Friday, December 25, 2015

Time-locked perspective explained (Part 3)

Next section of the study.

The importance of exclusion
After finding at least a date range for the book, it is important to understand the frame of reference for the target audience including the revealed Scriptures, the state of the world at the time, and the culture in that area. For example, a post exile Jew would have a very different view of the world when compared to a Jew in Solomon's kingdom. Not to mention the amount of Scripture that would be available (or at least in existence) for the former would far exceed the amount for the latter. And while we can study Ruth in light of Judges, we should not look for help with the time-locked message of Ruth in the Davidic Psalms.

We must start to exclude books of the Bible that were written after the date that has been established for our study passage. This in and of itself can be a daunting task as there are quite a few books that have a range of possible dates, however, if we apply a little common sense, we can safely exclude books that may have been written at the same time but would not have had been widely distributed at the time. We are truly blessed to have the completed Word of God!

The second thing that we may need to exclude is historical events that happened after the target passage/study. For example, reading a prophecy in Daniel from today's perspective is pretty straightforward; God called it! But to the original audience, it would have a whole other meaning, perspective, and purpose. Knowing history is very helpful in the other two perspectives, but it can be a hindrance in the time-locked if we're not careful.

A third exclusion candidate is modern theological concepts that may not have been revealed. For example, while the Old Testament testifies to the Messiah coming to die as the final sacrifice, that knowledge was shrouded in mystery. However, in Acts, the apostles used the Old Testament to preach Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and risen, and the Word had great effect on the hearers, even to salvation!

Another modern theological concept that might have to be ignored for Old Testament books is the great mystery revealed in Ephesians - that the Jews and Gentiles are both equal sharers in the body of Christ! While there are hints in the Old Testament of the reality of this concept, it is definitely not stated plainly or understood by any of the original hearers of the Old Testament. Jonah would be a prime example of this.

There are several other ideas expressed in the New Testament (permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, types of Christ, fulfillment of the Law in Jesus Christ, and more) that may need to be excluded from our thinking when addressing any Old Testament book from the time-locked perspective.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Time locked perspective explained (Part 2)

Some of this may be revised, but here's more of the study.

The importance of date
Establishing the date of the writing of the book/passage is key to determining the original audience and their spiritual condition, and therefore, the original message. Some questions to ask include:

1. Who was the author and when did he live?
2. Do the contents of the book take place during the author's lifetime, in the past, or in the future?
3. Who was the book written to or who was the original target audience?
4. How would the original audience have understood the book?
5. What Scripture was in existence to help the original audience to understand the book?
6. What Scripture is quoted or referenced in the book to help with dating and understanding it?
7. What was the geopolitical setting in which the book was written and how does it affect the original audiences' understanding of the book?
8. What is the culture of the original audience and how does that affect their reception of the book?
9. Does Scripture itself provide a date or time frame for the book?

When trying to determine the date of writing, all resources should be used including all of Scripture, commentaries, studies and search engines. Once the date has been found or a time frame has been established for the book, then the study narrows down to the perspective of the original audience and original intended message, but without at least a rough time span of possible dates for the book, it can be very difficult to determine the original audience and also the original message.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Time-locked perspective explained (part 1)

Here is the first section after the introduction for my Jonah study:

Author, original audience, and original message.
The time-locked perspective is the author's original message to the original target audience. While we recognize that the Author of all Scripture is God, we also recognize that He used authors to actually write down Scripture and those authors' perspectives and personalities are part of God's inspired Word.

Some books are fairly easy to nail down all three pieces of information; for example, 2 Timothy is a letter of encouragement from Paul to his disciple Timothy. Luke's gospel is a letter to his friend Theophilus that is designed to "write it out for you in consecutive that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught." (Luke 1:3b-4).

Other books are not so straightforward. Many great theologians from across the spectrum of time have failed to definitively determine the author of Hebrews; many opinions exist as to who it may have been, but no proof of authorship is conclusive. However, the original target audience (Letter to the Hebrews, so one assumes they were Hebrews...) and original message do not depend on knowing the author.

Also, Moses is said to have written Deuteronomy, and yet that book records his death - not exactly possible without either a ghost writer or a ghost...writer for at least that part of the book. Moses is also the writer of Genesis, which takes place many hundreds of years before his birth. In this case, Moses wrote under the inspiration of God to the "new" nation of Israel about their origins (fun fact: Gen 1-11 address the creation of the world and all the nations; Gen 12-50 address the history of four generations of one family). So the time-locked message must be focused on the time of writing, not necessarily the time described. See also Job.

Sometimes, the author and the target audience can have little bearing on the original message. 2 Timothy comes to mind in this example. Paul, the author, writes to Timothy, the audience. While we can deduce certain things that relate to the time-locked study (Timothy may have been wavering with the threat of persecution from without the church as well as from within), the same things that Paul says to Timothy could have been written to another wavering disciple from another apostle. Of course, this is not to say that some very important points have added weight due to Paul's authorship (one who knew persecution intimately!).

