Monday, December 31, 2007

Favorite Football Photo

In anticipation of Georgia's Sugar Bowl Game tomorrow, I'd like to show you my favorite UGA photo. You can clearly see the fearless mascot intimidating this poor, scared Auburn player (circa 1996). Go Dawgs!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Crummy Church Signs

For the most part, church signs do more bad than good. Or at least they just seem pathetic.

I have had a lot of fun looking at many of them at Crummy Church Signs. Enjoy.

Below is one of my personal (least) favorites.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'm a Follower of the Jesus of the Bible Interpreted Literally

On Christmas Eve I received the following e-mail from a friend of mine who lives in India. He was my Hindi tutor during our time there. Let’s call him “Ganesh,” which is a popular name in India. Can you figure out what religion he is a member of?
"God is beloved wherever whatever.......... Today God was born as Jesus in Bethlehem and all His life He loved God and His creatures. He taught us how to love God. Merry Christmas."
If you know anything about India, you probably know that it is the home of Hinduism. Based on our discussions, I know that Ganesh refers to himself as a Hindu, and in particular worships the monkey god Hanuman. Because Hinduism does not have strict boundaries and is not based on historic occurrences, it is open to accepting other religions as valid. This is one reason why some Westerners are attracted to Hinduism, which can easily morph into New Age theology.

The above note shows how insidious Hinduism can be. If you just take a cursory glance at what is written, it almost sounds nice (O.K., it has to be a very cursory glance.) Upon examination of what is really said here, what we have is pluralism.

Let’s look at what Ganesh has said. “God is beloved wherever whatever” is a clearly pluralistic statement. In other words, it matters not how you come to god. All approaches are valid. The conclusion must be that anyone can invent any means to get to god. All avenues to god are good as long as they are motivated by love.

Ganesh then recognizes Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. However, he says “God was born as Jesus.” This sounds creepily like Modalism (declaring that there is only one person in the godhead who shows himself to us in three modes) to me. Christians know that Jesus was God even before his birth. John 1:1-5 makes this exceedingly clear. This statement is Ganesh’s attempt to admit that Jesus is god, while also keeping all of his Hindu gods.

Interestingly, the remainder of Ganesh’s statement, while maybe not exactly the way we would put it, is correct. He wrote, “all His life He loved God and His creatures. He taught us how to love God.”

This may seem like a harmless e-mail to some. Despite my love for Ganesh, I find his e-mail to be evil. Why? By saying what he does, he relegates Jesus to the status of just another god or just another appearance of god. The bible clearly teaches that Jesus is the one perfect sacrifice for sins. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Ganesh terribly insults the one God when he treats Jesus as just another member of the pantheon.

Since my friend is not saved, I should expect no less. How can an unregenerate person make clear statements about God? He cannot. Orthodox Christianity is foolishness to him.

His note concerns me because so many people within the church, who claim to be followers of Christ, probably wouldn’t see too much wrong with Ganesh’s e-mail. Many churched people these days deny the existence of absolute truth. They say it is intolerant to make Jesus the only way to heaven (as if we decide what the terms are).

I’m afraid that when a person calls himself a Christian these days, it means little. The term has lost much of its original meaning. We all know that about 80% of Americans claim to be Christians. Enough said of that.

What if someone claims to be a follower of Jesus? That term is a bit better, but Ganesh could even claim the same based on his note.

What if someone said he was a follower of the Jesus of the bible? That’s even better, but a problem still remains. With so many ways of interpreting scripture out there, people can use the bible to justify almost any view of Jesus they want.

I’ve come to a conclusion. Although it is a mouthful, maybe I need to refer to myself as “a follower of the Jesus of the bible when interpreted literally.” Hmmmmm. That is a bit of a mouthful. However, with so many unbiblical views of who Jesus is (including Ganesh’s), it might be necessary.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Overcome by the Incarnation

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I am overcome by the wonder of the incarnation. More than any other passage of scripture, Philippians 2:5-8 describes the stunning sacrifice made by Jesus during the incarnation. That passage reads:

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (ESV)

Every section of the above paragraph is full of meaning. My purpose in this post is to briefly look at each section of verses six through eight. I’ll primarily do this by looking at corresponding scripture.

In verse five, Paul is exhorting his readers to strive for unity by having a mind like that of Christ. He then reminds them of what Christ did, serving as the perfect example of humility.

Verse 6a tells us, “who, though he was in the form of God,”. John 1:1-5 gives us more information about the fact that Jesus is God. John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” So as we think about the incarnation, we need to remember that Jesus is fully God. He has always existed, and has always been with the Father (except while on earth). Jesus was also intricately involved with all creation. He is the source of all light and hope for this world.

Verse 6b states, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,”. In John 14:28, Jesus says, “You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” Here Jesus plainly states that the Father is greater than he is. He does not mean that the Father has more value than he does, but that the Father’s role is above that of Christ’s. By saying this, Jesus is making clear the fact that he is not grasping for the Father’s position. Later in John’s gospel, in chapter 17:1-5, Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” In this prayer, Jesus says that he glorified the Father during his time on earth, and also accomplished the tasks the Father gave him to do. This illustrates that Jesus was submissive to the will of his Father.

In verse 7a, we learn, “but (Jesus) made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,”. Scripture shows us Jesus’ servanthood both in word and deed. In Mark 10:45, Jesus says of himself, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In John 13:1-5, during Christ’s last evening before the crucifixion, we learn, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” We learn from Mark and John that Jesus both said he was a servant and acted this out.

