My Husband Ruined my Favorite Devotional

{Guest Post by Mrs. J D White}

Well, that is definitely a click bait title. (But let’s face it, this blog could use one of those, hey?)

A more accurate title would be something like “my husband helped with the ruining of my ability to use the Bible as help-yourself self-help” (See why I went with the click bait?)

I grew up in a Bible-reading, Bible-studying, Bible-loving home. Claiming ignorance of Biblical teachings has never been an option. I also have been in Bible-exegeting churches all my life. I guess pretty much I’m a fish in water when it comes to Bible stuff.

That being said, it’s been an interesting process figuring out how to read, understand, and apply the Bible for my own life. (Lots and lots of failing along the way!)

In high school, I attended a Bible study led by our church’s youth pastor. He gave us a fabulous challenge.

Read all of Romans. Straight through. In one sitting.

What!? You can’t do that it’s so long. And it’s, like, the Bible. You only read it in little pieces. Like a toddler eats broccoli. Right??

Oh, and read it (straight through in one sitting) every day for a week.

Now you’re asking me to eat a whole salad in one bite?? This is crazy.

But I did it.

The first time was hard. The second time it started to actually make sense for the first time ever. By the fifth time? I was head over heels in love with Romans.

Now…zoom forward through my life a few years, to the part where da’husband comes in. He likes to read, and he studies theology like a regular seminary student (who can’t afford regular seminary so he just gets the textbooks and lectures from the library and Amazon and iTunesU.)

We have conversations about Bible stuff all the time. Life experience (by God’s grace) simply hasn’t allowed that to be optional. We’ve seen some crazy stuff (who hasn’t these days tho).

One of the things we have become super convinced of is the extreme importance of reading Bible verses in context, not using Bible verses OUT of context, and seeking to understand the author’s original intent (I have a hunch there will be a whole post on that last point, coming soon…ask me how I know)

Basically, the idea is that in order to understand any particular Bible verse well, one must also consider the surrounding verses, and even chapters and books.

For example, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” sounds like a great superhero Christian verse at face value, but it takes on a more real-life tone when you realize Paul was talking about enduring suffering and enjoying abundance to the glory of God.

Likewise, have you ever studied the context of “Without vision a people perish”? Or “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…” or “Nothing is impossible with God”? (Consider it a dare! Go study!)

Ok, but what does any of this have to do with the title of this post?

See, I used to approach the Bible like I was simply “supposed to read it.” Because it’s “good for you.” I’d pick a chapter, and read it, annnnd….done! Check that off the list! Or I’d have a question and try to find the answer by looking up words in a concordance and doing a topical study. (“What is a Christian girl supposed to wear? Hmm, let’s look up “modesty” – I’m sure that will tell me what type of denim is the most godly.”) Or I’d read a verse or two and try to figure out how they apply to me personally (ie, the “devotional” approach).

The trouble is, it’s really hard to see the stunningly beautiful over-arching, under-girding, permeating purposes of Scripture if you just read it in smaller chunks or only use a concordance to find words. I’m not saying topical studies are bad or that you can’t read small pieces of Scripture. I just want to suggest that if you sometimes read whole books or letters in one sitting (or two or three sittings…let’s be real…Isaiah is long), and if you look for the over-all message of that book or letter, you might be amazed at the whole new level of coherence that you can discover.

But I gotta warn you. Once you start discovering the importance of context, you might have a hard time flipping open your Bible and pointing at a random verse and taking it as personal prophecy. You’ll be more likely to flip open your Bible randomly, see a book name, start at chapter 1, and keep going. And your heart just might rejoice at the amazing wisdom and glory of God that the Bible is fairly bursting with.

(I could thank a lot of people for this change of perspective- my parents, siblings, pastors, people who don’t like me, friends. And I am grateful to them, from my heart.

But it sounds funnier to just blame my husband.)

One last note of practical honesty: These days, I’m a mom of two very small children. I don’t read the Bible every day. I read large chunks of Bible on some days – and then the dishes don’t get done, I stay in my pajamas til lunchtime, the kids get annoyed at me, and dinner is late.

