As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

Terror, Panic and Faith

There are times when the storms of life overwhelm us, and it seems as if God is asleep. Jesus Christ was certainly asleep when a raging storm threatened his disciples on Lake Galilee. The story is in Mark 4:35-41. Like those disciples, we may very well ask God, "Don't you care if we perish?" Sometimes when we pray to God in heaven, we may also be in terror and panicked. The situations we sometimes face put even the most patient and calm person to the test. How often do easygoing and coolheaded people become hysterical and fearful under adversity? We tend to mirror our circumstances and scoff at miracles, until we really need one. We plead for Jesus to intervene and when he does, he may ask, "Don't you have any faith?" And we may ask ourselves, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

A Christian is a Professional Gambler

Many would be offended to think that a Christian is a professional gambler. But, I tell you that unless you are, you are not a Christian at all. What kind of crazy claim is that? Think about it for a minute. What is a professional? A profession is an open declaration of a belief, faith or opinion. It involves a calling and specialized knowledge with preparation. Christianity is a profession and also a gamble? We may have bet on the horses, a business, a card game, a crop, or the stock market and won or lost. There is one gamble that is a sure bet. So, if you'll pardon my play on words, a Christian is a professional gambler, making the best bet in town. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23) You can bet your life on Jesus Christ.

Quest for Pure Religion

I looked for pure religion among those who claimed to have apostolic authority, but did not find it. Others told me that I needed to speak in tongues, but I did not find pure religion there. Dozens of others gave me their secret formulas for pure religion. Their suggestions ranged from being methodical to wearing simple clothing, from doing the rosary to attending church several times a week, from joining the choir to being a super Christian who mows the pastor's lawn. Still others told me that God did not even like religion and I was about to give up when I read a small corner of the Bible which said that there was indeed a pure religion. "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27-28)

Self-Fulfilling Bible Study

The Pygmalion effect is also called a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is a result of talking ourselves into a specific belief and subconsciously supporting all efforts to bring it about and of course, it comes to pass. This can happen to athletes who picture winning or students who picture themselves failing. It works for the positive as well as the negative. When it comes to study of the Bible, we all seek the original intended meaning and yet come to different conclusions. As someone once said "Men open this book, their favorite creed in mind; each seeks his own, and each his own does find." We all see the Bible through the lenses of our own culture and prejudice. In Jeremiah 5:1 God seeks that rare person who "deals honestly and seeks the truth." It is an extraordinary person who will read the Bible and be willing to change their mind.

Take Heed what you Hear

In Mark 4:23-25 Jesus encouraged us to hear, but take heed what we hear. There is a source of good news out there and if we listen, it will drastically improve out lives. However, what sells is bad news and cynicism. If we wallow in it we will become negative and jaded in character. We basically have a choice between two world views. We can immerse ourselves in skepticism, mockery, criticism, doubting and pessimism. Some people do. On the other hand, we can decide to become involved in a positive way of life. Imagine choosing to be around grace, mercy, love, belief, praise, approval, faith and a positive atmosphere. We will also tend to become like that. If we fill our minds with positive influences including the Gospel of Christ, then more will be given to us. Whoever returns to negativity, what good they had will be taken from them.

The Kingdom of God Secret

We often treat the Gospel as a secret and hide it under our traditions and fads. Yet the rule of God cannot be hidden. It's a secret that cannot be kept. In Mark 4:21-22 Jesus spoke of the lamp that came not to be put under a basket or hidden under a bed, but to be put on a stand. The light cannot be kept a secret. We have a long heritage of religious hullabaloo which takes center stage, but everything hidden or secret will eventually come to light. In every church, we have many faults, wacky ideas and weak human efforts. The world sees our obvious failings and wonders. However, none of our weak and silly church customs are so powerful as to hide the message of Christ forever and that is real good news. The good news is carried by weak vessels, but it still comes to light.

Can we be More than Happy?

