Summary: The first of four sermons for our 2013 theme
Over the past month or so, I have been pondering and prayerfully seeking a direction for our ministry. Each year, our church has a theme of sorts; last year it was "Priority Driven", making God our key priority and this year it has been "Driven" which is an amplification of the "Priority Driven" but simplifying life down to "loving God and loving others" (Matthew 22:37-40). These themes are not to be abandoned, but instead are to be continued--forever.
I have often commented on how God uses some of the most unlikely ways to bring my attention to things. I had a conversation with a man back in October about Christian education; his beliefs were, quite honestly, radically different than mine in some areas. It was a nice conversation, but I became convinced that although I am a pastor and have a good knowledge of God's Word it was time to "bone up" and take some more formal schooling in God's Word.
Like many folks, we I would love to go to college or seminary but quite honestly can't afford the time commitment, structure (I work shifts) or the money commitment either. So, I set to research what is available online, on the Internet. Now I will tell you up front that there is a virtual plethora of online programs, some good but many that are about as crazy as they come. Even worse, generally speaking, is if you do the following Internet search: "free online Bible course". You would not believe what crazy stuff came up.
However, after checking into all of this, I found one website that still quite honestly amazes me. Not only is this systematic course free, but the textbook (and other books written by the author) are available for free as a download. Even better, the author often sends out the books for FREE.
I myself do not take a pay for my ministry as that is not what God has called me to do, and quite honestly our little church cannot afford it. Folks, I have no problem with a pastor or scholar making a living. But what really rankles me is how often pastors, scholars and churches sell their books, CDs and videos at a huge price. This is fine for those that make a decent living, but for those that struggle or are poor, it excludes them from a teaching that--if truly inspired by God--could change their lives.
I started reading one of the books that the author, Galyn Weimers, sent me and was struck by one simple truth: the Word of God is often abused. It is neglected, misrepresented, twisted and many times ignored by those that claim to represent God. While this is no surprise when it comes to cults and fringe elements, it is astounding how many churches either ignore God's Word, marginalize God's Word or treat God's Word as a "necessary encumbrance", grudgingly reading it as "something we do in church". It is my hope--and fervent prayer--that over this weeks devotionals that you will see that God's Word is preeminent.
The Preeminence Of The Word of God
I'm a guy that, most generally, is quiet easy going. However, there are some things--right or wrong--that annoy me, like anyone else. Call them pet peeves, if you will. While some of them are character flaws and need some work, there is one annoyance that, if anything, is getting worse with time: people that mess with the Word of God.
I think there are far too many people that play fast and loose with the Holy Scriptures. They are abused; they are misquoted, misapplied, blasphemed, twisted, neglected, taken for granted. and often just given lip service. What is sad is this often occurs in people that profess Jesus Christ as their Savior.
A church I used to attend would play what a Baptist pastor friend of mine calls "Baptist Roulette" each Sunday. They would start off with a designated person just picking out a scripture at random and reading it, with no application, no feeling or expression at all. Most people, I could tell by their expressions, were thinking "just get this Scripture reading out the way so we can get on with it". How sad. This is a form of abuse of Gods word, by making it null and void in it's reading.
Satan does as much damage, if not more, in these ways above as he does by warping and twisting the Word overtly through cults, atheists and outright demon worship and witchcraft. There is a sense of inoculation to the Word of God that happens; give them a little bit here and there over time, and they will become immune to it. By taking God's Word and applying it in a vain fashion is nearly as bad as actually taking God's name in vain or outright blasphemy (Exodus 20:7). Or is it on the same level? I think that it is about as close as blasphemy, if not the same thing as blasphemy. Let me explain.