Friday, December 31, 2010

A study in progressive revelation

Throughout the Bible, God has been concerned that His people do not lack for the basic necessities of “food and covering” (I Tim 6:8). However, as we shall see, the means by which He provides for these necessities has changed. To begin with, when the manna fell in the wilderness, Moses told Israel:

...Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent. The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat...(Ex 16:16-18).

God miraculously provided daily bread for Israel during their wilderness journey, and they “have not lacked a thing” (Deut 2:7). He also supernaturally prevented their shoes and clothing from wearing out during those forty years (Deut 29:5).

The promised land itself was the means by which God continued to provide for Israel, as long as they looked to Him and did not follow after other gods.

Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Deut 6:10-12).

But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. "It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish (Deut 8:18-19).

'You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God. You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the LORD. If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land (Lev 26:1-5).

...But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up. 'I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you. 'If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. 'I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. Your strength will be spent uselessly, for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit. 'If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted. 'And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. 'I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands. When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied (Lev 26:14-26).

But as we turn to the New Testament, we find that the means by which God provided for the His people’s necessities of life has changed.  At Pentecost, we read,

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:37-47).

For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need (Acts 4:34-35).

Today the means by which He supplies our needs has changed yet again. The Apostle Paul tells us: make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need (I Thes 4:11-12).

Now a believer’s needs are met by God as he goes about “performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Eph 4:28), doing "good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal 6:10).

So we are reminded yet again that while God Himself never changes, the way in which He deals with men has changed progressively throughout the ages.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"The female factor"

For my husband, who always refers to this sort of thing as "the female factor" — that, when planning a trip, you must factor in 20 extra minutes per female.  And he should know, since he's lived in a houseful of females for years.  Not only has he had to factor in me, but also our two daughters.  In fact, even our dog and cat are females.  Ha!  Sorry, hon. :)  And Happy Anniversary!

Friday, December 24, 2010

What did Mary know?

A popular Christmas song asks that very question:

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your Baby Boy
Has come to make you new;
This Child that you delivered
Will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Will calm the storm with His hand?

Did you know that your Baby Boy
Has walked where Angels trod?
When you kiss your Little Baby,
You kiss the Face of God!

Oh, Mary, did you know?
Oh, Mary, did you know?

The blind will see, the deaf will hear,
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak
The praises of the lamb!

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your Baby Boy
Is Heaven's Perfect Lamb?
This sleeping Child you're holding
Is the Great I Am!

I love this song; it's both profound and beautiful.  Here's a very poignant rendition of it, if you care to watch and listen:

So what did Mary know?  In Luke 1:26-38 we read the account of what the angel Gabriel told Mary about her coming pregnancy:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God."And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. "For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

And then later in that same chapter in verses 46-55 we read Mary's prayer:
And Mary said:
"My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
"For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
"For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
"He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
"He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever."

So what did Mary understand about the One to Whom she would give birth?  Did she know He would die bearing the sins of the world?  Did she understand He would then rise again and that His resurrection would secure eternal life for all those who believe?  No, but she had faith in what God had revealed up to that point in history, including what He told her through Gabriel.  And it was because of her faith in what God had said that she had exclaimed  " spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior."

But now we know what Mary did not — that, because God loved this world so much, He gave His Son — the uniquely begotten (gk word for begotten is 'gennao' meaning 'born of man') One in order that everyone who places their trust in Him, may not perish (gk word for perish is 'apollumi' meaning 'to destroy utterly'- the idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being but of well-being) but instead may be having life in fellowship with God forever (Jn 3:16). 

Now that you know too, will you place your trust in Him?

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children (Gal 4:4-5).

 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.  So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins (Rom 8:3).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Should we remain immature, then?

You may wonder why I keep bringing up differences I see between what I hear and read and what I believe the Bible says.  Am I just being overly critical?  What does it matter anyway if some (many!) don't take into account the progression of Scripture?   

It matters for one very important reason:  If we don't remember that Scripture was given "order on order, line on line, little here, a little there" (Is 28), we will present to the world (to the saved and unsaved alike) a confused and inconsistent testimony. 

When we don't observe the distinctions between earlier and later revelation, we will inevitably come across seeming contradictions.  And when that happens, we will try to read back newer revelation into older revelation; or, we will teach one thing one week and the complete opposite the next, oftentimes never realizing we've done so; or, we will merely skim Scripture ("sticking to the basics" and not venturing into anything too deep) and thereby skip over the "contradictions" so as not to have to deal with them; all of which result in inconsistent and/or shallow sermons and believers who remain confused and immature.

Why don't we want to dig deeply?  To study?  To figure out how it all fits together?  Are we lazy?  Or are we just afraid to buck the majority or the latest trend?  I know it's hard; I fear that, too.  In fact, you know how Paul referred to himself as the chief sinner (I Tim 1:15 KJV)?  Well I'm quite sure I'm chief chicken, "cc" for short.:)  I've been battling fear my whole life.  But when it comes right down to it, what's more important, protecting ourselves by not making waves...or staying true to the Word of God?

May we all take 2 Tim 2:15 to heart:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Interesting tidbit - 6 (2 Timothy 4:17)

Q:  What do you think the lion refers to in 2 Timothy 4:17, the devil, the Roman government, or an actual lion?

At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion's mouth (2 Tim 4:16-17).

A:  While the Romans fed people to the lions, Paul's singular use of "lion" here seems to refer to Nero himself.

Lions are considered the king of the beasts, and in Scripture kings are associated with lions (Prov 20:2; 28:15; Ezek 32:2).  Judah was called "a lion's whelp" (Gen 49:9-10), and Israel's kings sprang from this tribe, including her King of kings, "the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5).

In addition, the Greek word for "defense" in 2 Tim 4:16 (apologia) is translated "defense" and "answer" when Paul was answering charges levied by rulers (Acts 22:1; 25:16).

And so in 2 Timothy 4, Paul is speaking of his "answer" (apologia) before the Roman ruler Nero, from whom the Lord delivered him, as he says, "that by me the proclamation might be fully accomplished."   Though Paul was about to "answer" again before Nero, with a very different outcome, God spared him at his first answer so that he could finish his course (2 Tim 4:7) and the epistles that fulfilled the Word of God (Col 1:25).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Faith is not a work

For those who worry that faith itself might be considered a work — it's not.

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness
(Rom 4:5).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Among life's precious jewels,
Genuine and rare,
The one that we call friendship
Has worth beyond compare.

- Author Unknown -

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Acts 2 Church today? The Message.

Is Peter's message of Acts 2 and 3 different than Paul's of Romans 3:21-28?

