Posts tagged Bible

The Bible, Cheerleaders, and Friday Nights

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A lot of attention has been given to the high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas. The cheerleaders were/are putting Bible verses on the large banners that the football team runs through. After consulting with a legal adviser, the school superintendent ordered that the cheerleaders cease to put Bible verses on these banners. The parents of some of the cheerleaders then filed suit against the school district and a temporary restraining order was granted by a local judge against the school district until the case can go to hearing. So currently, the cheerleaders are still able to hold up their banners emblazoned with verses from the Bible. That brings us up to speed, but you probably already knew this because the story made national press.

First, let me say that I am proud of the cheerleaders. It is an admirable quality to believe in something and fight for what you believe in. I do, however, feel that this whole ordeal is a good time to step back and think about a few things. Somehow, this feels slightly reminiscent of the Chic-Fil-A debacle that graced the nightly news not too long ago. Again, as believers, I think we need to ask ourselves what do we hope to accomplish, what are our motivations, and what other effects do our actions result in?

It is much easier to rally around a cause, such as putting Bible verses on banners, and defend that cause, than it is to live that cause. It is a whole lot easier to put a verse on a banner, shirt, or bumper sticker than it is to apply those verses on a daily basis. I just wonder if things would be different if people saw our lives reflect what we believe, instead of constructing banners that say what we believe. I think the message would be much clearer, and incredibly vivid, if they saw us loving our neighbors, giving of ourselves, and living lives of humility. Also, maybe less people would be offended by our banners if they saw Christ at the center of our lives? I am not saying that the Kountze Highschool Cheerleaders do not have Christ at the center of their lives. They very well may. I am directing these thoughts at all of us as Christians, myself included.

As believers, our goal is to build bridges between Christ and those that do not know Him, not erect walls between them. I think we have to consider every action that we do and ask, “Is this building a bridge or erecting a wall?” Do those outside the faith look at our actions and say “Look at those Christians, stirring up trouble” or do they say, “Wow, look how much they serve others. Look at how they live selflessly. Check out how much they love unconditionally.”? I understand that truth can be offensive. There are times where I, along with most of us, don’t want to hear the truth, but I need too. The truth can definitely be offensive, because it is truth. Yet, truth being offensive in and of itself is not the same as using truth to offend people. We are to stand for truth in love, but where we can, we should strive to build bridges instead of raising walls.

Last, I think we need to consider the consequences of our actions. In this case, are we as Christians going to be comfortable if other schools allow any religious or secular group to paste their ideologies on banners at football games? If the Kountze High School cheerleaders can inscribe their banners with Bible verses then this means other schools can use passages from the Koran, the Hindu Vedas, or the Book of Mormon.  Atheist groups would be able to use banners that said, “There is no God. We win games because we are better than you. Case closed.” Is the trade off worth it?

I get there is a lot to consider on issues like this. Again, I am proud of the Kountze cheer leaders for being vocal about their faith. We need more Christians to shake off their apathy. As believers, we must be sensitive to contexts.  We must ask whether our lives are reflecting our faith. We should strive to build bridges instead of constructing walls. Let’s make sure that others know us by our love!

The Greek word translated “example” is tupos, which means model, image, or pattern…When you set an example, you are giving people a pattern to follow.  Someone once said, “Your life speaks so loud I can’t hear what you say.”  Your lifestyle is your most powerful message. One thing I have observed in all my years of ministry is that the most effective and important aspects of evangelism usually take place on an individual, personal level. Most people do not come to Christ as an immediate response to a sermon they hear in a crowded setting. They come to Christ because of the influence of an individual. – John MacArthur

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

So what are your thoughts? Be heard!

Here is something else interesting. Check out the letter from Greg Abbot, Attorney General of Texas, to Kevin Weldon, the Superintendent of Kountze Independent School District.

The Wizard of Westwood

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I hope you enjoy the guest post today by our friend, Ronald Rodriguez, from over at Bearveracity.com. After you finish reading this post feel free to go poke around his blog.

