When the Bible Disagrees

As Christians we should be reading our Bibles, yes? Our theology should be based on what the Bible says. We have either worked out what we believe from what we read, or listened carefully to sermons and Bible studies and checked out the conclusions. 

Crown of thorns heart

But what happens when the Bible disagrees with something we firmly believe? 

This dilemma is being faced by increasing numbers of Christians today, particularly over issues like gender identity and sexuality. As society gets further away from God’s word, some Christians are compromising rather than taking a stand.

I am finding more and more Christians with strongly held beliefs which I consider to be unbiblical, and it makes for very awkward conversations if the topic comes up. I don’t want to offend them or fall out, and often I am not prepared at that moment for a detailed discussion. The sad thing is, neither are they.

As a Christian makes the decision to believe something with which the Bible disagrees, they do one of two things: They either cling to a few verses (sometimes a very few) which they feel support their view, or they discount the Bible entirely as unreliable or outdated. But above all, they close their mind.

When these subjects come up, not only is the time and place often inappropriate for a detailed discussion, usually the other person is absolutely unwilling to have that discussion.

I don’t want to discuss my views about various thorny subjects, maybe I’ll do that in future posts. This time I want to look at closed-mindedness.

I don’t claim to understand everything about Christianity, and I don’t claim to have everything right, but I am willing to discuss any issue, listen to your point of view and seriously consider it. There are issues about which I have changed my mind over the years, because someone, in person or in a book, explained a different interpretation of the scriptures that made more sense than my previous view.

I am always willing to listen, and willing to discuss my understanding of something alongside yours. When you refuse to discuss things, it looks as though you dare not have your beliefs examined because you know they are wrong.

The Bible is an amazing book. It’s central message can be plainly understood by anyone, of any level of education or none. Yet it’s deeper truths are worthy of years of study. There is a way through these thorny issues, but sometimes it takes a while to study and work it out. You might need to have help. Please don’t be too closed-minded, or scared, to find out.

You won’t be told what to believe, we don’t need blind faith, there are books, courses and internet articles to help you work it out. There are some wacky ideas out there, so be careful. Think seriously about what is said, check it out for yourself against the Bible, and pray, and you can come to a sound conclusion. You may agree or disagree with someone else’s opinion, but you will have thought about it and be able to defend your position from the Bible if anyone asks you.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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I Am Yours and You Are Mine

When lovers say this to each other, it’s a relationship of equals. A human being on either side, committing themselves to each other. Making promises, and finding comfort in each other’s commitment. 

I Am Yours and You Are Mine

When we say it to God in some of our Christian songs, it’s a whole different thing. It’s not a relationship of equals at all, and God doesn’t commit to us the same way we commit to him. 

We are weak and flawed. We make promises and fail to keep them. The only way we can be faithful is by submitting our life to him. How does that square with bringing God down to our level as a friend we can claim ‘he is mine’?

God said the same thing to Israel when he made them a people.
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:7) 

This means God will be God but look on you with favour, and you will be people who worship God and live according to his laws. He has granted us permission to call him Father, with all that implies, but never forget that he is Almighty God. 

The same applies when we talk today about ‘My Jesus, my Saviour.’ I think sometimes there is far too much familiarity in the way we talk about, and to, Jesus. Yes, he is my Saviour, in that he saves us individually and we come to him on our own, no matter how many people help and encourage us. Yes, he died for me, for each of us, not a job lot. 

But he is the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6). Our relationship with him is subservient, no matter how loving he is. We must never lose that awe, that reverence for who he is. 

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Who Do You Say I Am?

Easter was only a few weeks ago, but the Easter story is one of the most important things we will ever hear. One of the stories around Easter is the road to Emmaus, found in Luke 24:13-35.

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him…
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself…
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. (vv.13-16, 27, 30-31)

The_Road_to_Emmaus by Bloch_Carl_

The Road to Emmaus by Carl Bloch

In a spiritual way we too can experience the Emmaus road:

1. They had lost someone dear 

Not just grieving a death but they had lost their way in life. They no longer had Jesus with them to guide them.

