Your small group Bible study needs you

and let us consider how to stir up one anotherYour small group Bible Study needs you. Whether it’s a Sunday morning class or a weeknight men’s group, we need your regular attendance. And regular does not mean 25-50% of the time, which seems perfectly acceptable to most people these days.

I could talk about all the things you miss when you are absent, such as the time in Bible study, the fellowship, etc. But right now, I want to talk about what the other members are missing if you aren’t there.

In Hebrews, we are commanded not to neglect coming together. And the author tells us why. It isn’t because it might be your turn to bring donuts, or because people will talk about you, or to avoid guilt. It is “to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.”

Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Heb. 10:24-25)

We “spur one another on.” “Stir up.” We encourage one another. At least we are supposed to.

God has called us each into various areas of service. Whatever mine is, I need your encouragement. I will be more effective and motivated if you are there to spur me on. Perhaps I should be more self-motivated, but the truth is, it helps me greatly when my brothers and sisters are there to encourage me. I bet the same is true for you, too.

If we come to small group only when we feel like it, or when the game doesn’t run too late the night before, or when it isn’t pretty at the lake, we hurt more than just ourselves. We deprive fellow group members of the encouragement they need to walk more closely with Christ and to persevere in service.

You are part of the body of Christ: the larger church, your local congregation, and your small group. We don’t work as well if you are AWOL. And your encouragement may be just what I or others need to be spurred on to greater service.

We need you, and we need you to be engaged.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thes. 5:11)

Why are you surprised when the world attacks the Bible?

for the message about the cross“They” – Christians, like you and me – “wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. … They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.”

Thus says a recent Newsweek article, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” The author is at least honest with the way he views Christians, and the article is a fascinating insight into what the world thinks of God’s word.

The premise is that Christians don’t really know the Bible, and to a point, the premise is sadly correct. The author is right that too many Christians “seem to read John Grisham novels with greater care than they apply to the book they consider to be the most important document in the world.” But he is dead wrong about the “truths” he claims we have missed. Here are a few of the things he says we need to “learn” about Scripture:

  1. The Bible we read is not a trustworthy translation of the original text. Illiterate scribes made many mistakes copying it down over the years, and some added wholesale sections to promote their own agenda.
  2. “Translational trickery” was used to reinforce the belief that Jesus is God.
  3. Jesus’ own words cannot be reconciled with the notion that he is coming again.
  4. The Bible contains ridiculous stories of sea monsters (Leviathan) and magic (Pharaoh’s magicians turning water into blood), so it is basically a bunch of fairy tales.
  5. While Christians condemn particular sexual sins with vigor, the Bible does not actually treat some sins as greater than others, and those same finger-pointing Christians are sinners too. (OK, he got that one right.)
  6. “Evangelicals are always talking about family values. But to Jesus, family was an impediment to reaching God.”

You get the idea. All Christians are hypocritical snake-handlers and only the simple-minded would actually believe certain doctrines of Christianity.

There are answers to these claims, but I will leave that to Biblical scholars (at the end of this post, I’ve included a few links to intelligent responses). I’ve read works by smart people who have convinced me that minor inconsistencies are not inconsistencies at all, or at least are not cause to question God’s revelation. There are indeed passages (the end of Mark, the story from John 8 about casting the first stone) which do not appear in the earliest found manuscripts and are believed to be added at a later date, but every Bible I own makes that plain in the notes. Yes, some group of people got together and decided that the gospels of John and Mark were inspired and the Gospel of Thomas was not, but we believe God’s hand was in the process. None of this shakes my faith.

The author says that he is not attacking Christianity or the Bible, but his prejudice drowns out such disclaimers. In the end, he says the Bible is indisputably a “very human book” full of “flaws, contradictions, and theological disagreements.” The only parts we can trust – and the only parts Christians should hold on to – are essentially “do not judge” and “love your neighbor.” That is, the only trustworthy parts of the Bible are the parts that the world can get on board with.

