“Shoot Christians Say, Part 2 -” “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It.”

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“The B-I-B-L-E.  Yes that’s the Book for me.

I stand alone on the Word of God.

The B-I-B-L-E”

That little song, learned and sung around snacks of Kool-Aid and Animal Crackers, flannel graph Bible stories in the Sunday School of my childhood, formed the foundation of my understanding of the Bible.  

It’s dangerous to mess with someone’s foundation. 
It’s uncomfortable.  Scary. Risky.

But that’s what I did with last Sunday’s phrase in our “Shoot Christians Say” series.  Here it is:  

“God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” 

The teaching, for some, was tantamount to messing with motherhood, the flag and apple-pie. 

A bit unsettling.  

Think it through with me:  “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”  Except it doesn’t.   Settle it, that is.  If it settled it, why do we debate it?  If it settled it, how do we explain books like Zondervan Counterpoint Series – “indispensable for understanding different views on Christianity’s vital issues” (Zondervan’s description of the series)?  

If “that settles it” why are there “different views” not just on side issues, but on “vital issues?”  

We want to be settled.  We want to be sure.  Being settled is a basic need. The two largest Christian groups have addressed the need to be settled.

Protestants, the folks that protested the Catholic Church developed the infallibility of Scripture.  

Catholics developed the infallibility of the Pope.  

“Infallibility”- the inability to be wrong.

Both the Bible and the Pope speak for God – depending on if you are Catholic or Protestant.  

And what is spoken is infallible. That is settling. 

 Both positions come from a need for security, for something strong on which to stand.  These positions give us that, “I’m secure with ‘the Bible tells me so, ‘“ or “I’m secure with ‘the Pope tells me so.’”  Standing on this foundation, I don’t have to think, wrestle, or try to figure things out.  I just go with what is said.  

This position meets our need for security, but does it meet our need for truth?  Maybe not.

The Pope “said it” but got it wrong about the sun orbiting the earth.  Ask Galileo.  The church admitted it was wrong 359 years later.

The Bible “said it” but got it wrong about slavery.  

 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5).

 “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them” (Titus 2:9).

“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate,  but also to those who are harsh” (1 Peter 2:9). 

The Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination into which I was born, raised and educated, admitted in 1995 that it got it wrong, apologizing for its support for slavery and segregation.

The Bible did not “settle it” when it came to slavery.  In fact, what the Bible says about slavery is unsettling.  

Jesus did not operate on the basis of  the “God said it, that settles it…” position.

Do you remember all of those, “You’ve heard it said, but I say to you…” verses?
Compare and contrast the following:

Deuteronomy 6:13 and Matthew 5:33-37

Deuteronomy 19:21 and Matthew 5:38-39

Numbers 15:32-36 and John 5:8-10

If  it were “settled” why did Jesus challenge and change it?

The apostles didn’t stick “God said it, that settles it” on the rump of their horse or the bumper of their chariot.  Acts 15 tells us that the apostles debated how the Bible applied to their lives and situation.  When they set aside circumcision as a requirement for following Jesus they reinterpreted the Bible for their times, recognizing that some of what “God said” was not God’s will for all time, all places, all people.

Even those today who say the phrase, don’t practice the phrase.  How many of you give other church-goers a “holy kiss” each Sunday?   You don’t? Why not?  Paul commanded it 4 times in his letters.  Try it next Sunday and see how it goes. 
“God said it”  but with that command, and others, it’s not settled.  How many other things did “God say” aren’t settled?  “Welcome interpretation.  Come on in and let’s get to know each other better.”

This post is already too long, kind of like my teaching last Sunday – 35 minutes! So, I’ll cut to the chase ( a phrase used in the movie world by directors to get past the boring dialogue and to the excitement of a chase scene).

I don’t call the Bible the Word of God.  I call Jesus the Word of God.  So does John.  A “word” is an expression of an idea.  It is my understanding that Jesus is the “exact expression” of God. 

Not the Bible.  Check out Hebrews 1:1-3 and note the phrase “exact expression.”  Does that mean that the Bible (Hebrews 1:1) is inexact?

Maybe the problem is not the Bible.  Maybe the problem is how we use the Bible – what we expect out of the Bible.  Again, let’s take our cue from Jesus.  Seems to me like a good idea.

