“With Gentleness and Respect”

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:14-16)

I mentioned last week that social media has not been an unmitigated good for our public discourse. In fact, it has in many ways been decidedly bad. Whereas people once shared their opinions on the issues of the day only in appropriate contexts—and reserved sharing more unsavory or controversial opinions for very selective occasions among those who shared those opinions—today people not only demand the opportunity to speak but also claim a right to be heard. What’s more, most of the new fora for such sharing of opinions are of the online variety, where it is possible to deliver spite and vitriol in previously unheard of quantities, all from the safety and relative anonymity of a keyboard behind a computer screen. It is easier to dehumanize one’s opponents when looking them in the face is unnecessary.

I’m not pointing fingers here at those of particular political, social, or religious persuasions. Each of us undoubtedly holds to certain opinions that someone else would find intolerant, intolerable, unpalatable, strange, or even mean. And yet, simple politeness has for generations allowed us to function as a society despite great diversity of views on any number of subjects. Only in the age of social media do we find ourselves increasingly unable to peaceably coexist with those who do not share our views. One might argue that the contagion dates back further, at least to the advent of cable news programs which long ago discarded reasonable argument in favor of having people yell at—and past—each other.

Certainly we can do better, and Christians in particular are called to do better. In an age when biblical ethical and moral standards—to say nothing of the exclusivity of the gospel message—are held in disrepute, Christians who wish to represent their views in the public square and ultimately win converts will do themselves no favors by being harsh, boorish, or mean-spirited. In the above passage Peter calls us to be ready to defend our faith, but to always do so in a gentle and respectful manner. In the following chapter he makes a similar statement negatively, commending those who suffer for the sake of the gospel but not if they are guilty of some crime (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-16). The Christian message is offensive enough on its own without us making things worse through poor attitudes or actual evildoing.

We must also take care to deal similarly with those within the church with whom we might differ on secondary and tertiary matters of doctrine. Just as children (and adults) who are well-behaved and polite with others sometimes treat their family members with great discourtesy, it is possible even for Christians who are careful to treat outsiders kindly to be more harsh and unreserved with fellow believers. I have sometimes been guilty during theological or related practical discussions of a curtness that is unbecoming, and would have done better to extend that same winsome kindness to all. Christ does not call his people to waffle on important matters of truth, of course, but he does demand that we express those truths in the best possible way.

I sometimes think that everyone should have to spend some time working in an environment where their religious, social, or political views are in the minority, as I have done during my entire career as a conservative Christian working on university campuses. Knowing how rare my views are in this context has a way of limiting the manner and occasions on which I choose to opine on religious, political, and social matters. Most of all, it has a way of forcing me to strive to represent my Lord and his people in a way that is endearing rather than offputting. This is strategically advantageous, it follows Peter’s directive quoted at the beginning of this article, but perhaps most importantly it leads me to treat people as the bearers of God’s image that the Bible says they are.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Every human being—no matter who they are, where they come from, or what their views are—bears the image of God. Thus all deserve to be treated with kindness, gentleness, and respect. When we do so, we might even see some of them consider and eventually believe the message of Christ.

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Worldview, Digital Revolution, Practical Christianity, Salvation, Society, Theology, Truth

“Gadgets and Gizmos:” Facebook Groups for Low Brass Players

fbToday’s installment of my occasional “Gadgets and Gizmos” series highlights not a physical piece of technology or other equipment, but rather a fairly recent forum for the development and exchange of ideas with regard to pedagogy, equipment, repertoire, and other matters of interest to low brass players. Despite its now ubiquitous presence in our society, social media in its current form is a phenomenon well less than twenty years old, and few would argue that its influence has been universally good. Certainly even a cursory glance at the present political and cultural landscape will show us that it has perhaps not been a net good, since one can argue that social media has been a major contributor to our present fractiousness.

