Friday, December 24, 2004

Important Update

For those of you who regularly read this site I would like to first offer my sincere appreciation. Many of you have sent emails with questions to be answered, thoughts for site improvement, general encouragement and even a few who disagree with me. Without these emails I would have little reason to continue. However, it is time for a little break. Right now as you read this there are over 280 million people in this world who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ. Some face discrimination, others are beaten, tortured, imprisoned or even being killed for their faith. Think about that for a moment; 280 million people, that is about the population of the entire United States. For those of you reading this who are Christians, these people are no different than you or me in the sense that they love Jesus with all their heart, mind and soul. The only difference is that we were blessed to live in an environment of freedom and they weren’t. For the past several years I have felt the Lord calling me to a short-term mission trip to support the persecuted church. I will be gone on this trip through the end of the second week of January and therefore will not be able to make additional postings. Due to the sensitive nature of the trip as well as the severe repercussions that could come as a result, I cannot tell you where I am going or what I’ll be doing. Some have asked me about the potential dangers of this trip. Believe me I have prayed about it long and hard. One of the main verses I keep coming back to is Hebrews 13:3 which says “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” I’ve come to the conclusion that if the Apostle Paul, unarguably the greatest missionary of all time, had given up when he was repeatedly beaten, imprisoned, or stoned and left for dead, than odds are that you and I probably wouldn’t have a relationship with Christ today. I feel as though I NEED to go.

With that being said, I’d like to ask a favor. First, to those of you who are followers of Jesus Christ. One of the greatest blessings Christians have is the ability to pray for one another. I humbly ask for your prayers over the next few weeks. I ask for your prayers for health, wisdom, safety and protection while I am gone. I also ask that you pray for the members of the persecuted church. Pray that the Lord would encourage them and give them strength.

For those of you that are not followers of Jesus Christ I’d ask that you pause for a moment to reflect on your current situation. Many of you live in the United States where we have so many freedoms that many of us cannot imagine what it would be like not to have them. Why do you think that you were able to live under this freedom and are not one of the hundreds of thousands of starving children in Africa? Is it luck? Is it chance? Or could it be that you were given an incredible blessing by a Sovereign God who desires to have a personal relationship with you? I would argue it is the latter of the two. Acts 17:26 reads “From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the EXACT places where they should live.”

Again I’d like to thank you for reading my site. Please remember to come back in early to mid January when I will begin posting again. I have several topics already in mind ranging from the Christian perspective of civil disobedience all the way to a series on Mormonism.

If you’d like to learn more information about the persecuted church or what their specific prayer requests are, I would recommend these two organizations. For information from Open Doors CLICK HERE. For information from Voice of the Martyrs CLICK HERE (you don’t have to sign up to use the site but registration is free).

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

What About the Gospel of Thomas?

Ever since 1999 when the movie Stigmata came out, there has been much controversy over a book known as The Gospel of Thomas. In the movie the Catholic church was portrayed as trying to hide this book by labeling it a heresy because if people found out about its existence chaos would break out. In turn, many people I’ve met have automatically assumed this book is legitimate and accept it as such. So what’s the deal? Does the Gospel of Thomas belong in Bible? If no, than why not? Let’s take a look.

I find it ironic that most, if not all of the people I talk to that defend this book have never read it for themselves. I firmly believe that anyone who actually takes the time to read it will most assuredly come to the conclusion that it has absolutely no business being placed in the Bible. In the interest of fairness, I have provided a link for you to check it out for yourself. To read the actual Gospel of Thomas Click Here. The Gospel is only 114 verses long and can be read in about 10 minutes. I’ll go ahead and wait here until you’re done.

While some are reading the text for themselves, I’ll go ahead and give some background information for those who elected not to. The Gospel of Thomas doesn’t read like a real Biblical Gospel. That is, instead of reading in story-like fashion, it is a collection of Jesus’ alleged sayings. They are then presented independently much like the book of Proverbs. The book is very confusing. It has an eastern philosophical sound to it along with heavy Gnostic concepts. If you don’t know what a Gnostic concept is I’d encourage you to stop here and read my last post (What is Gnosticism? posted on December 16, 2004)

The Gospel of Thomas was found in 1945 at a dig known as Nag Hammadi. The text was found in a collection with other known Gnostic documents. The author of the book is unknown and no Scholar I know of thinks Thomas the disciple actually wrote it. It is important to note that because the book doesn’t list any historical events (such as in a narrative) we cannot independently verify its validity. That is, we cannot prove that the sayings are legitimately from Jesus.

Although we only have fragments of the Gospel of Thomas dating to 200 AD, most Scholars think the book was written between 100 and 150 AD. Seems like quite the coincidence that this time frame occurred during the high point of Gnosticism. The document found at Nag Hammadi is the ONLY complete document we have of the book and it was written in Coptic. This is significant for two reasons. First, the original was most likely written in Greek and secondly, the Nag Hammadi document dates to about 350 AD. So, quickly recapping, we have only one complete document, written 200 hundred years after the original was written, in a language other than the original language, and we have no way to independently verify the historical accuracy of Jesus’ sayings. So far this isn’t looking good for those who advocate the legitimacy of the book but let’s continue on to look at what the text actually says.

True to Gnostic belief in “special knowledge”, the Gospel of Thomas takes several stories found in the Bible and twists them to either add or change components within. For example, in Matthew 22:21 Jesus says “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” However, according to the Gospel of Thomas in verse 100 it reads “They showed Jesus a gold coin and said to him, "The Roman emperor's people demand taxes from us." He said to them, "Give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, give God what belongs to God, and give me what is mine.” See how the author of the book completely misses the point Jesus is trying to make, and adds “special knowledge” to extend Jesus’ statement.

The author of the Gospel of Thomas apparently has quite a bit of this special knowledge. In 1st Corinthians 2:9 the Apostle Paul writes “but just as it is written, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him." Now compare this with the Gospel of Thomas verse 17 “Jesus said, "I will give you what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, what has not arisen in the human heart." These two passages seem much too similar to be a mere coincidence. So who actually said it? The Apostle Paul, from which we have much evidence, or Jesus as quoted from the Gospel of Thomas from which we have virtually no evidence?

The following is a compilation of just a few of my favorite quotes from the Gospel of Thomas. I have cited their verse references for you to check it out for yourself. Some of these are amusing and others are just downright confusing. Regardless of which, it is important to remember that Jesus always taught in parables, and never in soundbites.

7 Jesus said, "Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human."

14 Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits…

105 Jesus said, "Whoever knows the father and the mother will be called the child of a whore."

112 Jesus said, "Damn the flesh that depends on the soul. Damn the soul that depends on the flesh."

86 Jesus said, "[Foxes have] their dens and birds have their nests, but human beings have no place to lay down and rest."

And my personal favorite…….

114 Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."

As we have seen the Gospel of Thomas is a very different book from any book found in the Bible. As addressed in previous posts the books of the Bible were very carefully put together after passing stringent criteria. The Gospel of Thomas meets none of those criteria. In an effort to grab power, Gnostics put their own spin on Jesus words and recorded them in this text. As stated before, we have only one complete document dating from 200 years after the original was written and it is in a foreign language. As if that weren’t bad enough, we have no way to verify its claims. In conclusion I hope you can clearly see that one can argue that either the New Testament or the Gospel of Thomas or neither of the two accurately depicts the person of Jesus, but one cannot argue that both the New Testament AND the Gospel of Thomas together accurately portray him

Thursday, December 16, 2004

What is Gnosticism?

Gnosticism is a heretical (a teaching contrary to Biblical doctrine) belief system that has been around for quite some time and is still causing problems today. We are surrounded by Gnostic teachings and beliefs on a regular basis (i.e. The Gospel of Thomas) so I think it is important to take a quick look at what Gnosticism is and where you will see it today.