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John Wooden is referred to as the Wizard of Westwood and is most commonly known as coach to many for being a teacher and mentor in so many ways. First and foremost, let’s get to know how his journey as a coach.

It all started in his playing career at Purdue University, where Wooden was an All-American basketball player for three consecutive years (1930-1932) and won a Big Ten Western Conference medal for athletic and scholastic excellence.

Wooden would start coaching high school basketball in Kentucky and in Indiana thereafter, before he entered the United States Navy in 1943. Through World War II, he served as a physical education instructor. Following WWII, he was the head basketball coach and athletic director at the then Indiana State Teacher’s College now known as Indiana State University from 1946 to 1948.

Wooden was appointed as head coach of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he achieved average success over the first fourteen seasons. However, with his foundation of success implemented, UCLA went on to win 10 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships over a span of twelve years (1964-65, 1967-73, and 1975).

Numerous UCLA basketball athletes, which played under Coach Wooden, became basketball stars playing professionally for various franchises in the National Basketball Association – most notably, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, and Gail Goodrich.

When Coach Wooden retired in 1975, his record at UCLA was 620 wins and 147 losses, which garners a .808 winning percentage. Through his whole forty year coaching career, he gained a record of 885 wins and 203 losses, which gives him a winning percentage of .813. Some of Wooden’s most notable achievements were set at UCLA, where his teams set two record setting winning streaks. The first was 88 victories over a four year span, and a 38 consecutive wins in the NCAA tournament.

Through Coach Wooden’s coaching career, he was named the NCAA’s College Basketball   Coach of the Year on six separate occasions (1964, 1967, 1969-70, 1972-1973). He was the first person to be elected, both as a player and as a coach, to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Since then, he has an award named after him, The John R Wooden Award that is gives recognition to the nation’s most outstanding player based on a media poll.

Coach Wooden has written two books based on the lessons he learned though his coaching career. The first is titled Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and off the Court (1997). His second book is titled Wooden on Leadership (2005).

I have a goal to one day have something in common with Coach Wooden, but it is not related to his coaching success. Rather, it is his passion and love for a particular book. John Wooden once declared that “everyone should drink deeply from great books; especially the Bible,” he has added that “I have always read the Bible…It was a habit I enjoyed very much. I don’t say that with any degree of pride. It was a habit of love, not one of requirement or drudgery. It wasn’t just something to do, it was never a chore, and I enjoyed it.

Think about it. Despite his run of multiple NCAA championships, fame, recognition, and respect from numerous talented and respected individuals, in their own right, he declares that the Bible is the most important thing in his life. Not because its required or out of calamity, but simply out of his love for the Bible, and I am sure, more importantly, for the one he loves the most – Jesus.

Those that looked up to him and called him Coach defiantly saw the true test of love exalted through Coach Wooden:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Do you get the same enjoyment from reading the Bible daily as Coach Wooden? And do you exemplify the Bible’s definition of love?

Your answers are a private matter between you and God, but that doesn’t mean to simply forget about it. No matter where you are in your walk, it’s always a good fight to grow and mature. I challenge you, and myself, to fight the good fight in falling in love with Him even deeply.

Apologetic Wednesday: Was the Bible Just A Big Game Of Telephone?

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One attack that is commonly levied against Christianity is that the Bible we hold today cannot accurately represent what was written nearly two thousand years ago. It surely must be frocked with errors, changes, and manipulations of the text. How can we expect that the Bible was not changed throughout the ages?

Remember playing the game telephone as a kid? You would have a big circle, one would whisper a word to the person sitting next to them, and they would pass it on to the next. This would continue full circle until the person who began the telephone chain had the supposed word he started the chain with told to him. Generally, through transmission from one person to the next, the original word spoken would be greatly altered. You might start with the word “Red” and by the time it made it back to you it might be “rutabaga.”

