That’s One Big Book!

Big Book 1  A manuscript that is essentially the founding document of Alcoholics Anonymous, which members of the recovery group call, ”The Big Book,” sold at auction recently for $2.4 million to Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team. It is the third time the 161-page typed document has been sold. It had previously sold in 2007 for $992,000 and for approximately $1.5 million in 2004. The manuscript includes notes and scribbles from one of AA’s founders, William Wilson, more commonly known as ”Bill W.” With more than 30 million copies sold, translations in 67 languages, and the world wide success of Alcoholics Anonymous, the “Big Book” is certainly a big deal!

There is little doubt that Alcoholics’ Anonymous has helped many people and it is pretty easy to see why the original manuscript of the Big Book would have such a high monetary value; but there is a book that has helped even more people, that has been translated into even more languages, and that is far more infamous. That, of course, is the Bible. It was hard to find exact numbers everyone agreed on, but as near as I can determine, as of 2017, the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament alone into 1,521 languages and smaller portions of Scripture into 1,121 other languages. And while the Big Book has sold approximately 30 million copies since it was first published, the Bible sells about 100 million copies per year.

AA’s Big Book was first published in 1939, nearly 80 years ago. To this date, as the original manuscript sells at auction, no one questions its authenticity. And why would they? Eighty years ago is what we would call “very recent history”. It is easy to compare the Big Book in circulation today with the original manuscript and conclude they are the same. With the Bible, we have approximately 5800 Greek manuscripts and about 24,000 complete or fragments of manuscripts in other languages such as Latin, Aramaic, Coptic, and so on. Some of these manuscripts date to within decades of the original writing. For example, the Gospel of John is believed to have been written between 70 AD and 90 AD. The earliest manuscript evidence is a portion of John’s Gospel known as Papyrus 52, which is dated to approximately 125 AD, or within about 50 years of the original. That’s less time than has elapsed since the original manuscript of the Big Book was written!

The amount of evidence supporting the authenticity of the Bible we read today is staggering. Consider this comparison: Homer’s Illiad is generally thought to have been written in approximately 750 BC. To date, 647 manuscripts of this book have been found. Only 190 contain a complete copy. The oldest manuscript is dated around 400 BC, or 350 years after the original was written. Despite this rather large time gap, no one questions the authenticity of the version of The Iliad we have today. Yet, as we mentioned, the Bible is supported by far more manuscript evidence dating far closer to the originals. And the documentation for the Bible doesn’t stop with the manuscript evidence; I do not have space here to go into all the details, but ancient, non-Christian sources also confirm many New Testament events as being historical. Some of these sources are: Flavius Josephus (A.D. 93), the Babylonian Talmud (A.D. 70-200), Pliny the Younger’s letter to the Emperor Trajan (A.D. 100), and the Annals of Tacitus (A.D. 115-117).

So when we read the Bible today, we can be confident we are reading an authentic document. Psalm 19 describes the Bible as perfect, trustworthy, sweeter the honey, and more desirable than pure gold. Psalm 119 declares that the way of purity is found “by obeying your Word” (Psalm 119:9). The writer of Hebrews teaches that “the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12) And the Apostle Paul tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16).

In today’s world, it seems western culture has moved towards individuality and decision making based on felt needs. Children and young adults are told to be aware of their feelings and that what is right for them may not be right for everyone. This is, of course, very bad thinking – though it is nothing new. We read in the book of Judges, more than once, the words: “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (see Judges 17:6 and 21:25) History throughout the ages has shown that this never turns out good. Never. People, and society, need a moral guide to be successful. Of course, God knew this and so He gave us the Bible. The Bible is absolutely reliable for teaching us everything for Godliness and living. It is our moral compass and owner’s manual for life. By studying the Bible, you will be prepared to interpret events in the daily news, understand the behavior of your children, correctly discern the social issues affecting our world, and more. It is absolutely rich with truth from our Creator God, who’s greatest desire is that we should live long and full lives.

