Wayne's Worldview is a place to share my unique perspective of the world as formed from my interpretation of the scriptures and my experience as a Christian. As a pastor, I am asked a lot of questions about current issues, life dilemmas, personal problems, politics, biblical interpretation...etc.I offer these "How I see it" thoughts in effort to challenge people to think about their worldview, and to stimulate good conversations that will help us become more whole.
Welcome to the conversation.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Understanding the Islamic Practice of Beheading

The internet is being flooded with graphic pictures of beheaded Christians of late. The Bible says that in the last-days, beheading specifically will be a method of martyrdom. Christians will be killed specifically for their “testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God.” This week we saw the “people of the cross” beheaded for that very reason. Read the following scriptures: I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Revelation 20:4 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. Matthew 24:9 All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. John 16:1-4 Jesus warns His disciples that they will be hated and put to death because of their belief in him. Here in the US Christians get worked up when people say Happy Holidays, instead of Merry Christmas”, but our brothers and sisters, who have identified themselves with Christ in other parts of the world are being killed. Not only that, but the ones who kill them literally think that in doing so, they are offering a service to God. We may imagine this possible for people who lived in the dark ages, but not today! Fifteen years ago you might have difficulty believing this article, but after thousands of murderous chants of alluha akbar, and the carnage we see on the news every day, maybe now it will be understood for what it is. Only people with firm conviction that one’s God commands this behavior could carry out such barbaric acts and think it praiseworthy. People are not committing these atrocities because they are unemployed and don’t have better things to do! In the face of this evil, many choose to accept the lesser of two evils- the idea that a few people within an otherwise good religion are responsible. This has given rise to the current debate: whether the evil is “Islam” or if it is a practice of some of its adherents (extremists). The idea that it is an entire religion insults our sensibilities, and more specifically is seen as insulting to its adherents. For those reasons, it is much easier to accept that some radicals, possibly under the influence of some wayward spiritual leaders, have “hijacked the religion”. While, an honest cursory look at Islamic beliefs, history, and “holy writings” does not support that conclusion, it is politically incorrect to say so. If one even seriously considers it as true, they better prepare to be deemed as hateful, narrow minded, bigoted and evil. Take beheading for example. Did these radicals just make this up as a dramatic form of execution, so they could get the world’s attention? Absolutely not. While it may be seen by many as some new form of barbarism, it is a practice sanctioned and practiced by Muhammad himself. Beheading does not defy the practice of Islam. Just the opposite is true. It is the exercise of a well-established practice of Islam by faithful Muslims. Extremist, by definition is a fanatical ideology, which is outside the mainstream. To believe that the practice of Jihad as a sacred duty is new to Islam, or that beheading is the abhorrent behavior of a few is mere ignorance. Beheading is not only commanded as a specific method of killing ones enemies in the Quran, but the preferred method of killing by Muhammad and many of his followers. If you grew up a Muslim a thousand years ago or ten years ago, you are leaning the same things from your sacred writings: Aba Hakam was severely wounded but still alive when Abdullah, the servant, of Muhammad, ran up, put his foot on Aba Hakam’s neck, got hold of his beard and started insulting the fatally wounded man whom his own people had named the father of wisdom. Abdullah cut off Aba Hakam’s head and carried it to his master. "The head of the enemy of Allah!" exclaimed Muhammad joyously; ---- "Allah! There is none other god but he!" - "Yea There is no other!" responded Abdullah, as he cast the severed head at the Prophet’s feet. "It is more acceptable to me;" cried Mohammad, hardly able to contain his joy, "than the choicest camel in all Arabia.” (The examples of Muhammad) “Strike terror (into the hearts of) the enemies of God and your enemies.” (Surah 8:60) “I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them. It is not ye ho slew them; it was God.” (Surah 8:13-17) You learn about your beloved prophet, and how the greatest among you will be those who are most like him. For that person, what other form of killing would appeal as much as beheading, and what other words would be deemed more appropriate for the occasion than “Allah is great”? The mass slaughter and dismemberment of enemies has been a kind of signature for those faithful followers of Muhammad who desire to emulate him. This is as true for historical conquests as it is today. Whatever Muhammad said or did is considered just as authoritative and inspired as the very Quran itself. The actions of Muhammad