Introduction to Acts of the Apostles

Welcome bible study participants!  Last night we had a wonderful time taking care of introductory thoughts about how to interpret scripture; as well as examining the author, date, and purpose of the book of Acts.  We looked briefly at the first two verses of Acts chapter 1.  All this is covered in the following recording of the lesson.  You can listen to this teaching by simply pressing the “play” button on the link below. (Depending on your connection speed it may take a moment or two to load).  Also if you would like to take notes, there is a handout for the outline of the lesson simply click the link and print one out on your own printer.  At the end of the lesson we gave out a takeaway handout and you can print this as well.

Thanks for listening.

Dr. Jim Wilkins

acts 1_1-2 introduction outline

acts 1_1-2 introduction outlineacts 1_1-2 takeaway handout

Rinnah

Have you ever wondered what Jesus sounded like when he sang?  I know… some of you are thinking, “Jesus sang? I didn’t know Jesus sang.”

Well, think about it again.  I’m not Jewish, and I don’t pretend to be a scholar on the finer points of worship in the synagogue.  However, the use of music in worship in the synagogue dates back to ancient times. Additionally, Scripture accounts in a number of places how music and song expressed thanks to God or enhanced worship in the Temple.  Here are just a few for you to look up on your own:

  • Exodus 15 – the Song of the Sea
  • Judges 5 – Deborah’s song of victory
  • 1 Samuel 16 – David had skill in singing and playing the lyre
  • According to tradition at least 150 of the psalms were composed and sung by David
  • Psalm 120-134 – the “Song of the Ascents” – were included regularly during the ancient Temple worship, each song corresponding to one of the 15 steps the priest would ascend to arrive at the altar.

So, using our logic and deduction, all of these songs would be familiar to Jesus who attended synagogue every Sabbath day, his entire life. He traveled to Jerusalem for every feast day celebration required by God’s Law.  And, being a normal Jewish male expected to lift his own voice in worship and praise to God, Jesus would sing with all the others in the assembly.

I wonder what his voice sounded like?

But here’s the thing…

Did you know that Scripture teaches that Jesus sings over you?  Say what?!

Again, we have to use our deductive reasoning and logic here.  Scripture teaches that as Christ-followers we have been “grafted into” His family, along with all those Jewish folk who follow Him as the True Messiah.  This means, that what is promised to them, is also promised to us, in terms of eternal life, and the blessings of God.  That said, look at what the prophet Zephaniah says.

Zephaniah 3:17  The LORD your God is among you; He is mighty to save. He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; He will rejoice over you with singing.

“singing” here is the Hebrew word rinnah (rin-naw’) רִנָּה
and it means:  a ringing cry or singing

Wow! What an amazing thought!  Jesus, the LORD your God… will rejoice over you with singing!

I want to hear that voice.  I want to know the truth of these words.  And even though I can’t see it today, or hear it today in my current realm of reality, I know the words are still true.  Jesus is singing over me!

Glory be to the Lord of the hosts of heaven!

As you go to worship today… think about the words of Zephaniah 3:17!

 

In Times Like These…

Ruth Caye Jones was a self-taught pianist/organist from Erie Pennsylvania.  Ruth was married to Bert Jones and co-founded an evangelistic radio ministry.  Broadcasting weekly this family oriented program called “A Visit with the Jones,” this couple spoke the truth into homes across the country.  You may not even know her name, or have ever heard the radio program, but you may remember the song she wrote in 1944 titled, “In Times Like These.”

I watched and listened last night, first to our President’s grave message about the crisis at our southern border, then the Democratic opposition response to his words.  The only thought to describe my feelings as I watched was “sad.”  I’m not fearful for what may happen in our country as the rhetoric increases, while the division in our leadership broadens, and every listens to pollsters who seem to skew results according to who’s funding the polls.  I’m trying hard not to be angry or depressed as our government fails to provide safety and security to our life and freedom by not fixing the problem along our borders.  Mostly, I’m just sad.

I woke up this morning thinking about the words to this song by Mrs. Jones, and realized if there were ever a need for these words it is now.  Read and listen carefully.

In times like these you need a Savior,
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
!

In times like these you need the Bible,
In times like these, O be not idle;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
!

In times like these I have a Savior,
In times like these I have an anchor;
I’m very sure, I’m very sure
My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
!

Here is why I’m not fearful or depressed, and try not to be angry listening to the news or reading social media outbursts on partisan politics.  The words in this song are true.

In times like these, my Savior is not Donald Trump, and my anchor is not the United States Government.

In times like these, the Word of God is the Absolute Truth on which to base my life, and faith.

In times like these I must choose to believe in and hold fast to these three truths:

  1. God is Sovereign and in Control
  2. God’s Word has absolute Authority over all things, and applies to me personally
  3. God has promised to always be Present with us, and with me personally

This is my anchor.
This is my Rock.

His name is Jesus.

Continuing the work…

ActsBibleStudyWebpage_Email Header

The eleven men following Jesus came abruptly to a defining moment in their lives.  One day Jesus just stopped near Jerusalem and told these men not to leave the city again, but to wait for what God the Father had promised, which He had already told them about.  What promise?  When did Jesus tell them about it?  These men were still caught up in “old” thinking, so naturally they assumed He was about to establish an earthly kingdom.

This thought process led them to ask, “Is it time?  Are you about to restore Israel?”  In some ways I think this may have saddened Jesus a little.  Even after three years, after the crucifixion and the resurrection, they still didn’t “get it.”  So, one more time, Jesus explained it…

“It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” ~ Acts 1:7-8

Jesus left them standing there, wide-eyed, with their mouths open, while they watched until He disappeared from their sight – ascending back to His rightful place of Lordship and Ruler of the universe.

In just a few days from now, January 13th to be exact, I will be teaching a new bible study class titled, “Acts: The unfinished Works of Jesus.”  This will be an in-depth study, which will be foundation-ally supported by looking into the  history, culture, language, and identity issues of these first century Christ-followers who established the Church.

And when I say “church,” I’m not talking about the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, or Church of Christ… denominational church.  I’m not talking about the Roman Catholic Church.  I’m talking about the Bride of Christ which Jesus called “His Church.”  Where did He make this statement?

Jesus was asking the twelve, (including Judas Iscariot), who the people at large were saying He was.  Everybody had a different answer until Peter proclaimed,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” ~ Matthew 16:16

If you stop reading there you’ll miss the point entirely.  Jesus responded to this grand confession this way:

“Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” ~17-18

The Church established by Jesus in Acts, is His church.  It’s not my church, it’s not your church, nobody owns it but Jesus.

The study of the book of Acts will be exciting as we understand how everything which happens is but a fulfillment of what Jesus promised these eleven men that day of Peter’s confession.  Hence the title of the study, the “Unfinished Works of Jesus.”

