What rules: Your Desires or God’s word?

You know how two people can read the same passage in the Bible and then come up with completely different conclusions about what it must be saying?

There are many things to keep in mind in order to read and interpret scripture properly. This includes understanding historical context, historical culture, sorting out whether the passage is a historical account, or poetry, or prophecy, whether the passage should be taken literally or not and what the original word in Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic means. There are probably many more things to consider if you take a course on how to read scripture properly (because there are really THAT many things to consider).

More simply though, is what priority or authority we give the Word in our lives. Christopher Yuan describes it this way:

There are Revisionists and Traditionalists.

Revisionists have ranked in authority:

  1. Their desires, emotions and experiences
  2. Find research and studies that support (1)
  3. The Bible…re-interpretted or revised to support (1) and (2)

For example: I’m in love with my boyfriend, we’re in the “moment”. There’s research that shows sex before marriage is good for testing sexual chemistry before committing to someone and this supports what I feel like doing. Therefore, the Bible must be out-dated with the no premarital sex thing. Or the Bible must be referring to something else but premarital sex is ok.

The Traditionalists however, see it like this:

  1. The Bible
  2. Find research and studies that support (1)
  3. Their emotions and experiences are modified to follow (1) and (2)

So in this example: The Bible says to honor marriage and seek purity. There is research that shows having sexual relationships prior to marriage increases the chance of divorce which supports what the Bible  says. Therefore, though I’m in love with my boyfriend, I confess my selfishness and lust and will make sure to honor what the Bible says.

See the difference?

A lot of what the Bible has put restrictions or “rules” around is NOT because God is a kill joy and doesn’t want us to enjoy life. It also isn’t because His word is irrelevant to life today. People thought God’s word was irrelevant in Adam & Eve’s day, in Noah’s day, in Abraham’s day, in Jesus’ day, in Martin Luther King’s day…and in our day. There is nothing new under the sun. We tend put incredibly short-sighted desires and emotions as an authority over God’s word and then “revise” it to suit our motives and desires. Or we brush it off as “irrelevant”.

When interpreted correctly, the Bible describes how we’re apt to screw ourselves over (and we have been for millenia) when we wander from the truths and principles God has lovingly provided us. Not because He’s punishing us, but because there are some very real consequences when we break spiritual laws, just as there are consequences for breaking natural laws. I see more and more that what seems like restrictions or rules against a good time is actually a love letter with a road map detailing how we can best navigate our time on earth such that we have a dynamic and healthy way to thrive in Life. With the people around us. And on the planet we’ve been given to take care of. Seriously.

Simpler illustration….it’s like reading a guide-book to a country we’ve never been to before. There are details on what to expect, what the highlights and lowlights are. Where to get good food and clean water. How to interact with the locals, what their customs and values are. As well as what laws and fines to be wary of or what areas of town to avoid for safety and health reasons. A wise person takes note to follow what’s written. A foolish person does whatever they see fit to do. The illustration ends here in that while you can usually get away with not following a travel guide-book and get home in one piece, the end result of not following God’s word is death.

God’s trying to get us all Home.

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Consequences vs Punishment vs Discipline

(Image not mine)

Recently I had a heavy conversation with Dahn about consequences, punishment and discipline. Does God find ways to punish you…purposely withhold good things from you…because you displeased Him? Or is it just consequences…either of our wrong doing or someone elses. How about discipline from God? What leads to which in view of our spiritual walk with God? Keeping in mind too, that our spiritual lives cannot be separated from our physical lives…nor can our lives be separated from the lives around us.

I think we’re wrong to rank sins. “Well, doing this is better than doing that.” Choosing the better of two evils…is still evil. We should weep over someone who hates, as much as someone who lives in addiction or is abusive, as much as someone who lies. Sin = sin which deserves death. Not because God is mean, but because He is just. Real-life consequences of the various sins might differ in impact to our lives but consequences is NOT punishment. Consequences are natural results of laws being upheld or broken; whether laws of nature or laws of spirit. Spiritual laws are harder to discern and sort through…but I think of Deut 30:15-18:

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

That’s spiritual law. Walk in obedience to God=life. Disobedience=destruction. Destruction isn’t the punishment…it’s the result of breaking spiritual law. Like burning your hand on the stove isn’t punishment…it’s the natural result of putting your hand on the stove. Spiritual consequences can carry into the 3rd or 4th generation. Look at effects of acoholism or teen pregnancies in familes. But that curse/chain of consequences can be broken as that person claims new life in Christ and starts to live in obedience. The consequence of that is God blessing them to a thousand generations. Obedience vs disobedience determines what consequences result.

Sometimes I’m tempted to believe that God is out to punish me, in addition to the consequences. But I keep reminding myself to humbly bear our consequences in the now, which isn’t punishment. I believe God knows our heart and is merciful too….so sometimes the consequence could be lifted as a result of that mercy. Or He blesses us so much more than we deserve as we’re living in true repentence and that’s His grace. God is slow to anger and doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. To believe God is out to get me is a false belief of God…perpetuated by the Enemy.

I think God’s discpline…could feel like punishment…but isn’t. Discipline brings about maturity and growth and good transformation whereas I think punishment is just to make you suffer. Make you pay. Was Joseph’s time in prison punishment? No. But it is part of God’s discipline and training for Joseph to be a good govenor of Egypt. God’s kindness was with Joseph IN prison…we’re apt to think God’s kindness would’ve kept Joseph FROM prison. This tells me to examine how I view trials/suffering as well as how I view God. And maybe if I’ve gotten nothing out of a difficult situation, then *I’m* the problem, punishing myself.

I’m reminded again of the saying, “God is more concerned about your character than your comfort.” So now when I find myself in some kind of uncomfortable/painful situation I go through these thoughts:

  1. Is this consequences for a sin of mine? If yes, confess, repent, bear the consequence with humility and start to live rightly.
    If not…perhaps it is part of the consequences of someone else’s sin which unfortunately, is never in isolation to that person. It’s an opportunity to practice grace and forgiveness. Or it could be a form of discipline and training. Or even a strange answer to prayer….
  2. Could this suffering be used for character development somehow? Absolutely! It grows patience, perserverence, hope, grace, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, love, peace, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, etc etc. Take this time to learn well and be transformed!

Spanks

You may have seen this article trending around various social media venues: Spanking may be linked to later mental disorders

Say what??

The article also seems to blur “discipline” and “abuse”. I agree that physical abuse might be linked to mental disorders…or at least a psychological scarring that bears some impact on an individual’s social and emotional development. Abuse is NEVER excusable. But discipline is necessary. (Else I think you’d end up with teenage rage episodes…blog post on this later. Or as one commenter said, the people who do these studies probably have the children who run around screaming in restaurants or throw tantrums in grocery aisles.)

I’m not saying that all discipline should be physical punishment like spanking. There are many tips and techniques to use that are very effective for behavioral correction. Time outs, privilege withholding, positive/negative reinforcements, etc should definitely be used before resorting to spanking but I don’t think it should be ruled out. Some kids quickly learn to respond to time outs, or even just a stern look from the parent…but other kids, myself included, need a controlled spank now and then to get back in line. After that I would never commit that wrong again.

Thinking back to the…oh…six times that I recall being spanked I know my parents were very controlled about it. They were never in a flying rage. They told me ahead of time how many spanks it will be and why I was getting punished. Usually I already knew exactly why. And spanking was only used between the age of 5-12 (too young before 5 and old enough to use reasoning after 12). I definitely saw it as deserved discipline, not abuse. And I totally respect my parents more for following through with it.

I turned out okay too.