Bible Truth

This entry is part 148 of 163 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Do you believe that the words in the Bible are the truth?

Yes. The Bible claims to be the written words of God conveyed through human authors through the inspiration of his Holy Spirit. Passages like 2 Timothy 3:16–17 make such claims that God spoke the words of the Bible.

Because it makes this truth claim we must either accept that this is factual or not. Those who believe in the Bible like myself and have studied it understand that God spoke through the words of Scripture.

All of the claims that it makes, including claims about Jesus Christ as God’s son brought to this world to save us all from our sins and bring us into the kingdom of God must also then be true. (John 14:6).

The Bible has the goal that we would meet Jesus and become his followers, believers, and friends. God wishes to reunite us with himself.

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David and Bathsheba

This entry is part 147 of 163 in the series Inquiring Minds
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According to the Bible, who did David commit adultery with?

David committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (2 Samuel 11). As a king, David should’ve been in the battle with all of his mighty men. Instead he was in the wrong place. This opened him up to temptation with her.

After he committed adultery with Bathsheba, David brought her husband back from the front lines hoping to cover up the fact that she was pregnant. It didn’t work because he was more righteous in this case then David.

He refused to go home and enjoy the presence of his wife while his friends and fellow soldiers were on the battlefield. David then sent him back to the front lines and gave orders that put him in danger. He died in the battle, making David both an adulterer and a murderer.

David was very close to God, but when he sinned, he really sinned. Even though their child died as part of God’s discipline, David then Mary Bathsheba and they had Solomon, the third king of Israel.

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God’s Choice

Romans Miniseries Part 1

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In 1948 after World War II several nations took it upon themselves to reconstitute the nation of Israel in the middle of the Middle East. Today Israel is surrounded by enemies who seek nothing more than its demise. It has a few powerful friends.

This event and others like it are central to some Christian understandings about prophecy and the end times. But I want to talk about Israel in a different way, in the same way that Paul talked about it. I think he presents some powerful arguments and views about Israel.

Many theological stances either ignore Israel or put it central to their tenants. Some people see the nation of Israel as a key factor in the end times and others don’t even in knowledge it. But Paul raises a different matter about Israel in Romans 9-11.

When Paul talks about Israel he is really talking about God and what he has done with the nation of Israel. In his attempts to understand God’s sovereignty with Israel he is proclaiming God’s character.

God’s sovereignty is a very important theological discussion to have. And as we read through Romans 9-11 together, you will see that sometimes Paul talks about it from the human perspective and other times from God’s perspective. Let’s dive in!

Digging in to Romans 9-11

Few books of the Bible have more written about them then Romans. It is a deeply theological book with many weighty discussions. In the third section of the book, Paul begins a personal treatise on the nation of Israel including his personal thoughts and desires for them.

As a fellow Jew he desires for all of Israel to be saved. But in his time and in ours there were two different Israel’s. We’ll be getting into that throughout these three special posts. I want to go through these three chapters because there are several theological moves Christians make as they read and interpret these chapters.

This is how I interpret these chapters, doing my best to agree with the rest of Scripture on the subject of Israel as well. Israel can become a volatile subject impending on what theological camp you are a part of. It’s not my intention to offend anyone but to express my views on this three chapter passage.

Israel’s Inheritance (Romans 9:1-5)

We must not make light of Paul’s approach and honesty in the beginning of his discussion on Israel. He tells us that even the Holy Spirit can testify about his zeal for his people (Romans 9:1). His feelings about Israel start with sorrow and anguish because of their position in God (Romans 9:2).

He goes so far as to say that he is willing to be cut off from Christ for the sake of his own people, the Israelites, to know Christ (Romans 9:3). But notice the slight separation Paul makes that he saw that Paul goes on we’ll make clear soon. The nation of Israel are his kinsman in the flesh, making a distinction he will make obvious later (Romans 9:4).