John 5:39. No one knew the Bible better than the Pharisees.  They knew it up and down, in and out, forward and backward.  Yet they missed God in the flesh who was standing right in front of them.  

Is it possible to be so busy following the Bible that we miss Jesus?  The Bible is a sign that points to Jesus – to his life, to his way, to his values.  

Why do we settle with the sign instead of going on to the destination?  

I’ve written too much.   If you’ve stayed with me, you’ve read too much.  Let’s both stop. 

Let’s spend some time looking at Jesus. Appreciating him. Following him and his way.  

 

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What a Relief!

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Yesterday (Sunday November 9) was “National Chaos Never Dies Day” – where do they come up with this stuff – but I digress.

“Chaos,” according to the first entry of a Google search means: “disorder, disarray, confusion.”

So, if school is stressful, work is wacky, home is hectic, November 9 is your day.

A day to let it out, admit it, face it.

I’m teaching a series now in which we are facing, admitting the fact that one thing that causes us to experience chaos is – here it is – reading the Bible.

It takes a lot of guts just to admit that doesn’t it?   But it’s true. How could we not experience some chaos when we read this from Exodus 21:20-21

If a man beats his male or female slave with a club and the slave dies as a result, the owner must be punished.   But if the slave recovers within a day or two, then the owner shall not be punished, since the slave is his property.

Who can honestly read that and not think, “What the …?!

“Oh, that must just be a record of what some guy said…” Sorry.  According to the Bible, it wasn’t just a guy. It was God.

Chaos. Confusion.

Here’s another. We’re justifiably horrified and disgusted with the genocidal attitudes and actions that we see from extremist Islamist. Like these words from a member of Isis. God willing, this generation will fight infidels and apostates, the Americans and their allies, God willing. The right doctrine has been implanted in these children. All of them love to fight for the sake of building the Islamic State and for the sake of God.”

Yep, Isis wants to wipe us out – all in the name of God.   “For the sake of God” “God willing.” We instinctively know that’s wrong. We know such a view and vision does not accurately reflect God. But then we read this:

They (Joshua’s army) completely destroyed everything in it (Jericho) with their swords – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. Joshua 6:21

“Well, that must have been Joshua acting as a rogue commander!” Then we see this:

So the Lord was with Joshua and his reputation spread throughout the land. Joshua 6:27

Hmmm.  So God was with Joshua through all of that?  Really?

According to Deuteronomy 20:16, Joshua was faithfully following the command given by God through Moses which said, “In those towns that the LORD your God is giving you as a special possession, destroy every living thing.”

 

Chaos. Confusion. If it’s wrong for Isis to do that now was it right for Joshua and the Israelites to do that then.

How do we clear up the confusion? How do we find some calm in the chaos?

I got some help from one of my seminary professors – Yes, I remember a few things from my education.  He said, “If you thought God told you to do something, you would do it. Now, the question is, ‘What is Jesus telling us?'”

He answered his own question by quoting Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbors but hate your enemies, but I say,  Love your Enemies.”

Wow. RADICAL!   Is Jesus saying what it sounds like he’s saying?  Is he re-framing or even overturning Scripture?  Things like that can put you on a cross.

Hermeneutical principle here?

Jesus takes precedence over Moses and according to Hebrews 1:1-3, every other “revelation”: Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. Now in the final days, he has spoken to us through his Son…The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God.

 

That is like a dose of Alka-Seltzer: “Plop. Plop. Fizz. Fizz. Oh what a relief it is.”

I feel immediate relief – Jesus is the hermeneutical lens through which we interpret Scripture. He is the standard by which every other word is measured. We’ll unpack that a bit more in the days to come.

Free From the Law, O Happy Condition

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I’ve heard some questions, and some protests, about my position that Christians are not under the law:

“If we don’t have to obey the law of Moses, what’s to keep us from sinning?”
“Isn’t anything sin anymore?”

Behind these questions lies a fear that the grace message is an invitation to sin.  We’ve seen that fear before:

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1),  the Roman Christians ask in response to Paul’s grace message in Romans 5.

Paul’s answer?  “By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2).

Then, Paul speaks to the Law issue, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:14-15)

Two things seem real clear:
We are not “under the law.”  I really don’t know how we miss that.  How can Paul be more plain?
Being out from under the law does not give us a license to sin.

