1604) Billy Graham Makes His Decision

By best-selling author Lee Strobel  (1952- )

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Billy Graham  (1918- )

     The year was 1949.  Thirty-year-old Billy Graham was unaware that he was on the brink of being catapulted into worldwide fame and influence.  Ironically, as he readied himself for his breakthrough crusade in Los Angeles, he found himself grappling with uncertainty — not over the existence of God or the divinity of Jesus but over the fundamental issue of whether he could totally trust what his Bible was telling him.

     In his autobiography, Graham said he felt as if he were being stretched on a rack.  Pulling him toward God was Henrietta Mears, the bright and compassionate Christian educator who had a thorough understanding of modern scholarship and an abounding confidence in the reliability of the Scriptures.  Yanking him the other way was Graham’s close companion and preaching colleague, thirty-three-year-old Charles Templeton.

     The skeptical Templeton, a counterpoint to the faith-filled Mears, was tugging his friend Billy Graham away from her repeated assurances that the Scriptures are trustworthy.  “Billy, you’re fifty years out of date,” he argued.  “People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do.  Your faith is too simple.”

     Templeton seemed to be winning the tug-of-war.  “If I was not exactly doubtful,” Graham would recall, “I was certainly disturbed.”  He knew that if he could not trust the Bible, he could not go on.  The Los Angeles crusade — the event that would open the door to Graham’s worldwide ministry — was hanging in the balance.

     Graham searched the Scriptures for answers, he prayed, he pondered.  Finally, in a heavy-hearted walk in the moonlit San Bernardino Mountains, everything came to a climax.  Gripping a Bible, Graham dropped to his knees and confessed he couldn’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions that Templeton and others were raising.

     “I was trying to be on the level with God, but something remained unspoken,” he wrote.  “At last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it.  ‘Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word — by faith!  I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.’”

     Rising from his knees, tears in his eyes, Graham said he sensed the power of God as he hadn’t felt it for months.  “Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed,” he said.  “In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.”

     For Graham, it was a pivotal moment.  For Templeton, though, it was a bitterly disappointing turn of events.  “He committed intellectual suicide by closing his mind,” Templeton declared.  The emotion he felt most toward his friend was pity.  Now on different paths, their lives began to diverge.

     History knows what would happen to Graham in the succeeding years.  He would become the most persuasive and effective evangelist of modern times and one of the most admired men in the world.  But what would happen to Templeton?  Decimated by doubts, he resigned from the ministry and moved back to Canada, where he became a commentator and novelist.

   Templeton’s reasoning had chased away his faith.  But are faith and intellect really incompatible?  Is it possible to be a thinker and a Bible-believing Christian at the same time?  Some don’t believe so.

     “Reason and faith are opposites, two mutually exclusive terms: there is no reconciliation or common ground,” asserts atheist George H. Smith.  “Faith is belief without, or in spite of, reason.”

     Christian educator W. Bingham Hunter takes the opposite view.  “Faith,” he said, “is a rational response to the evidence of God’s self-revelation in nature, human history, the Scriptures and his resurrected Son.”

     For me, having lived much of my life as an atheist, the last thing I want is a naive faith built on a paper-thin foundation of wishful thinking or make-believe.  I need a faith that’s consistent with reason, not contradictory to it; I want beliefs that are grounded in reality, not detached from it.

     Today, having now retraced my original investigation, my confidence in that 1981 decision to abandon atheism and cling to Christ has only been reinforced.  Asking uncomfortable questions hasn’t diminished my faith; it has strengthened it.  Probing the “soft spots” of Christianity has reaffirmed for me once more the fundamental soundness and logical integrity of the faith.  Refined by the rigors of intellectual scrutiny, my faith has emerged deeper, richer, more resilient, and more certain than ever.

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II Timothy 3:14-17  —  Continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

II Peter 3:15-18a  —  Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.  He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters.  His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.  Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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 Blessed Lord, you speak to us through the Holy Scriptures.  Grant that we may hear, read, respect, learn, and make them our own in such a way that the enduring benefit and comfort of the Word will help us grasp and hold the blessed hope of everlasting life, given us through our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, adapted for Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978.

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1524) Irreconcilable Differences? (part two of two)

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     On the other hand, those in the scientific world also do their share of interpreting the facts, they often disagree, and, they often-times make claims that go far beyond any facts they have discovered.

     Much of this depends, of course, on our starting point.  How did everything get here in the first place?  Well, I start with the opening verse of the Bible:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  With that fact firmly in mind, I don’t care what the scientists discover about how old the earth is, where the dinosaurs fit in, or how life developed.  In whatever way that all worked out over time, it all got here in the first place because God created everything out of nothing, and has either directed or set in motion everything that has gone on since.  Bill Bryson tells a fascinating story of what has been discovered about that whole process, and I don’t feel the need to argue with him on every page.  But it seems incredible to me that he does not, in 478 pages, even mention the possibility of a Creator.

     Now of course, many scientists do believe in God, and I am certainly not opposed to science.  What I object to is the impression that is so often given that science deals only in facts, and religion deals only in blind faith.  Not true!  Several years ago, the popular science television series “Cosmos” began with Carl Sagan (1934-1996) saying the complete opposite of Genesis.  He spoke of “the cosmos” as, “all that is or ever was or ever will be.”  That was a deliberate, unnecessary, and unscientific put-down of religious faith.  But how did Carl Sagan know that?  How did he determine, scientifically, that nowhere in or beyond this vast universe is there a greater power?  There is no way anyone can know that.  That was a statement of 100% pure blind faith, masquerading as science.  And that is not only how that program began, that is also how the whole scientific method begins; not with a fact, but with a HUGE statement of faith.  There are only two possibilities; either the universe got here all by itself, or, someone put it here; and there is no way to test or prove either belief.  The Bible begins with a statement of faith, and so does the entire scientific method.  Don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise.  It might be hard to believe that God made everything out of nothing.  But it takes a lot more faith to believe that NOTHING turned itself into EVERYTHING.  Science itself will tell you that is not how it works.  No observable, empirical, scientific experiment has ever been devised in any laboratory anywhere that has been able to create something out of nothing, nor has that ever been observed in all the universe.