Paul goes on to express the inheritance the nation of Israel received from God. He points out that Israel received:

  • ,Adoption
  • LoriGlory
  • Giving of the Law
  • Worship
  • Promises
  • Patriarchs
  • Christ

All of these things are their heritage but they have conditions that the Israelites must follow to enjoy such a great inheritance. These gifts from God culminate in sending this sign or chosen one, the Christ.

God’s Decision (Romans 9:6-18)

How did we get to this place where God offered such a wonderful inheritance to one group of people? At first glance it seems God gave one people group everything and left the rest of the world to rot. But that’s not how everything went down.

After all, there are many problems with just picking a group of people and giving them everything. What if they don’t want it, respect it, or take full advantage of it? Don’t worry. God thought of all of that.

If Israel abused its inheritance, God’s word and promised to them would have failed. Paul makes one of his most powerful opening statements that not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel (Romans 9:6). That statement either doesn’t make sense or blows your mind.

Paul goes the whole way back to Abraham and Isaac to explain his position. He will make the case that there are two Israel’s. One is the ethnic nation of Israel and the other is the spiritual Israel God is creating.

Romans 9:8 is the explanation. Abraham’s true children are not those that came from his seed, direct descendents physically of Abraham. His true children are those that came the same way Isaac came, as promised children. These are ones that do not trust in their physical heritage but in the promise of God. That is how God’s children are born (John 1:12-13).

The physical descendents of Abraham benefit from the promise and covenant God made with Abraham but they cannot rely on their physical heritage. They must become believers in the promise as Abraham did.

Paul goes to the source in history: Abraham and then Isaac’s wife, Rebecca. God sovereignly chose Isaac over Ishmael. Ishmael was the firstborn but Isaac was the child of promise. Then with Rebecca, God also chose Jacob over Esau.

In the first case, Isaac was the child of promise that Abraham and Sarah were supposed to wait for. Ishmael was the human answer to God’s promise when they got impatient. Sarah gave Hagar, her maidservant, to Abraham to make offspring. But that is not what God promised. So God chose Isaac, the promised son, over Ishmael.

It happened again when God chose Jacob over the firstborn, Esau. But this was not a choice for better over worse. It was God’s choice. Paul explains that the choice was God’s and that it wasn’t over better or worse. Neither Esau nor Isaac had the chance to make good or bad decisions when God chose in the womb (Romans 9:11).

One of the favorite words of Calvinists appears here: election (Romans 9:11). But the idea of being elected or chosen isn’t because of some special requirement before the creation of the world. It is simply God’s choice. Paul is speaking of God’s choice from his point of view, not ours.

God’s Mercy (Romans 9:14-29)

Then in Romans 9:14-18, Paul switches to the human point of view of God’s sovereign right to choose. He asks if God is unjust in his choice. But the thing is that humans don’t get to tell God whether he is unjust in his choices.

God chooses of his own will and none of us can correct him. We are finite beings and he is our infinite Creator. We are clay and he is the Potter (Romans 9:20-22). It would be horrible if God made us simply for his own whims.

But it would only be horrible if God were to vindictively use his power over us for whatever he felt like doing at the time. But this is not the case. Paul argues that God is merciful and compassionate (Romans 9:15-16, 18). Unlike every human being who has power in history God uses it to bless and empower us.

We must not forget that Paul also does not completely understand all of God’s purposes from beginning to end. He is just like us, trying to understand how the sovereignty of God and human free will coincide. And so he asks questions like, “What if God endures with patients the vessels he made for wrath so that he can show even more his glory through the vessels he made for mercy” (Romans 9:22-24)

He does mention Pharaoh in Romans 9:17. Many people bring up how the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But when you read the context of the account of the ten plagues in Egypt, you will find that Pharaoh hardened his heart first and God finalized that hardening through the plagues.

Paul refers to Hosea has one of his examples. In Hosea’s day Israel had turned from the Lord but he had not yet kicked them out of his land. He explained to Hosea that he would make his people who are right now not his people to be his people (Romans 9:25-26). We know from history that God had to take his people out of his land to make them his people again so he could give them the land back.