I’ve got a couple of questions of my own:

Why does a Christ-follower choose to live by the Law instead of the Spirit? I don’t get people who don’t like chocolate and I don’t get Christians who live by the Law.

“Law following” Christians claim to want to live like Jesus.   I believe they really do. But following the Law won‘t get us there.
“through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) – The law brings death, not life.

“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4)  There’s no fruit on the Law-tree.

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.” Galatians 5:4-5)  If we choose to live a “righteous” life by following the Law then we cut ourselves off from the resources provided by God – His grace. Paul gives us a choice: Grace or Law?  We can’t have it both ways.

Paul asks my next question. It’s a tough one:  “O,  foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you?  For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.  How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?  Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain was it?” (Galatians 5:1-4

Paul doesn’t hold back.  He doesn’t sound happy.  He uses some harsh language: “Foolish” literally – a “non-thinker.”  “Cast an evil spell” -under the spell of false teachers.   He sounds frustrated and angry that people are buying what the Judaizers are selling – the teaching that Christ-followers have to follow the Law.  Maybe he’s mad at the sellers as well.  He calls them “dogs” in Philippians 3:2.

“Let’s think this through, “ Paul seems to say.  “If we aren’t saved by obeying the Law then we don’t live the Christian life by obeying the Law.”  There’s a new sheriff in town.  His name is the Holy Spirit and His law is love.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” James 2:8

“…for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…” Galatians 1:6

“…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:2

Back in my childhood in every Baptist church to which I belonged, we sang songs by Philip P. Bliss: “Wonderful Words of Life”  “Jesus Loves Even Me” and this one:

Free from the law, O happy condition
Jesus has bled and there is remission,
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once for all.

Now we are free, there’s no condemnation,
Jesus provides a perfect salvation.
“Come unto Me,” O hear His sweet call,
Come, and He saves us once for all.

Paul got it.  Philip Bliss got it.  I want to live the rest of my life getting it.

Jesus Fought the Law and the Law Lost

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Headlines like the one above really irritate some people.  “How dare they pick and choose?!”  But be honest.  We all pick and choose.  Who among us obey all 613 commands of the Mosaic law?  That’s right.  Some people believe that the Law is just the Ten Commandments.  Actually, the Law of Moses contains 613 commandments covering everything from blood sacrifices to men’s haircuts to sewage disposal to charging interest on loans.

The New Testament seems to take a few steps further than the Supreme Court:

Romans 6:14: For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 7:4: So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  

Galatians 2:19: For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

Romans 7:6: But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Galatians 3:24-45: So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian

Colossians 2:14: ...having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

Hebrews 8:13: By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Hebrews 10:9:  He sets aside the first to establish the second.

Romans 10:4:  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Ephesians 2:14-15:  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances…

Not under law; died to the law; dying to what once bound us;  released from the law; no longer under a guardian; nailed to the cross; obsolete; set aside; Christ is the end of the law; abolishing the law.  Strong words.  Clear communication.

I can hear the objections: “But wait!  What about Matthew 5:17-19? Take that!  See, the law is still in effect.  We’re still supposed to follow it.”  Jesus said,  Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished…”

Well, this is confusing.  Paul says Jesus abolished the law (Ephesians 2:15) and Jesus says he has not come to abolish the law!  What’s up?

Back it up.  Jesus did say the law would disappear when two things happened: 1. heaven and earth will disappear,  and, 2. everything is accomplished.   When those two things happen, the law is out of here! It’s gone. So long.  See ya later.  Gone like Roger Daltrey’s shirt.

#2 – Everything is accomplished –  At a key moment Jesus announced that everything was finished – at that moment. “It is finished.” John 19:30

#1 – Heaven and earth will disappear – Well, that obviously means a literal heaven and earth disappearing. Doesn’t it?  Maybe not.
If “heaven and earth” refers to a literal, physical heaven and earth, then, yep, the Law of Moses has not passed – it’s still alive and kicking.  But I believe that “heaven and earth” is a metaphor for political or national systems.  Take a look at these references:
Isaiah 1:1-2; Isaiah 24:3-6; Isaiah 34:3-5; Hebrews 12:26-28; Matthew 24:29; Luke 21:32-33

In the last two references Jesus wasn’t speaking of a physical heaven and earth but of a system – a way of doing things – the Mosaic Covenant with its laws, sacrifices, priesthood, tabernacle (Hebrews  9:8-11).  Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem that would happen about 40 years later in A.D. 70 when God removed the things that could be shaken and in their place gave His people a Kingdom which can never be moved (Hebrews 12:18-28).