And the Bible is also 100% reliable for bringing each of us to eternal life through the grace of Jesus Christ. In the words of AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, “no one is too discredited or has sunk too low to be welcomed cordially.” We all inherently know that we have made mistakes, that we have done things we regret. Not one of you reading this would dare claim to be perfect, nor would I. And the Bible agrees, saying: “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) The unfortunate reality is that those mistakes we’ve all made are called sin and sin separates us from God; but God made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts, we are assured that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21) And so we find “we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:11) Won’t you avail yourself of this grace today, if you haven’t already?

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10) And those are words you can count on, for we know the Bible is 100% reliable!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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Reviving The Soul

Reviving the Soul3   Those of you who have are regular readers of this blog probably already know that at one point in my life I had a bit of a problem with drugs and alcohol. For anyone new here, suffice it to say that when it came to following the rules, I didn’t. I won’t dig into the details on that, I’m sure most of you reading this have experienced your own rebellious streaks at one point or another. If I have learned anything, it’s that I’m not nearly as unique as I might have once thought myself.

This rebelliousness that most of us have gone through, or perhaps continue to struggle with, is nothing new. Give a thorough reading to the Old Testament and you’ll see example after example of individuals and groups who rebel against God. The words “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (ie: Judges 17:6) have regular occurrence. It seems by our very nature we are a pugnacious lot.

While there are all kinds of rules we are expected (and sometimes reluctant) to follow, such as income taxes, speed limits, and the like; let us be concerned with the laws that God has set before us. In the Bible, from beginning to end, we find God has lots of rules for us. I won’t take the time to dive into a detailed analysis of all God’s rules, for such an analysis is beyond the scope of this blog, so let’s just focus on a few examples, taken from the Ten Commandments.

“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) So let’s get honest with each other. Who has not stolen something at least once in their lives? Maybe it was just a little something, like a few office supplies from work. It didn’t have to be something big, it was still stealing if we appropriated for ourselves that which belonged to someone else. And someone who steals is called…a thief, right?

And then there’s the rule that, perhaps, I struggle with more than any other: “You must not covet your neighbor’s house…..or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17) I suspect I am not alone in my covetousness. For me, it’s usually gazing upon that beautiful new truck that my neighbor just bought, or some other shiny object in my neighbor’s garage for which I feel such avarice. Have you not found yourself desiring that which belongs to someone else? Go ahead and admit it!

We are always tempted to wonder why God has such rules for us. Perhaps the answer to that question actually lies, in part, within one of those rules. In Exodus 20:12 we find this truth: “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Ah, there we have something “then you will live a long, full life….” Yes! Our understanding of why God has rules for us is revealed in that statement.

Now, almost from the first moments of our lives we are already failing to honor our parents. “Be home before dark.” “Eat your vegetables.” “Do your homework.” “Don’t play in the street.” I think we all know why our parents had those rules in place for us. In all likelihood, we have (or had) similar rules for our own children. Because we love them dearly and we want them to survive in this world and to be all they can be. And now we see, in the fifth commandment, that God wants the same for us: to survive in this world and to be all we can be!

In today’s world, a lot of people think God’s rules are archaic and irrelevant; but many of us have the same rules for our children as our parents’ had for us because, as adults, we have come to realize those rules were sensible in every way. And so it is with God’s rules, they made sense then and they make sense now – for it is only when we follow God’s rules that we experience all that life has to offer. It is only when we follow God’s rules that reach our highest potential and experience true freedom. And it is when we disregard those rules that we experience the most pain.

The psalmist wrote: “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” (Psalm 19:7-8) So we see here that following God’s instructions will revive us, make us wise, bring joy to our hearts, and give us insight for living because God’s rules are perfect, trustworthy, right, and clear. And just as applicable for us today as our parents’ rules are for our own children or granchildren!

When I rebelled against my parents’ rules I was first and foremost rebelling against God and my life was a constant uphill struggle. Sure there were some happy times, but deep inside was constant unrest and deep dissatisfaction with life. But I have found the more I follow God’s instructions, like the psalmist says, the more peace and serenity I enjoy. I want you to know that peace and serenity, too, so I invite you to try life God’s way. What have you got to lose?

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

A Moment of Clarity

alcohol-428392_960_720 It was a Wednesday night and Joey normally worked third shift but one of his favorite bands was playing in town and he could go if he didn’t have to work, so he asked permission to come in late. Joey’s boss was all too happy to oblige him, so the arrangements were made. He still had to work, mind you, but he could go to the concert and show up late and all would be well. It was going to be a great night!