Attacks on the Bible are nothing new, of course. I’ve read a lot of reactions and comments from Evangelicals, and they span the spectrum from thoughtful to surprise, outrage, and vitriol. And here is where it gets interesting to me:

Why should we be surprised?

Of course the world thinks the Bible is silly. Of all the reactions we should have to such nonsense, can we eliminate shock from among them? The proclamation of “Christ crucified” will always be “foolishness” to the world. (1 Cor. 1:23). And the so-called “wisdom” of the world is foolishness to God. (1 Cor. 3:19-20).

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (1 Cor. 3:19-20)

I’m glad that Biblical scholars are answering the claims. And I understand the instinct to be angry, to retreat to a bunker, when believers are disparaged like this. But lashing out is not going to change hearts.

Remember, we were lost once too, and the things of God were just as foolish to us. And while there is a war going on, people like the Newsweek author are not the enemy. They are the victims. Our hearts should be broken that those who believe this tripe do not know the love of God. Our outrage should be directed not at people who don’t believe the Bible, but at those whose hypocrisy has at times given the world reason to be suspect (and we have all done that at times).

I admit that my first response to the article was to adopt an “us” and “them” mentality. I loved the idea that one day, all the doubters will see that the Bible’s claims are true. I’ve calmed down since then, and now I want them to see that the claims are true before it is too late.

 ~~~

Similar post: Dear Church: Stop fussing which each other and tell us about Jesus. Sincerely, Lost People.

~~~

Links to responses to the Newsweek article: 

http://danielbwallace.com/2014/12/28/predictable-christmas-fare-newsweeks-tirade-against-the-bible/

http://michaeljkruger.com/a-christmas-present-from-the-mainstream-media-newsweek-takes-a-desperate-swipe-at-the-integrity-of-the-bible-part-1/

http://michaeljkruger.com/a-christmas-gift-from-the-mainstream-media-newsweek-takes-a-desperate-swipe-at-the-integrity-of-the-bible-part-2/

http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/12/29/newsweek-on-the-bible-so-misrepresented-its-a-sin/

http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/06/living/newsweek-evangelicals/index.html

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

carols.o come o come emmanuel

This one plays a lot in our house. It's my favorite, and Sonya's, too. Author unknown, the poem dates as early as the 12th Century. The original Latin was translated into English by John Mason Neale in 1851, and the lyrics never fail to help me … [Continue reading]

Prepare your hearts for Christmas

carols.it came upon a midnight clear

When Job wanted to talk to God face-to-face, he knew he could not make such a brash demand. For all his protests that he was a righteous man, Job understood in his heart that God is infinitely higher than man. He knew that our best is garbage in the … [Continue reading]

Jesus is (10) THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life

No one comes to the Father except through me

It isn't taboo to call yourself a Christian in America. But if you dare say you believe that Christ is the only way to God, that Jesus offers something that other religions do not, then you are narrow-minded, arrogant, and exclusive. There is a … [Continue reading]

Jesus is (9) the Bread of Life

I AM the bread of life

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Jesus is (8) the Good Shepherd

I am the Good Shepherd

The Bible says that we are all like sheep who have gone astray. That isn't a compliment. Sheep desperately need a shepherd, or they will wander off defenseless. They need someone to guide them, protect them, and care for them. Without a shepherd, … [Continue reading]

You’re not too broken

This may be the worst method for teaching about sex I’ve ever heard. And it’s apparently been used in churches and youth retreats. Matt Chandler told the story. Here’s the gimmick: With young people sitting in a circle waiting to hear a lesson … [Continue reading]

Jesus is (7) the True Vine–Part 2

my father is glorified by this

We all have a need to be useful. Christians fulfill that purpose by being connected to Christ and bearing fruit. But what if we are in a relationship with God and our branches are bare, if there doesn't seem like there is anything to show for our … [Continue reading]

“You’re not good enough to be saved” (and other things Jesus never said)

you're not good enough (and other things Jesus never said)

I don’t have time for you right now. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re basically a good person. What can you do for me? There are lots of ways to God. I’m just one of them. I’m too busy. God just wants you to be … [Continue reading]