Despite this demonstrated potential for ill, some individuals and organizations have figured out ways to use social media as a tool to improve relationships, institutions, and professions. For low brass players, Facebook groups have been a boon to the sharing and refinement of ideas regarding our craft. In a way, this is a natural extension of activities we knew going back into the mid-1990s, when the Trombone-L and TubaEuph email distribution lists were in full swing, followed by the development of online discussion forums such as The Trombone Forum and TromboneChat.com (two sites whose interrelationship is complicated and not worth discussing now), TubeNet BBS, TubaEuph, and others. The low brass community has always had its share of nerds and techies, and that is not a bad thing!

The adoption of Facebook groups by our community has been fairly recent, but extremely successful, not just in terms of numbers of members but also in the fruitfulness of discussions had in these usually well-moderated groups. Here are a few of my favorites, with short commentary on each.

Trombone Pedagogy. This group is, in my opinion, the best of the Facebook low brass groups, with numerous daily discussions covering topics related to trombone teaching and performance. Discussions of equipment, performances, and other matters are relegated to other pages, so the mission of this group has remained focused and helpful. This is thanks largely to an effective moderating team that keeps things on track without becoming draconian.

Trombone Equipment. While the title might suggest that this is a sales-oriented page, it is instead a place where questions and ideas regarding equipment can be discussed separately from the pedagogical discussions on the above page.

Tuba/Euphonium. There are some discussions here like those at Trombone Pedagogy, but interspersed with more performance videos and other “links of interest” rather than having content limited to serious discussion. Equipment-related matters are also discussed here.

Bass Trombone Appreciation Society. Somewhere between the Trombone Pedagogy and Tuba/Euphonium groups in terms of consistency and seriousness of content, but more or less limited to bass trombone-specific topics.

Low Brass Pedagogy. For some reason, this group is not as busy as some of the others, but occasional topics of interest do arise.

TromboneForum.org/TromboneChat.com. As the title suggests, this group somehow functions as an extension of the aforementioned discussion forums outside of Facebook. It is not as strictly moderated as Trombone Pedagogy.

Trombone Marketplace and Tuba/Euphonium Marketplace. Buying and selling used instruments—and avoiding eBay fees where possible—has always been a key function of low brass groups online, and Facebook is simply the latest forum for this. There is a certain “buyer beware” aspect of such transactions, of course, though online low brass communities are fairly good at self-policing, warning members about possible fraud, bad deals, and even known unscrupulous sellers.

I’m sure there are other groups like these on Facebook and other social media sites, but these are the ones with which I am the most familiar and which I find most helpful. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the Facebook pages for the International Trombone Association and International Tuba-Euphonium Association, but these mostly serve as places for advertising conferences, journals, and articles, as opposed to the almost organically growing discussions on the other pages listed here. While there is certainly still an important place for high-quality published books, articles, sheet music, and other resources that have been filtered through “gatekeepers” such as editors, publishers, and reviewers, the internet has provided and through social media continues to provide fertile ground from which new streams of information, ideas, and sounds can edify, inspire, and challenge us.

At the very least, it provides a place where I can share these blog posts!

Posted in "Gadgets and Gizmos", Alto Trombone, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Instructional Technology, Low Brass Resources, Music, Online Resources, Pedagogy, Teaching Low Brass, Tenor Trombone, Trombone, Tuba

“Uncle Micah, Will You Sing?”

CJ Brody

My son, Brody, and my niece, CJ

My sister’s daughter, CJ, is five now, and after a long period of being not all that sure about Uncle Micah has, I think, decided that I’m an okay guy. Or at least tolerable. For the first four or so years of her life she was generally terrified of me. I don’t think I did anything in particular to frighten her, but we only see her a few times a year, and little kids tend to be scared of big guys with dark beards (my beard was still mostly dark back then).

Like most girls her age, CJ is enamored with all things related to Disney princesses, and one of my more successful strategies in the quest to win her affection was to play songs from her favorite Disney movies, by request, on the trombone. A particular favorite was Frozen, and I found myself playing “Let it Go” on several occasions during one visit. In her typically adorable fashion, and not quite knowing how to ask correctly, CJ would sheepishly ask “Uncle Micah, will you sing Frozen?” I was happy to oblige, and like I said, our relationship has steadily improved since then.

frozenOf course, my niece’s request that I “sing” these songs rather than “play” them was a harmless error in terminology, yet she unintentionally hit on a very important concept for successful brass playing. After all, brass instruments are the closest to the human voice in their manner of tone production, the source of vibration being a part of the body rather than a reed, string, or other implement. Our playing is most pleasing to the listener, most natural to the performer, and most enjoyable to all when we are able to move the physical requirements of playing the instrument to what Arnold Jacobs (1915-1998) called “the computer part of the brain” (i.e. the subconscious) and focus simply on “Song and Wind.” In other words, conceive the desired sound in your head, take a big breath of air, and then produce that sound without thinking so much about the body. The result is a very vocal-like approach to the instrument which is most desirable.

