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Hello. Bonjour. Ciao. Olá. Hallo. Grüezi.
Once every year, Jews around the world celebrate the biblical festival of Shavuot or Pentecost to commemorate the giving of the Torah (תורה) on Mount Sinai. We think that the word Torah means Scripture, usually the Five Books of Moses, but it can refer to all religious learning.
In Hebrew, the word means “instruction” but it is more than that.
It means An Arrow of faith.
It is derived from ירה, literally meaning “to shoot an arrow.” This word is usually reserved for military or hunting exploits, like the biblical account of David and Jonathan when David said “I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target” 1 Samuel 20.20
The common denominator is hitting the target. The Hebrew describes a great teacher as someone who must be an accurate shooter—hitting the target. A hunter must approach his prey quietly and only looses an arrow when he is confident of hitting the target. In like manner, a good teacher approaches his task carefully and fires arrows of wisdom into the student’s heart and mind, so that the instruction can take hold and be truthfully effective.
The problem facing us today is that we are being bombarded by an abundance, if not overkill of information.
You may have heard of some what I am about to say before and wonder if you really need to continue, but it is good to constantly remind ourselves of them. God repeats Himself!
My greeting was a simple one, “hello”, but in other languages it differs as we see in the word Grüezi above. Notice the little dots above some letters. We shall see more of them later.
When we think of the ways we handle church and in particular the word of God, we tend to think in the light of our programming, natural reasoning, mindsets, pre-conceived ideas and live experiences and they might not be truthful.
As a non-denominational minister of the Gospel coming into my 51st year with the Lord, I have had the opportunity to minister across many platforms and seen at first hand how we are a mixed and often funny bunch of people. My ministry reaches into at least 26 nations around the world, so I know that each and every one of us is different.
My wife was born in Liverpool in the UK. I was born in Adelaide, South Australia and have a proportion of Jewish blood by direct descendency.
Some friends were born in the Philippines. Others come from a range of countries in Africa, or Asia and in each country, from differing tribal groups.
Some of us have white skin, some have brown skin, others have dark skin and we live in different climates, with different manners and customs, clothing and food.
Talk about a mixed bunch, but we do however share many things in common, despite a few differences.
For some strange reason, we sometimes seem to agree to disagree on spiritual matters. We differ on the day we attend service and debate if it is a Saturday or Sunday; differ over communion because some folk have made it a sacrament whilst others view it as a memorial celebration. Our forms of service vary according to the denomination and even to the church we attend and then there are differences of approach to prayer, finances, dress code or even what “version of the bible” is best.
It would be easy to say that it does not matter, but I think it does matter if it is not the truth—if we are not shooting the arrow straight and true and hitting the target and this is our problem. What is truth and on what basis do we determine who is right and who is wrong?
Fundamentally our whole belief is based on what we read in the bible, but again, what “version” do we use and how do we go about reading a bible? There are different approaches to this also. We can read to get information only, read because “we are supposed to”, read it when we “feel like it”, read it mechanically just so we get it done, or read it in many other ways. The important thing is to read a bible because it is our user manual and because God can speak to us from the pages.
The latter is of most importance. The only problem is how to go about it and actually get something out of it.
Many people who say that they love the Lord, simply do not know how to read God’s word, if they do at all.
Some are not sure of its authenticity. Others find it confusing, especially when reading older translations like the King James Version, but it need not be so and I shall address this shortly.
Our belief structures are being challenged everywhere and the bible is being attacked. Some folk, even church folk doubt that it is God’s word to us or is no longer relevant.
Psalm 119:99 Isaiah 40:8 Matthew 24:35 Luke 21:33 and 1 Peter 1:25 are a few illustrations that say God’s word is God’s word and abides forever.
Passages like 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 show us that scripture is divinely inspired. We are told in places like Deuteronomy Deuteronomy 4:2 Deuteronomy12:32 Proverbs 30:6 and Revelation 22:19 not to take anything away or add to it, but sadly, many folk try to do just that.
God’s word is the source of truth and the handbook of living and I could share scores of scriptures to affirm that statement, but many folk simply do not know how to tap into the source and let God talk to them from it. Others choose to look elsewhere and spend most of their time searching for all kinds of things that might or might not be true and their lives are often in a mess.
They are living less than God’s best, going from crisis to crisis, lost like a goose in a fog and going around in circles getting nowhere. It is easy to tell who they are, but equally as sad is the fact that they believe in God. That means little because, according to James 2:19 even the devils believe in God.
