Friday, July 13, 2012

An Email to a Friend about Interpreting the Bible

Dear Brother,

You will encounter controversial and sometimes ridiculous issues like whether a person should be baptized in Jordan river like Jesus did. Whether a non-Jew can actually preach the Gospel or even understand the Gospel. Another issue is about baby baptism. Then you will have all kinds of issue with circumcision and foods. Some issues are about the King James Bible versus other translations. You will hear of issues such as dressing, length of hair, and even the kinds of occupation. etc.

In order to understand the bible, the primary subject to learn is Exegesis. That is to at least grasp the basics of how to exegete or in another word, decipher and understand the Bible in light of its cultures, languages and historical backgrounds.

From there, learning the Greek and Hebrew languages will then be helpful. Let me explain - for example somebody wants to learn English but does not understand the cultures and other aspects of the language, then by learning the vocabulary, they may make mistakes in how they understand and use English.

For example, the word, "water". Within the context, we can understand its usage. We drink water is different from we water the plants. The eyes water is different from the sky waters. The danger of most students of the biblical languages is to take all the meanings and attribute it to one passage or scriptural portion with a total disregard for the context.

English when used by the British and the Australians or Malaysians can have vast differences in meaning. So a 'mate' in Britain is a spouse but in Australia it is a friend. In Malaysia, it may be a companion or all the above. So when you read the Hebrew texts, you may have to understand the different sources of writing. Take the Pentateuch (first five books of the bible), you will soon discover that there are at least four different writers and a couple of editors who complied the Torah. So, you must learn about JEDP sources. J stands for the Jawehist. E for the Elohists. D for Deuteronomists and P stands for Priestly.  Some scholars accept these sources while other are against them. This of course is another issue that we can discuss next time.

With wrong exegesis, we can come out with some of the most ridiculous doctrines. For example, 1 Timothy 5:22 - Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

In the early 1980s and even until now, this verse has been misinterpreted by some Charismatic self-styled preachers to mean the 'transference of the evil spirit'. They say that if you lay hands on a very sinful person or a demonic person, the evil spirits will enter you.

However, when you read the portion from 1 Timothy 5:17 onwards, you will find that the context of the passage has to do with leadership.

The background and context do not permit anyone to exegete it as the 'transference of the spirit'. It simply means do not appoint a young believer as a leader or else you will be responsible for his sins and mistakes. Let him mature first then appoint him later.

This wrong doctrine has harmed many believers and I knew of a case where a Burmese sister actually gone mad because she was so filled with fear about the transference of evil spirit. She refused to sleep with her husband and touch any animals because she believed that all the demons in these will enter her. She ended in a mental institution in Yangon.

After exegesis, you will need to learn Hermeneutics.  This is for the purpose of understanding how the bible can be used for today's purposes. For example, what the women preachers issue. How about smoking and drinking? How about pre-marital sex? How about pornography? How about eating meats? How about going to church? All these different questions are being worked out by both applying Exegesis and Hermeneutics. Of course, sometimes, these two disciplines overlap.

I hope this helps you to understand the importance of Exegesis and Hermeneutics before learning the biblical languages.

Anyway, if you are interested in a particular Greek or Hebrew word in the bible, you can go to Strong's Concordance. Here are some of the links.

God bless and enjoy your study. See you in Church tomorrow.

In Christ Alone,
Pastor Albert

When God Whispers Your Name

When God Whispers Your Name 

by Max Lucado

The sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. —John 10:3

WHEN I SEE a flock of sheep I see exactly that, a flock. A rabble of wool. A herd of hooves. I don't see a sheep. I see sheep. All alike. None different. That's what I see.

But not so with the shepherd. To him every sheep is different. Every face is special. Every face has a story. And every sheep has a name.The one with the sad eyes, that's Droopy. And the fellow with one ear up and the other down, I call him Oscar. And the small one with the black patch on his leg, he's an orphan with no brothers. I call him Joseph.

The shepherd knows his sheep. He calls them by name.

When we see a crowd, we see exactly that, a crowd. Filling a stadium or flooding a mall. When we see a crowd, we see people, not persons, but people. A herd of humans. A flock of faces. That's what we see.

But not so with the Shepherd. To him every face is different. Every face is a story. Every face is a child. Every child has a name. The one with the sad eyes, that's Sally. The old fellow with one eyebrow up and the other down, Harry's his name. And the young one with the limp? He's an orphan with no brothers. I call him Joey.

The Shepherd knows his sheep. He knows each one by name. The Shepherd knows you. He knows your name. And he will never forget it. I have written your name on my hand (Isa. 49:16).

Quite a thought, isn't it? Your name on God's hand. Your name on God's lips. Maybe you've seen your name in some special places. On an award or diploma or walnut door. Or maybe you've heard your name from some important people—a coach, a celebrity, a teacher. But to think that your name is on God's hand and on God's lips . . . my, could it be?

Or perhaps you've never seen your name honored. And you can't remember when you heard it spoken with kindness. If so, it may be more difficult for you to believe that God knows your name.

But he does. Written on his hand. Spoken by his mouth. Whispered by his lips. Your name. And not only the name you now have, but the name he has in store for you. A new name he will give you . . .

When God Whispers Your Name is a book of hope. A book whose sole aim is to encourage. I've harvested thoughts from a landscape of fields. And though their size and flavors are varied, their purpose is singular: to provide you, the reader, with a word of hope. I thought you could use it.

