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I write a daily devotional for my church family and anyone else who wants to read and apply God’s word. It is published on Calvary’s website. However, I designed it to be delivered each morning by email.

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This will lead you to read the entire Bible through in one year using a heavily-modified form of the Bible reading plan developed by Robert Murray M’Cheyne.

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Where Did Marriage Come From?

As a Christian, the concept of marriage and the Christian faith belong together. As a man, I desired to love a woman, but as a Christian, I desired to marry a woman. Furthermore, my faith as a Christian informs my marriage. As a married man who is a Christian, God’s word is my teacher in the area of marriage.

But what about people who are not Chrisitans? What compels them to get married? The paragraphs below are from my ebook, The Family and the Chrisitan Faith which you can purchase in the Canyon Crossers store:

Secular anthropologists admit that marriage is universal in human societies, that it is different from monogamy (which they believe, based on their evolutionary assumptions, developed first, before marriage), and that it precedes recorded human history. However, they cannot explain these things. Why is it that marriage exists in every human society? Why, if some animals practice monogamy, would marriage be necessary for humans? Why did people make promises to each other in marriage before anyone started writing down human history and why do they keep doing that in every human culture? Secular scholars have no good answers to these questions. They have theories—some secularists have alleged that marriage is just a form of slavery that has evolved over time—but that does not account for the universality of marriage or why it was necessary if people were already practicing monogamy.

The Bible, however, tells us that marriage exists and is so universal because God created it. Again, Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” In Genesis 2:24 Moses gives us his conclusion to the story of the creation of Eve, and his conclusion is that marriage exists because God created humans. As the human author of Genesis, Moses is telling us where marriage originated and why it is such a dominant force in human societies. All human societies in every part of the world, in every historical time period, practice marriage. It transcends geographic, ethnic, racial, religious, and chronological boundaries. Why? Because God created it. The phrase, “for this reason…” in verse 24 tells us why people feel compelled to get married. When divorce is so painful and costly, when people in our culture and others deny that God created humanity, when it is morally acceptable in our culture to have sex with any other consenting adult, why do people still feel compelled to get married? The answer is that God created us this way. Although the Bible says that some people have a gifting from God to stay single, the huge majority of people want to get married. So, marriage exists and is so very common not because it’s customary for humans to do or because their religion tells them to get married but because God made men and women for each other. He hard-wired marriage into humanity and that’s why people continue to get married even if they don’t believe the Bible and even if their society tells them that marriage is optional.

Brian Jones, The Family and the Christian Faith, p. 5.

The Communication Canyon

In my opening article for this website, I wrote about how applying the Bible seems like crossing a canyon. I named this site “Canyon Crossers” for that reason.

Applying the Bible is not the only canyon to cross in living for Jesus Christ. Interpreting the Bible can, at times, feel like crossing a canyon and I intend to write about that in future articles. Another canyon that we face is the canyon of communication. This article will begin discussion on that issue.

I have never read the fiction of Stephen King and, from what I’ve heard about his writing, it seems wise for Christians to avoid reading his fiction. Many years ago, however, I heard King interviewed about a non-fiction book he had recently published called On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft. I was interested in what King said in that interview, bought the book, and read it rapidly. The first part of the book was King’s autobiography which I found fascinating. The second part of the book was some helpful advice he had for other writers.

In that second part of the book, Stephen King wrote that writing is telepathy, meaning that it is a means of transferring a vision or an idea from one brain to another. He explained:

