The value of group Bible study

Which is more important: listening to a biblical sermon, personal Bible study, or studying the Bible in a small group? Trick question.

Obviously I believe in the importance of good biblical sermons. I’ve spent over forty years trying to craft them and deliver them. When Paul asks, “How shall they hear without a preacher,” I believe he’s stressing the importance of hearing the Word of God proclaimed.

However, when he tells Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved to God,” I think he has personal Bible study in mind. And when Luke commended the Bereans for “Examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so,” he was commending them for studying the Scriptures together. So all are important, and the question that needs to be asked is, are you doing all three?

The value of group Bible study was again made very evident at last week’s Wednesday night Bible Study. We are studying Romans, and are currently in the 7th chapter. When we got to the statement, “When the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me;” Casey spoke for most of us when he said, “I don’t get it!”

That led to a lot of productive discussion about what it meant, and a conclusion that did make sense. That discussion then led to a discussion about the distinction between the Law and commandments, which was concluded when Chris noted that Paul was still talking about a specific commandment, “You shall not covet,” not making a general statement about the Law and commandments. And that led to Carole sharing something she found online about the supposed distinction between God’s Law and the Mosaic Law. We agreed the statement was off- based because it ignored the fact that Moses didn’t write laws, he simply relayed God’s Law to His people.

I hope you get the point. If you are not currently studying in a group, you need to get in one.

God Bless, Rick

The importance of family structure

“Honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)

As the Apostle Paul made clear in Ephesians, that commandment contains a promise to children, encouraging them to obey their parents. When I read it again last week, something else became clear. God is also saying that He will allow the Israelites to live in the promised land as long as they respect the family structure He has ordained. While on the elliptical last week, I read something in Touchstone that confirms that additional truth.

“We agree with (Edmund) Burke that the foundation of the political order is the unalterable biological condition of human experience, particularly the mutual relationship of the two sexes and the proper, coherent structure of the family as the source of order and the living channel of tradition. These are the source, not only of fundamental moral responsibilities, but also of those profound emotional sentiments without which it is impossible to call a society ‘human.’ No political entity can long survive, we are persuaded, that ignores, scoffs at, or attempts to alter the human sentiments that bind husband and wife to one another, and parents and children together. The very idea of patriotism, to say nothing of the myriad political responsibilities of human beings in society, begins with the natural affections that bind a family together.”

In other words, society falls apart when the family structure is diminished.

The importance of acknowledging and honoring the family structure as ordained by God is further supported by another new understanding of Scripture I came to last week.

I have long thought the thrice repeated command, “You are not to boil a kid in the milk of its mother” made little sense. Now I believe it was given to make certain that we never demean the relationship between parent and child. And to make certain we never do, God wants it recognized even in the animals He has given us to eat.

God Bless, Rick

On Florida, the Super Bowl, & Black History Month

I’m going to try to tie together a Florida vacation, the Super Bowl, and Black History Month in one (and 1/2) column(s).

When the opportunity to spend a week at a friend’s condo in Florida arose, I had mixed emotions. I knew Marilyn would love it, but I’m not much of a beach bum. The idea of sitting in the sun listening to the surf isn’t exactly my cup of tea. To pass the time I decided to take a book that Duane Carrell had loaned me several weeks ago.

The book, subtitled “How to Turn Good Men into Whiners Weenies and Wimps”, was written by Burgess Owens, a team mate of Duane’s when he played with the New York Jets in the 70s. Owens also played in Super Bowl XV with the Oakland Raiders, thus the Super Bowl connection.

Owens began his book by stating, “My life has been filled with many blessings, the most important of these being the family, race, country, and era that I was born into.” He then goes on to note that he was raised in the 1950s and 60s era of segregation, and that “For those who grew up in the Deep South, in the days of the KKK and Jim Crow segregation, pride in community was not founded on the embellishment of opportunities lost due to racism. Instead it was built on the highlighting of the great accomplishments achieved, in spite of the obstacles.” He then notes how all thirteen children in his mother’s household went on to experience “the American dream buffet, which included higher education, successful marriages, families, business ownerships or long job careers, church and community involvement, college education for their children, vacations, reunions, and lifetimes of added-value to their communities and their proud Kirby name.”

The primary focus of his book is then on how much of the black community has lost what it once had, and how policies and programs that have a stated goal of improving their lot in life have actually reduced many to a state of total dependency and hopelessness. He tells of successful black role models of the past, and quotes Booker T. Washington.

“There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs—partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

Booker T. Washington died over a hundred years ago, but his statement still rings true. And while we do have a responsibility to care for those with legitimate needs, and come to the aid of those who are unable to defend themselves, what the Apostle Paul had to say to the Thessalonians nearly 2,000 years ago is perhaps the best answer for all concerned with inequities in society. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12)

God Bless, Rick