The first time I heard someone say they'd be "more than happy" to do something I thought they were just exaggerating. But it turns out the popular saying contains a great deal of truth. We can be more than happy. What is more than happy? Being blessed is more than happy. After Jesus gave the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) during his Sermon on the Mount, it was written in Greek using a word that is usually translated as blessed in English. Occasionally, it is translated as happy. A discussion among translators has been whether happy or blessed is a more accurate translation. Most translators seem to have come to the same conclusion, that happiness can be fleeting, but blessedness remains. The beatitudes are not keys to a fleeting emotion, but a core inner condition. So, the word blessed was chosen, because yes, we can be more than happy. We can be blessed.

Brainwashing, Indoctrination & True Education

If all we know is narrow dogmatism and have not examined other perspectives with an unbiased heart, then can we be anything but prejudiced? If we believe that others are in gross error yet have ignored their words, then have we made ourselves blind bigots? If our source of Christian education is any narrow view that excludes the possibility that someone else may have a measure of truth, then have we really had an education? Are we just indoctrinated or worse, brain washed? It is only when we have the humility to realize that we may not have exclusive access to all truth, that we begin to see the magnitude of God's grace towards his whole Church. The longer we study the Bible, the less we speak in haste like fools (Proverbs 29:20) because we have learned that God has also taught others the Gospel in wonderful and special ways.

Personal Bible Education

How can we get a good Bible education at home? Read every book of the Bible in a modern translation. Study each book using literal translations and critical commentaries from liberal, mainstream and conservative sources. Get the software to learn the biblical languages at home. Read at least five popular books from different perspectives on each major Christian topic such as Church history or systematic theology. Make a list of major theological topics and study different viewpoints on each. For instance, don't just study Calvinism but get the balance by also reading books on Arminianism, Barthianism and the Catholic view. Read the writings of great influence in Christian history from early church fathers to notable Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant writers. It is said that if you read 40 books on any topic you have the equivalent knowledge of a master's degree in that subject. Most of all, enjoy the journey.

The Worst Gamble

How much are we willing to gamble? On the one extreme are very low risk situations like getting out of bed. People have had heart attacks or slipped and fallen during this simple act. However, in the majority of cases it a very minor risk, a gamble we willingly take. There are also middle of the road bets that we may make such as getting an education, operating a business or driving in traffic. We know there are dangers, but realize that the risk to reward ratio may be in our favor. It is a calculated bet, but a favorable one. Then, there are risks that most of us are unwilling to take. Base jumping, day trading and sky walking come to mind. For most of us the gamble is too hazardous. Perhaps the worst gamble of all would be to ignore the warming of Hebrews 2:3 and neglect salvation.

God is a Gambler

A definition of gambling is to bet on an uncertain outcome, to take a chance. A good gamble has favorable odds. When I plant corn, I plant 3 seeds at a time to increase the chances of success. I plant in hope. The whole of life is a gamble. Playing the lottery or a slot machine is a poor gamble because the odds are against us. However, the pay-off could be huge, so some occasionally decide to buy a lottery ticket, in hope. God too has gambled -- big time. He has gambled on us. In Romans 8:20, we find that he subjected creation to futility in hope. What are the odds? I suppose that depends on our point of view. Are they poor odds because "narrow is the way" or favorable chances because Jesus said I "will draw all men to myself?" Let us not gamble on our eternity.

The Delusion of Exclusivism

Why do we have to be better than others in our own minds? Do we have that large an inferiority complex that we must belittle others and flatter ourselves? We delude ourselves that we have the secret formulas only available to the "very elect." Reasons to feel superior vary from individual to individual and group to group. It may be Methodism, Barthianism, Sabbataraianism, Calvinism, Catholicism, Successionism, Pentecostalism or Liberalism. We believe we have found a secret that nobody else can discover, but we all believe in Christ. That we are one in Christ negates the delusion. Anciently, Jewish Christians in Rome thought that they were more special than Gentile Christians. In Romans 3:22 the writer was quick to remind them that "there is no difference" and that ought to suffice. Let's escape the prison of self delusion and exclusivity and learn to appreciate the blessings God has given other churches.