Gnosticism, which comes from the Greek word gnosis, (which means “knowledge,”) became very popular during the second century AD. Gnosticism wasn’t always known by this name. It was originally known as the “Colossian Heresy.” In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians with the sole intent to combat the influence Gnosticism was having on Christians.

At first glance, one could say that Gnosticism appears to be where oriental mysticism meets Greek philosophy. However a more in depth look reveals that instead of being a set of beliefs, Gnosticism tends to be more of a framework for how one view’s the world. Gnosticism in its most basic form attempts to answer two basic questions: “How can evil be explained for God is supreme?” and “What is the relationship between God and matter?” Gnostics believe that they have a special secret knowledge that is hidden from most believers. They believe that the spirit is good, but all flesh, as well as the entire physical world, is evil. They believe that a mutual dualism exists between God and evil. Gnostics are dualists. A dualist is someone who believes that both God and the material world exist, but yet God doesn’t ever intervene or interact with the natural world.

In regards to Jesus Christ, Gnostics deny Christ as both God and Savior. Naturally this indicates that they deny the atonement. They believe Christ only appeared to be a human but yet he wasn’t. This view has some serious ramifications. First and foremost, if they don’t believe in Christ as their savior, how can they get to heaven? Gnostics believe that knowledge of one’s true self and of the character of the universe is the way to salvation. They believe that salvation is achieved when at death the person passes through barriers and is reintegrated with God. Being reintegrated with God tends to have a pantheistic flavor to it. (Pantheism is a belief that God is everything). This utter rejection of Christ will lead to eternal separation from God. (See John 14:6)

Gnosticism is still common today. It is big with new agers as well as those in mind science cults, such as Christian Science. (For example, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, writes “Jesus is the human man and Christ is the divine idea. Jesus is not the Christ but the highest human corporeal concept.”) Can you see the elements of Gnosticism we discussed above as being present in Mary Baker Eddy’s statement?

Some people have even formed a Gnostic Church. I don’t know much about this church other than on one hand they use church saints, the church calendar, and the Bible, yet on the other hand they use Gnostic Scriptures (i.e. the Gospel of Thomas), Catechisms, and readings. You can check out the Gnostic Church’s website at

In my next posting, I will be dealing with perhaps the most popular Gnostic doctrine out right now, The Gospel of Thomas.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Response to Jon Meacham's Newsweek Article (Part 2 of 2)

Okay, let's have a quick recap then get right into it. So far we've determined that Jon Meacham's article lacks any objectivity and makes several assertions without offering any support for them. The next issue I would like to address is Meacham’s selection of expert Scholars. Meacham knew that he would have to use experts to verify his point. However, instead of selecting from a wide range of Scholars, he conveniently stacks the deck with the most liberal Scholars around. Let’s take a closer look at his selections.

Meacham first quotes Robert Miller, a member of the Jesus Seminar and a professor of religion at Juniata College located in whoknowswhere. Meacham states “The Jesus Seminar, a group of Scholars devoted to recovering the Jesus of history, is a battalion in this long-running culture war.” Now if you know anything about the Jesus Seminar, this quote alone would prove how inaccurate the report is. These self-appointed scholars are virtually a laughing stock among Scholars of textual criticism. I’ll save an analysis of them for another time but basically they went through everything Jesus said in the Bible and voted as to whether or not they thought he really did say it by throwing colored beads onto a table. Pretty advanced stuff eh? These guys are an embarrassment to a truly intellectual investigation of historical Christianity.

Meacham then quotes Raymond E. Brown. Now opinions of Brown vary depending on whom you ask. But basically he is a deceased Catholic Priest who caused quite a ruckus when he openly began advocating that “Scripture very well may contain errors in areas not essential to salvation.” Of course there are some logical problems with this which he couldn’t answer such as: “How can it have errors in non-essential areas but not essential ones?” and “How would you be able to tell?” Without meaning to disrespect Brown, it is fair to say that he is looking at the issue through biased lenses.

Meacham then quotes Elaine Pagels. Pagels has written several books promoting texts that have long been deemed heretical by mainstream Christianity (i.e. The Gospel of Thomas). Pagels herself stated “I’m advocating, on some level, the inclusion of [religious texts] that were considered blasphemous. I suggest that there are ways of embracing a far wider spectrum of religious diversity within Christianity and quite beyond Christianity.” Inclusion of texts that are considered blasphemous? Oh here is a Scholar who I'm sure would be able to offer us a neutral opinion. Unbelieveable.

The final Scholar that Meacham quotes is the Reverend H.B. London. London is a Vice President at Focus on the Family. London is the lone conservative among these liberal wolves. Instead of allowing him to provide an opposing view, Meacham decides to twist London’s words around to make conservative Christians look foolish. He quotes London as saying “…our faith is somewhat childlike.” Now I wasn’t there for the interview, but I have a feeling London was alluding to the fact that just as a child genuinely trusts and loves their parents, so too must we trust and love God’s word. However, that is not how the quote comes across in Meacham’s passage. Instead we are made too look like foolish children believing in something as obviously false as Santa Clause.

I hope you can see that of the four Scholars interviewed, two of them are to the very far left of the spectrum, one of them is just to the left of the middle, and the lone right-wing is made to look like a fool. Folks, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, anyone can make the Bible say anything they want if they take it out of context. This is exactly what Meacham has done here; he has intentionally selected Scholars that will agree with his views without adequately representing any opposing viewpoints.

The last part of the article I want to address is an issue that has been circulating for quite some time. Hopefully this is the last time it will need to be addressed. This issue is in regards to Isaiah 7:14. This verse states “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” The issue is whether or not the prophet Isaiah is actually stating that the Messiah will be born of a virgin. As is his style, Meacham decides to quote Ray Brown as truth and offers no opposing viewpoint. Brown is part of a very small group of people that argue the word “virgin” is a mistranslation of the original Hebrew. He believes the word is better translated as “young girl” which would effectively make the prophecy meaningless.

Okay, time for a quick Hebrew lesson. The Hebrew word used for virgin is “almah” The word almah is translated in the Septuagint (the Greek version of what we know as the Old Testament. This document was very popular and well known in Jesus’ day) as “virgin.” Wouldn’t it seem logical that if the word was translated wrong, someone, maybe even Jesus or Mary, would see to it that it was corrected? Also considering how old the document is, isn’t it reasonable to assume they translated it correctly? Secondly, many other places in Scripture that use the word almah clearly imply the woman is a virgin. The word never once refers to a married woman, a child, or a mature woman. It is absolutely reasonable to translate this word as “virgin.” Lastly, if the virgin birth wasn’t true, wouldn’t it seem logical that Jesus’ half brothers, James and Jude, would have either used their position of influence to correct the error, or refuted it in the books of the Bible they wrote? After all, they were with him long before his public ministry began; they would know better than anyone. Yet, oddly enough, they did nothing of the sort. As I’ve previously stated, this controversy has been around for a while but there is absolutely no truth to the claim.

I’d like to thank you for staying with me through this response to Meacham's article. I know it has been lengthy but I hope you learned a thing or two. This article is just one more example of someone who absolutely refuses believe the Bible and will develop any kind of argument to oppose it regardless of its accuracy. Just because we don’t know how something could have happened doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. A miracle, by its definition, is rare and without explanation. Doesn’t it seem logical that not being able to explain the virgin birth is consistent with this? 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Notice that it doesn’t refer to just the parts we understand. I’ve looked at the evidence from both sides. I believe that if God could create the universe, a virgin birth shouldn’t be too tough. After thoroughly comparing this article to the Biblical account, I think it takes more faith to believe the article than in the real story.

If you’d like more information as to the historical evidence of the Bible, life of Jesus or His resurrection, I suggest you buy “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. This is an excellent entry level book written in a clear, understandable way.

