The (Prosperity?) Gospel

There are many manmade adaptations of the true Biblical gospel, and some of them are quite popular today. Among these false gospels is one, often referred to as the “prosperity gospel,” which basically teaches that if you follow Jesus, He will bless you with financial, social, and physical wellbeing. The idea is that if you will follow God the way He wants, He will give you all of the earthly blessings you desire.

This prosperity gospel is completely incompatible with scripture itself. Many have spoken out against it in no uncertain terms, insisting that in fact life often becomes harder, rather than easier, when we follow Jesus.

In some sense there is truth to the idea that following Jesus makes life harder. Look at the life of Paul as a prime example. He was a promising Jewish Pharisee with a bright future as a leader of the people, yet when he gave his life to Jesus, he traded all of that for a life full of beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, and all manner of hardship.

But let us make sure that we do not overreact to the prosperity gospel so extremely that we insist that following Christ is worse than it actually is! Paul, even after all he went through, stated plainly that he was happy about his decision to follow Jesus. In the ways that mattered most, following Jesus still made his life better, not worse.

“If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3)

I would argue that the quality of Paul’s life did not go down, but rather it went up as a result of his dedication to Christ. He may have given up a lot, but he would do it all again in a heartbeat, for what he has gained is something of “surpassing value.”

Did not Jesus Himself say “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”?

Maybe there is some truth in the prosperity gospel after all… Not because God will make our way prosperous from a worldly standpoint in terms of material health or wealth, but because God will indeed teach us to prosper in our souls.

In his third epistle, John stated: “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”

In 2 Corinthians Paul said: “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Will following God make you physically healthy and materially wealthy? It might. Or it might not. But what we do know, is that following God is the pathway to a prospering soul, full of the fruits of the Spirit.

“Better a little with the fear of the Lord
Than great wealth with turmoil.
Better a small serving of vegetables with love
Than a fattened calf with hatred.”
(Proverbs 15:16-17)

A Nation in Great Need

I have an American friend who lives in an African country where he teaches school. He is not a Bible believer, but he asked for my help recently in constructing a Biblical argument that he could use to persuade his neighbors to stop brutally beating their children. At night he often hears their shrieks as he is trying to get to sleep.

Having traveled to various countries outside of the U.S. and visited areas of various economic status, I can understand my friend’s experience of being uncomfortably close to his neighbor’s problems. In many places around the world, people live in densely populated clusters, homes are not constructed to be even remotely soundproof, windows may not have glass panes, and the vices of your neighbors are on display around the clock. To be sure, many living in apartments in the U.S. have similar experiences.

I think this may help to explain why Americans so often feel that they are “advanced” and “civilized” above and beyond people in other places. Because we have thick walls. Or, in more general terms, because we do a good job of hiding our problems out of sight and pretending that they do not exist.

How many children will shriek tonight in America, but with no neighbors around to hear it? How many men will use their private high speed internet to view pornography from the comfort of their office, without ever having to make a risky trip to a house of prostitution? How many will abuse prescription medication until it controls their lives, while trying as hard as possible to appear normal for the sake of appearances? For that matter, how many will cry themselves to sleep, confused and lonely, and then get back up the next day and act like everything is fine?

I say all of these things as a warning, lest we forget how essential is the life changing power of the Christ. Technology, wealth, affluence, “civilization” will not save us, it will only help us to hide our vices from one another. But only Christ can make us whole.

The U.S. is a nation founded on Christian ideals, many of which remain strong to this day. But her people, like those of all nations, can be described by the words of Jesus in Matthew 7: “The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 5: “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.”

Sin and its effects are everywhere, whether we see them on full display or not. Just because your neighbors seem fine as they smile at you while they briefly emerge from their houses to collect their mail, this does not mean that they are not in desperate need of the gospel.

I love my country, but it is not a utopia, nor will it ever be. We may be one of the richest nations on earth, but we are in desperate need of the truth of God’s Word. We are perishing without it, and most of us will continue to do so. Will you enter through the narrow door, and to bring as many with you as you can?

Scriptures and Thoughts on Redemption

What does redemption mean?