Is Teaching a Waste

Bible teachers may wonder if they have cast pearls before swine. It's frustrating when people stubbornly believe falsehoods and will not listen to reason, or will even accuse us of being false teachers if we do not agree with wacky interpretations of Scripture. So why do we bother? In Mark 4, we find the parable of the sower. There too, the seed of the kingdom is scattered in a seemingly indiscriminate manner. Why would anyone deliberately scatter seed on useless ground? Doesn't it seem like a waste? We need to understand ancient agriculture to understand the parable. Seed was sown in hope, because ground quality was not always obvious until after sowing. Anciently, plowing came after sowing. The focus of the parable is also not on wasted effort, but on the ground that did produce fruit. So, teach in hope that fruit will be produced: thirty-, sixty- and a hundred-fold.

You'se, You'ns and Y'all

By nature a printed dictionary is behind the times. The old standard version of English used to be Oxford English, that dialect still spoken by the Queen of England. However, in more recent decades, America has become the geocenter of the English language and standard American, common to about two thirds of English speakers, is the new benchmark. Unfortunately for English, no standard plural of the word you has become officially accepted. Other English dialects include a number of plurals. You'se is used in parts of the northern USA, Ontario, Australia, England, Scotland and New Zealand. You'ns is actually a contraction of "you ones" and identified with Pittsburgh and some other places. Y'all is understood by most today and is common to the southern USA. All this is because English has no official replacement for "ye" the King James plural of you. And now you know the meaning of ye.

I went through Hell in Jerusalem

No, I'm not using a mild swear word. Many years ago, as a young tourist in the land of Israel, I walked through the valley of Hinnom. One of the names translated as hell in the Bible is this vale. The valley of Hinnom is Gehenna in Greek. It is on the southwest side of Jerusalem. Hinnom was once a site of the despicable pagan cult of child sacrifice and later became a garbage dump. This vile practice was one of the main reasons why God dispossessed the Canaanites of their land and gave it to the Israelites. This horrible background underlies a metaphor picturing the self-imposed suffering awaiting those who reject God. Perhaps one of the most gracious understandings of hell comes from the Orthodox Church. They describe hell as a deliberate choice made by recalcitrant individuals who of their own free will reject the grace and mercy of God.

Happiest People on Earth

Rich western nations are often under the delusion that they are happier than poor nations. We tend to define happiness in terms of credit and possessions. But, several recently released studies have attempted to discover the happiest people on earth and often placed poorer nations above their wealthier neighbors. One country that often tops the research lists is Costa Rica, the rich coast in Spanish, which is not materially rich but wealthy by certain other standards. Costa Ricans value education and the environment. Another set of standards for happiness challenges conventional wisdom at every level. In his typical fashion, Jesus Christ provokes us to think beyond our mundane cultural values to unadulterated measures of happiness. That challenge is in the beatitudes from  Matthew 5:1-12, a list of spiritual hallmarks that lead to a happiness not experienced even by most Christians. It is worth investigating and contemplating for its remarkable depth.

Ubiquitous Testimony to God

When Jesus taught about the kingdom of God, he used everyday examples as illustrations. He described it as a barren fig tree, dinner guests, an invitation to a feast, growing seed, hid treasure, a vineyard, leaven, a lost coin, lost sheep, a marriage feast, mustard seed, a fishing net, new cloth, new wine, a pearl of great price, a prodigal son, salt, sheep and goats, tares, talents, ten virgins, a sower, a vine and branches, a wise builder, and so on. Could it be that the whole of creation has been designed to lead us to and teach us about God and his kingdom? Modern churches have officially recognized a limited number of sacraments. Ancient Christians did not limit the sacraments to 2, 3 or 7 but spoke of the whole of creation as a sacrament. As the Psalmist sang, the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).

Why I Believe the Bible

Christians are often called upon to defend their faith. We are encouraged that if we are asked about our Christian hope, to be ready to explain it (1 Peter 3:15) Like the Apostles of old, we too are to defend the good news (Philippians 1:16).