Verses 7b and 8a tell us, “being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form,”. We learn more about this in John 1:14. This verse says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word “form” (morphe in Greek) used by John is the same word he used in verse six. In verse six, Jesus is in the form of God. This means he was 100% God. In verses 7b and 8a, we see that Jesus was in the form of a human. This means that he was 100% man (not some sort of part-human or just a good likeness of humanity). Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. This is the miracle of the incarnation. This is extremely important to us because Jesus had to be fully human in order to take our place on the cross.

Finally, we see the most amazing part of the incarnation. In 8b, Paul writes, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” A much fuller description of the crucifixion can be found in the final “servant-song” in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The centerpiece of this song falls in verses 4-6. These three verses state, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus not only died for sins, but suffered the most humiliating, painful death possible.

As we all celebrate Christmas, may our main focus be the amazing incarnation of our Lord. We see in Philippians 2 just how much Jesus gave up in order to obey the will of His Father. The perfect Son of God, being fully God himself, humbled himself by taking on humanity. Not only that, he came as a servant. Not only that, he submitted to the worst sort of death imaginable. He did it to pay for the sins of his followers.

That is something worth celebrating.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Quote for the Day

I recently watched my favorite movie (Chariots of Fire) for about the 25th time. I love the story about Eric Liddell's racing excellence and missionary call.

At one point early in the movie, Eric's trainer and friend, Sandy McGrath, is speaking with Eric's father, Reverend J.D. Liddell. McGrath appears to be a secularist, and suggests to Rev. Liddell that Eric be a bit more liberal in his views about God.

I realize this is just a movie, but Rev. Liddell gives an amazing response about the person and character of God. Actually, considering that this appears in a movie, that makes it all the more amazing.

Rev. Liddell answers McGrath by saying, "Sandy, the Kingdom of God is not a democracy. The Lord never seeks re-election. There is no discussion, no deliberation, no referenda as to which road to take. There's one right, one wrong. There's one absolute Ruler."

Sandy replies, "A dictator you mean."

Rev. Liddell responds, "Aye, but a benign, loving dictator."

Well put, Rev. Liddell.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Unity and Galatians 1

The issue of unity within the body of Christ is a key topic that often gets overlooked in churches. If it is addressed, it is usually discussed it terms of that particular local church being united, or all the churches within that one denomination being united. Rarely do I hear talk about all Christians being united. In fact, I hear a lot more about it in the blog world (on blogs such as this, this, this, this, and this) than I do in the local church.

Is unity even important? Our Lord Jesus certainly thought it was. In John 17:20-23, He prayed, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."

I have been wondering about one thing related to this: At what point does unity end? Is there a point, and if so, where is it? It doesn't seem that God would want us to be confused on this, so where do we draw the line?

After pondering this for some time, I've come to the conclusion that we can learn quite a bit from Galatians 1:6-9. This text reads, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

When Paul writes this letter, he quickly jumps into the severe problems facing the Galatian churches. They appear to be departing from the gospel of grace that he taught them in preference for a works-based salvation taught by false teachers.

Where does Paul tell the Galatians to draw the line in this situation? He says the dividing line is the gospel. He is clear in this by repeating himself in verses eight and nine. The gospel itself is the place where they are to take a stand.

We can generalize from the Galatian situation to our current situation today. Where do we break unity? Is it over the sacraments/ordinances? Is it over church polity? Is it over philosophy of ministry? Is it over Reformed vs. Arminian theology? I don't think so.

Paul appears to be setting the dividing line, and therefore the point at which we break unity, at the gospel itself.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Will Christians Remain on Earth During the Tribulation?

Some of the questions that we hear discussed regarding eschatology, or the study of the end times, may not seem relevant to many people. However, there is certainly one question that will affect Christians some day. That question is: Will Christians remain on earth during the tribulation?

I hold to a Historic Pre-millenialist position. That's a fancy way of saying that I believe Christians will remain on earth during the tribulation. I believe the bible indicates that Jesus Christ's return will occur all at once, after the tribulation, when He comes to rule literally for 1000 years on earth.

My view is certainly not the dominant one in evangelicalism today. I have found that most Christians in the USA, whether they know the term or not, hold to a Pre-tribulation Pre-millenialist position. This position states that Jesus' return will occur in two parts. First, He will return just before the tribulation to rapture (catch-up) all Christians. Then, seven years later, at the end of the tribulation, Christ will come to earth to set up His millennial reign.

I encourage you to click here to read an excellent discussion of this topic. Although we can't be certain about this particular issue, we should at least be able to support our positions with scripture. Read and enjoy the discussion - and also read the comments (the views vary quite a bit).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This One Makes Me Think...

While at Southeastern Seminary, I had the great privilege of taking two classes with Dr. David Black. Dr. Black is one of the best professors I have ever had, regardless of content. His area of expertise happens to be Greek and New Testament.

Dr. Black's interests range wide and far. Additionally, he really lives out what he believes. You can visit his site by clicking here.

Dr. Black has some views that will challenge all of us. I appreciate that fact that he bases these on scripture. One interesting and challenging thing for me is that the Blacks do not celebrate Christmas. Why not? Their reasoning has made me think about why I do what I do at Christmas.

Click here to read the article (which is actually written by his wife) that will probably make you think about what you do at Christmas, too.

On a related topic, Dr. Black has also written about celebrating Easter; click here for that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Homeschool Family in Action...

Click here to see a great video about an amazing homeschooling family.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Beware the Jabberwock, My Son!"

The following lines come from the first two stanzas of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky," a poem written in about 1872. This poem is part of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, which is the sequel to Alice in Wonderland.

