Archive for July, 2010

Trust Your Bible

July 31, 2010

Contributed by Brian Shifflett, Worship Pastor at Image Church

I am currently reading “Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe” by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears.  There is a section in chapter two which deals with trusting that the Bible that we read today in actually God’s word (p. 63-64).  Due to the nature of the topic, this blog will consist primarily of facts that I believe to be profitable when dealing with skeptics of modern-day Bible authenticity. 

The fact of the matter is this; a good modern translation of the Bible is nearly exactly what its original authors wrote.  Until the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947, the oldest copies of the Hebrew Old Testament dated around AD 900.  Although we knew the extreme care rabbi’s used in copying the text before they were worn or destroyed, the oldest copies from AD 900 were distant from the originals.  However, the Dead Sea Scrolls provided us with copies of much of the Old Testament that were over 1000 years older than the AD 900 copies.  A comparison of the manuscripts showed minor variations which were mostly insignificant spelling differences such as the American honor and the British honour.

One thing to consider is many who question the accuracy of our current Bible would never question the writings of men such as Plato, Homer, and Caesar Augustus.  All of whom we have fewer than 10 copies that were made at least 1000 years after the author wrote the originals.  We have around 14,000 copies of the New Testament with fragments that were written no more than 100 years after the original books and letters.  This is astounding considering the fragile material the Bible was copied onto.  God, in His sovereignty, surely protected these copies considering they were not stored anywhere to keep them from being destroyed. 

The number of manuscripts we have available is so vast that we can be over 99 percent sure that the Bible you hold in your hands today is faithful to the original manuscripts.  I hope these facts strengthen your faith and encourage you to be bold about the truth that is found in Scripture. 

Reference: Driscoll, Mark & Breshears, Gerry. (2010). Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway.

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The God of Answered Prayers

July 25, 2010

Contributed by Tim White, Next Gen Pastor at Image Church

1 Kings 17:20-24 – And he cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

The woman in this passage is a widow from Zarephath that God told Elijah to go to during a drought in Israel. The widow was to feed and take care of Elijah. She had a son and just enough flour and oil to prepare for themselves one last meal before they would die. In 1 Kings 17:13-14 Elijah says this to the widow.

“Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'”

From that point on, the widow had the flour and oil she needed to feed Elijah and her son. The flour and the oil never ran out. God revealed Himself to this widowed woman. He provided her and her son the food they needed to survive. But then in verses 17-18, something horrible happens:

After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

The woman was devastated – her only son, whom earlier she was prepared to die with, had been taken from her while she still lived. She had experienced God and even saw firsthand His great work, as her flour and oil never ran out, providing them with all that they needed to stay alive during the drought. And now after all of that, her son was still taken from her. Elijah took the woman’s son from her, and he cried out to God. In verse 24, we see this woman truly grasp the truth of God.

And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

God revealing Himself by providing the food they needed to live was not enough for this woman to truly understand and believe in the truth of God.  While at camp this week, there where many people who experienced that same work of God that this widowed woman did. When our teens and leaders went to camp this week, many of the students shared that they wanted to become closer with God themselves. On the second day of camp, God gave our students and every other student, youth leaders, and camp staff that opportunity.

It was a day like no other I have ever experienced in my life. It was one of my worst nightmares come true. The same goes for most of the students and other leaders there at the camp. The day started out like any other day, but it quickly turned into a day that no one could have ever expected and will never forget. During our recreation time, the students were all enjoying the ropes courses, and one of the students that came with us was going down the zip-line when the tree holding one end of the zip-line snapped in half, causing the boy to fall to the ground. He had to be flown to the nearest hospital and was unconscious when he got there. At the hospital, he had to have a CT scan and other tests done to see what kind of condition he was in. The tests all came back negative, showing that there was no brain damage, no spine damage, nor broken bones. He survived a 15’ fall with what doctors concluded was a concussion and some bruising. On Thursday morning I received word, from His mother that he was being released from the hospital and was going home.

Immediately following the accident, all of the students were sent to their rooms, where they formed prayer groups and began to pray for this boy. Students and leaders from the other churches at the camp gathered with our students and prayed with them. God answered the prayers of over 150 students, youth leaders, camp staff, and others that were informed of the situation. God opened the eyes of many students, and they all came closer to Him through prayer. Prayers that started out as prayers for healing turned to prayers of praise within hours, as we received word of his improved condition.

