Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

We can’t trust the Bible. It’s been “re-written” too many times.

Re-written is one way to say it. But the word “re-written” tends to imply the Bible has been edited and re-interpreted multiple times over hundreds of years, resulting in an irretrievable loss of the original content. The implication of the word “re-written” is widespread error and intentional manipulation by the fallible humans who did the re-writing. The implication of error and manipulation is that in a cross-check, the manuscripts don’t match up.

After looking at the available facts instead of relying the assumptions, I believe a more accurate word is “copied.”

Hand copied isn’t the same as re-written.

What’s interesting to me about the assumption that hand copied scripture results in an untrustworthy source is that, in reality, the multitude of copies actually serves as proof for reliability of ancient manuscripts. And not just Biblical manuscripts. The “number of copies” criteria for reliability doesn’t originate with or even apply only to Christian writings.

It’s a history thing.

Historians who could give a flyin flip about proving or disproving Christianity believe that the number of copies and whether they cross check for accuracy in content is an important factor in determining whether ancient documents are reliable.

(To clarify. I’m not referring to the truth or meaning of the words in these manuscripts, just their historical authentication and accuracy.

Here’s some facts about the ancient documents we have:

There are presently 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament.

From what I can find, after the New Testament, the highest number of copies of ancient writings is:
643 copies for Homer’s Iliad,
49 copies of Aristotle’s writings,
10 copies for Caesar and
7 for Plato.

Meanwhile, in addition to the 5,686 Greek manuscripts for the New Testament, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. Add non-Biblical manuscripts and the supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000.”

Maybe I’m misinformed, but my understanding is that reliability of the writings of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle or Homer are not disputed.

Pragmatic Faith Manuscripts Span of YearsIn addition to the multitude of copies, another criteria historians look to in confirming the reliability of ancient manuscripts is the time between the original writing and the earliest copies known to be in existence. (Notice we don’t have originals of ANY of these documents.)

Sticking with the five examples given above, the approximate time between the original and the earliest copy we have is:

Plato’s writings – 1200 years (7 copies),
Caesar1000 years (10 copies),
Aristotle1400 years (49 copies) and
Homer500 years (643 copies).
New Testament70 years (5,686 copies in Greek alone)

So…just looking at the math.

If critics, doubters and naysayers of the reliability of Biblical manuscripts acknowledge the historicity and writings of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle and Homer, it seems logical that they should also acknowledge the historicity and writings of the New Testament authors.

April 3, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Bible, Christian, pinterest | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

#memoryverse Psalm 139:23-24 ~ search me, oh God.

psalm 139 23 24 Search Me O God over water#memoryverse

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

One of my go-to questions when I meet with someone as a communication/life coach is:

“How do you receive and process negative feedback and constructive criticism?”

Sometimes, people know the answer. Sometimes I have to provide a few multiple choice options:

(1) Do you usually deny it? Assume it’s not true?

(2) Do you get depressed? Maybe shut down or give up?

(3) Do you get fired up? Determined to prove the criticizer wrong or to overcome whatever weakness the feedback and criticism points to?

(4) or do you get depressed, shut down and THEN get fired up and determined?

The most difficult to deal with are the two extremes of denying and shutting down.

I don’t know about you, but my knee jerk reaction is to deny. Way back in college, my favorite interpersonal communication professor, Dr. Grasty, assured me I wasn’t alone by confirming that:

“When we are criticized, our tendency is to be defensive.”

And then he gave us this sage advice:

“Don’t be a deluded wimp. Have the courage to look for any truth in the criticism. Strip away any acrimonious language, any selfish motivation or defensiveness of the criticizer and diligently search for even a nugget of truth in the accusation.”

This is one of those occasions where the words “the truth hurts” ring loud and true.

I’ve learned that in order to grow – personally, professionally, mentally, physically and most importantly, spiritually, I have to face the truth of where I am right now.

Praying for God to search my heart.
Asking Him to give me the courage to look at what He reveals.
Begging Him to comfort me when He shows me the ugly that’s hiding in there, layered in rationalizations and rainbows.
And praying for Him to equip me with the motivation and stamina needed to purge from my life the things that separate me from Him.

March 10, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, Christian, devotion, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse John 15:5 ~ WithOUT God. “nothing” is possible.

Matthew 19 26 With God all things are possible#memoryverse

“I am the vine;
you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me
and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5 (ESV)

“With God, all things are possible.”

When I read, hear or say this, I usually emphasize the “all things are possible” part.

Today, I can’t get past the “WITH GOD” part.

The hard truth – one that I don’t like to admit – is that I have a tendency to be more self-centered than Veruca Salt. The hard truth is that I want what I want when I want it. and often, “I WANT IT NOW!”

