The Impact of Christian Love

23 06 2015

A believer in Christ is following the beat of a different drummer. The culture in which I live has never seen anything like the reaction of the family and church to the murderer of their loved ones. My attempts at love pales in comparison. The testimonies at the arraignment of Dylann Roof are an undeniable proof that Jesus lives and love is His most becoming characteristic in the lives of His followers.  Pastor Dave

EDITOR’S NOTE: What an incredibly powerful testimony of God’s love and forgiveness the people of Charleston are showing the world! It’s obviously having a great impact on secular media who expected the worst, and instead, found themselves covering the message of the Gospel being lived out in front of them. Thank you Charleston. -Aimee Herd, BCN.

 





What does the Sign on the Cross Really Say?

7 06 2015
I found an interesting website called, “Defending Inerrancy”. More than ever, we need to know how to respond to the ones who attack the Bible for the sake of those who may be listening.  Pastor Dave
 
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 1 Peter 3:15
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Problem: The wording of the accusation above Christ’s head on the cross is rendered differently in each Gospel account.

Matthew: “This is Jesus the king of the Jews” (27:37).

Mark: “The king of the Jews” (15:26).

Luke: “This is the king of the Jews” (23:38).

John: “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews” (19:19).

Solution: While there is a difference in what is omitted, the important phrase, “the king of the Jews,” is identical in all four Gospels. The differences can be accounted for in different ways.

First, John 19:20 says, “Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.” So then, there are at least three different languages in which the sign above Christ’s head was written. Some of the differences may come from it being rendered in different languages.

Further, it is possible that each Gospel only gives part of the complete statement as follows:

Matthew: “This is Jesus [of Nazareth] the king of the Jews.”

Mark: “[This is Jesus of Nazareth] the king of the Jews.”

Luke: “This is [Jesus of Nazareth] the king of the Jews.”

John: “[This is] Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews.”

Thus, the whole statement may have read “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.” In this case, each Gospel is giving the essential part (“the king of the Jews”), but no Gospel is giving the whole inscription. But neither is any Gospel contradicting what the other Gospels say. The accounts are divergent and mutually complementary, not contradictory.


This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click he





6 Reasons why Church Membership Matters

20 05 2015

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by Kevin DeYoung

“Why bother with church membership?”

I’ve been asked the question before. Sometimes it’s said with genuine curiosity-“So explain to me what membership is all about.” Other times it’s said with a tinge of suspicion-“So tell me again, why do you think I should become a member?”-as if joining the church automatically signed you up to tithe by direct deposit.

For many Christians membership sounds stiff, something you have at your bank or the country club, but too formal for the church. Even if it’s agreed that Christianity is not a lone ranger religion, that we need community and fellowship with other Christians, we still bristle at the thought of officially joining a church. Why all the hoops? Why box the Holy Spirit into member/non-member categories? Why bother joining a local church when I’m already a member of the universal Church?

Some Christians–because of church tradition or church baggage–may not be convinced of church membership no matter how many times “member” actually shows up in the New Testament. But many others are open to hearing the justification for something they’ve not thought much about.

Here are just a few reasons why church membership matters.

1. In joining a church you make visible your commitment to Christ and his people. Membership is one way to raise the flag of faith. You state before God and others that you are part of this local body of believers. It’s easy to talk in glowing terms about the invisible church-the body of all believers near and far, living and dead-but it’s in the visible church that God expects you to live out your faith.

Sometimes I think that we wouldn’t all be clamoring for community if we had actually experienced it. Real fellowship is hard work, because most people are a lot like us-selfish, petty, and proud. But that’s the body God calls us to.

How many of Paul’s letters were written to individuals? Only a handful, and these were mostly to pastors. The majority of his letters were written to a local body of believers. We see the same thing in Revelation. Jesus spoke to individual congregations in places like Smyrna, Sardis, and Laodicea. The New Testament knows no Christians floating around in “just me and Jesus” land. Believers belong to churches.

2. Making a commitment makes a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture. Many bowling leagues require more of their members than our churches. Where this is true, the church is a sad reflection of its culture. Ours is a consumer culture were everything is tailored to meet our needs and satisfy our preferences. When those needs aren’t met, we can always move on to the next product, or job, or spouse.

Joining a church in such an environment makes a counter-cultural statement. It says “I am committed to this group of people and they are committed to me. I am here to give, more than get.”

Even if you will only be in town for a few years, it’s still not a bad idea to join a church. It lets your home church (if you are a student) know that you are being cared for, and it lets your present know that you want to be cared for here.

