Tuesday, December 17, 2013

You have made us for Yourself

Heard quoted this week:

"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." — Augustine

Brilliant because everyone feels it — that restlessness, that sense that something is missing, that there must be more to life than what we observe and experience.  Only Jesus Christ can fill that void.  Only He can give us purpose and a sure hope for the future.  Won't you place your faith in Him, too?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).

Monday, October 21, 2013

How to be Confusing 101

You're probably wondering how you can best confuse people, really tie them up in knots, right?  I thought so.  Who wouldn't?  And by the way, you're doing a great job of it.

For those not sure of the basics, let me give you a few pointers.  The easiest way to confuse people is to present a portion of Scripture without first setting up the scene.*  Don't tell them who the audience is or what the circumstances are.

For example, teach Psalm 50 without first making sure everybody knows the audience is Israel:

He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!” The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! Selah. “Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God (Ps 50:4-7).

Also make sure nobody knows what the circumstances are.  Keep secret that at the time Psalm 50 was written Israel had made a covenant** with God and were under the Law, that this chapter forecasts judgment to come because of their wickedness, and that the faithful among them are promised the salvation of God. 

But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips (Ps 50:16)?

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (Ps 50:23; cf. Ps 50:8, 9, 14)

Pointing out these circumstances on the front end would make sense of verse 23 — "...to one who orders his way right I will show the salvation of God!" — and we don't want that, do we?  

Or do we?  

Important questions that could be raised in people's minds are: "Salvation is by faith plus works?  I thought it was by faith alone?"

And they would be right, wouldn't they?  Psalm 50 was written about Israel under the Law — faith plus works.  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:21-26).

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

Of course be sure to present the timeless principles in this chapter; principles that are obviously pertinent for all people no matter who they are or when they lived.  Like, God sees through our hypocrisy; God is the Mighty One, the heavens declare His righteousness for He Himself is judge; God is not dependent on our generosity since He owns everything, etc...  But the confusion you raise by not first setting up the scene will probably cause people to think only about how confused they are instead of how they can apply these principles to their lives. 

Hmmm...maybe you should rethink this?      

Well if you're still on board, here's a great way to wrap things up; sure to mess up the best of them.  End your talk by leading everybody to pray the very next Psalm — Psalm 51.  After all, once we're saved do we need to pray, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin."?  No, that took place the moment we placed our faith in Jesus Christ! And do we need to plead Psalm 51:11 — "Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me."  Hardly. This is confusion at its very best. Keep at it and you'll be a pro in no time!***

*All Scripture is for us, but not all is written directly to us or about us (2 Tim 3:16-17).

**The Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant made between God and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex 19-24). The blessings that God promises are directly related to Israel’s obedience to the Mosaic Law. If Israel is obedient, then God will bless them, but if they disobey, then God will punish them. At the time of the covenant, God reminded the people of their obligation to be obedient to His law (Ex 19:5), and the people agreed to the covenant when they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” (Ex 19:8).

***Psalm 51 was written by David, upon whom the Holy Spirit descended because he was the chosen one of God (1 Sam 16:13). The Holy Spirit departed from Saul when he was no longer the chosen one (1 Sam 16:14). But now we are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee for the day of redemption (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30).  He will never leave or be taken from us.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Questions to ponder...


















Saturday, September 7, 2013

Interesting tidbit - 19

Q:  What exactly does our Lord mean when He uses the word "generation" in Matthew 23:36 and Luke 11:51?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation (Matt 23:29-36).
Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation (Lk 11:47-51).

A:  The word "generation" can have many different meanings.  Its most common meaning refers to those who are born to their parents, of natural lineage, or descendants.  For example, the natural lineage of Jesus Christ is given in Matthew 1:1-17.  He was born from this traceable line of descendants.

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matt 1:1)

In this context the natural lineage is the meaning of the word "generation."  When Jesus Christ spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 and Luke 11, He was speaking to a diverse group of Pharisees. They were not all from the same natural lineage.  Many of them were from different parents. This being the case, the most common definition of the word "generation" does not fit in this context.

Sometimes the word "generation" refers to a group of people who live at the same time, such as the "baby boomer" generation. This meaning cannot apply because God's judgment did not fall on the Pharisees that were in His immediate presence when he talked of "this generation." The Pharisees who were there died without experiencing this judgment.

