Category Archives: Other

Missions Panel Discussion With Bro. Nicholas J. Rafael and Bro. Brandon Bramlett

Following Bro. Nicholas’ message on missions emphasis, we had a panel discussion on missions. Several questions were submitted to us that we attempted to answer on this panel, that you can listen to below:

  1. What is/are missions?
  2. Does God call all Christians to missions?
  3. How do I know if I’m called to missions?
  4. Why are missions so expensive?
  5. How can I be mission-minded?

WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION HERE:

I invite you to listen to his message that was preached that night also. You can hear it by clicking here: Missions Emphasis Message.

3 Things Essential to In-Home Church Groups

“. . . Teaching you in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:20)

Let’s imagine for a moment that, since the birth of Christianity as recorded in the book of Acts, no one ever built a church building. Never. No one took into consideration that a large number of believers could meet in a large building for worship. But believers still need to meet for worship because it’s biblical . . . So where would they meet? The most convenient place would be in homes. That’s the next best thing to gathering for worship in a church building, isn’t it? Bible study and worship in your own home. Well, that’s exactly where the early church met for worship before there was ever one brick laid in construction of a church building (Acts 2:46; 20:20; Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon 2).

Many churches are still following this model for “doing church” even today, and they should be because it is both biblical and strategic for reaching people for Jesus Christ with the gospel. First it is biblical. It is biblical because it is usually only a smaller version of our regular corporate worship gatherings at our own local church. The Bible commands and exhorts us to meet together with other believers (Psalm 150:1-6; Matt. 18:20; Heb. 10:25; 1 John 1:7). You cannot be a growing, thriving believer if you’re not attending and participating in a local church somewhere. So meeting in a home for worship and Bible study, or meeting in a community center or restaurant is only a condensed version of what you would normally do with more believers in a larger setting and building. Second it is strategic for reaching people for Christ. Most people today, especially today, have their preconceived assumptions about the church. With this in mind, people are far easier to reach with the gospel in your home or out in public, than they are in the church. When you think about it, that is actually essential to the way evangelism is supposed to be done. People will respond more positively to an invitation to your home than they will an invitation to a church they know nothing about. You can reach them with the gospel in your home, and then they are far more likely to attend your church and continue attending your church. We need to be reaching people with the gospel and bringing them into our churches in non-threatening ways. We’re not changing the message of the gospel, only the means through which we present it. We can have a bonfire at the house, a cookout, we can meet for lunch with a couple of friends, and the list goes on and on – there are several available options for meeting places, which makes it that much more strategic for reaching people for Christ.

So you want to start doing this. You want to get this thing going. You want to be biblical and you want to reach people for Christ through our own home and community. Well, there are at least three things essential to these “in-home” church groups. Three things that you need to keep in mind in order to start and sustain groups in your community or home:

1. Focus. You need a missions-focused church that is on board and ready to do smaller churches in homes. I believe we should excite our church members by sharing with them this model of doing church, and encouraging them to participate in and support it. If no one else in your church is concerned about outreach, you should be concerned about your church – they are destined to close their doors. Your entire church needs to be focused on reaching people with the gospel in this way. It might take some time to get members informed about this, and excited to participate, but your time will be well spent if you do so. This is something that should be consistently promoted in your local church. Both you and your church should have a continual focus on meeting in homes, so that members can participate and do the same thing you’re doing.

2. Training. You need people who are trained, at least in some way, to teach the Bible – leading those Bible studies, able to answer tough questions, able to lead others to Christ, and things of that nature. Someone in your church may have an earnest desire to be involved in small groups that meet in homes, but if they haven’t ever taught a Bible study, they need some type of training where they can learn how to do so. It doesn’t need to be formal Bible college training per se, but they need to know the basics because one day they will teach someone else to be a teacher of the word. You and your church should have people who are fully prepared.

3. Resources. Anytime something like this is done, you need resources. You need financial resources, literary resources, and a place to meet. Your home should be a place where you can meet for Bible studies. If it’s a one bedroom apartment, it’s probably not the best place to meet. Perhaps you can meet in your local park or in a restaurant or coffee shop. You also need literary resources: Bibles, Bible study booklets, books on the Bible, gospel tracts, etc. Those things will contribute to your overall outreach. Many people you will have in your home or meeting place do not have resources like this. All of this will require some type of financial support. Are you financially able to carry out a continuous small group Bible study? Are you financially able to have cookouts or snacks around the table when you meet for fellowship?