But it’s not just about being cared for, it’s about making a decision and sticking with it-something my generation, with our oppressive number of choices, finds difficult. We prefer to date the church-have her around for special events, take her out when life feels lonely, and keep her around for a rainy day. Membership is one way to stop dating churches, and marrying one.

3. We can be overly independent. In the West, it’s one of the best and worst thing about us. We are free spirits and critical thinkers. We get an idea and run with it. But whose running with us? And are any of us running in the same direction? Membership states in a formal way, “I am part of something bigger than myself. I am not just one of three hundred individuals. I am part of a body.”

4. Church membership keeps us accountable. When we join a church we are offering ourselves to one another to be encouraged, rebuked, corrected, and served. We are placing ourselves under leaders and submitting to their authority (Heb. 13:7). We are saying, “I am here to stay. I want to help you grow in godliness. Will you help me to do the same?”

Mark Dever, in his book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, writes,

Church membership is our opportunity to grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the pastors and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service. We allow fellow believers to have great expectations of us in these areas, and we make it known that we are the responsibility of this local church. We assure the church of our commitment to Christ in serving with them, and we call for their commitment to serve and encourage as well.

5. Joining the church will help your pastor and elders be more faithful shepherds. Hebrews 13:7 says “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” That’s your part as “laypeople”. Here’s our part as leaders: “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” As a pastor I take very seriously my responsibility before God to watch care for souls. At almost every elders’ meeting the RCA Book of Church Order instructed us “seek to determine whether any members of the congregation are in need of special care regarding their spiritual condition and/or not making faithful use of the means of grace.” This is hard enough to do in a church like ours where there is constant turnover, but it’s even harder when we don’t know who is really a part of this flock.

To give just one example, we try to be diligent in following up with people who haven’t been at our church for a while. This is a challenge. But if you never become a member, we can’t tell if you are really gone, because we might not be sure if you were ever here! It’s nearly impossible for the elders to shepherd the flock when they don’t know who really considers them their shepherds.

6. Joining the church gives you an opportunity to make promises. When someone become a member at University Reformed Church, he makes promises to pray, give, serve, attend worship, accept the spiritual guidance of the church, obey its teachings, and seek the things that make for unity, purity, and peace. We ought not to make these promises lightly. They are solemn vows. And we must hold each other to them. If you don’t join the church, you miss an opportunity to publicly make these promises, inviting the elders and the rest of the body to hold you to these promises-which would be missing out on great spiritual benefit, for you, your leaders, and the whole church.

Membership matters more than most people think. If you really want to be a counter-cultural revolutionary, sign up for the membership class, meet with your elders, and join your local church.





A Mother’s Faith

10 05 2015

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“I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also”—(2 Tim. 1:5).
Lois and Eunice are not irrelevancies in the story of Timothy. What they were had much to do with what he was, or they would not have been named with this honor. As one missionary put it, “To make a sound Christian of a Hindu you have got to convert his grandmother.”
Nowhere will we find a more wonderful example of such feminine spiritual aristocracy than in the life of Abraham Lincoln. When he was a baby his mother said that she would rather have him learn to read the Bible than to have him own a farm. While the boy was still young, in forlorn poverty that mother died and was buried without religious services at her grave. Afterwards came a step-mother—a most understanding woman. She also desired that Abraham learn to read, and to read the Bible. He did.
So the two women of the backwoods and the cabin of the dirt floor had ambition for the boy and gave him guidance. Who knows how much they contributed to what he became? It may be that some of us who wish we had greater opportunity fail to recognize those we have in the nurturing of faith in our children.

Heartwarming Bible Illustrations.





Are Modern Bibles Accurate?

6 05 2015
Sometimes the issue of Bible translations must be plowed before the seed of the gospel is planted. Sometimes we need to give an answer to someone who asks us an honest question about the authenticity of Scripture. Sometimes it is good to be established in our own beliefs. Give this article by Dave DeSonier  a good read, I think it will answer a very foundational question. -Pastor Dave
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Dave DeSonier

The January 2, 2015 issue of Newsweek magazine featured on its cover an article in which the author states that we can’t possibly know, today, what the authors actually said in the original bible documents.  To quote from the article:

At best, we’ve all read a bad translation — a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.

The premise is that the bible we have today is not an accurate representation of what the original authors wrote. But is this claim true?

Translations

Has today’s bible really come to us via a long series of language translations, say from Greek to Latin to Armenian to Russian to German to Spanish to English? Or something similar to that? Absolutely NOT.