Let's start by setting the scene and looking at the bigger picture. We know the OT record shows that Israel was waiting for the Messiah to come and set up His Kingdom on earth (Jer 23:5-6), and that this Kingdom was proclaimed to be at hand during our Lord's earthly ministry (Matt 4:17, 23). We also know that at the time of the Messiah's arrival as a baby in Bethlehem, Israel was under the Law (Lk 2:22; Gal 4:4), and that Jesus Christ not only taught the Law but made it even more challenging — The Sermon on the Mount — with a view to establishing His Kingdom (Matt 5:18-20; 7:12; 8:4; 19:17; 23:2-3; Mk 1:44; Lk 5:14). But Israel repeatedly turned away from Jesus Christ in disbelief. Events continued to unfold and Christ was crucified, was buried, rose again, and ascended into heaven, telling His disciples He would send them a comforter. The day of Pentecost (a Jewish feast)* arrived, at which every male's attendance was required by law (Ex 23:14-17; Lev 23:16). It was at that time that the eleven elected a twelfth apostle to replace Judas (see Matt 19:28; Lk 22:28-30) and the Holy Spirit was given (Acts 2).

Now let's look at the second chapter of Acts, specifically verse 38. The Greek plainly says this: "And Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized each of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." It's interesting, and sad, that many preachers and teachers leave off the last part of this verse in their efforts to make it fit with Pauline theology. Here are but two examples:

"And if these considerations be not enough, is not Peter's message in Acts 2:38 imperative as to it? — 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you,' etc."

"Acts 2:38, 'Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized...'"

The first author substitutes an "etc." and the second, an ellipsis, for the last part of the verse.

But obviously, two conditions prior to the forgiveness of sins were necessary at that time — repentance and water baptism. If a professed believer refused either of these conditions, or both, he could not have claimed the promise of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins. This harmonizes perfectly with Mark 16:16 — "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved..." The requirements for salvation here are no different than those previously stated by John the Baptist because Mark 1:4 says that "John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." The only difference between Peter's proposition in Acts 2:38 and John's is one of historical development. The Holy Spirit had come so Peter could add: "and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." But there was no change in the meaning of the ordinance because at John's baptism too "they had confessed their sins" (Matt 3:6); both Peter and John were operating under the Law.

"Now wait just a minute," you may be thinking, "are you trying to tell me that Peter at Pentecost was not preaching 'the gospel of the grace of God?'" Well yes, I am. Let me be plain. What exactly is "the gospel of the grace of God?" It's simply that we are sinners, that Christ died for our sins and that whoever believes in His shed blood will be eternally saved, wholly by grace through faith, right? Can that be found anywhere in Peter's Pentecostal address? Some may point to 2:21, "'AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.'" But what did Peter tell them to do when they did call? He told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.

Moreover, how did Peter deal with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ? Did he proclaim it as good news? Did he say that "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace?" Did he offer his hearers salvation by faith in the blood of the One who had recently died on Calvary? Did he say anything about being reconciled to God by the cross, or about the cross having put away the enmity between God and man? In a word, was it Peter's purpose to offer salvation to his hearers through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ? No, nor did he make such an offer.

What Peter presents to his hearers is that the One whom they dared to crucify is the Messiah, and that their Victim is alive again. He presses home this truth through reason (Acts 2:24), Scripture (Ps 16 and 110), circumstances (Acts 2:33), and the testimony of the apostles (Acts 2:32). Peter strikes the final blow in verse 36, proclaiming:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified.

Clearly it was Peter's purpose to convict his hearers of their guilt and to bring them to repentance. And again, how did he answer their troubled question, "What shall we do?"

Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

What a vast difference between Peter at Pentecost, demanding repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, and Paul later proclaiming Christ's righteousness for the remission of sins (Rom 3:21-28).

It's important to remember that salvation has always been by grace through faith, but, up to this point in Scripture — Acts 2 — no new revelation had yet been given that salvation was to be by grace through faith alone.** In fact, we will not clearly see the "gospel of the grace of God" until Paul comes on the scene. The keys of the kingdom were committed to Peter; "the gospel of the grace of God" to Paul (Matt 16:19; Acts 20:24; Eph 3:1-3), and Peter learned of the gospel of God's grace and the delay in Christ's return only as he heard it later from Paul (Gal 2:2, 7, 9; 2 Pet 3:9, 15-16).

Peter didn’t offer his hearers (Israel) salvation through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, but he did present them with a different offer — the offer of the Messiah and His earthly Kingdom (Acts 3:13-21). This was, in fact, the main purpose and thrust of Peter's message.  And all the "wonders and signs" of the Kingdom, as predicted in the ancient prophets, and which had marked the offer of the Kingdom by the Messiah during the period of the Gospels, must have encouraged these Israelites. But first they had to "repent and return" in order to meet the spiritual and moral demands of this Kingdom, which in every age were attached to the enjoyment of the great social, economic, and political blessings of the Kingdom.

In fact, we are given a definition of this Kingdom, which is still to come (Rom 11), in Acts 3:19-21: It will bring “the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time”; it will come when God “send[s] Jesus, the Christ” back from His present session in “heaven”; and its coming is contingent upon the repentance and conversion of Israel.

*Pentecost was an integral part of the Law given by God at Sinai when the Theocratic Kingdom was established. According to Jewish tradition, it commemorated the very day when the Law was given and the Kingdom established, as recorded in Exodus 19.

**"Faith will most assuredly approach God in God’s way at any time, and to seek to gain acceptance with Him in any other way would, of course, be unbelief and self-will. Thus, while works never did or could save as such, they did once save as expressions of faith…..Does this mean that works will be efficacious in themselves? No! They will avail only as the expression and evidence of faith..."

(to be continued)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Morning Star Will Rise

Out in the darkness of the night,
Comes into view a distant light,
For the day is drawing near
When God's radiance will appear.

Ent'ring the world by humble birth,
Jesus, the Light of all the earth,
Is the Bright and Morning Star,
Spreading brilliance near and far.

My people, lift your eyes.
God's glory fills the skies.
Salvation is near.
The way is made clear,
For the Morning Star will rise.

Blessed Emmanuel, Who came
Into our world in God's own name,
Will reveal God's grand design
To deliver humankind.

My people, lift your eyes.
God's glory fills the skies.
The dawn is at hand
With God's redeeming plan,
When the Morning Star will rise.

by Lee and Susan Dengler

Monday, November 29, 2010

1 2 3 breathe

Our Christmas concerts are right around the corner and I'm currently in cram mode trying to memorize all the songs that need to be memorized by this Saturday.  I must be getting old, though, because memorizing seems to be getting more and more difficult with each passing year.  But I think I have most of the concert songs tucked away in my mind now, except, that is, the song I'm singing in a ladies' trio — O Holy Night

These small group pieces are a lot of fun to do, but challenging to do well.  The trick to singing in a trio (or duet or quartet) is to strive to blend perfectly and to stay together exactly throughout the entire piece.  So not only must the words of the song and your own particular part be memorized, but the timing, rests, and breath marks must be memorized and meticulously observed as well.  If any one of the three singers messes up — even a little — it will show! 

