SHEPHERDS' CONFERENCE TEAM REPORT 2019

As I write it is a rare opportunity to be listening in person, to John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and others here at the Shepherds’ Conference in LA. They are doing a Q & A which is very interesting. All of these men are known here and around he world.  What a privilege for Graham, Chris, Caleb, Vladimir, and myself to be here with many others we know too. Nancy is being grandma with the grandkids at our son Ezra’s home. Thanks for praying for us. Her neck pain is much better.

Me with my son Caleb and his father-in-law, our mission associate Vladimir.

Me with my son Caleb and his father-in-law, our mission associate Vladimir.

My friend Vitaliy Shipuk surprised us. I knew him as a child in Odessa and in Makarovo. He is now a second year student at the Masters’ Seminary with plans to become a pastor in a Slavic church. What a blessing.

My friend Vitaliy Shipuk surprised us. I knew him as a child in Odessa and in Makarovo. He is now a second year student at the Masters’ Seminary with plans to become a pastor in a Slavic church. What a blessing.

The conference theme is Faithfulness. Isaiah 26:4 “Trust in the LORD forever, For in God the LORD, we have a everlasting Rock,” It is also MacArthur’s 50th year here so he gave the first message about God’s grace  working through him. He discussed the sin of pride which we all struggle with and emphasized the work was God’s work and not John’s. It was a challenge to all of us. Most of the conference main sessions you can watch live or watch later at www.shepherdsconference.org when they are posted after the week is over.

There are about 4,000 Christian pastors/leaders here. About 1,000 volunteers from the church serve us making us feel welcome. They serve the breakfast, coffee, lunch, and many snacks all day long. I’ve been coming since the early 90’s. This conference has been a great help and encouragement for me.

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Singing in the main auditorium…when it is our turn. :-) 

We also worship in song. This week Irish Christian music writers and musicians Keith and Kristyn Getty are leading in some of the music. It is amazing to praise God with thousands of others in the auditorium.

Our team gathering at our son Ezra’s house for pizza after the last service of the evening.

Our team gathering at our son Ezra’s house for pizza after the last service of the evening.

After the conference is over on Friday some of our team will go home.   Nancy, Caleb and I will visit friends, and go to a local church with our son Ezra’s family. Later we will go to Chile to see our granddaughter Naomi and family and our first great-granddaughter. We’ll send pics. Caleb, Nancy and I will be doing some ministry in the churches there also for the next few weeks. Pray that we might be helpful to the people during that time.

-Pastor Mark along with our Team.


BIBLE: HOW MANY MANUSCRIPTS REMAIN?

How did the Bible come to us? Some believe it came by people writing down their personal or fanciful ideas and somehow these writings were put in book form. Many believe it is not inspired by God, so they dismiss it as myth multiplied. If that were the case, you would expect the book to eventually fade from history and be forgotten. However, it remains the most popular book in history and a constant best seller. One estimate said 100 million are sold annually. The Lord of the Rings was the next best seller but it took 55 years for it to sell 150 million copies. Clearly the Bible stands alone and unique among books.

This is amazing since it was written over a period of 1600 years by forty authors from different walks of life from fishermen to kings. It was originally written in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) over three continents yet it has a unifying theme that points in one direction toward Christ and God’s glory.

But do we have the original manuscripts? The answer is “no.” You got it. We have many ancient copies of the Bible, but we don’t have the originals. Why? Because ancient scribes copied them so they could be spread abroad. Before originals became too worn to read they were either hidden in sacred places or simply burned to prevent anyone from making incorrect copies because they were hard to read.

How do we know our bibles are accurate? This is where Lower Criticism comes in. It is a study in which scholars look “low” or down close at the manuscript words to detect when and how they were written etc. This is a fascinating study to look at and much too deep to address here.

Check out my blog last week for the impact of the 1948 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and how it verified the accuracy of the Old Testament we have in our Bibles today.

Regarding the New Testament, it came along only 1900 years ago but we don’t have originals of that either. Yet we know it is accurate because of the massive number of copies or fragments that have been found. More are being found all along. For example, copies of well-known books written by Caesar, Plato, Thucydides etc. in the first 400 years after Christ have an average of about a dozen copies each. No one disputes them. But the New Testament now has about 24,000 manuscripts or fragments from the same period of time.  Amazing!  

