January 20th, 2023
So, I started working on a post yesterday, got about 70% done, then saved it for later. I came back today to finish it...and guess what...poof, all gone. That is frustrating! So, I suppose I'll start over again. During the last 2 weeks of January Joe Nichols and Dean Haines will be speaking on Sunday. This gives me an opportunity to focus on some other things here on the blog. So, over the next couple of weeks I want to dive into some of the things I'm learning in my Biblical Interpretation class. These are academic in nature, more about form and function and less about individual scriptures. That said, I will (of course) incorporate scripture in what I'm learning (as much as possible). These entries will be a bit longer, due to the nature of the subject...plus, it will help me process what I'm learning for my class.
Today I want to go over what my textbook refers to as the "interpretive journey" of proper hermeneutics. There are 5 steps to proper Biblical interpretation:
1. What did the text mean to the original audience?
2. What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
3. What is the theological principle in this text?
4. How does our theological principle fit with the rest of scripture?
5. How should individual Christians today live out the theological principle?
Over the next few days I will be using Joshua 1: 1-9 as an example of what it looks like to use these steps on a portion of scripture.
Let's take the first one today:
1. What did the text mean to the original audience?
As an example we will use Joshua 1: 1-9
1 Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, 2 “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. 5 No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous; [b]be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may [c]have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may [d]be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will [e]have success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I chose this passage from Joshua because it's an easy passage to exercise our hermeneutic muscles on (plus, it's the one that my textbook uses..lol).
Ok, for this text, let's answer the first question in our "interpretive journey."
What did the text mean to the biblical audience?
God was speaking to Joshua, the new leader of Israel. God wanted Joshua to draw strength and courage from His presence and be obedient to the law of Moses. Also, God wanted Joshua to meditate of the law, as it would be the key to the future success of Israel. To me, it seems that God is giving Joshua a "pep-talk" of sorts. Also, this could have served as a reminder to the people that God chose Joshua to lead after the death of Moses (but that is my own speculation).
What do you think this text meant to the biblical audience?
In my next entry we will answer the next couple of questions.
Friday January 13, 2o22
Hello friends, I pray your week has been productive and blessed. I have been studying and reading quite a bit this week in preparation for my upcoming sermon on Sunday and for my schooling. Today I want to continue to look at our passage from earlier in the week, except I will focus on a different part of the pericope (look it up!).
Malachi 3: 8-10
8 “Will a man [m]rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and [n]offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are [o]robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be [p]food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until [q]it overflows.
In my last entry I focused on God's promise to bless those who follow his commands, specifically in the area of generosity. Today I want to look at the initial accusation that God leveled at the people of Israel. He said: "Will a man rob God!" This is a different accusation, compared to the rest of Malachi, where God had asked "why do you dishonor me," among other things. The Lord accuses the people of robbing Him, not because they were not following the commandments (as in other areas of Malachi), but because the people did not understand the fact that everything they have already belongs to the Lord. Their land, crops, animals, families...everything they had belonged to the Lord. The Lord simply asked for a small portion of it back (which is the tithe). The people of Israel were unwilling to give back to the Lord the small portion he commanded them to give.
What about us though, we are not under the law of Moses, so how would this apply to you and I. For those who argue that tithing is not a New Testament principle, I say: you are correct! Nowhere in the N.T. do we see this particular law restated by Christ or any of the disciples. Here is the question though: does the principle behind the law still remain intact? If it's still true that all of our earthly blessing belong to the Lord, then the principle remains intact....as a matter of a fact, Jesus actually calls us to a higher standard than that of the law.
This is where the idea of stewardship comes into play...I will be expanding on this idea on Sunday. HORRAY! We get to talk about giving! LOL.
Monday January 9, 2023
Happy Monday! I pray you all had a great day in God's house on Sunday. At Ottawa First, we had a great service! The preacher is phenomenal (LOL)! Just a little joke there. Anyway, this week I will be writing on Malachi Ch. 3 as we continue our "Fresh Faith" series.
Today, I want to look at
Malachi 3: 8-9
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
There is much that we could unpack here, but I want to focus on the middle and last part of vs. 10 for this particular blog entry, specifically:
"test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."
Throughout all of scripture, testing God is viewed at as a lack of faith. At one point in the N.T. Jesus quotes from Deut. 6:16, warning us not to "test" God. We are called to have that mustard seed of faith, regardless of the situation, then we see this passage in Malachi. What are we to make of such a statement, and what does God mean when he says that we should "test Him in this?"
