Monday, December 31, 2012

4 Timeless Resolutions


“Oh brother, not another New Year resolutions article.”

Yes, sorry to disappoint. This would be another resolution article. But, this one may be different in comparison to others….key word “maybe”. I know some people have issues with “New Year resolutions”. Some people believe resolutions are a waste of time because the individual never sees it through or why the individual waits ‘til New Years, why not just start the resolution right when you realize it. While there are others who think New Year resolutions are an opportunity for a fresh start in some areas at the beginning of a new year. These see it more as being annually opportunistic.

What if I told you that the Bible endorsed New Year resolutions? Hmmm.

It doesn’t. However, the Bible does endorse making resolutions (i.e. making a firm decision to do something or not do something). It just doesn’t specify a particular point of time of when to start. So, if you choose to make and start your resolution at the beginning of the New Year, that’s cool. If you choose to make and start your resolution right now, or on February 22nd, or June 5th, or whenever, that’s cool too. Whatever your view is of New Year resolutions, we all can agree that making resolutions aren’t a bad thing, unless it’s a resolution towards something sinful or ungodly.

Resolutions can be pretty much anything: health, fitness, finances, more discipline, time management, breaking bad habits, etc. And then there’s Apostle Peter’s. Neatly tucked away in Peter’s first epistle is one rich verse with four timeless principles every believer should make as resolutions each year. They’re not your typical resolutions, though they read like resolutions. They will never get old, and they will influence other areas of our life. These four are worthy resolutions:
“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1Pet. 2:17)

Honor all people – Make a resolution to show respect to everyone, treat all with value. The context does not imply that the honor we show is only to those whom we believe deserve it or those who appear honorable, but to all people.
          One would think honoring all people would be second nature for Christians. Sadly, it’s not. Christians are not known for honoring all people. We’re not even good at showing respect to one another. That’s a hard reality to admit, and many may disagree with me. But let’s imagine if we followed this simple principle. Imagine if we treated everyone with respect and value. How many more people would experience the love of Christ? What kind of further impact could we have in Christ name? How stronger would our relationships be? How better a legacy would we leave for the upcoming generations? Every human is an image-bearer of God. Therefore we are to respect and value them as such.

Love the brotherhood – Make a resolution to love the brethren. Love here is an action. We are to actively love one another just as Christ loves us, which includes the first principle of honoring one another as well.
         You can’t say you love God and not love His Body. You can’t say you honor God and despise His image in those He redeemed. That’s oxymoronic (1Jn. 2:9-11; 3:10-18; 4:7-8). Yes there are times where we drive each other crazy, and get on each other’s nerves. We’re sinners, we’re still incomplete. But that’s not an excuse to ignore Christ’s command to love one another (Jn. 13:34). Our love for one another is one of our greatest witnesses of Christ to the world (Jn. 13:35; 17:23). How more unified would the Church be if we sought to actually love the brotherhood and not just say we do? Therefore, go out of your way to extend yourself and seek to actively love your brethren from different churches and denominations, different theological positions, different races and nationalities, and so on. Love the brotherhood so that others can come to know the Greatest Lover of our souls!

Fear God – Make a resolution to revere God. In context this term “fear” used here (Gr. phobeisthe) is conveying high esteem and humble submission. Peter is instructing us to highly esteem and humbly submit to God.
          This principle is the motivating force behind all the others. If we highly esteem and humbly submit to God we’ll honor all people, love the brotherhood, and honor our governing authorities. If we don’t have a healthy fear of God, then we will not have a healthy view of obedience and pleasing God. If we don’t have a healthy fear of God, then we will not have a healthy view of local church life and greater unity in the Body of Christ. If we don’t have a healthy fear of God, then we will not have a healthy view of personal holistic growth and evangelism. Revering God is the same as loving God. You can’t say you do one and not the other, just like you can’t say you love God and not obey Him (Jn. 14:15, 21, 23-24). If we are God fearing, then we’ll be God revealing.

Honor the king – Make a resolution to respect your governing authorities. This would also take in account respecting the governing laws of your land.
          Many times governing authorities get a bad rap. Some times it is because of their own doing. Other times it could be guilty by association or guilty by generalization. Regardless to what kind of person the governing authority may be, we’re instructed to respect and submit to them so long as it’s not in opposition to God’s law. Mind you, this principle came during a time when the Romans were persecuting Christians and an emperor who in a few years would burn Christians to death. If they were instructed with this, we have no excuse. We respect the governing authorities of the land and their laws out of respect and submission to the Governing Authority of all Creation and His laws.

What I tell you, not your typical resolutions, but very much influential. Are these not resolutions worth keeping? I think they are. And they’re Bible-endorsed. You can start these resolutions in the New Year or whenever you realize you need to tighten up in these areas throughout the year. Not only will these resolutions help us grow, but they’ll also help us to be more winsome for Christ. I believe if we keep these four resolutions we’ll see a considerable difference each year and so will others.

12/29/12

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Newtown Tragedy: A Reflection & A Response


I woke up on Friday morning, December 14th, to the sounds of my wife gasping as she found out that an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut had been shot up. For the next several hours we sat, mouths open, watching the news.
We cried.
We were angry.
We vented.
We thought of that being our children.
We thought of the parents.
We saw for the first time in our lifetime a President cry on national TV.
We prayed.
We told our children, and then hugged them tight.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is not the first school shooting, nor will it be the last. It is not the first national tragedy, nor will it be the last. There are mass murders of children, young folk, and innocent bystanders everyday in US low-income neighborhoods and in others countries. The only difference is they don’t get as much publicity as this recent tragedy. But that is not a reason to minimalize the Newtown tragedy. Twenty young lives were lost. Eight adult lives were lost (school staff, the gunman, and his mother). This is ample enough reason to be upset and saddened.

The victims and their families
It’s hard to think of dead children. Well, at least it is for me. I have three children. My two youngest are 7 and 5. That’s around the same ages of the kids who died at Sandy Hook Elementary. Thinking of never seeing my kids again makes my heart hurt. I can feel the pain deep in my chest. My children are my offspring. They are mini-mes. So I can only imagine what those parents must be going through. Or to lose my wife, who went to work only never to return. My state of shock and sense of loss would be paralyzing. Next to Jesus, my wife is my life. She is my rib. So I can only imagine what the spouses must be enduring. The pain.

Loss is the greatest knock-the-wind-out-of-your-chest blow. Loss has a way of K-O’ing us. Why? Because when God created us, He hardwired us for relationships and purpose (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:15, 18). Therefore, losing something we dearly love and dearly value never to have it again is the hardest thing for human beings to cope with. It’s the reason why depression and anxiety are so common and deadly. We have a hard time dealing with loss or the thought of loss. All of us then can empathize with these families, and we should. So weep with them and grieve with them. But let not their loss be in vain. Cherish the treasures that matter most: faith, family, and friends. And let not the heroism of the teachers and staff to put others before themselves be in vain. Fight selflessly for what matters most. Let us keep that in mind.

Reflection of a villain
I was humbled. This tragedy is a reminder for us…a reminder for me. As much as we may not want to admit it, this tragedy is nothing more than another confirmation of how mankind’s depravity has no limits. John Piper wrote about this as well,
“…the murders of Newtown are a warning to me — and you. Not a warning to see our schools as defenseless, but to see our souls as depraved. To see our need for a Savior. To humble ourselves in repentance for the God-diminishing bitterness of our hearts. To turn to Christ in desperate need, and to treasure his forgiveness, his transforming, and his friendship.”

If any of us believe that we are somehow different than Adam Lanza (the shooter), we have lost sight of our own depravity. If we remove Jesus from our life, we are no different. All we have to do is read passages like Ephesians 2:1-3, Titus 3:3, Colossians 3:5-9, and Galatians 5:19-21.

I can say personally I was Adam Lanza before Jesus rescued me. I murdered innocent lives with abortion, rape, drug dealing, and street violence…oh and I can’t forget the lives I’ve took with my selfishness, arrogance, deception, rage, and manipulation. I took innocence. I corrupted young minds. I terrorized families. I abused women and children. Adam Lanza is nothing more than a mirror of my old self. And that shook me, because my egregious sins have never been publicized like his. The lives I destroyed have never been nationally prayed for or comforted or mourned. I caused Newtown like tragedies for 16 years, and that’s just before Jesus. That’s not counting tragedies I’ve caused bearing the name of Christ. This is why I was humbled.

What about you? How many tragedies are accredited to your sin and selfishness? Have you forgotten your reflection as a villain before Christ and at times since being in Christ?

