Monthly Archives: August 2010

Sunday Morning 8/22/10

We had a great service with some folks visiting who are helping bring in the harvest around here.  It was a great time of worship and fellowship and sharing in the goodness of God.  The sermon this week is from Acts 15 and sees the “final solution” to the Gentile inclusion issue reached.  Press play below to listen and follow along with the notes if you would like as well.  Please feel free to leave comments if you have questions or prayer needs or anything of that nature as well.  May God richly bless you through His Word.

Jerusalem and Antioch Settle a Dispute

Sermon notes 8/29/10

Acts 15:1-35

  1. The Dust up – Acts 15:1-5
    1. What does it take to be saved?
    2. Should the Gentiles be circumcised?
    3. Should the Gentiles obey the Law of Moses?
  2. The Discussion
    1. The testimony of Peter
      1. The encounter with Cornelius from Acts 10
      2. Salvation by grace(Acts 13:43)
    2. The testimony of Paul and Barnabas
    3. The summation by James
      1. Proof text from Amos 9:11-12
      2. Moses is read every Sabbath
  3. The Final Decision
    1. Abstain from food polluted by idols
      1. 1 Corinthians 10:25-28
      2. Willful sin v. sin of ignorance
    2. From sexual immorality
    3. From what has been strangled
    4. From blood (the Noahic covenant)
    5. A parallel from the Didache – the yoke of Jesus – Mt.11:28-30
Categories: Acts, Podcasts, Sermon | Leave a comment

Living by Faith

Tonight at Bible study, we were working our way through Hebrews and the end of chapter 10 into the beginning of chapter 11 (and we had a great time too).  Most believers remember Hebrews 11 as the “Faith Hall of Fame” or some similar moniker.  But we sometimes forget the faith embodied by those mentioned there.  It wasn’t perfect or flawless.  The men and women cited there were deeply flawed in most cases, just like all of us are as well.  So what does it mean to live by faith?

It might be easier to point out a couple of things that it doesn’t mean.  The life of faith for a follower of Jesus isn’t a blind faith.  It should be an examined faith.  The writer of Hebrews says that faith is being certain and sure.  These words point to a faith that is based on something solid.  Many scoff and say that there is no proof for God or for Christianity, but in so doing they reveal themselves to be less than curious and unwilling to examine the evidence (or they try to hide behind the veil of scientific evidence, which is considered less valid than eyewitness testimony).  There is evidence (some even claim there is scientific evidence, but that is another argument) and Scripture has proved its reliability over several thousand years now.  Hebrews 11 presents a case for the faithfulness of God in the lives of many who have found him faithful, but I can certainly make a list of the times He has proved faithful in my life and I am sure many of you can as well.

The writer of Hebrews presents a second statement regarding faith that we must look to as the bedrock of this idea of living by faith.  He says, “and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

The first step of living by faith is to believe that God exists.  This is in fact the first commandment of the 10 commandments from the Jewish perspective:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. – Exodus 20:2

I know most Christians don’t count this as a commandment, but they should if Hebrews 11:6 is anything to go by.  Without accepting this very basic premise, faith is pointless.  We have to believe that God exists.  Paul makes his case in Romans 1 by telling us that God has left Himself a witness:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  – Romans 1:19-20

There is another part to the original statement from Hebrews 11:6 though.  God rewards of those who seek Him.  I was listening to some teaching about this passage of Romans and heard an interesting comparison.  There are plenty of people who do “good things” for various reasons.  In fact, there are many atheists who do things that could be considered obedience to God’s commandments.  Things like not lying or stealing and other parts of the “moral laws” as some would label them.  We have a conscience (Paul also mentions this in Romans 1) that tells us some things are simply right or wrong.  Atheists do not expect God to reward them for these things, even though He often does so because He does not discriminate in the application of His principles(Matthew 5:44-45).  The point being, that it doesn’t take a person of faith to do some of God’s commandments; they are self-evident if you will.  But there are some commandments that don’t seem to make sense to us.  If we are honest, believers tend to point to these as the ones that are “done away with” or “outdated” or something along those lines.  Sometimes, it is because they are inconvenient or unpalatable.  But let me challenge you a little bit.  Those commandments that are doable but in some way inconvenient or less understood by us (and there are many of them), may be a perfect opportunity for you to experience God in a new way as you take them on, by faith.  They provide a framework to live out a life of faith in the one who gave them as instructions for His people.  They don’t save us, although God does promise rewards/blessings for those who keep them, and who am I to argue with Him about that.

