Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thoughts on 2 Timothy 2:2 Part 2 - Training up leaders

2Ti 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. God is interested in the next generation and in the passing on of His gospel from one generation to another. One of the reasons why Abraham was a friend of God and God chose him to bear the promise He gave him is found in Genesis 18:17-19, “And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” It would not have served the eternal purpose of God to call Abraham, give him the promises so that he would be a blessing to all nations unless He knew Abraham would be faithful not only himself, but also that he would pass on the promises to the next generation so that the promise could continue. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the God of the generations. Both Isaac and Jacob received the promise because of Abraham, yet it was also necessary that they enter into their own relationship with God to receive and pass on the promise. Actually the promise was not fulfilled in their lives, but only in the lives of their descendants since the only land they actually possessed in Canaan was what Abraham purchased as a burial place. This is what Hebrews 11:39-40 refers to, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” These are only completed or made perfect when they receive the promise they lived and died for through those who follow after and enter into that promise. Abraham only receives the fulfillment of the promise and inherits Canaan through his descendants. Many times we reap where another person has sown, perhaps even unknown to us (John 4:35-38). Multitudes were reaped later where William Carey sowed yet he had almost no fruit himself for most of his life, but it was his ground-laying work especially in Bible translation that enabled the fruit to follow. Both the sower and reaper rejoice together in that the reward is shared between them the completion of the work not being possible to either by themselves. This is why the cloud of witnesses surrounds and looks upon the church militant awaiting for it to complete the work that was begun by those already passed on to be perfected and completed. Not only was passing on the promises and faith important in the life of Abraham, but in the Life of Christ one His major works was to train the disciples to follow after Him. It is in this sense in John 17:1-4 that Christ could say, “I have finished the work” even though the work of the cross was still before Him. Indeed the training of the disciples was one of the main things which made His work on the cross effective. Had He come and died for the sins of the world, but left no one as a witness of it the sacrifice would have had no effect on those for whom it was made. The Apostles received His message, bore Him witness and passed on all they had learned as the Holy Spirit brought it back to the memory. This is why Paul could refer to himself as a co-worker of God (2 Cor.6:1), and refer to the Church as the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph. 1:23), since as we are joined to Christ out of Him flow His works through us completing His work in the world in the absence of His bodily presence. Much more could be written on this, but it would be a digression here. Moses on realizing that God would not allow him to personally complete his life’s work of leading Israel out of Egypt and into Canaan, carried a deep burden to God that He would not leave Israel shepherdless, “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” God then supplied Joshua (Num. 27:16-20). King David having a deep desire to see a temple built for the Lord, but being forbidden to build it himself prepared the plan for it and laid up much of the provision for it and passed it on to Solomon (1 Chron. 28:9-21). This was a rich inheritance which David left for his son. Unfortunately not all men have the same attitude. Even righteous men such as Hezekiah sometimes take no thought for the following generations. Hezekiah on making a serious error, due to being lifted up in pride, was told by Isaiah that as a result his children would be carried to Babylon, but he was unmoved, as long as his own days were happy (2 Kings 20:16-19). This same attitude perhaps not as overtly can be seen in ministers who grow the church entirely around their own persona. One example of this is seen in ministries that have multiple congregations which have a service transmitted from the one auditorium into the other locations. The fact that one can do this shows that they are an effective speaker, but there is far more to ministry than effective speaking. If the leader passes on there will be almost no way anyone could take over such a work and it will disintegrate. A true leader’s fruit is not only seen in the response he gets in the pulpit, but more in who he trains to work with him. It would be far better to have congregations ministered to by other men under his periodic supervision than making himself an indispensible part of them. The irony is that it is possible to gain a huge following and have people view as a great success by being an actual failure in laying up nothing that will remain when you are gone. Some reasons why young leadership is not raised up 1. They cause problems Young up and coming ministers can cause more problems for a head pastor than anything else and the more potential the young minister has the greater the problems he might cause. In the gospels we see more of Peter than any other disciple. He always seems to open his mouth at the most inopportune times, tries to correct Jesus on one occasion, and when Christ’s intention is to surrender Himself he starts swinging his sword to defend Him, and then later denies Him. All of these actions created problems for Christ. They denied His message and ran counter to His purposes, yet He was still able to work with Peter. Had He not allowed Peter to develop He would have lost thousands of converts in the first years of the Church at the very least. Peter was a hard man to have as a disciple, but to not have him would have been far worse. Proverbs 14:4 tells us, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” A barn with immaculately clean stalls and no noise is perhaps more pleasant to enter than one filled with cattle, but the one is like a ghost town, whereas the other is healthy and normal even if sometimes unpleasant. Cleaning up after cattle is not a fun job, but having no cattle to clean up after is doom for a farm. In the same way though young ministry creates problems lack of it is a far greater problem. 2. Friction and contention A strong leader can be a very difficult person to work under, especially for an emerging strong leader. In the time of the reformation Luther and Zwingli influenced many young men toward reform, but for every one they were able to channel into their movements they drove away dozens. Most of the stronger men whom they impacted they became antagonistic towards, in Zwingli’s case murderously so. Men like Grebel, Carlstadt, Denck were thrust out, and energy that could have been better spent in other endeavors was wasted in strife among brethren. There are countless other instances in history of these things. The problem between these leaders was somewhat doctrinal, but it also had a lot to do with jealousy. Luther especially was sensitive to an disagreement with him on anything, because he felt that since he had gotten the ball rolling in the reformation everyone should pay deference to him. There was wrong on all sides. Every one of these leaders, as well as we today, could learn from Philippians 2:3-5, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” There is much that is done through strife and vainglory and it cripples the Church and produces needless contention. In many cases organizations become caricatures of their leaders having their faults and peculiarities in a greater measure. This is because it is far easier to copy these than to learn the internal and too often outward conformity is substituted for unity of spirit. It is hardly possible to have two people more dissimilar in outward form then John the Baptist and Jesus, yet the same Spirit motivated them. The locusts are listed as wise because they are able to follow each other, without having any leader or king, when one begins to move they all follow as one (Prov. 30:27). In the same way every believer should be willing to listen to any other believer and submit to them if what they say is right (Eph. 5:21). Jan Hus pointed this out to his accusers who were angered that he continued to preach after he was forbidden, and showed that he as a superior was willing to change his judgment when his students showed him that he had misjudged a situation. 3. Inability to release control One of the most wonderful things that God has created as an expression of Himself is the heart of a mother. A mother will give of herself to ensure the survival of her offspring. One Scripture where this is seen very clearly is in 1 Kings 3:16-27 where Solomon decides the case of the two women claiming the same child. The true mother was willing to see her child grow up never acknowledging her as its mother, and even to give the love which would be her due to another just so long as it lived! The life and growth of the child was all that really mattered, not who got the credit, nor who was in control. It was that attitude that won her back her child. A healthy living child can be a handful to keep in order, but the alternative is much worse. Juana la Loca is a tragic figure in history. A Spanish queen and mother of Charles V she had the misfortune to be married to a philandering husband. When he died she had the opportunity to have what she had always wanted - him by her side, and she had his coffin carried with her everywhere she travelled. However, there is a vast difference between winning your husband’s heart and carrying his coffin around. Something dead is easy to control, something living is impossible. God gives commands yet He also allows a large measure of personal freedom. He told Adam and Eve that they could eat of all the fruit but one, He did not micromanage which one they were eating of at which particular time. There are many things which God can command which no man can. When He imposes a burden He also gives grace to bear it, when man imposes a burden man must supply the strength. If God gave grace for every man-made burden imposed by a superior than the Catholic Church would not have the problem they have always had with clerical celibacy! The Apostle Paul, while enjoining obedience to those who were slaves, forbid Christians to become slaves of men (1 Cor. 7:21-23), so that instead we can be slaves of Christ. There are three basic facets of slavery, and if a leader crosses these he is overstepping God’s law. 1. Vows of perpetual obedience It is one thing to submit to leadership, God requires that, but if leadership requires a vow of absolute and perpetual obedience in all things, we have become a slave of man and are no longer free to be a slave of Christ. This is one of the greatest sins of the monastic system. Submission is not mindless obedience, and God will hold us accountable for what we do, we cannot do as the Jesuits and say, “as long as I obey I am fine and if I do evil because it is commanded than the guilt is on the superior.” 2. Renunciation of property Forbidding ownership of property is another attribute of slavery. This is also another evil of monasticism. When God made Adam and Eve He gave them dominion over the earth. Dominion implies right of ownership. It also bears responsibility. God desires man to own what He gives them, to use it as they choose, and He will hold them accountable in the end. Those who have more will be judged more severely. 3. Disposal in Marriage Slaves as the property of their masters were given in marriage as the master saw fit. It is wise for a Christian to seek godly counsel before entering into marriage. Counsel, however, is not command. It is giving what the person believes is the mind of the Lord. It is up to the one receiving counsel to judge for himself whether it is or is not the mind of the Lord, and to act accordingly. Some might think that this destroys counsel and that none will listen without some compulsion. The opposite is true. If a man will not listen to God speaking to his own conscience, why should he listen to a man saying he is giving the mind of the Lord. If he is willing to listen to the one he will listen to the other. Compulsion and manipulation will never hold anyone. Even if they put up with it, if they are not hearing God’s voice and obeying out of a forced compliance, are they really His sheep? His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27). If you do not believe that a person can hear from God for guidance unless you tell him and perhaps compel him, do you really believe he is one of Christ’s sheep? If he is than he will hear the shepherds voice and obey it, if he is not nothing will keep him anyway. It should also be mentioned that counsel is not generally the origin of a course of action, but either a confirmation or check on it. There are certainly many other issues relating to training leaders but these are the ones that I personally see and am convinced of. May God grant that we all learn of Him, the Good Shepherd, how to lead!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughts on 2 Timothy 2:2 - Part 1