Many people spend vast amounts of time getting information, but many issues are based on assumption, heresay, leaping to conclusions and often based on somoene’s personal viewpoint or opinion and not necessarily on real truth.
Many of the issues presented to us hinge around one of two things—information or truth, but they are not always the same
What is truth?
WHAT is truth? Pilate asked Jesus that question in john chapter eighteen. The Lord said that He was born to come into the world to bear witness of the truth—and that everyone that is of the truth hears His voice. He also stated in John 10:27 that His sheep hear His voice.
It cannot be any plainer than that. Either we are His sheep or we are not and either we hear His voice or we do not. It stands to reason that if we are listening to other voices, we might be getting information perhaps, but not truth. The probem is that many folk seek information everywhere other than from the source of truth. The issue is not about the quantity of information available to us, or even the apparent “accuracy” of it, but the source. Where does genuine truth originate, and how can we know that something is actually truth? Whatever is to be evaluated as true or false must pass through the filter of our own minds, but we know from scriptures like Isaiah 55:8 and Romans 8:7 that the human mind does not always think the way God thinks. In fact, the natural mind is at enmity with God. Reasoning things out in the natural intellect can thus be God’s enemy and so our enemy. Paul said-
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
I say this kind of thing often and make no apology for doing so, but if we really and truly want to know God and please Him, we must do this on His terms—and do it by faith. Jesus used a little child to illustrate this in Matthew 18. He stated that unless we are converted and become as little children we have no hope of entering the kingdom. It means just what it says, but in our own wisdom, we dig and delve into all kinds of things that might or might not be true. Kids just believe. They do not question, argue and debate or look for hidden agendas as we “wiser” adults do. In their simple naive trusting and innocent manner, they just accept what He says and go about it. In our so-called adult wisdom, we want to question, debate argue, paddle our pet theories and ideas and miss out on what He wants. Our natural minds get in the way.
we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1 Corinthians 2:6-9
Unfortunately this is where many people stop and the natural reasoning kicks in. “Aha” they say, “We don’t know what God is doing”, but we do. It’s in the book somehow, somewhere and whilst God might not have spelled out every little thing, He has shared the principles or concepts—the truth that we need. Sometimes we need help to find them and understand them and this is how God can and does speak to us. Most likely you have heard the words Logos and Rhema. I often mention them, urging us to “get a word” from God using the word Rhema and know that this can be confusing to some people. Others dislike it.
If you have read the King James Version and have problems understanding the old fashioned words used and are confused about the vast array of various other versions, you are not alone. My first one had a lot of information in the first few pages some of which told me that it had self-pronouncing text, but what was that? Did it mean that the words themselves spoke in some way? Did it mean that in some mysterious way I could hear the words so that I could understand how they were pronounced?
I later found out that some letters often had little squiggles above or below them that were supposed to tell me how to say one word differently to another depending on those markings and determine their meanings.
The Hebrew language is like that. Take word as an example. It is recorded as dābār in some places and as dābar in others.
They both look alike, except that the second letter a in the latter does not have that marking above it.
This can often completely change the meaning. Another meaning for the same English word is Peh. This kind of thing occurs right throughout the bible. We can wonder what it is all about and think it does not matter much, but it can make a difference in our personal lives because we are thinking one way whilst God it thinking differently. We could be “claiming a promise” on something and wonder why it has not happened, or believe a certain way because of a scripture that we think may relate to one thing, whilst He is speaking about another. We may think He is talking about the Church whereas He is talking about Israel and so on. This may affect us in different ways. We could get our doctrines and end time theologies out of balance as a result.
Continuing from verse 9, where people think that God has hidden things, that is not necessarily the end of the story. Paul continued saying that God has not hidden them—but revealed them-
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Those things are revealed by the Spirit! The truth we seek is not revealed by other means and this is why many people have issues. They are trying to figure things out by natural minds and mind-sets. Elsewhere Paul told us to let this mind be in us. In other words, to allow the spirit of our mind to be the dominating factor.
My sheep hear my voice
What we are seeing more every day is an increase of all kinds of information that may or may not be truth. Whilst we need to be informed, we may get sidetracked on all kinds of things and omit the very important part of letting the Holy Spirit guide us and teach us and impart what He wants us to know. This is the difference between natural minds and spiritual minds.
