Saturday, October 12, 2013

Reading the Bible Devotionally

I've noticed something awkward that can happen when someone is leading devotions and a Steve Lennox or Bud Bence is in the room. Frankly, it happens a lot when a pastor is in the room. The person leading the devotions can be uncomfortable to share out of fear that they'll get some interpretation wrong.

Here's the big secret. God does not primarily speak through Scripture by way of the "expert" meaning, I don't think. Rather, the Spirit can trigger wisdom and spiritual insight through the text whether it has anything to do with what the text meant originally or not.  Like I said the other day, there are experts on the Bible and it takes years of intense study to truly become one. But you don't have to be an expert for God to speak to you through Scripture.  Otherwise we'd all be sunk.

I heard a devotional the other day.  It was a great devotional that urged us on to healthy lives that took time for God and for rest in our lives.  The author of the biblical text in question might not have recognized much of anything in the devotional. But it doesn't matter because God used the devotional to speak truth to us that fit with the big truths of Scripture.

I venture to say that the majority of stuff preached from the pulpits of the world every Sunday goes well beyond anything the sermon texts and their authors ever imagined. Some of it is probably way off in one respect... and yet way true in another. That's the way the Spirit works, I think, more often than not. Half the time we think we're getting a truth from the Bible we're actually getting a truth from the Spirit, triggered through the words of the Bible.  It's a dance we do with the Spirit and the text.

By the way, I would even put a lot of the insights of a Dennis Kinlaw in this category.  Sure, he knows Hebrew.  He knows the history of interpretation of the Old Testament. He knows the history of the ancient near east like nobody's business. But his preaching insights?  I don't actually think Moses or David or Isaiah would recognize half of it.  But the Spirit has given Kinlaw massive spiritual insight and wisdom in his lifelong dancing with the biblical texts.

So boldly lead your devotionals from the Bible without worrying about whether your wisdom is exactly what the text meant originally. Boldly preach that sermon God has laid on your heart whether you know Greek or not.  Wisdom and insight is not limited to the original meaning. Frankly, the experts often disagree on what the original meaning was in the first place.

If you have the Spirit of Christ--and thus read the Bible with the eyes of faith, hope, and love--the Spirit will steer you and your community of faith in the right direction.


Susan Moore said...

Dr. Schenck, your words today would be very soothing, I believe, to people who are concerned that learning about the Bible will take away their faith in the Word.
I believe we belong to a body, and the body is to do together God’s work on this earth. It seems part of what God’s been doing in my life this past 18 months or so is having me knock on church doors. I show the church leader(s) my ‘stuff’ –the stuff God has given me- and see if any of it interests them. The stuff is my healing testimony, TCLoG, Orphans and Widows Ministry, and my local community ministry.
Other than encouraging me to send people I meet to their churches, there has been no Protestant takers for any part of it.
Which means I have not found a Protestant community of faith here.
I have three courses left, and am scheduled to complete the degree requirements in April. Recently I have applied for a nursing job here for a company I used to work for, and I am sensing positive vibes from them. And more recently I discovered that they have a facility in Fort Wayne, IN., and now I’m wondering if God’s actually been having me knock on your door for the same reasons He’s been having me knock on the others.

Ken Schenck said...

You mean to start an MDiv? We're about 45 minutes south of Ft. Wayne. The onsite classes are one day a week. This year's day is Thursday.

However, I personally would recommend that you get established in a community of faith before you would start something like an MDiv. Not only do assignments require engagement with a local church but I would hate for you to find yourself in the same situation you are now after spending the money!

Susan Moore said...

That's part of it. I'm thinking (out loud) that if I get this job here then I would be able to afford a car.
With a car I can get to the Wesleyan church in my city (I can't get there on a bus in time for Sunday's service).
I guess at that point it would depend on the interests of that local church when I show them the stuff God has given me to share, or if I would consider moving to IN and belonging to the CWC in Marion, or if I'd move on and keep knocking on church doors.
More thoughts?

Ken Schenck said...

I get afraid when I see what high hopes you have for a local church. You believe you have special revelations from God. This rarely goes over well in a local church. Prophets, both the authentic and the non-authentic, often end up starting their own communities for this reason. The smaller the local church (and most Wesleyan churches are small and not nearly as open to spiritual gifts as I am), the more likely the resistance. The larger the church, the easier it is to get lost.