     Now, it must be said that in order for the scientists to do much of their work, and for scientific method to work at all, it does have to be done without reference to God.  For example, if I am sick and go to the doctor, I don’t want him to read me Bible verses about how suffering produces character, how God afflicts us for our own good, and how we should turn to God in our time of tribulation.  I know all that, I believe in all that, that might even be the main reason why I am sick, and if it is God’s will that I not ever get better, there are promises in the Bible to give me hope and spiritual strength to face such a time.  But there are always two levels to these things, and I expect my doctor to deal with the physical, scientific level, and with what he can see– be it germs, broken bones, or a tumor.  That’s the only way the scientific method can work.  But this method has its limits, and we must not let anyone give us the impression that science can tell us more than it can ever know.

     Bill Bryson’s book, like most scientific books today, makes no reference to God or any sort of creator.  Bryson did use the word miracle twice to describe the miracle of how we are even here– how our planet earth is perfectly suited for life, how life itself began in all its complexity, and how life has developed into ever more complex forms right on up to the miracle of human intelligence.  Byrson also admits that science is not getting any closer to understanding the origins of matter and energy, the universe, or life.  He says, in fact, that the more we learn, the more we find out how complex everything is, and the farther away we get from thinking we will ever get it all figured out.

     For example, the chance of even one DNA molecule coming together on its own is impossibly small.  Bryson says that.  In fact he goes to great lengths to describe the odds against that happening.  And what are the odds?  When all factors are considered, the odds are not one in a million, or one in a billion, or even one in a trillion.  The odds against life coming together by itself, says Bryson, are one in ten to the 270th power.  In case you don’t remember from math class what that is, that is one with 270 zeros behind it.  A trillion has only 12 zeros, and that is an almost incomprehensible number.  Ten to the 270th power, says Bryson himself, is a number perhaps great than the number of atoms in the entire universe!  And yet, he is still able to say cheerfully, “Well, we are here, so it must have happened somehow.”  That’s not good enough for me, and it is not good enough for an increasing number of scientists who are saying there must be an intelligent designer of some sort behind the creation of the universe and life.

     C.S. Lewis was not a scientist, but for many years, he was an atheist.  After becoming a Christian he said, “I felt in my bones that this universe cannot explain itself.”  The natural laws we see and observe prohibit the belief that all this could come from nothing, and science has no tools to investigate beyond the observable, natural world

     Steven Hawking is still an atheist, or at least an agnostic (one who says we can’t know if there is a God).  For decades Hawking has been considered the Einstein of today.  Yet, in a rare moment of candor, when for once he was not ridiculing religious belief, he said:  “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of nothing are enormous.  I think there are clear religious implications whenever you start to discuss the origins of the universe.  There must be religious overtones.  But I think most scientists prefer to shy away from the religious side of it.”

     As Christians, we must not claim to know more than we know.  But we also must not be intimidated by those who are claim to know more than they know, and many scientists do not shy away from that.  We are on solid ground with the first verse of the Bible:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” 

     No scientist has ever come up with anything nearly as believable as Genesis 1:1 to explain how we got here.

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Hebrews 11:3  —  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Romans 1:20  —  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Psalm 19:1-2  —  The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

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Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory in the heavens.  

–Psalm 8:1

1523) Irreconcilable Differences? (part one of two)

          The book A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a fascinating overview of what scientists have learned about our earth and the whole universe.  It covers everything, from the very beginnings 14.5 billion years ago (give or take a couple months) right on up to the present time.  Bryson describes what scientists believe about the origins of the universe, about the birth and the death of stars, and about the vast number of far-flung galaxies.  Bryson then turns his attention to planet earth and how it began, how we got our moon, how the seas and dry land were formed, and how, over immense periods of time, the continents have been moving around on the face of the earth like rubber ducks in a bathtub.  He also describes how perfectly our world had to be placed and fine-tuned in order to allow for even the possibility of life.  Then he describes current theories on the origins and evolution of life, in all its beauty and order and complexity.  Bryson even has a few chapters on that little sliver of time we would call the entire history of the human race.  Bill Bryson writes well, gives a wonderful account of what science has discovered about all these things, and adds a delightful human touch by telling amusing stories of the scientists who made these discoveries, and their odd quirks and eccentricities.  And he does this all in less than five hundred pages.

            Genesis chapter one could also be called ‘a short history of nearly everything.’  It also describes the beginnings of the universe and our planet earth, the origins and diversity of life, and the dawn of the human race. 

            But Bill Bryson and the first chapter of Genesis seem to tell two very different stories.  So, now what?

            This looks like a clear case of irreconcilable differences, and the last several hundred years has certainly been filled with plenty of nastiness by those on both sides of this great divide between science and faith.  What side are you on?  Christians do believe Genesis to be God’s inspired and Holy Word.  But we know scientists are really smart people, and they have come up with some pretty amazing gadgets to make our modern lives easier.  Could they be so very wrong about so many things?  What are we to think?