But…
If God isn’t in it.
If God doesn’t want it.
If God doesn’t want it for me.
If God knows that it will lead me away from Him.
If God knows that my current desire ALREADY pulls me away from him.
If God knows that my current desire might be counter to His plan to draw people to a saving knowledge of Him and to accept His gift of grace.
If God knows that my current desire might be counter to His desire for a living, intimate, dependent relationship with me and/or someone else…

then, God’s not in it.

Even if “it” is possible and I go after it on my own – withOUT God, I will fail. Maybe not fail in the eyes of the world, under the world’s definition of success, but I will fail.

Because all my dreams and goals, if pursued withOUT God, lead me away from Him. And when I fill my life with things that exclude Christ, those things amount to a
big.
pile.
of nothing.

February 27, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse John 15:5 ~ I say “nothing” without you.

John 15 5 apart from him you can do nothing tall#memoryverse

“I am the vine;
you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me
and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5 (ESV)

“When a worship leader reads the Bible you can tell.”

Carlos Whittaker is a worship leader, author and speaker. So I’m betting he knows that his statement extends from “worship leader” to “writer” to “speaker” to “someone.”

Personally, I can spot “trite” messages in a New York minute. I’m betting I’m not the only one.

Worship leaders who speak in the vagueness of song lyric poetry and speakers who spend extended time telling stories and weaving metaphors without connecting them to truth in scripture. Words dripping in entertainment, feel good inspiration or contrived attempts to stir emotion. Words that don’t lead to deeper understanding or dredge up self-examination. Fluffy words that don’t scrape the bottom to dredge up conviction or reveal underlying pride or fear.

Carlos Whittaker is right. When someone reads the Bible, you can tell.

For me, the opposite is true as well. When I’m NOT spending time in the Word, you can tell. My words turn thin, losing both depth and meaning. And if you know me, you know I love me some depth and meaning. When I’m not spending time in the Word – and in prayer – my perspective shifts to my own little corner (yes, that is a R&H Cinderella reference).

But when I let go of the grip I have on “my” day and ask God to bless me with a desire for Him, I find myself drawn to Him. I actually WANT to read the Word and spend time with Him.

Notice I didn’t start with “If I just read the Bible.” I started with prayer asking God to bless me with a desire to read the Bible. Because, I know me. On my own, my tendency would be to curl up with a cuppa joe and a good book ABOUT the Bible.

Some days, my tendency is to curl up with a cuppa joe and my laptop and allow the internet to suck the time out of my day.

But when I spend time in God’s living Word, it lives in me and there’s no keeping it in check. My perspective shifts from my own limited and skewed point of view to consider people and relationships and circumstances from God’s greater vantage point.

I ABIDE in Him.

So I pray for a desire for the Word.
And I pray for the motivation to actually READ it.
And I pray for the Holy Spirit to open the scriptures to me and help me to understand and apply its timeless truths to my life TODAY.

And I pray for the Holy Spirit to equip me – and put words in my mouth when I speak so that the word “trite” is never an adjective anyone could or would ever use to describe the words that come out of my mouth.

February 24, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

my life verse?

Acts_26_24_Your_great_learning_is_driving_you_insane[1]I literally laughed out loud when I read this.
How have I never seen it before?

24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

of course, the pragmatic in me compels me to follow up with the next verse…

25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable.

and I know somebody out there is saying, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

February 13, 2015 Posted by | Bible, Christian, laugh!, pragmatic communion, scripture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse 1 John 4:13 ~ “abiding” in Christ. part 1 of…howevermany.

1 John 4 13 little girl and dove pinterest#memoryverse

“By this we know that we abide in him
and he in us,
because he has given us of his Spirit.”

1 John 4:13 (ESV)

I used to think the word “abide” referred to that part of prayer where I was supposed to shut up and listen. Like God and I were taking turns doing the talking.

Prayer: My turn to talk, God’s turn to listen.
Abide: God’s turn to talk, my turn to listen.

Over the last 7 years, I’ve come to realize that abiding is so much more than me shutting up and listening during “prayer time.”

I think I first began to realize that my definition of abiding was much too narrow when I began to understand that my definition of prayer was much too narrow.

I used to think of prayer as dedicated time talking to God. These days, I call that type of prayer “event” prayer because it takes place like an event – it has a beginning and an end. Often, it’s prayer that opens with a salutation, like “Dear Lord” or “Heavenly Father” and always concludes with the word “Amen.”

And then it’s over until next time.

By the grace of God, I’ve come to understand that while “event” prayer is good and necessary, it is only one kind of prayer.