dictate the model for living that Allah has ordained for all Muslims, just as to a Christian, they are to live as Jesus Christ lived. The conduct of Muhammad is not only idealized, but commanded to faithful followers: If you love Allah, then follow me (Muhammad). -Sura 3:31 (Shakir). Ye have indeed in the Apostle of Allah a beautiful pattern of (conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day. -Sura 33:21. If you want to learn about a revered Muslim, do a search and read about Khalid bin al-Walid al-Makhzumi- otherwise known as The Sword of Allah. It ought not to surprise us then, when you do an internet search on terrorists named Khalid, you end up with a long list of names, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed- the mastermind who was the architect of the 911 attacks. While the world is not overrunning with people naming their children or those who voluntarily rename themselves Adolph Hitler, those who take the name Khalid-The Sword of Allah are too numerous to count. As are the stories of the great multitudes who have been beheaded by the faithful followers of Allah. Another interesting man who named himself The Sword of Allah is Tamerlane the Conqueror. He was notorious for creating a gigantic pyramid of 90,000 enemy heads, to incite terror into anyone who would think of opposing him. His empire stretched thousands of miles, encompassing parts of Turkey, India, Iran, Afghanistan, and also Kyrgyzstan (were Tamerlan Tsarnaev) was born. It could be just a coincidence that, the Boston Marathon Bomber’s namesake was the 14th-century Muslim ruler who killed 17 million people (5% of the population of the world). Then again if you were brought up in a warrior jihadist culture, it would be far less surprising. What I hear argued almost daily is the idea that “these atrocities are carried out by a “few” Muslim extremists, but this is not Islam.” The essence of this argument is that a few bad Muslims are tarnishing an otherwise good religion. To that argument, I ask one simple question: What does Islam teach the faithful about killing non-Muslims? Two examples suffice to make my point, without even addressing the verses that deal with Christians and Jews. 1. It is allowed and even encouraged, due to the law of law of Qisas. The logic is that if you are against Islam or the prophet, you may legally be killed. For example: Killing a cartoonist who used an image of Mohammed in a cartoon is considered justice, not murder. 2. Killing of non-Muslims (kaffirs / unbelievers or infidels) is ordained in too many places to cite. In the Western world, we see ourselves as innocent, because we did not attack them and we are in our homeland. But to the Islamic faithful, we are an enemy if we have not confessed Allah. If a person rejects Allah, Muslims are allowed to kill them. It is not haram (forbidden/illegal) to kill a kaffir. Muslims are allowed and even commanded to fight against the unbelievers and even seek them out where they are in order to force them to convert to Islam or accept death. This is not an extremist view, but the very teaching and example of Muhammad. If you encounter (in war) those who disbelieve, you may strike the necks -Surah 47:4 (Khalifa)When ye encounter the infidels, strike off their heads. –Surah 47:4 Muhammad, as a military leader authorized the butchering of captives, the raping of women and the enslavement of children. The holy books of Islam, history and current events demonstrate that the religion reproduces the actions of its founder. I acknowledge that there are many peaceful Muslims in the world who do not pursue the path of those who have been called Islamic Extremists today. They have chosen to interpret the Quran differently, and emphasize other teachings in priority over the violent ones. Many of us have wondered why they are not more outspoken. The reason is that they are very aware that the faith they embrace calls upon Muslims who are faithful to commit similar acts of violence upon Muslims who are deemed unfaithful or apostate. Unfortunately for them, this often includes those who associate with non-Muslims, do not participate in Jihad or are considered lesser Muslims. These teachings fuel the bitter violence between various sects of Islam such as Shiite and Sunni, toward the goal of purifying Islam from strains of ‘heretical’ thought. The killing of those who bring shame includes people who commit shameful acts and is the basis of what is commonly called ‘honor killing’. Those who western people would call ‘good Muslims’, because they are peaceful, are identified by other Muslims, as ‘bad Muslims’ who should be killed for their shameful unfaithfulness and cowardice.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dressing for Worship

