50 Core American Documents (book review)

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,”  said George Santayana. And if American citizens do not learn our country’s great history of freedom, we might not only repeat painful lessons but lose those hard-won freedoms as well. A great place to start learning is with 50 Core American Documents, compiled by Christopher Burkett.

Many times when we study history, we read a synthesized version of it from an author writing several years (or even decades) after an important American era has passed. There isn’t anything wrong with this, provided that the historian is accurate in his or her portrayal of the events and the people involved in the events. But in this compilation, the “middleman” has been cut out, as you will read the words spoken or written by the history makers themselves. There is no “spin” or interpretation of what was said, but just the words right from the originator.

These documents will take you back to before there was a United States of America, and then through some of the most pivotal and paradigm-shifting times in our history. Truly this compilation of documents should be required reading for anyone serious about understanding and safeguarding the freedoms we enjoy in this great land.

I highly recommend this book to you!

7 Ways For Christians To Point Others To Jesus

Have you ever had a really bad job? How about a job that you said, “This job is killing me”? They probably weren’t as bad as the job Ernest Shackleton advertised for:

“Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”

And probably not as bad as the help wanted ad for the Pony Express:

“Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellow not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

Several times in his letter to Christians, the Apostle Peter tells Christians that living in a Christ-honoring way on earth is going to be tough. So are Christians just supposed to grin and bear it? Are they just supposed to slap a smile on their face and hang on until the end?

In a word: No! 

Instead, Peter points out seven ways Christians can live so that they will point others to Jesus.

  1. Live in reverent fear of an All-Righteous Judge who doesn’t miss a thing we say or do (1:17)
  2. Live such good lives that consistently glorify God (2:12)
  3. Live as the best of citizens, respecting those in leadership (2:13-17)
  4. Live as good employees (2:18)
  5. Live as Christ’s ambassadors by following the example of Jesus (2:19-24)
  6. Live with your spouse faithfully and submissively (3:1, 7)
  7. Live focused on eternity (4:1-2)

(you can read all the passages from 1 Peter here)

When the first Christians lived this way, everyone spoke well of them and help them in high regard because Christians…

  • Transformed life for women
  • Built the first hospitals
  • Founded the first free medical dispensaries
  • Established orphanages and homes for the aged
  • Made life better for children
  • Brought a dignity to marriage

Anyone who asks the question: ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.” —William Barclay 

Bottom line—We need to live so that people will say “I those Christians!”

3 Apologetics For Your Christian Hope

There was a story circulating that a physicist once claimed that the bumblebee was defying the laws of physics and aerodynamics in its flight. Apparently, he calculated that the ratio of the bumblebee’s wing size in comparison to his body size just didn’t make the math work.

But entomologists and physicists quickly jumped in to say, “Hey, look, the bumblebee is flying, so clearly it works!” And then they went to work to try to explain it. They figured out that the bumblebee flaps its wings more back-and-forth than up-and-down, creating tiny hurricanes the propel them through the air. But then that created a whole new set of problems, like how does the bumblebee control a hurricane so precisely as it turns, stops, dives, and climbs. So then they had to create a new explanation, which they named dynamic stall.

All the while, the bumblebee is flapping its too-small wings 230 times per second(!), and going about its daily activities without being able to explain tiny hurricanes, the laws of physics or aerodynamics, or even knowing what dynamic stall is. It simply flies!

The ultimate argument for anything is doing something that critics say is impossible.

Peter tells Christians to be prepared to answer anyone for the reason for the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15-16). The Greek word for “give an answer” is apologia, from which we get our word apologetic. Here are three apologetics for Christians to use for the hope that they have.

It really comes down to this: My hope is based on the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, which I believe because of the Bible AND because of the change in my life.

  1. The Bible’s authenticity

“No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament. The particular discipline and art of the Jewish scribes came out of a class of Jewish scholars between the fifth and third centuries BC. They were called the Sopherim, from a Hebrew word meaning ‘scribes.’ The sopherim, who initiated a stringent standard of meticulous discipline, were subsequently eclipsed by the Talmudic scribes, who guarded, interpreted, and commented on the sacred texts from AD 100 to AD 500. In turn, the Talmudic scribes were followed by the better-known and even more meticulous Masoretic scribes (AD 500-900).” —Josh McDowell, God-Breathed

“No other ancient text is substantiated by such a wealth of ancient textual witnesses as is the New Testament. Roughly 5,500 separate manuscripts are available, variously containing anything from the entire New Testament corpus to a slight fragment of a single verse. … This textual support is far superior to that available for any other ancient documents, such as the classical texts from Greek and Roman writers (e.g., Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero). Only partial manuscripts have survived for many works of antiquity, and it is not unusual to find that the only complete manuscript for some ancient writing is a copy dating from 1,000 years after its composition.” —Archaeological Study Bible, “The New Testaments Texts” (page 1859)