You've been on my mind as I've been writing. I've thought of you often. I honestly have. Over the years I've gotten to know some of you folks well. I've read your letters, shaken your hands, and watched your eyes. I think I know you.

You're busy. Time passes before your tasks are finished. And if you get a chance to read, it's a slim chance indeed.

You're anxious. Bad news outpaces the good. Problems outnumber solutions. And you are concerned. What future do your children have on this earth? What future do you have?
You're cautious. You don't trust as easily as you once did.

Politicians lied. The system failed. The minister compromised. Your spouse cheated. It's not easy to trust. It's not that you don't want to. It's just that you want to be careful.

There is one other thing. You've made some mistakes. I met one of you at a bookstore in Michigan. A businessman, you seldom came out of your office at all and never to meet an author. But then you did. You were regretting the many hours at work and the few hours at home and wanted to talk.

And the single mom in Chicago. One kid was tugging, the other crying, but juggling them both, you made your point. "I made mistakes," you explained, "but I really want to try again."
And there was that night in Fresno. The musician sang and I spoke and you came. You almost didn't. You almost stayed home. Just that day you'd found the note from your wife. She was leaving you. But you came anyway. Hoping I'd have something for the pain. Hoping I'd have an answer. Where is God at a time like this?

And so as I wrote, I thought about you. All of you. You aren't malicious. You aren't evil. You aren't hardhearted, (hardheaded occasionally, but not hardhearted). You really want to do what is right. But sometimes life turns south. Occasionally we need a reminder.

Not a sermon.

A reminder.

A reminder that God knows your name.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The 100/0 Principle

The 100/0 Principle

by Al Ritter


What is the most effective way to create and sustain great relationships with others? It’s The 100/0 Principle: You take full responsibility (the 100) for the relationship, expecting nothing (the 0) in return.

Implementing The 100/0 Principle is not natural for most of us. It takes real commitment to the relationship and a good dose of self-discipline to think, act and give 100 percent.

The 100/0 Principle applies to those people in your life where the relationships are too important to react automatically or judgmentally. Each of us must determine the relationships to which this principle should apply. For most of us, it applies to work associates, customers, suppliers, family and friends.

STEP 1 – Determine what you can do to make the relationship work…then do it. Demonstrate respect and kindness to the other person, whether he/she deserves it or not.

STEP 2 – Do not expect anything in return. Zero, zip, nada.

STEP 3 – Do not allow anything the other person says or does (no matter how annoying!) to affect you. In other words, don’t take the bait.

STEP 4 – Be persistent with your graciousness and kindness. Often we give up too soon, especially when others don’t respond in kind. Remember to expect nothing in return.

At times (usually few), the relationship can remain challenging, even toxic, despite your 100 percent commitment and self-discipline. When this occurs, you need to avoid being the “Knower” and shift to being the “Learner.” Avoid Knower statements/ thoughts like “that won’t work,” “I’m right, you are wrong,” “I know it and you don’t,” “I’ll teach you,” “that’s just the way it is,” “I need to tell you what I know,” etc.

Instead use Learner statements/thoughts like “Let me find out what is going on and try to understand the situation,” “I could be wrong,” “I wonder if there is anything of value here,” “I wonder if…” etc. In other words, as a Learner, be curious!

Principle Paradox

This may strike you as strange, but here’s the paradox: When you take authentic responsibility for a relationship, more often than not the other person quickly chooses to take responsibility as well. 

Consequently, the 100/0 relationship quickly transforms into something approaching 100/100. When that occurs, true breakthroughs happen for the individuals involved, their teams, their organizations and their families.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

What To Do When God Does Not Answer Your Prayer?

Today, I just want to share to you Pastor Bill Hybels' interesting experience after a baptism service in their church.

He writes: "I bumped into a woman in the stairwell who was crying. I thought this was a little odd, since the service was so joyful. I asked her if she was all right.

She said, 'No, I'm struggling.'

She said, 'My mom was baptized today. I prayed for her every day for almost 20 years. The reason I'm crying is because I came this close to giving up on her.

At the 5-year mark I said, "Who needs this? God isn't listening."

At the 10-year mark I said, "Why am I wasting my breath?"

At the 15-year mark I said, "This is absurd." At the 19-year mark

I said, "I'm just a fool." But I just kept trying, kept praying. Even with weak faith I kept praying.

Then she gave her life to Christ, and she was baptized today. I will never doubt the power of prayer again."

Sometimes when we pray and pray we feel like we are experiencing the law of diminished returns -- so we stop praying.

We correspondingly diminish our desires and dreams.

We stop believing that God cares and that he will act -- that he is indeed a God who wants us to ask. I hope that you will trust God's love and concern for you, and his ability as well.

I hope that you will continue to be persistent in prayer, no matter how discouraging the circumstances seem. 

Don and Dawn

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Have You Opened Your Mails Lately?

You got mails
A pastor friend recently told the true story of one of his church members, an attorney, who after meditating on several scriptures, decided to cancel the debts of all his clients that had owed him money for more than 6 months.

He drafted a letter explaining his decision and its Biblical basis and sent 17 debt canceling letters via certified mail.

One by one, the letters began to return, unsigned and undelivered.

Perhaps a couple people had moved away though not likely.

16 of the 17 letters came back to him because the clients refused to sign for and open the envelopes fearing that this attorney was suing them for their debts.

How profound! We owe a debt for our sin and God is willing to cancel it but too many people will not even open the letter that explains that.

Are you guilty of not opening your Bible and reading enough of God's Word? 

Don & Dawn