Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Reasons That The Bible Is True

February 28, 2017
by Mike Sares

Old Testament:  
The question of the reliability of the Old Testament is a good place to begin.  While we do not currently have any external evidence to corroborate the accounts in the book of Genesis, all the customs described in it ring true to what we know about ancient cultures.  Until the recent discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, the oldest complete extant Hebrew manuscript was around A.D. 900.  This made a time gap of 1,300 years (the Hebrew Old Testament was completed around 400 B.C.). …With the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, however, a number of Old Testament manuscripts have been found which scholars date before the time of Christ.(1)
Egyptian records from the time of the Exodus refer to a large group of foreigners who are slaves of Pharaoh and involved in construction projects, who suddenly leave when a new leader emerges.  Archaeology from the 1300 to 1000 B.C. era in Palestine confirms rapid settlements as depicted in the book of Joshua, in addition to the slow steady growth of villages in Israel as depicted in the book of Judges.  In 1993, the oldest known inscription into a Bible character — King David — was found in northern Israel.  Additionally, the writings of the Assyrians and the Babylonians boast about their conquests of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel circa 700 to 586 B.C., verifying those Old Testament accounts.  Ancient Persian documents confirm the names of their rulers as also found in the Bible.  Even minor figures from the rebuilding of Jerusalem are confirmed, like Nehemiah’s opponent Sanballat.(2)
New Testament:   

The veracity of the New Testament is even more stunning when studied.  The extremely short span of time from when the events of the New Testament happened to when they were recorded is astounding.  External documentary evidence for the Gospels and several of the apostle Paul’s letters comes from the writings of the early church fathers.  Polycarp, Ignatius, and Clement (writing from 110 to 96 A. D.) refer to the Philippian epistle, all four Gospels, the book of Acts, and many other New Testament books.  By virtue of these three ancient documents, we can conclude that at least 25 of the 27 books of the New Testament were in circulation by about the year 100.  But they could very likely be dated considerably earlier … the Gospels depict Jesus as repeatedly predicting the fall of Jerusalem because of its rejection of the Messiah (Luke 13:22-35, etc.).  Would the author of the Gospel of Luke, if writing after 70 A.D., not mention this fulfillment of prophesy, especially when the Gospel of Luke itself records Jesus’ life as a fulfillment of various prophecies?(3)
As for the accounts of the life of Jesus, the earliest written was by Mark, traditionally as related to him by the apostle Peter. The short period of time between the actual events described (circa A.D. 27-30) and the time in which Mark wrote (circa A.D. 70-75 at the latest, and probably pre-70) distinguishes the Gospels from most other allegedly parallel processes of oral transmission in antiquity, which generally span several centuries.  Eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry, including hostile ones, could easily have refuted and discredited the Christian claims during this period if they were in any way mistaken. … Additionally, as with all the disciples of the ancient Jewish rabbis, Jesus’ followers may well have privately kept written notes while passing along the tradition orally in public.  There’s no reason why Jesus’ disciples could not have begun such note taking even while he was still alive, since Jesus sent them out on their own on at least two missions to preach the gospel.  After Jesus’ ascension into heaven this practice would have become even more likely.(4)
In defense of the faith,
(1) Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense (San Bernardino, California: Here’s Life Publishers, 1992), p.48
(2) Craig Blomberg, sermon: “Can I Believe the Bible?”  (Denver, Colorado: Scum of the Earth Church, December 9, 2001)
(3) Douglas Groothuis, Jesus in an Age of Controversy, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1996), pp. 42-43
(4) Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987), p. 24-25

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One of the Most Misapplied Old Testament Bible Verses

