Allowing Scripture to use Humor and Figure of Speech

When I recorded this today I did not realize we were already at the end of the Sabbath School quarter. This year is flying by!

The Bible is a Love Story and not a Collection of Proof Texts

Al Lopez Park

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:31 NLT

In Jacqueline van Maarsen’s book, My Name is Anne, She Said, Anne Frank, Jacqueline tells the story about her best friend, Anne Frank. When Anne Frank went into hiding, she could not tell her best friend goodbye. That would have been to dangerous. In order to protect your family, you simply disappeared with no explanation to anyone. While in hiding Anne did write a goodbye letter to Jacqueline, telling her sorry she could not say goodbye and that she did love her. having no possible way to deliver the letter, Anne simply hid it her diary. After being caught and taken to a concentration camp, Anne died just three weeks before American forces came to liberate the camp. Anne’s father was the only one in the family to survive the war.When he returned to the village where his family and he were captured, he found the house where they stayed. The landlady was still there. She gave Anne’s father the diary of Anne ‘s that she had found in the attic. Anne’s father saw the letter to Jacqueline and and found her and gave her the letter. Finally Jacqueline could read the letter her friend so lovingly wrote even though she had no way of delivering it or knowing that it ever would be delivered.

Anne Frank wrote a letter with no way possible of delivering that letter. In the middle of the chaos of a war where neighborhoods were blown to smithereens, and all of Europe was in upheaval, God watched over that letter, and made for sure that it got into the hands of the person Anne wrote it too. Why did God protect that letter in the middle of the chaos of war? Because Jacqueline needed to know she was loved.

In the middle of a cosmic conflict between good and evil, Christ and Satan, God wrote a love letter to all humanity. He wrote that love letter to you, my friend. Throughout the dark ages, Satan has done all he could to destroy that letter to make sure it never got into your hands. Yet men gave their lives to preserve that letter, and to translate that letter into your language. The Bible is the one book that man has tried to wipe out for centuries, and yet it is the one book that has survived for centuries. God has watched over His own love letter to make sure that it got into your hands. Why did God protect that letter in the middle of the chaos of a cosmic war? Because you need to know you are loved.

Suppose once Anne’s letter was miraculously placed into Jacqueline’s hands, she thought to herself, “This looks boring. I don’t think I want to read it?”  That would be unthinkable! Yet after all God has done to miraculously place the Bible into the hands of people, that is the attitude many have. That is too sad! I pray that you take time to read God’s miraculous love letter to you.

Years ago the church I was in had a prophecy seminar series. a young man I will call Nate, attended with his wife. They were fascinated by all the prophecies, especially the mark of the beast. Nate understood that the Mark of the beast was choosing a common day of worship over the day God made holy. Nate loved talking theorizing about how the mark would actually be administered. Would it be a computer program? A chip? Would it be a debit card? Instead of absorbing his mind with the love of Jesus, he absorbed his mind with conspiracy theories surrounding Bible prophecy. One day I was hanging out with Nate and his wife, when as usual he started talking about how the mark would be given. This time I finally asked him, “Nate suppose you knew exactly how the mark would be administered. How would that information make you more like Jesus and help you love him more?”  Nate gave me a look of surprise and a response similar to “What does that have to do with anything?” Sadly Nate and his wife did not stay long in the church. He was wrapped up in prophecy conspiracies and proof texts, and never did truly see the love letter that was placed in his hand.

When I first came to a certain church to be a Bible Worker, I met a couple of men in the church who were starch King James Version only men.  They were always putting together presentations touting the supremacy of the KJV, forgetting it was a version also. It was not the original manuscripts. The tow men worked together during the week. One day I was at their office, and as always they were having an intellectual conversation on the virtues of the KJV. Well, since I am a fairly simple guy, and obviously not too intellectual, I decided to try to simplify the discussion and bring it down to my lever. So since I was still relatively new to the church, in an order to become better acquainted, I asked them how they came to know Jesus as their Savior and how His love has changed their lives.  They both looked at me like a deer in the headlights. Neither of them could simply tell me what Jesus meant to them.

A while back I was talking with an Adventist missionary pastor, who is known for his solid Adventist theology. Even with his devoted appreciation of Adventist theology, he shared with me why the Adventist church is not growing more. He said, “we are so concentrated on being right, that we forget to be relational.”  Jesus was always right, but he was also always relational. While sharing proof texts do we also teach people how to have their own personal relationship with Jesus? Do we present the Bible to the unbeliever as a collection of proof texts or as a love letter? Thousands have made it through the Adventist school system with their minds filled with proof texts about the Sabbath and state of the dead, but their hearts have never read the love letter in their hands. Thousands have sat in prophecy seminars where proof texts where shared on the screen one right after the other, proving we are right, but did they see anything relational?

Here is what Ellen White said in regard to those who use isolated verses as proof texts to prove their own belief, which applies to Adventists as well.

Some will take a text, wrest it from its true bearing, and force it into service to sustain some preconceived opinion. By linking together isolated passages of Scripture, they may deceive others. But what appears to be Bible proof for their position is no proof whatever; for the scriptures are not used in their true setting. In this way error is often magnified, and truth diminished. Those who thus wrest the scriptures to sustain error, greatly dishonor God, and in the day of judgment, they will be held responsible for the disobedience of those who through their sophistries have been led to disregard the divine law. –Ellen White, Review and Herald, August 13, 1959 

Simply put, proof texting is when you look for verses in the Bible to prove what you believe instead of reading with an open mind like the Bereans did in Acts 17:11.