In many ways preparing for a solo is much easier, even though singing one terrifies me, because as a soloist you have much greater freedom regarding timing, breathing, and cut offs.  In fact, a soloist can often get away with even forgetting or messing up the words; I mean, who's going to notice anyway?

I'm not too terribly nervous about singing in this trio.  I may well mess up — I've certainly done so before — but I'll just go on.  My greatest fear is that I might come down with a cold between now and the final concert, because once one of those sets in, it usually hangs on for weeks.  So colds please stay away.  I'll be more than happy to deal with you over Christmas, but please not now!

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining ('ng' breathe);
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth (23223323423 'th' 23223). 
Long lay the world in sin and error pining ('ng' breathe) 
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth (23223323 'th' breathe). 
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices ('s' breathe),
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn (2322 'n' breathe);
Fall on your knees (23223323 's' breathe);
Oh, hear the angel voices (23223323 's' breathe)!
Oh night ('t' breathe) divine, O night (232233 't' breathe) when Christ was born (23223 'n' rest 3)!
O night (2322332 't' breathe),
O holy night (23 't' rest 3 breathe),
O night divine (23223323 'n' rest 3)!

There are more verses, but I think I'll quit and go and practice instead.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Interesting tidbit - 5 (1 Corinthians 7:14)

I keep coming across interesting questions and answers.  This particular question has two possible answers.  In light of the context, which one makes the most sense?  (Perhaps neither?) 

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy (1 Cor 7:14).

Question: "Sanctified means 'made holy,' 'set aside,' and 'saved,' right? So is 1 Corinthians 7:14 saying an unbeliever married to a believer is saved because they are 'one flesh' in God's eyes?"

First Answer:  "The word 'sanctified' often refers to salvation (Acts 20:32; 1 Cor 6:11), but sometimes it just means to be set apart to God (Ex 13:2; 19:14; 1 Sam 16:5; 2 Tim 2:21, etc.), and it has this meaning in 1 Cor 7:14 as well.  Paul is saying that an unbelieving spouse, and their children, are much more likely to come to Christ than those with less exposure to the gospel and a consistent Christian testimony. 

Most of the time when we quote Acts 16:31, we don't quote the end:

...Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.

This too sounds like salvation by proxy, but as we read on we see the Philippian jailer 'rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household' (Acts 16:34).  Here we see that the salvation of the man's family was predicated on them believing the gospel as well.  Paul was simply saying, 'Believe and be saved, and this goes for your household as well!'  As the Lord told Paul elsewhere, when it comes to salvation, only those 'who have been sanctified by faith in Me'...'may receive forgiveness of sins...' (Acts 26:18)."

Second Answer:  "Under the Law (Ezra 10:3) the heathen wife and her children were ceremonially 'unclean,' and, therefore, ejected from the earthly family of God.  But Paul is saying that under grace this is not so.  Had Israel's repentance permitted the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom on earth, the believing husband could have brought in his heathen wife and their children.  They would not have been treated as 'unclean.'"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkin Roll

My mom makes the most amazing pumpkin roll.  Because it's always so moist and tasty, everyone loves it.  Last week I finally decided to try my hand at making it and I think it turned out pretty well.  It wasn't quite as good as mom makes it, though; it was just a tad dry.  The directions call for baking it 13 to 15 minutes.  I took it out of the oven at 15 minutes.  Next time I think I'll take it out at 14.

3 large eggs
1 c sugar
2/3 c pumpkin
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 c unbleached white flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

Cake Filling:
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp butter, softened
1 c sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 15" x 10" jellyroll pan or cookie sheet; line with wax paper.  Grease and flour paper.  Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.  Combine flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a small bowl.  Beat eggs and sugar in a large mixer bowl until thick.  Beat in pumpkin and add lemon juice.  Stir in flour mixture.  Spread evenly into prepared pan.  Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched.  Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel.  Carefully peel off paper.  Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end.  Cool on wire rack.

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth.   Carefully unroll cake, remove towel.  Spread cream cheese mixture over cake.  Re-roll cake.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Acts 2 Church today? The Account.

Acts has so long been called the account of the "birth and growth of the Church" that the statement has come to be accepted almost without question.  Yet the Church, "which is His body", does not even appear in the first large portion of the book.  And even though it does occupy an important place in the latter part of the book, it isn't called by its distinctive name even there.  It's only in Paul's epistles that we learn that the Body had begun during the latter part of the Book of Acts.

Peter, who obviously dominates the scene in the first part of Acts, doesn't present Christianity at all, either in the popular or the Biblical sense of the word.  What he presents is Judaism.  The only difference between the apostles' position in the four Gospels and in early Acts was that which prophesied events had brought about.  In early Acts the resurrection of the crucified King had become the burden of their message and the Holy Spirit had come in power to confirm their testimony.  In fact, the kingdom which these apostles had proclaimed "at hand" during the Lord's earthly ministry, could now be offered (Acts 3:19-21).  But even in Paul's ministry in the latter part of Acts (which was mainly to the Gentiles), the apostle went consistently to "the Jew first," so that throughout the book Israel is being dealt with.

I think Sir Robert Anderson sums it up rather well in his book The Silence of God:

In a word, if 'To the Jew first' is characteristic of the Acts of the Apostles as a whole, "To the Jew only' is plainly stamped upon every part of these early chapters, described by theologians as the 'Hebraic section' of the book.  The fact is clear as light.  And if any are prepared to account for it by Jewish prejudice and ignorance, they may at once throw down this volume, for it is here assumed that the apostles of the Lord, speaking and acting in the memorable days of Pentecostal power, were Divinely guided in their work and testimony.

It seems clear to me that the Book of Acts, far from being "the story of early-day Christianity," is from beginning to end the account of the fall of Israel. It explains, step by step, the transition from the prophetic program, in which salvation was to go to the Gentiles through Israel, to the new program, under which salvation was to go to the Gentiles apart from them.

(to be continued)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interesting tidbit - 4

Here's another interesting question answered.

Q:  How could Jews and Gentiles have been reconciled at the cross if "their rejection is the reconciliation of the world" (Rom 11:15)?

