What Do Sunday School and the Song “Rambling Man” Have in Common?

My Sunday School experience has been one of two extremes: the first extreme is that the Sunday School lesson was about [insert Bible passage here], but either the teacher or one of the more vocal members of the class instead talks about [insert tangentially and very, very loosely related topic to the Bible passage here]. It is frustrating. Perhaps I studied the lesson and I had a question or a comment that I feel would really help the group, but alas the group has been hijacked by the Rambler and every one is forced to sit and listen to the Rambler for 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile the chorus to “Rambling Man” are playing in the recesses of my mind and is describing exactly how the conversation is going.silhouettes-776670_640

The second extreme is that the Sunday School lesson was about [insert Bible passage here] and the teacher explained the passage in a helpful manner and provided an opportunity for dialogue in which the discussion was about the passage. It was enlightening and encouraging. You could share an insight or two about the passage and while there would be your normal conversational digressions, the teacher would skillfully bring the conversation back to the text. Meanwhile, “Rambling Man” was nowhere to be seen. Continue reading “What Do Sunday School and the Song “Rambling Man” Have in Common?”

Advertisements

A New Purpose for an Old Blog

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking about what I want this blog to be. Do I want it to be merely a place where Gradon comes every week and spews his thoughts into the void of the Internet? Or should it need to be something else?

 

old-book-1157672_1280
Image Source

I am a pastor and as a pastor, I want everyone to enjoy reading their Bibles and to profit from reading their Bibles. My desire is for everyone to be able to say with the psalmist, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day….How sweet are [God’s] words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps. 119:97,103). But I realize that this is not the case for many Christians. For these folks, the Bible is a closed book. It is a book filled with strange stories, laws and commands. It is a book that seems more and more difficult to read every time that it is picked up. This grieves my heart as a pastor and as a Christian, because the Bible should be each and every Christian’s delight (Ps. 1:1). Continue reading “A New Purpose for an Old Blog”

Meditating of Scripture: A Word from Donald Whitney

In his excellent book on the spiritual disciplines, Donald S. Whitney provides some excellent advice for meditating of Scripture and the benefit it gives to the believer:

“Find at least one word, phrase, or verse to meditate on each time you read….You should recognize now that without meditation you may close your Bible and not be able to remember a single thing you’ve read. And if that happens, your Bible reading is not likely to change you. Even with a good plan, it can become a mundane chore instead of a Discipline of joy. Take at least one thing you’ve read and think deeply about it for a few moments. Your insight into Scripture will deepen and you’ll better understand how it applies to your life. And the more you apply the truth of Scripture, the more you’ll become like Jesus.” (p. 34)

Reading Scripture Changes You…Whether You Know It or Not

On Wednesday nights this summer, my church is studying the spiritual disciplines using Donald Whitney’s book as a guide. Last night was the first night of our study and we looked at the discipline of Bible Intake, i.e. hearing, reading and studying Scripture. Many of the members of the church which I pastor are double or triple my age, so this Bible study is not so much me teaching them, but them teaching me! They have been reading their Bibles and studying the Scriptures for decades before I was even born and I learn so much from merely listening to them talk about reading the Bible. Continue reading “Reading Scripture Changes You…Whether You Know It or Not”

“Not a Doctrine, but a Life”

Berkhof, in his Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology, makes this statement:

“The assertion is often heard that Christianity is not a doctrine but a life, and that it makes very little difference what we believe, if we but share the life of Christ. There is an insistent cry, especially in our own country, for a Christianity without dogma.” (p. 26)

As the adage goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same. People today, just as they did in Berkhof’s day (his Introductory Volume was published in 1932), clamor for a Christianity devoid of content, but complete with experience. The Christian experience, the “not a doctrine, but a life” as Berkhof puts it,  gives (supposedly) all of the benefits of Christianity, such as the experience of divine grace, feelings of belonging, etc., without the headache of believing anything other than “I love Jesus; he loves me.” (But don’t ask what that actually means or entails, you might be encroaching upon a belief about something.)

But we must ask ourselves, “Does this belief in no beliefs (aside from being nonsensical) pan out in the rest of life?” For example, have you ever met a Republican or Democrat who thought that their political beliefs were optional? Has a Republican or Democrat ever said, “It is not about the issues, but it is instead about the Republican/Democratic life.” No, they have not. While there might be disagreements in the ranks over what makes one a Republican or Democrat, to be a Republican or Democrat requires that one believe something and hold positions on issues and to defend these positions. To be a Republican or Democrat requires a doctrine and a life.

Christianity is no different. Christianity is the doctrine and the life. The life must be lived in accord with the doctrine. A doctrine-less Christianity is the creation of the human mind and has very little to do with Christ. Doctrines are not human creations, but instead are based and molded from the very words of God. God has spoken and he has said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6).

As Christianity continues to lose its cultural cache and as churches continue to capitulate to the culture, I am certain that biblical Christians will be called doctrinaire, dogmatic and puritanical for holding dogmatically to the beliefs and teachings of Scripture. Rather than viewing that as a slight to our character, let’s wear those words as a badge of honor and hold fast to “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)