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Some Thoughts on Isaiah 11:6 and “the Mandela Effect”

The other day a coworker of mine asked if I read the Bible and proceeded to share with me some things that he’d heard about Isaiah 11:6 on a YouTube video claiming to provide “…the three best and most detailed examples of the Mandela Effect.” [time mark 1:27] And In the course of the brief exchange I asked him to send me a link to the video – which has resulted in further conversation and this post that you are now reading.

The Mandela Effect(?)

The video in question kind of opens with a summary of the concept of this theory. And as far as I can tell – considering I had no active knowledge of this concept until watching the video – the event that gave the theory its name does seem somewhat puzzling… Especially when only equipped with the minimal information provided by the video.

However, since my concern is more related to the text of Scripture, as far as this theory goes I will simply offer a short list of thoughts and/or questions regarding said subject and leave the rest to the reader’s opinion and/or knowledge/research.

1: it seems to me that this theory assumes the infallibility of a person’s memory – simply based upon the “vividness” and/or “detail” of the mistaken memory – and this assumption is apparently validated by “many total strangers” having the same mistaken “memory.”

2: building further on this assumption of infallible human memory, it seems this theory is more imaginatively pointless than it is thoughtfully helpful (no offense intended to those who believe or have further studied the idea). After all, if such a theory were actually fact – and we had experienced intersection of dimensions and/or timelines – what could we possibly do about it?

3: from a slightly different angle – but in a similar vein as my question ending the previous point – the proponents and conceivers of this theory seem to be coming from a completely secular-humanist and/or materialistic (if not occult) worldview. Now this thought would mean more to a disciple of Jesus than anyone else – but the point stands that this theory ignores or outright denies the existence of a Sovereign Creator working all things according to the council of His own will.

These were just a few of the more poignant of my thoughts as I watched the first portion of the video. But I would prefer to specifically focus on the second part that the creators of the video titled “Biblical Changes.”

Changes to the Bible? [time mark 6:12]

The first difficulty I had with this section was the language about “Biblical changes” with no qualifications or basis given for the presumptive phrasing. Obviously the discussion of Isaiah 11:6 would be considered an example – but one verse is hardly sufficient to warrant language implying more than a few actual changes to the text of the Bible.

In fact, the first real example cited (outside of a general statement about ‘many Christians misremembering the verse’) is a post by a user on a site called “Reddit” claiming to have gone to “three different churches” to ask ministers about the verse and finding that the people the Reddit person talked to misremembered the verse. [time mark 7:35]

I would submit to the reader several ideas/questions at this point: 1) what evidence can the Reddit user give for their story? What churches did they go to? Who were the ministers? What denomination were the churches? 2) what do three unverifiable examples prove about the “changing” of an ancient, historically verifiable text? 3) should we really allow the mistakes of people’s fallible, often prone to or capable of malfunction minds to cause us to assume the text of an ancient set of books has been changed? 4) does this one story really give the video warrant to say “even those within ecclesiastical institutions incorrectly remember the verse” [time mark 7:30] as if this mistake were a normative thing across Christianity? (NOTE: That may not have been the intent of those who made the video, but it was still implied by their choice of words and the method of presenting the data)

Again, I realize my thoughts would not necessarily be significant to one who is not a disciple of Jesus – but I believe my questions are valid and deserving of consideration by anyone interested in fact/truth.

The next phrase (with no substantiation) that I would think any critically thinking person would take issue with came at time mark 8:15 – “Christians are becoming increasingly worried about what this passage change means…”

Now, again, what grounds are there for assuming that the passage has been changed? I would submit to the reader that subjective human thoughts are no basis upon which to question ANY historically verifiable reality. More important and directly relative to the quote, however, is what documentation do the makers of this video have for such a statement? I, for one, have never even heard of people making this mistake before watching this video… and I follow enough “Christian sources” online that I’m pretty sure I would have heard of this before if it was an actual concern among the greater Christian community – as implied by the statement.

The video follows this statement with some odd thoughts of what the significance would be if the passage had been changed which I will simply provide some of my own thoughts about and leave the video alone for the rest of this post. However, the reader is obviously free to watch the video in its entirety and come to there own conclusions.