It begs the question of all of us, “Who can know the mind of God?” God is looking at an infinitely larger picture than any of us. He sees everything as a finished product while we are crawling through the midst of the timeline. We can’t even go backward into history.

God is creating a remnant out of the original people that he promised his salvation to (Romans 9:27). Isaiah confirms that God is gracious even to Israel because if he had not made his people out of them they would be like the other nations on the earth (Romans 9:28). It’s not Israel that was holy and righteous and chosen by God. It is God who is holy and righteous and chose Israel.

Israel’s Unbelief (Romans 9:30-33)

All of this historical discussion about who and why God chose among humanity now turns to his offer to every human being through the sacrifice of Christ. Christ died on the cross to save all people but not all people will choose Christ over their own sinful passions.

Do Gentiles (everyone not a Jew and part of the chosen Israel) get a free pass into God’s kingdom without knowing God’s law like the Israelites did (Romans 9:30)? He gave that law to them as a special gift to know his expectations and standards, unlike the other nations of the world.

All the other nations had no idea what God expected, nor did they know with their own false gods expected. Gentiles crawled around in the darkness while the nation Israel relished relationship with God in the light of his covenants and commandments (Romans 9:31).

But Israel made a big mistake. They took God’s laws as things they must do rather than trusting the God who gave them, like Abraham trusted the promise (Romans 9:32). God gave them the law as a gift but they turned it into a system of works.

The Gentiles came to Christ, the stumbling stone for the Jews. They placed their faith in Christ like Abraham placed his faith in God’s promise (Romans 9:30, 33). The Israelites stumbled over Jesus Christ, the Messiah who is the end of the law, and they missed the Messiah because they focused on doing the law only (Romans 9:33).

Coming Up

This is how Paul saw the peril of his people, the Jews. In his day he wished that everyone would come to know Jesus as their Savior among his own countrymen. And yet what he saw was that so many of them had rejected Jesus.

Paul is working out in these three chapters his understanding of how God could allow some to go astray, save a remnant, and then include the Gentiles. He is happy that God has included as many as he has but he also realizes that it’s not his choice how God will do what he will do.

You don’t want to miss this as Paul continues to talk out his understanding of what will happen to his fellow countrymen. How has God used the church to bring in people based on belief instead of genetics? Stay tuned to find out how Paul works this out in Romans 10-11!

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Unjust Manager

This entry is part 146 of 163 in the series Inquiring Minds

In the parable, why was the unjust steward dismissed from his job according to the Bible?

The unjust or dishonest manager of the household (Luke 16:1–13) was dismissed from his job because he was unjust and dishonest. I would imagine that he did not deal properly with any of the accounts of his master’s house.

The idea of being unjust meant that he did not treat anyone with righteousness. I’m sure there were many people who dealt with the house from servants to friends of the Master who owed him money who did not like the manager because he was unrighteous in his dealings with them.

When he discovers that he is going to lose his job as the manager of the house he turns around and deals with mercy to each of the people who are indebted to the master. If only he had dealt that way the entire time. This is probably why he was released from serving the master and that house.

Jesus gives several applications of this parable at the end of it (Luke 16:10–16). These are:

  1. The test of a small amount shows our character. If we are faithful in little we will be faithful in much. If we are dishonest in the little things, we will be dishonest in the greater things.
  2. We must be faithful in the little things to be entrusted with greater things.
  3. We cannot serve two masters. This applies to money and our own desires and ourselves. If Jesus is Lord over us, our desires come second if they are not of his will.

I would add to these that we should never wait until it’s too late to be righteous and just with everyone we come into contact with. Don’t wait until you have already lost your processes or job to treat people the way Jesus expects.

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Repentance

This entry is part 145 of 163 in the series Inquiring Minds

What does it mean to truly repent? What if I recommit the sin I repented of?

