Argument Vs. Experience

There is a curious word that shows up about 70 times in the Bible (almost all of them in the Psalms)—Selah. The best scholars can figure is that this word has some sort of musical meaning: 

  1. Pause / Interlude—to rest in silence. This might even be where the singers stopped while the music continued. 
  1. Accentuation—to lift up or exalt; as in the renewed vigor of the singer or musician after pausing for a deep breath. 
  1. Consideration—the root word for Selah means to weigh on a balance, with the idea of despising the things that are light or trivial, and valuing the things that carry weight or substance. The Amplified Bible uses the phrase “pause and calmly think of that.” 

All three are valid definitions, and all three are used in the Psalms. I think the context of the Psalm makes it clear which one is meant. Sometimes more than one meaning is implied, and sometimes all three meanings are implied. 

Selah first shows up in Psalm 3. This is also one of the few psalms that uses Selah multiple times. We also get a clue to the context in the introduction: A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom [see 2 Samuel 15]. 

David has a lot of enemies ganging up on him? The Message says, “enemies past counting!” And David laments that his enemies are whispering something very negative: “There is no God” or “God is too disinterested or weak to help you” or “You don’t deserve to have God’s help.” 

In the midst of this noise, David pens his first  SELAH—David needs a pause. The enemies past counting have got his thoughts swirling. He needs to pause and calmly think: “I KNOW God can and will help me because He has already helped me in the past. You may have your arguments and reasons, but I have my personal experience with God!” 

Notice the very next word: But (v. 3). You ARE [not were or will be] a shield around me…. To the Lord I CRY aloud [not I used to cry or I will cry], and He ANSWERS [not He answered or He will answer] me… (v. 4).

The second SELAH (v. 4) is the renewed vigor after the pause. The Message says, His answers thunder from the holy mountain. This corresponds with what David wrote when God delivered him previously (see Psalm 18:4-13). Then in the next four verses, David lists all the blessings that come when God answers: 

    • sleep 
    • sustaining power 
    • no fear of the tens of thousands on every side
    • deliverance
    • retribution for enemies 
    • God’s blessing—Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes Your people! (v. 8 in MSG) 

David concludes this psalm with one final SELAH (v. 8)—to weigh on a balance. On one side: accusations and threats (only words). On the other side: personal experience of past deliverance and confident assurance of God’s present presence and rock-solid hope in God’s future grace. Pause and calmly consider those scales: which side are you on? Do you have only words, or do you have personal experience? 

The one with an experience with God is NEVER at the mercy of the one with only an argument against God. 

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. You can join me in person or on Facebook Live. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Don’t Argue!

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Don’t Argue!

     The reason Paul tells Timothy not to argue [1 Timothy 4:7], and the reason he tells me not to argue, and the reason he tells you not to argue, is that we argue from our own point of view. We argue not for the truth’s sake, we argue to prove we are right. God grant that we may learn to take heed lest we get switched off on arguing. … 

     “Oh, the unmitigated curse of controversy! Oh, the detestable passions that corrections and contradictions kindle up to fury in the proud heart of man! Eschew controversy, my brethren, as you would eschew the entrance to hell itself. Let them have it their way; let them talk; let them write; let them correct to you; let them traduce you; let them judge and condemn you; let them slay you. Rather let the truth of God suffer itself, than that love suffer. You have not enough of the divine nature in you to be a controversialist.” —Dr. Alexander Whyte … 

     For example… “sanctification” is not a man’s term; it is God’s: “the baptism with the Holy Ghost” is not man’s conception, it is God’s, and when a soul begins to argue on these matters, remember, worker for God, it is the Holy Spirit they are arguing with, the Word of God they are haggling about. God grant we may not hinder those who are battling their way slowly into the light. …  

     “Heal me of this lust of mine of always vindicating myself.” —Augustine … 

     If we are living rightly with God, living holy lives in secret and in public, God puts a wall of fire round about us.

From Workmen Of God

How true it is that we argue not because we’re standing up for the truth, but because we want to prove that we are right! This is a tactic of the devil which keeps us focused on less important matters.

Our only line of defense needs to be something Oswald Chambers said earlier: “the Word of God, the Word of God, the Word of God, first second and last.” If we stick to the Word, people who want to argue aren’t arguing with us, but with God. That is an argument in which we never have to participate!

How Should Christians Handle Objections?

