So How Do You Apply A Sermon?

What role does application play? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote on problems with sermons. I do want to respond to some objections and concerns that I saw expressed online about this. So let’s begin.

First off, I hope we can all agree on something. Sermons should present God in Christ to the people. If a passage is about what Jesus did, such as calming the storm, we should emphasize that first. If we jump straight to “Jesus can calm the storms in your life” we miss the revelation of God in Christ and we miss more importantly how we can know Jesus can do that.

Our great danger today often is we seek to apply the text to us immediately. The question often pops up of “What does this text mean to you?” The first question is simply “What does this text mean?” We don’t spend enough time with the text trying to understand it and the situation it was written in.

It is a mistake to make the sermon be entirely application. Do that, and all you’re giving is advice and Jesus is secondary to that. It is also just as much a mistake to say that there is no mention of personal application. However, as one reader simply put it in a forum I’m on, you give the message of Jesus and then say “Therefore….”

Consider Romans. When do you get in to a lot of matter dealing with how one should live life? It starts largely around chapter 12. What were the first 11 chapters doing? Explaining Paul’s theology and doctrine. What about 1 Cor. 15? We have a glorious chapter on the resurrection and how death has no hold on us. Then what follows? Paul says “Now there’s an offering we need to gather for the people in Jerusalem.” There’s a reason he waited until after talking about the resurrection.

I am also not saying stories can never be used. What I am against though is pastors that seem to talk more about themselves and their experiences than they do about Jesus. This is a danger since so many of us love to talk about ourselves. There is a time and place for that. When talking about Jesus, put Him primary though. He must become greater. We must become less.

Stories can be a great way to draw people in if done right. If you can tell a story that relates to something many people have experienced, that will reach more people. I will have more luck talking to the average crowd about say, The Princess Bride, than I will about Final Fantasy IV. Now if I was at a gaming event, Final Fantasy IV could be a much better usage then.

Let’s consider a favorite misused passage. Jeremiah 29:11. No. This is not about you. Stop putting it on graduation cards and everything else. However, can this passage have a personal application? Yes. Let’s suppose I was preaching a message on this text. I might say something like this.

“Judah had been called to be the people of God. They had seen Samaria go into exile judged by God, and yet they persisted. Now Jeremiah was telling them they were next. They would go into Babylon. The people of Judah could think that was it. Their story was done. What about the covenant promises? Had God abandoned His people?

No. God tells them to work and live and have families in the city of Babylon and pray for its success. They would continue to be a people there. Their story was not done. God had not forsaken the covenant, but He was enforcing the punishment of it, but when the time was ready, the people would come back.

God assures them He has plans for them. He will give them hope and a future. He is in charge of the story still. It is not Babylon. It is God.

Friends. We don’t know the plans of God either, but we do know as Christians, His goal is to conform us to the likeness of Christ. What God does as Romans 8 tells us will work for our good if we love Him. We too can go through times in our lives when it seems like we are abandoned by God, but we must be faithful and live our lives for Christ wherever we have been placed. The story is never out of God’s control. All will be made right in the end.”

In doing this, I have presented the historical context of what has happened. I have also presented a theology. God is the God of covenants. He is also the one in charge who knows the future. We also know from the text that God does love us still and wants to conform us to the likeness of Christ. When we are in trying circumstances, we need to hold on in trust too because God is a God who keeps His covenant. If He keeps it even when the people are unfaithful, how much more will He when we strive to live in faith?

Note also that none of this was highly in-depth. I doubt it would really go over your heads if you heard it in a sermon, but odds are you don’t. You need to.

The danger is that if all we have is application without a basis, that won’t be enough to act faithfully. Lauren Winner in her book Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity said that when a boy and a girl dating are on a couch together and the hormones start screaming, a few verses from Paul won’t work. You need a whole theology that tells you why you save sex for marriage.

