Sunday, June 29, 2014
Do you like jigsaw puzzles? Some folks love putting them together, but I'm not one of them. People willing to concentrate enough to assemble 1,000 or 1,500 piece puzzles have a patience I surely don't have.
How about solving a 19,000 piece puzzle that contains four languages? The last two Sundays I've been leading a video and discussion Bible Class at our congregation called, "How We Got the Bible." It's offered by the Lutheran Hour Ministries and features Dr. Paul Maier and others.
In Sunday's segment Dr. Joel Lampe, manager of The Bible Museum in Goodyear, Arizona, gave fascinating information about the Dead Sea Scrolls. He said that in the Qumran caves along the Dead Sea they found 19,000 fragments of the Old Testament writings in four languages: Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Nabataean. It took many experts 60 years, but they finally assembled the pieces into 961 Old Testament writings. They even used DNA testing to match some of the pieces.
The scribes of Qumran were the ancient printing press. They faithfully and carefully copied old and worn Old Testament books onto new parchment scrolls and papyrus pages, and then, out of respect, buried the old texts in jars in the caves.
The most amazing aspect of the DSS was not their condition but their content. When compared to oldest Greek and Hebrew texts we have today, they are virtually the same. The few tiny differences found do not change the meaning of the text. God's people had done their best to make sure they didn't change what they were copying. As old Professor A. C. Streufert often said to us in class, "The Word of God survives translation!"
I look forward to leading the last two sessions of "How We Got the Bible." It's estimated that since Gutenberg's first Bible was printed in 1455, there have been six billion copies of the Bible printed in hundreds of languages. Thirty million Bibles are still sold each year. No other book in history has even printed one billion copies. God's Word is the best seller of all times.
And well it should be. The Bible contains the most important information of all times. The Old Testament points forward to the coming Savior of the world, and the New Testament points backward to Jesus of Nazareth as being that promised Savior. The message of the Bible is not about history or behavior, but Jesus our Savior. God made sure His Book would survive with His precious Gospel message of forgiveness.
Thank You, Lord, for giving us the Bible with its life-giving message. Amen
Monday, June 23, 2014
(Today's devotion is from my newly published, DAILY WORD FROM JESUS available now at: http://www.amazon.com/Daily-Word-From-Jesus-Devotions/dp/1499536976/. It will soon have a Foreword added by Dr. Dean Wenthe.)
Matthew 6:28-29 – “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Human beings are complex. We live our lives on many levels. If we are naked or poorly clothed, we are grateful for enough to keep us warm. If our car quits running, we are grateful when it runs again. If we are homeless, even a shack to live in looks good.
But as we progress in life, we want better food or more stylish clothing. Or we look with longing at a newer car with all its comfortable features, or we want a nicer home or conveniences to make life easier.
Jesus knows this, so in His Word for today, He shows us the flowers. Look at the beautiful blossoms that brighten the world! Fields of flowers are pleasing to the eye and a joy to behold, and they didn’t do one thing to get that way other than just grow.
We, on the other hand, must fashion our clothes. We create colors and shapes that please our taste and keep us warm and cover us pleasantly. Jesus’ continued Word about worry underscores His claim that God will provide for our needs. If He can make flowers so beautiful, He can also make us better or more beautiful people.
Solomon is an extreme example of wealth, power and style. He had it all, far more than he ever needed. But yet, Jesus said, God is capable of creating more beauty in a lily blossom than in the clothes of the richest king.
What do you think about clothing styles? Do you like what you wear each day? What do your clothes tell others about you? What do your worries say about you? Can you find a way today to reduce your worries, even just a little?
Dear Jesus, I give You this day. Help me not to worry about life, but to live it in joy! Amen
Sunday, June 15, 2014
When trouble comes, where do you turn for help? Police? Family? Guns? Government? In Psalm 121:1-2 the writer tells us, "I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
The central part of Israel was located on a range of hills. The Jews had been held captive fifty years in the flat land of Persia, and they trusted the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to help them as they returned. He who had given His people the Promised Land would surely give His people help. They just needed to look to the hills, because that’s where God's help would come.
