The Bread & The Water

From an early point in the history of man, bread has been known as a basic food item. The term “bread” has even taken on the representation of a meal in its entirety. It’s often heard that we “gather together in fellowship to ‘break bread.’” That is to say we are enjoying each other’s company and sharing a meal. It’s true that such a simple item is composed of simple ingredients, but the significance of what bread symbolizes to humanity exceeds a concoction of basic ingredients. The same type of mindset could be applied to water.

Because these two seemingly elementary things have been so well distributed and manufactured, the significance of their existence may be overlooked by modern society. In the past, if a man had bread and water, he had enough to provide for himself a meal and not worry about going hungry. For a man, during a time such as the one described, to offer a food that would never perish and keep one from going hungry would seem impossible. Yet, in John 6:35, we read of Jesus offering such a bread to the crowd, and in John chapter 4:13, we read of Jesus offering a water that would inhibit thirst from happening again.

John 6:35 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” This verse is what follows a conversation between Jesus and the crowd that witnessed Him feeding thousands of people with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. In previous verses, Jesus declares that the people who had followed Him from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the city of Capernaum had done so only because they had been fed. Their reply to Jesus started in verse 30, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” Although Jesus had just fed thousands with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, the people were still wanting proof for what Jesus was claiming! He goes on to reply in verse 33 that the bread of God is what comes down out of heaven to give life to the world.

It is somewhat obvious to a reader that Jesus is referring to Himself when He says this, and the same could be said for when He compares what He offers can be likened to that of eternal water. In John 4, because the Samaritan woman was so focused on the physical aspect of the water, she had missed what Jesus was teaching. Similar to the Samaritan woman, do we often put too much focus on things that pertain to the world? The church in Colossae needed to be reminded of this, and Paul gave a helpful statement in Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

It isn’t uncommon to notice that people tend to miss the basic concepts of things sometimes. As Christians, our goal is to strive for the spiritual food that Jesus speaks about, and spread the news that the food is free to all! If you’re feeling a little malnourished, just take a bite out of the Word of God! If your’e feeling thirsty, take a sip from the life-giving water that Jesus came to this earth to share. The message of Jesus and His sacrificial love has proven to be something that never grows old and will always appease your appetite. Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” This verse applies to His promises and news about how the feast has been prepared for us. All we need to do is believe Him and commit to partaking of it one bite at a time.

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Is Scripture Sacred? -Austin Gonzales

“Humans DID tamper with the Bible… and added what they wanted added, and took away what they wanted to take away, and every time the book is translated, something is always lost in the translation. That’s a simple Fact of Life.”

“God did not write the Bible; man did. …The stories in the Bible were passed down and dictated to scribes.” “Didn’t you ever play the game [‘Telephone’]? By the time the story reaches the last kid, it has changed so much, that it’s nothing at all like the story first started out. …Today’s Bible simply is nothing at all like the original scrolls that were written – by numerous men – in [different languages]. As languages evolved over time, so did the content of the ‘Bible.’”

“Every version of the bible has been altered. There are scriptures that have been removed from it… Meanings have been changed, just look at the different versions we have.”

“I …received a ‘visitor’ one night …my ‘visitor’ was an ‘angel’ …the meaning of that ‘dream’ was that… EACH core religious book is only ONE PIECE in a vast jigsaw puzzle, which you cannot possibly see the entire picture of if you only stare at one piece…”

(- Comments of people professing CHRIST, taken from a Facebook post)

How do we respond to statements like these? How do we convince fellow Christians, who are doubting, to understand the accuracy of the Bible, besides using the Bible’s own claims about itself? Here are some brief examples of some strong evidences for you to research:

Arguments using a minimum of scripture, with a lot of basic logic:

2 Timothy 3:16 – The original word for “inspire” literally means “breathed out.” What scriptures are spoken by/breathed out by God? ALL. This may be using scripture, but this means that if you believe even one verse of the Bible is from God (like verses spoken by/about Jesus), then according to the Bible itself; you must believe they all are from God.