There is another meaning to the word "generation" which helps us understand how the Lord used it in Matthew 23 and Luke 11. Here the word refers to those who belong to a certain group, who are similar in thought and belief, those who are related by way of actions or faith.

God uses the word "generation" in this way many times in Scripture. For example, He has a "generation" of men of faith, men who have been declared righteous.  All who are in this generation are related one to another because God has declared them righteous. This generation of the righteous is ongoing and added to daily, as men come to Jesus Christ through faith. This generation spans all of time and is not natural but spiritual.

There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous (Ps 14:5).

Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob (Ps 24:6).

His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed (Ps 112:2).

Jesus Christ used this meaning of the word "generation" when He spoke with the Pharisees. During His conversation, Christ talked about all those who make up the generation of Pharisees beginning with Cain, and not just those in his immediate presence. Christ has the whole spiritual lineage in view, all the Pharisees, from the first to the last. This evil generation is described in Proverbs:

There is a generation that curses its father,
And does not bless its mother.
There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes,
Yet is not washed from its filthiness.
There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes!
And their eyelids are lifted up.

There is a generation whose teeth are like swords,
And whose fangs are like knives,
To devour the poor from off the earth,
And the needy from among men (Prov 30:11-14).

It is rebellious and murderous, filled with those who are self-righteous, and puffed up with their own goodness. The description of this generation matches the description of the Pharisees by the Lord Jesus Christ.  This generation is spiritual and continues to grow even through our day.

Monday, July 29, 2013

If you look without, you are distracted.  If you look within, you are depressed.  If you look at Jesus Christ, you are at rest.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Galatians 3:1-9

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
"Justification is the act of God removing from the sinner his guilt and the penalty incurred by that guilt, and bestowing a positive righteousness, Christ Jesus Himself in whom the believer stands, not only innocent and uncondemned, but actually righteous in point of law for time and for eternity. This is what God did for Abraham when he believed Him.  This is what the Judaizers were attempting to merit for themselves by their own good works."
"This is a definite statement of the proposition which Paul wishes to prove.  The emphasis is upon the fact that the believing ones are blessed with salvation, rather than those who depend upon good works as the Judaizers did.  The word faithful is added as a descriptive word in order to impress upon the reader that the important thing about Abraham was the fact that he chose the faith way of salvation rather than depend upon personal merit and good works.  The word here does not speak of faithfulness of life in the sense of fidelity, but of the fact that Abraham believed God.  And well might Abraham have depended upon good works, from a purely human standpoint.  Excavations in the city of Ur where Abraham lived, reveal the fact that Abraham was not a wild desert sheik, but an educated, wealthy, sophisticated citizen of the world, a man living in and ostensibly partaking of a state of culture and opulence little dreamed of by the person who is unfamiliar with the ancient civilizations of the past.  Abraham was no ignoramus with a gullible faith.  With all his cultural back ground, and in spite of it, he saw that much of that with which we have to do, is taken upon faith, including the way of salvation.  Those who exercise a like faith to Abraham, share with him in the same salvation which he received from God."

Friday, July 19, 2013

Philippines 3:12-16 - Pressing toward the goal

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

Scroll down to Brother Paul Stewart - Sunday School - July 14, 2013 here:


Excellent on how to live "by that same standard to which we have attained."


Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Recently I heard this phrase used:  "We are all in the process of being redeemed."  Can this be true?  Are believers really being bought on the installment plan?

Our English word "redeem" is actually a translation of three Greek words:

Agarazo: to buy at the market.

Ex-agarazo: to buy out of the market.

Lutro: to set free (upon receipt or payment of the ransom price)

The Easton Bible Dictionary explains redemption more fully:

[It is] the purchase back of something that had been lost, by the payment of a ransom. The Greek word so rendered is apolutrosis, a word occurring nine times in Scripture, and always with the idea of a ransom or price paid, i.e., redemption by a lutron (see Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45). There are instances in the LXX. Version of the Old Testament of the use of lutron in man's relation to man (Lev. 19:20; 25:51; Ex. 21:30; Num. 35:31, 32; Isa. 45:13; Prov. 6:35), and in the same sense of man's relation to God (Num. 3:49; 18:15). There are many passages in the New Testament which represent Christ's sufferings under the idea of a ransom or price, and the result thereby secured is a purchase or redemption (comp. Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; Gal. 3:13; 4:4, 5; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; Titus 2:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; Rev. 5:9). The idea running through all these texts, however various their reference, is that of payment made for our redemption. The debt against us is not viewed as simply cancelled, but is fully paid. Christ's blood or life, which he surrendered for them, is the "ransom" by which the deliverance of his people from the servitude of sin and from its penal consequences is secured. It is the plain doctrine of Scripture that "Christ saves us neither by the mere exercise of power, nor by his doctrine, nor by his example, nor by the moral influence which he exerted, nor by any subjective influence on his people, whether natural or mystical, but as a satisfaction to divine justice, as an expiation for sin, and as a ransom from the curse and authority of the law, thus reconciling us to God by making it consistent with his perfection to exercise mercy toward sinners" (Hodge's Systematic Theology).

Hodge couldn't be more emphatic — our debt has been fully paid.  It is not being paid little by little, bit by bit.  Christ died to pay the penalty against us once for all.

Hebrews 9:11-15 speaks of this — "he entered once for all into the holy places ... thus securing an eternal redemption."  If believers are all in the process of being redeemed, as being claimed, wouldn't Christ have to be dying again and again (Heb 9:6-10)?  (See also Once for all.)

Hebrews 9:11-15 — But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Titus 2:14 tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, "that He might redeem us from all lawlessness, and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." Our Lord died to redeem us from all iniquity, and He redeemed us unto Himself to be his people. He desires that we should be zealous of good works, but as believers we belong to Him now — bought outright, paid in full.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).

No, we aren't being bought on the installment plan.  We are fully redeemed now. We were "bought with a price" and "redeemed to God” (1 Cor 6:20; Titus 2:14). We were "redeemed from the curse of the law" (Gal 3:13). And some day our mortal bodies will be made incorruptible and perfect (Rom 8:22-24). What a glorious day that will be!

May I suggest that instead of saying, "We are all in the process of being redeemed," a more appropriate statement might be, "We are all in the process of being sanctified"?  But even then we must be careful, for the Bible speaks of sanctification as being both already completed (positional) and in the process of being completed (practical).  We should be clear about which one we are speaking.  (See also Who we are - part 3.)

Redeemed—how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed,
His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.

I think of my blessed Redeemer,
I think of Him all the day long;
I sing, for I cannot be silent;
His love is the theme of my song.
by Fanny J. Crosby

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - Conclusion

The Book of Acts ends rather abruptly, doesn't it?  From its close alone, it's evident that the Book of Acts is not primarily a history of "the birth and growth of the Church," nor even a complete record of "the acts of the apostles."* Wouldn't we like to know what happened to the twelve apostles after the raising up of Paul?  And wouldn't we like to know how Paul fared during the "two whole years at his own expense" (Acts 28:30) and after? What reading an inspired record of his last days and his trial and execution would have made! But God didn't cause Luke to write the Book of Acts in order to satisfy our curiosity. Rather, the book is intended to be the story of Israel's fall and of how salvation was sent to the Gentiles. This having been accomplished, and Israel having rejected Christ at Rome as she had done at Jerusalem and all the way between, the book ends.

*Interestingly, the title "Acts of the Apostles" (Greek Πράξεις ἀποστόλων Praxeis Apostolon) was not part of the original text. It was first used by Irenaeus at the end of the 2nd century.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Blueberry Muffins

Last week 21 people came to our home for breakfast.  It's a long story how that came about, but needless to say, I had to bake a lot of muffins.  Two of my favorite muffin recipes — raspberry chocolate chip and cranberry apple — I already had on hand, but I thought a third would be rather nice.  So I scoured the internet looking for the perfect blueberry muffin recipe and came across this one.  Well not exactly this one.  I made a few modifications, of course.  Don't I always? :) 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries

Crumb Topping:
1/2 c brown sugar
1/3 c flour
1/4 c butter
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.  In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place oil in a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough buttermilk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. (Do not over mix!) Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups about 3/4's full.  With a fork, mix together crumb topping ingredients and sprinkle over muffins.  Bake for 18 minutes, or until done.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 9

Beginning with the preaching of John the Baptist (whose message was for Israel - Lk 1:16; 80; Acts 13:24), and during the several years of Christ's earthly ministry with His twelve apostles (which was for Israel - Matt 10:5-7; 15:24; Rom 15:8), and for seven or eight years after Pentecost, the gospel was not sent to Gentiles.

Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested by God with mighty works and wonders and signs in the midst of Israel (Acts 2:22). Jesus responded to the appeals of two Gentiles of "great faith" only, by healing their loved ones (Matt 8:1-12; 15:20-28; Lk 7:1-10; Mk 7:27-37).

In the Book of Acts the Lord is carrying out His program declared in Mark 7:27 and Matthew 8:12. Notice that to the Greek woman our Savior said: "Let the children be fed first..." (Mk 7:27). To the Roman man He said, "...the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness" (Matt 8:12). During Acts, "the children" were being "fed first." In Acts 3:26 Peter said to Israel, "to you first." In Acts 13:46 Paul said to Israel "it was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you." In fulfillment of our Lord's words in Matthew 8:12, the judgment of "the outer darkness" is announced by Paul in Acts 28:25-28 (about 62 A.D.) and Romans 11:6-25, and came about with the destruction of Jerusalem (about 70 A.D.).

Why was it necessary that the word should be sent to Israel first?  The answer is, the Israelites were His people, and salvation was to go to all the world through them (Lk 23:3-4; Jn 4:22; Acts 1:8; 3:16-18).  (Remember, people had to become Jews — proselytes — in order to approach God at that time.)  BUT NOW, because of their unbelief, salvation is temporarily going to all the world apart from them (Isa 49; Zech 8:13,22,23; Rom 11:25-28).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

God's grace is not an excuse to sin,
but rather a reason to love and serve Him more fully.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom 6:1-4).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 8

After the rulers rejected Him in Matthew 16:20-21, Jesus specifically instructed His apostles not to testify that He was Messiah. If Jesus did not rescind this order, then His apostles willfully disobeyed Him. But Jesus Christ did rescind it in His prayer on the cross — "And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do...” (Lk 23:34). God began anew with Israel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:36; 3:14-26).

From Acts 2:36 through Acts 7, the twelve disciples and their associates testified to Israel that Jesus was Christ (Messiah). Paul and his associates continued in the synagogues of Israel to testify that Jesus was Christ (Messiah) (Acts 9:16-28; 17:3; 18:5; 28:19-28).

There are four classes of Jews mentioned in the first eleven chapters of Acts: "Hebrew Jews," "Grecians (Greek Jews)," "Strangers or visiting Jews from Rome" (Acts 2:10), and "Proselytes." The Grecians of Acts 6:1, Acts 9:29, and Acts 11:20 should not be confused with the Greeks (Gentiles) of Acts 2:28, Acts 14:1, Acts 16:1-3, Acts 17:4, Acts 18:4, Acts 18:17, Acts 19:10, Acts 19:17, and Acts 20:21. There is also a difference between many of the religious Greeks and the idolatrous Gentiles. Many of the Greeks were interested in the Jews' religion (Acts 13:43; 13:48;14:1; 17:4).

The "far off" people of Acts 2:39 were Israelites, not Gentiles (Acts 10:28; Dan 9:7). In the early chapters of Acts, not one word was spoken to Gentiles. Peter and his associates were sent by Christ to Israel only, with a kingdom message and kingdom signs (Matt 10:5-7).  To them the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given (Matt 16:19).  No one today has right to proclaim the messages, religious programs, and divine orders of those chapters to the Church today — except preaching Christ.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 7

According to Acts 2:29-33, Peter declared that David prophesied that Christ would be raised from the dead to take David's throne.  All the prophets, beginning with Moses and Samuel, foretold Israel's kingdom days (Acts 3:21-24).  In Acts 3:19-21, Peter declared that God would send Christ from heaven to establish these kingdom days if Israel would repent.  What a contrast between these messages and the fact concerning Christ and the members of His Body seated in the heavenlies (Eph 1:19-22; 2:5).  Christ, on David's throne, as Israel's King, foretold by the prophets, is quite a different relationship and ministry than Christ far above in the heavenlies, Head of the Church, which is His Body.  It is one thing for a believer to be raised up where Christ is in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6).  It is quite a different thing for God to send Christ back from heaven to the believers on earth.