When we are in need of major help (or even minor help), we need to know where to go. It’s tempting to think the only help we can get is from people. We’re told today to look to educational institutions for our help, because with enough information we’ll learn how to help ourselves. Or else we should turn to the government for help, and they will give us our needs together with regulations on just how to accept that help correctly. Some are taught to look to themselves alone for help. “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” they say, and they believe it.
The Psalmist knows his problems will not be solved by more learning, government, or self-determination. His best help will come from God who has made the heavens and the earth. God commands the planets and stars to move in the heavens and gives life to the earth. He is not sleeping, but is ready to help if we ask. He who keeps us from evil will keep our whole life if we will but let Him do so.
The Christian life is one of surrendering, not conquering. It is surrendering our hours, days and life to God for the only good help we need. He who can care for whole nations can take care of each of us. He is our keeper and our shade from the heat of life’s troubles. With His wise counsel and help, we can conquer whatever troubles will come.
Help me, O God of the Universe, to surrender my life to You. Amen
(From my devotions based on "The Psalms of Ascent.")
Monday, June 9, 2014
People spend a lot of time trying to win. Whether's it's a win from a favorite sports team, or trying to make a winning financial deal, or just trying to getting ahead in life, people want to win and work hard to do so. But sometimes winning is a matter of life and death.
This past weekend the mailman brought a new copy of The Lutheran Witness, our denomination's magazine that's been in print 133 years. This month's edition is all about the persecution of Christians around the world. One of its articles quoted the "World Watch List" as saying that of the 196 world nations, Christians are persecuted moderately to extremely in 39 of them. That list is growing, including in some supposedly western Christian nations.
Persecution of Christians takes several forms, but all seek either to deny one's identity as a Christian or to discredit the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Despite the fact that over two billion people in the world today claim to be Christians, tens of millions have targets on their backs from the enemies of Jesus Christ. It almost seems at as if Christians are losing ground now.
But Jesus Christ and His Holy Christian Church will not be defeated or overcome. We have God's promise on this. St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:31, 37, "If God is for us, who can be against us? ... In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
Since all persecution of Christians is against Jesus, so we His followers should expect it will come to us also. Jesus said in Matthew 10:24, "A servant is not above his Master." He was persecuted for us first, and and so will we. Because He was persecuted unto death, we are given eternal life when we trust Him in faith.
Hatred for Jesus must be countered, not with anger and bitterness, but with love and forgiveness, no matter how hard that may be. Only Christ Himself can give us strength to forgive our enemies. We take courage knowing Jesus is faithful and will keep us as His own.
Remember, with faith in Jesus,
We are more than winners through Him who loved us.
Monday, June 2, 2014
Keith Green was a rock musician who became a Christian singer/songwriter, and he wrote some of the most challenging Christian songs in the 1970's. His career as a singer and evangelist was cut short when he died in an airplane crash in 1982.
Most of his songs were filled with such excitement and power and faith that after hearing them, their melodies and words would remain with you for days. One of his songs was in the form of a prayer that reflected his weariness at life.
My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold.
But I know how I ought to be, alive to You and dead to me.
So what can be done to old heart like mine?
Soften it up with oil and wine. The oil is You, Your spirit of love.
Please wash me anew in the wine of Your love. (Sparrow Records)
The sentiments of that song remind me of Matthew 13:15 where Jesus said, “For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them'.”
The cares of life can wear us down. Making a living, raising a family or trying to achieve our goals can leave us exhausted. At all such times in life, we need God's Word, as well as Christian fellowship and prayer to renew us. We need to be washed anew in the blessing of God's love.
That's why it's important to seek the gentle grace of the Holy Spirit to soften up our hard hearts. God's Word and Holy Communion are God's means of giving us His gentle grace. May God give warmth to our cold prayers and new life to our dry faith.
Thank You, Lord, for Your Word of grace in my life. Amen