Arnold Jacobs (1915-1998)

Arnold Jacobs (1915-1998)

Does this mean that there is no place for long tones, lip slurs, technical studies, and other assorted calisthenics? Of course not; those things are entirely necessary. However, the brass player’s goal in such studies must be to make the technical requirements of playing so automatic, so “natural,” that when playing and performing “real music” he can focus on results, not processes; on expression, not execution. When we do this right, the result is indeed very much like the approach of a great singer.

Yes, CJ, I can sing, and I’m still working to sing even better.


And by the way, if you really want to hear some guys who know how to “sing Frozen” on the trombone (and euphonium), listen to this great arrangement by the Szeged Trombone Ensemble from Hungary. Such a great group!

Posted in Alto Trombone, Arnold Jacobs, Bass Trombone, Daily Routine, Euphonium, Frozen, Music, Performing, Playing Fundamentals, Practicing, Szeged Trombone Ensemble, Teaching Low Brass, Tenor Trombone, Trombone, Uncategorized

Brief Reflections Following the Passing of Billy Graham

As most or all readers of The Reforming Trombonist will be aware, the famed American evangelist Billy Graham (1918-2018) passed away earlier this week, just a few months shy of his 100th birthday. I am normally not one to pontificate online following the deaths of famous people—the internet has plenty of writers and bloggers who do this—but since Graham is a particularly important figure in the recent history of American evangelicalism and one in whom I have always retained more than a passing interest, I’m indulging just this once. Besides, I had already intended to write this week about some topic related to Christianity.

just as i amHaving come to the Reformed faith in my mid-twenties, most of my Christian heroes are individuals of whom I first became aware as an adult. Not so Billy Graham; in fact, I cannot remember a time when I did not know his name. I recall seeing more than a few broadcasts of his sermons when I was a youngster, particularly at my grandparents’ house. (To be fair, this was in the time when rural households typically received only two or three broadcast channels, so there were few other options.) In my mind Graham’s name was always associated with tireless and uncompromising proclamation of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. As a college student I read his 1997 autobiography Just As I Am, and found myself struck by the humility of the man in the midst of an undeniably remarkable life. As a Calvinist and Presbyterian I find myself quibbling with a few of Graham’s ideas and methods—particularly the use of the altar call, a nineteenth-century innovation which can sometimes lead to false assurance and spurious conversions. On the whole, though, his is a life and ministry at which Christians from a variety of traditions can look back with admiration, respect, and appreciation. Here are a few reasons that come to mind.

1. Billy Graham’s life and ministry were free of scandal. Ours is a day in which various figures in the media and online revel in “gotcha” moments with regard to prominent evangelical and/or conservative figures, but one can find nothing like this in the life of Billy Graham. Aside from a few ill-chosen words on a very few occasions (for which he always publicly apologized), both Graham personally and his organization always operated in a way that was socially, financially, and morally above board. This was no accident; Graham and his associates determined even in the late 1940s that they would operate in this way, and by God’s grace he lived a scandal-free life in the public eye for over seventy years. This included what has recently been derided as “the Mike Pence rule,” but those familiar with Billy Graham knew it for decades as “the Billy Graham rule.” This studious avoidance of even the appearance of impropriety is mocked today, but the recent explosion of accusations of sexual harassment by famous individuals in a variety of fields shows the abiding wisdom of this policy.