This post is in response to a question: "OK so I have been reading 1 Corinthians 11 over and over and I don't get the whole covering your head thing. We don't do it today but should we? Whatever wisdom you may have to share on this would be great! Thanks" Disclaimer: My answer is slanted toward women,because a woman asked me the question. For me this is an opportunity to highlight the importance of CONTEXT in the study and interpretation of scripture. When you read a passage that you don't understand, it is helpful to first ask yourself "what particular application the author (in this case Paul) has for the recipients of the letter (in this case members of the Corinthian church). Corinth, a coastal Grecian city about 50 miles South of Athens, was a place that had “temples for all the gods" (Greek Mythological ones), and the goddess of Aphrodite was the largest, most popular one. Hers was the largest temple in the world at the time. She was known as the great Olympian goddess of beauty, love, pleasure and procreation. She was depicted as a beautiful woman usually accompanied by the winged Eros (Love)- the cupid like character with the bow and arrow. She is the one usually depicted in classical sculpture and frescoes in the nude, with others adoring her beauty. Her temple was serviced by “courtesans”, who in that day were politely called "Guest-loving girls.” Similarly, we respectfully call a prostitute a: "call girl" or "escort". Understanding the context of Paul's letter is crucial to its interpretation. Paul is writing to a group of people who live in a sexually promiscuous pagan culture, world famous to sailors and traveling salesman. Historically, the Corinth of Paul's day was a cosmopolitan center for empire-wide commerce. Due to the pluralistic culture of the city, it was home to many peoples and religions. Corinth was famous for its shrines and temples, not only of Aphrodite, but also Poseidon; Apollo; Athena; Hercules; Jupiter; Isis,...etc. Worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was aided by more than a thousand prostitutes in service to the temple by day and city by night. An unveiled woman in Corinth was a servant of Aphrodite, otherwise known to us, as a prostitute. The abundance of pagan life in Corinth presented many problems for the church, some of which Paul specifically addressed in his letters. There, Christians existed as a minority in a sea of pagan Roman beliefs, as well as other Eastern religions. Living in this kind of culture led to loose morals because most of the church members were new converts to Christianity. In fact, the expression: "To Corinthianize" literally meant - to induct someone into promiscuous sexual debauchery and drunkenness. Similarly, a word fashioned from the name of a city still in use today that is our term "to Sodomize", which bears its name from the biblical city of Sodom that describes violent homosexual rape. In Corinth, the sexual practices were strongly associated with worship and service to the many pagan deities. These practices were the norm, not the exception. In short, Corinth was Sin City. Las Vegas, New Orleans and Los Angeles may someday be as immoral as Corinth. This being understood, Paul’s issue had to do with distinguishing Christians, from their pagan surroundings. To paraphrase, Paul was saying ‘We don’t worship God with an orgy. Instead, we are to honor God with our bodies (second half of 1 Cor 6). We do not celebrate the supper by getting drunk and stuffing ourselves with food (latter part of Chapter 11).’ So we need to understand that the reference to a particular hairstyle or dress is addressing a much deeper issue, than personal style or ritual. Paul’s concern was that the Corinthian Christians were not to worship God as they had their pagan deities. They were to be intentionally set apart, because when they dressed in a particular way, they were making a statement about themselves and God. With the context of the scripture understood, now we can do the work of translating the meaning into our cultural context. In the US, we have much liberty and freedom. We can wear whatever we want. But, would it be pleasing to God for us to dress the same as prostitutes, because we have the liberty to do so? Obviously not. We have more instruction on dress from 1 Tim 2:8-10, which instructs women who lead worship to dress modestly. Why? Because when we worship God, our attention is supposed to go to God, not to the body of the woman who is leading worship.(This is the reason many church choirs wear robes- by the way) Does God know the nature of men? I think so. Similar instruction is given in 1 Peter 3:1, 3-4. Can you imagine the mixed messages sent in a Christian worship setting for a male first time visitor who sits next to a woman dressed like one of the “guest loving girls” of the Temple of Aphrodite? I guarantee you he would not be hearing the sermon! Remember that Paul is writing to real people, and these are real world issues they were dealing with. Because God’s word is timeless, it also speaks into our culture. I want to get very practical, because that is what Paul was doing: “Women- It's fine to dress sexy for your husband, but your body is not for public display, especially in the context of a worship service to God." Paul includes teaching on marriage in the midst of dealing with these other pagan ideas. Worshipers of the gods did not have sexual boundaries like those who worship the the living God of Christianity. When a woman dresses to draw attention to her sexuality what response is she likely to stimulate? Attention from those who desire to have sex with her either literally or in fantasy. A woman can be attractive and dress beautifully, without putting the focus on her sexuality. Again, speaking plainly: Sexy dress in our culture includes - bare midriffs; bellybutton jewelry; short skirts; low cut blouses; low rider jeans; thongs and other undergarments that are intentionally made visible; some makeup applications; tattoos in the small of the back; tight fitting clothing ...Etc. While it might seem obvious that