Should you like to follow along on this journey, I will be recording these lessons to post on this blog.  You’ll be able to download a Word document outline to each lesson, and take your own notes for discussion with your friends and family.  Who knows… some of you might take the outline with your own notes, and go teach these discoveries to someone  else.  And in this way, Jesus will still be working… to build His church!

Passing the Buck … one week ’till Christmas

Do you remember the “Flip Wilson Show?”

From 1970 to 1974 Wilson was the host for a weekly television spot where he introduced the viewers to a recurring character named Geraldine Jones.  By putting on a dress, along with some carefully crafted padding, then altering his voice to a higher pitch, Wilson also introduced the character’s favorite phrase, “The Devil made me do it!”

The skit was hysterically funny, winning great fan approval.  I mean really, it’s not my fault right?  I had to do it… the devil made me do it!

Not such an original thought, funny though it may be.  This phrase leaps off the pages of an ancient text in a way that draws us all to Christmas. Yes, to Christmas!

If we go all the way back to the Beginning (Genesis) we’ll see the story where God asked Adam why he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.  Adam’s response?  That woman you gave me, she…

So God asks Eve, and she responds… Hey it wasn’t my fault, it was that snake who said we wouldn’t really die!

Why didn’t God just give up on the human creatures right then and there, and start again somewhere else in the universe?

They were naked and knew it, trying on their own to cover their nakedness and their disobedient unbelief in God’s word, blaming each other and other creatures for their own miserable choices.

In that moment they were lost, and far removed from the relationship with God they once knew.

But God…

Don’t you just love those words?

But God didn’t want to kill them; instead, he had a plan to use this first couple to bless the whole world.  So God killed one of His other creatures to make garments for the first couple. [Genesis 3:21]

This event is directly tied to Matthew 1:18-25.  God told Joseph about the plan to bring a child into the world through Mary.  Specifically God told Joseph to name this child “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  But why?

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Here’s the thing.

Adam and Eve knew they were lost, and suffered the consequences of their choices, after making all their excuses to God.

The birth of Jesus now provides for all mankind an opportunity to come back to God.

  • Regardless of how far we’ve strayed.
  • No matter the things we’ve done, or failed to do.
  • In spite of who we blame for our choices, including the devil himself.

We all now have an invitation to come back to God, through Jesus, the Savior of the world …  Immanuel, God with us.

John 1:12
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Acts 4:12
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

The truth is the devil can’t make you do anything… including reject God’s love through Jesus.  It is your choice alone.

The truth is God won’t MAKE YOU BELIEVE in His Son Jesus… He invites but you must choose to say yes to Him.

Don’t pass the buck anymore… say “yes” to Jesus and His grace and forgiveness today.

Chestnuts anyone?

fireplace 2018
In April 2018 we began the arduous challenge of remodeling much of our new home.  Flooring, painting, some things taken out, new things put in, and now we’re just about complete.  It’s been a daunting task at times, giving us a new appreciation for people with more patience than me.  Now, it’s only 13 more days ’till Christmas.  This song fits me where I am this morning…
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you
Songwriters: Mel Torme / Robert Wells
The Christmas Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Trust in God unchangingly…

2018 Tree

Don’t miss the last stanza of this old, old song…

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
Not only green when summer’s here,
But also when ’tis cold and drear.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can’st give me;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can’st give me;
How often has the Christmas tree
Afforded me the greatest glee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can’st give me.

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
From base to summit, gay and bright,
There’s only splendor for the sight.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!!”

Merry Christmas Everybody!

21 days until Christmas

When I was young, every year, every kid in the little community where I lived would receive a red net stocking filled with hard candy, fruit, nuts, and candy canes.  There were four kids in my family.  My mom would take the four stockings, empty them out on the table, then separate the items into groups, and the whole family would share the bounty.  The fruit often went first, I didn’t care much for that old ribbon hard candy, but I loved the butterscotch bits.  The nuts seemed to last forever in a bowl on the coffee table in the living room.  I didn’t want to work that hard shelling the thing for such a tiny nut. The giant peppermint candy cane though, now that was something else.  It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.

When I tell this story, some people today immediately feel sorry for me, since in their minds, they believe I grew up in a communist family.  That’s their interpretation of the sharing process my mother instilled in us kids.  But there is a big difference in Communism, and having all things in common, where everyone’s needs are met in excess.

And here’s the thing.

It wasn’t something my mother just dreamed up on her own.  She was just modeling for us what she knew to be true in the Bible about how we are supposed to live.  For your consideration, I offer these insightful verses from Acts 2:41-47 as translated in The Message, by Eugene Peterson.  This was the birth of the first “church” and displays the nature of transformed lives.

They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.  Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.  They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

This was the immediate response of the 3,000+ people who became true Christ-followers after Peter preached to the crowd gathered in the streets of Jerusalem at Pentecost.  They were hungry for truth, so the focused on the apostles’ teaching.  They found a new level of intimate relationship with each other in Christ. Every meal they shared together was a celebration of life.  But most importantly, they prayed about everything.

In 21 days we celebrate the birth of Messiah, the Christ, born Jesus of Nazareth. Every time I hear the story, or read the story for myself, I’m moved again by the power of a baby growing into manhood, making the only sacrifice that could accomplish this kind of change in people.  Our world today needs this kind of transformation.  Our world today still needs this kind of Savior.

Our world today, needs Jesus.

 

28 sleeps … until Christmas

It’s been two weeks since you heard from me, causing me to wonder if you missed me at all…

But here’s the thing.  It’s really not about me anyway, so it doesn’t matter whether you missed me or not… (lol)!

Like you, I’ve spent the last two weeks getting ready for Thanksgiving, celebrating Thanksgiving, and trying to survive the emotional upheaval of Thanksgiving. Whew! I’m rather glad Thanksgiving is behind us, so we can build up more emotional, physical, and psychological stress for another 28 days until Christmas.  Aren’t you?

It sounds like I’m just Mr. Bah Humbug himself, right?  Or am I just being Grinchy?  It’s hard to tell these days.  Three years ago, about now, my life shifted sideways on me.  Faced with early retirement, and a sense of serious personal loss, I was overwhelmed by what my future might hold.  It has taken me these last three years of flushing stuff out of my life, and seeing how God would replace all that yucky stuff with other things which help me grow, to discover the true meaning of 2 Corinthians 12:10.

The Bible Study Class lesson this past Sunday was all about this verse in the context of 2 Corinthians chapters 10-12.  Trust me, I know all too well that I don’t measure up anywhere near to the pastor/teacher that Paul was.  However, I think the verse was just for me in some ways, from the lesson this week.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  

Over the past three years I’ve created a blog which reaches people across the globe.  I’ve written a book, which you can see on this blog.  And, I’ve been afforded the opportunity (recently) to return to teaching the Word of God.  When I am weak, then I am strong.

