Matt Postiff's Blog

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Posted by Matt Postiff June 22, 2017 under Family 

Part 2: Raising Children: A Schedule is Needed

So, to schedule or not to schedule? When it comes to your young child's life, the answer is yes to both questions. But I should give some more explanation, since that answer is ambiguous.

First, some kind of basic schedule is necessary for a child. Some structure in the life of a child is needed. Why? Life in general, and life in our culture in particular, runs according to a schedule. Generally, people sleep at night, so babies need to be taught to sleep then as well. School runs according to a schedule. Church meetings happen at certain times. Doctor visits and formal entertainment, television and radio all run according to a schedule. Life is not "free form," and since childhood is preparing a young person for adult life, parents must begin to train the child to live in an adult world.

The parents are the only ones who can set that structure or "impose" it. A child is unwise (Prov. 22:15) and, on top of that, is sinful (Psalm 51:5). The little one does not know what is truly good for him—whether it comes to diet, how long to watch TV or play video games, when to train on the toilet, when to do homework, etc.

Time boundaries are a form of moral boundary.

Time boundaries are a form of moral boundary. We teach children manners, right from wrong, and good attitudes. We must also teach them boundaries with regard to time. The time boundary relates to the very important issues of the child's self-control, discipline, and control of selfishness. Certain things in life have to be done. They are not always (or even often) the most exciting, fun, or desirable things, but they need to be tended to nonetheless. And sometimes, it has to be at a certain time.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 21, 2017 under Family 

Part 1: Raising Children: Extremes in Scheduling

The Scriptures do not teach what kind of schedule a parent should set for his or her child. But as with any idea, raising children according to a schedule can be taken to extremes that are clearly unbiblical. Let's take a couple examples that happen in real life:

There are two extremes that parents can fall into with respect to using a schedule to raise their children.

Extreme #1: No Schedule. The child is allowed to set his or her own sleep and eating schedule. Naps are not at a set schedule and may go late into the afternoon, causing the child to not want to go to bed at a decent hour in the evening. The child may sleep in late. If the child is cranky during the later part of the day, the parent may fear what happens if the child is awakened early on a particular day, thus prohibiting getting "up and at" the day. Late nights affect the family by reducing the amount of time that the husband and wife can spend together in the evening. The child effectively runs the home, or at least the life of the mom in the home.

Extreme #2: A Rigid Schedule. The child is given a strict schedule and the parents are afraid to allow any variation. Bedtime is at 7:30pm; rising is at a certain time; nap or quiet time has to be at such and such time. There are problems with this approach. Although life has schedule to it, no one could argue that the schedule is fixed. Staying up late on Friday night, sleeping in Saturday and Sunday morning (before church), getting up earlier Monday through Friday, handling special events, doing something special during the week: all these create wrinkles in a "perfectly smooth" schedule.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 18, 2017 under Bible Texts  Translation 

Today's question:

With Prov 12:26 I am surprised how much the translations differ. What do you think would be the best translation and what do you think is the most likely meaning of this verse?

You have entered into a bit of the difficulty of translating concise Hebrew, especially without much context like we have in the Proverbs.

In my judgment, NKJV, NIV, and NET have it right. The HCSB is OK.

ESV and NASB don't seem right. I understand where they get "guide" and the overall idea of their translation, but the the second word is not correctly translated as "to his neighbor." The prefix on that word is more like "from," so it is more like "from his neighbor" or "out of his neighbor." There seems to be a careful "spying out" of who the good friends are, chose from among the whole lot of neighbors you could choose from.

The KJV seems to be the worst of the bunch. "More excellent" leans heavily upon that same prefix on the second word. There is a Hebrew idiom that uses that kind of construction to indicate a comparative idea (better than, more excellent than). But if a man has another righteous neighbor, this comparison would not work.

The verse seems to be saying "The way of the wicked misleads, but the righteous search out their neighbor for the wicked way so that the righteous are not mislead."

This is generally right. The way of the wicked is an errant path, and the righteous person wants to avoid that path, so they remain attentive to their associations.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 9, 2017 under Interpretation  Bible Texts 

I recently was asked a question raised by an article that claimed to be able to figure out the date of 1948 for Israel's restoration using a mathematical prophecy in Ezekiel 4. It uses a multiplier that it calls the prophetic '7X' factor.

I get jumpy when I see stuff like this. (I think I picked up that phrase from Dr. Rolland McCune at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, but I may have a faulty memory on that.) Here are some problems:

1. Hermeneutics. How does the normal reader figure this out from the text of Scripture? It is not at all clear!

2. Mathematics. There is a judgment period of 430 years. The authors multiply 360 of those years by seven, but they do not multiply the rest (70) by seven. Why not?

