Tag Archives: Interpretation

Preconceived Ideas About Mounties

There are things that you expect, things you take for granted, things that you know to be true, which turn out to be completely wrong.  Here’s one of the things that I found out when we visited Canada earlier this month, something that was very unexpected:

The Mounties don’t wear their red uniforms.

I’m serious, they don’t.  That’s no surprise to Canadians, of course, but that was quite the surprise to me.  Maybe that is because I’m the person who learned everything he knows about Mounties from Due South.  I saw police cars and police (the R.C.M.P.) in them that looked like…well…regular police.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  I had made it a goal to track down a Mountie and get my picture taken with him in his red uniform.  It didn’t happen.  See, they only wear those cool red uniforms for special occasions (parades, or anything else for show).  And it was just our luck that there were no special occasions while we were in the country.

But it got me thinking.  You see, there are a lot of people in the world and in denominations who we think we’ve got figured out.  We take it for granted that all Baptists believe a certain way.  We expect that any Catholic we run into is a Christmas/Easter Catholic.  We think we know certain things about them to be true.

But the fact is, we don’t know those things at all.  Each person is different, and while some things we think we know might be true, that doesn’t mean everything we think about them is true.

Why not take the time to get to know your religious neighbors individually and start talking with them about their beliefs.  I once spent thirty minutes waxing eloquent about the sin of instrumental music in worship to a Baptist.  If I had bothered asking their view on it first, I would have found out that their congregation was adamantly opposed to it as well.

This past week, I spoke to an Amish woman who was selling items in a store and asked her what her thoughts were on selling postcards with pictures of Amish people on it.  The common view among non-Amish (even among the people who are supposed “experts” who give tours of the area) is that the Amish refuse to have pictures taken because it is a “graven image.”  But this Amish woman told us that she (and many other Amish people) have no problem with the pictures, since they aren’t things being worshiped.  “They are just memories.”

It’s amazing what you find out when you look past your preconceived ideas and simply ask “what do you believe?”

But for the record, I am still disappointed that the Mounties don’t look like Mounties.

-Bradley Cobb

Bible Q&A – What was Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh”?

Question: What was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”?—anonymous.

Thanks for the question, and for reading! This is one of the most common questions that people ask. It’s often used as an example of what people call “unimportant questions.” But everything in the Bible is important. There’s no such thing as an “unimportant question” from the Bible.

Before we go on, it’s important that you come to this with an open mind and an open Bible. A lot of people say “no one knows what the thorn in the flesh is.” Others say, “It’s probably bad eyesight, but no one knows for sure.” We’re not concerned with what people have to say about it. We’re only interested in what the Bible has to say about it. So, open your Bible and let’s discover the answer for ourselves.

The “thorn in the flesh” is described in Second Corinthians 12:7-9. Please notice how Paul describes it:

  1. It is something physical (a thorn in the flesh).
  2. It is the “messenger of Satan.”
  3. Its purpose is to beat Paul (buffet, in King James, which literally means to hit or strike repeatedly. This indicates violence).
  4. It humbled Paul.
  5. It didn’t go away, even after Paul prayed about it.
  6. Paul calls it “my infirmities.”

Now, look back a chapter and let’s see what the context tells us. In chapter eleven, Paul is dealing with the Jews who were trying to undermine his efforts for Christ. These are frequently called “Judaizers” or “Judaizing teachers.” They were Jews who tried to take people away from Christ and back to the Law of Moses. Look what Paul says about them and their work against him.

  1. These Jews brought physical persecution (11:24-26, 32-33).
  2. These Jews are called “messengers” of Satan (11:13-15).
  3. These Jews attacked Paul with violence (11:24-26, 32-33).
  4. These persecutions kept Paul from exalting himself (11:30).
  5. These persecutions didn’t go away, even after Paul prayed about them (see the book of Acts).
  6. These persecutions from the Jews were called “my infirmities” (11:30, 12:5).

If you notice, everything that was said about Paul’s thorn in the flesh was said about the persecution Paul endured from the Jews—just one chapter earlier.

Based on the evidence and the context, Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was the continual persecution from the Jews who were trying to destroy Paul and the message of the gospel.

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Angels Pecked on Me?

One of the funnest things to hear is a child reciting song lyrics, because you know that inevitably they will have misunderstood some of the lines.  And honestly, which one of us hasn’t ever misunderstood the words of one song or another?

In the 70′s there was a song called “Drift Away,” and when I was a kid, I thought the guy was saying, “Give me the Beach Boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away.”  It took a long time before I realized it said “Give me the beat, boys.”  One of the most famous examples is Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.”  You know the line, “there’s a bathroom on the right,” except it actually says, “there’s a bad moon on the rise.”

This misunderstanding of song lyrics isn’t confined to popular music.  I knew a little boy who was scared of angels because of the song which said, “the angels pecked on me from heaven’s open door.”  Some people have wondered why we sing “peas, perfect peas.”  Others question “Who is Father Along, and why will he know all about it?”  The list of misheard hymn lyrics is actually quite extensive.

When children misunderstand things, it is cute.  When adults misunderstand things, it’s not.

If you are married, then you have had this discussion:  “I told you ___________.”  “Wait.  I thought you meant ____________.”

I guarantee that the response from your spouse wasn’t, “Awww, that’s so cute that you misunderstood.”  Many times, the response is “No, I said this,” or some other such thing that shows they don’t find your misunderstanding cute, humorous, or anything remotely like it.

There are so many areas in which we need to work harder to understand.

Most importantly, we need to work harder to understand God’s word.  Most of the religious division in the world comes from people misunderstanding parts of God’s word—sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, and sometimes it is just because they don’t bother to try.  But wouldn’t it be great if the religious division disappeared and we all began to unite with a proper understanding of God’s word?

We need to work harder to understand our spouses—what they think, what they are saying, what they mean, what they need.  A large number of the arguments between spouses are because they weren’t on the same page [aka didn’t understand where the other was coming from].  Wouldn’t it be great if the arguments in your marriage began to disappear?

We are going to misunderstand things from time to time.  Let’s do our best to make sure that it isn’t for lack of trying.

–Bradley Cobb