I am not much of a reader of poetry, but this is my favorite because it sounds ridiculous, is fun, and I can still tell what is going on in the poem.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

To read the remainder of the poem, click here.

In this poem, the reader is warned about the dreaded Jabberwock. I want to sound forth another warning today.

This warning goes out to all my brothers and sisters in the Christian faith who, like me, claim to be Calvinists, claim to hold to Reformed Theology, and/or claim to hold to the Doctrines of Grace (for a good, short synopsis of the Doctrines of Grace, click here).

The warning for all of us is this: let us beware the sin of pride.

As I read various articles on the internet, I see quite a bit of condescending language aimed from Calvinists toward other Christians who do not hold to our Reformed beliefs (I realize that there is also quite a bit of negative language aimed back at Calvinists, but I am not addressing that here).

The language of some Calvinists makes it sound like those who reject the Doctrines of Grace either are less intelligent or are just pig-headed. However, I know several intelligent people who claim to be Arminian, or at least do not hold to the Doctrines of Grace. Are these folks less intelligent than I am? No, they aren't. They simply have a different interpretation of scripture than I do.

Do I agree with my Arminian brothers and sisters? Well, I certainly do when it comes to the fundamental doctrines of the faith such as the trinity, the fall of man, the virgin birth, Christ's substitutionary atonement, the resurrection, the future glorification of all believers, etc.

I disagree with those who do not hold to the Doctrines of Grace. That is obvious. However, I also realize that I am not perfect in my interpretation of scripture, and acknowledge that my Calvinism does not somehow make me smarter.

As Calvinists, we need to be careful not to act like the early Gnostics. We come close to this when we act like we have some sort of "secret knowledge" that only we understand.

Let us, then, beware the sin of pride. If we are correct in our interpretation of scripture, this is only by the grace of God (as Calvinists, this should be easy for us to admit). If we are incorrect, then we're simply wrong.

Instead of dividing over the Doctrines of Grace, let's unite around our glorious Savior and His atoning work on the cross. Let's continue to discuss these issues, sharpening each other as we do.

Pride is not only sinful but is also absurd for Calvinists, since we say that anything good we have is a gift from God.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

i bible

I think most of you have seen this one. Regardless, I think you'll like (or still like) it. I especially enjoy the unique feature for Southern Baptists.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is My Daughter Going to Date?

My oldest child is almost 14-years-old. I'm not sure how that happened, but the reality is that Caroline is now much closer to going to college than she is to diapers.

I have to face the fact that she is a teenager. By the grace of God, she does not fit the stereotype of the typical moody and disrespectful teen. Actually, I think many teens act that way because parents expect them to do so.

One aspect of teen life in the USA is dating. This is almost universal in our country. Despite this, Alice and I refuse to just accept this societal norm without thinking through its ramifications.

We have searched the bible to see if we can find dating anywhere. We cannot. In fact, what we see is the parents arranging the marriages of their children. Jesus grew up in that culture. He never said anything against the arrangement of marriages whatsoever. He did make clear, however, that once a person is married, that marriage should be permanent.

Interestingly, when we lived in India we met many young people who thought that their parents should arrange their marriages. They thought this because they realized that their parents had been married for a while, had experience in marriage, and would make a wise choice. The divorce rate in India is far lower than it is in the USA; part of that has to do with the arrangement of the marriages.

Alice and I have looked at what dating has wrought upon our culture in America. The best way to put it is that it has provided practice for divorce. Many teens go through multiple relationships relatively quickly. Furthermore, teens continue to engage in pre-marital sex at an alarming rate, in large part because of dating. I see little difference in the behaviors of Christian and non-Christian teens in this area. Most teens who engage in sex do not end up marrying the person they were dating when this happened. Their breakup (if they were even together in a non-physical way) sets them up for later divorce.

What option is there today? I think the bible gives us an excellent answer for that. In the bible we read about a betrothal period that took place prior to marriage. That model could be used today like this: it would begin with the parents meeting regularly to talk things over. I would hope that the young man and woman would be given the opportunity to meet each other, and be given veto power over the marriage if their proposed spouse seems like a real dud to them. Assuming all parties are in agreement, the young man would then begin to court his future bride. This would occur with supervision so that they would not be placed in tempting situations. After a time of courting, they would then enter the actual betrothal period, which is much more serious than just a regular modern engagement.

During the betrothal period in the bible, the young woman would go to live in the home of the young man and his parents. This may have been exactly what was going on at the time Mary (the mother of Jesus) became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because things are so different in our culture, I doubt that we would have our daughters go to live in the home of their future spouses. However, I would make every effort to have our children, during betrothal, get to be with their future spouses during all different kinds of situations.

The purpose of all this is to honor God by setting our children up for the best marriages possible. Courtship and betrothal do this. Dating does not.

Of course, if all else fails, I could always get a trunk monkey (ha-ha)...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BHT, Red 40, and ADHD

God has blessed Alice and me with three children. Two of them have had life-threatening conditions, but the Lord has healed them both. Bobby had lymphoma (click here for more) and Mary had a brain aneurysm (click here).

By the grace of God, our oldest child has never had a serious illness. Caroline (age 13) has been relatively healthy for her entire life. We thank God for this.

(This is a recent photo of Caroline.)

Even with Caroline we have had to deal with some physical issues. In her case it was food allergies. Specifically, after much difficulty, we discovered that she was allergic to BHT (a preservative) and Red 40 (a coloring).

