Image via Wikipedia I almost made coffee last week.
I’m a cheerful riser. Happy to talk and visit, happy to greet the new day. I’m almost always in a good mood first thing in the morning. But my brain isn’t exactly working at full speed. I need a routine to follow in the morning or I do goofy things.
And a week ago, when Diane and I came back from a little festival near Brenham, we came in the back patio and something spelled wonderful. Like fresh ground, vanilla roasted coffee beans. See, early that Saturday morning, Diane was still asleep, and I tried to do two things simultaneously first thing in the morning. I tried to walk our dog, Bella, and I tried to make coffee.
The coffee maker has a grinder on top, so I got the bag of beans out of the freezer, and put them in the top of the grinder. Yum, vanilla roasted beans, my favorite. Then I put the bag back, and put in just enough water to make a half a pot of coffee. Then I pushed the start button.
Now it’s time to get Bella. I get the leash out just as the coffee grinder starts grinding, clip the leash to her collar, and step outsideâ€¦ and I can still hear the grinder. It’s grinding a whole lot longer than I expected. Suddenly I realize I forgot to turn this little knob on the front of the machine, and it’s grinding enough beans for a whole pot of coffee. And this will be combined with a half pot of water and be some very strong coffee indeed. I come rushing back inside, tell Bella to stay by the front door, and find the off button on the coffee maker. Whew.
Ok, I can still save this pot of coffee. I don’t know how much beans have been grounded, but I can restart the brewing cycle without further grinding. Push this button, turn off the grinderâ€¦ ok, I think I got it. Push the button to start brewing. Go back, get Bella who is very confused about this walk so far, and walk out the front door.
But something doesn’t seem right to me. I can hear the gurgling from the brew cycle starting, but something’s not right. And it dawns on me I forgot to put a filter in the coffee machine. And the next most reasonable thing for me to do in my cheerful and completely inept morning state isâ€¦ to pull the filter basket out to look to see what’s inside.
Which dribbles hot coffee sludge, a mix of hot water and soggy coffee grounds down the front of the kitchen cabinet. Iâ€¦ put my hand under the basket to keep from dripping on the floorâ€¦ hot! Hot! Hot! I push the basket back in.
Ok brain, try to get it together. Ok, first, unplug the coffee pot. I’m still creating hot coffee sludge. Open the back door. Pull the basket out *and* the coffee pot simultaneously, carry them both outside. Find some lucky plant that wants some vanilla fertilizer, dump the whole mess out.
Where was I? Oh yeah. I was walking the dog. Later that day, after the sun had been out and we came back from our festival, our patio had that lovely, vanilla-roasted coffee fertilizer smell. Diane asked me what it was, and I saidâ€¦ “Look! A dragonfly!”
I almost made coffee that morning. But you know, “almost coffee” isn’t good enough to drink. Lot’s of things aren’t good enough if they’re “almost” right. Skydiving, for example. Skydiving “almost” done right sounds horrible.
And this week, we’re going to look at another example of “almost” good enough. We’re studying Acts 24-26 this week, and let’s setup the situation. First, Paul is in jail. Again. Seems the last few weeks, Paul’s always in jail. Why is he in jail this time? Well, we have to go all the way back to Acts 21 and Paul is in Jerusalem. Paul is speaking at the temple, and some Jews stirred up the crowd, the crowd mobs Paul and begins to beat him with the intent to kill him. This mob attracted the Roman troops in the city who came down to see what the fuss was all about. When the Roman troops showed up, the crowd, of course, stopped beating Paul, and the Roman commander has Paul arrested. He asks Paul what all the rioting is about, and Paul says, “well, let me show you; may I speak?” Then in Acts 22, he stands in front of the temple and gives his testimony to the crowd, and the crowd erupts again.
And then, oddly, the Roman commander orders that Paul be arrested and flogged to find out why the people were yelling at him. Just before they flog him, Paul asks them if it’s legal to flog a Roman citizen. Alarmed, the commander withdraws and decides that perhaps beating a Roman citizen isn’t such a good idea.
By Acts 23, the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees decide that if the Romans aren’t going to kill him, they will. They ask the Roman commander to setup a meeting with Paul on the pretext of gathering information, but secretly they’re arranging an ambush. Paul’s nephew gets wind of the plot and tells the Roman commander who has had enough of all this rioting and plotting. He decides to transfer Paul to Caesarea with 200 Roman soldiers to protect him.
The commander also writes a letter to the Governor of Cesarea, Governor Felix. It basically says, “Governor, I can’t find anything this man did wrong. But because there is a plot against him, I’m sending him to you and ordering his accusers to present their case to you.”
Everybody up to speed? We’re in Acts 24, in front of Governor Felix, along with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and a whole bunch of lawyers. The lawyers present their case first; Acts 24:5-8, they say,
“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”
It’s like the Olsteen trial all over again. Anyway, Paul gives his defense, saying that even his accusers know he’s done nothing wrong. At the end of Acts 24, we find that Felix is a piece of work. He knows Paul is innocent, and he’s even interested in Christianity, but what he’s really interested in is money. He wants Paul to give him a bribe. Paul spends two years in prison teaching about righteousness, self-control, and judgment, and at the end of two years, Felix leaves him there.
He’s succeeded by Festus in Acts 25, and in Acts 25:13, Festus gets a visitor, King Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice. King Herod Agrippa II is the grandson of the Herod that killed all the newborn males in Bethlehem when Christ was born. Agrippa was the nephew of the Herod Antipas who beheaded John the Baptist. Agrippa was the son of Herod Agrippa the 1st who executed the Apostle James and would have executed the Apostle Peter had not the angel of the Lord rescued him. For Agrippa, this was a chance to meet a celebrity, so Festus sets up a meeting. Acts 25:23 says,
The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.
In Acts 26, Paul begins, yet again, his message of redemption, repentance, and judgment. From Acts 26:1 through Acts 26:23, Paul gives his testimony. How he lived as a Pharisee, the promise given to the twelve tribes of Israel. Paul’s persecution of Jesus in verses 9-11, and then Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus from Acts 26:12-15, and the instructions Christ gave Paul to reach the Jews and Gentiles in Acts 26:16-18. Then Acts 26:19-23 â€“
“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happenâ€” that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
At this point, Festus yells at Paul that Paul’s lost his marbles, his education has made him insane. And Paul keeps focusing on King Agrippa in Acts 26:25-29 â€“
“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul replied, “Short time or longâ€”I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
Agrippa’s response is a hypothetical question. The New King James translates it as, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
And that is probably one of the saddest responses in the entire bible. “You almost persuaded me.”
What went wrong?
It wasn’t the messenger. Paul was a very powerful messenger, and apostle of Christ who had seen the risen Lord face to face. How much power did Paul have? In verse 22, Paul says, “But God has helped me to this very day.” And the messenger was passionate, so passionate that in verse 24, Festus leaps up and tells Paul that he’s lost his mind. And Paul was persuasive â€“ in verse 29, Paul tells Agrippa that he wishes Agrippa were just like him, but without the chains. The irony is incredible here â€“ Paul is free in Christ, even though he is in chains. It’s Agrippa that is in bondage to sin.
So the messenger was powerful, passionate, and persuasive. So it’s not the messenger. Perhaps it was the message?
I don’t think so. The message was the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. And not hearsay; Paul’s personal testimony was how Jesus had interceded directly on Paul’s behalf and proven to Paul firsthand. And the message was true. King Agrippa knew the words of the prophets and he knew the fulfilled testimony of Christ. Agrippa has no rebuttal to this; in verse 27, when Paul asks, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do,” Agrippa’s only response is thatâ€¦ “you almost persuaded me.”
As we share God’s word with others, Paul has shown us that the message isn’t always received the way we would like it to be. Some people want to wait; we just keep talking. Some will ridicule us, but we’re called to show respect in our responses. Some receive the message with silence; we learn to ask open-ended questions to get them to talk. And some absolutely refuse, and all we can do is express concern. But there’s nothing sadder than somebody who hears a persuasive message from a persuasive messenger and is almost persuaded.
For those that have not accepted Christ, there are forces in opposition to the Word. Satan does whatever he can to keep people from giving themselves to Christ, and we can see almost all of these in Agrippa.
The forces include â€“
â€¢ Pride. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall.” It’s pride that tells us we can be good enough to get to heaven, that we can stand unashamed, on our own, before an almighty and holy creator. And Psalms 10:4 says, “In his pride, the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” Pride blinds us to our need for a savior.
â€¢ Position. Agrippa was king of the Jews. Like pride, our position in society keeps us from being humble. We are too important to make ourselves low. But Jesus called a little child to him and told his disciples in Matthew 18:3, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
â€¢ Possessions. Agrippa was a very rich man. Matthew 19:23, Jesus says to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” And 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” People, like Agrippa, get attached to the things of this world and can’t give them up to save their own souls.