During the Book of Acts, Israel was committing the unpardonable sin; sinning against the Holy Spirit, or blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31-32).  Christ said to Israel, "...every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." Israel sinned against the Son of man.  They put Him to death.  But on the cross He cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34). God was willing (Acts 3:14-18).  He sent the Holy Spirit to witness that He had raised Christ from the dead, exalted Him to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins to Israel (Acts 5:29-32).  Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and saw the Son of man standing in heaven.  He accused them of killing the Son of man and of resisting the Holy Spirit.  They committed the unpardonable sin.  Paul went to Israel's synagogues to testify that Jesus was the Messiah.  He was a watchman for the house of Israel (Ezk 3:16-20).  Israel blasphemed (Acts 13:45; 18:6).  They committed the unpardonable sin.  Paul turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:45; 18:6; 28:28).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Still more word plays

More fun word plays from a friend on fb :)

The Dentist's Hymn — Crown Him with Many Crowns
The Weatherman's Hymn — There Shall Be Showers of Blessings
The Contractor's Hymn — The Church's One Foundation
The Tailor's Hymn — Holy, Holy, Holy
The Golfer's Hymn — There's a Green Hill Far Away
The Politician's Hymn — Standing on the Promises
The Optometrist's Hymn — Open My Eyes That I Might See
The IRS Agent's Hymn — I Surrender All
The Gossip's Hymn — Pass It On
The Electrician's Hymn — Send The Light
The Shopper's Hymn — Sweet By and By
The Realtor's Hymn — I've Got a Mansion, Just Over the Hilltop
The Massage Therapist's Hymn — He Touched Me
The Doctor's Hymn — The Great Physician

And a few more for those who like to speed:

45 mph — God Will Take Care of You
55 mph — Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
65 mph — Nearer My God to Thee
75 mph — Nearer Still Nearer
85 mph — This World Is Not My Home
95 mph — Lord, I'm Coming Home
and over 100 mph — Precious Memories

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

When the going gets tough

Four things I learned recently from a sermon I heard:

When our Lord was in the Garden of Gethsemane...

1.  He wasn't alone.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled (Matt 26:36-37, cf. Mk 14:32-33).

When I go through particularly difficult times, my natural tendency is to pull into myself — to hunker down — instead of seeking the company of fellow Christians.  I don't usually do this with my husband, but am I wrong for holding back from other believers?  I don't know.  What do you think?

2.  He talked about it.

Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me" (Matt 26:38, cf. Mk 14:34).

Talking about minor difficulties with fellow believers is usually pretty easy, but rarely do I discuss major ones.  I talk about them with my husband and family members, but should I also be looking to other believers for support?

I talked afterwards with the speaker of this sermon and was told that he too tends to keep quiet.  He thinks that we tend to assume we're being humble for not speaking about our difficulties and believes we are wrong for thinking this way, that we should be seeking the support of fellow believers.  I wonder if it's more a matter of different personality types, though.  Some people are naturally more open about things.  But maybe we should be seeking the support of fellow Christians no matter what our individual personalities naturally want to do?  I don't know.  What do you think?

3.  He prayed about it.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matt 26:39, cf. Mk 14:35-36, 39).

What strikes me most about these verses is, our Lord asked the Father if it was possible to forgo the whole thing, even though He knew absolutely what the Father's will was.  If this doesn't show our Lord's humanity, I don't know what does.  He felt what we feel when we're dealing with extremely difficult situations, and He poured out His heart to the Father about it.

4.  He submitted to the Father's will.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matt 26:39, cf. Mk 14:36).

Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done" (Matt 26:42, cf. Mk 14:39).

And yet, though the situation was unbelievably hard, our Lord submitted to the will of the Father. 

So often I read or hear how we're suppose to keep praying and praying and praying for a particular thing until we finally see our prayers answered; almost like we're suppose to keep nagging and whining until He finally gives in.  At least that's the way it seems to me sometimes.  But how can we even think of insisting things work out according to our wills when we're told that "we do not know what to pray for as we ought"? (Rom 8:26-27) 

Instead, shouldn't we be pouring out our hearts to Him, and then immediately following up with, "but not as I will, but as You will"?  And perhaps after that, shouldn't we stop focusing on the things and situations we'd like to have and just rest in His grace...and think on good things?  Easier said than done, I know.  But shouldn't this be our goal?

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Cor 12:9).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Phil 4:6-9).

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 6

During the first half of Acts, Peter, the minister to the circumcision, is mentioned 67 times.  In the last half, Peter is never mentioned after Acts 15:13 and Paul (as Paul) is mentioned 132 time, beginning with Acts 13:9.  In all the messages of Paul, from Acts 9:14 to 2 Timothy 4:22, he uses the first person pronoun in speaking of himself more than 1200 times.  Acts closes in the middle of Paul's Epistles.  Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, Titus, Philemon and 2 Timothy were all written after Acts closes.