There are a number of churches that are wanting to bless same-sex unions and say homosexual practice is fine. Why have so many Christians bought into this? A lot of them don’t have a theological backing. They don’t understand the Bible, how we got it, how to read it, or theology and ethics. These are things that we should not be teaching just the academics in our churches. We should be teaching this to everyone. Sure, some people will excel at this, but everyone needs at LEAST the basics.

Pastors. There is plenty of meat in the Scripture for your congregation. Share it with them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Applying Communal Passages Today

How do we apply passages to a community to us today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of my friends read my blog on Friday and asked about how some matters apply. If something only applies to the audience at the time, how do we work it out in our own lives? This is a good question and one that relies on our hermeneutic.

In John 13, Jesus says that since He washed the feet of His disciples, they ought to wash one another’s feet. However, when I arrived at church yesterday, I found no one there to wash my feet. Not only that, it never occurred to me that I should. Today, a visitor at a church would find it bizarre if he was told to take off his shoes and socks so someone could wash his feet.

In the days of Jesus, this made sense since people walked on dusty roads and didn’t have socks and their feet would get dirty. For us, it’s different. What could we do instead? We can supply people with a breakfast meal waiting for them at the church. If we want to get as close as possible, maybe even set up a car washing place for them or give first time visitors a coupon to a local car wash. The idea at root is hospitality.

A few places in the New Testament encourage us to greet one another with a holy kiss, a passage which many a teenage boy would like to take literally. Not just them. I used to remind my wife of that passage in greeting time at church when it took place. Never worked. However, the message is again to greet and this time, it is done more often with a handshake. Of course, there are cultures where a kiss is acceptable and that can take place.

Let’s consider the passages discussed last time. What about Philippians 1:6. He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion? That means the church should take confidence that God is at work in them and He will see through to the end what He desires. The church can take comfort in knowing God doesn’t just start something and then change His mind.

This can then relate to 2:12-13. Why do you work our salvation with fear and trembling? Because God is at work in you. This means the church should be actively involved not just in the salvation of the lost, but that of their own church members. This can be done with accountability programs and other such ideas. As a Protestant, I do think our Catholic and Orthodox friends are right with the idea of having a priest to confess your sins to, not because the priest can forgive you of your sins as God does that, but because that helps build up accountability. Are you going to be more prone to do XYZ if you know you have to face a real human being who you hopefully respect and tell them about it?

Let’s finally consider one that is really misused. How many graduation cards have Jeremiah 29:11 on them? God knows the plans He has for you after all. He wants to make you prosper. Most people ignore that that’s said to Israel in the Babylonian exile and the majority of them would die in Babylon.

Does that mean it’s useless to us today? Not at all. We can say “God was faithful to the covenant He made with Israel even when Israel sinned, therefore, we can be sure God will be faithful to us in the covenant He made with us.” Not only do we get a good usage out of the passage, the passage rightfully then returns its emphasis not to the recipients, but rather to the person of God who is behind it.

Ultimately, in each passage, find the principle that is being taught. The principle is what needs to be followed. The method might be different in fulfilling it, but the heart should be the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/6/2020

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I was growing up playing games on the regular Nintendo, we were told that if your cartridges aren’t working, just blow into them. That will clear out anything and the game will work fine. Most all of us did that. The thing is, it worked. It made sense. Now years later we’re finding out that that really doesn’t work.

Also, before the days of the internet, we had numerous rumors flying around about games. I still remember trying to find the Artemis esper in Final Fantasy VI. How many Pokemon players were trying to move that one truck in an attempt to get Mew?

The age of the internet has made it easier and harder with these kinds of things. With some things that can be easily checked, it’s easy to see that some claims are just false. The claim about Mew would never get off the ground today, and this is even in an age where people can easily fake YouTube videos.

Yet some myths are harder to deal with. Many atheists think today that the idea about whether Jesus existed or not is a hot debate in New Testament scholarship. Not even among atheists is it a debate. Conspiracy theories run amok on the internet.

Even among Christians, there are urban legends. Is Jeremiah 29:11 really a great verse to use in your testimony? Does Isaiah 14 describe the fall of satan? Is Genesis 3:15 really a prophecy of the virgin birth? (Which I do affirm.)