A man and his daughter walked up Penyfan mountain. They started down by a different route when a thick mist came down, a common occurrence on Penyfan. It was easy to lose sight of other people and the path. They thought they knew where they were going but it soon became clear they were on the wrong path, which led around the mountain, not down. We can live lives like that, where we lose our way. Where we find ourselves in unexpected places. The man and his daughter met someone who gave them directions, and then the sun came out and burned off the mist so they could see the way.

We all need a clear sense of direction. 

2. They had lost hope 

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. (v.21)

Their hope had been buried in the tomb with Jesus. They knew the messianic prophecies and had hoped Jesus was the one who would rescue them. With his death all hope was gone. 

We all have hope in other things: abilities, possessions, money, human leaders. Sooner or later they let us down. We need a sure hope that will not fail.

3. A question of faith

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (vv.25-26)

How will you respond to Jesus? Jesus asks the question, ‘Who do you say I am?’ 

There is historical evidence for the historical Jesus. He really lived and died. But he wasn’t just a man, and his life and death have eternal consequences. Will you keep looking until you find the sure hope you’re looking for? Will you listen to the Easter story and believe it for yourself? 

The present time is often spoiled by regrets from the past and worries about the future. Your unchangeable past and your inevitable future can only be changed by Jesus. 

[adapted from a sermon by Pete Orphan at Pantygwydr Baptist Church)

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Sanctified and Being Sanctified

In the book of Hebrews we find an apparent contradiction within four verses:

…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb.10:10)

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Heb.10:14)

Sanctified and Being Sanctified

So we are sanctified and we are being sanctified. How can we be both? It’s not as hard to understand as it looks. It is done and we are growing in it. 

Being united with the perfect Christ makes us perfect in God’s sight. Now God is making us into what he has already declared us to be. For example: a man becomes a father because his child is born, but he is growing every day to be a better father. 

Each of us is dependent for our growth on other Christians. A single brick is of no use until it’s part of a building. Coming to church is not just about my needs but I must go to help and encourage others. I shouldn’t think only about what I can get out of church, but what I can give. We need to stir each other up to spirituality and good deeds. 

God has designed our sanctification as a community project. 

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb.3:12,13)

Discipleship Explored 2013

We need to watch out for each other and sympathise and encourage one another to better living. We can drift downstream towards the ocean of indifference, and it can be so slow we don’t notice. Others need to recognise the drift and rescue us.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Palm Sunday–Which Crowd?

In John 12:12-19 you will find the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at Pentecost. His fame had spread and there was a huge crowd to meet him.

Large Crowd

Jesus_entering_jerusalem_on_a_donkey

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (v.12)

This was a large crowd. Josephus (historian at the time) estimated 2.7 million people were in Jerusalem. Most people would have known little about Jesus, but were drawn to the noise and joined in.

Most people’s experience is similar to that crowd – they may have heard about Jesus but are not sure where he fits in. 

Smaller Crowd

Entry_into_Jerusalem2

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. (v.17-18)

Within that huge crowd there was a smaller crowd who had seen Jesus raise Lazarus and had spread the word. Having heard, they wanted to know more, so they went to meet him.

Maybe our experience is that we have begun to see more of Jesus and maybe he has a place in our lives. The best time to find out about Jesus is Easter. Christianity Explored is an ideal course for people who want to know more about Jesus. 

Small Group

Pharisees

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (v19)

There was a small group of Pharisees as part of the crowd, who opposed him. The Pharisees realised they had failed to discredit Jesus. They spoke the truth when they said the whole world had gone after him – there were people in the crowd from every part of the known world. 

The Pharisees were too busy protecting their position to pay serious attention to the message Jesus brought. They wouldn’t even consider changing. Maybe, if you’re honest, you’ve never considered Jesus before, and don’t want to change, even before you find out what following Jesus even involves. 

Which crowd are you part of? 

The trouble with crowds is you can get easily influenced. Acclaim and dissent can both spread in a crowd. Think of football crowds or the audience at a big concert or festival. There can be trouble. There are many different ideas in a crowd. 

Spiritually there are only two crowds: for or against Jesus. 