Friday, December 10, 2004

A Response to Jon Meacham's Newsweek Article (Part 1 of 2)

It doesn’t happen very often so when it does take note. I am officially speechless. I just finished reading Jon Meacham’s cover story for the December 13th issue of Newsweek magazine entitled Religion: The Birth of Jesus. Now I’m no stranger to the arguments proposed by the secular media in their attempts to discount those that believe in the story of Jesus’ birth as essentially nothing more than a bunch of un-educated backwards fools. However, in an apparently desperate attempt to sell magazines, Newsweek has hit an all time low. It appears as if the General Editor of the magazine is gone for the holidays because even a 5th grader should be able to see some of the gross problems and biased views portrayed. I present the link to the article here for two reasons. First, for those in other countries who may not be familiar with or have access to Newsweek and, second, in the interest of fairness, I will do what Meacham didn’t do; that is provide access to BOTH sides of the story. If you’d like to check out the article you can Click HERE. Beware for it is long (about 7 pages), poorly written, inaccurate, biased and overall just plain garbage.

Due to the length of this article, there is no way I could comment on every inaccurate argument Meacham makes (there are just way to many of them). I will however do my best to focus on the 4 MAJOR issues as I see them. Having studied the science of textual criticism (of which Meacham is doing in this article) at the Master’s level, I feel at least somewhat qualified to critique it. Due to length I will address the first two issues in this post, and the remaining two in my follow-up post. These posts will be lengthy but I think the material is important and hope you’ll stick with me all the way through.

I’d like to start my critique of this article by focusing on the lack of objective guidelines utilized by Meacham. Last I heard, journalism was supposed to be a reporting of the facts in a neutral fashion. Meacham has tossed those rules aside. Starting with the premise that the Biblical story is too preposterous to believe, he goes out of his way to attempt to disprove it. In other words, he writes his article under the pretext that it never happened. Where is the neutrality in that? If you want to present both sides of the story than by all means go for it. But to only present one side and present it as truth is intellectually dishonest and unprofessional. What’s even more interesting is that he starts off his article as if the topic is as hotly contested as the Bush/Kerry campaigns. Yet just a few paragraphs into it he writes that Newsweek’s own poll “… found 79% of Americans believe in the virgin birth and 67% believe the entire Christmas story is accurate.” 79% huh? Sure sounds like a hotly contested topic to me.

I found it interesting that Meacham never directly cites a verse reference. Whenever he quotes a passage from the Bible, he never says where that verse can be found. Instead, he speaks in generalities such as “…according to the book of Matthew it says…” I want to know WHERE it says this. This way I can actually check it out for myself and make sure your statement and interpretation are correct. Scholars adhere to this form of citation (ever written a research paper and had to cite your sources?) Why couldn’t Meacham? Perhaps it is because he knowingly takes several verses completely out of context? Regardless of his reason, it is poor form and unacceptable from a professional journalist.

My first problem is that Meacham makes absolutely no attempts to hide his bias towards the subject. Here is a very small sample of a few of his comments:

modern grounded people make leaps of faith…” [to accept the original story]

“…they [the Gospel stories] are not necessarily to be taken as accurate in the sense we might take an Associated Press wire report…” Oh yeah, because those can never be wrong. Remember the whole Dan Rather scandal?

“There is, of course, no way to know whether Luke’s story of the heavenly host announcing Jesus’ arrival to the shepherds really happened; one has to believe in angels, and explain away the fact that the Gospels fail to note any communal or individual recollection of this spectacular birth…”

This last one is my favorite becasuse he completely discounts Luke 1:3-4 where Luke, the author, states “it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Now remember, Luke wasn’t just some nomad wondering around. He was a physician and a historian. He was highly educated. Meacham essentially is saying “even though the person who recorded the story was pretty smart and carefully investigated each and every claim, because I don’t want to believe it, I will simply discredit him and say there was no way to know.” If we follow Meacham’s logic, then I guess every historical event prior to the invention of television must not have really happened since we probably can’t trust the person who recorded it for us. We should also release every prisoner ever convicted from a report filed by a police officer. Everyday the police interview eyewitnesses to crimes and then record the events in a report. According to Meacham's logic, there really is no way we can know if these events recorded by officers really happened or not. Can you see the absurdity in Meacham’s reasoning?

My second issue is that Meacham makes several assertions in his article. This is fine except for one small problem, he conveniently forgets to offer even a smidgen of proof for his claim. For example:

“If we dissect the stories with care we can see that the Nativity saga is neither fully fanciful nor fully factual but a layered narrative of early tradition and enduring theology…” – He not only doesn’t explain what he means by his terms used (i.e. what part isn’t factual, what parts are tradition, etc.) but, he just leaves it as is and moves on to the next topic.

they [the Gospel writers] wanted to tell the story of Jesus’ birth but apparently had very little to work with” – What is this claim based on? Personal experience? He wasn’t there. 2 Peter 1:16 states “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Apparently Peter, who was indeed an eyewitness to Christ’s ministry and most assuredly had ample opportunity to talk with Mary about the details surrounding Christ’s birth, feels confident enough in explaining the truth in the story.

In regards to the Magi searching out Jesus, he argues “there is no historical evidence of such a visit”. What is it he’s looking for exactly? They didn’t have blog journals back then. Those in Jerusalem couldn’t just turn on their satellite dish powered plasma TV’s and watch CNN’s report. Using his logic, since there is technically no historical evidence I went into the backyard and played with my dog today, I guess it didn’t happen.

And finally, perhaps my favorite quote: “neither Mary nor Joseph appears to have been a direct source” How in the world could you he possibly know this. If you had to choose between dozens of eyewitnesses to an event, and one person living 2000 years after the fact, who do you think would know better? During Jesus’ execution he entrusted John with caring for Mary. It seems reasonable that at the very least, Mary could easily have refuted the virgin birth story and cleared the whole issue up if it was false.

To Be Continued...........

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Wasn’t Christmas Originally Celebrated as a Pagan Holiday?

I thought that in the spirit of the season I would address a question that seems to come up every year. That is, did Christmas originate as a Pagan holiday? The surprising answer is that although it coincided with pagan festivals that were occurring at around the same time, Christmas itself did not originate from a pagan holiday. (In fact, the word “Christmas” comes from two other words meaning “Christ” and “Maesse” or “mass” which means “The Mass of the Christ.” It is so named because it is in reference to when the Catholic priest re-offers the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross). In order to more fully understand this, we must take a quick look at history.

There are stories of many cultures with celebrations ushering in the winter season. In the Roman Empire, Saturn (the god of sowing) was worshipped in a celebration called “Saturnalia.” This celebration marked the winter solstice and its date varied every year (but it usually occurred between December 17th and 23rd). Now the exact reasoning varies depending on what research you’ve done. Some sources say the church wanted to get rid of the Pagan worship but was having difficulty. Other sources say the Christians wanted to move their celebration of the Lord’s birth (which was already being celebrated in the springtime) to this time to provide a contrast for the Pagan worship. That is it would provide an alternative for Pagan worship as well as help protect Christians that were being wooed into these celebrations. (Similar to what many missionaries do today). Either way, what is agreed upon is that the Roman church wanted to adopt the holiday, they turned it into a celebration of the Lord’s birth, originally called it the “Feast of the Nativity” and it has been a part of western culture ever since.

Many people claim that the celebration is misleading because nobody knows the exact day Jesus was born. I don’t know about it being misleading, but they are absolutely correct about Jesus’ actual birthday. While some Scholars estimate it could have been in April or October or September, no one knows for sure. And that is okay. It’s no different than throwing a belated birthday party for someone whom was out of town. It’s the meaning of the celebration that provides its value, not its accuracy on a calendar. (Considering that our calendar is off by 4 years anyway [i.e. Jesus was actually born in 4 BC] it shouldn’t really matter).