To discuss these and other urban legends of the Old Testament. The book is itself called Urban Legends of the Old Testament. The co-author is Gary Yates and he will be my guest.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Professor of Old Testament at Liberty University School of Divinity for the past 17 years and have taught at the undergrad and grad level for 20 years. I also currently serve as the Pastor of Living Word Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia. 
I have a ThM and PhD in Old Testament from Dallas Theological Seminary and did my dissertation on the book of Jeremiah (looking at the primarily narrative portion of the book in Jeremiah 26-45). 
I have authored or co-authored Urban Legends of the Old Testament, The Message of the Twelve, 30 Days to Jeremiah/Lamentations, and the Essence of the Old Testament and have contributed to numerous other works, including the soon-to-be released, Baker Illustrated Bible Background Commentary. I have published in multiple journals and have contributed to two study Bibles. 
My wife Marilyn and I have been married for 35 years and have three adult children. 

We are nearly caught up on old podcasts. I just really have to get around to uploading them. That blame lies with me. I hope you all are looking forward to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Urban Legends of the Old Testament

What do I think of Gary Yates and David Croteau’s book published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I saw this book, I was intrigued by the idea and ordered it, and I am thankful that I did. This is a book that you can either read straight through or go through select chapters. Each chapter is short and starts off with the legend and then a response and then an application that follows.

The book is really incredibly readable. For me, many times when I near the end of the book, I really want to just finish it. With this one, I found myself enjoying each chapter as they were stand-alone in a quite entertaining way. At the same time, they’re incredibly informative.

This doesn’t mean that I agree with every assessment the authors have. For instance, I am still prone to see the Angel of the Lord as a Trinitarian precursor. Some items in particular I was very pleased to see. I was pleased to see the Harbinger and Isaiah 9:10, the Isaiah passage about how God’s word will not return void, and of course, Jeremiah 29:11.

Others I think they did a good job on but still left open to a kernel of truth. Perhaps Psalm 22 is not a prophecy of the crucifixion, but perhaps it can depict Jesus as the ultimate unjust sufferer who is handed over to His enemies as is the case in the Psalm. Perhaps Ezekiel bread really is a very healthy bread, but it might not be that just because it’s a meal described in the Bible we should eat it.

Some I think many people might be astounded by today, but the case I thought made was quite good. Could it be that Genesis 3 really doesn’t contain a prophecy of the virgin birth (Which I do affirm)? Could it be that maybe the Arabs aren’t the descendants of the Ishmaelites and that wars between Muslims and Christians today aren’t a result of that dispute thousands of years ago?

Some of these correct false teachings that need to be corrected, but at the same time provide a better teaching. What about training up a child in the way he should go? Does Proverbs 31 give a mandate for every wife to be like that woman? Is Song of Songs really best seen as describing dating?

Also, the authors don’t really try to go after controversial debates in the Old Testament as urban legends. How old is the Earth? Nothing said about it, although there is something said about NASA supposedly finding Joshua’s missing day. The issues here should be ones that Christians largely can agree on.

I really found this book to be a fascinating and engaging read and I highly recommend it. You’re bound to find something of interest in here and I have deliberately left out many of the conclusions just so you can discover them for yourselves. The book is also definitely layman-friendly and would be a great resource for small groups.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

I Beg Your Pardon. I Never Promised You A Hanging Garden.

Is Jeremiah 29:11 really about us? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am a supporter of the ministry of Celebrate Recovery. When I meet people struggling with porn, alcoholism, co-dependency, or any other addiction, I always point them to Celebrate Recovery. While I love the program, I do have one problem. That problem is that so many people give a testimony and hardly a month goes by where I don’t hear someone quoting Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

That certainly sounds encouraging. God knows the plans He has for us. He has plans to give us a hope and a future. Wow. How assuring!

Or is it?

Let’s start with asking who the “You” is in the passage. Hint. It’s not us.

