Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring Hymn Sing

Last night was our annual spring Hymn Sing.  Even though the weather was rainy and cold, about 900 people from churches all over the area attended.  We had a great time again, as usual, singing the roof off the place.  One of my favorite songs of the evening was Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.  Such pretty music and wonderful lyrics:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!


Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Another of my favorites was His Name is Wonderful.  It brought back memories of singing this song as a child.  In the 60's our family attended a small evangelical free church in Baxter, MN, where Pastor David Martin would preach and lead the singing.  His Name is Wonderful must have been his favorite song because we sang it all the time.

Not many pastors can both preach and lead the singing well, but Pastor Martin could.  I remember singing in the church youth choir (which he started and led) from kindergarten through about the third grade.  Occasionally we would sing on their television program "Echos From Calvary."  Our family moved to Lincoln, NE when I was 10, but I'm sure the musical grounding I received under Pastor Martin helped me get into the Back to the Bible Youth Choir as few years later.

Another memory I have of Pastor Martin is that he sometimes called me "raspberry hucklesperry."  It was a word play on my last name "Sperry."  You see, not only did our family attend his church, we also lived just up the street from his family, and Ruthie (his 4th oldest daughter) and I were fast friends.  We spent many hours playing together.  So Pastor Martin saw me often and knew me quite well at that time.

Of the many talents Pastor Martin had, one of his greatest was in helping plant new churches.  The little evangelical free church we attended (Lakewood Evangelical Free Church) was one of them.  We met in the local Baxter Elementary School back then, but I hear they are one of the largest churches in the area now.

Pastor David Martin passed away last month.  He's with our wonderful Lord now, so I know I'll get to see him again someday.  I wonder, will he greet me by saying, "Well hi there, raspberry hucklesperry!"

His Name is Wonderful
His Name is Wonderful
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus My Lord.

He is the Mighty King
Master of everything
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus My Lord.

He’s the Great shepherd
The Rock of All Ages
Almighty God is He.

Bow down before Him
Love and adore Him
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus My Lord.

Our annual fall Hymn Sing will be on October 21, 2012, if you care to  join us.  We will be remembering many of the old radio broadcasts, such as Back to the Bible, Unshackled, Old Fashioned Bible Hour, etc.  Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"In dark days now past, when the avowal of 'heretical' beliefs involved suffering and loss, men thought deeply before they strayed from the beaten tracks of 'orthodoxy.'  They knew what it meant to 'gird up the loins of their mind.'  But slovenly-mindedness is a marked characteristic of religious thought in this shallow and silly age of ours.  The catch phrases of the fashionable pulpit or the popular press are accepted without any sort of mental struggle; and 'historic beliefs' are jettisoned without the slightest exercise of heart or conscience."

This was written by Sir Robert Anderson back in the 1880's.  Sadly, not much has changed, has it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ananias and Sapphira

Our small group bible study is currently making its way through the Book of Acts.  We meet every other week and look at one chapter per meeting.  A few weeks ago we studied chapter 5.  It was interesting to see all the different views on what happened to Ananias and Sapphira and what it means for us today.  Here's the passage,

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things (Acts 5:1-11).

and below is what several theologians have to say about it:

"In those early days the Church walked with God in holiness and righteousness. Today, alas, the Church has gotten so far away from God, and there is so much sin and hypocrisy and unreality, that God (I say it reverently) does not think it worth while to deal with people like this, for the Church refuses to listen to His voice."

So the reason God isn’t punishing sin like this anymore is because there is too much of it? That doesn’t make much sense to me. This view is not supported by Scripture in any way that I am aware of, either.

"In our time, those found in dishonesty do not die as did Ananias and Sapphira, but something within them dies. Conscience chokes, character withers, self-respect vanishes, integrity dies."

This theologian doesn't explain why we don't still receive this type of judgment today.  And again, no Scriptural support is given.

"What Ananias did also must be seen in the context of its time. This was a critical juncture for the early church, and such impurity, sin, scandal and satanic infiltration could have corrupted the entire church at its root. The Church has never been harmed or hindered by opposition from without; it has been perpetually harmed and hindered by perils from within. Why don't we see God judge the same way now? In part, because the church has so many 'branches.' Even if the entire body of Christ in the United States was to become corrupt through scandal or sin, there is plenty of strength in other parts of the 'tree.' The Church's administration to-day is not what it was, or there might be many dead men and women at the end of some services."

