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FRANKL AND THE MEANING OF LIFE
When Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II and put in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp, he was stripped of everything: property, family, possessions, and a manuscript he had spent years researching and writing on finding meaning in life. The manuscript had been sewn into the lining of his coat.
"Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a spiritual child of my own," Frankl wrote. "I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning."
A few days later, the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up what little clothing they still wore. "I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber," said Frankl. "Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the Jewish prayer 'Shema Yisrael' (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)
"How should I have interpreted such a 'coincidence' other than as a challenge to 'live' my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper?"
Frankl later reflected on his ordeal in Man's Search for Meaning, saying, "There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is meaning in one's life.... He who has a 'why' to live for can bear almost any 'how.' "
[Based on Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (Pocket, 1997). Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (241). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]
I have obtained a copy of a recently discovered document from the 1st century. It’s from the first publisher of the Bible – this was before there was Zondervan and Tyndale and all those publishers. It’s a letter from them to the Bible’s original author…
While we appreciate that the writing of Your manuscript has involved the work of some 40 authors and taken over 1500 years to complete, as with all writers, we feel it is important to present to You some editorial suggestions for the sake of Your book’s marketability. Please understand that these are presented with Your interests in mind, as well as the necessity of this book paying for itself as we fulfill our contract with You.
At first, our review board thought it would be best to leave out some of the less-believable material – talking donkeys, floating ax heads, parting of the sea, bread from heaven, and things like that. However we are willing to leave those in. We’re just concerned that You not undermine Your work’s credibility.
However, there are still some certain elements that we deem best left out, even though they are factual. Clearly You haven’t included every thing that ever happened, so why not omit a few features that might otherwise harm Your book’s sales? – for instance, the inclusion in Joshua of the story of a prostitute named Rahab. It seems the account of the spies in her home is just as easily left out without altering the story of the conquest of Jericho. Why make such a character a key figure in your main story line? To bring her name up again in the New Testament as an illustration of good living seems to be using poor judgment too. (If you look in Hebrews 11:31, she’s one of only 2 women mentioned there – people who had faith – along with Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and others. Then James mentions her in 2:25 as a person who was “considered righteous” for what she did.)
Worst of all is her name appearing in the genealogy of Jesus along with 2 other women of questionable background. (Sure enough, right there in Matthew 1:5 is Rahab – she married a guy named Salmon and had a son named Boaz. Boaz became the father of Obed, and Obed the father of Jesse, the father of David – and Jesus descended from that earthly line.) As Your publisher, we should point out that it isn’t even considered customary to include the names of women in such lists. Our suggestion is that they simply be omitted, as in most genealogies.
If we have somehow failed to catch the spirit of Your work, our apologies. We are, of course, simply interested in Your work being polished in a way that it will be most widely read and accepted. Thank You for working with us to make Your book the best we can make it.
GENERATIONS AND THE BIBLE
A new research report from the Barna Group examines recent nationwide studies on how different generations of American adults view and use the Bible. For the purposes of this research, the Mosaic generation refers to adults who are currently ages 18 to 25; Busters are those ages 26 to 44; Boomers are 45 to 63; and Elders are 64-plus.
There is often more that unites the various generations than divides them. The Barna research regarding the Bible confirms the central role this revered text has for most Americans. A majority of each of the four generations believes that the Bible is a sacred or holy book. Another commonality is that millions within each of the generations report reading the pages of Scripture in the last week.
There is also significant generational overlap regarding people’s views on the nature of the Bible. Similar proportions of the generations embrace the most conservative and most liberal views. For instance, the highest view of the Bible is that it is the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word, is embraced by one-quarter of Mosaics (27%), Busters (27%), and Boomers (23%), and one-third of Elders (34%). The extreme view on the other end is that the Bible is not inspired by God is embraced by proportions that are also statistically close to one another, including Mosaics (25%), Busters (19%), Boomers (22%), and Elders (22%).
However, despite these similarities, the Barna studies show that the youngest generations are charting a new, unique course related to the Bible. Here are the types of changes being forged by young adults:
Less Sacred: While most Americans of all ages identify the Bible as sacred, the drop-off among the youngest adults is striking: 9 out of 10 Boomers and Elders described the Bible as sacred, which compares to 8 out of 10 Busters (81%) and just 2 out of 3 Mosaics (67%).
¡öLess Accurate ¨C Young adults are significantly less likely than older adults to strongly agree that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. Just 30% of Mosaics and 39% of Busters firmly embraced this view, compared with 46% of Boomers and 58% of Elders.
