Let Not This Word Depart–3 Reasons for Diagramming the Biblical Text

I don’t think any dialogue about the study of Scripture can be had without introducing some form of analyzing the text. Most times, this type of discussion centers around diagramming.

I used to blow such discussion off with a, “Pffft—who needs to diagram to accurately understand the text?” I quickly changed my mind when I began to actually take the time to do it. It has become an invaluable tool for me. Below are my three main reasons why one should bother with this strenuous exercise.

It Causes Meditation

One of the key elements of carefully studying any passage of Scripture is the ability to carefully read it. And because any sentence diagram you attempt must place every word according to its function in a particular place, you are forced to slow down and consider every part of speech. You will begin to see how every clause, phrase, noun and verb fulfills their individual role within the sentence. You will unknowingly, and probably often, make an exegetical decision, unaware. Sentences can be complicated and diagraming helps sort out the syntactical puzzle.

Galatians 1:6-7 (diagrams help you see the complicated sentence)

This type of reading slows you down as you consider the sentence as a whole. There have been many times diagramming a text has caused me to stop and ponder the truth of God’s word simply by allowing the text to be displayed in a grammatical way.

It Conveys a Graphical Representation
John 3:16 in diagram form

I’m a visual learner. When I see pictures it helps me grasp the concept that is being presented. Diagrams are a “theological” pictograph in their own way. Diagrams are the very God-breathed words represented by lines, shelves, connectors, and other shapes that convey the main thoughts and their subordinate thoughts in picture. Without diagramming, it would be tough to grasp the main points of some passages. The first thirteen verses in the book of Ephesians, for example, is a single sentence in the original language. Imagine trying to wade through that to find Paul’s main point!

Being able to physically see a picture of the laid-out sentence speaks volumes to visual learners. Each slot holds words according to certain functions. The top horizontal line with the vertical slash protruding through the base, for example, shows where the the main subject and verb are placed.

Graphical representation of the placement of the main subject & verb

This may seem a bit obtuse at first, but in many Biblical passages you may find the main verb separated from the main subject by several phrases and clauses. 1Peter 1:10 is a prime example:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully

At first glance, it may appear that prophet is the main subject and prophesied is the main verb. In actuality, there are two relative clauses and a prepositional phrase in between the main subject prophets and the main compound verb search and inquired, as illustrated below:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully

In the John 3:16 pic above, the phrase whoever believes in Him is placed on a stilt in the subject slot. With but a glance, I can see that this relative clause is acting as the subject of the entire clause itself, hence the stilts are used to graphically represent this.

Diagraming is a useful graphical tool that aids in the overall exegetical process. If you’re a visual learner, it is definitely worth your time to learn this new skill, if you haven’t already begun.

It unCovers the Structure

The dictionary defines structure as the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex. Diagrams definitely accomplish this job! The elements of the sentence are placed according to their function: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and all the other parts are arranged on their lines and shelves, displayed in a particular format as to expose the structure of the sentence. It is helpful to sometimes think of this structure in a block-like format, as per the example below.

The structural “blocks” of John 3:16

We see the main clause God loved the world at the head, followed by two supporting clauses, one that shows the result of God’s love and the other that demonstrates the purpose of God’s love, both which are connected by subordinating conjunctions. Of course, not all diagrams will be so easily structured but the idea is that, as a whole, diagrams will show the grammatical structures of a sentence. Understanding first how it all fits together lays the foundation for later exegesis and the proper interpretation of a the passage.

Next Steps

Hopefully this post has encouraged you to at least consider diagramming. If you’re wondering where to start, this section will give you some starting points. I would like to suggest a structured format that will take you step-by-step through the diagramming process. I think the best way to begin is to start with the very basics.

  1. The parts of speech
  2. Clauses and Phrases (these are two separate links)
  3. Sentence Types
  4. Sentence Structure
  5. Diagramming Tutorial

The website I have referred you to is Grammar Revolution. It is an excellent site that offers a complete English grammar course, as well as a book with exercises and answer keys. And when you are ready to practice your diagramming, there is a wonderful web app called Let’s Diagram that allows you to type or paste any sentence and drag the words to their corresponding shapes and shelves. Watch the video below to see how the app works.

(note: the video is NOT a diagramming tutorial. See the links in the list above to learn diagram).

The Let’s Diagram App at work!

6th Sunday of Easter

Psalm 98

The following is from the lectionary reading, Year B, of the Lutheran Lectionary.