            This is what I think.  I believe that the Bible is God’s Word from cover to cover, and if anything any scientist says goes against the Bible, I say forget the scientist, I am sticking with the Word of God. 

            However, this all depends on interpreting what the Bible really is saying, and it all depends on what scientists have really discovered.  Good, solid, Bible believing Christians can and do disagree all the time on precise meanings of specific texts.  And scientists, all the time, come to vastly different conclusions based on the very same evidence.

          What does Genesis chapter one say?  Well, there are three basic foundational truths there that set the stage for the whole rest of the Biblical story, and which are essential to understanding your life and where you come from and where you are going.  I believe these three truths with my whole heart.  First of all, it says God created the world.  Second, it says God created it good.  Third, it says God created mankind in HIS image.  We are not just a more ‘fully evolved’ form of life, even if we share 96% of the same DNA as an earthworm.  And just because a chicken can be taught to plink out ‘America the Beautiful’ on a miniature piano for a television program last week, and chimpanzees can be taught to understand a few words, that doesn’t mean we are the same except for being just a little bit smarter.  We are different, we are special, we are spiritual, we are made in God’s image, and God created the world for us and us for Him, says Genesis.  All Christians believe these three things, and that sets us apart from many people in today’s world.  But we Christians can and do disagree on the rest of the details of the creation account. 

            In 1654, James Ussher, an Irish Archbishop using the Bible alone, calculated the creation of the world to have occurred on October 22, 4004 B. C. at 6:00 p.m., or, a little over six thousand years ago.  There are Christians today who, while not insisting on that exact date and time, do however believe the world to be less than 10,000 years old.  This is not my view, and I think it is very difficult to argue scientifically for such a timetable.  I believe in the Bible from cover to cover, but these people are interpreting the Bible to say far more than what it was intended to say.

            In my view, if Bill Bryson says the universe came to be over a period of 14.5 billion years, and the Bible says seven 24 hour days, we do not necessarily have a problem.  I don’t know how scientists come up with 14.5 billion years, but I do know that the Bible uses different types of literature, including poetry, to proclaim the truths God wants us to know.  And poetic imagery, while still telling the absolute truth, may tell it not with literal scientific facts, but with images and metaphors. 

            When in John chapter 10 Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the gate,” Peter doesn’t jump up and say, ‘Don’t try to fool us, Jesus, we don’t see any hinges or latches on you.”  No, they knew, and we know, Jesus was using a gate as an image of the way to salvation; as Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever enters through me will be saved.”

            But how about Genesis one and its seven 24 hour days; morning and evening of the first day, second day, third day, and so on?  It does seem simple and clear enough.  Morning is when the sun rises in the East, and evening is when the sun sets in the West.  Sun up, sun down, seven days– and not 14.5 billion years.

           But when we look closer at the text, we see that there are three days of mornings and evenings before the sun is even created on the fourth day.  How did that work?  No matter what your view of the Bible is, you are going to have to do some interpreting there.  Some will stick with the seven 24 hour days, saying that is what is implied in the rest of the text.  Others will say, no, it looks as if the seven day format is more like poetic imagery.  And this is not disrespecting the text, or undermining the authority of the Scripture.  It is still seeing the same solid Biblical truth of God’s Word, but simply seeing this as a different type of literary device to portray that truth.  And Bible believing Christians can come to different conclusions on this question.

            My faith in the truth of the Bible is not threatened if Jesus isn’t really a gate with hinges and a latch, nor is my faith challenged if scientists come up a different timetable than the poetic imagery of Genesis chapter one.  That doesn’t mean Genesis is wrong in any way.  God created the heavens and the earth, He created it all good, and He created mankind in His image.  Period.  But there is room here for Christians to disagree and come to different conclusions on precisely how that was done and what kind of literature this is in the Bible’s first chapter.  We must not say, “Well, I think I’ll believe this part of the Bible, but not that part;” and there is far too much of that today.  But we can disagree on how some parts should be read, and there is certainly room for differences of opinion on the creation account.  On the religious side of this question, as Christians we must not insist too much on our own particular interpretations, and thus forcing the Bible to say more than it means to say.  (continued…)

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Genesis 1:1  —  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:27a  —  God created mankind in his own image.

Genesis 1:31a  —  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

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I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

–Apostle’s Creed, Article one

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 Earth seen rising above the moon on December 24, 1968.  As Apollo 8 orbited the moon that day, in their broadcast back to earth the astronauts took turns reading from the first chapter of Genesis.

1413) Meditations of My Heart

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Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

–Psalm 19:14

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     In his Daily Hope blog yesterday, Rick Warren suggested nine questions to help in our meditations while reading God’s Word.  Here are those questions, along with an example of a Bible verse that would apply to each one.  You may want to print these questions and put them with your Bible to use in your daily reading, and/or, to use with the verses in each day’s Emailmeditation.

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  1. Is there a SIN to confess?  Does God’s Word make you aware of something you need to make right with God?

Proverbs 28:13  —  Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

  1. Is there a PROMISE to claim? There are more than 7,000 promises in God’s Word.  Ask yourself if the passage you’ve read contains any promises.

John 14:1-3  —  (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

  1. Is there an ATTITUDE to change?  Is there something about which you need to think differently?  Do you need to work on a negative attitude, worry, guilt, fear, loneliness, bitterness, pride, apathy, or ego?

