Sunday, May 28, 2006

Don't choose blindness

Today is the Sunday of the Man Born Blind.

Fr. Paul had a lot of beefy things to say about this gospel story (John 9:1-38), things that'll stick to your ribs if you let 'em. Three things that stuck to my ribs were the following:

Christ came to give sight to the blind, and sometimes He even restored physical sight, as in the gospel story. But spiritual blindness is more serious. There are three kinds alluded to in the story.

The blindness of passers-by.
After the man was given his sight, people saw him walking around cured and asked each other, "Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?" They had never really looked at him closely enough to have really seen him, when he was a blind beggar.

The blindness of "I don't know, and I don't wanna know."
The blind man's parents were hauled in for questioning by the authorities. When asked if this was their son, and if he had been born blind, and how he came to see, they responded evasively, "Yeah, he's our son and he was blind at birth, but how he got his sight, we don't know. Ask him yourself." This has to be an example of one of the worst cases of uncaring parents or, maybe just fearing for their skins, they just copped out. Fr. Paul sensed that they just wanted to be left alone, "we don't know, and we don't wanna know." Because if they admitted to knowing (and seeing), it might result in a difficult situation (getting kicked out of the synogogue, maybe?).

The blindness of not seeing what is right in front of your face.
The pharisees who questioned the man born blind, when they got his answer that Jesus had given him his sight, they refused to accept it. To them, Jesus was not only NOT the messiah, he was also a sinner (and therefore couldn't possibly have worked a miracle). The blind man mocked them, to show how ridiculously blind they were themselves. The pharisees just told him off and kicked him out, "Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and through, since you were born?"

Yesterday, Brock and I went on our 6th sortie to downtown Portland to read the Word of God. We read the gospel of Mark cover to cover, standing in front of the Skidmore Building at Saturday market to the passing crowd. Fr. Jerry and his presbytera (wife) and their kids passed by while it was my turn to read. I was reading a very good passage nice and loud when I heard "Hey, Roman!" and there I saw the smiling faces of Fr. Jerry and his family. I stopped the reading long enough to take off my cap and call out, "Good morning, Father!" Then I put my cap back on, the Markopoulos family waved a farewell and continued on their way, and I picked up where I left off. This is looking, AND seeing. A few minutes later, a couple I know from church and who often stand near us went by me as I was reading, quite close. I was happy to see them, and so I read a little more boldly and looked right at them as they passed, following them with my eyes until they disappeared. But they never even turned their heads. Did they look at us from a distance and decide we might be something unpleasant, Jehovah Witnesses or something like that, and chose to not see us? Or were they just pre-occupied, innocently, with each other?
This is an example of "the blindness of passers-by" (contrasted to the seeing of passers-by).

When it's Brock's turn to read, I stand next to him and, with an idiotic smile on my face, I look directly at everyone who passes, right in the eyes, if I can catch them. This is not to try to grab their attention in some foolish way. In my flesh, I actually feel afraid to make eye contact, because I don't want to become involved with others; I'm actually a shy person by nature. But when we are witnessing to the Word of God, I try to smile at each person and look them in the eyes, and sometimes they look me in the eyes too. Sometimes a meaningless, almost mocking stare, other times a warm sparkle, sometimes a return smile, and sometimes a kind word. What I want to do by catching their eyes and smiling, is to say, "Hey, from me it's just a greeting, to wish you well, but the risen Lord is in our midst, and He is looking for you!" My flesh (the "old man") doesn't want the bother of getting involved. "I don't know, and I don't wanna know." But my spirit (the "new man" created by Jesus Christ, who lives in me) knows, and wants to know, whatever and whomever the Lord has put before me, in my path. It is the Lord who calls us out of that "don't bother me" tomb—"Lazaros, come forth!"

