Witness Well

Witness Well

How can you proclaim the Bible as being inspired by God? Isn’t it full of contradictions?

There are many scholars who collectively deny the words of Christ. However, if we apply historical criteria to determine something authentic and reliable to the Bible, then we can safely conclude that the Bible is factual and true. I think today’s scholars are making claims based on human bias instead of a careful study of Biblical content.

In studying the Bible, we have to recognize that the Gospel writers utilized oral and written sources when they composed their accounts. One Gospel writer, a trained medical doctor, took great pains in making sure his account was accurate. He interviewed many witnesses of Jesus’ words and miracles. Since there are four accounts of the life and death of Jesus, there will be some differences. Each witness will give a varying degree of information. Yet, it is very important to note that the scriptures are not contradictory.

First of all, the information age had not yet arrived in first century Palestine. Our modern “snapshot-tape recording” criteria of literal accuracy was not the case two thousand years ago. Paraphrasing was widely accepted since most information was shared orally. The Gospel writers did not write to satisfy modern historical curiosity, but to save people by bringing them into a relationship with the Savior. Like a beautiful painting or vivid poetry, the Gospels serve to move our hearts and souls. The author and painter was God himself. The Bible is God speaking directly to us. His Word becomes so important, that he simply could not leave the process in human hands. He carefully guided and preserved each word that appears in the Gospels. 

There is a lot the Gospels don’t tell us which bothers our rational, historical mind. However, the Gospels tell us all that we need to know. Aside from accepting the Bible as a very reliable historical document there is another factor to consider and that is faith. The Gospels force us to look at Jesus Christ, the Savior, and ask, “Who is he? Was he a lunatic? Was he a liar? Was he just a legend? Or, was he the Lord his followers proclaimed him to be?”  

The evidence which addresses the mind, and the Spirit of God which addresses the heart, both point to the last of these alternatives as the only possible answer. We can take comfort in knowing that it is Jesus who will reveal himself as Lord based not on our human understanding, but by the transforming power of God’s Word. Our heart-knowledge will grasp the fact that God was in control of the writing of the Gospels and is still active in reaching the lost to an eternal, saving relationship with him. 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.     

How can I trust the Bible stories about Jesus to be true?

It is true that almost all of our knowledge about Jesus comes from the gospels. Yet, we don’t have to take the truth out of “God’s Word”. If we look at the gospels solely as a historical document to determine if Jesus really existed or if he did what the Bible claims he did, we discover some interesting evidence. 

If we apply the same criteria that historians use to examine ancient documents, we discover that the Bible holds up remarkably well as a reliable, historical document. When the Bible tells us about the person of Jesus Christ, that God was present in Him and working through Him in a most significant way, we can fully trust the words as being historically accurate. 

Let’s see how the four Gospels measure up with the criteria historians use: 

1)      There must be eyewitness accounts.  John tells us he is an eyewitness; Mark uses the Apostle Peter’s account, Matthew is written from the perspective of an eyewitness, and Luke uses eyewitness sources.

2)     Does it include specific details?  The Gospels are full of seemingly irrelevant detail which typically accompanies eyewitness accounts.

3)     Does is it contain self-damaging material?  Women, who were not allowed to testify in court, are used as eyewitnesses. The disciples are consistently portrayed in a bad light.

4)     Is it self-consistent?  The Gospels present a consistent portrait of who Jesus is and what He did, as well as the events surrounding His life.

5)     Are there “larger than life” features?  The Gospels include supernatural acts, but the accounts don’t have any of the features of ancient mythology. 

6)     Do the authors have motives for lying?  What could the disciples gain from telling the story of Jesus? Nobody can doubt their sincerity.  In fact, they suffered for it. 

7)     Any outside sources to confirm material?  There are many secular sources written in the second century that back up some things about Jesus and his early disciples.

8)   Are there any archeological findings?  There are no conclusive archeological findings which refute any biblical account, yet many findings which substantiate the biblical account.