In regards to whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas I really don’t want to go into because I don’t see it as being an issue important enough to possibly upset someone. Different people have different opinions on the issue and that’s fine. I will say this though; it is the worshipping of Jesus that makes the day holy and not the potential pagan origins that makes the day evil. I see nothing wrong with re-inventing cultural practices with a spiritual meaning; after all God did it. I bet you didn’t know that long before God instituted circumcision as a ritual among the Jews it was being practiced by the Egyptians. To the Egyptians it was a cultural practice. When God gave it to the Jews he gave it to them with spiritual implications. In addition to that, God gave the Jews many different festivals and celebrations throughout the year as opportunities to worship and remember what God did for them.

Whether or not a Christian should celebrate Christmas is a personal choice. For reasons mentioned above, I personally have no problems celebrating Christmas as I focus on the birth of my Savior and not anything else anyone associates with it. If you don’t believe in celebrating Christmas that is definitely your choice, however I have found a well written article that may impact your decision. Click HERE to read it.

Monday, December 06, 2004

A Profound Insight

Once again I know this isn’t my usual type of posting, but this topic has really been on my heart lately and I wanted to share it with you.

A while back Billy Graham's daughter, Anne Graham, was interviewed on The Early Show. Jane Clayson asked her "...If God is good, how could God let this happen?" This question was in reference to the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Anne gave quite an insightful response. She said:
"I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we're sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life. We put our trust in you. We have our trust in God on our coins, we need to practice it."
I think Anne provides a good insight as to why we as a nation have arrived where we are at. We seem to have come to a place where we don't want God involved in anything we do except in times of crisis. During those times we tend to either turn back toward God, or curse Him for allowing the tragedy to happen. It seems like a double standard to me.

I remember a few weeks after the Columbine High School shootings of 1999 there was a letter written to the editor of the local paper. I was so struck by its simple truth that I cut it out and kept it. This is what it said:

Dear God,
Why didn’t you protect the little children at Columbine High School?
Concerned Student

God’s Reply:
Dear Concerned Student,
I’m sorry but I am no longer allowed in schools.

For some reason, people seem to think that because God didn’t intervene than he either doesn’t exist, he wasn’t able to intervene, or he doesn’t love us enough to intervene. All three of these statements have responses that are worthy of their own post, and perhaps someday I will address them individually when time allows (or someone requests it). However, they are false conclusions nonetheless. God loves you so much that he sent his child to die for you. It’s easy to tell your friend or your spouse that you’d die for them, but how about sacrificing your child for the benefit of someone you never even met? What about sacrificing your child for someone that hated you? Could you do that? My guess is that although we’d like to nobly answer that we would, in reality we never could. But God did. He not only talked the talk, he walked the walk by being nailed to a cross. Just because we don’t understand why he choose to act a certain way, doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist or wasn’t able to act. To come to that conclusion asserts that we have access to the same decision making criteria that God did. We knew all the factors and how each intricate part would play out. In other words, coming to that conclusion asserts that we are equal with God. The events of 9/11 and Columbine were horrible and hate filled. However, the ultimate act of love was previously demonstrated 2000 years ago. Everything else is just an undeserved blessing from God.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A Recent Discovery

I know this is a bit different from my normal types of posting but I just had to share this information with you. When Christians are asked to “prove” that the Bible was written when it claim's it was or to verify that it hasn’t been changed through the years, one usually refers to the Dead Sea Scrolls; up until recently that is. The Dead Sea Scrolls were single largest piece of evidence we had that proved the Bible had not only been written when it said it was, but that it had not been changed over the centuries. The Dead Sea Scrolls are recognized to be from 125 B.C. Well move over Dead Sea Scrolls because you’ve got a new big brother.

In 1979 Dr. Gabriel Barkay discovered two small silver scrolls inside a burial cave in the Old City of Jerusalem. Dr. Barkay documented the evidence but the technology was not available to make it clearly understood what it was he had found. Over the past 25 years, technology has vastly improved. These two small silver scrolls have now been tested by numerous independent, non-biased sources (such as NASA’s JPL and University of Southern California) and found to contain the writing of the book of Numbers 6:24-26 (these verses contain a blessing administered by Priests). In addition, these scrolls are found to date to 2600 years ago which makes them 400 years older than the Dead Sea Scrolls. This discovery helps substantiate the fact that the Pentateuch (which is a Hebrew word that refers to the first five books of the Bible [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy]) existed before King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple. (Even though the finding is from the book of Numbers only, most Scholars accept the Pentateuch as an entire collection). Although I won’t go into detail here, this has important implications for supporting Biblical accuracy when it comes to creating a historical timeline.

Once again, the Bible can be found to be accurate. Findings such as these validate the claim that the Bible has NOT been changed through the centuries as many will claim. Christians can rest assured that if we can trust the Bible with the small details (such as the wording of a prayer) we can know for certain that when it speaks of monumental events, such as the fact Jesus was God and that he was raised from the dead, it speaks with precision accuracy.

On a side note, I do find it interesting that these findings (which were published in Sept. 2004) haven’t received much attention in the news. Perhaps it was due to non-stop coverage of the election. Regardless of which I have included two resources here for you to get more information on this discovery. Please note that these are not obscure Christian journals but are the liberal CNN and NY Times. Click HERE for the shorter CNN article and Click HERE for the much more detailed NY Times article.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Just A Reminder

I thought it would be a good idea to republish my "Introduction" posting every so often so that new visitors would be able to understand this site a bit better.....

I'd like to both welcome you and thank you for visiting my site. I am rather new to blogging so please bear with me as we work through the bugs together.

I decided to create this site because I've realized that many people are in the same situation I used to be, in regards to having a relationship with God. This site is dedicated to people that want to believe, but have something stopping them. It is for those that have questions and don't know where to find the answers. For individuals who want to talk with someone who will make efforts to seriously answer their questions as opposed to giving some superficial flippant remark about "you just gotta have faith." If this sounds familiar than this site is for you. I will do my best to answer these questions in a way that makes sense and isn't overly complicated. I realize some of these topics are huge and just can't be answered in a few paragraphs. I will do my best to provide as thorough of an answer as possible in a brief amount of space. If you feel you need further information, let me know and I will either expand upon, make a "part 2" entry, or recommend another source that does a better job explaining the answer.

As I stated before, this site is for those who are seriously seeking a relationship with God, but have questions. This site is NOT for those who simply want to debate, argue or insult for the fun of it. Therefore until I come up with a better method, I am going to limit comments on blogs posted, and ask that you email me your questions to be answered and your ideas for site improvement. My email address can be found by viewing my "Complete Profile."

Sunday, November 28, 2004

How do we Know Jesus Wasn’t Just A “Nut Ball” Walking Around Claiming to be God’s Son?

I believe one should definitely investigate the claims made by anyone who wants people to give their lives over to him. This question has made many rounds through the ranks of professional psychologists many times. One of the many things they have consistently noted is that Jesus simply doesn’t fit the profile of someone who is mentally disturbed. Think about what symptoms you may know a mentally disturbed person to have and then compare them to who Jesus was. Contrary to mentally disturbed person, Jesus never displayed inappropriate emotions. Jesus was able to hold a rational conversation and he didn’t jump to faulty conclusions. He didn’t dress odd or have a weird diet. He had no difficulty in relating to others. In fact he was able to relate to all different kinds of people from all walks of life. When you compare who Jesus was to someone you know to be mentally disturbed, you’ll see that behaviorally, the two have nothing in common.

A second test you could use to see whether or not Jesus was insane or not, would be to investigate his actual claims. For example, let’s say I told you I was the President of the United States. Now if I was insane, I would surely believe that I was the President. However, you probably wouldn’t take my word at face value. You’d probably look to see if I lived in the White House. You’d ask where my Secret Service agents were, and probably watch the news to see if that was me giving speeches. It probably wouldn’t take you very long to realize I wasn’t the President. It is no different with Jesus. If Jesus simply claimed to be God, as some cult leaders do today, that wouldn’t mean very much. However, Jesus backed up his claims. He performed miracles never before and never since seen. He commanded the forces of nature and He even raised himself from the dead! If this wasn’t enough you could evaluate the things that he taught. People from all religions and all cultures agree that Jesus was one of, if not the single greatest moral teacher to have ever walked the face of the earth. Does it make sense that the greatest moral teacher of all time would be insane? I would argue no

Monday, November 22, 2004

Who Made God?

