Is the Bible a Work of Plagiarism?

I came across this interesting comic on the web (below). A teacher gave her students the following assignment: What is the “Golden Rule” and its source? The answers she got from her students are quite telling. In fact, many atheists use this example to illustrate why they think the Bible is not the Word of God but a mere fabrication of pre-existing (pagan) traditions.

thegoldenrule

Now, what is fascinating is that all the answers given by the students were correct, and factual. The problem is that some of the people quoted lived centuries before Jesus was born, and yet we often attribute the Golden Rule to Jesus (Matthew 7:12). But Confucius (551–479 BC) and Buddha (480-400 BC) said and taught the same thing and yet they lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

Similar examples have been cited as arguments against the validity of the Bible stories. Such as Noah’s flood. Many argue that the story was merely a Jewish adaptation of the Neo-Assyrian Gilgamesh flood myth found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The myth, according to historians, is very similar to the Biblical stories and yet it existed centuries before the supposed period of Noah.

Do these examples disqualify the Bible? Many people believe so. Yet what such arguments against the Bible reveal is the arguers’ ignorance of what the Bible is and what the Bible does. The Bible is not God’s Word because it contains novel (new and unique) ideas about God. In fact, the reverse is the case, all true ideas about God that exist outside the Bible only prove that God is the author and owner of all truth. It is the reason R.C. Sproul has popularized the phrase: “all truth is God’s truth.”

Truth is truth, wherever you find it. To argue that only the Bible contains truth is to actually speak against the Bible, because the even the Bible claims that there is truth about God outside itself. Romans 1:19 actually says whatever may be known about God is available to even those who have never read the Bible. Psalms 19 talks about how nature teaches us about various attributes of God. Even Paul often  quoted pagan sages in the Bible (1 Cor 10:23).

The availability of truth apart from the Bible is actually an argument for God, not against Him. It is proof of His sovereignty — that  God is God over all people and all things, not just the Jews and the Christians. It is proof that those who will never encounter Christianity will not be judged unfairly, because “what may be known about God is “plain” to them (Rom 1:19).

No, the Bible is not a work of plagiarism. But it is a work that seriously needs to be plagiarized by you and me.

For the fame of His name.

Cornell

To Forgive or Not to Forgive (Yourself)?

Guilt. It is a joy sapping, energy draining and hope crushing feeling. Guilt can imprison you in the past and make you unable to move forward. It will make you doubt yourself and even write yourself off. I know this because I have been guilty. Or rather, I have felt guilty. To BE guilty is a statement of fact. One can be guilty without even knowing it, let alone feeling it. On the other hand, one can FEEL guilty without actually being guilty. But today, I am talking about the feeling of guilt that is rooted in actual guilt.

doctorjenn

Photo courtesy: doctorjenn.com

You lied, cheated, stole something. You ignored a friend in need, spread false rumors about a colleague, and now you are feeling guilty. You should feel guilty. We all need a healthy dose of guilt. Guilt helps us to confront the monster inside us for who he or she really is. Guilt helps us acknowledge our inadequacies at pursuing perfection. Guilt is good, but guilt can also be bad.

You see, if you know Jesus, if you believe in and follow Jesus, then guilt should only be a stop-over in your journey. It should not be a destination. Even worse, it should not be your home, because Jesus came to save us from the sins we committed, the wrongs we did which left us feeling guilty. Like a guilty criminal in court, Jesus came and offered to bail us out. But some of us refuse to acknowledge this bailout. Many of us plead guilty and choose the prison of self-condemnation.

Jesus comes and tells you “Hey, you are free. I am not asking you to pretend that you didn’t do wrong. You did wrong. I am asking you to accept that, while you did wrong, I made it right. I paid the price.”

Self-condemning guilt reveals a failure to appreciate what Jesus did for you. He died for this. For what you are beating yourself about. He died to tell you, yes, I know what you did. I understand the gravity of your failure. In fact, it is worse than you think, and I love you anyway. I am merciful, I choose to forgive you. I paid the price, will you give me your guilt and accept my forgiveness?

Jesus asks us to learn from our guilt and then run from it. He asks us to face our guilt and then see through it to the mercy he offers us. To wallow in guilt and self-condemnation is to slap away the hand of God. It is to look at the cross and walk away unchanged. To live in guilt is to tell God “I know you have forgiven me and paid for my sins, but I am much better feeling bad about what I did. Let me wallow in self-pity and self-condemnation for a little while. I deserve this”

Oftentimes, when we have done wrong and are feeling guilty and beating ourselves up about it, a well meaning friend might approach us and say something like: “You need to forgive yourself.”