The you refers to the people of Israel. The people that figured since Israel was going into exile in Babylon, well then that means God is done with them. God’s message to them is no. The game is not over. He will bring them back, but it will be a time of about 70 years in captivity first. So much time that they are encouraged to marry and have families and get used to life in Babylon. Most of those people would die in Babylon, but the people themselves would have a hope and a future.

It’s quite odd that we take this one little part of this verse and say that it’s about us. Nothing else there is really about us, but this one is. On what grounds? How do we know that this passage in isolation is about us, but not everything else is? Let’s consider some other examples.

We could say that Scripture has God saying “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” That sounds good. It does say that. The difference is that’s part of 1 Kings 3:5 and it is God appearing to Solomon personally in a dream saying that.

Or Exodus 33:14 with “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” That sounds good, except God is saying it to Moses and specifically talking about the wilderness wonderings.

Isaiah 45:3 says God will give us hidden treasures. Should I get a metal detector and go to the beach and expect to find a treasure? No. The message is what was said to Cyrus and likely referring to what people would hide in their own homes to keep safe from thieves.

Let’s not forget that there is a picture of a Christian daily Scripture calendar that says “All this I will give you if you will worship me.” Sounds good again, except, whoops! That was the devil that said that one and it was said to Jesus in the wilderness temptations.

Isn’t it interesting that we take the verse that gives a positive message to Israel that we like and say, “That’s about us!” but then ignore all the verses that give negative messages? There are several of those. Why aren’t they about us?

So what do we do with this passage in Jeremiah? Disavow it? It has nothing to say about us? Maybe it doesn’t, but it has something to say about God, which in turns says something about us. It says that God keeps His covenants. Even when Israel was disobedient and broke the covenant, God never fully abandoned them. If God loves faithless Israel like that, will He not love us the same way? We can also add in that a passage like Romans 8 is for us that says if we love the Lord, all things will work for our good. In gaming language, this is the ultimate cheat code if we could learn it. Whatever happens for us, God will work it for our good.

Jeremiah 29:11 is not about you, but it reveals something about God that can apply to you. Take the principle instead. Don’t make the passage about you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Go To Romans 8 And Not Jeremiah 29

What passage can better deal with suffering in a Christian’s life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times I hear a testimony about overcoming suffering in one’s life. Too many times, I hear them reference Jeremiah 29:11. This is the passage about how God has plans not to harm but to help and give a hope and a future. Now this does show something of the nature of God, but it is about the Jews going into the Babylonian captivity. Most of us haven’t been through that.

One could gather a principle from this passage that suffering that takes place in one’s life will be used for good, but there are better passages that can be used. Genesis 50:20, for example, can be used to show that what man intends for evil, God can use for good. The best passage I think to go to is Romans 8.

In this passage, Paul tells us about the life in the Spirit. I wish to start that point by saying that too often we go to Romans 7 and find our identity. We look at the whole thing about the things I don’t want to do, I do, and the things I want to do, I don’t do. We take that as describing our present Christian life. I don’t think this is so and this is Paul speaking in character as Adam in the garden. After all, there never was a time when Paul was not under the Law.

The great danger is if you identify yourself in Romans 7, you could miss your real identity in Romans 8. This is a passage about how we have life in the Spirit and we have no condemnation. Then we get about 2/3 through, Paul talks about how all things work for our good and then about how nothing can separate us from Jesus.

Starting with all things working for our good, notice that. If we could as Christians all come to believe this promise, we would not be as fearful and anxious as we often are. We have an idea that God will work things out for His glory, and we are correct, but we act like that is the only thing He’s working for and we don’t matter.

Yet this passage tells us that everything will work out for our good as well provided that we love the Lord. This means that if you are a Christian, whatever suffering takes place in your life will be used for good. This doesn’t mean that you have to like the suffering and you shouldn’t go out seeking suffering, but it does mean that suffering is not pointless in your life. Suffering will be used for your good.

If this is true, then in gamer language, you have the ultimate cheat code. Whatever happens, will happen for your good. Nothing can ultimately undermine that. All that needs to be done is to trust in God, which is the really hard part. To be suspicious though is to really doubt the love of God and doubt He is in control of this universe.