And here we go— actual telepathy in action. You’ll notice I have nothing up my sleeves and that my lips never move. Neither, most likely, do yours. Look— here’s a table covered with a red cloth. On it is a cage the size of a small fish aquarium. In the cage is a white rabbit with a pink nose and pink-rimmed eyes. In its front paws is a carrot-stub upon which it is contentedly munching. On its back, clearly marked in blue ink, is the numeral 8. Do we see the same thing? We’d have to get together and compare notes to make absolutely sure, but I think we do. There will be necessary variations, of course: some receivers will see a cloth which is turkey red, some will see one that’s scarlet, while others may see still other shades. (To color-blind receivers, the red tablecloth is the dark gray of cigar ashes.) Some may see scalloped edges, some may see straight ones. Decorative souls may add a little lace, and welcome— my tablecloth is your tablecloth, knock yourself out. Likewise, the matter of the cage leaves quite a lot of room for individual interpretation. For one thing, it is described in terms of rough comparison, which is useful only if you and I see the world and measure the things in it with similar eyes. It’s easy to become careless when making rough comparisons, but the alternative is a prissy attention to detail that takes all the fun out of writing. What am I going to say, “on the table is a cage three feet, six inches in length, two feet in width, and fourteen inches high”? That’s not prose, that’s an instruction manual. The paragraph also doesn’t tell us what sort of material the cage is made of— wire mesh? steel rods? glass?— but does it really matter? We all understand the cage is a see-through medium; beyond that, we don’t care. The most interesting thing here isn’t even the carrot-munching rabbit in the cage, but the number on its back. Not a six, not a four, not nineteen-point-five. It’s an eight. This is what we’re looking at, and we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room . . . . except we are together. We’re close. We’re having a meeting of the minds.

King, Stephen (2000-10-03). On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft (pp. 105-106). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

That paragraph describes both how we are able to communicate meaningfully with each other and how what you receive from my communication can differ from what I think I sent. There are gaps–canyons, if you will–that have to be crossed in order for communication to happen. Some of the articles I intend to write for this site will address how to cross the communication canyon. Since I am a pastor who teaches weekly, these articles will focus on effective teaching, but the communication principles will apply to all kinds of communication.

The Interpretation Canyon

Years ago I was teaching a class here at Calvary Bible Church about how to study, interpret, and apply the Bible. One Sunday, after I taught the importance of interpreting Scripture properly, a man in our church came up to me and said something like, “When I read the Bible, God speaks directly to me.”

As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is God’s word. Since it is God’s word, it communicates to God’s people; it is his way of speaking to us. So, when this man said, “When I read the Bible, God speaks directly to me,” I wanted to agree with him. I wanted to agree with him, but I could not. Since I had just finished teaching about how to interpret the Bible, his statement was not a statement of faith in the inspiration of the Bible. It was a rebuke. This man was rebuking me–indirectly and kindly, but still, it was a rebuke–for teaching that interpreting the Bible was necessary or important. My entire lesson on interpreting scripture was unnecessary, in his view. If God speaks directly to any and every Christian who reads the Bible, there is no need to develop or learn anything about interpretation.

If it is true that, “When I read the Bible, God speaks directly to me,” then what is God saying to me when I read Joshua 6:2-5? That passage says, “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.’”

It is clear what God said to Joshua in Joshua 6 and what he was supposed to do with God’s word. Jericho was in front of him, it was a walled, fortified city. Instead of laying siege to it and starving the people out, or battering the gate with a tree trunk, God told Joshua and the Jewish people to just march around it. The wall would collapse after they did this thirteen times over seven days and then their army could attack the people inside with conventional weapons. God was calling Joshua and his people to trust him for a miracle to start the conquest of Jericho. They would have to fight (v. 5b), but only after God had miraculously done the hard part.

That was God’s word to Joshua and his people but if God is speaking directly to me in that passage, what exactly is he saying? I don’t live near Jericho and have no need to conquer it, so what is God telling me here?

Typically, if you believe that God speaks directly and personally through the word, you will take a passage like this one and allegorize it. You will read God’s promise to Joshua and think, “My boss’s decision not to give me a raise is like the walled, impenetrable city. I need to trust God to make his defenses fall so I can conquer the land and get that raise.” You might even go so far in claiming God’s promise that you drive or walk around the office building once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day before asking for the raise. That seems very spiritual, and you might even get that raise! But what if you don’t? Did you misunderstand the Holy Spirit? Do you misidentify Jericho–maybe it isn’t your boss or your company but your daughter’s boyfriend who needs to be defeated?

The Bible is God’s word and God does speak to us through the Bible, but not until we understand what he said to the original reader. This is one of the canyons I will try to teach you to cross.