2Ti 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. This verse is Paul’s charge to Timothy for the preservation of Christian doctrine and leadership in the Church for succeeding generations. He is to preserve it by passing on what he has learned from Paul onto others who will also pass on the truth that they have learned. This is the essence of discipleship, and is what Christ was commanding when He commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). With this in mind I would like to look at a few points on the doctrine to be taught and Paul’s ministry in teaching it, so that we can see how the early Church operated with so much success and learn from them. 1. Timothy was to teach what Paul had taught in the presence of many witnesses The doctrine which Timothy was to teach was that which Paul had taught openly with many witnesses. Christianity unlike pagan philosophy and cults has no esoteric and exoteric doctrine. It does not teach one thing to the masses and then another different thing to its inner circle. While Christ used parables to test the hearts of His hearers, these parables taught essentially the same things found in His open teaching and He could say to the high priest at His trial, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said” (John 18:19-21). Truth can go about openly and overcome, it is falsehood that has to enter stealthily in the side-door like a gossiped rumor – the ill-omened caterpillar requiring many a silk thread of deceit until it can morph into a moth. The truth is a hardier being – the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). This verse also has reference to pretended apostolic traditions. What Paul passed on was publicly taught and given over and was in consonance with if not identical to what he wrote in his epistles. Thus anything at variance with his plain writings can have no authority as a tradition. What Timothy was to pass on (our word tradition means what is passed on or delivered – the thought of delivering over also gave us another word from the same root – traditor, or traitor) was what is found in the public writings and discourses of the apostles which we have in our Bible. 2. Paul’s pattern he gave to Timothy The pattern of life that Paul followed can be clearly seen in his address to the elders at Miletus. This was a crucial time in Paul’s life where he would soon be facing the possibility of death in Jerusalem and on the way there he shares his own burden for ministry with the elders of Ephesus, and reminds them of his own conduct. Act 20:17-36 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. In order to see how Timothy was to lead others and pass down what he had heard, we will look at a few points from this speech. Points of Paul’s conduct:  Humility in his conduct (v.19) The sine qua non of Christian leadership is humility. Christ, Himself, contrasted the worldly leadership with Christian leadership saying, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45). Peter having heard this repeats it in his charge to his own leaders using the same word Christ used - katakurieuĊ, to domineer or subdue, reminding them that that is not the way to lead the flock (1 Pet. 5:3). The virtue of humility is not a natural one for man and in the Gospels we see the apostles struggling with it, but as they saw the example of Christ something of His character began to transform them. Paul ministered in humility, perhaps not perfectly in that perhaps some blame would attach itself to him over his rupture with Barnabas (Acts 15:37-40), yet in another disagreement with his fellow-worker Apollos he showed that he had grown in humility by responding with grace (1 Cor. 16:12). He also showed great humility in his opening address to the Corinthians in calling them saints even though at the time of his writing they were not acknowledging his authority (1 Cor. 1:1-2). In 2 Corinthians he also contrasts his own humble behavior with the arrogant behavior of other so called ministers which was tolerated and even encouraged by the Corinthians, “For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!” (2 Cor. 11:19-21). Not only did Paul not exalt himself in the ministry, but he apparently was surprised that any church would even allow it.  Constant teaching in Public meetings and house meetings (v.20) Paul took every opportunity he could make to teach from the Scriptures in public and private places. During the reformation, many of the reformers took similar steps by having public Scripture readings with an explanation of them not only on Sundays but every morning for all who wished to attend.  Willingness to lay down everything for the Gospel (v.24) Paul was willing to go to Jerusalem without regard to the danger. It was holding nothing back from Christ that was the source of his joy. One of the attributes of those who overcome the devil is that they do not love their lives even unto death (Rev. 12:11).  Sharing everything necessary (v.20, 26-27) Paul held nothing back that people needed to hear he was a faithful watchman and so could say he was innocent of the blood of his hearers (Ezek. 33:1-9)  Drawing disciples after Christ not himself (v. 30) One of Paul’s heartaches as he was saying goodbye to the elders at Miletus was knowing that even some them would eventually depart from the faith. Not only would wolves come from without, but former friends would bring in division. The reason was that they desired to draw disciples after themselves. John the Baptist showed the attitude of a true minister in John 3:28-30, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." The friend of the bridegroom was used as a go between among the couple to exchange messages and facilitate their relationship. This is precisely the purpose of Christian ministry to pass on Christ’s messages to His bride-to-be and do our utmost to see her fall in love with Him. If you can imagine how a man would feel if his friend betrayed his trust and used his position as a go between to win the bride’s affections for himself, then you will begin to see how Christ will view ministers who draw people after themselves instead of Him. One simple test of a ministry is in how its adherents operate. If all of them have an attitude that if you doubt their leader you are not of God, then something is wrong. Paul contended neither for himself, nor for Apollos, nor for Peter but for Christ (1 Cor. 3:4-7). Count Zinzindorf was a great man of God, and the revival at Herrnhut sparked the world missions movement, and had a hundred year unbroken 24 hour prayer chain. Yet both John Wesley and George Whitfield had a falling out with the Moravians and even wrote against them – partly because they believed some second hand information that was false. Wesley came to realize his mistake and in his later years became a friend of the Brethren again, Whitfield probably would have had he lived longer. All three of these men were mightily used by God and yet were at one time at outs with each other, today we see all three of them as part of a greater holiness movement, but at the time their differences seemed greater than their similarities. If a follower of one of these men had thought that since the other two were not with his leader they were not following Christ, he would have rejected 2 other great ministries which God mightily used. When this attitude of my leader is the only one is combined with miracles that serve no purpose but to exalt the minister performing them, and is further coupled with questionable doctrine, a Christian should seriously question the source of the ministry. One example of this sort of minister in church history is Martin of Tours. Thankfully God is the ultimate judge, but there are some people I have no desire to emulate.  Not preaching with a motive of financial gain (Ezek. 34; 1 Pet. 5:2; Titus 1:11; 1 Tim. 3:3,8; Titus 1:7) One of the qualifications that Paul gave to Timothy and Titus for both deacons and elders was that they be free from covetousness (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:3,8). Peter also exhorted his elders not to bear rule for the sake of money (1 Peter 5:2). This is one of the big pitfalls for ministry and was one of the things God reproved the shepherds of Israel for in Ezekiel 34. This sin leads to other sins and can lead to teaching false doctrine (Titus 1:11). This is especially seen in the life of the prophet Balaam. This is only a brief sketch of Paul’s leadership practices. May God grant that we learn these lessons from him even as he learned them from Christ! Amen.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Quick Look at Jeremiah 32:6-8 as it Regards Guidance