Galatians 1:8 – Paul, an apostle of Jesus, wrote (before any of our friends today have received their ‘visions from angels’) that if just such a vision, or even if he himself, taught something contrary to the gospel already preached before the time of this writing; then they are to be accursed. Therefore, 1) just because an angel told them something, doesn’t mean that it was from God. And 2) other religious texts, if they are contrary to what the apostles had been teaching then, are also not actually from God – no matter how moral they may be.

Why would Christ have His followers record His teachings – only to allow it all to be severely altered beyond the point of recovery (Possibly use Mark 13:31)? Take a look at history, and you’ll see that He hasn’t:

Evidences from secular history:

Despite many powerful regimes’ attempts to rid the world of the Bible through force, the Bible has continued to be shared and reproduced and even become the world’s all-time #1 best-seller. But besides this:

We know that the Jews maintained near-fanatical strictness regarding the reproduction of the Old Testament. For example, they “…carefully counted every line, word, syllable, and letter to ensure accuracy.” The two Dead Sea Scroll copies of Isaiah were dated 1,000 yrs. before the oldest manuscript previously known, yet the mere 5% variation between them and our Standard Hebrew Bible “consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.” Finally, because Christ regarded the existing copies of the O.T. as authoritative, we know that the first-century text of the O.T. was a reliable reproduction of the original O.T. texts. Therefore, the only portions worth any concern must be found in the New Testament:

We have 24,500+ copies of New Testament manuscripts, from which we can back-up (or refute) ANY modern translation! “The degree of accuracy of the copies is greater for the New Testament than for other books that can be compared. Most books do not survive with enough manuscripts that make comparison possible” (There are only SEVEN extant manuscripts of Plato’s Tetralogies, for example!).

Within these copies, there are 150,000 differences between copies. However; many of these ‘variants’ consist of things like a missing letter, switching of two words, or omission of an insignificant word. Truly, only about FIFTY variants are any different from each other – out of 150,000! “And even then, no doctrine of the Christian faith or any moral commandment is effected by them.”

We have enough quotations from the early church leaders that even if we did not have a single N.T. manuscript, would still have all but eleven verses of the entire N.T., all recorded within 150-200 yrs. after Christ!

There were only 35-40 yrs. between the N.T.’s completion and the oldest manuscript fragments. 100 yrs. passed before copies of the earliest whole books were written. And we have copies of the entire N.T. as old as within 250 yrs. of its completion. Regarding other ancient texts, there were – for example – at least 1,200 yrs. between Plato’s Dialogues & his Tetralogies, and their earliest (fragmented) copies; and 1,400 yrs. between Aristotle’s Ode to Poetics and its earliest copy! But no one doubts that Plato or Aristotle say what they said! “…If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.”

Other considerations:

The only quotes of Christ’s teachings, that we have, are from the New Testament writers. So if we can’t trust the rest of the N.T., then we can’t even trust what Jesus said. But besides the historical evidences we’ve mentioned, nearly every one of the apostles and other N.T. writers became martyrs for the words that they were preaching and recording. People don’t die for their lies when they know that they’re lies.

We can find ancient, secular sources that back up the Bible’s many and detailed prophecies – often stated hundreds of years beforehand – and the Bible’s clues to its historical context. For example: the conquering of Tyre by the Babylonians and by the Macedonians.

Modern science backs up things that the Bible mentions – things that no man knew about for hundreds of years after scripture was written! I am running out of room to go into detail, but the Bible mentions things like; ocean springs and currents, a recipe for soap, the universe’s particle makeup, the connection between blood and life, the First Law of Thermodynamics, health risks of sexual promiscuity, and so forth. All of these things, and more, were not recognized by scientific communities for hundreds of years after the Bible records them. The kinds of things that no man or group of men could simply make up – not in such a large and accurate quantity!