The word “repent” means to turn away. When a person repents, he or she turns away from all sin and turns to God. Repentance can be accompanied by great sorrow for the sin that we have committed against God and others (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).

Grief and sorrow don’t always prove that we have truly repented. But they are good indicators of our emotional state when we realize what sin has done to our relationship with God and others. When we have turned away from our sin and turned to God, we don’t want to sin anymore.

So what do we do with things like the entangling sin (Hebrews 12:1) and when we recommit or do the same sins again? Continue to ask for forgiveness and repent. The rest of Hebrews 12:1 tells us to throw off the entangling sin and run after God.

We will sin from time to time. But it must not become a regular occurrence or a continuous sin. Jesus always forgives us as we walk in his light and presence. We must be patient with ourselves and continue to throw off the sin.

Continue to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and he will work on the character that doesn’t conform to Christ, the character flaws that rationalize sin that we continue to return to. Let God do his work in you through obedience and service to him.

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Shutting Temptation Down

This entry is part 38 of 39 in the series Holiness Matters

Throughout the world treaties have been signed to limit what most humans consider inhumane activity. War criminals are in prison because they violate these human sensibilities. We avoid wars using chemical warfare because of what it does to the human body.

The belief is that no human deserves that kind of experience even in the middle of war and hatred. Some of these tactics make others feel like less of a human being. To avoid the sociopaths cannot understand why they are inhumane, treaties can be most helpful.

There’s something about already being defeated and the enemy kicking you when you’re down. We have a problem with this but the devil doesn’t. Ever notice that he doesn’t show his ugly face when you’re standing on the top of the mountain of victory with your hands raised in triumph?

He waits until you are crawling in the valley of defeat. That’s the moment he chooses to spring his trap. How in the world are we going to be victorious when temptation waits for our weakest moments?

Jesus is our example in all things. One of the best examples he gave us dealing with temptation happened at the end of 40 days of a food fast in the wilderness. This was to prepare Jesus for ministry right after he was water baptized by John the Baptist.

Imagine that you haven’t eaten any food for 40 days. For almost all of us, that’s quite a stretch. I personally love food. Just take a look at me or ask anybody who knows me. This great spiritual discipline of fasting comes in handy when you have allowed your flesh every little thing it desires.

There’s nothing wrong with the flesh unless it has more control over you than the Holy Spirit does. This is where we enter into the matter of holiness. Jesus prepared himself for ministry by making sure his flesh was in check. He had to rely on the Holy Spirit.

It’s in this moment of what the devil thought was weakness that he showed up and decided to pounce on Jesus. Matthew 4:1-11 records his threefold attack against Jesus and how Jesus responded in victory even in the moment of weakness.

Round One

The devil starts with an opener that is sure to hit its mark. He preys on Jesus’ hunger because of his 40 day fast. He is goading Jesus into exposing himself as the Son of God. But Jesus is meek, meaning that he doesn’t have to show his power in full force at command. He knows who he is.

Jesus doesn’t have to prove anything about being the Son of God. Although he will perform countless miracles throughout his ministry, so many that John tells us they could not all be recorded (John 21:25), he does them under his conditions, not the devil’s.

He wants Jesus to speak bread into existence using the stones. Stones in the Middle East were about the same size and color as a loaf of bread. Jesus is starving and Satan thinks he’s got him beat. But Jesus responds in a way no one ever has.

He tells Satan that people don’t live on bread alone but on God’s words. He quotes from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus fights Satan’s temptation with thorough knowledge of God’s Word.

This is one of the reasons we need to know our Bibles, memorize Scripture, and study it in depth so we know what it means in the proper context. Even memorization is helpful because we can’t take a timeout to look up a verse when the devil or temptation attacks us.

Jesus reminds the devil that God is the sustainer of all things. He is the one provided manna in the wilderness when the Israelites needed food. He is the one who makes all things grow. God is the sustainer of all life and he can sustain us however he wishes.

How often do we think we have to please others or show off? We need to develop a healthy sense of identity in Christ. Do you trust God to provide for all of your needs and sustain you in supernatural ways if needed?