This is a very good question. It is also a very philosophical one and therefore has a philosophical answer. You may need to re-read this two or three times before it makes sense but I will do my best to make it understandable. The very definition of who God is, is explained as “the uncreated creator of the universe.” Therefore God, by definition, is uncreated. The question of who made Him becomes illogical. It’s kind of like asking “Who is that bachelor married to?” The very thing you are describing is impossible. Another way to look at it is like this: God invented time and an inventor cannot be held captive to his invention. Our concept of time moving forward (the future) and moving backward (the past) is the frame of reference we use to mark certain events. Yet God invented this frame of reference. Because God invented it he can’t be forced to be in it. If God isn’t forced to be in time, than he doesn’t need to have a beginning point because a beginning point would be bound in time. Are you confused yet? If so, try re-reading it slowly.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I Heard The Bible Was Not Even Invented Until 400 Years After Jesus Lived?

Usually when I hear this statement, a few clarifying questions show that the person making the claim is just passing on information they’ve heard and have never really investigated it for themselves. Fortunately, I have studied and researched it and I’ll go ahead and set the record straight.

Let’s start with the Old Testament (OT). The most common argument I’ve heard is that books were added to the Old Testament until 100AD with some books being debated until 200 AD. I'm sorry but this just isn't true. The Talmud (teachings) was being compiled during this time, but those are different than the original Hebrew texts. Although Scholars disagree on an exact date, we can say for certain that the Hebrew Bible was completed by around 250 B.C.. This was the time the Septuagint was created FROM the Hebrew Bible TO a Greek translation. (The Septuagint is the Hebrew Bible [Old Testament] written in Greek for Jews living outside of Israel that didn’t speak Hebrew anymore). By necessity a Hebrew Bible had to be present to have a translation made. The Septuagint was very familiar by people of Jesus' day and quoted by many New Testament (NT) authors.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have provided an amazing insight into the age of the OT manuscripts. Vast manuscripts were found including every single book of the Old Testament (except for Esther). These scrolls when compared with the Masoritic texts (dated at 900 AD) show them to be virtually identical. The Dead Sea texts are dated at 125 BC so we can say for certainty that even if we disregarded all the other evidence we have, Isaiah was in its complete form by 125 BC at the ABSOLUTE LATEST. As if this weren't compelling enough, Josephus, a Jewish Historian (who was not a Christian) wrote of the closing of the canon (by name, identical to our current books) as occurring in 4th century BC. It seems ridiculous for us 2000 years later to disregard a secular Scholar living during the time in question.

Now let’s look at the New Testament. First, the complete canonization (canonization means declaring the books of the Bible to be the Holy Word of God) of the Bible (both OT and NT) occurred in 393 AD at the Synod of Hippo. Up until this point, people had little problem determining authentic Scriptures (the Word of God). However, soon various counterfeit "Scriptures" were going around and combined with the edict of Diocletian (303 AD) which required destruction of Christian sacred books, it became apparently clear we needed an "official canon." It should be important to note that the church "determined" the canon much the same way a jury will "determine" a verdict, or a student "determines" an answer, but the church did not have any authority over the canonical works. That is, a book didn't become Holy just because the church said it was. The church used the following criteria to establish the extent of the NT canon:

1. Was the authorship by an apostle or close friend of an apostle?
2. Was the author a Christian leader from the church's first generation?
3. Is it supported by historical traditions as to the writings' authorship and authority?
4. Was it accepted and used by churches throughout the known world?
5. Is it in consonance (complete agreement) with known NT writings and the church's "rule of faith"?

It should be noted that only criteria # 1 was, by itself, sufficient to merit inclusion in the canon. These criteria were combined with the teachings of the apostles to "test the Scriptures." Also, remember that during this time people were being executed over their faith, therefore they didn't just haphazardly decide to include some books but not others. They knew full well they could be killed over these books so they had extra incentive to make sure they were legitimate. Finally, we know that between 13 and 22 of the NT books (that is all but 5 of them) are for sure Scripture based off of other statements in the Bible. (i.e. 1 Tim 5:18, 2 Pet. 3:16, etc.).

Hopefully now you have a little bit more understanding as to how our Bible came to be. As we have seen, the canonization was just a process to make the Scriptures that were already being widely used, including by Jesus Himself, as the complete and true word of God. I believe that it is now apparent that contrary to popular belief, in the case of the Bible there is no correlation between date of canonization and the truthfulness of the words.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Aren’t all Religions Pretty Much the Same?

America is a very pluralistic society (Pluralistic means that “multiple religions are practiced and each one should be viewed as true and valid). Therefore it’s not uncommon to hear statements like “all religions are the same” and “there is truth in every religion.” Over the next few moments we are going to take a brief look at some of the major religions and see how they compare with each other in the three most basic and fundamental components a religion can have; Existence of God, Salvation (how to get to heaven), and Who was Jesus. After this brief look you will see that the major religions are not only, not the same, but in most cases are complete and total opposites.

The first area we will compare is whether or not a personal God exists. Buddhists deny the existence of a personal God. Hindu’s believe in millions of Gods with the two main ones being Vishnu and Siva. Muslims believe in one God but he is non-interacting with humans and very impersonal. Christians and Jews believe in one God that created humans in his own image, loves them, and longs to have a relationship with them. Here we can see that 4 of the worlds 5 largest religions have very different views about whether God exists, how many of them there are, and how God interacts with the world.

The second area we will compare is that of Salvation; that is, how to get to heaven. Buddhists believe “salvation” is by reaching “Enlightenment” through self-effort. (It should be noted that Buddhists don’t believe in a “heaven” per se, it is more like they are breaking the cycle of reincarnation to achieve a state of peace). The Hindu equivalent of heaven is called “Moksha” (It is a "uniting with the Brahman"). One achieves this state by doing good works through the cycle of reincarnation. Once one has achieved the ways of activity, devotion and knowledge, they break the reincarnation cycle and go to Moksha. Muslims believe they go through life with a good angel on their right shoulder and a bad angel on their left shoulder. Each angel records the good and bad deeds the Muslim has done throughout his lifetime. When the Muslim dies he stands before Allah (God) and hopes his good list outweighs his bad list. Even if the good list is longer, Allah still doesn’t have to let him into paradise (heaven). Allowance into paradise is completely at Allah’s will and there is nothing a Muslim can do to secure salvation. (The only exception is to die as a martyr fighting for Islam [which explains why there are so many suicide bombers]). Christians believe they are sinners separated by God because of their sin. Jesus Christ came to pay that price for our sins by dying on the cross and rising again on the third day. Christians believe that if you believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins you can KNOW FOR SURE that you will be in heaven when you die. There are many reasons for believing this but 1 John 5:11-13 is one of the strongest verses because it uses the word “know.”

Okay are you still with me? We’re almost done. The third area we’re going to look at is who is Jesus Christ? Buddhists believe that Jesus was a good teacher. But for the most part they don’t feel that he did anything particularly special and therefore don’t pay any special attention to him. Hindu’s believe that Jesus was just one of many incarnations or “sons of God” Yet they believe he wasn’t a unique son of God. He was no more divine than you or me and he certainly didn’t pay for anybody’s sins. Muslims recognize Jesus as one of, if not the, greatest of all the prophets. However they don’t believe Jesus was God, he didn’t die on the cross, and he didn’t pay for anyone’s sins. Judaism has a very strong stance on Jesus. The Israeli Supreme Court has issued a decree that says “anyone who believes in Jesus as the Messiah is no longer a Jew.” Jews have many different beliefs on who Jesus was but usually it boils down to he was either a great teacher or an imposter Messiah. Christianity has a different view about Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God (that is he was 100% God and 100% man). Christians believe that Jesus was sinless, he died to take away the sins of the world and offer salvation to anyone that wanted it, and he rose again from the dead on the third day.