January 13, 2019 will be a new beginning when I return to familiar ground as a teacher of God’s Word.  Maybe this will interest you, maybe not.  But if not you, then maybe the study will interest someone you know, so pass the word on to your friends if you will.

I will begin an in-depth Bible Study class at the church my wife and I attend.  It will be on the Book of Acts in the New Testament.  We will look at history, culture, languages, content, and context, not quite verse by verse, but certainly thought by thought.

I will be recording these lessons in a podcast, and making them available to you here on the blog.  There will also be links where you can download a handout to take your own notes, as well as a personal application guide to use, if you so choose.

In this new mission, I hope to fulfill Christ’s demands on my life to teach.  First in Jerusalem (this just means – where I live), then in Judea and Samaria (the surrounding geographical region), then to the “remotest part of the earth” (through this blog).  This was the command to the apostles and disciples gathered when Jesus spoke the words in Acts 1:8.  I want to live them out in real time, somehow bringing glory to God in this season of my life.

I will need your prayers to remain faithful to this call.  The evil one will not be pleased if he can’t stop God’s Word being spread this way.  Not knowing what new trials I may face, I can only ask that you pray God would keep me weak, so I can be strong in HIM.

Share this announcement with whomever you think might want to listen to the podcasts.

Thank you, and Merry Christmas (in 28 days)!!!

Thanksgiving… one week away

Traditions.  Family.  Football.  Turkey and dressing. Pumpkin Pie.

I’m always just a little edgy about this time every year.  When I was pastoring churches, this would be called the “busy” season.  Once Halloween was finally behind me, it was a fast sprint toward Christmas and a brand new year of ministry.  Of all the holidays that we celebrate, it just seems to me that Thanksgiving may be the most misunderstood.

Traditions.

We (my generation) were taught Thanksgiving came about in 1621, in a small town named Plymouth, instituted by Governor William Bradford, to celebrate the very first successful harvest.  The Pilgrims came together because they were grateful they survived their first savage winter in the New World. My elementary teachers told us that President George Washington proclaimed the first national day of “thanksgiving and prayer” in 1789.  But it wasn’t until 1863, when President Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving during the Civil War, that this tradition was celebrated annually across the nation.

Family.

We all want a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, where relationships are always perfect, and everyone loves each other unconditionally.  I’m not really sure I’ve experienced even one year that measures up to this image.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying, right?  Here’s a few topics from which to disengage this year:  politics, old arguments, having children, and table manners.  Does someone’s elbow on the table really constitute a crisis?  This year find a way to walk outside a take a couple of deep breaths, go help someone in the kitchen, or play a game.  Just remember, your words are the key to keeping the day positive, and the solution to family stress.

Football.

Since I’m the author of this blog, I feel somewhat free to talk about my favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.  Please don’t stop reading yet.  Another stress-related Thanksgiving activity can be the emphasis on whether your team wins or not.  Why would we do this?  Why is this day so wrapped up into sports, instead of gratitude for life?  I really enjoy watching football, especially when my team is winning.  I learned the hard way, that all the emotional energy I reserve for football, is much better spent investing in the relationships around me at Thanksgiving.

Turkey and dressing, and pumpkin pie.

Well, truth be told, I prefer pecan pie, but that’s beside the point. I really enjoy the actual Thanksgiving meal itself.  I’ve been privileged to eat many different kinds of Turkey preparations, a variety of dressing concoctions, green bean casseroles, and sweet potato (not my favorite) side dishes.  Then as though we forgot about them, out come the desserts to die for… pies and puddings galore.  And just like all the other topics above, I must ask, is the meal itself the essence of “Thanksgiving?”

Here’s the thing.

There are over 100 verses in the Bible about Thanksgiving.  Don’t worry I’m not going to list them all here, although at the end of this article I’ll give you a link to check them out on your own.  I leave you today with just these thoughts…

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Psalm 107:1
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, Most High.

Focus on thanksgiving, this Thanksgiving Day.

Link to Thanksgiving verses: https://www.openbible.info/topics/thanksgiving

 

Trust and Obey

Yes, this is the title of one of the all-time great hymns of worship I grew up singing.  What you may not know is the song was written by John H. Sammis in 1887.  It comes right out of two specific scriptures.

Psalm 84:11-12
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!

Isaiah 50:10
Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light?  Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

My heart still quickens when I read or hear the words to the first stanza of this song:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

The chorus just gets to me:

Trust and Obey! For there’s no other way,
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

How do we do this?

Today, the day after the “mid-terms” it may appear to some that this is just trite and meaningless dribble, when the world at large, and our nation specifically seems in such disarray.  You and I may or may not like who won a particular election.  You and I may not approve the choice for governor in Colorado, the senate selection from Tennessee, or New York’s 14th district congressional selection… but this is where the trust and obey part comes in.

Remember a couple of days ago I suggested that Paul said to the church in Rome that God puts people in places of governing authorities, and no one is there except that God established it? [Romans 13:1]  You might want to take a few moments here to look up Romans 13 and read the whole chapter… it’s only 14 verses, and it might take 3 minutes at the most.  Because if there is one passage of scripture that certainly applies to us today it is this one.

We have to trust in the Sovereignty of God.  We have to know without hesitation or  doubt that God is in control, has plans we don’t know, sees the outcome far beyond what we might hope or think, and has only the best in mind for those who know Him and call Him “Father.”

The only way we can call Him “Father” is through Jesus Christ.  We should then pray as Jesus taught us to pray…

Matthew 6:9-10
“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed by Your name.  You kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

It’s a new day.  The political lay of the land is different.  But God is in control.  For those who know and believe this is true, there is only one response must we have.

Trust and Obey.

If you could…

Kevin Costner played the role of Bud Johnson, a beer-guzzling dead-beat dad raising a clever and too-mature-for-her-age daughter named Molly, in the 2008 comedy “Swing Vote.”  On election day Bud’s daughter sets off a series of unforeseen events resulting in the nationwide presidential race being decided by just one vote:  Bud’s.

Now, personally I’m a sucker for flicks like this, so I thought it was funny and poignant, despite the 38% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.  So, I thought about this movie today, and for some reason it stirred up in me a few pointed questions of my own.

If tomorrow’s election came down to one vote, and it turned out to be yours, have you voted yet?  Do you plan to vote if you haven’t yet?  If not, why not?  If yes, do you have a clear path to why you would vote a particular way, or are you like Bud Johnson, waiting to be wooed by the candidates?