Round one is thoroughly in Jesus’ corner. In what might’ve been his weakest physical state and greatest desire to end his fast Satan had nothing on him. Jesus has every possible weakness fortified against the tempter.

Round Two

Since that first tactic didn’t work for Satan, he came back for more. He wanted the same result, for Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God. This time the tactic was to challenge him to test the promise of God.

Satan wanted Jesus to jump off the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem. He pointed out God’s promise to protect him from all forms of physical danger from Psalm 91:11-12. God promises that he will even send angels if needed to protect Jesus from bodily harm.

Because this is God’s promise for his chosen one, his Messiah, the devil wanted Jesus to test out his divinity and his place is God’s Son. But Jesus knew it and didn’t need to test the promise. He knew that if he ever needed it, it would be there.

Rest assured that the devil knows the Bible also. Just quoting Scripture against him does not guarantee that we will win the battle over temptation. We must know the right verse to use at the right time for the right situation. We must know the context of the Scriptures we use. The Bible isn’t a book of magical incantations but it does contain the most powerful words ever uttered because they are God’s words.

Jesus not only hears the quotation from Scripture but also knows that testing God is out of the question. He quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16 and reminds the devil that no one should put God to the test. That’s exactly what he would do if he jumped. That would test God to see if the promise would come true.

But Jesus didn’t need to do that because he was secure in his identity as the Son of God and the promises that came with it. His absolute trust in God gave him no reason to test his promises. And we are the same way. We must trust that God’s promises are true and are becoming reality.

The devil has been defeated twice now in his attempts to tempt Jesus. He will give up on trying to get Jesus to prove he is the Son of God. Now he will tempt him with the only thing he has left in his bag of tricks.

Round Three

For the final time Satan approaches Jesus with another temptation. Frankly, I think the devils getting tired of being defeated. And yet he keeps on coming. Jesus is going to have to issue a total knock out.

This time, the devil takes him to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world. He claims ownership of this kingdoms and will turn them over to Jesus if he would just bow down and worship the devil.

Satan is getting desperate. The thing is that he actually is in charge of these nations and kingdoms until Jesus returns. One of his names and titles is the Prince of the Power of the Air. Since he got kicked out of heaven he’s relegated to rule on earth but only for a time.

Satan may be in charge of earthly kingdoms now but they still ultimately belong to God and are part of Jesus’ inheritance when he leaves the earth after his resurrection. God placed him on the throne, to his right hand, and subjected all powers (including Satan) under his feet.

So Jesus doesn’t have to bow down to Satan to gain power over these kingdoms. They are already his. It’s already part of God’s plan for him to be King over all kings. Of course, Jesus knows this. He’s not going to be sucker punched by the devil.

This might be the weakest temptation by the devil. Jesus remains strong the whole way through the temptation process but the devil seems to be getting weaker. The more we turn down temptations it doesn’t get any easier but the enemy gets weaker in his pursuit. We must remain strong against temptation of all kinds.

Jesus responds from Deuteronomy 6:13 that we worship and serve God alone and no one else. I love his command to the devil, “Be gone.” He pretty much tells the devil to get lost. Third round goes to the Son of God. The devil is defeated and no temptation strikes a blow.

Jesus taught us several principles about temptation we can take to the bank.

  1. Use Scripture to defeat temptation in the proper context for the proper situation.
  2. The devil knows Scripture so we must study it to use it like the finely tuned weapon it is..
  3. Don’t give up what you already have. Temptations offer much more than they can deliver.
  4. Tell Satan to get behind you and flee.
  5. Trust in God for your provision, promises, and his providence.

Many scholars connect John’s three temptations in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) to the three temptations Satan serves Jesus. It looks like this:

  1. Stones into bread – lust of the flesh
  2. Jumping off the Temple – pride of life
  3. Kingdoms of the World – lust of the eyes

What are some strategies you use to win when you face temptation? Leave a comment and let us know some of your tactics against temptations.