A:  When, exactly, did Israel as a nation reject Jesus Christ, their Messiah?  Many think it was when they put Him to death on the cross.  Yes, that is true, but God gave them more chances after that to accept His Son, as seen in the Book of Acts.  So with that in mind, what is the answer to the question above?

The work of the cross is how Jews and Gentiles were reconciled to God, but the cross is not when they were reconciled.  This is similar to how the Law was abolished "by" the cross (Eph 2:15-16) but not at the Cross.  The cross-work of Christ made it possible for God to later reveal that the Law had been "abolished," but the Law remained in effect after the cross until it was revealed through Paul that God "has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col 2:14).

It might help to compare how even as individuals we were "reconciled [you] in His fleshly body through death" (Col 1:21-22), even though historically at the cross, we had not yet been born and so were not yet alienated from God.  But the work performed by Christ at Calvary enabled God to later reconcile both Jews and Gentiles corporately, as well as believers individually.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cherished Friends

God must have known there would be times
We'd need a word of cheer,
Someone to praise a triumph
Or brush away a tear.

He must have known we'd need to share
The joy of "little things"
In order to appreciate
The happiness life brings.

I think He knew our troubled hearts
Would sometimes throb with pain,
At trials and misfortunes,
Or goals we can't attain.

He knew we'd need the comfort
Of an understanding heart
To give us strength and courage
To make a fresh, new start.

He knew we'd need companionship,
Unselfish... lasting... true,
And so God answered the heart's great need
With cherished friends... like you!

- Author Unknown -

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thes 5:11).

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Hallelujah Chorus sung at Macy's last Saturday

I just got this from a friend who was visiting her daughter in Philly last week.  Unfortunately my friend missed this, but had she known about it in advance, she would have been there in an instant. 

Apparently, while shoppers were shopping and Christmas decorations were already being hung at Macy's in Philadelphia last Saturday, an organ began to play and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, along with over 650 area choristers, began to sing the Hallelujah Chorus.  It was called a "random act of culture." 

Why don't things like this ever happen while I'm shopping?!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Sermon on the Mount

Winston Churchill is reported to have said on one occasion: "What a happy world this would be if we all lived according to the Sermon on the Mount!" And it certainly would be, but it has been historically demonstrated that, due to the depravity of human nature, man can no more practice the Sermon on the Mount consistently than he can consistently obey the Ten Commandments. Nor will he be able to until the Holy Spirit takes control and causes him to do so.

God promised His people Israel:

I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will be careful to obey My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be my people, and I will be your God (Ezek 36:27-28).

Though these verses do speak of the Holy Spirit Who indwells us as believers today, He is not causing us to walk in His statues now. We can choose to "walk by the Spirit" and thereby "not carry out the desire of the flesh," but it is a choice we make — put off the old and put on the new. Nor are we dwelling in a bountiful land that God promised to us. A land was promised to Israel, not to us. This passage is written to Israel and is referring to the future Millennial kingdom. We must always remember that all Scripture is for us, but not all Scripture was written directly to us or about us. So be careful when reading other people's mail!

What about the Sermon on the Mount? Of course it is for us (2 Tim 3:16)!  For one thing, it shows us what it looks like when we are walking in our new natures. But was the Sermon on the Mount written about us or addressed directly to us? Is it meant specifically for us, "the one new man" which Paul designates as "the body of Christ" (Eph 2:15-16; 4:12)? When we look at progressive revelation, we must conclude that the answer is "no." Because Christ, while on the earth, was born under, and taught law with establishing the kingdom in view, then it too, refers to the Millennial kingdom that is yet to come.  It will be during this time that God will cause men to walk in His statues, to obey the precepts and principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

God did not give revelation all at once. It was always "order on order, line upon line, a little here, a little there" (Is 28:9-10). Comparing Exodus or Matthew with Ephesians, for example, it is evident that God has dealt differently with men of different ages, according to their knowledge of Himself. There has been development and progress, historically, in the knowledge of God and His purposes. Therefore, when we look at the progression of Scripture, we see that there is no contradiction between the Sermon on the Mount and Paul's epistles. There are contradictions, however, if we directly apply both of them to ourselves today. But when we come across seeming contradictions, we may rest assured that God never contradicts Himself; we just aren't observing the principle of progressive revelation.

To give you an idea of where I'm coming from, let's first consider the subject of the Messianic kingdom itself: (1) The kingdom was promised in the OT times (Jer 23:5). (2) It was proclaimed to be at hand during our Lord's earthly ministry (Matt 4:17). (3) It was offered at Pentecost, after the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 3:19-21). (4) It was rejected as the book of Acts shows (Acts 7:54-8:3; 28:2-28). (5) It was postponed and is being held in abeyance until a future time (Matt 23:39; Rom 11:25). (6) And finally, when Jesus Christ returns to judge and reign, the kingdom will be established on earth and Israel will live in the land promised to them (Rom 11:26). Then, for the first time since the fall of man, this world will become a place of true peace, prosperity and blessing.

The establishment of the kingdom of Christ on earth is the very goal of OT prophecy, but the epistles of Paul explain how the prophetic program was interrupted by grace. Therefore, the true condition of this world today can be understood only as we recognize progressive revelation in Scripture.

Moreover, those who recognize Scripture's progression do not need to "spiritualize" plain predictions of prophecy and thereby much of the OT. Instead, they see how prophecy was steadily fulfilled literally, right through the resurrection of Christ and Pentecost, but then its fulfillment evidently stops. The Tribulation and the signs of Christ's return did not appear, nor did He return to reign. Many explain that the early persecutions of Christianity were the prophesied Tribulation and that Christ is reigning today over "spiritual" Israel, the Body of Christ. But I don't see that Scripture teaches that the Church has replaced Israel; unless, that is, you "spiritualize" certain passages.  To me that is not just "spiritualizing" Scripture, however, but arbitrarily altering it, and thereby compounding the confusion which already exists in the Church today.

So where do we, the Church, fit into all this? We fit in right between Israel's final rejection of Christ and His kingdom and the coming Tribulation and His return to earth to judge and reign.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Acts 2 Church today?

Is it possible to have an Acts 2 Church today?  If it is, what would it look like?  Several months ago someone on facebook asked a similar question, posting this as their status: "I'm throwing this out for discussion: What would an Acts 2 Church look like today?"  Quite a few people responded, but one commenter pretty much summed up what the rest said — "It would be a group of believers totally Spirit-filled and Spirit-directed in everything they did as the Church and as individuals.  Everything would be done out of sincere love for Christ and for each other, not out of obligation.  There would be healings and miracles, and the message would make an impact on their hearts and touch their spirits in such a way that not responding and leaving unchanged would be wrong.  And not only would worship be out-of-this-world amazing, prayer would be absolutely wonderful.  To sum it up, Acts 2 shows us the Church in its purest form; it's what we would be today if we'd but follow its pattern."