Philippians 24-5  —  Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others.  Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

  1. Is there a COMMAND to obey? Is there a command you need to obey, no matter how you feel?

Matthew 22:37-39  —  (Jesus said), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

  1. Is there an EXAMPLE to follow? Are there positive examples to follow or negative examples to avoid?

James 5:10-11  —  Brothers and sisters, follow the example of the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. They were patient when they suffered unjustly.  We consider those who endure to be blessed. You have heard about Job’s endurance. You saw that the Lord ended Job’s suffering because the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

  1. Is there a PRAYER to pray? Paul, David, Solomon, Elijah, and Isaiah, among others, pray in the Bible.  You can use their prayers and know that they’ll be answered because they’re in the Bible and in God’s will.

Luke 18:38  —  He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

  1. Is there an ERROR to avoid?  It’s wise to learn from experience, and it’s even wiser to learn from the experience of others.  We don’t have time to make all the mistakes ourselves.  So what can you learn from the mistakes of those in Scripture?

Ephesians 4:29  —  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

  1. Is there a TRUTH to believe? Often, we’ll read something in Scripture that we can’t do anything about.  We simply have to believe what it says.

John 3:16  —  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  1. Is there SOMETHING for which to praise God?  You can always find something in a passage you can be grateful to God for, like something God has protected you from or something God has done.

Psalm 103:1-4  —  Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.

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Almighty, everlasting God, heavenly Father, whose Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our way:  Open and enlighten my mind that I may understand your Word purely, clearly, devoutly, and then, having understood it aright, fashion my life in accord with it, in order that I may never displease you; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our dear Lord.  Amen.  

–Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558)

1373) The Bad/Good King James

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     You don’t have to be an expert in English history to be familiar with the main accomplishment of a certain King James.  You probably have a book whose production was authorized by this King– the King James Version of the Bible, first published in 1611.  This may not be the version you read anymore.  It isn’t the one I usually use.  But for three and a half centuries this was the only translation used by nearly everyone in the English speaking world.  Today, there are hundreds of English translations; but for a long time, there was only one.

     One hundred years before King James, there was no Bible in English.  Bibles in England, and everywhere, were read only by scholars in the original Hebrew or Greek, or, Jerome’s Latin translation from the fifth century.  It was thought to be dangerous for the common person to be able to read the Bible, so for many years and in many places, translating the Bible into the language of the people was a crime punishable by death.

     One of the first and most important projects of all the Reformers was to do such a translation.  In the 1520’s, while in hiding from the authorities who wanted to kill him, Martin Luther translated the entire Bible into German.  At that same time, in England, William Tyndale was working on the first translation of the Bible into English.  He completed it only by successfully eluding the authorities who were always after him; and continued, for the rest of his short life, to be on the run or in hiding.  He was captured at the age of 42 and executed, but his translation had already become very popular with the common people.  Despite the threat of death to anyone who would print, transport, or sell those Bibles, everyone wanted one.  Tyndale once told a priest that if his translation was successful, the common plow boy would soon know more about the Bible than the priests.

     When Tyndale was executed in 1536, his final words were a prayer:  “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”  His prayer was answered the very next year when the king lifted the ban on English translations of the Bible.

     This new freedom led to a new and very different problem.  Now, everyone wanted to sell English Bibles in a business that had gone from being life-threatening to extremely profitable.  In the next sixty years, 130 different translations were produced, most of them hastily done and quite inaccurate.  The common people, unable to judge between translations, bought many bad ones, resulting in much confusion.

     In 1603 James became King.  Not many people thought very highly of James.  He was arrogant, selfish, drank too much, and was eager to use his new authority primarily to serve himself.  He believed strongly in the divine right of Kings, not because he was so interest in the ‘divine’ part, but because he knew that would give him the most power.

     There were many Puritans in England at this time.  These people were serious about their Christian faith, and sought to separate themselves from the cold and hypocritical state church.  The ‘official’ church opposed their every move.

     King James didn’t like the Puritans either, because they had little time for any kind of earthly authority; not of bishops or kings.  God was their king, so they granted little authority or loyalty to James.

     The Puritans went to the king early in his reign with certain requests for freedoms from the Anglican Church of England.  The Anglican bishops opposed this, and told the king that they would adopt his ‘divine right of kings’ business if he would come down hard on Puritans.  So, King James went into the negotiations with the Puritans with the intent of granting them nothing.

     But one of the Puritans’ requests intrigued the king.  For the sake of the truth and integrity of Scripture, the Puritans asked that a new and official translation of the Bible be made, done by all the best scholars, as accurate and true to the original language as possible.  James was not interested in the truth and accuracy of Scripture, but he had his own reasons for not liking all those other translations.  Not only were they carelessly done, but many came with notes to explain things to the common people who were reading these things for the first time.  And oftentimes, the king did not approve of these notes.  He was particularly irritated by explanations like the one attached to Exodus 1:17, a verse which says:  “But the midwives feared God and did not do as the King of Egypt commanded them, but allowed the baby boys to live.”  The notes attached to this verse pointed out that the midwives did the right thing by NOT obeying the king, and that Christians do not always have to obey their king either, because sometimes kings do and require things that are contrary to God’s Word.

     This did not sit well with King James was pushing for the ‘divine right of kings,’ which meant that if the king said it, it was the SAME as if God Himself said it.  So James did not like all the meddlesome side notes in these new translations.  It would be far better for the people to not understand anything.

     Thus, for very different reasons from the Puritans, King James granted their request and gave the command that “a translation of the entire Bible shall be made, as close as can be to the original, and then be printed without any marginal notes.”

     King James celebrated the beginning of the project with a huge banquet and much feasting, drinking, and dancing, along with dog and bull fighting for entertainment.  This offended the Puritans, but they would get their translation.  James was then wise enough to stay out of the way and let the project proceed with integrity and skill.  Fifty-four top translators were employed to do the work.  They were divided up into six groups of nine, each working on a section of the Bible.  The complete texts were then reviewed by still more scholars.  The first edition came off the presses in 1611.  It was an immediate and long-lasting success.