Although I don't really know you, my advice would be to ask God to give you a peace regardless of what is going on around you in whatever place of worship you are. Find a place where you can be at peace, even if you do not have an opportunity to lead or share. If the Lord opens a door for you to share revelations, walk through the door.

I don't know if that is a word for you or not, but it is what came to me.

Susan Moore said...

Thank you so much for saying that! I have been under the assumption since my salvation at 12that God speaks, or is willing to speak, directly to everyone. In that no one at my former church would openly speak to me about these things, I thought there was something wrong with them.
Perhaps, then, that it is best that I stay out of the formal churches, and instead stay with the unchurched church in my community. I find peace there. I met them already knowing God the same way I do.
I don't care if I lead, but I do care that I share with others the skills and gifts that God has given me, and serve within my skill set because I believe that is what He intends for us all to do. I guess I've been expecting to find a team spirit within a local church.
Since leaving my church Jesus has sent me on a pilgrimage to go back to the beginning and trace my religious steps.
The first place was Catholic, and two weeks ago I went to a Catholic Church and also spoke with a priest, and they accepted all that God has given me, and me, too. So, maybe that's it.
Thanks so much for listening, and helping me figure these things out!

Susan Moore said...

Been thinking…
Hallucinations seem real. For example, reach for something you see in your present environment, and imagine as you are expecting to touch it instead it disintegrates before your eyes and disappears as your hand falls through the empty air. Hallucinations can affect each sense; seeing, hearing, touching, being touched, smelling, and tasting. People can also have hallucinatory emotions and thought patterns. Hallucinations are deceptive and, if believed and followed, can be destructive or deadly. Hallucinations come from the realm of Satan, not God.
I started hallucinating from PTSD when I was 10. By the time I was 12 and saved by grace, all of my senses experienced hallucinations, and I also experienced the emotive and thought ones. I also experienced negative hallucinations; that’s when something that’s really there disappears. For example, someone would be talking to me and their sound would cut off but their lips would keep on moving.
So although I had a Bible, I had no church, and I prayed to understand His Book better. And Jesus is faithful and true. If He did not explain it to me directly, by speaking to me, how could I understand?
When He miraculously healed me of the hallucinations five years ago, with all the newness in my life, my overwhelming fear was that He would stop speaking to me –how would I know His ‘voice’?
It’s common for Christians who hallucinate to hear Jesus speak to them when they pray or ask for direction. As an R.N. I have educated many doctors that that is normal; that there is no similarity between a person’s report of hearing God (or having God inside of them, or being empowered by God in prayer to get through one’s difficulties), and saying that one IS God, or that one has super-human power inside of them and can fly away out the 3rd floor window.
Looking back, I wonder if all those doctors were really non-Christians as I assumed.
Our ‘conversation’ had put in me a sense of urgency to get the part of Orphans and Widows Ministry up and running that will explain to people what a Christian is.
Let’s pray today for Christians who hallucinate, ok?

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for this. I guess that this flexibility is not an excuse for deliberately contradicting the original meaning, though.

Martin LaBar said...

I forgot to click the "follow-up comments" button . . .

Ken Schenck said...

I do remember hearing a sermon on Isaiah 35:8 in the KJV: "the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." The sermon was saying that you did not need to be smart to be holy. Even a fool could find his way on the highway of holiness. The point was true to be sure.

The problem is that a fool here is a wicked person and it is in parallel to the "unclean" even in this verse. The holiness preacher, knowing nothing of Hebrew or parallelism, was actually taking the verse somewhat opposite to its original sense--no wicked people will wander (err) onto the holy path back to Zion, possibly from captivity in Babylon.

So here is an example of devotional preaching (as most is) that had a true point but was fantastically ignorant of the original meaning.

Martin LaBar said...

Yes. That wasn't deliberate, of course, but could have been truer to the original meaning, and still made the point, I guess.

John Mark said...

I have thought about this off and on since you posted it. Just want to say thanks not just for the post but for allowing all of us to be a part of the 'conversation' here.

Susan Moore said...

'Ditto' to what John Mark said.