Sunday: Why the Resurrection?

Jesus-Resurrection-Pictures-07Scripture is clear: if Christ was not raised from the dead, the Christian faith is worthless.

And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (1 Corinthians 15:17, NKJV).

What does the resurrection of Christ accomplish that his cross didn’t? Continue reading

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Sola Scriptura? Five “Texts” that Compete With Scripture

bereanThe Reformers cried, “Sola Scriptura!” Latin for Scripture Alone! By it, they planted the Bible at the top of the heap when it comes to ways Christians obtain truth. The Scripture texts get the final say. When Paul and Silas came to a pretty hill-town called Berea, here’s what happened: Continue reading

Why Boaz is NOT Ruth’s Kinsman-Redeemer

BoazSandalUnder the Bible’s laws for the Jews, there was a certain institution called levirate marriage. The laws of levirate marriage are found in Deut 25:5-10. These laws required that if a man died, his brother must marry the widow and produce an heir. Here you go:

“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. “And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. “But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ “Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ “then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ “And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’ (Deuteronomy 25:5-10, NKJV).

Under the law, the child would the child of the brother who died.

The man who undertook such a marriage was called the kinsman redeemer. Continue reading

Legalism’s Knockout Blow, pt 2

[This is part two of a two-part entry. Click here for Legalism’s Knockout Blow, part 1]

Mural, St. Sulprice, Price

The Encounter: Wrestling with God

Jacob prepares for dawn’s showdown with his fraternal Grim Reaper. He splits his family into two caravans, hoping one will survive. He sends forth his bribe. He waits in solitude by a brook.

Enter an Unnamed Somebody who picks a fight with dispirited Jacob. Later, he will worship that Somebody, identifying him as God (v. 28). God comes down to wrestle Jacob.

Why would God kick a guy when he’s down? Isn’t he supposed to be loving and kind? Why would he pick on Jacob at the lowest point in his life? Is he that uncaring?

Or could it be that he’s lovingly trying to condense a lifetime of legalism into a single encounter that he might uproot it once for all?

Verse 25 makes the stupefying claim that puny, frightened Jacob prevailed against infinite, Almighty God. What’s going on? These Scriptures present an acted parable—depicting how legalism stretches its tentacles into every area of life with God.

First tentacle: the idea that we are on equal footing with God. Legalism, by nature, demotes God to our own mercenary level and imagines we can go nose-to-nose with him. Was Jacob indeed on equal footing with God? Of course not. God wrestled him the way a father wrestles his five-year old. And, like the five-year old, legalists don’t get it. Like Jacob, they imagine themselves “winners” in the eyes of God; they believe they can, by human effort, merit his approval. Continue reading

Fundamentals: #1 God’s Inspired Word

CB064047Today’s post continues from yesterday’s post; it will make more sense of you scroll down and read it first.

When we hold a Bible, we often fail to appreciate its significance.  We possess a treasure of ancient documents, miraculously preserved, accurately transcribed, painstakingly translated (at great peril along the way), and laboriously explained – all in order to bring us face to face with the Supreme Person of the Universe.

How can we know anything about God?  We must in the last analysis simply believe what God has told us.  We believe in the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration [theo-pneustos] of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV.

Benjamin Warfield observes:

Theo-pneustos —very distinctly does not mean “inspired by God.” This phrase is rather the rendering of the Latin divinitus inspirata… The Greek term has, however, nothing to say of inspiring or of inspiration: it speaks only of “spiring” or “spiration.” What it says of Scripture is not that it is “breathed into by God” or is the product of divine “inbreathing” into the human authors, but that it “breathed out by God” or “God-breathed.”
In a word, what is being declared by this fundamental passage is simply that the Scriptures are a divine product, without any indication of how God has operated in producing them.
No term could have been chosen, however, which would have more emphatically asserted the divine production of Scripture that that which is here employed. The “breath of God” in Scripture is the symbol of His almighty power, the bearer of His creative word. “By the word of Jehovah,” we read in a significant parallel of Ps 33:6, “were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” . . . God’s breath is the irresistible outflow of His power. When Paul declares, then, that “every scripture” is a product of the divine breath, “is God-breathed,” he asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is a product of a specifically divine operation. (Warfield, ISBE 3:1474 s.v. “Inspiration”)

One Bible scholar defines inspiration as “that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon Scripture writers which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation or which resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.” (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology).

