Digging for the Truth

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I thought that it might be helpful today to discuss archeology and it’s impact upon our modern belief in the Bible as God’s book.  Some report that through the findings of archeologist there have been things that have undermined the authority of the scriptures.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, over the past fifty years or so, the attitude of secular archeologists has begun to change substantially.

H.M Orlinsky, in Ancient Israel, discusses a new attitude that has developed regarding the negative results of radical criticism:

“More and more the older view that the biblical data were suspect and even likely to be false, unless corroborated by extra-biblical facts, is giving way to one which holds that, by and large, the biblical accounts are more likely true than false, unless clear cut evidence from outside the bible demonstrate the reverse.

Reformed Jewish scholar Nelson Glueck has affirmed:

“It is worth emphasizing that in all this work no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood biblical statement.”  Archeology does not prove the Bible to be the Word of God.  All it can do is confirm the basic historicity or authenticity of a narrative.  It can show that a certain incident fits into the time it purports to be from.

 

Millar Burrows of Yale recognized the value of archeology in confirming the authenticity of the scriptures:

“The bible is supported by archaeological evidence again and again.  On the whole, there can be no question that the results of excavation have increased the respect of scholars for the Bible as a collection of historical documents.  The confirmation is both general and specific.  Names of places and persons turn up at the right places and in the right periods.”

What does all of this mean? 

It means that as we learn more and more about the ancient world through the science of Archeology, we are becoming more and more assured of the authenticity of the Bible as God’s word.  While archeology cannot prove that God exists, it is a huge piece in the puzzle of developing a faith that can assure you of  His existence and His presence in your life.

Let’s look at a little more of the book of Mark.

Notice Mark 2:23-28

 23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

 Can you answer these questions?

  1. What were Jesus’ disciples doing on the Sabbath?
  2. What person did Jesus use to justify His disciples’ actions?
  3. What did Jesus say to defend his disciples?
  4. Who is the Lord of the Sabbath?

Do me a favor.  If you are reading this blog, send me an email to Revroyrhodes@aol.com to let me know you are out there.

Blessings,

Pastor Roy

Be Still

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Hey it’s great to be back.  You probably didn’t know, but last week I was able to take a week of vacation and spent the entire time with a group of friends from the church, fishing in Canada!  What a beautiful and peaceful place.  We were so far removed from civilization that we had to make the last leg of our journey via a plane with pontoons that landed on the lake we fished all week!

As a departure from our normal course of study, I thought I would share a little about the trip and a few things that the Lord spoke to me in the quiet of Northern Ontario.

During the week, we were completely removed from our technology driven, fast-paced world.  We had no electricity, no drinkable water, no indoor plumbing, and no cell phones with Internet access, e-mail, text, and calendars.  It was awesome!  It is amazing how controlled we can become by technology and the busyness and routines of our modern lives.  During the course of the week, the Holy Spirit brought a single verse of scripture through my mind over and over again. 

It’s found in Psalm 46:10 and says,  “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

What strikes me as profound is the requirement that we “Be still” in order for us to “know” that God is God.  For me, the irony comes from the thought that the most magnificent, powerful, unchanging deity can be pushed from our consciousness by the tiny, mundane, gadgets and routines that fill our lives.  And yet, that is our reality.  It’s how we are made.  The mountain can be unseen because of the molehill.  We can block out the moon with our thumb because of the proximity of our thumb.  It can be the same with God.  If we allow all of the cares of this world to get “close” to our thoughts and hearts they can seem much bigger than they actually are and given enough concentration, can completely block our view of the great and awesome Father who is actually closer than any of these momentary troubles.  When that happens, we are ready to be defeated and can become almost completely useless in the work of God in the earth. 

You see, all of our character, perseverance, strength, and vision comes from God.  When we loose sight of him, those things quickly disappear as well. 

How do we restore those things in our lives?  We find a place and get still!  We begin to de-clutter our lives and begin to refresh ourselves with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit makes the Father real in our minds once again! 

Therefore, find a regular place and time to sit quietly in the Lord’s Presence and simply “BE STILL”! 

Blessings,

Pastor Roy

Apostolic Authority

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Last time we looked at what it took for a book to be included in the Old Testament.  This time let’s examine what the rules were for inclusion in the New Testament.