This is often after you have sought forgiveness from the person you wronged, but you are still finding it hard to move on. It is after the victim of your sin has told you “I forgive you, go and sin no more,” but you still insist on sulking and mopping and feeling really sorry for yourself. You need to forgive yourself.

What does that mean? “You need to forgive yourself” What do our friends mean when they tell us that? What do we mean when we tell others that? Some of us mean, “you need to let it go”. Other mean, “you need to move on from this because it is doing nothing but holding you back.” But I doubt there is any person, when they tell you “forgive yourself” actually mean, “You are God. You have the supreme power to forgive your sins. So go ahead and do it and redeem yourself from this bondage of guilt.” I doubt anyone actually means that when they say “forgive yourself”.

sodahead

Photo courtesy: sodahead.com

Of course there are some who come from the worldview that teaches “you are your own master and nothing but what you allow will control you.” Such people, when they tell you to forgive yourself, often mean “will yourself into joy,” “think positively”. They often offer advise that is not rooted in anything solid. But sometimes it is our fellow followers of Christ, sincere seekers of holiness, who tell us to “forgive ourselves.” I submit that some of these people do not fully understand what they mean by those words. They have simply blindly played into the prevailing “positive” thinking rhetoric of the day.

But the reality is that to live in guilt is to live in pride. It is to write off what you didn’t contribute in creating – YOU. To live in guilt over forgiven sin is to say God was a fool to forgive you. It is to say Jesus wasted his life dying for you. To continue in guilt after repenting and after forgiveness has been extended is to say you are master of your life, and you don’t need any help beating yourself up.

So, yes, you need to “forgive yourself”. But, in the “biblically correct” view of things, what you need to do is REALISE that you have already been forgiven, Jesus has already given his life for your sin, you ARE no longer guilty. It is to believe that you are worthy of God’s mercy and grace.

