Tuesday, May 26, 2020

How to Faithfully Interpret the Bible

Christians are to be Bible people. We believe that God inspired the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16), and it is given to us as a gift that we may enjoy a relationship with the living God through knowing him (John 17:3). We are to read the Bible in order to know God and his revealed will. But let’s be honest, sometimes it is a challenge to make sense of the Bible. The following are some principles to be mindful of as you read the bible and aim to interpret it faithfully (2 Timothy 2:15):

1. Read to Understand
  • The Bible is meant to be read (not decoded) and understood by ordinary readers. Scripture was written to ordinary believers in the ordinary language of the day.
  • It should be read and re-read – the parts make more sense when the whole is understood.
2. General Principles for Interpreting the Bible
  • Look for God’s Over-All Plan—There is an overarching story-line to the bible which begins in Genesis (first book in our Bible), culminates in the Gospels (Jesus death and resurrection) and consummates in Revelation (last book in our Bible).
• Find the Background of the Books (Five W’s and One H) – Find out who wrote the book and the reason for, or theme of, the books. Try to find out the “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?” of the book.
• Read Verses in Context (see below)—Read the surrounding chapters and the verses before and after the verse you are studying to get the whole picture of the passage.
• Consider the Whole Message of God’s Word—Take the whole Bible as God’s Word. Don’t just concentrate on one verse or idea. See if the teaching is explained more fully in other parts of the Bible by looking at the cross-reference or consulting a concordance.
• Discover the intended meaning (see below)—As you read the Bible, look for the author’s intended meaning. Ask questions like: what did it mean in that culture? What does it mean now? • Learn the History and Geography—Use references (see below) to understand the where and when’s of events recorded in the Bible. What are the main ideas?
Understand Forms of Language—Figures of speech are word pictures that help us understand a truth and are used often throughout the Bible (example: “thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” Psalm 119).
• Recognize Forms of Literature—The Bible contains various forms of literature: History, Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom, Prophecy, Parables, and Letters. Recognizing each form will help you interpret the meaning.
3. Understand the Context
Context refers to the circumstances that form the setting for an event, a statement, or a written text, by which that event, statement, or text can be rightly understood.
  • Literary context refers to how a passage fits and functions in a book.
• Cultural context has to do with attitudes, patterns of behavior, or expressions of a particular society, which affect our understanding of a passage.
• Historical context has to do with historical events in the biblical era, either events recorded in the pages of Scripture or events that form the backdrop for the biblical story.
• Theological context refers to how a topic fits in the tapestry of theological themes in the story of the Bible.
bibile inerp
4. Discover the Intended Meaning
• The meaning of the text must be consistent with what the original author intended it to mean.
• The meaning of a passage is objective. You should be able to provide reasons for why you think it means __________________. This principle is important because it means that we can have productive debate about the meaning of a passage.
• A passage has a single meaning, but there can be many different applications.
5. Application
• In seeking an application from a passage, as what application the author originally intended
• Application is the thoughtful appropriation of biblical truth to our lives – how we take it in, embrace it, and adjust our lives to bring them in line with the truth of God’s Word.
• Application can be difficult to do consistently because of our sinfulness and our proneness to rationalize
• Application might take the form of a tangible action, worship, mediation, or adjusting our theology. Sound application must begin with sound interpretation.
• Four questions that lead to helpful application: What should I do? Who should I be (or who should I realize that I am, in Christ)? Where should I go? How should I see things?

Friday, May 22, 2020


If you've been around the church for even a short time, you've probably heard someone jokingly say, "Don't pray for patience, or the Lord will certainly give you what you ask for." If that is the case, then I suppose the Lord is certainly giving us what we need as we emerge from the effects of the COVID19 pandemic. We have all been stretched and tried in a variety of ways during this season, but I wonder if the discipline of practicing patience in the home has been one of the biggest challenges we all face across the board?

In Galatians 5:22-23 we read, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." For the follower of Christ, these characteristics are the fruit of a life that has been changed, and praise God for the ways he works these out in our lives. Unfortunately, this verse also serves as a regular reminder that we are not home yet. We all have a ways to go in the process of sanctification--becoming more like Christ. I don't know about you, but I've been reminded daily during this pandemic that I am not fully sanctified. In particular, it is so easy to become impatient with those living under the same roof with you--those with whom you may be spending significantly more time than usual.

