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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Naked Truth

Unless the transformation has taken place unbeknownst to me and in the last few seconds, I am not a man. Nor am I particularly sensitive to the plight of the male species. So the blog you are about to read is from a woman’s perspective. I’d like to talk about a problem that I started seeing on my campus. “Seeing” is the best way to describe it as I am talking about the lewd, trashy, and down-right pornographic way that women on my campus dress. Yeah, I said it. (Of course I realize that what I am seeing is only a microcosm of what’s going on all over Western society).

Now let me take a few minutes to address all of the haters. No, I am not jealous because some of these women may (or may not) have better figures than me. No, I am not ultra-conservative in my views on modest dress, and no, I am not a lesbian. In fact, it is precisely because of how repulsed I am to see the nudity of my fellow women that I am writing this blog.

The other day I went to the administration building to pay off my school bill. I was simply in line minding my own business when I was confronted with it! (though I was standing several feet away). --A nicely-shaped woman in a see-through dress. Now this woman probably never even saw me. In fact, she knows virtually nothing about me, and yet I have seen her most intimate parts. It’s not just the nicely shaped women who are parading their goodies. No seems to be everybody. So cellulite, stretch marks, bulging bellies and all are on display for the world to see. The problem has nothing to do with the shape or beauty of the woman, but of a lack of self-respect and respect for others.

A quick brisk walk to one of my classes and I can could count the thongs, breasts, thighs, behinds, and midriffs all belonging to woman of various levels of attractiveness. In fact, sometime this week I noticed a woman who had on CLOTHES! I gasped. I was not quite sure what to say or how to react. She had on a stylish outfit and yet nothing inappropriate showing. The sight was almost mind-boggling. I had gotten so used to seeing people’s anatomy that when I encountered someone who was fully clothed it was as strange a sight as a flying saucer.

Men notice it too. In fact, I dare say that men share some of the blame for why women dress the way they do. Which woman get’s male attention (positive or negative) the one who is baring all her body for the world to see or the modestly dressed sophisticated woman? We know the answer to that. If men didn't stare and gush over the naked women or if the few decent men would show their appreciation and kindness to those women who do dress appropriately, I think we would see a shift in women’s fashion. I’m not holding my breath for that one.

Still one of the few half-decent guys on my campus had a conversation with me in which he expressed how difficult it is to study or simply walk to class when there is a smorgasbord of flesh before your eyes. In frustration he asked, “What am I supposed to do? If I look one way there’s a naked woman, if I look the other way there is a naked woman. I don’t want to look, but I can’t help but see it!” I nodded my head in agreement, but there was nothing I could say to this poor Christian brother, except that some women aren’t aware of what they are doing.

I don’t believe all these women are out to be sluts. I’ve been to the clothing stores. I know what they sell. The fashionable trend seems to be nudity. The more naked the more “in” the style is. The beginning of this summer I went on a quest to find a modest bathing suit. I need something comfortable that I could swim in without having to worry about it coming off. I also wanted something modern that didn’t look like my grandmother should be wearing it. Alas I nearly gave up. With so few pieces of material I figure I could save money and be more conservative if I simply wore my birthday suit! Finally, I spotted a comfortable pair of swim shorts and an unrevealing halter top. Mall shopping is not easy either. My aunt and I were out on a leisurely shopping trip when my aunt pointed to what she thought was a top. “This is pretty” she suggested. I looked at it in agreement, and then I saw that it was not a top at all but an entire outfit! That day my aunt and I had to read all the clothing labels in order to discern which pieces were tops, and which were dresses and outfits! I found a couple of tops that worked, but only if I wore other tops under them or covered them with a jacket or wrap. Unfortunately, I have to spend more money buying extra pieces to cover up the revealing outfits if I want to dress appropriately and stylishly.

Sometimes it’s not that all women want to dress like hookers, it’s just that that may be what is most easily available to wear. I am also thoroughly convinced that some women don’t know how disrespectful and distracting their clothing (or lack thereof) is.

Another reason I am so concerned is because of sexism in our society. We live in a world that does not value women. Women are simply looked at as objects of beauty instead of God-created, intelligent, persons, endowed with basic human rights. Men are quick to generalize women’s behavior, concluding that we are not worthy of respect or are somehow inferior to them. In fact, some writers suggest that when a man meets a woman he has to decide whether he wants to respect her. Instead of showing her basic human dignity, a man will size her up and force her to prove she is worthy of respect. Men don’t view women as equals. They automatically assume that women are less than or somehow unworthy. Now I’m not talking about what is fair, I’m talking about what is REAL. Why should we give men (whether they be our employers, professors, mailmen, or companions) any assistance in forming their misguided stereotypes? In essence, why would we want to add fodder to their patriarchal attitudes? Like it or not we are all interconnected and the behavior of just a few people can affect how people view the rest of us.

So here is some practical advice to women.

I should not know what you look like naked. I don’t know you!
I should not see your underwear or lack of underwear.
Your private parts are called “private” parts for a reason.
Consider the length of your clothes when you are standing and sitting down (often times there is a huge difference in length).
Beachwear and everyday clothing are two very different things.
Thighs, breast, stomachs, lower backs, crotches, and behinds are NOT for public display. Save that for your husband the rest of us don’t need or want to see it!

And that’s the naked truth.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Five Cent Notebooks

I pulled into the Walmart parking lot with the intention of picking up a few odds and ends. Mechanically I went in and started towards the health and beauty section. AND THEN I SAW IT! My glance fell on a miraculous sign "5 Cent" posted at the front of the store. I blinked. I thought I was reading the sign wrong. I went over and it was real! Tons of spiral notebooks packed the shelves and they were all 5 cent. Two other young ladies were filling their arms with as many notebooks as they could carry. I joined them and excitedly packed my arms with the notebooks. I brought about 28 of them. Not that I need that many, but because they were so cheap. Then I noticed the other dirt cheap school supplies and I decided to load up on them as well. For about $7 bucks I brought enough pens and notebooks to last me my entire time at school. Then I got on the phone and started texting. A deal this good can't be kept to myself. No, I needed to share it. My hands shook with enthusiasm as I tapped out the message "Walmart has 5 cent notebooks!"

Yes I knew that this was God's way of providing for my needs. I was not able to find a job and finances had been more tight than I could remember them being in my life. Yet another lesson came to mind. Naturally, it seems that when people are excited, really excited about something they can't wait to tell people about it just as I couldn't help but want to share my find. But this does not always seem to apply to the Gospel, which certainly trumps any notebook sale. In other words, I don't believe that people are excited about God's truth if they don't enthusiastically and intentionally want to share it.

”Oh well let's leave that to the minister, the Bible worker, or the missionary I'm not qualified for that you might be thinking”, but Christ's words contradict this notion. Check out His last words in the book of Matthew (28:18-20)
18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Notice that first Jesus establishes His divine authority than He gives what Christians call The Great Commission, and ends it with an eternal promise.

Who was Jesus talking to? His disciples. Aren't Christians supposed to be Christ’s modern-day disciples? In fact the word Christian means follower of Christ. A follower is another word for a disciple. Not only does Jesus give us this direct order, but he tells us how to go about doing it.

Examine Act 1:8. Jesus is again speaking.

8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Christ doesn't just send us out alone. He promises us the gift of His Holy Spirit. This should be encouraging to us because God does not expect us to do it alone. He sends His Spirit to do the work with us. Then He instructs us on how we are to do evangelism: First in Jerusalem, then in Judea, then in Samaria, and then all over. "What? Crystal have you lost your mind”, you might be thinking. Let me explain. The disciples were currently in Jerusalem so Christ was telling them to start where they were. Being a missionary is not limited to foreign missions. It about witnessing to those in our immediate sphere of influence. Then we can go out further and further and eventually maybe God will use us to reach the whole world, but it has to start somewhere.

Notice also that the first word in Christ's commission is "Go". Go is an action verb. We can't just stand here we have to do something. We have to take on active approaches to reaching out to others. Take for example Andrew.

