Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible

Many streams of Christianity include the books of the apocrypha as part of their canon of scripture

Christians Should Consider the Entire BibleThe book of Revelation ends with a severe threat to anyone who would add to it, that God will afflict that person with the plagues mentioned therein. Though the warning clearly applies to the book of Revelation—“the words of the prophecy of this scroll”—some people, even preachers who should know better, wrongly apply this omen to the words of the entire Bible instead of just Revelation.

Adding to their error, they proceed to criticize the Roman Catholic Church (as well as other streams of Christianity) for “adding to the Bible.” Shame on these preachers; they don’t know their history. It was Protestants who removed content from the Bible, but this didn’t happen five hundred years ago during the beginning of the Protestant Reformation but more recently: about two centuries ago. Until then the books of the apocrypha were part of the King James Version, the venerable KJV.

Yes, you may be shocked to know the original King James Version of the Bible (1611) included the apocrypha. About two hundred years later the books of the apocrypha were removed from the KJV. (This officially started in 1796 but took until the mid-1800s to effectively occur). This news stunned me and angered me that people had removed part of the Bible, lessening my ability to more fully comprehend God in the process.

Fundamentalists call the four hundred year gap in their Bible, between the Old and New Testaments, “the silent years” because they believe God had nothing to say or do. In reality, the apocrypha clearly shows God at work during this time, but these fundamentalists don’t know this truth because they’re unwilling to consider what God had to say.

I’ve read and appreciate the seven books, along with additional text for two others, that Catholics have in their Bible and Protestants don’t. I wish I had encountered these amazing words much sooner.

I recently received a copy of the text removed from the KJV Bible (Apocrypha, King James Version). I expected it to include seven books. Instead there were fourteen. Now I’m twice as mad about what was taken away from today’s Protestant Bible and its sixty-six books.

But that’s not all. The canon of the Ethiopia Bible (The Apocrypha: Including Books from the Ethiopic Bible) contains even more. This Bible has eighty-one books in all, fifteen more than the Protestant’s sixty-six. I’m currently reading these books of the greater Bible. This will help me better understand God, just as other parts of the greater church of Jesus are able to do.

(There are also other historical writings, contemporary to the contents of the Bible, but since no stream of Christianity has included them in their canon of scripture, I am content to follow their lead. Though I’m a bit curious about what these nonbiblical texts have to say, I’ll ignore them and hide only God’s word in my heart, Psalm 119:11.)

The Bible provides the foundation of my faith. As a Christian, part of the universal church of Jesus, I contend we should consider all of the words any part of Christianity includes in their canon of scripture. As I do this, I don’t expect my core theology to change, but I do expect it to expand into a more holistic comprehension of God.

Don’t dismiss the words of the apocrypha. If you’re a serious student of the Bible, then you need to consider the whole Bible.

Is Studying and Memorizing the Bible Important?

When Satan tempts Jesus, Jesus responds by quoting scripture

Is Studying and Memorizing the Bible Important?Satan was unsuccessful in preventing Jesus’s birth and he was unsuccessful in causing Jesus to die prematurely before he could start his mission. For the enemy’s next ploy to thwart God’s plan to reconcile us to him, Satan tries to tempt Jesus into taking a shortcut: an easy button, if you will.

Satan makes three attempts to stop Jesus and to each one, Jesus counters by quoting the Bible. Jesus doesn’t try to ignore Satan. He doesn’t tell him to go away. And he doesn’t simply say “No” (all things I have tried). Jesus responds to each of Satan’s attacks by throwing the words of God back at the devil. Touché.

This may be the biggest and best reason to study and memorize the Bible, to hide God’s word in our heart so that we can avoid sin. But don’t take my word for it. The Bible says it, too: Psalm 119:11.

However, there’s another significant lesson we can learn from this passage. In his third try, Satan uses the Bible to attack Jesus. Though Satan’s application is arguably misapplied, the fact that the devil quotes the Bible gives his attack an unexpected credibility.

If Satan uses the Bible to oppose Jesus, he’ll certainly try the same trick with us. The only way we will prevail is if we know the Bible, too, and can point out his error. When misapplied the Bible can mislead us. Not everyone or every spirit quoting scripture does so with integrity. We must know the Bible as well as, or even better than, our enemy.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 4, and today’s post is on Luke 4:3-12.]

