HealingRooms

7 Minute Seminary – Easter Morning

A great training resource comes largely out of the Seminary I attend. Asbury Theological Seminary created what they call the 7 Minute Seminary. Experts on numerous subject answer a given question and the rule is to finish in about 7 minute.

Here is the YouTube link to their videos (tons of them). https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1CBE0DD656B9BC0F

I am not saying everything in all of them you will agree with, but there is much to learn from.

Here is one to get started on Easter and the Resurrection.

 

Blessings.

HealingRooms

The Bible: My New Old Topic

The Bible is considered to be the greatest selling book of all time. It can be read in under a year by spending just 20 minutes a day covering its pages. It has often been banned by dictatorial governments throughout the world. Missionaries to this day smuggle it into countries where they believe its truth will change hearts, minds, and whole societies. Many churches still sing the song “The B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me.” More recently (although not totally accurate), it has been described as “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” Despite the fan-fair, a lot of questions about the Bible exist.

A Problem

In my ‘trade,’ I find that the Bible is open to misunderstanding, on two fronts. The first front regards the Bible as a document itself. The second front is if we can adequately understand the text. The thrust of the first question has to do with history. The thrust of the second question is about consistency, linguistics, and context.

The first ‘front’ must be met head on for readers to even think the book has import for the 21st century. The second question must be ‘saddled’ well, lest we fall off the interpretive horse and create injured communities following quirky ideas. Each question has good, long, and sophisticated answers. Each question spawns dozens more.

Getting to Know the Bible

Before getting into either question above, we should discuss what the Bible is in the first place. The word “bible” means “book.” In the case of the Christian “Bible,” it means the book which contains the sacred writings of the people of God throughout the centuries. The whole thing contains 66 books which consist in various forms. The forms include letter writing, historical recording, songs, wisdom sayings, erotic poetry, rhetorical pieces, narratives, prophecy, apocalyptic writings, and more. Depending on the size of the font, the Bible contains about 1,000 pages.

Although the Bible contains a diverse group of literature, there tends to be one clear focus. The centerpiece is how God has revealed himself to his people through the centuries, especially as Jesus Christ of Nazareth some 2,000 years ago. The oldest parts point forward to the coming Savior and the more recent parts expound and explain the Savior.

The first book of the Bible is Genesis which is about the beginning of times and the last book of the Bible is Revelation which focuses on the end of times. The earliest portions began to be written about 1400B.C. Some of the content, within the oldest parts, dates much earlier. The last book of the Bible was written around 96A.D. Cover to cover spans 1,500 years of authorship.

Well, that’s enough for today. Over the next couple months, we will peel away the binding on the Bible and see how well it holds. Until then, perhaps the best place to begin with learning about the Bible is…well, the Bible.

HealingRooms

The Game of Telephone and the Bible

Hebrew Bible

Remember the game of telephone? A group of young people ‘circle up’ on the floor awaiting the beginning message. The leader of the group begins by whispering a message into the ear of the closest person. When the message gets around the whole circle, it has usually changed, even dramatically. The point of the game is often to show that rumors and gossip need to be avoided for they are likely untrue.

One of the most common questions I have been asked over the years from both Christians and non-Christians, is “how could we possibly trust the Bible?” The game of telephone often comes up as a backdrop for mistrust.  At a basic level, one can see the point. How could a book which has been copied so many times actually be trusted in our own day?  Haven’t there crept in numerous errors over the centuries? Haven’t evil kings and religious leaders controlled the text?

A little research however and one can easily see the answers. The game of telephone may apply to the local gossip, but not the Bible. Why? There are literally thousands of ancient biblical manuscripts near to the originals whereby we can compare our modern texts to.  If this is a game of telephone, you can find every addition or subtraction through the centuries.

To be sure, over the hundreds of years that Scribes were making copies of the Bible, there were many errors made. However, these are minor errors. The examples usually consist of misspelled words, flipping a title and a name, a gloss here and there, and the like. In other words, no ancient text convolutes the truths that the Christians have always maintained. In other words, there are no big surprises or secret stories about Jesus!  The study of biblical and textual criticism offers researchers the ability to compare ancient manuscripts to find errors in later texts and come to a pure text.

What is the accuracy level of the originals to our own modern text? Many researchers have taken up the task of collating the variants through the centuries and tracing all the manuscript evidence. Norman Geisler points out that we can come between 99 and 99.6% accuracy between the originals and our own being faithfully transmitted through the centuries. For an ancient piece of literature, this is a staggeringly positive assessment.

In closing, I want to point out the irony in this ‘telephone talk’ as it relates to the Bible. The moral of the game of telephone is often to teach young people that gossip and rumors need to be avoided for they are often untrue. Yet, the gossip and the rumors about the Bible being the product of a long game of telephone is untrue, and yet listening ears keep passing it along to others.  I guess we know that people still like playing telephone.

 

HealingRooms

Is Lent a Catholic Thing

Is Lent a Catholic Thing

This question/thought has come my way a number of times this year from people inside and outside our church. I thought I would use this newsletter to cover it. Lent was not something started by Jesus and the Apostles. It was a season started perhaps in the 3rd or 4th century, but it has become the practice of most of the Christians throughout the world. Orthodox, Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, some Congregationalists, some Presbyterians, and some Lutherans practice Lent. The reason we practice Lent is to draw closer to the very Savior we profess. There are even Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches that practice Lent but do so without calling it Lent. Lent is a season for Jesus!

