Red Letter

Is that in red letters?

My wife and I recently visited a city we lived in twenty years ago. It was fun discovering the new businesses, new homes, and new roads as well as finding the old places; the ones that hold special memories. We discovered that we had forgotten more than we expected. Without Google Maps we would have been lost in our old home town.

I see this very same condition taking place in church congregations today. It seems as if Christians, both young and old, have forgotten the framework of the body of Christ. It is stunning to me when I talk to people that have accepted Jesus as their Savior but they dismiss the cost of sin, they do not recognize the Church’s authority, and they look at the Bible as a smorgasbord from which they can pick and choose which parts they accept and which parts no longer align with popular culture and therefore are ignored or thrown away.

When I lead a person with this condition into the Bible it’s as if I’ve taken them to their hometown from which they’ve been away from for twenty years. They recognize only an occasional landmark and are unfazed by passages directly from the Bible that contradict popular beliefs. I find this especially disheartening with young people who discount the Old Testament. It’s passe, they say; nobody lives by the law, they say. What is even more disturbing to me is when I talk with someone that says, “I only believe in the red letters.”

Discussing this with a well-respected friend and Bible scholar, in mere moments they had an answer for these new-fangled ideas: Jesus said, mind you, in red letters, “You search the Scriptures…it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39) And, Paul tells Timothy to “study to show yourself approved by God… rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15Guess what the Scriptures are that Jesus and Paul are referring?  It’s the Old Testament. The Law. Christ fulfills the Old Testament so we know Him better by learning from it.

If you’re a “red letter only” person then I’d like to point out that at the start of the ministry of Jesus He reads in the Temple from Isaiah, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled.” while Christ’s statement, “You search the Scriptures…it is they that bear witness about me.” comes afterwards. This shows that “fulfillment” does not mean retirement.

If ever there was a time when Christians need to study the Bible, discuss scriptures with other Christians to sharpen their handling of God’s Word, and challenge, respectfully, heresies when they hear them, the time is now!

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

“Oh silly rabbit

Oh, silly rabbit, Trix™ are for kids.”

That was the slogan for sugary Trix cereal that made me ask Mom to please, please buy some when she went to the grocery store; she rarely did, but that’s a story for my shrink. 😉

So, after many decades I still think, “Oh, silly rabbit.” when someone asks for something that is not for them. “Daddy, can we go up to the highest diving board thingy and jump off?”, says a six-year child to her parent. “No, honey, that’s for big kids.”, says the parent, thinking to themselves, “I wouldn’t make half-way up before I puked.”

Unfortunately, some people feel that way about the Bible; it’s not for them. They may have five Bibles in their home but never read any of them. Bryan Chapell, the pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church, made this insightful comment to people that think the Bible isn’t for them. He said, “Do you view the Bible as a disconnected series of moral tales interspersed between impossible commandments, woven into a maze of mysteries that somehow produces a message about a nice Jesus in the New Testament to counter the mean God of the Old Testament?”

The Bible is unique in all the world for it lives. It lives because it is the Word of God; Jesus is that Word (John 1:1). Jesus lives, and He not only causes His Word to live in the Bible, But He also desires to live in us and through us. There’s an old hymn that has this chorus:

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

Here is are two cohesive points of the Bible I want to bring out:

1. Regarding God the Father, He is not the mean father of the Old Testament. Notice what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write in Galatians 4:6, “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” [i.e., Daddy, Father] Jesus suffered and died on the cross so we could know our Abba, Father. That doesn’t sound like a mean dad.

2. Red letter Bibles are helpful, but they are a bit misleading. I say this because the whole Bible, from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 is the living Word of Jesus. If you don’t just read the Bible, but you dig, study, connect the dots, you discover an astounding, plan. You see, the Bible is about God’s love, played out on the stage of Adam’s history, for the redemption of people that desire to be in God’s family and for the full restoration of God’s Creation.

When you understand these two aspects of the Bible, then it all fits together. For, you see, Abba Father has not left us to fend for ourselves. He is our Father, and He cares for us. We know this for certain for when Jesus, the Son of God, returned back to heaven Jesus didn’t leave us as orphans but sent the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, to us, for us, so that God would be in us and lead us into all Truth (John, chapter 14).

The Bible is for kids, even grown-up kids. Now that’s good news.

Trix™ is a trademark By General Mills, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13401815

This is how you pray.

I read this recently and think it’s so good I want to share it. Once, when D. L. Moody was preaching in Scotland he asked a young Scottish lad what he thought prayer was. The lad’s response was spot-on; he replied, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.”

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Finding Christ in Christianity

picture of an open Bible

aaron-burden-307060-unsplash

Thanks to @theaaronburden for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

After prayer and pondering, I’ve decided to refocus this blog. Over the years I’ve slipped from excavating to discovering Christ in Christianity to one of writing more of a general topics blog. Starting tomorrow, I’m shifting back. I hope you’ll be blessed by this change. It’s a small change but one that takes us back to the genesis of this site.

I decided to start this blog after one of my sons said he was struggling with his faith. Specifically, he felt that Scriptures did not align. He began calling himself a “red letter” Christian, believing the words of Jesus, printed in red, were true, but he questioned the veracity of everything else.

I understand his perspective, especially in our world where people have confidence that they can reasonably understand anything just by Googling it. If we’re looking for a hotel review or the best deal for new tires or even learning about Lupus on WebMD, Googling is entirely valid. However, this is not the case when tackling 1st-century events that have spawned two thousand years of commentary covering every nook and cranny of the divine Word of God.

Therefore, instead of adding more verbiage and thereby moving us even further from the Truth of Scripture, my goal is to take us on an expedition that unwraps as many layers of commentary as we can so we get down to the bedrock, or more specifically, the Rock, Christ Jesus. We’re going to be discovering, once again, Christ in Christianity.

Ok, this is serious stuff but let’s be joyful. As Jesus said (red letter), “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” – John 15:10-12 (NIV).

As for versions of Scripture, I will use several Bible translations such as NIV, ESV, KJV and so forth. Why? Because we’re excavating to uncover Jesus. No, I’m not implying that any mainstream translations are inaccurate. But each translation carries its own agenda. For example, the agenda of The Message is to make God’s word as accessible as possible to the widest audience of modern readers. That’s good. Still, valuable nuances may be de-emphasized or  lost in translation. As for the KJV, it carries with it a very high level of entry that is quite challenging for those whose primary language is not English. Therefore, as we embark on this journey, I will seek, from mainline translations, the Bible version that most clearly points to Jesus, because that’s my agenda. Tomorrow we start!

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