So because the Church is so big now, judgment like this is no longer needed?  Once again, there is no Scriptural support given.

"Many find this passage shocking, but Luke would certainly disagree with efforts today to explain away hell or God’s punishment.  He insists that outrageous and deliberate rebellion against God will be severely punished.  God is not mocked.  Though this same Luke is known for his stress on God’s forgiveness of repentant sinners, we should not overlook his balancing emphasis on a prudent fear of God’s power to punish when faced with unrepented sin and rebellion.  God will go to any length to save sinners who are willing to return to him (Luke 15).  But those who refuse to admit their sin and ask forgiveness will suffer the consequences of their separation from God."

Are we to look at this portion of Scripture merely as a warning to unbelievers, then? And again, why isn't this still happening today?  Or is he saying that it still is?

"We are stunned in this passage by the suddenness of God’s judgment and seeming lack of pity or remorse on the part of Peter and the others.  Furthermore, there seems to be no opportunity for repentance apart from Peter’s question to Sapphira in verse 8.  Stories like this were quite common in the Old Testament, such as Nadab and Abihu consumed by the illegitimate fire they used (Lev. 10).  Repeatedly in Deuteronomy, God told his people to root out evil from among them (Deut. 13:5; 17:7, 12; 19:19)."

Yay, Scriptural support!  I find this explanation interesting. Certainly, the believers at this point in progressive revelation were all Jews and still under the Law, as nothing had yet been revealed that they weren't.  So, to point back to OT examples of the same sort of thing seems perfectly justifiable. This theologian doesn't explain any of this, though.  Nor does he say anything about why judgment like this doesn't happen today.  Perhaps he believes it still does?

"In 4:32-35, Luke reiterates the point of emphasis of the summary in 2:41-47.  But this summary also provides an interesting variation to the themes found in chap. 2.  Now, the believers took the proceeds from their sales and laid it at the apostles’ feet (v. 35).  To assume the posture of being at another’s feet is a gesture of submission in the OT (Josh 10:24; 1 Sam 25:24, 41; 2 Sam 22:39; Pss 8:7; 110:1).  Luke also employs this language of being at another’s feet as a symbol of submission (Luke 7:38, 44, 45, 46; 8:35, 41; 10:39; 17:16; 20:43; Acts 2:35; 10:35; 22:3).  So here in v. 35, laying the proceeds at the apostles’ feet is more than just a way of taking care of an administrative detail.  As Luke Johnson has noted: ‘When the believers lay their possessions at the Apostles’ feet, therefore, they were symbolically laying themselves there, in a gesture of submission to the authority of the Twelve’ (Johnson 1977, 202).  In just such an act of submission, Barnabas laid his gift at the apostles’ feet (vv. 36-37).  Not everyone submitted themselves to the authority of the apostles, as the story of Ananias and Sapphira indicates (5:1-11).  This story is linked linguistically to the previous two scenes by the words ‘at the apostles’ feet’ (v. 2) and depicts a negative example of community life.  Ananias and Sapphira sell a piece of property, but they mock the community’s Spirit of unity, and they usurp the authority of the apostles when they lay only a part of the proceeds at their feet.  Peter assumes the role of prophet when he confronts Ananias with the conspiracy (v. 3).  Like Judas, Ananias has fallen prey to Satan (v. 3; ef. Luke 22:3), and like Judas, Ananias will not live to enjoy the material gains of his deceit (v. 5; see 1:17-18).  Although Ananias has not lied verbally, the act of conspiracy itself was a lie to the Holy Spirit (v. 3).  Peter’s remaining questions suggest that Ananias and Sapphira were not required to dispose of their property in this way, but could have retained authority over it (v. 4).  But by taking this duplicitous action, they usurped the authority of the apostles.  The offense was not simply against the community, Peter argues; it was against God.  The problem was not simply a human one; it had serious spiritual dimensions, and as Ananias soon found out, serious repercussions.  Upon hearing Peter’s words, he fell down and died (v. 5).  After the disposal of Ananias and an interval — the narrator tells us — of about three hours (v. 7), Peter confronts Sapphira in what resembles a legal trial.  The story drips rich with irony because the reader has knowledge Sapphira does not possess; the conspiracy is broken.  Unknowingly Sapphira compounds the conspiracy with a verbal lie.  Yes, she tells Peter, they sold the land for such and such a price (v. 8).  Peter’s role as prophet becomes even more active when he predicts that this one who with her husband conspired against the community and God would now suffer the same fate as he (v. 8).  And the final note of irony: Sapphira falls dead at Peter’s feet.  She who had feigned to lay her possessions at the apostles’ feet now gives permanently in death.  This grizzly story fulfills the threat of Peter’s earlier sermon:  ‘everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people’ (3:23).  No wonder that a great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things (v. 11).”

