Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why you should beileve the Bible

What's that you say? You'd like to believe but you don't think the gospel is true. Oh? Why not? It's not scientific, you say. Wait a minute. Science works good for establishing theories and proving them true, but you've got it all wrong here, we're not talking science, we're talking history.

When you go back 2000 years looking for proof you have to go to the earliest known accounts and work forward. The earliest historical documents of the life of Jesus are found in the gospels. As far as can be ascertained, Mark was written some time around 70 AD, Matthew and Luke around 80 AD and John between 90-100 AD although dating John is more difficult. Since those are all Biblical references, you may want to throw them aside, but then you have to deal with the Jewish historian, Josephus who lived between 37-100 and the Roman historian, Tacitus who lived between 56-120.

Those are all pretty early records when you consider that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus happened around 33 AD and Mark was writing about it 40 years later, you're talking about first hand, eye witness, accounts. That's pretty reliable information. When you think about it, the writers of the gospel actually sat down to write out an account because they realized that between age and persecution, the number of people who could provide first hand knowledge were diminishing and it was necessary to get it in writing.

In fact, Luke actually states his purpose in writing his account in Luke 1:1-4
"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed."

It's nice that we have several different records of the life of Jesus so that we get a more rounded view of what happened. In each of the gospels we can see a different focus, yet these things are consistent, Jesus did come as a human being. He did perform many miracles, healing many, calming the sea, feeding thousands with a few loaves and fish and bringing the dead back to life. He was crucified. He was buried. He rose again.

Maybe you don't think He died. Maybe you think it was just an elaborate trick. Maybe you think someone else died on the cross. Maybe you think his disciples took his body and hid it. The problem is, that those theories just don't work. They don't fit with historical FACTS. Whatever idea you propose, it just won't match up with what really happened.

Jesus had a very public execution. It was witnessed not only by his disciples but also by the many Jews who came to Jerusalem for Passover. Here's something you may not know, there are several times, feast days, during the year that all Jews were required to appear before God, that is, at the temple in Jerusalem. Passover is one of them, and 50 days later is Pentecost, with the final one being Sukkot.

His death wasn't accomplished quietly in a dark little corner, it happened right outside the city gates where any one, of the thousands coming for Passover, entering the city could see. He died. He was buried and because of the envy of the Jewish leaders the tomb was secured with a big rock and guards were posted outside. So he definitely died, and he definitely was buried. All of which happened in front of the huge numbers of visitors to Jerusalem.

Then He rose again and was seen by his disciples. Now a lot of people have the mistaken belief that Jesus had only 12 followers, but that would be wrong.
In Luke 9:1,2 we read,
"Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick."
Then in Luke 9:6  "And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where."

But later in Luke 10:1 MORE were sent out with the same results.
"After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. "
Luke 10:17  "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name."

So, not 12 disciples, 70 disciples.

Still not persuaded? The eye witness accounts that we have is that people close to Him saw Him, touched His body, Put their hands into the holes in His body. Not only were there nail prints from where He was nailed to the cross, one of the soldiers stabbed Him in the side and it was reported that blood and water came out. Blood and water, means that at the time His blood had already started to separate so He was truly dead. And later were he rose from the dead, He invited His disciples to put their hand into the hole in His side made by the spear. He was really dead and He really came back to life. He was seen by various people (about 500) at various times for 40 days after His resurrection.

He was not only resurrected but after He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit, He rose up into the clouds. 120 of these eye witnesses were in Jerusalem waiting for that promise. On the day of Pentecost, (another feast day with thousands of visitors in the city) fifty days after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit came as promised. The supernatural events that happened then, convinced 3000 people to believe in Jesus. Shortly after that, when Peter and John were entering the Temple they saw a lame beggar who had been lame from birth outside and by the power of Jesus, they healed him so that he went walking and leaping into the temple praising God and 5000 MORE people believed. At this point, the believers were no longer numbered but just called multitudes. The rapid increase of believing people scared the political leaders and they began to persecute them. Under threat of torture and death these people wouldn't give up their belief.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how 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 of Cephas, then of the twelve:
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep."

500 eye witnesses saw Jesus after he rose from the dead. Paul points out that you don't have to take his word for it, there are 500 people who saw Jesus alive again that you can go and talk to them. They believed and they were convinced enough to die for their belief.

Do you think they would be willing to suffer like that for a lie? Would they be willing to die for a lie? No, of course not. The greatest evidence that Jesus death burial and resurrection is true, is that the early Christian church was willing to die for what they believed. All of the original 12 except John were martyred for what they believed. Why were they willing to die? Because it's true. Jesus is alive and changing people's lives just as much now as he was over 2000 years ago.

