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Joe McKeever Christian Blog and Commentary

Games We Play with God's Word

  • Joe McKeever
    Joe McKeever says he has written dozens of books, but has published none. That refers to the 1,000+ articles on various subjects (prayer, leadership, church, pastors) that can be found on his website -- joemckeever.com -- and which are reprinted by online publications everywhere. His articles appear in a number of textbooks and other collections. Retired from "official" ministry since the summer of 2009, Joe stays busy drawing a daily cartoon for Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net), as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, writing for Baptist MenOnline for the North American Mission Board, and preaching/drawing/etc for conventions and churches across America. Over a 42 year period, McKeever pastored 6 churches (the last three were the First Baptist Churches of Columbus, MS; Charlotte, NC; and Kenner, LA). Followed by 5 years as Director of Missions for the 135 SBC churches of metro New Orleans, during which hurricane katrina devastated the city and destroyed many churches. Joe is married to Margaret, the father of three adults, and the proud grandfather of eight terrific young people. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College (History, 1962), and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Masters in Church History, 1967, and Doctorate of Ministry in Evangelism, 1973). Joe's father was a coal miner who married a farmer's daughter. Carl and Lois McKeever, both of whom lived past 95 years of age, produced 6 children, with Joe and Ronnie being ministers. Joe grew up near Nauvoo, Alabama, and attended high school at Double Springs. Joe's life verse is Job 4:4, "Your words have stood men on their feet."
  • 2013 Sep 25
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All right. It’s time for the game. Everyone ready?

 

Here’s how it works.

 

Add up all the letters in your name.  My name, Joe McKeever, has 11.  Joe is 3 letters, McKeever has 8.  Now, find a scripture somewhere in the Bible that is chapter 11, verses 3 through 8, and see if and how it fits your life. If you find a good one, that’s your passage.

 

See what we did? The total number of letters is for the chapter, and the numbers in your names separately determine the verses. So, I’m 11:3-8.  The question is, “What book?”

 

We find a lot of “chapters 11:3-8″ in the Bible. Genesis has one, Exodus does, Leviticus, Numbers, etc. etc.

 

Since I made up the rules, I get to select the passage that best suits me. (smiley-face goes here) Hebrews 11:3-8, for instance, is all about faith. And since I like to think of myself as a faith person, that’s my scripture passage.

 

That’s how the game works.

 

The details and rules of the game are still being worked out. Lol.

 

A friend of mine has 7 letters in his first name and 10 in the last, for a total of 17. This morning, in the pre-dawn hours when I should have been sleeping, it occurred to me that Luke 17:7-10 is one of the great passages regarding servanthood in Scripture and that I should mention this to him. He might feel it’s just right for his situation.

 

What if each of us did this, took the total number of letters in our name and that was our chapter, then the number of letters in our first name was the beginning verse and the number in the last name the concluding verse.  Ronald Reagan, for instance, would be 12:6 in some book of the Bible (since both his first name and last name are made up of 6 letters).

 

An exercise in foolishness?

 

I think so.

 

And no, it’s not a real game. It’s just something my subconscious did to me this morning, and seemed to make a point which I want to pass along to you.

 

People play these little games with God’s Word all the time.

 

One has to wonder about the people who toy with scripture, looking for obscure references which they can remake into something current, re-interpreting ancient prophecies about some long-gone civilization, assigning numbers to this or that, and then drawing major conclusions about what God is doing at this moment or about to do, probably tomorrow morning first thing..

 

And in the process, we might add, striking terror into the hearts of good and faithful (not to say naive) people.

 

Take the 666 from Revelation 13:18, the "number of the beast." What does 666 signify? Scripture games-players over the centuries have answered that in a thousand ways.  I recall one that applied it to President Reagan, of all people. Ronald Wilson Reagan. Three words of six letters each. Bingo, he’s the beast.

 

Common sense says there are a few million people on the planet at any given time with three names, all with six letters each.

 

Stop it.