these dress styles draw attention to one's sexuality, and not one's spirituality, dressing sexy has become acceptable to many Christian women. In our culture, like Corinth, dressing to express sexual promiscuity is then norm. Paul is saying, that this should not be the case, otherwise Christian women will be indistinguishable from pagan women, both in and out of church. A woman who dresses in such a way to arouse sexual attention of any man who lays eyes on them, is not honoring God with her body. So, Does God care how you dress? Yes. God cares how we dress, much more than we might imagine. Do we know how Jesus dressed? Not really.We do know how he he was clothed before they crucified him, (symbolic). We also know he took off his outer robe to wash the disciple’s feet (symbolic). Where is our attention drawn? It’s drawn to his actions, in obedience to the Father in Heaven for a spiritual purpose. Have you ever wondered why we have sculptures and paintings of many kings, philosophers, and nobles, but none of Jesus? His clothing style and appearance was not emphasized so that we would focus on his life, his teachings and his sacrifice. We should take care that the way we dress, does not distract others from the worship of God in all walks of life, not just in church.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why a Beast Feast

As our church annually hosts an event called the "Beast Feast"- a celebration of the goodness and bounty of God's creation and a time of fellowship with other outdoor enthusiasts. I have over the years been asked by many people to defend the practice hunting, fishing and of eating animals. Usually this comes in the form of an email or a message left on my phone by someone who has moral opposition to eating animals, who are offended that a church would host such an event. You may have been asked to give such a defense, or you may simply wonder what the Bible has to say about the subject. As I always go to the scriptures for guidance, I have discovered that the proper relationship between humanity and animals is important and sacred and is addressed in a great number of texts in the Bible. With the Bible as a guide, I have reached some general conclusions: Animals are not equal to man, yet have also been created by God. We both share creature status, while humanity alone is an image bearer of God. Animals are suitable for clothing, food, and even companionship, but are not to be treated cruelly or for sexual fulfillment. As appointed stewards of all creation we have a responsibility to God and will be held accountable for that stewardship. Animals are markedly different in that they are not assigned this same responsibility to God. My values are pretty much in alignment with that. I hunt, fish and enjoy the consumption of plants and animals that I or others have killed and prepared for food in clear conscience. While eating meat is not an obligation, the scriptures give us the freedom to choose. I also respect others who choose to abstain from eating animals. Many appeal to the question, "What would Jesus do?", supposing that Jesus would be a vegetarian today. I prefer the question "What did Jesus do"? Jesus wore clothing, including sandals. He rode a donkey that someone else owned. He ate bread and fish regularly, and fed the multitudes the same. He called fisherman to be his disciples. Jesus frequently dined with others, never calling negative attention to what was served. He told the parable of the prodigal son which included a feast with beef as the main course (fatted calf). And he annually celebrated the feast days, which in the case of Passover included Lamb as the main course.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Letters on the Cross IHS

Letters on the Cross, What do they mean? Part 2 Now that you know about INRI, you may have noticed that the cross in our sanctuary has the letter IHS on it. The "IHS motif" is popular inmany different styles and is often super-imposed on each other to form a single icon or emblem similar to a personal monogram of your name using your initials. Because the letters have been used with different meanings in the past it is difficult to say emphatically, like we can with INRI, what IHS means, because it has over time, had various meanings assigned to it. "IHS" is an abbreviation for “In hocs sign,” which is an abbreviated version of in hocs sign vinces.” This phrase is in Latin, translated to mean “in this sign, thou shalt conquer.” This symbol was often used on battlements and weaponry to give divine assistance in battle to assure victory. Similar thinking motivated the incorporation of crosses themselves into shields and swords… etc. during the crusades in the middle ages. The symbol of the cross itself was believed to have divine power and similar thinking goes into the crossing of oneself or being crossed over with water during baptism in some traditions, desiring God’s blessing from above. Another assigned meaning is that the symbol is representative of the first three letters of the name "Jesus" in the Greek alphabet. ‘Jesus' in Greek: ΙΗΣΟΥΣ. In technical language: the first two characters, iota (Ι) and eta (Η) are almost identical in appearance to the Latin 'IH'. Since there is no correlating Latin character for the third character sigma (Σ), the pronunciation gives us a close approximation to the Latin 'S', giving us the set 'IHS'. In plane words: The letters