Not much is recorded about the disciple Andrew. In fact we get the idea that he is the quite type, but we know a whole lot about his brother Peter. Yet Andrew was the quiet behind the scenes guy that God used to reach the outspoken Peter. This is an illustration one of my Favorite Pastor's uses here. God might want to use you to reach someone who will go on to reach thousands! We meet Andrew in John Chapter one, than again in Chapter 6 and finally in Chapter 12 and all three times this little known disciple is doing the same thing: humbly and quietly bringing people to Jesus. We might not all get to be charismatic preachers like Peter, but we can be gentle behind the scenes witnesses for Christ.

What are you enthusiastic about? Sports, entertainment, or in my case bargains at a local Walmart? Whatever it is it is nothing in comparison to the treasures that Christ has planned for us. This should be enough motivation for us to do what Christ instructed and “GO!”, do something.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Code of Lies

I've been meaning to write a blog on how I feels about Dan Brown's writings, but I just never had the time to get around to it. Many people ask me if I've seen the movies based on his blasphemous books. In fact just last week my girlfriend was discussing them with me. Since I fear the that lies found in the ludicrous propaganda that is Dan Brown's writing have shaken peoples faith and extinguished the hopes of new believers I want to fight back. If you've ever heard of the Da Vinci Code or it's notorious author than I urge you to read this article by Shawn Boonstra called Breaking the Code. Enjoy and as always feel free to write me or comment on the blog.

....[The Da Vinci Code is essentially based on]a book called Holy Blood, Holy Grail, written by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, a book that had appeared on bestseller lists a few years earlier. The whole premise behind the book questioned the Christian church’s historical understanding of Jesus Christ, suggesting, among other things, that Jesus was married, had a child, and never actually died on the cross of Calvary.

As the book hit stores across the nation, a review in the Los Angeles Times suggested that the secrets revealed in the book were “Enough to seriously challenge many traditional Christian beliefs, if not alter them.” Well, a few years later it’s obvious that Holy Blood, Holy Grail did nothing to topple the Christian church, and with good reason. No credible historian took that book seriously because the weight of actual historical evidence falls very firmly on the side of traditional Christian understandings of Jesus.

Most people simply didn’t take the Baigent book seriously, because there wasn’t much between its covers that you could actually substantiate. Like so many other flaky conspiracy theories, it was destined for the trash heap of history, until The Da Vinci Code hit bookstores.

For some reason, this time it struck a much deeper chord with the public, even though The Da Vinci Code was basically a rehash of the same conspiracy theory. The Da Vinci Code borrows so heavily from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, in fact, that one of the lead characters in Dan Brown’s book, a man by the name of Leigh Teabing, has a name that’s actually derived by rearranging the names of two of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail: Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. This time the theory that Jesus was married with children took off like wildfire, selling tens of millions of copies and filling theaters all across the country.

And then, at the same time, in a move almost certainly calculated to maximize publicity for their magazine, National Geographic announced that it was in possession of the gospel of Thomas, a hitherto secret version of the life and death of Jesus Christ.

The result of all this media activity was that an otherwise obscure theory became front-page news. All of a sudden, everybody was talking about the Templars and the hidden bloodline of Jesus. Popular news magazines ran stories about it. Hundreds of spin-off books were written, and the TV airways were full of historical specials on the secret societies of the Middle Ages. And of course, Christians found the whole discussion deeply troubling because if Dan Brown was right, then the foundations that hold up 2,000 years of Christian history have essentially been ripped out from under out feet.

So, the question I want to explore with you today is very simple. Is there any truth to The Da Vinci Code?

Well, before we get started, let me underscore something that a lot of people have already been saying about The Da Vinci Code: You’ll notice it’s for sale in the fiction section of the bookstore. And that’s because nobody has ever claimed that the story is true.

However, the fact that Dan Brown writes in such a convincing style—and makes several statements to the effect that the story is based on truth—makes it necessary for people to think about it very carefully. Even if Dan Brown didn’t want people to believe—and I think he did—but even if he didn’t, a lot of people are still taking The Da Vinci Code to the bank, and it’s made a shambles out of some people’s faith.

So, today, let’s take a look at it. We’ve only got a few minutes together, so we’re only going to be able to skim over a few of the highlights, but I think that it will be more than enough to prove the point.

Here are some of the major claims made in the book. Number one, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and together they had a child. Number two, that Jesus was never considered as God by the early church until the Council of Nicea declared it to be so in 325 AD. Number three, that the four Gospels presented in the New Testament were included in the Bible by the Roman Emperor, Constantine, to cover up the conspiracy, and something like 80 other gospels were rejected so the lie could be perpetrated. Number four, that secret societies like the Knights Templar and the Prieure de Sion, a group whose members are said to have included Sir Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci, have carefully guarded these secrets for centuries in the face of violent persecution from the organized Christian church.

Now, again, I think it’s important that we emphasize that the whole book is clearly labeled a work of fiction, and that no publisher has ever claimed that any of these ideas are historically verifiable. Yet, the clever way Dan Brown presents them has a lot of people confused, if not convinced. And again, there’s an author’s note in the book telling us that all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate. So even though it is a work of fiction, I have to say that it gives the average reader who isn’t familiar with Christian history the distinct impression that The Da Vinci Code is, at the very least, historical fiction based on real events.

The lines between fact and fiction have been carefully blurred to lend credibility to undocumented theories, many of which we know are wildly inaccurate. Let me give you an example. In one spot, the book suggests that the Dead Sea Scrolls contain some of Christianity’s earliest documents, which have been carefully suppressed by the organized church. Now, I want to give Dan Brown the benefit of the doubt, but it should be pointed out that the documents discovered in the Dead Sea caves were exclusively Old Testament and all of them actually pre-date Christianity.

Then there’s the claim that ancient documents discovered at Nag Hammadi in the 1940s contain the “earliest Christian documents available, older than the New Testament.” Now, that’s simply not true, because the New Testament was finished before the end of the first century and the Nag Hammadi documents mostly date to the end of the second century, a difference of more than one hundred years.

I guess what Dan Brown is trying to convince us of is that the older the document, the more reliable it is, and that the stuff they found at Nag Hammadi tells a wildly different story of Jesus than the one you find in the Bible. The conclusion we’re supposed to come to is that the Bible’s been lying to us, even though it does happen to be the older document.

And that brings me to the pages of the Bible itself. The Da Vinci Code says that the four Gospels in the New Testament are only there because the Roman Emperor, Constantine, put them there. It supposedly happened at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., when the Church needed Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to prove their brand-new theory that Jesus was actually God in human flesh. We are told that the church actually sifted through something like 80 different gospels before they came up with something they could use to present their lie to the public.

Of course, while that theory makes for pretty riveting reading, there’s not a stitch of truth to it. No reputable historian has found anything to back it up. It just didn’t happen, and the truthfulness of the New Testament Gospels, well, that’s been established for hundreds of years. It was established even before the Council of Nicea, which is proven by the fact that earlier church writings make constant reference to them as authoritative documents for Christians. And all those other gospels? None of them is mentioned at all.

So the question is: Where did Dan Brown get these ideas? What he didn’t borrow from somebody else, he just made up. Another good example of just how wrong The Da Vinci Code is can be found in the claim that nobody thought of Jesus as God in the flesh before the Council of Nicea. Now, again, that’s just not true. The doctrine of Christ’s divinity was well understood by the Christian church right from the start, when the very first believers wrote about his miracles and His claim to be equal to the Father.

So, the question is, did anybody really discuss the divinity of Christ at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325? Well, the answer to that is yes, but the only topic of discussion was how God the Son is related to God the Father, and nobody ever discussed whether or not Jesus was actually God.

You know, you can search all through history and you’ll never find an occasion where the Christian church launched a massive conspiracy to claim the divinity of Jesus. And what’s really ironic about The Da Vinci Code is that while Dan Brown is trying to convince us that someone is lying about Jesus, it turns out he’s the one who is doing it.