A Psalm. 1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 2 The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. 4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! 5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord! 7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! 8 Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together 9 before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.


The Text

No attribution is given to this psalm and many commentators point out the language of praise which parallels several passages in Isaiah. The occasion of the writing is said to have been the return of the exiles from Babylonian captivity (Leupold, 691-92) although Leupold freely admits that the historical events are not directly alluded to within the psalm. According to Leupold, several verses within the Psalm allude to or are cited from Isaiah. They can be seen in the chart below.

Psalm 98Isaiah
98:1b59:16
98:252:10
98:363:7
98:66:5
98:855:12
Parallel passages between Psalm 98 and Isaiah

Indeed these verses do parallel the Isaiah passages in language and idea. The Psalm itself is broken into three refrains of three verses each and can be divided as such: verses 1-3, verses 4-6, verses 7-9. The main theme is the praise of Yahweh/Elohim. The centrality for this praise is seen because He has made known His salvation. This salvation is manifested in two ways:

  1. He has made salvation known to all the nations. As God’s covenant people, Israel had the privilege of receiving His Law. When they were faithful to the covenant, God protected them in miraculous ways. The nations surrounding Israel were witnesses of these miracles. Time and time again, God acted on behalf of His people. The Psalmists draws from these times to proclaim how the nations have seen God’s salvation.
  2. He has made salvation known through His faithfulness. Israel had a long history of apostasy. The book of Judges records their darkest times of a continual cycle of apostatizing and return to the Yahweh. Eventually, both the Northern and Southern kingdoms are ejected from their inheritance and led captive to other nations. But as God is faithful, He brought His covenant people back into the land, causing a great rejoicing and praise.

Below, are some of my own observations of the Psalm with important parts marked in bold.

The Psalm concludes with the final praise of God’s judgment upon the nations. He will judge (1) with righteousness – God will show no partiality with His judgment. Political, economical, and social status will all be judged according to His own standards rather than man’s standards. No one will have “an edge” in this judgement. All will stand on equal ground. (2) with equity – This goes hand-in-hand with God’s righteous judgment. His judgment will be fair. The poor & rich, king & pauper, man & woman will receive just judgment/penalty for their actions.

This judgment will be either frightful or as the Psalmist declares, something to rejoice in.


Law/Gospel
Courtesy Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church

gospel

Salvation has been made known to the nations through Jesus Christ and all the world has seen it (John 12:32). This is a great cause of rejoicing, knowing that God is faithful to His people on account of the atoning work of Jesus. He is our King and our Lord. We are to praise Him unceasingly as He continues to show His steadfast love and faithfulness to His sheep.

law

Judgment is coming. It is for those who refuse the offer of the gracious King and insist in either their own brand of righteousness or their own autonomous rule. This judgment will be fair and impartial and no man, woman, or child will elude the judgement with Him whom we must give an account (Hebrew 4:13).

Salvation is found in no other Person but Jesus. On the final Day it will be a cause of rejoicing for many and a time of wailing for others. Will you rejoice in Christ and praise Him for His judgment? or will you curse Him as you are cast into the Lake of Fire for the rejection of His free offer of life and salvation?.

3 Scriptural Reasons Why the Office of Apostle Has Ceased

It’s Sunday morning. You got up early, read your Bible, drank your coffee, and went to church to hear from your favorite apostle. Only—you didn’t hear from any apostles.

Surprise!

Yup, you read that correctly. Many churches boast of having apostles in the pulpit and many self-proclaimed apostles tote bragging rights in order to launch their “ministries.” Most people never question whether or not these men and women are true apostles. They blindly follow them and do their every bidding out of fear that if they do not, they are “touching God’s anointed.”

With the apostolic daze-craze in church culture it is especially important now more than ever to examine Scripture and understand exactly what a true apostle is. Believe it or not, the Bible does give the qualifications of an apostle. There are three main qualifications we see in Scripture: (1) the apostle was sent by someone specific, (2) the apostle was vested with a certain authority, and (3) the apostle was sent with a specific message. Using Mark 3:13-14 as our jumping off passage we will take a look at each of these qualifications in more detail and attempt to rebut some common arguments that try to circumvent the Bible on this teaching.

the apostle was sent by someone specific

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And He appointed twelve (whom he named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach…

It is important to notice the pronouns in these verses. The ‘he’ and ‘him’ in verse 13 are referring to Jesus. But let us note two specific things about this verse:

  • Jesus chose those He desired to be apostles
  • Jesus Himself designated them as apostles
  • Many of today’s self-proclaimed apostles would rebut this by saying that Jesus has also sent them to be apostles. But in the book of Acts we find something different. Those who were designated apostles had to have two special qualifications in order to claim the title apostle: (1) they had to be with Jesus at the start of His ministry or, (2) they had to have witnessed His resurrection. One of these qualifications had to be met before apostleship could be considered.