9)     Could contemporaries falsify the document?  There were many who would have loved to stamp out Christianity. It would have been easy if the “cult” had been based on myths and lies. Yet, Christianity has survived and exploded in growth. Even those opposed to Christianity could not deny the miracles or that the tomb was empty. 

Based on the historical criteria, we can treat the Gospels as reliable documents and are good sources for history. This can be claimed without even mentioning that the Bible is “inspired” or “God’s Word.”  Due to the evidence, we must decide whether to regard Jesus as a skilled magician who tricked his way into people’s hearts and got crucified for it, a liar, a complete lunatic, or as the Lord which he and his followers claimed him to be. Based on the historical evidence, we can safely conclude that Jesus is the promised Messiah as foretold in the Scriptures. To claim Jesus as our personal Savior, however, takes much more than historical evidence.   

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994. 

How does a Christian consistently walk in the Spirit?

There I go again, responding in way that I don’t want to be.

I know what is the best way to respond, but so often I fail. Frustration and guilt is an ongoing battle.  How can I be more consistent in living the way God created me and desires for me to live?

In the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul encourages Christians new in the faith to stop following laws and customs to be right with God, but bask in the freedom we have in Christ. Not that we want to follow our sinful nature, but follow the life of the Spirit that dwells in us. In verse 25 it says,“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Note the phrase “keep in step”. In the original Greek, a better translation could be “walk in line with” or “walk in a straight line”. This word was used to describe military troops who were arranged behind one another in a formation. In the context of this verse, the word could very well suggest following in line with a pattern or possibly following a leader with whom we are in agreement with. 

There will always be a conflict between what we do (sinful nature) versus what we would like to be doing (God’s will). A great example is in rearing children. Do we have to teach children how to behave badly? Do we say, “Sarah, stop sharing so much. Next time, just take the toy and keep it for yourself.”  Or do we say, “Daniel, the next time your brother takes your toy without asking, just smack him in the mouth!”  No, kids learn these instinctively because it is part of their nature. Parents and teachers have to teach children the right way to respond which is contrary to our human nature.

We can even apply this concept to challenging employees who tend to behave like little children. How do we “walk in line with the Spirit” with them? I think it is recognizing the differences between our sinful nature and our life in the Spirit. Our acts of the sinful nature are things we can generate easily on our own. Doing what is right in God’s eyes does not come to us naturally. We need to be taught. We need to have an example. But, more importantly, they are fruit of the Spirit.  It is only the Holy Spirit that produces love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness in us and through us.  There is really no law that tells us that we have to do these things, but we do them because this is what God wants us to do. They are attitudes and actions that are a reflection of Christians who have completely conformed to God’s will and purpose in their lives.

Why would God allow Himself to suffer for creatures as insignificant as us?

Our society has a tendency to make the assumption that small is unimportant. We assume that if we are “small” in comparison to the universe, than we simply can’t be important in the spiritual things. God’s love for us is all the more magnified precisely because we are so small. 

God is not only a personal Lord, he is also personally interested in us. We must remember that God, our Creator, is the definition of what it is to be perfect. Nothing can be above him. The fact that we have moral convictions, love, and reason did not come by “accident”. Our imperfect personal characteristics are mere shadows of the existence of a perfect personal being. If we imperfect beings are morally outraged at all the injustices of the world, would not God be infinitely more outraged? Is he not more loving, more knowing, more caring than us? The enormity of the cosmos and our smallness in relation to it would only present a problem for God’s love and care if he were not behind the whole thing! 

His love and care for his creation is inexhaustible, so there is plenty left over for us “small” human beings. It is impossible, then, to say that God, our Creator, doesn’t personally care for us. 

What does this mean for us?  It means that God knows us perfectly, better than we know ourselves. He loves us perfectly, more than we love ourselves.  God cares about our suffering perfectly, more than we care about them ourselves.

So, what is God’s purpose?  What does he want from us?  He wants to reveal himself to us and desires a relationship with us through Jesus Christ. 