We observed from a fairly early age that Caroline would almost have a personality change after eating certain foods. She was generally a happy and pleasant small child. However, after eating certain things she would get irritable, angry, and cry for almost no reason. She would throw temper tantrums and would not want to be held. As she grew older, her reactions became more predictable. It went like this: after eating something, Caroline would get irritable, feel lousy, get a headache, fall asleep on the couch, wake up and throw up, and then feel better.

When Caroline was a small child, I was a school psychologist in public schools here in Georgia. Because of my position, I dealt frequently with children who had these same types of behaviors at school. Some of those kids actually had ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Many who we thought had ADHD probably actually did not. Now that I think back on it, I wonder how many kids who have been medicated for ADHD actually just had food allergies.

As we tried to "weed out" certain foods from Caroline's diet, Red 40 was easy to find. We just avoided the color red. We later found out that Red 40 can be found in other dark colored things as well. Red 40 is not in healthy foods; it's usually in candy, cookies, and other pre-prepared things.

BHT was more difficult to find. We eventually realized that it was primarily in items like cereal, crackers, candy, and other things that needed to last a while. BHT was not in healthy foods.

These discoveries led us to eat a somewhat more healthy diet. We are by no means health-food fanatics, but this was a necessity.

Now that Caroline is 13, she has grown out of some of this. We are extremely thankful for that. This whole process has made us aware of what we are putting into our bodies. It also causes me to ponder how much poor behavior that we see out of children is caused by what they are eating.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What is the Real Meaning of II Peter 3:9?

One frustration of mine is all of the poor biblical interpretation we see in churches. It happens all the time. I don't claim to be an expert, but the good thing is that interpreting the bible is, in general, not rocket science nor is it designed to be. What we see in churches is inexcusable.

I have written about this before, suggesting that when it comes to the bible, interpretation is everything.

One verse that I have seen yanked far out of context on a repeated basis is II Peter 3:9. This verse has been employed by many to supposedly show that it is God's will for everyone in the world to be saved. This supports Arminian conclusions about salvation.

But what does II Peter 3:9 actually mean? What is the best interpretation? Click here to find out. While you are there, check out the excellent blog "The Truth in Context."

You can also read what I have written previously about II Peter 3:9 by clicking here.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Who Actually Chose?

I was reading in my bible recently (that's not me in the photo) when I came across Mark chapter 13. This is the chapter in Mark's account of the gospel that is very similar to Matthew chapter 24. It is often referred to as the "Olivet Discourse," where Jesus tells his disciples about the end of the age.

I came to the following paragraph, verses 14-23 of Mark 13. Jesus is speaking:

"But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand."

As I was reading, I was not looking for anything in particular. However, I could not ignore Jesus' statement, "But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days."

What does this mean? It means that God has shortened the length of the tribulation for the sake of the elect, presumably so that they would not all be killed off. Who are the elect? They are followers of Jesus Christ.

I want to address one other question that the above statement brings up. The question is: What does "whom he chose" mean? Ever since the Reformation, there have been two primary answers to this question. It is, quite frankly, a simple issue. One answer says that God chose who the elect will be based up His sovereign will. A second answer says that God looked into the future, saw who would choose (elect) Him, and then he chose them.

The first answer indicates that God is free to choose whomever He wills. The second answer says that man is free to choose God if he wills. One of these options could be correct, but they cannot both be correct.

Now, when we try to interpret scripture, we must attempt to get at what the original author meant. We must avoid bringing presuppositions to the biblical text.

So, what does "whom he chose" mean? One basic principle of interpretation is that the reader should assume that the writer literally meant what he wrote unless there is a good reason to not do so. If the reader does not do this, then almost any interpretation is up for grabs. If that is the case, then we literally might as well throw out the bible and just make up our own belief system (something far too many churches are doing these days.)

A literal reading of "whom he chose" must mean that God chose the elect. The statement is clear and straightforward. This is not the writer's primary emphasis in this paragraph; he is discussing the future terrible time of tribulation. However, Mark still takes the time to point out that God chose the elect.

Let's also look at what Mark does not say. He doesn't say anything about God looking into the future to see what the elect will do. He doesn't write anything about the free will of man, or about anything man will believe or do. What is implied is that God is free to choose the elect.

Another rule when interpreting scripture is that all scripture agrees. This means that other passages must agree with this one. The passage that immediately comes to mind is Ephesians 1:3-6. In that passage, Paul writes "he chose us in him before the foundation of the world." As with the Mark 13 passage, Paul writes simply that God chose "us." This is referring to Christians, or the elect.

Like Mark, Paul in no way even implies that God looked into the future to see who would choose Him. It is simply not there. In fact, I have never been shown one place in scripture that says that God's choice of the elect is based on any future actions of man. I'm still waiting.

Based upon the writings of Mark and Paul (not to mention others), I conclude based upon a fair and straightforward reading of the bible, that God chose the elect with no strings attached. God did this "before the foundation of the world" out of his sovereign good pleasure.

This is no way negates the need for a person to repent and trust in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in order to be saved. This in no way negates the need for missions work all around the globe.

I do not claim to fully understand the will of God. Nor do I have any idea how God determined who the elect would be. However, I do trust God to do what is right because He is perfectly good, pure, and righteous.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

One Semester of Spanish - Love Song

He seems to be doing pretty well for only one semester. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

God's Healing Hand

I have made frequent mention on this blog about my son Bobby. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma this past March, underwent chemotherapy for about 2 and ½ months, and is now clear of cancer. We praise the Lord for His healing.

This was not the first medical trauma for our family. It also was not the first time God healed in a mighty way.