More Scriptural support!  I find this one interesting, too.  Makes sense, except he doesn't explain why and when it all stopped.

"This event was an example — 'a taste' (Hebrews 6:4-5) — of what will happen during the Kingdom when anyone goes against the Divine order (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). The Law will be written in the hearts of Israel in the Kingdom , so sin will be a very deliberate rebellion against the Spirit — as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira who had received the Spirit in the Kingdom sense (Acts 2:17-18). For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Hebrews 8:10; cf Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 10:16) ... This is what the writer of Hebrews was referring to in Hebrews 6:4-6 — For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:4-6). — referring to those who sin after receiving the Spirit as He will be manifested in the Kingdom (and was for a time after Pentecost)."

Again, Scriptural support!  So how long was this "time after Pentecost?"  And why did this kind of judgment stop? It makes sense to me that as Israel continued to reject her Messiah, it stopped.  When that was, exactly, I'm not sure. But notice that after the stoning of Stephen "a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1-3; 11:19), so there was no more laying all that was sold at the apostles feet.  And later we see Paul bringing relief to this church (Rom 15:25-26).  No longer could it be said that "there was not a needy person among them" (Acts 4:34).  It seems that the stoning of Stephen was the last straw, so to speak, for Jews in Jerusalem, the seat of Israel's government, to accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah.  So did it stop there?  Or do we see another example of it in 1 Corinthians 11:28-30?  Perhaps judgment like this gradually stopped like the signs and miracles did???

So what do you think?  In light of the whole of Scripture, which of these views makes the most sense to you?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mom's whipped cream frosting

I have fond memories of mom making this frosting when I was growing up.  It was so pretty — and good — especially on angel food cake.  The cake in this picture isn't angel food, though.  It's just a white cake made from a box mix.  But my sister gave me a great hint on how to make these regular cake mix cakes super moist and delicious.  After baking and cooling the cake, poke holes all over it with the handle end of a wooden spoon, and pour sweetened condensed milk over all the holes.  Excellent!

1 c crushed pineapple with juice (8 oz can)
1/2 c sugar
1 pkg cherry jello
1 container Cool Whip Topping or 1 pint cream, whipped

Cook pineapple, sugar and jello for 10 minutes.  Chill until mixture begins to jell, then fold into Cool Whip or whipped cream.  Spread on cooled cake.  Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Seriously — You’ve Got Mail

Another piece written by my husband:

Imagine, for the sake of illustration, that you’re cleaning out a drawer and come upon a letter that your father wrote to your sister. You read it and find it very interesting. You learn some things about your father that you didn’t know. You find a bit of advice he gave her regarding a choice she had to make and are able to fit that advice to a situation in your own life. Reading the letter is beneficial, but while you’re reading it, there’s something you can’t lose sight of — you’re reading somebody else’s mail. Not everything in that letter will apply to you directly, and there may be some things that it would be very foolish to use in your life.

That’s the way we need to read a lot of Scripture. It is all God’s Word, and, as such, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). But not all of it applies directly to us. Before you react too strongly against this, I would suggest that you already view Scripture this way.

For example, how many of the following verses have you applied to your life?

• Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch (Genesis 6:14).

• Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the Lord 's release (Deuteronomy 15:2).

• Or if a person swears, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good … he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats as a sin offering (Leviticus 5:4, 6).