Acts 1:15-22

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “ ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “ ‘Let another take his office.’ 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Many other passages are clear that it is the Godhead Trinity that appoints and designates these apostles (1Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11).

The apostle was vested with a certain authority

Mk 3:14-15 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.

Lk 10 20: Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven

Most of us think about power when we think about apostles. And it is for good reason. Jesus gave His apostles the power to cast out demons and perform miracles in His Name. This was to be for a specific reason as well as a sign of something greater than themselves, as we will examine in our final point of this post.

But this power was not like the kind of power that you may thinking about. It was not a super power or something you see in a comic book. This kind of power did not originate from themselves. The word we are thinking of is better thought of as a vested power, or a delegated power. This was much like an envoy sent by a king with specific authorities to accomplish specific tasks. For example, during the crucifixion of Jesus, the Jews had no power of their own to enact punishment. They had to get that permission, or power, from Pontus Pilate. In fact, our verse, Mark 3:14-15 translates the word as authority, which is a better suited word. The Greek word is exousia and conveys a broad range of meaning in the New Testament, which all have to do semantically with some form of delegation. Consider the word below:

Bible Word Study-Exousia (Logos Bible Software)

The larger blue ring represents the way the word is translated the most throughout Scripture. The word is authority, the same as in Mark 3:14. But note that it is also translated as a charge, jurisdiction, and even domain. Why is this important for our topic?

Many of today’s fake apostles focus solely on the power of their apostleship. But Jesus told His true apostles not to rejoice in the power given to them, but to rejoice in the fact that their names had been written in Heaven (Luke 10:20).

The apostle was sent with a specific message

33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

We come at last to the anchoring text of apostleship. The apostles were sent with a specific message and that message was their witness of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The phrase to the resurrection is something we should give attention to. In Greek, it is known as a Genitive phrase. And more specifically, it is called a Genitive of Content. What does all this jargon mean? Greek scholar, Dan Wallace gives us some insight.

The genitive substantive specifies the contents of the word to which it is related. This word may be either a noun, adjective or verb. This is fairly common in the NT, though only with certain kinds of words. There are two kinds of genitive of content: one related to a noun or adjective (nominal gen. of content), the other to a verb (verbal gen. of content). A genitive of content is a lexico-syntactic category in that the verb or head noun will be a term indicating quantity…A genitive of content is a lexico-syntactic category in that the verb or head noun will be a term indicating quantity. The nominal genitive of content is distinct from the genitive of material in that content indicates the item contained while material indicates the material made out of…For the nominal use, the genitive term bears the brunt of the semantic weight. It is the important word rather than the head noun. Typically this construction is used in figurative language as a rhetorical device.


Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. (pp. 92-93)

In other words, the apostles’ message of the resurrection (the content) was more important than the miracles themselves. The miracles simply showed that their message truly was from the Living Lord. This is why we see large droves of people turning to God in a single day. It was the sign and the working of God through those signs to coordinate the message and the miracle.

Again, many who believe that apostles are still commissioned today will point out that the apostles of their churched do indeed witness to Jesus’ resurrection. However, the true apostles’ testimony about the resurrection was accompanied by miracles. The first was that of tongues. But then we have the miracles of healing the lame, blind, even those who were near death. Many no doubt claim miracles in their ministries, as well. But this passage speaks about miracles that could be attested to; real miracles that took place instantaneously, not over time like many you encounter today.

recap

The office of apostle has been done away with in our modern context. This is due to the fact that chiefly, there are none alive today that was present with Jesus during His ministry or none that have physically witnessed His resurrection.

Secondarily, no one has been commissioned by God Himself to be an apostle. One may attempt to argue that they have been commissioned by God’s calling and testified by the laying on of hands and therefore are apostles by that standard. But Scripture never gives this method of designating apostles, only elders and pastors.

Tertiary, one cannot claim apostleship simply because he/she attests to Christ’s resurrection. All believers are called, especially in times of persecution, to give an answer for the hope that lies within [us] (1Peter 3:15) and if that standard were to be used, we could indeed call all believers apostles.