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Forgiveness

This entry is part 144 of 163 in the series Inquiring Minds

Is there something a Christian must do after God forgives them?

When God forgives us, there are a few things that we do as Christians. But I must note the attitude with which we do them. We don’t do these things to gain his acceptance forgiveness. We already have it.

Asking for God’s forgiveness is a way to draw close to him. If we sin against God separation sets in. We feel the silence of that separation. To restore complete relationship with God, we ask forgiveness for our sin.

This is not a futile exercise. Just as we needed God’s forgiveness the very first time we became Christians, we need it any time that we sin against him. The spiritual principle of the separation of sin in a relationship does not change.

But we also don’t lose our status as his children. Sin separates in the relationship but the relationship still exists. So asking forgiveness is all about regaining the closeness and drawing near to God rather than trying to gain something we already have.

When we ask for forgiveness, God readily gives it. First John 1:6-10 teaches us that sin for the Christian must be momentary instead of continuous. We can’t walk in sin and have fellowship with God (1 John 1:6). John uses the image of light and darkness to explain the difference between momentary and continuous sin (1 John 1:7).

Walking in the light, and fellowship with God give us the constant protection of the blood of Jesus. John does not mean that we have sin all the time (1 John 1:8). The truth is that we may sin from time to time. But it must not be a regular occurrence or a continuous lifestyle.

First John 1:9 gives us the promise that when we confess our sins Jesus always forgives us. But when we sin and do not confess, saying that we don’t have any sin when we do, God’s truth is not in us (1 John 1:10).

After we confess our sins, Jesus forgives us. And this leaves us with three things to do. First, we trust the promise that Jesus forgives us whether we feel it or not. In some cases Christians trust their feelings instead of the Word of God. You are forgiven when you confess. Trust the truth of God’s word and his promise and rest in the peace of his forgiveness.

Next, after stumbling in momentary sin, get up and walk with Jesus. Run the race that he has laid out for you. Continue to walk in his piece and forgiveness. Advance in your relationship with him through prayer, reading the Bible, and listen to the Holy Spirit.

Last, obey the Holy Spirit every time he speaks to you. Only through obedience can we grow in our faith and our character can be challenged and changed, transformed by the Holy Spirit. When we obey him, we continue to walk in holiness with Jesus and enjoy relationship with him in his presence. These are the things Christians can do when God forgives them.

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Guilt

This entry is part 143 of 163 in the series Inquiring Minds
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How do you explain feeling guilt as a Christian and accepting God’s forgiveness?

We can understand mentally the teaching of Jesus concerning forgiveness. After all, this is the same Jesus who teaches forgiveness to all of his disciples. We can know all sorts of verses about forgiveness and guilt.

Before we begin to follow Jesus, forgiveness is something we do and ask for to make society run better. But it becomes something wholly different when we become disciples of Christ. The opening volley of our relationship with God begins with receiving Christ’s forgiveness.

It’s an amazing and life-changing thing to experience the forgiveness of God as we enter into relationship with him. But what if we sin again? What’s the process for that? What are we after when we ask forgiveness more than once?

For most Christians that have spoken to me throughout my ministry, they believe they feel guilt every time they miss God’s mark. It shouldn’t be often that we sin against the Lord as we walk with him. First John 1 outlines our relationship and fellowship with the Lord.

The first thing we must realize is that we do not need to feel guilty if we sin against God. When Jesus died on the cross, he died in our place as a sin offering. The sin offering was also the guilt offering. In other words, Jesus takes away all of our guilt at the cross.

So what do we feel? The best way I can describe it is the silence of the separation from God. Sin still separates us from others and from God. When we understand that Jesus died on the cross as our guilt offering, we don’t need to feel guilt.

But we will feel the separation from God. When Jesus was on the cross, he took on the sin of the whole world. That moment he cried out from Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken (abandoned) me?”

