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A New Year
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Written by Ray   
Thursday, 02 January 2014 12:50

The last project blog entry was about 18 months ago, but that does not mean the project is dead! So I wanted to share a little update.

 

First, as a family, we had shifted away from solely a question and answer oral memorization and incorporated "readings" into our catechism. This started a couple of years ago when we learned that it was easy to memorize the ten commandments just by reading it aloud once a day. We still practice this every day. We also now read aloud 1 chapter out of 3 from the "Sermon on the Mountain" and several other systematic readings. Most recently, I have tried to automate the process using email newsletter software. For me, it has made it so simple that it practically eliminated any excuse to not read my Bible and what's more, it takes me significantly less time. I just have to check my email. I don't have to figure out the passages of the day. I don't have to find them in my Bible. And I am free from the distractions of commentary and such. It's just the text and I just read it. I have tried to make this Bible reading email newsletter service available to others, so if that's something you're interested in trying out, you can click here or the "Read" tab above to sign up. It is still very much a work in progress, so I want your feedback and expect changes and updates.

 

Next, since getting over the Bible reading hurdle, I want to get back to the Q&A with new resolve. So I have arranged 52 Q&A's for the next year and incorporated them into the automated emails. We intend to do one a week and with a lot of help from our God, we expect to see some serious fruit by the end. With that in mind, I will leave you with the first question of the year:

 

What is the aim of our instruction?

The aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently. - 1 Timothy 1:5-7

 
An Unorthodox Catechism
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Written by Ray   
Saturday, 14 July 2012 11:55

experts and amateurs

 

Doctrine is teaching

A doctrine is an instruction, principle, rule, or such that is taught and thereby alters a worldview. (A worldview is the filter through which a person looks at reality. A person’s religion is merely the behaviors that correspond to his/her worldview. Obviously, the closer a worldview is to reality, the better the religion.)

Catechism is the curriculum for the teaching ministry of the church.

Catechism comes from the biblical Greek “katecheo” which means to sound aloud or teach orally. Catechesis is a method of oral instruction usually through questions and answers. Catechesis is also a fancy name for the teaching ministry of the church. Catechism is the curriculum or material of catechesis. Catechumens are the learners. A catechist is the person who catechizes catechumens. So a Bible catechism is just a biblical curriculum for the teaching ministry of the church.

Our doctrine comes from the Bible, personal experience, preachers, or tradition.

There are at least four broad sources of teaching: official (inspired?), experience, expert, or orthodoxy. The latter two are, in my opinion, the most prominent sources of "Christian" doctrine and usually the expert/preacher gets his doctrine from tradition. A tradition is a way of thinking or acting that is handed down from one generation to the next. Traditional religion is called orthodox. Personal experience is that which you have observed to be true. Lastly, the Bible is the practically perfectly preserved written word of God.

1) Experience, 2) preachers, and 3) tradition are unreliable.

I emphatically believe that the word of God is the only reliable source of doctrine. Personal experience, expert testimony, and orthodoxy can rightly rest in the boat that is scripture, but to rely on any of them as THE teaching authority is to abandon the anchor that is the Way and put yourself into a boat headed another direction. Ultimately, the boats of men and the boats of scripture can look much alike, but you will know them by their destination (fruit).

1) Personal experience is too dependent on highly variable circumstances and perceptions. 2) When experts interpret the scriptures, they are either lying or serving the cooked truth. We all need good preaching, but we should never swallow a sermon simply because it was placed in front of us. An important doctrine of scripture is that even the prophets must be tested. 3) Traditions creep into the church. Some practices and creeds creep in slowly, others more abruptly. Some come from the Bible, others come from the opinions of men, and others directly from the evil one. The important thing to understand is that orthodoxy is a dirty river. I don't want to drink that water.

The fruit of unreliable doctrine is evil.