By this time in his life Joey’s persistent alcohol abuse had driven away most of his friends, so he really had no one to go with. No matter, he’d go alone and was bound to find someone there he could hang with. Music always has a way of bringing people together, even strangers, if only for the night. And Joey was adept at hanging in bars with live music, looking like he belonged. One might even say he had a sort of charisma in such environments. Conversing with strangers at music events had pretty much become his entire social life.

But Joey still had to show up for work afterward, so he really couldn’t drink, and that was a bit of a problem. With a modicum of genuine concern about his alcohol consumption, but mostly to save a failing relationship, he had first tried AA a year earlier, but he didn’t really think he had a problem so the attempt was short-lived. In recent months, Joey was perhaps more convinced he might have a problem, but tonight could be his chance to show that he could stay in control. However you sliced it, though, Joey’s predicament came down to the fact that a concert was hardly any fun without some kind of buzz on but he couldn’t very well show up to work drunk.

Now those of you who have had any kind of chemical dependency problem will immediately understand the plan Joey formed to deal with the dilemma he found himself in. To the rest of you, it may just seem ludicrous. To Joey, it was pure genius! If he acted fast enough, it couldn’t fail. So he proceeded to chug down four beers in rapid fashion and then drove rather quickly to his concert destination before the full force of those four beers could take effect. And just like that he had a buzz on, was at the concert venue without having received another DUI, and he was ready for the show. All he had to do was drink plain Coke the rest of the night and he’d be sober when he got to work. No problem!

Then, standing there waiting for the band to start, the thought occurred to Joey that just one more drink wouldn’t hurt. So he ordered one. And as he drank it he struck up a conversation with a couple he was standing near. With a certain, easy fluidity, Joey began to share his knowledge of the band, the familiar songs, the shared memories of concerts past. His new found friends were just as big of fans as Joey was. Some jokes were told; some laughs were had. Some weed was smoked. Wait….what? Joey hadn’t planned for that possibility. He had long ago given up the stuff, but for some reason when that joint was offered to him this night, he took it without thinking and enjoyed a long, satisfying toke. And then another.

And one more drink. And the band started, some high-fives were exchanged, and Joey bought a round for his new friends, and another joint came by, and another round of drinks.

Things got a little fuzzy from there; Joey was very drunk and slipping into a black out. One from which he would not emerge until sometime later, when he was exiting his car in the parking lot at work. What exactly happened during the time span from the band’s first encore to the very moment Joey was standing in the parking lot at work will forever remain a mystery; the byproduct of an indulgent night of heavy, mood-altering consumption. But right at that very instant, still in a drunken stupor, something happened. Joey had a thought, a premonition perhaps, or maybe a revelation. In AA they call it a moment of clarity. And Joey just had one.

He was at work, drunk. His boss was going to be angry. He really didn’t have any friends left. He hurt inside; loneliness and isolation had become the feelings that dominated his daily life. He couldn’t go on like this. There had to be something better. Something more. And at that juncture, Joey was suddenly sure life would get better if he stopped drinking. And he was all at once willing to go to any lengths to make that happen.

In the volume, Alcoholics Anonymous, we read the text, “We learned we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery.” And this is exactly what Joey realized. And what he did. The following day, after sleeping off his latest drunken debacle and resultant pathos, Joey attended an AA meeting. That was Friday, June 7, 1991. And, praise God, he hasn’t taken a drink since.

No addiction is too big for God to fix, and no person has sunk so low that God cannot save them. The authors of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote: “What seemed at first a flimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God.” Indeed, I am confident that you will find, like Joey did, if you seek God, that He is more than able to deliver you. But you are likely to also need the help of your fellow man. In most cities, there are recovery meetings available through your local church. So if you are in a church, check with them.

Other resources are also available. Here are links to some of them. I encourage you to take the bold step, like Joey did, of reaching out to one or more of these. I am confident you will find the help you need:

Alcoholics Anonymous

Celebrate Recovery

Adult & Teen Challenge

And for those who may love someone suffering from addiction: Al Anon is almost certainly available in your area.

May God bless you and keep you. As always, if we may be of further service, please do not hesitate to drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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