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The Elections and Faith

I think this will be my last post about the elections before Tuesday, November 8. At fifty-seven, I have seen a lot of elections since I was old enough to vote. Without a doubt, this is the worst election of all of those years – worst candidates, worst national behavior, and the worst media involvement… ever. Like everyone else, I wish I had the silver bullet to convince folks who to vote for, or at least a good answer as to why you should vote for one candidate over another. But honestly, I don’t think Jesus would vote for any of these people. At this point, I think folks should stop with the pretense that one candidate is more “morally correct” to vote for over another. I wish folks would quit justifying the reasons for their choice behind some religious façade for why they are voting for a particular candidate. Let’s be real, the pretense of religiousness in politics, and among the candidates especially, is obvious and sickening – anything to get votes.

So as we come down to the final few days, what I am thinking about has less to do with the election, and more to do with what faith should be concerned with. It will likely not be the end of the world or the salvation of it if Hillary gets elected, and it will not be the salvation of our nation or the end of the world if Trump is. Both of these candidates are the fruit of the condition of the nation, and its governing body. They are the result of what our nation has become, not the coming force. Nations rise and fall, God alone forever sits upon His throne.

So what about faith? When the elections are over – as a Christ-follower, we are left with the same destiny regardless of who enters the oval office. We are called to faithfully follow Christ in a way that aligns with the biblical narrative and not our personal opinions. We are called to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world around us, even when it is not convenient or enjoyable – and to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, at all costs. It would be unfortunate if our behavior regarding the elections were to interfere with this calling of ours. How you behave today, what you say – all of it can and will affect how well we will be able to fulfill our calling in Christ. I can’t change what some national Christian leaders have said, neither can you. But we, all of us, can be what God would want us to be – lights in a dark world whose darkness is getting darker. 

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Critical of a Saint

It has become popular to attack Mother Teresa these days, particularly since she was made a saint. Many of these critics are following a themed rant against her based upon arguments formulated by an atheist. I personally do not advocate for anyone being made a saint in the Roman church meaning of the term, but this is something bestowed upon her. This is all Romanish baggage I understand, but do not have part in.

I am no Roman Catholic. I grew up Roman Catholic, and this only culturally, but became a Christ-follower as a teenager. As a Protestant, I have important reasons for having chosen this way of following Christ. Nevertheless, if you understand Church history, we cannot ignore the familial ties we have to many good men and women throughout history, who despite the evils of various popes and Roman church leaders, followed Christ faithfully. Even Martin Luther, whom God used to begin the Reformation, was not intending on bringing down the Roman church, only correcting some important aspects of doctrine and practice.

Then there are the critics against Teresa, one critic has even called her a “moral monster.” It is always troubling to me how folks with a bias on an issue, can only see according to their bias, particularly those who would accuse me of this, while harboring one of their own. Mother Teresa began her work decades ago in a country which limited her access and ability to do what she was doing. She and her sisters committed themselves to doing important work, primarily aiding those in need, in a nation who cared nothing for them. She did not try and take on everything, and every form of oppression or critical issue. As a result of these factors, the sisters did not deal with some issues which could have made a greater difference long term. Anyone who has worked in, or is working in some of these countries, knows the complications of doing work there, even when what you are doing is good work. Nevertheless, they made a profound impact where they did serve, and serve they did. Whether Protestants like it or not, Teresa was known as a symbol of a side of Christianity the world needs desperately, compassion for the poor.

People like to tear down heroes, it is human nature to do so. For some sick reason we take pleasure when a leader falls, or we can take one down. In this case, there are a lot of critics criticizing, but not personally doing anything to help the poor – yet they feel free to criticize someone who was trying to do something. No Teresa was not perfect, and yes, she could have done some things differently, which in hind sight could have made a real difference. But to call her a moral monster is ridiculous. If those folks who are doing all of the talking would start doing something to help the poor with their perceived better concepts, I might listen to them. But for now… Teresa was a flawed human being who was doing her best with what she had – and when we criticize this, we look like fools. I can admire the good, and seek for better. Oh God, help me do better.

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It is not going to be the politicians

As we continue to move on in the election season, the level of animosity and anxiety continues to grow. Because we are currently a two-party system for the most part, folks have chosen up sides and are treating each other like the enemy. Both sides can only imagine the worst of the other, and the public display of hatred is growing. As a pastor, I am particularly troubled by those folks who call themselves Christians who are joining in on this ugly behavior, embarrassed and ashamed at times even.

Long after the election is over, we have to live with each other. Long after the election, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will still be extremely rich, while the majority of the rest of us will continue struggling to pay bills, raise our families, and be Americans. Little will have changed for the candidates, except they will have traveled all over the country on someone else’s dime, talking and making promises they can’t keep. We will not be suddenly richer, better looking, and happier after the election.

If you are counting on the politicians to rescue this nation, you are looking in the wrong direction. They are a primary reason for the problems, not a solution. It is the politicians who have created the obscene mess through foolish public policies and party line agendas we see in Washington D.C., and in each of our troubled states. But, ultimately, because we live in what was supposed to be a constitutional democratic republic, it is our own fault for allowing these people to remain in power.