To TRULY forgive yourself is to live forgiven. And while you’re at it, you need to repent of your failure to acknowledge God’s forgiveness.

~~~

Cornell

FOLLOW ME

 

Photo courtesy: nonprofitrisk.org

Photo courtesy: nonprofitrisk.org

FOLLOW ME. Two words that sound so simple yet are so radical. Actually, they sound foolish. If someone came to me and asked me to leave my job and family and “follow me”, I would first like to know what he is offering and whether it, not he, is worth following.

The sages of history gave us philosophies and principles and life tips. They acknowledged that they were mere men and the best they could do its point us to the truth that even they could not attain. None of them ever said “follow me.” Maybe “obey me”, and sometimes “trust me”, but never “follow me”. The great teachers knew that even they could not perfectly live up to the utopian truths they preached.

They tried, but their flawed humanity got in the way. They failed so miserably that the wisest of them opted to be only pointers to the way, not pioneers. They knew they would fail us miserably if they asked us to watch them as models and judge their words by their actions. Furthermore, only a fool would think his or her role model is perfect. We follow people for a particular aspect of their life, not every aspect.

I follow Max Lucado for his writing prowess, not necessarily for his theology (which I also have no major qualms about). I follow John Piper for his theology, not his sense of humor.

Photo courtesy: lockingshields.org

Photo courtesy: lockingshields.org

Even on Twitter, we have very narrow and specific reasons for following someone. I follow Maria Popova for updates on the latest posts on her awesome website Brain Pickings. I could care less what she had for dinner or where she will be going for holiday. I follow some people for their humor, some for their opinion on politics, and others for their satire. I never follow anyone for everything about them.

In leadership classes, one of the great  lessons is that a good leader is one who follows, one who admits his inadequacies and is not afraid to help. A good leader “leads from behind.”

But then Jesus comes and says “follow me.” The audacity! But the call gets even more radical when we see what Jesus is asking us to follow him into: pain, suffering, alienation, tears… and some mysterious victory that seems to always “feel” out of reach.

Jesus stands apart from the rest of the world changers and thought leaders. Jesus does not point us to higher truth or philosophy and say “follow that”. He does not tell us to rely on the principles he preaches. On the contrary, he tells us that all the tips, the proverbs and all the philosophies he teaches are nothing without him. To benefit from his wisdom, we must first follow his person.

He calls us to follow Him, not just his teachings and his philosophies and his great words of wisdom.

He calls us to follow Him, not just his kind acts and his great missionary works and his altruistic actions.

He calls us to follow Him, not just on Twitter but in our homes and our workplaces and in our sufferings.

He calls us to follow Him, not just on Sundays or on Easter or in the half an hour morning devotion slots.

FOLLOW ME. Sounds radical? It is. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is both too good and too true, no wonder very few people do.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Why I Don’t Believe in Miracles

The year was 2006, I was in my first year of college and just a few months into salvation. My friend, Mark Masai, was visiting me at the “Prefabs” hostels. On this particular day, he needed a data cable to transfer some photos from his phone into my computer.  I had lent mine to another friend. I picked up my phone,  dialed that friend’s number and put the phone to my ear. After several rings, the phone went to voice-mail.

“F*%#!” I blurted out.

I redialed the number,  “please leave your message after the beep.”

“S#%@ man,” I said as I scratched my head, “what are we going to do now?”

But Mark didn’t offer any suggestion, and he didn’t seem to share in my frustration.

He simply gave me a long, hard, look and shook his head.

“What?” I asked him, confused.

“OKOKA KIJANA!!” (Get saved, young man!) He told me with a strange firmness in his voice and a steely look in his eyes.

Believe it or not, that was the last day I ever cursed or even felt the urge to let out another expletive.

To understand the significance of this moment, you have to know me in the months and years preceding this moment. Until that particular day, I never had a problem with cursing — I would do it any time, anywhere.

My sentences were punctuated with curse words and my lips would spit out four letter unprintables with the ease of a drunken sailor. Yes, I had accepted Christ just a few months earlier, but some habits were simply too ingrained to drop, and cursing was one of them. I cursed unconsciously. It was like sneezing, never premeditated.

I recall this day I was in church, standing at the third pew from the pulpit during “praise and worship” when this beautiful lady stepped onto the stage to lead the session.

“S#%@!” I said reflexively, albeit inaudibly.

Then when I realized I had just cursed in church I went “F*%#!”

It was that bad.

But on this day, I don’t know what went through Mark’s mind, and why he said those words. But something happened that day. In the blink of an eye, I lost a habit that had become part of my being. It was a miracle.

Yet, even as I say that word, miracle, I am a bit reluctant. The thoughts going through my head are “I am supposed to be a cessasionist”, “I should not believe in miracles”, “there must be some other explanation to what happened”. For the longest time, I tried to convince myself otherwise. But it was futile. No psychological or sociological theory could explain away what happened. Not under those circumstances. People don’t just drop habits like cursing in a heartbeat.

But God does, and I believe what happened that day was His doing.

The truth is that I still don’t believe IN miracles, because I believe in God.

And He delivered me from a bad habit without having to go through the long path of “process”. God simply chose to do it with the snap of His finger.

Yes, I don’t believe IN miracles, but I do believe miracles.

And I thank God for making me privy to such a powerful one.

Cornell

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The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.” – G.K. Chesterton

Lights, Camera, Action!

In a way, we are all Public Relations officers.

We spend most of our time managing and manipulating appearances. We care too much what people think about us. And of course it is not wrong to care what people think of us. Jesus calls us to be a light to the world. The salt of the earth. It matters what people think of us and see in us.

But sadly, for many of us, what people think of us is not what God thinks of us. The image we present to people is not an image formed and informed by our Faith. We care too much about looking good than actually being good. We worry too much about looking righteous instead of confessing the righteousness of Christ.

