Meanderings of a Minister


What English Bible Should I Read?
February 20, 2017, 12:16 pm
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bible

I have a friend that pastors a church in Nebraska.  The other day, a man called his church and asked which version of the Bible my friend preaches from.  He informed the caller that he preached from the English Standard Version.  The caller asked why my friend had adulterated the Bible and why he would give up on God’s word.  When my friend attempted to explain to the man that God inspired the original writers of the Bible and that translations translate those original writings and that no translation is perfect, the man hung up on him.

So, how did we get the Bible in English?  While it is beyond the scope of this article to delve into the translation of the original autographs into the various languages until we get to English, know there is much more to the story.

The first full English version of the Bible was translated and copied by John Wycliffe in 1382.  He became concerned about the corruption that had entered the church and saw that the average Englishman had no access to the Bible from which to judge these corruptions and took it upon himself to study the original Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin manuscripts to produce an English version of the Bible.  His original version was published in 1380 and was a word for word translation of the Latin Vulgate produced by Jerome for the Roman Catholic Church.  Anyone caught reading Wycliffe’s bible was to forfeit their cattle, land, life, and goods.  Wycliffe, himself, was killed for the work.

The next English version of the Bible came on the scene in 1534.  The New Testament had been released in 1526 and the Bible was completed and published in 1534.  Its translator was William Tyndale.  He was born in Gloucesterhire and went to Cambridge.  He was convinced that the clergy and the laity alike knew little of scripture because the Wycliffe version was hard to read and many of the day had little education.  Again, Tyndale was found guilty of heresy and condemned to death for his translation work.  His last words before dying by burning at the stake were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

Next in the line of translators was Miles Coverdale, and Augustinian friar, but was influenced so strongly by the Reformation that he left the order and worked on an English translation of the Bible.  He used Tyndale’s English Translation, Luther’s German Translation, the Zurich Swiss Translation of Ulrich Zwingli, the Latin Vulgate or Jerome, and Pagnini’s Latin Version to produce the Coverdale Bible in English.  Threatened by Henry VIII, who was still sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church and opposed to an English version of the Bible, Coverdale ran away to other parts of Europe to produce his new Bible.

The next years saw an explosion of English versions, some better, some not so much.  In 1537 John Rogers produced the Matthew Bible.  This time, Archbishop Cranmer of the Church of England, appealed to Thomas Cromwell to embrace the English version and he did so.  This began a desire for many to own an English bible for there was no persecution for doing so.

In 1539, Miles Coverdale, encouraged by the reception of the Matthew Bible, produced the Great Bible.  This time, Coverdale was not run away, but was embraced by the king and engaged for the work of an English Bible.  Originally printed in Paris, the Bible took some time to get into the hands of the people due to the tensions between France and England in that day.

The Geneva Bible was next in 1560.  A complete revision of the Great Bible, this was the first translation of the Bible into English that involved a committee of translators.  It was also the first English bible to include chapter and verse designations.  Using the original languages, the translators used the Great Bible as a starting point and amended it where needed to produce the new version.  With Queen Elizabeth sympathetic to the Protestant Reformation, the work proceeded uninterrupted and the results were widely embraced.

The Bishops’ Bible was produced in 1568.  Matthew Parker, the archbishop of the Church of England, was tasked with another English translation.  He made the translation with a conscious attempt to produce a version that would be safe for public reading and was written to support the power and position of the bishops within the Church of England.  Queen Elizabeth I and her chief minister, Sir William Cecil, approved the version and made it the only authorized version of the English Bible to be used in churches in chapels throughout the land.

The Roman Catholic Church responded with their own English version of the Bible in the Douay-Rheims Bible.  The New Testament was produced in 1582 and the completed Bible was produced in 1610.  This version was a direct translation of the Latin Vulgate version produced by Jerome many years earlier.  This version included the Apocryphal books which were considered scripture by the Roman Catholic Church, but not recognized by the Protestant churches.  The Apocryphal books were interspersed with the other Biblical books to reinforce that they were considered scripture.

After all of this, came the King James Version of 1611.  Also called the Authorized Version,  King James I came to power and was no friend of the Puritans of his day because they had constantly refuted his claims within the Anglican Church of his day.  Dr. John Rainolds made a motion at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 that a new English version of the Bible be produced.  Richard Bancroft, future Archbishop of Canterbury opposed the translation of the Bible saying, “if every man humour were followed…there would be no end of translation work…”  The work was overwhelmingly recommended by the Court and authorized by King James with the following requirements:  (1) the Bishops’ Bible would be used as the basis for revision, but that the Hebrew and Greek of the original would be consulted.  (2) A variety of English words would be used for the same Greek and Hebrew so that the Bible did not appear too stilted.  (3) Words necessary in English, but not present in the original languages would be in italics.  (4) Name of biblical characters were to be those in common use.  (5) Old ecclesiastical words were to be retained.  (6) No marginal notes were to be used.  (7) Chapter and verse division were to be retained and headings added for pericopes or sections.