Can’t we only assume this is what happened with the Bible? Did the message get changed each time it was copied? Actually, no, it has remained constant over time and we can be confident that what we read today in scripture is what was originally penned.

There are relatively few “mistakes” in the Bible. Mistakes? Am I saying that the Bible is errant? Absolutely not. I affirm the full inherency of scripture as it was first penned by God/Prophets/Apostles. In its original form it was completely perfect and without errors. Yet, over time, human agents would make mistakes as they copied the text.

Several years ago, I purchased a study Bible. While I was reading it, I noticed that a whole chapter was left out. I contacted the manufacturer and they addressed the problem. Does this mean that the Bible is errant? Of course not, it simply means that some people made a mistake. Sometimes this happened through the years of copying ad recopying, a scribe would misspell a word or copy the wrong word down. Does this mean that the Bible we have is inaccurate? Not necessarily.

Our ability to place confidence in any text rests on three factors: 1. How many copies are there? 2. How old are they? 3. How reliable are the individual copies, that is, are there vast differences between one copy and another?

Most of the works from antiquity are very limited in their number of manuscripts. For example, there is only 7 for Plato and 8 for Herodotus.

For the Old Testament, there are a staggering number of ancient manuscripts. Norm Geisler asserts, “Before 1890, a scholar named Giovanni de Rossi published 731 Old Testament manuscripts. Since that time, some 10,000 Old Testament manuscripts were found in Caria Geniza, and in 1947 the Dead Sea caves at Qumran produced over 600 Old Testament Manuscripts.”[i]

The manuscripts found in the Dead Sea caves, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, contain fragments of all of the books in the Old Testament, except for the book of Esther, and they all date before the first century A.D. and some as far back as the third century B.C. Two copies of Isaiah were found in these caves and when compared to the modern Bibles that we have they were found to be identical in more than 95% of the text. The remaining 5% was due to slips of the pen and spelling errors. There were no changes in meaning and virtually no changes in wording, all this within 1,000 years of copying.

Jewish scribes copied the text with a meticulous attention to detail. Nothing was to be written from memory. Each time the word for “God” was written, the scribe would have a small religious ceremony to revere the name of God. If a copy was found that contained just one error, it was destroyed. Thus, we see extreme dedication to maintaining that the transmission of the Old Testament was done correctly.

Studies show that the Old Testaments maintains about a 95% accuracy level. What does this mean? It means when all of the available ancient manuscripts are compared there is only 5% of the text that has variant readings. Variant readings are where the various texts do not match up in full agreement. Most of these variant readings are differences in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and style.

So what about the New Testament? The number of New Testament manuscripts is quite vast. It is the best textually supported book from antiquity. There are more than 24,000 partial and complete manuscript copies of the New Testament. There are almost 5700 New Testament manuscripts in Greek alone. The only other writing that comes close to this is the Greek mythology The Iliad, by Homer, which boasts 643 manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts date as early as the second and third century.

Again, as with the Old Testament, the New Testament does contain variant readings, but of these are matters of spelling or where word order does not match up. Yet, none a single variant reading affects important doctrinal or theological issues, what we might call core tenets of Christianity.  Greek Scholar, D.A. Carson asserts, “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”[ii] Again, most of the differences are dismally inconsequential and amount to: spelling errors, grammatical problems, missing words, or inverted phrasing. The New Testament does boast an accuracy level of 99.9% and the remaining .1% does not affect any core tenets of Christianity.

When it comes to understanding and solving these variants in scripture, Ron Rhodes gives us a simple example:

Let us suppose we have five manuscript copies of an original document that no longer exists. Each of the manuscript copies are different. Our goal is to compare the manuscript copies and ascertain what the original must have said. Here are the five copies:

Manuscript #1: Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole worl.

Manuscript #2: Christ Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.

Manuscript #3: Jesus Christ s the Savior of the whole world.

Manuscript #4: Jesus Christ is th Savior of the whle world.

Manuscript #5: Jesus Christ is the Savor of the whole wrld.