This post is more intended as a thinking-out-loud post rather than a dogmatic one, but recently as I waslistening to a preacher mention these verses and read them I was struck by a thought of how these verses can overturn some misconceptions people sometimes have concerning God speaking to us. Jer. 32:6-8 Jeremiah said, "The word of the LORD came to me: Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, 'Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.' Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, 'Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.' Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. It should be noted that this all took place in the tenth year of Zedekiah that these events took place and thus it was near the end after more than 20 years as a prophet that this happened. Jeremiah receives a word concerning an event that would happen that day, and the impression that he should buy this field. It was a sign because at the time of this purchase the city was in the middle of a siege which the next year would result in its total ruin. Jeremiah’s purchase was showing his own faith that what he had foretold concerning the return after 70 years would be fulfilled, literally putting his money where his mouth was. What I would like to focus on in this portion, though, is the way he handled this word. Jeremiah had a word come to him which he believed was from God. It contained specific details of what would happen. Having received the word the details then occurred, and Jeremiah was confirmed in the course of action he should take, and also knew beyond all doubt that the word was from God, writing, “Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.” This shows us that even experienced prophets do not always know that every impression they feel is from God is from God. Jeremiah received what he believed to be a word from God and yet he waited to see the details line up before he said anything to anyone. If you read this portion of Scripture it seems that Jeremiah is alerting Baruch to this event right after the fact. It was only after the prediction came to pass that Jeremiah knew (infallibly) that this was the word of God. Thus even prophets should wait and ponder words of personal guidance to see if events match their impression and then they will know what is God’s word, which is tried seven times, and what is mere human impression. People sometimes think that prophets have an automatic infallible ear, but Jeremiah only knew that it was God’s word to him when he saw it coming to pass. Practically this should be a test that we subject our own things we feel God speaking to us to, namely, if it contains certain events or details, do they come to pass? It is wise to hold our peace when we feel something and lay it before the Lord, if it is of Him it will work out, if not we can be sure it was our own idea. Afterwards we can mention it to others even as Jeremiah did. May God guide us until death and receive us to glory! Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lips overflowing with Grace

