Happy New Year! In September?…

Tonight we'll Rosh Hashanah like it's 5759

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the New Year on the Jewish Calender. The above artwork is both amusing and informative. (I found it here.) Another great source of information about this and other Jewish holidays (all things Jewish, really) can be found here.

Rosh Hashanah 2014 begins at sundown on September 24 and ends at sundown on September 26. So, yes, Happy New Year! In September!

The Story by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee

Writing Bible on Scroll

Recently I was in a Christian bookstore and saw near the register a large column of books artfully arranged to draw the attention of shoppers. Having done its job of attracting my attention, I picked up one of the books and read the title – The Story, NIV: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee. I guess I’ve been out of it because even though this book was published in 2011, I had never heard of it. Anyway, I thought, “Hmmmm…. yes, the Bible IS the story of God and His people, but why did they need to write a book reiterating that? Can’t we just read the Bible to get the real story?” Apparently not.

The store employee explained to me that the book was different from the Bible in that the story was arranged chronologically. Okay, I have no problem with a chronological Bible. He went on to explain that it is the chronological story of the Bible written in novel form. Whoaaaahhh. Wait a minute. What?

A novel is defined as a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting sequential organization of action and scenes.” The Bible is NOT a novel. It is NOT fiction. Men and women write novels. God writes unerring truth. Novels do not have the power to change a life from the slavery of sin to the pursuit of righteousness creating a new creature in Christ. Only the living, breathing Word of God can do that.

A foundational tenant of Christianity is the inerrancy of Scripture. Second Peter 1:20-21 says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In other words, every word in the Bible came from God the Father to God the Holy Spirit to men. These men wrote what the Holy Spirit told them to write. What they wrote were God’s words not their own words. (A wonderful book explaining how books were chosen to be in the canon of Scripture is How We Got the Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot.) Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” The word “inspired” means God-breathed. God literally breathed out the words of the Bible. It is His Word to us. It is His story.

The title of the book leads one to think that this is another translation or version of the Bible not a novel. I don’t believe that the authors or publishers intended to deceive anyone, but I think it is misleading. And am I the only one who is tired of the dumbing down of Christianity? Everything has to be easy. Everyone wants the Bible CliffsNotes and the short road to holiness. No one wants to put any real effort into knowing God. It makes me think of Hosea 4:6 where God laments to the prophet Hosea that His people are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge of who He is and of His Word.

That’s where we are today. Christians would rather read short works of fiction than apply themselves to deep Bible study. That’s just too much effort. The good news for them is that The Story only has 31 chapters instead of 66 books like the real Bible has. Personally, I think if the Bible is God’s letter to us – and it is – and if He wrote 66 books in that letter – which He did – then we should read every one of them. And not just read them. We should study them, meditate on them, and live by them!

Please don’t read The Story to find out what God’s Word says. Read the original, unabridged version called The Holy Bible.  (And while we’re on the subject, please don’t read The Shack by William P. Young to understand God’s love for you. You’ll find that in the Bible, too!) Nothing – and I mean NOTHING – can ever replace your own personal discovery of the Scriptures. If you don’t know where to start, then click here for a free download on how to begin to study the Bible for yourself. Also, Precept Ministries has the best Bible studies available for every skill level. Click here to see what they offer.

Books about the Bible are not all bad. However, we should spend way more time reading the Bible itself than we spend reading books about it. If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit lives in you. One of His jobs is to be your Bible teacher (John 14:26; 1 John 2:27). How awesome is that? Become a student of His Word today!

 

 

*NEW* Genesis Key Word Symbol Sheets

Genesis Pt 1 KWS with watermark

Genesis Part 1 Key Word Symbol Sheet

Genesis Part 2 Key Word Symbol Sheet

Genesis Part 2 Key Word Symbol Sheet

It’s that time of year when school is starting back in most communities, and it is also the time when weekly Bible studies are starting back after the summer hiatus. Here at Precept Camden we are continuing our study in the book of Genesis and are picking up where we left off before summer. We are using Precept Ministries’ Precept Upon Precept workbooks which break the book of Genesis into 5 parts. We are getting ready to start Part 3. You can find all the info here on how you can study with us either in person or online.

If you are studying the book of Genesis, here are some Key Word Symbol Sheets that correspond to Genesis Part 1 and Genesis Part 2. Please remember that these symbols are just suggestions created to help you with marking the text which is one of the tools of inductive Bible study. They are suggestions. Feel free to make up your own symbols. The important thing is to get in the text and dig deep into the truths of God’s Word.

Click here to download a pdf of the Genesis Part 1 Key Word Symbol Sheets.

Click here to download a pdf of the Genesis Part 2 Key Word Symbol Sheets.

For more downloadable Key Word Symbol Sheets, click here.

Pray through Ramadan

Ramadan 2014

Ramadan is the holiest time of year for Muslims. Sadly, it is also a time when persecution against Christians in Islamic countries increases. This year Ramadan is June 28 through July 27 . Click here to sign up to receive the Open Doors 30 Day Ramadan Prayer Guide. During this season of Ramadan, let’s join together and pray for Muslims to know the peace of God and for Christians who live in Muslim countries to be strengthened and protected.

Dinosaurs: Stars of the Show

Dinosaurs Stars of the Show

 

I recently bought several new books for my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter. I read to her at nap time and felt like we needed to expand our literary horizons. I love reading to her the same books that I read to her daddy when he was little. Not just the same titles – the very same books. However, I wanted to find some books that both of us would enjoy and that would begin building a foundation of faith in her.