Hebrew:
Ga’al – “to redeem, deliver, avenge, or act as a kinsman.” (90 x in OT)

(Genesis 48:16) “The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

(Leviticus 25:25) “If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold.”

(Leviticus 25:47-49) “Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger’s family, then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him, or his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself.”

(Ruth 2:20) “Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.’ Again Naomi said to her, ‘The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.’” (guardian redeemer, family redeemer, next kinsman)

(Numbers 35:12) “The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial.”

(Exodus 6:6) “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.’”

(Exodus 15:13) “In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; In Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation.”

(Psalm 77:15) “You have by Your power redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.”

Padah – “to redeem or ransom.” To intervene on behalf of another.

(1 Samuel 14:44-45) “Saul said, ‘May God do this to me and more also, for you shall surely die, Jonathan.’ But the people said to Saul, ‘Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.’ So the people rescued Jonathan and he did not die.”

(Exodus 21:8) “If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her.”

(Number 3:44-51) “The Lord also said to Moses, Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites are to be mine. I am the Lord. To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, collect five shekels for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.’ So Moses collected the redemption money from those who exceeded the number redeemed by the Levites. From the firstborn of the Israelites he collected silver weighing 1,365 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.”

(1 Kings 1: 28-31) “Then King David said, ‘Call Bathsheba to me.’ And she came into the king’s presence and stood before the king. The king vowed and said, ‘As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, surely as I vowed to you by the LORD the God of Israel, saying, “Your son Solomon shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place”; I will indeed do so this day.’ Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground, and prostrated herself before the king and said, ‘May my lord King David live forever.’”

(Psalm 130:8) “And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities.”

Kapar – “to ransom, atone, expiate, propitiate.” A material transaction or ransom.

(2 Chronicles 30:18-20) “For a multitude of the people, even many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ‘May the good LORD pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.’ So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”

Greek:
Lutroo, apolutroo
– “a deliverance or a releasing.”

(Matthew 20:28) “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

(Mark 10:45) “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

(Ephesians 1:7-8) “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.”

Exagorazo – “to buy.” To buy out, ransom, redeem.

(Galatians 3:13-14) “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON ATREE’— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

What is a Redeemer-Kinsman?

 See verses under Hebrew “Ga’al”

(Ruth 4:5-8) “Then Boaz said, ‘On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.’ The closest relative said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.’ Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. So the closest relative said to Boaz, ‘Buy it for yourself.’ And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon.’”

(Ephesians 3:14-15) “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

(Acts 17:16-18) “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’”

(Matthew 12:48-50) “But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! ‘For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.’”

(1 Peter 2:9) “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

(Galatians 4:4-7) “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

(Isaiah 43:1-2) “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.’”

What does it mean that the Christ was a “ransom for many.”

 Look at Greek Latroo “ransom” and Exagorazo “buy out”

(1 Peter 1:18-19) “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

(Revelation 5:9) “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’”

(John 12:24) “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

(1 John 3:16) “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

What human stories serve as earthly illustrations of redemption?

* Story of Nicholas Winton

How should we respond to God’s redemption?

(Psalm 107:2) “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.”

(Galatians 2:20) “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

(Titus 2:14) “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

(1 Corinthians 6:18-20) “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the [j]immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a [k]temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from [l]God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

(Isaiah 44:22) “I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

 

 

Scriptures & Thoughts: Gospel

What did “gospel” mean to the original hearers?

A good message to hear!

(Romans 1:15-17) So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written,  “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

The news of the fulfillment of prophecies which were hundreds of years old:

(John 1:43-46) The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He *found Philip. And Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.45 Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip *said to him, “Come and see.”

(John 4:28-30) So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.

(John 7:40-44) “Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

The news of a coming kingdom:

(Matthew 4:23) Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

(Matthew 9:23) Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

(Matthew 24:14) This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

(Mark 1:15) and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

A whole new way to live:

(Acts 14:15) and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

(Romans 6:5-7) For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.


A message worth dying for in order to spread it:

(Mark 8:35) For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

(Acts 20:24) But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

(Revelation 2:9-10) Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Why is there more than one Biblical gospel account?