What can we do?
The Apostle Peter told us that “the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1Pet. 4:7, NKJV). We have to pray saints! Pray for those affected by the Sandy Hook school shooting. They need it. But also pray for everyone affected by sin and its effects. The voiceless. The unattended. The disadvantaged. And so on. My wife has a saying, “There is no such thing as a victimless sin.” How true! Sin rampages all of us in some way or another. And as we continue to get closer to “the end of all things”, sin will rampage all the more. Therefore, be serious and watchful in your prayers. Beseech the God of all Creation and watch Him work.

Peter doesn’t end his point with a call to only be intentional in prayer. He ends it with a call to be intentional in love
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” (1Pet. 4:8, NKJV)
Our greatest witness to a depraved and dying world is exhibiting God’s fervent, life-giving, sacrificial, undeserving love (Luke 6:27-36). We are to love the victims and the perpetrators. We are to love the abused and the abusers. We are to love sinners and saints. Why? Because we all were once victims, perps, abused, abusers, and sinners guilty before God, and it was His fervent, life-giving, sacrificial, undeserving love that drew us to Himself. Thus, it will be His love through us that will draw another to Himself. It will be His love through us that will help heal and mend the hurt and the broken. It will be His love through us that will help soften the hard-hearted, help settle the angry, help accept and embrace the misunderstood, help possibly rescue another Adam Lanza, or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (shooters of Columbine), or Seung-Hui Cho (the Virginia Tech shooter). His love rescued me, and I was a killer before these killers.

We’ve all been tossed around, world flipped upside down from the rampages of sin and selfishness---whether that be of our own doing or someone else’s. And those of us who are born-again, who’ve been rescued from sin’s penalty and freed from sin’s enslavement, we therefore have also experienced the comfort of God. Hence, the reason why Paul writes in 2Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT),
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

As Christians, we’ve been on both sides of tragedies, the pain and the comfort! So we can come alongside those who are victimized and visited with tragedies and flood them with the same comfort we received from God. We can shower them with the fruit of the Spirit---which should sum up our loving manner of interaction, demeanor, and posture when around them. We can, at the right time and in a gentle and gracious manner, share with them the all-satisfying and eternal joy of the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Finally, even though we are not wrong to desire justice to be served when an injustice is present, we cannot forget to remember that our sin and injustices require justice as well. So as God forgave us of ours, so are we to forgive others of theirs. It’s not easy, but it is beneficial to all involved and a reflection of our Savior (and not the old villain in us). We have to forgive Adam Lanza, and any other Adam Lanza’s in our life too.


I hope my reflection and response will be of some help in some way during this time.
“The Lord is a safe place for the oppressed—a safe place in difficult times. Those who know your name trust you because you have not abandoned any who seek you, Lord.” (Ps. 9:9-10, CEB) 
18 …God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”” (2Cor. 5:18-20, NLT) 


12/19/12

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Scripture Meditation: Prov. 16:26



"A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on." (Prov. 16:26, NASB). The Message paraphrases it like such, "Appetite is an incentive to work; hunger makes you work all the harder."




This is what we can take away from this passage:
1. Find out what is your appetite for work, volunteering, serving the church, serving one another, ministry, and so on (i.e. what is it that urges you on/makes you work harder?). For our appetites can work for us or against us.
2. If our appetite for work, volunteering, serving the church, serving one another, ministry, and so on is not centered on the Gospel, the glory of God, souls being saved, and believers being built up, then our appetite is self-centered and (a)we'll only work toward the end of whatever our appetite is for, (b)we'll grow weary and discontent because our appetite is for something temporal and not eternal, (c)we'll bail out when our appetite isn't being satisfied, and (d)we'll slowly become a slave again to our self-centered appetite.
3. If our appetite for work, volunteering, serving the church, serving one another, ministry, and so on is centered on the Gospel, the glory of God, souls being saved, and believers being built up, then our appetite is Christ-centered and we'll hunger to serve, help another, sacrifice, and so on all the more, despite the obstacles, to satisfy our godly appetite!

If you find after careful examination that your appetite is off, then take a break and focus on readjusting it away from the self-center towards the Christ-center. Don't be discouraged if this is you. Be encouraged because your spiritual health is far more important, and God cares more about you than your service. For the rest of us, continue to love and serve in excellence unto our Lord Jesus!

2011


Thursday, November 29, 2012

What's Trending? #NoSeminaryNoRespect

There are several trends in Christendom that have been good, some not so good, and some that have been destructive. I'm not going to speak on the trends in the past. I'm not really writing to speak on all the current trends right now. Today, I want to address the trend of what I call "Ministry Qualification Validation". It's a trend that has sadly been around for centuries.

The ministry what?
The "ministry qualification validation" is if you do have a degree from a Bible college or seminary or something similar, then you are unspokenly validated by non-lay members, ministry equals, and respected leaders in Christendom. But if you do not have an undergrad degree, or a graduate degree, or a seminary degree, then somehow you are not qualified or as qualified for ministry and unspokenly treated less than or differently than those who have these degrees. It's like a degree is your ticket into the "good ol' boys club"….one's "right of passage" into the "Christendom country club"….the "member's only" card….the golden "pilot's wings"…the "my precious" from Lord of the Rings.
Am I implying that there is something wrong with getting biblical education/training for ministry? Absolutely not! I'm in college for biblical studies and counseling! But the pressure to go to college for "ministry qualification" can be spiritually and emotionally unhealthy. It can create validation issues. Here's how.

Some will reason in themselves, whether knowingly or unknowingly, "I now feel validated and am qualified by my degree to serve in ministry."
While others will reason, "I don't believe I am qualified to serve in ministry because I haven't gone to Bible college or have some formal biblical education."
And then those on the sideline will believe they're doing some good by suggesting that another should go to college because they have a desire to be in ministry, and, whether knowingly or unknowingly, they are validating college/formal biblical education as a qualifying requirement for acceptance into ministry.

Whether we believe it or not, or accept it or not, there is this unspoken class distinction and validation that takes place in ministry among those with degrees/formal biblical education and the quiet minimization of those without. This 'ministry qualification validation' is now spreading over into those not in ministry and how they view those who have degrees and those without and how they view going into ministry or not. This is unhealthy, harmful, and dangerous.

The qualifiers that matter
Having a degree or going to seminary is not a biblical qualification for ministry or pastoring. Scripture does emphasize a certain standard of biblical education/training for ministry leaders and pastors (1Timothy 1:3-4; 3:6; 4:6, 16; 5:17; 6:20-21, 2Tim. 1:13; 2:15, 24-25, Titus 1:9; 2:1, 7-8). But that standard is to be true for every disciple (Matt. 28:19-20). Furthermore, the biblical education the Scripture speaks of is not an exclusive standard consisting only in the completion of a Bible college or seminary degree. One's mature, godly character and proper understanding of sound doctrine are the only qualifications the Scripture requires (1Tim. 3:1-13, Tit. 1:5-9; 2:1-7, Acts 6:3). Seminary and Bible colleges aren't the only places where this can be received. To be honest, they are actually inadequate in meeting these qualifications alone. If the local church, however, does its job in biblically discipling its members, then devoted believers will meet these qualifications. A piece of paper and thousands of dollars in debt are not necessary.
Did you know seminary and Bible colleges during the 1st century were free and open to every believer? It's true!
Do you know why? Because this biblical education/training took place in the form of discipleship, not a formalized education institution. Over the centuries it became institutionalized and biblical discipleship among the people became open only to those in leadership….only to the "elite"…I mean "the called". Even after the Reformation this still went on, because by then the damage had been done. Even up to the Puritans coming to the Americas, they simply transferred this institutionalist thinking from England to the New World. And so forth this went on throughout history until today.
Again, I am not speaking against getting a biblical education/training nor am I speaking against Bible colleges and seminaries. I am simply bringing attention to an unchecked, unspoken, unhealthy trend and unbiblical standard that is continuing to create a class distinction among fellow brethren in ministry because of one having a degree and the other not.