“The biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are up to 1,250 years older than the traditional Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic text. We have been using a one-thousand-year-old manuscript to make our Bibles. We’ve now got scrolls going back to 250 BC. … Our conclusion is simply this—the scrolls confirm the accuracy of the biblical text by 99 percent.” —Dr. Peter Flint

  1. Christ’s resurrection 

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul lists all of the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection, giving critics ample opportunity to challenge these witnesses in person. If these witnesses would have been perpetrating a hoax, skeptics of their day would have been able to uncover the inconsistencies in their story. If the account of Christ’s resurrection was made-up, it’s doubtful the early Christian martyrs would have “stuck to their story” as they were being tortured, but none recanted.

Josh McDowell notes, “By AD 100, the apostles had died, but the Christian Church was still in its infancy, with fewer than twenty-five thousand proclaimed followers of Christ. But within the next two hundred years, the fledgling church experienced explosive multiplication of growth, to include as many as twenty million people. This means the church of Jesus Christ quadrupled every generation for five consecutive generations!

  1. My personal experience

“I am a changed person. I am not who I was before I met Jesus” and “My life tends to go better when I live by biblical principles” are both excellent apologetics!

Let others argue that God doesn’t exist, or that you shouldn’t have hope, and then you—like the bumblebee—just keep flying with Jesus! (see 2 Timothy 3:14)

How Great Is Our God (book review)

Mark Gilroy has given both Christian believers and skeptics a unique overview of profound Christian thinkers throughout the entire “AD” calendar. How Great Is Our God is a year-long journey with those historians, eye-witnesses, preachers, and martyrs who have truly captured the sentiment how great is our God!

From the book’s introduction—

How Great Is Our God is compiled to take you on a journey through every century and every tradition of the Christian faith. We want you to experience the heart and thoughts of Christians from the birth of the church until today. …

You will find daily readings that have been selected because they are considered great and enduring thoughts that have contributed to the spiritual growth of Christians in every age, but also because some of the readings represent seminal moments in the history of Christian thought and Western civilization.”

You can read this book by the date on the calendar, or you can read the various writings in the chronological order in which they were written. Although some doctrinal statements may vary from author to author, truly the underlying theme through every age and every author is the greatness and praiseworthiness of our God.

Reading this book I discovered…

  • …how influential people addressed cultural issues in their time through a biblical worldview
  • …an increased appreciation for the historicity of the Christian faith
  • …new insights into Christian theology
  • …authors I may have overlooked
  • …an invigorated passion to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3)

From church history buffs, to pastors, to theologians … all should be pleased with the content they will find in How Great Is Our God.

The Q Series—The Bible

Our annual Q Series is where folks send their questions to me on a variety of subjects and we do our best to answer them. This week many of the questions were about the Bible. Questions like:

  • What books should be included in the Bible?
  • What about Bible translations?
  • Is it okay for the Bible to have pictures in it?

Here’s what we discussed, along with the time this discussion appears on the video:

  • How was it decided what books would be included in the New Testament? [5:38] **Be sure to check out this post: How We Got The Bible on Biblegateway.
  • J. Warner Wallace’s list of criteria for New Testament books [9:45]
  • Did contemporary sources support or refute the New Testament authors? [11:45]
  • How did the final 27 books of the New Testament make the list? [15:02]
  • How was it decided what books would be included in the Old Testament? [18:22]
  • Evidence presented by the Apostle Paul [20:31]
  • How do we know the Scriptures were accurately transcribed? [22:50] **Be sure to check out this post: Why Trust The Bible? on Biblegateway.
  • The history surrounding the complete Latin Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls [23:45]
  • What are Bible translations and paraphrases (with references to the Wycliffe Bible and the discovery of the Rosetta Stone)? [25:45]
  • Some cautions about Bible paraphrases [33:23]
  • Is it okay for a Bible to have pictures in it? [35:16]
  • Are icons of the Cross acceptable or a blasphemy? [37:42]
  • How can someone better understand the Bible when they read it for themselves? [41:32]
  • Why ask questions? [48:39]

We’ll be discussing more questions this upcoming Sunday, so be sure to send them my way. For all of the ways you can send questions, please click here.

9 More Quotes From “Marching Off The Map”

Tim Elmore’s insights on the youth culture are amazing. To synthesize such great insights he obviously needs to read lots and lots of research. In all of his books, Dr. Elmore freely shares the cream-of-the-crop quotes he’s uncovered in his research. Here are a few of those quotes which I appreciated.