Along with Bobby, Alice and I have been blessed by God with two daughters. Caroline is thirteen years old, and Mary is ten. Mary has quite a story of her own.

When Mary was very young, she spiked several very high fevers that led to seizures. On at least one occasion she stopped breathing. There were trips in ambulances and visits to the emergency room. Finally, her doctor recommended that she have an MRI. I will never forget when Alice called me at work and told me that the doctor said that Mary had “an abnormality” in her brain (based on the MRI).

After an arteriogram (a picture of the blood vessels in the brain), it was clear that Mary had an aneurysm in the middle of her brain. An aneurysm is a bulging out of a vessel that causes a thinning of the vessel wall. This particular vessel should have been two millimeters in diameter. Instead, it measured nearly a centimeter (ten millimeters across).

We were told by Mary’s neurologist that when an aneurysm ruptures, the person has a 1/3 chance of dying, a 1/3 chance of becoming an invalid, and a 1/3 chance of remaining normal. We knew that God is not handcuffed by “chances,” but we also realized that we needed to get the aneurysm repaired as soon as possible.

This took place in 2000, when Mary was three.

Since we were living near Savannah at the time, we hoped that Mary could be treated in Atlanta. Her neurologist, however, suggested that we take her to Children’s Hospital in Boston. This we did.

Prior to flying to Boston, we discussed Mary’s case with one of the leading pediatric neurology specialists in the country. We were assuming that he would have to do open brain surgery to get at the aneurysm. We knew this would cause Mary all sorts of developmental setbacks, but we did not think there was any other option.

Much to our joy, we were told of a relatively new (in the year 2000) procedure that was much less invasive. Doctors could insert a catheter into Mary’s blood stream in her thigh. They would then move the catheter all the way up into her brain through her circulatory system. After reaching the aneurysm, the doctors would then insert platinum coils into the vessel to shut off blood flow. We were told that this would not cause any significant problems for Mary.

The doctors did it, and Mary is doing very well today. I still don’t understand what platinum coils are, but I’m thrilled they exist.

Alice and I give all the praise and glory to God for His healing. We realize that He could have healed Mary any way He wanted to. However, He chose to do it in a way that both magnified His glory and caused our faith to grow. Of course we thank the neurologists, but it was God who caused the technology to be invented for the surgery. It was God who gave the doctors their skills. It was God who caused the coils to work.

It was God who did the healing.

It is God who heals.

We praise Him for His generous blessings of healing upon our family.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Play the "Candidate Match Game"

I have already said that I do not care who wins the presidential election in 2008. That is a bit of an overstatement. I don't care in that I believe God is ultimately in control of who the next president will be (see Daniel 4:28-33 and Romans 13:1). I do care in that some of the candidates will try to be both more constitutional and more biblical than will others.

I do not want to imply that I am not interested in who the candidates are or in what they believe. Because I am interested, I enjoyed playing USA Today's "Candidate Match Game" (click here to play). It is a bit artificial, but in the end it is interesting to see what candidates you line up with the most closely on several different high-profile issues.

Just for the record, I am an independent who tends to vote conservative on economic and social issues. All I ask is that the person I vote for actually follows the constitution of the United States.

As for my "Match Game" results, I have played the game twice. For some reason, my results for second and third place differed each time I took it. However, I was consistent with who came in first place: Mike Huckabee.

Going in to this little survey, Paul and Huckabee were the two candidates that I liked the most. Huckabee has not vaulted past Paul in my mind just because of this "Match Game," but it has given me something to think about.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Son is 9 Today!

My son, Bobby, turns 9 today. Earlier this year we did not know if he would make it to this milestone. Click here to read his webpage.

We praise and thank our Lord Jesus for Bobby's health. As you may know, we were living in India at the beginning of this year. In February we noticed a lump on the side of his neck. The swelling grew fairly quickly on both the outside and, more alarmingly, on the inside of his neck. His airway was gradually being closed off.

Because of that, as soon as we were given the preliminary diagnosis of lymphoma, we began packing and flew home to the USA. It was about a week and a half between when we were told he had cancer and when we finally heard a specific diagnosis (Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma) back here in Savannah. That felt like the longest 10 days of our lives. During that entire time, Bobby's neck continued to swell, and his speech became distorted.

Part of me wondered whether or not Bobby would live even until his ninth birthday. Would I lose my only son? That was difficult to deal with.

However, our wonderful, faithful, sovereign, and majestic God comforted us through it all. He got us through the move back home. He held us together during the weeks of chemotherapy. He has supported us during the months of recovery. We praise God for bringing us to where we are now. Bobby is healthy and is getting his strength back. Alice and I have noticed lately that our son now has more of a "spring in his step."

Why did all this happen? We do not know. Is God faithful even during times of trial? Yes He is. Will we ever understand it all? Probably not.

What we can do is agree with Job. In Job 1:21, in response to the death of his children and loss of his livestock, Job says, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Later in Job 2, when his health fails, Job says, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"

We have in no way suffered anywhere near like Job did. However, we agree with him that God brings about suffering for our good. We also know that He plans things like this to draw us closer to Him, which in turn brings Him the most glory.

We praise and thank our mighty God that Bobby has reached age nine.

Friday, November 30, 2007

What is Your Blog's Reading Level?

I'm not sure what to think of this, but apparently my blog has a high school reading level. Anyway, if you are curious about your blog, click here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some Savannah Sites

On Saturday, we had the chance to take a walk around Savannah's historic district. No matter how often we do this, I never tire of the beauty of the trees, parks, squares, pre-civil war era buildings, and the Savannah River.

