Summer Language

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By the time you read this school will be out for most kids or very close to it. For kids summer begins on the last day school. But that is not really true  summer starts June 21st, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. But that is not really true either for there still only 24 hours in that day. We just call the longest because it has  the most hours of daylight. On the June 21st sunrise will be at 5:41 and sunset will be at 7:46. But thats not really true either for the sun does’t rise or set. The earth just rotates so you can’t see the sun any more.

What does summer starting at the end school, the longest day and sunset all have in common? It is a linguistic device that in seminary we called language of accommodation. I said those things are not true but that is only in a technical sense. To a kid summer begins that last day school. Most people think of a day as daylight hours and not 24 hours. What is going on is that we are talking in way that is using agreed upon metaphors.

Why is this important? Because the language of accommodation is used in the Bible. So when studying the Bible you have to be very careful to look at what is being said based on the context of not just who is talking but on when. the Bible was written over a period of 4,000 years and involves many different cultures. Sure it has one author, God but He spoke to each group in their language.

For example in John 8:44 Jesus tells some people their father is the devil. Jesus does not mean that literally. Most people realize that but there are other places where the language of accommodation is more subtle. 1st Timothy 2:9 the word modest. Today people erroneously think Paul is contrasting revealing vs modest modern clothing. He wasn’t because none of the clothing we wear today even existed then. If you look at the whole verse it is a contrast of simple vs flashy and inexpensive vs expensive.

Those that know me know I believe every one needs to read their Bible regularly. As you read it listen to what is being said and think about the time period and the audience of that day. Find the principal God was teaching them and bring that principal forward to you.

Sunday School

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that in the last few months I have been pushing the idea that you need to be involved in Sunday school. You know you need to be reading your Bible daily. You know you should be involved in public worship in a church. But do you really understand the importance of small group Bible study? In the early days of the church it is written:

“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42, NKJV.

They were involved in public corporate worship in the temple. Our Sunday morning service is a descendant of this worship time. The disciples were also moving from house to house teaching. They didn't have Sunday school class rooms to gather in so they would meet in homes to discuss the Word of God on a more personal level and in more detail. It was small group Bible Study. Some churches today have gone back to that model. No longer do they have Sunday school but meet through out the week in homes. I am not concerned about the location, in homes, in Sunday school class rooms, or in the back corner of a restaurant is okay with me. I am concerned about your involvement in small group Bible study.

Even years later as Paul prepares to return to Jerusalem he says:

“how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,” Acts 20:20, NKJV.

Decades later we still have public (church worship) and from house to house (small group Bible study).

It is in small group that others learn who you are and you learn who others are. You build bonds so that when you need help they are there for you and when necessary you are there for them. Small group Bible study lets you ask questions so that you can grow in knowledge of the Bible. It is the best help for your personal Bible study.

I really want to encourage you to become a regular attender of a small group. Right now at Callaway we have grade separated small group meetings on Sunday morning at 9:45 am and an all age Bible study on Tuesday at 7:00 pm. I hope one day that we will have more small groups meeting through the week.

One final note if any of you wish to start a new Bible study let me know. I will be glad to help you organize a new class.

Bible Reading Helps

When studding the Bible there are four basic questions you could ask yourself about a section you read.

The questions are: 

1. Is there a lesson to be learned?
2. Is there a promise to be claimed?, 
3. Is there a sin to avoid or repent of?
4. Is there a truth to understand? 

Before I explain more about the question I feel I need to explain what I mean by a section. A section in the Bible is a complete thought, argument or pericope. Man has divided the Bible into chapters and verses. These divisions are not always in the most ideal location. Sometimes a verse is a complete sentence (John 3:16) and sometimes multiple verses make up a sentence (John 4:1-3). John 3:16 is a complete sentence but it is part of a larger section that runs from John 3:1 through John 3:21. Today many publishers marked sections with italic subtitles. In my main Bible John 3:1-21 is subtitled “The New Birth” and John 3:22-36 is subtitled “John the Baptist Exalts Christ.” In older Bibles publishers marked sections by a paragraph mark.

First question, is there a lesson to be learned? This question often comes to play in narrative text. In 2 Samuel 1:1-16 a young man lies to David about how Saul died. The young man takes credit for killing Saul. However, in 1 Samuel we are told that Saul committed suicide. Apparently the young man felt that David would reward him because he killed David’s enemy. Unfortunately the young man did not know that David had passed up two opportunities to kill Saul. David knew that Saul was the Lord’s anointed. David had the young man executed based on the young man’s testimony. A lesson to learn from this text is that trying to earn other people's respect by lying will backfire.

Second question, is there a promise to be claimed? Sometimes God makes promises to His people. We can claim some of those promises. In James 1:5, NKJV it is written, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Reading the context of that whole section (verse 1:1-8) you will see the promise that we can claim. The promise is if we are bond servants of the Lord Jesus Christ during times of testing our faith we can ask God for wisdom and He will grant it if we ask in faith and without doubting.