It is important that we be discerning about those who designate themselves as apostles. Certainly, many mean no harm and take the moniker simply to show forth their calling by God into a preaching ministry. But beware of those who flaunt the title. Most are simply after fame, prestige, and wealth. Let us use Scripture as our plumb-line and guide for all of life, even something seemingly as minute as a title.

Feed My Sheep: 3 Exhortations for our Pastors

Dear Pastors of Christ’s True Church:

We felt the urgency to write to you and detail some things that we as a congregation and holy assembly of God’s people feel the need to bring to your attention. We know life has been different since the whole COVID thing. We understand “regular” services have been a thing of the past for well over a year, now. And we certainly get that you are constantly under pressure from within and without the congregation, juggling life’s responsibilities and pastoral duties.

But truthfully, we’ve been feeling a little malnourished as of late. To be honest, it’s been going on for sometime, even well before the lockdowns started. We are simply asking you to fulfill the oath which you swore to our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd, to shepherd us until that Day when we will all be with Him. Here are three things we would like to see you begin to include in our time of worship together:


preach the Word

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Norfolk VA

Please let us clarify what exactly we mean when we say, “Preach the Word.” Many pastors feel they can reach their congregations a little easier if they ignore Scripture and talk about relevant issues of today. This always leads to ignoring large parts of the Bible in favor of a more Ted Talk style of sermons. But isn’t Scripture the very God-breathed words given to us? Doesn’t Scripture contain all the answers to the “relevant” issues they are so craving? Yes! It is the very foundation upon which the true Christian lives his life. We are seeing our services turned into an entertainment venue that looks oddly like a rock concert or a Times Square ball drop. We are supposed to be different, holy, set apart; it is our calling. Much of the service seems to be spent in pep talks rather than actual preaching. In short, we would like the Word to be front and center! Here is our plan for making it happen:

  • Be expository. Topical sermons are useful and sometimes necessary. But this should not come at the sacrifice of a verse-by-verse sermon. Exegete the passage and tell us what it means. Explain some of the harder things in it so that we understand. Don’t treat us as if we are dumb because we may not have the same theological training that you received. Be gentle with our lack of understanding and give us the Word. Give it to us until we are full.
  • Be Law/Gospel oriented. It is extremely important that you learn to divide the Scripture properly into its two distinct sections of Law & Gospel. When you confuse and commingle the two, we become confused, especially in our own minds. Many pastors will say something like, “If you believe that Christ has died for your sins and trust in His perfect work, you have the assurance of Eternal life. BUT…”

    When conditional emphasis is placed upon a text that already states a simplistic truth, it is confusing to our souls. Is faith all that is required for salvation? If so, why is there a “but” thrown in there? Many of us are keenly aware of our sin and it terrifies us that God, at any moment could bring down His hand of wrath upon us. Please take extra care to properly give us the Law when the Law is needed. But when the Gospel is clear and present within the passage, preach it without any other conditions.

Incorporate the liturgy

The assembling of the local Body of Christ is the place where we are supposed to be nourished each and every week. It is a place we are to be participants in worship. Unfortunately, it usually consists of a couple of congregational songs, special music, and a sermon by the pastor. We rarely, if ever, truly participate in the service alongside you. The early church participated in the services through the reading of the Scriptures, recitation of pivotal creeds and the giving and receiving of blessings. They were catechized, a fancy way of saying they were taught the elemental doctrines of Scripture through recitation and repetition. In fact, did you know that catechesis in the early Church lasted for three years! This was to ensure that the catechumen would be prepared for the coming persecutions. This is certainly a far cry from the way we receive church members today. We would love for you to begin to teach us our catechisms and creeds.

Lectionary of John’s gospel. No date given

It is also in this liturgy where we may receive the sacraments, Christ’s gifts to us for the forgiveness of sins through baptism and the Eucharist. These means of grace strengthen us from week to week and do two things for us: (1) they are reminders that we need forgiveness of sins daily, and (2) they are real, physical elements that show us Christ’s compassion on His Church and impart to our consciences the assurance of forgiveness of sin. It may sound strange in your ears and there has been debate over the efficacy of these sacraments since the time of the Reformation. Many have taken these to be mere symbols or figurative language to represent something. But those in the early Church certainly took them as literal.


