January 19, 2015

Getting it Right

Devotion for the Week...

Back sometime last year I started getting up early to spend a little time reading my Bible before the craziness of the day set in. I had been trying to squeeze Bible reading in after the boys were tucked into bed, but usually found I didn't actually do it because there were other things I chose to do instead (quilting, usually!). Getting up early keeps me on track because the only reason I'm up at that hour is to read my Bible, and that's all I will allow myself to do.

After only a couple of mornings, I noticed that there were often verses that interested me, that I wanted to think about more, or that I thought would be a good starting point for a devotion here, but after I closed my Bible I'd forget the verse. So I started keeping a sheet of paper tucked into my Bible and I make sure I have my favourite pen when I sit down to start reading. Then I can simply copy out whatever verse has captured my attention and I know I won't forget about it.

When I took the pages out of my Bible last week, I scanned through the first one and this verse caught my eye:

"‘How can you say, “We are wise,
    for we have the law of the Lord,”
when actually the lying pen of the scribes
    has handled it falsely?" (Jeremiah 8:8)

This is God speaking through Jeremiah to the people of Jerusalem who have turned away from Him to worship false gods.  God was angry with the priests and the prophets of that time who did not teach the people as they should have, but instead said what the people wanted to hear, and what would make them popular and well-paid.

Right away there were two things that stood out to me that we can apply to our lives today.

First, if you teach others about God, are you handling His Word properly? You may not be a pastor, a small group leader or a children's church teacher, but you are likely still teaching others about God. Do you talk to your children or grandchildren about how much God loves them and how He wants them to live? Do you chat with a friend over tea or coffee about the state of the world we live in and how it's a sign that the end times are near? Whatever the case may be, are you certain that you are presenting the Word of God in the proper context, so that you are not misrepresenting God? In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul urges Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

Being sure that you are correctly handling God's word requires that you study it. Read whole books, rather than only ever reading snippets here and there. On the other hand, read everything the Bible has to say about topics that interest you, using a concordance or an online search to help you find the relevant verses. But then read the context of those verses, to be sure you understand what is being said. If you're not sure you understand, read the verses in a different translation, or read a paraphrase. I really enjoy Eugene Peterson's The Message, which is the Bible in regular, everyday language. 

The second thing I thought was, are the people who teach us handling the Word of God properly? We all have people who teach us, whether it's our pastors, the authors of the books we read or friends who share their thoughts with us. Are they presenting God as they should be? Would you know if they weren't? The only way to know, of course, is to read the Bible for yourself.

 Do you sense a theme here? 

The people of Jeremiah's day were completely off track because they followed teachers who got it wrong. God was angry with the teachers, but that didn't give the people an out. They still faced punishment for the evil they had done. They still paid the price for their wrong, even though they were led astray by their leaders.

Only by knowing what the Bible says for yourself can you be sure that the things you are teaching and the things you are following are accurate.

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