If God is the one perfect, loving, caring being, then it is safe to say that he would do everything possible to bring about the greatest possible good for his creatures. Anything less would be less than perfect. And Jesus Christ reveals that this is exactly what God did!  God himself became a man, one of us, and suffered a horrible death on the cross in order to rectify all we humans have inflicted on ourselves.He has done and is doing everything possible to have us humans be eternally with him.  

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.   

If God is so all-knowing and all-powerful, why does he need our prayers?

The purpose of praying has little to do with asking God for things. We pray because God wants us to. Praying is a conversation with God. However, does God really need our prayers? God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us.   

Never underestimate the value of prayer when haring Christ with others.

God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us. If that’s the case then why does God want me to pray in the first place? 

Prayer is a means God gives us for us to build a trusting relationship with our Creator. Asking for things is just one minor aspect of our relationship with Him. He’s already as good, concerned, informed and powerful as He can be. Yet, since a loving relationship with Him is God’s highest concern for us, He constructs the order of things so that a loving relationship with him will be facilitated. Because of this, God seems to ordain that some things will only be done through prayer. 

If God doesn’t need our prayers, then is prayer truly effective? We need to remember that God commands us to pray for several reasons. First, prayer is a constant reminder for us that God is the only source for help and strength. When we truly slow down and examine our lives, during good times and bad, it is God that receives all credit and glory.

Second, we need to remember our relationship with God in our present fallen condition. We have all heard studies and testimonies on the healing power of prayer. However, God does not act like a cosmic vending machine. One does not make a request, pull a lever down and have our request granted. People are miraculously healed and people tragically die. What’s the difference? What did or did not work?   

There are billions of variables that go into God’s moment by moment interaction with the world. There is His overall plan for humankind and for the cosmos. There is His plan for each individual. There is the strategy of the spiritual battle with which He is involved. There is the degree to which He has ordained our prayer to have consequences in the world. To understand all of this would be like walking into a theater in the middle of a movie. Would you be able to explain the whole movie after only one minute of viewing? Or, would you be able to teach a chemistry class after reading one page of a textbook?

Prayer is a means to give us confidence and peace that God is working out all things for good, even when he says no to our prayers. Faith and trust becomes the critical element of being sure in what we hope and pray for and certain of what we do not see. 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.     

How come God didn’t listen to my prayers and spare a loved one?

Life has a way of hurling a stone and shattering the window into our soul. The wrenching pain of an exposed heart can cripple us emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. The tragedies of life have caused many to turn away from God. Many people of asked, “How can I loving God allow this to happen? Where can a person find peace and solace in the depths of suffering? Where can we turn for answers when God seems far away on some distant planet? We need someone who understands our pain — to share our grief, embrace our hearts — to put a hand on our shoulder and say, “I am always with you.

I cannot answer why an Almighty God would take a loved one in the prime of their lives. I don’t know why God chose to not answer fervent prayers to save them. If it was not for sin in this world, painful tragedies would never occur. As a result of sin and its consequences, God weeps too.

Jesus Christ is not an adversary during times of suffering, He is our cure. Jesus Christ suffers with us in our suffering. His unconditional love is the only source for healing and peace. Through his participation in our pain, he redeems it. By his ultimate suffering on the cross, he heals our own suffering. He is not off on some distant planet, but is with us each step of the way. This truth and promise reveals to us the magnitude of God’s love for us. A loving Father sent his only Son to a dirty, sinful world. Jesus experienced the hellish depth of all that is nightmarish in human existence on behalf of us. He loved the unlovable. He befriended the friendless. Finally, he suffered for a world that is at once so beautiful and so ugly. 