The spiritual mind can ideally be child-like, but the natural mind argues and debates and looks for hidden agendas and the like and can miss seeing the things God wants us to know and experience. Many people who rely on their information in this area are often confused, or live less than God’s best for them and constantly searching. They do not know which voice to follow, but Jesus made a very clear and unambiguous promise in John 14:27-
My sheep hear My voice...
It cannot be any plainer than that. Either we hear Him or we do not. If we need to know if something is true— ask Him.
The answer can be either a simple yes or no. If a little child can get an answer like that, so can we. We should because, if we are the sons of God, we are led by the Spirit of God.
...the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
It cannot be any plainer than that. Unfortunately, we humans tend to want to find out things in our own way, often looking more at what the world presents for our sources of information than His word. Isaiah spoke of this in chapter 30 where he describes Israel’s actions as reverting back to Egypt thus showing contempt for His word. In verses 20-21, the prophet said-
Though יהוה gave you bread of adversity and water of affliction, your Teacher shall no longer be hidden. But your eyes shall see your Teacher, and your ears hear a word behind you, saying,
The word Teacher in this version and others is capitalized and it is deliberate. Unless I am very mistaken, our Teacher is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said so. His task is to constantly give us course corrections. The word Teacher is yārâ and it means to flow as water, to lay or throw, to shoot like an arrow, to point out (like pointing a finger), to teach, inform, instruct etc.
We are the masters of our own destinies and have the power of choice. God has a plan for our lives, but we must choose to follow it or follow our own plan. When we decide to do our own thing, God honors that choice, but tries to get us back on track.
When we are walking the road of life, going in the directions we have chosen—we are the ones doing the walking! The Teacher is in essence following us and keeps telling us things like, “Do not go here but go there; don’t touch; do not hang out with those people” and so on. He can put up a big road sign saying, “Danger! Bridge out”, but we have the power to choose continuing or not. We tend to keep going to see if the bridge really is out and then cry when we fall into the ditch. We can see a sign saying, “Wet paint. Do not touch”, but often times touch it just to see if it is wet. We do not have to learn the hard way and suffer the consequences. We can learn by following the Teacher’s instructions.
When we realize we goofed off and call out to God for help—it is there.
Indeed, O people in Zion, dwellers of Jerusalem, you shall not have cause to weep. He will grant you His favor at the sound of your cry; He will respond as soon as He hears it. Isaiah 30:19.
At such point, the Teacher really swings into action. His answer is based on the truth, because He is truth. We find out what He is saying by meditating on His word, the truth. If we turn anywhere else, regardless of who or what it is, we have changed our allegiance and placed our trust elsewhere and then wonder why things fall apart. That is idolatry!
I am not saying we never do any research. By all means, keep yourself informed, but such information might not be truth.
We can spend vast amounts of time on the Internet, watch someone’s You-tube presentations, receive emails (including mine) but keep going around in circles, always learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).
One reason is because other sources may be pushing their own agendas and not necessarily God’s!
As an example, some folk constantly look for antichrist in every corner, look for hidden agendas everywhere, or put out that word-of-faith teachings are all money driven, that some folk advocate some higher levels of teaching and get out on a limb with strange doctrines and the list goes on. A child like the one Jesus speaks of does not do that!
The sufficiency of scripture
It is not my intention to “prove” the bible. You can do that. The problem is that there are people among us today at all levels who believe in such classic biblical doctrines that Jesus is the son of God, His virgin birth and His bodily resurrection, but do not believe that everything in Scripture is God’s word and accurate. Often times external sources are related to more than to the bible.
Other material should confirm what God has already said.
As an example, in the Roman Catholic Church (generally speaking), a “good Catholic” treats the dogma of the church as being absolute and final truth, generally adopting the line that the Bible is the product of the church and is subservient to ecclesiastical authority. Church authority thus prevails, determining what is right and wrong, what is true and what is false.
This meant that whilst the Roman Catholic Church affirms that the Bible is the inspired revelation of God, it contends that proper interpretation of the bible comes via the Catholic Church and that the blessings of the bible can only come through the church. The implications are that active membership in this Church is necessary for salvation; that without the sacraments (baptism, the Mass, confession to a priest, etc.) provided by the Catholic Church, simple faith in the finished work of Jesus is not enough and that is totally incorrect. It negates the efficacy of the cross. When Jesus cried It is finished—it is finished!
