Monday, December 29, 2014

Looking Beyond the Stable

 How Americans celebrate Christmas:

Per research and Gallop polls, found that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas
81% of Non-Christians celebrate Christmas!

88% of American households put up a Christmas tree.
90% buy gifts and gather with friends and family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or during the season sometime.

54% attend Religious services
65% display decorations with a religious meaning

73% believe in the Virgin Birth

78% of American adults say they take time at Christmas to "reflect" on the Birth of Christ

Christmas offers much to reflect on - virgin birth, birth narratives, prophecies fulfilled in Jesus' birth, magi, .....

Here are 3 reflections that take us a bit further:   It's about much more than just a babe in a manger.

I.  The Incarnation of Christ
II.  The Humiliation of Christ
III.  The Substitution of Christ

I.  The Incarnation of Christ
Latin = "incarnatio" = take on flesh (body)
The word is no in the English New Testament - John 1:1, 14 - God put on flesh
The teaching clearly is. - John 20:28

Question - How? - "the Infinite in an Infant"
Answer = 1 Tim. 3:16

II.  The Humiliation of Christ
this does not mean embarrassment, confusion, shame, disgrace
but means condescension - stepping down, stooping down, lowering 'self
Assuming a position beneath His rightful place/position - He humbled Himself - intentionally, willingly, knowingly
Phil. 2:6-7    John 17:5

This =1) self-humiliation
         2)  Humiliation - with a purpose

III.  This Substitution of Christ - Phil. 2:8 - to what end? purpose?
Answer:  to reconcile us to God - He took our place
1 Pet. 2:24   2 Cor. 5:21   Luke 19:10

Summary of Incarnation and Humiliation and Substitution?
Col. 1:21-22 - Bridge Illustration

Response to these Reflections? 

I.  to Incarnation?  - Awe and Wonder which leads to WORSHIP

II.  to Humiliation? => Imitation - Phil. 2:5-7
                             => Service - John 13:12-16
He did it for the benefit of man.  Calls us to do the same.

III.  to Substitution? => Declaration - "my LORD and my God"
                               =>  Allegiance - Bow the knee - You are LORD
                                                        Live the Life
                                                        Serve the King

Friday, December 19, 2014

The End of Evil and Suffering

Throughout this series, have linked evil and suffering because Evil always results in suffering, and, suffering is always the Result of Evil.  May be small, may be delayed, but will come.

Therefore, to eliminate suffering, we only need to eliminate evil!!
Problem = that isn't gonna happen - in this life, this world.

We are all capable of imagining a better world, better personal life.
AND we are all capable of improving our world, our life.

BUT we are UNABLE to CONSTRUCT (create) the world we desire, or the life we long for.  Can't make it perfect.
Example:  Quote from Henry David Thoreau - "The mass (all) of men (people) lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them."

So, man has always looked for that "Perfect world" in the Next life.  ie:  AFTER LIFE/BETTER LIFE

Views vary:  Vikings had Valhalla; Romans - Elysium, Hindu - Nirvana, Native Americans - Happy Hunting Ground.

BUT, the concept = universal.
"God has set eternity in the hearts of men" - (Eccles. 3:11)

All believe in an afterlife and a better life in the afterlife.

The Christian View?
On one hand = no different -- ie;  believe in After Life/Better Life
However:  Very Different!! in:
1)  what's heaven like?
2)  How do we get there?
3)  Why do we believe this?

I.  What is Heaven like?
     A).  Wonderful beyond description  (example:  language of Revelation)
     B)  partly defined by what's Not there.
          The expulsion of evil - Rev. 20:1-3, 10, 14
          The end of suffering - Rev. 21:3-5
This is what we look forward to.

II.  How do I get there?  (How do I get this?)
     A)  By grace through Faith - Eph. 2:8-9 - (contrast works)
     B)  By Grace through Faith ..... IN CHRIST - John 14:6
     C)  By Grace through Faith .... AT DEATH - with the exception of those who are alive when Christ returns
Therefore:  Psm. 23:4

III.  Why do we believe this?
Answer = Jesus' words - John 14:1-3 - Not our sentiments, desires, traditions, etc., but spoken by Jesus, not just another good person, but the one who resurrected in a glorified body and conquered death once and for all.  We STAND on Jesus' words!!