This text is a good example on why it is important to read the whole section. If verse 5 was by itself then the promise would appear to be anyone who wants to be wiser just ask God and He will make you wiser. It is the context that establishes the verseеs meaning. Look up James 1:1 in your Bible. In verse 1 James defines himself as bond servant of Jesus and then addresses the letter to the brethren. That is people who like himself are bond servants of Jesus. In verse 2 the context is further set in times of trials. Verse 6 the promise is narrowed to asking in faith and without doubt.

I know that it looks difficult to figure out the promise in James 1:1-8, but it really is not. It is just a matter of practice. The more you read the easier understanding what you read will become. Don’t worry if after a few minutes you canеt find the lesson, promise, sin, or truth of a section. There may be another section you need to read. In the 2 Samuel example you would not know the young man lied unless you read the death of Saul in 1 Samuel.

Third question, is there a sin to avoid or repent of? The Bible contains many sins that we should avoid. These are the easiest applications to look for. These type of applications usually applies to you same way that they apply to the people in the Bible. In Genesis chapter 3 we read where Adam sins against God through disobedience. The sin to be avoided here is disobedience. God says don’t do something then we are not to do it. Repentance is an integral part to recognizing the sins. As you read the Bible you will discover sins that you need to avoid. You will also discover that you have already committed them. As you find sin that you have committed you need to repent of them.

Repentance is more than just asking God to forgive you. It is turning from that sin and doing it no more. Pretend your neighbor is angry and backs over your mailbox on purpose. Then suppose he realizes his sin and asks you to forgive him. This is how we should do God, recognize our sins and ask for forgiveness. Now on the next day, your neighbor gets up on the wrong side of bed and backs over your mailbox again on purpose. He then seeks your forgiveness. For the third day in a row your neighbor runs over your mailbox and again seeks your forgiveness. He truly recognizes his sin and truly wants your forgiveness. He has not repented until he stops running over your mailbox on purpose.

The final question, is there a truth to understand? Some parts of the Bible are meant to just be understand and accepted. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1, NKJV).” This verse contains many truths that God expects us to just accept and believe. Here are some of them. God existed before the beginning of everything that we know. There is only one God. The one God created everything. Materialism is futile because it is not greater than the Creator. We are not greater that God because He created us. God has to reveal Himself to us for we cannot discover Him.

It is amazing at how much easier it is to trust the rest of the Word of God if you will just accept Genesis 1:1 as fact. Much of the Gospel of John is truth that we need to believe.

You really should develop a habit of reading in the Bible every day. The discussion of the four questions was only meant to help you. I know it is easy to become discouraged if you don’t understand importance of what you read. The greatest help is just read a little every day for the rest of you life. God considers His word so important that Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible) is all about His word. Jesus said “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’ (Luke 4:4, NKJV).”

Don’t Undervalue Bible Reading

Reading the Bible is one of the greatest privileges that a person has. In our nation it is taken for granted. We have dozens of different English translation and yet they sit on shelves unread in Christian homes. Sadly many Christians that do take time to read often read Christian literature and not the Bible. I am lumping all Christian literature together in this article, from devotions to fiction to historical to self help. It is not that Christian literature is bad. The problem arises when you spend more time reading it than the Bible. You are getting more of what someone thinks than what God thinks.

Peter tells us “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, (1 Peter 2:2)” We should have a desire for the Bible. Read your Christian literature and read the Bible. Let you beliefs be challenged by Christian literature but anchor your faith in the Bible. Christian literature may show you something new but go to the Bible for its proof of truth.

It is through the study of the Bible that we grow. Christian literature may highlight an area that we need to work on, knowledge that we need to embrace, or a place to humble ourselves before the Lord. But it is the Scripture that Christian literature quotes that puts the correction in our souls and it is the Bible that straighten us out before the Lord so that we might stand before Him giving Him all the glory.

So please don’t undervalue the reading of the Bible. Within it’s pages you will find what pleases God, how much He loves you and how the genuine gospel message gives people hope and changes lives. I am a better man today because of what the Lord has showed me in the scripture. But don’t take my word for you need to study the Bible and see the change it will make in your life. Look into the Bible and see things like “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.(2Peter 3:18)” Or when Jesus’s says “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (John 6:47)”

Don’t Put Words in God’s Mouth

Well said when Paul wrote Timothy, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).” Scripture is powerful and it can change lives. Scripture is inerrant but our minds are not. It is easy for us to blend more than one verse together to make the Bible, which is the Scripture, say something that God does not say. When you do that you are putting words in God’s mouth. That is lying.

This is most evident when you are question where the Bible says what you are asserting and you have know idea. I am not talking about a momentary lapse where you quote a Bible verse but you can’t remember the exact reference. That can usually be resolved with a quick search using just about any Bible phone app. I am talking about when you say something and when questioned, you have know idea where it is the Bible or even what the general wording is so that you can search for it. “I know it is in there,” is not a valid response. “Let me get back to you,” is a better response. You need to remain humble in your assertions because when you search the Bible you may find the Bible does not say what you believe at all. Then you have to go back with, “I was wrong.”