How do I know the Bible is true?

The Bible makes astonishing claims for itself. The Bible claims to be the Word of God given directly by God through men specially chosen by Him. The Bible claims to be free from all error. The Bible presents a history of the universe that is very different from the one taught in most science classes. The Bible speaks of places unfamiliar to us, with names that are foreign and a culture that is at times perplexing. All of which took place thousands of years ago. Many of the Bible’s claims cannot be directly verified. We have no direct evidence outside the Bible that proves it was written by apostles or prophets. But the lack of direct evidence does not mean belief in the truth of the Bible is a blind leap of faith.

The Bible is filled with historical details and descriptions that allow researchers to measure the accuracy of the Bible. For example, the Bible says Abraham had herds of camels (Genesis 24:8). Were camels in the Middle East during the time of Abraham? If they were not, then it undermines the reliability of Scripture. The same can be said of specific towns, villages, rulers, customs, laws and many other similar details mentioned in Scripture. If it can be proven that even one of these details is not an accurate historical record, then the Bible is not what it claims to be.

A word of caution, though. The absence of positive evidence does not disprove the Bible’s claim on a subject. Because we may not have archeological or other historical evidence verifying that ancient Israelites followed a leader named Joshua does not mean the Bible is false. History has repeatedly shown that evidence may yet be discovered which supports the Bible. Archeologists used to claim the Old Testament’s references to the Hittites was evidence the Bible was in error because no such people existed. Then they discovered evidence of the Hittites. The absence of confirming evidence is not proof the Bible is in error. Many details of Middle Eastern history are yet to be discovered and many will never be discovered.

One of the strongest evidences for the reliability of the Bible is fulfilled prophecy. Scripture contains hundreds of specific prophecies which include particulars like names, times and places. The Bible also sets a standard for prophecy. For prophecy to be from God it must be 100% accurate. One wrong prophecy overthrows all the right ones. If the Bible misses just one of its hundreds of prophecies, then it is not the Word of God. A careful examination of the propehcies of the Bible reveal it has never erred, not even once. The Bible prophesied the name of the king who would issue the command to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (Isaiah 44:28). The Bible prophesied where Jesus would be born (Micah 5:2) and when He would die (Daniel 9:26). It foretold the death of David’s baby (2 Samuel 12:14), and the division of Israel after Solomon’s death (1 Kings 11:11-13). These and the many other detailed prophecies which have been fulfilled show the Bible is exactly what it claims to be.

Other evidence can be offered for the reliability of the Bible, but in the end you have to believe the Word. Those looking for a reason to doubt Scripture will always find one. Even those who desire to believe will face things they cannot fully explain. This is not proof the Bible is in error, but a reminder of our inability to fully understand God and His Word. You can and must believe the Bible is what it claims to be: God’s perfect Word.

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Does Your Life Matter?

In May the pastor’s roundtable began to discuss the book of Ecclesiastes. We will be recording a total of six conversations about this book. The roundtable discussion airs the last Sunday of the month on WRUP 92.7 FM. As part of the discussion of Ecclesiastes, Pastor Chambers’ sermon on the same part of Ecclesiastes will air the following Sunday. You can listen to both broadcasts below.

May 26 Pastor’s Roundtable

Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Joe Herr
Pastor Tom Schierkolk
Pastor Dave Sexton

June 2 Radio Show
Does Your Life Matter?

Pastor Dave Chambers

What is the Shekinah Glory?

The Old Testament mentions many times the glory of which God appeared visibly to the nation of Israel. When the Israelites fled from Egypt, God’s presence was seen by the entire nation. He led them from Egypt to Mt. Sinai in the form a great cloud and a pillar of fire. At Mt. Sinai the glory of God covered the mountain in fire and smoke.

The shekinah glory is the visible manifestation of the presence of God. The phrase is not found in the Bible, but was coined by ancient Jewish teachers long before the birth of Christ. In the Shekinah Glory, God presence was made evident to His people. God told Moses that His glory can not be fully seen, “No man shall me and live.” (Exodus 33:20) Yet, in His mercy God gave a visible evidence of His presence with His people.

Once the tabernacle was built, God’s presence in Israel became directly connected with the tabernacle and the temple. Exodus 40 tells how God’s glory filled the completed tabernacle. When Israel committed idolatry God told Moses to move the tabernacle outside the camp because He would not be in the midst of a wicked people. Later, when King Solomon built the temple of God in Jerusalem the glory of God entered into the temple. God’s presence in the place of worship was a constant reminder that He was with His people. Much later the book of Ezekiel describes the glory of God leaving the temple because of the Jew’s continual disobedience against God. After the book of Ezekiel there are no other historical references to the glory of God visibly present with His people.