Yes, this is a reference to Psalm 22, showing the image of Jesus on the cross and what he did for us there. When you read Psalm 22 you can’t help but notice the parallels to the gospel accounts of Jesus on the cross. But he must have also felt the separation from the Father. God is everywhere, and the Father did not leave him or abandon him when he was on the cross.

But he did have to turn his back. For all of eternity past, Jesus had never felt this before. So he cries out in that moment of silence and emptiness. Sin separates. When he became the sin of the world, he suffered the silence of God the Father for just that moment.

So the guilt we feel is actually the separation. Until we deal with any sin in our lives, we will feel that silence and that separation. It’s not to say that every time we feel silence from God or don’t hear him speaking to us that we have sinned.

Sometimes God hides his face for different reasons. But if sin is involved, we will feel that separation.. To deal with our sin is to go before God and ask his forgiveness. We repent and commit to walking with him again.

If we don’t deal with that sin, it will grow in our hearts, and they would begin to become calloused against him. This only leads down the road of apostasy and eventually loss of our relationship with him and salvation. We must deal with any sin in our lives before it grows.

The best part is that when we ask for God’s forgiveness, he readily gives it. After all, he gave it the first time. And he gives it every time. All we need to do is ask. You may not feel that you are forgiven, and you may try to beat yourself up for what you did. But God forgives and that is still part of the gospel even after we have heard and accepted it the first time.

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Pentecostal Worship

This entry is part 142 of 163 in the series Inquiring Minds

What is Pentecostal worship?

Every denomination and doctrinal approach has its own way of worship. This doesn’t mean that every individual in the congregation worships in the same way. Some congregations offer many different types of worship.

The posture of worship can be different in all of these Christian groups of believers. You have everything from the solemn, quiet, contemplative approach to the louder, joyous, energetic worship. None of these is the wrong approach as long as Jesus is the center.

You also have worship of all kinds. Some groups worship with chants and words alone while others have music. And the music could range from one instrument to many. And don’t forget that different cultures worship in different ways as well.

All of this said, Pentecostal worship can take many of these forms. It’s not about the noise or everyone speaking in tongues or using all of their gifts in the service. Jesus is the center and the Holy Spirit is the leader. He guides the worship and orders the service.

Some people would be taken aback by the idea that Pentecostal services can be orderly. But this is what Paul calls for in 1 Corinthians 14:39. As the Holy Spirit leads, he tends to use people in the spiritual gifts, such as prophetic words, speaking in tongues with interpretation, and the other spiritual gifts given in 1 Corinthians 12.

As a Pentecostal, I define Pentecostal worship not in terms of noise or music. Pentecostal worship is about seeking God through the power of the Spirit, focusing on Christ and the Word of God. Every moment of the service is infused with the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Another mark of Pentecostal worship is that it is experiential. By this I mean that we seek to experience God’s presence in a personal and corporate way. We want God to speak to us every time we meet. And he can do this through a word from him, through another person, through the sermon, and through many other ways.

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Textual Variants

This entry is part 141 of 163 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Why are there brackets around some Bible passages like Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11?

So you’re reading along in your Bible and you come to brackets or double brackets and it has a footnote, and when you check out the footnote it says something like, “These verses do not appear in the earliest manuscripts.”

Or you read John 5 where the invalid wants to get into the pool of Siloam but tells Jesus that no one will put him in the pool when it is stirred. Suddenly, as you read closer, you realize that you missed a verse. You go back and reread John 5:3 but you weren’t crazy. It goes from John 5:3 to John 5:5. Where is verse four?

You look at your footnote and find out that it translates the verse for you but tells you it’s not in the original manuscripts. This is the explanation of why the man wants to get into the pool first. An angel comes at certain times and stirs the waters of the pool and anyone who gets in right after that is healed!

These missing verses and even entire sections in our Bibles that have brackets or are missing with a footnote are called textual variants. A textual variant is a part of the text that appears in some manuscripts and not others.