God did not protect Anne’s letter during the chaos of war to prove that Anne was right. He protected it to prove that Jacqueline was loved. Jesus did not die on the cross to prove that He was right. He died to prove that you are loved. God preserved the Bible so you would know you are loved.

There is a joke a like to tell whenever anyone mentions the dictionary. I tell people,” I tried reading the dictionary but I could not follow the plot”. It brings chuckles because of course there is no plot. The dictionary is simply a collection of definitions and facts with no plot or story line. But the Bible is not a mere collection of facts and proof texts. The Bible has a plot. The Bible has  a story line. It is a love story. By reading the Bible the way you would a dictionary things are taken out of context and we miss the purpose of why the Bible was written. Please don’t try to read this greatest love story the way you would a lifeless dictionary. Don’t miss the entire reason the Bible was written.

But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:31 NLT

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

The Real Reason Why There are so Many Different Christian Denominations

Al Lopez Park

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have heard it said, there are many different Christian denominations because the Bible can be interpreted many different ways. This simply is not true, and an insult to God, making it look like He is not smart enough to provide a Book that can be understood, or has trouble explaining Himself. After the cross, there were many home churches and synagogues, but there were no denominations. It was all one church. This church was severely persecuted after the cross. But then something worse than persecution met the church, and that was compromise!

The great adversary now endeavored to gain by artifice what he had failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected other essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God and to believe in His death and resurrection, but they had no conviction of sin and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart. With some concessions on their part they proposed that Christians should make concessions, that all might unite on the platform of belief in Christ. Now the church was in fearful peril. Prison, torture, fire, and sword were blessings in comparison with this. Some of the Christians stood firm, declaring that they could make no compromise. Others were in favor of yielding or modifying some features of their faith and uniting with those who had accepted a part of Christianity, urging that this might be the means of their full conversion. That was a time of deep anguish to the faithful followers of Christ. Under a cloak of pretended Christianity, Satan was insinuating himself into the church, to corrupt their faith and turn their minds from the word of truth.
Most of the Christians at last consented to lower their standard, and a union was formed between Christianity and paganism. Although the worshipers of idols professed to be converted, and united with the church, they still clung to their idolatry, only changing the objects of their worship to images of Jesus, and even of Mary and the saints. The foul leaven of idolatry, thus brought into the church, continued its baleful work. Unsound doctrines, superstitious rites, and idolatrous ceremonies were incorporated into her faith and worship. As the followers of Christ united with idolaters, the Christian religion became corrupted, and the church lost her purity and power. There were some, however, who were not misled by these delusions. They still maintained their fidelity to the Author of truth and worshiped God alone. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 42-43 

The problem was not that the Bible was not plain enough to understand. The problem was that superstition and sin were welcomed into the church to make the church vogue and world friendly.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV 

The problem Paul is describing to Timothy does not have anything to do with the Bible being contradictory or too hard to understand. It has to do with people not wanting to know the plain truths of the Bible and wanting to believe lies and fables instead.

This happened in the very beginning. God clearly told Adam and Eve that if they ate the forbidden fruit they would die. Satan told a simple lie, “Ye shall not surely die” and without any evidence or further ado Eve bought it because it sounded good! See Genesis 3:4. Today Satan’s lie is being taught from pulpits even though the Bible is very clear that the dead are resting in their graves right now, waiting on the resurrection, while  1 Timothy 6:16  tells us plainly that only God is immortal.

Now not everyone has chosen to believe a lie. Some have actually been deceived because of things they were sincerely taught wrong. This is the fault of those who were spreading lies intentionally, and not the fault of the Bible authors not being able to write clear enough to be understood. Of course preconceived ideas, that originated from these lies  hinder our understanding of the Bible. Revelation describes a 1260 year period of spiritual darkness, when Bibles were replaced with superstition. However a reformation came, bringing the light of God’s Word. In Revelation 18:4 God calls His people out of the darkness of Babylon’s false teachings and into the light found in the Bible. So, with so many lies and preconceived ideas, how can we find Bible truth?

Lets be open minded or “fair minded” when studying Scripture, putting all preconceived ideas away, and search (searching and casually reading are two different things!) the Scriptures to see if what we are being told is true.

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:11 NKJV

Let’s compare Scripture with Scripture letting the Bible interpret itself so that we get the big picture. We can’t draw conclusions from one simple verse. We must compare verses to let the Bible interpret itself. For example, in Ecclesiastes 12:7 it says when man dies his spirit returns to God who gave it. That alone sounds like we go to heaven when we die, only because of our preconceived ideas we have heard from the father of lies.  When we compare Scripture we read in Job 27:3 that the spirit is simply our breath. So all Ecclesiastes 12:7 is saying, is that when we die God takes away His breath. That is all. Isaiah tells us to study by comparing multiple texts.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line,

Here a little, there a little.” Isaiah 28:10 NKJV 

Fortunately we don’t have to try to do all this on our own. We can pray when we study our Bibles, and if we are studying with an open mind, comparing Scripture with Scripture, the Holy Spirit will lead us into ALL truth! Thank God for the various Christian denominations, who have exposed various Satanic lies, and have helped us recover various Bible truths. As we continue studying the Bible we will be led into all of God’s truth, instead of just various truths.

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…John 16:13 NKJV

Yes Satan’s lies, and the church replacing God’s Word with fables and superstition took the church into the dark ages. But God’s Word is victorious (Of course God always had His people in every age who went by the Bible instead of superstition) in bringing us out of the darkness and into the light of God’s love!

You may study more Bible teachings in the light of God’s love here.