3. Eschatology. Israel is not entirely gathered into the land today, nor since 1948 has that been true. Even worse, those who are gathered there remain almost entirely in unbelief.

4. Interpretation. The article assumes "awon" = punishment, but it can also signify the acts for which punishment is due, that is, the iniquity that brought about the punishment. In the NKJV, Ezekiel is lying on his side for 390 years, representing the years of Israel's sin (northern kingdom), probably computed backwards in time to the start of their ill behavior in the kingdom. The forty years would be the same kind of thing, but for the southern kingdom of Judah. In this interpretation, the years would not be looking forward to restoration, but looking backward to the reason for their punishment by Babylon.

I believe Israel is in the land again now because they have to be there in order to be scattered again during the Tribulation.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 2, 2017 under Theology  Greek 

I came across this document in some old papers of a former member of Grass Lake Baptist Church. The note at the top indicates that this document was written by a former pastor of that church, R. M. Bowden.

I do not have the background knowledge to comment on the accuracy of this account, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Posted by Matt Postiff June 2, 2017 under Translation 

The KJV-only doctrine and practice has come to my attention several times lately. Frankly, I wish I could put the entire question to bed once and for all and finally help Christians, pastors, and churches who are caught up in this false teaching to be delivered from it.

Be sure to know that if you like the KJV or have grown up with it and want to continue using it, that is your privilege. But you cannot force that preference on others who can rather benefit from a modern English version that is more readable, more accurate, and more understandable.

Following are some briefly-stated reasons why I cannot recommend the KJV.

If you cannot justify a belief from the Bible, then you need to remove it from the doctrinal statement.

  1. Doctrinal statements that include the KJV as the only acceptable translation do not and cannot back up their claims from Scripture. Every statement in our doctrinal statement should be able to have a parenthesis after it with one or more verses from Scripture. If you cannot justify a belief from the Bible, then you need to remove it from the doctrinal statement. Never have I seen a statement like "The KJV is the only acceptable translation in the English language (citation of a Bible verse). There is no verse that can be put inside the parentheses to justify that belief.
  2. We should know that KJV-onlyism cannot be justified from Scripture because the apostle Paul did not have a KJV; nor did the apostle John. The KJV did not come into existence until one thousand and five hundred years AFTER the New Testament was completed. KJV-onlyism cannot be a doctrine that all Christians have always held. If Paul didn't believe it or have to believe it to be faithful to God, neither do I.
  3. Archaic vocabulary is a big reason I do not recommend the KJV. The verb "wot" is used in 10 verses in the KJV. It means nothing to an English reader today. It should be translated "know." Nine verses use "wont" which is not the same as "want." It means something that "used to be" or something that was usual or customary. No one today uses the word "wont." "Agone" is used once and, as it is not a word in the English language today, it should be translated as "ago." Who knows what "anon" means? What about besome, betimes, bethink, bewray, bolled, bowels, or choler? Why is the word "college" used in 2 Kings 22:14 and 2 Chronicles 34:22 and what does it mean? One online glossary I found has over 70 such words; one had over 300!
  4. The KJV is old. This is not a sufficient reason in and of itself to discontinue use of the KJV. But it is important to realize that the KJV in common use today comes from 1769. The English language has changed since then; manuscript evidence has been found since then; and translation and language tools have improved since then. We can do better today.
  5. The translation was made by men and as such is fallible. All translations can be improved.
  6. The KJV translators themselves would most certainly tell us to continue working on and improving the translation that we use. Read their preface and you will understand what I'm talking about (if you can understand it)
  7. The KJV we have today is not the KJV. The 1611 KJV would be almost unreadable for most who claim the KJV as their only translation. It was updated by Benjamin Blayney in 1769 to the form we have today. I have a replica 1611 KJV in my office, and it would be a chore to translate from that every morning in my reading time.
  8. The KJV-only doctrine in its most dangerous form elevates this single English translation to the level of inspired Scripture. Not only is this a departure from the orthodox doctrine of Bibliology in which only the original manuscripts partake of direct inspiration, it also generates other serious problems. For instance: does every language have such an "inspired" text like the KJV? Which text is it? How do you know?
  9. The KJV in the New Testament is based on one edition of Erasmus' Textus Receptus. Which edition of his text is the right one is an important question that must be asked. But it is almost irrelevant, because there are errors in the TR, just like there are in any single manuscript.
  10. Those who hold KJV-onlyism are typically, though not always, very divisive. I do not want that cancer doing damage in the church that I pastor, nor in other churches in our circles. Scripture tells us to note those who cause divisions and avoid them (Romans 16:17).
  11. The KJV-only doctrine often promotes fear or anger among its followers that all other translations are perversions that are purposefully attempting to remove parts of God's word, or deny the deity of Christ, for example. And while some so-called translations may do so (like the Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation), there is no need to be fearful or angry at all non-KJV translations. There are several excellent translations that should not elicit reactions of fear or anger. Such emotions are not becoming of Christians.

