Can We Trust The Bible?

When I was little I remember my grandmother teaching my cousins and me a game called “Telephone.” Someone comes up with a sentence and whispers it into the ear of the person next to them. This continues being passed through several silly, giggling child-interpreters until it reaches the original person. Everyone gets a huge laugh because what started as “The gray goose flies at night,” turns into “My granny has an overbite.”

Tweet: People struggle with the Bible because they believe it was passed down like a game of Telephone. The truth is far more stunning!

“The Bible can’t be trusted. It was copied by hand so many times that it must be full of mistakes. After thousands of years of errors we simply can’t trust what’s there!” The problem with this argument is the assumption that the Bible was copied much like you or I would scribble notes during a lecture, which is simply untrue.

Ancient scribes dedicated their lives to copying the Bible by hand, letter for letter, word for word, line for line. And this is very important to understand. Men who dedicated themselves to this artform had the scriptures memorized, as well as having a multitude of very early copies from which to work. Over 24,000 of these ancient copies remain from the New Testament alone, far more than any other writing of its age!

The scribes worked meticulously copying each and every detail of the text. It was then checked for accuracy by line. The chief scribes (who had the text memorized) knew exactly how many letters and words should be in each line of text for a particular book. If the copy in question didn’t match up, it was not corrected…it was destroyed. They held the text in such high esteem that they would rather destroy an expensive parchment and throw away the work rather than have one mistake come through their work.

That being said, not every scribe worked so perfectly. We do have “textual variants” within the scriptures. Most of these are sequence variations. In the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, Dr. Bruce Metzger describes it this way. “…it makes a whale of a difference in English if you say ‘Dog bites man’ or ‘Man bites dog’ – sequence matters in English. But in Greek it doesn’t.” Greek is an inflected language, and no matter what order you place the words, the meaning still comes across the same. The meaning isn’t changed in the slightest, but this counts as a textual variant. And if 10 copies of this same variant exist, then scholars count that as 10 textual variants even though they are the same variant (confusing, I know.)

Can the Bible be trusted? Strobel quotes scholars Norman Geisler and William Nix’s conclusion: “The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book-a form that is 99.5 percent pure.”

God has preserved His word for us in a fully trustworthy form. All we have to do now is read it!

Want to know more about the Bible? Try these other posts:
The Problem with The Bible
Where Do I Start? – Part 1
Where Do I Start? – Part 2

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Life Back Then

This was posted by John Mark Hicks this morning on Facebook. I thought it was too good to not share. We get to take a look into the early life of the church!

Letter of Mathetes to Diognetus (probably around 130-150 A.D.)

“Christians are indistinguishable from other people either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life….With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign…And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through…Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country….They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all people….A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult.”

1 Peter 2:12, “Conduct yourselves honorably among the nations, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.”

Where Do I Start? – Part 2

From time to time people tell me they want to start reading the Bible, and they almost always share the same question… “Where do I start?” Last week we looked the way the Old Testament is organized, the purpose of the writings, and the topics covered. This week we’ll focus on the New Testament.

The first four books of the New Testament make up The Gospels (“gospel” means “good news.”) These books cover the life of Jesus, but they aren’t biographies you and I are used to. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the “synoptic gospels” because they are so similar in the content the events they cover, but each writer arranges the events in a different order so the story had the greatest impact on their original audience (very common to the writing style of the time.) John uses a different approach than the others for the same reason. All four books give us the details of Jesus’ ministry on the earth.

The book of Acts is written by Luke, the same man that wrote the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of the Jesus story and it includes details about Jesus’ last days on earth, then covers the beginnings and spread of the first church. We see events and history recorded about the other writers of the New Testament, as well as read many stories of how early Christians cared for one another and were so dedicated to Christ that they were willing to face death because of their faith.

The Pauline Epistles is a fancy way of saying “Paul’s Letters.” These were letters written by Paul, an apostle that we first meet in Acts, to various churches that he worked with in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica, two letters to a young preacher named Timothy, and a letter written to a man named Philemon.

