Catechism Question 18

February 26, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | Leave a comment
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Question 17: How did Jesus die?
Answer: He was crucified.
Prove it.

John 19:18

Question 18: What happened to Jesus after He died?
Answer: He was buried and then rose again on the third day.
Prove it.

Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;

Acts 10:40

A child who is familiar with CPR or some kind of medical resuscitation, or who perhaps has heard of someone in a coma making a recovery, may question the validity of Jesus’s death. In other words, “Did He really die?”

This is easily resolved from the Scriptures. Chapters 5-8 of the Book of Romans, as well as Chapter 14, stress the reality of Christ’s death emphatically.

Furthermore, the Gospel accounts tell us plainly that Jesus willingly laid down his life and truly died.

A child might also ask, “How did He come back to life?” The simplest answer to this is that God the Father raised up Christ (God the Son) by His power, but this is probably a good place to explain that Jesus died only as touching His humanity. He did not die as touching His Deity, for this would be an impossibility, because God has the immutable power of self-existence, and is eternal.

Other verses to consider:

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

I Corinthians 15:4

Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

Romans 6:9

Beware the Fiduciary Foundation

February 24, 2015 at 11:57 am | Posted in The Fives | Leave a comment
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A fiduciary relationship is one of trust. It involves the giving over of something to someone else to keep safe and to manage well. When a person trusts Christ unto salvation, he receives, at the moment of his regeneration, the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit functions in many different ways as He indwells the bodies of Christian believers, and one of those ways is that He acts as a sort of “earnest payment” which signifies the person’s eternal salvation and future ultimate redemption.

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

II Corinthians 5:5

However, it is important to remember, as believers, that we do not control the Holy Spirit; He is supposed to be in control of us. When we are thinking correctly, and abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit is in charge of us; we are not in charge of Him.

In today’s climate of psuedo-spiritual religious promotion, it is easy to get mixed up in this regard. If we do not keep our minds saturated with Biblical truth, we will start to think that the Holy Spirit has been given to us “in trust,” and that we need to manage Him properly, but that, if we put Him “to work” (the way a smart financial manager will put your money to work to earn interest), then He can be used to makes us wealthy, healthy, influential, comfortable, charismatic, and well-known.

That is the wrong foundation for Holy Spirit-led living, and a Spirit-filled life. The Holy Spirit, and the assurance of His indwelling, is given to us to remind us that we belong to Christ. We have been purchased at the greatest cost, and our lives are themselves now held “in trust” and, if we are to be faithful stewards, they must be managed in such as way as to magnify Jesus and glorify God.

Professing Atheists Are Blind to Their Own Lack of Objectivity

February 20, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Professing Atheist: It’s odd that you think quoting the Bible would sway unbelievers.

Christian: You may not like it, but it’s not “odd” at all. Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God (II Timothy 3:16), and we have seen many unbelievers swayed by its truth.

Professing Atheist: What “truth” are you referring to?

Christian: The Bible itself and Jesus Himself, Who is THE Truth (John 14:6). You’ve never met anyone who started out rejecting it, read it, and then changed his/her mind? Let me help you find a Christian church to visit.

Professing Atheist: No thanks. Been there, done that. It took me 40 years of belonging to a Charismatic church to realize it was nonsense.

Christian: You should try another church – a non-Charismatic evangelical church. If it was a typical Charismatic church, you may be like the unbelievers described in I Corinthians 14:23-25.

Professing Atheist: Those are Paul’s words, and they are not relative to me.

Christian: You mean “relevant,” but they are relevant to you, because they are not just Paul’s words, they are the Holy Spirit’s words, and the Holy Spirit is God, and God is your Creator and your Judge.

Professing Atheist: Most Christians are taught or told that the Bible is true before they ever read or have time to evaluate its claims.

Christian: That doesn’t make it odd for Christians to quote it to unbelievers. You are assuming that “most” haven’t evaluated it, but, even if that’s true, by your own admission, others have read it and have been convinced of its truth afterward.

Professing Atheist: Do you ever take into consideration that there are probably more that reject than believe?