The key to Savannah's beauty goes back to General Sherman. After burning Atlanta to the ground, he headed on his famous "March to the Sea." Sherman's army took Savannah, which he presented as a Christmas gift to President Lincoln in 1864. General Sherman thought that Savannah was too beautiful a city to burn (evidently, Atlanta was not); therefore, the historic section still stands today. I hope you enjoy this potpourri of photos.

The old Savannah Cotton Exchange - no longer in the cotton business

Alice (my wife), Bobby (my son), and a spitting griffin (no relation)

Caroline (my daughter) with some crazy ladies

Mary (my daughter) with those same ladies

"Factor's Walk" - click here for more

Old stairs leading down toward the Savannah River

Old Savannah Custom House - click here for more

Paula Deen's "Lady and Sons" Restaurant

Click here for more

One of the beautiful Savannah city squares - click here for more

Live Oaks cover many of the squares - click here for more

Independent Presbyterian Church - click here for more

The steeple can be seen all over the Savannah historic district

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A "Blog" for "Fun"

Hmmmmmm. When do you use quotation marks and when do you not?

Click here for a fun look at people who have no clue.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Expecting the Lost to Act Like They are Saved

When we read the bible, we clearly see that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who have been saved by the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. There are those who have not.

Salvation is all the work of God so there is no room for boasting.

Those who have been saved should be striving to lead lives that are more Christ-like each day. This is the process of sanctification (see I Thess. 4:3). In this process, we strive for holiness, enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. As this process takes place, the Christian should gradually look increasingly different from the world in which he lives.

The person who has not been saved has no ability on his own to live a holy life. He cannot fulfill the requirements of God's law because he is corrupt. Romans 1:28-31 gives us a good description of the lost person's spiritual condition. This passage says, "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."

That is not a pretty picture. The lost person is not a new creation, as we read about in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

In light of this situation, here is my question: Why do we expect lost people to act like they are saved?

I frequently hear Christians talking about how terrible the world is getting, and about how people should stop acting as they do. I find myself complaining about how people talk, how women dress, what people care the most about, and how they are affecting my children.

Why do I think this way? Why do so many other Christians think this way? Why do we expect people who do not know the Lord to act as if they do?

My only answer is that we must not really believe that people (prior to salvation) are as corrupt as they are. If we really believed this, then we would realize that the lost world cannot help but act as it does.

Let me be clear here. Everyone is expected by God to live up to the standards of His law. No one is able to do this because of the corrupting power of the fall (Gen. 3). Only those rescued by God's grace are able to live holy lives. God is righteous in judging all those who reject Him and His law.

Let's return to where we were. If a lost person cannot live up to God's standards and has the wicked desires described in Romans 1, then it seems to me that we should stop expecting him to act like he knows God.

I do not know why churches spend so much time, money, and effort trying to convince our secular government to function by Christian standards. It makes no sense.

I do not know why so many churches keep telling lost folks that they need to, in essence, behave better. It is a waste of time. The lost world thinks it is all a joke. They cannot understand it because it is foolishness to them (click here for more).

So what can we do? Lost people will not listen to calls to "live better," but they will listen to a message of real hope. That is the message we have in the truth of the gospel.

A corrupt person will listen if we tell him that we have been given a great gift. He will listen if we inform him that we have a reason to get up, to live our lives, and to go to bed. He will listen to this because he has a deep desire for meaning, purpose, and hope.

In light of this, let's spend time getting to know lost people and feeling more natural around them. Let's share a message of hope rather than condemnation. Once we describe to them both the holiness and love of God through the gospel, then we let the Holy Spirit do the rest of the work.

Let's stop expecting the world to act like it is saved. Let's give them the one message they do need.

(On a related topic, we can and should expect the church to act like it is saved, but that is another issue entirely.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The God of Environmentalism Strikes Again

I read this (click here) and it almost made me sick. The Environment is truly becoming king.

Friday, November 23, 2007

"Christmas with a Capital C"

The key here is the audio much more than the video. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Psalm 136 - Happy Thanksgiving!

Since today is Thanksgiving (at least here in the USA), it seems like a good time to dwell on Psalm 136. At beginning and end, we are told to give thanks to God. Why? Because His steadfast, never-changing, never-failing love endures forever.

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew [1] Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

17 to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Amazed by Technology

I am not the most technologically savvy guy around. My 13-year-old knows more about computers than I do. So when I think about people all around the world being able to communicate via the internet, it stuns me. This map below shows where people are located who have looked at my fairly insignificant blog. I realize that some of the red dots represent mistaken Google searches, etc. However, it still is interesting to see where people are who can all look at the same thing. I still don't understand how it all works, but I'm sure glad it does.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bangladesh Cyclone Rocks My Sense of Comfort

It is so easy to feel comfortable here in the United States. Even as I write this post, I am sitting in a comfortable chair, at a comfortable desk, and in a comfortable house. My stomach feels full enough, I am not too cold or too warm, my clothes feel good, and my family is fine. I know where my next meal is coming from, where I will place my head tonight, and what I will drive tomorrow. I am not afraid that anyone will put me in danger today, and I actually look forward to getting up in the morning.

I thank God for the above things, but I am far too quick to let them lull me into a sense of slumber regarding eternal things. I have been lazy of late about the things of God, especially when it comes to serving others and telling them about Jesus Christ.

The recent cyclone (same as a hurricane) that struck Bangladesh rocked my sense of stupor regarding both the needs of others and my failure to do anything about those needs.

