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Spare Change - September 2022

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On the Families for Life Podcast, Pastor Brian Van Doren and I have started a new series called Understanding God’s Word.  This series deals with things like hermeneutics (the science of interpretation), genre, and application of the Bible.  If you haven’t listened yet, check out the first two episodes at oakhillbc.org/f4l. 

The subject of hermeneutics is so important to our study of God’s Word; however, most Christians have never heard of it.  Until I attended Bible college in 1998, I was one of those people.  As I attended school, my mind began to explode with new concepts, and I became fascinated with this subject.  The reason it is so important is because when hermeneutics, or proper interpretation, is applied to our study of God’s Word, the Bible comes alive. 

Proper interpretation deals with not just reading the words on the page, of course that is part of it, but it goes deeper than that.  It means understanding context, history, genre, authorship, theology, and language. This may seem intimidating at first. It was for me when I first began my journey. However, today we have access to unparalleled resources in our time. Every Study Bible I have gives a brief summary of the author, the historical context, the audience, outline of the book, etc. before each individual book of the Bible.  We also have access to other resources like commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, theology books, etc. that all help us understand God’s Word.  You can log onto a website like blueletterbible.org and find a wealth of resources to help you interpret scripture.

All of this became clear to me as I sat in hermeneutics’ class, but access to resources was not my biggest revelation.  The thing that hit me the most dealt with the meaning of the text and how it applied to me.  Before I began learning this, I would read the Bible and would immediately ask, “What does this mean to me?” Why is this the wrong question to ask? For starters it assumes the reader is the one determining the meaning.  Proper interpretation tells us that God’s Word is first inspired by the Holy Spirit and written down by human authors.  This means they have written down things in their historical period, using their language, and their context.  The goal of studying God’s Word is not to find out what a text means to me, rather, what does the text mean, period.  What is the meaning the author is trying to convey?  Once we ascertain the author's meaning then we can ask the question, “How does this apply to me?”

Do you see the difference? When we approach God’s Word to discover the author's meaning first, the word comes alive to us; it is a God-focused endeavor instead of a selfish one.  The application is very important, but it comes second to discovering the meaning of the text.  Often the text will have one meaning but it will have many applications.  The reason is because we are applying the lesson to our lives in our historical time, in our language, and our context.  This is the proper order that must be maintained to properly interpret God’s Word.

The danger for us if we ignore proper interpretation is that we miss discovering the truth of God's Word.  We are also in danger of making ourselves the center of the scriptures when we know that Jesus is the center.  If we become the center, we can easily fall into heresy when we come across something we don’t like or when our cultural context calls for something different.  If Jesus is the center, then no matter the time or place, God's message is maintained. 

The encouragement for all Christians is to do what we are called to do in 2 Timothy 2:15, “rightly handling the word of truth.”  To do this we must first read God’s Word, then we must seek to understand it using proper interpretation; but then we can't stop there, we must apply God’s Word to our lives. The Scriptures are living and active (Hebrews 4:12), which means it is meant to be used to change our lives.  If you do not know how to study God’s Word and do not know where to begin, start by listening to the Families for Life Podcast series on Understanding God’s Word then seek out someone to help you.  I am always available to help with this or any other matter (contact me by email at ).

Posted by Bryan Gotcher with

Spare Change - August 2022

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The theme for Kids Camp this year is Park It! It's based on the concept of abiding in Christ. So many times we get busy with life, and we forget to slow down and park it with Jesus. The key verse that we talked about is John 15:5 where Jesus uses the example of a vine to teach us about abiding.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Jesus explains our relationship to Himself as a fruit bearing vine, like grapes. When the branches are connected to the vine, they will grow strong and bear much fruit. If a branch becomes disconnected from the main vine then there is no way for it to bear fruit. It is the same with Christians, apart from Christ we can do nothing. We will not bear spiritual fruit if we are not connected to Jesus Christ.  To stay connected to Christ we must abide in Him.

Abide is not a word that we use in modern-day language very often; however, it is a very important spiritual concept. Abide means to remain in a place and dwell or live there. Think about your home, that is where you abide. When we translate this concept to our relationship with Jesus it means we must remain in Jesus. We cannot depart from Him and we cannot move past Him.  Everything the Christian does is marked by their relationship to Jesus. If we hope to bear spiritual fruit, we must remain in Him.

The Bible speaks about different types of spiritual fruits, some are internal and some are external. Growing in our faith as a disciple is bearing internal spiritual fruit. When we walk in the spirit, Galatians 5 tells us that we will bear the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These spiritual fruits are so important in how we relate to Jesus on a personal level and how we live out our faith.

External fruits are things like serving others, telling others about Jesus, using our resources for the Lord, etc. This is where we live out our faith in a very practical way. Both types of fruit are important for a Christian to bear. 

We must remember that we cannot bear either type of fruit apart from Jesus. Through the power of the gospel, we are saved into new life. That new life is only found in those that remain in Jesus Christ. This is why we think of Christianity as a relationship and not just a religion. We don't just follow a set of rules. Our Savior lives in us, and we live in Him.

The Kids' Camp pastor used the story of Mary and Martha found in John 10:38-42 as an example. Martha was the one who was distracted with serving and anxious about all that needed to be done. Mary was the one that was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching. When Martha tries to get Jesus to rebuke Mary, He tells her that she is doing the necessary thing. 

Mary is abiding with Jesus; she is doing the spiritual thing before engaging in the practical. So many times we run past the spiritually important things in our lives and miss what Jesus wants to teach us. Abiding in Jesus means taking time to know Him. We do that through spending time in God's Word and in prayer.

I know that seems so simple, but it makes such a large difference in our lives. We are all so busy, but we must remember to spend time with Jesus. Martin Luther said, "I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." He knew how important it was to prioritize the spiritual things before everything else. 

The challenge to you today is to abide in Christ by remembering to put your relationship with Him first. The only way to see God work in your life is to focus on Jesus!  Will you seek to abide in Christ so you can bear much fruit for His glory?

Posted by Bryan Gotcher with

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