Our modern English translations of the bible come directly from Greek, the original language in which the New Testament was written. Whether you’re using NIV, NASB, NLT, etc., the English text was translated by a team of scholars directly from the Greek. Many bibles will include an explanation of the translation process used.

So on this point the Newsweek author is clearly wrong. Either he is woefully misinformed, or he is purposely trying to mislead readers regarding the process by which modern bibles were translated..

Copies

On the other hand, he is correct that our bible came from copies; we don’t have the original of any document from antiquity. However, he exaggerates significantly; many New Testament copies are dated quite close in time to the originals, and cannot simply be dismissed as “copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.”

Not just bible documents are copies, but so are all other ancient documents you’ve ever read. For none of them do we have the original that was penned by the author. The materials used in ancient times simply don’t last for 2,000 years. They decay over time, and thus make it necessary for scribes to copy documents in order to perpetuate the author’s work. The copies available to us are called manuscripts, where ‘manuscript’ can mean a copy of the entire book, or of only a chapter of the book, or perhaps of just a fragment of one page.

Even though it was from a copy, my high school English teacher still made me read Homer’s Iliad, so apparently she thought the manuscripts we have are good enough. (In fairness though, no one is basing their worldview or religion on the Iliad.)

Analogy

How do we know that copies we use today accurately reflect the originals? Well, here’s an analogy.

Let’s say you write (not electronically, but by plain old handwriting) a history of your family. You then convince 100 people to each make one hand-written copy of your original. Then you mail the copies to 100 family members.

Twenty years later you cannot find your original. So you write family members and ask them to let your borrow their copies so that you can carefully reconstruct the original. If you have enough copies, you will be able to detect what the original actually said to a high degree of accuracy. Two copies would clearly not be enough — if you found a discrepancy you wouldn’t know which version was correct and which was wrong.  But if you had 10, or 20, or 50 copies, you could determine quite precisely what the original said.

Detective Work

With sufficient copies, scholars can compare manuscripts to eliminate errors and determine what the original actually said. If we have, say 20 copies, and all but one have a punctuation mark in the same spot, but one does not, we can safely conclude that an omission was made by that one scribe. Or if the spelling of a word in one manuscript differs with the spelling in all the others, we conclude that an error was made by that one scribe. Or if an entire line of text is missing in just one manuscript, but present in the others. we know the scribe simply (mistakenly) skipped a line.

So scholars take on the role of detective. To accurately reconstruct the originals what scholars desire is two things:  1) a large number of manuscripts, and 2) manuscripts produced close in time to the date of the original document. In short, we want LOTS of OLD copies. The more copies, and the older the copies, the higher the chance that we can accurately reproduce the original document.

How Many Exist?

So how many manuscripts exist for various works of antiquity? Below is a short table (compiled by Dr Clay Jones) of some well-known works. The “Time Gap” is the number of years that elapsed between the date of authorship, and the date of the earliest manuscript we have. For example, the Iliad was written around 800 BC, but our earliest manuscript is dated about 400 years after Homer wrote, i.e. 400 BC. The time gap is 400 years.

For most of these ancient works, only 30 to 250 manuscripts exist. The Iliad stands out by having over 1,700. And for most of these works, the earliest manuscript we have is dated between 400 and 1,300 years after the original work was penned. In contrast, for the New Testament there are nearly 5,800 Greek manuscripts, and the earliest one dates to within 40 years of the author’s original work.

Author – Work           Time Gap –  # Manuscripts
Homer – Iliad –                400 yrs –  1,757 mss
Herodotus – History –    1,350 yrs –    109 mss
Sophocles – Plays –        ~150 yrs –    193 mss
Plato – Tetralogies –       1,300 yrs –    210 mss
Caesar – Gallic Wars –     950 yrs –    251 mss
Livy – History of Rome –  400 yrs –    150 mss
Tacitus – Annals –            750 yrs –      33 mss
Pliny – Natural History –  400 yrs –    200 mss

New Testament –         40 yrs – 5,795 mss

We have manuscripts of entire New Testament books that date to within about 125 years of the original documents. We have individual manuscripts containing most of the New Testament books (and all the gospels) that date to within about 175 years of the originals. The bottom line is this:  the New Testament has many more manuscripts, much nearer in time to the originals, than for any other work of antiquity. If we are going to say that the New Testament is unreliable, then we’ve got to also toss out every other ancient work.