But if it is true, it is something staggering. God has worked out this whole universe so that every bit of suffering in a believer’s life will be redeemed for good. It might not all happen in this phase of reality, but it will happen. That is something explicitly about us and works a lot better than Jeremiah 29 for us. Go there instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts on Jeremiah 29:11

What is Jeremiah really saying? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m sure we all know the verse.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

We’ve all seen it on graduation cards and such. It’s such a wonderful and heartfelt message. A graduate opens it up and hears that God has plans to give them hope and a future and to prosper them. As the Church Lady would say, “Well, isn’t that special?”

The intention is good, but is the intention right? I can mean well giving a toddler a lollipop, but if that toddler has diabetes, I could be hurting them greatly. When we see this verse, we need to ask what is really being said.

Simple questions to ask. Who is the you? Who is God speaking to in this passage? What is the situation going on? Sadly, most Christians don’t ask these questions. They just do what’s known as the Baptist reading method of opening up the Bible and thinking it’s all about them and reading whatever verse they come to as a personal message from God.

What’s going on in this passage is Jeremiah is talking about the people that will leave Jerusalem for Babylon to be captives when God judges the city and lets the temple be destroyed. For these people, having the temple destroyed was the ultimate game over. God is done with us. There’s no hope. The covenant is broken. This is also why Jeremiah has passages about a new covenant.

Jeremiah is telling the people who are going into Babylon to stand strong there. Be praying for the good of that city. Ask God to protect that city. God is not done with them. They’re going to get to have another go at this. God will watch over them and bring them back.

In the middle of this is when we get this verse. The thing is that the overwhelming majority of people would never leave Babylon since they would be there around 70 years. Jeremiah is not speaking to them on an individualistic basis. He’s speaking on a national basis.

But does that mean that when we read this passage we just gloss over it? There’s no relevance to us? Not at all. Paul tells us that everything written was for us. Note that it was not written to us, but it was written for us.

So if I was a preacher who was preaching on this passage, what kind of thing would I say?

Probably something like this:

“I want you all to know that this passage might look nice on a graduation card, but that’s not what’s going on. You don’t know what will happen in your graduate’s life. They could go through incredibly hard times. They could go through wonderful times. You don’t know. They could get that card and die in a car accident the next day. Who knows?

What you can know is that when Israel went into exile, they would wonder if God was done with them. Had He abandoned His promises? Jeremiah is assuring them that this is not so. Regardless of how things look, God had made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to David, and He would bring it about.

In the same way, God has made promises to us in Christ. Though we will go through hard times, and they are promised to us, we can be assured that Christ will help us through them. He will honor His covenant to us just like He did to Israel. In the future, He will prosper us in the New Heavens and the New Earth and we do have hope in the resurrection of Jesus and the promise that what happened to Him will happen to us.”

By saying this, I have treated the historical context fair, I have not individualized it, and I have brought it to Jesus. We can trust in God that He will do for us what He has said. That doesn’t mean we won’t go through hard times. Let’s also remember to really study our Bibles and treat them with respect. Treat every verse in its proper context.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seven Signs That God Has Someone For You

What do I think of Wes Raley’s book published by V Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ah. Marriage. I remember the days when I was single which looking back now after eight years of marriage seem like a distant memory. If you asked me what it’s like to be a bachelor now, I honestly couldn’t tell you. My life has been so radically changed by marriage that I can’t imagine going through life without my Allie by my side.

But I do remember that when I was single, it was the constant cry of my heart to have a woman to share my life with. If you had told me on July 24, 2009, that a year from then I would be standing at an altar pledging lifelong love to a woman, I would have laughed in your face most likely. Not going to happen. No prospects. Women just don’t want a nerd like me.

Now I try to encourage other men who are single and in the same boat in many ways. Some are older than I was when I married. It’s a hard path. So when I saw Wes Raley’s book being advertised in Kindle email deals and advertised for free, I had a lot of red flags. I’m very cautious about people talking about signs and the like, but I thought I would check it out. Free after all. Right?

