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“Hit the Deck!”




by Seth Pierce

Here’s how you can use the Bible as a witness and not a weapon.

    “Hit the deck!”

    My stepbrother and I flung ourselves to the ground, catching a face full of grass and cold November dirt.
    “Don’t shoot!” we yelled.
    My younger brother, who was standing 50 paces behind us, had a fully loaded 9- millimeter handgun aimed at us. What was supposed to be an afternoon of leisure had now taken a frightening turn. All it would take to end our delicate earliteen lives—lives which hadn’t even kissed girls yet—was a stray bullet from the barrel of the gun my brother held.
    We frequently went to my grandparents’ house in the fall to visit and go shooting. My dad was the proprietor of a 20-gauge shotgun, a .22 caliber pistol, a .22 caliber rifle, and, of course, his new 9-millimeter handgun, which was pointed at our cowering bodies.
    We always had a good time target shooting, and this time had been no exception. We had enjoyed walking around the farm, shooting clay pigeons, and hanging out with my dad.
    Our time together shooting guns was intended to be fun and recreational, but that all changed when my dad handed my brother the handgun. While trying to explain how to properly aim the gun, my brother had carelessly swung the gun around absentmindedly in our direction.
    In actuality we probably spent only two seconds face down in the dirt before my dad snatched the gun away from my brother, banning him from using it for all eternity. However, that moment is etched in my mind like none other: family nearly killing one another with something that was intended to bring them closer together. When I reflect on this memory, I am struck by a spiritual lesson involving the Bible.
    The Bible, we are told, is a weapon of sorts: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). And this is meant for our good, because “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). But frequently people in the church use it against each other.
    Some people quote scriptures to make others feel guilty and make themselves feel spiritual. I once had a friend who was preaching against the futility of trying to be perfect, and the head elder interrupted his sermon by quoting Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Then the elder ended the service, leaving people to wonder how to be perfect—even what it means to be perfect. Actually, the text is talking about being perfect in love. Anyway, people went away with a misunderstanding that probably made it seem hopeless to follow God.
    One time I saw church people use the Bible to call some people names such as, “whore” and “drunkard.” Have you ever seen someone use the Bible to hurt someone? How many times have you heard people label other Christians who worship differently then they do as “Babylon,” since they don’t have “the truth” (which is Jesus, by the way).
    Now, I believe in our church and its message. I also believe that everyone is  welcome in it. But I don’t believe belittling others is the most effective way to attract new members.
    Sometimes church folks take the Bible out of context and make it say things that make people misunderstand who God is. Just think of how many people believe God tortures people for all eternity. Thankfully, the Bible itself helps us evaluate how people use it, and it gives us the tools we need to avoid using it as a weapon. Here are two of them:
    1. Don’t miss the point of Scripture. In John 5:39 Jesus gave us the first clue as to how not to miss the point of Scripture. He said that all Scripture points to Him. So when we preach, teach, or quote Scripture and leave Jesus out—or we paint an uninviting picture of Him—then we’ve missed the point of Scripture.
    2. Don’t skim through Scripture. Second  Timothy 2:15 tells us to really study God’s Word so that we can use it correctly. It’s easy to read the Bible very shallowly, without taking time to compare texts or to meditate on their meaning.
    Bible study isn’t about how much you know, it’s about how deep you go. When we read a Bible story or text, we should do our best to exhaust its meaning, not just quickly move to the next verse or chapter. Looking at commentaries, concordances, and Bible dictionaries really helps make this happen.
    God has given us His Word to bring us closer to Him and closer to each other. Let’s commit to using it as a witness and not as a weapon.
 
    Seth Pierce, a pastor, recently published the book, What We Believe for Teens, available at www.AdventistBookCenter.com. He likes to sleep rather than eat breakfast, dip Wendy’s French fries into Wendy’s Frosties, and prove conspiracy theories wrong. He also enjoys traveling, camping, and playing Wii baseball.




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