What’s at stake here?  Why should I be writing to you about voting in an election where you may have no interest at all?

First, let me just say that this will be my last article about voting, for a couple of years anyway.  I think I just heard an audible sigh of relief from all over the world… ha!  You think I’m making this up, but this blog is being read in 119 of the 193 recognized nations around the world.  So it’s not just you folks in the United States that are ready to move on. It’s also some folks in Canada, India, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, South Africa, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Brazil… well, you get the picture.

Second, the founders of our nation wrote that “all men are created equal.” This didn’t mean they were ignoring we are in fact all different in terms of appearance, personality, skills, character, morals, etc.  In their minds we are all born with inherent, natural and unalienable rights, which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  At it’s core this means no person is born with a natural right to rule over all the others without their consent.  It also means that governments are obligated to apply the law equally to everyone.

So… here’s the thing.  I’m encouraging you to cast your vote after doing a couple of basic activities.

First, pray for wisdom according James 1:5 (see my previous article here), because this is exactly what God wants us to do.

Second, re-read what the founders wrote above, and ask yourself, “which are the men or women whom I consider best qualified to uphold these ideals, and protect my freedoms?”

Third, do not abdicate your part in the responsibility of preserving freedom.  Your part is to go vote.  It is a right to be cherished for sure.  But not one just to be put on the mantle and looked at, but never touched or implemented.  This is a “messy” sort of right… it has to be handled… this right to vote must be exercised.

If it came down to it… if you could preserve freedom… and it took your one vote to do it…

Well, would you?

54 days ’till Christmas… 5 days until…

Yes, folks, it’s me again.  Mine is the voice of reason and logic for some, but the noise of insanity to others.  Of course the title of this article was just to grab your attention!  It’s what I try to do.  Now let’s be serious, just for a few minutes.

This is not that hard to understand.  The United States of America is approaching the precipice of perhaps the most monumental decision in our history.  On Tuesday, November 6th, our nation will be given once again the greatest privilege of any individual nation.  Each “citizen” of this great country is afforded the opportunity to cast your individual vote for who becomes a lawmaker for our state, and nation.  Given the controversy and divisiveness of mainstream media today, we owe it to ourselves, (not to them), to be informed and wise when we cast our votes.  So allow me just one more time, to give you some words of logic and reason.

Isaiah 1:18
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

This is simple right?  It’s right there from the Prophet Isaiah, none of us is perfect.  We are not voting perfect people into office, there are none on this planet.  We are not voting for who we think will make flawless choices which are right every time, that person doesn’t exist.  We are only trying hard to get it right, and allow for a scenario which gives America the chance to make less mistakes than in our past.  So how do we choose which way to cast our vote?

James 1:5
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

We can’t see five minutes ahead of right now.  I’m writing this and I don’t know how it ends yet.  God does.  You’re reading this sentence, but you don’t know how it ends yet.  I only do, because I wrote it, edited it, then posted it.  But only God knows who will be affected and how.  I don’t.

We can’t see Wednesday morning, November 7th either.  So how about we spend some time between now and Tuesday praying for wisdom.  How about if we ask God to move in the hearts of those who have not gone to early voting opportunities, and ask God to give them HIS wisdom on these matters.  I know I’m a pastor/teacher and some think I’m not even supposed to be writing articles like this, that somehow this violates the “separation of church and state.”

But here’s the thing.

I’m not a pundit, I’m not representing any particular partisan cause, and I’m not saying  who you are to vote for.  I’m saying our nation’s very core fibers are at risk in these mid-term elections.  I’m saying that you have not just a “right” to vote, but a mandate to vote and have your voice count for what happens on Tuesday.  You don’t have to march on the nation’s capital to have a voice.  You don’t have to be an “activist” to have a voice.  You don’t have to become violent to have a voice.  You already have a voice, it is called a “VOTE.”  So use it.

Take the weekend, spend some time just pursuing God and His wisdom on these matters, then do the responsible thing, if you haven’t already done so.

Stand in some line that moves at a snail’s pace, even if it seems meaningless and stupid to do so, and cast your vote.  Lift your voice, by pressing a button, or filling in a box, selecting the people who in your opinion are best suited for the job.

And one last thing.  When the results are in… rest assured that the one who is placed in office during this election process, will be the person God wants there.  I know this is the hard part for some of us.  But believing in the Sovereignty of God means believing this…

Romans 13:1
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

It’s that last phrase I want you to focus on.  It means God is in charge now, just like He has been in charge since time began.  No authority exists that God hasn’t first established for His own purposes and plans.

We don’t know these plans, we don’t see these plans, but they exist, and we must trust.  So align yourself with God’s plans by seeking His wisdom when you cast your vote on Tuesday.

It really is that simple.

How God Sees Us

I’ve often wondered what would cause people to become so hate filled that they would form identity groups which vie for supremacy or dominance?  Many in the human race have adopted various titles or names for themselves, others have had descriptive labels thrust upon them.  The air of political correctness in this country is so thick you couldn’t cut it with a knife, it’s too dense and impermeable to believe.  And, it is so anti-biblical as to be laughable by those who are true people of faith today. It begs the question: “Is this what God intended us to become?”

skeletons

This is a great image of how God sees us (the skeletons).  God didn’t give us these names… we did. We’re all the same below the surface of our skin, and it is His design.  If the Bible is true, and we are indeed created in God’s image, then every single one of these labels is incorrect.  We are human beings.  We are knowable and known.  God has spoken in His word about how we are to relate to Him, how we are to relate to other humans, and how we are to relate to ourselves.  Isn’t it about time we figured out some of this stuff?  Maybe it’s time to get past all the labels and name calling, and just ask God for wisdom.

James 1:5-8
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

Be Careful What You Pray For…

I know many people who really love the comedic humor of The Big Bang Theory (hereafter called TBBT).  At the end of every episode Chuck Lorre Productions posts a text image containing what might be called “Final Thoughts.”  Some of these thoughts are very humorous, some are just trite, and some leave you shaking your head saying “What?”  This is the graphic image of the show that aired 10-25-2018.  Take just a couple of moments to read it, then scroll down to see why I believe you ought to be careful what you pray for…

IMG-2340

I was lucky enough to have recorded this episode of TBBT, so it was easy to stop the recording at just the right time to snap this shot with my mobile device.

So, here’s the thing.  This seemed awfully sacrilegious to me at first.  I’ve watched every episode of this sitcom, and laughed uproariously almost every time, since these writers truly capture the essence of human behavior and relationships.  Then I had to stop and think for a minute.

On first glance the whole thing looks contrived and sarcastic.  The parenthetic statement in the first line says it all. And, I’m pretty sure after reading $598, that the writer has no idea who God really is.  However, God’s word says that each human being past, present or future will be accountable for words like these.