One of the Most Misapplied Old Testament Bible Verses
By Mike Sares

"... If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  (2Chronicles 7:14
So often I hear this verse used in reference to the U.S.A., quoted by well-meaning Christians who sense our society's moral decline.  Well, perhaps it could apply—I mean, God can do whatever He wants.  Originally, though, the context was for the land of ancient Israel (the preceding verse is about droughts, locusts and plagues).  
For Christians, I think this promise becomes metaphorical.  Christians were never given a piece of real estate by God as the Jews were given Israel.  We are God's people, sure enough; but, what is "our land"?  Could it be the church—that piece of Jesus' Kingdom which we inhabit right now?  If God's people humble themselves, pray, seek God's face, and turn from their wicked ways—then might God heal the drought of love in the church?  Might God destroy the "locusts of laziness" that are robbing us of fruitful labor in ministry?  Might He heal us of the plague of self-centeredness?  It's tempting to point fingers at the society around us and urge it to repent (for, indeed, it needs to), but this verse actually asks us to do the repenting.  In return, God (who has forgiven our sins through the cross of Jesus Christ) will heal the churches we currently call home.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

My Perplexing Relationship with Christmas

by Mike Sares

There’s nothing like sitting by a fireplace on a cold wintry night, sipping hot chocolate, and listening to Christmas music while gazing at a brightly-lit Christmas tree.

I love Christmastime, but the truth is that a lot of what I enjoy has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. That can bother me. Actually, there is far greater reason, theologically, for Easter to be my favorite holiday. After all, the Nativity is the warm-up for the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. But I don’t have those warm fuzzy feelings at Easter, and that bothers me, too. The Gospel writers spend thousands of words retelling the events of the last week of Jesus’ life and shortly thereafter. They spend hundreds of words writing about Jesus birth. It seems that Jesus himself wants me to concentrate more upon his mission than on his being born. He instructed the disciples to take communion by saying, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me,” and, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1Corinthians 11) We are to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes—not his birth in Bethlehem.

The world around us seems to like the baby Jesus better than the grown-up Jesus, however. I can understand that ... after all, the Baby Jesus didn’t overturn the tables of merchants or talk about Hell. Christmas is also about giving and receiving presents, and maybe that’s part of the reason that the world makes such a huge deal about Christmas. And, um ... it’s also probably another reason why I like the Yuletide Season so much. I’ve written nostalgic songs about Christmas; but even if I am singing about all the trappings of the holiday, the lyrics always end up with the hope that springs from the birth of Jesus. 

The hope of Christmas is that a Savior has been born. Verily, verily I say unto you – if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, nobody would be celebrating His birthday over 2000 years later. Nobody. Not even Christians. (Because there wouldn’t be any!)

So, I celebrate this holiday with one eye on the manger and another on the cross. Truly, there are no warm, fuzzy feelings of peace, joy and goodwill at Christmas without the rest of the story.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Healing Prayer

By Fran Blomberg

In 1986 Craig and I had dinner with a Pentecostal pastor. It came out that we couldn’t have children, and his response was immediate. “You need to tell God the desires of your heart! Claim his promises! Show your faith!”
“I am NOT going to tell God what to do!  He knows the desires of my heart, he knows my faith, but I want his will, “I replied.
“Well, I’m going to pray for you,” the pastor shot back.
“Fine, pray for me!”  I responded, rather sarcastically.
The next month I was pregnant.

Here’s the mystery of healing: Both the pastor and I were right.  You can’t manipulate God, and God responds to our prayers.

When we pray for healing at Scum, we rely on certain principles:
God is sovereign—in a nutshell, we cannot guarantee that God will at in any specific way in any specific situation.   Isaiah 55:9 reminds us: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 1 Cor. 2:9 tells us “…no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him.” How limiting it would be if God only did what I imagined possible!
Healing isn’t dependent on our emotions--I sat with a 33 -year-old friend who was racked with grief that she didn’t have 100% confidence that God would heal her of breast cancer. The more she cried the more anxious she got that God would think she was doubting him.  She had been told that you had to present a certain ‘face’ to God, full of confidence and boldness.  But God knows our fears, thoughts, desires, and doubts already!  The father of a sick child cried, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus healed the child.
Healing doesn’t even depend on our faith. Half of the miracles Jesus performed in his life were on people who expressed faith, such as the woman cured of 18 years of bleeding, or blind Bartimeaus. The other half seemed to generate faith in either the person who received the miracle or people who saw it happen, like the crowd that saw a legion of demons enter a herd of pigs, or the disabled man who sat complaining that no one would put him into the supposed healing pool. 