â€¢ Peer pressure. Felix and other Jewish leaders were looking at Agrippa to see what he would do. Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
â€¢ Procrastination. Agrippa was “almost persuaded” but put off his decision. He could always revisit this question tomorrow. But sometimes, tomorrow doesn’t come. Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” And 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
But Paul looks directly at King Agrippa through this exchange. Paul was persistent and told his personal testimony about how Jesus changed his life. While Herod Agrippa II and his family may have been persecuting Christ, Paul also confesses he once persecuted Christ. Agrippa’s sins are no different than Paul’s sins, except Paul’s sins are forgiven.
It’s true that in the bible (Mark 6:11), Jesus told the disciples that if they were not welcome in a town, they should shake the dust from their feet as they left. But that’s a matter of being a good steward of the time we have available. Jesus never counseled us to give up on somebody. Jesus didn’t give up on me, and I am so thankful He didn’t. If you have a family member or a friend you’re praying for, don’t give up. You don’t want them to be almost saved.
Michael Rodriguez is a man thankful somebody didn’t give up on him. He’s one of the “Texas Seven” that broke out of prison in 2000 and on Christmas Eve, killed a policeman. He was sentenced to death; unlike most people on death row, for the last 2 years he has been waiving every appeal opportunity, saying he deserved the death penalty. The sentence was carried out a week ago Thursday.
At 6:10pm, he began his last words. â€œI know this no way makes up for all the pain and suffering I gave you. I am so, so sorry. My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and sorrow I have caused. I hope that someday you can find peace. I am not strong enough to ask for forgiveness because I donâ€™t know if I am worthy. I realize what Iâ€™ve done to you and the pain Iâ€™ve given. Please Lord forgive me. I have done some horrible things. I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I have gained nothing, but just brought sorrow and pain to these wonderful people. I am sorry. So so sorry. To the Sanchez family who showed me love. To the Hawkins family, I am sorry. I know I have affected them for so long. Please forgive me. Irene, I want to thank you for being with me on death row and walking with me and helping me find Christâ€™s love. These last few steps I must walk alone. Thank you and thank your husband Jack. Iâ€™ll be waiting for you. I am so sorry. To these families I ask forgiveness. Father God I ask you too for forgiveness. I ask you for forgiveness Lord. I am ready to go Lord. Thank you. I am ready to go. My Jesus my Savior there is none like you. All of my days I want to praise, let every breath. Shout to the Lord let us sing.
“My Jesus, my Savior, there is none like you,” he sang softly. “All of my days I want to praise, let every breath. Shout to the Lord, let us sing ….”
Among his last words were, “Iâ€™m ready to go Lord.” At 6:20pm, he was pronounced dead.
Michael Rodriguez is thankful that Irene and Jack, whoever they are, didn’t give up on Michael Rodriguez. And while the angels in heaven rejoice that another sinner has turned to God, non-Christians don’t understand why a murderer gets to go to heaven. They don’t understand that they can never do enough good to get to heaven, nor can they do enough evil that Christ cannot save him. It’s never too late.
Who’s been watching the Olympics the last week? Anybody here actually in the Olympics?
When it comes to the Olympics, most people are spectators. They don’t actually participate in the games; they watch some of the events on television. A few actually get to participate. The best of the best win medals â€“ some win bronze, some silver, and the very best wind the coveted gold medal. Or like Fred said last week, perhaps a tin medal.
But the gold medal for all humanity is arriving in heaven in the pure and holy presence of God. The vast majority of people are spectators in this race. They see the lives of Christians, but they make no effort to join. They’reâ€¦ almost persuaded.
The bronze medal for Christianity is being aware of Jesus. If you ask them what religion they belong to, they may even answer that they’re a Christian. But if you press them further, they don’t know why they’re a Christian. They know Jesus is a really good person, and they also want to be a really good person. And that means not being judgmental. They believe all roads leads to heaven, there are many paths. They don’t believe a loving God would send people to Hell, not realizing that God doesn’t send people to Hell, people go to Hell because they reject God. They are really only dimly aware of what Jesus said, and they make no effort to share their faith or go to church or grown in the spirit. They get a bronze medal for being aware of Jesus. King Agrippa gets a bronze medal. He had plenty of knowledge about Jesus.
Then there’s the silver medal, awarded to those who believe in Christ. They know He’s the Son of God. They’ve heard the Sermon on the Mount; they’re happy the meek will inherit the earth, because then they can beat up the meek and take it from them. Their actions don’t reflect the love of Christ; they do not model forgiveness, controlling their tongue, serving others, or loving their neighbors. But they believe in Jesus, so they win a silver medal. But they don’t grasp the concept that even the demons believe in Jesus. As Fred mentioned last week, faith and repentance are linked. It’s not enough to say you have faith without your life demonstrating your repentance.
But spectators and bronze medalists and silver medalist are almost persuaded to be disciples of Christ. Perhaps they have an idea that heaven will be like standing on the scales of justice â€“ as long as you do more good than evil, you get into heaven. But Jesus says that isn’t enough. Jesus says to follow Him and He will make you fishers of men (Mark 1:16-17). Jesus says that if anyone would come after Jesus, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). And we may have heard Jesus say in John 8:32, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” but what’s the line immediately before that? “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’”
And what about the disciples that settle for “well, this is good enough?” Jesus tells the church in Laodicea what he thinks about “good enough.” Revelations 3:15-16 â€“
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarmâ€”neither hot nor coldâ€”I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Literally, it means “vomit you out of His mouth.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, except when I get to heaven, I don’t want Jesus to be looking at me like that.
The gold medal is a heart that yearns to follow God. Matthew 7:13-14 â€“
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
The gold medal is the narrow gate to heaven. Everything else is just “almost.” Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 just before his death â€“
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that dayâ€”and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Thank the good Lord that He loves us. Thank the good Lord that He is our gold medal. Can you imagine if the scripture says that God so loved the world that He almost gave His only begotten son? That Jesus almost died on the cross for us?
Let’s yearn for that gold medal of righteousness, and not settle for merely being “almost” persuaded.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Fred took us through Acts 15 last week; we’re going to cover from the latter part of Acts 15 through Acts 18 today, Paul’s second missionary journey. In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas have spread the gospel of Christ among many churches. Now, they want to revisit those same churches and see how the new churches are doing. Barnabas and Mark sailed for Cyprus; Paul chose Silas and headed up the coast.
|1||Syrian Antioch||Acts 15:36-40, Paul and Silas (and Luke)|
|2,3,4||Syria , Cilicia , Derbe||Acts 15:41 , 16:1|
|5||Lystra||Acts 16:1-5, Joined by Timothy|
|6,7||Phyrgia , Galatia||Acts 16:6, Holy Spirit prevents them from preaching in Asia|
|8||Mysia||Acts 16:7, Holy Spirit prevents them from entering Bithynia|
|9||Troas||Acts 16:8-10, Paul’s vision to go to Macedonia|
|10,11||Island of Samothrace , Neapolis||Acts 16:11|
|12||Philippi||Acts 16:12-40, Lydia baptized. Conflict over girl with spirit of clairvoyance, beaten and imprisoned. Singing hymns and midnight . Earthquake opens prison doors; Paul stays and converts jailer. Released because Paul was a Roman citizen, asked to leave Philippi|
|13,14||Amphipolis, Apollonia||Acts 17:1|
|15||Thessalonica||Acts 17:1-9, Convert large numbers, infuriates Jews|
|16||Berea||Acts 17:10-14, Bereans accept gospel, but Jews from Thessalonica followed and caused trouble. Silas and Timothy remain in Berea .|
|17||Athens||Acts 17:15 -34, Bereans accompany Paul to Athens , return with instructions to Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as possible. While Paul waits, he addresses the philosophers of Athens .|
|18||Corinth||Acts 18:1-17, Made tents with Aquila and Priscilla. Paul preached to Jews who abused him, so Paul shook his fists and decides to preach to gentiles. Paul stays at the house of Titius Justus for 18 months. Silas and Timothy catch up to Paul. The Lord encourages Paul to continue to preach. Jews band together to attack Paul, but the governor Gallio refuses to judge.|
|19||Cenchrea||Acts 18:18 , Sails for Syria , accompanied by Aquila and Priscilla. Cuts hair short because of a solemn vow.|
|20||Ephesus||Acts 18:19 -21, 24, Paul leaves Aquila and Priscilla to debate Jews in synagogue. Jews ask Paul to say, and Paul says "if it is God’s will" (eventually returning during 3 rd missionary journey). Priscilla and Aquila train Apollos who goes to Achaia.|
|21,22||Caesarea , Jerusalem||Acts 18:22, Paul pays respects to church at Jerusalem|
|23||Antioch||Acts 18:22 -26, travels regions of Phyrgia and Galatia|
Paul and Silas travel through Syria and Cilicia and strengthened the churches, then to Derbe and Lystra. There Paul met Timothy who was held in high regard by the brothers, so Paul takes Timothy, too. They pass along words from the apostles and elders from the Council at Jersalem.