(Mark 1:1) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

(Luke 1:1-4) Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

(John 20:30-31) Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Different audiences?

TO WHOM?

implied audience?

Mark:

mostly Gentiles, fairly new in their faith, and facing persecutions

Matthew:

better educated Jews who believe in Jesus, but argue over the Law

Luke:

wealthier Gentile Christians in an urban setting, becoming complacent

John:

very mixed: mostly Jews, some Gentiles, Samaritans, etc.

 

What are the differences between different biblical gospel accounts?

WHAT?

subtype of “Gospel” genre?

Mark:

narrated “good news” (1:1) about Jesus, esp. his actions & his death

Matthew:

book of “heritage” of Jesus (1:1) & much of his “teaching” (28:20)

Luke:

an “orderly account” for attaining “secure knowledge” (1:1-4)

John:

much “testimony” and “signs” for believers (20:30-31; 21:24-25)

WHY? community circumstances & author’s purpose? to encourage a group undergoing difficult trials and persecutions to teach a community with internal divisions and external enemies to challenge believers to put their faith into practice more fully to strengthen a group ostracized by other Jews for their faith

 

Another synopsis:

Matthew: Jesus as the son of David who establishes the kingdom of heaven.

Mark: Jesus as the Son of God who suffers to ransom others.

Luke: Jesus as the Savior of the world who seeks the lost.

John: Jesus as the Lamb of God who brings eternal life.

Is the gospel good news to you?

(Matthew 13:44-46) “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

(Romans 1:14-16)  I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.   For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

(John 8:4) Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.

(Philippians 4:4) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

What has the gospel done for you?

(Ephesians 1:13-14) In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

How can we convey the gospel to communicate it as good news?

(Matthew 5:13) “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”

(Mark 16:15) And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

(Acts 26:27-29) “King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.” Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”

What about the “gospels” that are not included in the Bible?

The word “gospel” is derived from the Greek word (euangelion) which literally means “good news”

Around the time of the Apostolic Fathers and Justin Martyr the word was formerly noted as referring to the written records of the life and work of Jesus

By end of the second century like “The Gospel According to…” were assigned to these works. By the fourth century this is universal.

How are only the four gospels linked? Three answers have traditionally been given (Boring 466)

  • Divine Inspiration- we believe this to be true but no particular theory of verbal inspiration helps make the link clear here
  • Individual Memory- between the death of Jesus and first written Gospel accounts this message was passed down orally. Yet the selection, order, and verbal agreement of the Gospels requires more that’s memory be involved.
  • Community Tradition- Traditionally scholars have imagined snippets of material being collected and edited from the oral tradition including miracle stories, passion stories, legends, sayings, parables, etc. – It is much more likely that the first Christians faithfully & creatively preserved, expanded, and interpreted this tradition which four men recorded as guided by the Holy Spirit.

(Galatians 1:8) But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

Come, See For Yourself!

In the forth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. The very fact that Jesus—a Jewish male, would talk to her—a Samaritan female, gets her attention and causes her to realize that there is something special about this man.

In the course of their conversation, Jesus reveals that He knows all about her life, and about her five failed marriages and her current unholy relationship. To this, the woman replies, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”

As their conversation continues to progress, Jesus finally reveals Himself to her as the Christ, the Savior of the world. When the woman says, “I know that Messiah is coming…” He responds to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

This experience at the well with Jesus must have made a huge impact on the Samaritan woman. Surely His demeanor and countenance must have communicated to her great depths of knowledge, wisdom, spiritual insight, and godly love. She had every reason to believe that this was the Son of God.

The text tells us, “the woman left her water pot, and went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’ They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.”

Notice what the woman did not say: “I found a man who I know for a fact to be the Christ. If you don’t believe it, you’re going to hell.” “It is so painfully obvious that this man is the Christ, you’d have to be an idiot to miss it!” “You must not question what I am telling you, He is the Christ. End of conversation.”

Instead, the woman invited the people to come to Jesus for themselves, and have their own unique experiences in His presence just as she had. She invited them to take up and explore the question of His legitimacy for themselves.