The death toll in Bangladesh currently sits at just over 3000, but this figure is certain to rise. Click here for the latest news on the situation. Click here to view some photos of the destruction.

We served in India for four months and experienced everyday the very poor infrastructure and massive overcrowding. Bangladesh sits right next door to India, and has similar problems with poor roads and bridges, and too many people. Add in Bangladesh's low elevation and you have a recipe for disaster if a powerful cyclone hits.

Considering that Bangladesh has a predominantly Islamic population (with a Hindu minority), we can be certain that the vast majority of people who died went to Hell. This is a very sobering thought. No matter how difficult their lives were here on earth, they are considerably worse now and forever.

All this has made me stop and take a look at what I am doing for the Kingdom of God. The answer is not much right now. However, I'm determined to focus more on eternal things, and less on the temporal. I'm determined to go beyond my comfort zone, serve others, and share the good news of Christ.

We obviously cannot all fly to Bangladesh to help there, but we can make a difference where God has placed us for now. We must make a conscious effort to set our eyes on the things of God, and actively avoid the sloth of the American comfort zone.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Current Baptist Theology: Mixed-up and Inconsistent

As a Southern Baptist myself, I can speak freely and from an informed position on this issue: I believe Southern Baptists in general have a mixed-up and inconsistent theology of salvation.

I am not talking about statements of faith such as the Abstract of Principles or the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

I am talking about the average Southern Baptist who faithfully attends church and loves the Lord Jesus. I am in no way questioning the actual salvation of the Baptists I am discussing.

Here is the Baptist inconsistency: prior to salvation, the typical Southern Baptist believes that it is ultimately his own choice as to whether or not he accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In other words, it is the human who is sovereign over his getting saved (he has free will).

However, after the moment of salvation, the Southern Baptist believes that he will always be saved. He holds to what is called "perseverance of the saints" or "eternal security." He believes that God is sovereign to hold his salvation securely.

Do you see the mixed-up inconsistency? In this soteriology, God is sovereign after salvation, but not before. So the Southern Baptist believes that God actually changes in His sovereignty prior to and after salvation.

Unfortunately for the Southern Baptist, this combination of beliefs is absurd and unbiblical. Either God is sovereign over salvation or He is not. This must refer to what occurs before and after salvation. God does not change character (in this case referring to His sovereignty) just because a person gets saved.

If you have ever read this blog before, you know that I am not an Arminian. However, I was raised in that tradition, and understand it well. I grew up being taught that God desires that all people come to know Him as Lord and Savior (I believe that now but in a different way). I was told that God is most honored when people, who have complete free will, reject the things of the world and submit to Him as Lord. I believed that God elected based on His foreknowledge of who would choose Him. I held to a general atonement. Finally, I believed that after I was saved, I could also reject God's salvation at any point in time.

The Arminian belief system, although I disagree with it, is consistent. Man's free will reigns supreme. God hopes all will be saved, but can only "woo" people and hope for the best.

I have made it clear by now that I now hold to the Doctrines of Grace (Reformed Theology or Calvinism). This belief system is, like Arminianism, consistent. God is sovereign over salvation both before and after salvation. The well-known acrostic TULIP explains it fairly well. Man is totally depraved, and therefore has no ability to choose God or desire to do so. God unconditionally elects those who will be saved. Christ's atoning work on the cross is limited to the elect. God's grace is irresistible (effectual). Finally, saints persevere to the end (God's saving work is secure). In this belief system, God reigns as the sovereign of the universe. Man's only free will is to follow his own desires.

Calvinism is consistent.

I switched to Reformed theology about 4 years ago after studying the bible in depth for several months looking at this particular issue. I believe that Calvinism is, quite simply, much more biblical than Arminianism.

Now back to most current Southern Baptists. Most in the SBC are Arminian before salvation and Reformed after. How can this be? How can God be sovereign at one point and not at another?

I am putting out a call to all Southern Baptists: Please be consistent in your view of salvation. As folks who claim to be "people of the book," at least then be consistent in your beliefs about the God who wrote the book. You are being unfair if you believe in free will before salvation, but God's sovereignty after it.

Please, Southern Baptists, if you have such a deep desire to have free will, then give up on perseverance of the saints. Just grasp onto Wesleyan-Arminian theology all the way. Either that or submit to God's sovereign election and control over all aspects of salvation.

Southern Baptists must do away with this current inconsistent, mixed-up theology of salvation. God is sovereign or He is not. Make a decision one way or the other - and do it with your bibles open.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Church Planting - We Can Learn from Others

Most churches in our country have a desire to grow in membership. Some of those churches simply want to get bigger for the sake of getting bigger. However, I think most desire to grow because it should mean that at least some of that growth will be new believers.

Some of the churches that want to grow try to do things to either boost evangelism or make their church seem more attractive to outsiders. Most of these ideas don’t end up amounting to much.

Other churches decide that planting churches is the way to go. I agree whole-heartedly with this. New churches are usually much more effective at reaching the lost than are established churches. I’m not sure of the reason for this, but the evidence is clear on this point.

Some church plants are successful; some are not. What interests me about all this is that much has been learned from overseas church planting efforts that can inform church planting here in the USA. In some parts of the world (China for example) churches are exploding in number. What are they doing there that we are not doing here? What can we change?

First of all, we need to be clear on what constitutes a church. I am not talking at all about a building. I’m referring to groups of Christians who meet together to worship the Lord and edify one another. It’s that simple.

Also, in order for any church planting to occur at all, it has to be the work of the Holy Spirit. If God is not at the forefront of what is happening, then all the work is a waste of time.