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  The problem is, if the Book of Acts, let alone its second chapter, shows us the pattern we should follow, why does no one consistently follow it?  One reason is that no one can follow it today.  God has made it impossible, and all attempts to do so can only end in confusion and frustration.

First of all, Acts presents a changing program.  It is rightly called a "book of transition," i.e., of transition from God's past program of Law to the present.  So how can we use it as pattern for our practice today if it keeps changing?

And what message should we preach?  Should we call men to "repent...and be baptized...for the forgiveness of their [your] sins and offer them Messiah's return and the establishment of His kingdom, as Peter did (Acts 2:38; 3:19-21)?  Or, should we proclaim the message that Paul later "received from the Lord Jesus": "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24)?  I believe the Church today, using Acts as its pattern, is teaching a confused mixture of both.  How can we preach what Peter preached in Acts 2 and 3 and the wonderful truths of Romans, Ephesians and Colossians without causing confusion?

Also, where and to whom should we preach?  Should we begin at Jerusalem as the twelve did (Acts 1:8; Lk 24:47) or go with Paul "far away to the Gentiles" (Acts 22:21)?  Should we go to "the Jews only" as the followers of Christ did in early Acts (Acts 11:19) or should we say with Paul: "Your blood be upon your own heads...from now on I will go to the Gentiles" (Acts 18:6)?  Obviously, if our purpose is to reach the Jews first, we would now find greater numbers of them in N. America and Europe than in Jerusalem.

And what economic program should we follow; the pattern of Acts 2 and sell off all our investments and have "all things in common?"  Or, should we keep our private possessions and give to the Lord's work "every man according to his ability" (Acts 11:29)?  And if we follow the pattern of Acts 2, can we rest assured that none of us will be needy (Acts 4:34)?  Or, will we end up like "the poor saints in Jerusalem" (Rom 15:26)?

Moreover, if we could use Acts as a pattern and faithfully carry it out, could we count on divine intervention in persecution or not?  Could we expect angelic deliverances like the twelve, or would we find ourselves shut up in prison, delivered to death, forsaken by man and seemingly by God, like Paul?  Don't forget that when Israel sealed her rejection of Christ, God recalled the gifts of miraculous power given at Pentecost (Rom 8:22-23; 1 Cor 13:8, 13; 2 Cor 4:16; 5:2; Phil 2:26-27;1 Tim 5:23, etc.).  I know there are those who maintain they possess these powers today, but the evidence is not very convincing.

The fact of the matter is, it's impossible to follow Acts 2 as a pattern for the Church today, and if attempted, can only result in presenting to the world a confused and incoherent testimony.

(to be continued)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Interesting tidbit - 3

Q:  Why do you suppose it took the laying on of hands for the Holy Spirit to come on the believers who were baptized in Acts 8:9-17?  It's something I've often wondered about.  According to one author I frequently read, this is the answer:

A:  The believers here, who had been baptized but had not received the Spirit promised in Acts 2:38, were Samaritans, members of the ten tribes of Israel.  According to prophecy, these ten tribes must be reunited with the two tribes of Judah (Ezek 37:15-19), for the Lord had promised the 12 apostles that they would reign with Him over "the twelve tribes of Israel" in the kingdom (Matt 19:28).

But it was not enough that the ten tribes of Israel be reunited with the two tribes of Judah.  The ten tribes of Israel had apostatized from the faith centuries before when they made Samaria their capital and set up their own temple at Mt. Gerizim.  They had to renounce all that and recognize Jerusalem as the seat of God's authority.  And so they did not receive the promised Spirit until two apostles from Jerusalem came and prayed for them with the laying on of hands.

Two apostles were enough, of course, since "on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed" (Deut 17:6; 19:15; 2 Cor 13:1).  In fact, the Lord had instructed the apostles that where "two or three" of them were gathered together in His name, they had the authority to act officially in His absence (Matt 18:18-20).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Even Better Recipe...

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Talk to God about what is going on in your life. Buy a lock if you have to.

3. When you wake up in the morning, complete the following statement, 'I am thankful for______________'

4. Eat more foods grown on trees and plants and eat less foods manufactured in plants.

5. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli , almonds & walnuts.

6. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

7. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

8. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

9. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

10. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

11. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.  (I love this one.  Ha! :))

12. You are not so important that you have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

13. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

14. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

15. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

16. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

17. Forgive everyone for everything.

18. What other people think of you is none of your business.

19. GOD heals everything - but you have to ask Him.

20. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

21. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch!

22. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

23. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statement: 'I am thankful for__________.'

24. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

25. When you are feeling down, start listing your many blessings. You'll be smiling before you know it.

(Borrowed from an email forwarded to me by my MIL.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple Crisp

Here's a wonderful, and very easy, recipe for the fall season.  This apple crisp is a little different than most I've tried because it calls for natural turbinado sugar (often called "raw sugar") in the crumble topping instead of the usual brown sugar.  To me, turbinado sugar is like a cross between regular white sugar and brown sugar.  It has crystals like regular granulated sugar, but they are much larger. Turbinado sugar also retains some of the flavor of molasses, like brown sugar, because it is made at an earlier period in the sugar cane processing method.  You could substitute brown sugar, or even regular granulated sugar, for the turbinado sugar, but you would lose the distinct flavor and texture that turbinado sugar gives. 

I got this recipe from a long-time friend, whom I haven't seen or talked to for quite some time — which reminds me — I really need to call her and catch up!

Fill a 8x8 square pan 2/3 full with peeled, cored and sliced apples.  (IMHO, Empire apples are absolutely delicious in all apple pie and crisp recipes.) 

1/2 c regular white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c butter (do not substitute margarine for butter)
3/4 - 1 c natural turbinado sugar
2 c flour

Pour 1/2 cup regular white sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon over the apples and toss together, evenly coating the apples.  In a bowl, cut together butter, natural turbinado sugar, and flour until crumbly.  Pour over apples and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until top is golden brown.  See?  Easy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Labels are everywhere.  One can be pigeon-holed a liberal, a conservative, an independent; a beauty, a brain, a druggy; a goody-two-shoes, a dare-devil, a juvie, just to name a few. 