Those are a few things to keep in mind as you have “in-home” church groups. Is there anything else would you add?

3 Important Theological Pillars for Missions

If you’re like me when you hear the word missions, you probably think back to the Great Commission that Jesus gave the church (Matthew 28:19). Or you might think of those fighting for social justice, or those who sweat and work for years at building projects and digging wells, and feeding the hungry. But missions is even more than that, and missions does not originate with man’s desire for social good, and it doesn’t even originate or begin in the Great Commission. The idea of missions is rooted in the Bible and weaved carefully throughout it’s pages. The Bible teaches us that missions is not man’s idea. Missions is within the nature of God, it is Jesus’ chief reason for coming to earth, and it is the goal of the church. I believe the Bible reveals this to us by way of three major pillars, if you will. Let’s take a look:

I. God is Missional

The Bible teaches that God is missional in both His nature and being, and His plan for mankind. These are inseparable. We see throughout the biblical account that as God seeks after man, His mission is to redeem him. This originates from God’s own character and nature, and is revealed in His promises of redemption in the Old Testament, and the work of redemption culminated in the New Testament. We can see that God is seeking after man to redeem him in just the beginning chapters of Genesis. After Adam had sinned, God came looking for him once he had sinned (Gen. 3:9-13), and then promises future redemption (3:15).

Throughout the Old Testament, we see God in relationship to the patriarchs and to His people, the Israelites—but only because He sought them as His covenant people that He would one day redeem from the curse of sin through His promised Redeemer, Christ. This very truth is promised to Abram (later in Genesis) that through His covenant people who would eventually bring forth the Messiah, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). So while God first sets the Israelites apart as His chosen people, it is clear from the Old Testament and especially the Psalms, that God is seeking for “all the nations” to praise Him (Psalm 66:4; 67:3; 117:1). The narrative of the Old Testament would be enough evidence to say that God is a missional God who is seeking His people for a covenant relationship with Him.

But the New Testament attests to this fact as well. We read that God desires all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). God’s missional nature and plan climaxes at the highest point through the coming of the Lord Jesus, God Himself, who takes on flesh and bears the penalty for sin in order to accomplish redemption (Luke 19:10; John 3:17; Rom. 3:24).

II. Jesus is Missional

Secondly, it is evident that Jesus is also missional. The Bible implies that Jesus is missional in His purpose for coming to earth, and His work of redemption on the cross. First, the purpose for Jesus’ coming to the earth is missional. Jesus Himself testifies that He has come to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), and that He came into the world “in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Indeed, the Gospels depict Jesus’ main purpose for coming to earth was to redeem man, and the Epistles explain the implications of this redemption, revolving around the truth that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).

Second, the work of Jesus is missional. He accomplished fully His purpose for coming into the world by dying on the cross and resurrecting in order to reconcile man to a seeking God. His death and resurrection accomplished the mission of God to redeem mankind. Jesus’ work on the cross results in reconciliation to God (2 Cor. 5:18-19), and now believers are “brought near [to God] by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13; cf. Col. 1:21-22). Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth was missional—He came to redeem mankind. And His work was missional—it did redeem mankind, reconciling us back to God through faith in Christ.

III. The Church is Missional

Finally, the Bible teaches us that the church is missional. The church, being the body of redeemed believers everywhere, is missional in its very structure and origin. The only way that the church can grow is through the goal of missions: making disciples. Jesus commissions His few disciples in Matthew 28 that they are to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (v. 19a). This would not happen by keeping to themselves and being apathetic about sharing the gospel. Empowered by the Spirit, they made disciples and the church grew in only a short time to “about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

The church is missional because the only way it can grow is by disciples making disciples. It is within the context of the church that believers are equipped through the teaching of the word, in order to do “the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). It is the mission of the church to bring the ultimate message of missions—God’s mission to mankind, to others so that God can “bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Rom. 1:5).