During our family devotions the past few weeks, I've often challenged myself and our family to live out the exhortations found in 2 Peter 3:5-8. "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love..." I believe the way we relate to one another at home reveals the character of who we truly are as individuals. You can put on a show for the world, but your family or those you live with know the real you. For that reason, it is all the more imperative that we make every effort to live out our faith at home. Patience at home might look like making an effort to help with a meal or a project. It might look like listening before blurting out a response or believing the best about another's intent instead of assuming the worst. It might look like playing a game in the yard with a child, reading a book together, or watching a movie that might not be your first choice.

How will you make every effort to live out your faith and walk in patient love with your family today?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Providence of God

In the early 1970s, Ravi Zacharias (who just died this past Tuesday) went to the country of Vietnam, during the war, to do work in evangelism. After several months touring the country with his interpreter Hien, he departed to return to the North America, leaving his friend and interpreter behind. Ravi tells the story of receiving a call years later in the middle of the night from Hien. What follows is an amazing story of God’s providential care:
After Vietnam, I hadn’t known whether my young interpreter friend was even still alive. Now, as my excitement gushed forth, he explained, “I am in San Francisco.” “What are you doing here, Hien?” “Have you got time to listen?” If ever I had the time for anything, it was this. After Vietnam fell, Hien was captured by the Vietcong and imprisoned. They accused him of collaborating with the CIA, since he had worked with missionaries. In prison, they worked him over, telling him again and again that he had been brainwashed by Westerners. They took away his Bible and forbade him to speak English, the language he had loved, permitting him to use only Vietnamese or French.
“There is no such thing as God,” came the refrain from his captors, day after hellish day. The hour finally came when Hien wondered, “Maybe they are right. Maybe there is no such thing as God.” As he thought back to some of my sermons and the shared blessings we had enjoyed, he wondered if perhaps I had been deluded too. That night he went to bed, muttering to himself, “I’m through with God. When I wake up in the morning, no more God, no more prayer.”
The new day dawned, and the commanding officer of the prison barked out the assignments for the day. Hien was to clean the latrines. He cringed when he heard it. It was the ultimate form of indignity for the prisoners. The latrines were the absolute dregs of human filth, and Hien spent the entire day in those inhospitable surroundings. His final task was to empty the trash cans, which were filled with soiled toilet paper. All day long, he labored with reminders to himself — “No God today.” But as his work was coming to an end, something in the last trash can happened to catch his eye. It was a piece of paper with printed type. As Hien looked closer, he saw it was in English. Hungry to read this language again, he looked around to make sure nobody was watching. He hastily rinsed off the filth and tucked the paper into his pocket. That night, after everyone had fallen asleep, he carefully took out his flashlight and removed the still damp paper from his pocket. In the upper right-hand corner of the page were the words “Romans 8.” The Bible. Hien, in a state of shock, began reading.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He read on. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Hien began crying. Of all the Scripture verses he had known, these were the ones he most needed to hear, and now they had come back to him. “Lord,” he realized, “you would not let me out of your reach for even one day.” He turned over in his bed that night and prayed. The next morning, when he saw the commanding officer, Hien asked him, “Sir, would you mind if I cleaned the latrines again?” The officer stared at him, quite puzzled. Thinking Hien was being rather arrogant, he decided to assign him to the latrines indefinitely. “You are going to clean them every day, until I tell you to stop,” he commanded. Hien did not know it in the beginning, but the officer himself had been tearing out those pages from the Bible and using them for toilet paper. Now, each day, Hien rinsed them clean, hid them in his pocket, and used them for his devotions at night. He ended up collecting numerous passages from the book of Romans, as well as from other books of the Bible.
After a while, he was let out of prison, and he started to plan his escape from the country. Some fifty others, including a high-powered political family, were involved in this attempt, Hien’s third after two failed previous attempts. As the days passed, they worked to build a boat that would be able to navigate the high seas. A few days before they were to leave, two Vietcong confronted Hien. “Are you planning to escape?” they demanded. “No.”
“Tell us the truth.” “I am telling you the truth.” “Are you lying to us?” “No.” As they left, Hien was filled with remorse. He’d felt he had no choice but to lie, especially since it would have put the others at risk. Now he prayed, “Lord, I want you to be in control of my life again. I am sorry that I lied. Here I am again, depending on my own wisdom. If you want me to tell those men the truth, send them back to me. I promise I will tell the truth.” They did come back — just hours before the group’s departure time. Only now, there were four Vietcong, and they grabbed Hien, pushing him against a wall. “We know you’re going to leave,” they said. “Yes, I am,” he admitted, “with fifty-two others. Are you going to put me back in prison?” “No,” they whispered. “We want to go with you.” Hien was rendered speechless. At first, he wondered if it was a trap. But it wasn’t — the four Vietcong did go with them. Once they hit the high seas, the boat was rocked by a terrible storm. “Brother Ravi,” Hien told me, “if it weren’t for those four men, we would not have made it. They had a tremendous ability to sail.” Days later, they arrived safely in Thailand, and Hien was free.
Eventually he made it to San Francisco, and, after earning a degree from the University of California (Berkeley), married, had children, he now ran a financial planning firm and still walking faithfully with the Lord after all these years.