The basic factor for inclusion in the New Testament was divine inspiration, and the primary test for this was what has come to be known as “Apostolic Authority”.  Most often this meant that a book was written by a man whom the church world considered an “Apostle”.  What did it take to be recognized as an apostle?  Well, in the New Testament world, most often it included only those who…

1. Had been with the Lord (Acts1:21, 22)

2. Had been a witness of the Resurrection (Acts1:22)

3. Those who had seen the Lord (1 Cor. 9:1)

4. Those who had wrought signs, wonders and mighty deeds (2 Cor.12:12).

The foundational Apostles were a fixed number of twelve, but later others were also given the authority and position of apostles such as:

1. Paul, who was given a vision of the Lord and called personally by Jesus to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13; 1 Cor. 9:1), who twelve times declared himself to be an apostle

2. James, the brother of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:7)

3. Barnabas (Acts14:14)

Let’s consider a little more of the book of Mark…

Consider Mark 2:13-22

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” 19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”

Answer these questions:

  1. Who did Jesus spend time with? (Mark2:15)
  2. Who did Jesus compare sinners to? (Mark2:17)
  3. Who did Jesus compare himself to? (Mark2:17)
  4. Who else did Jesus compare himself to? (Mark2:19)

Canon of Scripture

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I thought it might be good to spend a little time thinking about how a particular writing came to be included in what we now know as the Bible.  In order to understand that, you first need to understand the word “canon” because in theological writings you will often read the term “canon of scripture”. 

Canon when used like this, comes from the root word “reed”. 

 In biblical times, the reed was used as a measuring rod, and came to mean “standard”.  Therefore in order for a book to be included in the “canon of scripture” it had to meet several criteria.

There were different ones used for the Old and New Testaments and over the next two postings we will look at each of these.  First, the Old Testament.

For a writing to be considered for inclusion in the Old Testament Canon of Scriptures the following questions were asked about that writing:
  1. Was it written by a prophet of God?  If it was written by a spokesperson of God then it was the Word of God.
  2. Was the writer confirmed by the acts of God?  Frequently miracles separated the false prophets from the real ones.
  3. Did the message tell the truth about God?  God cannot contradict himself, nor can he utter that which is false.  Therefore, did a particular writing agree with other, already established writings?
  4. Does it come with the power of God?  The early church fathers who established the canon of scriptures believed that the Word of God was “living and active” and consequently ought to have transformative powers in the lives of those who encountered it.
  5. Was it accepted by the people of God?  Did those who knew the prophet, accept that the book had been penned by him and did the message convey what his life had conveyed?

In the next posting we will look at the standards used to include or exclude books from the New Testament.  For now let’s examine some more of the book of Mark.

Notice Mark 2:1-12

1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Whose faith did Jesus respond to in the healing of the paralytic man? (Mark 2:5)
  2. What did Jesus say to the paralytic man? (Mark 2:5)
  3. Why did Jesus’ statement to the paralytic man upset the teachers of the law? (Mark 2:6)
  4. What did healing the paralytic man prove? (Mark 2:10)
  5. If only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:6) but Jesus also has the power to forgive sins (Mark 2:10) what do these verses tell us about Jesus?

Remember to post any questions you have and we will start a discussion.

Seven ‘Sevens’

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Let’s look at another amazing prophecy from the book of Daniel. 

In Daniel 9:24-27 we read…24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. 25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

I want to focus our attention on a single aspect of this multiple part prophecy. 

In verse 25 we read that, “From the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One…” would be a series of seven “‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’”.  These “sevens” are seven year periods.  Therefore if we do the math Daniel is saying that sometime in the future a decree to rebuild Jerusalem will be made and then 483 years later (seven sevens and sixty-two sevens = 49 years + 434 years) the Anointed One will come.

Here’s where it gets amazing!  Jerusalem was indeed destroyed and on the 1st day of the Jewish month of Nisan 444 B.C. Artaxerxes King of Persia issued a decree that the city of Jerusalem should be rebuilt. 

Now the math…

The Prophecy said that it would be 483 years from this edict until the Anointed One came.

Since we are not using the Jewish calendar but the Gregorian one, we have to convert the 483 years based on the Jewish calendar into solar years which the Gregorian calendar uses.  360 days divided by 365.25 gives us a conversion factor of 0.9856.  If we multiply the 483 years of Daniels prophecy (which used the Jewish calendar) by this conversion factor we get 476 solar or Gregorian years which is what our calendar uses.

476 solar years from 444 B.C brings us up to A.D. 33.  If we look at the exact date of 1 Nisan and go from there factoring in the conversion from Jewish to Gregorian we come to 10 Nisan which is March 30, 33 A.D.

That may not seem like much to you but do you know what that day was? 

March 30, 33 A.D. was a Sunday and it was the exact day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt.  Today we call that day “Palm” Sunday because the people waved palm branches and laid them before Jesus indicating that He was their king as he entered Jerusalem.