There is not a single word in the first nine chapters of Acts that "Peter and the eleven" preached justification by faith alone, the gospel of the grace of God, the ministry of reconciliation; or that they urged the Jews, to whom they preached, to forsake Moses, give up circumcision, or to abandon their hope of the Messianic kingdom.  Of course there was the element of grace in their messages of repentance and restitution, but they preached to Israel only the gospel of the earthly kingdom and of circumcision (Gal 2:7-9).  They preached to Cornelius the word that God sent to Israel (Acts 10:34-43).  Paul, on the other hand, preached to Gentiles the gospel for the uncircumcision.  This was not preached to Israel.  God preached the gospel (good news) to Abram in uncircumcision, when he was 75 years old.  Abram was circumcised when he was 99 years old (Gen 17:3-20).  From that day until when Cornelius was saved, all blessings were on the grounds of circumcision.

All of this is further evidence that the Book of Acts is principally the record of the fall of Israel, not "the story of early-day Christianity."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

He Giveth More Grace

To my fellow choir member, Joy Gabelec, who is currently in hospice, this song is especially for you.  Never doubt for a moment that you are missed and loved, and that we're all praying for you.
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limit; His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
Words by Annie Johnson Flint


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 5

So many seeming Scriptural paradoxes can be solved by simply observing progressive revelation.  Not doing so is the most frequent error I see. 

For example, many people seem to forget that when Jesus Christ walked the earth, people were still under the Law.  Because of this, they try to apply such verses as "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt 6:14-15) directly to themselves.  How do they reconcile this with Ephesians 2:8-9?  Progressive revelation must be taken into account, not only in the Gospels but in the Book of Acts as well.

The Law, of course, was given to show us what sin is, that we are sinful and can't keep from sinning, and that we therefore need a Savior (Rom 3:19-20; 7:7, 12; Gal 3:24; 1 Tim 1:9).  In a word, the Law condemns us (Rom 4:15; 5:13; 7:14; Gal 3:10; Jas 2:10).

Galatians 4:4, Matthew 23:1-3 and 28:20 tell us that our Lord Himself was born under the law of Moses and taught His disciples complete subjection to it.  Therefore, in obedience to His instructions, the twelve taught their hearers subjection to Moses' law and set the example themselves.

In the early chapters of Acts we see that the believers practically lived in the temple.  In Acts 2:46 we find them "attending the temple together."  See also Acts 3:1, 3, 8, 11; 5:20-21, 25, 42.  In the last of these verse we read that "every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus."

As pointed out before, at the council at Jerusalem it was agreed only that the Gentile believers were not to be subjected to the law of Moses.  The status of the Jews was not even discussed.  They had, until that very time, remained under the law, and they assumed that they were to continue to do so.  God had not yet given the twelve any revelation delivering believing Jews from the law (Acts 15:1, 19, 21; Gal 2:3, 7, 9).

In Acts 21:20-25, we are specifically informed that the Jews which believed remained "zealous for the law."

We are also told in Acts 22:12 that Ananias, the person who baptized Paul, was "a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there."

Not until the Apostle Paul comes on the scene do we hear any such declaration as, "BUT NOW the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law" (Rom 3:21), or "through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Sinner Saved By Grace

If you could see what I once was
If you could go with me
Back to where I started from
Then I know you would see
A miracle of love that took me

In it's sweet embrace
And made me what I am today
Just an old sinner saved by grace.

I'm just a sinner saved by grace.
When I stood condemned to death
He took my place.
Now I live and breathe in freedom

With each breath of life I take.
Loved and forgiven
Back with the living
I'm just a sinner saved by grace.

How could I boast of anything

I've ever seen or done?
How could I dare to claim as mine

The vict'ries God has won?
Where would I be had God not brought me

Gently to this place?
I'm here to say I'm nothing but

A sinner saved by grace.

I'm just a sinner saved by grace.
When I stood condemned to death
He took my place.
Now I live and breathe in freedom

With each breath of life I take.
Loved and forgiven
Back with the living
I'm just a sinner saved by grace.