form a monogram of the name of Jesus, like the initials of your name. Early church history records the name of Jesus or some of his other titles shortened, particularly in symbols or art. The letters IH and XP (for Jesus and Christ) are numerous before the third century. These Greek monograms, along with several others, continued to be used in Latin during the Middle Ages. This type of abbreviation is seen around Xstmas time, although many Xstns find this use offensive, thinking that people are taking Christ, out of Christmas. It is also prevalent in Christian art and stained glass windows. Another popular symbol that uses this kind of lettering is the Ichthus (ΙΧΘΥΣ). The Greek word for fish is also used as a Christian acronym of Greek words: I=Jesus, Ch=Christ, Th=Theou (God's), U=Uios (Son), S=Soter (Savior). Thus, IChThUS means "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior". There are a few other interpretations of letters 'IHS'; the most popular being an acronym of the Latin: Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, Saviour of man). In Latin: Jesus Hierosolymae Salvator (Jesus, Saviour of Jerusalem); Iesus Habemus Socium (Jesus is our companion); In Hoc Signo spes mea (This sign, the cross, is your hope); In Hoc Signo Vinces (By this sign you shall conquer); In Hoc Salus (Safety). In German: Iesus Heiland Seligmacher (Jesus, Redeemer and Saviour). In English: In His Service Whatever perspective is adopted to explain the "IHS" insignia, there is no single definitive meaning. Regardless of intent, a symbol has no particular meaning unless one is assigned to it. In other words the IHS on the cross in our sanctuary is meaningless to you, unless you assign meaning to it. In a similar fashion, it does one no good to wear a W.W.J.D (bracelet), or a cross, or a fish beyond adornment, if you don’t know what it means or assign it a meaning, it is meaningless. Madonna was once quoted that she loved crosses because a naked man hung on one. Religious symbolism is effective precisely in the measure in which it is helpful to the average person to understand an assigned deeper meaning. For example: The lighted candle is typical of the illumination of and spread of the gospel, but to others it is a representation of ongoing prayers. The giving of rings in a marriage ceremony is originally a pagan practice that has been given a “Christian” meaning of never ending love and fidelity. As for the letters on the cross in our sanctuary… if one of the historical possibilities assists you in your worship, then adopt it as your own. Because I am a student of history, I would lean toward one of the simplest, oldest and easiest to remember - The initials of Jesus inscribed on the cross. It reminds me of his great sacrifice and the empty cross reminds me of his victory over his death on the cross. If were a soldier serving in a holy war against Islam extremists, I might very well adopt the In Hoc Signo Vinces.I don’t know what you would choose, but if the symbol is to mean anything, you need to be intentional about making that choice.

Monday, August 12, 2013

INRI Not Just Letters on the Cross

INRI - What do these letters, commonly printed on top of the cross mean? Answer: The letters to which you are referring are "INRI." When crucifixions were commonplace, throughout the Roman Empire, it was customary to affix a board at the top of the cross detailing the crimes of the crucified person. This board was called titulus cruces. The letters "INRI" is an acronym of the Latin title that Pontius Pilate had written over the head of Jesus Christ on the cross, as recorded in John 19:19. The Roman procurator Pilate was reluctant to crucify Jesus because he could see no real justification. At that time, Jews had a treaty with Rome for self-government. The Jewish priests complained to Rome (Pilate) that Jesus was interfering with their self-rule, by establishing that he was a king. When Pilate challenged Jesus to deny this, Jesus did not refute the charge. With no denial forthcoming, Pilate announced a 'guilty by default' verdict. The priests demanded the death penalty. Pilate attempted to spare his life by offering the release of either Barabbas, a convicted murderer and thief or Jesus, who was well known for his good deeds. He was appealing to a Jewish custom of releasing a prisoner at the time of the Passover. His attempt failed when the Jews chose to release the notorious criminal. Therefore, the crime for which Jesus was crucified was 'King of the Jews', and this was duly painted on the titulus. The soldiers mocked Jesus for this so called crime by accenting his Title by placing a crown of thorns on His head and a dressing him in a scarlet robe. Pilate's title for Christ was written in three languages- Latin, Greek and Hebrew. The Early Church adopted the first letters of each word of the Latin (which later became the primary language in church) as a symbol and it appeared in many early paintings of the crucifixion. This title in Latin is "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum." That is: Iesus: Jesus, Nazarenus: of Nazareth, Rex: King, Iudaeorum: of the Jews. Latin uses "I" instead of the English "J". This title recognizes who Jesus truly was and is at the very moment he finally fulfilled all that the King of the Jews was to do for his people. He died for the sins of all who place their faith in him. By this work, he made the people of God to be far more than those who are Jews by birth. Rather, the true people of God are all who believe in Christ for salvation: If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:29) So when we see the letters, we are reminded that Jesus, our King, died in our place and paid for the sins of his people.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Bible from God's Perspective