What Inspiration Isn’t

  • BXP64677Inspiration is not mechanical. God did not use the writers as dictaphones.  They were intellectually and emotionally involved in writing what they wrote.
  • Inspiration did not destroy the individuality of the authors. Matthew,  Moses, Peter, and Paul each had their individual styles.  They brought their experiences, viewpoints, and beliefs to their writings. God worked through them, not in spite of them.
  • Inspiration does not mean every word of the Bible expresses the will of God. The Bible contains the words and deeds of ungodly, evil, and confused beings (men, women, demons, Satan, etc.)  In some cases Satan misquotes the Bible.  His words are recorded accurately, but they are not the will of God.  Job’s wife advised Job to “curse God and die.”  The recording of the event is inspired, but the words are not the will of God.  Similarly, a lot of the counsel in Ecclesiastes and Job come from messed up counselors. A divinely inspired record of confused humans!
  • Inspiration does not rule out the likelihood of differing accounts. Although there are differing accounts of the same event (e.g. in the life of Jesus), they are not contradictory. They merely give different viewpoints on the same incidents.  But most importantly, the description of events is specifically crafted to contribute to the author’s particular argument, while still being a faithful account of the event.
  • Inspiration doesn’t mean that all modern translations are ideal. Inspiration applies to the original autographs of Scripture, not, technically to  translations.  Most translations are highly accurate and extremely fair, but our theology must be based upon Hebrew and Greek studies, or upon resources that unfold what was written in the original tongues.

How Far Inspiration Extends

  1. Extent – inspiration extends to all 66 books of the Bible. Liberal theological systems hold that only parts of the Bible are inspired.   But Scripture clearly affirms that “All Scripture is inspired by God.”  This is called “plenary (full) inspiration.” If only parts of the Bible are inspired, will somebody tell me which ones aren’t, because I’m basing my life on this book! Thomas Jefferson created his own gospel account by literally clipping out verses that contained no supernatural or judgmental or miraculous elements, and pasting them to fresh sheets. The Jefferson Bible was 48 pages long.
  2. Intensiveness – inspiration is applied intensively to the very words of Scripture. This is called “verbal inspiration.” (We believe in verbal, plenary inspiration.)   Jesus taught that Scripture would be fulfilled down to the last “jot and tittle” (Mt 5:17,ff), a reference to two very small letters of the Heb. alphabet.  Furthermore, verbal inspiration is demonstrated by the fact that NT authors argue from precise wording and even letters as they make their case from the OT. (See Jn 10:35, Mt 22;32 where tense is conclusive, Mt 22:44, Gal 3:16 where number is conclusive.)

Jesus and Inspiration

Here’s a preview of some material from my current work-in-progress, called Four Letter Words (touchy ideas in an ultra tolerant world, a conversational apologetics [sign up for the newsletter so I can notify you when it’s out.]

Jesus, the Living Word put his personal seal of approval on the Bible, the Written Word. Don’t forget that two-thirds of the Bible was complete by Jesus’ day. Growing up Jewish meant growing up Bible-smart. Picture barefoot little Jesus trotting off to synagogue holding Mary and Joseph’s hands. He grew up with a written Word from God.

As an adult, he put his stamp of approval that Word. Here are some of his teachings:

  • “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
  • The Bible is indestructible until “all has been fulfilled,” down to the letter (Matthew 5:18).
  • The Bible is “that which was spoken to you by God” (Matthew 22:31).
  • Every part of the Old Testament unfolds truth about Jesus—about who he would be and what we would do when he came (Luke 24:27,44).

This doesn’t mean he was right, of course. It’s logically conceivable Jesus was wrong. But what isn’t conceivable is that Jesus was both a Great Teacher, worthy of our devotion, and that he staked his life on a book of mistakes. In the mind of Jesus, everything he was and did and believed resonated perfectly with every syllable of the Scriptures.

It doesn’t make sense to honor Jesus and disrespect the Bible he based his life on. The Living Word and the written Word shared the same harmonic frequency.

Maybe that’s because they were both tuned to the same Heart of Love.

One last thought: it’s one thing to endorse the inspiration of Scripture. It’s another thing to wear out your Bible, through it seeking to know your God. I hope you do both.

[To be continued…]

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God’s Power For God’s People

jesusphariseesI’m continuing the rant I began a few days ago… so if you like this one, scroll down and read about the posts on Revival and on Legalism…

The essence of legalism is substituting human power for God’s power; human ability for divine ability. This is arrogance, whether we intended it or not. That’s why Jesus denounced the Pharisees:

  • “Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Matthew 22:29, NKJV.
  • “But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”” Luke 18:27, NKJV.