Could you, by comparing the manuscript copies, ascertain what the original document said with a high degree of certainty that you are correct? Of course you could.[iii]

While this example is an over-simplification, this is how a great number of variants in the Bible are solved. The many manuscripts are compared and often, the original meaning becomes apparent.

As you can see, the evidence for us holding in our hands the very word of God is quite amazing. We can read our Bibles with confidence and know that what we receive is truth.

The question of whether scripture has been preserved is no longer contested by non-Christian scholars, and for good reason, asserts Gregory Koukl. He goes on to say, “Simply put, if we reject the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds we’d have to reject every ancient work of antiquity and declare null and void every piece of historical information from written sources prior to the beginning of the second millennium A.D. Has the New Testament been altered?  Critical, academic analysis says it has not.”[iv]

“The vast number, early dates, and unmatched accuracy of the Old Testament and New Testament manuscript copes establish the Bible’s reliability well beyond that of any other ancient book. Its substantial message has been undiminished through the centuries, and its accuracy on even minor details has been confirmed. Thus the Bible we hold in our hands today is a highly trustworthy copy of the original that came from the pens of the prophets and apostles.”[v]

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed
Josh



[i] Geisler, Norman. Has the Bible Been Copied Down Accurately Through the Centuries? From The Apologetics Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

[ii] Carson, D.A., The King James Version Debate (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1979).

[iii] Rhodes, Ron, Manuscript Support for the Bible’s Reliability http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Manuscript.html

[iv] Koukl, Gregory, Is the New Testament Text Reliable? http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6068#_ftn20

[v] Geisler, Norman. Has the Bible Been Copied Down Accurately Through the Centuries? From The Apologetics Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Apologetic Wednesday: Sex, Murder, and Lies. Oh, My!

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If one has read much of the Bible, one quickly finds that some pretty shady events take place that are often graphic in nature. How can anyone refer to the Bible as boring? It has more action than a rated “R” movie.

The Bible is full of: murder, adultery, stealing, idol worship, perverse sexual practices, lies, incest, abuse, baby killing, etc. The Big question is, does God condone and approve of these practices? Perhaps that seems like a silly question, but as of late, there have been a number of people make the argument that God does, in fact, promote some of these horrendous acts.

To say that God promotes deviant behavior, enjoys seeing innocent people die, and relishes watching people suffer or be taken advantage of, can only be arrived at by ignoring scriptural context and having limited understand on who God is and what He is about.

One has to remember that along with teaching us about God (Theology), and providing instruction (doctrine), the Bible is also a book of history. Just because something is reported within the Bible does not mean that God gives his stamp of approval. Much of what goes on within scripture grieves God. Those who say that God approves of everything that happens within scripture would also have to agree that news networks and news anchors approve of every story they report. To posit this would be absurd. Just because one reports the events that happened in no way suggests that the person agrees with what happened.

So when we read scripture it is extremely important that we pay attention to context. We must ask ourselves, is this passage descriptive or prescriptive? That is, is God giving is directions on how to live or merely describing an event?

When we come across events like: David’s affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, Lot having sexual relations with his daughters, Israel involving themselves in pagan rituals, Cain killing Abel, the bashing of babies, the sexism toward Tamar, etc, we must understand that scripture merely reports what happens. It does not approve of these events or encourage the reader to act in similar fashion.

We find consistently throughout scripture that God punishes those who act in wicked fashion and desecrate what God created as sacred. We see that with sin, doing wrong, and harming others, God distributes retributive justice. He often laments over the wrongdoings of the people he created. We even find that He grieves over poor decisions that people make.

Now, do not get me wrong. I am not suggesting that God never judges or takes life. He does, because life is his to take. As Millard Erickson reminds us, “God is under obligation to no one He brought into existence.” It must be understood, however, that His judgment is based on divine justice and not on human grudges. His decisions are always based on love and justice. We may not always understand how God holds these two in tension, but we can be assured that his actions are always good and correct.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

What are some things that you feel people falsely attribute to God or believe he approves of?