Questions are going to remain while we deal with the pain and suffering of life. Jesus’ answer for us is to trust in him. Christ wins our love and trust through the healing compassion of his Word and the warm understanding of his silent embrace. He provides an understanding in the heart which the mind can never fully grasp. This trust rests on the belief that God works good out of all situations, whether good or bad, for the purpose of bringing us closer to him.  He wins our love in a way reasons could never do. And finally, we rest in the comfort that despite our existence in a sinful world, we place our hope in an eternal existence with God where all pain and suffering is removed. That’s where we look to to help us stand firm until the end.

 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994. 

The mystery of the human brain is an observable reality of a Creator

One of the great mysteries of life is on how life began. There have been many educated guesses throughout the centuries. The theory of evolution presents a process but seems to fall short on inception. It seems that some sort of intelligent design is becoming more widely accepted. The study of the human brain is a great example. The more scientists uncover the intricacies of the brain, the more baffling it becomes on how it all came into being.

Scientists are discovering that the mind is far more than a network of chemical reactions. It is still baffling how the mind is able to comprehend the physical aspects of the world and define reality around us. We can create mathematical equations. We know and remember the difference of what is good and bad (morality). We are self-aware. We can be angry or sad, laugh or be shocked, love or hate. Such observations can only indicate that some kind of “force” or “intelligence” created the cosmos, the universe, the earth and ourselves. Furthermore, this “intelligence” must be personal and moral. The human brain is probably the most observable reality that God was the designer and creator. 

Another observable reality is that God created us with longings. We long for food and water and God feeds and quenches us. We long for companionship, God provides. We long for a closer relationship with a higher being and he provides his Son, Jesus Christ. God created the heavens and the earth just for us. He not only provides, but he provides perfectly to meet every need of all creation. This, simply put, cannot be by chance, nor can it be a product of an impersonal “force.” 

Faith in God is a belief in the Creator of all things. Faith is not just a theory, but a relationship. We are made right with this “moral force” through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are made right by faith in the death and resurrection of our Savior. We come to faith, not because of a rational decision of our mind, but through the power and testimony of God’s Word. All that we need in life is found in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Through the Bible, we are assured of the presence of Jesus. Our relationship with him is enough to prove his existence and satisfies the deepest longings of our innermost being. 

 ** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.    

How to be the perfect Proverbs 31 woman

Many standards are offered by the world on how to be the perfect woman.  They include television, movies, magazines, books, billboards, even a husband’s desire. Another standard presented is even more difficult than what the world offers. It is found in Proverbs 31 of the Bible. Many women cringe to the standard presented. Read just some of her attributes:

“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.”

“Works with eager hands”

“She gets up while it is still dark and provides food for her family”“She sets about her work vigorously, her arms are strong”

“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy”

“She is clothed with strength and dignity”

“Her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her” 

Talk about depressing. Women are dealing with enough guilt already. Why pile it on even more? I think many women would agree that a man must have written this proverb.

When basking in the gloom of not measuring up to a certain standard, I am reminded of the purpose behind such passages. We look in the mirror and see failure in our efforts to meet our own standards, but also the standards placed by others (family, media, etc..). Then, we are confronted by the standard set by God. He desires for us to be perfect. To be perfect is the only way to receive God’s stamp of approval. The message God desires for us to know is that we need to stop trying to measure up to a worldly or a self-imposed standard. God’s standard is tough enough! But, fix our eyes on the only way we can achieve that standard and that is through faith in Christ.

Faith means surrendering our self, confessing that we fall way short of God’s standard and that we need His help. Through our weakness, faith receives the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ dwells in us and we are perfect. How can that be possible? Because this is what Christ did for us on the cross. He became our substitute and through His life in place of ours, we are perfect. The removal of self allows the fruit of the Spirit to pour forth. We become a new creation. We begin to respond to life, to people and to difficult circumstances with peace, patience, joy, gentleness and self-control. 

So, to all those woman who groan at the words written in Proverbs 31, I have a encouragement for you. You are forgiven. You are loved. You are perfect. Not because of who you are, or what you are doing, but what Christ has done for you. With this confidence and assurance of God’s promises, we can begin to experience the fruit of a surrendered life.