Fortunately, it’s a short book. I had it read in an hour. I can say I am thankful Wes found someone and that he is writing to help others who have the same struggle we both had at one time. That being said, I don’t think his book treats Scripture properly and thus will not help and could do more harm than good.

My wife and I both know people who wanted to find that special love in their life and never did. We are speaking about people who are already dead. I try to encourage guys they can find someone, but I do not seek to speak for God.

I also don’t think there is anyway from Scripture to know the mind of God in if He has someone for you or not. I also think it’s false to talk about that special only one that you need to find. For most people, I think there are a multitude of people you could marry in the will of God. Here are some requirements to look for. They have to be someone who is a Christian and someone who is of the opposite sex and someone you can live the rest of your life loving and they can’t be a close relative.

If we go with the one that you have to find, that leads to chaos. Suppose you marry the wrong person. You’ve messed up then. No big deal. Right? Wrong. Not only have you married the wrong person, so have they, and what about the people you two were meant for? They can’t marry the right person so if they get married, they marry the wrong person and what about the people they were meant for? On and on it goes. Congratulations. You have screwed up God’s plan for humanity by your choice.

So let’s go through what Raley says.

He starts on a bad note by saying “Faith is often opposed by human reasoning.”

I’m not sure what other kind of reasoning we could use, but it’s not good to start with this kind of statement. It is true that Scripture says our faith does not rest on human reasoning, but saying it is not the foundation does not mean it plays no role in the structure at all or is often opposed to it. Many of you know that in my writings, I stress that faith is trust in that which has been shown to be reliable. If God has shown Himself to be reliable, it is quite reasonable to trust Him.

Raley then says that if our faith rests on anything other than God’s power, we risk living in a perpetual doubt to avoid being disappointed, but isn’t a life of doubt and unbelief already a disappointment? At this, I wonder what is meant by God’s power. I mean, I have faith that God could pick up my apartment complex right now and hurl us to the sun if He wanted to. He has that power. I don’t think that He will. I don’t think it so much that I’m not falling to my knees begging that it won’t happen.

I also think that our faith should not rest so much on what God could do, but on what He has done. He raised His son from the dead. It’s not about what God can do in my life. God can dispense with me at any time. It’s about what God did in Jesus and if God did what He did in Jesus, I can trust that as He said, He is working all things together for my good, even if they are not good themselves, as Romans 8 says.

Raley goes on to say that He believes God has written His promises to us on our hearts. Many people might think that that’s nuts, but it matters what God thinks and what He has promised. Indeed, what matters is what God thinks and has promised, but what Biblical mandate do I have to think that God has written His promises on our hearts? Scripture says His law is written on our hearts, but nothing about an individual mandate for our lives.

We move on through examples like Abraham. Yes. God did wonders in Abraham’s life, and while He can do such, we have no basis for thinking that we will be treated like Abraham. God spoke to Moses, but not to Joe Israelite wandering in the wilderness, and there were plenty more of them.

When we get to Scripture, it starts with James 1:5. If you lack wisdom, ask God who gives generously to all? God doesn’t want us guessing! What could go wrong? I mean, maybe, and let’s just take a purely hypothetical situation, you could say that this verse gives you a basis to go out in a field and kneel down and ask God what denomination you should join. What could go wrong?

What’s really going on in James? The wisdom being asked for is not something about personal knowledge. It’s about understanding suffering. The church was going through suffering and James is saying if you lack the wisdom to handle suffering, ask God for it. He’ll give generously. It’s not treating God as a personal answering service.

By the way, if we go with this and we are supposed to say that God tells us that we are to have someone in our lives, what do I need seven signs for? If you need seven signs after that, that is not faith. That is a lack of faith. Gideon didn’t even need seven signs.

It’s not a shock that Raley also uses Jeremiah 29:11 about the plans that God has for us. Never mind that this was said to the nation of Israel and the you is the plural nation and this was a nation that was going into exile in a foreign land and most of them would not see these plans fulfilled in their lifetime. No. Just take it and individualize that.