So, I recommend to put your KJV away, and get a NKJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NET, or HCSB. And read it often!

Read a little more on this issue at a prior post.

Posted by Matt Postiff May 30, 2017 under Bible Texts 
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.(James 1:19-21, NKJV)

Often, verse 19 is isolated from the context as a good piece of advice about how we should listen more than we speak. Although that is a good thought, it is not what the text is trying to convey.

Here, James is writing about receiving God's word. In verse 18 he told us that we were brought forth by the word of truth. In verse 21, he says we are to put away sin and receive with meekness the implanted word.

I take it then that what we need to swift to hear is God's word. We should be slow to speak out when we hear it (in other words, we think about it first and don't just shoot off at the mouth). And we should certainly not be upset by it--say when it confronts our sin or tells us how we need to improve our lives. Imagine the context of receiving the Word in a local church service. Someone that blurts out their displeasure at what they hear, or gets upset about it and walks away from the church, is not following this injunction by James. These responses do not produce God's desired righteousness in our lives.

Rather, we need to put aside bad responses to the Word and receive it meekly. It is what has saved our souls!

Of course, we can add in Scripture's other teaching about being discerning and not believing everything that every preacher says (1 John 4:1). We must be like Bereans (Acts 17:11). But we must give due respect to that Word.

The following verses instruct us HOW to do this. We must receive the Word with action--doing what it says to do, not just looking at it and going away unchanged. We must not receive it in such a way that we "think" ourselves to be religious while not actually following its commands.

Posted by Matt Postiff May 10, 2017 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Here's a quick hit piece on worry.

Worry is associated with other negative things like pride, wrong thinking, lack of peace, misplaced trust, fear, anxiety, stress, and prayerlessness.

The opposite of worry is trust, humility, belief in God, right thinking, and peace. Some texts of Scripture that remind us about these truths are found in Psalm 20:7, Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:6-7, and Philippians 4:6-10.

Posted by Matt Postiff May 4, 2017 under General 

I have published a new life testimony by Eduard Suderman.

Translated from German in 1981, it was originally written in 1913, when Mr. Suderman was 80 years old. It comes to about 17 typewritten pages, about 7500 words. Eduard Suderman is my great-great grandfather. The translator was Anna Suderman, my grandmother's sister, who was a missionary to India. I believe she served under the Mennonite Brethren there.

I found several notable portions from the autobiography:

  • His sensitivity to sin, particularly around and after the time of his salvation at age 40.
  • His views of alcohol.
  • The fact that church meetings happened on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  • His Mennonite heritage .
  • His view of the Catholic religion as empty forms and rituals.
  • His desire for prayer and real fellowship with like-minded believers.
  • The importance of prayer.

I am thankful for a godly heritage that was passed down to my grandmother, and to my father. A home with two Christian parents was a great advantage to me.

Posted by Matt Postiff May 2, 2017 under Interpretation  Dispensationalism  Theology  Eschatology 

Kevin DeYoung has written on the identity of the 144,000 servants of God in Revelation 7:3-8. He starts this way:

The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant, and certainly not an Anointed Class of saints who became Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1935. The 144,000 “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4) represent the entire community of the redeemed. Let me give you several reasons for making this claim.

I have no argument with Pastor DeYoung's second denial--that the 144,000 are "certainly not...Jehovah's Witnesses." But I have to take issue with his assertion that these are not an ethnic Jewish remnant.

Let us suppose for a moment that God will in fact seal a certain number of ethnic Jews for a particular purpose or mission during the Tribulation period. Just how could God express this fact in writing through John if He could not convince the modern reader with the words that He used in Revelation 7:4? Perhaps something like this would have been sufficient:

Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. I. Mean. Jews! And. I. Mean. One. Hundred. Forty. Four. Thousand! (hypothetical Rev. 7:4)

The hermeneutical contortions that DeYoung forces upon the text are just too much. The text is clear as it is written. If God means what DeYoung says, why did He not simply say it plainly that way?

Now for a brief critique each of DeYoung's supporting arguments.

First, whether or not it "makes sense" that God would seal all of His followers, the text only mentions these 144,000 Jewish ones being sealed. Satan's action in chapter 13 is irrelevant.

Second, using a text from Ezekiel 9 to support a seemingly "similar distinction based on who worships God" and denying any Jewish connection is tenuous. This is particularly so since those who were sealed in Ezekiel were Jews.