Is this really a big deal?
Some may still say, "Chris, maybe you're blowing this out of proportion." I don't believe I am. Take a look at the picture I have here. It was part of an article written by the Vice President of a Bible college. The question on the picture plays right into the 'ministry qualification validation' trend. It begs the follow-up rebuttal question, "So does this mean if I don't go to Bible college I'll somehow live for God less in my lifetime?" I doubt that's what the author was implying, but the unspoken trend is present nonetheless. Another example is simply go to any Christian job site and look up qualifications for pastor or a ministry leader and see for yourself. The greater percentage of these churches and ministries state a "degree" is a necessary requirement for the position.
I've been to seminaries. I've been to leadership conferences. I've been among other pastors. And guess what, as soon as they find out I'm a pastor…bam!….that faithful, prejudice question never fails to come up, "So, where did you go (or do you go) to seminary?" I even get asked this at Christian rap concerts and urban functions. I have one better than that. I even got asked this by a realtor when my wife and I were looking to rent a home just last year. It's as if it's automatically presumed, 'since you're a pastor you must have went to seminary'. And I call it prejudice because that same presumption is like saying, 'since you go to church you must be saved', or 'since you're a white Christian you must be Republican', or 'since you're a black Christian you must be a Democrat'. It's as if this question is the qualifying litmus test, and one can't be a pastor without going to seminary.
Why is that the standard question? Why not ask why they are in ministry as the standard question? Get to know their heart for God and His people. How do you think a person who hasn't gone to seminary or a Bible college feels or can receive this when they get asked that only because they said they're a pastor or ministry leader?
Now, please be sure to hear me. I am not saying those who ask this question are asking from a negative place. Nonetheless, the presumption is still unhealthy. Why? Because if one did not go to seminary or a Bible college they may some how feel unfit or invalidated when someone asks that because they didn't. I am not presuming my conclusion is a standard, just a reality for some.

The bottom line
For those who feel led to go to Bible college and/or seminary, go for it! Or those who are already there, great! Learn a ton. Stay humble. And remember that ministry happens not in the classroom of college, but the classroom of life-on-life with other believers and unbelievers (see Acts). Also, don't judge other leaders and pastors who don't have a degree/formalized biblical education. Instead affirm them in the Lord as fellow laborers in the kingdom.
For those who have graduated, congrats! Be on guard for the pride of academia and institutionalism. Please don't flame this unhealthy, harmful, and dangerous trend. Treat all servants of Christ as equals and comrades in ministry. You'll be amazed at how that simple acceptance can healthily influence a person greatly and bring glory to God.
For those who may not feel led to go to Bible college and/or seminary, or those who maybe cannot afford it, that's okay. Your qualification and validation for ministry is not wrapped up in men or their approval, nor colleges/seminaries and their approval, but God and Him alone! Paul said Jesus judged him faithful and appointed him to the ministry, even in light of his past (1Tim. 1:12-13). If God has called you to ministry, He will equip and prepare you for His service. Be eager and disciplined to learn sound doctrine. God has provided in our present age tons of free and affordable resources that you can learn just as much as those in college/seminary (see Recommended Sites). Take advantage of it. And continue to exude your heart for God, His word, and His people.
For churches, (and both of those with degrees and those with none in the churches), we have to do a way better job at biblical discipleship and stop pawning our responsibilities off to the colleges and seminaries. If we spent more time making holistic disciples from the people in our pews, we'll raise up more qualified leaders in our churches, and find more people being saved, which leads to more disciples and more leaders; because disciples recycle disciples.
Many believers and many leaders are feeling outcasted, sidelined, and mistreated by their fellow brethren because of this 'ministry qualification validation' trend. I pray that after reading this you are inspired to be intentional on not fueling this unhealthy and dangerous trend in your circles, and maybe we can start turning the tide and set a new trend….a trend of mutual camaraderie.
Let us all remember that it is the Holy Spirit who guides all His children into all truth (Jn. 16:13). Bible colleges and seminaries are simply one of many means the Spirit may use as He fulfills His divine charge to guide us in all the truth. We all have to place our trust in Him and not presume He can or will only train up through this one mean or any one mean. And here's the anvil, when this class distinction and unspoken minimization takes place upon those without these degrees or formal biblical education/training, the people (leaders and non-leaders) who do so are in essence belittling the Holy Spirit's choice of how He goes about training up His servants for His work. I hope that hit you. Because it hit me.

Conclusion
I'll conclude with some points of clarification.
1. This was a brief article of me expressing my heart's concern about this trend. I hope I remained objective while not pulling any punches. It is not an exhaustive exposition on this topic. I hope you get my overall point.
2. The term "ministry" is broad. Other than my use of "pastoring", my use of "ministry" is wide-ranging.
3. This article may not be for everyone. Some folk may read this and have never been asked or assumed any of this. For some people in ministry this is far removed because of maybe the particular ministry you're involved in. Thus, if this was not for you, still please take away something from it so not to fall in the trap of this trend and gather some points on how to comfort or graciously correct someone negatively affected by this trend.


"And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
(Col. 3:14)


11/29/12

Monday, November 26, 2012

G.I.A. - Grace In Action

I just ended a phone conversation with a fellow believer. We had a good convo. It was edifying. However, some of what we talk about left me thinking about how some believers don't understand grace in action and that saddens me and makes my stomach hurt. Every believer, myself included, is pharisaic in some way and at some time. But in our pride we don't see it (and some times don't want to see it) and operating in grace in those areas becomes inactive.

Grace is the key!
The Grace of God is what saved us and Grace is what transforms us (Tit. 2:11-14; 3:4-7), and Grace is what will save and transform others. Grace is what breaks down the walls of traditionalism, legalism, self-righteous..ism, dogmatism, culturalism, post-modernism, and any other harmful "ism". Grace doesn't let us stay the way we are. It disrupts our pride and self-centeredness. That's why we don't operate in grace from time to time. Grace is a disruption to how we think things should be, because it centers the point of concern or contention on faith in God's character and purposes and not ours.

Grace isn't afraid to get dirty!
Grace isn't afraid to love like Christ, and give people room to make mistakes, and forgive, and grieve, and move on, and be humble, and be patient, and be a peacemaker, and be an agent of restoration, and be an ambassador of reconciliation, and anything else contrary to our pride and selfishness. Notice I didn't list correction. Giving correction is hard and it can get dirty some times, but giving correction is not unnatural to our sinful nature. That's why it's more "second nature" to finger-point at others (e.g. Gen. 3:12). Receiving correction, on the other hand, is dirty and unnatural to our sinful nature. Grace isn't afraid to give correction graciously as well as receive blows that hurt. Grace isn't afraid of becoming like Christ, but our flesh is (cf. Rom. 6).

Grace is powerful!
It is because of grace that Creation exist. It is because of grace that Adam and Eve weren't destroyed on the spot because of their sin, instead they were forgiven and their shame was covered by the skin of an innocent animal killed on their behalf. It's because of grace that the Ark was built when God judged the earth. It is grace that brought God to earth to be Incarnate (God-Man) and give His life as a ransom for His enemies. It's because of grace that the wrath of God has not yet come and those alive still have time to repent (2Pet. 3:7-9).

This grace is immeasurable! It is inexhaustible! And I believe if we as believers spent more time focusing on growing and operating in this grace we'd see a transformation take place in ourselves and some of the recipients of this grace in action.

Let's not let this grace be M.I.A in how we think, speak, and do. Let's go in His grace and grow in His grace (2Pet. 3:18).




11/26/12

Monday, November 19, 2012

Interpretive Journey of Deuteronomy 22:8


“When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.” (Deut. 22:8)

We'll start our journey of this verse with some observations. Observations help the reader to notice certain things which may be overlooked if not closely scanned. After the observations we'll go step-by-step through interpreting this verse and see how significant OT verses like these are for us today.

Observations
There are repeated words like “you”, “house”, “your”, and “roof”; which is exactly what this verse is about, the roof of their houses. There some active verbs in “build”, “make”, “bring”, and “falls”. There is a command in “When…make”. The NKJV, ESV, NASB, and KJV all say “you shall make”. Also, the phrase “so that you may not…if” is a resultant statement.

Step 1: What did the text mean (or what was the author's intent) to the biblical audience?
This instruction may have been received with mixed understanding. By this time the people of Israel were within months of entering the Promised Land, meaning they were still living in tents not in houses they would eventually build. This is why the very first word of this verse is so important (“When”) because it denotes a time to come. The mixed understanding may have come because only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb would remember Egypt and the style of houses there (and perhaps certain enemies who had clay brick houses also) to know why God would give this instruction, unlike the present generation getting ready to enter the Promised Land who probably had no idea what this meant. This verse falls in the midst of other laws regulating religious and social life. It’s not connected to anything else. It is its own singular instruction. This verse also contains correlation to the sixth commandment in that if you do not take the necessary steps to ensure, in this case, the safety of someone in your house so that if they die because of your negligence then you are at guilt for their bloodshed. Later in Israel’s history the roof of their houses would be flat and used as a place for grain (Josh. 2:6), to relax (2Sam. 11:2), for privacy (Acts 10:9), and guests (1Sam. 10:25-26). Thus, God was giving His people a preventive instruction in this verse, “When you build a new house, make a parapet (ma’aqeh, e.g. a guardrail or wall like around a balcony) around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof (e.g. be punishable for breaking the sixth commandment).”