Now we could interpret this and say, “Just as God knew what He was doing when He let Israel go through suffering, so does He know what He is doing when He lets us go through suffering.” We could then take passages like Romans 8 and show God will work this for our good. It is improper hermeneutics though to take this passage out of its context and apply it to us in this way.

Raley then goes to Romans 12:2 and says if we transform our thoughts, we can know God’s good and perfect will. Isn’t this a great promise? By renewing our mind, we can find out God’s will.

Well, no. The text doesn’t say we will find it out. It says we will know. Second, we have to ask what is meant by will. Let’s suppose God has willed a day when the return of Christ will take place. Does this mean if I renew my mind, I can know that day? Doubtful. Does it mean I can even know the day God intends for me to die? Also doubtful.

What it means is the moral will. I can know how I ought to live rightly in relation to God and my fellow man. It is again bad hermeneutics to read individualism into the text.

Raley says believing God has the best in mind for you is the starting place of discernment. No. The starting place is to learn how to think properly in your mind and then apply your thoughts to Scripture rightly.

I do not want to list the seven signs really. Why? Because I still realize he wants to sell books and I don’t want to spoil a plot. It’s free for now, but maybe it won’t be in the future. I will speak to some bad Scriptural usages.

Raley uses Psalm 37:4 about trusting in the Lord with all your heart and He will give you the desires of your heart. Yet is this verse talking about that? In the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, John Walton says about this passage that in the Ancient Near East, this was about seeking God’s answer on a particular omen. It wasn’t about one’s own desires but about a specific desire.

Raley also uses 1 Kings 19:11-12 and Elijah and the still, small voice. It’s interesting that no one ever records anything this voice said. Maybe it wasn’t a voice but a gentle wind instead. Also, when this was done, Elijah went and spoke to God and God spoke to Him. This was not in a still, small voice. This was also one time in the Bible. If Elijah’s experience is to be mandatory for us all, perhaps it’s also mandatory for us all to expect a flaming chariot to take us to Heaven or to be able to expect fire to rain down from Heaven on our enemies at our command.

Raley also asks that if we ask God for this and we feel peace in our heart and confirmation, not to ignore this. Again, this brings us back to something like the Book of Mormon which uses the exact same test. Many times if we are making the right decision, we will NOT feel peace about it. The right decision can be scary.


At one point, Raley uses James 1:17 about every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above. Yet keep in mind Paul says there was given to him to keep him from being conceited a messenger of satan. Paul pleaded for this “gift” to be taken from him, but he was told it was for his good and Paul gave thanks in the end.

Raley is right that in Matthew 7, the Father wants to give us good gifts, but the gifts there given are staples of everyday living. I might as well say “A billion dollars would be a good gift. Surely God wants to give that to me.” There could be any number of reasons God doesn’t bless me financially. There could be any number of reasons God doesn’t give someone a spouse.

Finally, we are told to trust in God’s love for us. This isn’t a sign, but I definitely agree. If God blesses us with a spouse, rejoice. If He doesn’t, rejoice also. If God gives you one, it is for your good and theirs. If not, it is also for your good.

In the end, none of this is backable by Scripture ultimately I think and works better with our individualism in the church. I fear someone could get this and get false hope as well as start making Scripture more all about them. If you want a spouse, just go out there and seek one, but still live your life and serve God the best that you can where you are. Please don’t take Scriptural promises out of context and make them about you. We have too much of that today in the West already.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Don’t Take Internet Bible Critics Seriously

Should you really pay attention to that critic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Let’s be fair. There are some skeptics out there that do their homework. They do try to really find out what scholars in the world of the Bible are saying and make reasonable cases. I disagree, but at least they are doing their due diligence.

The majority are not.

For the past couple of weeks or so, I’ve been going through a big book. It’s Behind The Scenes of the Old Testament and it’s about 512 pages and most of these pages have plenty of lines on them. It’s the kind of book that these same skeptics will not even read. It would be practically a miracle if they even skimmed it and looked at the pictures.