It’s no secret that when a Christian says, “This is what I believe,” or “This is what the Bible says,” or even something as simple as, “I believe in God,” that there will be people who disagree. Sometimes their disagreement may even become an outright attack.

How are Christians to respond?

Here are five ways I’ve found to be effective and Christ-honoring—

1. Don’t argue. Arguments tend to create an “I don’t want to lose” feeling in the other person, which makes them unable to truly hear what you’re saying. Solomon wrote, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself” (Proverbs 26:4).

2. Ask questions. Jesus was a master at this. Look through the Gospels and you will see Jesus asking questions to clarify others’ positions. Questions stimulate further conversation, while statements tend to shut down the conversation. Questions develop a relationship, while definitive statements make you seem superior to the other person.

3. Don’t argue. Yes, this is good enough to repeat! Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales” (1 Timothy 4:7).

4. Pray for mercy. Remember that if you are really speaking truths from the Bible, the person arguing against those truths is arguing with God, not with you.

5. Pray for light. Paul said that the “god of this age” has blinded people (see 2 Corinthians 4:2-4), so we should pray that the Holy Spirit would grant them light to see the truth.

“Oh, the unmitigated curse of controversy! Oh, the detestable passions that corrections and contradictions kindle up to fury in the proud heart of man! Eschew controversy, my brethren, as you would eschew the entrance to hell itself. Let them have it their way; let them talk; let them write; let them correct to you; let them traduce you; let them judge and condemn you; let them slay you. Rather let the truth of God suffer itself, than that love suffer. You have not enough of the divine nature in you to be a controversialist.” —Dr. Alexander Whyte

Let’s be passionate for people, not passionate to win an argument!

I go into more detail in this video…

Evidence That Demands A Verdict (book review)

The Apostle Peter wrote a letter to Christians in which he called them “aliens and strangers” because of their belief in a personal Creator and Lord. In this letter, he tells Christians to “always be prepared to give an answer” to those skeptics who want to know about their faith in God. In Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh and Sean McDowell have given Christians a key component to help them be prepared to give sound answers.

This book is massive (at just under 900 pages)! But it is an encyclopedia of evidence that will prepare Christians to respond to any argument that an atheist or skeptic may bring up. To be honest with you, the Table of Contents is usually one of the first places I study in books I’m reading, but I usually end up skimming through it pretty quickly. But in Evidence, I was pleasantly surprised at the layout. Not only will you find a listing of the chapters, but a brief description of the contents. At the opposite end of the book, the Subject Index is also quite extensive. I know these are not things usually bragged on in a book review, but for a book this size—and for the numerous times you undoubtedly will be returning to prepare to answer a skeptic—these two reference points are extremely handy!

The first edition of Evidence (written by just Josh) came out nearly 20 years ago. If anything, the evidence for the beliefs that Christians hold has been further validated through research, archeological discoveries, and the like. So it was time for this classic book to be updated. The additional apologetic insights from Sean in this edition is a very nice addition.

Whether you read Evidence when it was first released or not, every Christian that wants to answer Peter’s directive for preparedness needs to get this new edition.

I am Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

A Leader’s Grace And Power

None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke. (Acts 6:10)

Here’s a truth we can all stand on: The man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.

A large group of people wanted to debate with Stephen about his belief in Jesus Christ. I’m sure that these debaters had some excellent points. But they couldn’t win the debate with Stephen because he had something they didn’t have: grace and power from God that was irrefutable!

Stephen’s words were backed up and verified by a lifestyle that was undeniable—

Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke. (Acts 6:8-10)

“Knowing that we have God’s ability in us, should give us the confidence to lead well when others don’t approve of or appreciate our leadership.” —Liz Sarno

A mark of a godly leader is one who demonstrates God’s grace and power that is within him.

This is Part 8 in my series on godly leadership. To read my other posts, please click here.

12 Quotes From “A New Kind Of Apologist”

A New Kind Of Apologist is edited by Sean McDowell and contains a collection of fabulous essays to prepare Christian apologists to be effective in this current generation. You can read my full book review by clicking here. These quotes mainly deal with the attitude that a Christian apologist should adopt.