The outcome of this woman’s evangelism was very great: “Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.’”

Will we learn from the example of this woman when we seek to bring people in our life to Jesus?

When we discourage the asking of questions, we stifle the personal experiences of discovery and genuine learning in those who are seeking for answers.

When we respond with shaming and disdain towards those who question what we should believe, we miss an excellent opportunity to say “let us reason together… turn with me to this passage, what does it seem to be saying?”

Often, when we become angry or upset because someone has challenged what we believe, we betray the reality that our own faiths are shallower than we would like to admit. We may need not only to invite our children, friends, and neighbors to come see for themselves what God is like and what His word truly says, we may need to go and see for ourselves all over again as well.

May we learn, like the Samaritan woman, to invite the people around us to evaluate the evidence for themselves and come to their own conclusions. Memorizing correct answers is not the same as true learning. True learning must take place in the individual.

100 Facts about the Church of the Bible

100 facts about Christ’s church as demonstrated in the book of Acts.
From a 7 month bible study at the church of Christ in Mankato.

Chapter 1

  • Is a people who is waiting.
  • Is a people who have unity despite their differences.
  • Is devoted to praying together.
  • Trusts in God to guide them.

Chapter 2

  • Teaches the truth about repentance.
  • Teaches the truth about baptism.
  • Is supportive of one another.
  • Spends time together often throughout the week if possible.

Chapter 3

  • Has more to offer than the world would ever imagine.
  • Points out the sins of the world, yet with gentleness.
  • Takes every opportunity to share the gospel.

Chapter 4

  • Sometimes teaches a message that the governing authorities do not endorse.
  • Maintains the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ only.
  • Is full of members who are bold proclaimers of the word of God. 

Chapter 5

  • Has its own scandals, but handles them appropriately.
  • Has favor with outsiders.
  • Is protected and aided by God.

 Chapter 6

  • Takes care of its widows.
  • Has a leadership devoted to the Word and prayer.
  • Appoints men to serve in various capacities.

 Chapter 7

  • Has members who really know the Bible.
  • Is sometimes slandered falsely.
  • Is willing to die for Christ.
  • Is amazingly forgiving.

Chapter 8

  • Is sometimes physically persecuted.
  • Must not be corrupted by money.
  • Conducts one on one Bible studies resulting in baptism.

Chapter 9

  • Should not write someone off, assuming they could never come to Christ.
  • Is called to accept and encourage all who would receive the truth.
  • Sometimes gains its most powerful evangelists in its most drastic conversions.

 Chapter 10

  • Has godly women who continually show kindness.
  • Is no longer under Mosaic dietary restrictions.
  • Is open to all people, Jews and Gentiles.

 Chapter 11

  • Is not “set in its ways” so that it cannot learn new information.
  • Are known as “Christians.”
  • Sends men to preach wherever there is a need.
  • Collects money to send to brethren in need.

 Chapter 12

  • Is affected by the senseless whims of an unstable world.
  • Gathers in each other’s homes to pray.
  • Sometimes cannot believe what God is doing.
  • Is sometimes under a wicked government, yet still grows.

 Chapter 13

  • Combines prayer and fasting.
  • Boldly condemns false teaching.
  • Preaches an interesting message.
  • Shakes the dust from its feet.

 Chapter 14

  • Can become the center of public controversy.
  • May have charismatic leaders, but they are only human.
  • Suffers many tribulations.
  • Has elders in every church.

 Chapter 15

  • Doesn’t automatically know everything.
  • Seeks God’s help in uncovering truth.
  • Sometimes has quitters.

 Chapter 16

  • Connects the old and the young.
  • Has women that convert their families.
  • Emphasizes the urgency of baptism.
  • Uses the status of its members for good.

 Chapter 17

  • Reasons from the scriptures.
  • Searches the scriptures daily to see if teachings are accurate.
  • Speaks to outsiders in a language they can understand.

 Chapter 18

  • Has both “vocational” and full time ministers.
  • Has individuals with incomplete knowledge.
  • Is gentle in correcting the genuinely mistaken.
  • Uses scripture as its authority on all matters.