I cannot give an example of the third kind of blindness without revealing the sins of others, but let me give a short hypothetical situation. Pharisees aren't just folks in the Bible, the bad guys who got Christ killed. It's a kind of spiritual bondage which I have learnt to call "the spirit of religion" or "religious professionalism." This is not dead, but unfortunately still with us in the Body of Christ. It's the spirit that plants the weeds in God's field. It makes for "the appearance of godliness while denying the power thereof." This kind of blindness can affect clergy in their ministry to the laity, and it can also work the other way around. A pastor can refuse to see the true spiritual gifts of one of his flock, because he doesn't have the right educational credentials, for example, or maybe because he doesn't fit into the pastor's 'program'. In this way, the plan of salvation can be delayed (but never derailed) by "the blindness of not seeing what is right in front of your face."

No matter what happens in life, the Word of God is always relevant, and can always be applied to every situation, with faith. This true story of the man born blind is there to tell us, "Don't choose blindness."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Let God be God

Unless we are aware that we are outside the kingdom of God, that we need to knock at a door to be allowed in, we may spend a great deal of our lives in imagining that we are inside, behaving as though we were, and never reaching that depth where the kingdom of God unfolds itself in all its beauty, its truth and its glory.
—Anthony Bloom, Metropolitan of Sourozh

As Christians we often adopt God as the provider of our needs and concerns. But God's purpose is not ours and his ways are not our ways. Jesus' way is that we free ourselves from our pride and follow his footprints to complete abandonment in the hands of God. Jesus' truth is that we stop searching for ways to capture God, and accept his gift to transform our lives. Jesus' life is that we stop worrying whether we live or die, but rather whether we are prepared to die for him who has the power to give life.

God became like us so that we might become like him. God did not descend as an unapproachable light, but as a weak and humble child. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV). Jesus exposed his omnipotence, and so magnified his power. He emptied himself of his omnipresence, and so fulfilled all things. He abandoned his omniscience, and so revealed the truth for us to see.

John of Kronstadt wrote "the Lord has become everything for you, and you must become everything for the Lord." Christ was born into our life, so that we might be born into the divine life of God. Jesus is the truth, the only truth, and everything about the Christian Church is about accepting that Jesus is God and to share this message with the world: "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice," says Jesus (John 18:36, NASB).

Jesus was our witness to the absoluteness of God, and Christians are Jesus' witnesses to the eternal life that Christ was born into the world to offer to all humanity. In the Book of Acts 26:16-18 (NKJV) we read, "I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me."

A Christianity not reaching out to
others is like the gospel without Christ.
We need to stop holding on to our stuff and depending on the substitutes of this life, because God can't offer his riches to hands that are already clutching onto mental or material possessions. We shut out Jesus, borne into weakness, exile and poverty and instead accept the illusion of our self-sufficiency as our new personal 'Jesus.' Maximus the Confessor's exhortation is to "cleanse your mind of anger, grudges and shameful thoughts. Then you will be able to know the indwelling of Christ." In order to see Christ in others you must first see him in yourself.

We all need to become meaningful followers of the Way: "Let your light shine in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16, NASB). Let us open our hearts and homes to those for whom God chose to live amongst. Let us reach out with our riches to those whom Jesus came as a pauper. Let us expose our poverty to the Christ who came to give us the kingdom of God.

— John Kapsalis

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two sayings of Abba Poemen

Abba Poemen* said, “To throw yourself before God, to not measure your progress, to leave behind all self-will — these are the instruments for the work of the soul.”

He also said, “Give not your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”

* Abba Poemen (pronounced PEE-men) was a 4th century desert father. I almost started a new blog devoted to the sayings of the desert fathers, but I deleted it, because I found a good on-line source for their sayings. Under LINKS in my blog, click on The Desert Fathers for more sayings.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sane Michael

Talk boldly
when you gotta speak, my son.
Walk slowly
like you don’t know how to run.
Hear wholly
when you wanna hear at all.
Fear only
what you know’ll make you fall.