     The result was an excellent translation, not only for its accuracy (for its time), but also for its majestic language.  There were no significant challengers for over 300 years.  Only when the New International Version was published in the 1980’s did another translation begin to sell more copies.

     King James did not go on to become a nice man or a good king.  But as one historian wrote of him: “Despite his arrogance in theology, his incompetence as a king, his profanity, and his drunkenness, we can still be grateful to King James for his part in this noble work.”

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Matthew 4:4  —   Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Psalm 119:105  —  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

II Timothy 3:16-17  —  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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Almighty, everlasting God, heavenly Father, whose Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our way:  Open and enlighten my mind that I may understand your Word purely, clearly, devoutly, and then, having understood it aright, fashion my life in accord with it, in order that I may never displease you; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our dear Lord.  Amen.  

–Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558)

1289) An Interesting Toilet

Excavation of gate complex of biblical city of Lachish in the Judean foothills

Modern day excavations at the ancient city of Lachish

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   In the mid-19th century the truth of the Bible was often called into question by scholars who pointed to a lack of archaeological evidence for the Biblical accounts.  In the century and a half since then, there has been extensive archaeological work done in Israel, and there have been hundreds of finds confirming the Biblical accounts.

     This year, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered a 2,700 year old toilet that has an interesting Biblical connection.

     The archaeologists are working in the ancient city of Lachish, referred to twenty-two times in the Old Testament.  The Lachish city gate, at 80 feet by 80 feet, is the largest known in ancient Israel.  It consists of six chambers, three on either side, and the city’s main street that passed between them.  Sa’ar Ganor, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, says: “The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess, whereby Lachish was the most important city after Jerusalem.  According to the biblical narrative, the cities’ gates were the place where everything took place: the city elders, judges, governors, kings and officials – everyone would sit on benches in the city gate.  These benches were found in our excavation.”

     Artifacts discovered in the chamber rooms on the two sides give clues as to how they were used 2,700 years ago.  For example, in the first chamber there were benches with armrests.  At the foot of the benches were many items, including jars, scoops for loading grain, and jar handles bearing the name of the official or a seal impression indicating they belonged to the king.  It appears that officials used the room to conduct government business.

     Archaeologist Ganor then describes another of the rooms, clearly used for worship:  “A staircase ascended to a large room where there was a bench upon which offerings were placed.  An opening was exposed in the corner of the room that led to the ‘holy of holies.’  To our great excitement, we found two four-horned altars and scores of ceramic finds consisting of lamps, bowls and stands in this room.”  

     It was in this room that they found a “seat carved of stone with a hole in the center.” In other words, a toilet.  

     Why was there a toilet in this sacred room?

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Israeli archaeologists believe they have evidence that the biblical King Hezekiah did indeed destroy the high places and idols in the land of Israel as described in the Bible, evidence officials say highlights Israel's past connection to the land and helps draw the country's boundaries today.

Archaeologist Sa’ar Ganor and team with the ancient toilet seat.

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     To understand the significance of this find, we need to go back to the the reign of King Hezekiah in eighth century before Christ.  Hezekiah had initiated series of reforms aimed at eradicating the worship of false gods in Judah.  At the heart of these reform efforts was the elimination what the Bible called “high places,” cultic sites that contained an altar.  They were usually located, as the name suggests, on a hill or a ridge.  Lachish is located in the Judean foothills.

     At first these places were dedicated to the worship of Yahweh; but over time they became places to worship the pagan deities of Israel’s neighboring nations, especially the false god Baal.  The Bible also tells us that “Asherah poles,” cultic objects dedicated to the worship of the Canaanite goddess of fertility, were often erected at these sites.  

   This was all clearly forbidden in the first commandment, “Thou shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).  The prophets were constantly condemning the worship of these false gods, calling on the people to repent and return to the true God.  Hezekiah was commended because his reforms called for a return to the worship of Yahweh, and “he removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”

     That brings us to the discovery at Tel Lachish.  The large room that appeared to be a religious shrine contained two four-horned altars, and the horns on these altars did not wear off, but had been intentionally cut off.   Excavation leader Sa’ar Ganor believes that the destroyed altars corroborate biblical references to King Hezekiah’s reforms.  Ganor believes that this was “unquestionably a desecration of this shrine room.”  

   Besides cutting off the horns of the altar, Hezekiah apparently had this toilet installed in the ‘holy of holies’ to further signify God’s strong disapproval of this form of worship, and, as the ‘ultimate desecration’ of that pagan place.  The story of Hezekiah does not mention the installation of that particular toilet, but it is in a similar story of religious reform from 130 years earlier that we learn of the practice.  In 2 Kings 10, we’re informed that following the fall of King Ahab, Jehu and his followers “demolished the pillar of Baal, and destroyed the temple of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day.”  

     The discovery at Lachish is the first instance of this practice being confirmed by archaeology.

     John Stonestreet writes of this discovery:  “This latest discovery comes on the heels of other discoveries confirming a great deal of what the scriptures tell us about Hezekiah and his reign.  And to think that only a few decades ago, many, if not most, scholars doubted that Hezekiah, along with ancestors David and Solomon, ever actually existed.  And now they seem to be popping up everywhere.  That should not come as a surprise. The Bible is the best-attested book of antiquity…  All of this is another reminder that the biblical faith is firmly rooted in actual human history and not in some mythological ‘once upon a time.'”