Psalm 45, one of the Messianic Psalms written for Solomon but looking beyond him to Christ reads in verse 2, “You are the fairest of the sons of men; grace is poured into Your lips; therefore God has blessed You forever.” The thought is contained that not only is grace poured into the lips of the Messiah, but that this grace overflows and pours out from His lips. Christ was able to answer all people at all times with grace, He was able to bridle His tongue and was thus truly the perfect Man (James 3:2). In this post I would like to look at just how Christ showed lips of grace, so that we can see how far we often fall short of it and learn to be like Him. Since what a man is truly like is most often manifest in times of difficulty – George Washington was a man of very guarded temper, yet he forgot himself at Monmouth and when first hearing of St. Clair's debacle and these two instances are the only times when he was ever known to swear. Even the Apostle Paul did not always respond perfectly in his tests as we will see later here, but Christ shows His divinity in that the harder the trial the more admirable was His speech. I would like to look at a few instances in Christ's life now and if nothing else we will learn why the inhabitants of heaven cannot help but cry, “worthy is the Lamb!” 1. How He handled betrayal Christ's response to Judas in the garden is amazing. While He had spoken strong words of warning to him in the upper room prior to the betrayal (Matt. 26:21-24) perhaps as a last measure to save his soul or at least leave him without excuse, yet in the garden His response could not be more mild. He does not revile him, but instead gives the most mild expostulation possible, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Judas is that really what you are capable of, to use the closest sign of friendship as a sign of betrayal? There was no vindictiveness or rancour in Christ's behavior to Judas, but rather sorrow for who Judas was – what he had willingly become. 2. How He responded to gross injustice The trials of Jesus are interesting if for no other reason than that they show a total and complete disregard for law. The two legal systems that antiquity passed on to modern society and are recognized as most just are the Jewish and Roman, and both legal systems were entirely set aside by the judges in Christ's trial. Roman law required strictness of accusation. If a man was tried it had to be for a specific offense, at a specific time, yet when Pilate asked what charge was to be brought against Christ he received a reply that would have been grounds for dismissal in any ordinary trial, “If he were not an evildoer, we would not have brought Him here” (John 18:30). Other anomalies of this Roman trial include but are not limited to: pronouncing a not guilty verdict but not releasing the prisoner but instead offering Him in an exchange; followed by another not guilty verdict, and a flogging; and finally a third not guilty verdict resulting in the crucifixion. Christ's demeanor through all of this was outstanding. Actually He was not the one on trial, it was the whole world system and all its hypocrisy and time serving that was on trial and it and its ministers were found sorely wanting as the came up close to the Judge of all who brings forth His righteousness every morning. Prior to the Roman trial (in this small post we will not be examining the minor trial before Herod, which was really Pilates first hand-washing attempt) were the Jewish trials. These were likewise highly improper by Jewish law. The most notable irregularities involve the timing and secrecy of the trial (night time trials and secret trials were unheard of, because it was necessary that witnesses be able to come forward, this was especially true in regard to capitol crimes). Another major irregularity involves Christ being asked directly concerning His doctrine. All legal proceedings in following Mosaic law required two or three witnesses, and unlike in Roman law, torture and intimidation could not be used to extort a confession. It is from this Mosaic legal basis that the United States gets its fifth ammendment in the bill of rights. Yet Christ was directly questioned concerning His teachings in a deliberate attempt to trap Him in His words, was given no advocate, and had the judge also playing the part of prosecutor. When He brought attention to the illegality of the proceedings and requested that witnesses be produced to His words since He had never taught secretly, He was struck on the face. At this point Christ shows His divine dignity, rather than becoming rightly indignant, as even the Apostle Paul later did in a similar situation (Acts 23:1-3), He merely asks that if He had said something wrong let it be shown Him. After the false witnesses had been produced and had contradicted each other without suffering the ordinary consequences, Christ as the faithful and true Witness indicted Himself by His response to the oath of the High Priest, because to not come forward at that point would have been sin (Lev. 5:1). Through all of His trial He shows Himself to be above reproach in everything He did. While Paul had to apologize for his outburst, though it was honestly deserved, Christ kept His composure throughout His longer and even more unjust ordeal. 3. His Words to the Mourning Women Another amazing outflowing of grace from the lips of Christ is found in His address to the women who were customarily mourning for His death, because He was dying without offspring. He looked beyond His own suffering of the time, which had included a merciless flogging and beaten face, and plucked out beard, and had compassion for what His people who had rejected Him would endure, saying, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:28-31). Furthermore Christ while on the cross asked for forgiveness for those who killed Him, and welcomed the first penitent sinner, who had formerly reviled Him into His kingdom. All of these acts of grace flowed out in His time of greatest anguish. May God grant that we also are able to show a small measure of the grace that poured from Christ's lips in our own speech. Amen.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Hannah was a remarkable woman, who became the mother of an even more remarkable son – Samuel, who carried the nation of Israel from the end of the time of the judges into the reign of their first king and the anointing of the second king. The story of Hannah does not start with a promise instead it starts with a problem. 1Sa 1:1-2 “There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.” Hannah was barren. This was a horrible reproach in those times, and in Hannah’s case one made worse by the behavior of her husband’s other wife. Hannah’s character is seen in that instead of retaliating at the insults, she went to the Lord. Yet emotionally this trial was very difficult for her, and she was so vexed that she would not eat. Clearly this was a problem and a need. Yet there is a greater need here than may be readily apparent. God had a need. He needed a prophet. The word of the Lord was rare in those days and the priests were leading the people into sin instead of into the knowledge of God’s ways. God’s burden was for the whole nation and carried into account the succeeding generations, at this point all Hannah was interested in was a son. Scripture tells us that God had closed Hannah’s womb (v. 6). So this trial was not caused by sin or the devil or anything else. It was brought about by God to bring Hannah into a place where instead of just carrying her own burden she begins to catch a glimpse of God’s burden. As the years pass by Hannah becomes more desperate, eventually she is so overcome with her need that she vows to give the son back to the Lord and have him consecrated as a Nazarite from birth. This is what God was waiting for. Hannah did not say these things lightly, she was actually so emotionally wrought as she was praying that the high priest, Eli thought she was drunk. Again Hannah’s character is shown in how she handles being misunderstood. When she could have been very angry at what happened, and even offended, she mildly explains herself to Eli (v. 15-16). Eli then pronounces a blessing upon her. At this point Hannah manifests a rest of faith, having received the word of God from the priest, she went home with a cheerful face and ate. Emotionally she came to peace by resting in God’s promise even though nothing had changed at all. Lastly Hannah fulfilled her vow to the Lord after Samuel was born. After she did that, God granted her even more children. To sum up the points I see in Hannah’s life to emulate if we want to see our prayers answered: 1. Take you burden to God 2. If He requires something from you give it, don’t just ask for your own needs, meet His and others needs 3. Do not become offended if you are misunderstood 4. If God speaks rest in His Word 5. Fulfill what you have promised unto the Lord in your distress May God give us all hearts like Hannah’s. Amen