 Chapter 19

  • Is concerned with the details of baptism.
  • Comes in congregations of all sizes.
  • May find more open hearts among the “pagans” than the religious.
  • Confesses sin and repents.
  • Operates in a crazy world.

 Chapter 20

  • Gathers on the first day of the week to break bread.
  • Is overseen by elders, who shepherd the church.
  • Must be on the alert for troublemakers.
  • Builds emotionally powerful relationships.

Chapter 21

  • Has counted the cost.
  • Is universal, even as individual congregations are autonomous.
  • Must be careful to get the whole story before jumping to conclusions.

Chapter 22

  • Shares its personal stories.
  • Has its sins washed away in baptism.
  • Will encounter individuals who are blinded by emotion.

Chapter 23

  • Does not violate its conscience, but does not think it is infallible either.
  • Respects those in authority.
  • Weathers the storms of outside groups in turmoil.
  • Has important roles for young people.

Chapter 24

  • May be falsely accused.
  • Has much in common even with those outside the faith.
  • Refrains from unjust practices.
  • Can make people uncomfortable.

Chapter 25

  • Will always have enemies.
  • Will always be a minority.
  • May be perceived by the world as boring or unimportant.
  • Must be patient and wait on God’s timing.

Chapter 26

  • Is unashamed of its belief.
  • Repents in deed, not only in word.
  • Makes a clear and personal evangelistic appeal.

Chapter 27

  • Issues a warning that is sometimes ignored.
  • Earns respect as time reveals the truthfulness of its message.
  • Becomes the natural leader in times of turmoil.

Chapter 28

  • Develops positive relationships with its neighbors.
  • Sometimes gets special opportunities to make an appeal to the lost.
  • Convinces some and loses others.
  • Makes the best of circumstances that are less than ideal.church-206650_640

Make Me White as Snow

The gospel is a message of good news for all people, and as a result, much of God’s word is written in such a way that the common man can easily understand it.  The Bible is full of illustrations that are drawn from everyday life experiences that we can relate to.  As winter arrives and a snow blankets the ground, I am reminded of one of those illustrations.

In Isaiah 1:18, God invited His people to come back to Him:

“Come now, and let us reason together,
Says the Lord,
Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow.”

David echoed this concept in Psalm 51, when he begged the LORD for forgiveness after committing both adultery and murder.

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

There is something beautiful about looking out across a field that is covered in a blanket of clean, glistening snow.  The flawless white surface conveys simplicity, peace, and above all, purity.  Sometimes we almost hesitate to walk through the yard because we hate to mess up the surface, leaving evidence of our presence with the imperfections we leave behind.

And of course, once snow is made dirty, it is impossible to make it look perfect again.  Once dirt, grime, and sludge from city life have turned it black, or we traipse across that pristine field with muddy shoes, there is no going back.

This is an excellent example of what sin does to our lives.  When we look back at our lives we see dirt, mud, grime, and sludge being tracked all over what started out so perfect.

What God offers us through His Son in the gospel seems almost too good to be true.  He offers to restore that pure white, glistening field to its original condition.  Though our sins are as scarlet, He is willing to make them as white as snow again.  In fact, according to David, He will make us even whiter than snow could ever be.

This is what has been referred to as the scandal of Grace.  This is the outrageous and wonderful nature of our forgiveness.  This is why it is called the gospel, or literally, the good news.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

He did what we could never have hoped to do in making us as white as snow once more.  The purity that belongs to Jesus Christ Himself is imputed to us, and day by day we are being transformed into His image.

Snow

Why The World Needs Christians

Many who live without the gospel pride themselves on leading the way towards a progressive, blissful, godless future. But is dispensing with all things Biblical really in our best interest?

The world needs people who have been profoundly impacted by the gospel.

These people embody the kind of unconditional love that only the cross makes logical. It is the kind of love that brings peace and prosperity at every scale from the individual to the international.

They have personally experienced a power strong enough to free the believer from addictions and damaging lifestyles. It is a power that realigns us, rescuing us each from our own unsustainable trajectories.