A young man and his father went in the wrong gate at a football match and ended up with the other team’s supporters. Everything was all right until their side scored and they automatically cheered. Luckily the stewards spotted them and hauled them out before they were slaughtered! We need Jesus to rescue us – from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. From a crowd with lots of views and none, to knowing Jesus and being part of his ‘crowd’.

[adapted from a sermon by Pete Orphan at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Passover and Easter

Passover

The Israelites were in slavery in Egypt and cried out to God for rescue. God called Moses to speak to Pharaoh, but despite demonstrations of God’s power in miracles and plagues, Pharaoh would not let them go. So God chose a night when the angel would pass over Egypt and kill every first born son of man and beast.

lamb

The Israelites were only spared if they slaughtered a male lamb or kid without defect and spread the blood on the doorposts and lintel of their houses. When the angel saw the blood of the lamb he would pass over the house without killing the first born son.

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. (Exodus 12:1-2)

This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. (Exodus 12:14)

The next day Pharoah let the Israelites go and God led them through the Red Sea to the foot of the mountain, where he made them a nation devoted to God. It was a new beginning, a new life, and they were to remember this every year.

Tuesday of this week was Passover, where Jews all over the world still remember their deliverance and new beginning, thousands of years later.

Easter

Last Supper

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt.26:26-28)

At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted a new covenant, a new beginning for those who followed him.

People today are in slavery to their wants and desires and to their sin. If they cry out to God for rescue, God will save them, but it requires the death of a perfect Lamb. A sacrifice who had no sin of his own, but would shed his blood for the sins of others. Blood which is only effective for those who apply it.

Crucifixion

and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor.5:15)

Easter is our Passover.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, when Jesus’ life on Earth ended with a cruel execution on a Roman cross. It seemed a Black Friday at the time, but on Easter Sunday all that changed. When Jesus rose from the dead he proved he had conquered sin and death and made a way for anyone who trusted him to be set free.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor.5:20-21)

[adapted from teaching by Michael Thomas]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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Heroes of the Faith: Rahab–Your Past Needn’t Determine Your Future

Rahab’s story is found in Joshua 2:1-24, 6:20-25, but she is also mentioned in Heb.11:31 as one of the heroes of the faith, and in James 2 and Matthew 1. She is usually referred to as Rahab the prostitute, which is a strange title. If her main identifying characteristic was her sex trade, how did she end up on the Hebrews list of faith? 

Rahab_Helping_the_Two_Israelite_Spies

Rahab lived in Jericho, a fortified city at the entrance to the land that God had promised to the Isrealites. Joshua sent spies to check out the city and the people. Rahab’s house was built in the city walls. It would probably have been an inn, also offering Rahab’s other services. Because it was on the edge of the city, people would ask less questions, so it seemed a good place to stay.

Lord of the Rings Prancng Pony

In The Lord of the Rings books, Frodo and his companions set off for Rivendell and stay at the Inn of the Prancing Pony in Bree. They are supposed to be inconspicuous, but fail miserably. It is only through the intervention of Strider that they are not murdered in their beds. Joshua’s spies weren’t any better. The authorities soon knew there were spies in the city and came looking for them. 

Rahab hid the spies under the rushes on her roof, let them down the city wall from her window, and told them where to hide and for how long. The report the spies brought back to Joshua was based entirely on what Rahab had told them. 

This is a strange story: Rahab lied and betrayed her own people in a time of war. But it’s the story of God making a place for his people. Unlike the city, she recognises the God of Israel and takes the opportunity to work for him. God doesn’t let her job stand in the way of her willingness. James uses her as an example of the faith demonstrated by works (James 2:25)

Rahab and Joshua

In helping the spies Rahab wasn’t going to an easy life: she and her family had to stay outside the camp because they were pagans. But Matthew’s genealogy shows she did come into the people of God and was an ancestor of David and Jesus (Matt.1:5). 

She was sure of what she could not see (Hebrews 1:1). 

Her past didn’t determine her future. 

[adapted from a sermon by John Rogers at Pantygwydr Baptist Church. Pictures from Wikimedia]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

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