Spurgeon on Confidence in God

Once again, as I was reading Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening, I stumbled upon a theological gold mine that I’d like to share with you:

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”  (Psalm 138:8)

“Most manifestly the confidence which the Psalmist here expressed was a divine confidence. He did not say, “I have grace enough to perfect that which concerneth me—my faith is so steady that it will not stagger—my love is so warm that it will never grow cold—my resolution is so firm that nothing can move it; no, his dependence was on the Lord alone. If we indulge in any confidence which is not grounded on the Rock of ages, our confidence is worse than a dream, it will fall upon us, and cover us with its ruins, to our sorrow and confusion. All that Nature spins time will unravel, to the eternal confusion of all who are clothed therein. The Psalmist was wise, he rested upon nothing short of the Lord’s work. It is the Lord who has begun the good work within us; it is He who has carried it on; and if he does not finish it, it never will be complete. If there be one stitch in the celestial garment of our righteousness which we are to insert ourselves, then we are lost; but this is our confidence, the Lord who began will perfect. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all. Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do. Unbelief insinuates—”You will never be able to stand. Look at the evil of your heart, you can never conquer sin; remember the sinful pleasures and temptations of the world that beset you, you will be certainly allured by them and led astray.” Ah! yes, we should indeed perish if left to our own strength. If we had alone to navigate our frail vessels over so rough a sea, we might well give up the voyage in despair; but, thanks be to God, He will perfect that which concerneth us, and bring us to the desired haven. We can never be too confident when we confide in Him alone, and never too much concerned to have such a trust.” ¹

I’ve really struggled with giving God my best in my personal life and ministry here lately. I’ve prayed, “Lord, today I’m going to get back with the program,” or “God, I just need to get back to the way things used to be.” Now while I may have good intentions, I was missing the main point the whole time. I am weak, and I always will be. God is strong and He always will be. He just calls me to be confident in Him that He will work through me and give me the strength I need to be fully obedient to Him. God will “perfect that which concerneth me.”


1. Spurgeon, Charles H. Morning and Evening (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 304.

 

Books I’m Reading This Summer

Books function in a very interesting way. The author portrays images, settings, and plots that we can visualize as we read their words. Most of us will probably never have the privilege of talking with John Bunyan or John Piper, but we can sit down with them by reading their books. Their message can be engraved in our hearts by spending time with the books that they poured their energies into.

I think it is spiritually beneficial to read many, many books. And for those of us who love to read, we typically spend our free time in the Summer months reading. Of course, I play tennis, sweat doing yard work, plan ministry events, and other things that ministers do during the Summer. But I make it a priority to prevent myself from being so busy during the Summer that I neglect reading books. If I’m too busy to spend some time with some of the greatest authors in the literary universe, then I’m too busy. So I have a list of books I’m reading this Summer I wanted to share, and encourage you to add them to your list if you haven’t compiled a list already. Many of them I have already begun reading. So here they are:

Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007).

I have heard this book referenced from pastors in sermons to scholars in commentaries, but I never read it. I started reading a few weeks ago, and this is a must read book for any Christian seeking to see his Christian pilgrimage in a different light. The author, John Bunyan, tells of a pilgrim named Christian on a journey to the Celestial City and all of the obstacles that he meets on the way. The theology of this book is deep. Written in 1661, Bunyan allegorically teaches the basic tenets of the Christian life by way of a pilgrim on his way to a great city, with the Lord as King. It’s a good book for college students like myself who are used to reading systematic theologies and textbooks, because it is a fiction book. It’s just a story, but it is the story of our lives as Christians, and this is easily seen from the first few sentences.

Mueller, George. Answers to Prayer (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007).

The editor writes on the back cover, “When George Mueller could not get it out of his mind to open a house for orphans in late 1835, he purposed to do so “that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith.” George Mueller was a man of prayer and great faith.  Recorded in this book are thousands of answers to his prayers. When Mueller endeavored to open these orphan houses, he was only provided for by God and by the prayers he prayed. This book is a great encouragement to unceasing prayer.

Hamilton, James M. What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).