Let me give you another good example. In The Da Vinci Code we hear that Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene, and we’re told that this fact has been carefully hidden from us for centuries. Why would the church hide the marriage of Jesus? Well, supposedly it’s because the Christian church actually frowns on the institution of marriage and the whole subject of intimacy between the sexes. Now, I have to admit that over the years, on occasion, the church has taken a less than healthy attitude on this subject, but biblically speaking, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Book of Hebrews makes it abundantly clear that marriage is honorable among all in the bed undefiled. And let’s not forget what Jesus Himself, said about marriage in the Matthew 19 (Matthew 19:4-6):

“And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?” So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’”

Again, it looks to me like Dan Brown is kind of making it up as he goes along. Don’t forget the Gospel of Matthew was supposed to be one of those fakes used by the church to run down the institution of marriage. And yet right here in the middle of this same Gospel, Jesus announces that marriage was invented by God Himself.

Just like the rest of Dan Brown’s book, it just doesn’t add up. And neither does the claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. To prove his point, Dan Brown goes to the apocryphal gospel of Philip, which was probably written sometime in the late third century. The gospel of Philip, which was penned by a group of heretics known as the Gnostics, says that Mary was a companion of Jesus and that He kissed her.

Now, I can’t deny that’s what the gospel of Philip says, but let me point out just a few things. First of all, the gospel of Philip is not an eyewitness account, like the four Gospels of the New Testament. Even if there are any shreds of truth in that book, we shouldn’t forget that it’s essentially a work of fiction written a long time after the original disciples died. Secondly, when it calls Mary Magdalene a companion, that’s hardly the same thing as a spouse. Thirdly, many people greeted each other with a kiss in Jesus’ day, and a kiss wasn’t necessarily a sexual thing. Don’t forget that Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss on the night of his betrayal.

Again, Dan Brown’s just making it up, and the only support he seems to have are these other strange gospels that on average were written more than 100 years after the New Testament. And who wrote these other books? Well, as Christianity spread in the first few centuries, so did bad ideas about the Christian message.

Some pagan cultures, as they embraced Christianity, were simply hesitant to give up pagan philosophy. One of these groups was the Gnostics, who had a radically different understanding of the universe than you or I do. They believed that an inferior god, known as the Demiurge, created the material world that you and I live in. This, according to their understanding, was a big mistake, because the material world is imperfect and evil. They believed we should have never been created to live a material, physical existence. According to the Gnostics, the mission of Jesus was to set us free from the prison of the physical world and to set us free from the horrible mistakes of the Creator.

Now, to promote this kind of thinking, the Gnostics wrote a number of so-called gospels and other books, some of which have survived to this day.

Now, of course, this idea about Jesus is just plain wrong when you check it against the Bible. There is nothing in God’s book to suggest that creation was a mistake. In fact, in the book of Genesis, it says that when God created this planet He stood back and said, “It is very good.” And then in the New Testament we discover that Jesus didn’t come to fix the mistakes of the Creator; He came to fix our mistakes. In fact, when it comes right down to it, we discover in the first chapters of Hebrews, Colossians and John that Jesus Himself is the Creator. According to the Bible, there’s nothing wrong with a physical, material existence, because that’s the way God made us in the first place. And after Jesus comes again, we’re eventually going to be restored to a newly created world—another physical existence.

You know, there’s a good reason the early church rejected the Gnostic gospels, and it’s because they were in direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus and the writings of the Old Testament. And worst of all, the Gnostics missed the whole point of why Jesus came to earth in the first place. Read the four Gospels of the New Testament very carefully and you’ll notice something remarkable. All of them drive relentlessly toward the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. They drive to the very heart of what Jesus did for us.

In a great book on The Da Vinci Code phenomenon, author Ben Witherington III makes a great point. Listen to this:

“…the term gospel (“good news”) is not just a Christian term, but rather one that was already in use in the Greco-Roman world before the canonical gospels were written. Because the ancient world didn’t have a free market economy, public gifts from higher-status persons were what greased the wheels of society and commerce. Emperors were lauded for their good deeds of benefaction and their triumphs in wars. The “gospel” was good news about actions taken on behalf of the people by the emperor (or another wealthy person). The benefactors weren’t in the main, praised for their great philosophical or wise utterances.

When early Christians picked up the term Gospel, they had in mind the good news of things Jesus had done, while also including some of His teachings.”

So, how is that different from the gospels the Gnostics taught? Well, the difference is very important. They present a radically different Jesus than the Christ of the Bible—a mysterious teacher who spoke in riddles and filled His disciples’ heads with vague philosophical teachings. Following the footsteps of the Greek philosophers, and the philosopher Plato in particular, the Gnostics believed that we would ultimately be saved from the evil, material world through our own personal wisdom and understanding.

I guess if you want to boil it down to one simple idea, it’s salvation by knowledge. And the really lousy part of Gnostic theology was that the kind of knowledge you needed for salvation wasn’t available to just anybody. In fact, only the very brightest and best were going to be elevated above the misery of this world. Their message stands in sharp contrast to the open invitation of the Bible, which says,

“Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17) And it stands in direct opposition to the words of Jesus, who said, “If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

Now, you’ll never find that kind of openness in Gnostic books because they never really wanted anybody in their group except the intellectually elite. According to the Gnostics, if you can’t wrap your head around their so-called secret knowledge, then there’s no hope for you, and frankly, that’s not good news. It’s not a gospel because the Gospel is the story of what Jesus did for you because you couldn’t do it yourself.

You know, I’ve just got to ask a question: Why in the world would people find The Da Vinci Code so appealing? I mean, there’s not a lick of good news anywhere in it. If we chose to believe the fabrications of Dan Brown’s mind, we’re left without a Savior. We’re left without a solid place to stand. All we’ve got left is a mere man who never rose from the dead, and that would mean we’re all destined for a meaningless end.

You’ve got to wonder why people find that such a wonderful way to look at life. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that if we accept the record of the Bible as true, then we have to admit there’s a Creator who has some claim on our lives. And some people find that a little uncomfortable because they have this idea that the claims of God on our lives are going to enslave us and rob us of genuine freedom.

Simply put, nothing could be further from the truth. When you come face-to-face with Jesus, you discover that the Bible is reliable and that the words of Jesus present both hope and truth. “If you abide in my words,” said Jesus, “you are my disciples, indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Let me ask you something important. What exactly is freedom? For Dan Brown freedom appears to a release from the claims of the biblical Christ. But in the end, that leaves you with a serious problem and it forces you into a horrible slavery. You’re going to have to sort out the sin in you life all by yourself. You become a slave to the material world, fighting to escape it with all your might, and believe me, that’s not freedom, because you’re going to discover you’ll never break free of the misery and sin of planet Earth.

As Jesus stated so plainly (John 8:34-36):

“Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’”

You know, it’s hard to imagine someone who is truly delighted in the message of The Da Vinci Code, at least if they really understand what Dan Brown is saying. Where’s the hope? Where’s the good news? And frankly, where’s God?

You know I think a lot of us fell for this book because it’s been a while since we actually looked at what the Bible says about Jesus and what He’s done for us. We’re running on assumptions and urban legends and we’ve set ourselves up for the likes of Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code. To a small extent, I suppose we only have ourselves to blame.

For the entire program please feel free to go to www.itiswritten.com

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Blog You Might NOT Want to Read—that is, if you want to hold onto your biases.

What would you do if I told you that there was a book that predicted the rise and fall of kingdoms and the end of the world? And what if I told you that this book was located inside of a huge encyclopedia of books written on three different continents, by over 40 writers of diverse backgrounds, over a period of 1500 years? You’d probably dismiss me as some kind of religious lunatic. And you might even be justified in doing that unless of course I could back it up. But suppose that one event in this prophetic book came to pass and I could verify it through history and archeology. Then you might be skeptical but more willing to listen to this lunatic. And what if there were 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 events that this books predicted centuries before it happened and once more I could verify it. If you were serious about your biases you could ignore me, click off this blog and never return to it. Yet if you are really open-minded and you love truth perhaps you would listen and believe in the divine power of a volume of books bound together that the Christians now call the Bible. Perhaps you could give it a fair chance, evaluate it, and draw your own conclusions. Friends what I’m about to share with you is nothing short of prophetic. If I’m correct than you’ll have serious biases to confront. This one prophecy written in a little-read book of the Bible has been responsible for converting more atheists and skeptics to Christianity than perhaps any other.

