Exegesis or Eisegesis – in relationships???

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I hope y’all will bear with me for a minute while I think through something in writing. Do any of you think better in writing, too?

My pastor has tried several times to explain the difference between the biblical interpretation terms, “exegesis” and “eisegesis.” (Maybe these words are new to you — they were to me!) Exegesis involves looking deeply into the text to discover what God is communicating to us, while eisegesis involves bringing our own ideas to the Bible and then looking for evidence to support it. My pastor has often warned us not to have an idea that “seems right” to us and then dig a verse out of context to “prove it.” For example, using “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” to justify a whole laundry list of activities might be an example of “eisegesis.”

Last week, I started thinking about how I can be guilty of “eisegesis” in my relationships. I can let my own ideas and biases color how I interpret my loved one’s actions.

Let’s say, I’m feeling neglected and unloved by my husband, and he fails to let me know that he’s going to be late getting home from work. The thoughts in my head go something like this: “He’s so thoughtless. He doesn’t care about my feelings one bit. He always acts like this.”

But, if my love-cup is full and I’m feeling like my husband adores me, then when he fails to let me know that he’s going to be late getting home from work, I think, “Poor guy. He must be caught in the middle of a long phone call at work. I should shoot him a quick text to see how he’s doing.”

How about if I’m feeling like my daughter doesn’t like me. Envy quickly rears its ugly head and I start blaming my ugly feelings on her. When she tells me about a long conversation she had with a friend of hers, my mind starts whirling. “She always makes time for other people in her life, but never seems to have time for me. She is so inconsiderate … and after all I’ve done for her.”

But, if we’ve been spending regular sweet time together, then my thoughts take a totally different spin. Instead I think, “Thank you, Father, for giving Emily such a good friend that she can do life with. Thank you for answering my prayers. I am so blessed!”

Here’s the thing: truth is truth, and feelings are feelings. But feelings should never be the basis for truth. We have to carefully test our feelings in light of the truth. Our feelings change moment by moment, but truth remains the same.

We should approach both the scriptures, and our relationships, with what is true. The truth is that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood. The truth is that we should carefully renew our minds in light of the truth.

The truth is that God loves me and has good plans for me.

The truth is that God is sovereign and at work even in hard situations.

The truth is that my husband loves me, my children love me and I love my husband and my children.

The truth is that I am a sinner saved by God’s grace and I am prone to think selfish thoughts.

The truth is that love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not proud or rude. And God wants me to pour out His love on others.

The truth is that God loved me while I was still a sinner, so as the chief of sinners, I can love others with the love God has lavished on me.

How do you need to remind yourself of what is true and discern rightly the relationships you’re in? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Witnesses for Jesus

This week as I’m reading through John chapter 5:30-40, I noticed the words “witness” and “testimony” over and over again.

“I [Jesus] can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:30-40 ESV)

When a word or idea is used repeatedly, it catches my attention. In looking on my Blue Letter Bible app, I easily discovered that both the noun and verb here have the same root from where we get our English word, “martyr.” [“martyreo” (verb), means: “to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because taught by divine revelation or inspiration, while “martyria” (noun) means “what one testifies, testimony, i.e., before a judge.”]

In looking again at this passage, I notice that Jesus admits that if He alone bore witness about Himself, then we wouldn’t be expected to trust Him. (John 5:31)

This reminds me of a recent comment by a parent of one of my VIPKID students. She said that she couldn’t trust a teacher’s own biographical comments, because they said it about themselves. Rather, she wants to read comments by other parents who have taken classes with that teacher.

She wants to hear the testimony of other witnesses because it’s hard for her to trust an unknown teacher’s self-proclaimed praise.

God knew that people would feel this way. In fact, we ought to doubt people who sing their own praise. So, in God’s great mercy, He provided four additional witnesses about Jesus.

  • John the baptizer bore witness about Jesus. (John 5:33)
  • Jesus’s works bore witness about Jesus. (John 5:36)
  • God the Father bore witness about Jesus. (John 5:37)
  • The Scriptures bore witness about Jesus. (John 5:39)

But now, let’s look at an additional witness about Jesus that God has prepared: His followers. Look with me at Acts 1:8

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

God desired for the 1st century disciples of Jesus to go out as His witnesses to what they had seen with their eyes, heard with their ears, and believed with their hearts. And God desires for us as 21st century disciples of Jesus to go out as His witnesses to what we have seen with our eyes, heard with our ears and believed with our hearts.