The General Letters function much the same way as Paul’s letters, they just weren’t written by Paul. These writings include an anonymous letter called Hebrews, a letter from James, the earthly brother of Jesus, two letters from the apostle Peter, and three from the apostle John.

The final book in the New Testament is the book of Revelation where the apostle John recounts a vision that he had from God. He writes specific warnings from Jesus for seven churches in Asia, as well as a very apocalyptic description of God’s ultimate victory over evil, as well as a beautiful description of Heaven.

Hopefully these past two posts have given you some insight into the organization of the writings contained in the Bible. “So where do I start?”  Well, it depends. If you have never read the Bible before, I always recommend The Gospel of John near the beginning of the New Testament. John does a fantastic job of sharing the life of Jesus with his readers.

If you’re looking for specific answers to questions you have, you can use this summary to look on your own, do a search on BibleGateway, or you can always email me.

Next time we’ll discuss if the Bible can be trusted.

 

Attention Christians: Stop doing this!

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Christians have a problem. We tend to put ourselves in the middle of every debate, every issue, every situation whether it is our business or not. I think we’re well-intentioned in doing so, but we bring a lot of unnecessary grief and heartache upon us in the process.

Meddle is defined as “interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.”  I know many Christians who have spent seemingly unending hours, and dollars as activists for various causes. Men and women who take a certain political stand on government-funded health care, or marriage rights, or refugees entering the country, or whatever the cause of the day happens to be.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get involved in our political process. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t vote. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about the world around us. I’m not saying we should support issues that go against God’s teaching.

What I am saying is that far too many Christians spend all their time meddling in the affairs of the world when we should be taking care of the business that God left us to do! We are called to pray for the sick in faith (James 5:15). Does that responsibility change if we have single payer healthcare or not? God teaches us that he wants us to pray for those who are in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Does this change our responsibility if our favorite choice isn’t in office? God wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Does gay marriage or transgender bathrooms change that desire? Jesus expects us to baptize and make disciples of “all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Does refugee status change that command?

We need to be busy with the work of God’s kingdom, not the arguments of this world. It’s fine to have an opinion, and to even voice that opinion, but please don’t do so in a way that makes the Gospel unattractive to outsiders! If more Christians would be about the work of the Kingdom, and not consumed with the work of Washington, this world would be a much better place!

via Daily Prompt: Meddle

3 Ways To Not Be Overwhelmed

Today has been overwhelming.  This whole week has been overwhelming, actually. It has been a big week at work, yesterday was my birthday, I had a big meeting last night, I have a big weekend ahead of me, and I have to prepare for being away from work Monday.

It is so easy to look at our surroundings, circumstances, goals, workload and quickly become overwhelmed. But that’s just what Satan hopes we do. He wants us focused on the here and now, and not on the eternal. Here’s three quick tips to keep focused and not be overwhelmed.

  1. Trust God –  John 14:1 says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”  It’s easy to believe that God is not active in our lives, or that he simply doesn’t exist…especially when we face tough times. But Jesus knew we would face those situations, so he reminds us to believe in God, believe in Him, and to trust that they are in control.
  2. Trust His Promises – 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us “You have never been tempted to sin in any different way than other people. God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted more than you can take. But when you are tempted, He will make a way for you to keep from falling into sin.”  We’re not told that it will be easy…it won’t. And we are never promised that we won’t fail…because we will. But we have the promise that we are able to withstand the situations we face with God’s help. And that can be an enormous source of comfort.
  3. Trust His Salvation – Acts 4:12 states “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  When we are tempted to look for a solution to our problems, look no further than Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the author and perfecter of our salvation. When life becomes a challenge, run toward Him!

Pray for God’s guidance in the difficult situations. Look to Him as a source of hope, and encouragement. He is faithful, and will never let you down.