Finally, it sounds cheesy but it happens: The Bible actively changes the lives of those who commit themselves to its instructions.

“Manuscript Evidence: New Testament vs. Plato, Etc.” by Dave Armstrong

“Manuscript Support for the Bible’s Reliability” by Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries

Beginning With the Scripture

Acts 8:26-35 (emphasis on the last words of verse 35)

We read in this passage of a man who first had a willingness to learn more from the what? The Bible. Where, above any dictionary or encyclopedia or website, do we attain the best information there is to gain?Where is it we find the ways to live so that we can enjoy an eternity of bliss? The Bible.

As Christians, we have been given the amazing chance to be a part of the greatest plan that has ever existed; spreading the truth of what the Bible has to say to the world is just that. Isn’t it? But do we do it without ceasing and with the eagerness and readiness that we read Phillip with? If God, with His magnificent voice spoke to you, the way He did to Phillip, would your immediate action be to get up, go, and run for the opportunity to study?

We may say, “Well I don’t know about running, but I’d get there eventually!”  Shouldn’t show the enthusiasm of spreading the knowledge of the Bible the way Phillip did? What would you consider to say to a man or women who had a question about the Bible? Where would we turn to find the answer? 2 Timothy 2:15 says we should study to show ourselves ready. Does this mean just for when we’re at church? Or just when we’re at Bible class? The answer is obvious. This means we should strive to know our Bible, our life’s guidelines, enough to able to answer any question for any one, or at least know where to find the answer! Often there are people who’s willingness to dive into their spiritual life’s development is not matched with their knowledge of how to do so. If we recall what the eunuch asked Phillip, in verse 31, we notice what many people deal with in this society.

Acts 18:24-28

It would not have been possible for the example Apollos sets to have been so significant if he had first not been familiar with the Scriptures as Acts 18:24 tells us . If our lives begin with the Scripture, we have an endless amount of opportunities to grow in our faith and spiritual strength.

When we think of the questions, “How does this apply to our life?” and “How does it apply to our Bible study?” we could answer those with another question, “How could it not?” This characteristic of our Christian life should be made a pillar! Beginning with a knowledge of the Scripture, making it a priority to know the Bible before we act, is what separates us from those who teach and practice false doctrine. Can we think of any occupation today that doesn’t require some type of knowledge beforehand? Of course not. How could we then, with the responsibility of saving souls from this world by teaching them the things in this Book, be able to do so without knowing the things in that book?

People may ask, “Well how do I learn all of that stuff, isn’t the amount overwhelming?” By submerging oneself into His Word in a willing manner and letting His Words prick the innermost part the heart, a person will gain the understanding of why a desire to stay connected with what has been preserved for thousands of years is so crucial to our faith. It may be a lot, but when we take into consideration the importance and affect the Bible has on the world, and on the eternity of the people we teach it to, it’s clear why the amount of material it contains isn’t insignificant.

In the passage we read earlier, it would seem that Apollos made the Scriptures a part of his life. Taking the message that the Scripture holds into the world requires a commitment to it that is and should be unparalleled by anything else that could occupy our time. In regards to what most of us title the Great Commission, our marching orders given to us by Jesus are “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19&20) In order to follow through with this command, a prior knowledge of what God has put in our hands is what’s essential to do so effectively.

Scriptures and Thoughts: “Faith”

Definitions of Faith
Biblical definition of “faith”: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. [Hebrews 11:1-3 NASB]

Webster’s definition of “faith”: firm belief in something for which there is no proof; something that is believed especially with strong conviction 

Translations:
Greek translation of the word “faith”: πίστις (pistis): faith, belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness.