“Yea,” you say. But that stuff’s from the Old Testament. What about the New Testament?

He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need (Acts 2:44-45).

From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none (1 Corinthians 7:29).

So the issue isn’t whether or not all Scriptures apply directly to us — we know they don’t. The issue is which Scriptures do apply directly to us. Which books of the Bible are our mail?

I’ve learned that one of the most important keys to understanding a portion of Scripture is figuring out to whom it was written.

The vast majority of the Old Testament — from Genesis 12 through the end of Malachi — has to do with Israel. It was written by Jews to Jews and about Jews. During the time of the Old Testament, for a non-Jew to be saved, he or she had to become a Jew. Everything in this portion of Scripture must be viewed through that lens.

The four Gospels relate the Lord’s ministry while He was on earth. That ministry was to the Jews. That’s exactly what He told His disciples — Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6).

Everything Christ did during His ministry on earth was part of the prophetic program of Israel.

What about Acts? Acts can be a tricky book if you don’t keep all of this in mind. The beginning of Acts, certainly through chapter 7, is all Jewish. From that point on, when the Jews reject the Holy Spirit, the book is a history of the continued rejection of God’s plan by Israel and the concurrent offering of reconciliation by God to the Gentiles. Without Acts, we’d go immediately from the Lord’s instructions about ministering only to Jews to Paul’s offering of salvation to everyone without explanation.

Paul was chosen by God to be the example of salvation by grace through faith to all who believe, Jew or Gentile. That’s us. Paul’s letters are our mail — although even those we must read with an eye on the specific audience.

What about the rest of the books in the New Testament — those written by James, Jude, Peter and John?

In Galatians, we read this: When James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised (Galatians 2:9).

Nowhere in Scripture are we told that this decision was rescinded. The letters of James, Peter and John were written to an audience of Jews. We aren’t told specifically about Jude, but as he was James’ brother, we can figure this is the case with him also.

James probably wrote his letter in AD 46 which was probably five years before Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the first of his letters. In addition, James makes it very clear who his audience is in the first verse — To the twelve tribes (James 1:1).

Peter and John wrote later, after Paul’s message to the Gentiles was widely known. Their letters, while written to and about Jews, reflect the progression of revelation. Peter, in particular, credits Paul with some of his information — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16). But we need to remember who they were writing to.

That leaves Hebrews, which the title and contents clearly mark as also having been written to Jews.

This post is already a lot longer than I intended it to be, so I’ll end with this. I believe the entire Bible is God’s Word. I believe that He wants us to be familiar with all of it and understand all of it and to gain benefit from all of it. My point is only this — in order to understand it and gain benefit from Scripture, we have to interpret it correctly. And to interpret it correctly, we need to know who the audience is.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Interesting tidbit - 16

Q:  In Acts 11:26 it says, "And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians."  The Apostle Paul addresses believers as saints, and brothers, but never Christians.  Wouldn't believers today be more properly called "believers" instead of "Christians" as so many denominations do?

A:  The term "Christian" is a title that was originally given to us by the world.  Notice, the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.  These believers spoke so often of Christ that the world came up with the name "Christians."  Of course, they meant it in a derogatory sense.  The citizens of Antioch were famous for their witty quips.  Since this expression has a Latin origin, it was probably the Romans among them who first gave this name to believers.

Still, based on Acts 11:26; 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16, there is no reason against being called Christians.  Today, however, the word is so sweeping that it includes both believers and religious unbelievers.  While a true believer is a Christian, one who calls himself a Christian may not necessarily be saved.  Therefore, it might be better to use only "believers," "saved," or "saints" — or at least qualify the term "Christian" when we use it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


This was the final piece of our Easter concerts — Hallelujah Chorus by Handel:

Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, Hallelujah!
The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,

and he shall reign for ever and ever, Hallelujah!
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and he shall reign for ever and ever, Hallelujah!

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15). 

Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns” (Rev 19:6)

And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:16).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

How Deep the Father's Love for Us

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed to hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that kept Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

by Stuart Townend

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Power of the Cross

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev'ry bitter thought,
Ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
"Finished!" the vict'ry cry.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

(by Keith and Kristyn Getty)

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 Jn 4:9-10).