I realize that a lot of people have problems understanding the Bible. There are a number of reasons for this, one being that it is a very complex book. The Bible is not completely linear historically from beginning to end; it has history, poetry, doctrine, and prophesies…etc. In other word's it is unlike any other book we have ever read. So I want to give you a way of looking at the scriptures that may help. Instead of looking at the Bible from our perspective alone, it helps to think of it from the standpoint of God’s work. The Bible records various kinds of disclosures from God: dreams, visions, direct writing (the tablets of the Law), messages through prophets, the words of Jesus, and the accounts of the people who knew Jesus. God led some to record the things that were passed down through oral tradition and others wrote previously unknown information. The Apostle John wrote what he observed: from the life of Jesus in his Gospel; from his experience and the testimony of others in the book of Acts; and of his revelation from Jesus in the book of the Revelation. It’s important that we remember that it’s all from God as a revelation to us. We usually think of revelation as only the disclosure of what was previously unknown. But that is only part of what is involved. For example, Luke knew many historical and geographic facts before he wrote the book of Acts. However, their precise combination of what he knew and what God revealed as a combination was a revelation, by the work of the Holy Spirit called inspiration. The entire Bible is Gods revelation to us. So what is a revelation? It is a revealing or communication of something enlightening or astonishing. A revelation from God is the revealing of a divine truth to human beings. We desperately need this information, because we are not able to discover these spiritual realities by ourselves. For example: without the Ps. 19:1–6; and Rom 1:19–20 we might either think the stars are some kind of deity (like the ancient Greeks) or randomly occurring fiery masses (like the modern atheist), rather than something created to display the glory of God. But the most important revelations have to do with our spiritual condition in relation to God. When we know the nature of God – both his wrath and his mercy; the sinful nature of humanity, the existence of a future judgment, etc., we realize that we are in need of a solution for our predicament. The things we can know about God from observing creation or ourselves (what theologians call general revelation) cannot help us with our sin problem. To put it into metaphor, we are in the dark about the spiritual nature of all things until God sheds light on it. Through the Bible we have a special revelation of God and His purposes for humanity. Ask yourself this question: How could you know God or His will for our lives without the Bible? Unless He Himself tells us, how could we ever know for sure the answers to the questions which matter most to us? Understanding that the Bible is a written revelation to us from God is an essential starting point that helps us figure out its meaning. The Bible is not a simple book. Could any book that proposes to reveal the nature of God, man and all eternal concerns be expected to be an easy read? But without its great truths we have no answers to the great questions which concern our soul. Without it, we are left with the very limited knowledge of man. History, math and science don’t help us in the realm of the spirit and soul. God’s revelation is a beacon of light in a very dark world and without it we merely stumble around in the shadows searching for a way out.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Increasing your Bible Vocabulary

Names are very significant in the Bible, whether they are people or places. Sometimes adding a single Hebrew or Greek word to your working knowledge can open new horizons of understanding. Take for example the name of the place BETH-EL. Maybe you have seen a churches by the name Bethel. Ever wonder why? Read on and you'll have your answer. Bethel is a town on the border of the territory of Ephraim (Josh. 16:1–4), at an important road junction 11 miles north of Jerusalem. Abraham built an altar there, Jacob had a dream there (Gen. 28:10–22), and named it Bethel: House (Beth) of God(El), which is the meaning of the Hebrew name. We also find Beth in Bethlehem (house of bread), Bethesda (House of grace) and Bethshan (house of quiet). Maybe when all my children leave the home I will re-name it Bethshan. You might recognize the similar el prefix or suffix in other Hebrew words like Immanuel, (God with us) Elijah (Jehovah is God), and Israel (He struggles with God)- The name given to Jacob when he struggled with God. Understanding a little word like El can also open doors of comprehension in your worship of el. By the way, you can usually read the meanings of names in the footnotes of any study Bible. I hope this vocabulary lesson will help you understand God's word better than before. Enjoy the word today.