Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bible Secrets Revealed

Today I thought I'd write about how God speaks to those who seek him in the crossroads of life. How this relates to the History Channel's new series, "Bible Secrets Revealed", I hope you'll read on to find out.

My life has been one of dichotomies, interesting opposites at pivotal points in my life. When I was in my late twenties and trying to choose the direction for my life--I had a good job, car, pets, newly built house, and was looking at marriage--I realized in no easy fashion that my best, the best I could come up with and achieve on my own, was not so great. Was this all there was?

At the time, my house was in an interesting place. To the right of me, was the backyard of a pastor of a local church. I am a member there now, though I didn't really know the pastor back then. To the left of me was a man whom I would find out later had embezzled a large amount of money and would go to prison for it. I was there in the middle of good and evil, so to speak. In my crossroads of life, my choice was crucial. Would I go on pursuing the American dream on my own, or hand over the reins of my life to God and let him guide it all? In the end, I chose God and prayed, "Your will, not mine," and meant it for the first time. I was no longer afraid he'd send me to some far away place and whatever else I was afraid of anymore. I'd come to the end of myself. That decision was, by far, the second greatest one I've ever made in my lifetime.

My first greatest decision came in college a decade earlier. I did not grow up going to church like my friends did. I did not know the Bible stories. At all. I was given a Bible when I was 6 years old by my father and occasionally read all of the "red" words of Jesus. I slept with the Bible under my pillow when I was afraid. I believed in God, believed in His power, believed in Jesus, yet didn't know His powerful truth for ME, and my life. So when I went off to UNC Chapel Hill in the fall of 1990, I was eager to learn about the Bible. What better place could there be? There were CLASSES on religion, for goodness sake! I signed up for RELI 021 and took it my first semester. It was an Intro to the Old Testament course. Any time I'd spent at all in the Bible so far had been in the New Testament in the "red" words, remember? I was so excited that someone would actually teach me what I didn't know.

I will never forget the feeling I had in this huge auditorium classroom with a small man up front, the professor, putting up his large slides and teaching me about the Pentateuch and Moses. And then, little by little, he would point out every perceived historical "discrepancy" in the Bible. My emotions were mixed. I was confused. Instead of teaching me about this book and about God, my professor seemed to be pulling it apart at the seams, lifting up some hidden curtain like in Oz, trying to expose a wizard. What I thought I would learn--something to build up my faith in a God I wanted to know--was not at all what was taught. If anything, it seemed to be geared to tear down any faith that already existed.

But such is the power of God Almighty... the opposite happened.

At the same time I had the non-believing professor of religion, I also had a knock at my dorm room door from a woman from Campus Crusade for Christ. Again, this crossroads, this dichotomy at a pivotal point in my life. She began to teach me about the truth of God, about his love for me and about his plan for me. She taught me how everything in the Bible pointed to this risen Christ as my way to salvation. I accepted Christ as my Lord and savior in the Student Union at Chapel Hill. With the eyes of the Holy Spirit in me, I was no longer confused by what I was being taught by my religion professor. Instead, I saw his teachings with new eyes of discernment. It is these same eyes which see him today as a multi-published author and wildly popular scholar of the Bible.

I received a catalog in the mail recently for The Great Courses videos. I saw one on the Bible and was interested. I started reading and something sounded oh so familiar. Then I looked at the professor. In the pit of me, I knew it was him though it's been more than 20 years since I took his class. I looked him up, and sure enough, he taught at Chapel Hill. Then, last night, I saw him again. It is this reason that I feel the need to write about the power of God to come through even when men try to disprove His truths.

The History Channel has just begun a new series entitled "Bible Secrets Revealed." I don't know how I stumbled on it last night, but there it was. I began watching. The narrator said something to the effect that all of what we understand of the Bible may now be in question based on new historical evidence. I tuned in. Something was familiar. Some scholars were interviewed, and I wondered about their beliefs, and then my professor appeared. It all made sense now. He has made quite a living trying to dispel the truth of the Gospels. He has studied every nook and cranny, every crevice of the Bible, who wrote it, who didn't write it, who influenced it, what has been translated properly and improperly, and on and on. He is quite the scholar of the Bible. He knows much more than I do about its historical ins and outs and, I'm guessing, can quote much more of it than I can. After all, I only made a C+ in his class.

But I can tell there is something he has missed. While he was busy trying to find fault with the Bible, he seems to have missed God altogether. This living, breathing book, opens like a treasure box with secret passageways when the Holy Spirit opens them up. God is revealed in his majesty in what is written, and between the words. Letters shift, rearrange and speak to the heart with the sword of simplicity. It is an amazing book, one of mystery and sacred Truth that unlocks parts of the soul one never knew existed.

Bible Secrets Revealed indeed. Last night I was concerned. I thought, there are thousands of people seeking to know God more, people just like I was, who will turn on the History Channel and watch this program, only to have what little faith they had in God, Jesus, and the Bible chipped at as with a chisel. But then, I remembered. Despite my unbelieving Bible teacher, the Lord spoke His truth to me. What I needed most back then in college, even more than knowing the books of the Bible, was Love and Grace and Forgiveness and Hope, and a living God to walk with me and guide me. That's what I found. So I do not worry for the souls of those who watch the show and are truly seeking God. He will find them. They will find him. And people like my religion professor will continue to publish gobs of books that seem to enlighten seekers, only to lead them down a much different path than the one they thought they set out on.

But I have discovered the greatest teacher is Jesus himself:

"If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9
He promises believers the Holy Spirit:

"When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth." John 16:13

And without this Spirit of truth revealing the Bible, one might easily misunderstand it. Take a look at Matthew 13:

The Parable of the Sower

13 On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore.
Then He told them many things in parables, saying: “Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he was sowing, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop: some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown. Anyone who has ears[a] should listen!”

Why Jesus Used Parables

10 Then the disciples came up and asked Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered them, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. 12 For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. 14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You will listen and listen,
yet never understand;
and you will look and look,
yet never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown callous;
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn back—
and I would cure them.[b]
16 “But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! 17 For I assure you: Many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them.

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 “You, then, listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word[c] about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. 20 And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction[d] of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown.”

On the blog of my former Old Testament professor, he says he was once a Christian but no longer believes. He is an agnostic. He doesn't think that good will triumph over evil. He doesn't think that God will have the last word. He says that death is the end of the story.

It makes me wonder if we're reading the same book at all. I do hope he gets to the good part soon.

Postscript:  I realize my old professor is only teaching what he believes to be true and although I disagree, I do respect him for that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I just happened upon the show tonight and thought...hmmm this is not what I was looking was quite biased and seemed an effort to discredit the entire book....May God Bless You and your family!