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Few Thoughts on the Kenosis of Christ

The Kenosis of Christ is a theological term referring to His emptying of Himself to assume humanity. It is based on Philippians 2:5-9 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…” Sometimes people wonder how this emptying affected the divine attributes, especially omnipresence and omniscience. I at one time had a misconception myself, or at least had never fully realized Christ’s continual omnipresence as to His Godhead, until I was reading and saw John 3:13 quoted and saw that my understanding had been somewhat vague before (this is the difference between error and heresy, anyone can have an honest error, it is the holding to that error when the truth is straightforwardly shown that makes heresy). John 3:13 "No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” Having read this it became apparent to me that Christ was saying to Nicodemus that while He was talking to him, He was also in heaven! Clearly this emptying of Himself had nothing to do with His omnipresence, though of course He was present in a special sense in His physical body. The attribute that people wonder about the most though is the omniscience of Christ. Christ clearly showed superhuman knowledge in much of His life, with His conversation with the woman at the well (John 4:17-18) and His knowledge of Nathanael (John 1:47-51). This is consistent and easy to understand. The question arises when we encounter some other Scriptures, most especially in Matthew 24:36, where Christ says concerning His second coming, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” If Christ does not know this was He therefore not omniscient when He was in the flesh? At first glance it might appear so, but that may rest on a faulty understanding of omniscience. God is omniscient and yet the fact that He does not remember our sins is not said to prejudice His omniscience. This is because His forgetting of sins is an act of His will based on our repentance and not a diminution of His faculty (in the same shutting my eyes may cause not to see, but it does not make me blind). In the same way could it not be said that there were some things which Christ chose not to know without prejudice to His omniscience, just as He only did what He saw the Father doing, though He remained all-powerful. This act of the will makes sense in that we all know that there are times that we are aware of things and yet choose to not focus on them and even remove them from our mind. That this was the state of Christ in the flesh is hinted at in Isaiah 42:19-20, which refers to Isaiah first as the servant, but beyond him looking to Christ, “Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD? He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.” Christ apparently willed to only know what the Father revealed to Him. This particular attribute of the kenosis has practical value, because in placing His understanding and knowledge entirely under what the Father desired to give Him, Christ overcame the natural human temptation which lead to the fall – the seeking of forbidden knowledge apart from God and in competition with Him. It is this perverse curiosity that causes people to dabble in the occult, and become involved in all sorts of evil. It also leads many Christians astray as they desire to know what God has not revealed and become open to anything that seems to be a revelation. We as humans desire to know, whether it is worthwhile knowledge or not, this is why tabloids sell. Yet there are many things in life we do not really need to know. Christ showed Himself to be the consummate man if for no other reason than that He was able to rely totally on the knowledge of His Father, and in this as in all things He is our pattern. May we cultivate the attitude seen in Psalm 131 “ A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.” O Lord You know and that is enough! There are many questions I have in my own life right now, and while I believe God will supply some of the answers in His time, for now I can only say, “Lord You know and that is enough.” May God grant us all contentment in what we do not understand and a solid trust in Him in all things. Amen.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thoughts On How Solomon's Court Case Applies To Our Own Ministries

The story of Solomon's court case is very well known, even by unbelievers. I would like to look at it again though and perhaps draw out applications of it to our own lives and ministries.

1Ki 3:16-28 Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, "Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne." But the other woman said, "No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours." The first said, "No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine." Thus they spoke before the king. Then the king said, "The one says, 'This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead'; and the other says, 'No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'" And the king said, "Bring me a sword." So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, "Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death." But the other said, "He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him." Then the king answered and said, "Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother." And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

This story is interesting for several reasons. It shows many things about human nature in general but also shows us something of the true heart of a mother, which is actually a reflection of the heart of God.

