Archive for June, 2016

Throwing Jesus out with the Bath Water

June 6, 2016

One of the biggest arguments anti Christians have is to drag out all the wrong and evil things done by churches and Christians down through the ages.  Sins of kings and governments are attributed to Christianity, when what they did was completely against Christian teaching.  Political Christianity–Kingdoms and nations who were nominally Christian, but who had political agendas, struggles and wars, is not the same as the faith given by Jesus Christ.  But people who don’t like or want Jesus in their lives will throw him out along with the rest of this.  They are ignoring the whole issue of who Jesus himself is and the arguments as to whether he was truly God, truly rose from the dead, was truly depicted in the early writings and so forth.  Truth is truth.  It cannot be refuted by the goodness or badness of the people associated with it.  Its rather like politicians today neglecting to give a cogent argument against the positions of their opponents and attacking their character instead.

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How the New Testament Came to Be

June 5, 2016

There are many articles, books and television specials today about supposed new books of the New Testament that were supposedly suppressed by the church authorities and only now discovered.  Somehow these new gospels and epistles cast doubt on the rest of the New Testament.  Conspiracy theories abound about whether the early church tried to suppress certain gospels and epistles to allow only certain political views to be expressed.

When one looks at some of these newly discovered books, one discovers they portray a Jesus that is out of character.  He has human frailties, or we see a side of him never before portrayed–things we would almost certainly have seen at least a hint about if they were true.

Just as the tabloid press exists today, it existed then.  What would we think if a thousand years from now a story emerged that Hillary Clinton raised an alien baby in the white house, but it must have  been killed because it was never heard of as an adult.  That is tabloid news.  It existed in the early centuries of this Christian era as well.  Gospels that claimed little Jesus got revenge on his friends, or worked silly miracles to amuse the neighbors are all are out of character for Jesus.

The New Testament wasn’t composed by an editorial board determined to decide orthodoxy.  The books of the New Testament were included based on certain criteria, the biggest one being their acceptance by a majority of the early churches.  If a book had widespread acceptance, it was accepted into the canon (contents) of the New Testament.  If it was only being used in one or two churches, it wasn’t accepted.  The books used also had to be connected to an apostle in some way.  However, there weren’t any books widely used in the churches that did not also have that connection.  Therefore, when books were written  later, and not very widely accepted, they simply weren’t included.  People were writing books for money and fame, even then.  And then, as now, sensationalism sold.

So today’s conspiracy theories about important gospels being left out of the New Testament are just that–conspiracy theories.  They sell books and get names mentioned. And the agenda of some of the theorists is to cast doubt on the whole bible and Christian faith.  Whatever their reasons for that, it isn’t based on what the process of the New Testament formation really was.

What am I to God?

June 5, 2016

Many of the epistles in the New Testament state they are written by a “slave /bondservant” of Jesus Christ.   But Jesus said we should think of God as a Father.  How should we resolve this?

A child isn’t a “friend” of the parent–at least not in childhood.  They aren’t exactly slaves, but they aren’t free either.  They are dependant, and some level, they all know they are.  Kids may threaten to run away, but few very young ones actually try that.  They have no idea how they will survive if they do.

A child is loved.  A child is claimed if it knows its father.  A child is part of a family.  But a child has to abide by the Father’s rules.  The child has chores, and responsibilities.  The child isn’t supposed to do rude or unlawful things that embarrass the family.

As children grow, they are given more freedom, and more choices regarding things that affect them.  They still aren’t completely free.  They have the freedom to decide their attitude.  They can be happily compliant, or sullen and rebellious.

Why would the writer of an epistle refer to himself as a slave or servant?  Probably because they know that apart from God the Father who willed their birth, they were bought for a price by Jesus. For the price He paid, they have life forever with Him, and a place in the Father’s house.  They are Jesus’ slave.  In human history not all slaves were kidnapped  or captured in war.  Some were sold into slavery to pay a debt or learn a trade.  In the case of a Christian, they know they owe their purchaser, Jesus. They can run away, but in the same sense as a child, they know they are dependent on Him, and owe their eternal future to Him.

The Dogs Let Themselves Out

June 4, 2016

I saw a little dog this morning, barreling down the street, ears blown back, tongue off to the side, looking for all the world like a canine depiction of pure joy.  I remembered another dog having a similar experience.  Except, his owners didn’t know he got out.  When they got home from work they couldn’t find him.  Obviously he had gone too far to find his way home.  When he was finally found in the woods, three days later, he was covered with ant bites, his feet were full of burrs and thorns, he was dehydrated and ravenous.  In addition, he had been attacked by another animal and had open wounds.  He finally recovered, but never made another move to escape out the door.