God was trying to get the people of Israel to understand the principles behind generosity and stewardship. The entirety of Malachi Ch. 3 is all about God's people failing to honor the Lord with what they've been given. All throughout the book of Malachi, God is displeased with His people because they refused to obey the commands set forth in the law of Moses; but more than that, God was angry with the condition of their hearts. They were cold and unresponsive to God in many areas of their lives, including their finances. God was trying to get them to understand that He rewards those who are good stewards and those who are generous with their time, talent and treasure. "Testing God" in this instance does not mean that we give a one time offering, then demand that heaven open up the windows and bless us...that is not what God is talking about here. Stewardship and generosity are a way of life, not a one time offering or a fleeting moment of generosity; nor is it when we feel compelled to give by a a manipulative preacher or pastor.
God wants us to test Him and see if being a good steward and being generous does not bring the blessings of heaven with it. Money and finances are but one area in which we are called to be generous and good stewards.
We will continue to look at Malachi Ch. 3 as the week progresses (God wiling!).
Friday January 6, 2023
God bless friends and family, I pray your year has been good so far. My classes start up again this week, so I've been busy getting myself back into the mode of learning...which I suppose we should always be in, now that I think about it. Anyway, I'm looking forward to growing in knowledge and wisdom this semester. I'm sure I will be posting about things I've learned now and then over the next couple of months.
As for today though, let's continue looking at Malachi Ch. 1; in my last entry we talked about vs. 6 and 7-today we will move forward to
10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.
12 “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty.
First, let me say that Malachi chapter 1 is fantastic; there is so much to dig through and it's so relevant to our lives today-despite the fact that God is addressing a part of the O.T. law. I definitely understand why pastors like to use the book of Malachi when preaching about stewardship. It is a great book for that, but at it's core, the principles of stewardship are a heart issue-which is what the book of Malachi drives home so artfully. The other issue that comes into play with stewardship is being able to see the value of the local church and its mission.
Here in vs. 10-13, God is continuing to express His righteous anger at the temple priests. First, God says it would be better for the temple to be shut down than have the worthless sacrifices. Verse 11 is a Messianic prophecy about Christ's death as the ultimate sacrifice, and points to the fact that all people will one day be able to be children of Abraham.
Verses 12 and 13 are the ones that really stuck out to me-God is commenting on the fact that the priests are unable to see the value in their own role. It would be one thing if the people didn't recognize the importance of the priests and the true value of proper sacrifices-but the fact that the priests themselves are blind to their own peril, is much worse.
I wonder how many church leaders are out there who have lost sight of the value of what they do? They are trying to teach others how to live for and show honor to the Lord, meanwhile, their own spiritual condition is lame and sick. I pray that we never enter such a terrible place.
Monday January 2, 2023
Wow, I can't believe it's 2023...I will be making the mistake of writing 2022 for about the next 6 months. I pray you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. I took a bit of time off of writing in the blog, so focus on some personal issues (nothing bad, just areas of growth). Anyway, at OFA I began a new series on Sunday (the 1st). It is on the book of Malachi. The series is titled "Fresh Faith." Today, I want to discuss a bit of what I'll be covering this upcoming Sunday.
Next Sunday I will be covering Malachi 1: 6-14; today though, let's just look at vs. 6 and part of 7.
Malachi 1: 6-7a
6 “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.
“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.
“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
7 “By offering defiled food on my altar.
The first 5 verses of Malachi ch. 1 are all about God reassuring Israel how much He loves them by comparing His choice of Jacob over Esau. Then, in vs. 6 the Lord begins to address the priests-calling them out on their lack of leadership and reverence for His temple (in general) and the sacrificial commandment (in particular). God was not pleased because the priests were allowing "defiled" or polluted meat to be placed upon the altar as a sacrifice. Why was this a big deal to God? Well, there are a few reasons, but the main one (I believe) is because the offering given was not a true sacrifice. God calls us to offer up our best, the unblemished, something that is worth something to us; defiled or polluted meat is simply a left over, something that you didn't want in the first place.
This takes me back to the story of Cain and Able, where one sacrifice was accepted and one was rejected. Why did God reject Cain's sacrifice? God rejected it because Cain failed to offer up something of value, something that was hard for him to let go. Able on the other hand, offered up the firstborn animal, which was a very significant offering back then.
Here is the point: the value of our sacrifice determines how we value the Lord! In Malachi, the priests offered up defiled meat because they did not value the significance of what they were doing.
This can apply to so many areas of our lives today. This is where so many people get it wrong-you see, we do not give offerings and make "sacrifices" to the Lord to get something in return-we do it because we want to honor the Lord. I'll do my best to make a follow up blog later this week. God Bless.
Friday December 23, 2022
It is really, really cold out today! The wind is blowing pretty hard, with make it seem even colder than it already is. I guess we can all be thankful that we have a roof over our heads, food to eat, and a God that loves us.