Initially there is the dispute over whose child is the living one. Both women desire the living child. One desired it because it was hers by natural birth, the other also desired the child probably to assuage the grief caused by the loss of her own and to remove the reproach of having lost her child from her by placing on someone else. In the same way if we are Christians, especially Christians with a ministry, we desire to see blessing and fruit for our labours. This is natural and not wrong, those who sow should do so in hope, but often God requires a certain attitude before He will give the blessing.

When the case came before Solomon, he used his God-given wisdom to show which claim was just. In his command to divide the child he was bringing out the strongest motive of each heart. The false mother wanted the child alive as long as it would be hers, but if it could not be hers she would have her half and see it destroyed. The true mother would have the child live, she wanted it to be hers, but it would be better to have it live, even if it never owned her as its mother, but instead considered itself another's. It was this attitude that showed Solomon who the true mother was and gained her the child.

Many times Christians pray for revival, for multiplication, and for the extension of God's kingdom. This is good, but often the motive is not as much God's glory, but that we might ourselves be vindicated and blessed. The difference in the two women was not what they desired, but why they desired it. The false mother desired the child for her selfish motives. The true mother desired the child for a mixture of motives, but when push came to shove the only thing that mattered was the life of the child, even if she lost it, so long as it lived. This is the attitude that God blesses, a desire to see Him move even if He uses others and not us, even if on this side of eternity our prayer and efforts remain unnoticed. This is the heart of a mother, to put the child first. It is also something deep in God's heart, the God who gives breath to all, even those who do not acknowledge Him and even fight against Him. He sends His rain on the good and the evil, for their benefit, not for His own.

It is this attitude that was in the heart of David when he fled from Absolom, and refused to let the ark go with him, because he placed his fate in God's hands, but regardless of what happened to him, he would not have the people deprived of God's presence (2 Sam. 15:24-26). This is also an attitude seen in those whom God has used in past revivals, one notable example, by no means unique, is Count Zinzendorf, who was determined to benefit the Church of Christ as a whole and not his own enclave. He often sent converts of the Moravians into other local churches. If anything his fault was in trying so hard to encourage other groups that his own did not grow as much, and yet the God alone knows all the good that was accomplished through the Moravians, specifically because of their willingness to grow God's kingdom and not their own segment of it. May God grant us the same heart!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why Christ will not return on May 21st

I don't usually do too much teaching on the Second Coming of Christ. This is not because it is not an important subject or because I do not believe I know at least some of the answers to the questions that must be answered. Mostly it is because I feel that personal preparedness is more important than exact doctrinal understanding. Doctrinal understanding can encourage us to be prepared, but there are many who may have right understanding and yet still be unprepared, also there may be some who lack correct doctrinal understanding, but whose relationship with Christ still makes them prepared for whatever may come. Having heard a friend of mine asking about Christ returning on May 21st I decided it was time to show why this is not possible, and hopefully to prevent young Christians from being shaken in their faith when yet another prediction fails.

As we look at this the most important thing is to remember is that it is not just doctrinal knowledge that we need but a relationship with Christ. This is true not only in light of the end-times, but in everything. Our understanding can be flawed in many ways and yet we can still be saved by Christ. Indeed when I look at some men, such as Charles Finney and George Fox, I see some really strange ideas that could have totally made a shipwreck of their lives, yet even some of their wrong ideas were held in check to a large degree by their relationship with Christ. We should never mistake the light given in doctrine for the source of light. We can all err in many things, but the Light of the World can show us and even restrain us in spite of our miscomprehension. So our focus should be on pleasing Him and He can handle the future, even if we misinterpret it.

With that written I would like to look now at events which must take place before Christ's second coming and the rapture.

1. Wars, Earthquakes and other calamities

We see these calamities happening now, and they will intensify. They are prelude to the end, but Christ specifically prophesied that they would come, but that the end was not yet.

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. (Matt. 24:6-8).


And he said, "See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is at hand!' Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:8-11).


As we see these earth changing events unfold, we should remember two things. First they are not a surprise to God. Second they are not the end that is still to come. The judgments we have seen in the last decade have been enormous, and yet if we believe Christ we must say that worse is still to come.


We need to seriously take stock of ourselves as we view these things. We are surprised at the multitudes that are destroyed in one disaster, the tsunami in Sumatra for example, many of whom were eternally lost. Yet we forget, or choose not to acknowledge, that on a normal day without any high profile disasters, thousands still die and slip into hell. If these events actually mobilize Christians to be serious about our mission, and result in salvation to many who otherwise might perish eternally than even these disasters will be worthwhile in the ultimate end, and whatever disruption, discomfort, suffering and even danger they cause to Christians will be actually a blessing.


2. Wide spread persecution and apostasy


This has yet to happen. How far it is in the future only God knows, but it is coming. There are nations where Christians are being persecuted now, but Christ referred to world-wide persecution.


"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matt. 24:9-13).


Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion (apostasy) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? (2 Thess. 2:1-5).


The apostle Paul elaborates more on what form this falling away will take in 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 3:1-5, and 2 Tim. 4:3-4. This corruption of Christian life and doctrine is necessary to bring the iniquity of the false church to completion. In addition to declension from the faith, the false church will also be actively involved in the persecution of the true church (Rev. 17:3-6).


Yet Peter encourages the true Christians to continue to fervently love each other even in the midst of this cooling of the love of many (1 Pet. 1:22, 4:7-8). In the midst of all the defection and sin abounding it will be easy to let our love grow cold and to cease to care for others, but as Christians our love must come from God, and continue to pour out in spite of the failings and faults we see.


3. The preaching of the Gospel in all the world


And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations (ethnos), and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14).


