We were eating lunch today, sitting at our dining room table, looking out into our back yard. A gentle breeze passed through the trees, making the leaves dance. Our very first thought was:
“Look! Wind to pollinate our corn!”
That got me thinking. Is that true for all farmers, Lord? Whenever they take note of any factor in the environment around them — the sunshine (or clouds), the rain (or its lack), the insects, etc. — is their very first thought:
“How will this help or hinder our crops?”
What about shepherds? As they observe their “world” — the terrain, the amount of grazing grass, the availability of water, the presence of wild animals, the quality of their fencing — is their very first thought:
“How will this help or hinder our flocks?”
It occurred to me that farmers and shepherds have a lot in common. They both are determined to provide for and protect what has been entrusted to their care.
What about Christians, Lord? What has been entrusted to our care? By You, Lord… the One who has us here for a purpose?
“Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Over the years, I have heard various anonymous quotes that have profound implications: “Christianity is just one generation away from extinction.” “You may be the only Bible someone else reads.” “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
Is that why You led me to some sobering statistics today, Lord? In 2014, Barna Research Group did a national research report on the State of the Bible. While 81% of U.S. adults considered themselves “highly, moderately or somewhat knowledgeable about the Bible,” less than half (43%) could name the first five books and only one-half knew John the Baptist was not one of the twelve apostles.
Maybe it’s the amount of time spent reading the Bible? Some 26% of U.S. adults reported never reading it. Another 28% includes those who read it less than once a year to only three or four times per year. How does that square with the proposition that “You may be the only Bible someone else reads” ???
If we do go to church, I guess we can trust that we’ll learn what we’re supposed to learn… right? Or will we, Lord?
“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed…” (Acts 17:11-12a)
More and more these days, I find myself going home to “examine the Scriptures” to see if what the pastor said in a given sermon is true. Like this morning.
The pastor was talking about the book of Ephesians — one of my favorites! It’s the letter Paul wrote in approximately 60 AD from his prison cell in Rome. Except the pastor this morning began to speak as if it was not written by Paul at all but, rather, by one or more of his disciples after Paul had died. The pastor continued, saying “maybe they (Paul’s disciples) thought people wouldn’t listen to them, so they quoted Paul (for credibility).”
And even claimed it was written by Paul?
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 1:1)
Let me get this straight: This pastor was essentially saying that Paul’s disciples, in an effort to carry on his work after his death, “ghost wrote” a letter claiming it was his, so people would believe it?
What’s wrong with this picture?
“… there is no truth in him [the devil]. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
I spent much of the afternoon researching the authenticity of Paul as the author of Ephesians. One of the key “biblical scholars” who claimed Paul was not the author turned out to be a former “Christian” turned agnostic. This “scholar” has written numerous books that have reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List — books attacking the veracity of the Bible and debunking even Your divinity, Lord Jesus.
“… there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them — bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories…” (2 Peter 2:1b-2)
So what’s the bottom line in all this, Lord? That it’s important to not just believe everything we hear? That we are in a season in history in which attacks on the Bible’s veracity are increasing, even as its readership is decreasing? A season in history also bearing witness to a decline in morality?
Which is the chicken? Which is the egg?
How like the farmers and shepherds are we Christians, Lord? How are we called to provide for and protect those entrusted to our care?
The time is now — for answers and action… Amen?