The Control Freak And Jesus

Control Freak

There’s This Thirty-Something

There’s this thirty-something in my life who is always asking me these great questions about the Bible: provocative questions, hard questions, but very interesting questions. And it’s caused me to look at the Bible differently. I read and hear so much about how the Bible is restrictive. But this person with the questions has got me thinking about the freedom God has given us. Freedom to make our own choices. Have you ever considered what’s not illegal in the Old Testament? For instance, prostitution is not illegal in the Old Testament, and neither is polygamy. I’m not saying that either of those are good, I’m just saying neither of those is illegal in the civic code given to Israel in the Old Testament. People are free to engage in these activities without legal repercussions, though the spiritual ramifications and life consequences are still there (see Proverbs 23:27 and 29:3).

The point is, God is radical when it comes to our freedom. He wants us to have the freedom to do what we want, even when it’s wrong. And it’s really made me look at my own ideas about what God wants me to do concerning the behavior of others. Because sometimes I want other people to do what I want them to do, and I can get frustrated when they don’t.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Maybe you want to spend money a certain way but your wife wants to do it her way. Or maybe you want more time to recreate with the guys, but she has other ideas. Or maybe it’s just deciding what to do for dinner (not that this question would ever result in a disagreement). Whatever it is, our perspective changes when we Continue reading

Why I Struggle With The Old Testament

Problem with BibleWhy I Struggle With the Old Testament

I’ve posted a few articles recently about the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. I was inspired to do so by a seminary student friend who used to be an atheist. He told me he became a Christian when he learned about the reliability of the New Testament scriptures. But he also explained to me the process the Jewish people went through to copy the Torah. If they made a single mistake they would destroy the document and start over. The ancient Hebrew, like English today, has a numeric value associated with each letter (in English A=1, B=2, C=3, and so on). After copying each line of scripture, they would add up the numeric value of each line and compare it to the original. If there was a difference, they destroyed the document and started over.

It’s Not the Accuracy, It’s What It Says

So it’s not the accuracy of the Old Testament scriptures that bothers me. What bothers me about the Old Testament is what’s written. Some of the Continue reading

God, Fire, and Interpretation: Genesis 40:1-8

Four adults and three children were killed in this house fire in Philadelphia (Photo Credit: article.wn.com)

Read Genesis 40:1-8

In the last post on Genesis, we saw how Joseph, a young man, in the prime of his life and possessing all the desires young men in their prime possess, somehow avoided succumbing to the relentless propositions of Potiphar’s wife. (see previous post: Joseph’s 5 Steps to Avoid Temptation) At the end of the previous chapter, she (falsely) accuses him of rape. It was the word of a slave, against the word of the wife of a high government official, and, of course, she won. So Joseph finds himself in a dungeon. But, by God’s grace, he also finds favor with the warden of the dungeon. And after awhile, the warden puts him in charge of other prisoners.

In today’s post we’ll learn about two of Pharaoh’s prisoners, the cupbearer and the baker, and their respective dreams. And we’ll look at interpretation as it relates to fire, and as it relates to God.

Genesis 40:1-8

So Joseph has been in prison for some time when a couple of new convicts arrive. They were officials in the king’s court who had offended their master, the Pharaoh. One was the chief cupbearer, and the other the chief baker. And Joseph is assigned to take care of both of them.

They had been in custody for awhile when each of them, the cupbearer and the baker, has a dream on the same night, and each dream has its own meaning. The only thing is, neither of them can figure it out.

When Joseph shows up the next morning he can tell they’re both dejected. So he asks, Why so sad?

They both answer, We both had dreams but there’s no one to interpret them.

Then Joseph says, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

Interpretation: Fire and God

On the topic of interpretations, and who they belong to: In my thirty years in the fire service, I have heard of only one person crazy enough to disregard the interpretation of a fire scene by firefighters. Unfortunately I experienced it first hand. The call came in around 7 in the morning, as a house fire with children trapped at 503 Alberts St. When we rolled up we saw the house was well involved with fire. I’ll never forget my surprise when, as we deployed off our fire engines, we were met by a man screaming obscenities. He was, if you will, challenging our interpretation of the fire scene — in no uncertain terms. He continued to scream obscenities at us while we removed three children trapped in a back bedroom of the burning house. Sadly, we were too late to save two of them. One survived.