Yet, the average Christian is not always well equipped to defend the Gospel except in one area. Every Christian ought to be able to give a personal testimony of how they have experienced the things of God in their life.

One question Christians may be asked is why they believe the Bible rather than some other holy book. Some facts about the Bible may be of interest.

What is Proof?

Let's first of all be realistic. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Some people are so stubborn and cynical that even when faced with unassailable facts they will refuse to admit the truth. Others only need to look at a blade of grass and know that there is a God and that he must be a good God. On the one hand, Jesus said that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). Ultimately, it is not we who lead people to God. We can only assist those God is already drawing to himself at this time, those who have open minds and are ready to accept the abundant proofs around them.

On the other hand, the Bible declares that there is no excuse for atheism, because the proof is clear. We can clearly see the forensic evidence of a creator and even the evidence of his great power, so we have no excuse for avoiding the obvious (Romans 1:20).

The Bible is Eye Witness Testimony

The Bible was written by eye witnesses. Many were witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. John declared that he saw him with his own eyes and touched him with his own hands (1 John 1:1). After his resurrection, Paul says that Jesus was seen by over five hundred of his followers at one time, most of whom were still alive, and that he saw him too (1 Corinthians 15:6-8). Most of those witnesses were still alive when Paul wrote this, so readers could have gone to any one to check up on his story. If this was a hoax or a myth it could have easily been disproved.

The Bible is Unique

  • The Bible was written over a 1500 year period, over 40 generations, by over 40 authors from kings to peasants. It was written in 3 languages — Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
  • It has been read by more people and published in more languages than any other book.
  • There is more manuscript evidence for the Bible than any other 10 pieces of ancient literature combined. Even recent 200 year old Shakespeare is less certain than the 2,000 year old New Testament.
  • Critics claimed that Moses did not know how to write, until the Black Stele was discovered with writing 300 years older. Critics also claimed that the Hittites were a myth until archaeology found they existed for over 1,200 years.
  • The Bible is unique among ancient writings in that it does not glorify its heroes, but tells their weaknesses lending weight to its factualness.
  • Jesus, without arms or money, conquered more millions than the Greeks, Romans, French, Britain or America. No other person on earth has caused so much literature to flood the world. 

The Bible is Reliable

There are over 5,300 early copies of the Greek New Testament and 24,000 manuscripts which contain at least portions of it. No other ancient document has anywhere near this number.

The earliest copies of the New Testament date from about 250 years after Jesus' death. Compare that to the time span for the earliest manuscripts of Tacitus and Horace which are from 900 years after their deaths, or Sophocles and Aristotle which are from 1,400 years after their deaths. The New Testament stands unquestionably alone among ancient writings.

Corruptions creep into any document that must be hand-copied. The Bible contains the least amount of corruptions of any ancient text, about half of a percent for the New Testament overall or about 400 words, most of which are slight variations. None of them alters a single fundamental doctrine. Compare that to Homers Iliad which has about 15,600 variations, about 5% corruption, ten times that of the New Testament.

Until the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, the earliest Old Testament manuscript was the Masoretic Text from about 980 AD or 1,300 years after the original was finished. The Dead Sea Scrolls however, mostly date from before Christ, and prove how utterly unique and reliable our copies of the Old Testament are.

In order to copy the Old Testament the ancient scribes counted each word using mathematical formulas and their copying was a genius unequalled in the history of writing.

The Documentary Hypothesis claimed that the early books of the Bible were only oral tradition. Then the Ebla tablets revealed literature, legislation and records in the same region a thousand years before Moses. They also confirmed that the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar existed, which skeptics claimed were fictitious.

Critics once argued that Luke's record of a census at Jesus' birth was fiction, until archaeological evidence proved it to be accurate including the manner in which a census was conducted. The once skeptical archaeologist Sir William Ramsay later ranked Luke among the greatest of historians for reliability and geographical accuracy.

