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Wordwise Insight, Issue #044
August 14, 2008

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS (and Reader Q & A): Psalm 23; Oprah's Church


MORE ARTICLES: Why Attend Church? Why Attend Church Regularly?



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LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION? On a Bible topic or passage of Scripture? Or one about a hymn or gospel song? Click on Questions from You.


Thoughts on Psalm 23

This is the best-known of the psalms, and perhaps the most beloved of any portion of Scripture. The familiar musical setting of it–and one for which the lyrics follow almost exactly the text of the KJV–was written around 1872 by Jessie Seymour Irvine. She lived in the town of Crimond, in Scotland, where her father was a minister. (The tune was named after the town.)

More recently, a Scottish woman and her daughter were discussing with a soloist the music to be used at the girl's wedding. They suggested this hymn. But the singer objected, saying it wasn't appropriate, because it was funeral music! The mother retorted that in Scotland it was sung at parties, picnics, bus runs, weddings and more.

Its message is universal. Little children love and learn it, but it still has much to teach those who are in their latter years. How sad for anyone to think that this beautiful declaration of faith is "inappropriate" to be used when a couple is exchanging wedding vows! Far from being funereal, the psalm is bursting with life, even as it takes us through the valley of the shadow.

David's early experience as a shepherd (cf. I Sam. 16:10-13) is used to illustrate the shepherd-care of God for the saints. And this latter restriction is significant–the psalm's message is for believers. The sheep are the people of God. It is those for whom He is "the Lord" who can claim the blessings alluded to.

When troubles come, and the enemy assaults us, it is so easy to get our eyes off God and obsess over our problems. But this psalm provides an antidote. The focus is on the Lord, and His care of us. As the Shepherd, He faithfully guards and guides the sheep, and provides for their wholesome nourishment. Even the ominous danger of...

To see the full article, click on Current Articles.

Oprah's Church

QUESTION: We hear a lot about "Oprah's church" these days. What do you think about it?

ANSWER: I have received comments and questions from various ones about Oprah Winfrey's religious proclamations. They have been shown (and sensationalized) on YouTube, and described elsewhere. Let me state my position up front: Her views are unbiblical and dangerous.

Here are some further observations, mainly based on comments she has made on her television show and her website. The article will deal with what Oprah Winfrey believes and teaches: about God, about the Bible, and about eternal salvation? We will also take a look at the mind altering techniques she prescribes?

To begin with, as has been pointed out regarding other issues, it is not what I think on the subject that matters. The purpose of the newsletter and the website is to examine in the light of the Scriptures questions that are raised. What we need to ask is: What does the Bible say that is relevant?

First, a bit of background. Oprah Gail Winfrey was born in 1954, and was named after a Bible character in the book of Ruth (Orpah, accidentally misspelled). Ruth and Orpah were sisters-in-law, Moabite women who married Hebrew men. While Ruth left behind her heathen heritage and joined herself to the people of God, Orpah returned to her people and her idols when her husband died (Ruth 1:1-17). Some may see an ironic application of that to Oprah's spiritual drift.

Oprah Winfrey began developing her own unique talk-show style over 20 years ago in Chicago. Now in her mid-fifties, her talent and drive have made her a billionaire. Not only is she the most successful talk show host in television history, but she has become a media mogul, an actress and film producer, a publisher, a philanthropist, and more. At its best her daily (week-day) show...

To see the full article, click on Current Articles.


Jesus Calls Us

All Shapes and Sizes

Gifts can come in all shapes and sizes. There are square ones, round ones, and ones with truly odd shapes--tricky to wrap! There are tiny presents, and bigger ones, and really big ones too large to get into the house. One Christmas, we wanted to give our son a present he had been requesting for a long time. It was actually quite small, but we decided to disguise it. So it would be a total surprise, we wrapped it in layer upon layer of paper, and put it in a large box. It worked. He was astonished and delighted when he got to the last layer and discovered his treasure.

Yes, gifts come in many shapes and sizes. So do idols. We have all seen pictures of the false gods of other lands or other times. A bird, or a cow, or other animal. Or some fantastic creature with an animal's head and a man's body, a nightmarish beast that was the product of superstitious imagination. There is an endless variety. And we usually think of an idol as being an object of wood or stone. But they can include intangible things as well. An "idol" is something that becomes the object and focus of special devotion. It takes the priority, and has a major and controlling influence on the decisions and behaviour of the devotee.

In this broader sense, there can be invisible idols too. Things like my plans, or my opinions, or my desires, or my habits, if they begin to dominate my schedule and mold my conduct, they could be thought of as idols. If we understand their true nature, it takes little thought to realize it is not only ancient or primitive tribes who have idols. Modern secularists can be idolaters too. So can Christians (cf. Col. 3:5). There can be things in our lives that...

For the remainder of this hymn story, see Current Articles.


How important is attendance and regular involvement in a good, Bible-believing local church? To find out, check these two articles.

Why Attend Church?

Why Attend Church Regularly?

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