The Bible tells one big story: God’s redemption for His people. That’s what Hamilton’s book is all about (from what I’ve read so far). In it, he provides a guide to interpreting the Bible’s clearly recognizable patterns and symbols that tells us about the big story of the Bible. There is a way that God intends for us to read the Bible, that is, in light of its big story. That’s what this book is all about: how we can read the Bible the way God intended. This book is endorsed by some of the greatest Bible teachers in our day.

Sproul, R. C. What is Reformed Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997).

I’ve never read a book by Dr. Sproul that didn’t help me grow in my faith. I won’t write here about my struggle in my beliefs about the sovereignty of God (it’s a long story), but I have found Dr. R. C.’s teaching the most helpful on the subject. Long ago, when I fought against Calvinism and all tenets of reformed theology, I would never read anything by Sproul or any other author I suspected was reformed. But through the years, and through countless reading and study, I have come to accept reformed theology as entirely biblical. One of the books that helped me realize the truthfulness of reformed theology was Dr. Sproul’s book, Chosen by GodHe explained the grandest truths of Scripture like election, and man’s responsibility in easy-to-understand terms. Reading this book led me to desire a wider reading on the subject, so I picked up this book to read on the subject further. Now, I have tons of books on reformed theology ranging from Calvin to Horton, but I felt like Dr. Sproul is very gifted in explaining its deep content in a way where lay-readers and students can understand clearly.

Lee, Trip (William Lee Barefield, III). Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2015).

Trip Lee is a Christian rapper and committed follower of Jesus who has greatly impacted the lives of thousands of people. One of things you immediately recognize about him is his fervor against cultural identification and the need for standing out as a Christian. His latest album, Rise clearly reveals this. This book is the companion to that album. And the foreword is by John Piper, so you know it has to be good. It is also endorsed by a few of the greatest NFL players today.

Murray, David Philip. Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013).

I’ll be honest: I struggle when I try to preach from the Old Testament. I simply don’t have the experience preaching in the Old Testament like I do in the New Testament. But it is my conviction that the Old Testament is just as much the Bible as the New Testament is. Paul says that “All Scripture is inspired by God,” (2 Tim. 3:16), and that includes the largest portion of the Bible: the Old Testament. The area I struggle with the most is finding out how an Old Testament narrative or prophecy relates directly to Jesus. I know that it does, for all of the Bible is Christ-centered. I just want to know how. That is why I picked up this book. From the reviews I have read, it looks like it will do the trick.

Mohler Jr., R. Albert. He is Not Silent (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Dr. Mohler has impacted my life in more ways than I can count, and especially in the area of preaching. He is one of the leading voices in the evangelical world today for the need of expository preaching in our churches. Expository preaching is proclaiming the Bible the way the authors intended for us to proclaim it. It is preaching the true meaning of biblical texts that is relevant to everyday life. From reading Mohler often, I felt I needed this book. It seems that in it, Mohler provides a theology of preaching and presents the real necessity for expository preaching in our day.

What are you reading this Summer?

Charles Spurgeon on the Winter Season

I’m not a big fan of winter. I really enjoy the Christmas season, but I could do without the frosty weather. The snow for example, it’s beautiful and breathtaking, but I’d rather have fall, spring, or summer over winter any day. I know I’m not alone in that conviction. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of people easily prefer other seasons to winter. With that being said, I read an interesting perspective on winter from Charles H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening today as winter is beginning to usher in with its sharp winds, frost, freezing rain, and snow. I would like to share with you some of Spurgeon’s thoughts on the winter season:

Scripture: “Thou hast made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

Spurgeon: “My soul begins this wintry month with thy God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind thee that He keeps His covenant with day and night, and tend to assure thee that He will also keep that glorious covenant which He has made with thee in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.

Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frost kills noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soil. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

How we prize the fire just now! How pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw night to Him, and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises, and go forth to labours which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.” ¹


1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening(Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 702.