As it was, and as it will be, change will only take place because the nation rises up and does what is necessary. The candidates are not going to come to your house and do homework with your children; that is something you have to do as the parent. You have to demand the schools perform better, and get involved so the teachers have a chance to do better. The plague of “fatherlessness” in America is not going to be solved because of the government, it is going to be solved by a change in culture within each community which demands men behave like men, and take responsibility for themselves and the family they are accountable for. The crime problem is not going to be solved because some politician passes a law, it is going to change when the complex problems of poverty, lack of education, joblessness, and personal integrity are dealt with. This takes whole communities, not some politician.

As a pastor, I know God created us in His image, and although we are a broken image of the Almighty because of sin, we are still capable of doing some good. People demonstrate this every day. So I would not give up on a change for the better. I just would not count on the politicians to be the next savior of the nation – we have a couple of centuries of proof they will likely make things worse. As it was in the beginning of this nation, it is in the hands of the people. As a pastor, I would exhort Christ followers to act like it, and stop behaving badly. I would exhort you to instead engage in your community to make things better – you carry a real answer in Christ. Speak out, pray, get involved, and vote.

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A Shortstop Philosophy on Life

The life of a baseball shortstop exists somewhere on the infield between the second and third basemen. It is a fast-paced world where you seldom are standing in one place for very long. If you are not fielding a ball, you’re covering a base, if you are not covering a base, you are backing someone up on the field, and if you are on the bench waiting to go back on the field, you are cheering your team on.

Our lives as Christ-followers are lived in a similar manner, somewhere between heaven and earth, it is fast-paced and often demanding. Something is always coming our way, and we need to be prepared for whatever that ends up being. If we are not at work, we are at home, if we are not at home, we are at church – and in each place we find ourselves, we should be an active participant. And if we are currently not directly involved in some form of service to the saints, or the world around us, we should be cheering on those who are!

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An Unquenchable Fire

Leviticus 6:12-13  “but the fire which is on the altar must be kept burning on it. It must not be extinguished. So the priest must kindle wood on it morning by morning, and he must arrange the burnt offering on it and offer the fat of the peace offering up in smoke on it. 13 A continual fire must be kept burning on the altar. It must not be extinguished.”

It was here the peace offering was to be brought and sacrificed; the burnt offerings being the greatest of those brought before God. It was through the peace offering, Israel was able to maintain relationship with God, and thereby make it possible for the Lord to safely travel with them at all times. Their sin could prohibit God’s presence, indeed, put them all at risk because of the holiness of God. God, rather than have this risk without an answer, provides the fire.

Of this fire, God demands they keep the fire burning. It was to be an unquenchable fire, for this is of the heart of God toward us. He is always gracious, always ready to receive us, if we but come through the peace offering to Him. Jesus, our Offered One is this for us, and it is Jesus who stands as the unquenchable fire for all who would believe. God stands ready, Jesus burns as the reminder of the gracious love of God toward us all. 

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3 REASONS WHY PEOPLE STILL SUPPORT TRUMP AND CLINTON

Pastor Mark did not write this post, it is a blog posting from Dr. Jim Denison. It is worth your time. 

The Denison Report  |  DR. JIM DENISON  |  AUGUST 03, 2016

Humayun Khan was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. His father, Khizr Khan, spoke to the Democratic National Convention last week, criticizing Donald Trump for seeking to ban Muslim immigrants from the US. After Trump responded, a media firestorm resulted. Chris Christie is making headlines this morning as he joins other Republicans who have disagreed publicly with Trump's remarks.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton continues to generate controversy over her emails. She told "Fox News Sunday" that FBI Director Comey called her answers on the issue "truthful." The Washington Post found her statement so untruthful that it gave her its maximum "Four Pinocchios." In addition, parents of servicemen killed in Benghazi continue to claim that she misled them as Secretary of State.

Despite these controversies, each candidate's core supporters are still their core supporters. Why?

One: Each side is passionately opposed to the other.

In the latest CNN/ORC Poll, 42 percent of Clinton's supporters say they will vote for her primarily to prevent Trump from being elected. Fifty percent of Trump's backers say the same regarding Clinton. What their candidate does or says has little influence on those who are voting less for them than against the other option.

Two: Each side believes in its candidate.

Many of Trump's supporters see his temperament and personality as essential for the challenges we face. An article I read this week said of him, "Yes, he's a bit rude and crude and offensive. But that may make him the perfect warrior to save America, American exceptionalism, capitalism and Judeo-Christian values." By contrast, actor Robert De Niro says Clinton has "earned the right to be president." Actress Elizabeth Banks agrees, calling her "a smart, committed, successful woman." Both candidates have core supporters who are not swayed by temporary controversies.

Three: Truth is what we say it is.

For generations, Americans have been taught that "truth" is how our minds interpret our sensory experiences. As a result, all truth claims are subjective and personal. It's not that seeing is believing—rather, believing is seeing. We interpret the world through the prism of our presuppositions. Thus many supporters of Trump and Clinton believe that no one has the right to tell them they're wrong.