     Israeli officials were excited about the discovery.  Culture Minister Miri Regev said the discovery deepened Israel’s “connection to our ancestors who walked this land…  The uncovering of these finds joins a long list of discoveries that enlighten us about our historic past, a past that is manifested in our country’s soil and in the writings of the Book of Books.”

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Micah 1:13  —  You who live in Lachish…  are where the sin of Daughter Zion began, for the transgressions of Israel were found in you.

Hosea 10:8a  —  The ‘high places’ of wickedness will be destroyed— it is the sin of Israel.

II Kings 10:27-28  —  They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and people have used it for a latrine to this day.  So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel.

II Kings 18:3-4a  —  (Hezekiah) did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.  He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.

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Almighty God, may we fear, love, and trust in you above all things.  Amen.

–Prayer based on Martin Luther’s catechism explanation to the First Commandment

1131) “These Words are Your Life” (b)

     (…continued)  The Jews did as they were told to do way back in the days right after their time of slavery in Egypt.  At that time, they did not yet even have a land.  There was no land, no temple, no king, not anything yet.  All they had was the miracle of freedom won for them by God, and the promise of the land to which Moses was leading them.

      At the end of his life, Moses taught the Hebrews how to live as God’s people, and then told them to remember his words.  His instructions are recorded for us in the book of Deuteronomy.  Here are some words from chapter eleven:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

     Remember these words, said Moses, so that ‘your days in the land may be long.’   They were a couple interruptions, but the Jews are now still on the land Moses brought them to 33 centuries ago.  During those interruptions, which they always interpreted as punishments for leaving God, they survived as a people by remembering the book.

     Well, so what?  We aren’t Jews, so what does any of this have to do with us?

     We believe in Jesus, and Jesus was a Jew, and he said he was the fulfillment of everything the Jews hoped for and believed in.  Not only that, but Jesus said he was here to be the fulfillment of all the hopes of all people of all nations and times, just as God had intended way back in the beginning of the Old Testament.  We see our New Testament as simply the continuation of the story begun in the Old Testament.  So that old book is our book too, and the stories in it are our stories too, and though we are not the physical descendants of those people, Paul himself says in the New Testament that by faith we are their spiritual descendants.  The command of Moses to fix these words in your hearts and minds are, therefore, commands to us also.  We also learn what it means to have faith by hearing the stories of the Old Testament people of faith. 

     We learn from the story of Solomon that even if you are given every blessing and have every opportunity handed to you on a silver platter, you can still mess everything up if you are not faithful.  From the story of David we learn the even the best of God’s faithful people make mistakes, but can then be forgiven and life can go on.  From the story of Job we learn that even a very good person can suffer terrible tragedy and get very angry at God, but faith can survive.  From the story of Gideon we learn that even a ‘nobody’ can, with God’s help, do great things.  From the Psalmist we learn that even in the deepest despair God is with us and will bring us through.  From Samson we learn that even a guy who made all the wrong moves could still, by faith, come through at the end, be blessed by God, and finish well.  From the liar and cheater Jacob, we learn that it really is true that ‘what goes around comes around,’ but then, one might still receive an unexpected and undeserved blessing.  From Abraham we learn that faith can live and thrive even without understanding.  Abraham was in the dark about most things, most of the time, but he trusted God, and acted on what he did know, and he was blessed.  From Habakkuk who prayed over and over again, ‘How long, oh Lord,’, we learn that we might have to wait a very long time for God to answer our prayers, but we can trust that in the end He will come through for us with what is best.  

     Some of these are lessons that can be learned from every day life, but in the Bible, all lessons are lifted up into the higher level of our eternal destiny with God.  One can live their whole life by the lessons in these old stories.  So hold on to these words, said Moses, to the people way back then and to us.  “These are not just idle words,” he said in another place, “They are your life.”

     All of those Old Testament stories are, of course, just a prelude to that most important story of all, the story of Jesus.  That story provides the firm foundation Jesus was speaking of when he said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice, is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.”

     Believe this story, Jesus tells us, and you shall know how to live, and you shall live, now and forever.

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Deuteronomy 32:46-48  —  (Moses said to the people), “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law.  They are not just idle words for you— they are your life.  By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

Romans 4:16  —  Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring— not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham.  He is the father of us all.

Matthew 7:24-25  —  (Jesus said), “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

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Heavenly Father, we pray that you so nurture us in your Word that our lives may please you, and that other people may be attracted to you by our godliness.  May your commands and promises be written into our hearts, and constantly kept in our minds.  May your Word be for us far more precious than our own life and whatever else we cherish on earth.  Help us to live and act accordingly.  Amen.

–Martin Luther

1130) “These Words are Your Life” (a)

“Our President wants to know if you guys have been circumcised.”

An 1810 drawing of the Lewis and Clark expedition (not the original caption)

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     Before sending Lewis and Clark out west on their famous expedition, President Jefferson prepared a list of scientific questions for them to investigate on their expedition.  Most were the kinds of questions you might expect, concerning things like geography, geology, plant and animal life, weather, and so forth.  But there was one very odd assignment.  The president wanted to know if there were any similarities between the religious beliefs and ceremonies of the Indians and those of the Jewish people.  Jefferson, like many of his day (and some yet today), was fascinated by the ten lost tribes of ancient Israel, and wondered if they perhaps might be out there on the Great Plains.  They weren’t.  They aren’t anywhere.  They are gone.  And their disappearance from the pages of history twenty-seven centuries ago should not be surprising.  It is what happens to every people group whose armies are defeated, whose nations are destroyed, and whose people are scattered.

