No Complaining. Really?

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If I challenged you to cut out complaining and arguing from your life for an entire week, could you do it? What about for a month?  Now we are getting a little difficult. What if I challenged you to stop complaining and arguing for the rest of your life? Wait! Don’t stop reading this blog! I’m serious. Let’s just take a look at the possibilities here. The apostle Paul actually wrote to the Philippians that they should do “everything without complaining, grumbling or arguing.”

Now perhaps you are thinking, Aren’t there times when we need to stand up for ourselves? Surely God doesn’t intend for us to never talk about our difficulties. Yes, there is a time and a place for wisely and respectfully sharing our concerns, but the bigger issue we need to consider is how do we handle life when it doesn’t go our way. Here’s what Paul wrote:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. Philippians 2:14- 15.

Paul is encouraging us to shed some bad habits, so that we may shine Christ’s light more brightly in this dark world. Often complaining and grumbling are  born out of pride, anger or a lack of faith. We think we know what is best and when things don’t go as planned, we tend to get our feathers ruffled. Sometimes issues of unforgiveness or bitterness are lingering in our heart, causing us to complain and argue.

Is it really possible to live without grumbling? To be honest, we all have a tendency to grumble and complain – it is our basic human nature. But God can do a mighty work in our lives through the power of His spirit within us. He can transform our grumbly heart into a grateful one. Here are three ideas to put into practice the next time you feel a need to complain.

  1. Turn your eyes upward and thank the Lord for the good things He is doing. One of the greatest antidotes to complaining and whining is to take our focus off of the frustration and look instead at our blessings. As we sincerely thank Him for the ways He has worked in our lives, then we also begin to realize God can take care of our present situation. We don’t need to be spouting off about every problem that comes our way.
  2. Pray for guidance. Anytime we are about to grumble, we must ask ourselves a simple question, “Have I prayed about this?” As we seek God’s wisdom on how to handle the situation, we can ask Him to help us grow through it as well. Prayer allows our worries to dwindle. When we bring our challenges to God first, then we do not give worry an opportunity to set in. Like logs to a fire, worry and anxiety fuel complaining and whining. Faith says, “I will trust God’s unfailing love through this challenge.”
  3. Take positive action. There are times when we do need to present our point of view or our concern, but we can do it without grumbling or whining. Instead we can wisely, patiently and kindly present our thoughts or perspective to the right person. Let’s be willing to be a part of the solution, and look for what we can do rather than focusing on what we can’t do.

Every opportunity to complain is actually an opportunity to grow in our faith and trust in the Lord. Ultimately, when we truly believe God loves us and has a good purpose for our lives, then grumbling, whining and bickering tend to dissipate. May we be bright shining lights as we show an unbelieving world that we trust a big God.

This is an excerpt from my book, A Woman’s Passionate Pursuit of God. Click the link below for more information about the book and DVD based on Philippians.  https://positivewomanconnection.com/books/#biblestudy

 

 

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30 Reasons to Give Thanks

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With Christmas decorations crowding the aisles of most stores, it’s sometimes hard to focus on the beauty of the Thanksgiving season. I believe a heart filled with thankfulness is one of the best ways to prepare us for the Christmas season. It’s not about how we decorate on the outside that matters, it’s what is happening on the inside that really makes the holiday season beautiful.

Personally, I have found that an attitude of thankfulness changes the way I handle difficulties and walk through challenges. Every morning I take a moment to write down at least five blessings that happened over the last 24 hours. Sometimes it’s easy, but to be honest, there are days that I have to think hard about those things for which I can be grateful. The practice is a great discipline that helps me start my day with a positive perspective. I highly recommend it!

What are the benefits of being thankful? Here’s 30 reasons to ponder – one for each day this month!

  1. It takes your eyes off of yourself and your problems
  2. It strengthens your faith
  3. It blesses others
  4. It changes your perspective
  5. It makes you more delightful to be around
  6. It helps you see where God is working
  7. It makes a bad day better
  8. It is contagious
  9. It’s an act of worship
  10. It helps you stay focused on what is good and lovely
  11. It reminds you that God is in control
  12. It chases away a grumpy attitude
  13. It lifts the fog of thinking that nothing good ever happens
  14. It stretches you
  15. It encourages you to take one step forward out of grief or pain
  16. It helps you see the good in others
  17. It makes you less critical
  18. It helps you be more disciplined
  19. It challenges you to think outside the box
  20. It increases your observation skills
  21. It invites you to smile
  22. It encourages you to help others to look for the good
  23. It allows you to dig for something positive in the midst of a difficulty
  24. It strengthens relationships because you are focused on the good in others
  25. It helps you press on toward your goals by looking for inklings of hope
  26. It starts your day in a bright direction
  27. It can dispel the blues
  28. It increases your creativity
  29. It helps you to look at a situation from different angles
  30. It reminds you that God is worthy of our thanks every day because of His goodness and grace toward us

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever”  Psalm 118:29

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Is What We Have Now, What They Had Then?