Teach us to study

There is nothing quite like the joy of reading a passage of Scripture and seeing something there we had never noticed! We know this is the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in us, guiding us into all truth. And while we understand the Holy Spirit is our teacher, we still would like to understand how we can gain knowledge through study. The only way this can be achieved is for you to begin teaching us the method of feeding ourselves. We certainly do not expect seminary-level classes. We only want to understand the methods of objective Bible study known as Observation, Interpretation and Application.

We know this is asking more work of you, but what is more important than investing in the eternal aspects of the congregation? We desire to understand God’s word better. We want to follow along with you as you preach. This is not only a way for us to be prepared but also a way that we may hold you accountable for what you are teaching. Our souls are more valuable than anything else and we do not wish to be led astray by slick-sounding arguments or doctrine.

Do not take this letter as berating you. It is actually written out of humility and necessity. As the people of God, we desire to follow Him in every holy way, with every ounce of strength, and in all purity until the time as He sees fit to come for us or call us individually into His presence.

Thank you kindly for taking the time to read and consider our petition.

Sincerely,

the Laity.

The Objective Work of Christ Is Your Surety

Struggling with assurance of salvation seems to be a common thing. Like the Israelites in the book of Judges, we sin, experience God’s chastising hand, repent, return to God, and sin once again.

It is a depressing cycle. It is the constant battle of the spirit and the flesh. Through your Christian walk, you have certainly come to realize that truly the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). These emotions are powerful and run deep within our souls. If we let them, they will paralyze us in fear and keep us from serving our God.

What can we do then, to get us through these difficult moments? We turn to the Word of God! Here are three things that we can remeber during these weak moments:

Firstly, remember that God knows our weaknesses

Psalm 103:14 declares, For he knows our frame;  he remembers that we are dust. This is a beautiful Psalm about the goodness and care of God over His people. It begins with the Psalmist praising God for His goodness and benefits, which include:

  • forgiveness of sin (verse 3)
  • redemption (verse 4)
  • earthly gifts (verse 5)

He then moves to the theme of God’s compassion. Verses 6-9 tells us that though God could deal with us according to our sin, He is merciful and instead chooses to show us love and compassion. By the time we reach verses 13 and 14, we get a clear understanding of how David views God: God, like an earthly father, shows compassion on us because of our frailty. He knows and understands our weaknesses. Let this thought be a comfort when you are in doubt because of your sin.

Secondly, remember your baptism

Modern Evangelicalism has duped many into believing that baptism is nothing more than a mere symbol or act of obedience. Scripture proclaims our baptism as so much more. It depicts baptism as our entrance into Christ’s death. In Romans 6, Paul demonstrates that just as we were buried with Christ through baptism, we also will be raised to live a life of righteousness to the glory of God the Father.

Baptism is our “anchor” into Christ’s atoning work. Peter tells us that baptism saves as an appeal to God for a good conscience. We must daily drown the old Adam in our baptism and allow the new Adam to come forth. It is a daily thing. We will fail. We will give in to our flesh. We will sin. But we have the promise of our baptism, that through Christ’s work and resurrection, we are forgiven and washed (Eph 5:26, Titus 3:5, 1Pe 3:21).

For more info on the efficacy of baptism, download the PDF article, New Life Through Baptism from the Lutheran Study Bible.

Lastly, remember Christ’s atoning work

Of the many verses that capture the reason behind the Son’s incarnation into our world, this verse says it the best. It is simplistic yet profound. Lutheran scholar R.H. Lenski said of John 3:16, “The “must,” the compulsion, lies in the wonder of God’s love and purpose. By telling Nicodemus this in such lucid, simple language Jesus sums up the entire gospel in one lovely sentence, so rich in content that, if a man had only these words and nothing of the rest of the Bible, he could by truly apprehending them be saved”. (Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, p.258, Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.)

It is indeed one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible. It matters not whether you “feel” saved or if you’ve sinned greatly, or you think there is no returning because this time you really blew it. Stop using subjectivity to ascertain your standing before God! Your surety lies in the objective work of Christ alone. It is the promise of forgiveness through His death and resurrection and His word does not change, regardless of your feelings.

Take comfort in this and understand that your assurance rests with Him, not your feelings.

