Monthly Archives: March 2017

It’s Kinda’ Weird

It’s kinda’ weird watching your son get married.  A flood of emotions bash into your brain as you see time marching along.  It’s exciting, fun, and a bit sad.

Exciting because your son is happy and found a woman he cherishes and will make him a better man.  He’s grown up and you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  Fun because the whole day is a celebration of their love and a visual of God’s marriage proposal to us through the cross.

IMG_3699Jeremy and Kailee Hopersberger (with cutie friends of the bride stealing the show)

When we got married in 1988,  I wrote up this blurb about God’s proposal story for the back of our wedding bulletin (so folks could read about what was about to take place before the service began).  It’s our take on what marriage represents, the spiritual dynamic of what our event represented.  Our son chose to use it in his wedding last November too.

Here it is, His proposal to you.

IMG_3689.JPGThe 2016 version of our 1988 story

It’s kinda’ weird on the sad factor because not everyone can make it to the wedding, like my my mom and dad who have “fallen asleep,” as Paul describes a Christian death.  The fun part is that they are still very much alive as both of them became Christians before their death.  We will all see them again at THE wedding with Jesus!

IMG_3823.JPGDancing with my mom at our wedding

It’s also kinda weird to think some of you reading this will reject Jesus’ proposal and not only miss out on an abundant life now, but in eternity.  Being religious, whatever your Christian denomination, is the most dangerous because you may think you’re good enough to attend His wedding He cites in Matthew 22.

You are not.  It is an invitation based on His terms (the wedding garment he supplies has nothing to do with your “righteousness” for your religious rituals).

Uncle Charlie & Aunt Theo's WeddingMy dad (far right) at his brother’s wedding with “proper” wedding attire

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may  be compared to a  king who gave  a wedding feast for his son.  “And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.  

“Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are allbutchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”‘  “But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm  , another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.  “But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.  

“Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’  “Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner  guests. “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said  to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless.  “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 

“For many are called , but few are chosen.

And so, you are also called, but you must choose to accept His proposal…on His terms.  It’s not on what you think you should wear to get into His wedding.  It’s what He decides, even if you think it’s kinda’ weird (that his forgiveness is free of anything you do).

As Paul says in Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that  not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

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Traditions

Merry Christmas!.jpg The Hopersberger clan a few Christmases ago

As a family we’ve always tried to make Christmas a special time for our kids with lots of good Christmas memories, and one of our favorites was done on the night of Christmas Eve. After church we all watch A Christmas Carol (our chosen version is the one with George C. Scott, but Patrick Stewart’s is a good second choice). “It is a ponderous chain!”

We bake lots and lots of Christmas cookies and get all sorts of tasty snacks like sharp cheeses, pumpkin rolls with cream cheese, and summer sausages, washed down with special bubbly non-alcoholic wine drinks…then off to bed while we stack the presents around the tree. “A triumph, my dear! A triumph!”

IMGP5763.JPGRaw sugar cookies (before the bake) 

I guess it’s a good tradition because now that the kids are almost out of college, we still do it! I’d like to think it’s because we’re such great parents, but truthfully it’s the story of Scrooge and his reclamation. And according to Charles Dickens’ tale, that’s what Christmas is all about…a changed heart. “I will honor Christmas in my heart and will try to keep it all the year.”

If you’re fed up with all the commercialism and just don’t really have the Christmas spirit this year, or maybe never do and wonder what the big deal is, then grab a copy of George’s version and watch it this Christmas Eve. “A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December.”

IMG_4801.JPGBetter looking every Christmas!

And if you truly are a Scrooge, then here’s my Christmas gift to you. You can watch one of our favorite scenes from Scott’s 1984 version here:

And as Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, everyone!”

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A Fly-fisherman’s Lesson

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My son learning to nymph in northern Michigan’s Manistee River

“For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,” declares the Lord, “that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise, and for glory; but they did not listen (Jeremiah 13:11).”

When we lived in Pennsylvania I took advantage of some of the blue ribbon trout streams and took up fly-fishing. It was a great way to relax.

In the process, I learned that one of the trout’s primary food sources is the mayfly insect, especially when it is in the stage of life called the nymph. The mayfly nymph lives underwater clinging to rocks for up to a year, before hatching into the next stage, wriggling to the surface, and flying away to mate and lay her eggs to start the whole process over again.

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Spin casting for trout on a secret stream closer to home

In observing these aquatic insects, God showed me a truth that I wanted to pass along. I was catching the nymphs one day by quickly picking up rocks in a stream, and flushing the nymphs off of the rock with a cup of water into a bucket (that I then dumped into the stream in our backyard to revive the stream for my trout).

