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."