Luke 21:32-33 contains the same elements as Matthew 5:17-19 – the disappearance of heaven and earth and everything accomplished.

Jesus and Paul are not in conflict with one another.  Heaven and earth – the system under the Mosaic covenant disappeared bringing on the abolishment of the law!!!!

So, I guess we can just let ourselves go wild?!  God, as always, has this covered;
So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law…For you have been called to live in freedom … but don’t use your freedom to satisfy your flesh.  Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love…So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide our lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your flesh craves (Galatians 5:1-16).

The law or the Holy Spirit?  What is our choice?

“Accusation is Not Proof”

It’s old news now – Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, tweeted about President Obama during the Inauguration.

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I’ve stared at this tweet off and on, not knowing how to respond. Not knowing if I should respond.  “Some thoughts are better left unexpressed,” I’ve told myself. “Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt,” advice I obviously have not followed in the past.

News came to me this week, however, that made the tweet personal.  Driscoll lobbed a bomb at the President.  The pastor, along with all Americans, has a right to criticize our leaders and their policies.  It’s the American way.  No problem there.  Driscoll’s tweet though was the delivery of a spiritual slam.

“…who today will place his hands on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.”

Several months ago a message began circulating that “Phillip doesn’t believe the Bible.”  Like the Energizer Bunny the message keeps going and going.  I heard it again this week. I thought, “Really?”

The charge came as a result of a teaching I gave in September 2012.   I’ve listened to the audio of that teaching three times  – I never said what was said I said.

I did say this: “We can’t build our faith on the foundation of the Bible, but on the person of Jesus” (1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:14)

And I said the following in response to an earlier comment from another teacher at the same seminar concerning inerrancy: “Every inerrantist I know, or have read, believes that only the original manuscripts are inerrant.  So if you base your trust in the Bible on its inerrancy then you won’t be able to trust this book (the one I’m holding in my hand), because the Bible you have right here is not the original manuscript.  And if you base your trust in the Bible on whether or not it is inerrant then you can’t trust what you have here…”

The claim is made by those who hold an inerrantist view, that the trustworthiness of the Bible stands or falls with inerrancy.  If the Bible contains any real errors it cannot be trusted.  Then there is the admission that every Bible that exists probably contains errors.  Only the original manuscripts can be considered perfectly inerrant.

So…think along with me…if the Bible’s trustworthiness is based on inerrancy- as defined as “without error” –  and only the original manuscripts – which no one has – are inerrant, then that does not bode well for the trustworthiness of the Bible we do have.

That is why I like and hold the definition of inerrancy given by John Piper – “Perfect with regard to purpose.” The Bible’s main purpose is transformation, not information (2 Timothy 3:16), and it’s unfortunate that so many people spend their time arguing over the “information” part.  The Bible is absolutely trustworthy to do what it is intended to do.

Back to the tweet.

I do not know why the President is accused by Driscoll of not believing the Bible.  I do know that in the words of Edward R. Murrow, the pioneer of television news reporting, “Accusation is not proof.”

Yeah, it’s a bit personal.

“Bible-minded” “Christ-like”

“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” Mark Twain

The latest “facts” from the Barna organization were released January 23 under the title, “America’s Most and Least Bible-Minded Cities.” Coming in at #1 is Knoxville, Tennessee, the home of the Lady Vols, with 52% of the population being “Bible-minded.”  Coming in last is Providence, Rhode Island with 9% being “Bible-minded.”  How ironic that a town named “Providence” is last in this category.  Roger Williams can’t be happy with this.  The town where I live, Springfield, Missouri, is in the top ten at #6 with 49% being “Bible-minded.”

As always, I have questions:

How do they reach these rankings?  What are the criteria? What does “Bible-minded” really mean?  Why didn’t they ask me?  For the past seven years the Barna people surveyed through phone and online interviews 42,855 adults.  The organization defines “Bible-minded” as having read the Bible within the last seven days and strongly believe that the Bible is accurate in all it teaches.  Apparently they just asked people how often they read their Bibles.  That’s like asking people how often they exercise. Do our answers reflect what we actually do or what we should do?  How honest are the answers?