So what do you think?  Is it worth living by faith that gives birth to experiencing the One who is faithful in all things He has promised?  It has been for me, and I invite you to take Jesus at His word and see for yourself.

Categories: Atheists, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Grace, Hebrew, Law, Love, Science, theology, Truth | 8 Comments

Grabbing the Commandments

As I have started to write some of the things I have found, particularly regarding the commandments of God (lately the dietary things), I note that there is a sort of generalized resistance.  I understand it.  In fact, I have offered many of the same arguments internally as I have walked down this road.  I grew up with the same general teaching of Christianity that many of you did.  The theological arguments about the “cancellation of the law” are not new to me; they are within my upbringing and years of study.  But there are always questions to be asked and when the answers are different than we expect, we should be willing to dig deeper.

I could honestly take this post in about ten different directions, but I want to focus so I have decided to present an interesting concept that came to me during the last session of the HaYesod (the Foundation) class I recently took from First Fruits of Zion.  It involves a prophetic passage from Zechariah 8.  Let’s look at the verses:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.”23 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’ ”

-Zechariah 8:20-23

It is the last verse that I would like to discuss further.  The idea of ten men taking hold of one Jew is a symbolic picture.  Since there are obviously more than 10 nations or languages (and there were in Zechariah’s day as well), this is an image to represent a group from all nations collectively.  The number 10 is significant because it represents the number of men needed to form a minyan or congregation in Hebrew.  Thus we can see that a “congregation of the nations” is spoken of here.  Be patient and we will tie the images together in a moment.

These people will take hold of “one Jew.”  Personally, I always took this verse a little more literally(not completely so), so I had this picture of groups of Gentiles gathered around individual Jews begging to follow them to Jerusalem or something.  If there is “one Jew” that men from every nation would want to grab hold of, who do you think that would be?  If you said Yeshua, or Jesus, go to the front of the class.  This part of the prophecy is already a little clearer.  We see men from all nations coming to Jesus even today, but there is still more to see.

These people take hold of the “hem of his robe.”  This word in Hebrew is used for the corners of the garment, and I want to point out something very interesting about this.  Let me give a couple of verses to help this picture.

Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear. -Deuteronomy 22:12

“Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. 39And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. 40So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.                           -Numbers 15:38-39

The word “corners” in these verses is the same Hebrew word used in Zechariah 8:23.  The corners of  Jewish man’s robe would have the tassels (Hebrew tzitzit), to stand for the commandments of God.  It is these that the men of the nations are to grab firm hold of on the person of Yeshua (Jesus).

This is all of the commandments of God.  As it turns out, Jesus said something that makes this verse so meaningful to you and I:

21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”22Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

-John 14:21-24

Let me make this abundantly clear.  These commandments aren’t about salvation.  You cannot be saved by doing them.  They are about love.  Do you love Jesus enough to take hold of the corner of His garment (the commandments)?  Will you follow Him wherever He goes?  Because He walks in the Ways of God and the path of Torah, God’s instructions.

Categories: Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Gospel, Hebrew, Law, Messiah, Prophecy, theology, Truth, Uncategorized, Yeshua | 2 Comments

Sunday Morning 8/22/10

We had a wonderful time in the house of the Lord this morning.  It was a bit of a scramble and I had to cover the piano on short notice, but God is good and we made a very joyful noise over my plentiful mistakes.  The sermon this morning is from Acts 13 and is centered on the text of one of Paul’s sermons as recorded by Luke.  The notes are available below.  Simply press the play button to listen along.  May God richly bless you through His Word.

Paul’s Gospel Sermon

Sermon notes 8/22/10

Acts 13:13-52

  1. Paul the honored guest speaker – v. 13-15
    1. This takes place in the local synagogue on the Sabbath
    2. Why were Paul and Barnabas asked to speak?
  2. Paul’s Sermon
    1. Recounting Jewish history to David – v. 16-23
    2. Telling the good news – v. 24-31
    3. Backing up with witnesses and proof – v. 31-37
      1. The resurrection of Jesus
      2. Confirmation from Scripture (Isaiah 55:3; Psalm 16:10)
    4. An exhortation to the hearers – v. 38-41
      1. Romans 2:6-16
      2. The same word for justified in Acts 10:39 is in v. 13
      3. The Law gave a means of atonement; not justification
      4. Justification comes through God’s mercy only
  3. The Fruit of the Gospel
    1. The audience (Jews, Proselytes, and God-fearers)
    2. Continue in the Grace of God
    3. The root of the problem; loss of exclusivity
    4. A light to the Gentiles; salvation to the ends of the earth
Categories: Acts, Gospel, Podcasts, Romans, Sermon | Leave a comment