Other Evidence

Besides almost 5,800 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, there are more than 10,000 Latin manuscripts, and 5,000 in other languages (such as Armenian, Syriac, Coptic). Altogether, scholars are working with over 30,000 manuscripts.

In addition, the early church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Tertullian and others quoted the New Testament exhaustively. In fact, even if we had zero manuscripts of the New Testament, we would be able to reconstruct all but 11 verses of the New Testament from works of the church fathers.

As a result, scholars can reproduce the original books of the New Testament to an extremely high degree of accuracy. Of the 20,000 lines of text in the New Testament, only about 40 lines contain wording that is still being debated. And none of these disputed lines brings into question any significant doctrine of Christianity. (For comparison, about 10%, or 1,500 lines of the Iliad are debated.)

In summary, our modern New Testament is a direct, Greek to English, translation of an extremely accurate reconstruction of the original Greek text. The New Testament is by far the best attested of any document from antiquity, with many times more manuscripts, and manuscripts much closer in time to the originals.





The Satisfaction of Calvary

2 05 2015

Isaiah 53:1-12

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Isaiah 53 is the John 3:16 of the Old Testament, one of the clearest pictures of Calvary in all the Bible that describes what went on there physically and spiritually. It is the most quoted OT chapter in the NT, being quoted or referred to 85x.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 

Isaiah 53:11

“What does it take to satisfy you anyway?” It is question you may have asked at one time or other. Maybe it is aquestion reserved for someone in whom you are frustrated. Of Course, some people can never be satisfied…

• Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations of the known world. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, almost made it to India. At age of 32 in Bagdad, Iraq- many believe was alcohol poisoning.
• Napoleon, French General in the early 1800’s and product of the French Revolution, spread fear and havoc over all of Europe. He could never be satisfied. But 200 years ago on June 18th, He was bested in the country of Belgium at a place called Waterloo.
• Hitler could not be satisfied and it took the combined armies of the world to stop him.
• In Bible, Pharaoh could never be satisfied no matter how much the 10 plagues hindered, kept on demanding more and more from the Jews, even their lives.
• Proverbs 30:15-16: The horse leech hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.

But what about God? Is He ever satisfied? Is it up to us to do our best so that God would be satisfied enough with us to let us into heaven? How much is enough? What does it take to satisfy God? The answer is shocking, I’m not sure I understand it all. Isaiah 53:10a, tells us, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him”. This is the same one who said at the  baptism of His only begotten Son: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. Here, it pleased the Lord to bruise Him! It does not mean the Father is some kind of sadist who derives pleasure through the physical or mental pain of others? No, it means it was a part of His plan and He was pleased that all was going according to plan. It is part of God’s plan of redemption and it “pleased the Lord to bruise Him”. To “bruise” means to to beat or crush; but God was not satisfied until He saw the travail of His soul (v.11). The word “travail”means to wear away.

God saw the kiss of betrayal, was not satisfied. He saw the mockery of a trail and the travesty of justice against His Son, but was not satisfied. He saw the crown of thorns, scourging, jeering crowd, spittle, nails, and the pain. He heard the words “My God ,My God, why hast thou forsaken Me”,  but was still not satisfied. He saw the 6 torturous hours of agony and knew His Son would reject the pain relief that was offered, but was not satisfied. Now he was pleased with all of that (not happy about it). He was pleased because the prophecies of Isaiah 53 and many others are going according to plan. God was satisfied only when the soul of Jesus was wearing away, moments before departing from this life when Jesus cried out, ”It is finished”. THEN- God was satisfied

The finished work of Calvary is what satisfies God!

What an act of pride or rebellion when we say that there is something we can do to satisfy a holy God enough to make it to heaven! No, 10,000x no! It is only the finished work of Calvary that satisfies!





Shine on Me

30 04 2015

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More Americans died in the Civil War than in all the other wars in which the United States has been involved, combined. Families lost husbands, fathers, and sons. Some 26 percent of the men in the South perished in the struggle, and by the end of the war many women and children there were literally starving. Those years, 1861-1865, were marked by intense suffering all over the United States.
Yet during the war the South, and particularly its army, was swept by revival, as many thousands came to know Christ. Against the background of suffering and spiritual renewal, a letter found on the body of a Confederate soldier shows how, in the darkest times, the light of God shines on us.

I asked for strength that I might achieve.
He made me weak that I might obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given grace that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I received nothing that I asked for.
All that I hoped for.
My prayer was answered.

365-Day Devotional Commentary