Then to Phyrgia and Galatia, but the Holy Spirit prevents them from entering Asia. Then down to Mysia and tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus prevents them. I thought this odd that the Holy Spirit would stop them, but God had a bigger plan and knew where He wanted them. The missionaries head down to Troas, and Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So they sail from Traos to the island of Samothrace, and then to Neapolis and then to Phillipi.
There is lot of activity in Philippi. First, there is the conversion of Lydia who opens her home to the missionaries. Then there is a slave girl with a spirit of fortune-telling. Paul commands the spirit to come out of her, and the merchants who own her are furious because they can’t make money off of her anymore. They drag Paul and Silas to the marketplace where the magistrates order them stripped and beaten. They’re flogged and thrown into prison. Talk about a bad day. But instead of whining and complaining, the scripture says Paul and Silas up to midnight praying and singing hymns to God. And then an earthquake shakes the jail and all the doors fly open; the jailer wakes up and is about to kill himself because he was responsible for security, but Paul stops him saying, “Stop! We’re still here!” And then the jailer asks to be saved, too. Great example of the joy in Christ in all circumstances and how God can use your joy to reach others.
And in the morning, the magistrates find out they’ve beaten a Roman citizen and become alarmed and escort them very nicely to the edge of town. Paul and Silas and Timothy (and Luke, since he’s the historian documenting all of this) go to Amphipolis, Apollonia, and then Thessalonica.
At Thessalonica, Paul and Silas go to the synagogue as usual and convert large numbers of people, and this infuriates many of the Jews who round up some bad characters from the marketplace, form a mob and start a riot. They try to grab Paul and Silas, but the brothers help them escape that night to Berea.
In Berea, they got a better welcome, and there’s another great lesson here. It says in Acts 17:11, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Paul was a well-known apostle who had seen the risen Christ himself and proclaimed the gospel all over the world. And the Bereans received this message eagerly â€“ and still examined the scriptures every day to see if Paul was telling the truth. Don’t take the word of some televangelist or some preacher. Don’t just read the words of Mac Lucado or Rick Warren of “Purpose Driven Life” and think you can understand God’s direction for you and your life. Don’t take Ed Young’s word. And for sure don’t take my word even though I’m standing right here in front of you. Examine the scriptures for yourself daily to see if what you’re being taught is true. 2 Timothy 4:3 says, ” For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.“
What that means is that people will preach what we want to hear. If we want a prosperity gospel, we will find somebody to preach a prosperity gospel. If we want to hear the end times are coming, we will find somebody to tell us the exact time and date. If we want somebody to tell us that sexual immorality, adultery, lying cheating and stealing is ok, we can find somebody to teach us that. But that is only the word of men telling us what we want to hear. What does God say? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s by examining the scriptures ourselves to see if what we are being told is true.
Paul’s time in Berea was cut short; the angry Jews from Thessalonica followed him and stirred up the crowds in Berea, so Paul departs for Athens and leaves Silas and Timothy behind. In Athens, Paul addresses the philosophers of Athens (we’ll come back to this in a bit) and waits for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. After a while, Paul heads down to Corinth, meets Aquila and Priscilla and preaches to the Jews, but the Jews abuse him and Paul gets discouraged. Silas and Timothy catch up to Paul, and then Paul has a vision from the Lord, and encouragement to keep on preaching.
Then Paul sails for Syria with Aquila and Priscilla, stopping at Cenchrea and cuts his hair short to fulfill a solemn vow. Paul preaches at Ephesus while Aquila and Priscilla train Apollos, then Paul heads to Caesarea and the church at Jerusalem, then back to Antioch where Paul travels the region of Phyrgia and Galatia. Whew. Paul was a busy, busy man.
I want to return to Paul’s discussion with the Athenians in Acts 17. The city of Athens dated back to 3000 B.C., and had once been the home of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, but that was 400 years before Paul. The city’s prominence had faded since then, and it was now a town of about 10,000 people, primarily pagans and intellectuals and philosophers. Athens still remained famous as an intellectual and artistic center.
Starting in verse 16, Paul is walking around Athens. If you and I were walking around Athens, we’d be impressed with the magnificent architecture and the fabulous artwork, but Paul is distressed. The impressive buildings were dedicated to various gods and goddesses. Some historical accounts indicate there were more statues of idols than there were people in Athens. Paul is distressed by the paganism of Athens because it is an offense to the one true God for He had forbidden idolatry. Paul sees highly educated but spiritually lost people, ignorant of the one true God. Paul turns his inner turmoil into positive action. We should ask ourselves if we are good students of Paul. Do the lost people around us spur us into action? Do we shun the unbelievers, or do we seek an opportunity to share the gospel?
In verse 17, we can see Paul’s heart at work -
“So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.”
Paul is reaching out to three types of people. First, the Jews in the synagogue, who Paul preached to throughout his journeys. He also preached to “those who worshiped God,” gentiles who worshipped God but did not know of the good news of Christ. And then he also preached to anybody else who happened to be there; pagans, philosophers, academics. Paul reasoned with them; this was the beginning of apologetics, which is not apologizing for your faith as I once thought it was. Apologetics is an argument for natural theology based on God’s self-revelation.
Two groups of philosophers began to argue with Paul in verse 18. The Epicurean philosophers followed the teachings of Epicurus, who taught that everything came from eternal, material atoms. They did not believe in life after death; they believed that when you died, humans returned to material atoms. The soul was considered part of the body that also died. The Epicureans also believed that gods existed, but the gods were far removed and unconcerned about humans. Because life was temporal, people should seek to be free from pain and anxiety, and instead seek pleasure through intellectualism. The Epicureans were deists, practical materialists, and they did their grocery shopping at Rice.
The Epicureans, to me, sounded like atheists of today. If there is no god, and no afterlife, then there’s no reason to serve or sacrifice. Get as much as you can out of this life.
The other group, the Stoic philosophers, believed in gods and divine providence, and that people should use one’s ability to reason to lift themselves up and be harmonious with nature. The god principle, or divine spark, was present in all things, and when we die, there is a great disturbance in the force. They were pantheists, and there is god in everything.
Stoics today are like the “all paths lead to heaven” philosophy. We’re all right in our own way. We define our own truth, and your truth may be different than my truth.
And of course the Epicureans and Stoics misunderstand Paul and call him names. They call him a babbler and seem to think Paul was just trying to add Jesus to the other gods they already worshipped. “Babbler” may also be translated “pseudo-intellectual,” but the word here literally is “seed-picker,” an image of a bird hopping around eating whatever seeds fall on the ground. They were accusing Paul of picking up scraps of philosophy and repackaging it as a new but worthless philosophy.
So in verse 19, the philosophers invited Paul to the Areopagus, which was either a philosophical court for an informal public lecture, or it may have been a place dedicated to Mars, the god of war. Either way, to the Epicureans and philosophers, they were expecting just another entertaining idea to debate.
A. Find Common Ground
Paul is the model apologetic; he’s getting ready to share the good news of Christ to an unbelieving and skeptical world. He begins by trying to find common ground. He debates, not berates. Sharing the gospel should be done in love, kindness and compassion. Yelling or belittling makes us poor examples of the love of Christ and renders us ineffective. Verse 22 â€“
“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.”
That may sound derogatory to us. “Ah, I can see you are very religious.” But it’s far more likely that Paul was being complimentary here. He shows respect for the intellectualism of the philosophers and congratulates them for they already know. He acknowledges that these are very smart people.
[Why is it important to find common ground?]
[Why are confrontational methods ineffective?]
Also note what Paul does not do â€“ he doesn’t start by reciting Jewish history. When Paul preached in the synagogues, he preached about fulfilled prophecy to know about the messiah. Jewish history meant nothing to these philosophers, so instead, Paul searches for a frame of reference they can understand.
Verse 23 â€“
For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
Again, this sounds derogatory, accusing these people of not even knowing what they worship, but Paul is still seeking common intellectual ground. The people of Athens had shrines to every god, the shrines that had so distressed Paul. The Athenian philosophers were either polytheistic (worshipping many gods) or pantheistic (believed all nature was god). When disaster strikes, the people of Athens might believe they had been worshipping the wrong god, so they’d worship a different god and build another shrine. After many trials and errors, they’d finally cover all their bases by building an altar to an unknown god, whoever that might be.
Paul points out to these intellectuals that they already inherently recognize that the other gods they have built shrines to are deficient. They know inherently that there is something else out there. And Paul gets ready to show them that the unknown god they worship with stone could indeed become known personally to them.
B. Correct errant views of God
Then Paul tells them who God is and who God is not. Verse 24-25 â€“
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
[Why is it important to correct perceptions of God?]
[What are some false perceptions of God?]
[Why is Christianity unique?]
[Why is insisting on the uniqueness of Christianity important?]
[Why is this offensive to some people?]
Paul’s witness is effective because he’s well-equipped. Passion alone is not sufficient, we must have knowledge. We must know about the bible, what it means, why it is true, and how to apply it. That doesn’t mean we keep silent until we feel we are ready; how could we ever be completely ready? How in heaven can we possibly know all there is to know about God? We are only called to share what we know. We are called to seek Him and to help others seek Him. But the more we know, the more effective we can be for the Lord by answering questions and arguments more effectively.