Read the New Testament in 2017

Learn more about Jesus and his church as you read through the New Testament this year

The New Testament of the Bible is a great part of the Bible to read. It starts with a focus on the life of Jesus and moves on to cover his followers after he dies, rises from the dead, and returns to heaven. Whether you are familiar with the Bible or just starting out, the New Testament unveils most of the essentials, and it provides the foundation for Christianity as it informs how we should live as Jesus’s disciples.

By reading only one chapter a day, Monday through Friday, we can read the entire New Testament in one year. For the average reader this only takes three to four minutes each day.

Can you commit to that?

Download our 2017 New Testament reading plan to follow along with us. And then look for posts each Wednesday about that day’s reading.

Join us as we read through the New Testament in 2017. You’ll be glad you did.

(If you prefer, we also have an Old Testament reading plan and monthly guides as well. All this and much more is found at ABibleADay.com)

4 Things Christians Need to Avoid

Paul warns Titus to stay away from unprofitable and useless things

4 Things Christians Need to AvoidPaul, the superstar missionary, writes to his protégé Titus, who Paul left on the island of Crete to wrap up the work he started. As Paul’s letters go, it’s a short one. But he packs it with practical information that any pastor could use. Since we all should effectively function as pastors to one another, these words apply to us all. We will do well to heed them.

In one short verse, Paul warns Titus to avoid four things, and they’re not what you might expect. Paul tells Titus to stay away from:

1) Foolish Controversies: This might include which translation of the Bible to use. Then there are churches still neck deep in the issue of women in leadership. Seriously, folks? At one time, the issue of the day was slavery. Yes, churches do fight about such things.

But let me dive into the heart of controversy. Another one is . . . wait for it . . . baptism: when to do it, how to do it, and what it means. If these details were all that important to God, you’d think he’d have provided more clarity on the matter. Yet his followers have killed each other over this controversy. Jesus didn’t say that people would know we are his followers by our great doctrine, but by our love (John 13:35).

2) Genealogies: Though I don’t see too many people tracing their lineage for generations in order to claim some special appointment or consideration, I do see people throwing around their heritage, as in “My grandparents started this church,” to “My daddy’s on the church board,” to “My family has been a member of this church for seven generations.”

3) Arguments: This might include the pews versus chairs debate, what color to paint the sanctuary, if drums are allowed in worship, a dress code, what to pay the pastor, and so forth. Use your imagination. At some time, someone has likely argued about it. Shame on them.

4) Quarrels About the Law: Sorry to say, but I see this a lot. It’s fighting about what the Bible says and how we apply it. We like people who agree with us and call everyone else a heretic. According to Paul, we need to stop it.

As I see it, these four things cover about every source of conflict that churches and church members face today. Paul labels these four tendencies as unprofitable and useless. I agree and will do my part to avoid them. I hope you will, too.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Titus 1-3, and today’s post is on Titus 3:9.]

Not All That’s Spiritual Is Good

As followers of Jesus we can point the supernaturally curious to God

Not All That’s Spiritual Is GoodPremodern people saw everything as spiritual. Though modern thinking attempted to remove the spiritual from our everyday reality, the postmodern view is open to reunite them. For that I am glad.

Yet not all that is spiritual is good. Consider all of the TV shows and movies that delve into the supernatural. Sci-fi specifically seems to be moving in this direction but so are more generally marketed television shows and movies. Also, consider the growing interest in fantasy novels and the various speculative fiction subgenres. Why is this?

It’s quite simply because of demand. The public seeks content that investigates spiritual concepts and explores the supernatural realm. They have interest in such matters. They hunger for something more than what a nonspiritual life offers, with content producers happy to fill that void.

In fact, most people in today’s postmodern world, notably younger generations, such as Millennials, are open to the spiritual. This is both good and bad. Just because something is spiritual doesn’t automatically make it good. Sometimes supernatural considerations point us to God and other times this content steers us in the opposite direction. Often these mind-blowing forays into the non-temporal merely confuse a godly, spiritual reality with intriguing, yet inconsequential fantasy.

Does this mean we should abandon all cinema, television, and books that dip into the supernatural? Of course not. Ignoring this trend will not make it go away and will leave the spiritually curious with only opposing views to influence them.

As people who know what the Bible says about spiritual matters, we need to guide our world’s spiritually inquisitive toward an understanding that is biblically centered and focused on Jesus. If we don’t, people will persist in forming their own hodgepodge of spiritual practices based on what they see in their entertainment choices and that is not anchored in the foundation of God’s Word.