Matthew 12:36
But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.

I have a hard time believing that the author of this image is “humbly beseeching God” I also see him as more like Herod when Jesus stood before the king, where the king’s attitude is curious, and wants to be entertained.

Luke 23:8
Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.

No one reading Lorre’s statement could mistake his description in the third sentence as anything but a very caustic diatribe against the current President of the USA.  Simply adding the phrase, “… then, you know, thy will be done…” is not a magic mantra conjured up to get God to do man’s bidding.

Then I thought, “let’s view this from God’s perspective.”

God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (here even when we don’t see Him), and omnipotent (all-powerful).  Knowing these attributes of God, it’s possible when God heard, or saw these words being formed that He laughed out loud too.

Psalm 37:13
The Lord laughs at him, for He sees his day is coming.

What if this particular prayer (if we can really call it that), may actually be what God intends to do.  God put our President in place, so God must intend President Trump to be in that position until God replaces him, and not by men with an axe to grind.

Romans 13:1
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

Certainly in a very general sense, God wants to bless all of humanity with His goodness.

Matthew 5:45
…for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Whether it’s Bob Mueller or some other bloke, God blesses all of us in a general sense by just allowing us to exist!

But my favorite part of #598 is the very last thought.  I wonder if Lorre understands that these “careless words” are being recorded in heaven, and the Old Testament wrath that he invokes is closer than ever before.  Maybe he could use a little reminder of God’s sovereignty, as much as any of those who took the time to read his prayer.

I’m just saying… be careful what you pray for… God might want the exact same things… just not like you said it, or expected it.

 

Mob Tactics: the oldest trick in the book.

When a group of people comes together with a common emotional/angry catalyst, it only takes a spark to get this flame burning where the fury is turned into violence.

History records event after event where this principle is true. As recent as 2011, a lot of research has focused on the mindset of a violent mob.

Just some of the findings include:

  • Being a member of the MOB lower’s the participant’s inhibitions, making them do things they would never do otherwise.
  • A member loses their individual values/principles replacing them with the MOB’s principles, which are usually to cause mayhem or destruction while avoiding detection.
  • What seems just and righteous causes to the MOB, based in what they perceive as inequality or unfairness, synergizes and empowers the group as a whole.
  • Being a member may be exciting and powerful, as well as making the individual mobster feel invisible, so they shouldn’t be detected or responsible for their actions.
  • As the riot moves forward it may be harder and harder for members to remember why they assembled in the first place.
  • When the riot turns violent, most of the victims actually did nothing to deserve their fate other than being in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Just because we live in dangerous days, we should not think this is the first time events like the ones we see daily now have occurred. Let me show you what I mean. Things can turn ugly, and get a lot worse, if we don’t change the course soon.

Just consider the New Testament stories, from almost two thousand years ago…

John 11:53
So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.

Who is “they” and “Him?” They is the Sanhedrin (a mob of 71 Pharisees) and Him is Jesus Christ.

In John 12, Jesus goes to Bethany to stay with His friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (their once dead brother Jesus had called back to life from the tomb). The next day a large crowd formed along the side of the road as Jesus made His way into Jerusalem 5 days before Passover.

This crowd was shouting praises and blessings for this wonderful teacher/healer as He entered the city of Jerusalem. But watch closely at what happens as the crowds turn ugly under the influence of the mob of Pharisees who planned to kill Him.

One of Jesus’s own followers, Judas Iscariot, sold his Master to the authorities for thirty pieces of silver. [John 18]

Over the following 20+ hours, Jesus would face Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, the current king of the Jews. Pilate tried to do the right thing by having Jesus flogged, and humiliated. In the end Pilate tried to release Jesus in a clever ploy to make the crowd (translation: MOB) choose between a known murderer and Jesus to be released to celebrate the feast of Passover.

The same crowd waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” are the same people crowded around the front of the stage yelling “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” When Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing, the MOB replies, “His blood shall be on us and our children!” [Matthew 27]

Could this kind of MOB mentality continue? All 11 apostles (after Judas hung himself) died a martyrs death at the hands of an angry mob of people. Some were crucified like Jesus, other hung upside down, others from spears or arrows, sawn in two, or beaten to death.

The same angry mob of Pharisees that were responsible for the death of Jesus, railroaded Stephen out of the city and stoned him to death.

I suggest that what was seen in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, has not only increased in activity, but is reaching epic proportions.

What are we to do to deflate the MOB mentality in our country today? Is this even possible when the people who are really inciting the riots are not part of the physical MOB itself, but simply fueling the activity from afar?

Well, yes, there is a way to change our course, and it has nothing to do with fighting fire with fire, or taking revenge on these poor deluded souls who cannot think for themselves.

I believe with all my heart, the words of God are true. I believe they apply across all of human history, and into our future, however long that might be. So, one particular scripture comes to mind.

2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Do you see it?

If we:

  • will humble ourselves
  • pray
  • seek God’s face (and His will)
  • turn away from wickedness

God will:

  • hear our prayers
  • forgive our sin
  • and heal our land

It seems too simple, that’s why most people today ignore this solution.

If you don’t want the MOB to gain more power… you will do what is required in this verse.

And you can be proactive by going to the voting station and cast your ballot for sanity to return to our Nation.

Playing Hurt

I’ve been in sports one way or another most of my life.  In my younger days and through High School I played football, basketball, ran track, and worked out.  My college years were filled with basketball, tennis, and racquetball.  Since college I took up golf more seriously, and it has become at present my nemesis as well.  I love and hate the game of golf.  Just when you think one aspect of your game is coming together, two or three things begin to slip, then boom your scores and handicap explode again.  It’s almost a metaphor for real life.

There’s another think that stinks about this game.  Every now and then something in your body gets tweaked as you try to keep the right posture, maintain the correct grip, and swing smooth instead of lunging at the golf ball.  Right now I’m being challenged to even write this blog because I tweaked something in my right hand that is causing serious pain in the knuckle joint of the third finger, all the way from my palm to the tip.

Poor me, huh?

Do you know the phrase people like these days? “Oh, just rub some dirt on it, and get on with it.”  That’s basically what the orthopedist said on Tuesday (in my opinion).  It seems my x-ray was clear.  It seems my tendons and ligaments were all in the right places.  It seems like he was saying I was faking it.  Alas, my friends, I know I wasn’t because I am the one in pain.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could some how transfer my pain to his hand so he would know exactly what I was experiencing?

Here’s the thing.  I’m wearing the splint, and I’m taking the meds, and if it isn’t gone in three weeks I guess the next step is the MRI machine.  I’m hopeful it will clear up and return to normal in that time frame.  But it got me to thinking…

We don’t really know what someone else’s pain looks like or feels like.  In my case when the Dr. tried to manipulate my hand to determine what was going on, I winced in pain, because it really hurt.  He explained that he couldn’t really examine me sufficiently because I was “guarded.”  Well, yes, I was guarded, it hurt!