Step 2: What are the difference between the biblical audience and us?
We are no longer under the Old Covenant. We are not about to enter into the land promised to our ancestors by God. We do not live in tents in the Middle Eastern desert or Middle Eastern style houses. We have not been wandering in the desert for forty years. We are not civilians of a theocracy. We have never seen or been led by God personally in the form of a cloud or fire. Moses nor Joshua is not our mediator, Jesus is. And so on the list can go.

Step 3: What is the theological principle in this text?
Follow God’s preventive wisdom for yours and others safety.

Step 4: Does the New Testament teaching modify or qualify this principle, and if so, how?
The New Testament is full of God’s preventive wisdom for ours and others safety. There are numerous verses and passages telling us to flee something sinful and ultimately destructive (e.g. 1Cor 6:18; 10:14, 1Tim. 6:11, 2Tim. 2:22, Jam. 4:7), seek God and the things of God (e.g. Matt. 6:33; 7:7-8, Rom. 14:19, 1Cor. 7:27; 10:24), follow Jesus (e.g. Matt. 10:38, 1Cor. 11:1, Eph. 5:1, 1Jn. 2:6), don’t worry or be anxious (e.g. Matt. 6:25-31, 34, Phil. 4:6-7), be persistent and serious in prayer (e.g. Lk. 18:1, 1Pet. 4:7), owe no one anything but to love them (e.g. Rom. 13:8-9), there will be troubles and such so stand firm (e.g. Jn. 16:33, 1Cor. 15:58; 16:13, Gal. 5:1, Eph. 6:10-13), etc, etc.

Step 5: How should individual Christians today apply this modified theological principle in their lives?
Christians today should apply God’s preventive wisdom just as we would follow the prescription for our medicine giving to us from the doctor, step by step, day by day, just as instructed for as long as instructed.

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References:
The One Volume Bible Commentary, 1936
NASB Life Application Study Bible, Updated Edition, 2000
NIV Archaeological Study Bible, 2005
The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 1999
Biblos.com

3/4/2010

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Political MMA among Christians, Say It Ain't So!

I have not been following this political season. And to be honest, I'm glad. From what I see on social media, politics have become another form of MMA. But, not surprisingly, believers are too in the political ring duking it out…but with other believers, like they forgot their identity. How despicable! What is politics over being blood bought brethren? Yet another mark on the repellent example Christians exhibit to the world in the name of Christ. What a shame.

Here are my thoughts...

Please don't let this election cause you to fight or divide from your brethren in Christ. Go right ahead and vote, and vote confidently according to your personal reasons. There is nothing wrong with that. But allow me to help you remember a greater reality, "this is not our world". Keep that in mind. Here are some other greater realities we all should remember:
    -Our vote and the government will not save any souls. 
    -Our vote and the government will not make any disciples of Christ.
    -Yes, your vote is important, but only to this world. Our votes and our elected government have no weight whatsoever to the "kingdom" from which we belong to and are to be focused on bringing people to as well.
    -Our vote and strong stance about our government should not keep us from walking out the greatest commandment, the second one like it, nor the new commandment (Matt. 22:36-40, Jn. 13:34-35).

Just in light of these handful of greater realities, politics are truly not worth being divided over. So here is my encouragement and challenge:
    -Don't hang on your side's every word. They are fallen men with an imperfect agenda.
    -Don't simply disagree with the opposite side because they're on the opposite side.
    -Be better than your party, the candidates, and the media. Be the ambassador of Christ and not the ambassador for your political party.
    -Be mindful of the flesh and don't fall prey to political self-righteousness. Look for areas where you agree with the other side and acknowledge the wrongs and failures of your own side.
    -Agree to disagree on who we vote for and don't take it personal or so serious when others vote differently from you for their different reasons.
    -Abandon fighting and dividing over "fallible men" and "fallible political parties" which can never accomplish what God has called the Church (you, I, and the other brethren) to accomplish.

We as born-again believers are brethren under the true Commander-in-Chief, who died to establish true bipartisanship, but not simply between Jew and Gentile, Democrat and Republican, but between us and Himself. That is the "President" we are to endorse as the best choice, and encourage others to side with, and vigorously defend with His eternal stats and flawless record.

Politics has its place here in "this world". Our vote has its place here in "this world". Therefore, we are to do our part in voting so far as it concerns for "this world". But never forget "we are not of this world", and our brotherhood with other believers supersedes anything "in this world". Our accomplishing and pushing forth the agenda of our God and Savior supersedes the politics and parties in "this world".

Let us be intentional on landing where God is honored and Christ is best proclaimed in this political season and the ones to come.

10/16/12

A Sad Reality in the Body: Subjective -vs- Absolute

I was scrolling through Facebook recently and stumbled across a fellow believer who posted a strong (and some would say biased) statement. Yet, the statement isn't what caught my attention, it was the 20+ comments underneath. I'm one of those people who when I see a lot of comments for a status or a blog or an article, my investigator senses (which my wife calls my "nosy senses") go off. So I'll scroll down, quickly glancing at the comments until I get the gist of what's being commented and then I move on. Well in this particular case, some of the comments from the believers made me cringe. Some of the believers who commented spoke of truth as being "subjective"--that is, "we all can have our own interpretations and still call it truth". I exercised self-control and wisdom and chose not to meddle (thankful for the Holy Spirit, because I sho' did want to meddle). But I could not stay silent, so here I am.

What are we upholding?
We have to uphold the absolute Truth of God, but not simply for those outside, but for those inside all the more. The sad reality is too many members in the Body uphold subjective truth and "my truths" but are devoid belief in absolute Truth. That is a dangerous, destructive, and unbiblical position. It's too much of the "reader's intent" and not the "author's intent" on what Truth is in Scripture. The human authors were the ones sovereignly selected and inspired to write God's truth, not us. Our aim should always be to find out their intent not ours or anyone else's.
         Most believers are devoid of proper biblical interpretative methods. That's part of why truth is subjective to many believers. It's hard to believe in absolute Truth when you're never taught there is absolute Truth nor shown how to understand it in Scripture. Of course then Scripture becomes "what you make of it" (i.e. "reader intent") rather than "what the Divine Author intended and used His human instruments to convey" (i.e. "authorial intent").

What are we striving towards?
Yes, we should strive to agree on every absolute Truth in Scripture. But we won't agree on everything because our sinful nature presents that incessant hurdle of pride.
         So what do we do?
  • We seek to find agreement in the essential truths.
  • We seek to be objective (i.e. open and unprejudiced) where Scripture is open-ended.
  • We seek to become like Jesus in our upholding His truth, in our exercising grace toward ours and others imperfections, and in our love for one another.
  • And we seek to discuss, seasoned with grace and love, those hard things like understanding Scripture properly where we disagree---even if we still end disagreeing.
Conclusion
We are to graciously fight for God's absolute truth because we were saved by His absolute truth (Jam. 1:16-18). But let's do so not with a spirit of dissension, but a spirit of grace.

_____
Below are 3 other blogs I wrote and a sermon. The first one discusses truth and what it is. The second one discusses the need for proper biblical methods of interpretation. The last one is a debate I had with someone who held to "subjective truth", and a glimpse of how dangerous, destructive, and unbiblical it is. And the sermon is on upholding God's truth in our thinking.
1. Let's Talk About Truth
2. The Need for Hermeneutics (Part 1 of 2)
3. Blog Debate
4. Uphold The Truth pt. 1


10/16/12

Monday, October 15, 2012

Interpretive Journey of Numbers 15:17-21


“The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land to which I am taking you and you eat the food of the land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD. Present a cake from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offering from the threshing floor. Throughout the generations to come you are to give this offering to the LORD from the first of your ground meal.’” (Num. 15:17-21)

We'll start our journey of this verse with some observations. Observations help the reader to notice certain things which may be overlooked if not closely scanned. After the observations we'll go step-by-step through interpreting this verse and see how significant OT verses like these are for us today.

Observations
There are repeated words in “the LORD”, “you”, “land”, “present”, “offering”, “the first of your ground meal”, and “from”. There are active verbs in “enter”, “taking”, “eat”, “present”, and “give”. A generational statute is given, “Throughout the generations to come you are to give this offering”. There is an action of God, He takes them to the land (v. 18). There are actions of the people, they do the entering, eating, presenting, and giving. Also, there is a command, “present…an offering”. In the NKJV, ESV, NASB, and KJV they say “you shall” right before, indicating a command.