2. Billy Graham rubbed shoulders with the powerful but refused the allure of power. Having befriended on some level every American president from Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) to Barack H. Obama (b. 1961), Billy Graham had access to the halls of power that many of today’s evangelical leaders would envy. Yet rather than engaging in politics himself or seeking in any large-scale fashion to influence national policy, he instead offered himself to these men as a counselor and confidant rather than as a political adviser. In short, he sought to fulfill his popularly-conceived role as “America’s pastor.” Graham’s later years were marked by an even more marked withdrawal from politics than his early ministry. He deliberately eschewed evangelical political initiatives such as the Moral Majority of the 1970s and 1980s, preferring to busy himself with simple proclamation of the gospel. This is not to say that Graham never expressed opinions on the issues of the day, but when he did so it was with little fanfare and characteristic humility.

3. Billy Graham believed in the unity of the human race, even when this was unpopular with white evangelicals. Billy Graham refused to allow segregated seating in his evangelistic crusades beginning in the early 1950s, going so far as to personally remove the dividers separating “white” and “colored” seating areas. He invited black ministers to share the platform with him, including Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), who delivered a public prayer during Graham’s crusade at Madison Square Garden in 1957. While there were certainly white men who did more to advance the cause of racial equality than did Graham, few did so as early and as publicly…and with as much to lose.

4. Billy Graham was simultaneously winsome and uncompromising, even when speaking with his opponents. I recently saw a video from the late 1960s in which Graham was interviewed by Woody Allen (b. 1935). While Allen’s demeanor was by no means openly hostile, there was a mocking tone toward Graham’s morality and worldview lurking beneath the surface during the entire exchange. Yet Graham stood his ground, and did so not with “hellfire and brimstone,” but with charm and winsomeness that seemed to be a bit disarming both to Allen and to his audience. This is not uncharacteristic of Graham’s public interactions with the unbelieving world. He demonstrated to all of us how people with widely divergent points of view ought to interact, never avoiding the hard questions, but also treating his interlocutors with kindness and respect. Today’s public discourse could use more of this.

5. Billy Graham made little of Billy Graham and much of Jesus Christ. That Billy Graham was able to spend seven decades in the public eye and yet remain humble and scandal-free is remarkable. How was he able to do this (besides, of course, God’s graciously preserving him)? Because the focus of his ministry was not Billy Graham, but Jesus Christ. While so many Christian ministries, organizations, and even churches find their messages becoming diluted over time, Billy Graham retained a laser-like focus on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, always simply directing people to repent of their sins and believe in Him. We can rightly be thankful for a life thus lived, and lived in such a way because, like Paul, Billy Graham “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Posted in Apologetics, Assurance, Billy Graham, Christian Worldview, Doctrine, Evangelism, Politics, Practical Christianity, Preaching, Theology, Truth, Worship

“A Hindemith-ey Sort of Evening:” Complete Performance Recordings

Everett Recital Poster 20180108A couple of weeks ago I performed a solo recital which I entitled “A Hindemith-ey Sort of Evening.” Having been invited to perform both the trombone and tuba sonatas by Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) at the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors conference back in October, I decided to build a full recital program of works by Hindemith and his students, with those two surprisingly contrasting sonatas as the bookends. Canto II by Samuel Adler (b. 1928) is a classic work for solo bass trombone, and appropriating the horn sonata by Bernhard Heiden (1910-2000) as an alto trombone solo was a particular challenge. In many ways my favorite work on the program was Musical Flower Garden with Leyptziger Assortment, a rather comical work that Hindemith originally wrote for clarinet and double bass duo. The lower part works rather well on euphonium and the resulting ensemble sound was very pleasing—enough so that I am going to apply to bring that piece to next year’s NACWPI conference.

As with all live and unedited performance recordings, this program is not without its minor blemishes. I experienced a bit of dry mouth during the first two movements of the opening piece and negotiating the change from larger instruments to the alto trombone was surprisingly difficult. My usual practice has been to place alto trombone pieces at the beginning of programs where I have used it, and I underestimated just how much I would struggle with having it in the middle. Of course, performing a recital of five large works on five instruments—with five mouthpieces—is challenging in any case, and despite the imperfections on the whole I am pleased with the overall musical result.