One of the more important things that can be deduced from knowing the author is dating the book or passage, which has huge impact upon the original message. For example using hyperbole, the book of Daniel takes on a whole different perspective if dated after the Romans came to power rather than the time of the Babylonian exile; it becomes a mere history book that recounts what happened rather than what it is - God's prophetic word about future events.

Friday, December 18, 2015


My current study subject is the Old Testament book of Jonah. When I first picked Jonah, I thought it would be fairly straightforward: God calls Jonah to Nineveh. Jonah bolts. Jonah goes for a whale submarine ride. Jonah comes to his senses, does what God tells him, and Nineveh repents. Done.

Well, then there's the whole thing with chapter 4 where God points out Jonah's bad attitude. Ok, now...done!

I couldn't be further from the truth. I am writing a study guide for Jonah and here is the introduction that I'm using for now:


When I set out to study Jonah, I first started by observing each and every verse from the random thoughts that came to mind about each verse. I did not follow any particular discipline in my study and therefore did not have any rhyme or reason to my notes.

The Sunday after I started (I had made it to Jonah 1:12), I was very excited to share my findings with one of our elders. I was seeing Jonah as a type of Christ (one sacrificed for many); the sailors were the first saved by Jonah's ministry; and even a foreshadowing by God of the salvation of Nineveh.

But I did not get to share those findings because the elder stopped me in my tracks and insisted that I start over. He said that to truly understand the book, I needed to first study it from the time-locked perspective. After I got that message, then I needed to study it through from the timeless viewpoint. Finally, I needed to go back through the book with the observations from a timely position.

I was not thrilled. But, I bit my tongue and started over that next day. And a week later, I was sincerely appreciative that I received the guidance to study Jonah in the manner prescribed. To be sure, it was not easy, but in just a week, I could see a vast improvement in not only my focus and study, but also in the revelations that God brought to mind about each and every verse.

Being committed to studying through a book of the Bible in this way is not easy. It is a discipline to consciously omit revealed Scripture, to ignore spiritual truths that may not have been known at the time, and to discount history itself at times. Remember, the purpose of studying in this way is to focus energy on understanding the book at a deeper level than is possible by just reading it and understanding it from our "enlightened" perspective. We would miss so much that God would teach us; the time-locked message and the timeless message is just as important and applicable as the timely message.

In this study, I will attempt to not only be a guide through the study techniques that I used, but also apply those concepts in a study guide for the book of Jonah. 
As I complete sections of the study, I will post them here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The events of Aug 11 (Part 4 and the end)

On Aug 31st, the Lord led me to start praying on a daily basis. Not prayer in the car, or before meals, or even shooting a quick prayer of help in a time of temptation; no this would be dedicated, focused, distraction-free prayer time in my prayer closet. I think my first session was all of 5 minutes.

That weekend, we went to see War Room, and I was glad that I had started before seeing that movie so that I could truly credit God with moving me to prayer and not the movie. However, that movie was a great encouragement to continue in the discipline to pray.

The next week, I started my study of Jonah from the time-locked, timeless, and timely perspectives as well as started praying with Chris (a baby Christian!) from work every morning at 8 AM. I asked Chris if anyone was discipling him, and he replied in the negative. I suggested that we start praying for a man to disciple him.

After two weeks of praying, we came to the conclusion that that man was me. We met that Saturday and agreed to pray the next week for direction from the Lord in what we should study. I was leaning toward jumping into the deep end of the pool with Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. God had a better plan.

I had a whole series of studies on spiritual disciplines starting with a hermeneutics study, so just in case the Lord led me to that, I started typing it into MS Word so as to be ready. And wouldn't you know it, that is what the Lord led us to.

After this, I got each of the other modules typed in and submitted them to Pete for his review. I also encouraged Chris to submit the material to the elders at his church so that they would know what he was being taught and encouraged in.

As I continued studying in Jonah and in daily prayer, I experienced true growth in my Christian walk. I sought the Lord and He answered me! I asked for His direction in the discipleship ministry that He had entrusted to me, and He added two more disciples to my care.

I have seen many answers to prayer including the Lord's direction in going to Guyana in July, God's provision of protection and guidance in mission trips for others, healings of sickness, kidney stones, and back pain. God was beginning the wonderful work of knitting me together with my brothers and sisters at Grace Bible Church. Eph. 4:15-16 was unfolding before my very eyes: but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

I am humbled that God has once again decided, in His great mercy, to use me. As I said at the beginning, I would have done, and was doing, otherwise. I was satisfied being useless, but praise be to God for His infinite mercy and grace in which He turned me from worshipping idols to engage in true worship of the only wise God. Amen.