Dinosaurs: Stars of the Show by Amie Zordel was one of the books I purchased, and my granddaughter loves it. As in, I’ve-read-it-to-her-4-days-straight loves it. It tells the story of dinosaurs from a biblical perspective and is written in simple rhyme. It is very basic – which I love because it is simple enough for her to understand most of it. It also has lovely illustrations.

If you’re looking for an intellectual book with a deep, scholarly approach to the scientific questions about dinosaurs, this is not the book for you. If, however, you are looking for a book that is both scientific and biblical but is also simple enough for a toddler to enjoy, then this is definitely the book for you!

You can take a look at it here.

Heaven Is for Real

Heaven Is for Real

The movie Heaven Is for Real that opened in theaters a few weekends ago is based on the book of the same title written by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent. It tells the story of Colton Burpo’s brush with death and subsequent visit to heaven during a serious bout with appendicitis when he was almost 4 years old. Tales of “near death experiences” are nothing new and continue to be met with both skepticism and certitude in equal measure. Instead of automatically discrediting or endorsing these stories, they should be evaluated in light of Scripture. The Bible is God’s Word to us and is infallible. Any personal experience, near-death or otherwise, that contradicts Scripture must be abandoned. It must not be clung to or placed on equal terms with the inspired Word of God.

I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know how closely it follows the book. However, I did read the book Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. As told in the book, Todd and his wife Sonja did not learn of Colton’s visit to heaven until several months after his ordeal in the hospital. And it came out in a quite nonchalant way as they were in the car going on a trip. In the ensuing months, Colton’s parents delved deeper into his experience being very careful not to place thoughts in his head or words in his mouth. The more details he gave them, the more amazed they were. He told them things that he couldn’t have known such as his mom had miscarried a baby before he was born and his father was in a room alone praying while he underwent surgery.

People debate whether or not these things could have really happened. Some people are adamant that they could not. Just as many are adamant that they could and have happened. As I read Heaven Is for Real, I thought about 2 passages in the Bible. One is found in the book of Ezekiel. In Chapter 8, Ezekiel is in Babylon where he has been a captive for about 5 years. He is “caught up” and taken where he can see what is taking place in Jerusalem and even inside the walls of the Temple there. The other passage I think of is found in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about being taken up to heaven. He isn’t sure if he had a vision or was actually physically transported there, but either way the effect was the same. He saw things he couldn’t even articulate. So it seems clear to me that God can and has transported individuals to both earthly and heavenly places in ways that may be difficult for us to understand.

After reading the book Heaven Is for Real, the only real scriptural problem I have with it is Colton’s claim that everyone in heaven has wings just like the angels. I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that human beings and angels are different. People do not become angels and receive wings when they go to heaven. They do receive glorified bodies that seem to be similar to earthly bodies, only without the effects that sin ravages on those bodies in the way of diseases and aging. Examples in Scripture indicate that people with glorified bodies are somehow recognizable as who they were on earth.

In a nutshell, I don’t see anything unbiblical in the book (other than the aforementioned wings in heaven). I believe the Burpo’s have shared their son’s story to glorify God and His miraculous ways and not in order to bring any notoriety to themselves or their son. Colton himself, even at the tender age of 4, was adamant that a person must have Jesus in his heart in order to go to heaven which is absolutely biblical. (John 14:6 – “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.'”)

I would encourage you to be careful about judging the Burpo’s story if you’ve only seen the movie. Based on some of the reviews I’ve read, I think the producers have taken some liberties with the story and watered down the message of the book. Read the book and get the real story. Read the book and line it up with Scripture. Read the book and see the glory of the amazing God of the universe. I believe that’s the real message here and the intention of the Burpo family. It’s not about them, their son, or even a miracle. It’s about the God of Miracles!

The Apostle John says it best: “Many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30-31

Summer Bible Study

Beach Chairs with Scripture

Precept Camden’s online and in-person Bible study on Genesis (Chapters 1-11) just ended. We will resume our study in Genesis around the time that school begins in August. After teaching Bible study for over 15 years, I have learned that taking a break during the summer is a good idea, especially since we live in a coastal town. It’s awfully hard to commit to be at Bible study every week when the sun, sand, and waves are calling your name.

However, that doesn’t mean that you have to go the whole summer without studying the Bible! In fact, I highly encourage you NOT to go the whole summer without studying your Bible. There are some wonderful online options that will enable to you participate in a group study throughout the summer. The cool thing is that not only will you still have the benefit of listening to a class discussion which gives you input and insights from other students, but you will also be able to do it at your own pace and in your own time frame.

All of Precept Camden’s past Bible studies remain on the Listen Here page for you to access any time you want. Currently, there are at least 14 different studies from which to choose. The audio files can be downloaded to your laptop or mp3 player so you can listen on the go.

Another wonderful place to find online, self-paced Bible studies for the summer months is Beloved Truth. Beloved Truth is a ministry dedicated to “Exalting the SAVIOR and Equipping the Saints!” There are so many options available through their website – live online Bible studies, self-paced studies, podcasts, and more. So much to choose from! Check out their website belovedtruth.com. There is definitely something for everyone.

You can also find online Bible studies and Bible study training at the Precept Online Community here.

So please enjoy your summer but don’t forget Bible study! While you’re digging your toes in the sand, keep digging into  God’s Word where you’ll find words of life and hope and wisdom for your life.

To see Precept Camden’s Fall 2014 schedule, click here.

The Feasts of Israel

Feasts of Israel

This evening at sundown the Jewish festival of Passover ends. This week long holiday celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt almost 3,000 years ago. The Book of Exodus tells the story of this miraculous event. The chart pictured above gives an excellent overview of all the feasts of Israel. You can also find great information here and here.