The ones that are marked in most Bibles are the ones that scholars believe came later than the original texts of the Bible. They were added in at some point in history.

How do we know about these textual variants? We have over 5900 Greek manuscripts of different types. Textual criticism is the “most scientific” method we use to discover differences in the same text from different manuscripts. A manuscript has text from the New Testament written on it.

These manuscripts can be just a sliver of text, perhaps one verse, or be entire books or collections of books. Each of them is dated by archaeologists and scholars to approximately the time that they were created. This is an entire study on its own. The general rule of thumb is that the earlier, harder readings are the most accurate.

That means that if we find a misspelling of a Greek word and it is hard to put the sentence together, this is probably one of the earlier readings. This is why I put “most scientific”” above. As I have done textual criticism in my Greek studies, sometimes I agree with this rule and other times I don’t.

So those parts of the New Testament you find in brackets or missing verses in footnotes are usually later readings that may have been added. The people who translated your Bible version are just warning you that what you are reading may or may not have been original thoughts of the author.

Sometimes scholars think that this part may be in the wrong place or even by the wrong author. For instance, the story of the prostitute that all of the religious leaders want to stone to death in John 7:53-8:11 many scholars now consider to be written by either John or Luke. But they do believe it is a genuine encounter with Jesus written by someone.

If it is written by John, they think it’s in the wrong place. If you take it out of the story, we don’t lose anything in the flow of the story before and after it. That’s why they believe it’s in the wrong place. Are they right? I have no idea. But the translators of your Bible version want you to know that what you are reading may or may not fit where it has been placed for centuries.

This information probably raises a host of other questions. The most common one I get after I explained this part is, “How can I have faith in my Bible if some of it does not belong?” That’s a fair question. But you need not worry.

Remember that I mentioned the story in John 7:53-8:11 may be written by John and belong right there. Or it may be written by Luke. The fact is that scholars believe it is a story that is a true encounter with Jesus. If it’s just in the wrong spot, that’s not a big deal at all. We’re still getting a genuine story of an encounter with Jesus.

What about things like the explanation in John 5 of an angel that came to stir the pool? Without that explanation it doesn’t make any sense that the invalid would want to get in the pool first and why would he mentioned that it gets stirred? It could have been stirred by a human being. But how would that give it properties for healing?

The explanation helps us to make sense of what the man is saying. But even without it, does the points of John’s telling of this account change? Nope. We still get the point that the man is searching for a different source of healing then Jesus. Only Jesus can heal us, not some pool with magical healing powers. Our faith is unshaken by the addition or subtraction of this verse.

Now we get to the big one. The ending of Mark, we are told, does not belong there (Mark 16:9-20). Without it, Mark ends quite abruptly with the women at the tomb being too afraid to talk to anyone. These 11 versus help to close out the gospel of Mark.

The best scholarship on these verses of completion (Mark 16:9-20) is that they were not included in the earliest manuscripts we have to date, which are from the fourth century. However, this reading does appear to be from the second century and is part of the text of Mark beginning in the fifth century.

The way this is usually resolved is that while we know Mark probably didn’t write these last 11 versus, they have been included for many centuries, so long that they had become part of what we call the “received text.” This is the text that the church reads from and studies now.

I conclude by telling you that these verses are not wrong in their content. They agree with the rest of the Gospels. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in the book of John (Mark 16:9-11). He also appears to to disciples in the book of Luke (Mark 16:12-13). The Great Commission appears in Matthew and Luke (Mark 16:14-15).

As far as the text of Mark 16:16-17, the signs that follow the believer, we see all of these, except drinking deadly poison, in the book of Acts. The conclusion (Mark 16:19-20) we see elsewhere as well.

The point I’m making about the Gospel of Mark and its longer ending after Mark 16:8 is that it was probably not written by Mark but doesn’t contain information that is not found elsewhere (except for the drinking of poison). It’s not as if whoever wrote this ending was lying or adding to Scripture. So our faith should not be challenged even if we took off these last 11 versus from Mark.

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