In Part I of our series, we examined the evidence that the Bible is an historically-validated document. Ancient manuscripts like the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate that what we have today in Scripture is amazingly faithful to the original. We ended that conversation by reviewing modern translations and the question of what are considered the most accurate transitions into English. Today our trek of discovery continues with a review of biblical texts with significant rendering differences from one translation to the next. This can be a hard study and may provoke both emotional and intellectual disagreements. Our single goal here is to understand the will and mind of our Holy God.
The Bible is the foundation of our faith. We believe it to be the mind of God expressed to humanity. Its purpose is to tell us things we cannot deduce from nature - like where we come from, how we got to the present time and where we are going. The Bible shows us the heights of the plans and purposes of God and the depths of the experiences of sin and death. It shows us right and wrong, light and darkness, and answers questions about eternity. This book is a compilation of writings by many authors over a span of over 1,600 years. In spite of all of its wisdom, history, insight and prophecy, many questions swirl around as to the authenticity of the Bible. How were its individual books chosen? Why are there so many translations? Why is there so much disagreement about its message? How do we KNOW it is the inspired word of God? Join us now as we embark on a search to discover the origins and development of our Bible.
Politics. It’s a word that represents a world of power, prestige and problems. It’s a word that conjures up anger, division and disrespect. It is a word that often gives us a sense of retreat and uncomfortable acceptance. Sometimes I think we forget that the ideal perspective of political power is to serve the needs of the people. With the utter lack of tolerance we seem to have embraced in dealing with political and social issues, what role should a Christian play? Are we supposed to pick the side we think is most just and righteous? Are we obliged to stand for principles? If so, what principles and what about the need for compromise? Would that change anything? What would Jesus and the apostles do if they lived in our time? What should we do to best stand for our beliefs and discipleship?
Life and death can be confusing, and we generally fear the death part of the equation. We all want life to mean something. For Christians, that meaning comes through what we do with the one life we are now living. By focusing ourselves on being like Jesus in the here and now, we make the world around us better. By God’s grace and if we are faithful, we have an eternity with Jesus later. For those who believe in reincarnation, it is very different. They see this life as one stop in a massive cycle of lives that eventually will produce a purification and unification in a god-like state. So, if Christianity is all about attaining perfection and reincarnation is essentially about the same thing, are they compatible?
Are ghosts real? Is reincarnation a legitimate process in the patterns of life? For billions of people in our world today, the answers to one or both of these questions is a resounding yes. It all has to do with the mystery of what happens after we die. Life is precious, and because we cannot physically see what happens after death, humanity longs for an answer to our mortality. For all the ages that humanity has existed, we have found explanations to bridge the gap between what we know and what science cannot confirm. For many, there is what they consider substantial evidence in defense of these beliefs. Is there a way to know the truth about these things? As Christians, the best we can do is use the Bible as our basis. To the best of our ability, we will address what is brought forth as evidence with our clearest thinking.
When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, He set a standard that would influence the world for ages to come. Those ten statements of direction summed up all of what humanity would need to live godly and productive lives. The first two of those Commandments were to have no other gods before God himself and to not create and worship idols. While we know what these things meant for ancient Israel, what do they mean for us? Are we, as Christians, bound by those Commandments? If so, how? What does having other gods look like in the 21st century? And what about idols? Back in those days, people chiseled them out of wood or stone. We don’t do that anymore, so how would making and worshipping idols fit into or day
Conflict is everywhere! This is not necessarily a bad thing, as proper conflict management at every phase of our lives provides some of life’s most fertile growth experiences. The problem is, we are NOT taught how to manage our conflicts. In the first of our 2-part series, we listed and discussed the "Five Degenerating Stages of Conflict.” We saw plain evidence that we generally approach our conflicts with personal opinions, preferences, passion and a desire to win. What tends to get overlooked are the solid, emotionless principles of truth and righteousness. If you look at the social and political conflicts in our world, you will see the sad and chaotic results of such an approach. So, how do we turn the tables? As Christians, how do we rise above the fray and manage the conflicts before us with godliness and grace while firmly standing for what is right? The answers are straightforward, sound and scriptural!
Wearing a mask when you go out. Cleaning and sanitizing anything and everything all the time. Social distancing. Avoiding crowded places. Working from home or not being able to work at all. Seeing friends and family on Zoom instead of in person. It is enough to make the strongest among us to feel battle worn. We are edgier, suffer higher levels of anxiety and are lonely. All of this because of COVID-19, a microscopic virus. How small is this virus? For a very unscientific illustration, imagine flatly stacking up eight sticky notes equals about 1 millimeter in height. A micron is one one-thousandth of that height. It would take about eight COVID virus particles to equal one micron! That means you could stack up 8,000 COVID particles, and they would be equal to the eight sticky notes that are a millimeter thick. How can something so minute turn our lives upside down? As Christians, how do we cope?
Conflict is everywhere. Small children need to be guided through conflict when they learn about sharing and scream, “...But that’s MINE!” Adolescents could use some serious education through conflict when they begin to believe their parents are ignorant and rebelliously demand their way. Adults (especially spouses) need practical coaching when they clash with one another’s viewpoints on issues of importance. When it comes to social issues and politics, most of us - whether we know it or not - are desperate for direction in our deep conflicts, for without it we will destroy one another. The point is obvious. Conflicts abound at every stage of life and in almost every circumstance in life. What can we do? How do we not just cope but overcome all of this conflict? Fortunately, the Bible is full of conflicts and therefore full of solutions!
Jesus did a lot of teaching in parables. He chose this method primarily for the purpose of hiding his real meaning from the public in fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah. Occasionally, he spoke a parable meant for his disciples. The story of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is such a case. We know the story is about some of the virgins being prepared and the other virgins who were not, so is that the point? Turns out this just scratches the surface! This parable was a story to prepare them for the coming centuries. More than that, it was a story that Jesus used to outline what those who would be faithful to him would be like. This parable not only describes the character of the faithful, it is a major prophecy that has reached its fulfillment in our day!