Later we found out the man screaming was a neighbor, and Vietnam vet, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. After it was all over, he apologized profusely. He felt terrible. I actually feel sorry for the guy.

Let me ask you something:

If your house was on fire.

And your family was trapped inside.

And you were standing out in the street next to me.

And a half dozen or so fire engines rolled up to the scene.

Would you interpret that fire scene — or would you rely on me, as a firefighter, to interpret it for you?

Of course, you would rely on my interpretation — even though you wouldn’t understand much of what I did. Undoubtedly you’d have questions. Why are you cutting a hole in my roof? you might ask. Why are you using precious time to take your fire hose all the way around to the back? you may question. What are you doing with those big fans? And what does all this have to do with saving my family?

Yes, you would definitely have questions. There would definitely be things you wouldn’t understand. But to give you and your family the best possible chance, you’d rely on my interpretation anyway.

You would put your faith in me, as a firefighter, and you would be wise to do so. If you tried to figure it out yourself, your family could die in the flames.

And yet, the difference between me and you isn’t that great. After all, I’m just a man. My time on the earth may not be as long as yours. My life experience might not be as extensive as yours. My accomplishments probably aren’t as great as yours.

But still, you’d rely on my interpretation.

How much more then, should we rely on Jesus Christ’s interpretation of the scriptures, because of who He is.

I’m not talking about checking your brain. I enjoy discussing questions concerning scripture with others, and also exploring questions about scripture myself. Romans 12:2 says we’re to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. And the Jews of Berea received Paul’s information, but they had questions. So they diligently researched to see if what he was saying was true. (Acts 17:10-12)

Asking questions about the Bible is healthy and should be commended. The people at Berea were said to be of more noble character than others.

What I’m talking about is recognizing who Jesus is compared to who you are and who I am.

So who does Jesus say he is?

He said, He was with God before the world even existed. (John 17:5)

Jesus said to His disciples, If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. How can you even say, Show us the Father? (John 14:9)

In these and other places in the Bible, Jesus says He is God.

In John 10:33 we see clearly, the Jews understood Jesus claim that He was God: “We are not stoning you for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”  they said.

So it makes sense for you to rely on me, a mere man, not much different than you, for the interpretation of a fire scene, and for the salvation of your family from a house fire. How much more then, does it make sense for you to rely on the Christ, who is God, as much as you possibly can, for your interpretation of scripture, as well as your salvation.

The only thing that makes sense is to rely on Jesus’ view of scripture.

And how does He see it?

I think it’s impossible to read the four gospels without coming to the conclusion Jesus viewed (and views) scripture as God’s word.

“But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.” Jesus said, substantiating the account of the destruction of Sodom. (Luke 17:29)

“Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.” Jesus said, confirming manna fell from heaven (John 6:49)

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—” Jesus stated, validating Daniel of the Old Testament as a real and genuine prophet. (Matthew 24:15)

Let the reader understand, Jesus really did view the Old Testament as God’s word. He quoted from twenty four different books of the Old Testament. He quoted from it often and as having the weight of God’s authority behind it. He accepted the Old Testament as “that which was spoken unto you by God” (Matthew 22:31) But please, let me encourage you not to take my word for it. Read the gospels and see for yourself.

I don’t think there’s any question, we’ll never understand everything in the Old Testament, or the New Testament for that matter, this side of heaven. The interpretation of scripture is infinitely more complex than the interpretation of a fire scene. If you have questions about a fire scene, it’s only natural you would have questions about scripture. But because Jesus is God, the only thing that makes sense is to view the scriptures as He did.

I know how to rescue people from a house fire (IF, you give me a handful of fire engines and 20 or so trained firefighters). So you put your faith in me. Jesus knows how to raise people from the dead! I know how to extinguish the flames. So you put your faith in me. Jesus created fire, and everything in the earth, and the entire universe!

In fact, because Jesus is God, it makes infinitely more sense for you to rely on Jesus for your interpretation of scripture, than it does for you to rely on me to interpret a fire scene. In either case, if you try to lean on your own understanding, you and the people you love and care about will get burned. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

In the end, what you’re left with is a choice: Will you buy the secular criticisms of the Bible so prevalent on the internet today? Or will you believe God’s word in the same way Jesus did?

Will you believe the critics or Christ?

“Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8)

Joseph said it well.

Put your faith in Him.