Not convinced? There have been more than 25,000 archaeological digs concerning the Bible and not a single one has contradicted anything in the Bible. The archaeological digs have confirmed and affirmed the things that we read in the Bible. It's front page news all around the world when someone tries to to undermine the proof of the Bible, yet when they find that their proof wasn't authentic, nobody hears about it.

There are people who claim to be intelligent that state that the Bible is not reliable because it has been copied so many times and translated so many times. But let's do a comparison of documents of antiquity. Obviously anything on a fragile medium like parchment will eventually have to be copied. For the New Testament we have documents that date back as far as AD 100 to AD 120, within a couple of decades of the completion of the New Testament. We have more than 6000 manuscripts of the New Testament. That's a huge number for anything so ancient.

Just to put it in perspective, with Aristotle's Poetics we have less than 12 manuscripts and the earliest one is over 1000 years after the writing, not 100 years like the new testament. For Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars we have less than 12 manuscripts and the earliest one is over 1000 years after the writing. The best example is Homer's Illiad where we have a few 100 manuscripts and the earliest manuscript was written 2200 years after the original. How many New Testament manuscripts are there again? Not a dozen, not a hundred, but 6000!

See the difference? These secular documents are copies that are thousands of years after the original, not a mere 100 and we have just a tiny handful of them, not the thousands of manuscripts that we have for the Bible.

Some people believe that the original texts were reliable, but that they were corrupted. Maybe they think that the monks in the time of Constantine (who died in 337 AD) changed the manuscripts to conform to Constantine's agenda. You want to know why that idea is nonsense? They would have to go and find 6000 Greek manuscripts scattered all over the then know world, change them all in the -exact same way- and not tell anyone what they did! See how stupid that idea is?

Still not convinced? In the first couple of centuries the New Testament was translated from Greek into Syriac, Coptic, and Latin. These nefarious and fictitious monks would have to lie about what they found in 4 different languages: Syriac, Coptic, Latin, and Greek because if they didn't, then the manuscripts wouldn't match, and they would be in big trouble.

You know what makes that theory even more ridiculous? The early church fathers had a habit of commenting on things in the New Testament, so much so, that we would be able to reproduce the -entire contents- of the New Testament, all but 11 verses, just from their commentaries. So in addition to 1) finding all 6000 manuscripts, 2) Changing all 6000 manuscripts in EXACTLY the same way, in Syriac, Coptic, Latin, and Greek, 3) Then finding and changing all of the commentaries in Syriac, Coptic, Latin, and Greek, in EXACTLY the same way. Oh, and while they're at it, don't tell anyone.

Only the fool would NOT believe the New Testament. The intelligent person will state that they choose to believe the Bible because it's a reliable collection of historical documents written by eye witnesses during the lifetime of other eye witnesses who reported supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.

So, are you an intelligent person? If you are, then you need to seriously consider that what the Bible says about Jesus is true. He did live as a human being. He did die. His blood was shed so that whosoever, and that means you, can believe and believing, you can have eternal life in heaven with Jesus. Want to know how?

Here it is, straight from the Bible itself:

Romans 3:23  "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"

Romans  6:23  "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Romans  5:8  "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 10:9  "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."

We've all blown it at one time or another, if you think you haven't, you're just fooling yourself. The consequences of sinning, even just one time, is death. BUT, Jesus took the penalty of death for us. Believe it!
and live!  The promises that God made to people who believe in Him are immeasurable. First of all, death is taken off the table. Yes, you will at some time experience a physical death, but just like Jesus you will be resurrected so death isn't something to be afraid of any longer.  Take a look at what it says in John 14:12-19

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also."

It's a pretty good deal. God Himself, loves you and will take an intimate interest in your life. Got a mess that needs straightening out? a marriage that's on the rocks? an addiction you can't beat? a sickness that's got you down? a depression you can't overcome? Whatever it is, He has the power to change it. He has the love to care. And He has the will to make your life new. Just ask Him. Go ahead, He's been waiting for you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

It's a free choice

I did say that I was going to vent, but I've been hearing a lot of people venting recently and the rhetoric gets pretty ugly so I've decided to express my opinion in a more positive way.

I've been listening to a lot of theological debates recently and it's amazing the amount of misinformation about the veracity of the Bible. Some of it is laughable and some of it is pernicious. Most people know that the Bible is in two parts, the old testament and the new testament. The old part is written in Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages spoken in the region of Israel way back at the beginning. The first 5 books...let me interject here that the Bible isn't a single book, it's a collection of books bound into one volume.

