Thursday, February 25, 2016


You've heard the phrase "heads you lose!" [The assumption is tails wins.] With a "two-headed coin", either side coming up, YOU LOSE. There is a "two-headed coin" often tossed, when studying Bible verses  that leaves the Bible student the loser REGARDLESS of which side of the coin lands up. With EITHER side of this "two-headed" coin there can be no, "Winner, winner, chicken dinner," as a favorite friend of mine loves to say when the Thunder or OU wins. EITHER side of this coin__ in bible study__you lose!

Let me explain the "two-headed" coin first. 

One side of the coin ["heads" of course] is FRAGMENTING a verse. This means taking a small portion of the verse or taking a verse alone, without it's context, and applying it to situations, or worse, quoting it TO someone as if it's the answer to whatever is troubling or discouraging them.  A case in point is that Matthew 18:20 verse where Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them." This is usually used to assure people, preachers are especially guilty here, that when only a few people show up for church services, be assured God is there, so all is well. I'm sure He is present since He is, in fact, Omnipresent. But that isn't the meaning of THAT verse, in context, AT ALL. More on the meaning of it in a moment.

The other side of the coin [normally called"tails" but we'll call it "heads"as well] is what is called "isogesis" which means "to read INTO a verse" something NOT intended by the writer, as opposed to "exegesis" which means "to take FROM a verse" the meaning that is there in language and context. Isogesis is really nothing more than introducing one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into the meaning a verse instead of taking out of the verse what the language and writer are actually saying.

In Bible study or interpreting the scripture, were you to flip this "two-headed coin,"either side, you COME UP A LOSER.

Now to the meaning of the Matthew 18:20 verse. The real meaning is found in the context [verses 15-20] which is where someone as a believer has "ought against" another believer and has been willing to personally confront the person and they don't respond very well. But the grievance is so serious the confronter is willing to take someone with them as they go again to the problem person. Matthew 18:20 is saying in THAT context God is with you and in a very meaningful way. If you've ever been in that situation, and I have, it's really encouraging to say the least. 

No one is saying that God ISN'T where two or three believers have gathered to worship. He really is, and it isn't WRONG to assure the people that HE IS. Just DON'T quote the Matthew 18:20 verse AS IF it's the Bible PROOF He's present in a poorly attended meeting. It means something far deeper and grander than that.

Another example.

That one can ACHIEVE "anything," when trusting God as their strength, is taken as an absolute promise by some people. To prove that they quote Philippians 4:13, which happens to be my life-verse by the way, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." The problem is this verse is NOT dealing with ACHIEVING anything. People are usually thinking about scoring touchdowns or charging things on a credit card trusting God for the ability to pay later or making an effort to get someone to change their bad behavior because they desire them to and are helping them. "Because God is my strength, I can do this" is their thinking! 

But that ISN'T in the ballpark of what Paul was saying. He was speaking of those hard times he'd faced, many times, and had found that he really could endure them. Whether it meant being rich or poor, hungry or filled, and in context, in prison or not in prison, no matter what THE CIRCUMSTANCES WERE he found the wherewithal to FACE them because of the Lord being his Life. For Paul, the issue wasn't "I can achieve anything," but one of "I can endure anything." What a difference the context makes. 

No one is saying the former thought, achieving some good thing, is a WRONG thing. [On second thought maybe it is if you're thinking you can sow wild oats and NOT reap a harvest.] It just can't be proven with this verse and will cause a missing of the true meaning of what is being said by Paul in Philippians 4:13.

For THAT you HAVE to see it in context.

Heads OR heads, with this kind of bible study coin__you LOSE!

Paul B.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I've always been amazed at that verse in Luke 4 where Jesus encountered Satan in what became His temptation to turn the stones to bread in the wilderness. You do recall that Jesus had been forty days WITHOUT food. There is no doubt that hunger was very real at the moment. You will also remember Satan said "SINCE you're the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread." [There was no doubt in the devil's mind about Who He was and the "if" here, in Greek, is "since."] 