More Universalism: Among Mosaics, a majority (56%) believes the Bible teaches the same spiritual truths as other sacred texts, which compares with 4 out of 10 Busters and Boomers, and one-third of Elders.
Skepticism of Origins: Another generational difference is that young adults are more likely to express skepticism about the original manuscripts of the Bible than is true of older adults.
Less Engagement: While many young adults are active users of the Bible, the pattern shows a clear generational drop-off, the younger the person, the less likely then are to read the Bible. In particular, Busters and Mosaics are less likely than average to have spent time alone in the last week praying and reading the Bible for at least 15 minutes. Interestingly, none of the four generations were particularly likely to say they aspired to read the Bible more as a means of improving their spiritual lives.
Bible Appetite: Despite the generational decline in many Bible metrics, one departure from the typical pattern is the fact that younger adults, especially Mosaics (19%), express a slightly above-average interest in gaining additional Bible knowledge. This compares with 12% of Boomers and 9% of Elders.
David Kinnaman, who directed the analysis of the research, explained that the central theme of young people’s approach to the Bible is skepticism. They question the Bible’s history as well as its relevance to their lives, leading many young people to reject the Bible as containing everything one needs to live a meaningful life. This mindset certainly has its challenges but it also raises the possibility of using their skepticism as an entry point to teaching and exploring the content of the Bible in new ways.
The president of the Barna Group pointed out that since many young people want to learn about the Bible it should be an opportunity for Christian leaders.Perhaps young people want to participate more in the process of learning, not simply attend Bible lectures or be trained in classrooms. Mosaics and Busters have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive, that allow them to be open and honest with their questions, that are technologically stimulating, that are done alongside peers and within trusted relationships, and that give them the chance to be creative and visual. Their expectations may or may not be entirely healthy, but without considering these issues, the Bible will continue to lose hold on the next generation.
A new young monk arrives at the Monastery. He is assigned to help the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand. He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not the original manuscripts. So, the new monk goes to the head Abbot to ask him about this, pointing out that if there was an error in the first copy from the original, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.
The head monk says, "We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son". So, he goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscript is held in locked a vault that hasn’t been opened for centuries.
Hours go by and nobody sees the old Abbot. So, the young monk gets worried and goes downsta...
“August 22, 1741, was a sweltering day in the city of London. An elderly stooped-shouldered man wandered through the streets. His nightly aimless wandering through the streets of the city had become a familiar ritual. His angry mind raced back to the memories of great adulation and then looked at a future of seemingly hopeless despair. For forty years the bachelor had written operatic music which was the rave of royalty in both England and the entire continent. Honors had fallen at his feet. He was in demand everywhere. Then things changed quickly and drastically. Fellow musicians became jealous and bitter. Members of the royal court reacted strongly to his abrasive manner. A rival gained great success, and envy began to grow. As though that were not enough, a cerebral hemorrhage paralyzed his right side. He could no longer write. Doctors gave little hope for recovery.
The old composer traveled to France and began to soak in baths rumored to have miraculous powers. Doctors warned him about staying in the scalding water for such long periods of time but he ignored their advice. At one point, he stayed in for nine hours at a time. Gradually his weakened muscles began to receive new life. As his health improved, he once again began to write. Soon, to his amazement, his works were being received with rapturous applause. Honors again began to flow. Life seemed to be heading for the stars. But then he found himself in the pits once more.
Queen Caroline, who had been his staunch supporter, died. England found itself on hard economic times. Wasting heat to warm a theater was viewed as ridiculous. His shows were canceled. And now he found himself wandering aimlessly through the streets once again.
Having wondered where in the world God was, he wandered back home. Opening his door, he found a wealthy gentleman waiting in his living room. The man was Charles Gibbon, who had startled England by rewriting Shakespeare.
Gibbon explained that he had just finished writing a text for a musical that covered the entire Old and New Testament. He believed that the gifted musician was the man to set it to music. He gave the manuscript to the composer and challenged him to write. As he walked out the door, Gibbon turned long enough to say, ‘The Lord gave me those words.’
The great maestro scoffed at the audacity of the young man. No one had ever challenged George Frederick Handel to write something he had not thought of first. Handel’s temper was violent and he was a dominating presence among his enemies. Why had Gibbon not brought an opera that was more the composer’s cup of tea.
