Columns

Guest Editorial: Bah Humbug to New Year’s Resolutions!

I am a failure with New Year’s Resolutions.
Resolution: I will lose weight this year. Result: By March I have lost 10 pounds; by December I have gained 20 pounds. If I do this every year for 10 years… well, you do the math. (more…)

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McQuien’s Musings: Challenges and Opportunities in 2018

With the New Year having just turned the corner, we face a number of challenges and opportunities confronting us in 2018. On the international level we face diplomatic and military crises in far-flung locations such as North Korea, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. On the national level we face political, economic, and moral issues, including income inequality, controversial income tax legislation, and sexual misbehavior in high places. (more…)

David S. Vanz’s Book, “Rediscovering the Holy Spirit”

SAN ANTONIO —

Anyone who attempts to write a book on the Holy Spirit is undertaking quite a challenge, considering the complexity of the topic as revealed throughout the Bible and, more specifically, in the New Testament. David S. Vanz’s book, “Rediscovering the Holy Spirit,” (Archway Publishing, 2017) has done just that, although he has focused principally of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. The subtitle of his book makes this emphasis clear: “Proponents, Opponents, Components in His Conquest to Expand the Kingdom.” (more…)

An End and a Beginning

GUEST COLUMN by Mark Hammitt

CORPUS CHRISTI — 2017 is gone! It was another year of opportunities that we either took advantage of or wasted. Twelve months of choices, joys, struggles, worries, and prayers. 365 days of being able to shine our lights in a world darkened by sin (Mt 5, Jn 3).
How did you fare? For a private exercise, try sitting down and listing on a piece of paper all the things you did or attempted to do for the Lord in 2017. Do you need more than one sheet of paper? (more…)

Grow Old With Me by Marsha Dowell

“Grow old with me…the best is yet to be…” I like to quote this poetry when my husband Sid and I are laughing at each other struggling to get our stiff bodies out of our recliners. Or when he says one thing and I hear another: “Did you take out the trash?”

“No. I forgot to go to the bank today to get the cash. Sorry.”

The 24/7 life is hard on our bodies. Things we love to do take a toll on us. Sid loves to portray Santa Claus, and he is great at it; but his knees do not love it. I love to eat all kinds of breads, but my body mass index does not pretend I didn’t.

Sickness, disease, and injuries take a toll on us. Stress, anger, and fear weaken our physical bodies. Aging is a part of life – the physical body, once it stops growing, starts wasting away.

But as I get older, inside I feel stronger. Life has led me to trust in God instead of giving in to fears and uncertainties. I have learned to keep looking up, no matter how life tries to bring me down. If something does not turn out the way I had hoped, I have faith that it will turn out as God intends. My focus is less on the outside, more on the inside. (more…)

Remember My Chains by Mark Adams

Colossians has some of the loftiest language in Scripture used to talk about Christ as the “image of the invisible God.” Paul speaks of the importance of understanding who Jesus really is, leaving behind what keeps us from God, and putting on the traits of Christ. The end of the letter contains a list of personal greetings and comments. There’s Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, and Luke, the physician. It’s clear that a lot of big important things are happening. Paul concludes by wishing them all grace, but before he closes, he also says, “Remember my chains.”  (more…)

To Help fight the battle: A review of the “Genesis: Paradise Lost” film by Madison Campbell

SAN ANTONIO –Are you having trouble fighting the spiritual battle against evolution? Well step into the theaters to watch the “Genesis: Paradise Lost” movie that can help you fight in this battle. The film, directed by Ralph Strean, is one way to encourage Christians to defend what is true about the world we live in, and it gave solid evidence that God designed the universe, not some theories that people made up. The film will be in theaters for an encore showing on Dec. 11. (more…)

McQuien’s Musings by Paul McQuien – Authenticity of Acts

One of the study aids in the New International Study Bible (2011 edition), “Major Archaeological Finds Relating to the New Testament,” contains 35 specific archaeological discoveries relating to the New Testament. Of these, almost half (16) confirm passages in Acts. Some of the more remarkable finds include the Sergius Paulus inscription on Cyprus (Acts 13:6-7), the Gallio inscription at Delphi, Greece (Acts 18:12), and the Politarch inscription at Thessalonica (Acts 17:6), where the city officials are called “politarchs” in the Greek text.

One additional example of the authenticity of Acts (not mentioned by Wills) is the remarkable passage in Acts 12:19-23, which recounts the sudden and gruesome death of Herod Agrippa I, as a punishment for allowing the people of Tyre and Sidon to venerate him as a god. Luke’s contemporary, the Jewish historian Josephus, independently narrated a very similar account of this incident in his famous “Antiquities” (xix.8.2).

In fairness to Garry Wills, a practicing Catholic who has written several best -selling religious, as well as historical books, his intent was not to discredit Acts from a purely secular, atheistic perspective. What Paul Meant was dedicated to “The Catholic Workers, who know what Jesus meant.” Nevertheless, the book demonstrates a lack of respect for the validity of Acts that wouldn’t get very far in our Men’s Bible Study.

The Men’s Bible Class at my home congregation recently completed a months-long study of the Gospel of Luke. Now we are launching into a similar investigation of the Acts of the Apostles. We believe that Luke wrote these two books under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but not every student of the Bible shares that assumption.

In 2006, for example, Garry Wills, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian, published a book titled, somewhat presumptuously, What Paul Meant. It served as a companion piece to another of his books, published the same year, titled What Jesus Meant. In What Paul Meant, Wills dismissed the Book of Acts as Luke’s attempt to write “theological novel.”

Specifically, Wills stated that “the Acts of the Apostles has been called a theological novel, and it does share some traits with the Hellenistic [Greek language] novels being written at the same time as Acts—wandering preachers, miracles, sea adventures, long rhetorical speeches.” Of course, it helps to keep in mind that Luke, after all, was a Greek speaker, the only non-Jewish author of a New Testament book.