These factors are producing what may be the most divisive campaign we've ever seen. Here's my appeal to Christians: Be a thermostat, not a thermometer. Don't reflect your culture—change it.

Decide how you will vote, but show those who disagree with you "gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). Pray for the candidates to be people who can say sincerely, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). Measure what both candidates say and do by biblical truth (James 1:25). Decide that you will speak God's word to those you influence while praying for our nation to turn to the Lord (Jeremiah 18:20).

And refuse to be discouraged. Victor Hugo wrote, "Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake."

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An Explorer and Eyes of Faith

In 2008, a group of research explorers went looking for the remains of a couple of ships, and it wasn’t until 2014, that one of two British explorer ships that vanished in the Arctic more than 160 years ago has been found. It was unclear which ship had been found, but photo evidence confirmed it was one of them. Sir John Franklin led the two ships and 129 men in 1845, to chart the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The expedition's disappearance shortly after, became one of the great mysteries of the age of Victorian exploration.

In the eighteen hundreds, Sir John Franklin, a British Naval officer, led more than one expedition to discover the north-west passage to be a fact.  His fourth and final expedition in 1845, was committed to finding the Canadian Arctic passage by ship.  Franklin was a believer, and as an adventuring naval man, his life verse was found in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 43:2 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.”

Franklin believed God had his life in His hands, and nothing could disturb him in such a divine place. In his time, the oceans had not been fully explored as yet. There were still places where sailors had not reached and mapped everything out. In such places on maps, sailors would mark the map with sayings like, “Here be dragons” or “Here be demons” or “Here be sirens” But Franklin wrote on his maps a different statement across the uncharted areas. “Here is God.”

Sir John Franklin trusted that God was in all of the uncharted waters he was passing through, and he was never alone there. This was what his eyes of faith could see, not demons, dragons, and sirens – He knew God to be by his side.

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

We learn to trust the Lord, even if what we are going through, simply means we become a symbol or example of what faith can mean in a single life. As we are studying through the book of Job on Sunday mornings, we see Job’s life in the first two chapters at a point where there is nothing. When everything gets stripped away, and it is just you and God – there is who you are, not everything else you have made out as your identity. All of the stuff, the money, the family, the job, everything else is not who you are. This is where Job is right now, facing himself, and still holding on to God. 

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The Rights, Privileges, and Responsibilities of Liberty

In a free nation, there is always the peril of losing our liberty. This is a fact we cannot avoid, and we would be lying to ourselves if we thought otherwise. In order to remain free; free speech, religious freedom, freedom of the press, and so on – any limitations which are to be placed upon our citizens cannot exceed the limits of liberty. We must allow for religious expression in all forms, not just the ones we prefer. We must allow for personal expression, in all of its lawful forms as well. Every member of our society has the right to a voice in the public square. This is the inherent nature of the liberty the Founding Fathers fought for in order to create a free nation. Eric Metaxas recently wrote, “Unlike other countries, America is not defined by a particular ethnic or religious group. Instead, our country was formed around an idea: liberty… As their summer-long convention finished, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” He famously replied: “A republic, madam—if you can keep it!”

The Italians, Irish, Spanish, and a multitude of others who have immigrated here for more than two centuries, wanted to be Americans, not something else. They came here for a reason. Those who did not want what this nation is, from the very beginning did not stay, or they did not come here. For instance, at the end of the Revolutionary War, as the British withdrew from our shores to return home, some of the colonists left with them – but some of those who had come here to fight in the war against the colonies, ended up staying. And all who came, understood the great privilege of being an American, as well as the rights and responsibilities this required of citizens.

When we speak of liberty, this is not consent for someone who behaves without moral principles or a sense of responsibility to others besides himself, for this stands in opposition to the virtuous liberty we were given. Corrupt public officials can also easily destroy liberty within the framework of our national Constitution, if allowed to do so. A primary factor in keeping liberty is virtuous citizens – the framers of our nation said the government they created could not be held by any other. In order to maintain liberty then, every citizen and public official must maintain their responsibilities and required duties to do what is right and necessary to sustain it. These duties and responsibilities cannot be cast off for the sake of convenience or social acceptance; they are what accompany the rights and privileges of living in a free society.

But, as one of my favorite authors, Os Guinness has said, “Freedom can become its own enemy, and destroy the freedoms which exist.” How do we lose our liberty? We cast aside those rights and responsibilities as citizens either by apathy or laziness, while still imagining we can have liberty’s privileges.

Whether we “can keep it,” as Franklin said, is up to the citizens of this nation. A divided rabble cannot maintain liberty. But at a time when the nation is extremely divided, and public officials only encourage the division, rather than a united citizenry, it becomes less and less likely to sustain liberty. And the cost of losing our liberty, this will be a weight our children and grandchildren will not be able to bear. Regardless of the outcome though, I will be following Christ, whatever the cost. But I encourage you to pray, speak out, and vote.

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Facebook Safety Issues

So you are on Facebook, check out some numbers on you, the user.