The unknown god that the Athenians worshipped was indeed a knowable God. God does not live in shrines built by humans, even spectacular Greek wonders like the Acropolis. God cannot be shrunk into a box. How could a box built by man contain a god? It makes no sense. A god that requires things from mortals or can be built by mortals is not a god at all. God himself is the source of all life and breath and all things. This statement would appeal to the Epicureans who believed in gods that were above all things human. And “all life and breath” would appeal to the Stoics who were trying to align themselves with some cosmic purpose. The idols that the Athenians worshipped were believed to control the sea, or the weather, or war, or agriculture, but the one true God is the Creator of all things.
So Paul begins with common ground and then exposes the flaws in their worship. Their man-made idols are inherently deficient. How could an all-powerful God need anything from humans? Paul’s message tells them â€“
- who God is
- who God isn’t
- why God is unique.
C. Nurture our need to know God
Then verse 26-27 â€“
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
Paul then discusses more claims about our common heritage in Adam. The proud Greeks might have been offended; they might have believed they were intellectually or racially superior to the barbarians living around them. Both historically at appointed times and geographically at exact place, God has a plan for us. It’s not the plans or ingenuity of humans that determine the rise and fall of nations, but God’s plan. God does this so that people will try to find purpose in their lives and therefore seek God. The Athenians were using intellectual and logical groping in the dark to find the unknown god they seek.
God is not far removed and distant; the Greeks believed their gods were secluded and distant and unapproachable, but the one true God is knowable and not far from each and every one of us. God is not an idol. God is not one of many gods. God is not just some philosophical idea. God is alive, God is personal, God is truth.
And as his creation, we are born wanting to know God. This, too, would appeal to the Greeks who wanted to know everything. Verse 28 â€“
‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
These words had greater meaning to the Greeks â€“ the phrase “for in him we live and move and have our being” came from the Greek philosopher Epimenides, and “we are his offspring” came from the Greek poet Aratus and Cleanthes. These poets were referring to Zues, but for Paul, the reference was to the one true God.
Paul used many words like “seek,” “find,” “grope,” “not far,” “in him,” “we are his.” These would have been understood that for those seeking the truth, the truth could be found. God wants us to seek him and find Him. Paul corrects the false Greek teaching that God was unknowable, God lived in man-made temples, God was not involved. These are all false. Instead, the nature of God is knowable; Romans 1:20 says,
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualitiesâ€”his eternal power and divine natureâ€”have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
How does God reveal His character to you?
Now Acts 17:29-30 â€“
Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stoneâ€”an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
Paul provides some insight into the nature of God. People are not made of gold or silver or stone. Since we are his offspring, neither is God made of gold or silver or stone. In fact, people who worship an idol made by human hands have it exactly backwards. God made people; therefore, people cannot make God. Therefore any understanding of God that we create is false; we must not seek God in what we create, but in what He creates. Anything else is idolatry.
D. Judgment and Resurrection
Paul’s message also contains a warning that God’s desire for people to seek Him is not an idle request. It’s a command. Seek God, repent. Turn from idolatry, turn to God. They had overlooked God in the past, but it was nothing compared to overlooking Christ in the present. Why? Verse 31 â€“
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.
The Greeks had no real concept of judgment. They lived, they died. Most of them preferred to worship many gods, depending on their needs. And although it appeared their gods became angry from time to time, there was no accountability.
Paul presented a different picture, that our lives have intrinsic worth to our Creator, and we are judged with God’s perfect justice. Daniel 7:13-14 â€“
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
God’s perfect judgment for eternity is coming. Once we hear the word, we no longer have an excuse for our ignorance. How awful to fail the test of righteousness before the living God! People need to know that they are being judged, and forgiveness is found in Christ and no place else.
This concept of judgment would be offensive to the Greeks, but Paul did not hold back the truth. While Paul might adapt his approach to sharing the gospel, he never varied the message of the gospel. Faith in Jesus alone will save us.
Is this concept of judgment still offensive today? Why?
E. Expect a variety of responses
Verse 32-34 â€“
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
The message of the resurrection of Christ ended Paul’s speech. Some of the intellectuals sneered and ridiculed Paul. Some outright laughed. Some were polite but dismissive, “we want to hear from you again.” But that’s ok. Because a few, a very few, became believers. And that’s ok. It’s our duty as the messenger to present the message. Paul showed us how to do it, and he did it expertly. And yet, an apostle of Christ got a mixed reaction. Sneering, some still searching, some believing. He did this by relating to them, nurturing them, and proclaiming the death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. That’s all we’re asked to do. The fruit is God’s responsibility.
So don’t hesitate to share what you know, and don’t worry that some will not believe you. Don’t expect a unanimous, positive response. Just tell the good news and plant the seed and let God do the rest.
[ In your opinion, what is the most troubling belief you have encountered about Christianity? ]
[ What reason can you give for your personal faith in Jesus? ]
In our culture, many people view Christianity as just another religion. Even some believers have accepted the false belief that all religions lead to the same place. But God wants us to acknowledge the unique gospel of Christ and to understand it more fully so that we can share it more effectively.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
When the US Government funds anything remotely Christian in nature, all sorts of “separation of church and state” groups get upset. The ACLU files a lawsuit and the “offensive” Christian material is removed.
So why is it ok for US tax dollars to be used to oppose Christianity? Shouldn’t the same standard be used? PBS, a government funded liberal and atheist propoganda tool (not that I’m opinionated on the subject) is funded by the US government and is producing a show that attacks the underlying tenets of the bible.
Among other things, this show says -
- Abraham, Sarah and their offspring didn’t exist.
- There is no archaeological evidence of the Exodus.
- Monotheism was a process that took hundreds of years.
- The Israelites were actually Canaanites.
- The Israelites believed that God had a wife.
For me as a Christian, it’s bad enough when free speech is exercised to attack my beliefs; my right to free speech also belongs to others to say the opposite. Will my tax dollars also be used to fund a show friendly to my beliefs? Probably not; the ACLU will sue to prevent the use of tax dollars for Christian-friendly projects. So why is the government allowed to fund an attack on Christianity?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word
For what can an antelope say?
Every spoken word, every action we take, effects another person. We either affect somebody positively or we affect negatively. Even many neutral actions, since they don’t affect another in a positive way, can be considered negative. We label ourselves as either an optimist who sees the glass half full, or a pessimist who sees the glass half empty. Or an engineer, who sees the glass as too big.
Some Christians look at the people around them and find fault with them. They gossip too much, they only hang around with their friends; they don’t serve like they should. Other believers seem to have a good word for everyone they meet. Which type or person do you like to be around? Which type of person are you?
If we’re critical of others, we make excuses for our behavior. I don’t feel good. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. It’s just the way I am. God made me this way. Or, they’re just out to get me. They deserve it. Or we hide our criticism behind the phrase, “bless their heart.” You can say the absolute meanest, despicable things about somebody as long as you add the phrase, “bless their heart” to it. “He’s just a blathering idiot, bless his heart.” “She’s a wicked gossip who smells bad and dresses like a vagrant, bless her heart.”
Why do we do this? Like many sins, this one, too, is based on pride. We’re better than them. If they don’t know that, then we can drag them down and push ourselves up by criticizing them. We think so highly of ourselves that we don’t consider the other person’s feelings before we open our mouths.
That’s not God’s plan for us. God wants all of his children to encourage and lift one another. Proverbs 10:10-11,
He who winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.
And Hebrews 3:13,
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
What day is it? That’s right, it’s Today. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. And 1 Thessalonians 5:11,
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
And Ephesians 4:29,
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ok, so does God want us to encourage one another? Who can guess the answer to that question?
Today weâ€™re going to study Acts 11 starting in verse 19 about a great encourager. This is a difficult time for the early church; the early Jews preaching the gospel were persecuted by Herod. Stephen had been stoned to death, and the early Christians were scattered. There was some confusion around this time about the good news of the gospel and who could receive it.
Then Peter has a vision; Fred touched on this last week in Acts 10. In Acts 11:1-3,
The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Criticism is everywhere; here, early believers are criticizing Peter, one of the original 12 Apostles. I can imagine them saying, “Well! He may have traveled and listed to Jesus for 3 years, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Why, just the other day, he was eating with so-and-so, you know, that ‘gentile’. He calls himself a follower of Christ but you sure can’t tell he’s one by the way he’s behaving.”
As a devout Jew, entering the house of an unclean gentile would cause Peter to become unclean, a fact other Jews pointed out to him. In verse 4, Peter tells them about his vision. He repeats it “precisely” to them; he saw a sheet coming down from heaven, and inside were four-footed animals, and a voice from the Lord saying, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
Peter’s response indicated Jewish thinking; he cannot eat those animals because Jewish law forbids it. “Surely no, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth!” And the Lord responds, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
When we study God’s word, we often stop right there and think that God’s message is that it’s ok to eat pork. Or shellfish. Orâ€¦ scorpions. Or whatever. And indeed, the scripture tells us this. When you couple this vision with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17), “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” we can also conclude that we are not bound by the Old Testament laws because Jesus completed them. We are free in Christ.