Several of the minor prophets promise that one day the glory of God will again be visibly present with His people. In Haggai God promises, “I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts” and in Zechariah He says, “For I, saith the LORD, will be unto (Jerusalem) a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” Habakkuk prophecies. “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” In the future, God’s glory will fill the earth. His Shekinah glory will be eternally present among His people.

God’s presence is not seen today, but He still dwells with His people. The Christian today is the temple of God. He dwells just as truly within Christians today as He did in the temple in Israel. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1Corinthians 3:16) “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16) God’s glorious presence is still with His people today.

Why did Jesus pray?

Jesus prayed often. The four gospels record dozens of times when Jesus prayed. Prayer was an important part of His life. Yet, Jesus was- and is- God. As God, Jesus had perfect fellowship with God the Father and God the Spirit. Why did He need to pray?

When God the Son became human He willingly set aside His power and glory as God. Jesus remained God but He emptied Himself of the glory of God., so that Jesus was fully human while remaining fully God. As a man, Jesus relied upon God the Father. The mighty miracles that Jesus did, He did by the power of God (Acts 2:22). Jesus prayed because He had willingly made Himself depended on the Father. He acknowledged and confessed that reliance through prayer.

Jesus prayed for the same reason that every Christian ought to pray. He prayed to converse with His Heavenly Father. In the eternity that existed before God created the universe, God the Father, Son and Spirit were in perfect fellowship and unity together. The Trinity shares a level of intimacy unlike anything humanity has experienced. The Bible tells us little about the fellowship between the three persons of the Trinity or how that relationship was affected by God the Son becoming man. But the incarnation changed that relationship. Jesus prayed because in prayer He had fellowship with God. Jesus prayed because He delighted in conversing with His Father. Jesus’ prayer was no mere duty or religious ritual. It was the expression of a loving relationship between Son and Father.

Jesus prayed for the benefit of His disciples, for others who heard Him pray and for ourselves. He prayed that we might believe He is the Savior. This is especially evident in John 12 when Jesus said, “I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” Jesus’ prayers show a concern for the bystanders response to His prayer. He prayed that others may profit from hearing Him pray.

Jesus’ active prayer life is an example to us to pray. Christians are to become more like Christ , to be growing in imitation of Him. Christ’s life of prayer shows us how to pray. He specifically taught how to pray. He commanded perseverance in prayer. But He did not just teach, He modeled prayer for us. He showed Christians how to pray in deep distress, in success and in disappointment. He prayed early in the morning, late at night, at meals and before major decisions. Jesus prayed often and in doing so showed us how to pray.

Prayer was a vital part of Jesus’ life and ministry. He prayed in times of anguish. He prayed for rest and refreshment. He prayed before major events and miracles. He prayed for His disciples, for future believers and for unbelievers. He prayed for God’s glory and for God’s will. He prayed without ceasing. If God the Son prayed always, why don’t we?

Isn’t meditation emptying your mind?

Meditation for many Americans is a relaxation technique. The common understanding of meditation is that it is emptying mind and thinking about nothing. The Bible speaks often of meditation, encouraging and commanding believers to meditate. Does the Bible teach that Christian’s should empty their minds?

Scripture uses the word meditation in contexts that provide additional and essential information about how the Biblical writers understood meditation. The Word of God describes meditation as the opposite of emptying the mind. Biblical meditation is not repeating a word, phrase or sound over and over again. Biblical meditation is filling the mind with deep consideration of truth.

The Hebrew word translated into the English word “meditate” can also be translated “mutter” or “speak under the breath.” Sometimes when concentrating on a difficult problem people will talk to themselves. They will murmur, whisper, or even talk the problem through with a friend. Meditation is not necessarily a silent activity. In the Psalms David said, “And my tongue shall speak (the word speak is translated elsewhere in the Bible as meditate) of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.” (Psalm 35:28)

The Bible always describes meditation as being attentive to specific information. The Psalms repeatedly speak of meditating on the Word of God. Biblical meditation is not mindless, but is focused upon Divine truth. “My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:48)

Scripture also describes meditation as considering the work of God and the character of God. David meditated on God’s working in days gone by. He may have thought on God’s creation of the world, His deliverance of the Israelites or the blessing of God in his own life. David meditated on what God had done. “I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” (Psalm 77:12) David meditated upon the character of God. In Psalm 66 he spake of God’s power, glory and lovingkindness. David then said, “I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.”