Let’s return to the main question: What are people doing overseas that seems to lead to church planting success? How is it different from what is happening here?

When we (my wife Alice and I) went through our missions training about a year and a half ago, we were taught 10 characteristics that seem to always go along with church planting success (what I mean by success is churches that plant other churches that plant other churches, etc.).

Here are the ten characteristics:

  1. Much prayer
  2. Intentional evangelism
  3. Planting of reproducing churches
  4. Authority of God’s Word
  5. Local leadership
  6. Lay leadership
  7. House churches
  8. Churches planting churches
  9. Rapid reproduction
  10. Healthy churches

As we look at these ten characteristics, we can quickly see a few things. First, the prayer is that the Holy Spirit will lead the entire process. Second, there is intentionality in all that is done. Third, a clear goal is that churches will be planted that in turn plant other churches. Fourth, the first nine characteristics lead to number 10 – healthy churches.

Let’s now look at how most churches are planted in the USA today. Usually a big church decides to plant one or several churches within its same city or geographic area. After that decision is made, how many of the above characteristics apply to what happens next?

Two of the above 10 usually do occur. Numbers 2 (intentional evangelism) and 4 (authority of God’s Word) almost always happen, at least in evangelical churches. That’s about all I see.

Four of the above 10 sometimes do occur. Numbers 1 (much prayer), 5 (local leadership), 6 (lay leadership), 7 (house churches), and 10 (healthy churches) happen some of the time. However, this is not what I usually see.

Which numbers have I never seen in the USA? Numbers 3 (planting of reproducing churches), 8 (churches planting churches), and 9 (rapid reproduction) simply are not happening here in the USA.

Why is this the case? I believe it is because of two reasons. First, most churches do not pray for this specifically to happen. Second, churches are not intentional about planting churches that are designed to rapidly reproduce.

Why go to the trouble of planting one or two churches when with a few changes in strategy a church can plant churches that reproduce exponentially? If this process is blessed by God and is effective overseas, then why don’t we do it here? I have no idea.

I would encourage our local churches to not just share the gospel locally, but also plant churches. Beyond that, plant churches that are designed from the beginning to plant other churches, etc. By this method, many more people can hear the gospel, and also be a part of a local body.

We can learn from what is happening overseas. It can happen here, too.

(The 10 characteristics can be found in David Garrison’s book “Church Planting Movements.” ISBN: 0-9747562-0-2.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Interpretation is Everything

Two days ago I was driving in my van while listening to National Public Radio (NPR). One of their various interview programs came on the air discussing the biblical Jezebel. According to the bible, Jezebel was the wife of wicked King Ahab. Her account falls mainly in the book of I Kings.

Author Lesley Hazleton, who was the guest on NPR, recently wrote the book “Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen.” Hazleton proceeded to tell us why Jezebel has been unfairly treated over the past 3000 years. According to this author, Jezebel was actually a tolerant woman who stood up for the right to worship various religions. It was intolerant, fundamentalist Elijah who was the real villain. She went on and on about how misunderstood, brave, and basically wonderful Jezebel was.

One statement this author made in particular stood out to me. She said that most people are “dismayingly literal” when interpreting the bible. She had to say this because any straightforward reading of the account of Jezebel shows her to be wicked.

Her statement got me thinking about how I interpret scripture. This is exceedingly important because many, many people who say that the bible is true come to many, many different conclusions about what different passages mean. If method of interpretation does not matter, then we might as well toss the bible to the wayside and just come to whatever conclusions about life that we want to.

I have been taught to interpret the bible in a literal manner whenever possible. I try to determine what the original author meant. I assume that he only meant one thing. I try to be fair to the historical setting, and to the grammar he uses. I remember that context is very important to the overall meaning. Also, real meaning often comes in paragraph form rather than in a single verse.

But why do I interpret scripture in this manner? Why not just bring my own meaning to the text? Why not look for what passages seem to be true, while discounting supernatural occurrences such as miracles? Why not just look for passages that confirm what I believe, and ignore passages that make me uncomfortable? Why not just treat most of the bible as some sort of extended allegory?

A critical key for all of us is to see how people in the bible interpret scripture. Did they look for the literal meaning, or did they just seek the spiritual or allegorical significance? Did they even think the bible was true? Let’s take a look at six examples:

Jesus Christ, in Matthew 12:38-40, deals with Pharisees. Jesus treats the Jonah account as literal. The story reads: Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Matthew, throughout his gospel account, treats Old Testament prophecies as if they were literally being fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Here are three examples: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (Matt. 1:23); “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (2:6); "Out of Egypt I called my son." (2:15)

Luke, in chapter 24, tells about Jesus, after his resurrection, talking to some of his followers on the Emmaus Road. Verse 27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” We see Luke writing about Jesus believing that the OT literally tells of him.

John, in discussing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, writes in 12:12-15: The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!" John writes about Jesus literally fulfilling this OT prophecy from Zechariah.

Peter, in Acts 2:16-21, quotes Joel chapter 2 while at Pentecost. Peter sees a literal fulfillment of what is occurring when he states the following: But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Paul discusses the significance of the OT in II Timothy 3:14-15. He tells Timothy that the OT is literally referring to Jesus. Verses 14-15 say, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

So what can we learn from Jesus, Matthew, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul? When they interpret scripture (which for them was the OT), they view it literally. They all read it as meaning what it says it means, giving it a fair, straightforward view. They do not add their own meaning, but look for the meaning that the original author intended. They realize that words have real meaning.

If these men interpreted the bible in a literal manner, then I’ll choose to follow their leading and do the same.