1)  Come - Rev. 22:17
2)  Believe .. ie.  believe the promise(s) - embrace this HOPE, this form of Heaven
3)  Persevere -  Heb. 10:35-36 - because in this life that perfection will not come.

and also ... to  4)  Evangelize - 2 Cor. 5:11 - there are more people who don't believe this than do believe it.
                      5)  Disciple - Matt. 28:19 - We can't legitimately sidestep this obligation.

What's your HOPE??  ie:  great expectation
Is it Solid?  Secure?  Biblical?  (contrast false/empty)

Are you Peddling it?  Promoting it? 

Scripture says THIS is your only hope!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Character Development through Suffering

Why does God allow evil and suffering? 

A)  Last week:  Because He has granted FREEWILL TO MORAL CREATURES.  Two categories of moral creatures = angels and mankind.
Anytime there is sin, there will be disharmony, pain, suffering, etc. - if not immediately, then down the road.

B)  Today:  Because He can make GOOD USE OF BAD THINGS
In this particular dispensation that we are in - between the fall of angels and fall of man AND all the way to His return and total redemption - it is not out of His control, BUT He has the ability to turn bad things into good.
Classic example = the Cross = greatest tragedy man has ever seen when the creation killed the Creator.
Classic verse = Rom. 8:28 - In all things GOD works.

Some of the ways He uses evil and suffering for good............

#1.  Punishment - punishes evil with evil

#2.  Discipline/correction - Heb. 12:7

#3.  Protective suffering - pain as a warning device.  Examples:  touch fire -->feel pain --> remove before destroyed!!
Pain can be a friend.

#4.  Redemptive Suffering  - willingly combat evil and endure suffering for the sake of others!  - AS Christ did, so WE do.
Example:  soldiers who die to free others, etc.

#5.  Suffering for the Manifestation of God - John 11:14-15 - through this suffering God was made known.

These tend to overlap, not always clearly in one category.

#6.  Character Development of His children - God uses suffering (in an attempt) to develop our character.
James 1:2-4,  Rom. 5:1-4

Pain and Suffering may serve to:
I.  Add to your character
II.  Remove from your character
III.  Protect your character
All three are to Improve your character.

I.  Adding to Character - learn, acquire, pick up due to suffering
Deut. 8:2-3, 15-16
Phil. 4:10-13
2 Cor. 1:3-5

II.  Removing from Character - refining, purifying, pruning, clipping
Zech. 13:8-9
Isa. 48:10
Psm. 66:8-12
1 Pet. 1:3-7
Reference:  Hymn #338 - "How Firm a Foundation" - Vs. 3 - 'When through fiery trials my pathway shall lie, My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply; The flame shall not hurt thee;  I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.'

III.  Protecting Character - 2 Cor. 12:7-10 - deprivation, affliction FOR sanctification.

#1.  it's a process - example:  forging tools - A) heat, shape, cool, polish
                                                                    B) re-heat - and temper
#2.  You'll go through it - 1 Pet. 4:12

#3.  He's more interested in your character than in your comfort - this life is the blacksmith shop - there's going to be an eternity for comfort.

#4.  Whether you take temper is largely your choice.  -  Quote from Dr. Paul Bilhiemer - "Don't Waste Your Sorrows" - have to decide whether to accept it or not.

#5.  He promises - it'll all be worth the process. - 2 Cor. 4:16-18

Closing:  Will we submit to "blacksmithing" to become what He wants us to be?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Consequential Suffering

IF God is (all) good - absolute, total.  - (Scripture declares over and over that God IS all powerful and all good)
AND IF God is (all) Powerful,
then why is there (so much0 evil and suffering.