Today, we will continue the conversation I stared with my last post. For this entry I would like to point out some of the glaring inconsistencies that we see in many of our leaders today:
1. You can be a gifted speaker for God in public and be a detached spouse or angry parent at home.
2. You can function as a leader and yet be unteachable, insecure, and defensive.
3. You can quote the Bible with ease and still be unaware of your reactivity to others.
4. You can fast and pray regularly and yet remain critical of others, justifying it as discernment.
5. You can lead people "for God," when in reality, your primary motive is an unhealthy need to be admired by others.
6. You can be hurt by others and justify saying nothing because you avoid conflict at all costs.
7. You can serve tirelessly in multiple ministries, and yet carry resentments because there is little personal time for healthy self-care.
8. You can lead a large ministry with little transparency, rarely sharing struggles or weakness.
The author of this book points out that these are signs of spiritual and emotional immaturity, yet they are accepted on a regular basis by the people following them.
Matthew 22: 34-40
34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Perhaps you didn't notice, but most of the things I listed above have something in common: how we treat and react to the people around us; whether it's our own family, other believers or unbelievers. The author mentioned that for the first 17 years of his life with Christ, he was discipled in such a way that prioritized "doing" for God, rather than being with God. Doing for God involves all manner of spiritual activity: praying, fasting, volunteering, etc. It wasn't until he saw (in himself) the very thing that Christ spoke out against. He was very quick to judge, yet slow to see his own faults.
Christians normally break into two camps and neither have a proper understanding of the type of love that Christ was referring to. The first group focus only on "love," thinking that love is simply another word for tolerance (which it isn't). The second group all but neglect the notion of "love," preferring instead to become hyper focused on who is right and who is wrong. The first group cringe when a sermon is taught on sin and unrighteousness-because they consider that judging. Meanwhile, the second group will become uncomfortable if a pastor focuses on love "too much." To these people, love takes a back seat to doctrine and theology. Both are off balance. What do we do about this? How do we avoid both extremes and live a spiritually mature, balanced life for Christ? That is what I'm praying about in my own life.
Have a great Christmas!
Monday Dec. 19, 2022
Hello friends, I pray you had a great day in God's house yesterday! At Ottawa First, we had a wonderful service. Today, I started reading a new book; it for an upcoming class that I will have when my new semester begins in January. Normally, my assigned books are very dull and are always from an academic point of view...but not this one. This book is called "Emotionally Healthy Discipleship" by Peter Scazzero. I had never heard of the guy before, so I was skeptical at first, but once I dug into the book, it had me captivated. The book is written to pastors and leaders and is about leading people from shallow Christianity to deep transformation. So today, I am going to write about some of my thoughts, regarding some things that I read.
Let's look at a well known verse, perhaps in a new way.
1 Cor. 13: 1-3
13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
The author of the book points out 4 main reasons that people under your leadership remain spiritually immature.
1. We tolerate emotional immaturity
2. We emphasize doing for God rather than being with God (ouch!)
3. We ignore the treasures of Church history
4. We define success wrongly
Each section of the book deals with one of these categories. The following are my own thoughts on the first issue he points out, and on the scripture I mention above. Some of my ideas are similar to his, or it's an idea that he started, but I am expanding on (I do not wish to take credit for something that is not mine).
In the western church today, we've divorced spiritual maturity and emotional maturity. We can read all day long about how Paul said that we should have "love," but because our definition of love is skewed, we do not actually understand what it means to "love" someone. We consider ourselves spiritually mature if we read the Bible, pray, tithe, volunteer at church, etc...yet with our family and friends (and people in general) we are quick to wrath, are often unapproachable, defensive, we consider ourselves better than most (especially sinners), and simply live our lives in such a way that we first look for what's wrong, rather than what is right. We consider ourselves spiritually mature. According to Paul, and a proper definition of love, we are the farthest thing from spiritually mature. The author says: "we no longer measure our love for God by how we love others."
As I was reading though this book, and reflecting on my own thoughts, the Lord was really opening my eyes to areas of my own life and ministry where I can fall into these traps and how my definition of love is often skewed.
It's not my goal to be negative here, simply real. As a pastor, I desire to lead people into spiritual and emotional maturity-but (as the author points out) I must be at that place myself. In my next entry I will point out some common contradictions (that the author points out) that we accept in our leaders today. God Bless.
December 16th, 2022
Hello friends, it has been too long since I've made an entry-please forgive my absence. I had some very difficult finals this semester. Thankfully, I am done with school for about a month-my next class starts up on January 11. Anyway, here at OFA we are in a series titled "The Light Has Come." We are looking at the Christmas story according to the gospel of John chapter 1. My last entry was a bit off topic, but nonetheless important. Today, let's get back on track and look at one of the passages I'll be speaking on this upcoming Sunday (Dec. 18).