So decide for yourself now. You might not like what you read here or you might be like some who have gotten angry at me for sharing it. But know that once you read this you will not be the same. Leave or keep reading. The choice is yours.

For those brave souls that are still reading I will proceed. 2500 years ago in 600B.C. A Hebrew named Daniel wrote the prophetic book that now bares his name. He and his friends were taken from their homes and forced to walk across the dessert to Babylon and become slaves. Their names were changed and their culture was ripped away from them. They were to be educated in the Babylonian system and then set up as puppet rulers over Hebrew provinces to proclaim the might of Babylon. But then things get interesting. The king of Babylon has a strange dream and wakes up overwhelmed with anxiety. Immediately he calls together his wisemen in hopes that they might reveal to him the dream and the interpretation. WHAT? You might be thinking. How can someone tell you what you dreamt if you’ve forgotten it? Well, that’s what they were on the royal payroll for. Frustrated, his wisemen told him that “there is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter” Dan 2:10. So the king gives them an ultimatum. Either they tell him what he dreamt and what it means, or they could be slaughtered and have their houses turned into bathrooms. If they could reveal the dream to him than they would be richly rewarded and honored.

Enters Daniel.

The kings guard knocked on Daniel's door ready to kill him and his friends too. So Daniel does the only logical thing he can do: he asks for more time. See Daniel doesn’t know the dream, but he is confident that his God knows it. He and his friends have an all-night prayer session and God reveals the dream and interpretation to him in a vision.

Boring! You might be saying. Big deal nice story but what about all that stuff you said at the beginning of this blog? Well I’m getting to that now. So Daniel goes to the anxious King. Keep in mind Daniel is only about 20 years old at his time and now he standing before the most powerful man on earth! The conversation went something like this. “So can you help me or not” ask King Nebuchadnezzar. “No I can’t. I’m not wise or special, but my God has revealed these truths to me”. “Ok I’m listening.”

“You had a dream of a huge metal man. It was awesome to look at. It had a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, long legs of iron, and feet of clay and iron. Then suddenly a rock is cut out with out hands and hits the metal man on the feet and crushes the whole thing into to smithereens so that nothing was left of it! Then the rock grew and became a mountain that took over the entire earth.” I can just imagine that pagan king jumping up and down. “Yeah! Yeah! That’s what I dreamt. That’s it!” But here is where stuff gets interesting. Now what if the Bible just stopped right here and we had to guess what all this stuff means. We’d probably all come up with different and bizarre interpretations, but the Bible interprets itself! We don’t have to guess it will tell us what it means.

Daniel 2:36-46 gives the interpretation. Daniel tells the king that the head of gold represents Babylon. Now that was an appropriate symbol of such a rich and powerful kingdom. We’ve discussed this kingdom and just how it went down in 539 B.C. here. Afterward another inferior kingdom would arise--just as silver is inferior to gold. The image had two arms which represented the Meads and the Persians the two kingdoms who would join ranks to overtake the massive Babylonian kingdom. They ruled from 539 to 331 B.C. until another kingdom came and took them down. This kingdom was the Greece Empire which ruled from 331 to 168B.C. Interestingly enough the Grecian soldiers wore bronze armor, but they were trashed by the “iron monarchy of Rome”which ruled for 700 years. (Guess what kind of armor these dude wore?)

Now if this were just a guessing game we could keep naming kingdoms. But the vision tells us (and world history corroborates it) that Rome would NOT be conquered it was instead divided. And into how many pieces you might ask? Well how many toes do you have? How many toes do you think this metal man had? 10! Let’s count. Rome was divided into the following kingdoms.

1) Alamanni/ modern-day Germans
2) Burgundians/ modern-day Swiss
3) Franks/ modern-day French
4) Lombards/ modern-day Italians
5) Saxons/ modern-day English
6) Suevi/ modern-day Portugese
7) Visigoths/ modern-day Spanish
8) Heruli/ Extinct (I’ll tell you about that in future blogs)
9) Ostogoths /Extinct
10) Vandals/ Extinct

That’s 10! Don’t believe me than you can check your encyclopedia. These world empires really did exist and they came on the scene in the exact order the Bible predicted. But it gets better! Daniel 2:43 says of the clay and iron feet that just as iron and clay do not mix (just ask any chemist) neither would these kingdoms. They would “mingle themselves with the seeds of men but they would not adhere to one another.” In other words, Europe would try over and over again through intermarriage to unite all of its kingdoms again into one huge Empire but the Bible says it would not work. So the Princess of this country would marry the Prince of that country but still Europe would remain divided. What’s happened to historical figures who’ve tried to outsmart God? Let’s see.

Charlemagne- Unsuccessful!
Charles V- Unsuccessful!
Louis 14th- Unsuccessful!
Napoleon- Unsuccessful!
Hitler- Unsuccessful!

The Bibles says that Europe would never again be united and it is not! Daniel tells the king that the dream is certain. He’s sure about what God has revealed to him.

But what about that rock that would hit the image on the feet. Well the feet represent the time we are living in now: the time of divided Europe. Daniel says that during this time which he refers to as the “latter days” (Daniel 2:28) a stone would be cut out without human hands (divine hands) that would destroy all these other kingdoms completely. This kingdom would take over the entire earth and never be conquered. It would reign forever. This kingdom is none other than God’s kingdom!

Now don’t take my word for it. Go to your history books and encyclopedias and you’ll see that 600 years before the time of Christ, God revealed the future to a pagan King. Daniel says “the interpretation is sure”. What does it mean if the Bible predicted all of these events. If it really did than why would we not trust it to predict the final event: The eternal reign of God’s kingdom? This book has to be supernatural! I don’t know what you believe. I don’t know what biases cloud your mind, but intellectual dishonesty won’t cut it. If your historical research pans out and supports what I’ve written here than there is only ONE conclusion you can come too. Friends I’ve already come to mine. What would keep you from making your decision too?

For more information you can read Daniel Chapter2 in its entirety here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Back to Honesty

Last blog I discussed how to be intellectually dishonest. Today I’d like to get back to good old-fashion honesty. Pluralism essentially is a bunch of garbage. So if we conclude that all paths CAN’T lead to God, how we can be sure which path does? Now some people say that you have to experience all religions for themselves, but with all the world’s religions and the new one’s they are inventing everyday it’s just not practical to test drive them all. Wouldn’t it be good if there was a challenge? I mean these religions can’t except you to just accept them blindly? Can they? Let’s ask them.

Hinduism says “…we have to accept it as it is; otherwise there is no point in trying to understand the Bhagavad-gita and its speaker, Lord Krishna.”Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Preface, p xix

Buddhism says that, “Absolute truth… is unconditional undeterminate and beyond thought and word.” KKS Chen, Buddhism, The Light Of Asia, 1968, p76 So in other words I know nothing unless I experience this religion for myself.

Islam dares anyone to be able to produce 10 chapters or even one that is like the Quran.

Quran 11:13 and Quran 10:38

Now on the surface that sounds like a challenge. But what’s my measuring stick? Who determines if what I’m writing is akin to the Quran? In the words of Dr. Subodh Pandit “a subjective, nebulous challenge…..is not a real challenge.”

What about Christianity. Now I have said before on this blog that one of the distinct things about Christianity is that its sacred scripture the Bible contains prophecy. In fact 30% of the Bible is prophecy. Although the other religions make many wonderful, astounding, and even supernatural claims, none of them supposes to predict things before they occur. But God says in Isaiah 41,

21 “ Present your case,” says the LORD.
“ Bring forth your strong reasons,”…
22 “ Let them bring forth and show us what will happen;
Let them show the former things, what they were,
That we may consider them,
And know the latter end of them;
Or declare to us things to come.

23 Show the things that are to come hereafter,
That we may know that you are gods;
Yes, do good or do evil,
That we may be dismayed and see it together.

That sounds like a challenge to me. In this text God is giving a challenge to all others gods. He’s saying “If you guys are really what you claim than you should be able to know what will happen before it does.”God says something like this again in Isaiah 46:10 “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done…” God is declaring in a nutshell “I am God, No one else is God, and I’ll prove it, I know the end from the beginning and I will tell you before it takes place!” Jesus says, "And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe" John 14:29. Now those are bold statements, but they are rather empty unless God can back them up.