Charles Spurgeon on “Walking in the Truth”

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) was born in Essex, England. He became a Christian in 1850 and a year later he was the pastor of a small Baptist church. In 1854 he was called to the pastorate of New Park Street Baptist Chapel in Southwark, London. His preaching attracted great crowds, so much so that a new building, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, was erected. During his ministry, he built up a congregation which numbered about 6,000. As well as being a popular preacher, Spurgeon was involved in several charitable organizations, including an orphanage at Stockwell. ¹

Spurgeon’s influence is still affecting millions of lives even today, and one of the ways his influence has been spreading is through his classic devotional, Morning and Evening. This is one of the best devotionals you can buy even today (and it’s offered in a variety of formats: leather-bound, paperback, hardback, Kindle and eBook, etc.). In this devotional, you can read Spurgeon’s writings, sermons, and deep reflections on various Scriptures. One for morning, and one for evening. Now there are some excellent classic devotionals out there, like My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, but none compare to Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon.

I was reading today’s devotion, and I was struck by Spurgeon’s description of “walking in the truth,” and wanted to share it with you. Enjoy:

Scripture: ‘For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth’ (3 John 3)

Spurgeon: “The truth was in Gaius, and Gaius walked in the truth. If the first had not been the case, the second could never have occurred; and if the second could not be said of him the first would have been a mere pretence. Truth must enter into the soul, penetrate and saturate it, or else it is of no value. Doctrines held as a matter of creed are like bread in the hand, which ministers no nourishment to the frame; but doctrine accepted by the heart, is as food digested, which, by assimilation, sustains and builds up the body. In us truth must be a living force, an active energy, and indwelling reality, a part of the woof and warp of our being. If it be in us, we cannot henceforth part with it. A man may lose his garments or his limbs, but his inward parts are vital, and cannot be torn away without absolute loss of life. A Christian can die, but he cannot deny the truth.

Now it is a rule of nature that the inward affects the outward, as light shines from the centre of a lantern through the glass: when, therefore, the truth is kindled within, its brightness soon beams forth in the outward life and conversation. It is said that the food of certain worms colours the cocoons of silk which they spin: and just so the nutriment upon which a man’s inward nature lives gives a tinge to every word and deed proceeding from him. To walk in the truth, imports a life of integrity, holiness, faithfulness, and simplicity – the natural product of those principles of truth which the gospel teaches, and which the Spirit of God enables us to receive. We may judge of the secrets of the soul by their manifestation in the man’s conversations.

Be it ours today, O gracious Spirit, to be ruled and governed by Thy divine authority, so that nothing false or sinful may reign in our hearts, lest it extend its malignant influence to our daily walk among men.” ²

Wow. As a student of the Bible, and a Bible college student, I think I have easily recognized the importance of doctrine and truth in the life of a Christian. But up until today, I have never heard such a picturesque description of how it truly affects the Christian life. Get a copy of Morning and Eveningand start growing in your faith.


1. This introduction is adapted from Morning and Evening(Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1994).
2. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 694.

Exciting Bible Study Series in 2015

One of my favorite things to do as a minister is to plan future Bible studies and sermon series. The anticipation is more intense than a three-year-old waiting for Christmas morning. I cannot wait to teach the Bible. Jeremiah’s words burn in my heart (no pun intended): “There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jer. 20:9). I am privileged at a local church to teach regularly, and with this privilege I get to plan for upcoming Bible studies. I will share with you some of God’s stirrings in me for upcoming Bible studies in 2015:

1. A Gospel-Shaped Community

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If the gospel doesn’t shape you, you’ve never experienced the gospel. One of the most unique things about the gospel is that it doesn’t just transform individuals, but it transforms individuals into a community of people shaped by the gospel. That’s what Titus is all about. Often times, people overlook this letter because it is a pastoral letter from Paul to his “true child in the faith,” Titus (1:4). But in reality, it’s not just a personal pastor letter from a concerned Paul to a young Titus. It’s a rich, theological letter, full of implications for what it means to be shaped by the gospel. Paul describes various people that make up this new community, and how they should be shaped by the gospel: Elders (1:5-16); Older men (2:2); Older women and younger women (2:3-5); Young men (2:6); Servants (2:9); and all of God’s people (2:11-14). We will study through Paul’s letter to Titus to see how people shaped by the gospel are called to live. I am excited about the spiritual growth and discussion that this sermon series will bring about.

