The Scripture We Don’t Understand

It is a common complaint that the Bible does not make sense. When recommending that someone read God’s Word for themselves, they seem more likely to ask, “what if I don’t understand it?” than, “where would I find one?”

Almost everyone has a Bible or knows how to get one. In that sense, it is accessible. But if it is so easy to obtain and if many in the world have found in it the words of life and understood them, why is this such a persistent concern? Continue reading

Why the Old Testament is Important

It is such a temptation to read the ‘more interesting’ ‘more engaging’ ‘more relevant’ part of the Bible and leave the ‘barbarous’ ‘law section’ ‘difficult to understand’ part out entirely. But truthfully, the Old Testament makes up way more than half of our Bibles. If all Scripture is God-breathed, like the New Testament says, then the Old Testament must be good for something.

  1. It can be used to instruct. Again, the New Testament declares that all Scripture is useful to teach and instruct and correct. When those words were written, ‘Scripture’ meant the Old Testament, because the New had not yet been compiled. The Old Testament is full of history, poetry, and laws, all of which can be used to admonish and instruct through the wisdom and examples found in them.
  2. It shows the veracity of the Bible. The history contained in the Bible, both in the New and Old Testaments (but especially the Old) helps to prove the truthfulness of the Bible. Many of the historical events recorded there have been confirmed by historians—even secular ones!
  3. It provides an essential foundation for all that comes after. Here I especially refer to Genesis 1-11, but the entire Old Testament is actually a foundation for the New. If we don’t believe what God says He did at the beginning, how can we logically believe what He says He did to help the Israelites? How can we logically believe what He says He did to save us? And further, how can we logically believe what He says He will do in future? When Christ came, He was the fulfillment of what is written in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). In order to fully grasp what Jesus did, we need to understand how it all started.
  4. It explains the preconditions of intelligibility. The preconditions of intelligibility include many non-material things that we take for granted and assume every day such as morality, laws of logic, and the basic reliability of our senses. No other worldview except the one whose foundations are found in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament can make sense of non-material things that everyone in the universe knows about. We are not taught morality, nor are we taught to trust our senses. We intuitively know, and without the Almighty God creating our minds and instructing us to pattern our thoughts after His (laws of logic), and placing His law in our hearts (morality), we could know nothing.
  5. I am sure that there are more reasons. If you think of one, feel free to comment below on the post and add to the list of reasons why all, not just part, of God’s Word is important to our life today.

The Horsegentler

Consistency and Constancy

The last time I worked with Noella, she made no progress. In fact, by the end of the night it seemed like we had made negative progress; that is, her stop response had actually gotten heavier. Several times while riding I almost had to employ an emergency stop because she started speeding up and nothing would induce her to slow down. I wasn’t happy with what I’d had to do, and no doubt she wasn’t happy either.

I thought a good deal about that failed training session over the next week. What I decided was fairly simple. It was my fault. All of it—her poor responses that got worse, her obvious lack of understanding of what I wanted. I think I knew that before, but I also came up with the reason why it wasn’t getting through to her.

When I came up against her slowing/stopping/backing problem, I dug out Academic Horse Training again, from the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre. In years past I found I couldn’t understand their methods, but with careful re-reading (I honestly read each page about 10 times) I understood it. For each manoeuvre there are six stages through which the training progresses. The first is simply a try and the remaining five shape that first attempt. They are:

  • Basic Attempt
  • Obedience
  • Rhythm
  • Straightness
  • Contact
  • Proof

During the first session, I had managed to elicit a consistent Basic Attempt response. During the second, we had progressed far in Obedience. In the third, the failed one described above, I had attempted to move on to Rhythm. The problem was that when I did not receive a response that followed the criteria of the Rhythm stage, I switched my aids back to Obedience level. For practically the whole session I kept switching back and forth, getting frustrated at her lack of response when she was actually simply confused by my shifting requirements.

In the first two successful sessions, I had stuck to the level she was at until she showed signs of moving on without me; I had been consistent in my aids and their delivery. The constancy of my aids, or their dependability, had given her confidence to improve. In the third session, my consistency was lost and so was her confidence. She became confused, and as a result her responses grew heavier and heavier, and as a result my aids became less and less constant.