I would be remiss if I did not again publicly thank my collaborators Stacy Rodgers and Michael Rowlett, who made this big program possible. Multimedia Specialist Charlie Miles always does a great job with recording and mastering, as well as stage management. Also, our music department’s new Program Coordinator, Anna Herd, did a fantastic job with the programs, flyers, and online publicity. We are so glad to have her here!

With that, on to the (pre-recorded) show!

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963): Sonata for Trombone and Piano

Samuel Adler (b. 1928): Canto II (unaccompanied bass trombone)

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963): Musical Flower Garden with Leyptziger Assortment (clarinet and euphonium duo)

Bernhard Heiden (1910-2000): Sonata for Horn (or Alto Trombone!) and Piano

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963): Sonata for Tuba and Piano

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Alto Trombone, Bass Trombone, Doubling, Euphonium, Micah Everett, Mouthpieces, Music, Performance Videos, Performances, Tenor Trombone, Trombone, Tuba, University of Mississippi

Be a “Do-Nothing” Brass Player

I’m a few days behind where I wanted to be in writing this, but I have been thinking about this topic in earnest since the preparations for my recital a couple of weeks ago. As is usually the case with solo recitals—and all performances, really—there were things that went extremely well, and things that I wish had been better, but on the whole it was a good and well-received performance. My playing was mostly physically relaxed and efficient, and the few times when this was not the case were, unsurprisingly, the times when I would begin to get into trouble. In all of these cases the culprit was not lack of effort, but excessive effort, or at least too much of the wrong kinds of effort.

I have been honest in this little online space about my own struggles with performance anxiety, a concern familiar to many musicians. Over the years I’ve developed a number of strategies for dealing with this problem, sometimes eliminating it while other times merely minimizing the symptoms, but in nearly all cases removing most or all of the ill effects of anxiety on my performances. Though this is a topic for another time, I have been most successful in ridding myself of performance anxiety when I have set aside my own ego and focused on serving and edifying the audience. During a master class at the Alessi Seminar a few years ago Mr. Alessi told me that to eliminate performance anxiety I must “have no ego.” In other words, performance anxiety happens when you’re more worried about your reputation than about making music. Mr. Alessi’s words were direct—and humbling—but that admonition has proven very true and most helpful.

Of course, saying that one must eliminate performance anxiety is one thing. Achieving this goal is another, and realistically most of us will experience some degree of “nerves” in advance of or during performances that we perceive to be especially important. If this were no more than an uncomfortable feeling that would be one thing, but even a mild case of “the jitters” can cause problems like unsteady tone, limited flexibility, and difficulties in extreme registers. All of these symptoms are, from a purely physical perspective, the result of excessive tension in the body, and it is this unnecessary tension that is increased and magnified when one becomes nervous. If this tension can be removed, then the physical effects of performance anxiety can be largely or entirely eliminated.

I have long been an advocate of brass players having an extended daily routine in which playing fundamentals are systematically reviewed and improved. I will be careful to say that this is more than a “warmup,” and that dependency upon an extended sequence of exercises in order to be able to play at all is a dangerous trap. Nevertheless, the daily routine does provide a good time to thoughtfully examine how one plays, ensuring that breathing, blowing, buzzing, articulation, mechanical operation of the instrument—all of the basic elements of playing—are working easily and with optimum efficiency. It is here that one has the opportunity, away from the demands of performance, to look for and release any areas of tension or overwork that have crept into one’s playing. The thoughtful brass player will soon discover that the amount of physical effort needed to play the instrument well is rather small, indeed, and that most of the sensations that we associate with “working hard” are just unneeded tensions that detract from the quality of our performances at best, and at worst are exacerbated and become serious obstacles during periods of anxiety. Eliminate the tension, and sound will improve, regardless of whether one is calm or nervous.

My current way of thinking about this is to make my goal to become a “do-nothing” brass player. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the minute I start thinking about working hard is the minute that I begin overworking. When I think of “doing nothing” the actual effect is playing with the very minimum amount of physical effort needed to produce a sound, and the result is a better tone quality, more efficient use of the instrument, and a playing experience that is most physically relaxing and pleasurable—and largely immune to the effects of performance anxiety should it occur.