On one hand - many answers.
However, no (1) "satisfying" answer

Question:  Why accept the Christian view if answers are not satisfying?
Remember - 1)  No Worldview has "satisfying" answers!!
2)  the Character of GOD is more than goodness and power.
It includes A)  transcendence - He is INFINITELY beyond us.
Therefore  B) mystery - we cannot totally ever comprehend.  He is infinite - we never will be.

So, the Christian approach to the issue (questions) should be tempered with
A)  concern - the issue is more than intellectual!
but also with B) Faith - in the Character of God, in the Revelation of God. - If don't have that confidence, will fall on this issue.
and C) Humility - He is God, I am not, neither are you!

Remainder of this study =
I.  Why God Permits Evil and Suffering
II.  How God Employs Evil and Suffering - this makes suffering bearable, tolerable, sensical!! - Rom. 8:28

So, why does God permit evil and suffering?
Answer:  Because He has granted FREEWILL TO MORAL CREATURES!! - creatures that recognize right and wrong, and can choose right and wrong!!! - example: angels and man

Formula:  sin => loss => pain => suffering
Sin = disobedience to God
Loss - immediate or later, large or small

The large scale:  Gen. 3:17-19 - when Adam and Eve chose to do wrong, evil entered the picture, and whole creation was cursed.
The personal scale:  Gal. 5:7-9- when sin (by choice of moral creature) enters, it creates evil.

This = Consequential Suffering
On on hand, this doesn't answer all questions to all incidents of suffering.
However, it does = one of the partial answers, and = a part you should be aware of and concerned with.

How it works....
1)  You reap what you sow - example: you sow carrots, you will get carrots, not sweet potatoes
A) this = self-inflicted pain
B) doesn't require God's immediate involvement - example:  gravity - law is already in place

2)  Sometimes you reap what OTHERS have sown.
examples:  robber, drunk driver, rebel teenager, abusive parent, etc.
We live in a fallen world with 7 Billion fallen (selfish) creatures.

3)  Sometimes others reap what YOU have sown.
drunk + drive, text +drive? harsh reply, spouse's inferiority complex

A)  You are more than just a recipient of pain - you are a source of pain.
B)  Part of why God allows Evil and Suffering is that He ALLOWS YOU!!!
C)  If you wish to relieve pain and suffering, begin with own behavior!

From here - How God uses pain for good.

For today, note:
1) I'm part of the problem
2) I need to make corrections
3) correction #1 needs to be submission to/re-submission to this Sovereign God!!

Example:  Promise to Isaiah - amidst great suffering (in exile) - Jer. 29:11

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Better Than I Deserve

Not ignoring pain, suffering, loss, etc.  BUT = point out the blessings.

How are you doing??
Materially - in top 10% or wealthiest people in the world
Physically - health, health services
Politically - freedoms in USA
Geographically - Southeast Oklahoma, your community
Relationally - marriage, family, friends, neighbors, community, church, etc.

Most will acknowledge - in spite of trials, pain & suffering going through,
I'm recognizing I have "more than I deserve"

NOW shift to Spiritual Blessings
ie:  undeserved and unearned favors that we receive 'in Christ"

Eph. 1:3-14
1 Pet. 1:3-5
2 Pet. 1:3

My list - "10 Spiritual Blessings" - (from God to Ed - related in 1st. person)

#1.  He chose me.  On one hand, there is much mystery about "election", however, this I know - HE CHOSE ME!!

#2.  He Wooed me - patiently, persistently pursued me. = Work of the Holy Spirit = ACT of Agape

#3.  He Received Me as I was, with a reluctant surrender - Example:  Hymn #307 - "Just As I Am" - many verses

#4.  He Saved Me  - Luke 19:10
    forgiving, cleansing, reconciliation, restoration - Eph. 2:4-10

These first four all past tense.

Now, shift to present tense.
#5.  He continues to Receive me. (not saved again)  - Heb. 4:15-16 - approach the throne with confidence to find grace in time of need.

#6.  He Keeps me. - Jude 24 & 25 - He's the only one who can.