Hebrew concepts of the word “faith”: ‘Ᾱman: reliability, stability, firmness
‘āman-hiphil: to be certain, sure; to be assured
‘āman-niphal: to be true, reliable, faithful

Thoughts

“Faith” is a word and concept that has been spoken and re-spoken throughout time. From the first of man to the present age, this word and concept has been an active part of humanity. From Abel to Apollos, people’s faiths have shaped the history of Christianity, and has set a foundation for the faithful followers of today. Whether a person is referring to its meaning in its noun form or its meaning as a descriptive characteristic, if the individual that reflects on himself or herself can confidently say that they hold both meanings in their actions and thoughts, then that person is blessed indeed. When our attention is directed by Paul to Abraham in Romans 4, as he (being Abraham) is remembered as one of the ultimate examples of both having faith and living faithfully, the point is made that without faith, the promise of righteousness would not have been granted to him and those who were to be born under his faith. Other examples in the Old Testament provide like points of having faith in the Lord: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Daniel in the den of lions; and Hosea in regards to his relationship with Gomer. Such a concept of significance is faith. How can we do this word justice by studying it without taking into consideration several perspectives?

What is faith?
(Hebrews 11:1) “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

(2 Corinthians 5:6-8) “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

(Ephesians 2:8-10) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

What does it mean to have a faith the size of a mustard seed?

Mustard seed parable about the Kingdom: (Matthew 13:31-32) (also Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)

“31 He presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of theair come and nest in its branches.’”

Mustard seed parables about faith: (Luke 17:5-6)
“5 The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea”; and it would obey you.’”

(Matthew 21:21) “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and cast into the sea,” it will happen.’”
– It means anything is possible
(Mark 9:21-25) And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

(Mark 10:27) 27 “Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.’”
(Hebrews 11:17-19) “17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son18 it was he to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your descendants shall be called.’ 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.”

How is faith more than mere intellectual consent?
(Hebrews 11:3) “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”

(Hebrews 11:6) “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

(James 2:19-26) “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,’ and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

Is faith all I need to be saved?

See verses in James in question above.  “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

How do we reconcile this with:

(Ephesians 2:8-10) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Should we have blind faith?

(Proverbs 3:5-7) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.”

(Matthew 26:39) “And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’”

Do we need evidence to have faith?
(Romans 1:18-21) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

(1 Corinthians 1:20-25) “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

(1 Corinthians 2:4-6) “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

How can we grow in our faith?

(James 1:2-4) Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(Romans 10:17) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Does God answer prayers in proportion to faith?

(Isaiah 59:1-2) “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”

(2 Chronicles 7:13-14) “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

(James 1:5-7) “5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

(James 4:3) “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

(James 5:16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
(1 Peter 5:7) “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

(Matthew 21:20-22) 20Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” 21And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. 22“And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

(Matthew 7:11) “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

How can we use wisdom in allowing our faith/children’s faith to be tested?

 

Scriptures and Thoughts about: Proclaim

Old Testament concepts:
To cry out (as the prophets)
To call upon one (often God) for help
To read aloud, or to appoint, or to be summoned

New Testament:
Kerusso – “to be a herald, to officiate as a herald; to proclaim after the manner of a herald, always with the suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed; to publish, proclaim openly something which has been done; used of the public proclamation of the Gospel and matters pertaining to it, made by John the Baptist, by Jesus, by the apostles, and other Christian teachers.”
Does everyone have a responsibility to proclaim the gospel?

(Matthew 5:16) In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

(Matthew 28:16-20) “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

(Mark 16:15-16) “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.’”

(Acts 8:3-4) “But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”

(Acts 4:29-31) “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

(Matthew 9:37-38) Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

(Isaiah 6:8) And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Is it okay to have a “paid” and “located” preacher?

(1 Corninthians 9:8-18) I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. 15But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. 16For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

(2 Corinthians 11:8-9) I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so.

(Philippians 4:16) For even while I was in Thessalonica, you provided for my needs once and again.

(Acts 18:11) And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

(Acts 19:8-10) And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

(Acts 20:31) “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.

Is it okay NOT to have a “paid” or “located” preacher?

