Q: What is a proper and respectful way to dispose of old Bibles that libraries and Bible societies do not want?
A: You are right that respectful disposal of Bibles is important. It’s not because we as Reformed Christians worship the book itself. We don’t. However, since the book brings us God’s written Word, the way we treat it could be read by others as indicating what we think of the Word itself.
There’s not a lot of guidance out there for Christians who have Bibles to dispose of. There are rules in abundance for how to get rid of a used American flag (burn it after a ceremony of thanks for its service), a Torah (bury it after a prescribed ritual), or a Quran (bury, throw into a river, or burn it), but not many for Bibles.
I don’t endorse burning Bibles because of the strongly negative connotations placed on book burning. Burying Bibles seems too similar to burying your talents in the ground. And throwing them into a river may just not be feasible or environmentally sound.
But there is an organization called Bible Drive that offers to pass along used, old, worn-out Bibles to people who can still use them. Their website is http://www.bf.org/bibledrive/cc.htm, and it offers many places to send Bibles. If that’s not something you care to do, or if the Bibles are just too tattered to be of much use, you could recycle them with a prayer of thanks to God for the role they played in bringing the Word to the world. Ultimately, God’s Word doesn’t depend upon the material of the book; it depends upon its expression in our lives.
—Helen SterkDr. Helen Sterk is chair of communication arts and sciences at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Q: I am a single parent of an 8-year-old. I find being a single parent means I don’t fit in very well at my church. I don’t want to go to a different church since my son feels at home here, but I feel myself getting angry at being excluded and have started withdrawing even more. What can I do?
A: Your feelings of anger are justified when you are not fully accepted because you don’t fit the norm for family in your church.
Instead of withdrawing and letting your anger fester, choose a course of action. Give yourself a year or two to see if you can remedy the situation by giving what you have to offer to your church family. If you have the gift of hospitality, volunteer to participate in your church’s coffee fellowship. If you are gifted in administration, tell your elder you would like to get involved in one of the church’s committees in need of new members. If teaching is your gift, get involved in the Sunday school program.
While you are discerning how the Holy Spirit has gifted you for service to others and are seeking ways to share your gifts, release your anger to Jesus Christ in prayer, and pray blessings for your church family.
If you find that nothing changes over time, your present church does not deserve you. You might want to consider joining another church—one where you are accepted and embraced for who you are.
—Judy CookJudy Cook is a family therapist and clinical director of Salem Christian Counseling Services, Hamilton, Ontario.
Q: Why should sermons not moralize, and how do we know when a pastor is moralizing rather than giving a valid application?
A: Moralizing is not simply a methodological problem. It stems from how we approach God’s Word. Moralizing comes from the practice of fables that end with specific morals to teach children how to be “nice” or “moral” citizens. To moralize from Scripture is to assume that it also provides morals or ethics to make us into nice people.
But God did not reveal his Word in order to make nice people. God’s Word convicts us of sins, shapes our hearts and minds, rocks our worldviews, and reveals God to us—in order to transform us into passionate disciples of Christ on God’s mission of reconciling the world to himself. Since God’s mission is often at odds with our fallen world’s ultimate ideals and values, we may not fit the world’s definition of nice people!
Sermons that simply find morals or applications for people to emulate assume that Scripture is a moral self-help manual. Sermons should instead convey Scripture’s worldview and imagination to renew our minds, God’s grace to free us from sin’s addictions, and Christ’s redeeming love to transform our hearts for service. Since this is no easy task, pray that the Holy Spirit will fill your preachers as they wrestle with their texts and craft their sermons.
Shiao Chong is campus minister at York University in Toronto.