     After the rule of King Solomon in the tenth century B.C., the nation of Israel was divided by civil war.  Ten of the twelve tribes (what we would call states) formed their own nation in the North.  Two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, kept the capital city of Jerusalem and the territory in the South.  The southern kingdom endured, and their descendants are now called Jews, named after the larger of the two states, Judah.  The northern kingdom lasted about three hundred years, and was then defeated, destroyed, and scattered– end of story.

     Over the years legends have arisen about those ten lost tribes migrating somewhere and surviving.  President Jefferson was aware of these legends, and therefore told Lewis and Clark to keep an eye out for them in their journey West.  If the explorers were invited to any bar mitzvahs or Passover suppers, Jefferson wanted them to make note of it.  But they weren’t, and there has been no sign of the ten lost tribes anywhere.

     The northern tribes as a distinct people just simply disappeared.  Whoever wasn’t killed in the war that obliterated the nation in 722 B.C. was either put into slavery, or, intermarried with people from other cultures.  Either way, as slaves or by inter-marriage, they then blended in with other tribes and peoples, and became something else.  Some who blended in with others became Samaritans, and there were some of them around yet at the time of Jesus.  But they were something different.  Those ten tribes of Israel were indeed lost.

     This has happened to countless groups and cultures of the world’s people.  They just disappear.  Many individual members of the group may live on, but as they blend in with other, dominant groups, their distinction as a nation or a culture disappears.  Have you ever met any Moabites, Ammonites, or Philistines?  Probably not.  They are also all gone.

     The Southern half of the Kingdom, Judah, lasted 150 years longer than the North.  In 565 B.C. they were defeated, destroyed, enslaved, and carried off into exile.  But for them, that was not the end of the story.  After 70 years, they were allowed to go back and rebuild their land.  This new nation of Israel lasted a few more centuries, and was the nation into which Jesus was born.

     In the generation after Jesus, Israel was again defeated and destroyed, and the people were scattered.  The usual result of that would be their disappearance as a people.  But the Jews did not disappear.  They did not blend in.  The Jews survived and thrived in cities all around the world.  They survived as a dislodged and dispersed people, without a homeland, for nineteen centuries.  Then, in just the last century, it became possible for them to go home again.

    Sixty-eight years ago yesterday, on May 14, 1948, the modern nation of Israel was born.  It was a new, but not new, nation.  The Jews had survived as a distinct people, now once again they would have a land.  One historian said, “Israel is the only nation in the world that is governing itself in the same territory, under the same name, with the same religion, and the same language as it did 3,000 years ago.”  And the Jews did it without having a land of their own for two-thirds of that time.  They are unique in world history.  No other people comes even close to that kind of resilience.

     How did they do it?  How were they able to maintain their identity as a people after losing almost everything?  They lost their independence, they lost their government, they lost their land, they lost the Temple which was the center of their religious life, and they even lost their common language.  In 1948 the new nation had to resurrect the ancient Hebrew language for their national language, because no one but scholars had spoken it for centuries.  Everyone had to learn it.  So after losing everything and being scattered for 19 centuries, how did the Jews survive as a people?

     The answer is easy.  There was one thing they did not lose, and that was their Book.  They had their Scriptures, those same 39 books that you have in the Old Testament of your Bible.  That was the one thing they could bring with them where ever they went, and from it, they took everything:  their beliefs, their way of life, their rituals, their common history, the stories they told their children and lived their whole lives by, and even their language.  It was all in their book.  It was by that book that they survived as a distinct, unique people, though scattered and dispersed throughout the world.  (continued…)

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II Kings 17:5-6a…18  —  The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria (the northern kingdom) and laid siege to it for three years.  In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria…   The Lord was very angry with Israel (the northern kingdom) and removed them from his presence.  Only the tribe of Judah was left.

Deuteronomy 32:46-48  —  (Moses said to the people), “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law.  They are not just idle words for you— they are your life.  By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

Isaiah 60:19b-21  —  The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.  Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever.  They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.

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The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4); A prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

1096) Solomon (part two of two)

The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, Edward Poynter, 1890

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I Kings 10:4-8a  —  When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.  She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true.  But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes.  Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.  How happy your people must be!”

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     (…continued)  Solomon became an excellent king in every way.  Not only was he wise in administering justice, he was also an skilled leader, builder, negotiator, and administrator.  Under his rule, the new nation became a world power.  They built a strong army, formed alliances with other nations, had a strong economy which engaged in trade with many nations, and were at peace most of the time.  Under his rule the new temple was built and the palace expanded.  The nation of Israel never had it so good, before or since.  I Kings 10:23-24 said of his rule:  “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth, and the whole world wanted to hear what wisdom God had put in Solomon’s heart.”  

     A thousand years later, Solomon was still being talked about.  When Jesus wanted compare the beauty of nature to the ultimate in human splendor, he thought of him, and said, “Not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these little flowers” (Luke 12:27).

     The first ten chapters of the Old Testament book of I Kings describes the greatness of King Solomon and all the wonderful things that resulted from his leadership.  Then, in the first verse of chapter eleven there is an ominous however; “However Solomon loved many foreign women.”  As is often the case, the man’s strength became his weakness.

     Solomon was an expert at diplomacy with other nations.  One of the ways diplomacy was done in those days was by the inter-marrying of royal families as a way to guarantee a peace treaty.  Kings often had several wives in the Old Testament, even though nowhere did God recommend or approve of the practice.  Solomon got himself involved in many diplomatic marriages, and these women brought into the marriage and into Israel all their foreign gods.  Always the peace keeper, Solomon would accommodate the religions of these foreign wives by building altars and idols all over the place.  Before long it was hard to tell who believed what in Israel, as the religion of the people was corrupted.  The God who had so richly blessed Solomon was nearly forgotten.