Apologetic Wednesday: A Quick Guide to Reading the Bible

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Before opening the Bible ask God to illuminate His truth to you, and give you a heart that is ready to receive it. Know that the purpose in reading the Bible is to have a changed life, not simply more knowledge. Remember that the Bible interprets itself: scripture interprets scripture. All scripture has one meaning and should be taken literally while understanding that different genres and uses of language are employed by the authors.  Keep in mind that the author determines what a passage means, not the reader. Never read personal experiences into the text; instead seek to understand personal experiences in light of scripture. Never attempt to understand a verse in isolation. Examine how a verse fits in the broader context such as: the sentence, the chapter, the book, and the entire Bible. Pay attention to the use of grammar, look for repetition of words, and take note of sentence structure. Know that there is a rift between the culture today and the culture within which the Bible was written. Seek to understand the original culture. Do not read the current culture into ancient Biblical customs. Do not assume that every verse has direct application to you. Some verses were written specifically to or about certain people. We can gain insight from every verse in the Bible, but that does not mean everything is directly applicable to us. A doctrine cannot be considered biblical unless it sums up and includes all that the scriptures say about it. An interpretation must be in agreement with the whole of scripture.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. II Timothy 3:16-17

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Where Is That In the Bible?

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Time for a pop quiz. Bible closed. No Googling the answers.
See if you can guess what book of the Bible the following were taken from.
Ready? Go!

  • God will not put more on you than you can bear.
  • God helps those that help themselves.
  • To thine own self be true.
  • Money is the root of all evil.
  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

Ready for the answers? Actually, none of these phrases are found in scripture, although they are often attributed to the Bible. So how did you do? Did you see through my trickery?

There are many more phrases or sayings that get attributed to the Bible, often by public figures, much to their own chagrin. Let’s take a look at a few of these.

“God will not put more on you than you can bear.” I have actually had several well meaning Christians try to comfort me with this phrase in times past. The idea comes from I Corinthians 10:13 which states, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” The scripture has nothing to do with our burdens or trials and everything to do with temptation. The correct understanding is that God will always leave us a way to flee sinful allurement.  In fact, sometimes God does put more on us than we can bear, in order for us to learn to become dependent on Him.

“God helps those that help themselves.” This saying resembles nothing in scripture and comes from Benjamin Franklin. Actually, it stands at odds with what scripture teaches. God in fact helps people often. All of humanity is helpless in its sinful state, yet God made a way of atonement for those that will accept it. Scripture also teaches to give to the poor, look after orphans and widows, and serve others.

“To thine own self be true.” The language sounds like something Solomon might have crafted in Proverbs, but actually it was Shakespeare. While I agree we must be honest about who we are, scripture teaches that we have a sinful nature. To “be true” and embrace our sinful nature is counter to scripture.

“Money is the root of all evil.” This one is a bit tricky. I Timothy 6:10 actually says, “The Love of money is the root of all evil. There is nothing wrong with money. If you feel it is evil I will be more than happy to take it off your hands. I take petty cash, all major credit cards, and checks. No money orders please. Money becomes a problem when our life is driven by it and we become a servant of money. As a society, we definitely have an ongoing adulterous love affair with money. This would be a problem.

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Don’t get me wrong. I think showers are a great idea, and I am sure God does too. The problem is, this is found nowhere in scripture. The Bible encourages clean hearts. Also, the Mosaic Law makes emphasis on being clean and pure. We may brush our teeth three times daily, take showers morning and night, and have squeaky clean ears, but our hearts can be a mess.

So there you have it. Some “Bible verses” that aren’t in the Bible. We should note that there is a growing trend in our society where people know less and less of what the Bible actually says and a diminishing understanding of how to interpret it. As Christians, we should read it. I know that is a novel idea.

If you read for about 5 minutes, five days a week, you can make it through the New Testament in a year. Don’t have 5 minutes in your day? Well friend, you are booking yourself too tight.