Let me help you put all of this into perspective. 

Daniel prophesied about an edict to rebuild Jerusalem 160 years before that edict was made and that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem.  That prophecy was 636 years before Christ entered Jerusalem and Daniel prophesied the EXACT DAY!

What an amazing book the Bible is!

More scripture later!

Prophecies Fulfilled

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Oops, I forget to get into the fulfilled prophecies that support the Bible as a truly unique book.  There are so many of them in so many different areas perhaps it would be good if we limited the course of our investigations a little.  Let’s just look at the prophecies that are given concerning the possibility that Jesus was and is the Messiah.

Let’s take an objective look at just a few of the prophecies concerning the Messiah and see if we find the fulfillment in the life of Jesus.  In order to make it a little more difficult… that someone might try to live in such a way as to only seem to fulfill them, let’s look at eight prophecies that would be beyond the ability of a person to arrange their life so as to seem to fulfill them.

Here are eight prophecies about the Messiah that would be beyond the ability of a person to control them for obvious reasons.

1. Place of birth                     (Micah 5:2)                                       

2. Time of Birth                     (Daniel 9:25, Genesis 49:10)          

3. Manner of Birth                (Isaiah 7:14)                                     

4. Betrayal

5. Manner of Death               (Psalm 22:16)

6. People’s Reactions

7. Piercing

8. Burial

In Jesus every one of these was fulfilled exactly!  You might say, “but that’s only eight things.”  Those aren’t all of them.  In the life of Jesus there are

over 300 fulfilled Old Testament Prophecies!

But just considering those eight and all the variables that might occur within those eight, Professor Peter Stoner in His book, “Science Speaks” writes…

“We find the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies in 1 in 1017  (that’s 17 zeros after the one).  In order to help us understand this staggering probability if we took 1 in 1017 silver dollars and put them on the face of the state of Texas they would cover all of the state two feet deep.  Now mark one of those silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state.  Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one.  What chance would he have of getting the right one?  Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.”

Imagine what the odds would have been if we considered all 300 fulfilled prophecies and remember these are only the prophecies concerning the Messiah.  The Bible has hundreds and hundreds of other fulfilled prophecies to its credit.

It is truly a divinely inspired book!

Let’s look at a little more if it.

In Mark 1:35-45 we read….

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. 40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. 43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Answer these questions:

  1. What time of day did Jesus pray? (Mark 1:35)
  2. When the man with leprosy asked is Jesus was willing to heal him, what did Jesus say?  (Mark 1:41)
  3. What did the man with leprosy do after Jesus healed him? (Mark 1:45)

Remember to post your comments and questions.

The Uniqueness of the Bible

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Let’s continue with looking at another way that the Bible is unique.  The Bible is unique in its survival in comparison with other ancient books. 

 As you are probably aware when the Bible was first written down the material that it was written on was perishable.  The printing press would not be invented for hundreds of years so during the time between the actual events described in the Bible, the recording of those events in written form, and the invention of the printing press the Bible was hand copied over and over. 

The amazing thing about the Bible is that in all those years of hand writing the accurateness and correctness of the copies did not diminish in the least!

The Bible has ten times more manuscript evidence than any other ten ancient documents combined!  John Warwick Montgomery said, “ to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.” 

Bernard Ramm, commenting on the accuracy of the New Testament said, “Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved.  They kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph.  They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity – scribes, lawyers, massoretes.  Who ever counted the letters and syllables and words of Plato or Aristotle? Cicero or Seneca?”

That exactness in its preservation led to another category in which the Bible far outshines any other writing.  It’s circulation.  It is rare for a book to sell a million copies ever.  It is rarer still to find one that has sold ten million copies.  The Bible has sold billions of copies!  That’s right billions!

In 1998 alone the United Bible Societies reported that their member organizations distributed 20.8 million complete Bibles and another 20.1 million New Testaments.  When portions of scripture and selections are also included, the total distribution that year exceeded 585 million copies in a single year and that only includes members in their society!

No other book has ever even come close to the Bible’s circulation!  It is truly a remarkably unique book!

Let’s consider a little more if it.

Mark 1:21-34

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. 29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. 32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

Answer these questions:

  1. Why were the people amazed at Jesus’ teaching? (Mark1:22)
  2. What did the evil spirit know about Jesus? (Mark1:24)
  3. What did Simon’s mother-in-law do after Jesus healed her? (Mark1:31)
  4. Who did the people bring to Jesus to be healed? (Mark1:32)

Remember to post your questions.