Meditation is not only an internal process, nor is it only a private process. Meditation involves speaking the truths of God. Praise to God is a form of meditation. “My tongue also shall talk (meditate) of thy righteousness all the day long.” (Psalm 71:24) Speaking the truths of God to others is also form of meditation. “The mouth of the righteous speaketh (meditates) wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.” (Psalm 37:30)

Though the popular understanding of meditation is of a passive activity in which the person seeks to quiet his mind, the Bible describes it as an active process. Biblical meditation does not attempt to still the mind, but to fill it. Biblical meditation actively works to understand God’s Word. Biblical meditation involves teaching God’s truths to others, praising God for who He is and what He has done. Biblical meditation can be done quietly in the mind, it can be done vigorously with a pen and paper, it can be done conversationally with others and it can be done prayerfully in praise to God. But Biblical meditation cannot be done without active thought.

Can only an ordained minister baptize?

Every Christian church celebrates baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Some also observe other sacraments, but baptism and communion are familiar to any who have been a part of a Christian church. Most churches also have ordained clergy administrate the two ordinances. Some churches teach that only ordained members of the clergy allowed to officiate baptism and communion.

The New Testament is silent about who is permitted to baptize or administer the Lord’s Supper. The apostle Paul even said he was glad he only baptized a handful of people in Corinth. The rest of those baptized in Corinth were baptized by unnamed individuals. The Bible teaches how the ordinances are to observed and the motives necessary for those participating, but it does not address who should give the ordinances. The one receiving the ordinance must receive it rightly, recognizing it as a testimony of God’s grace. While the New Testament says much about the importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper it does not give any requirements for who can officiate those ordinances. The one administering an ordinance ought to be a believer and should have the right attitude and motives. Those officiating the ordinances should recognize and reflect their proper importance.

This does not mean anyone can baptize anyone they want in the family pool. A dad may desire to baptize his newly saved child, but baptism is a public event. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the local church. They are not private events to be observed in isolation. They are public testimonies of the grace of God proclaimed to the church and the unsaved world. None can simply administer the ordinance in their home or to themselves. The dad may be permitted to baptize his child at the church, or the church may come to the family’s house to for a baptismal service, but the performance of the ordinances should be under the leadership of the church and with the gathered assembly of believers.

Some may wonder about the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. Only Philip and the eunuch are mentioned, so does that mean it was a private ceremony involving only those two? The account of Acts 8 makes clear the eunuch was not traveling alone. He was sitting in his chariot reading while they traveled and he ordered the chariot to be stopped. Obviously someone else was driving the chariot. We don’t know how many people were there, but others were present. The baptism of the eunuch was a public confession of his faith.

The use of the ordinances should be solemn and serious. None should allow personal convenience or personal preference to determine their use. These things are commands of God and the Word of God must guide the Christian’s obedience in them. As public testimonies given to the church, the ordinances should be performed in public under the authority of a local church.

Is everyone a Christian who says they are?

A recent survey in Great Britain determined over half of Christian’s surveyed do not believe or are not sure that Jesus died on the cross to forgive sin. Seventeen percent said they disagreed with the statement, “Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected at Easter so that you can be forgiven for your sins.”

Many evangelical Christians consider belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus to forgive sin is essential to Christianity. Outside of Catholicism, no Christian group recognizes any human authority to determine who is or is not Christian. There is no membership fee or initiation process. Someone can claim to be a McDonald’s employee, but unless he is actively working for and receiving pay from McDonald’s corporation, the claim is obviously false. The same cannot be said of Christianity. One can go to church and have all the appearance of being a Christian without actually being one. Likewise, a genuine Christian can observe none of the outward trappings of Christianity and still be one.

The Bible defines who is a Christian. This is not determined by a committee decision, a council’s resolution, a church edict or a papal decree. The Bible defines what makes a person a Christian and describes the visible evidences of genuine Christianity. While no one has the authority to declare who is and is not a Christian, all believers have the ability- based upon the authority of Scripture- to declare that some who profess Christianity are not actually Christian.

Christianity is not determined by a strong feeling of being a Christian, nor even by doing Christian things. Jesus warned there would be some who preached and did miracles in His name that would be cast into hell. In the day of judgment Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you.” Personal feelings, religiousness or devotion are not what makes a person a Christian. What makes a person a Christian is proper belief personally applied.

Proper belief is belief in the gospel. The substance of the gospel is defined in Corinthians 15. The truths of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for our sin must be believed to be saved. Likewise, the Bible declares if a person denies certain key doctrines, then that person is not a Christian, no matter what they may call themselves. These undeniable doctrines include salvation by grace through faith alone (Galatians 1:7-8) and the deity of Jesus (1 John 4:2-3).

The New Testament gives a clear definition of who is and is not truly a Christian. A Christian is a person which believes Jesus is God who died on the cross for sin and rose again. A Christian is one who then abandons all attempts at securing salvation for himself and places his full trust in Jesus to forgive his sin. This definition has not changed in the two thousand years since Jesus’ life. No one is a Christian merely because they identify as a Christian. Self-identification as a Christian does not make a person a child of God any more than self-identification as a walrus makes a person a grumpy pinniped. Only faith in Christ makes one a Christian.