If you’d like to study this topic more, try visiting www.BlueLetterBible.org and searching for “witness*” in the New Testament. Or Click HERE – I’ve done the work for you. 🙂

If you’d like to read my own eyewitness testimony of coming to faith in Jesus, I’d love for you to get a copy of my new book, God is Real: The Eyewitness Testimony of a Former Atheist. You can buy it on Amazon in paperback or Kindle, or order it at your local bookstore.

If you’d like some help in how to share your testimony, I’d love to help you! Leave me a comment below.

Take It Away

This week I’ve been reading through the book of John. Each chapter I ask 4 questions: What do I learn about God? What do I learn about man? Are there any sins to avoid? Are there any examples or commands to follow? I also choose one verse (or more) to write down and study more. On Thursday, I chose John 1:29, where John the Baptizer sees Jesus coming and exclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

In studying this verse I gained a deeper understanding of what Jesus taking away the sins of the world really means. In my mind, Jesus “taking away” the world’s sins looked a lot like a waiter “taking away” my dirty dishes after I’d finished eating, or “taking away” a particular cold soup that didn’t meet with my approval. Or maybe even like a judge commanding the bailiff to “take away” an unruly prisoner.

Instead, this verse uses the Greek word, “airo” (“take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear”) which is also found in Matthew 11:29, where I’m told to take Jesus’s yoke upon myself, and Matthew 27:32 where Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry Jesus’s cross. Jesus Himself uses this word in John 5:8, where he tells the invalid to “take up your bed and walk.”

Jesus did more than “send our sins away.”

Jesus didn’t just “throw our sins in the trash” or tell someone else to “take our sins away.”

Jesus, the Lamb of God, “took our sins away” Himself. He bore our sins in our place, taking them upon Himself on the cross.

“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14 (NASB)

Please join me in praising God anew for sending Jesus to take away your sin through faith in His only Son.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23 ESV

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 ESV

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV

Can I See It?

On Monday, while our Chinese friends were visiting, my son, Daniel, said, “Can I see that toy?” to 9-year-old Hao Xuan whose English name is Hudson. Hudson proceeded to show Daniel the toy, not realizing that what Daniel really wanted was to be given the toy. Daniel didn’t want to just “see it.” He wanted to hold it.

I then explained to Hudson that the phrase “Can I see it?” actually means, “Can I have it for a little while?” Isn’t English so confusing sometimes?

The next day, I was rereading the July 7 entry from New Morning Mercies, a devotional book by Paul David Tripp. This entry about “Hope” had been given to everyone in our 1 Peter study class shortly before my trip to China. I especially loved it because (1) Hope is my 2019 “word of the year,” and (2) I love repeated numbers like 7/7.

Tripp writes:

“Gospel hope is a mouthful. It includes so many wonderful provisions that it’s hard to get it all in one bite. Yes, biblical hope gives you a lot of spiritual nutrients to chew on. Yet, many believers seem to live hope-deprived lives.”

“Perhaps one of the dirty secrets of the church is how much we do out of fear and not faith. We permit ourselves to feel small, unable, alone, unprepared and bereft of resources. We tell ourselves that what we’re facing is too big and requires too much of us. We stand at the bottom of mountains of trouble and give up before we’ve taken the first step of the climb. We wait for hope to come in some noticeable, seeable way, but it never seems to arrive…. We wonder, “where is hope to be found?”

“What we fail to understand is that we don’t have a hope problem; we have a sight problem…. Hope isn’t first a set of circumstances. Hope isn’t first a set of ideas. Hope is a person and his name is Jesus. He came to earth to face what you face and to defeat what defeats you so that you would have hope.”

“You have hope because he exists and is your Savior. You don’t have a hope problem; you have been given hope that is both real and constant. The issue is whether you see it.”

“Paul captures the problem this way in Ephesians 1:18-19, “… having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.”

“Paul prays that we will have a well-working spiritual vision system so that we will “see” the hope that we have been given in Christ. What is this hope? It is a rich inheritance. Jesus died and left us a rich inheritance of grace to be invested in facing the troubles of the here and now. It is great power that is ours in the moments when we are so weak. Hope came, and he brought with him riches and power that he gave to you. You see, you don’t really have a hope problem; you have a vision problem, and for that there’s enlightening grace.

I want to both see hope with my eyes and hold hope with my soul. I want to experience God’s hope first-hand, being an eyewitness to His immeasurable greatness at work in my life and believing what He has already spoken in His Word.

Please join me in praying that we would “have the eyes of our hearts enlightened,” and that we would “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

We can trust God to answer our prayers for hope. When we ask our Heavenly Father, “Can I see it?” He will both let us see hope with our eyes and hold it fast with our souls.