By Mitch Humphries and William and Gloria Gaither


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Shadow of Death

Lou Nicholes (missionary/author) remembers hearing Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, relate about his first wife’s death. He, with his children, had been to the funeral service, and as he was driving home, Dr. Barnhouse said that he was trying to think of some words of comfort that he could give them. Just then a huge moving van passed them. As it passed, the shadow of the truck swept over the car, and as the truck pulled out in front of them, an inspiration came to Dr. Barnhouse. He said, “Children, would you rather be run over by a truck, or by its shadow?” The children said, “Well, of course Dad, we’d much rather be run over by the shadow! That can’t hurt us at all.” Dr. Barnhouse said, “Did you know that two thousand years ago the truck of death ran over the Lord Jesus in order that only its shadow might run over us?”

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Cor 15:54-58).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 4

Aside for the statement "Peter, standing with the eleven" in Acts 2:14, only three of the apostles are mentioned by name from the day of Pentecost through the end of the Book of Acts (except ten words concerning the death of James, the brother of John, in Acts 12:2).  The three apostles mentioned are Peter, John and James.  In Galatians 2:7-9 these three are referred to as "pillars."  After the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-19), there is only one short reference made to one of these men — James — when Paul visited Jerusalem (Acts 21:18-28).

If we study the ministry of Peter, James and John in Acts in light of Galatians 2:7-9, we will see that they agreed to go to the circumcision and Paul to the uncircumcision.  Why?  These verses seem pretty clear.

But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, 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 (Gal 2:7-9).

All of the apostles mentioned in Acts proclaimed that "the Christ is Jesus" and that He had died and risen again, but the earthly kingdom was also being offered to Israel during this time — commonly called the "transitional period" (Acts 3:17-21).  And remember, too, at the council at Jerusalem it was agreed only that the Gentile believers were not to be subjected to the law of Moses. The status of the Jews was not even discussed.  It is evident that they had remained under the law up to that point, and it seems that they assumed they were to continue to do so.  God had not yet given the twelve apostles any revelation delivering believing Jews from the law.  See also later in Acts 21:20 that the Jews which believed remained "zealous of the law."

The ministry of the twelve apostles in Acts was, in fact, a ministry of confirmation, witnessed by signs and miracles (Heb 2:2-4). The messages they proclaimed were concerning events foretold by Israel's prophets (Acts 1:16-20; 2:16, 25, 30-31; 3:22-24; 4:11, 25-26; 7:1-50; 8:32-33; 10:43; 15:13-18). I believe that all of this should be studied in light of Colossians 1:24-28 and Ephesians 3:6-9 where Paul plainly says that "the mystery hidden for ages and generations" which he preached — the strange blessing of Gentiles in the Body of Christ — was unknown to Israel's prophets.  (See also Rom 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim 2:8 regarding "my gospel.") 

One last note:  Wouldn't it make sense to use Acts 15:19-20, and Acts 21:18-25, and Galatians 2:3, 7-9 as the key to understanding James' Epistle "to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion" as well?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 3

One thousand years before Christ came to earth, the Holy Spirit prophesied that a successor would be chosen to take the place of Judas, who would lose his apostleship (Acts 1:16-30, cf. Ps 69:25; 109:6-8). That successor had to be a fellow-companion of the eleven apostles and Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 1:21-22).  These requirements made Saul of Tarsus ineligible to succeed Judas, which disproves the claim of some that Paul succeeded Judas as one of the twelve.

Although the resurrected Christ gave his commission to the eleven, He required twelve men for the ministry and message to all the "men of Israel," on the day of Pentecost (Matt 19:28; 28:19-20; Mk 16:14; Lk 22:30; Acts 1:8; 2:22).  To me, the fact that the Holy Spirit came upon them immediately afterwards, is proof of God's approval of the selection of Matthias.

Notice also that at Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit was poured out, the people obeyed the Sermon on the Mount as well as other commands referred to in Matthew 19:20-28 (cf. Mk 10:21; Lk 12:33; 18:22; Ezk 36:27).  They sold their assets and turned the proceeds over for the common good.

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

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need (Acts 4:32-35). 