Editing God

In a previous post on Acts 10, I mentioned the notion that modern theology acts as an editor of God’s word in some cases which results in problems in our churches today:

The attempt to play editor for God has been made before and will continue to be made until time is done.  It actually lays at the root of many of the problems facing the church today.

There are several areas where this problem surfaces, but I want to touch on one particular one today, if only because it is illustrative of the larger picture.  That area is the increasing acceptance of homosexuality in the church.  This has been a slow but steady creep of “progress” on the part of the homosexual movement, but the roots of its success lie much farther back in the work of theologians who managed to minimize the eternalness of the instructions of God and His commandments (His Torah).

As I mentioned in the discussion on Acts 10, the distinctions between clean and unclean food were not canceled out by God or done away with.  These distinctions actually predate the Levitical code (see Gen. 7:2-3), and they haven’t disappeared.  It isn’t as though God suddenly said, “I was just kidding before about pigs.”  Peter didn’t eat pork.  The aforementioned post looked that the way that some theologians have asserted that God “nullified” that section of His Law based on a bad interpretation of the vision given to Peter.  This gets combined with a mistake regarding Jesus’ statement in Mark 7:19 (which is addressed by the additional article referenced in the previous blog post) and creates a means by which a small part of God’s eternal ordinances are “edited down” to a more acceptable level.  It isn’t even malicious on the part of most of those who do it.  It is simply unthinking.  This is what we are taught, and most of us never question it.

How does this relate to homosexuality you might ask.  Try searching the words “shellfish” and “homosexuality” or the term “gay” together in Google.  You might be surprised at what you find.  There is a whole niche of people who make an argument for the acceptance of homosexuality, based completely on the fact that most of Christianity doesn’t consider eating shellfish to be wrong (when the Bible says that shellfish are an abomination).

Some Christians have attempted to counter the contention and still hold on to the “parts of the Law are done away with” line of argument, and some of them even do it fairly well, but the argument rings a bit hollow.  Notice by the way, that this article brings the Acts 10 passage in to the fray to defend the “all foods clean” position, even though that vision is not speaking about food but about men as we discussed previously (there is also a sloppy handling of Hebrews, but I don’t have time for that now).  Where the writer of this article makes his strongest points, is when he highlights all of these parts of the law that we don’t even question are in force today: Continue reading

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Culture, Discipleship, Grace, Heresy, Kingdom, Law, Love, Questions, theology, Truth | Leave a comment

Back-to-School Season Insanity

It is the middle of August, but many of my friends are posting messages about their kids heading back to school now.  We are a couple of weeks away from starting school with our kids here at home (it is nice to have that luxury), but a recent back-to-school story caught my eye and I figured I would give it a little attention.

As a kid, I don’t really remember the back-to-school shopping lists very much.  I am sure we had some kind of list, but it wasn’t the cottage industry that it is these days with the stores having a display full of lists you can take and use as you run the isles of the special section devoted to helping you fill the list requirements.  But of course in those days, back-to-school supplies were things like pencils and erasers and protractors and maybe special calculators and things like that in upper grades.  Now, the back-to-school list includes things like toilet paper and cleaning supplies in some areas, according to this fascinating aforementioned article:

On the list for pre-kindergartners at McClendon Elementary in Nevada, Tex.: a package of cotton balls, two containers of facial tissue, rolls of paper towels, sheaves of manila and construction paper, and a package of paper sandwich bags.

This is possibly one of the more defensible lists mentioned in the article, outside of the TP requirement, the bulk of this could actually be used by students in the course of some pre-K curriculum I am sure.  But some of the reported lists include things like cleaning supplies of various sorts.  I know that we are a little less impacted here in North Dakota to this point, but are school districts really in such bad shape that they need to beg their students to bring cleaning supplies?  That can’t be planned for in the budget?