Now, the most common type of prayer I engage in is practicing the presence of God. It’s an ongoing, no holds barred conversation with God. What used to be that constant inner conversation with myself all day long has shifted and now it’s [almost always] directed to God. The shift in direction has transformed self-directed self-talk into intimate prayer with the Holy Spirit who dwells within me through my faith in Christ.

When prayer began to saturate my moments and my days in this way, abiding began to take on new meaning. When I talk to the Holy Spirit about everything, all day, it’s because Christ is answering my prayer with a big “YES!” when I ask Him to bless me with an awareness that “the Lord my God is is with me everywhere I go.” (Joshua 1:9)

When I’m aware of God’s presence in my moments and my days in this way, I’m abiding in Christ.

Regardless of whether I’m talking or shutting up.

January 27, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse, pragmatic presence | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

#memoryverse Zechariah 4:6 ~ the source of inner strength

#memoryverse
“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty”
Zechariah 4:6b

Not by might not by power by my spirit Zechariah 4 6The other day, I listened as someone told my daughter that she needed to find and rely on her “inner strength.”

Inner strength.

What exactly does that mean? Determination? Confidence? A recognition of personal identity and worth? Where does inner strength come from? Do “broken” people have it and just can’t find it because it’s buried under layers of pain or fear or hopelessness?

My problem with “inner strength” is that it waxes and wanes, usually parallel to my circumstances. And there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Crisis is just as likely to discourage me as it is to fuel me to action. Criticism is just as likely to fill me with doubt as it is to spark a fire of determination. Rejection is just as likely to send me running as it is to compel me to plant my feet. Inner strength seems to be dependent on how I feel and think about myself at any give time.

Inner strength is shifting sand. I can’t plant my feet in shifting sand.

Thankfully, my daughter already knows all this. We were both gracious, both engaged and fully listening to the well-meaning giver of unsolicited advice, but as the young woman spoke, I prayed. “Lord, should I tell her? Have you prepared her mind and heart to hear?” She paused, raising her eyebrows, looking for a response, seemingly expecting affirmation and agreement.

My daughter and I looked at each other. We both knew what could be shared in that moment.

I said, “As Christians, we believe there’s even more to it than that. The Bible tells us that because we have a relationship with Jesus, we have a helper, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so we are never alone. God is always with us. Everywhere we go.”

There was a brief pause. She hadn’t expected that response.

She broke the awkward silence by turning back to my daughter again. “That’s good…but sometimes, you’ll feel like God isn’t there…”

She continued a few more minutes, paused again, and looked at me. I had been praying about what to say, if anything.

I said, “It’s true, there are times when it doesn’t seem like God is there. It’s like when you learned to ride a bike. Whoever was teaching you was running behind the bike, holding the seat, and then he let go. You didn’t feel his hand on the bike anymore, but you knew he was still there. When you fell, he was there to pick you up and comfort you and encourage you to try again. He didn’t keep you from falling, but he never left.”

I could tell she had heard me. I didn’t push. I hadn’t stopped her as she explained to my daughter that she needed inner strength for those times when she didn’t “feel” God.

My daughter knows her faith isn’t grounded in her emotions. My daughter and I both know how to practice the presence of God and that sometimes, He is silent. We both understand that the source of our inner strength is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that whether we “feel” God or not, we can have confidence that He is with us. I knew I had planted a seed and that the young woman would think about the conversation later.

God would not be revealed to her as the ultimate source of inner strength through our effort or will. We just planted a seed. Now, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften her heart, open her mind and “draw her to Himself.” (John 6:44)

If you’ve entered into a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. When you lack confidence in yourself, I pray you are blessed with confidence in Christ. I pray you find your identity in Christ and understand your value through a deep understanding of His unconditional love for you. I pray that regardless of how you may feel on a given day, you will remember, “God is with you, wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

December 11, 2014 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, Christian, christian living, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Zechariah 4:6 ~ seek, listen, be a witness, plant seeds, pray, trust and wait.

#memoryverse
“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty”
Zechariah 4:6b

Have you ever been in a situation where the harder you try, the farther away from your goal you seem to get? No matter how focused and determined you are, no matter what you do or say, the distance between what you’re striving for and what’s actually happening just continues to grow.

Exponentially.

What begins as a desire to set things “right” can birth a desperation that leaves a knot in the pit of your stomach and a frantic anxiety that drives us to push and try to manipulate circumstances.

One of the most difficult lessons I’ve experienced in this area has been a situation where I was trying to explain something God was teaching and revealing to me and the more I talked (or wrote), the more people misunderstood and rejected what I was trying to say. The more angry they became, the more they dismissed me and distanced themselves and in many cases, the more people cut off our relationship completely, choosing instead to talk about me behind my back and on the internet.

You just want to fix that kind of thing, ya know?