#7.  He Grows Me.  He will not give up on you.  Indiscernible growth doesn't = no growth. - Phil. 1:6

Note:  Future blessings. - when this life ends - Heaven.
I'll receive:
#8,  Deliverance - from pain, suffering, doubts and fears, sinful tendencies, relational conflict, etc.

#9.  Justice - ie:  all things set right - all those things that are not right here will be righted there.

#10.  Satisfaction - contentment "Rest"

On one hand, these are future blessings.  On the other hand, I HAVE the Promise(s).,  Therefore, I currently  possess - hope, expectation, anticipation, confidence, comfort, etc.

This is NOT an exhaustive list, so clearly, I'm blessed "beyond what I deserve".

What about you?
Not to minimize your pain, problems, etc.
Rather in the midst of them to   1) recognize the blessings  and 2) thank the Blessor

IF you can't claim these spiritual blessings, Then you need to give serious consideration to the call of Christ on your life.

IF you can claim theses spiritual blessings, then you need to thank Him - Psalm 107:1-2

Give Thanks, not just be grateful!!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Making Sense of Suffering

The Bible declares that God is:
Sovereign    Good    Active    Personal

Problem:  IF God is (all) good - righteous and just ALWAYS
AND, IF God is (all) Sovereign,
THEN  Why is there (so much) evil and suffering???

The question is ancient - ie:  Job - (probably oldest book in Bible)
                        common - ie:  Ruth
                     extensively addressed - Theodicy - defense of God's goodness in light of Evil & Suffering in world
       BUT - remains unanswered!!!

Clarify - On on hand there are many answers (reasons),  however, the question is never completely answered.  (not ONE answer)

No "1" answer.
Many partial answers.
BUT, the sum total of all the answers does NOT = 100%

Sample Answers in Scripture
1)  Retributive Suffering - (punishment for sinful behavior)
2)  Consequential Suffering - (because of FREEWILL)
3)  Character development - God is more interested in our character than in our comfort.
4)  Corrective discipline - example:  Father/child
5)  Redemptive Suffering - to lead to greater good
6)  Suffering for the manifestation of God's glory - ("that you may know") - tragedy so people will know that God IS.

Put these all together and might be satisfied --- until we encounter "senseless suffering"

So...... the believers' response to evil and suffering?

#1.  Admit your confusion - example:  laments - over a third of the Psalms - Psm. 22:1
Be honest with your pain and with God.  He already knows how you feel anyway.

#2.  Accept the Mystery (of suffering)  AS you accept -- God's eternalness, creation ex-nihilo, virgin birth, incarnation, resurrection, prayer, new birth..
Cannot have transcendence w/o mystery - if finite human mind could explain it all, would have no need of God.
Because we have no answer doesn't mean there is no answer.  Isa. 55:8-9
He has chosen not to answer for various reasons.

#3.  Continue to trust the One you've come to Know.
John 6:66-69, 2 Tim. 1:12 - I know Whom I have believed, Job 13:15
Don't let what you don't know trump what you DO know!!!
Deut.  29:29 (reverse) - 'the things that are revealed to us (in special revelation - the Bible) belong to us, but the secret things belong to the LORD'

#4.  Continue to walk - (to live and lead a Christian life)
        in faith - (trusting, believing)
        in expectation - (Revelation)
        without all the answers
Mark 9:24

He is righteous, He is just, and He will make all things the way they should be.

Is it wise to deny the Person of God because of a Mystery we cannot solve?

Which is greater?  More valuable?  - The Answer or the Presence?

2 Pet. 1:2-3

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

God Is ... Sovereign, Good, Active

Has God revealed Himself to us?
Yes:  General Revelation (nature, reason, design, etc.)  AND
Special Revelation (specific truths, written down = Bible) AND
His Son - John 1:18 - He unveiled (exogited) things about God

What can we Know about God (through Specific Revelation)???
Answer = A LOT  (a lifetime of study) - inexhaustible - new understanding, new enlightenment

3 Things about God that are:
1)  clear (in Scripture) - declared over and over again
2)  relevant (to us)


I.  Sovereign - HE is the final Supreme Power and Authority.  THE Ruler of all that is.
ie:  things, circumstances, situations, beings -- material and immaterial.