The King James Version of the Bible was produced in 1611.  Almost immediately, revisions were made, but were not given new names or designations.  A major revision was released in 1638.  Another revision came in 1729 as was the Greek New Testament.  Another revision would come in 1762 the Cambridge Bible of the Authorized Version was released by Dr. Thomas Paris with over 360 changes.  In 1768, John Wesley released The New Testament with Notes, for Plain Unlettered Men who know only their Mother Tongue.  This included thousands more changes.  1769 saw another revision by Dr. Benjamin Blayney with over 75000 changes.  The changes would continue, but it was in 1881 that the translations began to move away from the Authorized Version and would get new names for each Bible produced.

If you are still reading this article, you might wonder what all of this means or why I would bring it up.  This brief history shows that the Bible has been translated over and over, even prior to the English King James Version of the Bible.  So, what is the best translation?  Rick Warren is quoted as saying the best translation of the Bible is when we translate it into action in our hearts, lives, and relationships.

If you cannot study Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the best thing to do is to use the version of the Bible your church uses.  To study it personally and corporately and pray for God to turn it into action.  But that’s just my opinion.



A Simple Way to Study Your Bible

foundations

How to Study Your Bible

Robby Gallaty, in his book, Foundations, has provided a very simple framework for teaching people how to study their Bibles devotionally.  If you have ever attempted to study your Bible daily, you probably ran into one obstacle or another.  Either you could not find the right devotion book that had stories and commentary that was to your liking, or you just did not know how to start out on your own.  I have found the following method to be helpful.  It is called the HEAR method of Bible Study.

“H” stands for highlight.  After reading a passage of scripture, hopefully a few paragraphs, find a verse that stands out to you either based upon the scene in which the verse is found, a situation you are going through in life, or some other way that God seems to be speaking at the moment.  For instance, I recently read the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew.  (Genesis 25) At the end of this story, Esau tells Jacob, “I am about to die, of what use is a birthright to me?”  This verse stood out to me as it illustrated Esau’s thought process.

“E” stands for explain.  Using as much information as you have and as much understanding of the passage as you possess, explain what you think the verse means in its context.  For instance, this verse, in context, is Esau’s expression that shows he is taking something of great value (his birthright) and exchanging it for something that seemed urgent, but was of little value (stew).  I might also list that the birthright is the double portion of the inheritance that is normally given to the older brother.  Additionally, God had already told Jacob that he was to receive the blessing, but Esau acts rashly to bring about God’s ultimate plan.  Esau, for his part, allowed his passions and desires to crowd out the truly valuable from his life.

“A” stands for apply.  This is where you take the concept you outlined in the explanation and apply it to your life.  For instance, my application was that in 2016, I set a goal of purchasing no new, unnecessary books until I have read all of the books on my shelves.  This was so that the money that would be spent on those books could go to paying off debt for my family.  As the year wore on, I became enamored with this new book or that new fad and by the end of the year, I had purchased a dozen new books.  I allowed the desire to have (not to read, but to have) the newest books override my desire for my family to get out of debt so we can give more to the Lord’s work.  There are many other applications I could have mentioned, like how watching TV can sometimes crowd out my quiet time.  Or how eating out can crowd out my desire for weight loss.  The list is endless.

“R” stands for respond.  This is where you write out a prayer that communicates with God based upon your understanding of the scripture you have read and the application that came to mind and was written above.  Here is my prayer: “Lord, I need Your courage, focus, vision, resolve, strength, and perseverance to even get something as simple as finances right for my family.  I don’t want this distraction of debt to take my eyes off of You.  How do I grow in contentment?  How do I shut off the urges and passions that work against me?  I can’t.  You can.  HELP!

Using this devotional study method, all you need to read your Bible and actually get something out of it to apply to your life right now is your Bible and a journal or piece of paper and a pen.  There is no need to purchase a devotion book or other study aid unless you want to study deeper for understanding.  I have used this method for all of 2016 and am using it again for 2017.  I have been amazed at how much more I have gotten from my devotional Bible reading.  Perhaps it could help you as well.