But for Peter, the vision he received also addresses the salvation of gentiles. Gentiles are also made by God. Gentiles can also be made clean by God. Peter would not defile himself by walking into a gentile’s home. The Holy Spirit came upon some gentiles in Acts 11:15-18,
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
In verse 19, after the stoning of Stephen, the early Christians scattered but continued to preach. Those that went to Phoenicia, Cypress and Antioch taught only to Jews. Other early Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene also went to Antioch, but began to teach the gentiles, the Greeks. The early church began to grow rapidly. Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, the early church there began to hear of the conversion of gentiles in Antioch. Verse 22-24,
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Barnabas is a great example of the Christian God wants us to be. In Acts 4:34-37, scripture introduces us to this man.
There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
His name was Joseph, but the early church gave him the nickname “Barnabus”. A complete reading of the word “barnabas,” gives a more complete picture of his name. Barnabas means â€“
â€¢ Son of encouragement
â€¢ Son of prophecy
â€¢ Son of refreshment
â€¢ Son of comfort
â€¢ Son of consolation
â€¢ Son of preacher
In Hebrew names, the prefix “bar-” meant “son of.” For instance, in Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon bar-Jonah.” It meant “Simon, son of Jonah.” If Jesus had said, “Blessed are you, Simon bar-Smith & Wesson,” that could also mean “blessed are you Simon, you son of a gun.”
The selection of Barnabas by the early church was a wise decision. Barnabas is described in glowing terms in verse 24. He is the only man in Acts called “good.” He is “full of the Holy Spirit” and “full of faith.” And then Barnabas gives 3 examples of who we are to encourage. First, by going to Antioch to share the gospel with gentiles in verses 19-22, Barnabas encourages new Christians. These new Christians came not from Jewish backgrounds, but from pagan backgrounds. It is because of this encouragement that (verse 21) “the Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”
Why do new Christians need encouragement?
â€¢ May have zeal and happiness, but not knowledge of scripture
â€¢ May fall into old secular habits easily
â€¢ If not welcomed, may seek inclusion elsewhere
We can definitely encourage new Christians by assuring them that God is at work in their lives, that God loves them and gave His son for them. We can encourage new Christians, not by looking at what they are doing wrong, but by affirming the positive qualities they have and the positive actions they do. We must approach them in love, not criticism or condescension.
I look at these early Christians, the aggressive evangelism they do to spread the Word, and the persecution they endured, and compare it to the safety and comfort of our modern church. We’re coddled by Christianity, but it’s the suffering of the early Christians that produced the hope and character of zealous Christians.
Another person Barnabas encouraged was Saul. Verse 25-27,
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Saul wasn’t exactly a new Christian; Saul was an educated Pharisee, a very devout Jew who had persecuted the Christians until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. When Saul converted to Christianity, there was a lot of suspicion about him. After all, Saul was a witness to the stoning of Stephen; how could this man be so changed after his encounter with Jesus?
Barnabus went specifically to search for Saul and bring him to Antioch and together they helped grow the early church there. This was not the first time Barnabus had encouraged Saul; in Acts 9, immediately after Saul’s conversion, the Jews conspired to kill him and Saul tried to join the early church. But the Christians there were afraid of him and distrusted him. Then Acts 9:27, “But Barnabas took Saul and brought him to the apostles.”
Saul became Paul and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit wrote most of the New Testament, including the letter to the Hebrews, verse 3:13, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today.” While we think of Paul has an incredible teacher, how much of Paul’s writing can be attributed to the encouragement and joy of Barnabas?
Why do established Christians need encouragement?
â€¢ Initial zeal of forgiveness fades, tempted by world
â€¢ The stronger the Christian, the more Satan steps up his attacks
â€¢ Like Paul, Christians we encourage may contribute to God’s work in ways we could never imagine
It says here in Acts 11:26 that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. Here’s the rabbit trail for this week; up until this time, followers of Christ had sort of an identity crisis. For a while in Acts 1 through 4 they were called “believers”. In Acts 5, they referred to themselves as the church, and then in Acts 6 they called themselves disciples and then brothers. In Acts 9, they called themselves “The Way,” I assume because Jesus called himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They also called themselves the Lord’s people in Acts 9, the Followers in Acts 17, and the Flock in Acts 20. But it was here in Acts 11 that followers of Christ were first called Christians.
So back to Barnabus; he’s encouraged new Christians, he’s encouraged experienced Christians, and now Acts 11:23 it says Barnabus encouraged all of them, the entire church of Antioch. So Barnabus has shown by his example we are to encourage new Christians, established Christians, both individually and in groups. Did we miss anybody?
Acts 11 ends on a note that a severe famine began to spread throughout the Roman worlds, and in verse 29-30, ” The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.” Barnabus’ encouragement was not limited to words; he also encouraged them by his acts of service. There are many ways of providing encouragement; here’s a list called “8 Simple Ways to Encourage Others” :
â€¢ Take an interest. I believe this is one of the most effective ways of encouraging others. Show that youâ€™re interested in what theyâ€™re doing. Get them talking. People like to talk about themselves and once you get them talking, you fire up their enthusiasm.
â€¢ Acknowledge whatâ€™s important. When you acknowledge whatâ€™s important to another, you provide validation about who they are and what theyâ€™re doing. Whether we admit it or not, each of us craves acknowledgement. Affirmation fuels confidence and self-esteem.
â€¢ Acknowledge a job well done. Worthwhile accomplishments take time and effort. You can encourage by acknowledging someoneâ€™s effort. A simple â€œwell doneâ€ or â€œthank youâ€ can have a strong effect, which can make the difference between going on or giving up.
â€¢ Show your appreciation. Itâ€™s common courtesy. Thank someone when they do something for you. Thank your partner after they cook a nice meal. Thank a friend for lending you a book. A simple thank you lets others know what they have done is meaningful to you.
â€¢ Return the favour. If someone does something nice for you, show your appreciation by returning the favour. This should not be seen as an obligation, nor as a contest. Youâ€™re not trying to top the otherâ€™s contribution, but to express what their actions mean to you.
â€¢ Do something unexpected. This is a step beyond returning the favour. Respond with something unexpected: out of the blue. Such a response has a strong impact and can reach others at an emotional level.
â€¢ Ask for advice or confide in them. Havenâ€™t you felt important when someone asked for your advice or confided in you about something important? Didnâ€™t you find you were energised and eager to help. Taking someone into your confidence can motivate them to show your faith in them is well founded.
â€¢ Lend a hand. Waiting for someone to ask you for advice is passive. You can take the initiative by offering to lend a hand. If a person sees you are willing to commit your time and energy to their interests, they will be more committed to seeing it through and less likely to give up.
What about you? Are you an encourager? Do uplifting words come from you, or do words of condescension and criticism come from you? Are you a Barnabas? Or are you a barnacle?
Let’s keep in mind that all Christians need encouragement. For new Christians, simply going to them and offering help is encouraging. For maturing Christians, we can encourage them by affirming their good work and character and helping them apply their spiritual gifts in service to the Lord. For all Christians, just being concerned about them and helping them is encouraging.
Nicole Johnson, a Christian author and encourager herself, wrote “Encouragement is to a friendship what confetti is to a party. It’s light, refreshing, and fun, and you always end up finding little pieces of it stuck to you later.”
Let’s go be encouraging confetti to someone today.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
Chasing the Wind is honored to host the 219th edition of the Christian Carnival II, the blogosphere’s best Christian writing. My comments on the post in italics after each entry, but I left the author’s original thoughts when he or she provided them. I included almost all posts I received; I excluded two from the same blog that were more about “the power of positive thinking” that didn’t seem to mention Christianity, and a similar post about raising children from a site mostly dedicated to gardening. Oh, and I excluded an advertisement blog for Branson Missouri. If I excluded your post and you don’t agree, email me and let me know why I erred and I’ll correct it.
- Lawrence of Arabia presents wright speaks the truth; obama apologizes for it posted at revolt in the desert.
Sort of a “devil’s advocate” look at the inflammatory Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s speech and America. I understand the point he’s making, but the premise is a bit hard to embrace.
- Elementaryhistoryteacher presents Free Willing posted at Got Bible?, responding to a reader’s comment that religion is “life-hating and degrading.”
Of course it’s not; God created us, and He loves life!
- Henry Imler presents Relinquishment of Dominance as a Requirement for Citizenship in the Kingdom of God posted at Theology for the Masses.
What does it mean to be “like a child?”
