Our preacher, Mark Stinnett, publishes articles for the church bulletin each week. These articles are designed to teach, encourage and challenge the members of our congregation. His latest articles can be found below with the most recent at the end of the list. Mark has archived all of his articles on his personal blog 'MicroMarks' which can be accessed at: micromarks.blogspot.com.
Who wouldn’t want a copy of ‘The Pastor’s Bible’? Surely it would unlock the mysteries of scripture in an unparalleled way. Instead of your ‘pastor’ being the only one with a depth of understand of God’s word, YOU too would have rich insight.
Yes, that was sarcastic. The ESV Pastor’s Bible boasts “practical help for a pastoral life….” It comes with over 40 articles “specifically written to encourage those in ministry.” I don’t own a copy so I cannot be critical; its special features might be useful. Yet it is just one of many themed Bibles on the market today. My book store catalog has eleven full pages of Bibles listed for sale.
It IS important for you to have a Bible translation you trust with readable print, formatting you like and a durable cover. Yet, the myriad of choices can be mind-numbing.
One Bible will help you to “access your inner artist” and “rejuvenate your devotional time.” It does this by including “over 600 elegant line drawings, filigree designs and Scripture quotations to color.” It is a Bible with coloring pages.
The “Metal Bible” boasts a “trendy license plate design” on the cover that is “sure to appeal to teens!” I guess the idea is that someone has to make the Bible more appealing to our young people; by itself, it is not appealing enough.
Another exciting Bible for kids is called the “Following Jesus Bible.” (And I thought that was the expectation of every Bible, not just a specialty Bible.)
There are also Bibles with special materials for women, men, teens; for military families, globally-minded people; for those wanting ‘a deeper prayer life,’ wanting to ‘discover God’s heart,’ and wanting to ‘focus on God’s justice.’
Don’t be discouraged, it is all marketing. God’s word was originally recorded for men and women and teens; for those in the military and those who are not; for those who are globally-minded and those who want a deeper prayer life and want to discover God’s heart and want to focus on God’s justice. It’s all been there all along.
Is the Bible difficult to understand? Yes and No.
There are difficult concepts and difficult passages. Yet the overall message of the Bible is quite accessible to the common man.
So, what is the best translation?
Do I need a ’Study Bible’?
Recognize that many study Bibles are slanted to a specific theme or are biased by one man’s understanding. I recommend a study Bible that focuses on the biblical languages, archaeology, and ancient history and culture. However, expect a study Bible to abbreviate information easily accessible in a good Bible dictionary.
And what is the best translation?
Let me answer with an illustration:
He who watches the wind will not sow and
He who looks at the clouds will not reap.
The farmer cannot wait for perfect conditions; nor should we wait for the perfect translation. The farmer must plant in order to harvest. Our spiritual harvest will be rewarding, but only if we devote ourselves to reading and studying the copy of God’s word that we have in our hands. Then remember the words of Jesus:
Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.
September 20, 2020
Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time. There might have been legitimate reasons for his boasting. However, to many people it was distasteful pride.
I think that, in general, people do not enjoy hearing the boasts of the strong, the powerful, the rich, the privileged. Most often it comes across as a superior attitude. It is as if the one boasting is telling everyone, "I'm better than everyone else; I'm better than YOU."
We prefer the sport star who excels yet gives credit to his teammates and coaching staff; not the one who soaks in the praise of others and then announces with pride, "Yeah, I'm all that. I'm the best. I did it." We prefer a measure of humility that makes the star seem a little more accessible to the rest of us. Whether it is a sport star, successful businessman, accomplished musician, or applauded intellectual, we appreciate those who are content to allow others to place them on a pedestal.
What about YOU? Are you content to wait on others to lift you up? Or do you run to climb up on a pedestal to announce your accomplishments? What if no one applauds your victory or your achievement? What if no one tells you, "That was a job well done" or "That was a great effort"?
Listen to the words of Solomon:
Do not claim honor in the presence of the king,
And do not stand in the place of great men;
For it is better that it be said to you, "Come up here,"
Than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince,
Whom your eyes have seen.
When you exalt yourself you place yourself at risk of being humiliated. Yet, when you present yourself humbly, you may be exalted. Solomon reflected on this principle as it applied to life. The Apostle Peter wrote about the same principle as it applies to spiritual life.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.
--1 Peter 5:6
In this life we are unsure whether anyone will applaud our success. However, with God there is certainty.
Be content in your humility.
Be humble in your contentment.
Let God place you on a pedestal of His design.
September 27, 2020
He sat gazing into the distance and thoughtfully remarked, “I’ve been thinking about a lot of things.” The previous day Uncle James had blessed me with wise words that ‘I’ needed. His mind was sharp, but working more slowly than usual. I waited for more wisdom; he continued, “I am so thankful for the way God has blessed me with family and so many loving friends...” another pause, “...and biscuits and gravy.”