The Body of Christ
January 23, 2017, 3:37 pm
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body-of-christ

In Ephesians 4, God compares the Church to the Body of Christ.  Here is what he had to say:

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:7–16, NASB95)

Did you catch some of what Paul had to say?  First, he said that every single believer in Christ has been given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  To some, He gave the privilege of being an Apostle.  This meant that they were actually present with Jesus and were personally commissioned by Him.  Paul had such a commissioning on the road to Damascus with the risen Lord.  The position of Apostle was a gift given to the Apostles and then they were a gift to the Church as they provided leadership and some of them helped to write the Bible we use today.

He goes on from there to talk about prophets.  These are those whose job it is to forthtell the people of God how to live for God.  Each of us should have someone with the gift of prophecy in our church.  This is someone who helps us to understand the word of God in proclamation.  Sometimes, they can seem graceless, but they are called to help us by heralding God’s Word.  They are a gift to the Church.

Evangelists are those called to a special emphasis on evangelism and they are a gift to the Church through their inspiration of others to share the gospel as well as those who God reaches through their ministry.

Pastors and teachers are those who teach us the Word of God and then help us to live it out.  Unlike the prophet, the pastor represents the comfort and guidance that comes from gently leading sheep to eat and drink.  Pastors and teachers are a gift to the Church.

But what is their function overall?  All of these, and many others in the church are there for leadership for the people to equip them to do the work of ministry.  In North America, we want to the pastor or leadership to do all of the ministry while we sit back and pay them.  This is not what Paul had in mind.  He had in mind that the leadership would lead people to live for God and do the work God has called us all to do in preaching the gospel to the whole world and teaching them to obey all things whatsoever Christ commanded us.

And what happens when all the parts of the body are performing their functions as God intended?  The Body works properly and is healthy.  I personally know what happens when the pastor or leadership tries to take the ministry away from the people.  I also know what happens when one part, or many parts of the body refuse to serve and function.  Neither of these situations is what God intended for the body to work properly.

So, are you a follower of Jesus?  Are you a part of the Church?  How are you currently serving with the gifts and talents God has given you?  Are you helping to make the body healthy or are you making it sick or disabled?  Maybe it’s time to talk with God about what to do differently if the answers leave you unsettled.



Christmas Is So Weird!
December 9, 2016, 3:49 pm
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Confused

Yes, you read the title correctly.  Christmas is strange.  Now, you might be saying or thinking that a good Christian should never say things like that, but it is true.  Christmas is strange.  How?  You ask.

First, think about it.  At Christmas, we celebrate that God became a man.  Actually, more accurately, the infinite God Who is bigger and beyond our universe became a fertilized egg, went through cell division and gestation, and went through the birth process to join our world as a helpless infant.  How weird is that?  We would not have planned it that way.  We would have had Him ride in on a magnificent horse into a highly-decorated palace to sit upon a massive golden throne.  Christmas is weird.

Christmas is also weird because a virgin girl, probably an early teen, was chosen to have this baby while being engaged to someone else.  In our day, this does not seem so strange because of all of the single parent families, broken homes, and children who don’t actually live with both parents, but in their day, this was weird.  The fact that the fiancé went ahead and married the girl after she gave birth, they had many other children, and then he faded from the scene makes this stranger yet.

Something else that makes Christmas weird is the setting.  In a shelter for animals?  Born with no fanfare?  Wrapped in cloths and laid in a what?  A manger?  A food trough?  Now, that is weird.  Then, who should come to visit?  Shepherds?  Really?  They come, bow down, and then go back to work?  Christmas is so weird.

And then there is the whole angel thing that sent the shepherds to Mary and the baby in the first place.  They show up, out of nowhere, they tell the story and then…they leave?  They show up, scare the shepherds nearly to death, and then just leave?  Where is the lined path, the party,
the …?  Christmas is so weird.

That was then, but Christmas has gotten even more strange in our day.  How?  Just think about a few things.  First, we celebrate His birth at a time when He most likely was not born.  While we cannot be dogmatic about a particular date, there are some potential reasons why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th.  This was information listed on whychristmas.com and I found it helpful, even though it is weird.

“No one knows the real birthday of Jesus! No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated! Also, the birth of Jesus probably didn’t happen in the year 1 but slightly earlier, somewhere between 2 BCE/BC and 7 BCE/BC (there isn’t a 0 – the years go from 1 BC/BCE to 1!).

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

There are many different traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. A very early Christian tradition said that the day when Mary was told that she would have a very special baby, Jesus (called the Annunciation) was on March 25th – and it’s still celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December! March 25th was also the day some early Christians thought the world had been made, and also the day that Jesus died on when he was an adult.”