Context and Concept of Isaiah 11:6

1: If one will read the entirety of Isaiah, they will see that chapter 11 is a prophetic text – and it seems to me to be of a particularly eschatological bent, although the beginning sets it up as ultimately messianic in nature. The concept of verses 6-9, namely the perfect peace that will be on God’s mountain/kingdom, is set up by verse 6: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” (ESV) The context – and simply the entirety of the verse – taken into consideration removes any need to question the “significance” of the animals depicted. The obvious thrice-emphasized Hebrew parallelism of “wolf and lamb,” “leopard and kid,” and “lion and calf,” make it clear that the verse is simply putting forth the removal of predator and prey distinctions in this land where there is perfect peace (I.e. No natural indicators of struggle and death). The rest of the context of the chapter does not allow for any “secret/hidden” interpretation or meaning to the animals used in the illustration. (NOTE: the parallel passage in Isaiah 65:25 is another indication of the simplicity of the intended meaning)

2: Even if we were to consider this idea that the animals depicted have a “deeper meaning” – there would be no definitive precedent to indicate what that meaning would be. Though Christ is called the “Lion of Judah” (Revelation 5:5) there are plenty of illustrations in scripture that utilize a lion (as well as a wolf) as a ferocious and terrible beast (Isaiah 5:29, Ezekiel 22:27, Psalm 17:12), and the only other illustration I know of in the Bible utilizing a wolf is in connection with false prophets/teachers (Acts 20:29-30, Matthew 7:15)… so there would really be no reason to note such a supposed “change” in the first place.

3: in humoring the video – my wife and I came up with a few potential possibilities for why this mistake of memory is made: 1) the popular “worship song” How Great Is Our God by Chris Tomlin has “Lion and the lamb” as one of its refrains… 2) the imagery of Jesus in the Bible not only utilizes a lamb (Revelation 5:6, etc.) but Jesus is also given the title of “the Lion of Judah” (Revelation 5:5)… and these are just two very commonly experienced/known things among Christians and in “Christian culture” that could reasonably explain the common mistake of misremembering Isaiah 11:6. However, even if these didn’t explain the phenomenon – there is still not enough grounds to claim changes have been made to an ancient text when all you’ve got is a potentially freaky case of common mistaken memory.

Final Note

No intended offense is meant against my coworker or the makers of the video that sparked this post, but it must be made clear to the reader that ancient, orthodox Christianity holds to none of the superstitions or confidence in mankind’s own thoughts and/or memories that seem to have given rise to the presentation in the video linked to above.

The good news of the Son of God taking on human flesh and living a perfect life to fulfill the demands of the Law of God, dying upon the cross to satisfy the Wrath of God and take away the sins of His people, and being buried and rising again on the third day to prove His Work acceptable and His people Justified before God denies any possible confidence in the thoughts and intentions of mankind.

No matter what we encounter that seems unexplainable, these things remain self evident; everything we see and interact with was made and is owned by a Thrice-Holy God, the whole of humanity desires and does nothing but that which is evil, and there is no way for man to stand clean before his Maker unless the Maker first does something to cleanse him… which He has.

A Final Note on Kenneth Hagin

After my lengthy critique of his ideas in “the Believer’s Authority” I am well aware that there are those who would accuse me of “consigning the man to hell” – and I am aware of those Word-Faithers who would tack on an idea like “simply because he got a few things wrong.” Not that I wish to build and burn any form of straw man, but allow me to say a few things to attempt to dissuade the more reasonable objectors from thinking the worst of me and/or my methods…

1: I have said to my wife many times in the last few years that it could very well be that before the end of his life God broke through to Hagin and saved him. But I have said just as often, that the fruit of Hagin’s “ministry” and life give us no reason to ASSUME that God saved him at all, unless it was so soon before the heart-attack that claimed his life that he had no time to publicly recant… so to end this point I will add: It is not our job as followers of Jesus to consign/make the final judgement about whether anyone goes to hell… OR heaven! (it seems to me – for all their fear of “judging” – that way too many Christians are willing to wave there hand in front of the professing “believer” and pronounce that there can be no doubt of their being destined for heaven – without one bit of concern about the current and constant fruit of that person’s life…)… something to think about there, I would say.