Wills followed up his disparaging comment with a discussion of the apparent inconsistencies among the three accounts of Paul’s conversion experience in Acts 9, 22, and 26, respectively. While it is accurate to say that the details of the three accounts vary somewhat, the context of each was different, the first being narrated by Luke, the second and third being recounted by Paul himself to different audiences.

For example, Wills made a big deal of Paul’s companions being left standing in the first two accounts but all falling to the ground in the third account, where Paul said, “We all fell to the ground” (26:14). Is it not possible that Paul might not have remembered this exact detail in this context? After all, he was explaining his supernatural conversion experience to no less a figure than King Agrippa.

In addition, the comments made by Jesus to Paul in Acts 26 are more extensive and detailed than those in the earlier versions, but this doesn’t jeopardize their validity. In fact, besides the minor inconsistencies in the details of the three accounts, they are remarkably consistent overall, especially considering the passage of years involved. The same claim can be made for the New Testament books overall.

The three accounts of Paul’s conversion experience are just one among several inconsistencies that, according to Wills, jeopardize the accuracy of Acts. In opposition to Wills’ claims, the Book of Acts corresponds remarkably well to historical and archaeological details that have been uncovered in recent years.

I Don’t Have a Clue by Marsha Dowell

What is my purpose in life? What is God’s purpose for me? I used to think I had to search for it, looking for clues, hoping I was on the right track. What if I was following the wrong breadcrumbs? I would worry about that.

I held on to the hope that one day I would finally see God’s purpose for me and start living it. In the meantime, life went on with its time-consuming tasks and responsibilities, many joys, some tragedies, wonderful surprises, and disappointments.

I still was not sure what my purpose in life was. I would go one way and be disillusioned; go another way and face failure.

I bet Joseph of the Bible asked himself what his purpose in life was. If I were in his shoes, I would have worried that I was on the wrong track, hoping God would show me more clues. Joseph was the favored son in his family, which would open up so many opportunities. Then, unexpected tragedy – he found himself in a deep pit, being sold by his brothers as a slave to a foreigner.

This could not have been his purpose in life; maybe he took a misstep. In the house of the Captain of the Egyptian Guard, he worked his way up from slave to overseer. Then, disillusionment – the captain’s wife turned on Joseph, and he found himself in jail. OK, I guess being an overseer was not his purpose in life either. He needed more breadcrumbs; more clues.

But Joseph was a self-starter, and before long the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners. One of them was quite thankful when Joseph saved his skin, but he promptly forgot Joseph after he was released and went back to his job as Pharaoh’s butler. What a disappointment.

When would Joseph find his purpose in life? Days in prison turned into two years. Then for some inexplicable reason, Pharaoh summoned Joseph to interpret a dream; he did, and then Joseph found himself raised to second in command to Pharaoh. This must be God’s purpose for Joseph! The journey is complete! Right? No, it is not.

When did Joseph discover his purpose in life? When did Joseph understand God’s purpose for him? In Genesis 45: 5-8 Joseph tells his brothers, “Do not be distressed… because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to save lives… So, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

Similarly, in Genesis 50:20, Joseph sums it up for his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Joseph did not comprehend his purpose for a long, long time. It was only when he could look back did he see that he had been living his purpose in life all along. And so may we.

It does not matter what happens to us; what matters is that we handle it and that we continue to trust God. Our journey in life IS our purpose – the highs, the lows, the living day by day, become the essence of our purpose: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Prov. 16:9).

One step – even if we think we have lost our way – leads us to the next step – until finally we look back and say, “Aha! Now I see!”

Developing a Thankful Heart by Greg Cummings

In Home Depot this week I found myself surrounded by mounds of merchandise in the main aisles wrapped in black plastic. Stack and stacks of unidentifiable Black Friday Sale products waited to be unveiled the day after Thanksgiving.

In days gone by, we could take some time to linger with Thanksgiving thoughts before jumping into the Christmas rush. Today, Black Friday urges us to move into rabid consumer mode by midnight on Thanksgiving or risk missing the deal of the year on our most desired purchase.

We were discussing Thanksgiving Day memories in our Community Group last Sunday. No one mentioned fond memories of amazing Black Friday sales.

Larry and Paula Harms were visiting with our group and pointed out that Australia, where they lived for four years, does not have a Thanksgiving Holiday tradition. I hope the time will never come when our Thanksgiving Day will be better known as “Black Friday Eve.”

I urge everyone to pick up a notepad for Thanksgiving as Jimmy mentioned in his sermon last Sunday. Make it your goal to write down 5-10 specific things you are thankful for every day until you have listed 1000 things.

Focusing on what we have helps us pay less attention to what we don’t have. Persistently noting ways we are blessed over a period of time can prompt us to become more aware of more gifts as we encounter them.

I started my list a while ago. Maybe seeing another person’s ideas will help you in forming yours. Here are a few of the many things for which I found myself being grateful: reliable cars, Debbie’s constant loving acts, my smart phone’s s-pen and calendar, a church family I enjoy and overhearing Rene Bailey celebrating alone in her office over how well the Children’s Ministry had gone one recent Sunday.

Some wise person said we have things backwards. Instead of dedicating one day a year to giving thanks, we should have one day a year for complaining – and limit our grumbles to that one day!

Well, that will never happen but we can do something biblical. The Bible urges, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (I Thess. 5:16-17).

Note the words “always,” “continually” and “in all circumstances.” Thanksgiving blesses best when practiced regularly. Strive for the thanksgiving spirit all year long. [Editor’s note: Now retired, Greg Cummings assists with the work of the Kerrville church of Christ. This article comes from his archive.]