Perseverance is not something we talk about much anymore. It sounds like an old word from some other time in history. Now we talk about making demands, about our personal perspectives being instantly and unquestioningly accepted by those around us. We now live in a society where it is not about hard work or building something from the ground up; it is about claiming whatever anyone else has as mine simply because I have a voice. It's too bad. In history, the greatest positive changes in all the world happened largely because of perseverance. Gandhi persevered, Martin Luther King, Jr. persevered, allied soldiers in the World Wars persevered. Jesus not only personally persevered, he taught us how to do it ourselves.
Compromise can be so misunderstood. On one hand, we as Christians should be standing for and living a compromise-free life. Nothing should ever water down our life principles of sacrifice. Walking steadfastly in Jesus’ footsteps must always be our immovable goal. On the other hand, there are times and places when compromise is not only an option, but a necessary and spiritually-based choice of righteousness. Because we are all imperfect we will inevitably come across circumstances where it is not a lowering of our standards, but a raising of them. How then do we tell the difference? What makes some compromises good and others just plain wrong?
Christmas has changed. While the holiday has always had many non-Christian aspects it seems as though the Christ based pieces of the tradition are ever fading. In its place we have Santa, reindeer, trees, gifts, lights, ornaments, food, family and for this year, social distancing. Now most of those things are not bad, with the notable exception of the social distancing. In fact, they do tend to bring a cheerful sense to our lives. Putting Christ in Christmas is about much more than good cheer – it is about a message of glad tidings of great joy, and it’s for all people! How do we get back to focusing on bringing joy to the world instead of just a moment of emotional excitement?
In part 1 of this two-part series, we discovered several very clear scriptural statements and lines of reasoning that showed us we are justified by faith. Having established that, the most obvious next question is, what about works? How does the Bible define “works of faith”? Is it a work of faith to go to church, or is that just a result of faith? Is financially contributing to your church considered a work of faith, or is it just a good thing to do? Are there certain things every Christian is required to do, or is it all based on who you are? To what degree is our pathway to heaven based on works? How do we know if we are doing enough?
I’m a Christian. I have been called by God to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. I believe that as a sinner, I cannot do anything to earn God’s favor. Jesus’ sacrifice gave me a standing before God that I could not have had without it. So, what now? Jesus promised that all his true followers would be with him in heaven, but what does that mean for me? Do I just focus on building my faith and not works, as it says in the book of Ephesians? Should I be living my life with ever-greater expectations that God’s providence will always come through and answer my heartfelt prayers? Or should I primarily focus on works and not faith, as it says in the book of James? Should I be out and about, always doing things to show that I am a person of faith? How can something that should be so simple be so confusing?
Usually this time of year signals having a more festive outlook on things. Having the American holiday of Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas approaching signals cheerful, generous and pleasant interactions. Decorations, excitement and goodwill prevail! Usually. Then there was the year 2020 which brought a pandemic to the world, the likes of which had not been seen in a hundred years. Good cheer is overrun by depression, happiness is crushed by anxiety and anticipation has turned to foreboding. We are all currently stuck in the mud of uncertainty and often spin our wheels in frustration, only to sink deeper. COVID-19 has brought our fears of what was unknown nine months ago into the light of what is known. And that feels even more terrifying. The answer to this dilemma is in plain sight but not easily understood. It is gratitude. Seriously, gratitude properly understood and applied is life-changing! Stay with us and learn how…
In part 2 of our series, we reviewed a list of tools Bible students can use to study the original languages of Scripture. These tools enable non-experts (like us) to unlock the Greek and Hebrew of the Bible to understand what the original inspired words mean and how they are used. Then we examined "spurious" texts - writings that are not part of holy writ but are additions that came into manuscripts over time. After that, we looked poorly-translated texts and how these can be identified. Lastly, we reviewed the role of interpretation in translations we can agree on. Today, our trek of discovery continues with a further review of mistranslation of biblical texts that camouflage important details of the Bible’s true teaching. Once again, our single goal here is to understand the will and mind of our Holy God by harmonizing every text in Scripture.
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?