Monday, May 18, 2020


Frustration, anger, and conflict are issues that are prone to arise in our lives in normal days, but even more so in the challenges we currently face. In this article, our biblical counselor Vikki Crouch offers helpful counsel about how to guard against responding in anger.


God Himself expressed anger – righteous anger. (Deut. 9:8; Ex. 32:10) Jesus expressed righteous anger (Mark3:5, 11:15). Believers can also express righteous anger…but the problem is, we usually do not. Our anger most often is not because God is being sinned against; it is unrighteous because we are personally affronted in some way or we do not get what we want. In other words, the desires are our heart are not being met. James 4:1-3 detail the process. Romans 1:25 exposes the root: we worship the creatures (ourselves and our desires) rather than the Creator.

So, what is the solution? Are we never to get angry again? That is quite unrealistic as we are all sinners saved by grace through faith in Christ, No. The solution is to respond to anger-producing situations rather than to react to them. Act vs. React. Here is what this looks like. We get a “punch” of some sort, (a threat, an accusation, a mistreatment or injustice, a perceived wrong of some sort, etc.) Now: our response to that “punch”. What will it be? Will we react with anger? Or will we purposely respond with Christ on the throne of our heart rather than self? We all know what it looks like to lose self-control. We say and do things we often later regret. 

It is better to yield control to the Lord. 1. The way to do this is to respond by going straight to the throne of grace by praying, “Lord, please help me!! I yield to You.” 2. Purposely respond by clarifying the issue with appropriate questions: What did you mean by ________? Are you telling me ___________?” Summarize the issue by asking, “Of all you just said, what do you most want me to understand? What do you want from me right now?” Listen more. Speak less. When you do respond, do so by lowering your pitch, slowing the pace of your words, and softening the volume. (In anger, we often speak louder, more rapidly, and in a higher pitch.) This response will give you a better sense of acting rather than reacting, and of calm rather than haste. 3. Answer gently (Prov. 15:1) Choose your words wisely. You can be truthful without tearing someone down. (Eph. 4:29) When you are wrong, take responsibility by admitting it, and asking forgiveness right then and there. (Eph. 4:26-27) Grant forgiveness when you have been wronged. (Eph. 4:32) This is how to respond rather than react. It is more likely to result in resolution rather than more conflict. It is more likely to result in conversing in conversation rather than arguing. This is a righteous response to injustice or a “punch” of sorts rather than an unrighteous one. I do believe our Savior will be glorified as a result.  

Friday, May 15, 2020


In a time in which families have been isolated, meetings are happening by phone or Zoom, and when we can't physically be together, communication can be challenging. Hurt feelings and misunderstanding may abound if we're not careful, leading to problems and disunity. In order to help your communication with others, read this helpful article from our counselor, Vikki Crouch.


Communication is vital to every relationship. It is vital in our relationship with God as well as our communication with each other. It involves our words, our tone, pitch, volume, gestures and facial expressions, etc. But it involves another aspect often overlooked: listening.

