Posts Tagged Scripture

Hear What God Is Saying to the Church – Dr. Monty Knight

Glenn Hinson taught me how to read a book–any book–ethically (fairly). Did he teach you the same?Hinson said that for any book to be read ethically, it must be read in its own context, e.g. (speaking metaphorically) a love note is not a shopping list, nor a shopping list a love note.

At Circular, the ascription at the end of the scripture reading used to be, “Hear what God is saying to the Church.” Which, as you know, is partly true, since the Hebrew Bible (Jesus’ Bible) is Israel’s book, written and edited by, to, for, from and out of the life of ancient Israel. And again, as you know, both testaments (unless one is a Marcionite) are the Church’s book (anthological as they may be), the New Testament (the witness to faith of the first Christians) having been written, edited and canonized likewise by, to, for, from and out of the life of the Church between the first and fourth centuries C.E. When Susan Dunn or Bert Keller have preached in recent years, they have used as an ascription to the scripture reading, the UCC mantra: “Listen! God is still speaking.” Which (as I’ve just noted) is a less ambiguous ascription than “Hear what God is saying to the church.”

In recent years, the ascription has been changed (by whom?) to “Hear the wisdom in the words.” Which is, of course, likely so, since there is apparently, if not obviously valuable, important wisdom in the Bible. Most precisely, as you know, in the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, commonly referred to as “wisdom literature.” Which Bert Keller once termed “ancient psychology.”  Except there is also considerable wisdom in many other literary sources. Which raises the question (in this case, for “wisdom” purposes), what’s the difference between the Bible and The Brothers Karamazov or To Kill a Mockingbird, or the poetry of a Hopkins or an Eliot? Not unlike Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, much of Dr. Seuss or C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles, most readers would likely consider such works notably “wise” as well.

So why is the explicit reading of scripture so central to Christian worship, both in the Church of the New Testament and across Christian history? How is Bible reading in church any different from observing communion and baptism? Most people bathe, or at least wash a part of their bodies daily, and bread and wine are sacred gifts anywhere (at least for discerning Christians). What then is the significance of the context in which these rituals are observed?

Some years ago, I was invited to preach at the Unitarian Church, here in Charleston. (I say “church” in the sociological, rather than in the I Corinthians 12 theological sense.) In agreeing, I explained to the woman inviting me that I was a Christian minister and that I would like to take a text from the Bible and preach a sermon from that portion of scripture. I asked her if that was OK, or if she merely wanted me to give a speech or lecture on mental health or some other social or political subject (as I have so often presented to the Rotary Club, or some similar civic organization).

To which she replied, “Oh, that would be wonderful! We haven’t heard the Bible read here in our church in years.”

 

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My Fellow Americans

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45 (RSV)

When Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated president for the first time in March of 1933 the country was even more divided than it is today. There was so such unrest that machine guns were trained on the crowds that gathered to hear him speak. He was able to calm the fears as he spoke his first words. The goodness of his heart poured out on the crowds and through the country. “My fellow Americans,” seemed to melt frozen spirits. Thus began the most amazing twenty minutes in American history. He went on to quote more Scripture than any modern politician would dare do today.

According to Christine Wicker, religion writer, “Franklin Roosevelt’s powerful biblical imagery brought hope to a nation in the depths of an economic and social crisis, and instilled support for his progressive social vision.”  His most potent weapon against the nation’s despair was the Bible.

Of course the Bible has been used since the founding of our country for good and evil. It was used to defend slavery and spousal and child abuse. It is used today to defeat programs for the poor or to encourage programs for the poor. Many uses of Scripture by politicians today are simply not understood by their younger audiences. Unlike the older generation, they have not grown up steeped in Scriptural references. References to sport heroes or rock stars gain far more attention.

We need heroes who inspire us. Mine has always been FDR. Ms. Wicker is writing a book on the faith of FDR. I am looking forward to reading it.

 

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Immovovable: Standing Firm in the Final Days – Dr. Tim Riordan – Guest Blog

What is going on in the world? This question seems to be on the minds of many people today as we consider world events. Some people face these times of uncertainty with great fear and dread while others engage these times with wonder and expectation. For those of us who are Christians, there is another question on our minds: “Do world events have anything to do with Bible prophecy and the return of Jesus?” While God is clear in His Word that no one knows the time or day when Jesus will return (Matthew 24:36), He also tells us in the same passage to “keep watch.” He gave us specific prophecies in the Bible related to world events telling us these would be indicators that His return was near, and He stated that these anticipated happenings would grow in increasing intensity: “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8). The miracle of birth begins slowly, maybe even weeks before the actual delivery. Early contractions are so insignificant that many young mothers may not even notice them. As the prophecies of Matthew 24 begin to be fulfilled, they will start small and grow in significance. There is no doubt that we are seeing a growth in intensity of world turmoil, and some of these specific prophecies are becoming more pronounced with every passing day.

If we are living in the last days, what does this mean for the Church? What does it mean for you and your family? It is because of my burden for the Church and my belief that we could be facing very challenging days in the near future, I wrote my new book, Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days. I believe that God has given Christians equipment, or armor, to help us endure the evil days leading up to Christ’s return and to bear fruit during a time of unparalleled opportunity. Ephesians 6:13 says, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” I shared these thoughts about this verse in my book: “While ‘the day of evil’ can refer to a time of intense temptation or spiritual conflict that can come at any point in any Christian’s life, it seems that God may be calling us to think about THE day of evil. Is it possible that this passage is calling Christians approaching the last days to prepare for battle by putting on spiritual armor?” With that question going through my mind, I began studying Bible prophecy about the last days comparing it to the teaching of the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6. The connection was significant, and I believe there are important implications relating the spiritual armor for the last generation before the return of Christ. These implications are not only important for us, but also for our children and grandchildren.

I encourage you to consider our times and the clear teaching of Scripture. Study Bible prophecy with an eye on the evening news and consider how the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6 will help you prepare for what is to come. What do you need to do to put on the spiritual armor of God so you will stand firm in the last days? Being immovable is really not an option for the Church. The world is desperate to see strong, healthy believers standing firm in the last days. When the winds of heresy and deception blow, will you be immovable holding firmly to the truth of God? The only way you or I will stand firm is if we put on the armor of God and allow the immovable Lord Jesus Christ to live victoriously through us.

Dr. Tim Riordan serves as pastor of SonRise Baptist Church in Newnan, Georgia and is the author of Songs from the Heart: Meeting with God in the Psalms and his newest book Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days. For more information on his books or ministry, visit his website at www.timriordan.me.

 

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