‘Cause there’s a lotta people out there
wanna make a man outta you

in the wrong way.
But listen to me, please,

I’m on your side,
listen to what I’m trying to say—

Be a glove on the right hand
of your father, your only father.
Let him slip you on without a hitch

like a perfect fit.
In everything he has a mind to do
you’ll have a place of honor
and satisfaction that you really

had a part in it.

Think cleanly
through each knot of tangled lore.
Drink deeply
if you wanna drink some more.
Hook freely
on to someone’s charity.
Look really
when there’s something there to see.

— Romanós

Monday, May 22, 2006

Worlds in Collision

No, this post is not about the book or thesis of “worlds in collision” by Immanuel Velikovsky. It’s not about that kind of worlds, but it is about two worlds on collision course, throughout history, and in the very much ‘right now.’ Those two worlds are the world ‘ruled’ by the prince of darkness, and the world ruled by the King of kings of kings, the Holy One of Israel, the living God (blessed be He!).

God’s bare Truth can seem an impudent affront to the religious professional, that laborer in God’s vineyard who thinks he “is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7), but to a minister of the Good News, a shepherd who “gives his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) as does his Master, that bare Truth is “the treasure hidden in the field” (Matthew 13:44) for the sake of which, he “has forsaken all, and followed the Lord” (Luke 18:28).

The Body of Christ throughout the ages has seen plenty of in-fighting and strife. In fact, it had already reared its ugly head in apostolic times, and yes, even earlier when disciples grumbled against misuse of funds spent on Jesus (Mark 14:3-9), tried to jockey into positions of pre-eminence (Mark 10:35-40), or decided to abandon the call because the Master spoke outrageous things that they couldn’t accept (John 6:66).

But what did the Master say to expect? "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34), and “…a man's enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matthew 10:36). “Then said he unto the disciples, ‘It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!’” (Matthew 18:7 KJV)

It really is a cause for sadness, that a man who loves the Lord, loves the Word, lives a simple life of purity, walks in God’s ways, in short, who “seeks first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” might be considered a threat by professional clergy and told essentially to conform to the current “teachings” or move on.

Notice, I said, “professional clergy” and not “religious professionals.” I don't want to “dis” any clergy “on the payroll” who might read this. (In point of fact, I want to specific’ly assure them, that nothing I say here is a reflection on the pastors of my community.) It’s not impossible for professional clergy to work closely, harmoniously, supportively and safely with members of ‘their’ flock who are shown to be anointed by the Holy Spirit for ministry. In fact, a good pastor seeks out among the flock those members, male and female, young and old, new Christians and veterans, Greeks and non-Greeks (in my church, since we’re Greek Orthodox) with whom he can share the ministry. Of course, he can do this only if he himself is anointed for ministry, because the Spirit in him must be able to discern the same Spirit in them, which honestly reveals them to each other, for the Lord’s work.

It is only when ministers of the Gospel have decided that “they are it”, that quickly or slowly they devolve into hirelings and false watchmen. God save us from this! Instead may He send us true shepherds, pastors, of His flock!

My example of a true shepherd is Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco (of blessed memory, who reposed on Christmas Day, 2005). I remember one time when he was visiting our community, he stood in the doorway of the Gate Beautiful and cried out, “My children, come with us up to Mount Tabor, and see the Lord transfigured!” He meant that we should not let the ordained clergy alone see Jesus face to face (in the Spirit) and serve Him alone, but that we should ALL come up! On another occasion, walking among us in the “catacomb” church of St. John the Forerunner, he spoke forcefully but with glistening, gentle eyes and a broad smile, “My children, you can do nearly everything that we priests can do! Join us in ministering to God’s people!” Bishop Anthony did not scold, did not “guilt trip” or belittle ‘his’ flock into taking action for Christ. He knew we are at all levels of maturity, commitment, and capacity. He merely loved us, and made us all feel what he felt in serving the Lord, and invited us all to join him and the presbyters and deacons who served WITH him (not UNDER him). Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco, originally Greek bishop of the Dardanelles, may his memory be eternal!