Whew! That took a little while but I think it was very important. As you can see, the religions of the world are very, very different. We didn’t look at some obscure teachings hidden deep in the sacred texts of these religions, we looked at the basic fundamental belief structure of these religions. I hope you now understand that all religions can’t all be the same. God either exists or he doesn’t. If he exists he is either personal with his creation or he is not. Reincarnation either exists or it doesn’t. Salvation is either guaranteed or it isn’t. Jesus Christ was either God or he wasn’t. Jesus either died for the sins of the world or he didn’t. These are fundamental questions that can only have one answer. Therefore, when the world’s religions disagree on them, we see they CAN'T all be right. It is impossible. It has nothing to do with being intolerant, it's just simple logic.

I do think there is some truth to the statement “there is some truth in every religion” in the sense that many religions teach us to love one another and embrace morality. However, as we have seen, there are some fundamental differences when it comes to who God is and what is necessary for salvation. After studying the evidence, I do believe that God exists and desires to interact with his creation. I do believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins. You may disagree with my viewpoint, that’s okay, but you can’t argue that all religions are pretty much the same.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Why are there so Many Different Versions of the Bible? Shouldn’t there Just be One? Part 2

The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book in history. In fact it is currently written in 2,200 different languages with over 90% of the world’s people able to read it. A legitimate question naturally arises as to whether or not errors occur during translation. The short answer to this is no, they don’t occur. First, anytime a new translation is started, a diverse team of Scholars comes together to work on it. This not only ensures that one man with his own agenda will not manipulate the word of God in anyway, but that in the rare cases of uncertainty in how to translate something, a wide array knowledgeable experts can arrive at a consensus. Secondly, all translations (whether English or any other language) are made from the original manuscripts. New translations are never translated from old translations. For example, if one were making a new English translation, they would use the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic manuscripts and not an English version like the King James or New American Standard. Thirdly, new translations always use the oldest manuscripts available. Manuscripts that may not have been discovered until recently will usually take priority over manuscripts that have been used for other translations of the Bible. This is done to help ensure that the translation is as accurate as possible.

Bible translations/versions are nothing new. Two hundred and fifty years before Jesus was born there was a translation of (what we know as) the Hebrew Old Testament into a Greek document called the “Septuagint.” This translation was for non-Hebrew speaking Jews living in Alexandria to have the ability to read their holy scriptures. Many New Testament writers were familiar with the Septuagint and even used it themselves. This shows that translations are not “altering the word of God” yet simply making them accessible to more people.

The English language changes so fast and is so complex that it needs different translations. We must remember that these different translations serve different purposes and there are different times when different translations are appropriate. For example, I use three different translations at any given time. I will use the New Living Translation for pleasure reading because to me it reads like a novel. I use the New International Version for devotionals or quite time because it has a good balance of readability and word-for word translation. I use the New American Standard Bible if I need to know exactly what word is used and how it is supposed to be understood. All three of these translations are accurate and all three are used at the appropriate times and in the appropriate ways they were designed.

Although we have barely scratched the surface, I hope that I have shown you that there are legitimate reasons for having the different versions of the Bible. Feel free to email me with questions or topics you’d like to explore.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Why are there so Many Different Versions of the Bible? Shouldn’t there Just be One? Part 1

Oftentimes people think that because there are so many versions, than the Bible must be continually changing and if the Bible is continually changing than we can’t trust it. However, after a close look, we realize just the opposite is true; the more translations we have, the more accurate it becomes. The word “versions” could probably be better (and more accurately) described as “translations” (therefore we will use these terms interchangeably). Even though the different translations are in English, as you’ll see in a moment, they each serve a different purpose.

To begin with, you may ask “why do we need so many English translations?” There are two reasons for this. The first reason is because we in the United States live in a rapidly changing society (possibly faster than at any other time in history). These changes affect our language, history and culture. Therefore, as translations of the Bible that were written during a different time period (like the King James Version written in 1611 AD) become difficult to read and understand from our worldview, new versions must be compiled to ensure we can understand what the authors wanted us to know. The second reason is that as archeological digs continue to produce more and more ancient manuscripts, we need to continually be checking to make sure we have the most accurate translation possible.

In order to understand the purpose of a translation, it is necessary to take a brief look at how the different translations come about. When a new translation is being prepared, it will follow one of two different schools of thought. The first one is called “formal equivalence.” This method focuses on a word-for-word translation from the original manuscripts. It does its best to preserve the original word order and sentence structure from the original manuscripts as much as possible. The second method of translation is called “dynamic equivalence.” This method focuses on thought-for-thought translation. It seeks to convey the original meaning the author was trying to get across while at the same time remaining readable. (To see a chart that shows all the different translations according to word-for-word or thought-for-thought click here). To get a better understanding of this concept, let’s compare the same verse using each of these two methods. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is a very good translation using the word-for-word method. In the NASB, 1 Kings 2:10 reads “Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the City of David.” The New Living Translation (NLT) utilizes the thought-for-thought method of translation. In the NLT 1 Kings 2:10 reads “Then David died and was buried in the City of David.” As you can see the only difference between the two is “slept with his fathers” and “died.” Most of us Americans aren’t familiar with the phrase “slept with his fathers” as meaning someone died (in fact, because our language changes so fast, some people in America today may accidently interpret this to mean something of a sexual nature, even though it is clearly meant for something different). Yet to an ancient Jew that phrase was very well understood. The word-for-word method preserves the original wording while the thought-for-thought method uses a term that makes sense to us. The most important thing is that they both mean the same thing. Regardless of the translation used, we can clearly understand that David died.

You may be asking yourself about whether or not small changes like those discussed above have any bearing on the accuracy of the text. We must remember that anytime you translate something between languages, some things will not carry over. For example, the Spanish language has a future tense while English does not. Many English words have multiple meanings while some French words do not. The very nature of translation requires some small changes to be made. This is why in issues of the Bible, Scholars and many Pastors alike, study Greek and Hebrew so as to be able to look directly at the ancient texts and see exactly what was meant by the author.

Each of these methods has its own pros and cons. In times of general reading for pleasure and understanding the thought-for-thought method is appropriate. However, one should never use a thought-for-thought method to do a study of a particular word meaning or topic. For studies like that, one should use a word-for-word translation.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Is There Life After Death?

This is a very important question to think about because the Bible says that the decisions we make here on earth will last for eternity. The Bible shows us that our body is a sort of “temporary home” for our soul. When we die our physical bodies are useless but our soul will never die. Once we die each and every one of us will stand before Jesus Christ himself. Based on our decision to accept and love him or to reject and despise him while here on earth, will determine what happens next. (Remember there is no "non-choice." A decision not to choose is the same as flatly rejecting him.) Sometimes different cults or philosophies will teach differently, but the hard truth is that there are only two options of where we go when we die; Heaven or Hell. Jesus himself spent a lot of time while on earth describing the differences between the two. The first option is Heaven. Heaven is a beautiful place where those who accepted Jesus as their savior while here on earth will be able to be together for eternity with God. Think about it, this is the place God calls his home; it has got to be awesome! However, God respects the decisions we make while on earth and if we decide we don’t want to have a relationship with him, he respects that too. The place where God allows those who don’t want to be with him is called Hell. Contrary to popular belief, God doesn't just arbitrarily "send" anybody to Hell. Rather out of His love for us He respects the wishes of those who choose to reject him and don't want to be with him. Hell by its very definition means “absence of God.” It is the only place in the universe where God has withdrawn His presence. Because God is not there it is a very ugly place. The Bible describes Hell as a miserable place that no one should ever want to go. The Bible also explains that Hell was not originally meant for humans. It was originally meant for the Devil and his demons but as people chose to reject God it was, the only way God could respect that wish (Remember it's the only place where He isn't present). We must remember that many blatantly evil people have rejected God including Adolph Hitler, Serial Killers, and Satan himself. All of these people will be present in Hell. Imagine spending eternity in a place with all of these people. The Bible clearly states that God desires for no one to go to Hell, however a just and righteous God must punish sin. The solution is to allow Jesus Christ to pay the price for your sins. You still have the opportunity while here on earth to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and ensure that you will spend eternity with him. I'd like to challenge you to look deep within and ask yourself what is stopping you from making this decision? To learn more on how to have a relationship with God, Click Here.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Can you Believe in God & be Faithful to Him, but not Believe in Jesus and Still go to Heaven?