In the fifth century, Augustine decreed: “Outside the Church [a person] can have everything except salvation. He can have honor, he can have sacraments, he can sing alleluia, he can respond with Amen, he can have the Gospel, he can hold and preach the faith in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: but nowhere else than in the Catholic Church can he find salvation.”
This meant that the sacraments administered by the Catholic church alone are necessary for salvation. It implies that we must do good deeds to earn our salvation, but salvation is a free gift from God. Ephesians 2:8-10 and elsewhere attest to that.
Denial of the sufficiency of Scripture led to the approach that the guidance of the Roman Catholic Church (not the Teacher) is necessary for a correct understanding of the bible and that the bishops and the pope are the only competent interpreters.
For centuries the Catholic Church forbade access to the Scriptures for the population as a whole and persecuted anyone who would dare attempt to make the Bible freely available. Many Catholic writers today argue that the Bible by itself is not capable of providing the instructions necessary for either salvation or Christian service and a compendium published by a group of Catholic apologists entitled “Not by Scripture Alone” says it all. It contradicts Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4.
Once the printing press was created, people had access to the bible and anyone could get one and read it for himself or herself. The only problem was that poor education and a grasp of the language made it difficult to understand.
I touched on the KJV earlier. It is still my favorite, although I have scores of different versions, but where did all those versions come from and how true are they to the original text? All those thee’s, thou’s, thine’s, whithersoever’s and so on confuse many folk and I don’t blame them either. We just do not speak like that today and so in an attempt to make the bible more readable and readily available to everyone, bible translators set about a great task of conversion and herein is a problem. Whether it was deliberate or accidental, some words were changed. Someone might have forgotten to include one of those funny little shapes or squiggles somewhere and unfortunately, the entire meaning may have been lost or changed from the original.
Another issue is that certain translators “flavored” their translations according to their personal denominational beliefs.
Theologians might be interested. Preachers might be interested. Ordinary folk who love the Lord and want to live right, please Him, be blessed by Him and so on, really do not care perhaps, but what then do we do? Which version do we use?
Such questions have been kicked around like a football since I was a boy, but somehow, deep down in my spirit, I knew that the bible was “God’s word”. It was the “holy book” and I thought that I had to read it and tried so often only to fail because I could not understand those strange sounding words. Am I speaking to someone here?
Anyone knows that when we read a book, we open at page one and start and when we reach “the end” we have read the book, but the first few pages of the bible got into hard reading with all the genealogy parts and I could not handle it, so quit.
I then started opening at random somewhere and still got into trouble so quit. Does this also sound familiar?
Something changed however when I was born again. Suddenly, the bible actually started to make sense. I could read it, start to understand it—and actually like it. The reason is simple. I was now listening to the Teacher.
I was relying only on my natural mind and faculties before, but my spirit man was not in line with God. After my new birth experience, my spirit was able to tune in to Gods Spirit and because the word of God is Spirit breathed, the “spiritual content” related to me. Paul told Timothy-
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
There are many reasons why God gave us His word and they can be summed up in the above. They are not given to engender debates and unprofitable discussions that are endlessly being bantered around. Paul told Titus-
...avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. Titus 3:9
IF we want to know the truth, ask the author of truth for the answers.
I applied this principle early in my Christian experience, because I just did not know any better and I still apply it today.
There are so many voices out there clamoring for our time and attention and we need to stop wasting time, opening our minds to all kinds of things, opening up our eye-gates and ear-gates to things that are not always profitable, but they affect us if we feed on them. They program us and if we are products of what we eat physically, digesting spiritual error is not a good thing either.
Saved at 26, I opened my new bible and set it on the table without opening it and prayed that God would speak to me out of His word; that I would not hear other voices; that He would help me to understand what He really meant and said that if I saw something in there that meant something to me, I would accept it, believe it and act on it. He took me at my word.
I was saved in a Pentecostal church and no one told me a thing about the Holy Ghost or the gifts of the Spirit. My first Sunday service was one in which a man spoke in tongues and another man immediately interpreted it. I knew that this was God, but did not know what it was. On Monday morning, I visited the headquarters of a large denominational organization on a work assignment. It was their annual pastor’s conference and all the leaders were there. I had just finished my task when many of them came into the office and yours truly jumped in boots and all in his excitement to tell everyone what had happened. Sometimes it is better to say nothing. All hell broke loose when I mentioned the tongues part. They gathered around me asking me all kinds of questions about what happened and told me it was of the devil, that it was not for today having passed away, that I was deceived and so on and I staggered out. Confused and bewildered, I cried out to the Lord to please show me the truth and that I did not want to continue any involvement with a strange sect or whatever. Within minutes, I opened my brand new bible that I had not read yet and it fell open at 1 Corinthians 12:1 that read-
Now concerning spiritual gifts, Robert, I would not have you ignorant.