Christian: Of course. The Bible says that many reject (Matthew 7:13-14). It doesn’t say that all reject.

Professing Atheist: The Bible is a book of claims. I reject its claims for lack of conclusive evidence.

Christian: There’s no conclusive evidence that you reject it for that reason. I reject your claim that you reject it for that reason.

Professing Atheist: You’re just playing semantic games. The fact that I said I reject it is evidence that I reject it. That’s my conclusive evidence.

Christian: That’s the point. It’s “your” evidence (Judges 17:6) so you’ve subjectively labeled it as “conclusive.” And your “evidence” is just a self-assertion. It shows that you have a double standard. You don’t reject the Bible as true. You just don’t like it (Romans 1:18).

Professing Atheist: Do you think cherry picking Bible verses will somehow convince me?

Christian: The Holy Spirit may or may not use them to convict you or convince you, but, if you think they are being used out of context, I honestly hope that you will look them up and read them in context.

Professing Atheist: I reject the Bible’s claims, but I do like reading its fictitious stories.

Christian: Try to be consistent. You were pretending earlier that you were persuaded by “conclusive” evidence. There’s no conclusive evidence that the stories in the Bible are fictitious. In fact, the definition of “fiction” is a work where the author does not claim
its truthfulness. The Bible definitely asserts its own truthfulness. And you know deep down that what it says matters.

Professing Atheist: I know it matters? Nice assumption.

Christian: That’s why you’re driven to discuss it. The fact of this conversation proves that you know it matters.

What Can I Do for God?

February 18, 2015 at 11:48 am | Posted in Matthew | Leave a comment
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Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

The point of doing “good works” is not to impress other people with how “good” we are. Nor is the point to impress God, in the sense of gaining or earning His favor. However, the Bible does say to live your life before the eyes of God (I Kings 15:5; I Samuel 26:24). Many years ago, when I first started actively serving as a member of a local church, I was not sure what I would be able to do. The church had a gym, and it was in need of painting, so, as part of a big group project, I was assigned to paint a large section of the walls. I had done plenty of painting growing up, but this was special. In my mind, I wasn’t doing this for the church, or for the approval of the pastor or other church members. I was doing it for the Lord. I don’t think I’ve ever painted with such care and effort. I wanted to do a good job for my Lord.

If you are a father and you’ve ever taken a small child to a public playground, you have probably experienced this: There will almost always be young boys there with their mothers or some other female caregiver. They are happy playing by themselves until they see you (the only grown man) there. Almost immediately, they will begin showing off, vying for your attention, hanging upside down from the monkey bars, jumping off the highest part of the slide, turning a back-flip off a swing. “Hey, hey, look at me – look what I can do!” There is something inherent in boys that makes them want to please their fathers (or in the absence of their fathers) some male authority figure. It’s not exactly the same thing with God and His children, but there is a sense in which we should be striving to please our Heavenly Father.

On the other hand, though, we must be careful not to make an idol of our accomplishments when they appear noteworthy. We have a tendency to feel content as Christians when we accomplish all our spiritual “chores:” when we have read our Bibles, said our prayers, witnessed faithfully, advanced in our sanctification. When we have a day like this, we might secretly, perhaps even subconsciously, believe that God loves us “more” than on the days when we lose the battle to temptation, fall into sin, shirk our spiritual duties, and regress into the flesh. I call that type of of thinking “idolatrous” because, when that happens, we have become the source of our own “blessedness” – our own peace and contentment.

There is a difference between striving to fulfill every rule of law and living to please God – of being motivated by His greatness and goodness on one hand, versus being motivated by the false belief that I am somehow adding something to Him, on the other hand.

We like to think that God has no other hands than our hands, no other feet than our feet, no way of speaking but by our mouths, but this is not true. God is not dependent upon His children, and there would be no place for us in the Kingdom of Heaven if it was a place only for those with great faith, tireless devotion, and unfailing, continual, never-sliding-back progress in sanctification.

Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Isaiah 66:1

The idea that God doesn’t need us might make some folks mad, but it makes me very, very happy. God can raise up a rock to do anything I can do – and do it better than me! It’s not the world’s version of the “great ones” who rule with the King in the Kingdom of Heaven.

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Matthew 19:30

For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:17

Yes, we shall reign in life, but not by our own righteousness. It shall be by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Mysterious Worship

February 16, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Posted in Habakkuk | Leave a comment
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Habakkuk Chapter 3 is a great psalm that the Holy Spirit authored through Habakkuk. It shows so clearly – because it is a prayer and a psalm of worship – what is missing in so much of our contemporary worship.

We are not missing talent – we’ve got plenty of that. We are not missing enthusiasm – enthusiasm can be manufactured fairly consistently. We are not missing “freshness” – you can’t swing a dead cat by the tail without hitting a church congregation which “has broken free of the bonds of dead religion” and has gotten “free” in worship. Anything that was forbidden by the old folks, we’re all about it. No, what’s missing is the theology – the depth of knowledge about God’s works.

Habakkuk traces the history of the Old Testament – deliverance from Egypt, water turning to blood, anointed judges delivering God’s people, the battles in Canaan – as he brings out mystery of God’s workings.

When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.

Habakkuk 3:16

When was the last time you actually shook and trembled for fear at God’s awesome power while you were worshiping? The mystery of trembling with knowledge will lead to rest in the day of trouble.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

Habakkuk 3:17

What will we do when we’ve run out of everything we’ve been led to believe is our sustenance – our income, our security, even our food?

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:18

My God is a Savior. People who aren’t in trouble don’t need a savior. When I am empty – when I can’t do one thing to help myself – then God shows up.

The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

Habakkuk 3:19

Habakkuk says, “Now, tell the worship leaders to sing about that!”

Don’t listen to the false prophets who say “peace, peace,” when destruction is at the doorstep. When we aren’t really motivated to obey God, it is often because we don’t see His greatness. We love to say, “God is good – all the time, and all the time – God is good,” and He is. But we must not forget, not only is God good, but God is also great. His ways are not our ways. His ways are superior to our ways. Realizing His greatness and our dependence is step one in moving from wrestling with God to worshiping God.

His judgments are unsearchable and His ways are past finding out (Romans 11:33). We won’t truly worship God until we stop trying to figure out what He’s doing or why He’s doing it, and start meditating on Who He is.

A Justice Sandwich

February 11, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Posted in Exodus | Leave a comment
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Exodus Chapter 21 starts off by addressing the rules governing servitude or slavery. The laws involving servants for Israel were supposed to be far different from the way the pagan nations practiced slavery. Remember, the Israelites had just come out of real slavery in Egypt, so, what is being dealt with primarily here is much closer to what we would call “employment,” than what we think of when we think of “slavery” as practiced by those who kidnap people and treat them like animals.

Most “servants” in Israel (except for foreign prisoners of war) were contract employees – the way the owner of a professional football team is said to “own” the players he signs to a contract. This type of employment contract was limited, under the Covenant Code, to six years, although the servant could decide to stay with his owner after that. The decision to place oneself into legally enforceable servitude for longer than the initial limited time period was to be taken seriously, and even discouraged to an extent, so there was a formal public ceremony to impress upon all involved the nature of what was being undertaken.

And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

Exodus 21:5-6

The laws in this section of the Covenant are what are called casuistic and paradigmatic. They are casuistic, meaning that they are case-law examples. They were not intended to be applied by the judges narrowly or only to the specific situations described. They were designed for extrapolating into unforeseen or unusual circumstances. For example:

And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.

Exodus 21:20

What if the boss didn’t hit the employee, but chained him to a tree until he starved to death? Could he escape punishment by claiming the law didn’t apply to him? After all, there was no smiting involved. No. The law concerning the rod was a casuistic example of a broader principle. A wise judge could easily see this.