So, what happens to you when someone presses on something in your life that hurts?  How do you feel when things look bleak, dark or hopeless?  When someone dismisses your pain, and says “grow up already,” does that bring warm and fuzzy feelings all over?

Now, imagine how someone else might respond when you treat them in this same dismissive way.  How does anything in this world change if we don’t learn how to listen to each other, and try to respond with kindness instead of judgment, hate, or dismissive retorts?

We all have to play hurt sometime.  We stay in the game because we have to earn a paycheck.  We stay in the game because we don’t want the marriage to fail.  We stay in the game because we love our children and want the best for them, even when they walk away from us.  We play hurt, and we rub some dirt on it, and we go on.  Just typing these words hurts, but I’m still typing.

I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom, as both admonishment and encouragement to face whatever today brings…

1 Thessalonians 5:13-18
… Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) – Where’s the Evidence?

First let’s define DNA. It is fundamentally the distinctive qualities or character of someone or something regarded as unchangeable, and inherent to their identity.

Bertrand Russell is a noted atheist philosopher, who was once asked, “If you meet God after you die, what will you say to Him to justify your unbelief?” Russell immediately snapped at the question in reply, “I will tell Him that He did not give me enough evidence.”

Does someone believing in God define them in some way? Can you examine a person’s life as an outside observer and determine with any clarity that person’s moral and spiritual DNA? I think so, and I’ll give you a literal or physical example, as well as a spiritual reference point.

For me this whole Kavanaugh confirmation process reads like a Shakespearean farce. And DNA plays a huge role in the equation. It seems to me that many people across the country found the accuser to be “credible” even in the absence of any substantive evidence of the accusation. Somehow misplaced in all the rhetoric is the word “allegedly.” Look up this word… it is “used to convey that something is claimed to be the case or have taken place, although there is no proof.” All I heard for days from radio and talk show folks is how the accuser was “credible, and compelling.” I found myself astounded at the faith it takes to believe the accuser instead of the accused.

I have to admit, I worry more about those who seek no support for the things they believe, than about those who pursue hard fought evidence to support their statements of belief. “Feeling” as though someone is credible is not the same thing as evidentiary support of what they say being true. There are some folks right now across this land vehemently vowing to come up with another plan to delay or destroy due process and the rule of law. It is unfortunate that these folks, whether their reasons are justifiable or not, are hostile towards belief in God. They malign faith in God as the lure of emotion, clinging to an idea while the mind is disengaged. They do not believe faith will sustain the weight of both emotion and the mind.

It has been determined that there is no evidence supporting the accusations made against this Supreme Court nominee. But is there evidence that supports His qualifications to serve in such a high place of the judiciary in our country?

Perhaps, if we step back and test the claims of qualification by the same measure that was meant to discredit him, by legitimately substantiating the facts, we will find him and his DNA as trustworthy. The evidence is already there. So, just like in the Bible, with the opponents of Jesus and their own disbelief that He was the Son of God, it is not the absence of evidence, rather, the suppression of it that is the problem.

What about you and me, and being caught up in all this nonsense? Should we care? Does it matter? Of course we should care and it is definitely a very grave matter.

What is the evidence in our DNA (spiritually) that would be observable and quantifiable in a world that has gone so haywire? One verse from the Bible covers it well.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Even in his impassioned opening statement the accused, speaking eloquently and vehemently, exhibited a great deal of self-control. Even toward his accuser he intended no ill will. He was faithful to his family and friends even at great personal cost to himself. He patiently listened to hours and hours of embittered men and women attacking him, who’s sole purpose and goal was to destroy him.

Over the next few weeks, months or years, each of us will perhaps be given the opportunity to stand accused of some wrong doing. I wonder if our actions and words will live up to the evidence of God’s Spirit living and alive inside of us?

 

About as much sense as…

This morning my wife decided to brighten my day by reading me an article from the newspaper.  Here’s the headline “Bronx Zoo’s Happy the elephant is unlawfully imprisoned, lawsuit claims.”  Now, the headline alone made me bark out a laugh.  As she read the article, I thought she was making this up.  Alas, when I googled “Happy the elephant” it took me right to the article. (read it for yourself here)

Think of the implications.  Here’s how Happy is described, “She doesn’t belong to a social group. Her autonomy is thwarted daily. This has got to stop,” according to Steven M. Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project, filing a lawsuit against the Bronx Zoo.  Wise says the Zoo is denying her “common law right to bodily liberty.”

Here’s the thing.

In a world where an elephant is treated by an activist group with more respect and dignity than how the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary treated a well respected, acting judge nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court… it would be funny, if it were not so tragically sad.

Think about the elephant’s name.  Happy.  She is a 47-year-old elephant, captured in the wild, brought to the Zoo in 1977.  From everything I’ve read besides this one article, animals are animals, and humans are humans.  When we attribute “human” rights to animals, have we become nothing more than animals ourselves?

Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Do you see what the authoritative word of God says?  Let “them” (mankind) rule over all the animals of the earth.  This fundamentally says, animals do not have human rights… they are not human, they are animals.  Does this mean we treat them inhumanely?  NO!  They are God’s creatures and we are accountable to God for how we treat them.

However, there’s more to scripture than just what God says about animals.  God gives instructions about how we treat each other as humans.  Listen to the simplicity in this statement.  Jesus commands it.  Jesus demands it.

Luke 6:31
Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

Luke 6:37
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.

It just seems to me our world at large, and our nation in general, and our government in particular, and the Democratic party specifically, has either forgotten these words, or never read them with any intention of obeying them.

How ridiculous that our country is caught up in such battle stances over this supreme court nominee.  How sad that so many can’t see the markers and signs of a well-orchestrated attack on one good man, while his attackers are simply seeking their own hold on power and influence.  How frightening to think of what our future holds if they are successful.

That an animal rights activist should have any airtime, or print space, in light of the supernatural and eternal battles going on right now in our government makes about as much sense as … the FBI doing yet another investigation on an already vetted and qualified candidate before being confirmed to the Supreme Court.  It’s just dumb.  It makes no sense at all.

Somebody ought to say something.  Oh wait. You can.  On Tuesday, November 6th, you can.  Get up off your backside, go to the voting booth, and cast your ballot for someone who stands for truth instead of charades.  You want something to change?  Then get out and do something.

Be Happy. Vote.

 

 

 

God reveals Himself in Persons

The third type of media God uses to come to us, besides events and words, is PERSONS. God Himself is a person so it doesn’t shock us that persons are a significant form of God revealing Himself to us.