Honesty Check

Christians need to be cautious and careful with history, because there are many unanswered questions from antiquity. However, Christians do not need to apologize for their faith as if it is somehow an unintelligent or ignorant faith. Some of those who seek to discredit the Bible don't believe in God at all, which the Bible says makes them a fool (Psalm 14:1).

The forensic evidence for God is obvious and they are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Others seek to discredit the Bible because they don't want to have to obey God but want to continue in a life of immorality (Romans 1:28-32). Others say that all religions lead you to God, but that is unsatisfactory because it does not explain the often insurmountable contradictions between religions.

Some say that it is dishonest to call the Bible the Word of God, but they are unfairly applying their own narrow definition to the phrase "Word of God" as opposed to various uses of the phrase in the Bible itself, and also broader definitions that many Christians use, whereby God can speak or write through a human being.


Bigotry against the Bible is crap. It is the most important book ever written in human history. This has examined only a small fraction of the evidence for the Bible. The proof is abundant and clear. However, none of these facts is a replacement for faith, because faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). We all must eventually come to accept God's word on faith.

[Source: Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Volumes 1 & 2, by Josh McDowell, 1972, 1993, Thomas Nelson Publishers.]

Ultimate Fellowship

There is often an amazing bond among families. A shared history and genetic similarities that show up in things like how we think, our tastes and sense of humor can make it a joy to be around siblings, cousins, children and parents. Family picnics and gatherings can be among the most delightful times of year. Yet, the bond between Christians is sometimes closer than family. Cults have been known to exploit this by excluding family, but that was never the example that Jesus set. During a time when his physical family initially denied his mission, he said hyperbolically that his followers were his family. In Mark 3:35 Jesus said that whoever does God's will is his brother and sister and mother. This is the ultimate meaning of fellowship. Christian gatherings ought not be just social events, but can involve a depth that surpasses even the natural bonds of physical family.

Are you Unforgivable?

Do you worry that you have blasphemed the Holy Spirit? A British comedian has a skit in which he jokes about the Holy Spirit. Has he committed the unpardonable sin? Christians sometimes worry unnecessarily that they may have inadvertently said or thought something that approached the unforgivable sin. So what is blasphemy? Blasphemy is a verbal statement of rebellious antagonism towards God. When Jesus warned of the danger of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, he did so in a certain context, which helps explain it. In Mark 3:30 Jesus explained that the Pharisees had accused him of performing miracles by demonic power, that he had "an unclean spirit." NICNT calls it "the conscious and deliberate rejection of the saving power and grace of God released through Jesus' word and act." Most of us reading this have little or nothing to worry about because we have not committed the unpardonable sin.

(William L. Lane, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel According to Mark, Eerdman's, 1974, p. 145)

Star Trek Theology

The star ship Enterprise landed on a holiday planet for rest and relaxation. The crew could choose any kind of vacation they wanted, from safari to some other kind of adventure. Shockingly, crew members were dying off one by one, during their dream vacation. Captain Kirk confronted the tour guide and demanded that he stop killing the crew. The man then reassured him that all was in order, and showed the captain to a waiting room where the crew were all safe and sound. The episode answered for me the question of why God allows pain and suffering. We cause our own problems, but God has a plan. His purpose involves a happy end where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). If there is no more mourning, then there must be a time when there is no more reason for it.

Lost in Legal Detail

Most of this world's governments pride themselves in the rule of law, yet Jesus taught a far more superior way. In a classic conflict with those whose focus was law, Jesus pursued the greater path of grace and mercy. The story is found in Mark 3:1-6. According to Old Testament law, life and death emergencies were permitted on the Jewish Sabbath, but a matter such as healing a withered hand could wait until that rest day was over. However, Jesus' interpretation of the law was not in the letter but in the spirit. His concern was for the principle: Was it lawful to cause harm or good, save a life or kill? We know that our civil laws don't always make sense in the letter. So it is with the Old Testament laws. They are good laws, but obedience in the letter does not make sense, only the spirit does.