The twelve apostles also obeyed Matthew 10:9-10, carrying "no silver and gold" (Acts 3:6, cf. Matt 19:27-28).  Certainly this was a foretaste of the earthly kingdom of Christ (Heb 6:5), the "times of refreshing" referred to in Acts 3:19-21.  This is not, however, the order for the Church — the Body of Christ — today.*

*See "Sell Everything" posted September 25, 2011.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 2

The last words of Luke's Gospel concerning the twelve apostles are:  "And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God" (Lk 24:52-53).  In Acts 5:42 it is recorded concerning them that "every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus."  Acts 8:1 tells us that when a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem and many were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, the apostles remained in Jerusalem.

It is also interesting to note that Jerusalem is mentioned 60 times in Acts from Acts 1:4 to Acts 28:17, and that the temple is mentioned 24 times in Acts.  Jerusalem continued to be the headquarters for the twelve apostles throughout the Book of Acts, and so far as the Acts record is concerned, not one of them preached the gospel outside of Israel's land.

Despite the judgment of Christ, pronounced against the temple and Jerusalem (Matt 23:31-39), Israel never received greater favor from Rome than they did during the period covered by the Book of Acts.  During this time the temple continued to stand and both believing and unbelieving Jews had access to it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Salvation and good works

Many people think that salvation is God’s reward to those who do their best to live good lives. But this isn't true because God’s Word says of those who are saved:

...who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Tim 1:9).

Referring to this "salvation that is in Christ Jesus," Paul says:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him (2 Tim 2:10-11).

In other words, we have died with Christ.  It was not Christ’s death.  He was no sinner.  He had no death to die.  He was dying our death!  By faith we have been "crucified with Christ" (Gal 2:20). The penalty for all our sins have been fully paid because we have died in Christ AND have risen with Christ to "walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:3-5).

This is all God’s doing.  Only now are we in a position to do good works that will please Him (Rom 6:6-11).  Paul also writes in 2 Tim 2:12:  "if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us."  When our service for Christ is reviewed, some of us "will receive a reward," but others "will suffer loss," though they themselves "will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor 3:14-15).

It will be deeply embarrassing for unfaithful believers to face empty-handed the One who gave His all — Himself — to save them. Yet salvation is by grace, so Paul is quick to conclude with these words:  "if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2:13).

So you see, our rewards depend upon our faithfulness, but our salvation (praise the Lord!) depends upon His.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 1

Our small group Bible study has been going through the Book of Acts.  We're nearing the end now, and there are several observations I would like to make.  It seems to me that if there was a better understanding of this book, there wouldn't be so much confusion in the Church today.

The Book of Acts was written by Luke, the beloved physician.*  He must have joined Paul when he received the call to Macedonia because Luke uses "we" for the first time in Acts 16:10.  Luke was sailing to Rome with Paul when the ship broke apart and the passengers and crew reached land on pieces of broken vessel (Acts 27:39-44 through Acts 28:1-2).  Among the last written words of Paul are these: "Luke alone is with me" (2 Tim 4:11).  This gives us some idea of the unwavering faith and fortitude of this beloved companion of Paul.

*"Luke, the 'beloved physican' (Col 4:14), close friend and companion of Paul, was probably the only Gentile author of any part of the New Testament. We know nothing about his early life or conversion except that he was not an eyewitness of the life of Jesus Christ (Lk 1:2).  Though a physician by profession, he was primarily an evangelist, writing his gospel and the book of Acts and accompanying Paul in missionary work.  He was with Paul at the time of the apostle's martyrdom (2 Tim 4:11), but of his later life we have no certain facts." (Ryrie)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lord of Life

Though we rose to this tearful sunrise
With sadness for the dawn,
Now we find the grave-stone rolled aside,
Declaring Christ has gone.
Here we stand, trembling as an angel speaks,
We can't believe our eyes.
What a marvel, oh, what a mystery:
It's heaven's great surprise.
Hear the tomb as it echoes its refrain,
Which shouts of Jesus' pow'r;
Hear it ring with a triumph that proclaims
Salvation's finest hour.
Glory to the Great Redeemer,
Glory to the Risen Christ!
Our God reigns forever;
He is the Lord of life!
So all saints, let your loudest anthems ring;
We stand with hearts amazed.
Let us join as the heav'nly angels sing,
"He's worthy of all praise!"
Glory to the Great Redeemer,
Glory to the Risen Christ!
Our God reigns forever,
He is the Lord of life!
Hallelujah for this, our victory,
The end of sin's dark night.
As He lives once again then so shall we;
He is the Lord of life!
He is the Lord of life!

words and music by Tony Wood and Phillip Keveren