Think of it this way… in general revelation God displays His Lordship attribute of control over all things in this universe. In special revelation God demonstrates His Lordship attribute of authority over all things, including His plan to save the world. In personal revelation God demonstrates His Lordship attribute of presence among us.

Theophany is one of those ten-dollar seminary words that pastors like to use. It just means: those times when God takes on a physical form to communicate with mankind. See these passages for examples: Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 21:17-20; or Exodus 23:31. There are many more, but this is just a sample. The form God takes might be of a man, angel, or heavenly being surrounded by the host of heaven itself.

The most significant theophany is the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to specifically, and in person, helps us all to see and know God personally. In Jesus God dwelt among us (John 1:14). All the apostles saw Him, including the apostle Paul. They touched Him, they handled Him (1 John 1:1-3). If you saw Jesus, He said you were seeing the Father (John 14:9).

At Pentecost, God also revealed Himself as the Holy Spirit. Each of those first receivers of God’s Spirit were empowered in specific ways to speak the truth of God in love to others who would also believe. And each of these new believers also received this same Holy Spirit of God inside themselves.

So here’s the thing.

The most important, the most significant, the most powerful revelation of God happens when a person formally an enemy of God, surrenders to God’s LORDSHIP, and finds new life, eternal life, in Jesus. At that very moment God begins to write His own word inside that persons heart.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.“ They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

This action on God’s part in theological terms is called “illumination.” It is like a light in your home on a dimmer switch. When you first turn the light on it’s low setting, while the bulb is shining, it isn’t that bright. But as you give it more electricity, the bulb gets brighter and brighter. The Holy Spirit inside of us is the first illumination. The more we turn to God’s Word, to God in person, the Holy Spirit’s power is released in our hearts and minds, making us more and more like Jesus.  We have all the Spirit we’re ever going to need.  What we must do is learn to yield to the Spirit’s leading, surrender to the Spirit’s power, and trust in God’s Lordship over us.

The more we turn to God’s Word, the more illuminated we become, the more we come to love it, and it becomes the central focus of our world.

This is what it means to serve God as Lord.

 

 

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Take a Breath…

This week the whole world was exposed to nothing less than shock and awe, as people all over the globe watched their televisions, computers, and mobile devices portraying the fulfilled prophecy of the words of Jesus Christ, the Sovereign God of the Universe.  What prophecy?

Matthew 24:9-12
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.  At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.  Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”

Each one of you who read this article, and who have watched these events unfold before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, you will have your own opinions and views of what happened.  But I’ll proclaim to you now, it is the most clear evidence I have ever seen of a prophecy fulfilled… most people’s love has grown ice cold.  It has become now not just a #metoo movement for women.  I watched as men and women betrayed one another, and hated one another… on national television, in the eyes of God and the whole country… and didn’t even blink.  Now that’s cold.

What are we to do?

I can offer only these two Bible verses, for now…

Matthew 24:42
Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

 

James 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Watch and pray.

Take a breath… then Watch and Pray…

Media: Words of God

We’ve been talking about the Word of God as powerful, authoritative, and self-expression. We’ve looked at how God’s Word is at work in the world through His plans, His decrees, and His dwelling among us. And last time we introduced the “means” or MEDIA through which God reveals His Word in events, words, and people. I wrote about how God reveals Himself in nature and history, or general revelation. I introduced God’s revelation in redemptive history – the gospel story of salvation. And finished with the concept of how God reveals Himself in miracles.

Whew! That’s a lot of information. Now we look at Word media. In a general way the words of God come to us in two ways: written and spoken. However, this too limits our understanding of how God truly wants to reveal Himself to us. So we’ll look at four broader categories to see the importance and purpose of God speaking to humanity through His Words.

God’s voice

There are times in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, where people hear God’s voice and words directly spoken to them. In the Garden, Adam and Eve knew the tragic nature of their choice when they heard God call out, “Where are you?”[Genesis 3:9] All the people of Israel gathered around the foot of Mount Sinai in the desert and heard God’s voice giving instructions to Moses for their benefit. [Deuteronomy 5:22-33]. Whoever was present at the time John the baptizer baptized Jesus, heard the voice from heaven “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” [Matthew 3:17] And the apostles who accompanied Jesus up the mountain heard the same statement. But this time it also came with a decree! “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” [Matthew 17:5] In just these four examples of God’s audible voice speaking to people on earth, we can see clearly they carry the control, authority, and presence of God as LORD. What becomes obvious in even a cursory reading of these passages is the Diving voice of God is to be obeyed without doubt, exception, or debate.

God’s voice spoken through Prophets and Apostles

Men of God, chosen by God Himself, were appointed to pass on these words to us. This sometimes can become a sticky wicket, when many claim that these writer’s words are a little bit less authoritative because of the human element involved. They suggest these a slight imperfection in the process of God speaking to the prophet and their own communication with humanity. But if you really want to know how God feels about this false teaching, read Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Jeremiah 1:16-19; Ezekiel 13:2-3,17. Here’s what you will discover. The prophet is a substitute for God’s voice. The people of Israel are so full of fear that ask Moses to bring God’s word to them. In the Deuteronomy passage [18:18] God’s give the definition of a true prophet: “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” What’s really scary about this is verse 19:

“It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.”

Without the divine voice of God, spoken through the Prophets and Apostles we are sadly lost. Peter made his own declaration when he said to Jesus [John 6:68], “Lord to who shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” Paul the apostle had his own encounter with Jesus, became an apostle, and wrote that what he preached came directly from Jesus.

Galatian 1:11-12
Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ

God’s voice as the written Word

So is God’s voice in written form, or spoken form through the Prophets and Apostles, something less than divine? Does the media of the Word somehow remove the dynamic power and grace of theVoice of God when written or spoken by the Prophets and Apostles? Why should there be some distinction between what people heard Paul preach, and the letters that he wrote to those same churches? I suggest the Deuteronomy 18 passage above crosses the lines of time and space and applies equally to all of Scripture.

God’s voice through Preaching and Teaching

Here’s the thing. What about teachers and preachers today? Do their words have the same authority as the divine voice of God? Make no mistake here, the answer is NO.

There is no promise in Scripture that declares future pastors/teachers/elders or even seminary professors will carry with them the same authority reserved for the apostles of the Bible. This is so evident, that only a very few would be found worldwide who would claim this for themselves.

But maybe you’ve heard this saying before:

“The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.”

Huh?

This means that while the preacher speaking the words is fatally flawed, imperfect, and maybe full of errors himself… when this human person communicates God’s Words truthfully, the words spoken lose none of their original authority.

The preacher who utters spiritual truth from the Bible carries the same authority on his/her lips that were on the lips of the Apostle Paul.