 So healing is a crap shoot, there’s nothing I can do to win God’s favor?  Yes, and no.

            Obedience and humility position us to hear God and discern his will. If I want food, I go to the fridge, not the closet.  If I want to hear a band, I go to a music venue, not the library. We put ourselves in the “place” to speak with God, hear from him, and understand his purposes.  We pray, we use Scriptures, we seek support from other believers. 
          We acknowledge God works in many ways. 
Some miracles are outright.  “Get up and walk,” Jesus told the paralytic.
Some are gradual. A broken bone mends.  Fewer things trigger a PTSD response. 
Some miracles use human intervention as well as divine intervention, perhaps a particularly meaningful sermon, therapist, or doctor.
Some require our cooperation and follow through.  The person immediately healed of a craving for drugs still needs the discipline to not use again.
          God won’t override my actual will. If lifestyle choices are furthering the problem, God will not override what I actually do to “rescue” me from my own desires.  If I struggle with internet porn, I need to be accountable, tighten the filters, and do my part. 
          Sin can stand between us and healing.  James 5:16 urges us: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” The first healing is often of our pride and shame.

Sometimes the miracle is the change in attitude we experience; the ability to persevere despite the affliction. Or the miracle could be that profound change in desire that then allows the addiction to be put aside. When we pray for healing at Scum, it’s because we know God is able.  We have seen miracles.  We pray for many more.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I Don't Need Celebrate Recovery

I hear it a lot. From both ends of the spectrum.

“I’m fine, I’m not an addict.”  (Denial)
“Really, this is a stupid little problem, I should just get over it.” (Shame)

CR is a Christian 12-step program that has the advantage of covering the whole gamut between very visible, hard-core addictions and the quieter but no less damaging “hooks, hang-ups, and habits” that keep us from being whole and healthy.  We’re working on food addictions, low self-esteem, people- pleasing, anger, porn, recovery from sexual abuse, and substance abuse issues. We’re open for folks who can’t even name what is ‘wrong,’ but just sense that life isn’t all it’s meant to be.

Our meeting starts with worship to settle our minds and relax from the stress of the day.  We alternate between a story from someone who’s a bit down the road in recovery, or a lesson from the curriculum.  This is Scum, we are very informal, but reciting the principles, steps and serenity prayer together weekly gives us a sense of predictability and commonality.

We break into separate groups for men and women for an hour of “open share.”  Confidentiality is stressed, and we’re not here to fix, advise, or compare stories—we are here to listen.  We catch up on each other’s week and interact with the story or lesson we just heard. We share prayer requests.  No one has to speak, and no one is allowed to monopolize.

We end the evening with healthy snacks and hang-out time.

For those who want to go deeper, we offer step studies in which we work with a sponsor and a step study leader to really probe what it takes to experience release and recovery from our issues.

CR is for everyone who feels “stuck.” That stuck feeling often comes when there is an unresolved issue, a recurrent bad habit, or a lack of support.  Try it out any Monday evening, 7-9 at Scum. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

July Town Hall Meeting

We typically say "the offering helps keep the lights on," but what else? Lindsay Blackstone and Aaron Pott, Council members extraordinaire, explained Scum' budget at the last town hall meeting. Here's quick summary:

Total Monthly Budget: $8,311 (annual $99,734). The fiscal year runs March 1Feb 28.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Creating God in Our Image

"Let us make man in our image, in our likeness;"
so God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created him.
Genesis 1: 26&27

It has been said that ever since God created us in His own image, we have more than reciprocated.  It would be sad if it weren't so humorous.  We are ever prone to make God look, act and feel like a human.