Wellington, a pastor friend, and I were having lunch. I asked what he was preaching the following Sunday.
“Jude,” he said, “and it’s worrying me to death!”
I laughed. “Why?”
He said, “I’m doing a series through some of the shortest–and most overlooked–books of the Bible. I’ve done Philemon and II and III John, and so, locked myself in to do Jude this Sunday. I’m really having trouble finding a hold on it.”
Since I had not read Jude lately, my memory of what that book-of-one-chapter contained was fuzzy, so I had little assistance to offer him. What I said was, “As I recall, Jude quotes from the Apocrypha.”
Wellington said, “That’s what’s got me. I don’t know what to do with that.”
The Apocrypha is the name given to the books between the Old Testament and the New Testament in the Catholic Bible. Protestants do not consider these writings as authoritative primarily because the Jews didn’t either.
In vs. 9, Jude refers to a small book titled “The Assumption of Moses.” In vs. 14 he does the same from the apocryphal book of I Enoch.
Now, referring to these books is not the same as endorsing them. The Protestant world agrees that these do not belong in the New Testament.
I said to him, “When I get back to the office, I’ll read through Jude and let you know if I have anything worth sharing.”
So, you’re reading the Bible through in a year? Or, like a few people I’ve known, you read it through every year for the umpteenth time.
Fine. But after you have done it two or three times, that’s probably enough. I have a suggestion for what you will want to do next.
Reading the entire Bible in a year is like seeing Europe in a week: You will notice a lot of things you don’t see from ground level, but it’s no way to get to know a country.
After a few flyovers–two days in Genesis and one day in Romans, for instance–you will want to land the plane and get out and make yourself at home in Ephesians or Second Timothy. Move in with the locals and live with them a few weeks.
I urge you, brethren–you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints–that you also submit to such and to everyone who works and labors with us. I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore, acknowledge such men. (I Corinthians 16:15-18).
Refreshing others. What a wonderful ministry. As opposed to wearing them out and using them up. Leaving them stronger than how we found them.
I’m struck by Paul’s tribute to Stephanas at the end of his epistle to the Corinthians. Along with his family and friends, this brother in the Lord did three things which earned him an “honorable mention” in Holy Scripture—
1. They were addicted to ministry. That’s quite a tribute. In our day, when people see needs, they frequently imitate the Lord’s disciples in the early part of John 9 and get into debates over who is to blame. But there are among us a few who have no time for such pointless dilly-dallying. They jump in to see what they can do to alleviate the situation.
There are so many kinds of addictions, but surely this is the best.
Critics of the Scriptures want to have it both ways.
If they find an inconsistency in Scriptures–the numbers seem not to agree, or a story is told in two or more different ways–it proves the Bible is man-made, filled with errors, and not to be trusted. If however they could find no inconsistencies this would prove the church authorities in the distant past conspired to remove all the troublesome aspects of the Bible in order to claim it to be inspired of God.
Either it is or it is not.
When one is determined not to believe a thing, nothing gets in his way. He can always find a reason not to believe.
Take the matter of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar of Jericho. His account is told in three of the gospels, but he is named in only one (Mark 10:46).
I came by it honestly. My dad, a coal miner with a 7th grade education, was interested in everything. He read and learned and talked to us of all kinds of subjects.
In college, I changed my major from science (physics) to history because the professors in the science building were focusing more and more on tinier and tinier segments of the universe, whereas history deals with the entire sweep of life, every person who ever lived, every civilization, every lesson learned. Nothing is off limits to history.
That did it for me.
I’m remembering a life-changing trip to Southern Italy in 2012. After several days of ministering to pastors and spouses from churches of many countries, I was among a busload who spent several hours touring the ruins of Pompeii, the Italian city devastated by the eruption of Vesuvius in August of A.D. 79. It was truly unforgettable. So much so, that….
After my arrival home in New Orleans, the next afternoon I was in our public library reading up on Pompeii. I checked out a Robert Harris novel titled “Pompeii,” and finished it the next night.
I felt like I’ve been living in Pompeii all week.