Of course, this “do-nothing” philosophy does not extend to the mind, which should always be engaged when playing. The body, though, should always be as relaxed as possible. Physically speaking, the best approach is to be a Do-Nothing Brass Player!

Posted in Alessi Seminar, Bass Trombone, Daily Routine, Embouchure, Euphonium, Music, Pedagogy, Performance Anxiety, Performing, Playing Fundamentals, Teaching Low Brass, Tenor Trombone, Trombone, Tuba

Scripture is a Narrative, Not a List

We’ve all heard the surely apocryphal story about the person who decided that he needed some Biblical guidance regarding the direction of his life or a decision he needed to make, and in order to obtain that guidance resolved to simply open his Bible, close his eyes, and place his finger at a random spot, trusting that God would bless this method as a means of leading him to the right decision. Upon opening his eyes, the man was horrified to read the following words:

And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5)

Needless to say, our seeker of guidance did not believe that this was the message that God had for him, so he decided to try again. His finger landed on a different passage:

And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37b)

Horrified, but not yet deterred, he tried one more time and received only a seeming confirmation of the same directive:

Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27b)

Happily, in no version of the above story that I have heard has the protagonist followed this supposedly “biblical” advice, but it humorously illustrates how many unbelievers and, sadly, many Christians approach the Bible. Looking for easily-digestible bits of wisdom or tips for a better life, professing Christians who are unfamiliar with the Bible’s contents open it to find a confusing series of names, places, and events that hardly seem connected to one another, much less relevant to our lives today. Opponents of Christianity, looking for material with which to attack the faith, can easily find passages which seem ridiculous or dated when divorced from the narrative context of the whole (Leviticus is a favorite source for these).

Are there answers to the questions and objections of both of these groups? Yes, but they require more patience and exposition than soundbite-length answers. The common objection that Christians follow some Levitical laws but not others is answered by the theological formulation which divides the laws given to Moses in the Old Testament into moral, ceremonial, and civil categories. The New Testament, written over ten centuries after Moses, speaks of the latter two types of laws as having been fulfilled with the coming of Christ, and thus no longer in force. A number of passages can be brought to bear in support of this, but a brief one is found in Colossians 2:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

Now, is there disagreement among Christians regarding which laws fall into each of the three categories? Yes, some, but all agree that there are moral laws which remain perpetually binding and others which have been fulfilled, having served their purpose. This becomes readily apparent as one becomes familiar with the scriptural narrative, but the reader expecting to find an easily understood (or debunked or ridiculed) list of rules will not understand this.

To the Christian, especially the new Christian who is looking at the Bible for perhaps the first time and wondering “how is this relevant to me?” remember most of all that the whole of Scripture points to the Person and Work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Christ admonished both his detractors and his followers when they failed to understand that even the Old Testament ultimately pointed to himself. Speaking to the Jews who did not believe, Jesus said,

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)

After his Resurrection, Jesus even chided his followers who did not understand that the scriptures told how he must suffer and then rise again.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

As the apostles and their associates began their ministries, we read of Paul (Acts 17:2-3) and Apollos (Acts 18:28) using the scriptures to refute their opponents and prove that Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah.

In the end, that is the narrative thrust of the whole of Holy Scripture: to point us to Jesus Christ. Are there genealogical records, historical narratives, and, yes, sometimes even lists of instructions? Yes, but even though these sometimes reveal interesting information that seems tangential to this central thrust, we err when we read the Bible as doing anything except telling us that God made us, we sinned against him, and God promised and then provided a Savior for us in the Lord Jesus.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)

Are you reading the Bible today looking for “tips for a better life?” You won’t find them in any fulsome way until you understand that the better life—the eternal life—promised therein is the one provided to all who believe in Christ. Are you reading the Bible looking for absurdities and contradictions? If you read it honestly, on its own terms and not those you impose upon it, you won’t find any of those. Instead, you’ll find a single message, revealed through multiple authors over the course of fifteen centuries yet so brilliantly summarized by the Apostle Paul:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

Posted in Apologetics, Bible, Christ's Person and Work, Christian Worldview, Doctrine, Practical Christianity, Salvation