     Not only that, but someone had to pay the price for all of Solomon’s building programs, and taxes increased greatly.  Even then, there was not enough money to pay for all the labor needed, so non-Israelites living in the land were often forced into slavery.  This led to great dissatisfaction, then to violence, and nearly to a civil war.  The initial rebellion was unsuccessful, but the problem was only postponed.  Almost immediately after Solomon’s death the nation was at war with itself and the split did come.  Then, instead of one strong nation, there were two weak nations, often at war with each other, and the good times came to an end.  Never again would Israel have such peace and prosperity as they did in the early years of King Solomon’s reign.

     The story of Solomon is one of the greatest tragedies of the Old Testament.  Solomon’s God-given wisdom and abilities allowed him to rise high, bringing the whole nation with him.  But when the goodness of his youth disappeared, his pride and sinful blindness led to the downfall the nation.  Intelligence is no substitute for moral character and obedience to God.  Solomon had wisdom, but not virtue, and one without the other will lead to ruin.

     Solomon asked for and was given the ability to discern right from wrong– but he still had the freedom to choose one or the other.  In the end, he began to choose what was easy and profitable and not what was right.

     The Bible tells these stories to teach us and to caution us.

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I Kings 11:4…6…9-12  —  As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been…  So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done…  The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.  Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command.  So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.  Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime.  I will tear it out of the hand of your son.”

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Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; and
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

–Proverbs 30:7-9

1095) Solomon (part one of two)

     In his book Intellectuals, historian Paul Johnson described the personal lives of several people considered to be among the smartest and most influential people of the last few centuries.  He wrote about Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Russell, Sartre, and more, people whose books are still read and whose ideas have shaped the world we live in.  Some of these ideas were good and some were not, but all the men and women described in this book were brilliant and inspired huge followings.  Yet, the story Johnson tells of each is a story of outrageous sin and failure in their own personal lives.  Their successes and the many admirers they had around them seems to have resulted in a pride and arrogance that made them all extremely self-centered, and then careless, thoughtless, and wicked in their treatment of everyone, especially their closest loved ones.  The book is filled with shocking stories of abuse, greed, rudeness, unfaithfulness, irresponsibility, lies, cheating, and even violence.  The message is clear– intelligence is no guarantee against sin and moral failure.

     The daily newspapers tell the same story as Johnson’s book.  Presidents Nixon and Clinton were brilliant men, but both had their time in office marred by huge moral failures.  John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., also brilliant and greatly admired, were world-class adulterers.  And few today would want to argue for the high moral character of the two current front-runners for the next president of the United States.  Polls show that many people feel they will be forced to vote for the person they find least despicable.

     Ironically, Paul Johnson himself, the moralizing author of Intellectuals, was also publicly shamed.  He too is an intellectual, a writer of many huge books on a wide variety of subjects: the story of Christianity, a definitive history of the United States, a history of the 20th century, books on the arts and sciences, etc.  He seemed to be a man of upright, unquestioned morality; a loving family man, good father, the same wife all his life, faithful churchgoer, promoter of conservative beliefs and standards in his writings, eloquent and powerful defender of traditional values.  Yet, in his later years it was revealed to the great disappointment of his family and friends that he had been involved a long-term adulterous affair.  Johnson’s own life became an example of the same moral failure he condemned in other intellectuals.  Intelligence is no guarantee against foolishness and sin.

     The Bible has its own account of this kind of failure, which is in many ways the most striking example of all.  It is in the story of King Solomon who became king of Israel after the death of his father, the great King David.  Not long after Solomon became king, the Lord God appeared to the young man in a dream and made him an amazing offer.  “Ask me for whatever you want,” God said to the new king.  What an offer!  

     Solomon had an admirable and noble response.  He first expressed his gratitude to God for all God had done for the nation, his father David, and for himself.  Then, after expressing concern about his ability to handle the huge task ahead of him, he made his request.  Solomon asked God for wisdom, saying, “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”

     Even God was impressed by the request.  I Kings 3:10 says that God was pleased, and told Solomon that since he asked for wisdom to rule, and not for wealth and long life, God would give him that too, along with a wise and discerning heart for the administration of justice.  Not only that, but God went on to say that his gift of wisdom would be like no one ever had or would have.  Thus, Solomon was the most intelligent man who ever lived.

    The very next story in I Kings 3 gives an example of Solomon’s wisdom.  Two women came before him, both mothers of infants.  They were all sleeping in the same house, and one mother rolled over onto her baby in the night and the baby died.  This mother then got up and switched her dead infant with the other mother’s living child.  When the other mother awoke, she immediately saw that it was not her child, and made the accusation.  The problem of both mothers claiming the same child could not be settled, so they came before the King.  After hearing their stories, Solomon asked for a sword.  “Cut the baby in half,” he said, “and give one half to each mother.”  The one mother said, “All right, that’s fair enough.”  But the other mother cried out in horror, and said, “Let her have it, just don’t kill my baby.”  Solomon then said of the second women, “This is the mother; give the child to her, for she was the one who had compassion on her son.”  

     The story concludes with verse 28 which says, “When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.”  (continued…)

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FROM THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON:

Proverbs 1:7  —  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 3:5-6  —  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 11:2  —  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 11:7  —  When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes; all he expected from his power comes to nothing.

Proverbs 14:16  —  The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless.

Proverbs 16:25  —  There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 19:3  —  A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.

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Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise…

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take My Life and Let it Be, Hymn by Frances Havergal, 1874, verses one and four.