The first 5 books, Genesis, the beginning, Exodus, the coming out of Egypt, Leviticus, the Levitical law, Numbers, the recording of the numbers of Israelites that left Egypt, Deuteronomy, the second or repeated law. These books were written by Moses and are called by Jewish people the Torah. Sometimes when referring to the "Torah", people actually mean the whole of the old testament which also includes the books of history of the Jewish people, Psalms, the book of poetry, Proverbs, obviously containing proverbs, and the books of prophecy, each of which is named after the prophet who spoke them. Oh, yeah, the penalty for being a FALSE prophet, DEATH. One wrong prophecy and it's game over. You'd better not speak lies in the name of Yahweh or you'd be taken out and stoned.

That's OLD testament. It's the old contract between God and man. God held Himself accountable to uphold what he told the Jews as long as they held to the agreement. Want to know what kinds of things were in the agreement? Take a look at Exodus chapter 20 and Deuteronomy 28 and 29. Under the old covenant all your sins could be covered by sacrificing a lamb. Once a year, you confessed your sins over the head of the lamb and then the lamb's blood was shed, and by faith, the lamb took your place, for your sins. The lamb dies, but you live. You need to believe that this exchange happens, since the efficacy of the animal's blood is contingent upon your faith. See, it's a contract between God and man that both parties have to agree to.

The new testament is written in Greek because at that time and in that place the common language was Greek, just like now the common language is English. So these days if you want most people to be able to understand, or at least be able to find someone who does, you write in English. Then, you wrote in Greek.

The NEW testament is a New covenant. In it, a better sacrifice was provided. instead of the blood of a mere animal being shed. God shed His own blood, so that once and for all, for all mankind a sacrifice that can't be compared, was made.

Now OK I know a lot of people will say that's really bloody. I'm sorry, it is. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22 "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission."
In the OLD testament, the blood of animals covered over the sins, until the next time. In the NEW testament, God provided a body for himself and being perfect and being God, he was able to live a perfect, sinless life. He permitted that body to be sacrificed and the blood of that perfect sinless person has the power that the blood of animals doesn't. It has the power to eradicate all our sins for all time. This is a NEW covenant, a new contract, but again the contract works by faith.

In Hebrews 10 verses 4-9 it says.
"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Wherefore when he (Jesus) cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second".

See, God prepared a body to inhabit and while he inhabited that body he was called Jesus.

Hebrews 10:12-20  continues,
"But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh."

A perfect life, a perfect sacrifice, for imperfect humanity. That's the new covenant we receive by faith. You don't have to do anything for it, you just believe, His life for yours.

Now that's the amazing thing, God Himself, voluntarily took my sins, my faults, my failures and exchanged all that is worthless in me, for His perfection. I don't deserve it. I didn't work for it. There is nothing in me that's worthwhile. It's all due to His incomparable love. He gave His life for me. So I can live free from sin. So I can have a new life. So I can have the promise of heaven. Not only does He have the power to remove sin because He took the penalty of sin onto Himself and died as a human for us, but as God, He rose back up from the dead. You don't believe He rose from the dead? He's God, He can do anything.

He did that, not just for me, but for you too. All you have to do is accept that what He has already done, He did for you, because He loves you that much. Just believe that the sacrifice He made, He made for you. You can have eternal life and it can start right this minute, just believe.

Old testament
Isaiah 53:6  "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
New Testament
John 1:12  "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:"
John 3:16  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

See the OLD covenant and the NEW covenant are consistent. The new perfectly fulfils the old

Eternal life is a gift freely given by a loving God. All you have to do is believe.

.... to be continued

Thursday, February 09, 2017

When freedom is not freedom

I haven't blogged in, let me see.... WOW I just checked and it's been over a year. How did that happen? I guess just keeping up with the 25 Motif Challenge doesn't leave me a lot of blogging time. That doesn't mean I don't have a lot to say, it's just not about tatting. I have done some tatting, like 8 bookmarks, sorry they're already gone, so no pics. 4 hanky edgings done and waiting to be mailed. I still have another to do. I did get a couple of snowflakes designed, and sent out a repeat of the snowflake I designed last year in the Christmas cards. See I have been tatting, just not much.

Instead I've been reading a lot and studying a lot. No, not for school, just for information. A lot of things have gotten me riled up in the last year, but this didn't seem like the place to vent. On the other hand, it is my blog and why shouldn't I vent here. I did vent once, but in retrospect, I decided no one needed to suffer through my anger and I removed it.

Anyway, I've decided that I am going to vent here, after all.  You've been warned, I'm venting and what I have to say will probably offend some people. That's OK. People responding to me in comments is OK too. I'm trying to be thoughtful and I'm not trying to be offensive, I'm just saying at the outset that I might be, and I'm willing to have a respectful dialogue with anyone who wants to talk. That said, this is the first of several posts I plan to make.