We are actors on a stage. Characters on a page. But God is seldom the author of the story. We are acting off a different script, our own script. Our friends barely know the real us, because we have bought them tickets and they are sitting in the theater, watching the edited movie of us. Our colleagues at work only get to see the rehearsed version of us.

But the backstage is empty. We don’t allow people there. The changing room is out of bounds. We don’t want them to see the skeletons in our closets and realize we are human like them. We are sinners like them. We are foolish. Like them.

We don’t want them to see that we too get lost, that we get confused about life and we often don’t have clue about what we are doing or what we want in life. We don’t want our friends to see that we follow our feelings more than our minds. We don’t want them to know that we often make decisions putting our own selfish interests first. No. We feign selflessness. We fake compassion. We manufacture charity.

But this does not have to be. It is hard to change. But God does not call us to change. He calls us to Himself. he calls us to believe and trust, AND THEN He will change us. He bids us to come, and then He makes us want to come and then He gives us the strength to come. It is all of grace because it is all of God.

May God redeem our story. May He re-write the script and yank us off that director’s chair. May we release our grip on the manuscript of our lives and let God’s Word be the script we rehearse and act out. May God’s story become our story and may Jesus be the star of the show.

And when the CREDITS go up at the end of our lives, may the name of Christ be the only name on that list.

Because He alone deserves the glory.

 

For the fame of His name.

Cornell

You Don’t Need God to be Good [By a Christian]

Kamau wa Kibe does not believe in God. In fact, He doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a god. He is an atheist and he believes he can do good all by himself. Mary Wangari is a Christian and she believes human beings can only do bad by themselves. She believes that you need God to be good. I was once privy to a brief exchange between these two poles:

Mary: You need God to be good.

Kamau: I do plenty of good in my life without God, no thank you.

Mary: But you have no basis for morality or any reason to be good, or to be kind and loving.

Kamau: As a matter of fact, I do have a basis. I prefer pleasure to pain, and I prefer what helps people to what hurts them, because that’s what I would want other people to do for me.

Mary: You see? You have just borrowed from the golden rule: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Jesus came up with that.

Kamau: That’s not true, the so-called “golden rule” has existed in many major philosophies centuries before Jesus was even born. Confucius taught the golden rule in 500 BC, Egyptians taught the golden rule from as far back as 600 BC. This stuff is recorded, just Google it. Jesus definitely didn’t come up with the golden rule.

Mary: You’ve obviously read a lot of historical books. But those are fabrications. You don’t know if that’s what they taught.

Kamau: The Bible is a fabrication.

Mary: I still think you can’t have a basis for morality without God. The Bible says no one can be good without God. God is good and without Him, we would all be savages having no reason to be good or peaceful or loving.

Kamau: I guess we just have to agree to disagree on that one.

Goodness-of-God-4

I have attended a fairly good number of Atheist versus Christian debates and the one feeling has been consistent in all those episodes is mild amusement. The conversation above is fictional, but it is generic of the many exchanges that happen between a theist and an atheist. The question of morality is a perennial topic in these exchanges.

Many people who abandoned God did so because of the problem of evil — they put the morality of God on trial and found God guilty. Christians on the other hand maintain that because of the fall in Eden, it is impossible to promote any goodness without appealing to religion or a theistic worldview. Theists argue that you lose any basis for asking people to be decent or hold to any positive values if you remove God out of the picture. Atheists disagree. Repeat.

But what if both groups are right on this issue of morality? What if it is true that “you don’t need God to be good” and also true that “you need God to be Good”? What if these two claims are not contradictory and only seem so? What if they are complementary — two sides of the same coin? I believe that the Christian is right when he says you need God to be moral and I also believe the atheist is right when she says you don’t need God to be moral. I hope this short illustration will help clarify what I mean. Continue reading

To Friendship

[Guest post by Winnie Kiburu]

Different from family love, which is not chosen but accepted, friendship develops like moss on the slippery edges of a creek. It emerges without warning. There is no date to remember.

It grows until one day acquaintance graduates into friendship. Love is the diploma.

This chosen love is real and powerful, bitter and sweet.

It is warm enough to wrap up in against the chill of an aloof world.

It is bright enough to shine through all the night seasons of your life.

Only occasionally in the course of a lifetime will you meet, the kind of a friend who becomes more than an acquaintance.

wixx and Derrick

Real relationship is hard work. Don’t let anybody fool you; contouring your heart to beat with another requires extensive whittling to trim away self-centeredness and distrust.

It is like riding the bus. If you’re going to have company ride with you, you must be willing to scoot over and rearrange yourself to accommodate another person and the baggage he/she brings. As you make room for a friend, you show how important the other person is.

Every relationship undergoes adjustments. The reason one relationship becomes more valuable than another is in its
ability to survive circumstances and endure realignment. We never know how strong a relationship is until it is
threatened. It takes a powerful bond to withstand the pressure and not be weakened by other forces.

Isn’t that what you really want from a relationship? To know that you won’t be abandoned –no matter what? To be yourself – hiding nothing, not even your worst imperfection – and know your friend won’t run out on you?

Too often we have thrown away good people who did a bad thing. Have you ever done that? Have you decided that a relationship cannot be repaired? A true friend is one who stands by you, honoring and affirming you. A true friend should desire to see you prosper in your studies, in your health, in your finances, and in your relationship
with the Lord.

With these virtues, you can hurdle personal imperfection and indiscretion.

A true friend really is one of the best gifts God will ever give you. Commit to stay; commit to be strong; and commit to celebrate all He has given you in your friend.

~

Wixx Waxx Bexx