Posts Tagged ‘bible’

Should I Believe the Bible?

July 30, 2017

People have asked me this question in various ways recently, wondering if it was just “made up” by some humans.  I used to wonder the same thing, because there was so much in the bible I didn’t understand. How could I believe things I didn’t understand? As the years went by and I kept on reading the bible, I came up with another way of looking at it.

I do understand, at least pretty well, the gospels and epistles. The gospels are eyewitness accounts and are pretty straightforward. The people who wrote them had nothing to gain by lying. These were people who had no power or prestige–in fact, their faith often exposed them to ridicule at least and death at most. They wrote what they knew, because they were in awe over what they had seen and experienced.

The epistles were mostly understandable. They were also written by the earliest believers who had first generation experience. Not everything is understandable, but I think its believable. After all, is the trinity understandable? No. Is it believable? Well, Jesus talked about it. Do I believe Him?

I kept on having problems with the Old Testament, mostly thinking it was outdated by the New Testament. But after reading the New Testament over and over, I noticed Jesus kept referring to it. Why would he keep talking about it if it were unimportant or untrue? Then I found a bible where the words of Jesus were not only in red, but in the margin contained all the references to the Old Testament Jesus was making. I got a list of the Old Testament books and patiently checked off the ones in the margin. Jesus quoted from every one of them except, I think, the Song of Solomon. If Jesus accepted the Jewish Scripture collection (He had the same one we do) then how could I say it wasn’t true–even if I found a lot in it I didn’t understand.

So, I came to a conclusion. When I read scripture, if I act on what I do understand, I can trust that someday I will understand the rest. I don’t understand higher math either, but I accept that it is true because so many highly intelligent people are using it.

 

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Origin of the New Testament

August 14, 2016

Some people write they are troubled by the New Testament of the bible because it is a collection of accounts and letters written by human beings.  What if the whole book were delivered miraculously from Heaven?  Would that make it more acceptable or believable?  It still would rely on human eyewitness accounts to document its arrival.

Christian Psychology

January 7, 2012

Many years ago I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and recently at quite an advanced age, I earned a master’s degree in Christian psychology.  A number of people have asked me what is the difference, and that has provoked a lot of thought on my part.

When I was in my twenties and working on my bachelor’s degree, psychology was a way of seeking truth.  It was, in a sense, my religion.  I wasn’t a Christian myself, although I liked Jesus.  I was almost completely ignorant of the bible, and I had certainly made no commitment to Jesus, or any religion.  I thought, in studying psychology, I could learn what brings people happiness and fulfillment.  I thought psychology would give me answers to problems in my own life, such as anxiety, loneliness and relationships that weren’t working very well.  Psychology, I learned, was the science of human behavior.  In the first year, I learned that if something couldn’t be researched, it wasn’t psychology, but belonged in the realm of philosophy or religion.  By the final year, I was learning dozens of theories of psychotherapy.  These theories could be researched as to whether clients felt themselves to have been helped, but it was all very nebulous as to how the theory helped.  I became very Rogerian.  I felt people just needed love and understanding, and they could go a long way toward solving their own problems.

After college, I began to work in the mental health field.  I very quickly learned some conditions were improved with medication, such as certain types of psychosis.  I also learned that psychotherapy of almost any stripe seemed to help very little.  We did it all.  We had a “therapeutic community”, had group therapy twice a day, psychodrama, occupational therapy, individual counseling, and so forth.  We had the same patients coming back and back.  After three years I was pretty doubtful that we were doing much good other than giving patients and their families a break during hospitalization.  I got into a related career field, doing health education.  I felt I could contribute more to people’s mental health by helping them to live healthier lives in general.

About that same time, I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  I had begun to read the bible, and became convinced the accounts of Jesus were true.  What is more, there were answers in His teachings to the questions I had asked since college.  Jesus had answers I had never heard while learning psychology.

All human beings have questions, and the answers they come up with determine how healthy and happy their life turns out.  Universal questions include:  Who am I?  What am I doing here?  Do I have significance?  Why do I feel so lonely inside?  Why do I feel so guilty sometimes?  Why can’t I get along with …?  How can I feel satisfied with my work?  Is this all there is?  Why am I not happier?  Why is life so unfair?  What happens when I die?