Let us be their light to a path that leads to God, the narrow way, and away from the wide path that leads to destruction (Psalm 119:105, Matthew 7:13-14).

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The Bible Provides a Greater Authority for Faith and Spirituality

It’s critical to build our spiritual house on a strong foundation if it is to last

The Bible Provides a Greater Authority for Faith and SpiritualityWe live in a day where people make up their own religion. It seems silly to state our present spiritual climate in those terms, but that’s what people do, even those who say they are Christians.

For some this means looking at all religions using a personal pro and con analysis. They embrace the parts they like, adapt a few others, and reject the rest. Their religious practice emerges as a smattering of Christian thought, Jewish practice, Hindu ideals, Muslim devotion, and Buddhist discipline. Their resulting practice may be self-satisfying, but its basis is simultaneously built on everything and nothing.

Others don’t directly consider world religions; they just do what feels right. They make a personal inventory of good behaviors and bad behaviors, with everyone’s list being different. From this emerges a loose set of spiritual practices that makes them feel good and never confronts them. Often they end up doing peculiar things in the name of their religion, which in reality is an excuse to behave however they want.

Next is the group that reads religious literature, including the Bible, with a highlighter in one hand and scissors in the other. The result is a cut and paste religion, a spiritual collage of feel-good sentiment that merely reinforces their preconceived notions of whatever they want.

While each of these approaches is affirmed in today’s attitude of mystical permissiveness, they are based on nothing solid, nothing lasting, nothing of substance.

For truly meaningful spiritual significance that transcends ourselves, we must seek a reliable source that surpasses our own thoughts, preferences, and preconceived ideals. We need a greater authority.

For me that greater authority rests in the Bible, which reflects the Godhead who inspired it. I read and study the Bible, not to articulate a systematic theology but to pursue the God behind its words. To me the Bible isn’t a rulebook or even a manual; it’s a narrative resource that points me to God. I will daily strive to understand the Bible more fully, while knowing I will never achieve this lifelong goal.

The Bible is the basis for my faith, a greater authority that transcends my limited intellect and keeps me from making up my own religion and deluding myself in the process.

What is the basis for your spiritual foundation? How does the Bible fit in?

[This is from Peter DeHaan‘s June newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.”  Receive the complete newsletter each month.]

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Read the Bible as Literature

Studying scripture teaches us about classic literature and writing to inform our literary perspective

Read the Bible as LiteratureMy post “13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible” started out as a top ten list, but I couldn’t stop at a round number. I kept going and couldn’t pare my list down to just ten reasons. And if I had kept thinking about it, I would likely have come up with more.

A related topic is considering the Bible as literature, the classic of classics. So much of what we read today has allusions, though sometimes subtle, to scripture. We see biblical themes repeated in TV and movies.

Knowing the Bible helps us to more fully understand God but also to better appreciate literature and entertainment. Consider what the Bible has to offer:

  1. Variety of Genres: The Bible contains different styles of writing. Much of it is history, with some biography and even autobiography. There are several poetry portions (albeit without rhyming and meter), which reveal ancient poetic styles and can inform modern day poets. The books of prophecy reveal the future, some of which has already come to pass and other portions, not. Books of wisdom give as wise advice. Other sections reveal God, serving as the first theology text. The Bible also contains letters from teachers to their students. There are epic dreams documented for us to ponder. And two books, Job and Song of Solomon, read much like the modern-day screenplay.
  2. Multiple Viewpoints: The Bible contains four biographies of Jesus (gospels). The four respective authors reveal different aspects of Jesus based on their personal perception and target audience. Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s writing contain the most similarities; John is the most different. Similarly, 1 and 2 Chronicles provides a counterpoint to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Last, some of the prophets provide additional historical accounts to round out what we learn from the prior six books of history (1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings)
  3. Different Perspectives: Much of the Bible is written in the third person point of view, while some passages are in first person. I especially enjoy these first person accounts as it places me in the middle of the action, as if I am there, living it with the speaker.
  4. Multiple Levels: Reading the Bible is analogous to peeling an onion. Each time we unwrap one layer, we find another that gives us additional insight and added meaning. There are many tiers, virtually unlimited. We will never know all of what the Bible says, but we do strive to learn more of what it reveals. With each successive read we are able to connect different passages together and glean deeper insight into its stories, lessons, and writers – as well as the God who inspired it.