Although the word “Lent” cannot be found in the Bible, the themes and focus of Lent are totally Biblical. Ashes relate to the sackcloth and ashes that were used in seasons of Israel’s repentance. Moreover, the theme of coming from dust and returning to dust is the reminder of our mortality in this life. Lent is a season of repentance. Jesus begins his ministry with the words “The Kingdom of God has come, repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15)! All Christians can use a season of focusing on repentance and going to God to help through their sins. Just think of all the different Prophets that God sent to Israel through the generations to call them to repentance. Lent is a prophetic season!

Then there is fasting. Chapter 4 of Matthew tells us how Jesus fasted 40 days and was tempted by Satan. Now, we certainly do not want to reenact being tempted by Satan, but the season of Lent uses the number of 40 (as there are many 40’s in the Bible) as a designated and focused time of the year to remember the path to the cross that Jesus took. Our Scripture readings will reflect that every Sunday this Lent. Since the suffering of Jesus is such a large theme of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John it is clear that we are being Biblical by living out the Lent season’s focus. Lent is a season for focus on Scripture!

I recently read an article by someone who really misunderstood Lent. They spent paragraphs trying to tell how Protestantism is selling out to the “wickedness” of Catholicism by participating in Lent. This individual was seriously confused. Lent is not the domain of any one denomination. Rather, the season offers all Christians a time of reflection. Are we really living the Christian life? Do we need to get some sins out of our lives? Moreover, it offers us the solution; Christian living through the death and subsequent resurrection of our Lord. Lent is not wicked!

I think the final point to make is that if Christians do not have a designated season for fasting (or designated days in their devotional lives) will they fast at all? Good intentions are many, but intentions often fall at the feet of our own patterns of leisure. Lent offers us as a congregation a challenge to live like Christ. Without some pattern to our Christian life we are tossed back and forth by ‘good ideas’ that have limited lasting impact. The real challenge is getting the right patterns. Lent is a good pattern!

Lent is about relationship with God. May we all participate with gladness as we become holy!

-Pastor Isaac Fleming

 

 

HealingRooms

The Apostles Creed Today

Apostles Creed and Today

The Apostles Creed is a developed set of beliefs which were born out of the Scriptures and the early Christian community’s witness of Christ. The Bible is the inspired word of God and creeds are brief statements of what the Scriptures teach. These statements are not new. Take for instance the Jewish Shema which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This statement (along with verses 5-9) is confessed, prayed, and memorized by the Jewish community even to this day.

The New Testament also includes statements of belief that were handed on through the centuries. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is a statement of belief dated from one to three years after Christ died[1]. A brief portion reads “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

In the second century after the Apostles had died, other confessions were written up. One of them was written by the early church father Irenaeus and was called the Rule of Faith[2].By the third century the church leader Hippolytus was using a baptismal formula which contains the majority of what we know today as the Apostles Creed[3]. This brings us right to the Apostles Creed which the majority of Christian believers profess still to this day.

The Apostle Creed is a developed set of Scriptural beliefs which came into its current form in the first 700 hundred years of the church[4]. Christians of all stripes would and should agree with the truths as found in the creed, except perhaps one phrase. The phrase “and he descended into hell” was a phrase whose first reference came in the 4th century[5]. The phrase was not used in more than one creed prior to 650 A.D[6]. In its first inception the phrase was taken to mean that he “descended to the dead” which many Christians utilize in their creedal confessions.[7]

The “descended to hell” is difficult to understand in English, and descended to the dead communicates the idea better. If we were to take “descended to hell” literally we would have little to no Scriptural support for the idea. Lastly, we want to hold what is common to early Christianity and this part was not. As much as were are going to make this slight change, I am sure many still wonder if we should say the creed at all.

Should we say the Creed?

There are certainly many churches today that never say the Apostles Creed. The important thing is that we do in fact adhere to the Creed. Here are some foundations for doing so.

1.    Unity: With so much disunity in our church world today, it is a way of affirming that we stand on the age old and tested truths of the Scriptures.

2.    Continuity: Having a statement of belief that is much older than one’s own local congregation aids in Christian continuity through the ages for it establishes what is being passed on through the generations. This is much better than having a mish mash of beliefs from one Christian to another and no one ever really know exactly what the other believes.

3.    Reflection: Saying the Apostles Creed aids in the collective and individual memories of Christians. Instead of a person just affirming their favorite Bible verses, this affirms the central points of the entire Scriptures. It is wonderful to find that Christians who have been trained in the creed are often able to retain it even through Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

4.    Particular Spirituality: “Spirituality” is such a buzz word these days and has many problems. It is not that we Christians are not “spiritual” but that we Christians are particularly spiritual. Not all spiritual things are good spiritual things, and affirming the main truths of the Gospel is affirming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit along with being joined to the universal Church through the ages.

5.    Fundamentally Focused: Keeping the main things the main things are helpful to forward progress in Christianity. Focusing on the rich fundamentals of the faith will aid Christians is seeing how they can communicate across the denominational lines. It certainly helps one not make mountains out of mole hills.

 

[1] Francis Beckwith, William Craig, and J.P. Moreland, To everyone an answer, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 184.

[2] Various, Creeds of the church, (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1997).

[3] Various, Creeds of the church, (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1997).

[4] Wayne Grudem, Bible doctrine, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), p. 258.

[5] Norman Geisler, and Ron Rhodes , Conviction without compromise, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), p. 14.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Bible doctrine, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), p. 258.

[7] Alister McGrath, I believe; understanding and applying the apostles creed, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991).