The short answer to this question is; no. Jesus says in John 14:6, referring to Himself, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” But it is important to realize why it has to be this way. You see, the whole reason we are separated from God in the first place is because we are sinners, in other words, we are people who do things we know we shouldn’t do. Because God is perfect and holy, it is impossible for him to be around sinful humans. God saw that this was a problem so he sent his son Jesus who lived a perfect life to die on our behalf. When Jesus died something amazing happened. In God’s eyes, all the sins that you and I have ever committed were transferred to Jesus. It’s kind of like if you are standing before a Traffic Judge and he says you are guilty of several speeding violations, but then turns around and pays for the ticket out of his own pocket. The Judge recognized that in order to be just, these wrongs needed to be corrected, but he also knew you couldn’t pay for them yourself. If we didn’t believe in Jesus, than there would be no payment made for our sins and those sins would keep us away from God. Belief in Jesus is more than just believing that a long time ago this guy named Jesus existed and actually lived (although that is an important part of it). It is also recognizing that we can’t get to Heaven on our own. Only through Jesus’ paying for our sins could we be allowed in.

There is another way we can look at this question in addition to what we discussed before. Imagine you are looking at it from God’s perspective. For this exercise we will have to stretch our imaginations, but if you bear with me you’ll see the point. Let’s pretend that one of your close friends stole a million dollars from you. He was then arrested and sentenced to life in prison. After some bargaining with the lawyers the Judge decides he’ll let your friend out of jail, if you allow your son to be beaten and jailed in his place. Now, you love this friend of yours more than anything so you decide to allow your son to be imprisoned and beaten on his behalf. So your friend is released from prison and your son taken in exchange. When your friend is released you are there waiting to meet him. However instead of walking up to you and greeting you with hug, he walks right past you and gives you a nasty look. For some unknown reason, he never wants to speak to you again. Not a “thank you” or a “why did you do that for me?” Nothing. He refuses to acknowledge the sacrifice you made and simply chooses to believe that it must have just been his lucky day. After such an enormous sacrifice by you, your friend flat out rejects you. How would you feel? Wouldn’t you want some recognition for the sacrifice you made? God feels the same way.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

If God is Everywhere, Why do we Need to go to Church? Can't we Just Pray in our Homes and Ask for Forgiveness There?

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to have a true understanding of what “church” is. In asking if God is everywhere and if we can pray in our homes and ask for forgiveness there, the answer to both would be yes. This is shown by Christians whom are bedridden or otherwise unable to attend church. However, this is not the norm and not how God designed church to be. In fact, in the book of Hebrews God tells us directly to make sure we are involved in a church.

Although the church has many functions, I’d like to focus on just two of them. The first reason one should go to church is for the fellowship with other believers. Let’s face it; it’s tough to live on this planet. With all the problems that face us there are going to be times we will need to depend on other people. Likewise, in good times for us, there will be other people who will need to depend on us. This is the function of the church. To be a place where Christians can come together to help and encourage one another while learning more about God.

The other function of the church is that of holding each other accountable for our lives. You see, when we give our lives to Christ it is real easy to live a “moral life” for a short time. However, there will be times when it isn’t so easy. During these times that it isn’t so easy, we can lean on people in the church to help hold us accountable to making good choices. Think about your own life; let’s say you were tempted to cheat a little on your income tax report. If you knew for a fact that the IRS was going to be asking you the very next day if you cheated or not, would you still do it? Most likely not. It works the same way in the church when we develop friendships with other Christians who can help us to make sure we are making the right choices.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Are Some of the Stories in the Bible Simply Fables (i.e. Jonah and the Whale, the Tower of Babel, Noah’s and the Flood, Adam and Eve)?

The short answer to the question of whether or not any of the stories in the Bible are fables or not is no they are not fables and they actually happened. The next logical question I’m sure you’d ask is “how do we know?” So I will continue and answer that question. Dozens and dozens of books have been written on how we can trust the stories in the Bible as truth, but I will just look at a few of points made.

First, we know that the Bible tells us all of the events are true. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” This means we can trust that all the Bible is true, even the parts we don’t understand.

Secondly we know that the Bible (both the Old and New Testament) is without errors (minus a few very minor copyist errors dealing with large numbers). The Old Testament we have today is the same Old Testament that was used and quoted by Jesus. The New Testament we use today is the same one that was compiled shortly after Jesus' death. We have found more manuscripts for the Bible than any other ancient text. In fact, there are over 24,000 manuscripts (or parts of) of the Bible while the second closest number is 643 manuscripts of Homer’s Iliad. By having this many manuscripts we can compare them and see that the Bible has not been changed over time.

A third factor we can use to trust the Bible is from non-biblical sources. There are many records of ancient Jewish and Roman historians who were NOT Christians, yet wrote about Jesus and his followers. Sociologists (those that study people groups) have noted that almost every major ancient people group has some type of story that is similar to the Bible’s account of Noah’s flood. People who study languages seem to agree that we can trace back all languages to one root language. This would be consistent with the Bible’s account of the Tower of Babel.

A fourth factor we can use is archeological evidence. When archeology became recognized as a reputable method of science less than a hundred years ago, atheists were sure it would prove the Bible was wrong. Actually, just the opposite happened. Thousands of discoveries have proven that events the Bible claim In fact, the Bible has been viewed as being so accurate that I’ve heard reports that people from the National Geographic Society (which is NOT a Christian organization) will sometimes use the Bible to help them in their archeological digs. I would also like to mention that no archeological discovery has ever been able to directly contradict a Biblical account.

We should not be surprised by all of this evidence pointing to the accuracy of the Bible. Our God is wonderful God who would never lead us astray. When we read about stories in the Bible that seem hard to believe, we must remember that they seem hard to believe because they are miracles. The very definition of a miracle requires direct action by God. It shouldn’t be surprising that when God acts, it appears as something way different from our ordinary lives

Monday, October 25, 2004

What are the Differences between the Christian Religions? Shouldn’t there Just be One?

Normally when this question is asked there is some confusion over the term “Christian Religions” because Christianity is by itself a religion. More often than not, the question is asking what are the differences between the Christian denominations (i.e. Baptists, Pentecostals, Orthodox, etc.). Basically what it comes down to is that when Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic church he formed what is known as the Protestant Church. The word Protestant comes from the word Protest because Martin Luther was protesting against the Catholic Church for using other means besides the Bible as words from God. Since that point in the 1500’s there have been many disagreements over minor things such as how much water should one baptize with, how to sing worship, what songs to use, how the church should be governed and so on. These arguments have led to the various denominations found today. Unfortunately a lot of these groups insist that their way is the right way and everyone else is wrong. Even with all of these differences, these denominations still agree on certain fundamental truths such as the Godliness of Jesus, his death and his resurrection and the problem of sin. In trying to figure out which denomination is correct, I always refer back to my Bible to see what it says about the issue.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Why is the "Modern Western God" the Correct One?

Although I’ve had this question asked of me several times, one person seemed to really dig deep into the issue. She went on to ask:

“We seem to discount ‘Gods’ one by one as time goes by. We see the ancient Greek/Roman gods as complete mythology now. What makes people so sure that this is the real thing not just the evolution of old and now discounted or discarded religion?”