- Paul Manata presents “Paradox In Christian Theology” Reviewed posted at Triablogue. A thorough book (p)review of James Anderson’s “Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of Its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status.” Anderson argues that there are indeed some Christian doctrines that are paradoxical. But, these may be rationally believed, and warranted for the Christian. Anderson offers a model, based largely off Plantinga’s model of warrant, whereby this claim is substantiated.
- Greg Qualls presents Murphy v. God – God Wins!!! posted at GregQualls.com. Giving glory to God for all things good.
(Psst – God had an advantage, I think. )
- George Marcelo presents The Roman Catholic Church is Satanic! posted at George A. Marcelo’s Weblog.
Er, I struggled with this one. While I understand George’s warnings, I also understand Paul’s warning we should not be devisive over doctrine. If your Catholic, you’ll probably be offended, but I think the author is trying to make sure you understand what “accepting Jesus” means.
- FMF presents Seven Deadly Signs of Financial Bondage posted at Free Money Finance. Signs of financial bondage from the Bible.
This isn’t a Christian website, but the post is from a pastor that provides scripture to meditate on when thinking about financial issues.
- David Gushee presents What Dr. King means to me posted at CounterCulture. Reflections about the life and work of one of the Christian leaders whose work has had the deepest impact on my own moral vision, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Renae presents Camper Bus to Minivan posted at Life Nurturing Education.
Wow, talk about a life-changing event!
- Tina Petersel presents The Cost of Repentence posted at Maiden Song. A salute to Paul Weyrich’s brave stand in repenting for choosing politics over principle this election season.
“Repentence” is a word too easily tossed around. What does it mean, really?
- Diane R presents Single Christians and the Church posted at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet. Single Christians are not always treated with respect in most churches. Why is this, and how should they be treated?
Interesting topic, especially contrasted with “Are you happy or holy? posted below.
- Allen Scott presents Sneak Peeks: Glimpses of upcoming events posted at Journey Across the Sky.
Ah, the power of advertising. Advertise salvation!
- Jessica Jones presents The Intentional Family posted at Practical Nourishment.
Good practical advise for raising your children, though mostly secular in nature.
- This week at Light Along the Journey, John reflects on what he would have told himself if he could have jumped into a plutonium-powered Delorean and visited himself in the past with his post Seven Things I Wish I Knew at Seventeen.
It’s not too late to know it now (and put it into practice)!
- Gavin R. Putland presents Still on the mountaintop: Economically rational racism posted at /etc/cron.whenever/. Marking the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “mountaintop” speech.
- Tasia Eraseren presents A Christian Walk posted at A Closer Walk With JESUS. Jesus is The Good News. Addressing God, the Bible, Religion, and the Christian Community.
- This week at Life is Worth Living, Paul reflects on the book of promises, the bible, in Book of Promises.
- Andrew Tatusko presents The Church as Sacrament: Religion and Wealth Inequality Part II posted at Notes From Off Center. The church is that physical entity which is not only a symbol of the saving power of Christ, but is the very means by which God continues to enact and perform acts of grace and love in the world. First God was incarnate in Christ. Now God is incarnate in the church.
- Angela Williams Duea presents Christians are brainwashed. posted at angelawd. The suggestion that as a believer, I was brainwashed in my faith, made me look closer at the reasons I embrace Christianity.
I agree – “brainwashing” is like “legalism.” Why do you believe what you believe?
- Richard H. Anderson presents Blame it on Eli posted at dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos Theophilos.
- ChrisB presents Sin, Death, and Evolution posted at Homeward Bound. A discussion of death as a consequence of sin and its implications for evolution.
- Annette presents Why pray before meals? posted at Fish and Cans. Lightbulb moment in learning the importance of prayer before meals.
- Chad Dalton presents Sharing the gospel – #4 posted at Living Stone Bible Church Blog.
- Jennifer in OR presents Are you happy or are you holy? posted at Diary of 1. Is your marriage for happiness or holiness…or is this a silly question?
- Tom Gilson presents Knowing the True God posted at Thinking Christian. A response to New Age-related questions about God.
- Henry Neufeld presents Relating the Incarnation to Inspiration posted at Participatory Bible Study Blog. What points about the incarnation are applicable to an incarnational view of inspiration.
- Jody Neufeld presents Forgiveness: Not a Neat Package posted at Jody Along the Path. Forgiveness is necessary, but it isn’t always as neat and idy as we might like it to be.
- Mark Olson presents One Man. A Journey. A Return. posted at Pseudo-Polymath. I don’t exactly know what to call what I’ve written. But I’ve written it just the same. What do y’all think?
- The Bible Archive’s Rey offers a (very rough) history of the New Testament canon.
- In Infinite harm posted at Parableman, Wink examines some arguments for why we should think of our sin against God as an infinite crime deserving of an infinite punishment as part of a series on annihilationism and hell.
- Weekend Fisher at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength offers some thoughts on Judaism (ancient and modern) and God’s message to all nations through Christ on Judaism and the foundation of Christianity.
- John at Brain Cramps for God took part in a “Weekly Faith Roundtable” at Street Prophets where he was supposed to present to others “what Evangelicalism is”
Welcome to the 208th edition of the Christian Carnival, a weekly amalgomation of this week’s best Christian writing. Chasing the Wind is humbled to host such a fine collection of postings this week; I suggest picking a few titles below and clicking them; you won’t find a finer collection of Christian thoughts anywhere on the web.
Tia presents Seeking Contentment in a Broken World: Exploring Traumatic Countertransference posted at On Journeying with Those in Exile, saying, “Dan asks some questions about what to do with the pain he feels for the Broken world and how it relates to imitatio Christi in having cruciform love.”
ChristianPF presents Financial lessons from Solomon posted at Money in the Bible | Christian Personal Finance Blog, saying, “The Bible says that Solomon was the richest man who ever lived and also the wisest ever to live. I think that makes him qualified to give some financial advice.”
Diane R. presents We Are Too!….So There! posted at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet, saying, “Many younger Christian leaders today are criticising the evangelical church for it’s recent history of neglecting the poor. But what do you think we’ve been doing for the past 100 years?”
Mark Olson presents Ecumenism, Creed, Conflict, and Dr King posted at Pseudo-Polymath, saying, “Small “c” catholic is a term we profess in the Creed, many of us every Sunday. What’s that have to do with Dr King’s message and ekklesia? Well, I think they are connected and offer a short essay on why.”
Jeremy Pierce presents Jesus’ Impeccability and Language Acquisition posted at Parableman, saying, “A reflection on how Jesus must have learned language and what it means for questions about whether Jesus made any mistakes.”
JR Madill presents Creating a Universe of Certainty, or, If You Remove Reason, You Remove Doubt (Part 2 of 2) posted at Theology for the Masses.
Via Michelle Malkin via Weasel Zippers (no, really, that’s the name of their website) (and links from National Catholic Reporter and Asia Times, there are 111 million Chinese Christians, and every day there are 10,000 more. By 2050, China will be the third largest Christian nation behine the United States and Brazil.
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Ten thousand Chinese become Christians each day, according to a stunning report by the National Catholic Reporterâ€™s veteran correspondent John Allen, and 200 million Chinese may comprise the worldâ€™s largest concentration of Christians by mid-century, and the largest missionary force in history. If you read a single news article about China this year, make sure it is this one.
I suspect that even the most enthusiastic accounts err on the downside, and that Christianity will have become a Sino-centric religion two generations from now. China may be for the 21st century what Europe was during the 8th-11th centuries, and America has been during the past 200 years: the natural ground for mass evangelization. If this occurs, the world will change beyond our capacity to recognize it. Islam might defeat the western Europeans, simply by replacing their diminishing numbers with immigrants, but it will crumble beneath the challenge from the East.
Christian Carnival 178 is up at … Chasing the Wind! I have the honor of hosting this week’s carnival, affectionately known as Christian Carnival 178, 2^89th, hexadecimal B2, or binary 10110010. Whew, and I think there were almost that many entries.
They’re presented here in roughly the order submitted; if you’re a blog author and you don’t see you entry, I’ll be happy to modify the list below. I had to exclude 1 entry from this week’s Carnival; while “positive” in nature, it didn’t represent a Christian viewpoint. And I excluded two humanistic, scientific anti-Christian blogs for obvious reasons.
if you’re a visitor and curious about Carnival entries, click on a few and read this week’s best Christian blogging.
- Justin presents Science’s Overlooked Problem posted at Politics & Religion. A look at the most overlooked problem in science.
- At Trivium Pursuit, a consideration of Bible Study Software, submitted by Laurie Bluedorn.
- Daniel Condurachi presents What To Do To Be Punished posted at Daniel Condurachi’s Blog.
- Justin Merth presents A Father’s Day Lesson in Pride posted at In The Word.
- At Sun and Shield, a question for this week is ” An intelligently designed universe? ” Among other things, Martin muses about why there is so much fuss over changing the teaching of biology to accommodate a belief in a young earth, and so little over changing the teaching of astronomy.
- Messy Christian presents 5 reasons why I love Jesus posted at Messy Christian. This meme actually got me thinking about how I got on this Christian journey (I wasnâ€™t born a Christian – my parents and siblings are Buddhists). What attracted me to Jesus indeed?