Psychology, as far as I ever learned, just doesn’t answer these questions.  It essentially says its up to each individual to find their own answers.  Well, answers that are invented just can’t satisfy.  People know they are engaging in wishful thinking.  They want to know there is truth, and they want to know what it is.  The other thing psychology doesn’t address is our limitations.  Limits are what cause mid-life crises.  The young think the whole world is out there for them to examine and enjoy, but by middle age one realizes there are limits and one won’t ever do all one has wished to do.  How can we live with our limits?

Christian psychology helps people to seek truth where it may be found: in the teachings of Jesus, and the older book Jesus so often quoted, called the Old Testament by Christians.  Jesus addressed all the issues that go beyond psychology to our deepest self, beyond this life, beyond this world, to God Himself.  In addition, He offers a relationship, whereby He helps us with our limitations, satisfies our loneliness, deals with our guilt, gives us meaning and purpose, and settles once and for all our value, based on God’s love for us. 

The bible has something to say about every issue people face, and deals with these issues on a deep level beyond the surface behavior and emotions.  Christian psychology gives people, not only answers to their day to day problems, but a view of life based on God and eternity. 

One might ask if this isn’t just religion dressed as psychology.  It is more.  It is the same truth found in the Christian religion, but it is made personal, it points to specific, individual needs, and it uses counseling techniques as pschology does.  It also shares truth with psychology, because truth is a unity, and all truth comes from God.  Where psychology can teach relationship dynamics and communication skills, that is truth and is used in Christian psychology.  Where psychology attempts to get into humanistic philosophy, relativistic values or sheer speculation, that would not be part of Christian psychology.

Much more could be said on this topic.  Someone smarter than I am could write a book titled “Why Christian Psychology.”  I have just scratched the surface.  What I have seen, is healing going on in lives where a person begins to follow Jesus.  These healed lives aren’t all that uncommon among Jesus followers, yet they would have been considered a miracle in the mental health world where I worked.

 

A New Translation of a Bible Verse

December 6, 2009

A lot of Christians are familiar with Revelations 3:20  “Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If any man answer, I will come in and have fellowship with him and he with me.”

A new translation for the 21st century (fictitious of course) would be:  “Behold I stand at the door and knock, but you are upstairs on the internet and don’t hear me, so I am left standing on the porch.”

Sad, but I think it aptly describes what is happening everywhere in the electronic age.

Is the Bible Believable?

December 2, 2009

Its a miracle the ancient scriptures were preserved so well and faithfully.  No other culture has such a vast collection of its ancient literature.  To think that Jesus read these scriptures is amazing and even more astounding is the fact Jews everywhere read these same scriptures today, two thousand years later.  Jesus gave credence to the Old Testament.  He quoted from nearly every book of it.  When He spoke about it, He spoke with authority.  Those were His Father’s words, God’s truth.  Since Jesus proved his own credibility through his miracles, his Resurrection from the dead and final ascension into the heavens, we can accept His assessment of the veracity of Old Testament scripture.

A Hard Saying in the Bible

July 29, 2008

“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose”  Phillippians 2:12b,13

Christian theologians and ordinary people have often questioned this verse.  “If salvation is by grace through faith, how can you work out your salvation?”  They may shrug it off as a poor translation, or file it away as a question they’ll ask in heaven, but they don’t have an answer.  If I were writing a bible paraphrase, I think I would substitute the word “live” for the word “work”.  I think in our current English idiom, “live” better communicates the meaning.  “Live out your salvation.”  Salvation is, after all, a holistic concept, beyond the narrow definition of “getting to heaven.”  It certainly includes the concept of a changed life, and  being made over in the image of Christ.  We must be made ready for heaven–certainly God’s work, but done with our cooperation.  If we are saved, we are also saved FOR something.  As an old pastor used to say “if you are only saved for heaven, you might as well drown in baptism.”  We are saved to become more like Christ and we are saved for certain works that God has prepared for us.  Therefore we need to live like it.  We strive to be what He has called us to be and do what He has called us to do.  We “live out our salvation.”

Why I Trust the Bible

April 16, 2008

I never had any real difficulties accepting the part of the bible called the New Testament.  These books were written pretty close to the time of Christ by people who knew him well, associated closely with his followers, and had nothing to gain (and everything to lose) for what they wrote.  The historical records have been pretty thoroughly researched and we have more evidence for the New Testament accounts than we have for a lot of other history we have no trouble accepting.  Its really all about what you make of those accounts.  I personally believe what the accounts said.  