Let’s say that I told you that the US was going to be destroyed in one night. Not only did I tell you it was going to be destroyed, but I told you how. And not only did I tell you how, but I told you who was going to take it down and then what would remain of it afterwards. And lets say all this came true. I think I would have people following me to the ends of the earth throwing money at me and begging me to tell them what was going to happen next. But when it comes to the Bible people allow their own biases to keep them from believing in truth. Let’s investigate this massive claim God is making in the Bible.

Now in Jeremiah 51 God tells just how Babylon is going to be destroyed.

36 Therefore thus says the LORD:
“ Behold, I will plead your case and take vengeance for you.
I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry.
37 Babylon shall become a heap,!
A dwelling place for jackals,
An astonishment and a hissing,
Without an inhabitant.

Now at this point I think I should pause to tell you some things about Babylon. It was a flourishing city 54 miles south of modern day Baghdad in Iraq. At the time of this prediction, said to be about 595 BC, Babylon was at its zenith. The ancient kingdom of Babylon was an amazing kingdom, one of the great cities of antiquity. The city was 15 miles on each side and its walls were 200 feet high in some places. One of the seven wonders of the world was in that city-- the great hanging gardens. The river Euphrates flowed right through the middle of Babylon. In fact the city had enough food inside to last 20 years. Historians say that on the night it was conquered Babylonian people taunted the enemy armies by throwing food over the mighty walls. Babylon reigned supreme from 605-537BC and then things got interesting.

In Daniel chapter 2 God predicted that an inferior kingdom would take down this Goliath of a nation. And 150 years before he was born God names Cyrus, as the Persian general that would pulverize Babylon.

Isaiah 41 says

1 “Thus says the LORD to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:

(Isaiah was written in 680 BC by the way.)

Now what does the last part of that description mean? On a certain night when the Babylonians were in a riotous drunken feast, Cyrus, in an act of military genius, went up the river several miles, he dammed the river, and diverted the river off into an adjacent field, so that the river went down and his army could march in through the double doors underneath the city's impregnable gates. And Babylon, that great city of antiquity, fell in a single night!

Let's review.

The Bible says Babylon was going down. Happened!

The Bible says an inferior kingdom would take it down! Happened! The Meads and Persians were inferior.

The Bible says the river Euphrates would become dry. Happened! Cyrus effectively dried the river to gain access to the city.

The Bible says Cyrus would be the dude to do it. Happened!

The Bible says he would open double doors (describing how this whole thing was going to go down) Happened!

How do we know all this? Well the Cyrus cylinder is a rock record housed in the British Museum that authenticates the Bible’s account of what happened.

And now for the last part of the prophecy! Fasten your seat belts for this one yall. God said that Babylon would not be rebuilt. It would become an uninhabited heap where jackals dwelled. Alexander the Great tried to rebuild it and failed. Saddam Hussein tried to rebuild it and the US captured him before he could. Today those who visit the ancient site of Babylon describe it as desolate place full of jackals.“Few words evoke as many images of ancient decadence, glory and prophetic doom as does ‘Babylon’. Yet the actual place…is flat, hot, deserted, and dusty.” Smithsonian, June 2003, p50

Is this all coincidence? No random person could accurately predict all this. My conclusion is that this prophecy had to be supernatural. You see in Christianity God gives us a challenge. He says I am God, I’ll prove it too you: I can tell the future. Any regular person can put His prophecies to the test to see if they are accurate. Why don’t you put aside your biases and honestly take up the challenge?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How to Be Intellectually Dishonest

You shall seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all of your heart. Jerimiah 29:13

I had quite a journey ahead of me. I was in the process of relocating from Baltimore, MD to Northwest Ohio. Having had less than two hours of sleep that night, the following morning I packed up the Sentra and with my family trailing close behind me we hit I-70 and were headed west. After about two hours of traveling the adrenaline wore off and I asked my then boyfriend to take over the wheel while I caught a quick nap. A short while later he woke me up and asked, “Which way do I go now?” It took a minute for the question to register. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and noticed that we were reaching a point where the highways split into two. On one side we had I-76 and on the other I-70. I looked at the directions my cousin had hand-written because my printer was not working. “Um it says take I-70.” I mumbled. “Are you sure?” he asked. “Yeah, that’s what it says here and this looks familiar to me any way. Get over in the next lane.” He obeyed and I positioned my head against the window and resumed napping. My family followed us as we traveled the lonely highway.

Nature woke me up a short while later. I needed a bathroom break. When I woke up for the second time I realized that the road looked different. Nothing seemed familiar, (my Dad and I had traveled here previously). The road became increasingly mountainous. “Where are we?” I yawned. And then I noticed in the foreground a sign that said “Welcome to West Virginia.” Then it hit me! For hours we had been traveling the wrong way. “We should have taken I-76! The directions are wrong! We don’t have to pass through West Virginia. We are going the wrong way. We were heading south when I needed to be heading north. But it was too late. At this point we had already traveled well pass I-76. We drove a little ways more in hopes that we would find a rest station where we could get a map and figure out where we were and how to get to Northwest Ohio expediently. What else could we have done?

Let me answer this question the way some secular and religious minds would. See according to some just realizing that I was lost and that those who were following me were lost would have been enough. Why bother to try to get on the right path? To others there is no right path. I could have just stayed on I-70 because after all it does not matter whether I am on I-70 or I-76 because all roads lead to the same place. Eventually I would have arrived at the place I wanted to be, right?

Now you’re probably thinking “Crystal that is ridiculous! Who on earth would believe something like that. I mean everyone knows two roads going in opposite directions can’t get you to the same place!” Perhaps you have a point, but this is exactly the kind of nonsense that secular AND religious authorities (some of them Christian FYI) are trying to tell us. And they even have a fancy word for it too. It’s call pluralism! And no, these aren’t all ignorant low brow people promulgating this train of thought. No, many of pluralisms proponents are Phd’s, scientists, and intellectuals. They are not just peddling a unifying philosophy; they are indoctrinating us with pure intellectual dishonesty.

Suppose you are trying to get to work. You overslept and you are running late. So you throw on your clothes, grab your briefcase and you hit the main road. Then you get a brilliant idea. Instead of driving on the road that takes you to your job you will take the road that goes the other way. Maybe this road even goes to another state! Or maybe you don’t even know where this road is going to take you! Your postmodern university did tell you that all roads lead to where you want to be. Tell me honestly would you really want to play this kind of game with your career? I would hope not! But that’s exactly the dangerous game that millions are playing with their spirituality and the consequences are a hundred-fold more costly and perhaps even deadly!

Now to be sure, pluralism on a very micro level is not necessarily bad. In the United States for example we have a multitude of different cultures, languages, traditions, religion etc. Nothing wrong at all with diversity. God did not create us to be a bunch of clones. The problem begins when we start believing that everyone’s philosophy is correct, especially when it comes to religious matters. In a sense the pluralism of today has little to do with diversity and tolerance and everything to do with an agenda (I’ll talk more about that later). So we say all roads lead to God because we want to be all-inclusive. Let’s not leave anybody out! Yet this is completely intellectually dishonest, so much so that most of the people that subscribe to this philosophy instinctively know that it is bogus!

That’s quite a statement, you’re probably thinking. But I can back it up. In logic they teach you about various types of propositions named after vowels. Suppose we have two statements.

Statement 1: All the lights are on.
Statement 2: All the lights are off.

Now question: can these two statements both be true simultaneously in the same space? The answer is no. That simply defies all logic. Why? Because there is a law called the Law of Non-contradictions which essentially postulates that two completely opposite things can’t both be true at the same time. Duh!