And yet, these same people will think they can speak with authority on the events in the Bible. They will speak on slavery in the Old Testament and all they have is their knowledge of the Civil War in America and the fact that they are offended and think that is sufficient. Never will they dare ask questions like, “What is slavery in the ancient world? What was the purpose of it? What other alternatives did they have?”

Let alone do these people really have an understanding of the Law for Christians. Many think that the Law was meant to lead us to some kind of Utopia and everything in it is a moral principle for all time. It’d be kind of hard for a Christian to say this since Jesus in the New Testament said that Moses permitted divorce to the people because their hearts were hard. This is not to say there are no moral truths in the Law, but the purpose of the Law is not to produce perfect people.

Too many critics of the Bible read the Bible from a modern Western perspective and then look back on the dumb and unenlightened culture they see in the Bible thinking they’ve made a powerful critique. Argument from outrage is a favorite. God did XYZ! What kind of God would do this? The conquest narratives are a favorite. Lately, I’ve seen David’s baby dying as a result of David’s sin as an example of this. (Strangely enough, these same people will also defend abortion. Go figure.)

My advice to Christians on this is to first off not take such critics seriously. If someone is not willing to read and study life in the Ancient Near East, they shouldn’t comment on it. If they do, we shouldn’t take their comments seriously. I say the same thing about Christians who want to go and critique evolution, but will never ever pick up a book on science in their lifetime. Reading your favorite Christian who argues against evolution without studying science yourself and just repeating what they say is just as bad as reading a new atheist on the Bible and repeating what they say without studying it yourself.

Let me make a caveat here. If you are a Christian and you do read the science and you do want to argue against evolution, have at it. It’s not the route I take as evolution is a non-issue to me. I just don’t repeat the arguments. Someone could be making powerful arguments against evolution or talking nonsense. I don’t know.

Also Christians, if I go after the atheists for doing this, I want to be fair and go after us. Too many of us who are Christians don’t bother to study the context either. We take one little section out of a prophecy and either make it about the end times in a dispensational paradigm (As if the prophets never ever said anything about their own culture) or they make it about themselves.

Let’s go with an example. In Jeremiah 29:11, God tells the people that He knows the plans He has for them, plans to prosper and not harm and to give them a hope and a future. Great passage. It’s used so many times in cards for college graduates and such. Horrible interpretation right there.

Jeremiah is making this point to Israel as they are going to Babylon. If you are sending a card to a college graduate who’s part of a covenant people and is being shipped off to Babylon, then that’s okay. If not, you might want to rethink it.

“Great. So are you saying this verse is useless aside from historical information?”

Not at all. We could apply this to us today. Picture a pastor saying this.

“The children of Israel had received a promise from God. They were about to face suffering and that suffering would make them wonder about the promise. They would doubt it and think God had failed them to let this happen. God assures them that is not so. In the same way, we today are recipients of the promises given to Israel and in Christ. We can often go through hardship and suffering still where we wonder if God has abandoned us. Hebrews tells us that God will never leave us or forsake us. As there was a purpose for the children of Israel going into Babylon, so there is a purpose for our suffering and Romans 8 tells us that God will work all things for good to those that love the Lord. Whatever you are going through in your life, realize that God is in control. As He did for the children of Israel in being with them in their suffering, so will He be with you.”

There. If anything, this is a richer understanding I think because it is connected to the New Testament. In the passage in Jeremiah, we can know that some of the people who went to Babylon never came back. After all, the return was about 70 years later. In the New Testament, some promises are individualized, such as Romans 8. We will all in Christ be resurrected in new and glorified bodies and each of us will give an account of what we have done and each of us will be treated accordingly. At the same time, we are a community in Christ and should live that way.

Studying the context of the passage goes a long way and will help us. Critics of the Bible need to really work to study the text instead of thinking that outrage is an argument. Christians need to study it because we think it comes from God and we need to treat it seriously and not misapply it. Will we always interpret it properly? Of course not, but we should always seek to bring the best information to the table that we can.

In Christ,
Nick Peters