Month: August 2021

Do You Still Not Understand?

Today’s post is inspired by a recent sermon at our church, The Chapel, given by Elder Levi Schmidt 1

I have been doing systematic bible readings for many years, but I can fall into being rote in my approach —- just reading the verses for that day and checking off that I did it.

Levi’s sermon was a helpful corrective, reminding me that instead of just plowing through the verses, I should ask a simple daily question: “God, what are you telling me as I read scripture today?”

The day after Levi’s sermon, I read a familiar passage. It’s when Jesus’ disciples, for the second time, are bent out of shape because of a lack of bread to feed a large crowd. Jesus had to rebuke the disciples for not remembering the miracle with the loaves and fishes that he did the first time there was a large, hungry crowd.

“And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:18b-21)

The effortless way of reading these verses is to say, “I can’t believe how slow those disciples were to catch on to who Jesus was and what he was doing. They should have known better!” But as part of my response to the sermon, the Spirit turned Jesus’ question to the disciples around and dramatically confronted me with the question “What do you not understand?”

Recently I had a very fitful night of sleep. Had a list of things to do swarming in my head. Anxious about them all. What to do and in what order.

Here’s what I overlooked: God has repeatedly taken care of me in similar times of anxiety…I have already often seen how God provides, either by resolving the situation or by giving me peace of mind even in the midst of a stressful situation.

So Jesus would say to me “Do you still not understand?”

And the beauty of it, I think, is that Jesus does not say that with scorn, whether to the disciples or to myself. He ached for them to better understand who he was, and what he provided, and he wasn’t going to tell them to get lost. When I do get anxious, Jesus is not going to kick me out, but instead he urges me to seek his face, remember what he has provided, and dwell increasingly in the peace he gives.


Is the Bible a Rule Book?

Today I’ll contrast two ways of looking at the Bible.

 #1. The Bible is God’s divine rule book. Life improves when we study it diligently and find rules to obey. The Bible gives us a life under law.

#2. The Bible is God’s special revelation to us. It leads us into a vital Spirit-led personal encounter with Christ, who gives us wisdom and guidance as we seek to do God’s will. The Bible is a guide to life under grace.

If #1 is true and the Bible is a set of rules, then my ability to follow such a set of rules well is highly dependent on my own will power. If I have strong enough will power, I may do quite well at keeping the rules.  But the more I succeed at this rule keeping, the more I will develop a superior attitude towards those who do not follow the rules as well as I do. Indeed, I may take a perverse enjoyment in comparing my performance to theirs and either rebuking them to their face or secretly treasuring how well I am doing!

Rules are a way of transforming the free grace in Scripture into dead laws.

Look at these differences:



Express gratitude and thanks in prayer

The longer you spend praying each day, the better

Time spent reading the Bible is a delight

You must have a Bible reading plan and stick to it each day

You please God as you help your fellow man with good deeds

The more ministries you are involved in and the more hours you spend on them, the better.

Often, these rules go beyond what is written in the Bible into a series of prohibitions:



Wine is good, but do avoid getting drunk

No drinking whatsoever.


Use careful spirit-led discernment in your entertainment choices

Don’t ever watch R-rated movies.


The Hebrew prophet Ezekiel gave a preview of how grace works:       I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26)

Life under law is what leads to a stony heart. Life in grace gives more leeway and much liberty…. but not freedom to do whatever we feel like.

So instead of a blanket prohibition of R-rated movies, we can have an honest prayerful wrestling with which movies to see or not see. The Passion of the Christ was rated R …. is it OK to see it ? 

We move from rules to guidelines. A new guideline I’ve adopted is to not watch a series that has an intimacy coordinator[i]. One result:  I won’t watch the next season of the series BridgertonBut I can’t make this into a rule and bind your conscience by saying “You’re in sin” if you watch the next season of it.

Reading the scriptures in a Spirit-led way, we gain patience with others who don’t see it our way. Instead of shoving rules down their throats and binding them to stuff that is not commanded in scripture, we model to them what a life in grace looks like.