Step 1: What did the text mean (or what was the author's intent) to the biblical audience?
At this point in Israel’s journey this specific instruction of God probably didn’t make much sense to the people. Ten of the twelve spies sent to spy on the Promise Land had come back with a bad report, and the people of Israel listened and refused to enter the land which God swore they would have (ch. 14). So, God assures them that due to their refusal they will not enter the land, none of them twenty and older (14:29); that is except for Joshua and Caleb (14:30). But the people mourned more for the word from God than the word of the spies. They decided they are ready to enter the land like they should of the first time. Despite the warning of Moses and the word of the LORD, they presume to enter (14:39-44) and were defeated (v. 45). The following instructions in chapter 15 come on the heels of there double disobedience to God and defeat of the Amalekites and Canaanites, all regarding the Promise Land. They were just told they were not going to enter the Promise Land, only Joshua, Caleb, and their children—who they complained would be victims—would enter, they on the other hand would die in the wilderness. Thus these instructions were for the Israelites that would be entering the land (v. 17-18). These instructions were also similar to that spoken of already in Exodus (34:26) and Leviticus (2; 23:9-14, 17). And, the term “food of the land” indicates that the entering generation would no longer be eating manna and quails, but rather food from the land (cf. Josh. 5:10-12). As a result of this all, the overall objective of this text is obedience and honoring God with an offering of the first of the “ground meal” of the land He was bringing them into.

Step 2: What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
We are no longer under the Old Covenant. We haven’t recently been defeated by the people occupying the land we were promised by God to possess. We are not about to enter into the land promised to our ancestors by God only to be told we will now die in the wilderness because of our disobedience, complaining, and complete lack of trust in God. We do not live in tents in the Middle Eastern desert. We have not been recently freed from slavery and bondage to Egypt with great signs and wonders. We are not civilians of a theocracy. We have never seen or been led by God personally in the form of a cloud or fire. Moses is not our mediator, Jesus is. And so on the list can go.

Step 3: What is the theological principle in this text?
Obedience to God and honoring Him with an offering of the first of what He has blessed us with.

Step 4: Does the New Testament teaching modify or qualify this principle, and if so, how?
Obedience is the greatest manifestation of the people of God. As we obey God to love, forgive, be faithful, and so on God is glorified (cf. Matt. 5:16). Obedience to God is presented in the New Testament just as much as it was in the Old Testament (e.g. Lk. 11:28, Jn. 10:27; 14:15, Rom. 8:5, 14, 1Pet. 1:13-16, 1Jn. 2:3-6, Rev. 22:14). As for honoring God with an offering of the first of what He has blessed us with, the New Testament says very little on this. Actually in the book of Hebrews the author says that God had no pleasure in “sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin (which are offered according to the law)”, and in Christ “He takes away the first that He may establish the second” (Heb. 10:8-9). Through the offering of Jesus Christ “we have been sanctified…once for all” (Heb. 10:10). Now if this entails every offering ever instituted under the Law, then we are no longer obligated to present an offering to God for anything other than because we want to. However, there are other verses that say our offerings are to be “the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15), doing good and sharing (Heb. 13:16), walking in the love of Christ (Eph. 5:2), and presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1). So we can continue to obey God as those in the Old Testament and honor God with an offering of the first of ourselves—that is the life He has blessed us with—though not as a fulfillment of the law but purely because we want to honor God and He deserves it.

Step 5: How should individual Christians today apply this modified theological principle in their lives?
By learning and following the wisdom and instructions in the Word of God. For every day presents an opportunity for believers to obey or disobey the God’s instructions, to follow Him or follow what we think is fitting, and to honor or not honor Him with the first (best) of our lives that He has blessed us with.


__________
References:
The One Volume Bible Commentary, 1936
NASB Life Application Study Bible, Updated Edition, 2000
NIV Archaeological Study Bible, 2005
The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 1999
Biblos.com

3/4/2010

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interpretive Journey of Leviticus 26:1

“Do not make idols or set-up an image of a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 26:1)

We'll start our journey of this verse with some observations. Observations help the reader to notice certain things which may be overlooked if not closely scanned. After the observations we'll go step-by-step through interpreting this verse and see how significant OT verses like these are for us today.

Observations
There are some repeated words, “do not” and “stone”. There is a comparison between “set-up an image of a sacred stone for yourselves” and “place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it”. Both make emphasis on the insertion of a created thing and the personal implication of it. There are four active verbs used: “make”, “set-up”, “place”, and “bow”. God is giving the command of “do not make…or set-up” and “do not place…to bow down before it”, and then reveals why in the last sentence, “I am the LORD your God.” In the NKJV, NASB, ESV, and KJV they all place the conjunction “for” before the last sentence, indicating the previous command is a result of this final statement in this verse.

Step 1: What did the text mean (i.e. what was the author's intent) to the biblical audience?
During this time in the newly freed Israel, the Israelites—still encamped in the wilderness (4:12; 14:3; 16:10)—were receiving the more detailed portions of the Law. In the Book of Leviticus we see the Israelites receiving laws on sacrifice (chs. 1-7), the consecration of the priesthood (chs. 8-10), laws of clean and unclean (chs. 11-15), instructions for the “Day of Atonement” (ch. 16), and additional laws of holiness (chs. 17-27). This specific command of God is not a new one, but rather an already repeated one (cf. Ex. 20:1-6; 23:24; 34:14). Furthermore, this verse (26:1) comes directly after God giving the children of Israel instructions in regards to the land they will inherit (ch. 25); which sheds light on why in the very next verse (26:2) God mentions again observing His “Sabbaths” and reverencing His “sanctuary”—something He spoke on in previous chapters. Thus when God speaks this verse the Israelites took it just as He meant it the other times, “Do not worship (bow down to--hawa) anything else other than Me, no idols, images, sacred pillars, or carved stones; for I am the LORD your God.”

Step 2: What are the difference between the biblical audience and us?
There are obvious and numerous differences set in place here. Present believers are no longer under the Old Covenant as were our Hebrew brethren then. We do not live in tents in the Middle Eastern desert. We are not about to enter into a land promised to our ancestors by God. We have not been recently freed from slavery and bondage to Egypt with great signs and wonders. We are not civilians of a theocracy. We have never seen or been led by God personally in the form of a cloud or fire. Moses is not our mediator, Jesus is. And so on the list can go.

Step 3: What is the theological principle in this text?
God alone deserves and is worthy of our worship, nothing nor anyone else should be in His seat of honor and devotion in our lives.

Step 4: Does the New Testament teaching modify or qualify this principle, and if so, how?
Those under the New Covenant are far from exempt from this strongly conveyed principle in the Old Testament. Jesus says no one can serve two masters for he will hate the one and love the other—you cannot serve God and riches—(Matt. 6:24), the greatest commandment is to love the LORD our God with our whole being—mind, heart, soul— (Matt. 22:36-40), and He told Satan when tempted to worship him that worship is only for God and none other (Matt. 4:9-10). According to Jesus, God doesn’t get second place, only first! Furthermore, the Apostle Paul says that idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor. 6:9-10), do not become idolaters as were our Old Testament brethren (1Cor. 10:7), and as frank as one can say it, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1Cor. 10:14). Also, the Apostle John says as his final word in his first letter, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (1Jn. 5:21). Idolatry—worship of something other than God—is just as strongly renounced in the New Testament as it is in the Old Testament.

Step 5: How should individual Christians today apply this modified theological principle in their lives?
Christians today can apply this principle by following the scriptures regarding idolatry and worship. Just looking at the ones mentioned above, if I pursue Jesus as my first priority this will help me stay free from giving His worship and devotion to something or someone else. Apostle John tells us to keep (phulass√≥) ourselves from idols, literally meaning guard ourselves from idols. This is great preventive medicine for our idolatrous tendencies. Stay on guard for areas, people, and things in our lives that we can put in the place of worship that’s supposed to be strictly designated for God. Also, Apostle Paul says to flee (pheug√≥) from idolatry, literally meaning run away from idolatry as in running away like escaping from someone or something that has us. This too is good for preventive measures and/or for when the Holy Spirit reveals to us an area of possible or active idolatry in our lives.

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References:
The One Volume Bible Commentary, 1936
NASB Life Application Study Bible, Updated Edition, 2000
NIV Archaeological Study Bible, 2005
The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 1999
Biblos.com
3/4/2010

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Scripture Meditation: 1Pet. 5:6-9


"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." (1Pet. 5:6-9, ESV)

This is what we can take away from this passage:
1. Remain humble unto God's power. (v. 6)
2. If we're sincerely humble, God will honor us at the proper time. (v. 6)
3. Give all our worries and cares (about whatever it may be) to God. "Anxiety has become a common plague that affects approximately...up to 25% of the general [U.S.] population." (p. 7, Caring For People God's Way). God knows what we're dealing with, and He cares about our holistic health. Give it over to Him. His shoulders are big enough to handle it, and He's gentle enough to help His fragile children with it. (v. 7)
4. Be self-controlled. (v. 8a)
5. Be watchful of the enemy. (v. 8a)
6. The devil is at work trying to hinder God's plan in your life and steal God's glory. (v. 8b)
7. Resist the enemy by standing firm in our faith. Do not allow ourselves (yourself) to be used by him. (v. 9a)
8. Know that we have brethren all over the world fighting this same fight and undergoing the same sufferings (some more worse than others). So let that further motivate us not to give up! (v. 9b)

Be encouraged, and continue to love and serve in excellence unto our Lord Jesus!