Because communication is important in relationships, it is paramount we do so accurately. It is also important we receive what is being communicated accurately. The basic truth is this: the message sent is not always the message received. You know what you are trying to convey but the other person may misunderstand and unless this is rectified as soon as possible, misunderstandings and their consequences reign. Sometimes the consequences can be large. Here are some considerations.

To begin with, God gave us one mouth and two ears. Could it be He is trying to tell us to listen 2 X more than we speak? And we should listen well rather than interrupt and try to insert our "2 cents worth" before someone is finished. We can clarify our understanding by simply stating, "Are you telling me _____________? What did you mean when you said ___________?" We can summarize our understanding by asking, "Of all you just said, what do you most want me to understand? What do you want from me right now?" Doing these simple things can clear up misunderstandings immediately and avoid a possible problem down the road. So, make sure you accurately understand what the other person is saying before you respond.

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Prov. 15:1) The tongue can undoubtedly ignite a "forest fire" of harm when used recklessly (James 3:5-6) Ephesians 4:31-32 give us the approach to take. These verses tell us to dispense with bitterness, wrath, anger, slander, and malice, and replace them with kindness, forgiveness, and Christ-like love. Therefore, consider such comments as the following: "Thank you for your concern about this. Do you have any suggestions as to what I could do to improve in this area? I wasn't seeing that – thank you for bringing that to my attention." These are but a few of the appropriate ways one can respond without malice, anger, and slander but with love and gentle words that can promote a better understanding rather than start an argument or add fuel to the fire of one already burning. The goal is communication that glorifies God by being both accurate in understanding and loving in response.

One last morsel of wisdom. People do not always want you to solve their challenges-sometimes they just want you to listen to them and understand. Do not be too quick to tell them your opinion. Make sure you listen well and respond appropriately. "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" (Ps. 141:3) "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." (Ps. 19:14)

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Only Thing That Can Deal With the Problem of Your Heart...