2. 7 Churches of Revelation

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Revelation. Some people study this daunting book of the Bible with unreasonable skepticism, others stay completely away from it because of its unusual literary type. But even amid Revelation’s difficult symbolic language, and despite all the scholarly skepticism that surrounds it, Revelation is highly practical (as all of the Bible is). One of the most practical sections of Revelation is an outstanding section on the 7 Churches of Revelation. Now if you’ve read Revelation before, you easily recognize that there are seven-fold series (seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, etc.), and the first seven-fold series consists of the seven churches. In this section, Jesus Himself gives a diagnosis of each church, with both positive and negative elements. These were churches that were existent at the time when Revelation was written, and we must reflect on what characteristics we should have as Jesus’ church, and what characteristics we shouldn’t have as Jesus’ church. This is going to be an expositional study of Revelation 1:1-3:22.

3. Who Am I?

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Who are you? The answer to that question says everything about you. In our culture today, we allow so many things to define who we are. But what about who God says we are? Isn’t that infinitely more important? This study examines Ephesians 1:3-14 and looks at what God says about us as His people. No one can define who you are but God alone through what He’s accomplished through Christ.

4. In The Beginning

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We need to know about our origins. . . period. Everything else in the world is dependent on answering the question, “Where did we come from?” Looking at the first chapters of Genesis, we will learn how to defend the Genesis account of creation, looking at Genesis literally and expositionally. We will learn about the creation of the world, the creation of man, and the origin of sin. Your knowledge of origins will far exceed what it was before. I had tried to do this Bible study earlier this year, but couldn’t find a spot to slot it in, so I am going to aim for it again this year.

You can keep up with these upcoming Bible studies right here on Brandon’s Desk. I look forward to what God is going to do during these expositions of His Word.

Resisting Temptation, a Guest Post by Bradley Finley

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13, NIV).

How cool is that? God makes sure that every temptation comes with it’s own escape plan! While God “tempts no one” (James 1:13), Satan presents before us the opportunity to sin, but God allows us a way of escape. So this means if you really want to get away from a tempting situation, you will be able to. In fact, in most cases, all you have to do is run.

Everybody gets tempted to do something they know they shouldn’t do. In some cases you may need to actually run to avoid making a mistake. When you get hit with temptation, do something to get it off your mind right then and there. Go mow the yard, or clean the house, or take a drive because if you don’t do anything to resist giving in to temptation, chances are you will give in. Prayer shouldn’t be neglected either. It is truly a big help. God wants you to come to Him in prayer with every request that you have. We must understand that He may not always give us the answer we want, but He will give us the strength and endurance we need to accept our situation, grow from it and move forward.

You know, there are two kinds of role models: The ones who say, “Do as I say and not as I do, ” and the ones who say, “Follow my example.” Jesus definitely belongs in the second category. Not only did He talk the talk, but He also walked the walk. He had to deal with the same emotions we all struggle with. (We can relate to Jesus) He faced the same major temptations you face; but He never got beaten by them. He left the earth with the only perfect record against sin. That’s great news for you! No matter what your going through, Jesus can relate to it. Want to know something even better? He can give you the strength you need to be victorious over sin and also temptation.

The Need for Biblical Interpretation

The need for biblical interpretation is ever-increasing in our postmodern age, especially considering the growing pluralism in the world. Since God is the ultimate authority in all matters, and we believe that the Bible is God’s very words, we look to the Bible for a solid foundation to all matters of life. Because of this, we want to know what the Bible means. In order to find this out, we need to reflect on how the meaning of the Bible is obtained.

Since we know that the books and letters of the Bible are a written form of communication, we know that three main components are involved, because these three components are part of any written communication. These are: the text/writing, the reader, and the author. First, it is important that we evaluate all three and see if they could be the determiners of meaning. We are asking, “Who or what determines the meaning of a biblical text?” The text cannot be the determiner of meaning because it is an inanimate object, and cannot produce meaning—it may convey meaning, but can never produce it. The reader cannot be the determiner of meaning, because if that is true, then there can be as many meanings as there are readers—and they cannot all be right. The author as the determiner of meaning is the only legitimate conclusion. The author meant one thing by what he wrote, and that intention was fixed at the time of writing—and cannot be changed. All literature is rightly interpreted this way.