On my next trip to the library, I read up on the Roman aqueducts, which was a major theme of the novel.
Why? Of what possible use is this in my ministry?
“…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
We don’t begin to have a clue.
God is doing a zillion things He has not deigned to reveal to us mortals.
It’s not our business to know, for one thing. Most of what goes on in the universe He is keeping to Himself. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Everything we know about the operation of the created world is but a sliver of the full story. (And yes, isn’t it fun to make these discoveries. Scientists get to see what God has done before the rest of us!)
How can it be that before the world as we know it was formed, the Heavenly Father was already at work making plans for us to arrive and dwell with Him forever?
I do not know. Neither do you.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not the things I tell you” (Luke 6:46).
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).
I apologize for the title. Everything our Lord said was “big.” It’s just that some of His statements in particular seem to have been muted in recent years. See what you think.
1) We keep forgetting the second commandment is a command.
We want our religion to be private, just “me and the Lord.”
Jesus refuses to play that game. After being asked to identify the “greatest” command, He said, “And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). We must note that this is a command, not an option, an opinion, a wish, a Facebook “like,” or a good idea. To love one’s neighbor strongly is a key component of the kind of witness Jesus envisioned His people extending to the world.
So, why don’t we obey it? Answer: We have found it inconvenient, difficult, and demanding. When we love people–truly care for them to the point that they know it–they might need us and that would interfere with our schedule. It’s much easier to love the lovely, to care for the appreciative, to give to the deserving, and to reach out to those who need little or nothing.
(For this article, we enlisted the aid of our Facebook friends. We’re quoting them here, but not verbatim. They will recognize themselves. Thanks, guys.)
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul… They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb…. In keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11)
The Bible loves the Bible.
From one end to the other, God’s word tells us how wonderful is God’s word. Better than gold and sweeter than honey it is. Job said, “I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
We preachers believe this. And we say those words to our people. We like our people to bring their Bibles to church, open them as we read and preach, and use them when they return home.
There is nothing wrong with our aspirations in this regard.
However, when it comes to connecting our people with God’s word personally to the point that they will become ardent readers and diligent students of Scripture, we should give ourselves a C-minus. And sometimes, an F.
The book focused on the year 1940 and all the war-related events of that brief period: Hitler’s invasion of the Low Countries, Churchill’s coming to power, Dunkirk, the Blitz, FDR’s election to the third term, and the isolationism in the USA.
I emailed the author of my appreciation for the book and added, “That year is also special because I made my appearance on March 28, 1940.”
After thinking about that a moment, I added, “But don’t think me old just because I was born in 1940.”
Later, I wondered why I’d said that, since I do not know the author or expect to meet him. Why was that important to me?
It must be a personal thing.
None of us want to be pigeon-holed because of demographics or statistics, nor for preconceptions or ignorance. Just because you are a Southerner does not make you a redneck. Living in Mississippi does not mean you are barefooted. All Louisianians do not speak Cajun. All Yankees are not rude. All Democrats are not socialists nor all Republicans idiots.
A program on a science channel dealt with “Venus: Earth’s Evil Twin.” The two planets are similar in size, and according to the experts, have the same origin. But Venus is hellish, with acidic atmosphere and temperatures in the monstrous range.
Early in the program, the scientists began telling how Earth’s future is to become as Venus is now. Not next week. But in the distant future.
Now, personally, I have no trouble with anything that occurs on this planet a billion years down the road, which is the time period the experts dealt with. For one thing, I won’t be here, and neither will you. For another, scripture says “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat” (2 Peter 3:12).
Wonder why the scientists feel the need to tell us such?
Watch enough such science shows, and you come away feeling that their purpose was to unnerve the viewer, to frighten the audience with the awful fate awaiting the planet and possibly to eradicate any primitive thoughts of a God who could be expected to rescue us from such a future.
I suspect their ploy works. If one watches enough of this stuff, it would.
But there is one thing–one word actually–which keeps people of faith grounded, one word which is our answer to those who would frighten us about the future of this universe.