For Your Good

January 28, 2011

A few years ago, I ran across an article entitled “Do five simple things a day to stay sane, says scientists.” The social scientists, not being writers of headlines, were talking about mental well-being. They had found that five simple things that can often be done daily make a great difference in our mental outlook. What was their list?

  • Connect. Develop relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
  • Be active. It can be as simple as taking a walk, but physical activity is good for us.
  • Be curious. Note the beauty of everyday moments. Reflect on what is most important.
  • Learn. It’s challenging and brings satisfaction to our lives.
  • Give. “Helping friends and strangers links your happiness to a wider community and is very rewarding.”

What strikes me as I reflect on such a list is that my faith encourages me to do these simple things. My faith encourages me to connect with others: my family, my church family, and my community. Assembling with my church family and doing acts of service encourage me to be active. Prayer and meditation encourage curiosity and living a reflective life. As a student of the Bible, I’m a lifetime learner besides the fact that service will also entail learning new things. Following Jesus who came not to be served but to serve leads me into giving. I’ve learned giving in my weekly contribution to the church, but I’ve also learned to give to others in various settings. Following Jesus encourages me to be generous.

Another social science study notes that church attendance and having friends at church are keys to well-being. Thirty-three percent of those who attend weekly with three to five friends in the congregation report being extremely satisfied. Those who attend weekly without friends in the church and those who never attend scored 19% extremely satisfied.

The bottom line is not about social science or what I may perceive as beneficial to me. I could be self-deceived about my felt needs. The bottom line is about God. I’m struck by a line in Deuteronomy 10:13. Moses has commanded Israel to walk in the way of the Lord, to love God, and to serve God with all their heart. Moses tells them to keep the commandments “for your good.”

I’m convinced that following God is the best way. It is the way of character, inner peace, and fulfillment in life. Social science catches a glimpse of well-being, but wisdom intimately knows the inner life of the soul. Even when following God leads through hardships, I’m convinced God’s way will ultimately be the best way. I believe in a loving God who commands things “for your good.”

400 Years Old!

January 21, 2011

First published in 1611, the King James Version celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2011. The KJV had a number of important English Bible predecessors: the Tyndale New Testament (1525/26), the Coverdale Bible (1535), the Matthew-Tyndale Bible (1537), the “Great Bible” (1539), the Geneva Bible (1560), and the Bishop’s Bible (1568).

King James I, the king of England and earthly head of the Church of England, called the Hampton Conference of 1604. It was at this conference that a new translation of the Bible was proposed for use in the Church of England. One of the purposes of the new translation was to eliminate marginal notes that had become popular with the Geneva Bible. Those notes had become a battle ground of doctrinal differences.

Fifty-four translators worked on the KJV, although the names of only forty-seven have been preserved. The translators were divided into six committees. Three committees worked on the Old Testament, two on the New Testament, and one on the Apocrypha. (The Apocrypha was commonly printed in the KJV until the British and Foreign Bible Society adopted a policy of omitting it in 1826.) The draft translation from these six committees was then reviewed by a smaller group of 12 translators (two from each committee). The work of seeing the translation through the printing process was overseen by Miles Smith and Thomas Bilson. Smith wrote the preface, “The Translators to the Readers,” which is usually omitted in modern printings, although interesting to read.

In what sense is the King James Version the Authorized Version? The mention of authorized version is printed in the KJV, but unfortunately there is no historical record of its authorization. It is assumed to have come by Order in Council, but records have been lost. Such an order would only have meant that it was authorized by the Church of England to be read in their churches. It is not a reference to any divine authorization.

Why celebrate? I’ve decided to read the KJV in my daily Bible readings this year in honor of its 400th anniversary. The KJV made a profound effect on language, literature, and study of the Bible. For many, it is still their Bible of choice. The preface to the KJV remarks that they owed “everlasting remembrance” to the translators who went before them. I suspect we do owe an incredible debt to all who have translated the Bible for us. The KJV translators overcame a resistance to making the Bible available in the common language (an issue addressed in the KJV preface). Whatever translation you are reading, if it in English, you have an incredible debt to the KJV and the translations that preceded it. They made the Bible available to us all.

Greater Love

January 14, 2011

The nation was shocked by the Arizona shooting. The darkness of human madness is incomprehensible. Yet, in the midst of such darkness the light is often reflected because human beings are created in the image of God. Dorwin Stoddard, a victim of the shooting, is one such story. You may have heard his name in the news, but you may not have heard that he was a member of the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. He and his wife, Mavy, were involved in their benevolence ministry.

When the shooting began, Dorwin threw himself into the line of fire to protect his wife. Although wounded, Mavy is recovering and was released from the hospital. Dorwin was fatally wounded.

You can’t hear such a story and not be moved. How great a sacrifice! How great a love! And in the background I hear the echo of scriptures.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7–8, ESV

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13, ESV

I have sat across the desk from couples preparing for marriage and read portions of Ephesians 5: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV). I have asked those potential husbands, “What kind of love did Christ have?” It is difficult to coax the words out of them, but the answer is sacrificial. It should not be surprising that a man who attempted to live a Christlike life died a Christlike death. Greater love has no one but to lay down his life for another.

But if you are moved by this man’s love and sacrifice, remember something. You are loved in the same way. Christ died so that you might live. How great a love! How great a sacrifice!

Our condolences go to the victims of this shooting and their families. Whenever there is darkness, a need exists for people to reflect the light. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. Those who have come to know the sacrifice and love of Jesus can be light bearers in the midst of darkness.

“In Accordance with the Scriptures”

January 7, 2011

The witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection also testify that His death and resurrection were in accordance with the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:4, Luke 24:44). Another line of evidence that the seeker needs to consider about Jesus is prophecy found in the Old Testament or Jewish Tanach.

Alfred Edersheim listed 456 passages which were interpreted as Messianic in ancient Jewish literature. J. Barton Payne in his Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy identified 1239 predictions in the Old Testament (6,641 verses) of which 127 (3,348 verses) were personal Messianic predictions. An important point for the seeker to remember is that the prophecies were written before the birth of Jesus. We can know that from the Jewish literature of the time, the manuscripts of the Old Testament that date before the first century A.D. (e.g., the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the translation of the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint) which dates from 200 to 100 B.C. We do not have to worry about a criticism which would claim the prophecies were written after Christ to make it look like Jesus had fulfilled them.

Peter Stoner was chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College. He had students calculate probabilities for eight Messianic passages. He attempted always to remain conservative in their estimates. They found the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all 8 prophecies was 1 in 1017.

Stoner illustrated the probability by imagining 1017 silver dollars dumped onto the state of Texas. They would cover all of the state two feet deep. Stoner wrote: “Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote them in their own wisdom.”

We are faced with the choice between the inspiration of God guiding the prophets or some incredibly difficult odds. And as Stoner noted, it is not just a matter of 8 prophecies. We have more than 100 that could be added to the calculations. Stoner calculated if we were to take it up to 48 prophecies, the odds would then be 1 in 10157. Stoner concluded with these words: “Any man who rejects Christ as the Son of God is rejecting a fact proved perhaps more absolutely than any other fact in the world.”1

The witnesses claim that Jesus’ passion and resurrection are in accordance to the Scriptures. Have you examined? What have you decided?

1Peter W. Stoner, Science Speaks: An Evaluation of Certain Christian Evidences (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963), pp. 99-112.