I have joined together with local believers in orthodox and unorthodox churches, churches with great preachers and churches with lousy preachers, and even churches that listened to the personal experiences of its members and churches that didn’t. But unfortunately, I cannot confidently say that I have witnessed a church that rightly sought to be sacrificially biblical (though I know of a couple that want to head in that direction). Listen, I don’t know the overall effect of loosing the anchor of scripture, but I have suspicions based on the current publicized state of the churches. Things certainly don’t seem to be getting better.

Churches are not engaged in Biblical catechesis.

The teaching policy of too many churches is like a spiritual welfare program, which is oppression. They barely pay lip service to the scriptures themselves. They use phrases like, “all verses must be interpreted by a man” and then proceed to tell us which man is a better interpreter than others. If they bother to back that statement up, they emphatically quote the Ethiopian eunuch. While trying to understand the scriptures, the eunuch said, “How in the world can I, unless someone guides me?” But in quoting this scripture, the modern teacher neglects to recognize that the Guide is the Holy Spirit and that Philip (a better teacher) didn’t offer him a doctrine of men, but the anchor of the living gospel, which is Christ himself. In the Bible-professing, evangelical American culture, most churches consume nothing but “adulterated Bible” if they bother with the Bible at all. If you disagree, I challenge you to tell me the author of your current “Bible study” or worse yet, the author of your “Study Bible.”

A Bible catechism is needed!

Since the churches are producing bad fruit, it is past time for them to recognize that they have practically abandoned the faith. They have loosed the anchor of scripture in favor of the doctrine of men. Not only did Jesus say this was bad (as in not good), he quoted the Old Testament to prove it (see Matthew 15:9). Human error may be unavoidable; however, a Bible catechism intends to leave the anchor of scripture where it belongs.

There are three fingers pointing back at me.

Applied practically, I want to train myself and my students to go to the scriptures first – that is teaching a man to fish. I always try to test the less reliable sources of doctrine against the wholly trustworthy authority of the scriptures. When I have a choice, I will always plant the seed of God’s Word, and not some other kind of seed. And that is why I have chosen to start developing, using, and sharing a Bible catechism. At the end, I can say “I have known God, not Calvin, Driscoll, Luther, MacArthur, Piper, Spurgeon, or even Ray Jones.” And I invite and challenge you to do the same.

May the churches “Sober up as you should, and stop sinning! For some have no knowledge of God – I say this to your shame!”

 

 
No, I insist on buying it for top price.
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Written by Ray   
Thursday, 21 June 2012 19:03

King David replied to Ornan, “No, I insist on buying it for top price. I will not offer to the Lord what belongs to you or offer a burnt sacrifice that cost me nothing" (1 Chronicles 21:25).

Bible catechism is my passion. Or at least that's what I've told myself many times over the last two years. But then I've spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on video games. "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:34).

The Bible translation used in this catechism is free. This website is made using free software. The website layout might have cost $20 or $30, if anything. I bought a cheap package of business cards. I just ordered some inexpensive brochures that are for "the Law" reading. And then I splurged.

The header logo on the website had been driving me nuts since I made it in MS Paint. I had first asked Laura to make a proper header image. My wife is pretty skilled at basic Photoshop, but we haven't owned a functional (let alone legal) copy of Photoshop for a few years. Plus, she's got a few other priorities that... well... take priority. So I decided to sacrifice some cold hard cash.

I searched for and chose a website that is kind of like a reverse auction for graphic design. So I submitted a project, paid less than $300, and waited for the designs to pour in. And they trickled. Some looked okay. Most of them probably took 5 minutes to make. None of them were amazing. But I eventually picked one.

I probably could have bought Laura a copy of Photoshop, or asked a Facebook friend help, or used a free Photoshop alternative. But right now, I needed to pay top price. And I doubt I've come close to spending a total of $500 on what I want to make my passion. That investment barely counts as a hobby. I paid more for the bicycle and accessories that are collecting dust in the garage.

 
Backsliding, Two-stepping, and Progressing
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Written by Ray   
Sunday, 17 June 2012 09:00

It has been 13 months since I wrote anything on this project blog. A lot has happened since then...