These laws were paradigmatic in this sense: What if a woman rather than a man hit her servant? The principle of the law would still apply. The genders were interchangeable unless otherwise specified. What if the boss hit the servant with an ax instead of a rod? It’s the same idea, and the same punishment would adhere. The paradigm was still in place

In studying the laws of the Covenant Code it is also helpful to understand that they are often chiastic in structure. Otherwise, they might seem random to the casual reader. A chiasm is a literary or an oratorical device that is used mnemonically. Since these laws were given verbally and were largely transmitted verbally, chiasms helped group laws together in interesting and therefore memorable ways. For example:

He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death. And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee. But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

Exodus 21:12-14

The structure is A-B-A. A general principle is stated: (A) The one who kills shall be killed. An exception is described: (B) If the killing is not premeditated, the killer may find a safe haven pending inquiry. Then, the general principle is restated with greater clarity: (C) One who kills with malice aforethought is to receive the death penalty.

The technique of chiasmus may be thought of like a sandwich. Two pieces of bread are the outer brackets, and the most bland parts. But each subsequent ingredient has a match on each side as you move closer to the center: mustard on each slice of bread, two pieces of lettuce, two slices of tomato, pickles on the top and bottom of the meat, which is in the center, and which is the most interesting (and least obvious) and defining thing about the sandwich. So, many of the chiasms are more complex than A-B-A, and my look more like:

A
B
C
D
C
B
A

“He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death” is very general – basically a restatement of the 6th Commandment. “And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee” seems like a nonsequitur – like it applies to negligent homicide or to manslaughter. “But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die” returns to the theme – with an additional detail.

It is also worth noting at this point that the subject of this particular chiasm is the well-known lex talionis – from the Latin for “law” (lex) and talia, meaning “in like kind.” The “law of retaliation” – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – was the law of perfect justice. The punishment was supposed to fit the crime. This was in contrast to many laws of the ancient world, which focused on monetary or material fines and allowed rich people to count the cost and hurt people when it was more convenient. On the flip side, though, the qualifiers to the lex talionis in God’s law were also in stark contrast to the too-strict laws of the ancient world that often allowed vengeance to take the place of justice.

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Exodus 21:22-25

Catechism Question 17

February 9, 2015 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 1 Comment
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Question 17: How did Jesus die?
Answer: He was crucified.
Prove it.

Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

John 19:18

Despite the horror, humiliation, and hurtfulness of death on a cross, there can be no denying that it was precisely the type of death ordained by God the Father to be experienced by God the Son. Why did He choose this type of death?

I do not know if we can answer that question with 100% certainty. Traditionally, I have heard it explained that this was the cruelest, most painful death possible, and that the physical suffering of Christ had to be immense beyond measure in order to pay the outrageous sin debt that was owed by His people. I do not want to minimize or denigrate the physical suffering of Christ on the Cross. There can be no doubt it was horrific. However, I have read of the deaths of many of the martyrs, and – even physically and theologically speaking – there may be more torturous, drawn-out, and even intensely painful ways to die.

I think, first of all, as we explain the suffering of Christ to our children, we would do better to explain it in terms of the transaction of bearing the weight of sin and its guilt by the perfect sinless Savior, and experiencing the indescribable wrath of God poured out against sin. There is a sense in which this transaction took place in the eternal realm between God the Father and Christ the Son, and was a unique type of painfully propitiatory sacrifice which our finite brains can not come close to fathoming.

Second, I also think we need to teach our kids of the significance of death by hanging on a tree-like Cross as a picture of the curse of sin being dealt with, and as a fulfillment of prophecy by which God made known the commingling of His forgiveness and His justice. The Cross of Christ had been illustrated in the Old Testament, and was now being orchestrated to prove God’s love and truth.

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I Peter 2:24

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

John 3:14

Beware the Fear that Falls

February 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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After Jesus was Resurrected He stayed on the earth for 40 days, then ascended into Heaven. Next came the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit appeard and indwelled the believers who waited in the upper room. This was the beginning of a new era, in which all who believed on Christ unto salvation would receive the Holy Spirit. It was also the beginning of the time during which the New Testament was written – as the same Spirit inspired Apostles and prophets to reveal God’s inerrant and infallible Word.