See references for question above.  Also:

(Acts 18:3) and he stayed and worked with them because they were tentmakers by trade, just as he was.

(1 Thessalonians 2:9) For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

(2 Thessalonians 3:8) nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. Instead, in labor and toil, we worked night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you.

(1 Timothy 5:17) The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 

Does the presence of a paid or located preacher relieve the other church members of some of the responsibility to proclaim?

(2 Timothy 4:1-5) I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 

(2 Timothy 2:2) The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

(Luke 12:8) “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God,

(Colossians 4:6) Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

(Proverbs 11:30) The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.

To what extent is the “preacher” in a recognized leadership position in the church?

Consider various elements of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus

(2 Timothy 4:5) As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.


(1 Timothy 4:11-16) 11Prescribe and teach these things. 12Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

(Ephesians 4:11-12) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

There are no qualifications given in scripture, does this have any bearing on the question?

Why is “evangelism” scary and how can we overcome our fears?

Evangelism is from the same word as gospel, and means good news.  What is so scary about sharing good news?

(Acts 4:29-31) “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

(Romans 1:14-17) I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

(Romans 10:14) How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

(1 Corinthians 1:21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

Is there a method of proclaiming that you prefer?

(1 Corinthians 9:22) To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 

(1 Peter 3:15) But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

What can we learn from the illustration of a “herald?”

(2 Corinthians 5:20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

(1 Corinthians 2:13) And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

“I am under obligation” – Romans 1

“All authority has been given to me… therefore go…” – great commission

(2 Timothy 4:1-4) 1I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

(1 Timothy 4:13) Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

Is street preaching effective?  Should we do it?

(Proverbs 1:20) Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square;…

(Acts 17:2) And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,

(Acts 19:9-10) But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

(Acts 17:16-22) 16Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20“For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” 21(Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.) 22So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said

Teaching as Doctrines the Precepts of Men

 

It is common to hear people assert that “everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” and there is certainly some truth to that statement. At the end of the day, we have the ability choose for ourselves what we believe; no one can force us to accept something that we do not want to accept. But just because “everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” that does not mean that all opinions are equally valid or true.

Paul told Timothy to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Apparently, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to handle the word of truth. Some interpretations of scripture are correct and others are just plain wrong.

In fact, Timothy was specifically warned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” We can believe whatever we want about scripture, but in that case we may very well be preaching “myth” instead of “truth.”

Peter warned that “the untaught and unstable” would “distort” the things in Paul’s writings, “as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Sure, we can twist the scriptures to reach all kinds of different conclusions, but we may be doing so at our own peril if we are handling the word incorrectly.

So how can we make sure that we are handling the word of truth rightly, abiding in sound doctrine, and resisting the urge to distort scripture? Let’s consider some scriptures that can help us to answer that question.

 John warned his hearers that: “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”   John’s admonition not to “go too far” and thus “not abide” in Christ’s teachings sounds a lot like the word’s of Paul to the Corinthians that they must “learn not to exceed what is written.”

“Going to far,” “not abiding in,” and “exceeding” what is written are all terms that indicate an addition of man-made concepts to what is actually present in scripture.

Thus, in Deuteronomy the Israelites were told “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” Unfortunately the Pharisees did just that. They invented all kinds of extra requirements to add to the law.

This idea is repeated in Revelation, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”

Jesus summed it up in a very simple and powerful way: “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

It can be hard not to go beyond what is written when we want to have all the answers. It can be hard not to invent new “doctrines” which are really only human precepts when we want to build a systematic theology that can answer all of our questions. But we must have the courage to speak when the Bible speaks and be silent when the Bible is silent.

Do Not Read Your Apathy into the Text

When famous authors give public readings of their own work, they often draw quite a crowd, because people are interested in hearing a book or a poem read the way that it was intended by the original author.

Do you ever wish that we could experience a public reading of scripture by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, or Peter? Or better yet, by Jesus Himself? What if Jesus came to our congregation and delivered His Sermon on the Mount for us in person?