Facebook Statistics:

   1.09 billion Daily active users on average for March 2016

   989 million Mobile daily active users on average for March 2016

   1.65 billion Monthly active users as of March 31, 2016

   1.51 billion Mobile monthly active users as of March 31, 2016

   Approximately 84.2% of our daily active users are outside the US & Canada

So what? Right, so what? Well, this is the level of connection that exists on Facebook worldwide, and this matters because these numbers show us how embedded in the culture Facebook has become. Facebook had 1 million users in 2004, 608 million in 2010, and now we see the members are over 1 billion. Memes, pictures of food, pictures of animals, selfies, and social and political statements abound every day. Half of all Facebook users have more than 200 friends, and Facebook made more than $1bn in revenue from mobile advertising in just one quarter.

That last number is significant because while everyone is using Facebook, you are being mined for information you are willingly putting online. Facebook has become so embedded in modern culture, folks have lost sight of the safety risks involved with being online. Everything you are posting on Facebook is being mined by some someone; all of your personal information, cookies from recent internet searches, everything. I regularly see folks posting enough information on their accounts – that stealing identities would not be difficult. And knowing the security risks, I also recognize what types of information criminals and sexual predators are looking for, and using, all of the time.

A few years ago, I traveled nationally speaking on internet safety and security issues. From one coast to the other, I spoke to elementary school students, Jr. High and Sr. High schools, colleges, and parent groups. I can’t get into details on how all of this is done here on the internet, because I do not want to help anyone use this information who doesn’t already know how. But I wanted to post a warning reminder; the predators are still using Facebook, criminals are still using Facebook, and all of that personal information you are posting is making you vulnerable to safety and security risks. Think a little more about what you are posting and how it can be used to hurt you before you keep posting all of that personal stuff. For your own sake, for your family’s sake, use some discretion. 

 

 

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A Love Lost

If a man were to go day after day to a pond to feed ducks which no longer exist, you would think him odd. Anyone watching this, would recognize the man either knows nothing of ducks, or he has lost his mind. But what about when a reality has been distorted, and modern society simply accepts the distortion as the new reality? In 1952, C. S. Lewis wrote the book Mere Christianity and addressed this particular distortion.

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Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong.

. . . You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?

. . . You and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.

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As a pastor, I contend alongside of folks who are struggling with addictions. I work with, or have direct contact with therapists who inform me of the realities of some addictions, such as sexual or pornography addiction. One thing they have found to be true about these types of addictions; is that they have a constant craving for more, and an increased lust for diversity – there is never enough once the addiction has begun. Then, as these men and women continue, and become more and more wrapped up in their lust, they imagine everyone is like them, and what they are doing is normal. What they are doing is not normal, but to deal with their conscience, they hold to this belief.

You see, the societal lie that our current level of pornography and sexuality openly paraded in public is normal, is just that, a lie. The level of perversion accepted in society has grown exponentially since the days when Lewis penned Mere Christianity. What we are seeing is EROS (sexual & romantic love) defiled, distorted beyond God’s intended purposes. It is obvious from the way God created our bodies, He intended sex to be pleasurable. But what has happened in our oversexualized society, is the love which sex was supposed to accompany and strengthen, has been lost. Buy into the lie, and you will find your sexuality directly affected. As it continues to be distorted, whatever you hoped to gain from it will be lost.  Only by returning to the Creator and His purposes, will you find the enjoyment and fulfillment sex can bring into a marriage relationship. 

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ANSWERING MYTHS ABOUT THE BIBLE PART 5

ANSWERING MYTHS ABOUT THE BIBLE PART 5

In this last post in this series about myths regarding the Bible, I want to look at the link between the information we have examined, and the authority of the Bible. In all of my years as a pastor, I have encountered a lot of folks who have asked for me to read the Bible to them, or to talk about various subjects about God – primarily when doing counseling or hospital visits. Many people find great comfort in the words of the Bible, especially from the book of Psalms. The Psalms speak to our emotions, and deeply connect with many people who are not otherwise deeply religious. The writers of the psalms connect with such a wide range of emotions, it is almost impossible to not find something to connect with as you read them. Even the King James Bible, with its difficult sentence structure and archaic words sounds so beautiful people enjoy hearing it.

But, while there is great admiration for the Bible, this is where it too often ends. As a young man, I even had an English teacher who spoke of the beauty of the literature, despite having no faith in the content. This is why we read the following words in the book of James.

James 1:22-25 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for {once} he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the {law} of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

With all that we know about the Bible, I constantly find many folks do not actually read their Bible, and even more who do not do what it says. Whether it is the busyness of their schedule, a struggle with their ability to read, or whatever – there is a serious problem with Bible illiteracy.

1 Peter 2:2 “…like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,”

This is Peter’s encouragement, long for, “crave” as one translation puts it, the pure milk of the word. Like the life-sustaining milk that keeps a child alive, we are told to treat the word of God in the same way. If we do not know what is in it, how can we possibly ever live it out? If we do not know what is in it, how do we know what it is we believe? So as a final word to you about God’s word, I encourage you to take the time to know what is in your Bible, and give it its place in your life as the authority over what you believe and how you will live. You will find greater intimacy with God there, and a mature faith based upon knowledge and not simply sentiment.

