Dear friends,

This will be the third week in a row that I preach on controversial Bible texts. I was going to write, “that I have to preach”. But I should really say, “that I get to preach” on difficult and controversial texts. As I read and study in preparation for the sermon, I seek a consistent reading of the specific text in light of all of the Bible. I believe that this way of trying to read and understand the Bible is what the Bible itself tells Christians to do. I believe that this is what Jesus teaches us to do. It is the way of reading taught by the great doctors of the church in the first five centuries after Jesus. It is a way of reading taught by the reformers and it is the classic Anglican way of reading the Bible.

Many leaders in churches read the Bible quite differently. Some say that the Bible contains the word of God. Others say that the Bible becomes the word of God to us. Others say that the Bible is a repository of our symbols and images. Others say that the Bible is the writings of people seeking to understand God. Some common features of each of these ways of reading is that they claim to be Christian and they claim to have a high view of the Bible and they claim to be biblical Christians. Please remember that each of these ways of reading the Bible is not how Jesus, the Bible, the doctors and the reformers tell us to read the Bible. Note as well, that there are never controversial texts with these ways of reading the Bible. The reason is that the reader gets to pick and choose what parts of the Bible are God’s word and what parts are not God’s word.

The common problem in evangelical churches is that the pastor and the congregation are unconsciously afraid of the counter-cultural nature of the Bible. If, as Jesus taught and as the Bible as a whole teaches, the Bible’s ultimate author is the living God, then the Bible will be counter-cultural to every culture. The Bible will be counter-cultural in different ways to different cultures, but it will always be counter-cultural in some way – therefore, it will always have counter-cultural points.

My prayer is that we will not be afraid of reading the Bible but that we will want to read the Bible. Please pray for me that I will grow in my ability to listen deeply and attentively to the text of the Bible, seeking the consistent reading, willing to be counter-cultural. Please pray that Messiah will be a prayerful, Bible-teaching evangelical church with a heart for Ottawa and a heart for the world.