This is what we do, we do what the Lord has laid on our hearts to do, without fear, without boasting, without regard for men’s opinions, but “in fear of God, with faith and hope, we draw near” to the Lord who dwells in the midst of the praises of Israel, by giving our voices to Him and His people, by reading aloud the Gospel and the other God-breathed scriptures to people passing by at various locations in Portland. No man gave us this work to do. Did we give it to ourselves? Well, I suppose you can think that, or think whatever you like. What does it look like when two men follow the call and word of Jesus? I suppose it all depends on where you’re looking at them from.

My friend and brother in Christ, Brock, has started writing down, in addition to an apologia (which is for me as well as him) for our work of reading the Word of God public’ly, accounts of what happens in these ‘forays’ as well. These were published in his blog, a crossbearer's pilgrimage, which has been discontinued and deleted. I've created a post, also entitled a crossbearer's pilgrimage where many of these accounts have been collected and linked.

What of worlds in collision?
Yes, the two worlds will at times collide, whether we are in the ‘world’ or in the confines of the Church, because the battle lines are drawn right down the middle of each, and down the middle of each of us. Our task as followers of Jesus is simple. Just respond when He calls us and says, “Follow Me!”

He will not fail to teach us how to walk beside Him faithfully, how to love Him with an undivided heart, and He will without doubt make us to be “fishers of men.”

Did someone say "fearless"?

This is a response to a comment left on Brock's blog post in which he described some of the things that happened to us when we were reading the gospel out loud in Portland, on May 13th. Somebody called the act of reading in public, "fearless." I want to share this response, in case anyone else thinks this ministry requires "fearlessness."

Dear sister, if you read the comments, please let me assure you that it is not being fearless to read the Word of God aloud in public. It is just being willing to put yourself in a place where faith becomes possible.

What I mean is this: Some people might question, even oneself might question, is reading the Word of God having any effect? Are people hearing and coming to Christ thru our ministry of reading the Word?

Well, this is where faith comes in. Faith is the substance of things unseen. The Lord is giving Brock and me this call, to read the Word aloud in public, so OUR faith can grow, because we have to TRUST that Word which tells us to sow the seed, we have to TRUST the Lord to give the increase, we have to TRUST the Word that says "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11 NIV).

All we are doing is READING, giving the Word of God our voices. Just as you see people reading novels, newspapers, magazines in public, to themselves of course, as they sit in coffeehouses, wait for the bus or mass transit, or just as they relax on a park bench, we just happen to be reading God's Word—to unbelievers just another book, but to us the Word of Life, of which Jesus says, "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63 NIV).

And we just happen to be reading the Word aloud. And why?

Because the Word of God needs a place on earth, it needs to be taken OUT to the people whom Christ is seeking, the 'lost sheep.' What we are doing is called in my church (Greek Orthodox) the "incarnation of the gospel." There are many ways to incarnate the gospel, not just reading God's Word in public. But that is what God has called us to do.

Again, it isn't being fearless to do this. It is just loving the Word of God and His people so much, that you're willing to stand beside Jesus as He walks in the marketplace of the world, seeking the lost sheep of His flock. We do nothing. Jesus, the Word of God, does everything. He merely lets us come along. Letting us read the written Word of God is His gift to us. And when we are doing it, we know for sure that we are living in a different world, we can sense it, we can run in the ways of His resurrection, where it's no longer an idea we just read about or hear about in church. We are there, and Christ, the living resurrected Christ, the Christ who has trampled down death by death, shares with us, even now, the power of His life-giving resurrection.What fearlessness on our part?!

When you know you are walking with the God-Man, at His side, as He sows the seed, ministers to the broken hearts of men and women, and looks for the lost sheep, and brings them into His Kingdom, how can you call that fearlessness? God is good, the only Lover of mankind, and He shares with everyone who responds to His gracious call, the privilege of following His footsteps.