I wonder if we sometimes fail to understand the true power of a text not by reading into it an incorrect meaning, but an incorrect tone; specifically, an apathetic or overly academic tone. We know we must be on guard against “twisting” or “distorting” the scriptures to convey an idea that they do not intend, as Peter warns in the third chapter of his first letter. But is it also possible to do injustice to a passage not by twisting it into a false doctrine, but simply by dictating a true doctrine in an empty and lifeless way?

We do not know exactly what Jesus sounded like when He preached about repentance and the Kingdom that was at hand. And we do not know exactly how Peter or Paul might have delivered a sermon or publicly read one of their letters. But we do have a few clues in scripture.

Jesus taught with authority, unlike the scribes: “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:28-29).”

Peter encourages speakers to convey authority in their own speech also, because they are declaring the very words of God: “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God. (1 Peter 4:11).”

The early Christians prayed that they would be able to speak the word with confidence and boldness: “‘And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence’… And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:21-23).”

Paul described his own preaching style as one of fear and trembling: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).”

Have you ever heard a preacher who spoke with great authority, not because of his own wisdom but because of the power of the word of God? Have you heard preaching filled with great confidence and even boldness? How about with fear, or literally with trembling? We are certainly blessed when we can hear preaching from men whose great faith fills their preaching with these qualities.

Such were the men who wrote scripture, and most of all the great man Jesus Christ of whom they wrote.

May we remember when we read scripture that it contains not only truth, but also power, and may we not only avoid reading false doctrines into the text, but also a false apathy, laziness, or boredom that is not original to the text.

Is the Bible a Reliable Source of History?

We know with great accuracy what the books of the Bible originally said.

It amazes me that I still hear people claiming “the Bible has been retranslated and rewritten so many times. We cannot really know what it originally said.”  The example of a game of “telephone” is given, as if the Bible was translated from Greek to Latin to German to French to English in a series of translations that each may have substantially altered the meaning.  Those who make this argument reveal their ignorance.

The truth is that all of our newest translations have been translated directly from manuscripts in the original languages.  For the Old Testament, this is predominantly Hebrew with some sections of Aramaic.  For the New Testament, this is Koine Greek. Modern translations are produced by large teams of linguists and scholars from various backgrounds in order to accurately convey the ideas of the original authors.  The Bible has been put through no game of “telephone.”

In fact, our manuscript attestation for the New Testament is far better than that of any other work of antiquity.  To throw out the Bible on claims of unreliability and remain consistent we would have to throw out… every single historian and piece of literature in antiquity.

The Bible is consistent and historically accurate.

Many of the supposed historical inaccuracies in the Bible that were once concerning have been debunked by emerging historical knowledge.

Take for example the discrepancy between Daniel 1:1, which states that Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon in the 3rd year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and Jeremiah 25:1, that states that it was the 4th year. Much was made of this problem until scholar R. Thiele highlighted two different systems for counting reigns in the Ancient Near East: the accession year system and the non-accession year system. Jeremiah counts the king’s accession year, Daniel doesn’t.

Take for another example the existence of the Hittites. Though mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible, there was no archaeological evidence of their civilization until a series of discoveries beginning in 1876.  Until that time, their inclusion in the Biblical narrative was used as proof of the fabrication of much of the historical narrative of the Israelites.  We now know that the Hittites were a prominent Near Eastern civilization in the 15th and 16th centuries B.C.

This example highlights the fact that proof for Biblical claims may not always be readily available, but this does not mean that the Bible is in error. Instead, man is.

Another popular example is that of Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, who set out for Asia Minor in order to prove that the historical details in the book of Acts were fabricated. After decades of research and archaeological discovery, Ramsay concluded that the details in the book were completely accurate. He recorded his findings in a work entitled The Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament.

The truth is that the Bible is historically accurate in every detail. This is a feat that is humanly impossible, and demonstrates one of many unique and perfect qualities that the Holy Spirit has embedded in the word of God.

