How Human Was Jesus? ? -- Patrick O'Connell

If this title doesn’t strike you as ‘odd’ you may be like I was a few years ago. As I’ve reconsidered the question using contemplative prayer, I find my life and my relationship with him being transformed. I know a man who is just like me (minus sin) who lives [walks, talks, discusses things, plays, prays for things, has personal preferences, favorite songs, and loves beauty…] in heaven with my Father. Now, I know he happens to also be fully God, but that does not diminish the human reality of this heaven dwelling man, Jesus. Somehow, my post-resurrection imaginings had over-emphasized the fully God side of his personhood to the point of obscuring my ability to see that what in fact awaits each true disciple of Jesus: a post-death extension of our human existence (minus sin) in heaven with this human friend and savior, Jesus. Humanness is not something to be overcome. Humanness is, in God’s words “VERY GOOD”! Humanness (minus sin) is eternally beautiful and precious.

So, how has this been transforming?

Keeping in mind these truths, I’ve simply been carrying on a prayer conversation with the Father asking Him to make me willing to be more human. I practice listening for, and then rejecting, lies which try to discount or disqualify various healthy human joys, passions and pursuits on the basis of their lack or overt ‘spiritual’ significance. I, at times, pray with engaged imagination “Father, reveal to me the ‘me’ you imagined when you said ‘Let there be a ‘me’!”.

As I’m slowly discovering the ‘me’ God envisioned ‘me’ to be, I’m simultaneously finding myself Spirit- empowered to put on (almost like putting on a robe) greater confidence, behaviors, and even different language rising forth from this more fully human version of myself.

It’s exciting. It’s a process. It’s scary at times. It’s an adventure I will (with God’s help) not draw back from. In the end I believe it’s a part of my faith walk I’ve been missing; It’s a pathway to the life of passionate-compassion, mercy, patience which will continue to make me an effective, compelling human witness to the love of Jesus, our savior.

My next prayer is this: that I may learn how to pass on to those whom God sends me this love and passion for God and a determination to do the same for those God sends them.

When the going gets tough -- love one another

keep-calm-and-love-one-another-6

John in his brief second letter seems to be writing to a church undergoing some duress.  Exactly what the issues are we have to deduce from the letter, but what strikes me is John’s instruction to the church.  Basically what he has to say is, “when the going gets tough, love one another”.  This is the commandment we had from the beginning, this is the one to stick with when things are unclear or when the pressure is mounting or you don’t know what to do – love one another. As I was discussing this with some brothers and sisters in our Bible study recently, I was struck with how relevant this is for us in The Word of God right now.  We are trying to clarify our vision and move into a more missional direction.  Some things are changing, some things are not, and nothing is flowing with breathtaking power.  In the midst of this do we grow impatient, lose heart, give up?  John tells us what to do – go back to the basics and love one another.

Mother Theresa said “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love.”  This is a good corrective for those of us you hunger for inspiring and clear vision.  Don’t wait until you have it.  do the small things before us each day with great love.  As we do so, we participate in the great vision of He who is Love, and I believe our own part will become clearer.

Stay calm and love on!

Your Covenant; Your Corner of the Kingdom, by Patrick O'Connell

I gave a talk at a recent prayer meeting based on a chapter from Mike Breen’s book, Covenant & Kingdom, in which he follows these themes from Genesis to Revelations. He illustrates how these two themes repeatedly draw the believer’s attention to the overarching purpose of the Father to increase our capacity to live as citizens of heaven on earth. The talk (archived on the Word of God website for Feb. 17, 2013) addressed ways that King David’s understanding of Covenant and Kingdom informed his thinking and actions from poet shepherd to protector king. We didn’t have time for some of the ‘Practical Tips’ portion of the talk, so here they are. Try listening to my talk the others in the Covenant & Kingdom series and consider how the Spirit of God may want to use these suggestions for his glory and your benefit as his disciples. Three applications for us as heirs of the Covenant and representatives of the King.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, the covenant promises oneness. We are one with God. He is one with us. Daily we have the privilege of accessing this reality all it takes is time…

  • Time to adore,
  • Time to intercede,
  • Time to meditate:
    • On Creation/ Creator,
    • On Sinful leanings already forgiven,
    • On God’s character expressed in accounts of Jesus words and actions and attitudes…
    • On the whisperings of Spirit to spirit… and as we spend time hearing from God we can record this in a journal of some sort…

Second, we can use the covenant’s promise of shared authority and power to extend the King’s rule…

  • In our lives - By discussing with someone things we’ve been shown about our character vs. God’s character which need to change, and some steps involved in doing so
  • In the lives of others
    • By including them, as led by the Spirit, in our lives
    • By praying for their felt needs
    • Through direct prayer ministry like praying over them for healing or offering unbound prayer.

Thirdly, we can continually seek God for wisdom to know how to join Jesus in his ongoing mission as he addresses the injustices of our day to the orphan, the disabled, the poor, the neighbor in great emotional pain, those enslaved to sin, those enslaved by the sin of others, the widow, the international.

  • To get a hint of which of these (or other) injustices Jesus may be calling you to invest in correcting, just prayerfully read the list while noticing which situations which come to mind cause you the greatest sorrow, pain or anger.

Our Call—Love as I Have Loved You, by Mike Gladieux

What does it mean ‘to follow His Son Jesus…’?           

Our Call—Love as I Have Loved You

By Mike Gladieux

To be a disciple of Jesus means to have a relationship with Him and to be like Him.  This is far more central than any particular thing that we can do for Him.  Love is the virtue which makes our relationships work right.  After a few months something else happened that struck me and broadened my perspective on these matters.  We were given some prophecies from the joint gathering held on Pentecost Sunday.  There was a certain prophesy in particular that spoke directly to me.  In this one part that I am quoting from, The Lord is revealing in a special way some significant sins that He wants all of us to be free of.  This is a part of one of the words: 

“Today, this day I choose to reveal to you what you pretend to have held in secret.  But there are no secrets from me.  … Today, on this day, what I see in your hearts is this:  I see envy, strife, competition, jealousy, pride, a critical spirit, judgmentalism, bitterness, gossip, vindictiveness, a mean spirit, strife, disunity, chaos, and yes, even hatred … “ 

What struck me about this list is that these are all sins against Love.  I thought about my situation, and that it was infested with sins against Love.  I also realized that my personal situation was only a subset of the work that God was speaking about in this prophecy.  He was actually speaking to all of us in The Word of God and to all of the brothers and sisters in The Word of Life about this matter, about sins against Love.  So He wanted to do something for all of us in this area and was not just dealing with me and my personal issues.  So my perspective on my own situation was broadened as it was placed within the context of a work that The Lord was doing with us all as individuals and as a people.  I now view these matters as sins that war against or destroy our everyday life together; that is, family life, work relationships, friendships with neighbors, community relationships with brothers and sisters, and our relationship with The Lord Himself.

I think that this matter has a direct bearing on what we have been seeking The Lord for:  vision for The Word of God.  This prophecy signals a work of the Holy Spirit that has a direct relationship to us as a people, as a community.

Vision and Love

I was on my way to a “Vision” meeting at Phil and Barb Tiews’ house.  As I drove down Brooks street I realized that I was going to be quite early, in fact I would get there more than 15 minutes before it was to start.  So I decided to stop.  I pulled to the side of the street and prayed a bit and opened the Bible.  Here is what I read.

This is from the introduction to the book of Numbers from the Open Bible:

Israel follows God step-by-step until Canaan is in sight.  Then in the crucial moment at Kadesh they draw back in unbelief.  Their murmurings had already become incessant.  “Now the people became like those who complain of adversity before The Lord.” (Num 11:1)  But their unbelief at Kadesh-barnea is something God will not tolerate.  Their rebellion at Kadesh marks the pivotal point of the book.  The generation of the exodus will not be the generation of the conquest.

They could not enter their inheritance, their promise.  I saw that this was not a vindictive response by The Lord.  They had to have courage in order to fight.  They did not.  They were cowards.  Whimps, wuss’s and pantywaists.  He had shown them His power in many ways, but they did not or could not rely on Him.  Think of the battle against the Amalekites, where Joshua mowed them down as long as Moses could keep his arms raised up.  The whole situation was designed to show the Israelites clearly that it was The Lord who was fighting for them and giving them the victory.   There were many varied examples of this during their desert wanderings.  But now at the critical moment they were overcome with fear.  Therefore they could not enter into the conquest of the land.  Fear and cowardice were intrinsically opposed to what they had to do/be in order to claim their inheritance.  They needed courage, grounded in trust in God.  They didn’t have it.  The next generation would inherit the promise, but they would not.

Brothers and sisters, there are not many of us left.  Many have moved into different aspects of the Lord’s call on their lives, but many have departed and lost all hope of what we were called to by The Lord.  And those of us who are left are divided into two camps.  Now think about this question?  What was/is His calling?  I say “was/is” because His calling is not really going to change.  It is the purpose for which He formed us, named us, and made a covenant with us, His purpose for us.  This cannot change.  We are not on plan B.  So our original calling and purpose is still intact.  Also, even if we are administered as two communities, the original calling is still the same, and should apply to all of us in both communities.  What is our inheritance as a people?  What is the promise that The Lord has offered to us?  What is it that He holds out to us as our purpose in His plan?

Called to Love

Listen to this portion of our covenant as a community:

In order to respond to what God is doing among us, in order to express more fully how we are to be the people He is calling us to be, once again we declare our desire to give our whole lives to Him, to follow His Son, Jesus, and to live more and more in the Holy Spirit. We desire to love and serve Him in lives of daily prayer and service; to praise and worship Him always; to ever seek His face; to know and serve the truth of His Word in the joy, peace, and love of the Holy Spirit; to believe what He speaks to us and to be obedient to the truth of His Word and the guidance of His Spirit; to offer hospitality to those whom He sends us; to widen our hearts to receive those He adds to our number; and to carry out the mission that He is entrusting to us.  Above all, we desire to be a people who always grow, by His great mercy, in the fervor of that first love He has given us: He who is our all.  We desire to consecrate our lives to Him not simply as individuals, but as members of a people, members of The Word of God.

We are to be brothers and sisters in the Lord, loving each other from the heart.  Indeed there was a prophecy back then which said that in the later days we would be known for our love more than for our teaching or wisdom.  And the sins against Love are directly opposed to our entering into The Lord’s promise to us, to our inheritance.  Now at this time God is offering us a chance to fulfill the promise that He had for us from the beginning.  Here are some examples of what we might expect as this work of The Lord progresses.

  • People will be overwhelmed by His love for us.
  • People will get “zapped” by simply attending a prayer meeting
  • We will Love each other and value our relationships with each other above all others. 
  • We will realize the importance of our life together and there will be great excitement as we talk about it and share it with each other.  How precious our community life is!

Brothers and sisters, sins against Love are intrinsically incompatible with the promise or calling that The Lord has given to us because our inheritance is to love each other and Him, from the heart.

The life of the Trinity

My brother Chuck who was ten years older than I.  On his wedding day he got up and my Mom asked him what he wanted for breakfast, before his wedding.  He said pancakes, as usual.  We always liked pancakes the best.  My Mom said “You won’t be doing this again.  This is the last time.”  She knew, and we all knew, that his relationship with us was changing forever.  We were turning a corner.  He was leaving the house to get married and start a new life.  So certain daily happenings, so much a part of our life together, would not be any more.  Of course, he would start a new life with his wife.  In this way she would begin to share the Gladieux family life, and we would be gaining a daughter. 

What happened when Jesus left His Father’s house is like this, changing His relationship with the Father forever, leaving behind certain intimate things that once were part of their relationship within the Trinity.  But He left in order to take a bride to Himself, and we are invited to take part in the life of the Trinity.

“For this reason a man shall leave His Father and His mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.  This is a great mystery, but I speak of Christ and the church.”  Eph 5:31-2

Yes, Jesus is not just calling us servants or friends.  He is calling us to be His Bride, His beloved.  He has granted us to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the wedding chamber is waiting for us to enter.  The Spirit says to us “Be clothed in fine linen, without spot or wrinkle.  Be fully prepared for the wedding.”  The linen He is offering us and asking us to put on is not the symbolic ones that we put on years ago.  These are the real ones, the divinely-designed ones.

This universal Christian truth is at the very center of why He formed us and of who we are.  This was central to our calling from the beginning and it remains our heart and soul still today.  The Lord is still viewing us AND our sister community The Word of Life as under the original covenant that He made with us.  He is calling us all into that first love again, individually and as brothers and sisters together, even as two communities toward one another. 

We enter into God’s family and His divine relationships via marriage, and we are called to live that life on this earth and in these bodies.  The relationships that He has given us here are a reflection of what awaits us in heaven.  So we will feel right at home when we get there.  We will dwell with Him as his Beloved, and we’ll be right at home doing so.  But we don’t have to wait until we get there to enter into our inheritance.  The blessing of being His disciples is that we can enter into it now.  That is His gracious gift to those who follow Him.

Repenting of sins against Love

Now let’s return to that prophesy from the Pentecost gathering.  The word He spoke signals that at this time He wants to wash us with water by His word so that we can enter more fully into what He has for us.  So here are the spots and wrinkles that The Spirit wants to cleanse from as at this time. The real “fine linen, clean and white” is in constant need of cleaning and pressing to remove the spots and wrinkles.  This is because of our sin nature.  So repentance must be a recurring fact of life for us, a life style.  This is how we keep ourselves ready for Him and pleasing to Him, without spot or wrinkle.  So let’s look at this list of sins again.

Envy: A feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by the desire for the possessions or qualities of another person.

When we are rightly connected to Jesus, when we are abiding in Him, then He can fulfill our heart’s longings so that this cannot even gain a slight foothold in us.  No more insecurity in Him.

Strife: Heated, often violent dissension; bitter conflict. (Synonym - Discord)

Competition: Struggle between people for food, water, space, or other resources when the supply is limited.  Jesus Himself wants to be our sufficiency.

Jealousy:            The thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over the anticipated loss of something that we value, such as a relationship, a friendship, or love.

Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, sadness, and disgust.

Another description of jealousy is fear or wariness over being supplanted; apprehension about the possibility of losing affection or position.

If we are rightly connected to Him then He will fill us up.  His acceptance and love will support us at the deepest part of our being.  We will be invulnerable to jealousy.

Pride: An arrogant or disdainful attitude toward others; haughtiness.  Pride is also an excessively high opinion of ourselves; conceit.

Critical spirit: An inclination to judge as a critic, to find fault, to blame or to condemn.

Judgmental: Inclined to pass judgment, critical.

Bitterness: Proceeding from or exhibiting strong animosity. It is also an attitude that is marked by resentment or cynicism.

Jesus can give us a tender loving compassion for people that makes this something that does not even enter our minds.

Gossip: Rumor or talk of a personal, intimate, or sensational nature. Vindictiveness:           This is a disposition to seek revenge.  It is also marked by a desire to hurt someone; spiteful.

This is so petty; do we really need to worry about this?  What about in our relationship with our spouse?  You know, “you can’t just let yourself be walked all over.  Hey emotional abuse can be far worse than physical abuse!  Besides, someone has to speak the truth in these situations …” Jesus wants to release His pure selfless love into the very center of our lives.  Love one another as I have loved you.  A transformed marriage.

Mean Spirit: characterized by or displaying a propensity to be mean; selfish, malicious, etc.. It is characterized by pettiness.

What about when driving in the car?  How do we think/speak about other drivers?  Are we quick to accuse, find fault, criticize, blame?  Do we have an “auto ego”?  Jesus wants to grow in us a spirit of mercy and goodness, forbearing and thinking the best of others as our first response.

Disunity: lack of unity; especially dissension or disagreement.

Chaos: A condition of great disorder or confusion.

James 3:16 -- For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder (chaos) and every evil practice.

Hatred: Intense dislike of or extreme aversion or hostility toward another person.

This is another extreme one.  When are we ever likely to be drawn into this?  How about political rhetoric?  Much of it is based on this dynamic.  That is why it is so difficult to listen to sometimes.  Also, it is like a heavy burden on our hearts.  It weighs too much for us to carry. 

Jesus wants instead to give us rest for our souls.  Trust in Him to finally set right all these things.  He wants to give us a new dynamic in which to think about and talk about those with whom we disagree, characterized by grace and kindness.  We are to love our enemies.  We are to love those around us who are of the world.

Be His word of Love

Brothers and sisters, do we want to be God’s word to the whole face of the earth? Well, then we should be a word of Love.  And let us start by being His word to our husbands and wives, our children and parents, our co-workers, our friends and neighbors. Remember the song “What the world needs now is Love, sweet Love.  That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of … Lord, not just for some, but for everyone.”  (Written by Burt Bacharach and sang by Dionne Warwick, 1965)  But we have the power to actually implement this.  It is a whole new dynamic for our relationships. 

Changes like this in us will unleash His power within this world.  It is dynamite.  This is the life of the Heavenly City, of the New Jerusalem.  This is the divine life which God exhibited in the councils of the Trinity before all time. “I want them to see My glory Father, the glory that I shared with You before the worlds were formed.”  This is truly being like Jesus Himself.  It is out of this world.

This is how all men will know that we are His disciples.

Crazy Kingdom Math

Crazy Kingdom Math “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:12)  Gideon is asking a perfectly reasonable question.  We have all been there, in fact, this is where we live most of the time.  Who am I, who are we, to accomplish great things for the Lord?  The problem is not with the accuracy of our vision.  But rather with it limit.  We are correct to say we are not up to the task of ushering in God’s kingdom.  We don’t have the leaders, the wisdom, the power, the money, the energy.  True, and a healthy expression of humility – as far as it goes. 

The Lord goes on to say to Gideon, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.” (Judges 6:13)  Gideon’s vision is humble and accurate, but limited.  He is not seeing ‘But I will be with you’.  When the Lord is with us what is possible radically changes.  One plus the Lord becomes the majority in any situation!  Gideon goes on to gather a massive army to deliver Israel and the Lord says, ‘too many’.  He reduces it to 10,000, still a pretty comfortable force to have at your disposal, but the Lord again says, ‘too many’.  Finally it is whittled down to a mere 300 and the Lord says, ‘that’s the right size’.

God, the Creator, is the one who established the laws of physics and mathematics which proceed and interact in orderly and predictable fashion.  But when it comes to delivering people and establishing His Kingdom reign, He often employs Crazy Kingdom Math:

  • Five will chase a hundred, a hundred chase ten thousand (Lev 26:7-8)
  • Israelite ‘grasshoppers’ will ‘eat up’ the land of fortified cities and giants (Num 13:31-14:9)
  • A widow’s 2 cooper coins are more than all the gifts of the wealthy (Mk 12:41-44)
  • Five loaves and 2 fish can feed five thousand – with leftovers! (Matt 14:17-21)
  • One hundred and twenty disciples are sent to be witnesses to all the world (Acts 1)

The key is never the inherent strength of the people, but that ‘I will be with you’ and ‘you will receive power’. 

It delights the Lord to operate this way.  As Paul says:

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  1 Cor 1:26-31

Paul is not being very complementary of the Corinthians, but he is being totally honest.  And like them, we are also the ‘lowly, despised, things that are not’, but we are chosen and in Christ.  In Him is our confidence.

It is pretty easy to say, ‘one plus God is a majority’, or to acknowledge that we are nothing and God is our power.  How do you think Gideon and his 300 men felt looking at their ridiculous clay-pot-covered torches and rams horns as they hid in the bushes outside the camp of the Midianites, as numerous as locusts?  At such a moment is even easier to say, ‘I really am the least of the smallest tribe, what am I doing here?  Who do I think I am?’  Or we might say, ‘Maybe when we were younger or there were more of us or we had more impressive leaders or… then we could have done something noteworthy, but not now.’

At this critical juncture, God allowed Gideon to overhear one Midianite telling another of the dream he had foretelling the overthrow of the Midianites by Gideon.  It recalled him to the spiritual reality and he could say to his men, ‘Get up, the Lord has given the Midianite camp into our hands.’  And the Lord has been likewise saying to us, ‘I am not done with you, I still intend to use you, get up and get ready to get into the game’.  Maybe he has been giving some of you visions and dreams, as well?

So how do we enter into Crazy Kingdom Math?

  1. Be honest about who we are – we can’t screw up our courage and increase our fruitfulness by pretending to be someone we are not.  It is OK to be five loaves and a couple of fish.
  2. Fix our eyes on Him – ‘I am with you’ is the crucial reality.  Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24).  He has given us His own Spirit.
  3. Give our whole lives to Him – the widow put her whole life in the Lord’s hands when she gave all that she had to live on.  Do we have goals or portions of our lives that we have walled off from Him?  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)
  4. Step out – John Wimber used to say that faith is spelt R-I-S-K!  We do well to humbly acknowledge that we are just a few loaves and fishes.  It is good to confess that the Lord is holding us in His mighty hands.  But until we are broken and distributed we will not see the 5000 fed.  And no leftovers!

For those of us in The Word of God, recalling and living these truths is not just a path to fulfilling some particular mission goals, it is itself a key aspect of our mission.  The Lord has called us to live as a people who are characterized by this surrendered and empowered and fruitful life as a sign and a means for others to enter into it, as well.  In our Covenant we acknowledge that He has called us ‘to give our whole lives to Him, to follow His Son, Jesus, and to live more and more in the Holy Spirit’, He who is our ‘all in all’.  He has told us that it was not for our own sake alone that He has called us, but for the sake of those He is drawing to Himself.

When are you too few and too weak to be used by the Lord?  When you are one man and one woman, and them as good as dead?  When you are 120 frightened disciples hiding in an upper room?  When you are four young men praying in an apartment above a drug store?  When you are a hundred or so normal folks praying and looking for God to bring transformation?  The answer of Kingdom history and Kingdom math is – never!

Evidence For Evangelism -- Bob Magill

How a lawyer assembles the evidence for the defense of the Gospel

 

by Bob Magill

The year 2000, a millennial year and a jubilee year, is a good year to tell others about the person who is the reason for the dating system which we use. One tool that we can use in evangelism is the historical evidence for our faith.

Like a trial, history attempts to discover and explain events that occurred in the past. It uses the evidence of witnesses and things in order to arrive at some conclusion both about what happened and the significance of what happened. The "rules of evidence" for both disciplines are essentially the same and are based on common sense—the way human minds work.

Now what I'm talking about here is evidence that the Gospels are good history, not that they are inspired books or inerrant. By simply demonstrating that the Gospels are reliable history, we can more easily introduce someone to Jesus. They can then discover for themselves why the church, in creating the canon, came to believe that the books were inspired as well.

Much has been made in the secular press of The Jesus Seminar, a group of liberal Bible Scholars who have tried to cast doubt on the historical reliability of the Gospels. However, they are much longer on opinion than on facts. We can give facts.

Lets look at the things that we could show to a jury in the courts of history. The first phase of a trial is to get evidence admitted. What is our evidence?

1. Manuscript Evidence Very old physical manuscripts of the New Testament, in whole or in part, have been preserved. Look at their great number, the relatively short gap in time between the date of the creation of the original writing and the events recorded, and the harmony between the various manuscript copies. Now compare those factors with those of other ancient histories. It is easy to see that the manuscript support for the New Testament as a whole is better than for any other ancient history. See the chart (Exhibit 1). Ancient history doesn't get any better than this.

2. Dates and authorship If the gap in time between Jesus and the time the Gospels were written can be claimed to be large, some scholars use the claimed gap as an opportunity to insert their own opinions as to what really happened, dismissing the Gospel  

 

WORK

 

WHEN WRITEN

 

EARLIEST COPY

 

TIME LAPSE

 

#OF COPIES

 

Herodotus

 

488-428 B.C.

 

A.D. 900

 

1,300yrs

 

8

 

Thucydides

 

c 460-400 B.C

 

C. A.D. 900

 

1,300 yrs

 

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tacitus

 

A.D. 100

 

A.D.1100

 

1,000 yrs

 

20

 

Caesar's Gallic War

 

58-50 B.C.

 

A.D.900

 

950 yrs

 

9-10

 

New Testament

 

A.D. 40-100

 

A.D.130 full manu­scripts A.D. 359

 

30-310 yrs

 

5000+ Greek, 10,000 Latin, 9300 others

 

Exhibit 1. When compared to other ancient texts, there are far more copies of the New Testament written far closer to the events portrayed in them, than any other ancient docu­ment. Based on this, we have more reason to trust in the reliability of the new Testament than Julius Caesar's Gallic War!

accounts as legends. Thus, over a hundred years ago, The German Tubingen school claimed that the Matthew, Mark and Luke's Gospels were first written after 130 AD and John not until the late second century.

Then in 1934, the noted papyrologist C.H. Roberts exam­ined a neglected papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John, which had been recovered from Egypt, and dated it to between 100-150 AD. (Exhibit 2) Since this was a fragment of a copy found in Egypt, far from Ephesus, the original was undoubtedly written earlier. The range of dates now given by mainline scholars for the writing of the Gospels runs from 50 AD (earliest) to 100 AD (latest). See Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. 1999, p. 52.

 MagillExh2

Exhibit 2. How old are the Gospels? Some skeptical scholars used to date them 130 AD or later. Then in 1934 this fragment of a copy of the Gospel of John was discovered in Egypt, miles from Ephesus where it was written. It was dated between 100-150 AD, pushing the authorship of the original back to 50-100 AD, well within the lifetime of John, the purported author.

Internal evidence alone suggests, at least for Luke, a date near 60 AD since his Gospel precedes his Acts which ends without telling what happens to Paul, who died c. 62-67AD.   This date range is sufficient to allow for the Gospels to have been written by, or with testimony from, eyewitnesses. But there is even more evidence pertaining to authorship. Early church documents exist, some only in fragments recorded later, whose authors claim personal knowledge of the authorship. For example, Papias (c. 125 AD) records a statement of John that "Mark having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately all that he mentioned, whether sayings or doings of Christ...' Irenaeus (c. 180), who was a disciple ofPolycarp who was a disciple of John, also attests that the four Gospels were written by the persons whose names they bear: Matthew ("when Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel In Rome"), Mark, Luke, and John the "disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on His breast, himself produced his Gospel, while he was living at Ephesus in Asia." (as quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ. 1996.p.23-24).

3. Corroboration documents archaeology

A. Documents: There is corroboration of the existence, death, resurrection and sayings of Jesus from another witness: Paul. "The authorship and early date for eight of his letters (including Gal. and 1 & II Cor.) is undoubted." (Columbia Encyclopedia. 5th ed., 1993) Paul states that he was an eyewitness to the risen Lord and that he had been in personal contact with eyewitnesses to Christ's ministry:

Peter, James, and John (Gal.l and 1 Cor. 15: letters written 49-56 AD).

Non-Christian sources also corroborate that some events described in the Gospels occurred and were noted by contemporary historians. For example, the Roman historian Tacitus (115 AD; Annals 15.44). describes the leader of the Christians whom Nero persecuted: "Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus"

Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote 3 passages in his book The Antiquities of the Jews (c 93 AD) which confirm some of the events recorded in the Gospels: the murder by Herod of John the Baptist, the killing of James after the death of Festus, and a lengthy passage about Jesus. Some claim that this passage, in whole or part, is an addition to Josephus by Christians; but it appears in all the existing manuscripts. The most objective version is a 4th century Arabic text saying "they reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive: accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders." (McDowell, p. 57)

Exhibit 3

B. Archaeology: Numerous archaeological finds have been made confirming details found in the Gospels, while none have been discovered which contradict. For example, the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2) has been excavated (see F.F.ruce, "The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, p, 94). And in 1961, an Italian team turned over a stone being used as a step in Caesarea Maritima and discov­ered the only known inscription referring to Pontius Pilate.    Exhibit 3. Some used (to doubt the account of the crucifixion because no historical record of Pontus Pilate had been found. In 1961 Italian archeologists discov­ered in Caesarea Maritima, a fragmentary inscription carrying the name of Pontius Pilate. Caesarea Maritima was the usual residence of the Roman authori­ties in Judea. In full, the inscrip­tion states that Pilate, the Procu­rator of Judea from 26-36 AD, dedicated a temple in honor of Tiberius.