And Jesus can walk ANYWHERE.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Excuse me, did you say "relevance"?

Just recently, I left the following comments on the notion of "relevance" at a blog belonging to a local Baptist ‘young adults group’ pastor. After trying to dialog with him a bit on his blog and via email, I think we just gave up, because the difference in our Christian languages was just too great. Here are some views from my “angle of the Throne” which I feel are important enough to share.

The language, vocabulary I mean, that I'm reading in a lot of Christian blogs is very technical and sophisticated, such as "for a Church to reach it's culture with the gospel it must contextualize itself…" etc. This kind of language and the thinking that goes with it seems alien to the plain words of scripture, of the gospels and the apostolic letters. Neither Jesus nor the apostles spoke like that. In fact, the way Jesus did speak made his enemies say things like, "No man has ever spoken like Him before! We just couldn't arrest Him!"

We do not try to be relevant to the pervasive culture, anymore than a city set on a hill can hide itself, or a lamp covers itself with a bushel.

It's not the Church that has to reach its culture. It's the people of God, the holy nation of priests and kings that are here to serve their God ("between Christ's first and second comings, there's no Body here but us!"), who simply study the Word, ingest it, digest it ("you are what you eat"), immerse themselves in the Word totally (not just pouring it or sprinkling it on themselves, "we are all little fishes in Christ our great Fish"), speak the Word ("Word of God for my utterance"), practice the Word, share the Word (as it is, nothing added, nothing taken away), live in the Word, witness to the Word and, ultimately, die in the Word. That Word is what sustains all, teaches all, speaks to us "as a mother speaks to her child, in baby talk", but that's a dialect that we will never outgrow while we are still on this earth.

The Word of God is always relevant, without any help from us, as long as we use a translation "understanded of the people".

Church can always be relevant, if it focuses on the salvation of the individual through Christ and lets worship and teaching be unwaveringly simple and centered on that Word of God that in human form came to us as a Man, died for us, and was raised for us, and who as the God-Man has taken us with Him into the Father's throne room.

Our worship, our fellowship, our prayer, our practice, our love, our witness, everything about us, must be in the light of that Fact, that "the Word was made flesh and dwellt among us". What could ever be more relevant than that?

Without knowing it, we might drive the unsaved away by wearing stiff, formal clothes, singing loudly, on street corners, old-fashioned Christian hymns and handing out tracts to passers-by, while a pro-Marijuana rally is going on in the next block. This was one group's way of presenting the good news. I suspect, these folks were also not thinking of being "relevant" to the culture around them; but on the other hand, probably not many unsaved are going to be reached this way. I don't decry this method, it's just not what we do.

I don't think I have much more to say in comment, except that the point I was making in my last paragraph is, that the folks we saw singing the old hymns and all dressed up in their Christian ‘native garb,’ doing their traditional evangelism—handing out tracts—were probably not going to attract many people, because their Christian culture has already ‘petrified’ and has been pidgeonholed in the current American mindset as "religious fanatics."

It's important, I think, that when we witness in public, we should do nothing to draw attention to ourselves, our personal or church culture, but be as personally unassuming as possible, so that the Word which we proclaim is all that is heard. That way, we do not prove to be a stumblingblock to the unsaved listener. (For example, we don't wear special clothes or sloganwear when we witness down town.)

As an Orthodox Christian, I am well aware of the process called ‘contextualisation’, because my church, the Greek Orthodox, did exactly that—it's just called “incarnation of the Gospel” among us (notice, this is a scriptural way of speaking). Kyrillos and Methodios created an alphabet for the Slavs and translated not only the scriptures but all our services into Slavonic. Later, the Russian Orthodox did the same thing as they expanded across northern Asia (Siberia) and Alaska encountering and evangelizing dozens of tribes of native peoples. And the Orthodox still do this today. But all this notwithstanding, that is not the point I am trying to make.