They give family the importance it will need if our society is to flourish. They champion God’s beautiful model of mothers and fathers lovingly investing in their children.

In a society that is increasingly individualistic, they maintain a sense of community that is vitally important to the human experience. They care enough to put down their electronic devices and invest in each other’s lives.

They are awake to the destructiveness of pornography. While marital sexuality falls to pieces in a world that has made even sexuality a selfish endeavor, they stand not simply against what is immoral, but also for what is most beautiful and fulfilling.

They value human life not simply for its utilitarian value, but for it intrinsic worth. In a world where abortion is a matter of convenience, they state clearly that each and every human life matters because it possesses an inherent worth, not simply because it meets the selfish needs of others.

There is so much to be done to improve our world as we march collectively into the future. There are so many social ills and so much unnecessary suffering for us to seek to eradicate. As Christians, we ought to be the ones leading the way.

Planet Earth from Space

The Word of Power

In Luke 8, Jesus gives an extended parable in which He compares the Word of God to seeds that are scattered on various soils.

In this parable, some of the seed result in the growth of healthy plants and in other cases the seed is unsuccessful.  Interestingly, there is nothing wrong with any of the seed that results in these unsuccessful instances.  Rather, the condition of a particular soil, and its ability to receive the seed, is the determining factor in its ultimate success.

One underlying principle that we can draw from this parable is the concept that the seed itself is perfect, and capable of producing life for any who can receive it.  Thus, the power to bring about belief is invested in God’s word itself.

Romans 10:17 reiterates this when it states that faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

Here the word itself is portrayed as resulting in faith.  Indeed, in the first chapter and sixteenth verse of Romans, Paul states that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  Once again, the word is invested with the power.

Perhaps this is why he could say in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”  Paul knew that the power to save was not in his own wisdom, but in the Word of God.

Indeed, at the the beginning of the second chapter of the same book these words of his are recorded: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  Paul understood that his job was not to impress with worldly knowledge or intellectualism, but to preach the word of power.

Hebrews 3:15 admonishes readers, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

That voice, which we can encounter any time we open the Bible, is a powerful voice.  Will you be receptive?
Lighting, the power of God

Women In Luke’s Gospel

When the Son of God came to earth, His life and death were unlike anything that had ever happened in human history. The crowds “were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Mark 1:22).” There was something new, different, and alive about His words that they were not accustomed to. It is no surprise that the gospels are also unlike any other pieces of literature ever written. They reflect the distinctiveness of Christ’s life by the distinctiveness of their own style and content. Take for example only a few examples of the focus in Luke’s gospel on women. For his time, this focus was completely unusual.

  • He focuses on the unique relationship between Mary and Elizabeth as they rejoice together and John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. (Luke 1:41-44)
  • He records Mary’s “Magnificat,” an astounding and beautiful piece of poetry both in the original Greek and in our modern day worship songs. (Luke 1:46-55)
  • He mentions the prophetess Anna and her blessing of Jesus in the temple. (Luke 2:36-38)
  • He records the healing of at least 4 women, including Peter’s mother-in-law. (Luke 4:38-39)
  • He recounts the anointing of Jesus’ feet by a sinful woman, who is forgiven and commended as someone who loves Jesus much. (Luke 7:37-50)
  • He mentions the poor widow who gave two mites out of her poverty to the temple as an example of beautiful giving. (Luke 21:1-4)
  • He faithfully reports that the women in Jesus’ life did not desert him at his crucifixion the way so many of his male followers did. (Luke 23:49)
  • He records that women were the FIRST to find Jesus’ tomb empty (Luke 24:1-3) and that they were the first to tell the disciples. He even admits that these men foolishly didn’t believe the women, but considered this “idle talk” until they had confirmed it for themselves. (Luke 24:9-12)

In today’s culture of tolerance and acceptance, a focus on the contributions of women might seem normal, but in 1st Century Palestine, such a focus was a remarkable reflection of God’s love for all people. God’s word is timeless. At various times various parts may align with the culture of the day, but all of it is always true and beautiful, and it will endure until the end of time. (Isaiah 40:8)

Mary, mother of Jesus