2011

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Help of the Word when Facing Life Issues


“What are one or two scripture verses that have helped you face issues in your own life?”
There are far too many scripture verses that have helped me face life issues. Plus, it depends on the issue I'm facing. Romans 8:26-39 is probably my most universal passage for facing most of my life issues. It covers how the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. During the moments when I cannot pray or don't what exactly to say, to know that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me according to the will of the Father is comforting. It covers our hopeful outcome. To know that regardless to what happens in my life, my God has already worked it out so that it benefits my good in someway is encouraging. It covers how God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ. How awesome is it to know that God will continue to conform us from regeneration through sanctification unto glorification! And then Paul ends this chapter with a nine verse run on God's love for us. Knowing that nothing shall separate me from God's love is the greatest remedy to any hurt, or loss, or trial, or depression, or disappointment, and so on I may be experiencing.

As for how God has used the Word to bring me through times that may have been unbearable without it, He did that the morning my grandmother died in November of last year. My aunt called me at close to 1 a.m. on that morning. She told me that my beloved grandmother had passed away. To explain how much my grandmother means to me and my family could fill volumes. Let's just say she was like our Moses. Rather than crying initially, and after making a few more phone calls, I had a craving for God's Word. I was led first to read about Lazarus in John 11. From there my mind and spirit took me all throughout the New Testament. I meditated upon verses like 2Thessalonians 3:16, 2Corinthians 5:1-8, Philippians 1:21, and 2Timothy 4:6-8. The Scriptures comforted me with the truths and promises of God. And this has been my resting place.

All of my life experiences help me to be a well-balanced counselor, teacher, pastor, husband, friend, brother, and disciple. One who can empathize with loss, deep hurt, sadness, pain, anger, disappointments, failures, resentment, injustices, consequences, etc. One who can counsel from the Gospel in the same manner Christ has counseled me with His wondrous Gospel of Grace, Life, Restoration, Peace, and Love! One who can encourage others to lean and trust in the sovereignty of God and pull strength and power from the indwelling Holy Spirit. One who can assist others in anchoring themselves in the truths and promises of Scripture so that they are not tossed to and fro by their emotions and circumstances.

The Word is the roadmap for our life as well as the life boat when we find ourselves in troubled waters. Follow it and hold on to it daily, but even more so when facing life issues.

11/2/2011

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Scripture Meditation: 1Thess. 2:1-6

"My friends, you know that our time with you wasn't wasted. As you remember, we had been mistreated and insulted at Philippi. But God gave us the courage to tell you the good news about him, even though many people caused us trouble. We didn't have any hidden motives when we won you over, and we didn't try to fool or trick anyone. God was pleased to trust us with his message. We didn't speak to please people, but to please God who knows our motives. You also know that we didn't try to flatter anyone. God himself knows that what we did wasn't a cover-up for greed. We were not trying to get you or anyone else to praise us." (1Thess. 2:1-6, CEV)

Here are some things we can take away from this passage:
1. Know that the time we expend for Jesus (whether in service, in devotion, in persecution, in obedience, in sacrifice, etc) is never a waste!
2. There may be times (or have been) times where we will experience discomfort in our service for Jesus, but God can and will give us courage to keep going forward with the Gospel despite the hardships.
3. Check our motives. Why are you truly serving, or in devotion, or in ministry, or obeying, or sacrificing, and so on? Can you say like Paul says here that you have no hidden motives for selfish personal gain?
4. Desire and pursue God to be pleased to entrust us with His Message.
5. Don't do whatever it is you may do to please people, but to purely please God!
6. Constantly align our motives to God's motives--which is His Gospel being presented in every form and fashion!
7. Do not desire nor seek recognition or praise for whatever it is you may do for Jesus; and be sure that God's knows (both: if we are, and how we are).

Continue to love and serve in excellence in all you do unto our Lord Jesus!


2011

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Scripture Meditation: Acts 3:11-12, 16

While the healed man clung to Peter and John, all the people rushed toward them at Solomon’s Porch, completely amazed. Seeing this, Peter addressed the people: “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this? Why are you staring at us as if we made him walk by our own power or piety?....His name itself has made this man strong. That is, because of faith in Jesus’ name, God has strengthened this man whom you see and know. The faith that comes through Jesus gave him complete health right before your eyes. (Acts 3:11-12, 16, CEB)

Here are some things we can take away from this passage
1. Oftentimes people--whether innocently or purposely--will misdirectly cling to or rush, in amazement, to other people, ministries, churches, and so forth as if they're the source of whatever they received (v. 11)
2. Knowing this, we have a duty to graciously correct their misdirection (v. 12).
3. We also have to humbly remind ourselves that it is not by our words, our service, our concepts, nor the event that brings about the individual blessings (v. 12).
4. The name of Jesus going forth in the service and ministries is the source of whatever blessing someone receives (v. 16).
5. Our individual faith in Jesus is where we find strength to do whatever we do, especially when we get weary or it gets hard; and our individual and collective declaration of faith in Jesus will offer strength to others (v. 16).

Be encouraged, and continue to love and serve in excellence unto our Lord Jesus!

2011

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Brief Commentary on the Doctrines of Eternal Security & Assurance


For me, the issue of eternal security (as well as most of the other seemingly contradictory doctrines) rest upon the basis of does Scripture contradict itself. If we believe that Scripture teaches that it cannot contradict itself because it is true in its entirety (Ps. 19:7-9; 33:4; 119:160, Jn. 17:17, 2Tim. 3:16-17), then Scripture isn't the issue, rather our interpretation of it is. Does Scripture teach eternal security? I would say yes. Does Scripture teach conditional security? I would also have to say yes. But this then poses a contradiction, which means how I and others have interpreted these passages are off.

I personally hold to the position of eternal security. The reason why I hold to eternal security rest primarily in several interwoven passages: John 6:39; 10:14-16, 27-29; 14:16-17, Romans 8:29-30, 1Corinthians 1:8, 2Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:5-6, 13-14, 1John 3:7-9; 4:13. Time does not permit for me to explore in this setting contextually all the passages I have cited. Nevertheless, from these passages we find that...
(1)Jesus will not lose (in context "let perish")(*1) anyone that comes to Him,
(2)Jesus will bring all His sheep into His one fold,
(3)absolutely nothing and no one can take away Jesus' sheep from Jesus,
(4)believers receive the Holy Spirit, and He is in them forever,
(5)believers are predestined by God to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus,
(6)believers are foreknown, called, justified, and glorified all by God,
(7)God will confirm (in context, "establish")(*2) believers blameless (literally "without fault in His sight")(*3) to the end,
(8)God has given and sealed (literally "stamped for ownership")(*4) believers with the Holy Spirit as a pledge (in context, "a deposit given as a guarantee")(*5),
(9)God has predestined believers to adoption as His children to the praise of the glory of His grace,
(10)believers have been sealed(*4) in Jesus with the Holy Spirit as a pledge(*5) of our inheritance to the praise of God's glory,
(11)a person cannot be truly born-again and still live in (practicing) sin because God's seed is in them, and
(12)believers have the assurance of knowing they're in God because God has given them the Holy Spirit.

I cannot read these handful of passages and believe somehow I, even with my free-will, can be truly born-again and still lose my salvation. I'm not denying free-will. I know full well I have a responsibility in working out my salvation and discipleship, in walking in the Spirit, in standing firm in the faith, and so forth. But just seeing from these handful of passages how active God is in keeping what He Himself has redeemed, it would be arrogant of me to say I can be truly born-again (regenerated) at one point and then, despite God's seed, seal, pledge, predestination, foreknowledge, call, justification, authority and power not to lose what He has, obligation to gather all of His sheep, confirming believers to the end, and the Holy Spirit being in us forever, I can become unborn-again (unregenerate). I acknowledge that their are passages that do speak to this very thing. However, while I may not fully understand what they mean just yet, I stand on the basis that Scripture cannot contradict itself, thus those passages somehow correlate with the truth mentioned in the above passages rather than the other way around. Those passages above do not fit whatsoever with conditional security. For example, to be able to somehow reverse or resist predestination contradicts predestination. I believe this is where our free-will and God's sovereignty work hand-in-hand. We do our part of working out and walking out our discipleship. God does His part of keeping us and sanctifying us along the way.

