Psalm 34:8

Get a fresh taste!

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews brings out an important point in Hebrews 2:1 in our daily Bible reading.

For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. Hebrews 2:1 (CSB)

wandering

Some translations begin verse 1 with “Therefore”. Anytime you come across “therefore”, you need to ask, “What’s it there for?” The writer is referring back to Chapter 1. The angels (literally, “messengers”) are spirits who minister to those who will inherit salvation (i.e., believers).

In other words (summing up verses 1-4), because the angels have faithfully ministered to us, we need to pay attention even more to what we’ve heard so that we won’t drift away from it. Jesus spoke, the Apostles bore witness of what Jesus said, and God Himself confirmed the message with signs and wonders. Because of all of this, we need to be very careful to pay attention to the Gospel message, otherwise, we will drift away.

Application

The writer implies that we are predisposed to drifting away. Left to our own devices, we will drift away. Because the Fall so radically affected (and effected) us, even on our best day, our own righteousness is utterly worthless. (Isaiah 64:6)

Robert Robinson summed up his heartcry in Come Thou Fount:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor,
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above.

The message the angels proclaimed proved reliable and we have the Bible as an authoritative basis for our faith and practice. God’s Word is our map. How much more should we deep-dive into the depths of God’s Word so that we won’t drift away from the Gospel Message!

Yes, we are so prone to wander when we should be prone to wonder at the grace of God. Until That Day when we do, we should all the more, guard our hearts above all else, because our new, redeemed hearts are the wellspring of our Lifesong. (Proverbs 4:23)

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Getting to know God through His Word.

We begin reading through the book of Hebrews using our Bible reading plan. No one (but God) knows who wrote Hebrews; the author didn’t give any obvious clues to his identity. Some have pointed to Dr. Luke as the author, however, the book doesn’t begin with an attribute to Theophilus as Dr. Luke did with Luke’s Gospel and Acts. In the end, it really doesn’t matter because God Himself is the Chief Editor.

As we read Hebrews, we’ll see the development of the major idea that Jesus is better. He begins by saying that in the past, God spoke by prophets, but recently, God spoke by Jesus. He adds that Jesus is the exact expression of God’s nature. (Hebrews 1:2–3 )

It’s as if the author already knew the following verses:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15 (CSB)

Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:9 (CSB)

In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 (CSB)

The twenty-five cent theological word, incarnation sums up what the author is summarizing. John summarized incarnation this way, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ” John 1:14 (CSB)

Application

Jesus defined eternal life this way, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent.” (John 17:3 CSB) If you want to have eternal life, you have to know God.

Hebrews shows us how everything points to Jesus. And Jesus points to God. If you want to know what God looks like, how He acts, what He likes and dislikes, just look at Jesus.

I’ll go one step further: If you want to know God (and not just about Him), get to know Jesus (and not just about Him).

And how do we get to know Jesus? Just like we get to know any other person: Spend time with Him. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Love Him. We do all of these things through the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible reading, Bible study, Bible memory, prayer, worship, fellowshipping with other believers, etc.

Today’s application is to do just that! Get to know Him better by spending time with Him, listening to Him and talking to Him. If you want to know what God looks like, just look at Jesus. He is the exact image of His father.

For more information on the Spiritual Disciplines, check out Don Whitney and Dave Matthis’s excellent books below. (affiliate links)

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With today’s Bible reading, we conclude our reading through the book of Acts. The book ends rather abruptly, almost as if Chapter 29 has been lost. But of course, that didn’t happen. Some have suggested that Dr. Luke didn’t finish the book and that we are living today in Acts 29.

One very important thing I want to point out from today’s reading is easily missed by reading many of our Bible translations. Now, before I go any further on this, please hear me say this loud and clear: I believe that God’s Word is inspired by God, it is infallible, and it does not err in any way. Having said that, let me add that modern translations of the Bible accurately convey God’s Word very clearly. I encourage you to read from several recent Bible translations in your native language, comparing words and phrases used by the translators. Doing so can bring out nuances that don’t always translate as clearly as they should..* No, I don’t believe that you have to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar to hear God speak as you read your Bible. But knowing the languages can help to bring out a better clarity in your study.

Most of us in the US have at least one TV in our home. A few of the older TVs display shades of black and white, while the newer ones display in color. Some of the newer TVs are digital. And some of the newest (and most expensive) ones have 4K High Definition displays. It’s possible to watch your favorite football game on a 13″ black and white TV and not miss a single play. However, watching the same game on a 60″ high-definition 4K color TV allows you to see more detail as you watch. Reading and studying with most of our modern translations is like watching the game on most people’s TVs. Studying the Bible in its original languages is like watching the game on a high-definition TV.

Unfortunately, several modern English translations miss a very important point in Acts 28:8-9. This is one of those cases where comparing translations, and perhaps using some language tools can help to bring God’s Word into clearer focus.

Ok, I’ve spent a LOT more time prefacing this than I intended, but here’s the point. Let’s compare a few translations of Acts 28:8-9.

Christian Standard Bible
8Publius’s father was in bed suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went to him, and praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him. 9After this, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.

English Standard Version
8It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. 9And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.