I can give you a better example. Suppose you are out and you bump into an old friend of yours. You give her a hug and you asked her how things are going. “I’m pregnant!” she exclaims. Just as you are about to congratulate her she follows that statement with “I am not pregnant.” Now you are scratching your head and ready to take her to get some mental health. Why? Because at the core you realize that it is impossible for the women to be both pregnant and not pregnant at the same time. She can either be one or the other. And the same goes for religion. In fact, it is more logical to say that absolutely all religions are false than to say that all these religions (and denominations in Christianity) teach completely contrary things and ways and means to God, but that all ultimately lead to Him any way. Nonsense!

There is a Zen saying that goes “To understand God is to Listen. Listen to Jesus and Muhammad and Buddha, but don’t get caught up in the names. Listen beyond them; listen to God’s breath.” Now doesn’t that just sound poetic. This is the heart and soul of religious pluralism. But the bad news is that pluralism is a lie. In our postmodern society we want to be so tolerant that we abandon the true meaning of the word (treating diverse people with respect) and accept a quixotic philosophy of believing everyone on everything because everyone is correct. We are so scared that we will be politically incorrect that we sacrifice truth in order to save face.

Instead the world says all religions and all roads lead to God, so that we don’t exclude anybody. Well let us let the major world religions speak for themselves.

Hinduism: “Let there be one scripture… for the whole world– Bhagavad– gita; Let there be one God for the whole world– Sri Krishna: one hymn, one mantra, one prayer– the chanting of his name.”-- Intro to the Bhagavad-gita
Islam: “Allah! There is no God but He– The Living, The Self-subsisting, Supporter of all– His are all things in the heavens and on earth– His throne doth extend over the earth– He is the Most High, The Supreme”-- Quran 2:225
“Verily I am Allah; There is no God but I.”-- Quran 20:14
Buddhism: “This Lord is truly the Arhat, fully enlightened, perfect in his knowledge and conduct, well-gone, world-knower, unsurpassed, leader of men to be tamed, teacher of gods and men, the Buddha, the Lord.”-- Buddhist scriptures
Christianity: “For there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved.”--Acts 4:12
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”-- John 11:24

Well there you have it. This doesn’t sound pluralistic at all. I don’t know about you but it sounds like each religion is claiming exclusivity! Not just Christianity, but all of them are suggesting that they are the ONLY way to Truth. That’s interesting. How can we reconcile these opposing belief systems? The answer is that we can’t! Not if we want to be completely honest.

In the beginning of this blog I told you how I got lost on the way to Northwest Ohio. But let me tell you how the story ends. We did not continue on I-70 because otherwise we would have ended up in Utah. Instead, even though it took us forever to find a rest stop in mountainous West Virginia, we found one and we got a map--an honest map. We admitted that we had lost our way and that we need to find it again. The map showed us how to get to where we desired to be. We followed its directions and we ended up in Northwest Ohio. And because I don’t subscribe to logical fallacies the story ended happily. Albeit it took us some 15 hours to get to our destination, just as it might not be convenient to go out of your way to search for Truth. But it is well worth it when you find it.

The logical outworking of religious pluralism is chaos, and my God does not dwell in disorder. Why don’t your reevaluate your position on pluralism, make that U-turn and get on the right path—the one and only path that can take you to where you long to be.

*For more information on this controversial topic I recommend this book. It is the awesome story of how one man put aside his biases and preconceptions and after 20 years he found the Truth. You can learn more about him here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Mysterious Book

Want to start an argument? Go into a so-called intellectual space and began a discussion with the words "the Bible says". Or better yet go to your ethics or philosophy class and when they are examining current events such as abortion, gay marriage, cohabitation, or evolution try to base your answers on scripture. Watch as people either cut you into piece or laugh you to scorn. But why? Why are there all these different opinions about the Bible with some believing it is the Word of the Living God, some reducing it to just a good moral book, and some criticising every aspect of it? The following interview attempts to answer the hard questions about this mysterious book.

SHAWN: Hey listen, the big question today is this: Is the Bible really God's Word? I mean, does the Bible actually make that claim for itself?

MARK: It does in fact if you look at Isaiah, chapter 40 and verse eight. It says, Isaiah 40, verse eight: "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever."
In other words, the Word of God is eternal. In 3,000 different places the Bible says it is inspired. It either says, "The Lord said" or "God said." So to deny the inspiration of the Bible is to deny 3,000 different places.

SHAWN: You said, 3,000, not three or 30, but 3,000 places.

MARK: Exactly. There are passages like this found in Second Timothy, chapter three and verse 16, one of the classic texts of Scripture. In Second Timothy three and verse 16, it says: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God."

SHAWN: All scripture?

MARK: So, the totality of scripture is God inspired. God revealed Himself in scripture either through visions in the night, or dreams in the night, or He directly impressed the minds of the Bible writers. The Bible was written over a 1,500-year period of time by 44 different authors and 66 books. And that's why Peter says, that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. So this is not a human book, but it claims itself to be a divine book.

SHAWN: Now, that's amazing. It says that scripture is inspired. Yet, often today, we say, well, Beethoven was inspired to write music and Einstein was inspired when he discovered this or that. What's the difference? I mean, we talk about inspiration all the time. What does the Bible actually mean when it says it is inspired?

MARK: There is a difference between human inspiration and divine inspiration. I can be inspired to write a good book. That's human inspiration. Divine inspiration is authoritative. In divine inspiration, God reveals Himself in a vision, or dream, or God directly impresses the mind. Now God doesn't dictate every word. The Bible writers write in the context of their own personality, their own background. But the product, the end result of what they have written, is indeed the living Word of God. If I write an inspiring book, it's still my word. But the Bible claims to be the Word of the living God. It has divine authority and that's the difference.

SHAWN: Now, you know, one thing I've noticed is that when I get into the Old Testament in particular, you hear the prophets, every one of them, saying: This is the Word of the Lord. They understood this inspiration to be the Word of God. Is that right?

MARK: Correct.

SHAWN: What about the New Testament? I mean, often in the New Testament, people would quote the Old Testament. They all knew that to be scripture. So I've heard a lot of people say, "All right, the Old Testament is Scripture." They all believed that. The New Testament is man's word.

MARK: Well, in the New Testament, you have face-to-face encounters with Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the four Gospels are written by disciples who had face-to-face encounters with Jesus. The Apostle Paul, of course, was dramatically converted on Damascus road, and again had an encounter with Christ. So throughout the New Testament, you have first-hand, reliable histories, inspired by the Holy Spirit of encounters with Jesus. And that's why, in the text we quoted earlier, in Second Timothy, chapter three, verse 16, says all of scripture is inspired by God. There is a unity, there is a wholeness, there's an integrated wholeness of all of scripture.

SHAWN: Now, that must be why Peter talks at one point, doesn't he, about Paul's letter? He says they are hard to be understood. But then he calls them scripture. So they did understand the New Testament to be scripture as well as the old.

MARK: Certainly.

SHAWN: All right, well still, you know they claim that it was inspired and I know what a lot of people again are thinking today as they listen to us talk about this. You can claim anything you want, but surely, over the years, as we have become wiser in history and wiser through archeology, we have discovered that the archaeologist's spade disproves the words of the Bible.

MARK: Shawn, I really think that the opposite is true, that the spade of the archaeologist confirms the authenticity of the Bible. Let me give you a variety of examples.
Take the Moabite stone, for example. The Moabite stone was discovered in Jordan in 1868 and over the last 140 years, we have had a chance to confirm the authenticity of the Moabite stone. It records, in the rock, the Moabite attacks on Israel. Now you can read about those attacks in the Old Testament. But here you have the stone record. Or take for example, the Lachish letters. The Lachish letters were discovered in southern Israel, north of Beersheba, about 24 miles, from 1932 to 1938. The Lachish letters record Nebuchadnezzar's attack on Jerusalem in 586 B.C, and so you can read it in the Bible. You read it in the rock records.
I remember when I was living in England, I often went to the British Museum and looked at the archaeological discoveries there; and there are two of particular note. One is the Rosetta Stone.

SHAWN: Sure, we all probably learned about that in school.