In meeting a culture, the Orthodox do not multiply analytical books, but simply present the Word of God in a language the culture will understand, and that is all. The Word of God will mold every new culture as He molds every new person who accepts Him.

Here's something I quote from my son Jacob's webpage on scripture study:
"We should not seek to incorporate the bible within our worldview and interpret it to meet us where we are - rather, we yield our own worldview to the authority of scripture and allow it to lead us and become the world that we live in. This is the only way to truly reap the full benefits of scriptural study. We live in God's world by taking on the vocabulary and culture of the scriptural universe and allowing it to clothe our thoughts and feelings."

I agree with Jacob, that we choose to live in God's world by taking on the vocabulary and culture of the scriptural universe and allowing it to clothe our thoughts and feelings. Extending it one more degree, we allow it also to clothe our actions.

The way we speak about God, about salvation, about the church, about everything, is expressed in scriptural vocabulary. It's not something we have to strive for; it just happens to us. By our immersion in the Word of God, we just learn to think and speak and feel and do as the Word of God directs.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Small acts of courage

This morning, the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women, a rainy Oregon morning, how fitting. I sometimes reflect on the scene in Zeffirelli’s ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ where the body of Jesus is taken down from the cross during a blustery spring rainstorm, and relate that kind of weather to the events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and even resurrection. Oregon has given us many a rainy Great Week and Pascha.

Father Paul said he didn’t have a sermon or homily for us, only a meditation, which he presented as ‘a small act of courage.’ I talked to him afterwards and asked him never to preach a sermon to us again, if that weren’t a sermon; the short ‘meditation’ he shared with us was, to me, what a ‘sermon’ ought to be—brief, focused, imaginative, but still simple, and most of all, actionable—a word from Christ which I can follow. This is what I remember (not verbatim!) from Fr Paul’s talk…

Crucifixion was the Roman world’s way of absolutely trashing a human being. Anyone who died this way was considered human garbage. It was Rome’s way of asserting its irresistible power over humanity by the ultimate outrage against that humanity. A crucified man was probably rarely, if ever, given proper burial, just deposited into the local garbage dump. This was the (apparent) victory of worldly power over what is right, over us, God’s people, and we were powerless against it, back then, and today. But were they then, and are we now, really powerless against triumphant worldly power?

Joseph of Arimathaea knew that his Master, Jesus, had been killed.
He didn’t have the power to prevent it. But because of his social standing, he did have the power to go to the authorities and ask for possession of the body, so he could give it proper burial. He did this, apart from the closer disciples of the Lord who had no access to the authorities because of their poverty. Yet even these, the women followers, called by the Orthodox the ‘myrrh-bearing women’, had the courage to find out where the body was taken, so that after the Sabbath they could go and finish embalming it with myrrh. They knew that their Lord had been put to death. They too had no power to prevent it. But they did have power to do what they could, that is, even though they couldn’t undo the tragedy, at least they could minister to the holy body with the myrrh.
Two small acts of courage in the face of the irresistible triumph of might over right, two small ‘revolutions’ against the inevitable, and these, even before the real victory of the resurrection of Christ was revealed.

I’m afraid I’m reporting your words very badly, Fr Paul… I’m doing my best.
What really hit me is this…

We’re all faced with circumstances wholly outside our control, ranging from minor annoyances to life-shattering tragedies, and everything in-between.
Though we can’t change or prevent these triumphs of worldly power or false authority, we can do ‘small acts of courage.’
We can step out in faith.

The acts themselves are not hard… a kind word, a smile, a wordless embrace, lending a hand. We know that we can’t undo the wrong, prevent the tragedy, or overturn the tyranny by our single action. But by stepping out in faith to do a small act of courage, we have joined ourselves to the still invisible, but coming, great reversal that puts everything right once more. Like the myrrh-bearing women’s, our small act of courage in the face of utter calamity, will meet the Lord’s resurrection, and our own as well.