But no matter how hard I tried to explain what I was discovering and feeling, the more I realized I was talking (and typing) to air. I knew I was supposed to share what God was teaching me and I did. Reluctantly and after months of arguing with God, with love and heartache for people I cared about, despite growing awareness of the bridges that were being burned.

But over the last two years, I’ve come to realize that my obedience in sharing my lesson wasn’t to change hearts or minds or even just circumstances. It was to be a witness to Christ’s influence in my life. And it was to plant seeds. God would bring the rain for growth.

and the drought to create thirst.

and the fire to test.

The growing season has not been short or free from pain, for me or for others. But in hindsight, I can see how God has been moving. Slow and steady, softening hearts and opening minds. Teaching lessons that, while different from mine, have and continue to produce the best harvest – hearts drawn closer to Christ. And while it’s heartbreaking to see the pain that’s had to be borne through this season, The Holy Spirit has reminded me that when hearts are closer to Christ, it’s impossible that they remain unchanged. Through the change – the transformation – of the heart, other changes automatically come to fruition. Those circumstances that I desperately tried to change on my own, God has changed and continues to change.

My job was to seek and listen to the Voice of Truth. My job was to be a witness to what God was doing in my heart and mind. My job was to plant seeds, regardless of the consequences. My job was to pray, in faith, trusting that God would work all things for His greater, ultimate good, which is to draw people into intimate, living, dependent relationship with Him.

Not by my might.

Not by my power.

But by His Spirit.

So, whatever your impossible circumstances, pray. Persistently. and wait. His timing is perfect, even when He delays.

“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24
“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Corrie ten Boom

December 10, 2014 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, Christian, christian living, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Zechariah 4:6b: pushing a rock.

I’ve been posting memory verses on facebook for a few weeks now, a new verse starting every Sunday. Every day, I post an new image from pinterest and sometimes write a short commentary on the verse. We’ll find out how consistent I am, both on facebook and now here on my blog. Here’s the first post for this week:

Zechariah 4 6 Not by Might Not by Power Pushing a Rock Uphill“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” Zechariah 4:6b

I don’t know about you, but when there’s a problem, I want to fix it.

Right Now.

Whether the problem is mine or someone else’s, the most frustrating thing in the world is when I am powerless to change circumstances for the better. But what is better? Who am I to decide that? Who are you?

We can be so arrogant in our pain sometimes, thinking a loving God wouldn’t – couldn’t possibly – want or use this circumstance to accomplish His omniscient understanding of “better.”

The first image for this week’s #memoryverse reminds me of a story. I’ll paraphrase, so if you’ve heard it before, bear with me. A young man asks God what He wants him to do with his life. God tells him that every day, he is to go and push a giant rock at the bottom of a valley nearby. For twenty years, the man pushes the rock. All. day. long. After twenty years (I would have lasted a day), the man finally cries out in frustration “God, I’ve done EXACTLY what You’ve told me to do for TWENTY years and that rock hasn’t even moved a fraction of an inch!” God looks at the man with compassion and replies, “I didn’t ask you to MOVE the rock. I only asked you to push it. Look at your arms. Your legs. Look at your body. Look at how strong you’ve become.”

oh. I didn’t consider that.

The promise of Isaiah 66:9 tells us “‘In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,’ says the Lord.”

Are you suffering and all your efforts feel as futile as pushing against a giant rock all day long? The rock may not be moving, but REMEMBER.

God is.

It’s possible, that in His sovereign will, God may have placed that rock in your life. He may have just allowed Satan to throw a rock at you. Regardless of the source of the rock, there is peace that comes from the confidence that God is redeeming every pain for ULTIMATE “better.”

Sometimes, He uses rocks to make us stronger.

While I don’t claim to know what God’s “better” is with regard to the circumstances of your life, I can say with confidence that, above everything else that’s going on in your life, His “better” is that you will be drawn closer to Him and that through an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Jesus, you will be transformed. I pray this confidence and peace for you today.

“Courage, dear heart.” Aslan

December 8, 2014 Posted by | #memoryverse, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion, suffering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

where philanthropy falls short.

I was recently part of a discussion about a church supported service project. A number of different ideas were on the table, none of them mine. The project itself wasn’t my priority. They were all good ideas. All needed. All would “do good.”

My concern, what I had been thinking and praying about for over a week prior to this meeting was that whatever service project we decided upon, it would track back to Jesus Christ.

Over the years, I’ve observed and/or been a part of a number of church supported service projects, at a number of churches – very, very few of which led to an open door to share the gospel.

All were good. All were needed. All did “good things.”

But serving those in need without tracking back to Christ is just philanthropy, not Christian mission.

I feel a metaphor coming on.

Click Here to Read the Full Post >>>

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Christ-Centered Church, christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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