Did you catch the difference? The CSB uses the word healed twice, but the ESV uses two different words: healed and cured. Dr. Luke was very precise in how he described what Paul did with Publius’ father and what he did with the other islanders.

When Paul visited Publius’ father, God gave a miraculous, instantaneous healing. However, the rest of the people were given therapy which led to their restored health over a period of time. The end result was the same. Publius’ father and the rest of the islanders were restored to a healthy state. And Dr. Luke points out that God just restored them differently.

Application

So what difference does it make? It makes a huge difference!

Someone may tell you that you don’t need to see a doctor; all you have to do is believe and pray. Another person may tell you that there are no miraculous healings; the way God heals today is with doctors and medicine. Each person prays differently. One prays that God will miraculously, instantaneously heal you. The other prays that God will use the medicine and guide the surgeon’s hands during surgery to restore you to health.

I pray both ways because both ways are Biblical! And you can’t (or you shouldn’t!) do either one without the other. Know that regardless of how He does it, God always heals!

God may choose to heal you miraculously. God may choose to cure you through medicine, surgery, or some other therapy. Either way, praise God for restoring you to health! But don’t neglect praying for healing, and don’t neglect going to your doctor and taking your meds.

What about people who aren’t restored to health miraculously or cured over time? Great question!

A couple of paragraphs back, I said that regardless of how He does it, God always heals! But God doesn’t always restore people’s health the way we want Him to and He doesn’t always restore people’s health when we want Him to. Sometimes God brings healing when the person crosses over to the other side of eternity, where there is no sickness, no pain, no suffering, and no tears.

The bottom line is: God is God. Let Him accomplish His work His way in His time. Yes, pray for healing! Yes, pray and seek medical help.

Do both … and trust God to be God.

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* I don’t want to get distracted too much by this, so please refer to my other posts on Bible translations for more information.

Stormy seas

As I was reading today’s Bible reading in Acts 27, I was struck by Paul’s confidence that everyone would survive the horrendous storm. Growing up in Eastern North Carolina, I lived through a few small hurricanes, but I can’t imagine fourteen days at sea in a storm as powerful as the one Dr. Luke describes.

And yet, here’s Paul, encouraging the men to sit down for lunch. He confidently tells them that an angel from his God (not the god they believe in) told him things would be alright. (Acts 27:22-25) He adds, “Oh, and by the way, we’re going to run aground.” So this prisoner tells a ship of 276 people, including seasoned sailors that they’ll all survive this storm, but the ship will wreck.

While everyone else is filled with despair, Paul is as cool as a cucumber. Why? Because he has heard God’s message of hope. He is convinced that the God Who brought the storm will deliver him … and everyone with him … through the storm.

Application

The prosperity gospel televangelist will tell you that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy. He’ll tell you that no harm can come to a child of God, that God will never give you more than you can handle.

But I’m telling you that everyone will face storms in life. You will. I will. We all will. To believe otherwise is to deny reality on this side of eternity. And if God never gives you more than you can handle, you’ll never see that you need Him!

So how do you face your storms? Do you despair? Or do you face them with confident hope?

Believer, regardless of how your storms may look, you can rest in the arms of your Father: a loving, completely sovereign God who has never been surprised about anything. He has never frantically run around heaven worried about how He’s going to fix a problem. And He has promised that He will work every thing out so that you will be more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29)

Paul says that if you will replace worry with prayer, God will give you His incomprehensible peace. (Philippians 6:6-7) And if you keep your focus on Him, He promises to give you not only His peace, but He promises to give you … Himself. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Sometimes God calms the storm and sometimes God calms His child.

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Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have installed Dr. Adam Greenway as the Ninth President of the Fort Worth Seminary. You can learn more about Dr. Greenway on Southwestern’s website. Given Dr. Greenway’s young age (41), I expect him to stay a long time.

One of my professors (from all those years ago) commented that news of his nomination by the presidential search committee was the most exciting news he had heard in a long time. I agree.

When I enrolled in 1985, Southwestern was known as the Cadillac of the Southern Baptist Seminaries. The library was the largest theological library in the world. The School had campuses in Oklahoma and Houston, among other places. There was a lot to be proud of!

At the same time, the SBC was in the throes of a contentious power struggle. Southwestern was the crown jewel of the Convention so it seemed to be Ground Zero of the conflict.

In the years following my graduation, many of my professors transferred to other SBC institutions. Others were shown the door in the months following Dr. Paige Patterson’s arrival on campus.

One day in 2004 I visited one of my professors. I only recognized a half-dozen names on the posted faculty Directory on the wall. The professor I was visiting said he had been told this would be his last year. He had not planned to retire yet and saw many more years of teaching in his future. Unfortunately, many students were robbed of his wisdom.

I’ve seen the Seminary’s enrollment go from its heights of well over 5000 Masters and Doctoral-level students in the 1980s to its current student population of 3000+ which includes undergraduates.

Call me crazy, but the general “feeling” on campus was different. At one point, I remarked that it felt “religious” (not in a good way). A couple of years ago, it just felt cold and dead.

Last year, just after Dr. Patterson’s termination, I drove across town to see if things felt different. They did. The flags that greeted visitors lifted a little in the breeze. It seemed a fresh wind was beginning to blow through.

I am looking forward to my next trip to campus! I’m interested to see how things have changed in light of the new administration.

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