2: public material is free game for critical review – be it positive or negative. It should be the assumption of everyone that anything anyone says in a public format is open to feedback, and the teacher and/or leader who claims to speak of the doctrines of the Bible should expect and desire feedback (in any form; rebuke, exhortation, refutation, correction, encouragement, etc) from fellow shepherds (and the occasional “sheep”) in the faith. No one should be surprised when someone is criticized for what they write – and Christians who have influence over others should welcome such challenges, since “teachers will incur a harsher/stricter judgement” and they should seek to keep their repeated errors to an absolute minimum… Hagin, like his disciple Copeland and his contemporaries Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn, never seemed open to such critical examination.

3: Finally – and within the same vein of point “1” – the fact that I vehemently condemn statements of blasphemy and/or heresy should not cause the reader to automatically categorize me as “hating” Kenneth Hagin or as a “hateful” person in general… do I hate the rotten fruit and lies about God perpetrated by what was/is spewed from books and “ministries” like Hagin’s? YES. I despise anything and everything that belittles, degrades, and attempts to spit upon the honor and glory of the Great and All-Mighty, One True God, Yahweh. But it should not be an assumption of the reader (especially those who are so “charitable” and “positive”-oriented) that in acting that out I am committing the sin of hatred against another human being.

On that note, it should go without saying that I am open to any thoughtful criticism a reader might have of my own statements about Hagin’s book “The Believer’s Authority.” And even if the reader wishes to criticize my own method(s) of critique, I would be happy to discuss them… I would be completely inconsistent and hypocritical if I were not willing to do so, after all.

In closing, I encourage the reader, once again, to think critically about the things that they read and – especially in matters of theology and doctrine – to not merely accept the words of any man without testing them against Scripture.

Some Thought-Provoking Articles by Kevin DeYoung

I believe active, critical thought is an absolute necessity for a follower of Christ to practice while consuming any form of media. A Christian’s worldview should effect not only how the view things, but what they choose to view.

This last August (2017) Kevin DeYoung made some very important and accurate observations about American Christianity and its inability to THINK about what it consumes – let alone offers praise for…

And his first post was: “I Don’t Understand Christians Watching Game of Thrones”

Which spawned a firestorm that caused him to write this incredibly good and pointed piece: “One More Time on ‘Game of Thrones'”

And since it is based from the same topic… I thought I’d also share this article posted at Desiring God in June of 2014 that I found amazingly helpful and convicting at the time: “Twelve Questions to Ask Before You Watch ‘Game of Thrones'”

The Silliness of “Saying ‘No’ to Sickness” – Some Additional Thoughts

Another idea given in the message I mentioned in my last post was “you are filled up in order to be poured out.” Basically the idea being, “God wants you to be healthy for the sake of others.” — which is a pious way to say “we shouldn’t have to learn self-control, or be self-sacrificing unless we’re comfortable before we do it.”

Or at least, that’s how it comes across to me. I honestly have heard professing believers use this line of reasoning outside of the context of the particular message that sparked these posts – but in every instance it sounds like a childish desire to avoid actual self-denial and true suffering.

Nothing in Scripture implies to me that the Christian has any right to desire to be more healthy than they are in the moment they are called upon to preach, serve, or sacrifice.

Now, I believe that God condescends to miraculously heal us at times, but it comes down to having our view of God’s graciousness to heal balanced out by a Scriptural view of God’s graciousness to help in suffering.

The Silliness of “Saying ‘No’ to Sickness”

My wife and I listen to a wide variety of speakers and preachers throughout the week to supplement the preaching we sit under (when we can) on Sunday mornings.

One such speaker we listened to recently tried to present a “Biblical view of health and healing” – and basically labeled himself a Pentecostal, if not borderline Word-Faither.