“In the modern world we have invented ways of speeding up invention, and people’s lives change so fast that a person is born into one kind of world, grows up in another, and by the time his children are growing up, lives in still a different world.” —Margaret Mead

“We are morphing so fast that our ability to invent new things outpaces the rate we can civilize them.” —Kevin Kelly

“I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words: Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” —Horace Mann

“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” —Denis Waitley

“Strangely, the world seems to be growing both more charitable and more selfish at the same time. I have a lot of faith that our children’s generation has the potential to rise to the unimaginable challenges that lie ahead. But at this fascinating crossroads in human history there’s also a sense that a traditional worldview and ethic will come under increasing assault in the western world.” —Chris Arias 

“[Generation Z] are the most connected, educated and sophisticated generation in history. They don’t just represent the future, they are creating it.” —Mark McCrindle

“In every society since the start of history, whenever you broke down any population this way, you’d always get a pyramid. But from 1960-2060, our pyramid will turn into a rectangle. We’ll have almost as many Americans over age 85 as under age 5. This is the result of longer lifespans and lower birthrates. It’s uncharted territory, not just for us, but for all of humanity. And while it’s certainly good news over the long haul for the sustainability of the earth resources, it will create political and economic stress in the short-term, as smaller cohorts of working age adults will be hard-pressed to finance the retirements of larger cohorts of older ones.” —Paul Taylor, Pew Research Center

“We are now at a point where we must educate our children in what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet.” —Margaret Mead

“The military tells us we must offer diversity training, but it seems to me what our sailors most need is unity training. How can we mesh our differences into a single unit and get results?” —Navy Captain Michael Abrashoff

Check out my review of Marching Off The Map by clicking here. And read some of Tim Elmore’s quotes which I shared here. I will be sharing more quotes from this book soon, so stay tuned!

6 Quotes From “The Dawn Of Christianity”

Robert J. Hutchinson makes the history around the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as well as the history of Christ’s followers after His resurrection, come to life in The Dawn Of Christianity. Check out my full review by clicking here.

“Skeptics make much of the fact that historians have no independent corroboration from outside sources of most of the events described in the Gospels, but this is common with ancient history and hardly unique to Christianity. For example, virtually everything historians know about the Three Hundred, the Spartan warriors who held off a Persian invasion at the mountain pass of Thermopylae in 480 BC, comes from the writings of a single Greek author, Herodotus. What’s more, the earliest copy historians have of Herodotus’s chronicle of this event, The Histories, dates to the tenth century AD—or more than 1,350 years after it was written! In comparison, historians have a cornucopia of historical sources and archaeological evidence about Jesus of Nazareth and the early Christian community. For example, more than fifty papyrus manuscripts of New Testament texts exist that date before AD 300. The earliest of these manuscripts, a papyrus fragment from the Gospel of John known as P52, dates to around AD 125 or just thirty years after the original was likely written.”

“Around 20 BC, the half-Jewish King Herod the Great set himself the task of renovating and expanding the temple and surrounding area. There had been a small natural plateau there before, fixed atop the ridge in the northeastern corner of Jerusalem; but Herod wanted something far more spectacular. He therefore enclosed this natural plateau on all sides with four immense retaining walls, some more than one hundred feet high, made up of massive rectangular ashlars, or cut stones, that weighed as much as 415 tons each. These stones are so large that even modern cranes and bulldozers would have some difficulty moving them. Herod then filled in this entire quadrangle with stones and dirt, creating an artificial hilltop plaza—roughly 1,500 feet long by 1,000 feet wide—of more than thirty-five acres. In modern terms, Herod’s Temple Mount is so large that about twenty-six American football fields could fit in the space available. This massive engineering marvel has endured for two thousand years and still stands today, almost wholly intact.”

“Simon the Rock continued to loudly protest that he was willing to die, if need be, but would never deny Jesus. The other disciples said the same. This is one of those incidents that even many skeptics believe must be historical under the ‘criterion of embarrassment,’ which means that the Christian community was unlikely to invent a story that cast such a bad light on its leaders; therefore, it must have actually happened.” 

“Recent archaeological discoveries are showing that the New Testament in general, and the Gospels in particular, are far more reliable historical sources than previous generations of New Testament experts realized.”

“All four Gospels report that this board, what the Romans called the titulus, held the inscription ‘The King of the Jews.’ John’s Gospel alone reports that Jesus’ name was also on the titulus, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,’ and that it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (19:19-20). In Latin the charge read Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, which is why, to this day, the letters INRI appear at the top of crucifixes.”

“In 1968, archaeologists uncovered a first-century tomb at Giv’at ha-Mivtar, northeast of Jerusalem. Inside the tomb they found in ossuary containing the skeleton of a crucified man—the first and only relic of a crucified man found in Israel. Inscribed on the ossuary was his name in Hebrew: Yehochanan. On top of the bone of his right heel was a wooden board, and through the board, and his heel, was a 4.5-inch iron nail.”

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