We had the privilege of seeing the amazing codex,  The Book of Kells , while in Ireland a some years ago. This complete Latin copy of the Bible with elaborate script and ornamentation was produced about 800 AD and eventually lost for centuries until found more recently. We were able to also see the oldest fragment, (P52), of the New Testament. It is from the book of John and dates to about 125 AD and may be a first generation copy of the original.

We had the privilege of seeing the amazing codex, The Book of Kells, while in Ireland a some years ago. This complete Latin copy of the Bible with elaborate script and ornamentation was produced about 800 AD and eventually lost for centuries until found more recently. We were able to also see the oldest fragment, (P52), of the New Testament. It is from the book of John and dates to about 125 AD and may be a first generation copy of the original.

The more copies the merrier because it allows scholars to compare and verify accuracy. There are fragments of all NT books but there are also recent finds of old copies of the entire NT bound into book form (a Codex). Look up Codex Sinaiticus for some fascinating reading of how this was discovered near Mt. Sinai.

Learn more Sundays at 9:15 as we continue the powerful new The God Who Speaks DVD Sunday School series on the subject. We’ll also hear missionary friend Dan Kain during that hour as he tells us of the ministry he now has in Russia. Don’t miss it.

Scripture is His Word to us to live by, find forgiveness, direction and purpose for our lives. Read it and heed it!

Want to learn still more. Listen to Dr. Al Mohler’s interview of an author of a new book on 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible. It is a helpful interview as the author discusses it with Al.

-Pastor Mark

BIBLE: CORRUPTED BY CENTURIES OF COPYING?

“It’s hard to know what the original scriptures said having been copied many times over the ages. Besides, every generation probably made their own changes to their liking.” That’s a common idea some have of how the Bible came to us. The result is the dismissal of the Bible as God’s Word because it’s likely corrupted. Sometimes examples also are given of supposed problems that are at times referred to in Bible publishers’ notes.  

The subject of textual transmission is somewhat complex. But it is not beyond us to grasp and be able to see the Bible is reliable today.

When I first went to Israel, our guide took us to where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. The Qumran community lived among the cliffs on the NW side of the Dead Sea. Here 40,000 fragments of documents, commentaries and Old Testament (OT) books were found in sealed clay jars and preserved for 1,900 years. This discovery helped dispel the myth of scribal corruption because the OT fragments found were nearly a thousand years older than the ones we had at the time, but, there was little difference.

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Why the texts of Scripture remained largely unchanged is because of the intense care of scribes who hand copied the sacred documents. Here are some of the common rules scribes have observed.

1.     They worked in a scriptorium like pictured here at Qumran. This special room for that purpose was clean, vented and with a window and desk positioned for just the right light at certain times of the day.

2.     The scribe also had to be rested, ceremonially clean, and washed before working.

3.     A special black ink was mixed and used. It was not until modern times that tests revealed the lasting and durable nature of this ink that probably the ancients didn’t realize themselves.

4.     As he copied, he verbalized each word and a second scribe watched over his shoulder to check.

5.     The letters, words, and paragraphs were counted, and no two letters could touch. If they did the document was destroyed. The middle paragraph, word and letter had to match the original document.

6.     Every time he wrote the word “Jehovah” he had to wipe the pen clean and wash his entire body.

7.     Each scribe only worked for a limited time so as not to become too tired.

8.     Originals were stored in sacred places or if too badly worn or stained they were burned so as not to corrupt other copies.

As time has gone on we have actually found additional ancient documents older and closer to the original than ever before. For example, the manuscripts used to translate the 1611 King James Bible were from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries while more modern translations are based on Greek manuscripts from the third and fourth centuries and some Hebrew texts from the time of Christ. I have had the privilege of actually seeing one of those fragments from John’s Gospel that is believed were from the first century. I have also seen portions of the famous Isaiah Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls; it is clear and very easy to read even though nearly two millennia old.

It is interesting to note that no key doctrine of Scripture has been invalidated by any textual uncertainty or variant. In other words you can trust your Bible. So, read it and heed it. It is God’s Word.

Having said this be sure to be in the new 9:15 video Sunday School series on the subject entitled The God Who Speaks. This is just out and answers tons more questions on the subject above.

-Pastor Mark