There are labels within Christian circles as well.  There's the Evangelical Free, the Baptist, the Lutheran, the Independent Bible, etc.  The labels don't stop there, however.  There's also the Reformed (or Covenant), the Calvinist, the Dispensationalist, not to mention the New Covenant, Calvin's Calvinist, the Classic Calvinist (TULIP), the Hyper-Calvinist, as well as the Traditional Dispensationalist, the Progressive Dispensationalist, the Hyper-Dispensationalist and I think there's even the Ultra-Hyper-Dispensationalist.  Twenty years or so ago the Dispensationalists supposedly had it right, but the tide has changed and now the Reformed are apparently in the know.  As a friend of mine once described Debussy's etudes — "The tide goes out, then it returns, then it goes out again, then it comes in..."  But if we've placed our faith in Christ's death and resurrection, we're all brothers and sisters in Christ, so why are we all so quick to label one another? 

I realize labels can be helpful when trying to figure out where the other person is coming from, but so often we judge people to be unsound, label them, and then write off everything they have to say from that point on.  I admit I have the same tendency.  But is that the way it should be, especially among fellow believers?  Certainly we should discerning, but I often feel we're just judging one another in order to make ourselves feel superior.

Frankly, because of that, I tend to keep quiet about my beliefs.  Not about the essential ones, of course, like man's utter sinfulness, Christ's death and resurrection on our behalf, the sovereignty of God, and the innerrancy of Scripture, but about how I view Scripture and what it says about prayer, God's physical intervention in the world today (namely miracles), visions, guardian angels, God's will and how He guides us, the end times, the Millennial Kingdom, and the Church and Israel.  I could go on but I won't.  Oh I'm much more vocal on my blog, but even here I hold back.  Will I be branded — labeled — and then possibly written off?  The truth be told, I often feel lonely, like I'm on the outside peering in.

When God gave us His Word, He meant us to understand it.  It's not some kind of complicated puzzle that only theologians can unravel.  In fact, I firmly believe that if fellow believers sit down together, with open minds and Bibles, they will eventually come to the same understanding.  Can we talk?

Monday, October 4, 2010


Q:  How do you put a sparkle in a soprano's eye?

A:  Shine a flashlight in her ear.

Q:  What's the difference between a soprano and a terrorist?

A:  You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Q:  How many altos does it take to change a lightbulb?

A:  Four — one to climb the ladder and three others to complain how high it is.

Q:  How many tenors does it take to change a lightbulb?

A:  One.  He just holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.

Q:  How do you know when there's a singer at the door?

A:  He has the wrong key and has to be told when to come in.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner ("REEKKH-art VOGG-ner") was a German opera composer during the late Romantic era. He stretched the tonal systems of his day by using chromaticism for dramatic effect. He also introduced the concept of the leitmotiv in his operatic plot development, a recurring musical theme associated with a particular person, place, or idea.

Personally, Wagner was an arrogant, dishonest, jealous, hypocritical, racist, sexist, and passionately anti-Semitic man.  In fact, Hitler adopted him as a hero for his beliefs — and until very recently, Wagner's music has been banned is Israel.  And yet, his music is rather pleasant to listen to ... most of the time.  It seems incredible that such a odious man could have composed it.

Richard Wagner (May 22, 1813 - February 13, 1883) was born in Leipzig, Germany, and from the beginning, he loved the theater.  When he was 20, he got a job playing piano for rehearsals for an amateur opera company.  This first-hand look at opera-making inspired him to try his own hand at it. 

That hand was shaky at first.  Wagner couldn't persuade anyone to even put on his first opera, The Fairies.  And his second, The Ban on Love, was an utter disaster.  On opening night, the singers didn't know their parts; the orchestra was out of tune and out of sync; and the prima donna's husband got so upset with the tenor's loving behavior toward his wife in the opera that he jumped up on the stage to punch him in the face.

But Wagner was too persistent to give up.  If Germany wasn't going to appreciate him, maybe another country would — like maybe Latvia.  He also stopped in Paris, then back to Germany.  After all this traipsing about, he felt confident that his next operatic effort would finally be a success.  Unfortunately for him, he'd also been active in political protests — enough to get him fired from his job, get a warrant out for his arrest, and force him to leave the country.  This time he wouldn't return (he wasn't allowed to) for 13 years.

Next he hung out in Switzerland for a while and then returned to Paris to oversee a production of Tannhauser, but the French audiences turned the premiere into a fiasco.  The second and third performances were not much better received either, so Wagner ordered it withdrawn.  It wasn't seen again in Paris for 35 years.

But Wagner's persistence at opera-writing finally paid off when he met King Ludwig II of Bavaria.  He was a huge fan of Wagner's and sent a messenger to bring the composer to his castle, promising to satisfy his every need and publicize his operas throughout the land.  By most accounts, Ludwig, whose outlandish castles you can still visit, was a certifiable nut case.  He eventually went completely berserk and drowned himself in a lake.  So in other words, he was the perfect patron for Richard Wagner.

Flush with funding from Ludwig, Wagner's opera career finally exploded.  In 1865, Munich heard the premiere of Tristan and Isolde, a story of two lovers as tragic as Romeo and Juliet.  Four years later came the premiere of Wagner's hugest creation: the Ring cycle  (or The Ring of the Nibelungs).  This cycle of four gigantic operas, based on medieval folk tales, ultimately made Wagner world-famous.

For your listening pleasure, here's an excerpt from Wagner's opera, The Valkyries (part of the Ring cycle):  It will forever and always remind me of the song (Kill the Wabbit) Elmer Fudd sings in the Bugs Bunny cartoon, What's Opera, Doc? — which you can view here. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Interesting tidbit - 2 (Proverbs 6:16-19)

There are six things which the LORD hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.
(Prov 6:16-19)

Q:  Six things or seven; which is it?  What exactly is Solomon saying here?

A:  This is what's known as a Semitic expression, similar to those we frequently use in English.  For example, it is not uncommon to hear someone say: "It's six on one hand and half a dozen on the other."  In other words, it is essentially the same either way you look at the matter.

"There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him," simply means the list is incomplete.  Solomon begins with the sins of the flesh that are the most serious infractions against God, but there are many, many more which follow.  Interestingly, the first sin Solomon mentions is not murder, but pride.  Also, the list of sins seems to follow closely the order that they took place in the early chapters of Genesis.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first
(Matt 19:30). 

"We are living in a topsy-turvy world.  We have come through the looking glass into the land of the Fall, and all our views are distorted.  Small things seem great and great things seem small.  Our whole world is an illusion, created by Satan to deceive us, and the only spiritual truth in life is to be found in the Word of God.  Those who refuse the Word are unable to see because they have rejected light, have adopted other standards which they think are light, and are therefore in greater darkness.  The Lord said, "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness" (Matt 6:23).  Today is the day of darkness, but when the light of God's judgment breaks forth, all standards will be the divine ones, and many of the first shall be last and last shall be first."

