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

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

 

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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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

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Amazing Book

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The Bible has over 40 authors who were divinely inspired to write the Scriptures. Not only are the Scriptures themselves God-breathed, but we can see that God led the process by which the books were chosen. Knowing how the Bible came together offers beautiful evidence that God wants His people to know about His love, and He communicated His message of love through the Holy Scriptures.

Of course volumes could be written on the history of this amazing book, but in this blog we will deal specifically with the accuracy of the Old Testament manuscripts. We’ll look at the New Testament in the next few weeks as we continue this series on “How Did We Get the Bible”. One word we need to understand before we begin is the word canon which comes from a Greek word meaning “measuring stick” or “reed.” In other words, a canon was a measuring rod. The word eventually came to refer to those books that were “measured” and hence recognized as being God’s Word and part of the Holy Scriptures.

The Hebrew Scriptures (which we know as the Old Testament), were written from approximately 1400 BC to 400 BC. Most of the Old Testament was recorded in the Hebrew language (with several passages in Aramaic) and was passed down by the Jewish people from generation to generation. From the time of their writing, the Jewish people accepted them as the authentic, inspired Word of God. From 400 BC to Christ’s birth, several other books made their way into the popular culture of the Jewish people. These are known as the Apocrypha.[i] While most of the Jewish scholars did not accept the Apocrypha as Holy Scriptures, they valued them as good literature and as sources of history and spiritual insight. Some Roman Catholic Bibles still contain the writings of the Apocrypha.

Moses, the prophets, and the other Old Testament writers were recognized by the Jewish people as God’s messengers and accepted their work as inspired of God. The Old Testament canon was essentially established by the time of Jesus’ birth. Around 90 AD, Jewish elders met together at what is known as the council at Jamnia, and confirmed the Hebrew canon while rejecting the books of the Apocrypha.

Several years later, a Jewish historian and priest named Flavius Josephus recognized the Hebrew canon as the books that we now have in the Old Testament. Jesus quoted passages from the Old Testament, including Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah, knowing His listeners recognized these books as Scripture. By the mid-third century, the church was in almost complete agreement about the Hebrew canon of Scripture.

Skeptics often criticize the Bible, saying that a book claiming to be thousands of years old certainly has inaccuracies or errors, but recent archaeological evidence again and again supports that what we have today is reliable and accurate. Looking back at the Old Testament we know that the Israelites kept the copy of the Book of the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses) inside the ark of the covenant, stored in the temple. Despite the fact that the Babylonians destroyed the temple, the Scriptures were preserved. While in Babylonian captivity certain Levites (members of the priestly tribe of Levi) began copying the Scriptures and circulating them to other Israelites in captivity.

These Levites became known as scribes, and were respected for their attention to the Scripture and their accuracy in copying them. The scribes painstakingly transcribed each copy of the Law and developed a meticulous process to copying the manuscripts by hand, in order to prevent any errors. The scribes recognized that they were handling the very Word of God and wanted to handle each word, each letter with the utmost care. Some of the rules they followed were:

  • Parchments and all materials had to be made according to strict specifications and could only come from the skins of clean (kosher) animals.
  • The quills had to come from clean birds and the black ink had to be prepared to scribal specifications.
  • Even if the scribe had memorized it, no word or letter could be written from memory. The scribe was required to copy every word from an authentic copy of Scripture.
  • Before writing the name of God, a scribe was required to reverently wipe his pen and say, “I am writing the name of God for the holiness of His name.”
  • Each letter had to have space around it. If one letter even touched another or if a letter was not written correctly or defective due to a hole, a tear, or a smudge causing it not to be read easily, the scroll was invalidated.
  • Within 30 days of completion, the manuscript would be reviewed by an editor who counted every letter and every word as a way of checking. The editor even made sure that the middle word of the copy matched the middle word of the original.
  • Up to three mistakes on any page could be corrected within 30 days, but if more mistakes were found or if they were not fixed in 30 days, the entire manuscript had to be buried (manuscripts containing the name of God could not be destroyed). If a single letter was added or left off, the manuscript had to be fixed or buried.[ii]

This careful and detailed process of copying the Hebrew Scriptures in ancient times is what has led to the accuracy of our Old Testament today.

 

Join me next week as we look at the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls in confirming the accuracy of the Old Testament.

 

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

[i] The books in the Apocrypha include 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees.

[ii] Larry Stone, The Story of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010), p. 21.

Open Hands, Open Heart

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Retail store checkout lines are dangerous for me. Yes, I’m one of those people who succumb to “last minute” purchases on items that are so conveniently located near the cash register. Case in point, recently I ran into Hobby Lobby to grab a few party decorations, and I came out with three new books – which of course, I didn’t really need.

Well actually, maybe I did need one of them.  It was a book by the owner of Hobby Lobby, David Green called Giving It All Away…And Getting It All Back Again, The Way of Living Generously. It is the powerful story of how he started Hobby Lobby, but more importantly, it is about living with open hands and an open heart.

As I read his story, I began to think about the many things that I tend to hold a little too tightly to in my life. Things like my time, my plans, my money, my stuff, my opinions, my resentments.  Just like Jennifer Garner so eloquently says on the Capital One commercials,  “What’s in your wallet?” I suppose we could all ask ourselves, “What’s in my clenched fists?”

The interesting thing is, if we are going to reflect God’s attributes in our lives, we are compelled to be generous because He is generous. He is generous in love, in wisdom, in grace and in mercy. He is generous in giving us good gifts and blessings every day. Most important He is generous in salvation, giving His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Oh what a generous God we serve!

Here’s what’s truly beautiful – God is generous with His Spirit who enables us to live generously. Admittedly, I’m not so great at loving and giving in my own strength and will power, but God is! We can ask Him to open our hearts and our hands to living in a giving way.

Three practical and positive action points to ponder:

Realize: God is a generous God. His Spirit helps us to be generous. Realize that everything belongs to Him anyway.

Repent: Let’s begin to identify the things that we are holding with clenched fists (time, talent, treasures, unforgiveness, anger, opinions, plans, etc…). Confessing these things to God helps our heart begin to change.

Release: Finally, let’s open our hands and release those things. Let’s ask God to fill our hearts with generosity and  also ask Him to show us where to love, serve and give.

Make it a generous week this week!

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Engage Note:  There are many opportunities to give of your time, treasures and talents. If you would like to give to Engage Positive Parenting Initiative, reaching families in adverse circumstances with discussion-based parenting classes, you can click here to donate. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit our website at www.EngageParenting.com

 

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