God revealed Himself to all who were at the camp in a terrifying way, but just as he did with the widow from Zarephath, God spared a life, proving that He is a loving and gracious God that protects and heals.  All of the students, youth leaders, and camp staff were brought close to God, as they witnessed God work through a terrifying event.

All of our student’s lives were impacted this week.  One teen committed his life to Christ, and many others committed to live lives of complete trust in God through His Word and in prayer.

What If We Never See It?

July 18, 2010

Contributed by Chris Rhodenhizer, Lead Pastor of Image Church

Several months ago, I wrote a blog on Hebrews 11:21, contemplating all that the great patriarch Israel [Jacob] had risked by faith. This passage of Scripture has lead me to live more deeply on faith, and trust God to bring about His work with or without me. I believe a lot of Christians, especially pastors, think that the work God calls us to do is a guarantee that it will be finished by us, and even physically seen by us – that is not always the case! The big question is – are we still willing to live this life of faith, for God’s great glory, even if we never see the work He calls us to do come to our standard of completion???  Below, we will re-visit the article, “What if we never see it?”  My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will move you to deeper faith with your only goal being that God is glorified!

What if we never see it???

What is it that you want to see happen before you die? Is there something you want to do or see? Are there things you have risked, and have yet to see them work out? What if we never see these things come about or happen?

I think about this sometimes, when dreaming about what God could do with Image Church.  With all the things I desire for our church, I wonder sometimes if God will allow me to live long enough to see it happen – I constantly feel like I am running out of time!

Let’s take a glance at Hebrews 11 and dive into the end of a life – a life that is on his death bed. We need to see what we can learn from a life well-lived and well-risked…

Hebrews 11:21By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. [ESV]

Now we might ask, “why does the author of Hebrews pick this over other events in Jacob’s life?  I mean, Jacob had wrestled with God, He had traveled through crazy lands, he had moved around, he had risked and moved to Egypt in old age and done many other adventurous things.”  There are a couple of reasons for this concerning his life…

1st: He had faith in the future promises of God

Because of Jacob’s old age and poor health, there is nothing else he can rely on – he has to wholly trust in God. Unlike other times in his life, he cannot trust in his own wits.  He cannot risk by using his own manipulation this time.  His risk was trusting completely in God and God’s people, that HE and they would finish this race. He could not go back to Israel on his own.  He would physically die in Egypt.  This is how he would end his earthly life.  Look at this in Genesis…

Genesis 48:11-12And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” 12Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. [ESV]

Jacob is going back over his life – how that the risk of following God, even to a foreign land, was worth it.  Even though he is going to die in a foreign land, it has been worth it! Also notice Joseph’s interaction with his dying father, Joseph had put his young boys on his fathers lap so Israel [Jacob] could see them in order to bless them. It says Joseph removed them, then he gets on his knees to show great respect, love, honor, and devotion to his dad.  John Calvin says this concerning Joseph and Jacobs death bed words – “Joseph considered it a greater privilege to be a son of Jacob, than to preside over a hundred kingdoms!”  The second only to Pharaoh, royalty, humbled himself before the patriarch who mediated God’s promises – this was a risk for Joseph.  Egyptian leadership only bowed to Pharaoh! Jacob is truly seeing the life of true faith is a life well-lived. Jacob is also seeing that passing this kind of life on to the next generation is well worth it. He could look back over his life and see the true results in front of him. Although he would never see his promised land again, he would be found faithful by the promised One, Jesus!!

Another reason Hebrews records the end of Jacobs life…

2nd: He had faith that God would finish this

Genesis 48:21-22Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” [ESV]

Hebrews 11:21 is directly taken from this entire chapter in Genesis.  His entire life could be found in his risk to live by faith.  Jacob, or Israel, is letting Joseph know what God can and will do, then he lets him know what he is leaving him, and what he had paid for it. Jacob is leaving him more than his other brothers, plus he had fought for it, risked for what God had told Him to do. Jacob is completely trusting that God would finish all of this after he had died, that his kids and people would go back to the land God had set-up for them. Jacob believed this would happen knowing he would never physically see it come about!

SO, when we are called upon to live on faith, risking what we cannot physically see and may never see – do we allow the possibility of NEVER SEEING IT to hold us back???

Treasures – The Eye is the Lamp

July 11, 2010

Contributed by Mike Scott, Elder Overseer of Web/Graphic Arts/Media at Image Church

Recently our church body did a study in our POD home groups on the “Treasure Principle” and a series called “Mucho Dinero.”  The book gave some good insight on finances, and it revealed as a whole our church’s approach to giving is very good. It helped convict some who might have been robbing God, and it helped some get their finances in order.  The other day, my devotional was on the same topic, and there were three things that stuck out in the passages I read.