True born-again believers will bear fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives and will look more like Jesus over time (Jn. 14:16-26; 15:1-17, 26-27, Rom. 6:12-22; 8:9-14, Gal. 5:16-26, Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:12-16, 1Thess. 4:1-8, Tit. 2:11-14, 1Pet. 1:13-19, 2Pet. 3:18, 1Jn. 2:3-6); otherwise, they cannot say they have been truly born of the Holy Spirit if there is no evidence of the Holy Spirit in one's life. There is no one basic standard every Christian must reach. Each Christian who truly has the Holy Spirit will bear His fruit, but we all grow and mature differently--that is, at different times and in different areas. But there will be growth, for growth and maturity is a fruit of sanctification. Can true born-again believers fall back into sin? Sure. We see clear examples in Scripture. However, repentance is ever-present for a true believer because the Holy Spirit is ever-active in them. True believers may fall, but it will only be temporarily, not completely (Ps. 37:23-24, Prov. 24:16, Rom. 6:17-18, Phil. 1:6, Jude 1).

The doctrine of assurance is closely connected to the doctrine of eternal security. Our assurance of our salvation is the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is also one of our assurances of our eternal security, for He is our seal and pledge from God. Furthermore, in my estimation, the doctrines of eternal security and assurance do not create complacent, lethargic Christians, rather sin and selfishness does. Yet, on the contrary, the work of the Holy Spirit in believers' lives is to produce His fruit, Christ-likeness, and growth/maturity.

To be honest, I feel bad for the believers who are not so solid in their faith, because these types of arguments can very well have them second guessing what they believe. We have to do a better job of disagreeing in love and working toward some type of  common ground amid controversial doctrines.

__________
References:
*1: http://concordances.org/greek/622.htm
*2: http://concordances.org/greek/950.htm
*3: http://concordances.org/greek/410.htm
*4: http://concordances.org/greek/4972.htm
*5: http://concordances.org/greek/728.htm


6/28/12

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Scripture Meditation: 1Cor. 1:17-18


"God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words. The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out." (1Cor. 1:17-18, Msg)

Here are some things we can take from this passage
1. Our coming and going, our service, and whatever else it is we do, is not about us. 
2. Our coming and going, our service in whatever it is we do, is about letting the Gospel be seen and heard---it's about Jesus! 
3. Some will not understand why we come and go, speak and listen, comfort and encourage, and love and serve like we do, and some will understand and be inspired. 
4. In all this know that God is at work, and the Gospel is the power of God for the saved and those being saved. 

Be encouraged, and be intentional on remembering "the powerful action at the center", the Gospel! 

2011

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Scripture Meditation: Heb. 13:1-2


"Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" (Heb. 13:1-2, NLT) 


Here are some things we can take away from it
1. Keep loving each other as brothers and sisters, especially when it is hard to do so. That's when we need the love most! 
2. Be hospitable (friendly) to everyone. Why? Because we have no idea who the person may be or where they are at the moment in their life. Our hospitality could prove to be beneficial to us---as if we were to entertain an angel---or our hospitality could prove to be beneficial and life-changing to the recipient---they may come to know Jesus, they may be uplifted, they may be comforted, and so on. 


2011

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sin & Infant Salvation

It is a difficult thing to talk to parent who just lost a child. What do you say? How do you console them? Do you say anything? It’s even more difficult when they ask you how could God do this or is their child in heaven. How as a Christian can we hold to the truth of inherent sin and believe as well as assure people that their infants and small children go to heaven when they die without sounding contradictory? This question is what I will be answering in this blog article.

Without thinking, majority of Christians and non-Christians believe infants and small children are essentially innocent of sin and guiltless. And someone would say, “Aren’t they? Infants can’t sin right?” You’re absolutely right. An infant would be “innocent” of committing a sin. And yet, someone else would say, “But, wait, how can this be when the Bible teaches that everyone is born in sin?”

David said in Psalm 51:5, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (NLT).
Job speaks on this as well, “So no one can be good in the presence of God, and no one born to a woman can be pure.” (Job 25:4, NCV).
Right here is where it can get tricky if we don’t understand sound theology. Yes, an infant would be “innocent” of committing a sin, but they are not without sin. Every human born is born “in” sin because Adam’s sin has been imputed (transferred, credited) to everyone born of the seed of man (Rom. 3:9; 5:12, 16-19). This means no person, infant to adult, is “guiltless” or “innocent” (Ps. 143:2, Prov. 20:9, Eccl. 7:20).

Now this begs another question, is the atoning work of Christ somehow applied to infants without their making a volitional decision to trust in Christ for salvation?
     This question is a much more difficult to answer. If I answer this from an Arminianist soteriological perspective, I’d say I believe God has some special grace for infants and somehow accounts the atoning work of Christ to them (cf. Matthew 18:14). If I answer this from a Calvinist soteriological perspective, I’d say only those infants whom God predestined does the atoning work of Christ apply to (cf. Ephesians 1:3-11). I do not identify as either an Arminianist or a Calvinist, but if I simply use both of the scripture references and arguments given I have a pretty good case for believing that the atoning work of Christ is somehow applied to infants without them making a volitional decision. Furthermore, David’s comment in 2Samuel 12:21-23 is very suggestive that he is speaking of seeing his dead child again in eternity. So between David’s story and what Jesus states in Matthew 18:14 is enough to make a case that in God’s sovereign plan, even though sin has been imputed to an infant, He--without violating His own law--makes some special provision for infants and small children who die.
     I believe this is one of those cases of Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belongs to the LORD our God” (NKJV). I’m okay with giving reasonable answers to this question rather than definitive ones in this case.

I hope this has helped us as Christians know and more certainly assure someone who’s lost an infant or small child that their infants and small children go to heaven when they die without sounding contradictory.

6/2/2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

1Tim. 2:11-12: Women Teaching & Leading in the Church

Lately, I have been in several conversations regarding women not being able to teach or lead men/mixed groups within the church. This is controversial, so I've responded as balanced and objective as I could. Yet, these conversations have made me want to revisit this topic scripturally again. I know my position, but then it's always good to know why you hold to that particular position. I remember me writing about this topic before in my systematic theology class. However, when I went and read over that paper I realized I only skimmed this passage, and not from this angle. This blog is me exploring this topic and passage concisely and objectively to see what Paul's intent was and was not.

Please allow me to share this disclaimer, THIS IS NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE writing. I will not answer every question regarding this topic. I will not answer every objection regarding this topic. I will not be attacking any one side or the other. I am simply exploring this passage in a concise, objective approach; following the evidence like the First 48 TV show. (I would have said forensic investigators, but that would equal me going exhaustive).

Let's begin shall we.

Context, Context, Context
A key rule in hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) is "context determines meaning". It goes from immediate context, to surrounding context, to context of the whole scope of Scripture. While the passage of focus is 1Timothy 2:11-12, for context we'll start at verse 9 and go to verse 15, and then broaden out to the whole letter itself, and then to the New Testament.

In short, this passage (vv. 9-15) is mainly addressing women's internal and external godliness expressed in the local church. For it starts with outward modesty (v. 9) from inward godliness (10), to godly submission unto God's headship structure (vv. 11-15). The questions that follow are: What made Paul write this? Were there any issues in the church Timothy was pastoring? Is Paul addressing women teaching and leading in all areas in the church? Does that mean a woman can't teach any man in anything in regards to the local church, or be in any authority over any man in regards to the local church? Is this "teach" speaking of teaching in general or teaching doctrine or a different specificity of teaching? Was this meant to be a timeless theological principle or an instruction for the church culture of that time? And trust me more questions could be presented.

Some Historical Context
Some of the things the church in Ephesus were battling, in regards to women, was fertility cults, idol worship of the goddess Diana (Artemis) (Acts 19:24-41), promiscuity, attention-seeking, women possibly exploiting their new liberties in Christ, among other things. This helps bring into light the reason for the call to outward modesty from inward godliness (vv. 9-10). Paul is challenging the women not to dress nor act like the unsaved women of Ephesus. It further helps by providing some backdrop for why Paul is telling them to learn in a non-disruptive manner and why they are not to teach or have authority (vv. 11-12). In other words, don't take your freedom to learn and speak too far. Scholars say this instruction to learn was a big deal then, because women up until that time were not allowed to even learn from a man (rabbi/teacher) except for their husband. Jesus broke that mold, and Paul is following suit. But some of the women were probably taking it too far.