Their only defense was to cling to the rock with their tiny claws. It was only when they chose to abandon the rock that they were vulnerable and I could capture them.

In the same way, the Devil tries to get us to let go of our rock, Jesus. We’re tricked into thinking that escape is better than the rock and “let go.” The truth is that clinging tighter than ever is our only salvation. Clinging to Him in daily prayer, time in the Bible, and meditating on God’s Word through the day, is our best defense against Satan’s tricks.

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Does it get any better than this on Memorial Day?

So as you find yourself under a flush of spiritual attacks, don’t attempt to escape in your own strength. Yield to the Spirit, get in the Word, and hang on with all you’ve got!

 

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Ticked Off In Carolina

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The Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem…the remnant of the Second Temple

“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1).”

After attending a Pastor’s Conference in 1993, my two pastor buddies and I decided to have dinner together the night before we left Ashville, North Carolina to head home to our respective churches.

We took a shortcut to the restaurant and walked through a field next to our hotel. Once inside the restaurant, I noticed a tick embedded in my leg! I had never had a tick on me before, but quickly discovered that once they are attached they “do not lose heart” easily.

My two friends also found visitors on their bodies as well. Needless to say we were pretty disgusted with the little bloodsuckers, but we couldn’t help notice their persistence in not letting go (we even borrowed a cigarette from the cook and went outside to burn the little brutes out of their position–sort of humorous to see three pastors in back of a restaurant puffing on a cigarette…and then poking it into their legs!).

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A Jewish man in prayer at the Tomb of King David

But the parallel was clear to us. Like the widow who bothered the unrighteous judge to the point where he relented and granted her request, the Lord wants us to pester Him just like a Carolina tick. Are you tenacious in your wrestling with God about what you want Him to do? Or do you back out easily?

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Am Orthodox Jewish man praying at Masada

Jesus told us to be a pest about prayer, especially when our judge is a righteous judge and wants to help us. Be a prayer tick. Show God you are as serious about your desires as He is about granting them.

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Why the Bible Doesn’t Suck – Part Two

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The Qumran Caves

Last time we discussed the credibility of the New Testament. Now we’ll consider the Old Testament’s viability as God’s primary communication to us.

In 1947, a Bedouin teenager crawled into a cave in Qumran, Israel and found some clay jars that he hoped were filled with treasure. What he found was just some old scrolls, but they turned out to be more valuable than treasure and launched an 11-year search that produced almost 900 manuscripts.

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Near Qumran, on top of Masada, looking at the Dead Sea

It was the largest biblical manuscript discovery of all time! They ranged from full scrolls (almost 28 feet long) to fragments written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic on papyrus, parchment, and bronze. Every one of the 66 Old Testament books was represented, except the Book of Esther.

The scrolls were also the oldest manuscripts ever found! Before this find, the oldest was dated to 1008 A.D. The oldest Qumran scroll is from about 250 B.C. and the latest to 68 A.D., which is exciting because the closer to the time of the manuscript’s origins and the actual event recorded, the more reliable the text (a huge corroborating factor in ancient textual criticism). This was more than a 1,000-year leap!

Together, as the largest and oldest find, these scrolls were pure archaeological gold because when compared with current manuscripts, they confirmed the reliability of the Old Testament in dramatic similarity. To fully appreciate this find, and its precision in content, we need to understand the two primary questions for linguistic scholars:

  • How many copies are there to examine and compare?
  • How close in time are the oldest copies to the originals?

So the more copies that exist and the closer in time they are to the original, the more accurate the results. Consider these famously accepted and reliable ancient works:

Josephus has nine copies (400 years later) and Thucydides has eight copies (1,300 years later). Plato (7), Caesar (10), Pliny (7), Euripides (9), Tacitus (20), and Herodotus (8) are 20 copies or less. Only Homer’s Iliad (643), Sophocles (193), and Aristotle (49) have more than 20 copies.

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The cable car to Herod’s Palace at Masada (1300 feet)

The Old Testament has over 10,000 copies and the Qumran scrolls now move the date to only 150 years after the event–Malachi in 400 B.C. In literary circles, this is not only unheard of, but pure gold for reliability! Unbelievably, there’s even more supernatural evidence in the content of these 10,000 copies.

When comparing the Dead Sea Scrolls and the oldest previous texts from 1008 A.D., it is basically a perfect match! This incredible detail over centuries proves that the copying methods used by the scribes were very sophisticated and successful. They had numerical systems to ensure each page was exact. They counted the number of lines, letters, and words per page of the new copy and then checked them with the original. If they didn’t match perfectly, they destroyed the copy.

