Category Archives: Columns

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.

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Filed under 2017 Nov, Columns

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!”

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by | November 10, 2017 · 8:08 pm

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.]

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Filed under 2017 Nov, Columns

McQuien’s Musings by Paul McQuien – Looking Back: Hurricane Harvey – and Irma and Maria . . .

In early September I watched a documentary on PBS called “Killer Landslides,” which focused on the devastating landslides in Oso, Washington, in Afghanistan, and in Nepal, which collectively resulted in hundreds of human fatalities. Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 Oct, Columns

Children are a blessing?

by Marsha Dowell

The Fountain of Youth. Oh, to be a child again, not worried about bills, health. Being taken care of by our parents. Our path laid out by them, guided by them, supported by them, protected by them. Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 Oct, Columns

Review by Paul McQuien of Book: Trained Up, by Melissa Urtiaga

Local author Melissa Urtiaga has recently published a clever and charming children’s book titled “Trained Up: A Book about Trusting in God” (2017, Franklin Scribes Publishers). Appealing illustrations by Katie Paul, an Abilene Christian University alumna, accompany the text. Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 Oct, Columns

Awaiting the breath of life

by Dick Porter

SAN ANTONIO — I want you to meet DeAnna Gill-Pratt. Continue reading

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A Giving Birthday Party

by Reagan Campbell

SAN ANTONIO – I don’t have a job. I’m not looking for one because I’m only 10. I feel rich when I get money for my chores from my parents. Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 Oct, Columns

McQuien’s Musings by Paul McQuien — “Pascal’s Wager” and the “Leap of Faith”

In a recent Bible class study at church we were discussing evidence of God’s existence.  One well-informed class member referred us to a famous argument in favor called “Pascal’s Wager.” It was formulated by the 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-62). Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 Sept, Columns

The abundant life by Marsha Dowell

In John 10:10, Jesus says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” What do you think Jesus meant by this statement?  Physical abundance?  Spiritual abundance?

When you study the church of the first century and how rapidly it grew, and then look at the advantages we have today with communications and media, we are made to wonder just why Christianity is not growing as fast as it should.  Perhaps the difficulty lies in the life which most Christians live. Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 Sept, Columns

After Harvey, pray and serve

SAN ANTONIO – Inquiries of “How can we help?” and aid have come to those in the slow-moving path of Hurricane Harvey which made landfall in late August and has dumped record-breaking amounts of rain on the Texas Gulf Coast. At press time, it was battering East Texas and heading toward Louisiana. Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 Sept, Columns

Guest editorial He’s Still Taking Care by Drew Fryar

Brethren, my son Ender is cute as a button.  He’s had my heart ever since he got yanked into the world. And he likes me too.  He always has big smiles for me.  He gives really nice dry burps faster to me than to anyone else.  He likes our ceiling fan more than me but I’m no chopped liver, according to him.

Ender and I spend a lot of time together.  His mom works part-time and I’m home for the summer since I’m a schoolteacher; so there are five hours a day that I get to play Mr. Mom.  We really like our time together. Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 Sept, Columns

Review by Paul McQuien of Book: Trained Up, by Melissa Urtiaga

Local author Melissa Urtiaga has recently published a clever and charming children’s book titled “Trained Up: A Book about Trusting in God” (2017, Franklin Scribes Publishers). Appealing illustrations by Katie Paul, an Abilene Christian University alumna, accompany the text.

“Trained Up” takes its inspiration from a pun found in one version of a familiar passage, Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). The pun works because the main character, Johnny, is a literal “train,” a locomotive whose mother has taught him to trust in God through the process of growing up.  The narrative could thus be considered a Christian version of “The Little Engine That Could.”  Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 Sept, Columns

McQuien’s Musings by Paul McQuien — “Redeemed!”

“Redeem,” redeemer,” redeeming,” and “redemption” are variant forms of a word in the Bible that we tend to take for granted because of their familiarity and frequency of occurrence. Continue reading

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Filed under 2017 August, Columns