Another way that Christmas is weird is that it is supposed to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, but yet, we give each other presents.  Come on!  None of us would put with that.  Can you imagine having a birthday party for your son or daughter and all of the guests came with presents for each other and then demanded that you meet their needs and help them with the credit card bills they generated buying those presents?  Christmas is so weird!

At Christmas, we celebrate something that should be celebrated every day.  The fact that we have a day to celebrate it is a blessing.  But maybe we should look at HOW we celebrate it.  We should give ourselves to Jesus as a present every day.  After all, He is Lord.  That would not be so weird.



Loving the Christ of Christmas
December 9, 2016, 3:47 pm
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i-love-jesus

During the Christmas season, I find it interesting that many people who never give much thought to Jesus or to why He came to live a perfect life and die a substitutionary death begin to look into these things.  It is almost like God knew this would happen.  (If you saw my face, you would see me smiling as I typed that.)  They don’t actually get a theology book and study them per se, but they begin to think about the truths of the Christmas carols.  They begin to hear snippets of scripture.  They begin to think about the things of God.  But is this enough?

In Ephesians 6:24, Paul ended his letter to the church at Ephesus by saying,

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” (Ephesians 6:24, NASB95)

What did Paul mean by this and what does that have to do with Christmas?  Thanks for asking!  First, people at Christmas want to talk about God’s grace as though it were something universal.  This is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the proclamation of the angels to the shepherds.  Here is what they actually said,

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”” (Luke 2:10–14, NASB95)

Our Christmas carols, and our universalistic tendencies to not want to offend anyone, have taken these verses and changed them a bit.  They have changed them to “Glory to God in the highest and peace, goodwill to men.”  This makes it sound as though Jesus coming meant everyone goes to heaven, but this is not the case because the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  (Romans 6:23) But in order for a gift to do you any good, you have to accept it.  In order to accept the gift of eternal life, one must turn from their sin and place their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Many simply will not do this.  Many who live right next to us in a free land where they could believe with little opposition simply will not do this.  Many who sit in our churches every Sunday simply will not do that.

Back to Paul.  He was asking God for His grace to be with a certain subset of people.  Who were those people?  Those who love Jesus Christ?  Yes and no.  What do I mean?  First, to love God means to obey God.  (1 John 5:3) To love Jesus is to obey Him.  (John 14:15) So, to love Jesus is to obey Him, but Paul had more in mind than begrudging obedience.  He went further to describe that love as incorruptible.

In the Greek language in which Paul wrote and communicated, the word that we translate as incorruptible actually meant to spoil, to ruin, or even to kill.  What is a love for Jesus that would be incorruptible?  It would be a love that cannot be spoiled, ruined or killed.  It is a love that says, “No matter what you ask of me, it cannot be compared to the Cross on which you died for me, so I will obey because I love you.”  It is a love that would say, “I work for You.  You don’t work for me.  Let’s do what You want today and every day.”  It is a love that would say, when the world asks why we don’t give up on the “Jesus thing”, “Where would we go for He alone has the words of Life!”  It is a love that is not just in word or deed, but from a changed, redeemed, grateful, and amazed heart.  And that drives the words and deeds.

Do you love like that?  Do I?  Do we love the Christ of Christmas?



Why Is the Baby in the Manger Such a Gift?
December 2, 2016, 11:30 am
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away_in_a_manger

As we quickly approach this Christmas season (that’s right!  CHRISTMAS!  Not Happy Holidays.  Not winter break.  Not anything other than CHRISTMAS!), it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season that we can actually go through the entire Christmas season without thinking about the One Whom the season is designed to celebrate.  Of course, we don’t think of it this way.  We think that we have been to all of the special church services, cantatas, children’s programs, dinners, socials, Sunday school parties, etc., but have we actually stopped to unwrap and think about the greatest gift we have ever received.

In Romans 5, we are given a list of what makes this gift so special.  As we think about the Baby in the manger, we can’t help but to think of the cross since this is the purpose for which the Baby in the manger came.  While we may not typically think this way, we need to stop and think about just how awesome it is that God Himself gave us this gift.

