Studying Beneath the Scriptures

“Not every sort of exegesis, however, can so supply the counselor; Paul is speaking [in Colossians 3:16] of exegesis with a practical slant (it is Christ’s word ministered to others “with all wisdom” that he has in mind). But how does one acquire this sort of exegetical capability? The only adequate way for a counselor to learn to exegete the Scriptures in a practical (rather than in a merely theoretical) manner is to begin to exegete the Scriptures personally. That is to say, mere storage of facts is not in view in Paul’s words “richly dwelling within,” but rather facts transformed into life. Good counselors are concerned about becoming wise in their own personal living and, as a result, they also become wise in the ministry of the Word to others.

In the sort of study contemplated, then, the counselor does not study first for information to use in preaching or in counseling. Instead, he studies always with an eye on his own life. As he does so, the understanding of a verb form may bring conviction of sin, the import of a personal pronoun may occasion a burst of song or thanksgiving. Such study is not abstract; it requires personally involved exegesis. In this study the counselor’s own life in relationship to God and his neighbor is always under review. He studies beneath rather than above the Scriptures. And… it is just because he has experienced the truth of God exposing his own sin, piercing through every joint to the marrow, judging the desires and thoughts of the heart, encouraging by its promises, comforting, healing, motivating–that he is able to minister that same word to others in wisdom.”

Jay Adams, The Use of the Scriptures in Counseling


What does the 2nd Commandment mean?

I found this and several other things in an article and they were helpful, so here goes.

This fragment explains that the second commandment doesn’t just teach the same thing as the first commandment all over again.

“The second commandment reads:

‘You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.’

In the first commandment God declares himself to be the only true God, who alone ought to be worshiped. In the second He tells us ‘the kind of worship with which he ought to be honored, that we may not dare to form any carnal conceptions of him.’

For as Calvin has said: ‘although Moses only speaks of idolatry [here], yet there is no doubt that by synecdoche, as in all the rest of the Law, he condemns all fictitious services which men in their ingenuity have invented.'” – Rev. G. I. Williamson

Bonus (this might be familiar, and it says the same thing about the second commandment):

96   Q.   What is God’s will for us
in the second commandment?
That we in no way make any image of God
nor worship him in any other way
than he has commanded in his Word. – Heidelberg Catechism

Daniel, man greatly beloved

Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.
Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.
Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.”
… When he had spoken such words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, “My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me.”
Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!”
So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

COVFAMIKOI Family Conference 2009

Perhaps you’ve been to a youth conference before, or a men’s or women’s conference. They’re great, aren’t they? You typically get fantastic speakers to speak on different things about God and what He’s done and you learn a lot and can talk about it with people like you. You probably take notes and get contact information from people you meet and try to keep in touch.

COVFAMIKOI (“Kuv-McCoy”) is a little bit different because it is a family conference. If you haven’t been to one you will probably have trouble imagining one. That’s okay. There’s next year.

There are a couple of striking differences between COVFAMIKOI and other non-family conferences. Both I probably should have realized before I got there, though of course I didn’t.

On the way to the conference I’m sure I thought at least once about how I’d just payed $200 and took 5 of my 10 vacation days allowed for the year to go to a conference. (I spent more time excited about my new car, both when it was and when it wasn’t running. I had simultaneous battery and alternator trouble an hour after we started our trip.) This wasn’t a problem when I was still in school and didn’t have a full-time job; I could take time off without pay. Wouldn’t my time be better spent vacationing? Well, no–because it turns out COVFAMIKOI is a vacation, and a pretty nifty one. Consider: A new location (though it’s the same every year–Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky), some of the best and most challenging exhortations you can find, plenty of free time, a guarantee that you will meet and really get to know people, free time to roam about, play games, or volunteer to help organize other activities, and of course all your food and lodging prepared for you.

There’s the first difference–this is a family vacation opportunity, and well worth the reasonable price.

The second difference should have been even more obvious to me than that it would be a worthwhile vacation, but the implications of it being a family conference didn’t come to me until things got started. Yes, there are seniors, and children, and young married couples, and high school students, and college students, and single adults. There are pastors and elders and deacons and Christians who are none of the above. It’s the simple difference between a homogeneous slice and a heterogeneous cross-section, right? But that doesn’t begin to describe the opportunities to speak with those with experience, or watch kids interact (or listen to them recite their memory verse so they can get your signature and try to win a contest!), or volunteer to counsel young people who request it, or just meet or hang out with people from the same or different stage of life. Those are priceless opportunities that don’t exist at other conferences on such a grand scale.

So, that’s what sets a family conference apart from other types of conferences. You probably don’t have to take my word for it that a family conference is going to involve people of different ages, or even that it is a pretty good vacation. But because I can’t compare COVFAMIKOI to other family conferences I can’t set it apart or give you more than my personal experience.

What struck me most was being repeatedly challenged in ordinary conversation with other single young people. My cowardly mind wants to talk about “important” things like how so-and-so’s church does something, or who might be interested in whom. These people, men and women alike, demanded that I be honest, give as exact and complete a response as the other person deserves, be bold enough to say the simple, profound ways Jesus has worked in me, and turn the conversation from trivial things to things that have lasting importance.

It was fun, too. A good, worthwhile fun not easily forgotten. Like other conferences, but different, and in some ways better. You should come next year.

Bethel as My New Former Church Family

[Update: As of mid-late 2014 the author is once again a member at Bethel.]

I just read my own words from almost a year ago, when I attended First Reformed Presbyterian Church. With due love for (not to mention out of love for) the friends I have at Bethel United Reformed Church, I’m happy to report that my membership papers are officially being transferred to First RP as I write. Many of my family and friends remain at Bethel and many changes are taking place there right now. Most significantly, Rev. VanderMeulen has left with his wife and four youngest sons for a new calling to a URC church plant in Hawaii. Rev. Grassmid was installed as Associate Pastor only a few weeks prior. For the first time in a few years, Bethel is doing a vacation bible school, this time holding it at Hager Park once a week over nine weeks. I intend to pray for and associate with Bethel for a long time to come. I’m anxious but hopeful as a new minister is sought that God will call someone who can challenge Bethel’s slow fall from the Berean mindset. I’m really thankful that, if no one else, my parents have been able to see problems in the preaching and teaching and shared them with me and my siblings, equipping us to discern the same problems whether we stay at Bethel or move on.