I believe this question has three main parts so I will try to address them all. The first part asks why the “modern Western God was the correct one?” This question can be confusing so for my answer I’ll assume that the “Western God” referred to is the same God that the Christian majority in the United States worships. We need to understand that this God does not have his roots in the western world. In fact, it is the very same God that was first worshiped on the exact opposite side of the world; what we now refer to as the Middle East. Knowledge of God spread from the Middle East, to Europe first, then to Asia and Africa, and then finally over 1500 years later, to the United States. You see the Western God is not a Western God at all, but the same God worshiped by people in every country and every continent all over the world.

The second part of the question deals with the “discounting of Ancient Greek/Roman gods.” It is important to note that the Jews had a knowledge of the one true God long before the Greek/Roman gods came into existence. It is also important to note that it was not the appearance of Jesus, (in other words the beginning of the Christian religion), which caused people to automatically discount Greek/Roman gods. During the 6th century BC the advent of materialistic Greek Philosophy first came onto the scene (guys like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates). It was this advent of philosophy that effectively destroyed the faith of the Greek people in their multitude of gods and not the appearance of Jesus as he wouldn’t come for another 600 years.

Thirdly, the reason we can be assured that this is the real thing and not just some “god evolution” is because the Bible shows us that God has been actively engaging with people since the very beginning of time. Evolution by its very definition requires a changing over a period of time. We can see through the Bible that the person of God is unchanging. He is the same as he’s always been and He will always be the same. We can also see that because people have been interacting with him since the beginning, this is not some new religion that people just invented a few decades ago. The principles in the Bible can also be tested and found to be relevant in all cultures through all times. Something else worth noting is that the passing of time, usually wipes away wrong beliefs. Remember when people thought the earth was flat or that the earth was the center of the universe? We can look back through the pages of history and see that not only has Christianity stood the test of time, but that God hasn't changed.

Friday, October 22, 2004

What Bad Things Must you do to go to Hell?

Often times when I talk with people they'll say something along the lines of "I know I'm not perfect but overall I'm a good person so I know God will let me into Heaven when I die."

The Bible has a lot to say on this issue and views things a bit differently. First, we must look at who God is. God by his definition is all that is holy, pure, perfect and righteous. This is important to note. Because he is these things, God cannot be around sin, if he was it would be directly contrary to what his nature is. Sin can be defined as “anything that is contrary to God’s will.” What that means is that anytime we do one thing that is against God’s will, we become tarnished because of it. Some examples of sin could be telling a lie, stealing something, being angry, cussing at someone, looking at inappropriate things, or love of money. While we humans may not think these things are that big of a deal (after all, it’s not like we are Adolph Hitler or anything), God views it differently. In fact, this subject is so important to God he says that if you are guilty of breaking one rule, you are guilty of breaking all of them. Think about that for a minute, guilty of breaking all of them? That is a heavy thought to carry.

Now let’s just assume for arguments sake that overall you are a good person. Maybe you give money to charity, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or never argue with someone over a parking space. The Bible says all have sinned. So let’s just assume that a person only sins 3 times a day (although if they are like me it is probably more like three times an hour). 3 sins a day times 365 days in the year means they sin 1095 times a year. Over the course of the next 40 years they have sinned 43,800 times. All of the sudden it doesn’t look so good. Could you imagine standing before a traffic judge with 43,800 traffic tickets? Would the judge just overlook it? No of course not, we must be held responsible for our actions. That’s what justice is.

So as you can see, all it takes is one sin for us to be removed from God’s presence which is Hell. You can also see that most of us, no matter how good we are, sin quite a bit more than we realize. However that is the bad news, the good news is that through a relationship with Christ, those sins can be forgiven and we can have eternal life with God in Heaven.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

My Story

It seems like a good idea to start by telling you how I came to have a relationship with the Lord.

For all intents and purposes I was born and raised in the Christian church. I wasn’t really exposed to other religions; I was just expected to be a Christian. Growing up I was spoon-fed all of those famous Bible stories that everybody learns, but to me they were only stories. Church on Sunday morning was required with no exceptions made. I had decided to devote my life God probably 40 different times. As a youth every time a motivational preacher spoke at church camp I would re-commit my life to Jesus, but I never truly gave Him a chance. I watched the people I went to church with and saw most of them as phonies: they professed that they loved God, but they gossiped about others and, in my eyes, never did anything that proved to me they had God leading their life. I eventually rebelled against God, the Church, and those closest to me. I moved far away to go to school and to live the life I wanted to live. I was involved in partying and drinking and a lot of other things I thought would bring me happiness. However, while all this was going on I would often sense a voice, which I later realized was God Himself, in the back of my head saying, “Ryan, I’m still here waiting for you.” But I would put him off because I didn’t want to follow; I was having too much fun, or what I thought was fun. Soon I began to realize that the void inside of me I kept trying to fill with alcohol and partying, was not being filled. At the same time those who I later realized were my true friends were starting to invite me to church events, but I turned them down most of the time.

Eventually, through the efforts of my persistent friends I began to go to some of these events. I began to see a different type of lifestyle; a lifestyle of someone who obviously had God in their life. A lifestyle of someone who didn’t have to worry about the same things I did because they had God in their life and they knew He would take care of them. I decided that was what I wanted too. I also wanted to make sure that Christianity was the true religion, I mean; eternity is a long time to be wrong. So I started investigating all the different religions; reading their books and listening to their teachings. What I found was all of them either contradicted themselves, or just didn’t view reality the same way that I did. Being a Christian made so much sense. It explained why I felt the way I felt and did the things that I did. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find a way to disprove it. I finally realized that a relationship with Jesus Christ was necessary for me to go to heaven. I then asked Jesus to come into my life for the 41st time, but for the first time I truly meant it. The Lord had brought me to a place in my life where I truly understood that I was separated from God because I am a sinner; that is, I have done things that I knew were wrong. And as a sinner it is impossible for me to be with a holy and pure God. But God sent Jesus, who lived a perfect life, to die on the cross so that my sins could be forgiven. See, the Bible says that no one comes to God except through Jesus. I then knew that I really wanted him as my personal Savior and best friend. I then confirmed my decision by deciding to become baptized. To me being baptized was a way to show people that I was serious about giving my life to and living only for Jesus Christ. It was a very powerful moment in my life that I’ll never forget.

Because of my decision to follow Christ, I made a commitment that has changed my life. I committed to God that I would obey and follow Him wherever he leads. He answered in a way that I never would have anticipated. God allowed several unexpected and very difficult events to happen in my life that left me wondering where God was. Relationships ended, jobs changed, loved ones died, and I moved. However, I now realize that God had allowed those events to happen, to help solidify my faith in Him. I can now look back and see that He has used every one of those events for his glory. Even though I may not know why things happen, I do know that God loves me more than anything and always has my best interest at the front of his mind.


I'd like to both welcome you and thank you for visiting my site. I am rather new to blogging so please bear with me as we work through the bugs together.

I decided to create this site because I've realized that many people are in the same situation I used to be, in regards to having a relationship with God. This site is dedicated to people that want to believe, but have something stopping them. It is for those that have questions and don't know where to find the answers. For individuals who want to talk with someone who will make efforts to seriously answer their questions as opposed to giving some superficial flippant remark about "you just gotta have faith." If this sounds familiar than this site is for you. I will do my best to answer these questions in a way that makes sense and isn't overly complicated. I realize some of these topics are huge and just can't be answered in a few paragraphs. I will do my best to provide as thorough of an answer as possible in a brief amount of space. If you feel you need further information, let me know and I will either expand upon, make a "part 2" entry, or recommend another source that does a better job explaining the answer.

As I stated before, this site is for those who are seriously seeking a relationship with God, but have questions. This site is NOT for those who simply want to debate, argue or insult for the fun of it. Therefore until I come up with a better method, I am going to limit comments on blogs posted, and ask that you email me your questions to be answered and your ideas for site improvement. My email address can be found by viewing my "Complete Profile."