We were watching Soul Surfer (2011) as a family recently. We decided it would be good to watch a “Christian” movie occasionally. It may be awhile before that happens again. Spoiler: there’s a shark. While we didn’t love the film, it gets a lot better post-shark and the story of Bethany Hamilton (played by AnnaSophia Robb) is amazing.
Early in the film, the character played by Carrie Underwood (Sarah) is teaching a lesson to the church youth group and she concludes her lesson by quoting one of her favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” At this point I cannot contain myself and let out a primordial scream. Then I pause the film and apologize to my family for my inappropriate behavior.
Before I launch into my diatribe, let me start with the positive. A film is quoting the Bible. (Apparently, there was a controversy in the filming about whether to state that the quote came from the Bible; see the Wikipedia article). Not just the Bible, but the Old Testament. Not just the OT, but Jeremiah. That’s good.
Now, the diatribe.
I’m tired of hearing Jeremiah 29:11 quoted out of context. (I’m sure Carrie wanted to give the full context, but she was over-ruled.) If you hear someone say, “I’m going to share with you a verse from Jeremiah” you should be able to finish the sentence for them. If there were a competition for which verse in the Bible gets quoted out of context the most, it would have to be Jeremiah 29:11. Since everyone quotes it out of context, if you were the first to quote it in context, you’d get to say something original.
I’ll blog about the context and how understanding the context makes the verse more powerful in a few days. (Click here for Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.)
What other Bible verses are frequently taken out of context?
In chapter 2 of The King Jesus Gospel (2011), Scot McKnight focuses on the distinction between the gospel and salvation. The problem in the evangelical church is that we’ve equated the two when that’s not what Scripture teaches. Instead of calling ourselves “evangelicals” based on the Greek word euangelion (= gospel), Scot thinks it would be more accurate to call ourselves “soterians” based on the Greek word soteria (= salvation). Although, he really wants us to have a more biblically informed view of the gospel, so we could accurately call ourselves evangelicals.
There’s part of me that wants to say, “Duh”. Isn’t what Scot is saying obvious? Apparently not, at least for many Christians in the US. I was at a meeting recently where the leader spoke about “sharing the gospel”, but in reality he meant telling people how to make an expression of faith in Jesus in order to be saved. That’s certainly important, but isn’t the gospel bigger than that?
At the end of the chapter, McKnight introduces us to the mysterious character “Pastor Eric.” (I wasn’t sure who Eric was so I had to double-check to see if he’d mentioned Eric previously, but I couldn’t find any.) Pastor Eric exemplifies the problem since he is essentially a soterian. For Eric, the gospel doesn’t involve a call to imitate Jesus, it isn’t an announcement that Jesus is Lord and King, it isn’t an invitation to the church. That’s a problem.
In the rest of the book, Scot is going to help us understand what Jesus and the New Testament authors meant by the term “gospel”. Sounds like an important discussion.
How is the gospel more than just telling people about how to be “saved”?
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you (Psa. 119:11 NRSV).
The third verse in the Bet section is a familiar one, beginning literally “In my heart I treasure your word.” The Hebrew word for “treasure” here (tsaphan) could also be translated as “hide”, but in either case the thing being hidden is valuable. The word tsaphan is used to describe how baby Moses was hidden (Exo. 2:2-3) to keep him safe in Egypt and when Rahab the prostitute hid the two Israelite spies (Josh. 2:4).
So, the psalmist wants to keep God’s word safe, like a treasure, like a baby. Protect it, value it, treasure it.
Why? Treasuring God’s word will prevent the psalmist from sinning against God. The psalmist perceives a direct relationship between the treasuring of God’s word and the avoidance of sin and since the psalmist is doing everything possible to avoid sin, the word of God is treasured.
One of the things I’m doing to treasure God’s word in my heart is blogging about Psalm 119 on Sundays.
How do you treasure God’s word in your heart?
Yes, they claim to find Noah’s ark about every two years, but I think this time it’s the real thing. Check out this link offered by Jim West, which links to the CNN video of the shocking discovery.
Hate Yourself? Want an Aneurism? Not Had Enough of the False Claims of Discoveries of Noah’s Ark? | Zwinglius Redivivus.
On the subject of arks, you may want to check out another link, Jim thinks he found the Ark of the Covenant in his front yard.
I hope this doesn’t undermine my business, since I’ve been selling tickets to the real Ark of the Covenant which is in MY backyard.