I’ll be preaching this Sunday morning at East Side in Synder, TX. If you’re in the area, come on out and say hi! I’d love to meet you in person. Blessings on you this weekend!

via Daily Prompt: Overwhelming

This One Thing Can Change Your Life Forever!

I hate being told to that I need to change.

I’d much rather have someone tell me that I’m doing everything perfect rather than telling me that something needs to change. In the minds of most people, “change” is always negative, but “do” is new, positive, improved. “Do” is good.

My wife and I were talking just last night about a situation where some people we know are having trouble with change. They are so paralyzed by fear of doing something different that they are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Change is hard. We get comfortable seeing our lives, our jobs, our faith, our way of doing things a certain way. So much so that when new information is introduced, we often struggle to make changes. We cling to what is familiar, and distance ourselves from a new, better way of doing things.

At least we have the comfort of knowing that we are not alone in this struggle. It’s been happening for a very long time. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of Christians in Rome who were dealing with the same thing. Here’s what he said:

Romans 12:2 – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Paul knew that this one change could affect every area of their lives. In short, he’s calling these Christians to be different.

Jesus tells us that the world is a messed up place that tries to get us to be just as messed up. So when we keep doing the same things the world does, when we keep handling situations the way the world does, we become just as messed up.

If you only take away one thing from this post, remember this:

Doing what you’ve always done gets you what you’ve always gotten.

So take a look at your life. Is it chaotic? Are choices you’ve made coming back to haunt you? Are things you planned not quite working out the way you wanted? At the end of the day do you just want to throw your hands up and think “What’s the point?”

If so, it’s time for a change. Learning to think about things the way God does can change every aspect of your life, as long as you will let yourself be different.

This post is part of a series of posts every day this week. To see the other posts on this same subject see these links:

 

Favoritism in Church: Is it really a problem?

Yesterday we looked at how Christians are called to be different, and that being different when compared to the world is a good thing. Every day this week we’ll be looking at examples that Jesus and his followers left us of just how different we are supposed to be in this world.

Today we look at both the early church, and the modern church. James, Jesus’ brother, gives us a view of how the early church struggled with this very thing. Apparently the early Christians were treating some of their members and visitors in a way that God didn’t appreciate. Here’s what he has to say:

James 2:3-4 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well,doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Now to fully understand what was going on here, we have to understand where these Christians were coming from. Virtually all of them were Jewish converts, and as such carried their Jewish customs into their new Christian faith.

If we look at the example of the temple worship, it was all about people being treated differently. Only the high priest was allowed in the Most Holy Place once a year. There were other sections of the temple where only priests could go. There were areas where only men could be present. There were areas where only ethnic Jews (non-Gentiles) could worship. There were areas where Gentiles could be present. And the ceremonially unclean could not be present.

Additionally it would seem that worshippers were treated differently based on how they prayed in public, as well as the offerings they gave. This was common practice.

And in many ways it still is. Men and women aren’t allowed to sit together in some synagogues. And other synagogues today where you sit depends on how much you can pay.  This practice of treating people in an uneven way was very common.

As James tells us, Christians should be different! We are not supposed to show favoritism!

James 2  – Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin…

I think churches still struggle with this. In most Sunday morning gatherings one can look around and see far more similarities than differences. Everyone has about the same income. Everyone dresses about the same way. Everyone looks about the same.

What James was calling the early church to do, and what we as a modern church are still being called to do, is to not be afraid to take the Gospel to those who are different. Yes, it’s easier to share our faith with the people we spend the most time with…the people who tend to be the most like us. But we are to treat everyone as if they have equal value to God. Because they do!

This is different. And Christians are called to be different. In a world that thrives on labels: outcasts, awkward, rich, poor, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, liberals, conservatives, gay, straight, black, white…it shouldn’t matter. EVERYONE needs the Gospel, and needs to feel welcome in our assemblies because every person we meet is a child of God, and he wants his love and his message and his salvation to reach everyone.

It’s time to be different. It’s time for each of us to share the Gospel, and to share it with everyone.