Therefore, the main goal in interpreting the Bible is determining what the author meant by what he wrote. This goal that we want to reach cannot happen spontaneously, however. There are many barriers to discovering what the author meant by what he wrote. Historical barriers, cultural barriers, linguistic or language barriers, and philosophical barriers. Because of these barriers, the need for biblical interpretation is created.

First of all, we are centuries in time difference from the authors of the Old and New Testaments. There were things that were common to them back then, that may not be to us today. For instance, we cannot necessarily interpret Leviticus through a 21st century lens. Second, there are many cultural differences that cause a barrier between us and the time of the biblical writers. Namely, oaths and marriages were quite different in that day than in ours. It would not be sound, then, to think of Mary and Joseph’s “betrothal” (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56) as simply an engagement in our time because engagement is culturally relevant to our world today. The culture then was much different than today, and this creates the need for biblical interpretation. Third, the very language of the Bible is not the language we speak. The original language of the Old Testament was Hebrew (with portions of Aramaic), and the New Testament in Greek. Hebrew and Greek are an entirely different language, with different letters, usages, rules, and phrases. Biblical interpretation is important because in order to determine what the author meant by what he wrote, we must look at the original languages as best as we can. Finally, the philosophy of the Bible is very different than that of our 21st century. We live in a postmodern world with pluralistic ideologies. This creates the need for biblical interpretation because the philosophy of the Bible is not pluralistic, and it is not hedonistic either, like our world is today. People today doubt the existence of a Triune God, while the people of Bible times just assumed His existence—their philosophy was different.

So then, discovering the author’s intended meaning will require biblical interpretation in light of all of these barriers that might hinder us from finding out the meaning that the author intended.

[Below is an addition, published on July 29, 2017]

So do we arrive at the true meaning of the Bible based on our own interpretation of the Bible? Can we arrive at a biblical interpretation on our own? Do we all have an equally valuable opinion about what Scripture means? Does everyone have a shot at biblical interpretation and can we use any rules of interpretation we want? It’s not exactly as simple as it may sound.

Consider the oft spoken phrase, “Well, that’s just your interpretation.” This is easily the most cliche statement uttered in Christian circles, usually when there is disagreement about the meaning of a text. And it is becoming quite wearisome to continually hear it spoken as a defense of one’s own interpretation of a text. Usually they add, “That’s your interpretation and this is mine.” I will go ahead and say at the outset that there are two fundamental reasons why this assumption is not only wrong, but even heretical in my estimation. First of all, it allows for everyone and anyone to have any opinion whatsoever about the meaning of Scripture. And secondly, it doesn’t allow the real meaning of the Bible to be preserved and taught.

Let’s deal with the first reason. It may sound narrow-minded to say that no one should be allowed to have as many opinions as they want about the meaning of Scripture, and yes – it is narrow-minded, but in a good way and I will explain this more later. The fallacy with this idea that everyone has a “say-so” concerning the meaning of Scripture is found in the implications and logical conclusions of that approach. What this approach to interpretation implies is that there is no real, concrete, or reliable interpretation of any biblical text whatsoever. If everyone has an equal say in what a text means, and if everyone’s assumption holds equal value (what this assertion implies), then there can be no real meaning. If A is equally valuable to B, C, and D, and they are all esteemed as possibly correct interpretations, then either everybody is right or everybody is wrong.

Now, let’s be honest – most of those interpretations are likely going to contradict one another. Most of the time varying interpretations contradict one another, otherwise there would be no disagreement leading to a round table discussion where everyone gives their opinions about meaning! And in the case when those interpretations do contradict, plain sense would tell you that not everybody around the table has an equal say about what a biblical text means. Either they are insane, or the authors of the Bible were insane. If Billy thinks the verse means that Scripture is without error, and Sally thinks the verse means that Scripture is full of error, then somebody is wrong because those two assertions contradict one another. Both of them might be wrong, but both of them cannot simultaneously be right.