My uncle’s 83-year-old body was worn out. No one knew how much time he had left, so family members and friends visited. He had been an elder of the church for 42 years and even though it was a time in life that he needed to be served he was serving others...and I listened.
Leadership and service:
Our young people need to know the importance of serving and leading in the Lord’s church. Preachers and elders need to encourage our people to be responsible and take initiative and serve. Young men need to be encouraged to plan to be teachers and preachers and deacons and elders in the future. They need to learn what God expects and then reach for that as a goal. Serving God’s people is noble.
God made man and He knows what is good for man. God created man with the expectation of having a companion. When He said that it is not good for man to be alone, He meant for man to find a good wife.
God made man and He knows what is good for man. God’s word is not against man, it is for man. God wants us to be happy and to enjoy all that He created. He wants us to enjoy each other. His word is not there to hurt us, but help us. Some people fight against God’s word. They try to make it accommodate them and their choices. But if we do what God has instructed, we will be so much happier.
Listening and Obeying:
We need to read God’s word. We need to study God’s word. We need to learn God’s word. But that is not all; it’s not good to go around with all that knowledge of God’s word only in your mind. We need to do what God has said. We need to be active. God expects us to act according to His word.
Uncle James never once mentioned his career, awards, or achievements. He didn’t talk about places he’d been or things he’d done. People; he talked about people. His life was full of places and events and accomplishments and career, but even then, it was about people. He said that the Lord knew what He was talking about when He gave us the Second Great Command: Love your neighbor as yourself. God knows that we really know how to love self. That is natural; the way He created us. So, He wanted us to think about what we love so much (self) and turn that love outward toward others.
He said little ‘about’ thankfulness. Yet, everything he said came from a thankful heart. Family, friends, his church family, the men with whom he served as an elder, his first wife (who met an untimely death), his second wife, the joy of his sons, grandkids, a ‘second’ family. (A family photo hangs on the wall. It is your typical family photo except that it was mostly people I didn’t know; the family he inherited with his second marriage...and he sat front and center beaming with joy.) Over and over and over he spoke of the way that God had blessed him...and he was thankful. He was thankful for the great blessings of life, but also the little things...so many little things...even a plate of biscuits and gravy.
This wisdom he learned from his heavenly Father. I was listening; I hope you are too.
October 11, 2020
I first heard the word ‘loophole’ when my dad and a friend were talking about taxes. They were frustrated that some taxpayers took advantage of the lack of clarity in the wording of some in tax laws (a loophole). It seemed unfair. Sometimes people use the same kind of loophole-thinking with the Bible.
Here’s an example:
When teaching about the relationship between anger and murder, Jesus said that anyone angry enough to say, “You fool,” would be deserving of hell (Matthew 5:22). He described an escalation of anger that devalued another human:
- Anger—”You are worth less than me.”
- ‘Raca’ (literally: empty-headed) - “You are worth very little.”
- ‘Fool’—”You are worthless.”
An angry person thinks he is free from guilt. He thinks he has found a loophole in the Law of Moses. He thinks something like, “You can’t tell me I’m not righteous. I might have been angry, but I obeyed the Law; I didn’t murder anyone.”
However, that was the point Jesus was making. Just because you do not commit the act of murder does not make you righteous in God’s eyes. In fact, anger is the first step leading to murder which is an aggressive act that comes from a heart that regards another person as worthless.
Jesus made His listeners responsible in reading and understanding the Law of Moses. It was not enough to obey the letter of the law while finding legal loopholes that seemingly sidestepped ungodly attitudes and behaviors.
What about forgiveness; What are the rules??
This question betrays the heart of the person who is looking for loopholes. They are interested in the limitations of forgiveness; the extent of forgiveness; the point at which they can stop.
Do you remember Peter’s similar question?
Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?
--Matthew 18:21 (NASB95)
Peter might have thought that he was being generous. (The Jews limited forgiveness to three offenses.) Jesus blasted past his seven to an exaggerated value of seventy time seven. In other words, put your database away; there is no point in keeping records. Forgiveness is not limited by the number of offenses.
However, shouldn’t a person repent before I forgive them? After all, Jesus said…
And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying, “I repent,” forgive him.
--Luke 17:4 (NASB95)
This is more loophole-thinking due to a misunderstanding of the concept of repentance . For centuries people were taught that repentance is a change in behavior. It is true that repentance will result in changed behavior, but repentance is literally a mind change or change in perception. Jesus said that as soon as the person ‘expresses’ a change of heart, forgive him. You do not wait for a visible change of behavior.
God is teaching His people to think like Him. There is no limit to His forgiveness; he desires salvation for all. If we are to be like God, we must not look for forgiveness loopholes. Rather, we must adopt the heart of God toward sinners by forgiving even when we are hurt. Whether you forgive or not will not affect the salvation of another person. So, if you mistakenly forgive someone undeserving, God will sort it out. Yet, if you refuse to forgive, it will cost you your soul. (Matthew 6:14-15 & 18:35.)
October 18, 2020