Thursday, November 9, 2017

How to Understand What the Bible Says

You don't read the Bible, right? Come on. You can admit it. You do not read the Bible because it is a difficult book to read. I've heard people, especially those who study and teach the Scriptures for a living, talk about the complexity of this book. We are talking about the people who preach at your church on Sunday mornings! If they struggle to understand what the Bible says, how can we expect you to understand its contents? And, why should you try?

First of all, can we conclude that professionals have a way of over complicating the details? There are some good men who genuinely believe that the Bible is difficult to understand, but I doubt they are the majority. Think about talking to a surgeon about the human body. They understand how it works and how to use their knowledge from textbooks to help others; however, they know that the body is very complex. Doctors may speak to us about complex systems, and we get lost in conversation. The same can be true when you hear Biblical scholars talk. It sounds more like a foreign language because of all the theological lingo and denominational distinctions that are not included in the Bible. Contrary to what you might believe, the language directly placed in the Bible is meant for the layperson to understand.

Second, the Bible explains itself, but we must remember that the world has changed significantly since it was written. Just as it is important to talk with doctors when you have questions about the body, it is important to ask a pastor or Bible scholar when you have questions about Scripture. Do not just assume that the Bible is wrong or impossible to understand.

Third, people do not cite instances when the Bible is difficult to understand. Instead, certain Bible scholars and clergy make simple passages sound more difficult because of their own lack of faith. Genesis chapter 1 always seems to be a subject of controversy in such conversations. Let's look at a few verses in Genesis 1 to see if we can determine what they mean:

In the beginning
What does "In the beginning" mean? It simply means when time began.
God created
What does "God created" mean? It means that the Supreme Being made things.
the heavens and the earth.
What does this mean? It means the earth and everything above it. Are we doing good so far? Let's try a more challenging verse:
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
What does this verse mean? It means that God called light "day" and darkness "night." This all happened on day 1 of creation. 

Now, when put in terms like this, is it really that complicated? It shouldn't be. Reading and understanding the Bible really is this simple. The only parts that may seem tricky are the parts that use imagery concerning future events that have not yet taken place.

Reading the Bible truly is simple. Do not get discouraged from reading it. It is a great joy to know that we can pick up God's Word and learn from every word on the pages of this great book.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Bad People in the Bible

Get this: There are people in the Bible that do bad things. Unlike other religious texts, that try to paint their founders as being spotless and pure, the Bible points out that even those foundational to the faith were impure at heart. This is not to promote sinful activities, it is an affirmation of a core doctrine of the Bible: The Depravity of the Human Race.

Bad people in the Bible, they do exist. They appear in obscure stories that leave readers scratching their heads. They are the subject of scrutiny of skeptics and the objects of confusion among many Bible believers.

Every now and then I will encounter someone who struggles to believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God because of the reality that there are some really bad people and practices within the Bible. The most recent claim that the Bible is not the word of God came because of the story of Lot and his daughters. Lot was considered to be a righteous man throughout the book of Genesis. Because of his righteousness, Abraham interceded, on his behalf, and God spared him from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Three angels were sent to Lot and his family to warn them of the coming judgment. Lot and his family escaped. As they were fleeing, his wife was turned into a pillar of salt, as she disobeyed God's command to not look back at the city.. After they escaped, Lot and his daughters were isolated.

Lot's daughters started getting worried that they would grow too old to have children and decided that they would trick their father (Lot) into conceiving children through them. On different nights, each daughter got their father drunk, and the rest is self explanatory. This gave birth to a new and separate nation from the one that Abraham would father.

When the story is read, in context, it is very clear that God is not condoning of the actions of Lot and his daughters. They were bad and were acting in a manner that lacked faith. This story exists in the Bible, not to promote incest, but to explain the origin of a certain nation of people.

When people read these stories, they say to themselves, "If the God of the Bible promotes this sort of stuff, he ain't for me." Good news: The God of the Bible AIN'T for that sort of stuff. Let me explain what stories like these are all about.

Without God, people are wicked. People of all nations, races, and backgrounds have wicked hearts. In fact, Abraham himself acts in a faithless manner by sleeping with his wife's maidservant. He lacked faith that God would provide a son to him through his wife. This is all the more reason to believe in the Bible's authenticity, not a reason to doubt its morality.

These stories should be encouraging to us. They show that, although we have wicked hearts, we worship a good God who is willing to forgive us. When we repent of wickedness, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins. If we were to believe that mankind is inherently good, we would have problems. Sin aligns us against God and puts us on the side of the devil. But, God has compassion on humanity. He desires for no one to perish, but for all to repent, put their faith in Jesus, and be saved.