Third, DeYoung says, "the 144,000 are called the servants of our God…There is no reason to make the 144,000 any more restricted than that." What he means is that the only descriptive phrase that is allowed to be taken literally is "servants of God." The number and the ethnicity are not allowed to be taken literally. When John heard the number, what he heard was not significant, DeYoung implies. So why didn't John just say, "Then I heard that those servants were sealed," and dispense with the remainder of verses 4-8? In fact, the phrase servants of God, the number, and the ethnicity all contribute to the meaning of the text.

Fourth, DeYoung argues from the descriptions "redeemed from the earth" and "purchased from among men" that this language is generic, applying to everyone. Again the question must be asked—why didn't God just leave out the extra descriptions, and make explicit that this was all the redeemed that were on the earth at that time in the prophecy? He asserts that the number is symbolic of the redeemed "drawn from all peoples, not simply the Jews." He adds that it must be symbolic, because "not defiled with women" (14:4) cannot mean celibate Jewish men…in spite of the fact that the text affirms that they are virgins.

Fifth, DeYoung states that the tribe list and their numbers are highly stylized, so they are not to be taken literally. This reminds me of the framework hypothesis of the creation account, which argues in part that the account is highly stylized, so it cannot be understood as a literal narrative of the events of the creation week. To the contrary, though both passages display wonderful literary quality, this does not mean that it cannot be understood literally.

In sum, the bottom line of DeYoung's argument is that he cannot make sense of the text literally within his theological framework, so it makes more sense to take it to mean something other than what it says. Granted, there is much symbolic language in Revelation. But, for example, an angel whose "face is like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire" is quite a bit different than a number and a list of tribes of Israel. There is a distinction between symbolic language and plain language, and Revelation 7:3-8 is definitely on the plain side of that divide.

I would add one more argument in favor of taking the text literally to refer to Jews. Read on to verse 9:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Rev. 7:9 NIV)

John refers to tribes of Jews in 7:3-8, and then immediately mentions "every nation, tribe, people, and language." This strengthens our understanding that the 144,000 are in fact ethnic Jews whom God sets apart for special protection and service during the Tribulation. Why would God refer to "all the redeemed" as 144,000 of the Jewish tribes, and then immediately repeat Himself but using the broader language of "every nation"? It makes more sense that Scripture means Jews when it says Jews, and it means "every nation" when it says every nation.

Ultimately what is at stake in this debate is how we read the Bible. Someone like DeYoung reads the exact same passages I do; but he reads at least this one a whole lot differently than I do and, I would argue, he reads it incorrectly.

Clint Archer also defends a literal reading of the 144,000. He follows up with a good article on why the 1000 years of Revelation 20 is to be taken literally.

Posted by Matt Postiff March 4, 2017 under Theology  Church 

While cleaning today we found this:

I simply argue that the cross be raised again
at the center of the market place
as well as on the steeple of the church.

I am recovering the claim that
Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral
between two candles:

But on a cross between two thieves;
on a town garbage heap;
At a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan
that they had to write his title
in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek...

And at the kind of place
where cynics talk smut,
and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.

But that is where he died,
and that is what He died about.
And that is where Christ's men out to be,
and what church people ought to be about.

—George MacLeod

I did not dig into who this fellow is or what his theology is. But the way I understand his text, it expresses a good thought: the cross of Christ must be pressed in the center of society; in the market place of ideas; in the academy; to scientists and engineers and stay-at-home moms and lawyers and politicians and CEOs and janitors. The need is vast. Those willing to set up a cross again in the center of the market place are few.

Pray that God will raise some more bold witnesses in our day.

Posted by Matt Postiff February 22, 2017 under Theology  Bible Texts 

I received a question today about what the Bible means in Matthew 27:46 when it quotes Jesus speaking about being forsaken by God.

Why did Jesus cry, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me," when he was on the cross in Matthew 27:46? It appears to be a quote of Psalm 22:1 and could be read to be part of his feeling on the cross. I am also thinking that Jesus bore the sin of all mankind and that as a result of bearing that sin, he felt separation from God the Father. Am I on the right track?

You are on the right track. Righteous Jesus is calling out to God in the way an Old Testament saint would call out to God for deliverance from his enemies. The believer trusts in God for that rescue.

But in this case, there would be no deliverance, at least not before death had taken its toll. In judicial wrath, God had turned against His own Son. This Son, although He never sinned at all, had at that time "become sin for us" so that we might "become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). So not only did Jesus feel a separation from God; there in fact was a separation between them. This happened until Jesus paid the wages of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). Sin separates from God (Isaiah 59:2). This is why we need a mediator to bring the sinner to the holy God. Only Jesus is able to do that.

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