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If you have any other questions about the Bible, please feel free to message me, or contact me with your questions. I will do my best to answer them.

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ANSWERING MYTHS ABOUT THE BIBLE PART 4

As Donald Trump was speaking at a large Christian University, he decided to quote a passage from the Bible. For a man like him, this of course would be a huge risk, but he did it anyway. As he started to read it, he said, “In two Corinthians…” and then went on to mention the rest of the passage. Christians all over the country made fun of him. I remember thinking how silly it was for folks to be making such a big deal about it, since I know European believers who pronounce it that way.

There are many other reasons to believe, or not believe whether Trump is a Christian – and whether he is ignorant of the Bible. But my point is, it is a cultural thing to pronounce a passage the way we do, or the way we set up our church sanctuaries, and so on. There are also a lot of cultural attachments which are often placed on the Bible. But, because they are cultural, we don’t see them as wrong or misplaced. Preferences such as which Bible we think is best, are not always due to an understanding of the various translations available – instead, more often it is due to church culture. There are the King James Only folks, there are the NASB folks, etc. Saying one translation is better than another, is not actually a rigidly valid statement.

Understanding Bible Translations and Translating

Every Bible being translated or created as a paraphrase, such as The Message, is created with a purpose in mind. What grade level will the audience be? What people group language are we working with? These are the questions translation teams are asking themselves, and for each audience, it is “how can we best convey the message of the Bible in that language?” Among many people groups, such as the Montilones in the mid-1900s, there were some words which did not exist such as “trust”, since they were head-hunters and cannibals before a Christian missionary brought the message of Jesus Christ to them. So there is no “word for word translation” possible in a case like this, and they have to find alternate ways of telling the message. This was the original motivation behind Wycliffe Bible Translation missionary efforts, a desire to put the Bible in the language of all people groups.

Many of the newer translations of the Bible are created with a lower grade level reading requirement, because Americans are not scoring high in their read skills. Many of the modern translations then are created for sixth grade reading level, or below – the level of most newspapers nationally.

So when someone asks, “Which Bible is the best?” Well, it all depends. Who is going to be reading it? Some translations of the Bible are translated better than others based upon “word for word translation” of the original languages. But if someone cannot read it, it is not a good translation for them. A good friend of mine once said, “The best Bible someone can own is the one they are going to read.” I think this is a true statement. If you are struggling with reading your Bible, get a modern translation you can read, and start there. As your skills get better and you want to do some serious studying in your Bible, I recommend getting something like the New American Standard Bible (1995 update) because it is a one of the best “word for word” translated Bibles on the market.

Beyond all of this, just start reading, and trust God will speak to you through His word. 

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Answering Myths About the Bible Part 3

In our third segment of dealing with Bible myths, I want to address the idea of who wrote the Bible. There is a claim about the Bible being just another book written by men, and sometimes this myth is accompanied by the idea that it was written to control people. Which, of course, according to the post-modernist view, is the truth about every truth claim – except those who are making this truth claim about every other truth claim.

There are two comments made by B. B. Warfield in his book “Inspiration and Authority of the Bible” about inerrancy which stand out as crucial: “If they [the biblical writers] are trustworthy teachers of doctrine and if they held and taught this doctrine, then this doctrine is true…” and “If criticism is to assail this doctrine… It must either show that this doctrine is not the doctrine of the Biblical writers, or else it must show that the Biblical writers are not trustworthy as doctrinal guides.” The apostles were eyewitnesses to all of the events which were recorded, and they gave their lives as evidence of their trustworthiness as eyewitnesses – people holding to a deliberate lie, do not die torturous deaths for it.

This is what the apostles wrote about who authored the Bible.

2 Tim. 3:16-17 "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

2 Pet. 1:21 "for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."

Paul who wrote the epistle to Timothy, was obviously referring to the entirety of the Old Testament as being inspired. The word, "inspired," is literally "God-breathed." This is an interesting phrase since it implies that the Scriptures are from the mouth of God. Likewise, notice that Peter is stating that prophecy is not the product of human will – instead, prophecy occurs with those who are moved by the Holy Spirit. So yes, men wrote the Bible in a sense, but none of them ever wrote anything, without God moving them to write. In fact, the word used by Peter “moved” is the same word used in the book of Acts which describes a ship being driven along by a storm at sea. (Acts 27:15)

Then, to seal the deal, we have prophecy itself.

Isaiah 42:8-9 "I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images. 9 "Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim {them} to you."

Many religions have sacred writings, and all claim they were given to them by God… whatever God it is they are promoting. But there is no sacred text that compares to the level of prophetic words given in the Bible. There are 8, 352 verses contained within the 31,124 total verses of the Bible which are prophecy, approximately 27% of the Bible. Further, the overwhelming evidence of the number of prophecies which have been fulfilled already in history, and in great detail, is mind boggling.

Yes, truly God has spoken to us through His word, the Bible. 