Indifferently he began to read. Suddenly portions of the passage leaped from the page. His eyes fell on such words as ‘He was despised, rejected of men…he looked for someone to have pity on him, but there was no man; neither found he any to comfort him.’ His eyes raced ahead to ‘He trusted in God…God did not leave his soul in hell…He will give you rest.’ And finally the words stopped at ‘O know that my redeemer liveth…rejoice…hallelujah.’
He picked up his pen and began to write. Music seemed to flow through his mind s though it had been penned up for years. Putting music to the script, he finished the first part in seven days. The second section was completed in six days and two days were given to fine-tuning the instrumentation. Thus, at the age of fifty seven, Handel completed the Messiah in a mere twenty-four days.
Many know that when the classical work was first performed in London, and the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ was reached, King George II stood because he was so moved. To this day people still rise to their feet as a sign of worship of God and admiration of this great work of art.
Handel, like Joseph, had to deal with the pits of life. But the strength to do so came from knowing the One who can overcome all of the pits. How about you? Do you know the God who is able to rescue you from the cisterns of life? Do you see His hand even in the pit in which you may find yourself? Perhaps the pit is merely a brief stopping place on the road to greatness.”
[As quoted in Robert E. Reccord. When Life is the Pits.(Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1987.) pp.44-46]
Sermon Central Staff
CAREY: GOD'S SOVEREIGN WILL
William Carey, who is called the father of modern missions, began his missionary career to India in 1793. He served the Lord in that country for 40 years, never once returning to his home in England. And throughout those years he translated portions of the Bible into over a dozen Indian languages.
But one afternoon, after 20 years of hard labor, a fire raged throughout his printing plant and warehouse. All of his printing equipment was destroyed and most of his precious manuscripts. Obviously, in that day there were no computer back-up copies or even photocopies kept somewhere else. Tragically, 20 years of non-stop labor was gone within a few hours.
Many people would have been devastated over the loss, but not William Carey. This is what he wrote to his pastor friend, Andrew Murray, in England:
"The ground must be labored over again, but we are not discouraged. We have all been supported under the affliction, and preserved from discouragement. To me the consideration of the divine sovereignty and wisdom has been very supporting." Then he quoted from Psalm 46:10, where the Lord Himself says, "Be still and know that I am God." (Bill Mills and Craig Parro, Finishing Well in Life and Ministry, Leadership Resources International, pp. 101-102)
Carey found peace and strength in God’s sovereign plan for his own life, even if it included times of devastating loss. & We can find the same thing if we return to the Lord. We don’t find exemption from sorrow, just supernatural strength to face it with hope and joy.
(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Back to Bethel, 4/13/2011)
British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein was once visited in his studio by the eminent author and fellow Briton, George Bernard Shaw. Noticing a huge block of stone standing in one corner Shaw asked what it was for. “I don’t know yet. I’m still making plans,” replied Epstein. Shaw was astounded. “You mean you plan your work. Why, I change my mind several times a day!” “That’s all very well with a four-ounce manuscript,” replied the sculptor, “but not with a four-ton block of stone.”
Jerome was a Church Father who translated the Greek manuscripts into Latin and put the Bible in the language of the people. He purposefully lived in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. One night while living in Bethlehem, Jerome had a dream that Jesus visited him. The dream was so real to him that he collected all his money and offered it to Jesus as a gift. The Lord said, "I don’t want your money." So Jerome rounded up all of his possessions and tried to give them to Jesus. Again the Lord said, "I don’t want your possessions. Jerome then recalled the moment in his dream...
Thomas Carlyle, the noted historian, had just spent two years writing a book on the French Revolution. On the day he finished his manuscript he gave his only copy to a colleague, John Stuart Mill, to read and critique.
But, then the unthinkable occurred. Mill’s servant used Carlyle’s manuscript as kindling to start a fire.
As Mill reported the devastating news, Carlyle’s face paled. Two years of his life were lost. Thousands of long, lonely hours spent writing had been wasted. He could not imagine writing the book again. He lapsed into a deep depression.
Then one day while walking the city streets, Carlyle noticed a stone wall under construction. He was transfixed. That tall sweeping wall was being raised one brick at a time. It was a moment of inspiration for him. If he wrote one page at a time, one day at a time, he could write the book again. And that is exactly what he did.
"Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with out standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling."
- Gleason Archer
Dan Story, Defend Your Faith: How to Answer Tough Questions, 35.