For me, the idea is pivotal, and I’ve learned it by trial and error, through a lot of needless suffering.
Thank you, Fr Paul, for expressing it so well, and for your forbearance with my faulty reporting of your words.

“What's done is done” doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

Small acts of courage really do change the world.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Giving "Sola Scriptura" a new meaning

The term “sola scriptura” has been a Protestant slogan for time out of mind. Aimed originally at the Roman Catholics, it was designed to chop off “lock, stock and barrel” any teachings which could not be found explicitly in the Word of God, especially in the Protestant canon (which excluded the extra books found in the Greek Old Testament). Well, here I am, a Greek Orthodox, and this what I have to say.

I want to give “sola scriptura” a new meaning. Literally, it means “only scripture.” Instead of using it as a slogan of denominational warfare, I want to redefine it in a way that cuts through each one of us, regardless of our church affiliation, or lack of it.

Redefined, “sola scriptura” means that we study and put into action, primarily, “only scripture.” By this I mean that we stop wasting our time with other “Christian” books. What did I say? Yes, stop wasting time reading so-called Christian books. Our reading and study should be focused primarily, and in some cases, exclusively, on the Word of God, that is, the Holy Bible, in the version(s) of our choice, of course.

Why read and study “only scripture”? Because the Word of God is pure Truth in written form, to be digested spiritually, to feed us and prepare us for the work of Christ.

How can we be expected to understand what we read there, if we don’t have the help of “other books,” especially by modern teachers? Well, if we're born again followers of Christ, if we are integrated into and active in a local congregation, and if we know how to pray and pray regularly, then we don’t need books like “Understanding the Word of God, for Dummies.”
We’re not dummies! Let's stop making excuses and just read and study the Word of God, because despite what people have been led to believe, it is not hard to understand. You just can’t expect to understand it all at once, or the first time in every place. That’s why we have to study it over and over again. But if we commit ourselves to reading it every day, we will be taught by the Lord everything that we need to know to live our lives in Christ, without fantasy, without wishful thinking, without self-glorification. Our lives in Christ, as they unfold, will be our commentary on what we have read and learned, for ourselves and for others.

Now, when I look at “Christian” web sites and ministers’ blogs, and TV and internet ministries, I am overwhelmed with the number of books and other paraphernalia, ‘products’ that I find there. Is it any wonder that a follower of Christ can miss the call to discipleship, when the Word of God is so overlaid with the devices of men? So again I say, let’s get back to the Bible, to the Word of God alone, to “sola scriptura”, and stop making excuses. Either we want to know the will of God for our lives, we want to hear the call of Jesus, or we don’t. We can “play church” all we want, but that bores the world to disgust, meanwhile condemning the unsaved whom Christ is seeking to certain, and eternal, death.

Well, of course, I also read books other than the Bible, but I read them in my “spare time.” Reading other books does not excuse me from reading the Bible, however. What we all must watch out for is our tendency to want novelty, constantly. This is the fleshly failing that I suspect is behind the proliferation of “other books” in certain Christian circles, and which leads individuals, ministers and even whole churches into flashy “make believe” ministries paved with good intentions that ultimately dissipate.

Even if it turns out to be a very straight and narrow way, let’s rather read the Word of God alone, and let ourselves be formed by that Word (Psalm 19:11), let’s make the Word of God our home, so we can truly be disciples (John 8:31), and so that God can make His home with us (John 14:23), and so that the anointing He gave us can teach us everything (1 John 2:27). “Sola scriptura”… only the scriptures, “the stone rejected by the builders that proved to be the keystone.” (Psalm 118:22)
Instead of building programs on the foundations of “other books”…

“…Set yourselves close to him, so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says, ‘See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen and the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed.’ (Isaiah 28:16) That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, ‘the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down.’ They stumble over it because they do not believe in the Word…” 1 Peter 2:4b-8