 

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Answering Myths About the Bible Part 2

As a second myth to address about the Bible, I wanted to speak about what is called inerrancy. Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible has no errors in it. But this is a two-pronged myth we have to contend with when we speak of inerrancy. First, there is the myth of perfection in whatever Bible you carry – you read an English translation of the Bible that has no errors. Unfortunately many pastors speak of inerrancy in such a way that folks believe this to be the case, but this is not what inerrancy means.

In 1978 a group of notable scholars gathered together, created, and signed what is known as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy to counter a movement away from belief in the reliability of the Bible. Those who signed the statement came from a variety of evangelical Christian denominations, and included noted scholars such as James Montgomery Boice, Carl F. H. Henry, J. I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, and R. C. Sproul. These men and women took an important stand. What they declared is; we believe as Christians that the writings contained in the Bible are without error, in the original writings. And further, not having those original manuscripts written by the apostles’ own hand, takes nothing away from inerrancy.

No translation is without error, this is not as reasonable idea. There are definitely some translations which are better than others, but none of them are perfect. Any time you are moving from one language to another, something is not going to easily translate well, and it will require explanation to correctly understand it. As a child growing up I would hear jokes told in Spanish, but when they tried to tell the same joke in English, it was not funny because the word meanings were lost in translation. While most modern English translations do extremely well communicating the truth being conveyed, they are not perfect. For example, in Psalm 139:5 we read, “You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.” The Hebrew words for “laid your hand” means something more like God has cupped us in His hand. You see, you read it and you get the idea of God covering us for protection, but to know the Hebrew reads “to cup us in His hands” adds something to the depth of meaning.

So if you want to grasp the full, beautiful, and deep meaning of a statement from something like the Hebrew used to write the Psalms, you have to take the time to study the Hebrew. There are idioms, phrases, or words in common use thousands of years ago that have changed through the years.

Now, the second issue related to this doctrine of inerrancy; involves accusations of errors in the copies of the manuscripts of the New Testament, so many in fact, we cannot reliably know what was intended to be said. People like Bart Ehrman, and agnostic and scholar, have made a lucrative living making this claim in print and lecturing. But what is behind their claims?

How accurate are our copies of the original Hebrew and Greek texts? We have thousands of manuscripts and fragments available to us to study, so there are literally thousands of errors as well. But within these manuscripts, despite the errors, we know they are about 99% accurate – and we have 100% of the truth we need. The main issues are disagreements about which words were the original ones. We don’t lack any of the original words – we just have some disputed extra ones. We have thousands of existing manuscripts – each containing a variety of copying errors. But the fact that we have so many copies actually enables us to decide very closely what the original was meant to say.

Example: If you would receive 3 telegrams, each containing an error.

#OU HAVE WON $1,000,000.

Y#U HAVE WON $1,000, 000.

YO# HAVE WON $1,000, 000.

The truth is clear, even if the telegrams disagree on their errors. This is what the errors commonly look like, and add to this there are literally hundreds of ways to state something in the Greek language at times – so a copy may not have the same words used, but the message remains the same. There is no room on Facebook to address the remaining less than one percent of errors, but they do not directly affect anything in regard to what we believe as Christians. You will have to do some homework – check out the work of Dr. Daniel Wallace, a New Testament scholar who has addressed these issues very well. Or, you can read some of my favorite old dead dudes like F. F. Bruce who spent his life working on the New Testament documents.

The message God intended for us to have is contained within the pages of your Bible, completely true, and containing no errors in the original autographs. Is your Bible reliable? Absolutely, there is nothing else like it!

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Answering Myths About the Bible Part 1

Some folks have been told by their leaders the Bible is not reliable, that its translation was done like the whispering game – passed from one language to another language to another language until the meaning was lost. These same folks have been told the Bible is therefore something they can’t, and should not trust. This is a myth, and in some cases, it is a deliberate lie told to undermine the faith of those who listen to such leaders.

The simple truth is, the Bible, for centuries has been translated from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. And with each decade, new archaeological discoveries have provided more and more full manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts from which to do the work of translation. As a comparison, the translation team (54 Hebrew & Greek scholars) who worked on the King James Bible, had less than a dozen older manuscripts to work with at the time of their work in 1611. Today modern scholars have well over 24,000 manuscripts and fragments available to them for their translation work. And this number of manuscripts is growing every day as new discoveries are being made. Also, the age of these manuscripts being found are older and older than previous manuscripts in use – which would mean they were closer to the time of the original writing of the apostles. Some new manuscript fragments which have been unearthed recently, are being dated back to A.D. 96 (older than the Ryland’s papyri dated A.D. 125), which would place the writing at the time of the apostle John.

The nearest comparison of any ancient literature is Homer’s Iliad (900 B.C.) written in 400 B.C., making it 500 years after the life of the author – there are 643 copies and fragments available, and these are estimated to be 95% accurate. Homer’s writings are read and taught in universities all over the world without question.

Is the Bible available to you in a modern English translation reliable? Definitely! We have the ability to compare thousands of resources to ensure the translation work is done accurately and with tremendous attention to detail. We can be assured that what God intended for us to know about Him and the salvation offered to us through Jesus Christ, is definitely the message God originally handed to the apostles. There is no time to deal with the inaccuracies and contradictions of other religious works such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible, or the book of Mormon – which organizations are the chief accusers of the Bible. Nevertheless, look for the next post on the Bible’s accuracy and testimony for today. 