The second reason this approach to interpretation is wrong also has to do with consistency – the author’s original meaning is no longer preserved. Consider that we do not believe it to be ethical or right to take a historical document and twist it anyway we want. When a document is written in history, the author’s meaning is sealed forever. Therefore, the only correct interpretation of any historical document must be in harmony and accordance with what the author really meant by what he wrote. We dare not do this with great works in history such as the writings of Eusebius, or Josephus, or the Constitution. One could possibly be jailed for reading something into those documents that was not intended by the original author.

So then, it is absolute insanity to suppose that it is wrong to do this with historical works, but it is right to do this with the Bible. The Bible is the word of God, supremely more valuable than any historical document – and like any historical document its meaning is sealed in history forever. The only way one can discover its meaning is by discovering the author’s original meaning – which we are very much able to do.

But note the insanity of interpreting a written text in any fashion desirable: If I text my wife that we need milk and eggs, she is not free to interpret that in any way she wants, and neither is anybody else. To take it a step further, let’s suppose I send her that text on Monday, and she doesn’t read it until Wednesday. Can she now interpret that anyway she wants, because it is an old message? I would believe her to be insane if she sat down with a group of her friends for two hours trying to figure out what I meant by that text. How strange would it be for each of her friends to offer a different interpretation of what I meant by that text. One might say, “Well here’s what I think – he probably wants you to buy rice milk and snake eggs.” Another remarks, “Your husband strikes me as the type that likes to get prepared, so he probably wants you to bring home a cow and a few chickens so that you never have to go to the market to buy milk and eggs ever again.” Another says, “Well, let’s think about it this way – what do you get when you mix milk and eggs? Usually scrambled eggs, right? He probably has a craving for some scrambled eggs from Cracker Barrel.”

It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Clearly, I meant that my wife needs to pick up a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs from the supermarket. But with a philosophy of interpretation that allows for anyone to interpret what I wrote in any way they want, the original meaning is lost and no longer preserved. In fact, the value of my text becomes virtually worthless. The interpretations make my text obsolete. My text no longer has any value if it is subject to this many interpretations. Neither are we allowed to do this with the Bible!

It doesn’t matter what your interpretation is, and it doesn’t matter what my interpretation is. What matters is the right interpretation. We must answer the question: What did author of the text mean by what he wrote to the original audience?

Clearly, there are many other rules of interpretation to follow when seeking to discover the author’s original meaning. But all of those rules must flow from pursuing the answer to this one question. Therefore, any interpretation which does not agree with the author’s original meaning is false and should be rejected. And we discover the original meaning through careful study of the context, study of history, study of the original languages, and many other things. I understand that many of us do not have either the time nor the professional training required to use all of those means listed to discover the author’s original meaning. But there is one rule of interpretation upon which we must all agree. And this one rule of interpretation is fundamental to understanding any verse of Scripture, and it is certainly fundamental to discovering the author’s original meaning by what he wrote. In addition, while we may not know much of how to use those means of discovering the author’s meaning listed above, this one rule alone will suffice. In fact, all of those other means proceed from this one rule, therefore even using them is an extension of using this one rule (and to some degree is necessary to using this one rule in its fullness). This one rule concerns consistency, and it is this: We must interpret Scripture with Scripture. We must do so, brothers and sisters. This is to say, what we assert as an interpretation of any biblical text must agree with Scripture as a whole. If our interpretation is in disagreement with any other verse, idea, or teaching in Scripture then our interpretation is wrong and must be changed.

To the example earlier, if Sally asserts that the correct interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16 is that Scripture contains error, then we must endeavor to discover if that interpretation agrees with the rest of Scripture. And anybody who knows their Bible even remotely understands that 2 Timothy 3:16, and Scripture as a whole refutes that interpretation. The Bible itself claims that it is a book that should be received as the divine revelation of God, for that is what it is. Therefore, it is without error and inerrant. So Sally’s interpretation is wrong.

Well, that’s just your interpretation.” Let us both stop saying this and encouraging others to do so. We are not free to interpret the Bible any way we want – we are only free to discover the author’s original meaning by what they wrote in the sacred text. Let us study the Scriptures daily to discover their true meaning, and may our interpretations be in unison with the overall teaching of Scripture.