapon in the kind of fight that a lot of us don’t even notice is going on- a spiritual fight. It’s no accident that God has revealed His written Word as a weapon of offense against the work and wiles of the devil. But when we simply use the Bible to justify ourselves by being more right than others, we’re abusing God’s Word. And we tend to do that when the Bible is too comfortable to us. The stories don’t shock us any more. The power of the Word no longer shines a light into the darkest recesses of our heart, no longer illuminates the brokenness of our hearts.
Instead of us serving God, we expect His Word to serve us. We read it and regurgitate it. And that’s an AWESOME approach is we are planning a trivia night or if you’re trying to win a debate. On the other hand, that approach stinks if you want to be truly transformed.
If we’re too comfortable with the Bible, too jaded by it, then it can’t adequately bother us. Instead, we use it to point out everybody else’s mistakes. We’re way too comfortable using the Bible to win an argument, but not NEARLY as comfortable letting it challenge us to look at life a new way. The Bible was never intended to be “used”. It was intended to be a living, breathing thing with which we interact.
     2Timothy 3:15-17 You have known the Holy Scriptures ever since you were a little child. They are able to teach you how to be saved by believing in Christ Jesus. God has breathed life into all of Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. By using Scripture, a man of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing.
The Bible does not…and cannot…save us. Because knowing the Bible doesn’t guarantee that we know Jesus. Instead, God’s Word points us toward Jesus- “the Word made flesh”- He is the only One Who can save us.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow-