Holding on tightly to what I know to be true

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In faculty prayer time today, my principal mentioned how much of a battle it is every morning and throughout the day to use Biblical truths to fight unbidden thoughts and feelings that arise due to circumstances.  She exhorted us to build and cling to a high-view of God that will carry us through the day.  And since a proper picture of God only comes from soaking in His Word, we must consciously take the time to bring our minds back to the facts that we read in the Bible.  These facts are truths based on who God is, what He has promised, what He has done.

Katecho’ is the Greek word for ‘hold on real tight’ (Strongs # 2722).  The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts his listeners:

But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on (katecho) to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

Kata means intensive and ‘echo signifies hold down, hold fast or retain.

Confidently and firmly holding on, we look to Him who rescued us and in whom we believers are built up, members of His body, the church.  He calls us to be His ambassadors, stones in His house, witnesses, servants, living for Him.

And if we let go of our confidence in Him (which can happen if we stop INTENSELY HOLDING ON TO what we know to be true of Him and of ourselves), then we fall into evil unbelief.

Do we realize that not to believe is not only a sin, but actual EVIL according to the Bible?  Stoking, nurturing, feeding, i.e. indulging our doubts IS blatant disobedience.  Don’t get me wrong, doubts fly at us all day long from other people and from Satan…but we have to fight them with biblical truth.  We have to ask for help from fellow believers and we in turn must pray for and encourage our brothers and sisters.  This is war. Naiveté is fatal. As the French rallying cry goes, ‘Aux armes, Citoyens!’ We strap on our spiritual weapons of warfare and stand firm, ready to fight!

But we don’t fight alone.  Plenty of passages encourage us to pray for what we need.  Hebrews 4:16 assures us of our privileged access to the throne and source of mercy (i.e.: compassion – He understands the pressures of the battlefield) and grace (i.e.: strength for the battles)

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may    receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

If I apply these principles to my life, it looks like this: I, Maria, need to trust God that He IS providing enough time each day to do the necessary.  It is painful for me to trust Him.  All around I see lack..lack..lack.  I tighten up and get grim.  But our pastor Byron preached a sermon a couple of weeks ago that has helped me.  Psalm 131 is very short – only 3 verses.  But the imagery is powerful.  Consider verse 2:

1 My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

3 Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

I had never considered how a weaned child might feel around his mom’s breasts which heretofore had been his only source of food.  Weaned, he now has to trust her to provide for him in different ways.  Miraculously a toddler can and does lean his head, snuggling up against his mom, quietly awaiting her timely provision. He isn’t old enough to secure his own food.  He is totally dependent, but doesn’t fret because his supply (mom’s milk) is no longer available for him.

So now, when I’m tempted to give in to stress as time speeds up and tasks multiply, I affirm, “Lord, I’m resting, imagining my head against your chest, feeling your breathing, steady – in and out, comforted as I wait for you to give me just what I need this day.  Thank you for your sufficiency and faithfulness[.  Keep me close to you.  Keep me from wandering off to tend my needs.”

I’m a slow learner.  But He is patient.

 

What about Adam?

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The June 2011 issue of “Christianity Today” features a provocative report about the churn among Christians over whether Adam & Eve were historical individuals as portrayed in the Bible.  Francis Collins who currently is director of a Senate-approved agency (National Institutes of Health) considers himself Christian and favors theistic evolution.  As director of the Human Genome Project (completed in 2003) Collins and colleagues mapped out gene sequencing in humans.  Collins has concluded from this study, as reported in a book he recently co-authored (The Language of Science and Faith), that “Adam & Eve as the literal first couple and ancestors of all humans do not fit the evidence”.

This assumption is disturbing on two accounts: First of all, those who support the findings and support theistic evolution minimize the impact of their assertions.  Second and more fraught with potential harm, is the implication for much of Biblical Theology and directly the trustworthiness of the Bible.  I will address the second of these issues.

The author of the “Christianity Today” article, Richard Ostling, correctly articulates what is at stake:

–      Humans’ unique status as image bearers of God

–      The doctrine of original sin and the fall

–      The genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3

–      Jesus’ teaching that all of the Old Testament points to Him (Luke 24)

–      Paul’s teaching that links the historical Adam with redemption through Christ

This issue is different from the debate among evangelical Christians who argue Old Earth vs. Young Earth.  In that arena, it is clearer that there are at least two possible interpretations.  The Bible refers to days (yowm) spent in creating the world.  In Hebrew ‘yowm/Strongs H3117’ can mean 24 hours, a year or a long period of time.  So the creation account is open to discussion without raising the trustworthiness of the Bible as an issue.

But if there is not a literal and historical Adam, then here are the implications:

-God did NOT decide as a Trinitarian unit to make man in His image, male and female (Gen 1:27)

-God did NOT have a conversation with Adam in Gen 2:16-17

-Eve did NOT talk with Satan as serpent in Gen 3:1-5

-Eve did NOT sin in Gen 3:6

-No sudden guilt, shame and cover-up happened in Gen 3:7

-No face-to-face encounter between God and the first couple took place in Gen 3:8-9

-Adam & Eve did not try to pass the buck, playing the blame game in Gen 3:11-13

-Gospel Hope was not first preached in Gen 3:15

-No penalty for sin was announced in Gen 3:16-19, thereby explaining what is wrong with our world

Given the above, I spent a sleepless night this past weekend.  I had to contemplate what it would mean NOT to trust that every word of the Bible is sovereignly breathed out by God. For 12-15 hours, I floated in a nightmarish free-for-all.  In that land, Jesus is no longer my living Rock (Psalm 18:46), no longer my reliable/faithful/true shield and bulwark/defending fortress that protects me (Psalm 91:4)   If I can’t count on God’s word as true, there is no truth.