For those that have surrendered their lives to Christ, Romans 5 lists the following benefits we receive with this gift of eternal life:

First, we receive peace with God (verses 1, 10a, 11).  This is the peace that means a settling.  It is not primarily the peace that comes because of the absence of conflict or any opposition, but means the peace that comes when that struggle is seen in its proper perspective.  In other words, “We in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him Who loved us.”  (Romans 8:37)

Second, we receive an “Introduction into the grace in which we stand” (verses 2a, 15b, 17b, 20b).  Through the Baby in the manger, we have been introduced to grace.  What does that mean?  It means that it is through that appearance of God the Son that the covenant that would be sealed in His blood was begun and we were given the first glance.  This is even seen in Simeon’s comments later to the young mother, Mary, when he told her “a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many hearts will be revealed.”  (Luke 2:35)

What is that grace in which we stand?  It is none other than that, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)  It is that grace whereby we as sinners have the opportunity to have our sins forgiven (Isaiah 1:18).  It is that grace whereby we as unrighteous have the righteousness of Christ thrust upon us (Psalm 24:5).  It is that grace that we have received as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-10).  It is that grace in which we stand.  It is not a grace that we approach, open, throw on a shelf, carry the membership card in our wallet and never think of it again.  It must be what directs and drives our lives.

Lastly for this week, we also receive the hope of the glory of God in which we exult (verse 2b).  This takes some explanation because most of us do not speak in these terms in everyday conversation, at least, not like they mean in scripture.  What is hope?  It is not the positive thinking that tomorrow might be better and we are really look forward to the possibility and would like for it to be that.  The hope of the Bible is a confidence that something will be exactly as expected and more.  There is no doubt.  There is no chance.  It is a future fact seen as a present confidence.  When the Baby came in the manger, He showed us that God had come to earth in the form of a Baby and as a Servant (Philippians 2).  He showed us that there is both somewhere to come from and somewhere to go.

He also showed us our purpose.  It is to glorify God.  All of creation is to bring glory to God.  When we fell in the Garden of Eden, it was a fall from that glory to glorifying ourselves.  We have suffered since and needed to be reminded of the heaviness, reputation, and awesomeness of God (Glory).  Because the Baby came in the manger, we who know Christ should now be constantly jumping up and running to bring Him glory (exulting).

Next week, we will continue this look at the gift of the Baby in the Manger, but even with this little bit of Romans 5, we can see just how awesome this gift truly is.  Have you accepted God’s gift?  If not, contact me.  If you have, take some time this weekend (away from church) to think on what a blessed gift you have received and thank God for Jesus.



Standing on the Foundation
December 1, 2016, 4:33 pm
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NDP

I guess I must be beginning to show my age because some things are beginning to bug me more than they used to.  I can’t stand when parents curse their children in the grocery store, when rap artists rap about killing people, stealing, and degrading women through exploitative sex and then turn around and thank Jesus at an awards show.  It bugs me when people say they can’t cuss because the preacher is there and that they need to clean up their act because they are walking into the church building.  I guess I am just getting older.

Probably the biggest thing bugging me at the moment is the way we seem to be turning our back on the God that established our nation.  It reminds me of a story.  Remember Balaam?  Okay, do you remember the talking donkey?  Let me help.

The Israelites were leaving Egypt and walking to Canaan.  Along the way, they were to pass through the kingdom of a king named Balak.  He did not want the Israelites to come through his land because he was afraid of them and thought that they would eat them out of house and home.  He came up with a great idea.  He would hire a prophet to curse the interlopers and then their fortunes would turn bad and they would not be able to make it through his territory.  He probably even saw this as a public service because all the “-ites” in Canaan could keep their homes.

You know the story.  Balaam says he can’t come a few times and then God finally lets him go to Balak with the caveat that he only could say what God told him to say.  He goes and blesses the Israelites instead of cursing them and Balak gets furious.  They tried a few more times with the same result.  You can read the rest of the story in Numbers 22-24.

In the book of Numbers 25, we find that the people of Israel began to sin with the women of Balak and the surrounding area.  Jude tells us that the reason they fell into this sin was that Balaam told Balak this would be the way to make them sin and then God would curse them as a judgment (Jude 11 refers).  The bottom line was, if they obeyed God, they would be blessed and provided for, but if they turned their back on Him, they would be cursed and would lose their blessings and standing with Him.

This is the same situation in America.  We were founded as a Christian Nation.  To deny this is to go back and extricate all references from the Mayflower Compact, the Revolutionary Congress, the founding fathers, and to do violence to most of our historic landmarks.  We founded our nation on the gospel of Christ and it has been that foundation on which we have stood.  For decades, we have been attempting to pull that foundation out from under the nation.  In essence, we are, like the Israelites, sinning and counting on God not to notice.

This bugs me because it does not have to be.  It bugs me because it is not wise.  It bugs me because it ignores history.  It bothers me because it ignores the future.  It bugs me because it is exchanging the glory of God for a lie (Romans 1:18-23).  It bugs me, but maybe I am just getting older.