Backsliding

First, my family moved to another country. It was kind of a big deal - an ordeal. "The river (of circumstances) burst against [my] house, it (all but) collapsed immediately, and was [almost] destroyed (Luke 6:49)!" I demonstrated the proverb: "Like a dog that returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly (Proverbs 26:11)." But about six months ago, I started going back to the pure milk of the word each morning. It tasted funny at first, but I kept up the habit anyway. Eventually, the vices grew less appealing and the freedom of living in the light started to feel pretty tempting. Meanwhile, my family was falling apart without my leadership. My marriage was in shambles, again. One of my sons got caught up in one of my vices and it was ugly. Every day was a new family battlefield. So we started back to our evening Bible reading. Like my personal reading, it took a long time to get comfortable with that regimen.

Two-stepping

Of course, in all of this, the Bible Catechism project got little attention. Only three people outside of my family have ever really demonstrated an interest in this project. The first is KD, a friend from my high school days, a wife and mother, and unfortunately not this project's intended audience: husbands/fathers. The second is MW, a friend from my college days, and a husband and father. The third is MJ, my single college-aged brother. I appreciate their interest and want to encourage them to consider an increased commitment. I have particularly asked for feedback, advice, and/or help from a number of church-elder-type men and (with the notable exception of MW who fits that description) none of them have even responded to my personal requests. Part of me wants to take it personally, but if this is my project, I don't even want to have anything to do with it. If it's God's project, well, I suppose he'll take care of it.

Progressing

Even though the website and Facebook pages have had little or no activity in the last year, my family has actually made a little progress. While moving, I discovered that my children could memorize a large chunk of scripture if I simply read it aloud to them once a day. That chunk of scripture was the law (or ten commandments) found in Exodus 20:1-21. It had simply been a part of our nightly Bible reading, but one night I had to pause in the middle of a sentence and the kids kept going from memory. So the speaking members of my family now have the Law planted in their hearts. I'd call that a little progress. To be honest, it's not great considering it's been a year. May this next year be better.

 
A new challenge
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Written by Ray   
Thursday, 19 May 2011 18:46

A friend mentioned the hesitancy to make a longterm commitment to use the Bible Catechism, and the conversation got me thinking. Any new discipline takes practice and you can expect a number of setbacks along the way. Most of us would be unwilling to commit to a year of some particular exercise regimen. But we will try a six week program and then sometimes it will turn into a lifestyle of physical fitness.

So I challenge you to try this tool for six weeks. It's easy to start, takes very little time, and unlike physical exercise, it offers eternal value. Are you up to the challenge? If so, leave a comment to let me know.

 
Order in the court!
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Written by Ray   
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 06:09

As a family, we're well into the 18th week of using this simple tool. The progress has exceeded my expectations. The grownups are definitely having to try harder than the kids. It's almost embarrassing. But we're keeping up as best we can. Practice, practice, practice.

Since we're alpha testing this tool, I've noticed a few things and some changes are coming. First, I've rearranged the order on some of the questions. I've found some pretty major problems with a few of the questions (like using the wrong word), but we usually recognize that as soon as we start practicing and we fix it on the spot. It just takes some time to get those changes implemented back into the website. So you can look for those changes soon.

I've also been giving considerable thought to categorization. Specifically, I suspect that the section for God is going to and should continue to grow. I can imagine that it might include upwards of more than one hundred questions. I already have a number of new ones that I haven't added to the website. So that leads me to wonder if the question order needs to be reworked. Perhaps the questions can be listed in specific order and then tagged. That way each question could even be categorized several ways. I will have to continue to think about this. Any suggestions?

Finally, I ordered a small box of business cards tonight. I'm hoping they turn out. (My first design wasn't great and had a major typo. It was completely my fault.) This design features the first 21 questions on the front (and BibleCatechism.com) with the references on the back. One of the hardest things to remember is the questions themselves, so having a business card with them listed should come in handy.

 
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