I don’t have to understand it all in order to believe

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How  unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord….”  (Romans 11:33-34) 

I do not understand all the prophecies of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation.

Nor do you.

Nor is it necessary that we do.

Sorry if you find that offensive, friend.  After a half-century of considering these things–what has been written and preached and declared as “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” from pulpits far and wide–I feel confident in saying that so far, no one expositor has gotten it all right.

That’s my opinion.  You’re welcome to yours.  But we will go on loving each other in Christ.

The list of other things we do not understand (or agree on!) is extensive.

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Fifteen lies Satan tells you about Scripture

“(The devil) was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

If I were the devil, I would do everything in my power to keep you from the Word of God.  I would say anything I could think of, anything I thought you would believe, anything that works, to get you to read other things.

As Paul said, “We are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).  We know how he works.  And here are some of the lies we have noticed pouring out of his factory, all geared toward destroying confidence in God’s Word.

One.You already know it, so don’t read it.”

He’s lying to you. You do not know it. I’ve studied the Bible all my life and in no way could I say I “know” it. I know a great deal about it, but there is so much more.  For the typical church member to shun the Bible because “I’ve been there and done that” is laughable.

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Taking the lazy way out

When the Bible says something unequivocally with no question and without complication, God’s people are on safe ground saying, “God said this and it’s so.”

Such statements would include salvation by grace through faith, the virgin birth of Jesus, and the inspiration of Scripture. The resurrection of Jesus is attested by all four gospels and Acts, plus the various epistles.

Only those who deny that holy scripture is God’s Word say otherwise.

But when good and faithful followers of Jesus see Scripture passages differently, for one to accuse the other of denying the Word can be most unfair and unChristlike. Rather, they should “man up” and do the adult thing and say, “This is how I see it; many good people disagree.”

In teaching our people, we can say, “God’s people differ on this, but I’d like to share with you what I believe this is saying.”

That’s responsible.

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How one preacher feels on Sunday morning

“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).

I feel like I have a delivery to make.

I will drive 130 miles up the interstate and across some state highways, greet the members of Centreville, Mississippi, Baptist Church, and then join their worship service.  At the appointed time, I will rise and ask them to turn to Matthew 10.

All week long, I have lived in Matthew 10.  I’ve read it, thought about it, written about it, read about it, and talked to the Lord about it.  I feel I have a load to delivery.

When I drive South this afternoon, I will feel spent.  Empty. Unburdened.  And drained.

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How I memorize Scripture

“And upon that law does he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

“Thy word have I hid in my heart….” (Psalm 119:11)

To meditate on the word of the Lord in the middle of the night requires one to know it.  So, someone–the writer of the first Psalm–has been memorizing Scripture.

Since people in biblical days had no books as we do, when they heard the Word read, they seized upon it eagerly and worked to remember as much as they could. No doubt that, more than anything else, accounts for the way Scripture is quoted throughout the Bible: never verbatim.  They were going by memory.

You and I have Bibles all over the house and rarely give a thought to memorizing it.

Perhaps we’re like Einstein.  According to the story, which may be apocryphal, when asked for his phone number, the great man went to the phone directory and looked it up.  His visitor was incredulous.  “You don’t even know your own phone number?”  Einstein said, “I refuse to clutter my mind with information that is easily accessible elsewhere.”

I suppose that’s why we don’t memorize the Word.  All we have to do is open our phones or laptops or pull down the volume from a shelf, and it’s all there.  But if this is our plan, it overlooks a major factor:  Christians need the Word inside us, not just alongside us.

I started memorizing Scripture as a child.  And kept it up as a pastor.

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If I were reading the Bible for the first time

If I were just beginning to read the Bible, I would expect it to be difficult.  After all, if the God of the universe puts His thoughts into a book, it makes sense for some of it to be beyond us.

If I were reading the Bible for the first time, I’d get a modern more readable translation.  How to do that? Go to Lifeway Christian Stores and spend an hour checking out all the versions.

If I were reading the Bible for the first time, I’d enlist a great friend or two to take my occasional phone call so I could say, “What does this mean?”

And, if I were reading the Bible for the first time, I would do this:

–Move to the New Testament first.  This means ignoring (for the moment) the first two-thirds of the Bible.

–I would begin reading at Matthew chapter one and read large portions each day.

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Why we make so much of Jesus

Jesus Christ was the First. The Most. The Best. The Last. The Everything.

Scripture ransacks the human language looking for superlatives enough to give mankind some kind of idea who this Person was who was born of a virgin, lived without sin, taught us of Heaven, and died in our place.  His resurrection and ascension forever secured His place in the history and thought and conversation of this small planet.

Earth has never seen another like Him.  He is unique.

Christianity and the Christian life are all about Jesus.

Regardless of what they tell you, the Christian faith is not about love.

It’s not about morals and doing good.

The Christian faith is not about helping one another and be ye kind and see you in church.

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The Lord got no bargain when He saved us

“He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).

The Lord is under no illusion about us.

The Creator remembers He made us from the dust of the earth. He knows we are made of humble stuff.

And yet He loves us anyway and wants to do amazing things for us.  How terrific is that?

He knows He got no bargain when He saved us.

No doubt He lowered any expectations He had concerning us from the first.

When we sin, the only one surprised is us.

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Overlooked Scripture No. 6: “The tyranny of the urgent.”

“Now, in the morning, having risen a long time before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place, and there He prayed.  And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’  But He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth'” (Mark 1:35-38).

“I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late!” So said the white rabbit as he plunged into the hole.–  From the Walt Disney movie “Alice in Wonderland.” 

I have a hard time turning off my inner engine.

A typical situation looks like this:  I’m packing the car in order to leave as soon as possible for a long drive to a preaching assignment.  Do I have everything? Have I canceled the newspaper for the days I’ll be gone? Do my children know where I’ll be? Am I taking my laptop? Do I have the phone charger? My extra dress shoes?  Enough shirts?

All the while, I’m keeping an eye on the clock. I know how long the drive will take and when I’m expected. The first meeting is tonight. I’d sure like to get there in time to check into the hotel and rest for an hour.

Hurry. Hurry, and hurry some more.

In the car finally and heading out of town, my inner engine is still at warp speed.

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Overlooked Scripture No. 5: “Who is my mother?”

“One said to Him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with you.’  But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are my brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother'” (Matthew 12:47-50).

I’m so sorry, Catholic friends. But Scripture will not allow you to worship Mary.

There is no place for Mariolatry, as it is known, in the life of Jesus’ disciples.

We will give her the honor Scripture gives her. We have no trouble calling her blessed, for who would not be blessed by being chosen to bear God’s Son into the world. But no, she is not “the mother of God.”  Any way you slice it, the only way you can make Scripture justify worship of Mary is to ignore everything but a few selected verses.

A woman called out of the crowd to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you! And blessed are the breasts that nursed you!”  Jesus’ answer is significant.  “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28).

Jesus would not allow people to make of Mary more than she was.

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