I think we are all honest enough to admit that wouldn't be a temptation to any one of us because we COULDN'T have done that if our very life had depended on it. But He COULD. After all, He was and is the Son of God. But it would be important for us to remember at this point that Jesus DID NOT DO ANYTHING during His thirty-three years on earth, as the Second Man and Last Adam, in the POWER or AUTHORITY of His Divine nature. He willingly laid aside all that stuff and lived as MAN  should live, submitted to the will and purpose of the Father. He truly WAS our stand-in. This is why in verse 4, He responded  that "it is written MAN shall not live by bread alone but by every Word of God." He was MAN, and as truly MAN, He submitted to doing the will of the Father.

My point really is however, did you notice that His temptation came in the ARENA of the greatest strength in His life. He COULD have exercised His divine authority or power, but DIDN'T. I'm thinking that might be at least an illustration of the fact that OUR temptation might come in OUR arena of strength as well__not our weakness__who would have thought? I would have, and always did, think that we've got to strengthen/guard where we're weak because, if we don't, we'll wind up failing/falling in that area of weakness. Satan attacks us where we're weak__doesn't he!

Oh really? If pride comes before a fall, and it does according to scripture, then we must be proud of where we're weak. No wait__pride is usually a possibility ONLY when we think we're pretty good at something. Do you suppose we completely misunderstand this thing of temptation so that we guard our WEAKNESSES, but are vulnerable at our STRENGTHS because we, in fact, don't think we'll fall there?

An illustration of this might help. Think about the ministers of days past who have fallen. Would you be surprised to learn their failure came at the very point where they were strongest in their teaching or reputation. Take a Jim Baker of several years ago who could raise money out of scarecrows. His fall came because of greed and misusing money. Or a Jimmy Swaggart, who was known for condemning those who were being immoral, choosing immoral behavior himself. Remember Gordon MacDonald, who wrote the finest book on marriage I have in my library, and yet he failed in his marriage vow. Nuff said!

By the way, I wouldn't even mention these men were their failure not public in nature. And even with that said__I do not in any way judge or condemn them__they are not my servants after all. But they are my brothers and offer some insight to this thing of being tempted at the point of our strength.

We certainly could go to those in scripture who failed as an example as well. Peter, a man of extreme courage. Remember how he charged that large group at the arrest of Jesus sword in hand and yet failed hours later losing courage at the prospect of being identified as a follower of this one called Jesus arrested and charged with blasphemy. Or Moses who was extremely obedient after being taught by his mother of God's plan for him, in choosing to suffer the reproach of Israel rather than enjoy the pleasures of Egypt. Yet disobediently, struck that rock the second time rather than speaking to it as commanded. Or David, a man whose passionate heart was after God, in a moment of passion, gave his heart to another.

Add all these illustrations to that Luke 4 passage and we may be getting a picture that one would be wise to ask a friend this question. "What is my greatest strength?" Then, be open to the fact it could be at this point the enemy very possibly could gain a foothold in your life.

Were you to ask that question of a friend the answer might be..."You're strong in doctrinal purity and truth" or "You're strong in mercy" or " You're strong in the family" or "You're strong in honesty" or__you get the picture.

For the first, we would generally find them failing because someone disagrees with a minor doctrine or someone might not accept a doctrinal truth the same way [inerrancy] and the doctrinally strong one will separate from them because of pride in their understanding or way of explaining a certain doctrinal position.

For the second, they may need to stand for a truth at some point but, because of fear of hurting some one's feelings, they capitulate on an issue that is important.

For the third, they may have a son or daughter divorce or a daughter get pregnant and they cannot find it in them to embrace that one in love, forgiveness and acceptance, [that's REAL failure] for the life of them. Because it would be [in their minds at least] a capitulation in standards for family life.

For the last one, they may fail to report a gift to the government or twist a word or phrase to cover a mistake and this would be because of a gain of something personal, such as reputation or financial gain.

The whole point is that failure comes because our eyes are tightly shut to our vulnerability at the point of STRENGTHS. We would never fail BECAUSE of our strength there__but we do. It is, after all, His strength that is made real in our weakness but, in Kingdom living our greatest weakness IS our strength, and we just don't seem to get that.

May God never allow me to write something to anyone else without applying it to my own life first. I think I'll ask Mary my wife, what she thinks my strengths are. She knows me better than anyone else and loves me enough to tell me the truth. On me!! Am I ready for this?

Paul B.