 

The Old Testament was another issue for me.  There were so many books, so many authors, so much antiquity.  How could I know whether to accept them as accurately preserved, and whether they were really from God?  Then, as I read the New Testament accounts of Jesus, I noticed something.  He referred to nearly every book in the Old Testament, and spoke of them as though they were real history and really from God.  He actually said the Old Testament prophets spoke of him, and as I re-read the Old Testament I could see a lot of prophecy about things that would happen to Jesus—things he had no control over.  I realized it was all part of the whole.  Jesus validated it, fulfilled prophecy proved it, and I believed I could trust it as being God’s message.

 

Nonni

How to Use the Bible to Help Yourself

March 15, 2008

Someone told me when I was young, I should mark up my bible.  Now I had always been taught as a child to take care of books, and this idea was pretty foreign to me.  However, the idea was to underline any passage that I found particularly helpful, hopeful, inspirational or encouraging.  Then after I had read and underlined the bible at least once, I had a ready source of whatever I would need.  I could just open the bible anywhere and turn pages, reading underlined passages, until I found all I needed…until I was satisfied.  Thats not how you do your daily bible reading, or how you study the bible, but its an emergency, 911 way of getting help when you really need it and maybe when you feel so low, so afraid or distraught you can’t really concentrate very well.  Nowadays I always read the bible with pen in hand and have marked up several versions.  I have found when I have that pen, I read the bible expectantly, just excited to find out what God has for me today.

If you need some help right away, but you haven’t yet read the bible, look in the book of Psalms for encouragement.  You can start just about anywhere and by the time you have read a half dozen psalms, you’ll find some comfort and reassurance.  If you are just looking for the answer to a question, look up the topic in the concordance (index) in the back and you will likely find what you are looking for.  Just be advised that not all the answers to life’s questions are given to us.  Some of it will just have to wait till we get to heaven and our heavenly minds are intelligent enough to take it all in.  I can’t understand the theory of relativity (and a lot of other things) now, but I will then.

Nonni

How I like to read the bible

February 23, 2008
Here is Nonni’s next post.   Michelle

People have often asked me how to start reading scripture and where to begin.  I have always believed its best to start with the stories about Jesus.  I also believe its best to start with a translation that makes sense for you.  I loved the JB Phillips translation of the New Testament, but then I’m British, and I understand that style of writing.  If you’re American, then the Living Bible translation is very good.  There’s even an updated New Living Bible translation.  If you’re new to reading the Bible, and you aren’t familiar with chapters and verses, I really like “The Message”.  It reads so much more like a book.  The language is so familiar too.

 Anyway, I just start with the gospel of Matthew.  Then I like to go to the gospel of Luke, and finally to the gospel of John.  John’s gospel is much more poetic, and contains symbolism and allusions to prophecy that are somewhat harder to grasp for a beginner, although, don’t get me wrong, there’s very, very much in it that is beautifully understandable for a beginner as well.  Just don’t worry about what you don’t understand.  Enjoy, savor and cherish what you do understand.  There’s more than enough spiritual food for everyone at every stage.

After reading the three gospels I love most, I then enjoy reading the Acts of the Apostles.  These are the historical accounts of the very early church–the first 20 years or so.  Very exciting reading.  From there I read the epistles, which are simply letters the early apostles wrote to the early churches.  Since these were the very first generation of Christians and most of them knew Jesus when he walked the earth, you get an even more detailed version of the things Jesus taught. 

All through the New Testament you will see footnotes referring to Old Testament passages.  Read these passages for yourself, and you will get a bigger picture of what you are reading in the New Testament passage.  When you have done all of this, its time to get a study bible.  When you read the Old Testament, its really helpful to have a study bible to help you get the historical context of the writing.  Unless you know who the writing was for and what was going on, you miss a lot.  I like to just read the Old Testament straight through.  Your study bible will help you get it all into historical order.  I have always kind of skimmed over all the ceremonial laws since they don’t apply to Christians (you learn all about this when you read the New Testament), and I also skim over the lists of geneologies.  I know they are there for a reason, but I haven’t felt led to read them for my own inspiration.

Happy reading!  Read with a pen or marker and underline things that jump off the page at you.  These are verses that will mean a lot to you personally and be an inspiration and encouragement to you.

 God bless you!  He WILL bless you as you read the book He has put together for you.

 Till next time…  Nonni