In the next session with her, I went back to Obedience level and stayed there. By the end, she was showing signs of moving on ahead of me into Rhythm level by consistently stepping back two steps from one light aid. Now she is ready; now we can go on.

Unlike a horse trainer in training, our God knows exactly what we can handle, how much we can take, and what lessons we need. After all, He made us and knows how many hairs are on our heads! His wisdom is far superior to ours, and I am humbled to have such a masterful Trainer working tirelessly on me with gentle lessons that will never go over my head. I have a lot to learn!

The Horsegentler

Have New Parents by Friday

I think that I am not alone in occasionally finding that I am annoyed by those who love me most. In my case, this is my parents. As my situation changes, so will these annoyances, and I believe that what I have discovered will apply to all situations like this.

Friday is 4 days away, counting today. It’s not much time to turn the relationship around, so we had better begin directly.

Tuesday

1. Pray for your parents (or other annoying party) and for your relationship to them. It is too important to simply let fall, and if you don’t recognize that yet, pray that God will help you to see the truth about the relationship. Remember that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, both you and the party you wish to change.

2. Do your part in the relationship. In my case, this has been faithfully doing what they require of me or ask me to do, as this is what is most expedient in proving my love for them.

Wednesday

1. Pray again. If God has already begun changing your thoughts and feelings, ask Him to show you what you can do and to take care of the rest Himself. If not, continue praying as before.

And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. (Luke 18:7-8)

2. Do your part in the relationship as before, but also add one unexpected act of willing service. If it is not noticed like you hoped, don’t draw attention to it. God noticed.

Thursday

1. Pray some more. It hurts when our closest friends or family don’t notice our attempts and tries to restore relationship, but God understands that and will provide much needed support.

2. Continue to be faithful to your end of the bargain. Instead of adding only one act of willing service, look during the entire day for various things you can do or say and do them. Aim for at least three. They don’t have to be huge and take up all of your time, but time has to be spent, and spending it on valuable people is better than most time occupations.

Friday

1. Pray.

2. You’ve arrived! Keep doing these things. The Lord commands us to love and serve one another, and He said that for a reason.

But I’ll bet that it isn’t your parents or friend that has changed. It’s you.

In continued service,

The Horsegentler

Life Lessons from Gardening

I had a gardening job this summer for a neighbour. It was just on the side, along with my other job and the coursework I was doing in the summer semester. All the same, I learned some pretty interesting things.

The first was that even when my fingernails were black and my shoes were full of dirt and the mosquitoes were flying around my head and my face probably had several black streaks, I could still talk with God and He would graciously listen.

When you are pulling smooth bromegrass roots out of the same plot of ground over and over and over again and have gone through all of the Scripture you were memorizing and have thought about everything else you can think of and feel ready to purchase some Round-Up… talking to God was a much better option, and one that I came to look forward to. My two, three, or four hours sitting in the middle of a tangled mess of roots which kept relentlessly sending up grass shoots were pleasant hours with my God.

While I was working in a less troublesome spot, though, I learned something really interesting. I had been told to just take out whatever looked like weeds in a flower bed, and I set to work. About an hour later, all the dandelions were gone, the grass had been dug out, the spaces between the landscaping stones were cleaned out, and I thought it looked quite pretty—so much better than it had been!

Well, my employer came out and looked at it and said, “Well done. Now, that is a weed, so is that, this isn’t a weed, but it can be taken out, and so can this and this…” and in short I was almost back where I had been! But once those directions were carried out, even removing some of the ‘wanted’ plants also, the flower bed really looked good.

I find it so easy to congratulate myself when I call someone I don’t know, or when I resist some temptation, or keep my temper in check. And God says, “Well done!” But he certainly does not think, like I am prone to, that the flower bed is finished. No, there is still this weed, and that one, and this flower really doesn’t belong there. Christianity is a constant journey and it is a hard one that often involves getting our hands dirty and crying to God over those roots that Keep. Coming. Back. But God is there the whole time, and He has the master plan for our garden bed that is slowly revealed as we finish each round of weeding.