I was born Canadian. So were my parents. This is my home. I used to think I lived in a free country, where I was free to live my life, express my opinions, worship as I chose and do all of those other things that were taken for granted in a "free" country.

Now, by being free, I don't mean that I want to impose my thoughts, opinions and religion on anyone else. Other people are "free" to disagree with me, as long as they don't want to impose their thoughts, opinions and religion on me. See that's what it's like to be free. I'm free. You're free. I don't hurt you. You don't hurt me.

That's a Biblical principle by the way. It's found in Matthew 22:37-39 - Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. It's repeated  in Mark 12:29-31, and again in Luke 10:27. If you are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan, and most people are, the Samaritan took care of an injured stranger, binding up his wounds and paying for his upkeep while he was ill. Jesus used that story to demonstrate that all people, even strangers are our neighbours.

Increasingly, I don't live in a free country. I'm not free to express my opinion or practise my religion. Fifty years ago, a man having sex with another man was called a sodomite which is an ugly word and people practising such acts often preferred the prettier word homosexual, although since the 70s they have embraced the even happier word, "gay".

I don't really care what anyone does in their own bedroom, I'm not there to see it, nor do I want to. Procreation doesn't happen between same sex couples. The tradition, since the time of Adam and Eve was one man and one woman, having children, forming a family unit, preserving humanity and forming the basis for a stable society. I don't even want to get into a discussion of whether same sex couples can bring up children as well as heterosexual couples. I'm neither interested in the topic, nor qualified to discuss it. What I am saying, is that the norm has been a heterosexual society for centuries. Normal is what most of society does. Therefore, heterosexual is normal.

Beyond what is normal, as a practising Christian, I strive to follow what the Bible teaches and it clearly teaches that same sex behaviour is an aberration.
Leviticus 20:13  If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
The new covenant found in the New Testament repeats it.
Romans 1:27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

So, my personal feeling about same sex couples is "eww, gross". The traditional view is, "that's not normal". and the Biblical view is, "it's an abomination".

Does that mean I think that vigilantes should run through the streets terrorizing people who are not heterosexual? No. Absolutely not. It does mean that I am free to express my opinion. It also means that I am free not have aberrant behaviour thrust in my face. I don't want to see an amorous embrace between a heterosexual couple in a public place. Even more so, I don't want to see it between a same sex couple.  Nor do I want acceptance of something I find abominable thrust upon me.

I really have a hard time justifying in my own mind, why a same sex couple would choose to bring political pressure to bear on a Christian minister to perform a same sex marriage. If a same sex couple chooses to defy what the Bible says, why would they want a Christian ceremony. It just doesn't make sense. I personally don't think it's morally right to have same sex marriages, but if people choose to do so in a civil service  I have no objection.

In the same way, if a Christian, in their normal duties, believes that it isn't appropriate for them to provide goods or services, they ought to be free to do so. For example, many fast food places have signs on the front door saying things like, No shirt, no shoes, no service. No one has a problem with the vendor refusing service. But when a caterer refuses to make a same sex cake for a wedding, suddenly they're hauled into court. The couple getting married could have just gone to another caterer, they could have just replaced the his and hers topper, but no, they had to make a political statement. I don't think that's right.

I think, if I had been the caterer, I might have just refused on the basis of being too busy, just to avoid the political fallout. If coerced, I think I might have tried to explain to the couple that based on my religious beliefs that I couldn't in good conscience do what they requested. For all I know maybe the catered did and the same sex couple were just eager to throw their weight around.

Whatever the reason, Christians are no longer able to freely express their beliefs or stand on the principles which the Bible clearly teaches. According to what the Bible teaches, people engaged in same sex behaviour are bound for Hell. God isn't sending them there, their own aberrant behaviour is. I don't want them to end up in Hell, but the only way to keep them out of Hell is to tell them the truth. Of course, Christians today are muzzled, when the tell the plain truth of the Bible it's declared "hate speech". It isn't hate, it's love.

God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. God loves the world and as Christians, we love the world too. We don't want anyone to go to Hell and when we say that same sex behaviour is an abomination in God's eyes, we say it so that people can repent of that behaviour and be saved. The consequences of not leaving that behaviour is Hell. Warning people, so that they can change, is not hate speech, it's just the opposite. Of course, if people have been warned and they choose not to listen, they can go to Hell. Literally. Go To Hell.

Hell is not someplace where you can hang out with your buddies. Hell is eternal isolation and eternal torment. But if that's what you want, go ahead, keep on having sex, men with men and women with women. I don't care, I won't be there to see your agony or hear your screams. I won't be the one who put you there, you will. God set the standard. Keep it, and enjoy Heaven. Break it, and suffer Hell. Not my rules, God's.