- Mark Olson presents In Which I Am Confused about Slavery and Freedom posted at Pseudo-Polymath. In which I am (now) confused about what is meant by slavery and it’s evils.
- Dana presents Keeping in touch or personal touch? posted at Principled Discovery.
- Dunstan presents Seeking God posted at The Protomonk. A review of Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict.
- Adam Faughn presents Psalms 1-25: Links posted at The Faughn Family of Four. I have been posting a series of devotional thoughts on each psalm. This post contains links to the first 25 psalms in the series.
- This year’s hot vacation bible school package is called “The Great Bible Reef – Dive Deep Into God’s Word.” Is going to an ecumenical, environmentally-themed VBS better for your kids than actually spending time in creation? Don Bosch chews on this question over at The Evangelical Ecologist.
- Peter Kirk presents ESV Bible no longer says wizards must die! posted at Speaker of Truth. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fans can breathe more easily! The Bible no longer says that Harry and Gandalf must be stoned to death.
- “If we go wrong on the nature of faith, everything in the Christian life will go wrong.” So says John Piper on faith. But what is the nature of true faith? See what the disciple Jesus loved wrote on faith as Light Along the Journey this week posts on The Faith of the Apostle John.
- Diane R presents Trash Watching posted at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet. Lately in the Christian blogsophere, again, we are reading about the necessity of Christians seeing movies. Should they?
- Weekend Fisher considers one of the most-ignored commands of Jesus in Love your enemies at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength.
- Rey from the Bible Archive starts exploring the ramifications of Paul’s Measure of Faith.
- Jennifer in OR presents The Story About Ping posted at Diary of 1.
- Rodney Olsen presents Back in time posted at The Journey. I recently went trawling through my audio archives and found interviews I recorded with Rick Joyner, Jack Deere and Neil T. Anderson. I talked to all of these men back in 2005 but thought that there may still be some interest in what they had to say at the time.
- Thomas Gilson presents Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power; by J. P. Moreland posted at Thinking Christian. The three legs of Moreland’s “Kingdom Triangle” may–or may not–be the three most important things Western Christians need to do to make a difference in our world. Two of them, however, are very likely the most important things we have been lacking.
- At Everyday Liturgy, Thomas posts about Private Prayer and Religious Liberty. A discussion concerning the recent resignation of a trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over the use of private prayer languages. The paradox, private prayer languages are denounced by an organization that champions itself as a promoter of religious liberty, is commented on.
- William Meisheid presents Judgment Is Not For The Faint Of Heart posted at Beyond The Rim…. A few thoughts on the nature of judgment and prophets.
- Henry Neufeld presents Notes on Mark 9:30-42 posted at Participatory Bible Study Blog.
- At Random Acts of Verbiage, Matt tells us about The Stranger: A Month of Sundays. I take a look at an article put out by a local paper that sent out 31 reporters to check out 31 different churches around Seattle. It was quite disappointing.
- Jeremy Pierce presents Stem Cell Rhetoric posted at Parableman. An examination of some of the rhetoric of the Democratic presidential candidates in response to President Bush’s veto of legislation that would have funded embryonic stem cell research.
- Douglas Jones presents The Quest for the Holy Grail and the Second Coming of Jesus posted at Madison Thacker.
- Justin presents Christianity’s Downfall posted at Politics & Religion. Part one of a multi-edition series about the downfall of modern Christianity – and what we can do to stop it.
- At Chrysalis Cafe, the emerging megachurch Mars Hill is discussed. Not all megachurches are the same
Have yâ€™all seen the stories on the news this week about Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda? For the last few years, Mr. Miranda has claimed to be Jesus himself. He says he had a vision in 1973, then after 3 marriages, 5 children, a heroin addiction and a couple of jail sentences for petty theft, in 2000 Mr. Miranda claimed to be Jesus himself. Mr. Miranda says there is no devil or sin because all of that was defeated 2000 years ago, prayer is a waste of time, and he teaches that his followers have a â€œfreedom to indulgeâ€ because his followers are predestined for salvation no matter what they do on earth. He tells all of his followers that all churches and religion are heresy and they are to burn religious writings and attack local churches. Heâ€™s been banned in several countries. Heâ€™s in the news this week because he now claims that besides being Jesus, heâ€™s also the anti-Christ. He is a â€œgoodâ€ anti-Christ, though, because there is no such thing as evil. To mark this new revelation, Mr. Miranda now has a very prominent â€œ666â€ tattooed on his forearm. Of course, his followers happily had their own â€œ666â€ tattooed on their arms.
1 John 2:18: â€œDear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” We know that this Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda is not Jesus because of scripture passages such as, well, the entire book of Revelation. Itâ€™s also clear from scripture that Mr. Miranda cannot be both Christ and the anti-Christ at the same time. If you ever watched â€œStar Trekâ€ youâ€™d know heâ€™d explode and the universe would cease to exist.
Why are people misled by a charismatic preacher? Itâ€™s because they do not know who Jesus really is or what Jesus says. Colossians 2:4,8 says, â€œI tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.â€ Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Peter faced similar situations with false teachers. Peter and the apostles had been in direct communication with the Lord Jesus Christ and knew exactly what Jesusâ€™ message was. The Word of God was shared through oral traditions and through the Holy Spirit, but the written word, the New Testament, had not yet been written. There was a vacuum of information, and men being what they are, unscrupulous or misinformed people stepped into the vacuum and began to spread problems of all kinds. Legalism was taught, authority of God was challenged, the core teachings of the gospel were challenged, and even the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus was challenged. The apostle Peter wrote this scripture specifically addressing the true theology of Christianity. He wanted Christians to know the truth, the freedom of living in Christ, and put to rest the false heresies that were being spread.
Letâ€™s look at 2 Peter 1:12-15
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
Peter tells the early Christians that they already know the truth, but Peter will â€œalways remind them.â€ Peter tells them he wants to â€œrefresh your memoryâ€ for as long as he lives. Letâ€™s see if Peterâ€™s assessment holds true for us today â€“ do we know the truth about Jesus? Are we firmly established with this truth and what Jesus wants for our lives? I think so. So why is it important to be reminded of these things and to have our memories refreshed?
Let me ask it in a more personal way. We are not perfect like Jesus, are we? We are tempted and fall into sin, whether it is lust of the eyes, hurt with the tongue, worshipping money and idols, sin of pride, something personal we struggle with as we persevere in our faith. When we sin, is at that moment that we stop believing in God? When we sin, is it at that moment that we stop believing in the bible? No, not at all. Of course we believe. What we have forgotten, though, is the truth of the Word. We forget that sin has consequences. We forget that Jesus paid an incredible price for that sin. When we fall into sin, we donâ€™t become unbelievers. We become un-rememberers. We forget our need for grace. We forget God is watching every move and listening to every thought. Peter doesnâ€™t want the believers of Asia Minor to forget. God doesnâ€™t want us to forget.
When Peter says â€œas long as I am in this tent,â€ this of course, refers to Peterâ€™s mortality. Our bodies are frail, they are impermanent, and they are imperfect. We have only so much time on this earth to do Godâ€™s will. When we are aware of our limited time here compared to our eternal destiny, it should give us some urgency to do Godâ€™s will while there is still time.
Peter knows that his time is short â€“ Jesus hinted to Peter in the book of John (John 21:18) that someday Peter would also be crucified. â€œI tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.â€ Peter had an urgency to share the gospel, but we, too, have the same urgency.
Letâ€™s read 2 Peter 1:16-18 â€“
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
Peter is telling us the truth; false teachers are not. Peterâ€™s words have the strength of his conviction behind him, the truth of the Lord behind him, and the Holy Spirit dwelling within him. Myths about Roman gods were passed along from generation to generation that illustrated a particular Roman lesson, but they were myths. Peter reminds us that the story of Jesus is not a myth. Peter didnâ€™t learn about it from others, it wasnâ€™t hearsay or gossip passed along. Peter was there; he was an eyewitness to Jesusâ€™ miracles. Peter was there on the mountain when he heard God speaking from the heavens. And notice Peter says â€œweâ€ â€“ Peter, James and John were there on that mountain and were direct eyewitnesses to the transfiguration of Christ. God directly spoke from the heavens that Jesus is the son of God and that God is well pleased with Him.
Itâ€™s important to remember that Jesus appeared to thousands or people. When Jesus fed the 5000, how many people were there? Ok, that was a trick question. The point is that these 5000 people were still alive and it was very easy to check to see if the story was true. These were real events that had occurred during the last 20 or 30 years, during their lifetime.
Letâ€™s say I told you that 20 or 30 years ago that Richard Nixon was a great war hero and had fought in Vietnam and because of his great leadership the Vietnam war was won? It would not be a credible story because there are people here in this room that know that isnâ€™t true. In Peterâ€™s day, Jesus was well known. He had appeared to thousands of people, taught thousands of people, and after he died and was resurrected appeared to hundreds of people. They were eyewitnesses. The apostles were so sure that Jesus was the messiah, the son of God, that they were willing to die for preaching Christ crucified. Not one of them recanted their story, even though they were martyred for preaching the gospel.