Lest we think that the end times will be all gloom and doom, it is important to remember that the best times are yet ahead as well. It when the church suffers that the glory rests upon her (1 Pet. 4:12-14). It is God's sworn intention that His glory will fill the earth (Num. 14:21; Hab. 2:14). This will be done through the church. The glory will exceed by far anything seen in the Old Testament in the same way that a permanent building is far more valued than a temporary structure (2 Cor. 3:7-11). If the Old Testament which was temporary and intended to be superseded saw dramatic miracles and wonders, shall not the New Testament church which is to remain. Haggai prophesied that the glory of the latter house (the second temple) would be greater than the former (Solomon's temple) (Hag. 2:9), this referred to the presence of Christ in that temple and the raising up of the Church which must supersede all the glory manifest in Solomon's temple.


Before the return of Christ the fullness of the Gentiles must come in (Rom. 11:25). This will take place after the former and latter rain have come (James 5:7). The former or early rain softened the ground for planting, the late or latter rain ripened the crop for harvest. Joel prophesied that both would be given in the first month, together (Joel 2:23). Thus you would have a rapid sowing and maturing of the crop, this is prophesied in Amos 9:11-13, and verse 11-12 was specifically quoted as applicable to the church in Acts 15:16-17. There have been scattered instances of some of these things in certain locales at certain times in history, but it must happen on a global scale to prepare the Church for Christ's return. The fact that Christ is returning for a Bride without spot or wrinkle (2 Pet. 3:9-15; Eph. 5:26-27; Rev. 19:7-8) tells us that His return is not yet, to give us time to prepare, and we desperately need a fresh outpouring of His Spirit to iron out our wrinkles and remove our spots.


4. The appearance of the antichrist and rebuilt temple


"So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. (Matt. 24:15-20).


Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? (2 Thess. 2:1-5).


The Bible has a lot more to say about the antichrist, which might be a subject of a later post, but for now I will only mention that he is not here now. Revelation tells us that he is a man who has lived before and will return from the pit.


The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come (Rev. 17:8).


And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. (Rev. 13:2-3).


It is thus folly to predict that any living man is the antichrist. There are many antchristian leaders in the world, but the antichrist won't sneak in, he will very visible when he comes.


Another indicator given by Christ which is important in regards to the appearing of the antichrist is the rebuilding of the temple. This has not yet happened, but the 2004 reconvening of the sanhedrin, with one stated goal as rebuilding the temple shows that times are drawing closer. One note on this temple, it may not require the demolition of the dome of the rock, because there is some ambiguity as to where the Holy of Holies actually stood on the Temple Mount. Things will become clearer as events progress. Things may take decades or years, but all in God's timing it will unfold.


5. The Great Tribulation


"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt. 24:29-31).


I realize this is not a popular teaching in the Church today, but Christ is unambiguous here. His elect are gathered to Him after the tribulation. The noun form of the verb used for gather in Matt. 24:31 is what Paul uses in 2 Thess. 2:1 for our gathering unto Him at His second coming. These are referring to the same event.


The fact that Christians will be on the earth during the tribulation can be shown by several Scriptures:


"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, and that Day come upon you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, praying always that you may be counted worthy to escape everything that is about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36).


Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those that dwell upon the earth. (Rev. 3:10).


If all Christians are to be kept from the great tribulation than these promises and warnings make no sense. Furthermore both Daniel and Revelation state as plainly as possible that the antichrist will kill Christians.


And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time. (Daniel 11:33-35).


Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days. (Daniel 12:10-12).


And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name."Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" (Rev. 14:9-13).


Notice these saints are specifically said to have faith in Jesus! These are not Jews. This is seen again in Revelation 12, where the language is symbolic, but it is clearly taught that there is one company caught up to the throne of God (v5 – the male child), another that is hidden in the wilderness (v6 the woman), and a third group that are persecuted (v17 the rest of her offspring).


Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (Rev. 12:17).


Notice that these cannot be Jews, because the Jews do not have a Testimony of Jesus until they are restored at His Second Coming. Clearly these are Christians!


To finish this long post I should mention the element of the pre-tribulation rapture theory that bothers me the most. That is the interpretation of 2 Thess. 2:6-7 as the removal of the Holy Spirit from the earth along with the Church for the duration of the tribulation. This interpretation is seriously flawed. If the Holy Spirit is gone from the earth, then in what power are these saints enduring martyrdom? Even assuming, as the theory demands, that these are special "tribulation saints" and not ordinary Christians as an unbiased reading of the passage would indicate, do you honestly believe that man unaided by the empowering Spirit can withstand a persecution far worse than anything that pagan Rome ever perpetrated? We know and have seen in history what the Spirit of God can do in His people in the midst of persecution and it is what Christ promised in Luke 21:12-15, "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict." However there never has, and I can confidently say, never will be anyone overcoming the devil in his own power and strength, during the tribulation or at any other time. If we can only stand in our minor struggles now in the power of the Holy Ghost do we honestly believe that others will be able to overcome the devil in his greatest time of power in their own strength? To think so is borderline blasphemy!


Since I clearly reject the Pre-tribulation rapture interpretation of those verses I should offer my own. First let me give two versions of the Bible that translate them in a slightly different way from the majority.


And now you know the thing holding back, for him to be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness already is working, only he is holding back now, until it comes out of the midst (2 Thess. 2:6-7 LITV).


And now you know that which is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will continue until one comes out of the midst (EMTV).


Notice that in both these translations, there is one restraining until something comes out of the midst, not until something is removed out of the way. The Greek could be rendered either way. If this translation is allowed then it is the Holy Spirit restraining the mystery of lawlessness, until it is time for it to fully come forth. Lawlessness has been working for centuries, but it has been set back many times. The Wesleyan Revival brought England back from the abyss of anarchy in its day. The evil of the roaring '20's was met by the great depression and WWII which effectively recalled nations to God for a time. Yet there will come a time when the mystery of lawlessness will be fully allowed to manifest itself and once it has the antichrist will come. Even now lawlessness is accelerating in the world. People call for liberty but many of them really want license, and lawlessness. It is not tyranny they oppose, but any moral restraint at all. God may restrain this again, but if He does not this spirit will result in the manifestation of the antichrist. When it does, may God's people endure and overcome in His strength and power! Amen.