A great illustration that Tim Keller recounts in his book Jesus the King:
Years ago my wife Kathy and I heard a sermon preached by Ray Dillard, an Old Testament professor at Westminster Seminary and friend of ours who has since passed away. He wept through most of the sermon, which was based on Zechariah 3. Zechariah is one of the prophetic books in the Old Testament, and in the first line of chapter 3, Zechariah, in a vision, is transported into the center of the temple. He says this: ‘Then [the Lord] showed me Joshua, the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord.’
The temple had three parts: the outer court, the inner court, and the holy of holies. The holy of holies was completely surrounded by a thick veil. Inside was the ark of the covenant, on top of it was the mercy seat, and the shekinah glory of God, the very presence and face of God, appeared over the mercy seat. It was a dangerous place. In Leviticus 16, God says, ‘If you come near the mercy seat, put a lot of incense and smoke up in the air, because I appear in the cloud over the mercy seat and I don’t want you to die.’ Only one person on one day of the year was allowed to go into the holy of holies: the high priest of Israel on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Zechariah, then, was experiencing a vision from the center of the temple, inside the holy of holies, and he saw Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord on Yom Kippur.
Ray Dillard, preaching his sermon, then drew on his scholarship and spoke in great detail about the enormous amount of preparation that took place for the Day of Atonement. A week beforehand, the high priest was put into seclusion- taken away from his home and into a place where he was completely alone. Why? So he wouldn’t accidentally touch or eat anything unclean. Clean food was brought to him, and he’d wash his body and prepare his heart. The night before the Day of Atonement he didn’t go to bed; he stayed up all night praying and reading God’s Word to purify his soul. Then on Yom Kippur he bathed head to toe and dressed in pure, unstained white linen. Then he went into the holy of holies and offered an animal sacrifice to God to atone, or pay the penalty for, his own sins. After that he came out and bathed completely again, and new white linen was put on him, and he went in again, this time sacrificing for the sins of the priests. But that’s not all. He would come out a third time, and he bathed again from head to toe and they dressed him in brand-new pure linen, and he went into the holy of holies and atoned for the sins of all the people.
Did you know that this was all done in public? The temple was crowded, and those in attendance watched closely. There was a thin screen, and he bathed behind it. But the people were present: They saw him bathe, dress, go in, come back out. He was their representative before God, and they were there cheering him on. They were very concerned to make sure that everything was done properly and with purity, because he represented them before God. When the high priest went before God there wasn’t a speck on him; he was as pure as pure can be. Only if you understand that do you realize why the next lines of the prophecy in Zechariah 3 were so shocking: Zechariah saw Joshua the high priest standing before the presence of God in the holy of holies- but Joshua’s garments were covered in excrement. He was absolutely defiled. Zechariah couldn’t believe his eyes. Ray said the key interpretive question is: How could that have happened? There’s no way that the Israelites would ever have allowed the high priest to appear before God like that. Ray’s answer was this: God was giving Zechariah a prophetic vision so that he could see us the way that God sees us. In spite of all our efforts to be pure, to be good, to be moral, to cleanse ourselves, God sees our hearts, and our hearts are full of filth.
All of our morality, all of our good works, don’t really get to the heart, and Zechariah suddenly realized that no matter what we do we’re unfit for the presence of God. But just as he was about to despair, he heard: ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you…Listen,…I am going to bring my servant, the Branch,…and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day’ (Zechariah 3:4 and 8 – 9). Zechariah probably couldn’t believe his ears. He must have thought, ‘Wait a minute, for years we’ve been doing the sacrifices, obeying the cleanliness laws. We can never get this sin off ourselves!’ But God was saying, ‘Zechariah, this is a prophecy. Someday the sacrifices will be over, the cleanliness laws will be fulfilled.’
How can that be? Ray Dillard closed the sermon like this: Centuries later another Joshua showed up, another Yeshua. Jesus, Yeshua, Joshua- it’s the same name in Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew. Another Joshua showed up, and he staged his own Day of Atonement. One week beforehand, Jesus began to prepare. And the night before, he didn’t go to sleep – but what happened to Jesus was exactly the reverse of what happened to Joshua the high priest, because instead of cheering him on, nearly everyone he loved betrayed, abandoned, or denied him. And when he stood before God, instead of receiving words of encouragement, the Father forsook him. Instead of being clothed in rich garments, he was stripped of the only garment he had, he was beaten, and he was killed naked. He was bathed too, Ray told us- in human spit.
Why? ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). God clothed Jesus in our sin. He took our penalty, our punishment so that we, like Joshua, the high priest, can get what Revelation 19:7-8 pictures: ‘Let us rejoice and be glad…Fine linen, bright and clean, is given [to us] to wear.’ Pure linen – perfectly clean – without stain or blemish. Hebrews 13 says Jesus was crucified outside the gate where bodies are burned – the garbage heap, a place of absolute uncleanliness – so that we can be made clean. Through Jesus Christ, at infinite cost to himself, God has clothed us in costly. clean. garments. It cost him his blood. And it is the only thing that can deal with the problem of your heart.

Thursday, May 7, 2020


Now that we've been dealing with the coronavirus for almost two months, one thing is clear—there are numerous opinions about how to handle this situation. Some are personally very cautious, seldom going out in public. Others are less concerned, desiring to see a quick return to normal. Some have a strong opinion against continued isolation, while others would prefer to see isolation orders remain in place. And, of course, there are many views about when and how churches should re-open.

As Christians, how do we respond to differing opinions about how and when we should return to normal life? This is a critical question for us now, because, if we're not careful, we can find ourselves frustrated with other believers. Hurt feelings could easily occur, and Satan would love to see believers at odds with one another because of COVID-19. Here are a few ways to help you consider how to respond when others have a different viewpoint than you regarding the coronavirus and how we re-open as a society. 

First, recognize that there is no clearly correct answer, and no one has the perfect solution. We're all wading in uncharted waters, and no one is able to see into the future to know what will happen next—only God has that knowledge. 

Second, respect differing convictions. As believers, we know that we see in a glass dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12), and none of us, therefore, has a perfect answer to such a complex situation as we're now facing. If another believer comes to a different conclusion than you do about when churches should re-open, how states should allow businesses to re-emerge, or other circumstances that aren't clearly guided by Scripture, then we should respectfully understand that different convictions are ok.

Third, be patient, gracious, and loving. Everyone is walking through a situation that they've never experienced before, so, perhaps more than ever, our interaction and consideration for one another should be governed by love. Does your brother or sister in Christ view this situation differently than you? Whatever the conviction you have, view others with love and patience. After all, Paul tells us how to relate to one another: "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
     Pastor Scott