MARK: It's about three and a half feet high, about a foot and a half long. It's black basalt stone. When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, he took with him probably two to three thousand artisans and scholars. They went down and they were digging in a place called Rosetta. They came across this Rosetta Stone.
Now the Rosetta Stone was significant because it had three languages on it. The top was hieroglyphics, the center was a cursive Egyptian language, and the bottom was Greek. And so, as they saw this, they looked at the hieroglyphics and nobody could understand, of course, at that time, 1798, the picture language of the Egyptians. So these monuments were looking down on humanity. They were towering over all humanity and nobody could understand the meaning of them.
But the interesting thing is they began to look at the Rosetta Stone and they saw the hieroglyphics; and they noticed that in the hieroglyphics there was a little circle around some words. It was called a cartouche. And they guessed, they said that circle must encircle king's names. They began to compare it with the cursive Egyptian and the Greek, and they worked backward from the Greek.
And there was a brilliant French man by the name of Jean Paul Champion and he was able to figure out a translation of the hieroglyphics from the Rosetta Stone. Once that happened, those picture monuments began speaking to us. Now let me tell you one example of how they confirm the authenticity of the Bible.
There is a group of people called the Hittites, mentioned in the Bible 47 times. Now up until we unlocked the meaning of the hieroglyphics, the scholars said the Hittites never existed.

SHAWN: Yes, I have actually read some older books that say, "Those dim Christians believe in Hittites. There never was such a thing"

MARK: Exactly. And the Hittites are mentioned in the Bible as having major attacks on the Egyptians and being a major nation. The scholars said for years, they never existed, the Christians are ignorant to believe in them. But all the while, the hieroglyphics were speaking to us of battles between the Egyptians and the Hittites. And once we unlocked the hieroglyphics through the Rosetta Stone, today there is not a modern scholar in the world that disbelieves the Hittites. So the Bible rather than being disproved by archeology is indeed proved by archeology.
SHAWN: Didn't they actually find some Hittite ruins up in Turkey I think they actually discovered the civilization.

MARK: Numerous Hittite cities. (And I have great graphics of those and we use them in our lectures on archeology all the time.) The major cities had thousands of people living in them.
The other thing that, to me, is significant in the British Museum is the Cyrus Cylinder. The Cyrus Cylinder is a barrel cylinder. It's about this long and it's round and the ancients would often write on these cylinders. Now in the Bible in Isaiah, chapter 44, there is a remarkable prophecy, made 150 years before Cyrus was even born.

SHAWN: That was Isaiah 44?

MARK: Yes, Isaiah 44 and Israel was in captivity to the Babylonians. And the Bible predicted that a man by the name of Cyrus, Isaiah 44, verse 28. It says of Cyrus, "He is my shepherd, He shall perform all my pleasure even saying to Jerusalem, you will be built." Now, verse 27 says that Cyrus would dry up the rivers. Now this prophecy was made 150 years before Cyrus was born. It was made by Isaiah.

SHAWN: Humanly, that's impossible.

MARK: It is. You see, this prophecy was made 680-700 B.C., before Christ. And Cyrus, the Persian king, attacked the Babylonian empire in 539 B.C. So here is a prophecy made well in advance.
Cyrus, the Persian king came down, went to attack Babylon, and recognized that he couldn't do it. The Babylonians had a 20-year food supply in the city. The River Euphrates ran through the center of the city supplying it with a constant water supply. Two chariots could race side by side on the top of the walls of Babylon. You just couldn't attack it.
Cyrus, brilliantly, in a major architectural engineering feat, diverted the Euphrates River into large reservoirs. On the night of a drunken feast in Babylon, he marched his soldiers down through the riverbed and they came up inside the city, attacked and overthrew it.
Now here is the remarkable thing. The Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum, describes Cyrus' attack. It says that he dried-up the river. It says that he was the leader; and remarkably enough, he says that he let the captives of Israel go free to rebuild their temple. Exactly, like predicted in the Bible, confirmed in the rock records.

SHAWN: So the general pattern of non-Biblical historians has been to corroborate what the Bible actually says.

MARK: Exactly. That is true in the Dead Sea Scrolls. You look at the Dead Sea Scrolls in the shrine of the book in Israel, the Dead Sea scrolls of Isaiah. It's some 54 feet long and Sir Frederick Kenyon, one of the leading archeologists in the world, a Bible student, says that the Christian can take the Bible in his hand and know it's the Word of God as corroborated by the Dead Sea Scrolls.
You take the Ebla tablets.

SHAWN: Now, those are interesting.

MARK: They really are, because I think the importance of the Ebla tablets is that there are two or three significances in them. One is, it's one of the largest, extensive libraries in rock records that we have found, it's thousands and thousands of volumes. But the Ebla Tablets mention the creation story very similar to the Bible creation story. A flood story very similar to the flood story. The Ebla tablets talk about Abraham, they talk about Isaac, and they talk about, here's the bombshell, two sin cities, Sodom and Gomorrah.

SHAWN: You are kidding.

MARK: They do in the Ebla tablets. So it's quite amazing and in my mind archeology confirms the authenticity of the Bible. But it's only the Spirit of God speaking to your heart as you study the Word that proves to you its authenticity.

SHAWN: Now, I know that somebody who is watching today is going to say, "Well, all right, the history checks out, but still there are contradictions and mistakes in the Bible all over the place." Now often, when they say that, I've asked them, well, where are they? And they don't know. But I remember, as a boy, I was reading through the Gospels and I noticed that Matthew gave a genealogy of Jesus and Luke gave a genealogy of Jesus, but they were different. And I thought, my word, is that a mistake? Why do there seem to be contradictions in the Bible?

MARK: There are apparent contradictions. And notice I'm careful in the choice of my words, I say apparent contradictions. I had that same question, Shawn, and I went to my theology professor when I was a college student. His name was Mel Clemons.
And I said, "Pastor Clemons, why is it that there are contradictions in the Bible?"
He's a very wise man. And he hesitated a moment and he said, "Mark, do you know what I do with the contradictions in the Bible?"
And I said, "No."
He said, "I have a little jar in my mind. Every time I come across an apparent contradiction, I just put it on a little scroll, a mental scroll and I put it in the jar in my mind."
And he said, "Do you know what happens? I'm studying the Bible three or four weeks later and I take the cap off that jar and I take out that one and I cross it off and I say, well, now I understand. Because it's just an apparent contradiction."
Shawn, I would rather know all that I know and not know all that I don't know than know all I don't know and not know what I know.

SHAWN: You've got to say that one more time for me.

MARK: I would rather know all that I know about God and His Word and not know all the things I don't know, than cast out all my certainty of what I do know and base it on the uncertainty that I don't know. What I'm really saying is that there is adequate evidence to believe in the Bible. You may read the Bible and come across something you think is a contradiction in your mind. You mentioned the genealogy.

SHAWN: Those genealogies right, I was about 12, maybe 13 and it bothered me to no end.

MARK: On that point, there is a simple answer which, of course, you and I both know now and that is, one genealogy is penned from Mary's perspective or Mary's genealogy and one is penned from Joseph's genealogy.

SHAWN: Right and as I looked at that, there's a reason for it. One traces Jesus back to Abraham and one traces Him back to Adam. So it proves that He is not only the covenant child, but He is also part of the human race. He is the second Adam.

MARK: And as we mature in our faith and as we mature in life, we are able to say in all honesty, yes, there are some things I don't understand about the Bible. And I would be less than honest if I didn't tell you that, yes, there are some passages that I read that are apparent contradictions. But the longer I mature in Christ, the more confidence there is that this word is the Word of the living God. This Word is inspired by God. And I will put the things I don't know on the back shelf of my mind, because here is the principle: You never let what you don't know keep you from enjoying and experiencing what you do know.

SHAWN: Fantastic. You know, as I've thought about that, if this book is everything it claims to be, if God inspired it, that's an infinite story, an infinite mind inspiring infinite men to write. And so every time we come to it with our infinite minds, what are the odds we are going to get it all? That's not the only criticism that people have leveled at the Bible. I've heard people say, "Well, the Bible's just a good piece of propaganda. That book is so much in favor of Jews and Christians and it's just written to make them look good and so we can't trust a book like that. It's propaganda."