God’s word will always have ultimate authority, regardless the medium … even if that medium is a sinful human being.

You need to trust me here, I speak from experience. As a pastor/teacher my job is not to utter opinion, or just make vague observations, but to speak the truth according to God’s Word. In doing so I find Him to be LORD. And as Lord, God is in control, has absolute authority, and is present now among us.

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God’s Media

What do … Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, Reddit, Snapchat, WhatApp, Quaroa, Vine, Periscope, BizSugar, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg, and Viber, all have in common? These are the most popular social media sites on which people of all ages communicate today. If you’re over a certain age, you may only know two or three of these names. If you’re younger, or more tech-savvy you may know and use all these sites.

When I was growing up, and someone used the term “media”, my mind went to TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, films, or recordings. These were the primary means of getting information for me. With the onset of the internet, and data moving at lightning speeds to a plethora of mobile devices, “media” becomes something like a quagmire of indecipherable voices and messages.

God also uses a wide variety of media (means) to communicate with humanity. There are times when God might speak directly, His voice booming from Mount Sinai in Exodus 20. You could say God used sound waves, carried on the wind, to reach the eardrums of His people. Every single time God desires to communicate with humans He finds some means in His own creation to do so.

For simplicity I’ve broken all these means down into three categories: events, words, and persons. We’ll begin with events first.

Events

Psalm 19:1 says,
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.

Romans 1:18-32 also gives a great rendition of how God proclaims Himself in nature and in general history. You might want to spend some time with this passage of Scripture.

These kinds of “events”or  revelations from God are called “natural” or “general” revelation, because they are meant for every single person who has lived, is living, or will ever live upon the earth.

Simply by looking at creation, every person has the created capacity within themselves to see God clearly, and nobody can claim that God hasn’t revealed Himself with clarity.

Even in this simplistic revelation of nature/history we are able to not just know about Him, but to know Him personally. These natural revelations teach us about God’s nature (control, authority, and presence), but not the specifics of redemption. We see these and come to know who God is, that He exists, but this general revelation doesn’t tell us how to be saved.

It is God’s Word (Scripture) that tells the story of salvation through Christ, beginning all the way back in the Garden at creation (Genesis 3:15). This is followed by a long recitation of different covenants God makes with man [Noah, Abraham, Moses, David… then Jesus Christ]. All of these events (stories) from the Bible, in contrast with General Revelation, tell us about God’s saving purposes for mankind.

This revelation was made known in the history of man, and we know it now only when we read about these events (found in the Bible) as they happened in the past.

One of the main media (means) of Events where God reveals Himself is in God’s miracles. Miracles are signs/events which demonstrate God’s Lordship. For a quick review of miracles, click here.

Next time we’ll look at another media (means):     WORDS.

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God’s Word at work in our world

The previous three articles provide a simple look at what God’s word is: powerful, authoritative, and self-expression. Today we’ll see these three ideas in what God does.

God’s Word makes plans.

We talked about this in the context of God’s Lordship attribute of control. God determines what will happen according to His own plans, then decrees it to be done. In His Lordship, God has the power to bring these plans to pass, controlling all that happens.

God’s Word speaks.

God not only plans and controls the earth and all its creatures, but also speaks to them as one person speaks to another person. I don’t just mean metaphorically. God’s Word speaks to angels and men, but also to the sun, moon, stars, wind, rain, and every part of nature. When God speaks, His words carry absolute authority, demonstrating that God is Lord of all.

Where God’s Word is… that is God’s dwelling place.

While Jesus was physically on the planet, housed in human flesh, He was limited to be in one place at one time. This is why the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is so significant. If Jesus wanted to be present with Mary and Martha before Lazarus died, Jesus would have to leave where He was and travel to Bethany.

We know that Jesus could have healed Lazarus from a distance by the POWER of His spoken Word. But that was not in God’s PLANS. So Jesus was in CONTROL by staying where He was, in order to demonstrate His ultimate control, authority, and presence when He did raise Lazarus from that tomb. [John 11:1-46]   Jesus told Mary, (11:25-26)

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John wrote of Jesus in John 1:1, describing Jesus as the Word, and the Word was God. This means Jesus was God housed in human flesh, and bound in some ways because of it. This explains what Paul meant in Philippians 2:5-7. One of the things Jesus emptied out to become human was His omnipresence, He couldn’t be everywhere at one time. But in His resurrected body, Jesus could now be omnipresent again, as God, fulfilling this wonderful promise:

Matthew 18:20
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.

So, God’s Word is His dwelling place on earth, demonstrating His Lordship attribute of abiding presence, among His people of faith.

Next time we’ll begin looking at the “how” or the “means” God uses to communicate His Word to us.

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God’s Word is Self-Expression

So far we’ve seen how powerful God’s word is, and established the authority of God’s word. Now we’ll look at how God expresses Himself through His word.

If the question is, “What KIND of god is God?”, then you have to dig into Scripture. It is the Word of God that reveals God’s heart, mind and will. When you search the Scripture you find God actions are the spoken Word of God revealed in an event of God’s power (like creation or judgment). God also differentiates Himself from all other God’s because He speaks. All the idols man can create are just “dumb” (mute), yet God by nature is The Word.

Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal and said, 1 Kings 18:24

“Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

Go ahead and read the rest of that chapter and see how powerful God’s word is!

When God speaks He demonstrates different attributes, which are unique to Himself:

  • Righteous (Psalm 119:7)
  • Faithful (Psalm 119:86)
  • Wonderful (Psalm 119:129)
  • Holy (2 Timothy 3:15)
  • Eternal (Psalm 119:89)
  • Omnipotent (Genesis 18:14; Isaiah 55:11)
  • Perfect (Psalm 19:7)

Scripture teaches that God alone is to be worshiped and praised. However, the psalmist writes

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can mere man do to me?” [Psalm 56:4]

So the Word which David praised (worshiped) is God. He was worshiping the being described in John 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

We are going to look further at this truth, where the Word is talking about Jesus, in a future study. The point I’m making here is that the Word identifies God’s speech with God because it takes us all the way back to creation. In Genesis God’s spoken word “let there be…” made it all. It ties directly to John 1:3

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

Let me be as simple and practical as I can. When we meet God’s speech, we meet God face to face. We should be more like David and receive God’s word with praise and worship.

Just one more thing…

Don’t try to know God apart from His Word, and don’t try to read the Word without realizing you are indeed in the presence of God. Don’t look at the Bible as an assignment. Instead, open your heart and mind to the word like Samuel, and say, “speak Lord, your servant hears.”

Get out of the habit of taking God’s word for granted, so God can bless you with clear understanding. And get ready, because when you meet God’s word in these ways… you will never be the same again.

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