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This is the last entry in our series on “How Did We Get The Bible?” It has been fascinating to see how God used the Jewish scribes to accurately preserve the Old Testament, and God’s hand in preserving the New Testament as well. It is estimated that between 4000 and 6000 handwritten copies of the Greek New Testament have been discovered today, not to mention thousands in other languages. Some of these are entire Bibles, while others are books or pages. Some of the oldest fragments can be dated back to as far as AD 130. So the question is, how close are they to the Bible we have in our hands today?

Bible scholars and experts who have examined these ancient manuscripts conclude that although there are variations between some of the manuscripts, the vast majority of the variations are relatively insignificant, such as updated spellings, syntax, and misspellings that do not affect the original content. Only five variations have ever caused a concern, and each of these is typically noted in your Bible footnotes. And no major doctrine is in dispute in any of these variations. (The passages are Mark 16:9-20, Luke 22:20, 43-44, 23:24, and John 7:53-8:11.) Nonetheless, Bible scholars agree that what we have in our Bibles today contains in essence the same content as the early manuscripts written almost 2000 years ago.

It is exciting to see how God continues to confirm the accuracy of His Word even in modern times. From 1896 to 1906 numerous papyri manuscripts were discovered in Egypt and other sites. Papyrus comes from a river plant called cyperus papyrus and was specially processed to be used as a durable writing material by the ancient Egyptians. Many of the papyri discoveries contain portions of the New Testament, and these fragments have been helpful in confirming the text of other biblical manuscripts and provide information about the historical context of the New Testament.

The oldest existing New Testament fragment is the John Ryland Papyrus, which dates to AD 125 to 150. One of the neat things about this fragment is that is lets us know that the Gospel of John was read in Egypt (far from where it was written in Asia minor) within 50 years of John’s writing of it. The Chester Beatty papyri, dating to about AD 200, are almost as old as the John Ryland Papyrus and are more extensive. They include portions of the Gospels and the book of Acts, the letters of Paul including Hebrews, and the book of Revelation.

Discoveries for both the Old and New Testament continue to unfold. In May of 1975, workmen making repairs in St Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Desert discovered a walled-up room containing 70 boxes with some 3000 manuscripts. Many were nonbiblical, but there were a few leaves and fragments from Codex Sinaiticus among the discoveries. Codex Sinaiticus (originally found in 1844 by Constantin von Tischendorf) is the oldest complete copy of the New Testament, although only portions of the Old Testament survived—because monks used pages from the manuscript to light their fires in the 1800s! The Codex Sinaiticus dates back to AD 350. The word codex means “book.” The Christians were some of the earliest writers to use the form of a book instead of scrolls. This is one case where Christians were on the cutting edge of technology!

More recently, in the summer of 2007, a team from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (based in Dallas, Texas) traveled to the National Archive in Tirana, Albania, hoping to photograph 13 biblical manuscripts (including some dating back to the sixth century). Not only did they find the 13 manuscripts that they were looking for, but they also discovered 17 other manuscripts that were thought to be lost. They also found an additional 17 that were previously unknown to the scholarly community. They continue to discover more manuscripts all the time.* The accuracy of God’s Word continues to be strengthened and confirmed with each new discovery.

As more and more biblical manuscripts are discovered, scholars are able to continue to learn more about the biblical text we study. Biblical and classical scholar Frederic Kenyon wrote, “It is reassuring at the end to find that the general result of all these discoveries and all this study is to strengthen the proof of the authenticity of the Scriptures, and our conviction that we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable Word of God.”** My friend, if we know that this Bible we have now contains the very words of God, shouldn’t we be willing to build our whole lives on it? How can we ignore or brush aside the holy words of Almighty God? Our response to knowing the accuracy of the Scriptures can be nothing less than to listen, learn, and obey.