Exploring the Text...Contextually

In verse 11, "learn in silence" does not mean in context "learn but never speak", but rather it means "learn in a quiet, non-disruptive manner" (cf. same Greek word for "silence" with 2Thess. 3:11-12, but different from the "silent" in 1Cor. 14:34). Here Paul is saying a woman learning is okay to do, just learn in a non-disruptive manner under the leadership of the church (i.e. "with all submission"). Verse 12 is saying, in context with the surrounding texts in this letter (vv. 8, 13-14; 1:3-7, 18-20; 3:1-7; 5:17), that a woman is not to teach from the place of elder/pastor nor to try to usurp the eldership/overseer/pastorate authority given to the man (or usurp even the headship authority given to the husband, vv. 13-15 cf. 1Cor. 11:3, Eph. 5:23), but rather be non-disruptive (i.e. "but be in silence").

Exploring the N.T...Contextually
So how do we know Paul (or shall we say the Holy Spirit inspiring Paul) is not saying or implying that women cannot teach "a man" or be in leadership over "a man"? Here's how:

  • We see in Acts 18:24-26 that Priscilla and Aquila both taught (Gr., expositorally) Apollos "the way of God more accurately". Priscilla was a leader alongside her husband in their house church (Rom. 16:3). Thus, there was teaching and leading by a woman, and not only over other women or simply kids, and under the headship authority of her husband and leadership authority of Apostle Paul.
  • Phoebe was a deaconess ("servant of the church" implies a position compared to a servant in the church which implies just someone helping out) (Rom. 16:1). What's more, Paul even instructed others believers (with no distinction between men or women) to receive her and to "help her in whatever manner she may have need of you" (Rom. 16:2). This implies some authority (probably temporarily and only on occasions, but nonetheless it's still authority) over those who are to assist her as "she may have need".
  • Who knows if some of the other sisters Paul mentions in Romans 16 were leaders as well. Paul speaks of these women using the same terms as his male leader counterparts. "The verb "worked very hard" (16:6, 12) is used of ministerial service" (*3, p. 1283).
  • Timothy's mother and grandmother taught him the Scriptures (2Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15).
  • Apostle John writes a letter to a fellow sister who is leading and teaching both male and female believers in her home (2John). In the Greek the term children used in 2John is gender neutral and the Greek term is unclear if it means her literal children (whether grown or young is unconfirmed too) or children in the faith. John goes as far as instructing this sister to watch themselves from falsehood (2Jn. 8-9), and what to do when traveling false teachers come to her house (2Jn. 10-11). That would be her exercising leadership in discerning falsehood, and exercising authority over a man by restricting him entrance to teach if she discerned he was a false teacher. All the while she's under the authority of the Apostle and Elder John.
  • We know women are disciples and called to make more disciples, with no distinction between discipling men or women nor any distinction with it being during a worship service or not (Matt. 28:18-20).
  • Every believer is a priest (1Pet. 2:4-10).
  • Scripture does not indicate that the Holy Spirit is limited to only giving men the spiritual gift of teaching or leadership, nor does Scripture indicate that these gifts are gender specific while they're being administered (1Cor. 12:4-7, 11, 27-28).
Thus, Paul would not be saying or implying something contrary to women teaching and leading in these modes. Paul is instructing Timothy that women are not to teach or have authority from the office of elder/pastor, not restricting them from teaching or leading mixed groups of men and women in the church in general or even during worship services (for there are no Scriptures that definitively state elders/pastors are the only ones who must teach during worship services).

But what about Paul's admonishment in 1Cor. 14:34-35? How does that fit into the not teaching or no authority over a man? In context, Paul was addressing disruptive and unruly married women who were using their gifts in a disorderly manner (1Cor. 14:26-33, 40). Therefore, Paul's admonishment was for order among some disorderly married women (v. 35), not a mandate for all women to not speak. Disorderly women are to stay silent (Gr., hold their peace/tongue). Disorderly women are not permitted to speak (Gr., be talkative, babbling) in the assembly but to submit to leadership, and if they want to speak they are to ask their own husbands at home. Why? Because it is a disgrace to them to be disruptively talkative in the church (i.e. during the service); it's shameful for them to be seen as disruptive and disorderly. Paul's admonishment here comes with concern for them as well as the church. This passage, in context, can fit into the overall point in 1Timothy 2:9-15, that is, the internal and external godliness expressed in the local church; however, it does not fit into the underlying point of teaching and leading in 1Tim. 2:11-12.

Conclusion
To quote The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,

“Many complementarians continue to disagree concerning the extent of the prohibition in 1 Tim 2:12. While there is agreement that pastors/elders should be qualified males, there is disagreement concerning what the Bible says about women teaching mixed adult audiences. Some complementarian churches do not allow women to teach mixed adult audiences, while other complementari­an churches do allow it. On this particu­lar point, there is agreement in principle (observing headship), but disagreement in practice (teaching mixed audiences).” (http://bit.ly/HZBt9b) (emphasis added)
I believe that's where this concern and difference boils down to, we agree in principle (observing headship) but disagree on what it looks like in practice (teaching mixed audiences), and this is not worth the time spent arguing or dividing over. No one's salvation or discipleship is at stake over this.

What about churches/denominations who use these verses to not allow women to teach from the pulpit or to not teach mixed groups of men and women in the church or to not be in leadership over mixed groups of men and women? That is that church's preference. There are no scriptures that clearly state or instruct women to teach men/mixed groups or lead over men/mixed groups. Thus, it's not a matter of Scripture, but a matter of preference. Those who use these passages for this reason don't need to. Each church has its own right to implement their own governing principles and rules. And as a member of that church you should be sure to know what your church's governing principles, rules, and beliefs are, and if you agree then uphold them, so long as they aren't contrary to Scripture or treating them as a component of your salvation. If you do not agree, but you have no desire to depart for that reason, then respectfully uphold the governing principles, rules, and beliefs---so long as they aren't contrary to Scripture or treating them as a component of your salvation. If you have questions, pray and ask, and then research their answers. If you have concerns, pray and ask, and then research their answers. Repeat this process as much as needed. But this issue is not worth being divided over or causing an uproar in the Church. Again, it's not a matter of Scripture, but a matter of preference.

What about the churches/denominations who have women as pastors/elders? This is different than the above question. This is not a matter of preference, but a matter of interpretation. Some argue that the passages in 1Timothy 3 & 5 and Titus 1 are overruled by Galatians 3:28 and similar verses. Others may use different verses to minimize or eradicate the male headship authority in the church (and maybe even in the home). While others say Paul's use of masculine nouns when describing elders/pastors/overseers was more cultural than theological. Personally, for me, this is a harder thing to overlook than those who prefer to not allow women to teach or lead as stated in the first question. Those who hold to the view of women as pastors/elders open up the whole counsel of God to be interpreted and modified to fit one's personal view and not the author's original intent. However, like I said above, each church has its own right to implement their own governing principles, rules, and beliefs. As a member of that church you should be sure to know what your church's governing principles, rules, and beliefs are, and if you agree then uphold them, so long as they aren't contrary to Scripture or treating them as a component of your salvation. If you do not agree, but you have no desire to depart for that reason, then respectfully uphold the governing principles, rules, and beliefs---so long as they aren't contrary to Scripture or treating them as a component of your salvation. If you have questions, pray and ask, and then research their answers. If you have concerns, pray and ask, and then research their answers. Repeat this process as much as needed. This issue is not an essential of salvation. Yet for some it is a non-negotiable. Thus, you have to decide what this issue is worth to you and means for you. Personally, I choose to uphold the Scripture as it states in it's original intent and context in this area.

Last Words
I hope this blog has helped you the reader in someway. If not, then forgive me for wasting your time. It started out as a simple refresher and turned into this. I told my wife I wasn't writing a blog, and here I am, blogging away. We as believers should be able to discuss and explore controversial topics and passages without devouring each other. And we can graciously challenge one another to hold tight to what Scripture says and not what we prefer or what we think it means. But let our resolve be to continue to fellowship in what we do agree on (the essentials), and not spend so much time focused on what we disagree on (the non-essentials and non-negotiables). A lost and dying world is watching us, and especially how we handle controversial issues.

Jesus said, "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me." (John 17:20-21, NLT)

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1Tim. 1:17, NASB)

______
References:
1. BibleLexicon.org
2. Discovery Series: "What does the Bible say about Women in Ministry" (RBC Ministries)
*3. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker Book House)
4. Find It Quick: Handy Bible Encyclopedia (Ron Rhodes)
5. InterlinearBible.org
6. MacArthur's Whole Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson)
7. NASB Life Application Study Bible (Zondervan)
8. The New Testament and Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Moody)
9. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Moody Press)


Originally posted 5/8/12
Updated 11/20/13