God doesn’t stutter: “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,” yet how many of Christ’s followers seek to do God’s work in their own strength (2 Cor 10:4)! Millions of Christians try very hard every day to do God’s work in unaided human power. The weapons of their warfare ARE carnal. Unfortunately, well meaning pastors like me encourage this insanity.

We desperately need the power of God.

How do we obtain it? What are the sources of divine power in the life of God’s people?  Here are four sources of God’s power, and please note that they all play together nicely… actually, omitting even one makes you a bedraggled pilgrim.

dove1. THE FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.  Regardless of your theology on how this happens, we must be filled with the Spirit. Hasn’t God been super-clear that good works done for him, apart from his Spirit, are meaningless?

  • “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6, NKJV.

Notice that little word “not.” In the original Hebrew it means exactly what it means in the English: “NOT!” We will not do the work of God by human might or power. Do you believe that?  Does Bono believe that? Does the new generation of emerging pastors believe that? Do Christian activists believe that? Do I believe that? Do I really believe the word “not” at the beginning of Zech 4:6? How about this one: “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.” Psalms 127:1, NKJV. How much of our work is in vain!

pentecost1Because we have not asked for the filling of God’s Spirit.  In my theology–and I’m not going to be a stickler here–God’s Spirit fills us when we ask him to, when we trust him to.  I’ll save that teaching for another time (Luke 11:13; Rom 15:13; Eph 1:17). Your theology may be different; that’s fine. Even so…

We need to return to the power of the Holy Spirit, a moment-by-moment sense of trust and dependency on Him. When we walk in the Spirit, we honor God. He provides his supernatural and spiritual power to do what must be done in every given circumstance.

No matter how we feel!

But the Spirit does not work in isolation. He uses a specific weapon in our hearts to wield his power:

2. THE WORD OF GOD, BUILT INTO OUR PSYCHE.  We often view the Bible as simply a “how-to” manual. It is that, but it is far more. The Bible is not simply a collection of data-bytes for us to think about. When we ingest the Bible, we don’t just get information, we also get POWER.

  • “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12, NKJV.
  • ““Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11, NKJV.
  • “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11, NKJV.
  • ““Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29, NKJV.
  • “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16, NKJV.

biblestudy2Over time, God’s Word rewires our spiritual hard drives. God’s Word, built into us, radiates divine power into our lives. It produces a Christ-like spine, upholding all that is good and right in us.

This is why it is so important to learn “the whole counsel of God.” As a kid, I memorized this verse in Awana…. if only our churches would really believe its message:

  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, NKJV.

Notice that you can’t have the underlined part without the doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness first. But isn’t that exactly what we are doing?

Compare the Biblical content of today’s sermons with sermons of past generations. Today we have sermonettes for Christianettes. Back then, they had red meat. They had  spiritual muscle. The revivals that swept America always followed biblical reformations that swept the church.

swordspiritwordWhy isn’t the Spirit enough?  Because the “sword of the Spirit” is the Word of God. Every Christian has the Spirit (indwelling), but not every Christian has the Word. You have disarmed the Spirit, so to speak, if you have not grown in God’s Word. You are powerless in the fight.

The Bible is the backbone of the church; without God’s Word sounding from pulpits across the land, the church loses ground. So do Christians.

Next post: Two more power sources.

Thanksgiving

 

turkey1

Happy Thanksgiving.  We’re having a houseful today.  We’re making 2 smallish turkeys (12 lbs each) instead of one big one.  Life’s easier that way.  Last night we did the dinner-time, “I’m thankful for…” conversation, and it was fun to hear my kids be so eager to be thankful.  It helped that we made it a race, “Who can be thankful first?”  “Me! Me! Me!”

Here’s a little Bible Study on being thankful.

WORDS:

  • Words for being thankful occur around 138 times in the Bible.
  • In the Old Testament (Hebrew) the main word is yadah which comes from the root for “hand.”  It means to lift the hand toward a person in praise and blessing.  Think about it.  When the Chicago Bears (or insert your team here or you kid’s team) score a touchdown, what happens to your hands?  It’s instinctive.  They go UP in excitement, gratitude and praise.  To be thankful is to overflow with pleasurable excitement at another person’s performance.
  • In the New Testament (Greek) the main word is eucharisteo, pronounced ev-car-ee-STOW.  It comes from the root word charis which means grace.  To be thankful means to acknowledge the good graces of another.  It means to recognize that someone gave you something which you didn’t earn and don’t deserve.  Thankfulness, like humility, is another expression of grace-orientation.