I saw my name there and never saw it again. During that week, I received the Holy Spirit like the disciples did on the Day of Pentecost and spoke for hours in other tongues. I still do. Shortly after, I was talking to a friend at work and he gave me a bible that one of those door-knocker people gave him. He asked me what I thought of it and he gave it to me. I didn’t know a thing, but that night I put it to the test, I asked the Lord to reveal truth, lifted up my bible and my spirit soared. I lifted up the other thing and I felt terrible and I discarded that thing. I still apply similar principles today. I simply do not have the time to waste and I am not smart enough to know any other way.
I do not recommend you always do the things I described to get answers, but shared this to illustrate that God does want us to know the truth and that we can receive truth so very easily and simply. How simple it is? Ask Him!
What do you do then when you want to get to know God and His ways? How do you receive truth? Obviously the Holy Spirit is in the process there but a major part you play in it, is reading God’s word if you want real success in your life.
Turn for now to Joshua 1 where God told him that his whole life was about to change. If you are not content with the way your life is going right now, changes have to be made. What applied to Joshua applies to us all.
...be strong and very courageous, faithfully doing everything in the teachings that my servant Moses commanded you. Don’t turn away from them. Then you will succeed wherever you go.
God was not telling Joshua to recite scriptures like a poem non stop all day long. That is plain dumb. Joshua had already heard God’s instructions when serving Moses. God had announced all of His plans and intentions; pronounced the blessings and the cursings that Joshua heard and was to take to heart. He had to start speaking what God had already said to activate the promises. This is how we succeed. When a situation arrives in our lives, we can turn to the word of God somewhere so see what He has said about it and start declaring that. We do not need to ask anyone else necessarily or start going onto the Internet to see what so-and-so says on a topic. They might be sharing information, but not be speaking truth!
If possible, check your version against an original just to check it out and if it does not “sit right” it often is not right.
Many years ago when I was sudying for my doctorate, the Lord started talking to me asking me if I would like Him to start teaching me. He told me in no uncertain terms to quit, saying that He did not want me “stamped in their cookie cutter mould”.
I just gave you an answer to a question of how and why we need the Teacher! I said yes to that , but He kept asking me the same question until, exasperated, I asked Him why—and He said, “Because you listen”. Listen to Him!
One of the keys to getting truth is to listen to God’s voice. It is not always easy, but everyone can do it. We may have to train our spirit, or “renew our minds” and the bible tells us to do that-
...be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2
This does require self discipline. It does consume some time. We might not always get an immediate result, but it works!
It does so because the Teacher is waiting to be put to work.
Some people oppose such principles either deny that God can and does open things up to us and others get right out on extremes and create pure fantasy. Adding things that just are not there lead to all kinds of problems and false cults.
Discovering lost gospels or other books is a risky venture and if you are in doubt, simply hold that thing up to the Lord and ask Him straight out if it is real or false. If you are one of His sheep, you have the right, ability and the responsibility to do so and expect an answer. Your inner witness in the spirit; not in your mind; will give you the answer.
At this point, I must say that some well versed theologians state that the words Logos and Rhema are synonyms and so interchangeable. They say that a Christian who owns a Bible needs additional revelation about as much as the Sahara Desert needs sand and that seeking a Rhema word undermines the authority of the bible, but this is not true. If anything, it verifies that scriptures are God breathed. The Holy Spirit can show you something that is already there, set forever in concrete, but hidden from natural faculties until such time He turns the light on. Imagine being in a darkened room with an object in the middle and not able to see it until such time you turn the light on. That object was always there, but you just did not see it! If the Logos is in the room, it is in the room, but you cannot see it until the light goes on. It is still God’s word and always will be, but when understanding comes, it makes a world of difference.
When Jesus was teaching in Mark 4, He was talking to two different grousp of people then—them and us!
He spoke in parables that the people (them) never understood, but He opened them up and imparted revelation to the disciples and those who joined His bible class (us). Verse 34 sums that up.
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