My soul hath naught a reason for despairing/in times of doubt mine eyes will look above/for Jesus, bless-ed Consolation/secures me fast with mercy and with love

The Law revealing, self-merit dare not stand/its accusations doth my conscience sting/But Jesus, bless-ed Consolation/Thy perfect work, my guilty conscience pleads

Salvation wrought, my weary soul rejoices/The Law, with all its power o’er me hath lost/This Jesus, bless-ed Consolation/His love, His blood, hath nailed it to the cross

In desert drought or valley lows descending/even death as its last breath shall groan/My Jesus, bless-ed Consolation/with joy and laude I’ll worship at Thy throne

Jesus Did Not Die to Fulfill God’s Plan for Your Life

I listen to Christian radio sometimes while I’m driving. I’m not too big a fan of Contemporary Christian Music but I do enjoy some of the worship and praise songs that my local station plays on occasion. Most times, I hear self-absorbed, self-centered music with a few God and Jesus lyrics thrown in for good measure.

Our culture seems to be on an ever-spiraling decline of selfishness and it is no wonder the church has followed suit. With a large majority of churches now catering sermons about improving your life in general, it didn’t take too long for Christian music to pick up the mantle. I’m certainly not accusing all Christian artists of being plagued with the self-help mentality but by and large, a good number of songs reflect the current trend of that culture.

Just on the way home today I heard a song with the lyrics (I’m paraphrasing) that talked about trusting God because what else do you have to lose? You were made for something more.

There is nothing maniacal at all with the concept. But I still have a problem with it. A HUGE problem! The main problem is that the gospel seems to have been reduced to a Savior that died for the sake of fulfilling God’s plan for your life. The majority of songs that I hear reflect this same thing. It is no surprise that many Christians have bought into this lie. I am sorry to inform you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, but Jesus did not die to fulfill God’s wonderful plan for your life. Jesus did not die to heal your broken heart because your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you. Jesus did not die to give you a second shot at fulfilling your dreams. Jesus did not die to give you better self-esteem. Jesus did not die so that you could pursue a dream of becoming the next American idol. Scripture gives us many reasons why Jesus did die. Here are a few of them:

  1. Jesus died to satisfy the wrath of God (Isa 53:5, 10, 1John 2:2)
  2. Jesus died to demonstrate the justice of God in punishing sin and imputing righteousness to the undeserving (Rom 3:21-26)
  3. Jesus died to save His own people from their sin (Mt 1:21)
  4. Jesus died to fulfill the Law for sinners because it was impossible for us to meet the demands ourselves (Gal 3:10-14)
  5. Jesus died to show His incomparable love to humanity (Eph 2:1-10)
  6. Jesus died to make His people His workmanship (Eph 2:10)
  7. Jesus died to reconcile sinners to God (Rom 5:10)
  8. Jesus died to present His people as holy and blameless unto the Father (Jude 24-25)

I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. The most important thing to remember is that Jesus died for the glory of God! So the next time you’re sharing the gospel with someone please, please, please, do not tell them that Jesus died so that He could fulfill God’s wonderful plan for their life. Just tell them that Christ died to save sinners. 

The Messed Up Church Podcast

The Messed Up Church is a group of independent contributors who focus on some of the zany, whacky, ridiculous things going on in the mainstream Evangelical church. As of late, they began exploring the podcast arena. This episode is an interview with Robert M. Bowman, Jr., author of The Word of Faith Controversy. Take s listen to the podcast and jump over to the MUC site and relish in the resources that will help you avoid false teachers like COVID!

5 Ways Bible Software Streamlines Your Bible Study

Teachers and preachers are often crunched for time. Many pastors are bi-vocational and must dedicate the necessary hours to their supervisors. At the same time, they have an obligation to God to tend the flock they have been charged with. But what do you do when you begin to run out of time and have to prepare your sermon on teaching lesson? This is where most Bible software shines. Most of them are geared towards streamlining your study. Here are my top five reasons for using Bible software:

  1. Programmed to help you get behind the English. A lot of pastors may not have the time to upkeep their language studies once they graduate seminary and step into ministry. Bible software can help quickly inform you of Hebrew and Greek words right along in the text with just a glance. Many software programs are also geared towards those who have little to no experience in the original languages, even going so far as to add sound clips of how the words are pronounced. Notice the bottom portion of the below photo. It follows along word-for-word with the English text, making easier to see which Greek words are being used.
Word-for=word translation

2. Go beyond simple word studies. Bible software is great for digging into the original languages. Most of the free ones allow you to access basic definitions along with the morphology of any given word. But sometimes you want to, you need to go further. Paid software will usually have these types of features. The screenshot below shows the Greek word logos with its basic definition as well as with the senses (how it is used in each verse) of each individual context.