“Truth must be wedded to grace, and what we say is important…but how we say it is equally critical.” —Sean McDowell 

“To listen to a person will require that we temporarily set aside our objections to what a person is saying and allow him or her to speak openly without fear of being challenged.” —Tim Muelhoff

“Our character and relationships with others have a greater capacity for attracting those around us to the Christian message than do our arguments or rhetoric.” —Ken Wytsma & Rick Gerhart 

“If our beliefs are not expressed in love and by example, we miss the greatest command of all, which is loving God and loving others.” —Dan Kimball

“The Barna Research Group found that twentysomethings who stay in church were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church. Those who had an adult mentor at church, aside from the pastor, were almost three times as likely to stay as those who did not.” —Jeff Myers

“Any fully-orbed presentation of the truth about ourselves and God’s plan for us cannot be a disembodied, purely intellectual truth; it must truthfully reflect our nature as created beings.

“Part of being incarnate means that it is good and right for us to have emotions and express them—as our Lord did, for example, by weeping at the tomb of Lazarus and getting angry with the money changers in the temple. The fact that little children wanted to come to Him suggests that He had a welcoming physicality and a warm personality that they instinctively trusted and found attractive. He wasn’t just a walking dictionary of Christian theology.” —Holly Ordway

“At its core, apologetics is the art and science of defending the faith. However, practically understood, the work of the apologist is simply to answer with integrity, clarity, and compassion the questions critics are asking about the gospel (1 Peter 3:15). The context of this passage implies a lifestyle on the part of the apologist that engenders and welcomes questions from their audience. The encouragement of Peter seems to be that we avoid the telemarketer approach of simply enduring questions solely for the sake of closing the deal. Rather, Peter calls us to anticipate and patiently answer the questions of our unbelieving friends, family members, and neighbors in an uncompromising and yet humble manner.” —Christopher Brooks

“We must be Christians first and apologists second, which means our intellectual lives must be primarily shaped by seeking to understand the faith we live within rather than debating, disputing, or even persuading those who do not believe it.” —Matthew Anderson 

“It is our responsibility to share the message of hope through Christ ‘with gentleness and respect’ and ‘with grace,’ as Peter and Paul taught. The gospel message is already offensive to some. We need not make it more offensive by presenting it in a manner that lacks gentleness, respect, and grace.” —Mike Licona

“Truth without grace is abusive and arrogant. Grace without truth is mushy sentimentalism. … As much as possible, always deal with the person in grace and the issue itself in truth.” —Glenn T. Stanton

“Paul doesn’t say that we ought to know how to answer each question [see Colossians 4:5-6]. He specifically teaches us to answer each person. … Paul tells us that we aren’t in the question-answering business. We are in the people-answering business. Today’s apologist must understand that questions don’t need answers; people need answers. … I am convinced that the key to apologetics today is to identify what non-Christians thirst for most and show how the Christian faith alone can slake that thirst.” —Abdu Murray

“The manner in which we communicate the gospel is not a minor add-on to the gospel itself [see 1 Peter 3:15-16]. Very often it is the nature of the communication that determines whether the gospel gets a hearing at all. …

“It remains true that it is not arrogant to make truth claims, it is not arrogant to pursue a knowledge of that truth, and to argue that we’ve found it. It is important that the content of our message is a genuine reflection of the gospel, and that the manner in which we communicate it doesn’t become a stumbling block.” —Tanya Walker

More quotes from A New Kind Of Apologist will be coming soon. You can also follow me on Tumblr and Twitter to read great quotes every single day.

A New Kind Of Apologist (book review)

For years, Josh McDowell has been ranked as a first-class Christian apologist: one who can persuasively defend the Christian faith. Sean McDowell grew up in this environment, being well mentored by his apologist father, and has become a world-renown apologist himself. So when Sean speaks of the need for a new kind of apologist, Christians should take notice.

A New Kind Of Apologist is a collection of essays edited by Sean McDowell. The book also contains short interviews which Sean has conducted with both those defending and opposing Christianity. This book covers everything from how apologists can be the most effective in a new generation of skeptics and seekers, as well as some thoughtful ways to address the issues at the forefront of the minds of this new generation.

The essays in this book are written by seasoned veterans of Christian apologetics, and some who are newer to the scene. But all of them write with a voice that is relevant to this current generation.

Not only will this book inform your brain, but it will challenge your heart as well. The overriding theme through all of these excellent essays is this—Christians must seek to love people more than win an intellectual argument. The new apologist knows his “stuff” but also knows how to develop genuine, caring relationships with those skeptics and seekers that need to hear the good news that Christianity offers.

I loved this book! It is clearly one that I am going to be referring to again and again and again as I seek to hone my apologetic and relationship-building skills.

I am a Harvest House reviewer.

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