I thought of how exciting it is for young people who have been raised in a sheltered environment to explore the big world.  They are sure Mom and Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, their school,  church, etc have no idea how amazing everything is out there.  Did they not know all the wonderful things there are to enjoy and learn about?  If such people ever question what the young person is doing, said young one can’t believe how ignorant their former caregivers could be.   Then, as the old pastor said:  Sin always seems breathtakingly wonderful at first, but then it always takes you farther than you planned to go, involves you in webs you never imagined and holds you much longer than you ever intended.  In fact, you may well end up feeling a prisoner in your new circumstances.  Or worse yet, you find that pot at the end of the rainbow, shiny though it looked at first, is completely empty.  Which goes to show why some people who are finally rescued from their predicament live fairly pedestrian lives.

Playing Billiards in Space

June 3, 2016

Ever wonder why there should be a giant planet (Jupiter) in our solar system?  Well, no one knows “why” yet, but we do know a little about the result.  Jupiter has 122 times the surface area of Earth, and 318 times the gravity.  When comets, asteroids and the like come into our solar system, its 1000 % more likely Jupiter will suck them towards itself than that they will hit Earth.  Jupiter is mostly gas, and these pieces of space debris just disappear into Jupiter’s gaseous middle.  Or in the opposite case, depending on angles and other reasons of astrophysics,  they bounce off Jupiter like a billiard ball and head on out of our solar system entirely.  Without Jupiter we on Earth might not have existed as long as we have.  What a happy accident, or perhaps another of God’s amazing plans for us.  I think it was the latter.

Persistent Prayer

June 2, 2016

What if we prayed for this once before, but nothing has happened yet.  God doesn’t mind if we ask again. When Jesus told the parable of the man who persisted in knocking at his neighbors door after dark, or the widow who wouldn’t stop asking the judge to give her justice, I think he is inviting us to keep on asking Him.  Doesn’t that seem like nagging?  Well perhaps its  more of a matter of attitude.  Instead of the attitude “Lord, I’ve prayed so hard and you haven’t done anything yet.”,  we could have the attitude:  “Lord, its been awhile since I prayed about this situation.  I know you will answer with your perfect timing and in your perfect way, but what am I to do in the meantime?  Is there something you want me to learn or to do while I wait on your direction?”  Sometimes “walking with God” through the situation, prayerfully and trustingly, allows God to accomplish work in us that would be cut off by his rapid answer.  God, after all, cares more about us as whole persons, than he cares about filling our request.

Hearing God

June 2, 2016

I think a lot of people believe when God speaks to them, they should hear a voice–if not an audible voice, then a voice in their spirit or in their mind. But why should we decide how God should speak? Isn’t that God’s decision? We modern Christians are blessed in that we have something early Christians did not have–the New Testament of the bible. We can read for ourselves the very words of Jesus, and what He thought about things. I know when I read the words of Jesus they always speak to me about something–often containing the answer to something I’ve been struggling with. The epistles are the words of the first generation of followers. They don’t usually contain quotes from Jesus, but they have the thoughts of those who walked with Him or with his apostles. Those teachings contain wisdom we can often apply to our situations. Sometimes God speaks to us through other, more mature Christians. Their wisdom has been won through many years of prayer, bible study and obedience. God may also speak through circumstances, such as opening opportunities in our lives or sometimes closing a door to something. Over many years of following Jesus, He has spoken to me in all these ways at one time or another. Part of the answer, I think, is being willing to obey whatever Jesus is showing us, no matter how hard or how scary it seems to be. If we aren’t willing to obey Him in a particular area, then why should He keep trying to communicate His will to a stubborn person. That is hard, but at times in my life I prayed so hard for a particular outcome, He had to break me before He could begin to work on the issue. Sometimes until we can pray “Lord I want what you want, more than what I want.”, we seem to get nowhere.  Its the hardest prayer to ever pray, but many people have reported breakthrough when they have finally reached that point with God.

Coincidences

June 1, 2016

I always wonder why things are the way they are.  There is so much we simply take for granted because things are always as they have been forever.  Have you ever wondered why there is a moon?  Some people who believe in God think He created the moon so we would have some light at night.  That is a nice thought.  However, astrophysicists are discovering that the gravity of the moon does more than cause tides that clean and nourish our shorelines.  It actually plays a part in keeping our earth balanced as it spins on its axis.  This keeps us from wobbling so badly we have major tsunamis every day, and can’t live anywhere but the middles of continents.  Coincidence?  Or one more thoughtful thing God has done?