Tuesday, September 23, 2014

God’s Word

David wrote, “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Ps 119:89). This verse from the whole of Psalm 119 is about the beauty and authority of the Scriptures. All Evangelicals/Pentecostals believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. This doctrine has five parts: Revelation is the means by which God himself has revealed himself through the recorded truth of his word. This process of revelation has ceased, and no more inspired books of the Bible are being added. Inspiration is the belief that the Spirit of God moved upon men to write the sixty-six books of the Bible. Authoritative is the belief that the Bible carries in its words the divine authority of God. For this reason we believe that there are universal laws such as the Ten Commandments that transcend all cultural barriers. Inerrancy is the belief that because Scripture was given by divine inspiration, it is inerrant and infallible. Illumination is the process by which the Holy Spirit opens the minds of men and women to understand the spiritual truth of God’s Word.

This doctrine of inspiration is being rejected today by many in the church who no longer view the Bible as divinely inspired. This is a slippery slope for the church and one which will continue to divide the church. For those of us who believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, there are so many ways to see the hand of God in the preservation and transmission of the Scriptures to our present day.

One of the ways the Scriptures have been persevered is through the meticulous scribes of ancient Israel.
Before there was a printing press, every copy of every manuscript had to be made by hand, and this was a painstaking process. Every page, every line, and every word had to be right. So much effort and precaution were used because errors could be introduced if the copy was not made carefully, and so the Jews developed rules for preventing scribal errors in scrolls.

·         Each day a scribe would make sure his reed pen was writing well by dipping it in ink and writing the name Amalek and then crossing it out.

·         All materials had to be made according to strict specifications. Parchments had to be made from the skins of clean (kosher) animals and quills made from feathers of clean birds. The ink must be black and prepared according to scribal specifications.

·         No word or even a letter could be written from memory. A scribe must have another scroll open before him and pronounce every word out loud before copying it.

·         Before writing the name of God, a scribe must reverently wipe his pen and say, “I am writing the name of God for the holiness of His name.”

·         Every letter had to have some space around it. If one letter touched another or if a letter was defective because of incorrect writing, a hole, a tear, or a smudge so that it could not be easily read, the scroll was invalidated.

·         Each column must have no fewer than forty-eight nor more than sixty lines and must be exactly like the manuscript being copied.

·         Within thirty days of completion, an editor would review the manuscript, counting every letter and every word as a way of checking. The editor would also make sure that the middle word on each page of the copy was the same as the middle words on the manuscript being copied.

·         Up to three mistakes on any page could be corrected within thirty days. If more mistakes were found or if mistakes were not fixed within thirty days, the entire manuscript had to be burned. If a single letter was added or a single letter left out, the manuscript had to be fixed or burned.

This is just one of the many ways that God preserved the accuracy of the Scriptures so they could be handed down through the centuries. When you take up a copy of the Bible in your language, you are reading God’s Words to you.[i]

[i] [i] Larry Stone, The Story of the Bible, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN 2010, p. 21.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Road to Destiny

The poet Robert Browning wrote these profound words:

I was not born
Informed and fearless from the first, but shrank
From aught which marked me out apart from men:
I would have lived their life, and died their death,
Lost in their ranks, eluding destiny.”[i]

If you believe that God has a plan for every life and that he desires us to live out that plan, then you will be inspired by Browning’s words. How many lose their way in this cruel world, only to live someone else’s life and die someone else’s death. The tragedy is that when we do that, our destiny eludes us.

God told Jeremiah that "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jer 1:5). There it is—a divine plan for a person’s life. What then is the road to this destiny? The next few verses answer that question: “‘Ah, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am only a child.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord” (Jer 1:6-8). The key to living our God-given destiny is in obedience to God.

Obedience to God is not always an easy thing. The prophet Jonah found himself unwilling to obey God’s directives when asked to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. Instead of going to Nineveh in obedience, he boarded a ship headed in the opposite direction (Jonah 1:1-9). Jonah hated the Assyrians who were famous for their barbaric practices of torturing and slowly killing their victims. If we think about it, we all have some of Jonah’s prejudice against somebody. His disobedience caused him to be indifferent to the needs of others. When a terrible storm overwhelmed the ship and all the sailors were afraid for their lives, Jonah slept the sleep of indifference. His behavior was a contradiction to his faith and puzzling to the people around him.

After being thrown into the sea and swallowed by a great fish, Jonah experienced a change of heart. He came to see the truth about his life. Here are his words: "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8). It may have taken a horrifying whale ride to get Jonah to this place, but what he states here is true of us all. When we cling to any idol, whether it be hate, envy or pride, we also forfeit the grace of God that could be ours.