Peter knows without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus came as the Messiah, as the Christ, as the Son of God, that Jesus died and rose from the dead after 3 days and ascended into heaven. False teachers could not claim that, nor could they dispute Peterâ€™s eyewitness account. What other miracles did Peter see first hand?
Thatâ€™s why Peter knows he is speaking the truth. Through divine revelation, Peter heard the very words of Jesus. The faith of Christians is not based on clever stories. Christianity is based on real, historical events with multiple eyewitnesses. Can you imagine seeing the transfiguration and hearing God speak from the heavens? Can you imagine how confident Peter was in his faith after seeing that? God wants us to have that same confidence in Him. How does God do that?
Letâ€™s read the rest of our verse for today, 2 Peter 1:19-21 â€“
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
I love that part â€“ you will do well to pay attention to the Word of God; itâ€™s like a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts. Psalm 119:105 says, â€œYour word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.â€ Godâ€™s Word gives us confidence; even though we are not eyewitnesses, we have the words of the eyewitnesses.
The bible is a unique book. There are 66 separate books written over 1500 years, by over 40 separate authors from all walks of life. Amos was a farmer. Luke was a doctor. Ezra and James were ministers. David and Solomon were kings. Daniel was a political prisoner. Peter was a fisherman. Mathew was a first century IRS agent. It was written in Europe, Asia, and Africa, from deserts, dungeons, palaces, and battlefields. It covers all sorts of controversial topics such as raising your kids, improving your marriage, managing emotions, handling money, breaking bad habits, and inheriting eternal life, all in unity. And yet the entire bible has one hero â€“ the Messiah, Jesus Christ. One villain â€“ Satan. One problem â€“ sin. And one purpose â€“ salvation. The entire plot of the bible can be summed up by â€“
Jesus is coming (the Old Testament)
Jesus is here (The 4 gospels)
Jesus is coming again (The New Testament epistles)
Peter reminds us here â€“ heâ€™s always reminding us, isnâ€™t he? And then heâ€™s reminding us that heâ€™s reminding us. He reminds us that the Word of God is not written by man. Man may have been holding the pen and using his own unique personality, but the Word of God is provided by the Holy Spirit. Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. This is repeated in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, â€œAll Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.â€ Scripture is spoken by God, every word inspired by the Holy Spirit working through men. And itâ€™s not just relaxing Sunday-morning reading, we are to use the Word. It teaches us, it rebukes us, it corrects us, and it trains us in righteousness.
If we take Godâ€™s word that the bible is indeed Godâ€™s word, how does that affect our relationship with Him? For one thing, if this is Godâ€™s Word, does God make mistakes? No, we know God is perfect and holy and infallible. Therefore, we take every word in the bible to be true, holy and infallible.
I heard a story about a pastor who was going to be preaching about Noah and the ark and the Great Flood. A couple of boys decided to play a prank on the pastor, and they snuck into the sanctuary and glued some of the pages of his bible together. Sunday morning, the pastor started reading from the bible and it came out a little different than he expected. He read, “And Noah took a wife, and she wasâ€ (here he struggles to turn the page) â€œ450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall.â€ The pastor stood there stunned for a minute, and then said, â€œI have been reading this Bible for 30 years, and there are still some things that are hard for me to believe.â€
Skeptics and atheists claim the bible is full of discrepancies and inaccuracies, but theologians have a scholarly rebuttal to each claim. Some scripture, a lot of scripture, may be difficult for us to understand, but what we have to recognize is that the problem is not with the bible. The bible is incredibly consistent, and when we come across what appears to be inconsistent scripture, we can recognize that the problem is with us. We have limited understanding. With study, prayer and meditation, we can understand more and more, and when we arrive in heaven, we will understand all of it. Right now, in our mortal life, we have a limited view of an unlimited God. Eventually, if we continue to seek him, the full meaning will be given to us. We can learn to doubt our doubts.
What do we do about scripture we do not understand? In Matthew 11:25, Jesus says, â€œI praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.â€ The Pharisees knew the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. I believe God reveals himself to us slowly over the course of our life; just as He revealed himself to Israel over 3000 years. Scripture that is unclear to us one year becomes incredibly clear to us in later years. Jesus says that if we seek Him, we shall find Him. What that means to me is to implicitly trust that the bible is true even if I cannot fathom its full meaning.
If we accept the entire bible as complete true, what does the bible say about the bible? Besides being useful for teaching and rebuking, the word is relevant. Does anybody remember the scripture that is at the bottom of each class newsletter? Hebrews 4:12-13 says, â€œFor the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.â€ The bible is not dead literature, it is living and active. Itâ€™s sharp and it cuts and exposes us to God. It convicts us and shows us our sin and how we fall short of His glory and how much we need our savior Jesus Christ.
There are many ways to ask the Lord for this sort of surgery, surgery that cuts the sin out of our lives. Try asking the Lord to reveal Himself to you. Read His word and apply it to your life. The problem, I think youâ€™ll find, is not one of understanding so much as it is a problem of obedience. Mark Twain once said, â€œItâ€™s not the parts of the Bible I donâ€™t understand that trouble me; itâ€™s the parts of the Bible that I do understand.â€ Many passages are easy to understand. The Ten Commandments, for instance, are very easy to understand. â€œHonor thy father and mother, especially on Motherâ€™s Day.â€ If you want God to work within you, try committing a favorite passage to memory. Try reading your bible eagerly and accept it as Godâ€™s holy word and then submit yourself to what it says.
Letâ€™s look at John 8:31-31 â€“ To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
To the non-believer, Jesus has but one command: â€œbelieve in me.â€ But if we are to grow in our faith, Jesus wants more from us. Jesus tells us to â€œhold to His teaching.â€ Where do we find His teaching? The very word of God, the bible. His teachings are here. Hold to His teaching, and we become His disciples, followers of Jesus. Hold to His teaching, then we will know the truth. Hold to His teaching, and we are set free from the bondage of sin.
An intellectual belief in God is not sufficient. The wisdom of man pales next to the foolishness of God. Heartfelt emotions are not sufficient â€“ emotions can mislead us. Sincerity is not sufficient â€“ the most sincere person can be most sincerely wrong. Sincerity does not equal truth, and sometimes religious leaders can be wrong. In Acts 17:11, it says, â€œNow the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.â€ While the Bereans were excited that Paul was in their midst and preaching to them, they examined scripture for themselves to see if Paul was preaching the truth. Thatâ€™s how we know that Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda is not Jesus the Christ. What he preaches conflicts with the Word of God. Itâ€™s misleading. Itâ€™s false.
Iâ€™d like to close with the words of another eyewitness to the life and words of Jesus Christ. From the book of John, chapter 1, verse 1,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Letâ€™s give a word of thanks to our Lord who has given us His holy Word.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
Barrack Hussein Obama describes himself as a Christian and the New York Times is almost besides itself with glee. Notice the picture and how holy Obama appears.
I like Christians, I really do. I happen to be one. But those people that routinely exhibit their Christian faith are routinely trashed by the New York Times. George W. Bush, for instance, would never get a glowing NY Times article abut his faith. Instead, we get scare stories about upcoming theocracies and how important the separation of church and state is. So why does Obama get special treatment for his faith? If the New York Times trashes most Christians but praises Obama, then it’s likely Obama is not like the other Christians. My hackles of suspicion are raised.
I repeat my repetition: liberals are going to try to split the conservative Christian vote by portraying themselves as Christian. Conservative Christianity is bad (separation of church and state! we don’t want a theocracy!) while liberal Christianity is good (wow, Obama is practically a saint!) according to liberal media.
â€œBe strong and have courage, for I am with you wherever you go,â€ Mr. Obama said in paraphrasing Godâ€™s message to Joshua.
Now, I’m all in favor of liberals quoting scripture. In fact, I’m all in favor of liberals quoting the entire bible. I think liberals (and conservatives, for that matter) that selectively quote scripture to support their position ought to be challenged by scripture the candidate doesn’t like.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama is reaching out to both liberal skeptics and committed Christians. In many speeches or discussions, he never mentions religion. When Mr. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, does speak of faith, he tends to add a footnote about keeping church and state separate.
What I’ve seen in the news recently is more than just a challenge to church and state; it’s a downright hostility to any public policy that mirrors faith. The recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold partial birth abortion – a decision Obama “strongly disagrees” with – was decided 5-4 justices. All the justices that upheld the ban had Catholic upbringing; those that voted against it did not. This same New York Times that praises the most holy Barack Obama also decries the influence of Catholics in the partial-birth abortion ban. As if any belief that a Christian might hold is automatically suspect, and Christians are OK only if they actively vote against Christian principle in order to demonstrate their progressiveness.
Color me unimpressed with the New York Times hypocrisy.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
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