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Remembering Chernobyl - Thinking of Governments

Thirty years ago, at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in what was then still known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), one of the largest nuclear crises known in human history occurred. I can still remember hearing on the news about it. But in this generation, many only know of Chernobyl as a site in a Transformers movie, or a location in a video game.

Three decades ago, April 26, 1986, a team of workers scrambled to build a concrete sarcophagus around Chernobyl Reactor 4, which released a radioactive plume after a reactor fire and explosion. At least 30 people died as an immediate result of the accident because they worked to contain the severity of the situation until they collapsed. These onsite workers, who knew they were already dead despite still standing, offered up their lives to stay and prevent something worse from happening. The accident which contaminated parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia – sent radioactive dust and debris over Europe and Asia.

Emergency workers and evacuees received doses of radiation significantly above safety levels, and researchers acknowledge high levels of thyroid cancer among people who were children at the time. An exclusion zone remains around the Chernobyl plant today, keeping it off limits to all but authorized workers, most of whom live in a town just outside the zone.

It took two days for the Russian government to admit they had a problem, two weeks before they would allow anyone to help from outside of their own government. American radioactivity sensors along our coasts were picking up signs of nuclear debris in the air long before Russian authorities would allow for assistance from the United States. Finally, a team of scientists were dispatched from the Idaho Nuclear Laboratories to aid in containment and repair operations.

We should not forget these events. Like all such situations which have global impact, there is always something we should never let go of as we think of it. The Russian government was doing what they always did, they were trying to cloak everything in secrecy and containment. This was, and under Putin still is, Communist Russia’s tactics in terms of international relations as a nation. Tony Judt in his book, “Post War,” talks about Russia maintaining a stance of engaging globally in an offensive military manner, unless it is strategically not feasible. This is the norm for their foreign relations. The Communist Russian government has rarely been a good neighbor.

Further, what the Russian government did is what governments do who are driven by arrogant, and self-centered leaders. We must keep this in mind, including when we look at our own national leaders who are continuously finding ways around what the nation wants, to get what they want instead. Coercion, manipulation, and social engineering are the norm for such leaders and governments. Men and women of integrity are either non-existent, or they are silenced and sidelined. Be careful who you vote for. Pray, speak out, and vote. 

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Of Guitars and Influence

In 1974, Bob started making guitars in El Cajon, CA – everything handmade, and they were good guitars. Soon his work began to have a good reputation, and his guitars were selling well for him. After a while he increased the size of his team and showed a few other guys how to build them, and his business continued to grow. The playability and sound of his guitars were better than many other notable guitar makers were producing, and Taylor Guitars began to be the desired sound of many worship leaders in churches.

Today, Taylor Guitars is one of the leading manufacturers of guitars in the world. Bob believed if you make a good instrument, people will want it, that simple. And it worked. What is more is that Bob Taylor is committed to preservation and conservation of woods because his business is all about woods. Recently, because of the way business has gone, Bob is in a position of influence to such a degree now that he is able to change the industry, and how woods are harvested. One wood in particular, Ebony, which is a hardwood, has almost been harvested out of existence. This is an important hardwood because most often fretboards are made with this wood because of how well it holds the frets and the natural beauty of this black wood. Bob Taylor, along with a Spanish violin manufacturer have taken control of up75% of the companies harvesting this wood in order to preserve the remaining forest areas. Bob is also using whatever ebony wood is being harvested rather than the pure black trees only, which means the harvesting teams will not have to cut down 20 trees in order to find the one pure black wood. This is changing the instrument manufacturing industry, and it is making it possible to preserve some natural hardwoods that would likely have vanished in the next decade. This is Bob’s commitment, and now that he is a large enough brand and has the money to do it – he is making a difference.

Something else Bob Taylor is committed to, is Jesus Christ. You see, Bob’s ethic comes from a heart seeking to do business in a way that honors God, and still makes a profit. You will not hear about all of Bob’s efforts everywhere because he just does stuff and doesn’t need to be given accolades, pretty cool huh? This one you will hear about because Mr. Taylor is trying to change the industry.

What does this have to do with you? We all have areas of influence in our lives. Some have bigger areas of influence than others, but we all have a sphere of influence where we can make a difference. Where do you have influence? And with whom can you make a positive difference?

Matthew 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” 

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The Gospel is Not for Sale

From the same people who have been bringing you lies, deceit, and bogus promises in the name of Jesus for years – TBN televangelist Paula White recently offered 'Resurrection Life' for $1,144 “seed offering.” Here is what she said,

"There's someone that God is speaking to, to click on that donation button by minimizing the screen. And when you do to sow $1,144. It's not often I ask very specifically but God has instructed me and I want you to hear. This isn't for everyone but this is for someone. When you sow that $1,144 based on John 11:44 I believe for resurrection life,"

The folks at TBN who have long been an embarrassment to the Church and the truth of the gospel, knowing no boundaries when it comes to selling their “Christian” garbage. This has been a problem since they went on the air decades ago. The early church had the same problems we do today with those who would use religion as a means of getting money out of people. The early Church knew what to do about these types of fakes looking to get money out of God’s people. In a first century writing known as the “didache”, there are specific instructions about those who come in the name of Jesus asking for money. Twice we are told in section 11,

11:9 but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.