If we don’t want to live someone else’s life and die someone else’s death, we need someone bigger than ourselves to direct the course of our lives—and that person is God. In obedience to his will is the road to our destiny.

[i] Meyer, F. B. (2011-05-22). Jeremiah, Priest And Prophet (Kindle Locations 129-132). Heritage Bible Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Making Sense Out of Chaos

After Jesus died on the cross, his disciples and friends were left devastated and disillusioned. Their world had been turned upside down. The man who they believed to be the Messiah didn’t survive to see his 34th birthday. He had been cruelly murdered and left to die all alone. A disciple by the name of Cleopas and an unnamed disciple were walking from Jerusalem to their village. While they were walking, they talked to each other, but their thoughts were chaotic and their faces were sad. As they walked, Jesus joined them and began to talk to them, but they never imagined that this stranger could be Jesus. Jesus never identified himself, instead he entered their conversation.

Two disciples who felt powerless and useless were fresh out of hope, and yet Jesus wanted to walk and talk with them. As they continued to talk, the core problem came to light, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” (Luke 24:21).

There were so many emotions inside of these broken hearts. They felt anger and resentment toward those responsible for murdering Jesus. They felt shame and the feeling of uselessness for not being able to defend or save him from his cruel enemies. They felt frustration that the one they had hoped would rescue their country and redeem their people was now dead. They felt bewildered as if there were pieces of the puzzle missing. Try as hard as they could, they simply couldn’t put it together. They had been so close to their dreams, and now they seemed so far way. In fact, their dreams had been buried with Jesus. Their minds seemed inadequate to figure out the mess.

After listening to the talk, Jesus finally offered a fresh perspective, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

Jesus has the ability to make sense of things. The whole desperate situation seemed to have no explanation, but Jesus came to give them one. They were looking for answers, and Jesus didn’t leave them to wander in their perplexity but came near to explain the unexplainable. He listened to them before he talked. Isaiah said that he had come to bind up the broken hearted, and no one does such a wonderful job as he can. Remember, Jesus is a real friend; he will walk with us when we are at our lowest.

Jesus knew the heart of the problem was they did not understand the scriptures sufficiently to help them in this situation. He gently rebuked them for their lack of belief and then proceeded to teach them the scriptures. The Lord showed them exactly what had happened through the scriptures.

After walking with Jesus for seven miles and listening to him teach the scriptures, something happened to these two disciples. Something inside of them was different. In their own words they said, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32).

I encourage you to let Jesus walk with you and talk to you so that he can help you make sense of the chaos. He can help you gain a new perspective. How long has it been since your heart burned with any kind of excitement?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Emotional Connection

As a counselor, I see people with a variety of problems; however, I have observed that many problems have one root cause. That cause is an emotional disconnection with the person or people they love. When a husband and wife lose their connection, they are going to experience difficulties. If they don’t recognize what is happening and go to work on it immediately, there will be consequences. When a couple has to deal with the pain of an affair, it is a horrible experience. What is so important for me to help them discover is that the affair was the culmination of their emotional disconnection—not the beginning. Disconnections always begin in simple ways, such as that of not doing the kind and loving things for each other that characterize connected relationships. However, they also include an element of betrayal. Brene Brown has capably written on this subject in a fine book entitled Daring Greatly:

In fact, this betrayal usually happens long before the other ones. I’m talking about the betrayal of disengagement. Of not caring. Of letting the connection go. Of not being willing to devote time and effort to the relationship. The word betrayal evokes experiences of cheating, lying, breaking a confidence, failing to defend us to someone else who’s gossiping about us, and not choosing us over other people. These behaviors are certainly betrayals, but they’re not the only form of betrayal. If I had to choose the form of betrayal that emerged most frequently from my research and that was the most dangerous in terms of corroding the trust connection, I would say disengagement.

When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing, and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears— the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unlovable. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can’t point to the source of our pain—there’s no event, no obvious evidence of brokenness.[i]

Every person who knows the genuine satisfaction of being connected to another person in a loving relationship (the best example of this is marriage) also knows the work of guarding that connection. There are a host of things that can erode that connection: work, sickness, depression, disappointment, or just the unpredictability of life. Healthy relationships stay healthy because they stay connected. That doesn’t happen by accident, but rather because two people choose to make it happen every day of their lives.

[i] Brown, Brene (2012-09-11). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (pp. 51-52). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.