JESUS:

  • Jesus is thankful.  He is our example of living in an ocean of grace.
  • Mt 11:25* At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.
  • Mt 26:27* Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
  • Joh 11:41* Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.
  • This makes me think that if Jesus,  whose whole career was downwardly mobile, was thankful, can’t I work up a little thankfulness too?

ANGELS:

  • It’s very cool to me that angels are thankful.  I’ll say why after the verses:
  • Re 4:9* Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
  • Re 7:11* All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
  • Re 7:12* saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
  • Re 11:16* And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God,
  • Re 11:17* saying: “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
  • The angels’ thankfulness is cool because they’re with God face to face.  They understand by sight what we must take by faith: that all good gifts flow freely and undeservedly from God’s bountiful, benificent, beautiful hand.  

THE BIG “THANK”

 

  • 2 Co 9:15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!  
  • Need I say more?

GOT THANKS?  (this list comes from Nave’s Topical Bible)

 

 

  • For Christ’s power and reign Re 11:17
  • For the reception and effectual working of the word of God in others 1Th 2:13 
  • For deliverance from indwelling sin, through Christ Ro 7:23-25 
  • For victory over death and the grave 1Co 15:57 
  • For wisdom and might Da 2:23  
  • For the triumph of the gospel 2Co 2:14
  • For the conversion of others Ro 6:17 
  • For faith exhibited by others Ro 1:8; 2Th 1:3 
  • For love exhibited by others 2Th 1:3  
  • For the grace bestowed on others 1Co 1:4; Php 1:3-5; Col 1:3-6
  • For the zeal exhibited by others 2Co 8:16 
  • For the nearness of God’s presence Ps 75:1 
  • For appointment to spiritual service 1Ti 1:12 
  • For willingness to offer our property for God’s service 1Ch 29:6-14 
  • For the supply of our bodily needs Ro 14:6,7; 1Ti 4:3,4
  • For all people 1Ti 2:1 
  • For all things 2Co 9:11; Eph 5:20
  • giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20, NKJV).

IF YOU KNEW GOD…

  • If we really knew him or just saw him, I think the thanksgiving would just bubble up from us.  We couldn’t help it… 
  • I will praise the name of God with a song, And will magnify Him with thanksgiving. (Psalms 69:30, NKJV).
  • I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And will call upon the name of the LORD. (Psalms 116:17, NKJV).
  • Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. (Psalms 100:4, NKJV).

CHAMPION THANKERS

  • DANIEL:  Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. (Daniel 6:10, NKJV).
  • DAVID:  And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. (2 Samuel 6:13-15, NKJV).  “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:13, NKJV).
  • ANNA:  (upon seeing the baby Jesus in the temple)  And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:38, NKJV).
  • JOSEPH:  Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” And the name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:51, 52, NKJV).
  • KING JEHOSHAPHAT’S ARMY:  Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat in front of them, to go back to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them rejoice over their enemies. So they came to Jerusalem, with stringed instruments and harps and trumpets, to the house of the LORD. (2 Chronicles 20:27, 28, NKJV).
  • THE ONE LEPER:  As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, their leprosy disappeared. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God, I’m healed!” He fell face down on the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Does only this foreigner return to give glory to God?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:12-19, NLT).

WHEN AND WHERE TO GIVE THANKS

  • in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NKJV).

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, GOD, FOR MY LIFE AND MY DESTINY!  THANK YOU FOR JESUS.  THANK YOU FOR THE CROSS.  THANK YOU FOR SO GREAT A SALVATION.  THANK YOU FOR WHO YOU ARE AND ALL YOU’VE DONE.  THANK YOU… WHO AM I THAT YOU SHOULD BE THIS GOOD TO ME.  THANK YOU!  I LOVE YOU.

Thank you, maxgrace.com reader, for your encouragement and love.  You are a blessing to me.

BIBL2220-Biblical Hermeneutics

6I just saw a sight so beautiful it made my heart skip a beat. Better than a blue-orange sunset. Better than Mt Shasta on a snowy day.  Better than Walter Payton streaking like a gazelle toward the goal line.  I saw young people digging into God’s Word.  I mean really digging in.  We had a Bible research day in my hermeneutics class at Simpson University.

Click “more” for some pictures… Click the thumbnails to enlarge. Read below if you want to download their worksheets and give it a shot yourself.

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