 

* You can view some of their latest discoveries online at www.CSNTM.org. I encourage you to visit their website and see some of the photographs of early manuscripts. It’s fascinating!

** Frederic Kenyon, The Story of the Bible (London: John Murray Publishers, 1935), p. 113.

This series is an excerpt from my book, Becoming a Woman of the Word – Knowing, Loving and Living the Bible. For the next few weeks I am offering the book as our $5 special for the month. Click Here for more details.

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Divinely Inspired Book

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In the last few weeks we have been looking at how the Old Testament of the Bible came together. This week we are going to examine how we can know that the New Testament is the very word of God. The process of canonizing (measuring) the New Testament started during the early years of the church, as the apostles’ writings were recognized as inspired and were continually read at church gatherings. Believers knew that the apostles were divinely appointed by God and gifted to communicate His message to the church.

Each manuscript was handwritten (the literal meaning of manuscript)and very precious to the early believers. There were several reasons that a New Testament canon needed to be established. One reason was the persecution of the church. As believers faced torture, imprisonment or death for possessing the Scriptures, they needed to establish which books were sacred and worth risking their lives in order to preserve.

Also, there were spurious writings attributed to the apostles in widespread circulation throughout the first few centuries, so it was important for the early church leaders to determine which ones were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit and should be recognized as Holy Scriptures. Although most of the books we now know as our New Testament were already being revered as Scripture, there were a few books that still needed to be examined. All along, we can see God’s hand in leading the divine process of revealing Himself through the written word of the New Testament.

In AD 393 at the Synod of Hippo and in AD 397 at the Synod of Carthage, Christian leaders came together to confirm the 27 books of the New Testament. The word synod refers to a council or meeting of church leaders. The confirmation was not taken lightly. There were at least four general tests which were carefully used and applied to help determine the books to be canonized. They were:

  1. Apostolicity: Was the book’s author a true apostle or closely connected to one or more of the apostles?
  2. Universality: Does the body of Christ at large accept the book as inspired and authoritative? Was the book universally received by the church and not just by a faction?
  3. Consistency: Does the book tell the truth about God as it is already known by previous revelation? Is the book consistent with accepted Christian doctrine?
  4. Inspiration: Does the book’s content reflect the high moral and spiritual principles that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit? Does the book give evidence of being divinely inspired? This was the ultimate test.

 

The Synod at Carthage only confirmed what the church had already recognized—that these 27 books were the divinely inspired Word of God.

Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce wrote,

 

One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect…What the synods of Hippo and Carthage did, was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities, but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities.1

 

Join me next week as we answer the question, “Is what we have now, what they had then?”

 

[1] F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Books: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981) p. 22.

 

 

This series is an excerpt from my book, Becoming a Woman of the Word – Knowing, Loving and Living the Bible. For the next few weeks I am offering the book as our $5 special for the month. Click Here for more details.  

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

 

mick-haupt-eQ2Z9ay9Wws-unsplash (1)Probably one of the most significant discoveries confirming the reliability of our Old Testament Scriptures is known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1947, while throwing rocks into a cave, a herdsman in Qumran near the Dead Sea accidentally discovered hidden writings of the Essene community (an ancient Jewish sect). Since that time, thousands of fragments, which belonged to more than 800 manuscripts, have been discovered.

Before these scrolls were found, the earliest known manuscript of the Old Testament was dated at around AD 980, but The Dead Sea scrolls were estimated to date back to 150 BC! A thousand years earlier! Yet, the two sets of manuscripts are essentially the same with only a few minor variations. The scrolls include a well-preserved copy of the whole book of Isaiah and have proved to be word-for-word identical with our Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text.

The remaining 5 percent is almost entirely due to spelling variations or slips of the pen. Larry Stone, author of The Story of the Bible (a fascinating book by the way—a must-have), writes, “The Dead Sea Scrolls provide astonishing confirmation that the Old Testament Scripture we have today is virtually the same as that being read a few centuries before Christ. The accuracy of the transmission is remarkable!”

Next week in our series of ‘How Did We Get the Bible,” we will look at how the New Testament came together.

This series is an excerpt from my book, Becoming a Woman of the Word – Knowing, Loving and Living the Bible. For the next few weeks I am offering the book as our $5 special for the month. Click Here for more details.  https://positivewomanconnection.com/books/#monthlyspecial

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