Illustration:  Jer. 32:24-27

His Sovereignty is:  A)  Absolute - in control of EVERYTHING - if a single atom is beyond His control, He is NOT Sovereign.
                              B)  Eternal - ie:  Both ways!!!  Always has been , always will be.  Rev. 22:13
Therefore:              C)  Current - in control NOW!!!  He did not create and then lose control, as in the case of Frankenstein.

II.  Good  Psalm 106:1, 107:1 - hundreds of references regarding the goodness of God.
= good news!!!  Because if He was Sovereign and not good, what then?????
But note:  He is NOT good as WE are good - human, limited

HIS goodness = Righteous - always does what is right
Deut. 32:3-4

III.  Active - (involved)  Did not create and withdraw
His activity is:  A)  Ongoing - John 5:16-17, Col. 1:15-17
                       B)  Comprehensive - Matt. 10:29 - doesn't happen without His knowledge and permission
                       C)  Personal - Matt. 10:30-31

His is:  Omnipotent (all powerful)   Omniscient (all knowing)  Omnipresent ( everywhere)  Jer. 23:23-24

So... He sees, knows, cares, interacts - Matt. 6:9 - "Father" - wants relationship

Conclusion:  this is good news!!!
ie:  God is Sovereign, Good, Active, Personal

This is 'the God' who "woos" you!!   Who invites you to accept, believe, trust, follow - 1 Pet. 5:6-7

So:  #1 - have you trusted?  (initially? w/yourself/, with your soul?) - cast all your anxiety on Him? 
have you verbally declared it? - Rom. 10:10

#2.  do you need to re-trust Him? - not for salvation, not re-saved, but re-dedicate

#3.  Do you need to trust Him further?  fuller?
typically encounter more things to trust Him with as we age. 

Psalm 34:8 - "taste and see"  "blessed is he"

There are blessings found in trusting Him that are not found anywhere else.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Biblical Canon

Question:  How do we Know  #1. the Bible is the ancient word(s)?  and #2.  it is accurate and complete?
How do we know we have the right words?

This is the question of a Biblical Canon.

We started this series with General Revelation and Natural Theology ==> 1) a case for God 2) apart from Scripture

BUT, Christianity is more than General Revelation or natural theology.
Christianity is General Revelation plus Special Revelation.

Special Revelation = knowledge and information about God that is not generally available; cannot be gleaned from nature (our surroundings)
Example:  the Gospel

The means of Special Revelation?  Heb. 1:1-3 - "exact representation of His being"

The record of Special Revelation? = the Bible

So, the Question.  Given Special Revelation AND given that it was written down, still

How do we know we have the Right Record??

This is the question of a Biblical CANON.

CANON - a rule or measuring stick.  Point:  these are the writings by which and with which we measure all things!! - truths, morals, ethics, person of God, information about God, etc.

The test(s) of Canon - (how it was formed)

#1.  A call - Isa. 6:1-9  Ezek. 2:1-5 - GOD chose the individual - could never get revelation from God without a call from God.

#2. Accompanying miracles - examples:  Moses, Elijah, Elisha, etc.- not to prove existence of God, but to prove the message/messenger was from God.

#3.  Fulfilled prophecy - example:  Jeremiah - fall/return

#4.  Acceptance by the people - (often in retrospect)

So,  Old Testament Canon closed 400 years BC - until John - Mark 1:1-5


#1.  Apostolic Authorship - because they were companions & eyewitnesses  - 1 John 1:1-3
Question?  Mark & Luke? - ans. Mark wrote on behalf of Peter, Luke wrote on behalf of Paul
James and Jude? - answer:  Jesus' half brothers
Paul? - 1 Cor. 15:3-8

#2.  Acceptance by the early church
because = close to the Apostles SO were able to question and verify!!
= recognition, CirculationPreservation 

#3.  Compatible doctrine
questionable books *measured against undisputed books - Matthew, John, Galatians, ...

