July, 2009

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Does The Lord Have Your Attention?

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Hello to everyone !

Sunday morning we’re continuing our study in the life of Moses which gives us INCREDIBLE insight to the “Making Of A Man of God!” I thought I’d give a little preview to this Sunday morning’s message. By the way, for those of you who are following the blog series, “How We Got The Bible?” – more entries are coming soon! J

Exodus 3:3-4 reads “Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

This was certainly a WOW moment for Moses!

A burning bush that was not burning?!

The Lord was undoubtedly trying to get Moses’ attention and there will be times the Lord is trying to get your attention as well. It may be in an unusual event. What we think is a “coincidence”. A WOW experience. Perhaps a tragedy.

In such times it’s good to ask, “Lord, do you want my attention?” “Are you wanting to say something to me?” Why it is good to ask these questions? Because God is alive and active and HE IS OUR FATHER and we are a part of something bigger than ourselves: His Kingdom!

For Moses there was a definite “when” and “then” connection.

Initially, Moses had no idea it was the Lord. It was just a WOW experience: a burning bush that was not burning! But once he stepped aside, out of his routine, the Lord spoke to him and Moses answered, “Hinaynee” (the Hebrew word) which means, “Here I am” –“I’m here”– “It’s me!” Moses was saying, “You have my attention”.

Then Lord then instructed Moses to remove his sandals for he was standing on holy ground. Holy ground? Yes, Moses was in the presence of the Lord. It was a place of sacredness and sanctification. The Lord wanted Moses to step right in. He wanted him in a place where he was sanctified, set apart. As Chuck Swindoll notes, it was as if the Lord was saying, “Moses, I want you to separate yourself from your past. Furthermore, I want you to remove from your mind your immediate responsibilities. Give me your undivided attention. I want you to listen only to what I am saying right now. Separate yourself from every human thing. Draw an imaginary perimeter around yourself and stand still, Moses!” 

Aaah, is it time for you to do the same?

To say to the Lord, “Here I am! Lord, you have my attention. You have my life. Here I am! I separate myself for you alone!”

Before The New Testament Was Written

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

There is strong evidence that the first Gospel written, the Gospel of Mark, was penned some THIRTY YEARS after Jesus rose from the dead.

Obviously, thirty years is a long period of time for eyewitnesses of the life and ministry of Jesus to remember the kind of details that are recorded in the Gospel of Mark as well as the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John.

This point raises many questions that we will be exploring in future blogs such as, “What is the meaning of ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Inerrancy’?”

However, at this time, I want to focus on the following question: “How was the message of Jesus communicated by the first Jewish believers before the New Testament was officially written and circulated as a source for doctrine and Christian growth?”

There are THREE important perspectives to keep in mind when answering this…

#1)  The Gospel was initially communicated by those who were eyewitnesses of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus! Prior to the literary works of the New Testament being circulated throughout Christian communities as a source for doctrine and Christian growth, the message of the Gospel came from “Apostolic Authority!”

This is seen on the day of Pentecost- fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead – when Peter preached to thousands of his Jewish countrymen and remarked, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses!” (Acts2:33)

Their eyewitness authority is also seen when Peter and John stood before the ruling council of Israel – who had threatened the Apostles and called for them to stop teaching in the name of Jesus – Peter answered, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Acts 2:42 says that the early church “continued in the Apostles doctrine” which was based upon their own personal experience of the life, miracles and teachings of the Lord Jesus. This gives perspective to Ephesians 2:19-20 which says “…you are …fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles …”

Did the Apostles have divine help with what they remembered?  You bet! 

Jesus said in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you!” 


#2) The early church began in Jerusalem and to the early Jewish followers of Jesus, their faith did not come from a vacuum, but was rooted in the person and work of Jesus and in the inspired literary work of the Tanach – the Old Testament. On the day of Pentecost, a day where God’s active presence was clearly visible for thousands to see, the Apostle Peter substantiated the unique experience by quoting from the prophet Joel! By doing so, the early church was proclaiming their belief that what was written about in the Old Testament was in the process of being fulfilled! Jesus even said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matt 5:17)

So, when the question arises, “How was the message of the Jewish followers of Jesus communicated before the New Testament was written and circulated as a source for doctrine and Christian growth?” – the answer is, orally! It was communicated orally by the Apostles whose authority was based upon their own personal experience in the life and ministry of Jesus, and upon the Scriptures that had already been given in the Old Testament.  Personal experience in Christ, combined with the writings of the Law and the prophets were the key elements that made up the “the Apostles doctrine”. (Acts 2:42)

#3) It is important to have proper perspective on the significance of oral tradition in Jewish culture. Author and Professor Timothy Paul Jones, did a great job researching this subject in his book, “Misquoting Truth!” (Intervarsity Press) He wrote, “We live in a time when printed records define our culture. This was not the case in first century. In the world of Jesus and Mary and Simon Peter, written records were secondary to spoken narratives.”