The Bible has much to offer, not only from a spiritual perspective, but also from a literary one. Reading the Bible as literature will increase our appreciation of other things we read, what we write, and the world in which we live.

What is your favorite genre of the Bible? How does reading the Bible as literature inform your perspective. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

[This is from Peter DeHaan‘s May newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.”  Receive the complete newsletter each month.]

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13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible

The Holy Scriptures Are So Much More than a Sacred Icon or Guidebook for Living

13 Reasons Why I Love the BibleI revere the Bible. Every morning I reserve time to read its words and study its meaning. It informs who I am and reforms what I do. It exposes me to God and his ways.

Yes, I cherish the Bible. Here are thirteen reasons why I love it so much. The Bible:

  1. Supplies Us with a Greater Authority
  2. Reveals God the Father to Us
  3. Points Us to Jesus
  4. Shows Us the Holy Spirit
  5. Reminds Us of Our Heritage
  6. Focuses Our Understanding of God
  7. Provides Direction for Our Life
  8. Teaches How to Live With One Another
  9. Offers Us Hope for the Future
  10. Unveils Rich Literature to Us
  11. Gives Us Daily Inspiration
  12. Presents Us with a Narrative Example for Life and Church
  13. Uncovers the Spiritual Realm for Us

Paul writes to Timothy that all parts of the Bible have value. It can teach us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us for right living. This prepares us to do good (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

What do you think of the Bible? What is its value to you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Father, Son, and Holy Bible

BibleMost Christians believe that God is three persons in one; we call this concept the Trinity. Though it never uses the word Trinity, the Bible does portray the godhead as three beings who function as one interconnected entity. Though I believe this and revere this, at times it makes my head spin. The concept of a trinity is hard to grasp: three is one and one is three. It’s so abstract and impossible to quantify.

In practice, some people and especially some churches have trouble with this too. Though they say God is comprised of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they act as though God is Father, Son, and Holy Bible. They dismiss the Holy Spirit because he messes up their nice modern theology and manageable religious practices; they worship the Bible in his stead.

These people elevate the Bible to an unholy height. They study its words with legalistic fervor, using it to attack others and defend themselves. Their faith shifts to one that worships the Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible. Some people, I fear, even exalt the Bible above the God who it reveals. For them, the Bible isn’t a means to the end, but the end.

Jesus talks about this, too. He criticizes people who diligently study the Bible because they think it gives them eternal life. With their deep focus on the details in the Bible, they miss the God of the Bible.

While the Bible is critical to our faith, let’s not place our faith in the Bible or expect it to provide us with salvation. The Bible is a tool that points us to God, but it is not God. God is not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible.

Let’s put the Bible in its rightful place and God in his.

[John 5:39-40]

How do you view the Bible? The Trinity? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

What Does The Sword of the Spirit Mean?

In the letter Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus he tells them to put on spiritual armor. Included in his list of gear is only one offensive item: “the sword of the Spirit,” which he says is the word of God.

Many people understand this as a reference to the Bible, the written word of God. Until a few years ago, I did, too (even though the Bible as we know it today didn’t exist back when this was written). We are then to use the words of the Bible to combat evil and the evil one; it is our weapon to fend off the attacks of the devil and his minions. Sadly, too many people do use the Bible as a weapon, but against each other. They fling Bible verses like rocks, attempting to advance their point and subdue all disagreement. They forget the real enemy is not in the physical world but in the spiritual one. They forget to listen to each other and to love one another.

Other people see this instruction as a reference to the spoken word of God: the words of the Holy Spirit who directs each of us. Though a bit jarring to many, this understanding seems more consistent with the text, since it says the word of God is the sword of the Spirit, connecting word with Spirit. While I think this is a correct understanding, it’s also a risky one. What if we hear wrong? What if what I hear contradicts with what you hear? Then we have a problem.

However, we must keep in mind that the spoken word of God should align with the written word of God. If the two are in conflict, then what we think we heard must be in error.

With so much at stake, some people bypass the Holy Spirit and go straight to the Bible. While this might be safe, it falls short of God’s intent. Instead, we should listen to the spoken words of the Holy Spirit, confirming them with the written words of the Bible.

This is what the sword of the Spirit means to me.