Maybe later in the year, they can ask the students to start buying fluorescent bulbs or else they will just have to make sure the classrooms get plenty of sunlight.  This kind of craziness makes me appreciate our decision to home school just a little bit more.  After all, it just isn’t as weird for us to buy cleaning supplies for our own school instead of supplying them for someone else.

What do you think?  Do these kinds of extra school supplies seem out of line to you?

Categories: Culture, Fun, Humor, Parenting, School, summer | 2 Comments

Bible Misunderstandings: Peter’s Vision in Acts 10

This is the post that I have been planning to write for the last week or so.  I guess it made more sense to wait until after I had preached the sermon anyway.  Now that the sermon audio for this message has been uploaded to the church site, I will write out some thoughts as a companion here.

When I was studying the text and commentaries and such for Acts 10, I was struck by how unusually obvious this particular misunderstanding is when we stop to think about it for a minute or two.  Let me throw this statement at you and then we will examine its validity.  Peter’s vision is not about food!

Continue reading

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Misunderstandings, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, Discipleship, Hebrew, Law, Questions, theology, Truth | 9 Comments

Sunday Morning 8/15/10

We had a great time in the Lord Sunday morning.  The sermon text is taken from Acts chapter 10 and is a bit of a challenge to some of the traditional thinking regarding this passage and the meaning of Peter’s vision.  Listen by pressing play below and follow along with the notes if you like.  May God richly bless you through His Word.

Converting the Gentiles

Sermon notes 8/15/10

Acts 10

  1. Cornelius the God-fearer
    1. The term devout also used of Ananias in Acts 22:12
    2. He was devoted to the Jewish faith/God
    3. Prayer and giving to the poor – Acts 10:2-3
    4. A message from God – v. 4-6
  2. Simon-Peter the Messenger – Acts 10:9-33
    1. Hiding out with a tanner
    2. The vision of the sheet – v. 10-16
      1. Not about food
      2. It is about people – v. 28
      3. His justification for visiting Cornelius to the disciples in Jerusalem – Acts 11:1-18
    3. The purpose is to enable Peter to go to Cornelius
      1. Oral tradition forbid contact with Gentiles – v. 28-29
      2. God does not show favoritism – v. 34-35
        1. Salvation isn’t dependent upon a “legal status”
        2. Salvation is by faith – Habakkuk 2:4
  3. The Message is Preached
    1. Peter’s brief sermon – Acts 10:36-43
    2. Forgiveness of sins – Colossians 2:13-15
Categories: Acts, Disciples, Gospel, Podcasts, Sermon | 1 Comment

Defining Church

I am going to do some “thinking out loud” by blogging.  I was reading some at the InternetMonk blog earlier.  It is a blog I enjoyed immensely for years, but I rarely go there to read now.  It has changed quite a bit since the passing of its founder earlier this year.  At times, I quite enjoy it, but it isn’t the same.  One of the discussions currently revolves around the vocation of pastors and the problem of pastoral burnout and so forth.  In the comment thread, one of the comments cited Luther’s definition of church as follows:

a place where God’s word is preached and the sacraments are administered

I am not sure that this is an exact quote of Luther per se, but it is reflected in some form or fashion in various Lutheran congregational statements and I recall hearing something to this effect in many of my discussions at blogs written by some of my Lutheran friends online.  For some reason, when I saw it tonight the glaring error in thinking reflected by this statement hit me squarely.  It is a category error that exists in the thinking of far too many in the church.

Too often, we are prone to think of the church in terms of location.  And before I get accused of oversimplifying the issue, I am well aware that even the above sentiment is not intended to define a specific “place” as in a type of building or something.  But the church is defined by something other than preaching and the sacraments.  These things will be present in any church to be sure, but I would like to offer another definition.

Church is the people who are walking with God and inviting others to do the same.

The core command of our Master is to make disciples.  Disciples are those who follow their Master.  These disciples are the church.

What do you think?

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Categories: Christianity, church, Discipleship, InternetMonk | 1 Comment

Getting organized and ready

I have been a little distracted lately.  Partly, it has been the busyness of summer, but there are some other reasons as well, that don’t need to be detailed here.  I am getting back on my feet again however and am in the process of establishing some new routines.  I am busy trying to play catch-up on sermon uploads today at the church blogsite, but I plan to get back here later tonight to put up a longer post.  Hope all of my friends out there in the blogosphere are doing well.  I miss hearing from you guys as often.  May God bless you.

Categories: personal | Leave a comment

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