(God's Wrath, Romans 2-3:1-20, Expositions of Bible Doctrines Taking the Epistle to the Romans as a Point of Departure, by Donald Grey Barnhouse (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 1953.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Church bulletin bloopers

"Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person(s) you want remembered."

"Attend and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a healthy lunch."

"The church will host an evening of fine dining, superb entertainment, and gracious hostility."

"Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 pm - prayer and medication to follow."

"The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon."

"Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door."

"Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa will be speaking tonight at Calvary Memorial Church in Racine. Come tonight and hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa."

"Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands."

"The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict."

"Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance."
"Please remember Marge Smith in your prayers - she will be having an autopsy Thursday morning."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

God's faithfulness

Corporate prayer is a funny thing.  Someone stands up in front of all those gathered and leads them in prayer, confessing their sins for them, pleading for healing for some and for His wisdom and courage for others, and thanking Him for bringing in the money previously requested.  Once in a while I think to myself, "I would never say something like that; please just let me speak to my heavenly Father myself."  For example, last week someone prayed this for me: "And thank you, Lord, that when we are faithful to You, You remain faithful to us."   What a tremendous burden to put on us all, but is it true?  Is God's faithfulness to us based on how faithful we are to Him?  And what did he mean, exactly?  I'm sure he knows that God is always faithful, no matter what man does, and that this was as true in the OT and NT as it is today.  So because it is a very common belief today, I think he must have meant, if we are obedient and faithful to Him, He will be faithful and bless us.

Then yesterday I read this Bible verse on somebody's status on facebook:  "Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Mal 3:7 #Truth42day"  It has the same gist as the prayer I heard, doesn't it?  If man does this, then God will do that.  Many such verses can be found in the OT (e.g., Deut 7:9, 30:1-33, 32:20; 1 Sam 7:3; 2 Chron 10:11, 30:9; Prov 28:20; Jer 3:12-25, 15:19; Hos 6:1; Zech 1:3).

But let's back up a bit and look at the context of Mal 3:7.  To whom was this promise given?  It was given to the nation Israel — not to an individual.  Of course individuals made up the nation Israel, but the nation as a whole had to return to the Lord.  Many apply this verse to the nations in which we live today, but we must remember this promise was given to the nation Israel, not to the United States, the UK, Canada, etc...    So direct application to ourselves starts to break down already.

Looking further at the context of Mal 3:7, what were the circumstances regarding this promise?  First of all, keep in mind that Israel was under the law and God had promised to bless them when they obeyed it and punish them when they didn't (Deut 11:26-28).  By the time the book of Malachi was written, about 100 years had passed since Israel had returned to Palestine.  The city of Jerusalem and the second Temple had been built, but initial enthusiasm had worn off.  Although the people and priests had backslidden and become lax in their worship (1:7) and mechanical in their observance of the law, they couldn't understand why God was displeased with them, so God sent Malachi to rebuke them for their neglect of true worship of the Lord and to call them to repentance (1:6; 3:7).

We, however, are not under the law, nor has God promised to punish us for disobedience or bless us when we obey.  But the law did (and continues to do) its job.  It clearly shows us we were incapable of remaining faithful to God and need a savior.  So, Christ took our punishment upon Himself (Is 53:5; 2 Cor 5:21) and blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3).  What unfathomable love!  I think Charles Ryrie in his book, The Grace of God, explains what this means rather well: 

"One could say that he will live for the Lord in order to be blessed, but since we have already been blessed with all spiritual blessings, no amount of good works can add to that fact."

Under the law, however, mans' unfaithfulness could cause God to turn away for a time.  But now, because of Christ's death and resurrection, God sees Christ's righteousness when He looks at us (Acts 13:38-39; Rom 3:24, 5:8-9, 8:33-34; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:24), we are already seated in the heavenlies in Him (Eph 1:3, 2:6; Col 3:1-2), and our blameless position depends on God's faithfulness, not on our own (1 Cor 1:9; 1 Thes 5:24; 2 Tim 2:13).  

It makes me sad to think that many believers listening to that prayer last week thought, "Yes, I must get right with God again so that He will be faithful to me and bless me."  I remember having similar thoughts and feelings of tremendous pressure at such times, before someone helped me understand that Christ did it all because I was incapable of doing any of it. 

I can't say this emphatically enough, fellow Christian: Because of Christ, we are right with God now!  No longer is it — "If man does this, then God will do that."  Everything's been completely flipped around; now it's — "Because Christ has done it all at the cross, I serve Him out of deep gratitude and love" (Eph 4:32). 

It's so easy to get confused, and to confuse those around us, when we carelessly drag OT promises into the present that were never intended for us.  So please, please be careful and "diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Do you really want to live under the law?

Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says?

(Gal 4:21)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Interesting tidbit (Isaiah 45:7)

Lately I've come across some interesting tidbits that have been rather helpful to me.  One such tidbit answers the question, "What does Isaiah 45:7 mean?"

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things (Is 45:7). KJV

The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these (Is 45:7). NASB

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things (Is 45:7). NIV

A:  This verse is actually a favorite of the Universalists, who teach that since God created evil, He is responsible to save all men from the consequences of evil.  However, we know that "evil" here is not sin or moral wrong, for these reasons.

The Hebrew word for "evil" is sometimes translated "trouble," "calamity" or "affliction", things God used to chasten Israel when she was disobedient.  We know this is the meaning here because of the context.  When God claimed to "form the light, and create darkness," these things are opposites.  And so the "evil" here is the opposite of "peace," and refers to the wars, military losses, captivities, and subsequent unrest that God allowed to come on Israel to chastise them.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Funny you should ask ...

A Jewish businessman in New York sent his son to Israel for a year to absorb the culture. When the son returned, he said, "Papa, I had a great time in Israel. By the way, I converted to Christianity."

"Oy vey," said the father, "What have I done!"

He told his problem to his best friend. "Ike," he said, "I sent my son to Israel, and he came home a Christian. What can I do?"

"Funny you should ask," said Ike. "I, too, sent my son to Israel, and he also came home a Christian. Perhaps we should go see the Rabbi."

They explained their problem to the Rabbi.

"Funny you should ask," said the Rabbi. "I, too sent my son to Israel, and he also came home a Christian. What's happening to our young people?"

So they prayed, telling the Lord about their sons.

As they finished their prayer, a voice came from the heavens: "Funny you should ask," said the voice, "I, too, sent my son to Israel ..."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Streusel-topped pear pie

Our pear tree is just past peak now and I think I've gotten all I will get from this year's crop.  It wasn't a particularly great year for pears.  They seemed smaller and more insect-infested than last year's. Still, I was able to make my annual pear pie. 