Logos as used by basic definitions and its sense use

3. Built-in tools to help you exercise your understanding of a passage. It’s important to grasp the full meaning of a text you are studying to present to your class or congregation. One of the best methods of slowing down and meditating on a passage is diagramming. There are basically two types of diagrams: line diagrams, which take each word individually, and text flow diagrams, which take entire clauses and phrases into account. Both are vital for understanding a passage. Examples of both can be seen below.

Line diagram of John 3:16
Text flow of John 3:16 in Greek & English

4. Robust note-taking systems. You’ve studied and studied a passage and have lots of things in your head. You grab a piece of paper and begin to jot down insights about the passage as they come to you. Luckily, just about every software program, free or paid, has some form of taking notes. Most of these can be highly organized. The software I use, Logos Bible Software, allows me to not only create these notes but to create notebooks for each study. So if I am studying the topic of Personal Holiness, while at the same time studying through the book of 1Peter, I can create notebooks for both and place the notes in their proper places.

Notes with their notebooks

5. Helpful aids for time-saving study. The goal of Bible software is to make it as useful and time saving as possible. Many developers really pack in the the tools that allow you to look up and read a wealth of material within seconds. In Logos Bible Software these tools are called guides. They focus on two major aspects: (1)Passage Guides, bringing together all of your commentaries and dictionaries for whatever passage or topic you’re studying, and (2) Exegetical guides, which link to your original language texts, apparatuses, and lexicons. Having the power to pull this information up lightning quick is invaluable for those who may find themselves crunched for time. Check out these videos from Logos to see both types of guide in action:

Passage Guide

Exegetical Guide

Passage Guide of John 1:1. This is only a small portion of the guide as the entirety would not fit into one screenshot

While some people are adamant about studying with book and pencil the “old fashioned way,” the usefulness of Bible software should not be overlooked. We love in a day and age where technology is rapidly consuming our daily lives. As students of God’s unchanging eternal word we have an obligation to study and be prepared at our best to present these truths. Bible software is the tool, I believe, that God has gifted us with in order to faithfully serve and love Him while teaching and reaching out to our neighbors.

3 Reasons Western Christians Are So Ignorant of the Bible

Biblical Ignorance Amongst a Bible Flood

We are at a time in history when the Bible has never been more accessible. Typing in ‘online bible‘ in a Google search yields tens of thousands of results. Bible software is readily available, whether free or paid. Online Bible studies dominate the Internet and social media. And people pour into the pews of their churches on any given Sunday to hear a sermon. So why is there so much Biblical ignorance in Western Christianity?

You don’t believe me? A 2002 Barna research says otherwise. Though many of the core beliefs about the Trinity and the afterlife were intact, many were still quite heterodox. The research concluded that those who identify as Christian have many unbiblical beliefs. To name a few, Barna concluded:

  • 59% reject the existence of a real and personal Satan. They believe he is only a “symbol” of evil
  • 51% believe that praying to saints affects a person’s life positively
  • 35% believe they are able to communicate with the dead
  • A whopping 42% believe Jesus was a sinner
  • 50% hold that salvation is earned by good works

If some of these seem disturbing you’re not alone. How did Western Christianity get here? Below, I offer 3 reasons why I believe we are among a Biblical drought even though we have more accessibility to God’s word than ever before.

the bible is boring

If you ask any nominal Christian about their thoughts on the Bible you are more likely to hear that it is outdated and archaic. They believe many of the passages need to change or be reinterpreted in light of the cultural shift, especially those that address man’s sexuality. They are not willing to realign their own beliefs with that of Holy Writ, so therefore they forsake it altogether. The old boring book is not worth their time. Bored Christians are people that look elsewhere for the answers. They are seeking the excitement and adrenaline the Bible fails to give them. As a result they look for the latest, greatest method, that best selling self-help book on ‘fill in the blank’, or more relevant ways they can contribute to community and feel good about their self-worth. This spills over into their church lives as their new churches are more about cool music and pep talks rather than sound, Biblical preaching that properly divides the Law and the Gospel.

the bible seems irrelevant

When the Bible no longer seems to change with the culture people deem it as unnecessary and stray from its precepts. Psalm 119:4 says, You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently. Though culture would deem this unreliable, Christians know that that the Law of the Lord is a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:06), a guide to point us to Christ and His Gospel (Galatians 3:24), and to show us our shortcomings before God (Exodus 20:1-17). The irrelevance only comes as more youth create their own paradigm shifts to fit their current situations. This seems to be founded upon another 2015 Barna poll which stated that only 35% of Millennials claim faith as an external factor in their lifestyles. Another poll conducted in January of 2018 found that the atheists among the newest generation has nearly doubled.

