Archive for March, 2017|Monthly archive page

Is the Bible true?

A friend told a story this week to our church men’s group which underlines once again the truth of the Bible.

William Ramsay, a brilliant British biblical scholar, set out to prove that Luke’s account of events in the Book of Acts was wrong.  He believed it to be full of errors and written in the second century A.D., 100 years afterward.

After years of research in Turkey and Greece, he concluded it was not only accurate, but one of the best cases of historical writing he had seen.  In the process, he said he became a believer in Christ – he had been a skeptic before.

Others, too, have approached the Bible as athiests or skeptics.  For example, Frank Morison, whose real name was Albert Henry Ross, wrote a book called Who Moved The Stone in 1930 as he investigated the reliability of the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.  Starting as a skeptic about the facts, he wound up convinced they were accurate.

As well, archaeologists have uncovered evidence of the accuracy of historical facts about people and places in the Bible from ancient tablets and writings in the Middle East.

People have called into question some facts in the Bible, but they are minor and can be explained on the grounds that the original texts were accurate.  As others have said, the Old and New Testaments have stronger support as accurate texts than other ancient documents.

Why is the Bible so often under attack?

I believe it is because God demands a “Yes” or “No” answer to the question: “Do you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour?”

Skeptics such as Frank Morison were prepared to accept Jesus as an unusually good man. But they could not accept supernatural events such as Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

God is a miracle-working god.  His thoughts are greater than any of our thoughts.  He knows our thoughts even before we think them.  He is everywhere at once.

If you refuse to accept that God is who he says he is, then you must try to destroy the Bible which speaks of God.

It is a battle that will face believers until the end of time.

Yet the Spirit works through the scriptures to change hearts every day around the world.

God’s word is more powerful than those who attack it.

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A light in the darkness

It is easy to feel powerless in the evil world around us.

But one man, one woman, one child can make a difference.

Who would have guessed that a carpenter’s son would turn the world upside down?  But Jesus did.

We can dismiss Jesus because he was God as well as man.  But Jesus lives within every believer today.

Jesus said he was the light of the world.  He used the picture of the light to show its power over darkness.  Things that we cannot see suddenly become visible when a shaft of light penetrates the darkness.

Evil hates light.  It either runs away from it or tries to suppress it.

So Christians who are true to their faith can expect resistance, even oppression.

Our Wednesday morning men’s group has been studying the Book of Acts for several months.  What a story of the power of light, the power of God’s Spirit!

It is a story, too, of commitment to Jesus by his followers.  Commitment in the face of death, ridicule, imprisonment.

They poured out the love of God to others even as they were being persecuted.  They shared the story of Jesus in the midst of turmoil and trouble.

And what an impact they had!  Many thousands were attracted to the light and became children of God.

That story is repeated through the ages – and even today, especially in Africa, Asia and South America where hundreds of millions have given their lives to God in the last 50 years.

Even in North America and Europe, there are pockets of light, blazing in their local areas.  But it has been a long time in the West since there has been a sweeping, nationwide revival.

I believe discouragement and a sketchy knowledge and appreciation of Jesus are among the reasons Christians have largely withdrawn to the four walls of their churches in the West.

It is good to see the lights that are ablaze around us – the loving service that some Christians provide and the individual efforts to share the good news.  As well, there are some prayer movements dedicated to prayer for revival in Western countries.

But shouldn’t we all be crying out to God to move in power in our society as he did 2000 years ago?  Shouldn’t we all become enraptured again with Jesus so we look forward to talking about him with those we know and love?

It’s something that is on my mind now as I examine myself and my very limited spiritual vision.  As Bible-translator J.B. Philips said, my God is too small.  I expect too little  and pray too small.

I remember reading that five people prayed for revival on the Scottish Isle of Lewis for years before revival broke out on the island just after the Second World War.

A few lights can make a difference.

Imagine what many could do.

Falling in love

Sam Storms says the “key to holiness is falling in love . . . with Jesus”.

Storms, author and pastor, suggests that the powerful magnet of sin can only be overcome by loving the Lord more.

His book Pleasures Evermore runs counter to much Christian literature today.  He does not propose a five-step program to control feelings and wrestle ourselves into purity.

It’s a view that appeals to me.  More and more, I am returning to contemplating Jesus – who he is and what he has done, particularly on the cross.

I say “returning” because I am often diverted to other things – particularly, concrete ministries or actions that I hope will please God and others.  There is nothing wrong with these things – just my motivation.

It is interesting that when Peter and Jesus had a conversation after the Lord’s resurrection, Jesus did not spend time going over Peter’s denial of him just before he was crucified.  Instead, he asked his disciple: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:15-19)

The Great Commandment says that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. (Matthew 22:37)

So, the question I ask myself is: Do I truly love Jesus?

Fundamentally, I do.  I cannot imagine living without Jesus in my life.

But I have to admit that Jesus does not occupy my thoughts and my passions the way he did when I first put my faith in him.

My faith is more mature than it was more than 57 years ago when I became a believer.  I know much more about God than I did then.  I read the Bible and pray regularly.

Some might say that this is normal for Christians.  But is it right?

It strikes me that the early Christians had a much different faith than mine.  They couldn’t stop talking about Jesus and the crucifixion.  They were enamoured of Christ.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2 that he resolved “to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and him crucified”.  This fascination with Jesus and the crucifixion was what drove Paul’s ministry.

Storms says that we will only overcome temptation if we are more enamoured with Jesus than we are with the illicit things that promise instant pleasure.

He recommends such activities as fasting; reading and meditating upon scripture passages that speak about God; contemplating God’s works in nature; and feasting on the Lord through worship.

These mean I must consciously invest my time and thought in the Lord.  The payoff is hunger for more of God and joy in his presence.

As I look at the early Christians, I see people who almost spontaneously spread the good news of Jesus because they were so excited about him.

That is the road I want to walk.

Invisible – but present

Many Christians – myself included – would love to see Jesus right now among us.

One reason is that, consciously or unconsciously, we believe Jesus’ physical presence would resolve all our faith questions.  It would strengthen our faith.

Or would it?

Jesus lived on earth in human form for 33 years.  But few people believed he was the Messiah while he was here.

The fact is that God looks for something in me that is beyond concrete evidence.  He is looking for faith.

I think there is a lot of Jesus’ disciple Thomas in me.

As you recall, Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he had put his hands on the mark of the nails on his body and his hand into the hole where the Roman spear had pierced it (John 20:25).

When Jesus appeared to Thomas, he told him to look at his nail-pierced hands and touch the hole in his side.  And the disciple declared: “My Lord and my God.”

Then, Jesus made his great statement: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I believe in Jesus.  I believe he died to save me from the just penalty of my sins.  I believe he rose from the dead.  I believe I will be with him forever.

My faith in him and what he has done is unshakeable.

But I am also filled with a lot of Thomas in everyday life.

Part of the reason is that like many Western Christians, I am infected by our modern scientific and technological mindset.  That philosophy argues that if you can’t see it and touch it, it must not be real.

But I know from God’s word that that view is wrong.

The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that there is an unseen reality much more powerful than what we see on earth.  There is a spiritual war going on that we don’t see.

As a child of God, I can do nothing on my own in this cosmic struggle.  I must rely totally on God.  I must rely on the Holy Spirit within me to show me what to do in this unseen struggle.

Jesus promised me and all his followers that he would be with us always.  He is not visible to my human eyes – but he is present.

I believe that with all my heart.

And I am thankful that Jesus forgave Thomas for his doubts.

Thomas later took the gospel to India.

Like Thomas, Jesus is asking me to step out in faith – and my faith will grow.