The events of Aug 11 (Part 3)

Jesus said in Matt 5:29-30 -  If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

While hell wasn't on the table for me, I knew that I would never grow more mature in Christ until I had cut off that which was dragging me down. I have never been able to balance my video gaming and my Christian walk, so it was time to cut out the video gaming.

I confessed my adultery to God and thanked Him for a second chance to do His will. That day, I picked up a study in James that I had only done a little bit in and started getting into the Word. I also started reading J.I. Packer's book Knowing God.

So, I had James beating me up in the afternoon and J.I. Packer comforting me in the evening! What a joy! and I mean no sarcasm in that statement. During this time, I also tried to replace WoW with...another game - Microsoft's Freelancer, which is a single player game.

After about 4 or 5 days of playing Freelancer, I came upon a level that I had some difficulty with and decided that it just wasn't worth the time to get over it. Not really growth as much as not having fun with the game.

The next game I picked up was a phone game that I had played before: Puzzle and Dragons(P&D). I had two accounts and started playing them along with continuing my study in James and Knowing God. After a week of increasingly devoting my time to P&D, I realized that I was falling into the same pattern of worship as I did before.

I immediately deleted both accounts, never to look back.

The events of Aug 11 (Part 2)

God started preparing me for what I'll term my "awakening" during the summer of 2015, when several men from our body were tasked with teaching our Adult Bible Institute (ABI) different spiritual disciplines. At the end of the summer (early August) it dawned on me that I was not asked to teach even though I am more than capable (one of my spiritual gifts). I thought of Hebrews 5:12 - For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

Now that went down sideways. My pride swelled up inside me and told me that I should have been up there teaching and that I would have done a much better job than some of those guys. And God used that to get me to set up a meeting with Pete (one of our elders).

On Aug 11th, Pete and I met at my house, and I presented my struggles with getting into the Word to him. I told him what God had revealed to me through Heb 5:12 and that I knew why I wasn't asked to teach during the summer: I wasn't in prayer and the Word. Well, that wasn't the real reason, but God used it anyways.

Pete was somewhat confused. He knew that I got home from work around 3:30 or 4 pm and that Brandy didn't get home until 5 or so. He pointed out that that time could be used for some serious Bible study. He recommended at least a half an hour in the Word. Problem solved.

I didn't tell Pete that day what I was doing with that time. My day after work consisted of at least an hour or so of WoW before preparing dinner and at least three more hours of WoW after dinner. So, upwards of five hours a weeknight of WoW and as much as I could on the weekends without totally alienating Brandy.

That day, Aug 11th, God performed surgery on my heart. He cut out WoW. Immediately after Pete left, I walked upstairs and deleted WoW and SW:toR from my computers. Usually when I would quit for a while, I would say good bye to my online friends, make sure my character mailboxes were empty, and store my toons for future play.

I didn't do any of that. I was never coming back. Ever.

The events of Aug 11 (Part 1)

I am undertaking this endeavor of writing down the workings of God in my life subsequent to His taking a hold of me and drawing me close. I have not been the same since, and I give all the glory to Him and Him alone. I would have done otherwise...

Before Aug 11, 2015, I had been a Christian for over 22 years. I have had many of the same struggles that everyone else has had including bouts with all sorts of sin (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes,  and the boastful pride of life. 1 John 2:16). I had engaged in playing various video games during this period, and most of the time I played them way too much. I had ignored my wife and children to satisfy my desire for just one more turn or level.

During this time, my relationship with the Lord was up and down, as you can well imagine it would be. I would sit in front of the computer for upwards of 20 or 30 hours a week playing Star Wars: The Old Republic or World of Warcraft. Before MMO's, it was CivII, Dragon Age: Origins, or Runescape. I was engrossed with the same type of worship that the children of Israel engaged in: Worship of the one true God...along with Baal, Molech, and Asherah; only the names had changed for me: God...along with WoW, SW:toR, and DA:O. I worshipped them all.

1 Kings 18:21 comes to mind to illustrate:  Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. I stood with the people of Israel and refused to commit whole heartedly to God or WoW.

I must make a note that in 1993, I did come to a true and saving faith in the death of Jesus Christ in my stead, and His blood did indeed cover my sin. If I would have died in the past 22 years, I have full faith and confidence that I would have been ushered directly into the presence of God Himself, albeit without a "Well done, my good and faithful servant". I would have been one of the "by the skin of [his] teeth" guys.

All during this time as a Christian, I would have spurts of being on fire for Christ and cold or lukewarm. God still used me to lead worship in Anchorage as well as Indiana, but my inconsistent walk was a constant concern for me. I struggled with sins that I should have been well past.

I have a post

I wrote an account of what the Lord brought into my life on Aug 11, 2015. I'll post it in chunks so as to not TL:DR you all.