For most of my life I had never had, or even heard of, pear pie.  But then one year we had a bumper crop and I was desperate to find new ways to use all those pears.  That's when I came across this recipe.  This is also the recipe from which I got my pie crust recipe.  You can see how difficult it was to extract the crust recipe from the pie instructions - they're so closely intertwined.  Anyway, here it is.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

2 1/4 c unbleached flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 c butter (don't use margarine)
2 1/2 to 3 tbsp cold water
5-6 medium pears
1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 c shredded Cheddar cheese

In medium bowl, stir together 2 c flour and 1 tsp salt.  With pastry blender, cut in 3/4 c butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Measure 1 c mixture  into medium bowl; reserve.  To remaining flour mixture, add cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, mixing lightly with a folk after each addition until moist enough to hold together.  With hands, shape pastry into a ball.  On lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin, roll pastry into an 11-inch circle; use to line 9-inch pie plate.   Trim edges, leaving 1 inch overhang.  Fold overhang under; bring up over pie-plate rim; pinch to form a high edge; make a fluted edge.  Peel, core and cut pears into thick slices to measure about 4 1/2 to 5 cups.  In large bowl, toss pears with sugar, lemon juice, 1/4 c flour and 1/4 tsp salt; put into crust.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In medium bowl, combine reserved flour mixture, brown sugar and next 3 ingredients.  With pastry blender, cut in cheese and 1/4 c butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs and ingredients are well blended.  Sprinkle over pears.  Bake 30 mins; cover with foil and bake 30 mins more.  Serve warm or refrigerate to serve cold.

***Special thanks to our good friend Nate for taking the pie picture. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jesus Christ - Christ Jesus

An interesting quote from W. E. Vine:

The order of the titles Jesus Christ and Christ Jesus is always significant: “Christ Jesus” describes the One who was with the Father in eternal glory, and who came to earth, becoming Incarnate; “Jesus Christ” describes Him as the One who humbled Himself, who was despised and rejected, and endured the cross, but who was afterwards exalted and glorified. “Christ Jesus” testifies to His pre-existence; “Jesus Christ” to His resurrection and exaltation.

(The Epistle to the Romans, by W. E. Vine (Oliphants Limited), 1948.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NOT proof-text!

I never cease to be amazed at what passes for proof-text in many sermons and Christian books and articles today.  It's one thing to say, "I think this person says it particularly well..." or to use an illustration to help make a biblical principle clearer.  However, it is quite another to use what a person says (no matter how famous or well-known that person is!) or your experiences (or anybody elses') to "prove" what you're saying is "true."  People are just people, they are not the Word of God.  As the old saying goes, "The best of men are but men at best."  And experiences are so very subjective, they can be looked at in many different ways.  It's easy to say, "Well look what happened to so and so." or "Did you hear what so and so the great preacher said?" and base our entire theology on what we see or hear.  But let's not forget Satan is the great deceiver.  We simply cannot afford to interpret Scripture in light of our experiences or what people tell us, rather we must always view everything in light of the Word of God.

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good (1 Thes 5:21).  

Make no mistake, the ONLY proof-text is the Word of God (in context!).  Everything else is just stories and hearsay.

The following are NOT proof-text:

1.  A story or testimony.

Pastor Welton who recorded the following story said, “It was my conviction thirty years ago as it is today, that the Stockwell Orphanage, as well as the money to found it, came from the Lord in answer to the petitions offered that Monday night. Surely, the Orphanage was born of prayer.”

The story: "'Dear friends, we are a huge church, and should be doing more for the Lord in this great city. I want us tonight, to ask Him to send us some new work; and if we need money to carry it on, let us pray that the means may also be sent.”

Several of the students had been called to the platform to join with the deacons and elders in leading the assembly to the throne of grace, and to plead with God about the matter.

While that mighty man of prayer, Mr. William Olney, was wrestling with the Lord, the beloved President (Spurgeon) knew that the answer had come. Had the Holy Spirit told him? It seemed so, for, walking lightly across the platform to where I was sitting, he said to me, “It’s all right, Welton, you pray for the conversion of sinners will you?'

A few days after the Tabernacle prayer meeting, a Mrs. Hillyard wrote to Spurgeon, offering a gift of ₤20,000 for the purpose of founding an orphanage for fatherless children."

This is a nice story but it proves nothing.  When I heard the above, it was actually a story within a story within a story because I was listening to a different preacher altogether use Pastor Welton's story as his proof-text as to how prayer works.

2.  The Westminster Confession of Faith.

One popular speaker/author often refers to The Westminster Confession of Faith as proof-text.  For example, in one of his well-known books he uses "the confession" to establish the grounds for his discussion on the assurance of the believer.  Actually, his primary concern is not how a believer can have assurance, but rather to warn believers that any assurance they may have may well not be real assurance at all. 

"The [Westminster] confession acknowledges that there is such a thing as false assurance."

3.  The books, 'This Present Darkness' and 'Piercing the Darkness', by Frank Peretti.

One time a speaker, specially asked to come talk to our group, read passages from Peretti's fictional books as evidence of demonic influence and angelic warfare.

"...These books were truly a blessing to me. They opened my eyes to the spiritual warfare going on all around us.  For example, ..."

Many have read these books, including me. But they are fiction and in no way meant to paint an accurate picture of what goes on in angelic spheres. 

(To be continued...unfortunately...)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity.
(Prov 17:17)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Homemade hamburger buns

Just about the time I got home from the store, I realized I had forgotten something I needed for that evening's dinner — hamburger buns.  Sigh.  I really didn't feel like turning around and running out to the store again.  What to do?  Well, I was going to make homemade hamburger buns instead, that's what. 

In retrospect, I would have saved a lot of time if I had just run back to the store, but never mind that, I actually came upon a good recipe.  And they're so much better than store bought buns.  Not only are they great with hamburgers, they're delicious as sandwich rolls, too.

1 c milk
1 c water
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 1/2 c unbleached flour
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water
1 tsp poppy seeds

Combine milk, 1 c water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to boil and remove from heat.  Let stand until lukewarm.  (If mixture is too hot, it will kill the yeast.)  In large bowl, stir together flour and yeast.  Pour in wet ingredients and stir until dough starts to pull together.  Knead dough on floured surface for about 10 mins. and place in greased bowl, turning to coat.  Cover and let rise double in size, about 1 hour.  Punch down the dough and divide into 12 portions.  Make tight balls by pulling dough tightly around and pinching it at the bottom.  Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  After rolls sit for a minute to relax, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand until 3-4 inches wide.  Set aside until double in size, about 20 mins.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix together egg yolk and 1 tbsp water.  Brush onto the tops of the rolls and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake 15-20 mins, or until nicely browned on the tops and bottoms.