And what about the “accurate in all it teaches” line? What if a survey taker loves the Bible, values it as God-breathed, not only reads it but works hard at understanding it and applying it to life, yet sees Genesis 1 not as “accurate” history but as “accurate” poetry Tim Keller or who sees Jonah as “accurate” story but not “accurate” history C.S. Lewis?  Would they be considered “Bible-minded” or not?

Here are some take-aways for me:

* Thinking biblically is more than reading or even memorizing a lot of Scripture.  It is learning to think critically and practically about the Bible.  It’s about trying to understand the Bible in its original intent, its contexts, and its relevance to us today.  It’s about combining all of these things in both personal application and community encouragement.

* The Barna people say that the rankings “reflect an overall openness or resistance to the Bible.”  That means that in my home town of Springfield, 51% of the residents are closed or resistant to the Bible.  Hmmm.  Being that Springfield is in the “Bible belt” maybe Christ-followers here need a little fashion advice on how to wear the “belt.” I know I’m “fashion challenged.”

* While I want to be “bible-minded” I want to be “Christ-like” even more. 1 John 2:6  Maybe the better question is, “Do I look like Jesus?”

* “I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me – they’re cramming for their final exam.” George Carlin

That hits home.  It’s good for all of us to read the Bible a lot more.  The Bible tells the truth about the Truth and leads us to Him.

My Hope is Built on ______________.

The comments about my earlier blog are thoughtful, insightful and honest. How can I reply to each?!  This blogging may be tougher than I thought. I’m going to put off addressing the question of “What’s up with the Old Testament and New Testament picture of God,”  and talk a bit more about the Bible.

I’m a pastor.  A pastor’s son.  A pastor’s grand-son – on both sides of my family.  A nephew of pastors – again on both sides of the family.  I grew up in a home that not only had a Bible in every room but several Bibles in every room in every translation available. Our Bibles didn’t stay on the shelves.  Ours was a home where the Bible was read, studied, discussed and, yes, debated.

We were taught to respect the Bible, not just the message in the Bible, but the actual book.  You would never find my Bible left in the back of the car.  It could be damaged by the sun.  Each time I was given a Bible dad would show me how to “break it in” and how to apply mink oil to the leather cover.

I proudly carried my Bible against my chest, just like dad did it, as I walked into my Sunday School class.  It was in Sunday School that I learned the song, “The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that’s the book for me.  I stand alone on the word of God.  The B-I-B-L-E”

Oh, speaking of Sunday School, I rocked the Bible drill.  “Bible Drill” was a competition to see which kid could find a called-out Bible verse the fastest.  “Attention! Present Swords! Begin.”  We’d be shaking like a thoroughbred waiting for the gate to open.  Then we’re off!  Seeing who could beat the rest of the field to Zephaniah 3:9 or whatever.

Yet. my parents taught me that while the “written word” – the Bible, was inspired, it’s primary purpose was to take me to the Living Word – Jesus (see John 1:1,18)

On Christmas, 1970, I received a Bible, titled, Reach Out, the New Testament in the Living Bible Paraphrase.  “Reach Out” was a cool phrase for kids in the 1960s and early 1970s and this New Testament was “groovy”.   Spiritually, 1970 was a big year for me.  I was 14 years old.  In the front of the Reach Out New Testament were written these words,

“To Phillip, who this year encountered the author of this book in a way that gives expression in his behavior.”  Dad & Mother, 12/24/70

Lesson?  One’s commitment to the Bible is measured by the reality of the presence of Jesus in his/her life.

C.S. Lewis was a popular author at our house.  He said, “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible who is the true Word of God.  The Bible, read in the right spirit, and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.”

The apostle Paul was also popular at our house.   Paul did not teach that “every knee will bow and tongue confess that the Bible is the Word of God” (although I believe it is), but that “every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

We may have our differences on certain views of Biblical interpretation and how to understand certain texts, but on this we can agree: Jesus is Lord.  He is the Living Word.  He clearly shows us the Father.

I learned another song in my childhood – from “big church”:
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”