I’m not going to bother criticizing this man’s whole sermon and will not be mentioning his name for many reasons, but primarily because he is tolerably orthodox and I’m mostly just taking issue with his use of words and emphasis.

“Healing” was a big deal in the environment I grew up in, so I have had many “states” and “changes” of mind when it comes to the subject over the course of my life… but nowadays if I hear someone say something like “saying no to a cold will be the hardest thing you ever do” because of some notion of “the Enemy will come after you for it” it gets quite difficult for me to not perform a fairly painful “facepalm.”

And I proceed to practice a great amount of self-control to keep from slamming my forehead against the table when I hear people tell stories about ‘battling dozens of oncoming symptoms over the course of a specified period of time…’

I’m sorry, but your state of mind and how you think or pray do not have nearly as much correlation to God’s condescending mercy in providing “miraculous health” to your body as most Christians would like to think.

I thought of writing this post because this morning I wasn’t feeling well and one of the questions my wife and I asked while listening to this person popped into my head: “what myriad of circumstances was this person dealing with while going through this initiation into the ‘divine health’ viewpoint?”

Point being this: Any number of things could have been making me feel ill this morning; the cup of coffee I had, the breakfast I ate, how those two interacted in my stomach, how much “junk food” I’ve consumed in the last week, the emotional and mental stress I’ve experienced in the last few weeks, a virus I contracted somewhere in the last few days that my body is finally expelling (and those producing symptoms), or any number of a combination of those and other things I might not have thought of or know about!

But in spite of all those potential factors, I’m supposed to assume that “the Enemy” of the Christian has personally singled me out for an “attack” – is what it sounds like this idea is promoting when I hear it.

Frankly I think that mentality is silly for a number of reasons.

1. I’m not that important, and Satan (in particular) and the other demons (in general), would probably accomplish even LESS than they normally do in “attacking” me in that manner if they had that power (and that’s saying a lot, because they don’t accomplish very much as it is, when it comes to the saints).
2. Many people who live in “developed” civilizations have so sterilized their everyday environments and can have such poor diets that it is easier (I would think) for them to contract the common cold or other minor sickness far more easily than most people throughout history.
3. And most importantly, there is no Scriptural warrant for being borderline obsessed about the health of our physical bodies.

Also, in listening to professing Christians talk about “healing” there is always a missing element (I believe) to everything they say – and that missing element is a properly developed doctrine of suffering.

I’m convinced from my reading of Scripture that it has far more to say about suffering and human weakness and the curse and effects of sin upon creation than it does about miraculous physical healing in the here and now.

All of that to say: I would encourage the reader to look to Scripture for a proper view of suffering in order to have a proper view of health…

“Are You Excited?”

I hate that question.

When you have a baby on the way people inevitably ask it, and if you don’t respond with great enthusiasm they assume something’s wrong with you or that you don’t want the baby or that your “nervous” or what have you…

I am so sick of this culture’s need for everything to be so exaggeratedly “positive” – no, I am not constantly in some state of bubbly giggles, nor do I want or seek to be.

And, frankly, I highly doubt that anyone responding with enthusiasm to that stupid question (at least when it comes to babies) is being entirely honest. And I would be willing to bet that most women eight months along do not feel anything but a desire to finally have the baby in their arms instead of pulling at their back in the womb.

Now, don’t misunderstand, children are a beautifully wonderful gift and blessing from the Lord. And they supply much joy and comfort in life.

But the idiotic question, “are you excited” fails to encompass the gravity of being given the life, heart, and mind of a human being to nurture, train, and support for the next indeterminate amount of decades. And the cultural assumption of “positivity” behind the question is simply unrealistic and childish. The heartache and emotional hills and valleys endured through childbearing and raising should never be glazed over or ignored as “bad” so that we can get on with some naive ideal of always being emotionally “happy” or “light-hearted” or whatever other kind of self-induced drug people use to skate through life the way THEY WANT.

If you ask the question a lot, I’m sorry about the offense you might be taking at my words. But I would urge you to actually stop and think about what it is you are asking – and come up with a more intelligent, compassionate, and interested question.

God gave us more than one spectrum of emotions. Deal with them honestly.