Why this sudden falling away? When asked, most youth stated the problem of God and evil. In other words, if God truly existed all of the suffering wouldn’t. This is simply another way of saying, “The Bible isn’t relevant to my culture.” Millennials and Gen Zers are fast becoming a majority part of the population. Considering the current trend it would not be surprising if the next generation wholly abandons God’s Word altogether.

the bible is no longer sufficient

Since the Bible is boring and irrelevant, certainly it cannot be sufficient as the standard for faith and life. Though research shows that many young people still hold a high view of Scripture, their beliefs and practices seem to state otherwise. For example, a study cited earlier in this post revealed that 50% of self-identifying Christians believe they can obtain God’s favor through their good deeds. And it isn’t just the younger generation. This is the trend of people of all age groups. People flock after an experience rather than take the time to find the answers in Scripture. They depend upon fresh revelations instead of the way in which God has chosen to reveal Himself and His will through the written word. They flock to those teachers that can promise them their next big breakthrough or the fulfillment of life-long dreams. The number of “ministries” geared towards this disgusting puke attests to this. Teachers such as Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Creflo Doallar, Ken and Gloria Copeland, Christine Cain, and myriads of others prey on those seeking some kind of physical or monetary relief. Ultimately those who follow these teachers must share in the blame as they have abandoned sound doctrine for doctrine of demons. Their hope appears to rest in what God can do for then rather than in God Himself. All of this can be directly linked to the abandonment of Scripture as the sufficient means in which God communicates to His people.

Hope Amongst Drought

There is hope, despite the odds of these statistics. Another research performed by Barna revealed that an increasingly number of adults are becoming dissatisfied with “doing church.”

Adults among the varying groups who are dissatisfied with the current church culture.

This could go either way. It could drive people away from church completely or it could drive then to seek out a more satisfying experience in worship. Whatever the case, it shows that people are thirsty! They crave more than the monotonous weekly ritual. Even their usual cool, hip relevant churches aren’t doing it for them anymore. This is encouraging as those who remain faithful to Scripture as the innerrant, infallible word of God can be a beacon to point them back to the sufficiency of Scripture. When we allow our beliefs to come in line with God’s word we rest much easier, knowing that all the minor details will be worked out in the end. This is not to say that we must possess an ignorant faith or never seek the answers we desire. It is simply means that we take God at His word and believe that what He has revealed to us is sufficient for our entire lives.

Hope Cometh

The world is un an upheaval at this moment and in particular the U.S. While some march peacefully for the change they desire, others have chosen to loot, riot, and murder. People have been killed or beaten for simply disagreeing with the current trend of the Social Justice Movement. It’s a sad time. It’s an emotional time. It’s a scary time. I look at what is going on in my country and wonder how it ever got this point. Without a doubt, it is a turning away from God’s word. Even self-confessing Christians are joining protesters, participating in the violence, and justifying their behavior because they feel that Jesus would have done the same.

But hope cometh…

The pure gospel is the solution for the madness taking place. Surely justice needs to prevail in cases where people are truly oppressed.

18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43–44)

The beauty of the gospel is that it transforms from the inside out (2Corinthians 5:17). All the “change” in the laws will never change the heart of an individual.

But Hope Cometh…

The Father sent Jesus to obey the Law, God’s Law. And He obeyed every single aspect of it in word, thought, and deed. This was so that He could offer Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for the world’s sins. He took our sins upon Himself. He took the sin of my cursing, blaspheming, adultery, murder, and every other vile thing I had ever committed and He nailed it to the cross. And He did for you and all others. Redemption was purchased for the racist, the angry mob of people protesting, the ANTIFA members that resort to violence to get their point across, and yes, He even did it for the police officer who killed George Floyd. The best part of the whole gospel is that Jesus did not stay dead. He bodily rose from the grave for our justification, proving that God’s stamp of approval was on His atonement.

This is how deep His love runs for His creation The vilest, wicked person can find redemption when they look to the perfect work of the Savior and realize that in all their perceived righteousness they have no footing to stand upon if they are judged. For He has proclaimed, “everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40).