John 1: 14
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of [l]the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Throughout the O.T. only a very select number of people had the opportunity to approach God the Father in a personal manner. Men like Abraham, Moses, King David, etc.... For most of humanity, God was a rather distant, mysterious figure that was more feared than anything else. Then, all of a sudden, on one morning, Christ was born; God incarnate; Emmanuel, God with us. Not only was God approachable, He was vulnerable (sort of). He had to rely on His own creation to care for Him while in His earthly form. While it would be goofy not to assume that Christ (as a baby and teen) did not have some divine protection around Him (protecting Him from a premature death), other than that though, Christ experienced all of the things you and I experience. During His childhood, He relied on His earthly mom and dad, no different than you or I. Christ's immaculate conception is one of the most important things that separates Him from all other religious leaders.
Imagine the responsibility that Mary and Joseph felt while raising Jesus to be a fully grown man. All parents like to think that their children are special, but in this instance, Jesus was truly special. Did they treat Jesus the same as their other children? My mind has a hard time comprehending just how remarkable it must have been for Mary and Joseph, knowing they were caring for the savior of all mankind. These are some great question to reflect on during this Christmas season. I'm hoping to have another entry before Sunday, in which we will look at Luke Ch. 2 (my other text for Sunday). God Bless.
Tuesday December 6, 2022
Hello friends, I pray you all had an opportunity to attend your house of worship on Sunday. I've noticed that people have become less concerned with going to church over the last 15 to 20 years. I do not think it's a coincidence that, as church attendance has dropped, our churches have become more watered down, in an attempt to draw new people. Of course, not all churches have compromised, so that is encouraging.
Today, I want to discuss a recent posting that I saw from a very well known pastor. I will not say who it is, nor will I quote it directly, but it bothered me to the point where I want to address it ( at least to my small audience).
The basic idea centered around unanswered prayers in our lives. Why does God (seemingly) not answer our prayers? As with all posts on social media, it was short and to the point. All of the reasons centered around "keeping bad company" and anger. Perhaps it is possible that our prayers can go unanswered due to the company that we keep or our personal anger issues, but the subject of unanswered prayers tends to be much more nuanced than that.
2 Cor. 12: 7b-9
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
The apostle Paul prayed repeatedly for the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh-but God said "no." Should we consider this an unanswered prayer? I should hope not! God answered Paul's prayer with a resounding NO! I understand what the pastor was trying to say. Sometimes when we are living outside of God's perfect plan for our lives, our prayers can be hindered and can seem to go unanswered...but our motive for praying should never be results driven. Prayer is intended to strengthen our faith and communication with our Heavenly Father. We are instructed to ask, seek, and knock; to ask in faith, according to God's will. As finite human beings, it is impossible for us to know why God seems to answer some prayers and neglects to answer others. Also, our human nature tends to take a "NO" as an unanswered prayer, when (in fact) God has answered our prayer.
I think we must be very careful when addressing a subject that we are unable to fully understand. When sharing something on social media, especially something as complicated as unanswered prayer, we run the risk of someone reading it, then becoming discouraged, convinced that they are at fault for an unanswered prayer.
When we pray for something, there are generally 3 "answers" that we can expect:
We generally consider 2/3 of these unanswered prayer, when in fact, they have been answered-just not to our liking. Let us always be aware that our words have meaning and can affect the way others view God.
Tuesday November 29, 2022
Hello friends, pastor Erik here, I pray everyone had a great weekend and got plenty of rest. Today I am going to start talking about our series for the month of December called: The Light Has Come. Over the next few weeks we will be walking through the 1st chapter of the gospel of John. On Sunday I will be covering John 1: 1-5. Let's take a look at those verses
John 1: 1-5
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 [a]He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [b]comprehend it.
The gospel of John is unique in a number of ways when compared to the 3 synoptic gospels of Mathew, Mark, and Luke. In the very opening verse of the gospel, John seeks to establish 3 different ideas: The origin, power, and nature of Christ. John refers to Christ as the "Word." This title is unique to the gospel of John. Nowhere in the synoptic gospels is Jesus referred to as the "Word." The Word is eternal and preexisted creation itself-which speaks to the origin of Christ. Also, it was through the Word that all things were created, which shows the power of Christ. Lastly, John says that the Word is light, which dispels darkens, harkening to the very nature of Christ. On Sunday I will break down all 3 of these themes and explain why the origin, power and nature of Christ are still important to us today. I goal is to have a least one more entry before Sunday-which I will use to talk about some of the details behind the language that John chose to use in describing Christ. I would encourage you to read the 1st chapter of John and prepare your heart. God Bless.