By Pastor Justin Finton
In the church we frequently talk about our relationship with God, our relationship with Jesus, and our relationship within our community; we rarely talk about our relationship with the Bible. When I think about my relationship with scripture, my mind immediately goes back to the shame I felt as a child in Sunday School. Almost weekly I would hear the phrase, “Read your Bible and pray every day” echoed by someone in the church, and each time I was reminded of my failure to meet their expectations and God’s. I know that I’m not the only one to have had similar experiences.
Is the role of scripture in your life confined by the way you approach it? Some of us approach the Bible as a self-help book, looking for encouragement. Others seek wisdom and moral guidance for how to live well. Some only open the pages of a Bible when they need scripture references for an argument they are having online. While there is validity in each of these approaches to scripture, I find that the full power of Scripture can be diminished by relying on only one or two of these methods.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a growing trend in our culture to dismiss things that violate our core convictions. When we disagree with others, we un-follow them, block them out of our lives and our circles of influence. Increasingly, Scripture is dismissed as an irrelevant, ancient document that has outlived its usefulness in our post-modern world. When we find ourselves in disagreement with scripture, many are tempted disengage from it, or change it to fit our internalized narratives.
I find that my relationship with scripture, like many people’s, involves more struggle than our previous examples. I often find myself concerned, confused, and opposed to many of the things I read in the Bible. Some acts seem out of place with God’s character, some statements seem to contradict other statements, and frequently what I expect the Bible to say about a topic is very different from what it actually says. Instead of glossing over the part of the Bible I don’t understand, I’ve learned to dig in deeper into the mystery. I’ve approach God’s word as Jacob approached God himself: I wrestle.
Timothy Keller has an incredible quote that I find myself coming back to time and time again, even though I’ve been faithfully following God for twenty years.
“If your God never disagrees with you, you might be worshipping an idealized version of yourself.”
What a challenge! When you open scripture are you looking to validate your established belief system, or to allow God to perform surgery on your heart? This is an invitation to lean into the parts of the Bible that seem odd or out of place to you. This is an invitation to seek God with all of your mind, as Jesus commanded when he re-wrote the ancient Israelite prayer, the Shema.
Unlike Jacob, I have discovered that when I wrestle with God’s word, God eventually wins me over. I have learned that my struggles with Scripture typically stem from one of these issues:
1. My own lack of understanding
2. My heart is unaligned with God’s
As you take stock of your relationship with the Bible, I want to encourage you to move beyond the ways that you have limited its power in your life. Don’t fall into the trap of reducing the Bible to a self-help book or glossing over the parts that make you uncomfortable. Lean into your discomfort. Wrestle with God’s word. Seek His truth and you will find it.
Jeremiah 31:33-34 NLT
33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
Introducing the Fintons
Pastor Justin stepped into the position of Youth Director on April 1st of this year. Before coming to BCF he served at Abundant Life Church for three years as the Associate Youth Pastor, and three years as the Lead Youth Pastor.
His greatest joy in ministry is challenging people to view God and Scripture in new ways that deepen their understanding. He attended Global University, and became a credentialed minister in the Assemblies of God in 2015. Outside of Bethel, he works in the Anoka-Hennepin School District as a Site Leader for their elementary age before-and-after school program, Adventures Plus.
Justin and Michelle have been married for 7 years. They welcomed Ezra into the family in November, 2020. They have just moved into the Rondo Neighborhood of St. Paul (from Coon Rapids).
Welcome, Justin, Michelle, and Ezra! We are so happy that you are now a part of our Family!