We Are Not To Lay Up Treasures On Earth

Matthew 6:19-24 [ESV] – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Recently God has blessed me to be able to work a lot of extra hours, and I was able to pay off debt that would have taken me almost two more years to pay. During this time, sacrifices had to be made on my wife, kids, and my part. I essentially have not been around. This was short term to pay off debt, but in the process I realized this is how some people live day to day. Chasing Money and Things. Working as much as they can to finance a lifestyle or to buy things. I understand wanting nice things, but this should never be what drives us, because moth and rust destroy them in the long run.

The Eye Is The Lamp

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

These verses speak for themselves. The comparison of the eye being the lamp is huge. It shows that our heart and eye are parallel with each other. If our eye is healthy so will our heart, and if our heart’s desires are pure then our eye will be looking in the right direction. For some of us this may mean changing what we focus on or some habits that have been set for years. If our eyes are focused on God and doing His will, everything else should fall in line.

We Can’t Serve God And Money

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

I know someone who bought a boat they couldn’t afford, and so they had to work all the time to pay for it. This meant that the same boat they bought to spend time with their family on, caused them to have to be at work and not with them…not to mention working weekends and never going to church. Who were they serving there? We all have a similar story like that about someone and may say how ridiculous that was for them to do that. Remember the eye saw something it wanted and the heart followed. It can happen to any of us. I will never be rich in my life unless a miracle happens. God could decide to change that for me, but most likely you won’t see me pimpin’ a Jaguar any time soon. I realize that time starts to fly by the older you get, and we try to prepare the best we can for our families security. However in the grand scope of it all, what really matters to me is that when I stand before God, I want Him to say that I served Him faithfully in all areas of my life. That I didn’t let greed and covetousness get in the way, and that I was faithful.

Remember that God’s ministry will go on without us, and that it is truly a joy and privilege to be a part of it.

Hears, Remembers, Sees and Knows

July 2, 2010

Contributed by Russ Perkins, Elder Overseer of Communities at Image Church.

Exodus 2:24-25 – And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel, and God knew.  [ESV]

The verse above captures a moment in time when God’s chosen people find themselves slaves in Egypt.  The heavy hand of Pharaoh brought about the cries and groaning of an enslaved nation – and God heard.  God made promises to the patriarchs of these people now in trouble – and God remembered.  God was fully aware of the predicament His people were in – and God saw.  God’s chosen people needed to be rescued; they required someone to lead them to freedom – and God knew.  Often when God wants to accomplish something He picks a person.  In this particular instance, he picked a man – his name, Moses.  Moses’ task was to lead God’s chosen people out from oppression and slavery to freedom in the promised land.

Moses’ God hears, remembers (his promises), looks upon – sees, and acknowledges the situation.  These circumstances are an old testament foreshadowing of a new testament reality.  The truths recorded early in Exodus point to another set of fascinating truths.

1.  God’s chosen people reside in a fallen world under the heavy burden of original sin – but our redemption is a single prayer away. (Hears)

Romans 5:12 – Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, (Adam) and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.

John 16:24 – Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

2.  God made promises to save His own covenant people. (Remembers)

Luke 19:10 – For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Romans 8:29-30 – For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, (Jesus) in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

3.  God is fully aware of the helplessness of our situation. (Sees)

Isaiah 64:6 – All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Hebrews 9:27 – And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

4.  His chosen people require a savior – and find one in Jesus alone. (Knows)

Acts 4:12 – Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

Romans 10:9-10 – Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

God’s desire is to enter a covenant relationship with a people He calls to himself.  So, because He is God and He can – He sent Himself in the person of Jesus His son (incarnation) to us all here on planet earth.  All who follow Him (Jesus) will find true freedom, peace, joy, and eternal life.  Moses’ journey early in Exodus serves as a harbinger, pointing to the Christ who would eventually come to set His people free and lead them to true, lasting freedom and peace. 

Jesus heard our cries for salvation, He remembered His promises, He sees our situation, and He knows exactly what it is we have need of.  So, Jesus accomplished that which only He could.  It’s called the Gospel, and if anyone embraces the truth of it – it will transform their view of the world in remarkable ways.  The Gospel is for anyone who will by His grace through their faith accept the transforming truth of the greatest story ever told – and this, every single bit of it – the work of the God who hears, remembers, sees and knows.