Do we have access to the original Biblical languages?

Americans today can chose from a wide range of Bible translations. The Bible has been translated into every major language in the world. Few countries have no access to a copy of the Bible in their predominant language. Despite the widespread availability of Scriptures in modern languages, there is a small group of skeptics who insist no one knows what is really in God’s Word because we no longer have access to the original Biblical languages.

We know the original writings of the apostles and prophets were lost long ago. No one has the parchments that Paul wrote on. No one has the stones the Ten Commandments were recorded on. What we do have are thousands of ancient copies of the original writings. Certain skeptics say the ancient copies do not reflect the original languages of the prophets and apostles. Are those languages lost to history, thus making it impossible for Christians to every really understand the Bible?

The Bible was written in three languages. Most of the Old Testament was written in Ancient Hebrew. Most of the New Testament was written in Koine Greek. Small portions of the Old and New Testaments were written in Aramaic. All three of these languages are dead languages no longer spoken today. However, like Latin, though no one speaks the Biblical languages they are far from inaccessible.

Some of the many ancient copies of the Old and New Testaments were written within a couple hundred years of the conclusion of each Testament and in the same language as the originals. Language changes over time, but a language does not change beyond comprehension in a few hundred years. Take English as an example. English of the early 1800’s would be very understandable to any English speaker today. English of the early 1600’s would sound strange but would remain mostly understandable. The English of the early 1400’s would require more work and thought, but would still be broadly understandable to an educated English speaker. Likewise, the early copyists and translators of the Bible would have had no problems understanding the original language.

Greek and Hebrew have been studied for millennia. Scholars have a good understanding of how the languages developed and changed over the years. Bible students today have access to ancient copies of the Bible and the works of ancient scholars who studied the Bible in the decades immediately following the writing of the Biblical books. The Bible itself gives us every reason to expect the older portions to be understandable, since the authors of the New Testament frequently quoted, explained and applied the Old Testament to first century believers. In addition, the argument that we cannot understand the Bible because we do not have access to the original languages would also eliminate our ability to understand many ancient historians and philosophers, like Plato and Socrates.

We can have absolute confidence in the accessibility, accuracy and understandability of the Bible today. God’s Word has been carefully preserved throughout the centuries. The Words of God given by Him through His apostles and prophets is still available to people today.

What is the Difference Between Catholicism and Protestantism?

Like a single tree trunk separates into various large branches, Christianity can be divided into several large family groups. The largest are Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism. Most Americans have at least a passing familiarity with Catholic and Protestant churches. Very few churches identify themselves outwardly as Protestant, but many stem from the Protestant branch of Christianity. The Protestant faiths include Presbyterianism, Episcopalianism, Lutheranism, Methodism and a number of other denominations. All churches which trace their beginnings to the Protestant Reformation are Protestant churches.

Some of these churches, like many Baptist churches, look and act nothing like the Catholic church. Some, like many Lutheran churches, bear an outward resemblance to the Catholic church. Is there any real difference between the Catholic church and Protestant churches?

This question is complicated by the many variations of beliefs in individual churches, even within the same denomination. These differences are almost beyond counting and vary from congregation to congregation. Some of the differences are very significant and some are unimportant. To keep things short, this answer will focus on the official doctrines that have traditionally separated Catholics from Protestants.

One further complication is the many Protestant groups who downplay, deny or ignore the official church doctrines. This branch of Protestantism, called theological liberalism, gives little concern to the doctrinal creeds of the churches. Liberalism emphasizes social issues and holds very different opinions from the Catholic church on matters of sexuality, abortion and the role of women in the church.

Traditional Protestants and Catholics have many important beliefs in common. They all believe there is only one God who is a Trinity. They believe Jesus is God the Son who became man to die for the sins of humanity. They believe the Bible is the Word of God given by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets. They believe people are sinners in need of a Savior. Despite these very important beliefs in common, the differences that separate the two groups are equally as important.

The Protestant reformation began with the statement, “Now the just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11) The doctrine of salvation by faith alone is the biggest and most important difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. The Catholic church teaches that through faith the person is enabled by Christ to accomplish salvation. Protestant churches teach that salvation is fully accomplished by Christ and given to the one who receives Him by faith. These two beliefs are not compatible with one another. The one says works are essential to salvation, the other says any one attempt to work for salvation are not saved.

There are many, many other differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. However, what truly sets these two groups apart is their different teachings on salvation. How a person receives forgiveness of sin and salvation is a matter of the greatest importance. As long as the churches teach a different way of salvation there will always be a divide between Catholicism and Protestantism.