 

Remember Mr. Whisenant, the guy who worked out the math in scripture and “proved” that Christ would return in 1988? (That being 25 years ago as we speak, clearly a large portion of our readers do not remember.)  He printed up a few million pamphlets and went public with the announcement. A lot of people believed him. Then, when the Lord did not cooperate, Whisenant announced he had misfigured and the big event would be held the next year for sure.

 

You know how that turned out.

 

Shades of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Their organization made a whole series of end-of-time prophecies year after year in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  At one point they were announcing 1914 as the year of Christ’s return based on the mathematical calculations and prophetical interpretations of their experts.  When that year rolled by without any sign that Jesus had returned (the big event of 1914 was the start of World War I), rather than admit that they goofed, their leaders decided that He had indeed returned, “sort of.”  He’d taken His seat in Heaven, they said, and that was what they had meant all along.  A half century later, when I was in seminary and trying to relate the gospel of Jesus to an inactive JW, he pulled out that doctrine and insisted on its truth.  And, who can argue with something that may or may not have taken place in the Heavens unseen by mortals? And so gullible people go on believing foolish things.

 

We are amazed at the things some people believe for no reason other than they obey their leaders. Oh, and they love their games.

 

I enjoy the occasional numbers game. I play Sudoku.  My phone has a Sudoku app and given a few minutes of idle time–I frequently chauffeur my wife to physical therapy or to doctors’ appointments–I pull it out and lose myself for fifteen minutes in its challenge.

 

Here are a few games I’ve seen people playing with Scripture…

 

1) Reading the Word in a search for contradictions to use against Bible-believers.  You can always find some, which I expect the Lord placed at strategic points just to satisfy fools and send them on their way.

 

2) Searching for humorous stories or incredible, unlikely events about which they can make jokes and turn into satire. What we laugh at, my friend, we will never take seriously again. God’s people must guard against anything that belittles or satirizes His truth.

 

3) Stumbling across the obscure references in the Word–and let’s be honest and admit there are more than a few of these–and giving fresh interpretations of our own to them.Since no one knows what they mean, who’s to say we’re wrong?  Religious cults excel in this dark art.

 

4) Playing with numbers. See the above.

 

5) Redefining symbols in light of current events.  Get creative and there is no end to this.  (I’m completely in awe of the tendency of the Lord’s people to see the least event in the Middle East as a harbinger of Armageddon.  You wonder what in the world these people would have done with the Second World War which a hundred million people were slaughtered!)

 

6) Throwing out scriptures that do not work for your theology, then telling your naive, unsophisticated audience that “the original language does not agree” with what they’ve been taught or “someone has been tampering with the original message as delivered by the angels” but naturally “I come to you today with the truth.”  God help us to be smarter than to fall for such foolishness.

 

7) Looking for the USA in Scripture. Also Obama and Russia.  Not too long ago, prophecy “experts” were harping on the European Common Market in some of those texts. How odd that we don’t hear that any more.

 

What we must not do is decide the Lord plays these game too.

 

Let’s give the Lord more credit than this.

 

The devil will use anything he can lay his hands on to divert God’s servants from actual Bible study and faithful service to Him.  Once he gets us to playing these games, knowing that nothing good will come from it and that we are tearing down a side street toward a dead end, he has a field day.

 

God’s Word is food for the hungry soul (see Matthew 4:4, also Job 23:12 and I Peter 2:2).

 

God’s Word is light for those in darkness (see Psalm 119:105, also Proverbs 6:23 and II Peter 1:19).

 

God’s Word is the seed of the new birth (see I Peter 1:23, also Romans 10:17).

 

God’s Word cleanses our souls (see Psalm 119:9, also John 15:3 and 17:7 and Ephesians 5:26).

 

Let us come to the Word of God to be taught, to receive instruction, to hear from the Lord. But let us never go to the Word to make it do something for which it was never intended.

 

It’s not called “Holy” for no reason, friend. This Word is God’s and we must handle with great care.