There are a number of reasons as to why spoken narratives were more authoritative than written records in the first century.

First of all, the majority of the Roman Empire was illiterate. Secondly, the character of the person who was putting forth information deeply mattered to the ancient people.

Timothy Paul Jones writes, “At the end of the first century A.D., some Christian leaders still relied on oral accounts of Jesus’ life alongside the written Gospels and apostolic epistles. Papias of Hierabpolis put it this way: “If anyone who had served the elders came, I asked about their saying in detail – what, according to the elders, Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s followers …. For I perceived that what was to be obtained from books would not profit me as much as what came from the living and surviving voice.”

Furthermore, there is strong evidence in New Testament writings that the early church benefited from EARLY oral history. In fact, it is believed that I Cor. 15:3-7 was a proclamation that was celebrated and repeated orally after being passed down from the Apostles. It reads: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.”

With regard to this passage, Timothy Paul Jones writes, “So, how can scholars know that these words actually came from early oral history? In the first place, Paul introduced this summation with the two Greek words that clearly indicated it was oral tradition. These two words were “paradidomi” (“handed over”) and “paralambano (“received”). Ancient readers understood these two words – when used together – to imply that the writer was quoting words that he or she intended to become oral tradition. In this way, Paul clearly informed the Corinthians that he was about to pass on oral tradition.”

Some might say, “Everyone knows that when people pass along information orally, it is less than perfect and the stories are bound to change”!

Actually, oral history in Jewish culture was a proficient and effective discipline and was a reliable process in passing along important information. One way this was accomplished was through the use of rhythmic, repetitive patterns in memorizing information. It’s like memorizing the lyrics of a song. I still can recall lyrics learned in grade school – especially when accompanied with melody or rhythm. The melody helps me remember the words on the drop of a dime!

Stay tuned for more …

Was Jesus Misquoted?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

WAS JESUS MISQUOTED?

(BEYOND THE “HEADLINES!”)

 

Have you ever read a headline from a newspaper, or magazine, or an Internet site that caught your attention and you think to yourself, “WOW, I can’t believe this?” But then, when you read the actual article, you learn that the impression from the headline is not supported by the article itself! For me, this seems to be happening more and more.

 

I have a theory about all this: in our fast-paced, information-filled-world, the competition among news agencies to capture the public’s attention is greater than ever. So, there is a temptation to sensationalize headlines! This, accompanied with the fact that you can come across hundreds of headlines in a day while browsing the Internet and that many people just read the headline not the article, means that there are a lot of wrong impressions being left in the public sector!

 

I mention this because there is a very popular – what I am going to call a type of “headline” that is being read today!

 

This headline, however, is in the form of a popular book title, “Misquoting Jesus”. It is a book that was written in 2006 by Bart Ehrman – a book that took our country by storm. Sadly, Ehrman was at one time an evangelical Christian but ultimately walked away from his faith. And, in his book, “Misquoting Jesus” he explains why.

 

Think about the title “Misquoting Jesus” for a moment.

 

The title implies that Jesus has been misquoted — which means that words that have been attributed to Jesus are not actually from Him at all. How could that have taken place? The promotional material’s for Ehrman’s book claim that “many of our cherished biblical stories and widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself stem from both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes.” What’s more, the author, Bart Ehrman, claims that his views are being made “for the first time.”

 

When you hear the title “Misquoting Jesus” coupled with the promotional claims for the book, what impression does it leave you? It’s pretty clear isn’t it?

 

The accusation is, that those who have copied the original manuscripts of the books of the Bible either intentionally or accidently changed the original manuscripts and by doing so, have made up a Jesus that never existed. It appears from Ehrman’s “headline” that what we read in the Bible, are NOT actually the words of Jesus but a legend about Jesus. This is revealed when Ehrman writes, “Sometimes Christian apologists say there are only three options to who Jesus was: a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. But there could be a forth option – legend.”

 

So, what does all of this mean? Ehrman is claiming that our Bible today tells a story about a Jesus that really did not come from eye-witnesses, or from those who interviewed eye-witnesses, but “stem” from “intentional and accidental alterations by scribes.”

