“Becoming a People of the Book & Getting the Right Explanation of the Word”

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Date: 03-14-15

The Big Idea: If the Word is indeed the Word of God (and I most assuredly believe it is), then I must do everything I can to accurately interpret the Word so that I will not be putting words in His mouth, right?.

My Thoughts: Even the Apostle Peter had some difficulties with some of the Apostle Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:16). Even when he literally walked with Jesus, Peter had to ask the Lord, “Explain the parable to us” (see Matthew 15:15). The Ethiopian Eunuch was reading Isaiah 53 and asked Philip to explain it to him (Acts 8:31ff). Dare I supposed I need not to ask for explanation of the Word?

I have found that to become a People of the Book, I need to rightly interpret the Word of God. In order to do this, I need to interpret its meaning in the proper context: Literary, historical and cultural context. Sometimes I need to read a good commentary or ask one who has study the Word longer than I have or who has a particular expertise in a language or given area of history…. I try to surround myself with people like this.

If the Word is indeed the Word of God (and I most assuredly believe it is), then I must do everything I can to accurately interpret the Word so that I will not be putting words in His mouth, right?

If our God is sovereign over time, and if He has breathed Life into the Words of this Book, then it follows that His Words can span time and culture. His Words go beyond any ‘first century worldview’ or 21st century deconstruction attempts. His Word is eternal and valid for all cultures and times….

On my journey becoming a People of the Book, I have learned some simple guidelines of interpretation: First, I make observations of the text prior to reading any commentaries. I focus on the verbs and participles in their original language, moving to key nouns and adjectives. Then I move to interpretation, asking such questions as what was the context of the original audience, what is the context of the passage in the Bible, and how does the author use these particular words. Once I come up with some contextual interpretation of the Word, I move to application. Following both of the first two steps avoids any misapplication and putting words in the Holy One’s mouth. What I have also learned is, much of the time this is hard and sacred work. Sometimes I have discovered that what I thought the passage said actually was my bias taking it out of context. …. Have you found this to be so, too? Has the Word presently come alive to you in ways that it has not in the past?   Share your story about your journey becoming a People of the Book as you get explanations of the Word.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:8—They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. — 2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT)

The disciples came to [Jesus] and asked, “Why do You speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”  —Matthew 13:10-12 (NIV84)

Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar. — Proverbs 30:5-6 (NIV84)

Coach Mike

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“Exposure to the Word is More than Just Owning a Bible”

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Date: 03-13-15

The Big Idea: I went from being exposed to the Word to fill the hunger in my soul, to being a collector of Bibles to fill my intrigue.

My Thoughts: As I continued on my journey with Jesus to become a People of the Book, I found that daily exposure to His Word fed a deep longing and an intense hunger for Him. Intriguingly, shortly after committing my life to the Lord Jesus, I was handed a little green New Testament with the Psalms and Proverbs (which I devoured, camping in John & the Proverbs). Another gave me a Living Bible paraphrase of the New Testament, which I found easier to read. Then I set out to purchase my first Bible, a Thompson Chain reference for $35! (I vividly recall my mother saying why buy such an expensive Bible….) Still another friend gave me a Scofield  Study Bible. The NIV New Testament came out, so I devoured one of those, too…. Suddenly, I went from having no Bibles to an entire library of Bibles….

Shortly after this, I had the honor of joining a small group call Underground Evangelism. It was there I learned that many Christians throughout the world had no Bibles at all. I went home and counted how many Bibles I had. Between a close friend and myself we had 45 Bibles. Now, in truth, I had read all of them at some point, but I could not use all of them, so I began giving them away, keeping only the few I had had in the very beginning….

All this is to say, I went from being exposed to the Word to fill the hunger in my soul, to being a collector of Bibles to fill my intrigue. Oh, I could rationalize why I had so many Bibles, but really how many could I read at once and then how many did I really need?

Have you found on your journey as a People of the Book, that the real challenge is reading the one Bible you may possess? Even now as a pastor, I still read the Word, but often strictly for sermon preparation. I have even caught myself a couple of times never opening my printed Bible—since now I have many of the 45 Bibles back in digital form. Perhaps you can join me in committing to exposing ourselves to the Word as they did in Nehemiah’s day: “Day after day”?  Do you have a story you’d like to share about reading the Word as a People of the Book?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:18— Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. And He stood up to read.— Luke 4:16 (NIV84)

Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” —Mark 12:24-27 (NIV84)

I arise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words. My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.— Psalm 119:147148 (NASB95)

Coach Mike

“The Start of My Journey becoming a ‘People of the Book’”

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Date: 03-11-15

The Big Idea: Early on my journey with Jesus, I had a deep hunger for the His Word, His People and His Person.

As I went off to college, I expected to be tempted with drugs, sex and partying. But instead, the Lord began to rock my world at its core. I was rather religious according to the Roman Tradition—indeed, very devoted, but I met someone who had a peace that was promised at then end of each mass that I did not have. He challenged my religion with a relationship with God.

In pursing an answer to this challenge, I began to study and read. I read  many, if not most, of the world’s great Holy Books, some to the point of memorizing them. I pursued eastern mysticism and western materialism and much in between. I was even so audacious as to attempt to create my own religion. But as I began to lay the foundational principles, I kept being drawn back to one particular Holy Book: the Bible.

Somehow its words spoke to a part of me none of the other books could reach.

I might say my pursuit ended on a Fall Friday night, but really it just began—just on a more focused path. That Friday night I ask and answer a simply question: “Lord, I don’t know if I am a Christian or not, but tonight I want to make sure; I would like to become one now.” And then and there I committed myself to the Lord Jesus Christ….

Almost immediately I had a hunger for the His Word, His People and His Person. One instance in my early walk with Him seems to typify this hunger. I had been studying intensely for a couple of hours reading a Political Science text book with very, very fine print. My eyes were sore and aching. “I think I’d better take a break,” I decided. So I set down my highlighters, bookmarked my place, and laid down on my dorm room bed. “Maybe I’ll read my Bible for a little bit.” What? Continue reading? It wasn’t until weeks later I realized the irony. And, in fact, I read for almost another hour. And the interesting thing is: My eyes appeared to be just fine and I was most definitely refreshed.

I am reminded of the time when Jesus was hungry and asked the woman at the well for some water. When His disciples came back offering Him some found that they had gather, He said,  “I have food to eat that you know nothing about…. My food … is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” To me, His Word was that food for my soul and rest for my weary eyes… Fascinating, no?

This was the beginning of my journey as a People of the Book. Do you have a story you’d like to share about becoming a People of the Book?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:2-3— 2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh accomplishes nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.— John 6:63 (ISV)

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” —Matthew 4:4 (NIV84)

I arise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words. My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.— Psalm 119:147148 (NASB95)

Coach Mike