Now that the snow flies, I have no more gardening work. Part of me is (very) glad, but I’ll miss the botanical theology!

The Horsegentler

On Prayer

“And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” our Lord inquires.

“Cast all your cares on Him, because he cares for you,” Peter says.

“Pray without ceasing,” Paul tells us.

My mind often objects to these injunctions. Doesn’t the Bible also say that God knows exactly what we are going to say before we say it? Doesn’t it say that God knows our needs before we ask him? It also says that God knows what will happen in the future. Why bother praying then, if he already knows what he is going to do?

You see my poor, finite mind trying to grasp a concept that is beyond time. Yes, God does know what I am going to do, but knowing is not the same as making. He knows that today I will sin, but he does not make me do it. In the same way, he knows what will happen next week, but he sees it with the prayers we have or have not yet offered in mind.

In his book Miracles, C. S. Lewis explains this concept. All of our prayers, spoken or unspoken, past or present, are visible to God from all eternity. This is the theological reason why God desires that we pray for what we need.

There is also another reason, however. I have never yet been friends with someone to whom I have never spoken. When Abraham was called the ‘friend of God,’ it was not an accidental relationship. Abraham had a habit of constantly speaking with his Maker and doing what he was told to do, reason or no reason. How are we to love God unless we obey him, and how are we to obey God unless we know him, and how are we to know God unless we speak with Him, and how are we to speak with Him except by prayer?

God is gracious enough to allow unworthy creatures like us to participate in the great things that he is doing. It’s like having an inexperienced person on your ranch who wants to learn how to train horses (like myself). Something is bound to go wrong. They are going to make mistakes, and maybe even create catastrophes. And here is where my analogy falls apart. You as my mentor would perhaps not be able to fix everything up, and you certainly wouldn’t have foreseen the problem. God on the other hand knows when and where we will mess up and is quite prepared to handle it.

When God’s saints (us) stop praying fervently day and night as Jesus said in his parable of the unjust judge and the widow, suddenly God’s kingdom stops advancing.

The power of a prayer of faith is the power of our God.

In that same parable about prayer, Jesus ends with a question. “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

So friend, let us join together in faithful prayer without ceasing and see what our mighty God will do through us for His glory!

The Horsegentler

Whatever you Do…

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

—Colossians 3:17

Whatever you do. At church, of course. With other people definitely. But whatever? ‘Whatever’ in my word and actions? Yup, that’s what Paul says. Whatever. Everything.

Washing dishes, walking the dog, wiping the counter after your little brother spilled his milk…again. Whatever.

Reading a book, running outside to dance in the rain, raking the fall leaves. Whatever.

Even the vacuuming, the chores, talking on the phone, sending an email. Everything is included in whatever. And we are supposed to do it all for our Saviour and Lord.

Jesus doesn’t just ask to be remembered at prayer time, or to receive a mumbled thanks before a meal. He isn’t happy with being stuffed into the ‘Sunday’ corner of our lives. No, he demands it all.

The beautiful thing is that this is not drudgery. When Christ lifted up humanity by becoming a human Himself, he did these things. He had younger siblings. He was obedient to his parents. He likely helped his father, who was a carpenter. He knows work, and He redeemed it, just like every other aspect of our lives.

Whatever we do for God, from serving one of His own who doesn’t have enough to eat or feeding the horses at chore time, turns into praise to God. When we do what He has given us to do, He is honoured and glorified in our lives.

That is how it is supposed to be.

But how does one praise God with a potato peeler in one hand and task after task looming while the baby screams and you just heard the horses fighting outside and Lou looks like he got hurt?

Honestly, I don’t know. Every day I ask God for his mercy and grace to remind me of His call to praise him with everything I do. I don’t make it, and I often forget the wonderful grace He has given to me. But each time He recalls me, I have a choice.

I could say, ‘thanks for brining me back to You,’ and change my attitude, or I can ignore Him and go on sinning.

Whatever is big, but it isn’t bigger than the God I serve. When I chose to follow again, I give my King praise and store up my treasure in Heaven.

The Horsegentler