 

Well, needless to say, if this is true, as the promotional materials of Ehrman’s book claim, the ramifications are huge! However, what we’ll learn is that the facts do not support Ehrman’s headline — “Misquoting Jesus”. What we’ll learn in upcoming blogs is that his title is, sensationalized. What we’ll learn is that we are given a false and wrong impression! What we will learn is that the Bible we have today CAN be trusted!

 

So, “How Did We Get The Bible?”

 

Stay tuned.

Intro: Ten Key Points!

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Okay, let’s begin our series on “How We Got The Bible?” with TEN KEY POINTS! These TEN KEY POINTS will be a great introduction to our subject that we will be expanding on in the weeks ahead.

 

Here we go …

 

#1 The Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

 

#2 The Bible is made up of 66 different books that were written over 1600 years (from approximately fifteen hundred BC to AD 100 by more than 40 kings, prophets, leaders and followers of Jesus. The Old Testament has 39 books (written approx.  1500-400BC).  The New Testament has 27 books (written approx. AD 45-100). The Hebrew Bible has the same text as the English Bible’s Old Testament – but divides, and arranges it differently.

 

#3 The Old Testament was written mainly in Hebrew, with some Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek.

 

#4  The books of the Bible were collected, and arranged and recognized as inspired sacred authority by councils of rabbis and councils of church leaders based on careful guidelines.

 

#5  Before the printing press was invented, the Bible was copied by hand.  The Bible was copied very accurately, in many cases by special scribes who developed intricate methods of counting words and letters to insure that no errors had been made.

 

#6  The Bible was the first book ever printed on the printing press with moveable type (Gutenberg Press, 1455, Latin Bible).

 

#7  There is much evidence that the Bible we have today is remarkably true to the original writings.  Of the thousands of copies made by hand before 1500, more the 5,300 Greek manuscripts from the New Testament alone still exist today.  The text of the Bible is better preserved than the writings of Plato or Aristotle.

 

#8  The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the astonishing reliability of some of the copies of the Old Testament over the years.  Although some spelling variations exist, no variation affects basic Bible doctrines.

 

#9  As the Bible was carried to other countries, it was translated into the common language of the people by scholars who wanted others to know God’s Word.  Today there are still 2,000 groups with no Bible in their own language. 

 

#10  By AD 200, the Bible was translated into 700 different languages; by 500, 13 languages; by 900, 17 languages; by 1400, 28 languages;  by 1800, 57 languages; by 1900, 537 languages; by 1980, 1,100 languages; by 2006, 2,426 languages have some portions of the Scripture.

Vacation and New Series Announced

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

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Hi everyone!

 

I’m back from vacation with the family and I can’t wait to see everyone Sunday morning!!

 

I’m savoring all the reports that I have received on how the Lord has blessed the church in June – and, I can’t tell you how much that blesses me! I’ve heard the services were great and VBS was fantastic etc. And, I thank all of you who prayed for us while we spent family time together and rested. We had a great family vacation and rest.

 

Okay, at risk of boring you to death, I have added some family pictures of our vacation. I actually took some four hundred pictures on my IPhone alone. These are five and out some four hundred that I took while with the family this June.

 

From top left:

#1 Our children and in the back-ground is Palos Verdes, Ca. where I grew up!

#2 (Below) Walking a street in San Clemente, Ca. with TWO of my THREE girls. I’m a blessed father!!

#3 This photo was taken after a wonderful dinner with our dear friends Greg and Cathe Laurie!

#4 Got to play some golf with my Dad (Pete is now taller than me J) BTW, Greg JR. and my Dad have a hard time being reminded that I actually beat them in golf :)

#5 This picture was taken at Disneyland while watching the fireworks. I waited to take this photo till a burst of light came from the fireworks lighting up the sky. Pretty good, huh?

 

Finally, I want to announce a new “blog series” that I am beginning tomorrow!

 

It’s a series on: “How We Got The Bible?”

 

The term “Bible” means “book” – so we’re talking “THE Book!”

 

I take it that you have a Bible, right? You purchased your copy from a store, or maybe a friend gave it to you etc. That’s great! But, have you ever wondered how all the 66 books came together in the beginning, particularly, how the New Testament came together!?

 

In the weeks to come we’ll learn how the Bible was passed down to us. And, we’ll also learn why it is trustworthy and what it means when the Bible says that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God …” (2 Tim 3:16).

 

It’s been said that you eat an elephant “one bite at a time!” Well, we’re going to take a “bite at a time” with this series. So, stay tuned and let me suggest that you even invite your friends to the blog who are searching and who could benefit from knowing why the Bible can be trusted.

 

Blessings, Greg my2daughters

 

 

 

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