MARK: Well, did Moses look good when he slayed a man? Did David look good when he committed adultery with Bathsheba? Did the sons of Jacob look good when they lied, and they cheated? You know, the people that say that they don't read the Old Testament because those people often don't look very good, and Peter didn't look good when he denied his Lord.
You know, to me, Thomas didn't look good when he doubted. To me, the Bible is so honest. It's one of the greatest evidences of inspiration that it is fair-handed. Many books try to cover up the sins of their main characters. When you look, for example, we were talking about hieroglyphics and tomb paintings a little earlier in Egypt, when you look at those tomb paintings, do you ever see a fat Pharaoh?

SHAWN: No, you don't.

MARK: You never see a fat Pharaoh in those tomb paintings. Why not? Because the guy knew if he painted a Pharaoh with a potbelly, he'd be slain. He would be killed! So you have an Egyptian that's living right next to the Israelites. And you know, you always see these slim, muscular pharaohs. Every pharaoh is handsome. Why? Because you paint them in the best light.
The Bible, written at the same time, is very fair-handed. It shares the joys and the sorrows of its leading characters.

SHAWN: And it doesn't take God's people and say, "Look how wonderful they are."It actually does quite the opposite.

MARK: Well, you look at Israel, the history of Israel. It's the history of a nation that failed God often, but yet responded back as prophets led them to repentance, it responded back in obedience.

SHAWN: Now so, if it's propaganda, it's pretty bad propaganda.

MARK: It is.

SHAWN: It's not good propaganda at all. Well, you know, we've talked a little bit about the question: Can you trust the Bible? I think, ultimately, people don't begin to trust the Bible until they begin to prayerfully read it with an open mind and open heart. Here is the question: Why the Bible? I mean, why do we have it? For what purpose did God give it to us?

MARK: I remember a time in my college years when I was 21 years old. I was living and working in the jungles of Brazil. I was a student missionary there for a number of months; and I was up on the Amazon River longing for family, the first time I had ever traveled out of the United States and longing for home. I was dating a wonderful girl, who is now my wife. I could not wait to get back to port to Belem, Brazil, because I knew at least there I could get mail and I could get a love letter from my girlfriend.
And you know, the Bible is a love letter from our best friend. It's a love letter from God to us. God would love to communicate with us face to face. And He did that in the Garden of Eden, but because we are separated from God by sin, God impressed the minds of the prophets to write down the message of His love to reassure us through all time. And that's what the Bible is all about. The reason we need the Bible is because we are separated from face to face communication. So God reveals Himself.

SHAWN: Mark, thank you so much for joining me today and talking about this book that has changed so many lives.

MARK: I have seen all over the world, Shawn, the Bible transforming people's lives. The greatest evidence that the Bible is inspired is that it inspires me when I read it. And my friend, it will inspire you. As you read that book, it will be life-changing.

SHAWN: Thank you, Mark. You know, I have an obsession with books. I love the way they smell, the way they feel in my hand, and of course, I love to read them. But of all the books in my collection, there is one that stands out from the rest, and not just because it's a religious book. There really IS something different about the Bible.
When I open God's book, it seems as if I am suddenly ushered into the presence of God Himself. In those quiet moments when everyone else has gone to bed and I sit at my desk with an open Bible, it's as if Jesus is right there with me.
Now, no other book is quite like that. There is no doubt that some books have had a huge influence on the way I think, but nothing has so completely revolutionized my life like the Word of God.
You see, when you read the Bible, something begins to happen in your heart. It changes you. It molds you into the character of Christ. The Apostle Peter says that we are "born again" by the Word of God.
Want to know more about this mysterious, yet accurate book? Keep reading this blog! I have some amazing things to share with you these next few weeks!

Interview from It is Written television show. You can find them on the web at www.itiswritten.com

Monday, March 9, 2009

Does it matter?

The fool has said in his heart there is no God. Psalms 14:1

If you have not already read it, please read the blog Does God Exist? In this blog I will explore the second part of the question Does It Matter? Be warned I will not sacrifice the truth on the altar of political correctness. If you want PC you should probably hit the “Next Blog” button at the top of your screen. Let me summarize my argument for you. There is NO legitimate intellectual argument against the existence of God. You might be asking the question than why doesn't everyone believe in Him then? When someone says God doesn’t exists it is not because that is what logical, philosophical, scientific, and mathematical evidences points to. Hardly! No this is not an intellectually rooted claim this is a MORAL claim. These same people don’t want there to be a God so that they are free to follow the perversions of their own heart.

Let’s examine Psalms 14. In this passage God is looking down on the earth and considering all the evidence that points to His existence and his conclusion is absolutely amazing. He says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God”. Huh? What? Let’s be clear. God isn’t trying to be immature and insulting. Remember when you were a kid and you would stick your tongue out at somebody and say Nana Nana Na Na. God’s not doing that here. Instead He makes an assessment of all the evidence and instead of siding with the atheist and saying, “Poor atheist, there is just not enough evidence", He calls the unbeliever a fool! This means that according to God the atheist is being completely irrational! So what reason does God give for people choosing not to believe in him? He says, “They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.” Psalms 14:1.

Aldous Huxley, renowned atheist writer, wrote a book entitled “Brave New World” and in it he is more honest than most atheists. His explanation is compelling. He writes,

“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning. Consequently, I assumed that it had none and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. Most ignorance is vincible ignorance: We don’t know because we don’t want to know. It is our will that decides how and upon which subjects we shall use our intelligence. Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because for one reason or another it suites their books that the world should be meaningless. For myself, as no doubt as for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”

Did you catch that? He wanted there to be no God so that there would be no morality and thus no obstacles to his sexual explorations! Search your own hearts, friend and I am willing to bet that the times where you were most inclined to doubt the existence of God is when you have been most attracted by sin! I can say this unabashedly even if I don’t know you personally because the Bible clearly says in Psalms 14 that to doubt the existence of God is a moral consideration, not an intellectual one!

So let’s say that you read Does God Exists and lets say that you went along with it. Let say that you conclude that there is a God. Big deal so what?

There are 4 questions that every culture and philosophy must answer in a cohesive and internally consistent way. Any philosophy that does not answer these questions is useless because these are the questions that every human being universally longs to know.

Origin: Where am I from?
Meaning: Why am I here?
Morality: How should I live?
Destiny: Where am I going?

Most atheists are intellectually lazy and just want to live a life of selfish ease. So my challenge to the atheist is to just try to answer ONE of these questions using their worldview. Friends, take God out of the equation and try to answer ONE of these questions.

Origin: Can’t answer it. Evolution violates the laws of biogenesis, thermodynamics, enthropy, the anthropic principal etc.
Meaning: If I am the result of a cosmic accident what meaning is there? If I am a speck of dust than there is no transcendent meaning beyond what I invest in. Hitler found meaning through genocide, while you might find meaning in philanthropy but there is no substantive difference between these two and no criteria to measure the difference!
Morality: None. Everything is based on preference. Mass murder is the same as selfless heroism. There is nothing to distinguish Hitler from Mother Teresa. No one can decide which is better than the other. There are no criteria in which to judge any moral standard apart from a theistic universe.
Destiny: None. When we die we aren’t going anywhere. The atheist should never lament death. This is simply a naturalist process. He should be glad to go into the dust. The atheist may as well commit suicide. In fact, acclaimed atheist Jean Paul Sartre said that he would off himself but that he was too afraid he would mess it up.

So that’s door number one. Now lets see how easily these questions can be answered using the Christian worldview.

Origin: Genesis 2:7 Human beings came from the very hand of God and were created in His image (Genesis 1:27). We did not come from apes! This is a rational, meaningful, defensible statement.
Meaning: Ephesians 1:5 and 1Peter 2:9 our purpose is to know God and to enjoy Him eternally.
Morality: John 14:15 we are to keep God’s commandments which are found in Exodus 20
Destiny: John14:1 God has prepared a place for us and will come to take us home with Him.

A life lived without answer to these four questions is a substandard life. God matters. Take Him out of the equation and you have nothing but brutal nihilism. To believe in God or not believe in God really is a choice between ALL or NOTHING. Which will you decide?

*Based on Pastor David Asscherick’s lecture “Does God Exists? Does It Matter?” You can listen to it here.