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A Mikveh bath used by the Essenes at Qumran

So why did God supernaturally author and protect the Bible? Perhaps He has something important to say to you…personally. Maybe cracking open a Bible and reading some of it, say the Gospel of John or Luke, is a good idea. I’ll wager you’ll find more than Bedouin treasure.

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Why the Bible Doesn’t Suck

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My mom always told me to read the Bible. It had great stuff in it she promised…wars, sex, murder, giants, miracles, angels, and demons.

But is it reliable as God’s Word to speak to us today?

Let’s look at just the New Testament, and the two primary questions that guide linguistic scholar’s textual criticisms:

  • How many copies are there to examine and compare?
  • How close in time are the oldest copies to the originals?

The more copies that exist, and the closer in time the copies are to the original, the more accurate the results. Ancient works like Josephus or Thucydides are rarely questioned as being authentic in authorship or content, but Josephus has only nine copies and Thucydides has just eight copies.

All the other major works of note from ancient history such as Plato (7), Caesar (10), Pliny (7), Euripides (9), Tacitus (20), and Herodotus (8) are 20 copies or less, and usually much less! Only Sophocles (193) and Aristotle (49) have more than 20.

The New Testament has almost 25,000 copies!

The next closest document would be Homer’s Iliad with 643 copies with a 500-year gap. Ironically, none of these other manuscripts are contested, despite an 800-2,000 year gap from originals to copies.

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Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered 70 years ago.

Conversely, one piece of John’s gospel is dated to within 25 years after the original was written!

Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director of the British Museum, said, “In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament. The last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.”

More importantly, these New Testament copies have a 99.5% accuracy rate!

New Testament specialist Daniel Wallace says there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, but that this number is very misleading. Most of the differences are inconsequential–spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like. A side-by-side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the Modern Critical Text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.

Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism. This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine!

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Essenes excavations at Qumran with the caves in the background.

Greek scholar D.A. Carson sums it up this way: “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”

So if God authored the Bible, and He meant it to be His primary communication device to us, do you think He would, as the all-powerful Creator of life, supernaturally protect its contents…to communicate a message with you?

 

 

 

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“Drop Dead!”

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At the tomb in Jerusalem in 2016. 

 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

That’s my Easter message to you. I mean we’re all going to do that some day, so why not use it as a greeting this Easter? Walk into church on Sunday and with a big smile, let’em have it with gusto:

“Drop dead!”

Let me explain. This verse in the Book of Hebrews makes it crystal clear that there is no reincarnation, no purgatory, and no other escape from His righteous judgment.

We will all die, and then a righteous and unerring Judge will judge all of us. Simple theology. His criteria? He Himself is the standard (Matthew 5:48). Absolute perfection. Holiness.

Utter and glaring bright righteousness where not one sin, mistake, or error will be squinted at. Anything less than absolute perfect morality will be judged wanting. Think about it. If God let us sinners into His Heaven it’d be the same mess we have now on earth, right? Can’t have sin in Heaven. Sin has to be eliminated to have holiness.

But on the other hand, nobody’s perfect, right? We’ve all broken a commandment or two. Everyone has stolen something or lied or dishonored parents. So how is this fair if we all fall short of His perfect standard? Seems rigged. Shouldn’t He weigh our good deeds against our bad deeds? Nope. That’s not perfect and absolute 100 % holiness.

As James said, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2:10).

That’s the bad news. According to James, we are all guilty of breaking all the commandments because just one sin kills perfection. Now here’s the good news that makes Easter the greatest holiday of all time…we don’t have to stay dead as Jesus proved when He left His grave EMPTY!

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“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

That’s our guarantee that death and punishment can be taken care of, a substitute takes all of our righteous judgment for sin for us, as Peter said,

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18).”

 The only catch is in Mark 1:14-15, “repent and believe.” Repent is a fancy word for changing your mind. Instead of going left, you go right. Instead of ham, you chose liver for Easter dinner. Also known as surrendering, admitting you’re defeated and lost. Instead of doing what you want, you surrender to what He wants…all of it.

And believing isn’t in your head. It’s in your heart. It means action. You do it because you believe it. You take a stand, like getting baptized; something He wants and your first proof of believing (Matthew 29:18-20). Symbolically you “drop dead” into the water, and come up out of “death” like Jesus Christ…a new and forgiven person by faith in His death and resurrection…with your own empty grave in the water.

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“Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

So have a Happy Easter, have some liver for dinner, and drop dead…please!

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