4. The Lack of Factual Rebuttal Evidence

While there are "expert witnesses" with opinions against the Gospels as history, they have no "fact witnesses" to support them. There is not—as far as I know—testimony from any 1st or 2nd century witness who says "I know personally—or I have been told by a person with personal knowledge—that a) the events in the Gospels did not happen b) Jesus never existed c) the Gospels were not written until the second century d) the Gospels were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John or e) any combination of the above." Thus, the only fact witnesses in the matter support the historical quality of the Gospels.

Now, whether or not the Gospels are accurate and credible and reliable on all points or whether miracles can occur are other matters. That is for the second trial phase — argu­ments over the credibility and interpretation of the evi­dence, a phase we must discuss some other time. All that I have attempted here is to get the evidence admitted into court, that is, to get someone to read the Gospels as history.

But as a foretaste of such arguments, I would respond to someone who cites The Jesus Seminar that "The Jesus Seminar represents an extremely small number of radical-fringe scholars who are on the far, far left wing of New Testament thinking. It does not represent mainstream scholarship. ..What they have in mind is a totally new form of Christianity." (Gregory A. Boyd, quoted by Strobel, p. 114-115). What we have in mind is the truth" of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word." Luke 1:4 & 1.

The Simple Truth -- Dave Mangan

PicManganDaveHave you ever wondered why life is so complicated and everything is so difficult?  What if it's not?  Have you ever had the experience of taking a lot of time and effort to accomplish some task only to find out that it could have been done in one third of the time with only half the effort?  I sure have.  So what's the missing ingredient?  I think the missing ingredient is truth.  Simply put, when we see things for what they really are we can respond in the wisest manner.  It is my contention that the Christian life is simple.  Don't get me wrong, I don't mean that it is easy.  By simple I mean that it is not complicated -- it doesn't have many moving parts.  In 2 Corinthians 11:3 Paul urges us not to be "led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ."  Another translation says don't be robbed of the simplicity that is in Christ.

Another way to put this is that you know a whole lot more than you think you do.  We who have been baptized into Christ have received a tremendous amount of grace and knowledge.  Think about it and I'll bet you that in about 90% of your situations you have no trouble distinguishing what is the right thing to do.  The teachings of scripture and the Church are clear.  Also consider this.  Our major "problems" usually don't come from that 10% of our situations that may be a bit more difficult to figure out.  Our problems more commonly come from those situations where we know what we ought to do but we don't want to do it.

So how do we handle this problem?  I think a prescription of realizing some simple truth and a double dose of God's grace is the solution.  I know when I am fighting one of those battles when I want to do it my way rather than God's way, the basic problem is that I don't really believe that any one will take care of me if I don't take care of myself -- not even God. 

But what is the truth?  The truth is that God loves me and he showed it when Jesus died for me on the cross.  In the Gospel of John we read: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son..."  This was a tremendous act of love.  How much proof do I need!  All that he does is love.  When he deals with me in any fashion, whether I understand it or not, he is acting out of love for me.

One of the ways I like to share this truth with others is to say that God loves you whether you like it or not.  God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it.  It doesn't begin with you.  It isn't true merely because you believe it and you can't make it go away by not believing it.  God loves you because that's the way he is.  So there!

So what do we do if we have cut ourselves off from that wonderful love?  This is where the double dose of grace comes in.  God is absolutely delighted to forgive us and show us mercy if we turn to him.  Consider a couple of thoughts from the scriptures. 

In Micah 7:18 we read:  "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy."  He doesn't forgive us grudgingly.  He enjoys doing it.

In Mark 3:13 we are told: "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  As I read this one day my eyes kept landing one the word "wanted."  I began to realize that he didn't just call me because he had to or because it was his job.  He actually wanted to do it.  He really likes me.  Growing in these simple truths has changed my life.

In summary let me put it this way.  God loves us and his love for us is complete and unconditional.  We have turned away from that love and have gotten ourselves into a peck of trouble in the process.  And if that's not bad enough, we might even do it again.  But thanks be to God he has provided a solution to our dilemma -- his wonderful, forgiving grace.

I pray that as you have read this you have experienced more than my inadequate words.  I pray that the Holy Spirit has brought these simple, basic truths to life in your heart.  For that you need his grace.  I can't give that to you; you'll have to ask Jesus for it.  After all, you're better off dealing with him than me anyway.