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January 13, 2013

In this issue: The Bible Versus Books About the Bible by Bryan Gibson | "Whoever shuts his ears to the poor will cry and not be hears" by Jeff Smith | You Are Important by Jim R. Everett

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The Bible Versus Books About the Bible

by Bryan Gibson

I don’t read many books about the Bible, but I do read the Bible—frequently, and sometimes for long stretches. In the interest of full disclosure, that hasn’t always been my practice. Back in my early to mid 20’s (I’m 50 now), I read a lot of books about the Bible, but I cut way back and here’s why. Unsound ideas had begun to creep into my mind, and it scared me. When I did get around to actually reading the Bible, I could tell that these uninspired authors were taking me in a different direction. These weren’t what some would call major departures from the truth, but how far does one have to stray to be wrong? I wanted to be right about everything, and I knew the Bible was right.

I’m sure there’s been some downside to my present practice. No doubt I’ve missed some wonderful insights from other authors, but I want to make sure that the source of all my teachings is the One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:3. I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and there’s only one book that can provide that. “The entirety of Your word is truth…” (Psalms 119:160)—that’s what David said and I believe it with all my heart.

Perhaps you’re thinking that you can read all this outside material without being influenced by error, that you can properly discern between truth and error. Maybe YOU can, but many have proven that they cannot. I read and hear lessons from my own brethren that sound more like the popular authors of today than they do Jesus or His apostles. It is clear to me at least that they’ve read more books about the Bible than the Bible itself. Personally, I prefer an inspired author over an uninspired one any day (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I’ve yet to find an uninspired author that can match their skill in argument, their fire, their heartfelt compassion, their beauty of expression, etc. In other words, I’m more impressed with THE word than I am their words.

I know I’m going to be challenged on this, so let me add this for clarity. I don’t put all books about the Bible in the same category. Concordances, word studies, topical Bibles, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias—these pose little or no danger, and they can be most helpful in better understanding the text. I don’t read many commentaries, because they do pose a greater danger, but at least there’s an effort to stick to the Bible text, and to prove each point that is made. The worst culprits seem to be the “devotional style” books, where the author often goes for long stretches without citing a Bible verse to prove his point. It’s easy to get caught up in their “fresh, contemporary” style, and not even bother to search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so (Acts 17:11).

Yes, I know the Bible contains some things “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16), but God assures me that I can understand His will for me (Ephesians 3:1-5; 5:17). I’m not anywhere close to brilliant, but I am capable of understanding, and I plan to pursue this understanding as diligently as I possibly can (Proverbs 2:1-5).

“Give me the Bible, holy message shining, thy light shall guide me in the narrow way, precept and promise, law and love combining, till night shall vanish in eternal day” (“Give Me the Bible,” E.S. Lorenz, Priscilla J. Owens). ~

"Whoever shuts his ears to the poor will cry and not be heard"

By Jeff Smith

Commentators debate whether Jesus’s story about the rich man and Lazarus is a parable or an actual event that crossed the border between this physical world and the invisible next (Luke 16:19-31).

Regardless, the antagonist of the story is a notable example of a wealthy man who treasured up his riches and ignored the plight of the poor all around him. Dives (pr. die-veez) is the Latin word for wealthy and has become attached through the centuries to the miser of the story, clothed in purple and faring sumptuously each day while this second Lazarus, full of sores, begged for scraps at his gate.

Eventually, both men died, but their circumstances suddenly were exchanged. The rich man’s wealth did not follow him into eternity, for none of it was shared and thus converted into heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19-21, 1 Peter 1:4). As he passed through death and into eternity, he was instantly made bankrupt. Lazarus, on the other hand, was greatly enriched, simply by entering into the bosom of Abraham to await the final resurrection on Judgment Day. Dives entered into torment, tortured by fire so much that he wished only for a drop of cool water upon his tongue.

Only Abraham could answer his anguished pleas: a great, fixed gulf divided this Hadean holding cell where the righteous dead reclined in Paradise and the wicked dead suffered in Tartarus. No relief would come and Dives learned what wisdom meant: “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be heard” (Proverbs 21:13).

Insensitivity to the suffering of others, especially from society’s most vulnerable, is inexcusable, and, although recompense might not arrive at all in this life, it is yet inevitable before a God who controls eternity. Without waiting for somebody else – another person, the church, the government – to step in, the disciple of Christ will step up and come to the aid of the poor, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the stranger. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

The apostle John applied this piece of wisdom especially to cases where brethren are involved on both sides. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him” (1 John 3:17-19).

Ignoring the plight of the poor, especially among brethren, is the worst example of selfishness and materialism and it must return to haunt. ~

You Are Important

Jim R. Everett

When Jesus taught his disciples not to worry about life, food or raiment, he constantly reaffirmed such truths on the basis that God can provide for their needs (Mt. 6:24-33). But there is an underlying implication in each point he makes which silently cries out — YOU ARE IMPORTANT! Notice: If God cares for each of the birds of the heavens; if he feeds them and one does not fall to the ground without His notice, are you not MORE IMPORTANT than the birds? Again: Are you not MORE IMPORTANT than the lilies of the field which, though transitory, are clothed in such beauty and splendor that they surpass Solomon's glory?

However, people have problems of feeling unimportant. For instance, a boy who is jilted by his girlfriend can reach such a low that he feels completely valueless. He decides life is not worth living, takes a knife and slashes his wrists. He, then, makes a desperate telephone call and his girlfriend rushes him to the hospital. You see, he really did not want to die — he wanted to feel important. But there is no need to take such a drastic chance — the line could be busy.

On some occasions children do some things which are socially unacceptable in order to be noticed by other human beings. This reinstates their feelings of importance. Consider the little boy who, because he was not allowed to interrupt adults, stood in the background until he got to feeling desperate, so he walked up and kicked the preacher in the shins. He got plenty of attention then. Others will use gutter expletives or join a radical group because they are recognized and made to feel like somebody. And someone else might compensate for incompetence by bragging about his prowess.

YOU ARE IMPORTANT! I am fearfully and wonderfully made... the Psalmist said (Psa. 139:14). When God formed the first man and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, man was God’s special creation in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7), but so are you — each of you. Elihu said to Job, I also am formed out of the clay, (Job 33:6). Each of you is an individual made in the image of God. You are of great value to your maker.

Because you are made in God’s image, you are also important to yourself. Jesus said, For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited if he shall gain the whole world and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life? (Mt. 16:25-26). There is nothing so valuable as your soul, hence, the utmost effort should be given to its eternal salvation.

But you are also important to me, For I seek not yours, but you... (2 Cor. 12:14). I will, therefore, gladly spend and be spent to help you. Do not ever believe that no one cares what happens to you or that you are worthless and life is not worth living. You are a unique individual — there is no one else just like you — and you are priceless to God, to yourself and to me. ~

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