Question?  "Lost Books" ?

Note:  New Testament - Canonical process.  If didn't meet all three tests, were not accepted .  (formal) Finalization - 397/Carthage

(*Canonization doesn't grant authority, it recognizes authority!!)

The historic and orthodox Christian faith is built on:
General Revelation plus Special Revelation

Question - What's the most common form of faith n America today?  My guess is a form of Christianity built on General Revelation plus Speculation .
ie:  doesn't openly, explicitly, verbally reject the Bible, simply doesn't use the Bible!!!

"I believe in God and it seems to me...  I think, etc...

Question:  if = General Revelation plus My Notion, how is this different from ancient paganism and idolatry.
Answer:  we don't make a physical idol!!!

When we reject Special Revelation and substitute Speculation, have made god of own design.  "Neo-Paganism" - new world pagan.

When we come to the conclusion that all the prophets, apostles, Jesus Christ, had it wrong, and WE are right, it is the height of arrogance!!!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Building Our Faith from the Ground Up

#1.  Can we know God exists .... apart from Scripture?   Yes.

Example - Argument from design ==> Belief = reasonable.  If not, at least compelling!!

#2.  IF He Exists ... what can we know about Him?  (also apart from Scripture?
We can know that He is:  (by necessity)   Powerful, Intelligent, Creative, Transcendent (far beyond us)

All of this can be gleaned from General Revelation - fingerprints of God are all over natural theology and design.   End up at Gen. 1:1

BUT, Christianity is based on Special Revelation.  Definition:  knowledge and information from God that is not generally available;  ie. it can't be gleaned from nature or our surroundings.  Example:  the Gospel
Learn things that cannot be learned otherwise.  No amount of study, contemplation, or natural things can reveal that Jesus is God's Son, died for sins, we're separated from God due to sin, etc.

#3.  Is it reasonable to believe in Special Revelation?
YES!!  in light of:  fulfilled prophecy - thousands fulfilled
                           accompanying miracles
                           unity of content - 66 books written over 1500 years
                           universal relevance
                           social impact
                         *the endorsement of Jesus - He said repeatedly that s Word of God.

Since Special Revelation is so crucial to the Christian faith, will be giving it extra attention.

The means of Special Revelation - Heb. 1:1 "various ways"

           Dreams - Daniel
           visions - Peter & sheet
           signs - Gideon's fleece
           angels - Daniel, Mary, Joseph
          audible voice - Adam & Eve, Samuel
          inner voice
          theophanies = visible manifestations - example:  burning bush, cloud by day, pillar of fire
          incarnation - Heb. 1:1-2

The Record of Special Revelation - the Bible - the "written down" record of these special revelations - not all by any means, but LOTS!!

The Message of Special Revelation  "Thus sayeth the LORD"
many subjects, BUT point always = "this what LORD God says!!"

God speaks to us - in our language at our level.

The Purpose of Special Revelation
Same as General Revelation... ie:
    (A)  to Reveal God - He is there.  He is God - John 1:18
    (B)  to Reconcile Man - John 10:10    Luke 19:10

QUESTION:  Is Special Revelation still occurring?
Answer depends on definition and understanding of "revelation".

YES -- He is still Revealing Himself to individuals.
NO -- He is not imparting new information  (additional information)

Illustration:  Does God still speak through nature?  creation?
                  Is God producing additional information?

Compare:  does God still teach, enlighten, further knowledge and understanding of individuals through the Word?
Is He adding TO the Word??

Question:  Could He not reveal Himself more clearly?                                           

Matt.  13:13-15    a couple Latin terms:   Deus Absconditus & Deus Revelatus - Deut. 4:29
He gives free will - don't have to see and hear if don't want to.