It was an exciting time, and new Christians were very enthusiastic about financially supporting the work of getting the Gospel message spread throughout the world. However, whenever there is opportunity for ministry, there is also opportunity for recognition, and the desire for recognition can be a dangerous thing.

A married couple named Ananias (the husband) and Sapphira (the wife), wanted to show that they were willing to sacrifice for the work of the ministry, so they sold some land they owned, and brought the money from the sale, laying it openly at the Apostles’ feet. This sounds spiritual and inspiring, but the problem was that Satan influenced them to lie about what they were doing. They pretended to turn over the total amount of money they received from the sale of the land, but they secretly kept a portion of it for themselves.

The result for both of them, beginning with Ananias, was disastrous. Peter found out the truth and rightfully accused him of lying to the Holy Ghost and to God.

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

Acts 5:5

The Bible says that Ananias “fell,” and he did. He physically fell down dead. But his spiritual fall had come earlier, when he decided to try to deceive God and His people. In order to impress upon the early Christian believers how important it would be that the Gospel ministry be handled with honesty and forthrightness among them, the Holy Spirit caused “great fear” to come upon everyone who found out about Ananias’s fate.

We need to remember this principle as Christians even 2000 years later. A desire to exalt ourselves above our fellow Christians and to proudly make ourselves seem extraordinarily spiritual could very well result in a great (possibly embarrassing, possibly humiliating, possibly even deadly) fall. God is a loving Father, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, and the Lord Jesus is a caring Shepherd and Friend, but the Triune God is not to be trifled with. A healthy fear and respect of His omniscience and power over life and death will remind us that our outward actions are never to be hypocritically severed from our inward motives.

The Relief of being Blessed

February 4, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Matthew | 1 Comment
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The Sermon on the Mount contains the Beatitudes. It is deeply theological, but the deeper you go, the more practical it gets. It is the manifesto of the King. It teaches us to live like kings, not “one day,” but now. “Blessed are” “Ye are the salt of the earth…

The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 4:16-17

Jesus taught that the Kingdom is “at hand.” It is here right now. The Sermon on the Mount teaches us that we are kings, and kings have what serving under them? Servants. Are your servants serving you? Or are you serving your servants? God gave us appetites, but we must rule over them. Hunger, thirst, and physical desire must be made to serve, and not allowed to rule. What about material possessions and money? God made things to use, and people to love. Too many people start loving things, and the result when you love things is that you start to use people.

It is helpful to remember the Beatitudes as the Be-Attitudes. God is interested not only in what you do, but in who you are. “Blessed” is usually translated as “happy,” but the people of Jesus’s time used the concept of beatus to describe a condition like death – an end of problems. It’s an indictment to us that we think of Heaven primarily in terms of what we get, and not the trouble we will be missing out on. “Blessed” is seeing God – even the God of wrath – turn toward you. He pauses, looks at you, and says, “I am well pleased.” That’s “blessed.”

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

Revelation 19:11-12

Worship in Faith

February 2, 2015 at 5:20 pm | Posted in Habakkuk | 1 Comment
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Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2:4

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Romans 1:17

The doctrine of faith as the doorway to salvation did not originate in the New Testament.

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Galatians 3:11

However, the New Testament clearly refutes the false belief that keeping God’s law can save.

Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Hebrews 10:38

So, what about after salvation? We are saved through faith, but how do we please God after He saves us?

Faith is the means of salvation because God has declared that by faith will man be justified. “The just” are those whom God, by His grace, has declared righteous, and who, therefore, have a perfect standing before Him in Christ Jesus. Does that scare you? It shouldn’t – it put Habakkuk right into a spirit of worship. How I wish that modern Christians didn’t have such a tendency to surrender their brains to their feelings in worship!

O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk 3:2

Dear Lord, the basis for our worship is Your Word. We fear You, Lord. Your Word has convicted us where we stand – and we admit it. We want a revival – not of wordly “success” – but Your work. Even if not right now, but in the midst of years – in Your time. We trust You – we even trust Your wrath. We call on You to remember mercy, not because we deserve it, but because of Who You are. Keep Your promises, O God. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

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