11:20 And whosoever shall say in the Spirit, Give me silver or anything else, ye shall not listen to him;

I generally try to not pay too close attention to the TBN crowd because there is so much garbage being peddled on a constant basis. But every once in a while they do or say something that crosses a line that goes beyond what I can tolerate, like this. The gospel is not for sale, the work of God in the life of anyone who comes to Him is not for sale!

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

This is a foundational truth of the Christian faith. The gospel is about the salvation offered to us by God, which is a gift of God – it is not something earned, and it is not something purchased by us since Jesus purchased it with His own blood. What the folks like Paula White, Benny Hinn, and others do and teach is a disgrace to the truth of the gospel. God gave everything, including the life of His only begotten Son, to have you back with Him through Jesus Christ. God has not put a price tag on saving you! God has not put a price tag on working in your life! “You shall not listen to them” wrote the early Church leaders. Can I encourage you? Don’t listen to these folks who play on your fears, hopes, and dreams to benefit themselves. 

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Ordinary to Extraordinary

When I was in high school playing football, I learned about the Green Bay Packers. It was during the days when Vince Lombardi was coaching the team. Lombardi had a theory. He would train his men on the fundamentals until they could do them in their sleep, and this would make it possible to win games. Other teams and coaches were training their players on fancy and complicated plays or defensive tactics, but Lombardi would just keep drilling his team with the same stuff day in and day out. Some of his more aggressive players like Ray Nitschke hated him for it, until they started winning games. They won a lot of games, two consecutive Super Bowls in fact.

Because his players lived and breathed the game fundamentals, it didn’t matter what their opponents did, they had an automatic response to everything. There was a muscle memory in place for them, as well as a mental memory that had all been worked to the point they reacted and acted without little thought as they played the game. You see, you can’t sidestep the ordinary, it is the fundamentals that make the extraordinary possible. Great players know the fundamentals, whether this is a football player or a musician, it is the basics that take you to the amazing.

In the Bible there is a phrase you read, “Paul’s custom…” and it is the same for all of the apostles.

Acts 17:2 “And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,”

The apostles had developed some habits of life, some fundamentals or basics of the faith in their everyday lives. Studying the scriptures was second nature to them, prayer was second nature to them, and being among the community of God’s people was their habit of life. This firm foundation was in place, and it made it possible to do the extraordinary when God moved. If you are hoping to see God move in your life in greater ways, you must develop some basics of the faith as well. There is no sidestepping the ordinary if you want to see the extraordinary take place when it comes to faith. Look at the Bible, Old and New Testament, the men and women God used were people who were already committed to God and following in faith when God called them. When the apostles in Acts 6 told the church to find some men to serve, they said to look for “men of reputation,” men who were already known for doing God’s will.

Everybody wants to be a rock star, but only the people who play their guitars until their fingers hurt ever become truly good. It is the same with faith. Do the ordinary, the basics of the faith, and do this until you are engulf by the life of faith God intended – and then watch to see what God will do. It will be extraordinary! 

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The Real War and Enemy Combatant

Many Americans are enamored with militarism, which is the belief or desire of a government or people to maintain a strong military capability, and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests. In fact, as a nation, we spend trillions of dollars to maintain the finest military in the world. I grew up in a military family, all Marines, so I carried this type of thinking into adulthood. Two of my sons currently serve in the U.S. military and I am proud of them for doing so. There are of course, often complaints from some sectors of the population that we spend too much on our military. While I think there is a lot of bureaucratic waste, I also think it just costs a lot to maintain the finest volunteer military in the world – maintaining the cutting edge of anything always costs a lot.

There is a combatant mentality that rises from this type of thinking though, and this combatant worldview has invaded all sectors of American society; politics, social issues, whatever you can think of there are enemy combatants on all sides. Americans do not disagree, they are at war with each other; politically, racially, and socially. Democrats and Republicans are not struggling to make the nation better, they are enemy combatants warring to have their ideology be in the top position and be in control. Corporations and famous people use their positions and influence to wage war in the public sector to have their ideologies control social issues by doing things like refusing to do business in certain states because they do not comply with their worldview. We all see this every day.

What I would encourage other Christ-followers to do at this moment in time, is not lose sight of what scripture tells us about this warfare we are engaged in.

Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Republicans and Democrats are not the enemy, the conservative or liberal factions are not the enemy either. There is a war going on, and whether you like it or not, you are in the war. But this war is spiritual, and those people we have fallen into the habit of hating and considering the enemy are not the enemy. They are all casualties of war, pawns manipulated and controlled by forces unseen. This is the worldview of the apostle, and it must be our worldview as well since we are Christ-followers. Yes, we should speak out, contact our government officials about our positions, and vote. But if we have not prayed, or we are hating those people who oppose our view, we are wrong and are part of the problem – not part of the solution.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” 

 

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