Point:  Proof does NOT lead to Persuasion - example:  how many Egyptians saw all the miracles before the exodus?  How many believed in God after seeing them?
          Clarity does NOT lead to Belief    John 11:45-46   Luke 16: 27-31

Yes, He can reveal Himself more clearly, and, when Christ returns, HE WILL!!!
Application:  goes far beyond the non-Christian/ the unbeliever.
ie:  when WE (believers) ..
on one hand, accept Christ, accept the Revelation of Redemption,
BUT, refuse to accept, embrace other Special Revelations - give, forgive, offer soft answer, turn other cheek, seek first Kingdom of God, be baptized, etc. etc. etc.

What makes us any better than the non-Christian/unbeliever???


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Special Revelation

I.  Can We Know God Exists - apart from Scripture?  - covered 2 weeks ago
         Natural Theology
          Argument from Design

II.  What Can we Know About God apart from Scripture?  - last week

He is (must be)    powerful   }
                           intelligent  }      
                           creative    }
These three = must be Personal!!  (a "force" has no personality.  Chance has no power)
                           transcendent  =  beyond His creation to create it

Paul's words - Rom. 1:20 - "eternal power/divine nature"

This is called general Revelation (imprinted into His creation ) =  some knowledge

BUT, we need Special Revelation (specific) for more....   (God chose to reveal after creation)

Christian View (in summary) - Heb. 1:1-2
                                             2 Pet. 1:20-21
                                             2 Tim. 3:16 - God-breathed

Christian faith claims many more things than what can be discovered through General Revelation.

Question?  Is this possible?? - Answer:  Of course it's possible.  Quote from Anthony Flew (renowned atheist who changed his mind regarding existence of God)
"You cannot limit the possibilities of omnipotence except to produce the logically impossible."

Question?  Is this reasonable?  ie:  have we any reason to believe in Special Revelation ... aside from our desire for it to be true???   .... Aside from subjective experience(s)??

Reasons to believe the Bible is Divinely Inspired:

1)  fulfilled prophecy - D. James Kennedy study = 333 Old Testament texts fulfilled in Jesus - all written more than 400 years before His birth.  This doesn't include those prophecies covering other peoples, places, events, etc.

2)  accompanying miracles -  John 3:1-2  (typical of prophets/apostles)

3)  unity of content - 66 books -40+ authors - over 1500 years - 3 continents, 3 languages, various situations, cultures, etc.
YET - A) agree on life's controversial issues, and, B)  all focus on God's redemption of man

4)  universal relevancy - speaks to all people, all cultures, all ages,  all life situations ...(it fits)

5)  social impact - on individuals ==> on Society(s)

6)  the endorsement of Jesus - repeatedly upheld the Old Testament, predicted the New Testament  (John 14)
Contrast the scholar who says "Bible not reliable" with Jesus who says Matt. 5:18  - Who do you believe??

Above = objective (external) tests

Add subjective (internal) test   ie:  We see ourselves & meet our God in Scripture!!!

Most come to believe without any knowledge of above reasons.  However, is good in the aftermath to know there are good, solid Reasons!!

This brings us to a very critical and decisive point in the Christian faith --- because:



IF THE BIBLE IS HIS WORD   (self-revelation)

                                        INTERPRETATION  of text
                          and        APPLICATION  to life

Back to:  2 Tim. 3:16-17

Scripture = from  God,  practical and useful ... FOR:  Teaching

"So that...."
YOU might be trained and equipped to live your life as GOD intends, and, respond to life as GOD intends.


Assist others as GOD intends and
Instruct others as GOD intends.

If God exists and the Bible is His Word, then the rest is just Exegesis (drawing out (digging out) what He has breathed in)

IF He has given us what we need, He's spoken and You are obligated!!  If you reject the Bible, then you are saying there is NO Special Revelation or No God.

Since we have reasonably concluded God IS and the Bible IS, we will go on to "What Does It Say".

Monday, October 6, 2014

IF God exists, what Can We Know About Him?

Last week:  Gen. 1:1 - "Can we know God exists apart from Scripture?"