We can’t give answers if we don’t know answers. We can’t defend what we don’t read. It is hard to live our life based on something we don’t understand.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” -II Timothy 3:16-17

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

So what are some phrases you have heard that people attribute to the Bible?

The Chicken Test

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Yesterday, a friend and I briefly discussed a new book that was released in the Christian market about marriage. I was anticipating reading this book in the near future, as it was highly endorsed by several ministers I greatly respect. My friend pointed me to a review of the book, and I was disconcerted by much of its content. My beliefs about marriage stood in steep contrast to what the book communicated.

I greatly enjoy reading, and there is a fine sampling of books to read about Christianity, life, marriage, etc. available out there that correspond to my worldview and understanding of God. There are wonderful pieces of literature aplenty that are consistent with an orthodox Christian belief system. Yet, there are plenty of books out there which are wrapped in a thin veneer of Christianity that espouse principles that go counter to what Jesus taught. For every theologically sound piece of literature there are several that diverge from it. Sometimes, even authors that I love deviate slightly from what I feel is accurate teaching.

As consumers, we take in vast amounts of information daily; whether it is filling a pew at church, listening to someone communicate through a podcast, watching television or reading the latest book. It is often easy to absorb information and assimilate it into our thought catalogue without really processing what we are receiving.

This is where fried chicken and chicken tenders come in. When you eat chicken tenders, you just swallow them whole. This is one of the many reasons I love Chic-Fil-A. Thanks Mr. Cathy. Just open the hatch and chomp down the nugget. No reason to fret. With fried chicken, you have to dig around bones (which personally I have never enjoyed). When it comes to eating fried chicken, you have to pick the meat off and leave the bones, skin, gristles, and whatever other nastiness is inside that dirty bird.

This is how we need to look at the media we ingest. God’s Holy book, is like eating chicken tenders. No worrying. You won’t get chocked on a bone. You can relax when you read it. Swallow it whole. It’s good for you. Now, you should definitely use good interpretive (hermeneutical for all the theological snobs out there) practice, but you know you are getting a 100% dose of truth.

With everything else, approach it like fried chicken. Don’t just throw it in, chew, and swallow. Pick through it. Examine it. Take what is good. Pull out the truths and leave the rest. This doesn’t just apply to books, but to speakers as well. Do your homework. Make sure what they say is accurate. There are so many ideas floating around in the world and many of them are false. They might sound good, but inspect them. Hold them up to the light of truth. Give them the chicken test.

Test all things. Hold on to what is good. – Thessalonians 5:21

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Question for the day: If you could have any question about Christianity answered, what would it be?

Apologetic Wednesday: Twisted Scripture

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A trend that I have noticed increasingly happening in Christian circles is the question, “What does this passage mean to you?” Does the Bible mean different things to different people? Do we give meaning to the text or do we interpret the text? Is it possible for three people to read the same passage of scripture and each come to a different meaning? The short answer to this question is no.

The Bible is not a modern piece of art where we are intended to interpret what it means to us. Scripture has a singular meaning that the author was conveying to the reader. When we approach this sacred text we must ask “what is the author trying to say” not “what does this verse mean to me”.  Two people can have a different understanding about a passage and both be incorrect, but they cannot both be right.

Maybe you think, well you are just being persnickety. Does it really matter if there is a variation between how people interpret a passage? Yes, it does matter, because if a verse can have a multiplicity of meanings then nothing could be known about the Bible. It would become a subjective book that makes us feel nice. Now, the Bible can have multiple applications. Several people may read a portion of God’s word and apply it differently in their lives; after all, we all have different struggles, personalities, and situations.

So, the next time you are sitting in small group, Sunday school, or simply having coffee with a friend discussing God’s word please don’t ask, “What does this verse mean to you?” Instead, seek to collectively understand what the singular meaning of the passage is, and how each person may apply it to their own lives.

Walk good. Live wise. Be Blessed.
Josh

Question: What is your favorite passage in the Bible?

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