But wishing doesn’t make it so.

How do we determine that the Bible is reliable and trustworthy as it is written?  What about scientific discoveries that seem to point to other conclusions?  I have no scientific background, but I am a bit more equipped to reason philosophically.  And that is the approach I want briefly to try out.  It is not enough to just say, “The Bible claims to be the true word of God, so it must be so.” That is circular reasoning.  We are trying to prove why the Bible is trustworthy.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am starting with the pre-supposition that God exists. Here is how it goes from there:

For God to be God, He has to be supernatural.  He has to be all-powerful and all-knowing.  And from everything I have witnessed in life, He is also all-good. What is my evidence? : my life, the lives of Christian friends, the accounts of dead ‘saints’ and the historical events of Biblical characters.  In all of these, there is evidence of God working through ‘bad’ circumstances in lives to bring about amazing results.  Having established that He is supernaturally all-good, He also has to be completely truthful and dependable. For someone who is good cannot lie or be wishy-washy.

So, if a transcendent god with these qualities were to ordain that a document be written for the benefit of his creation, would it not follow that this document would be a reflection of his character?   In our everyday life, what we say and do springs from who we are. It is only logical that the same would pertain to this god.   It is therefore ‘reasonable’ ( in the true sense of the word, i.e. logical) to assume that the Bible reflects the character of God.  If God is trustworthy and faithful and true, then so is His Word.  At this point, we can then add what the Bible says about itself.  There are many verses, but here are two that come to mind:

–      Psalm 19: 7-9 gives many adjectives about God’s written word.  It is PERFECT, SURE, RIGHT, PURE, ENDURING, TRUE and RIGHTEOUS

–      Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s word is ALIVE, ACTIVE, EFFECTUAL and FULL OF POWER.

Finally, Jesus who is God, Himself validated the entire Old Testament when He explicitly taught some of the disciples who had been walking to Emmaus.  Over a meal, He showed them how the Pentateuch (includes Genesis) and the Prophets all pointed to Him. (Luke 24:27)

Thinking this through settles the issue for me.  God’s Word IS true and reliable and worth centering my life on.  What about the Human Genome Project?  I don’t know.  I will trust God to sort that out.  I don’t dismiss scientific inquiry. Neither do I default to submitting to science.  I don’t have to have all the answers to trust God, to rely on the Bible completely. I can take my concerns to God and lay them at His feet and trust that He will instruct me.  God is my lodestar.  That is the decision I have to make daily, hourly.

PS:   bereft of my bedrock for those few hours has had the sweet benefit of making me love the Bible all the more.  How precious are its words!  May we taste and see that He who is the Word is good.

My life verse

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I’ve settled on Ephesians 1:5- 6 as my life verse (for right now!). “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Paul is encouraging me to really understand that I exist solely so that someone can look at my life and see how marvelous God is for providing Jesus to create a way to be reconciled with God, have peace with Him and have a perfect record credited to one’s account.  These two verses are very challenging!

Every day I pray one of John Piper’s prayers:  Lord, may the words of my mouth and the actions of my hands serve to magnify the infinite worth of Jesus Christ and his death.

The only problem is that I haven’t yet lived a day and done that!  I tend to end up magnifying myself.  Yesterday, I chatted with the truck driver who delivered our Florida fruit for the Sophomore Class fruit and peanut sale.  I asked him how he spent his hours on the road.  When he mentioned that he liked to listen to Howard Stern, I launched into my sales pitch about podcasts and how there is so much rich material one can download from the internet.  I signed his delivery paperwork, he left and I realized that I had wasted an opportunity to make a plug for how marvelous Jesus is.  I actually was motivated to show him how marvelous Maria is.

This is the story of my life up through yesterday, but I live in hope that one of these days I actually will witness to Christ.  Not what he has done for me, but just what he has done, in history.

What we find difficult to accept in the Bible

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Have you ever found it thought-provoking what hangs people up in the word of God?  For some, they can’t quite believe in a virgin birth.  For others, it’s the idea of a 6-day creation.  Still some stall out at the idea of characters in Genesis living for a really long time.

What I find curious is I’ve never heard anyone question how we’re going to be turned from dust in the ground to a newly resurrected body when Jesus comes back.  (1 Thess 4:16 –   For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.)   Now that is amazing!  One blast from God’s trumpet and particles of dead flesh, in different stages of decay, will reassemble in a split second.  I love to picture that scene.  It’s a different version of God speaking order into chaos at creation.  The power in God’s words doesn’t penetrate my everyday thoughts.   I don’t marvel enough.

At a more mundane level, an application for me these days is to remind myself not to fret if material things are wearing out, like the wallpaper that is beginning to peal in my kitchen.  Or even my 52-year old skin.  As a red-headed child, I blithely lay out in the sun .  Now the skin damage is visible.  Oh well!  Who cares about the wallpaper.  But I’m thankful that I will get a new body.  I wonder what I’ll look like!

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