Monday, February 14, 2011

Being Sent

Recently I was teaching on the book of Romans and coming to chapter 10, I was struck by the importance of being sent.
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. - Romans 10:13-17

Many times we use this passage to emphasize the importance of preaching to spread the Gospel and that is valid and important. Really, though, to start at preaching is to forget the first link in the chain – which is being sent. John the Baptists ministry begins as stated in John 1:6, “there was a man sent from God…” The message He preached which opened the hearts of many to receive the coming Christ – so much so that many of Christ’s disciples started by following John and some of the seeds he sowed were still bearing fruit 20 years or more after his death (Acts 18:24-19:5). All of this was made possible because he was sent from God.

In order to be sent from God one must first be with God. John’s message was received in his time with God and he went in God’s power because in a real sense he was sent from God. Isaiah’s largest portion of ministry followed his having an encounter with God and being sent from Him (Isaiah 6). It is as a message is received from God in our time spent with Him that we can be sent with it out into the world.

Looking at history even secularists see fitted men with tailor-made messages for the times that they lived in. The Reformation was the result of a man with a message – Luther with justification by faith – prepared for his age and with circumstances to aid in its spread all prepared by God – in this case the invention of the printing press and the invasion of the Turks are the two main ones.

In the midst of the dissolution of the Roman Empire and barbarian invasion, men like Salvian were sent to reprove the sins that brought God’s judgment, and to bring a message of hope that as the Gospel was planted in these new nations it could bring more fruit than it had in the Roman Empire. In so doing he not only fulfilled a need in his own day, but supplied pulpit material for generations of French preachers, including Bossuet and Saurin.

In his youth, John Wesley was the inheritor of two previous generation’s prayers and burden for revival, and strove to preach and live rightly, but it was only after his own personal experience of the saving power of Christ that he was made fit to be sent in the true sense and when he was sent the results began to follow. It is also worth noting that shortly before his conversion experience his father had told him on his deathbed to seek for the assurance that is God’s gift to the saved and to seek until he had it, he then told Charles Wesley that though he would not see the revival he had long prayed for, yet Charles would. Sometimes the hopes and prayers of several generations can be awaiting the man who will meet with God and be sent from Him.

The word we often translate as “sent” is apostello in Greek, which has the thought of not only being sent out but also being separated. Paul could write In Romans 1:1 that he was set apart for the Gospel of God. To be sent in the fullness of the meaning of that word, implies a wholehearted giving of oneself to the mission with which one is entrusted. John’s sending involved not only preaching, but also a lifestyle unique to him (not prone to be imitated either) that reinforced the message he preached. Paul’s lifestyle also opened doors for him as he was willing to be a Jew to Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles. To be truly sent thus involves more than even obtaining the right message from God and being willing to speak it, but also living in a way that drives the message home and opens the hearts of the hearers. The Hebrew prophets of old, especially Hosea, Isaiah and Ezekiel, were their message in many instances, and more modern men like Hudson Taylor have done similar things in comparatively recent times.

Let us be sent so that we may preach. As we preach people may hear, and as they hear they may believe. As they believe they will respond, and we will see a harvest. May God send forth labourers into His vineyard! Amen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Maturity found in being lead by God

When Jesus restored Peter at the sea of Galilee, He told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go" (John 21:18). In saying this Jesus showed among other things that one of the marks of Christian maturity is found in a pliable yielding to the leading of the Lord. We are lead by another yet, we stretch out our hands to acquiesce to the leading.

This same thought is repeated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons (huios – mature sons) of God.” The more we are lead by the Spirit of the Lord and the more we easily yield to His influence the more mature we are in the Christian walk.

Again this can be compared to Ezekiel’s vision of the river (Ezekiel 47:1-5) with the water to the ankles being analogous to salvation, the knees to water baptism and a beginning to walk in the footsteps of Christ, the waters to the waist could be compared to the baptism of the Holy Spirit where the current and flow of the river is more felt than before, the final phase is waters to swim in which will take you along with them even as you swim in them. This is one of the promises of the New Covenant as see in Ezekiel 36:26-27, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

May God grant that we each day grow more and more pliable in His hands as we are lead by His Spirit! Amen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thoughts on Romans 5:10

"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."


As I was reading through Romans again in preparation to teach on it this coming February, I came across this verse which somehow had never fully caught my attention before. Often as believers we have a good focus on what happened at the death of Christ and on the atonement that was accomplished there, but not only is the fact of the resurrection crucial in showing that Christ was indeed the Son of God, but His life saves us.


It is as the ever-living High Priest that He can continually intercede for us before the Father and by virtue of this and His once-for-all offering make us perfect and present us so before the Father (Heb. 7:24-25; 10:14; Jude 1:24).


We all have received physical life because of our descent from the first Adam who was made a living soul. By our natural birth we have a life like his enabling us to think, talk, move, and act. More importantly though, when we are born again we receive life form the second Adam who is a life-giving spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) - Our spiritual nature is made alive through Him and the whole of our being is enlivened. Even as we indisputably bear the marks of descent from Adam as seen in our actions being like his, in the same way we will also one day bear the image of the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:49).


Christ has received from His Father the power of having life in Himself, life independent of all external supports or requirements, and He has the power to enliven whomever He will (John 5:21-26). It is this life, an eternal life that He has had in the past and which will continue forever into the future, which He imparts to us. He laid His own life down for us on Calvary, but having power to take it back up, He did and out of His life we receive ours, even as He said to the disciples, "Because I live (present tense), you shall live also." Truly Christ is our life and as His life manifests in us we will know His truly great salvation! Amen.