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Hope”

What is hope?

Hebrew:
qavah and achal – both terms mean to wait or to hope.

Greek:
Elpis – confident expectation and anticipation of a good outcome. Joyful optimism and confident trust for the fulfillment of the promises of God.

(Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

How does hope differ from waiting?

Hope is distinguished from generic waiting by an expectation and an optimistic outlook.

(Romans 12:12) Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

(Hebrews 10:28) The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

How does hope differ from faith?

Hope carries an especially strong connotation of eager anticipation, and is generally focused on a very specific and positive outcome.

(Hebrews 11:1) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Which promises of God do you find yourself hoping for most strongly, or most often?

            (His appearance, our revelation as His children)
(1 John 3:1-3) See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

            (Our inheritance in heaven)
(1 Peter 1:3-5) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

            (Wisdom bestowed)
(James 1:5) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

            (All things work for good)
(Romans 8:28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

            (Eternal glory)
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18) “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”

(Romans 8:18) “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

            (No pain)
(Revelation 21:4) “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

How do we maintain hope during long and difficult times?

(It is a reasonable thing to have)
(1 Peter 3:15) But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

            (God has not left us)
(Psalm 33:18) Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love

(Psalm 43:5) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

(Lamentations 3:21-23 ) “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

(Deuteronomy 31:6) Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

            (Read scripture)
(Romans 15:4) For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

            (Grow in patience)
(Romans 5:2-5) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(Isaiah 40:31) But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Is it possible to mistakenly hope for things that God has not promised?

(What about these passages?)
(John 14:13-14) “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

(Malachi 3:10) “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

(God does not promise Christians an easy life.)
(Matthew 10:22) You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

(James 1:12) Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

(Revelation 2:10) ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

(Hebrews 11:32-38) 32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

What experiences in this life most arouse in you a hope for better things in heaven?

(Psalm 120)In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me. Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, From a deceitful tongue. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, You deceitful tongue? Sharp arrows of the warrior, With the burning coals of the broom tree. Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, For I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long has my soul had its dwelling With those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak,They are for war.”

What things do you have hope for in THIS life?

Love Poems to God

King David of Israel is seen as a hero of faith by many Jews and Christians. What he achieved in his lifetime is impressive, and Acts 13:22 records that God Himself called David “a man after My own heart.” But David probably seemed a little odd to some of the people around him.

On one hand, David was as tough as you could imagine. He commanded large groups of fighting men with effective leadership. His valiant successes in battle led the young ladies to brag that “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”

On the other hand, David’s psalms reveal that he could be very emotional, very submissive, very meek, and humble. He made no secret that he wept bitterly many nights. He made no secret that his refuge was in God and not in his own strength. And he certainly made no secret that he loved God’s word with all of his heart.

It is a rare occurrence to find such an individual: extremely successful by worldly standards, yet totally submitted to God.

There is also the fact that David was “ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance” according to 1 Samuel 16. He had a good reputation. He was a talented poet and musician. He prospered in whatever he did. There was surely no shortage of eligible bachelorettes for David to give his heart and soul to.

And yet, it was to God and His word that David wrote his love poems. It was God, more than anything or anyone else that he panted for as a dear pants for water. It was God who he stayed awake thinking about and talking to in the watches of the night.

David truly loved God. Not as a last resort when wealth, fame, success, sex, and romance had failed him. Rather, even in the midst of those things God remained his focus and his aim.

This kind of behavior makes the world ask “why?!” Why does someone who has such attractive alternatives still give their heart to God? The obvious answer is because God is in fact more attractive than any possible alternative. “Your loving-kindness is better than life.” David says in Psalm 63.

And when we live like David, whether that means being satisfied with God in the absence of all else, or being focused on Him in the midst of all else, we demonstrate to the world in an “incredible” but noticeably genuine fashion that God really is sweeter than all else.