Answered with:  1)  Natural Theology (based on nature)  - (argument from being, design, desire, morality, etc)
                         2)  Paul's address - Rom. 1:18-20

TODAY:  IF God exists, what can we know about Him?  apart from Scripture?

Appeal to :Argument from Design (meaning not naturally happening) - Examples:  watch, smartphone
Because:  1)  easy to understand   "laws of nature and of nature's God"
                 2)  difficult to refute

We know difference between something intentionally designed and something that just happened.  Very evident to those who want evidence.

Remember:  only 2 options/possibilities for the universe (everything material that is made)
#1.  The Universe is eternal and self-existent
#2.  The Universe was created by an eternal and self-existent Something.

One of prominent theories today is:  universe is not eternal, but there was a time when the universe was not and then was.  ie:  created itself.  THIS doesn't work.  Something cannot be and not be at the same time.

IF the Universe is eternal, THEN we need no Creator, BUT, must still account for:
1)  Material Design/ material complexity, material harmony, LIFE
2)  Immaterial Things - information, intelligence, thoughts, dreams, longings, desires, ambitions, passions, expectations, sense of right & wrong, justice

IF Material World is all there is, is it possible for unintelligence to create intelligence??

So, Option #1.  The Universe is eternal and self-existent.

BUT, IF the Universe is NOT eternal, THEN it had a beginning.

IF the Universe had a beginning, it had a Creator  (note:  self-creating Universe)

IF the Universe had a Creator, that Creator must be:

#1.  Powerful

#2.  Intelligent (complexity, intricacy, harmony)

#3.  Transcendent ie: far, far beyond us!!

#4.  Intentional - having a will, acting on purpose, (non-living objects don't intend to do anything) which adds up to..

#5.  Personal - having personhood, personality - Contrast "FORCE" of Star Wars - no personality

Question:  This description remind you of anyone???  D
All this fits perfectly with Gen. 1:1-3  Don't have to have the Bible to conclude this stuff. 

Powerful?  Omnipotent - spoke --> ex nihilo (out of nothing)  In the beginning GOD was there.
Intelligent?  Omniscient
Transcendent?  Spatially, in His Nature
Intentional?  acts ON Purpose with WITH purpose
Personal?  "our Father"  "hairs numbered"

POINT:  if you seek God through nature and Reason, you find the same God that's portrayed in Scripture!!

1)  If you seek God through Nature and Reason,  you wind up at Gen. 1:1-3  (ie:  God exists as a Personal Creator.
2)  if you believe in God, you stand on solid ground.  (you're not foolish, old fashioned, irrational, empty headed)

Next Week - we go from General Revelation - revelation around us for all to see - available to all - to
Special/Specific Revelation (God has chosen to give us many things about Him)

There we'll find confirmation for something else you already know (apart from Scripture)

ie:  the testimony/witness of God (external and internal) is not designed to bring you to belief in God!!

Rather = designed to bring you to FAITH in God!!! ie:  trusting God.  There is a world of difference between the two.

Don't think you've arrived because you believe in God, or even believe that Jesus Christ is the bridge to God. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Can We Know God Exists Apart from the Bible?

Gen. 1:1 (a) - "In the beginning ...... God."

It's natural for the Bible to start here.  (declaration of God - Who He is, etc.)
BUT, many reject Bible's witness.

So, can we know God exists apart from the Bible?

Will explore 3 answers:
1)  Yes
2)  No
3)  Possibly - Probably - beyond a reasonable doubt.  "Yeah, I think so."

#1.  Possibly - Probably

Early Christians developed natural theology, rational approach to knowledge of God - apart from Scriptures

Examples = the Argument from...
1) stuff -  things/ being/ existence  (Cosmological argument)

Only 2 possibilities - 1) stuff = eternal   or 2) stuff created by an eternal

2)  Design - (teleological argument) - examples:  watchmaker, smartphone.
(Smartphone requires intelligence.   AND 2- includes intelligence!!)

3)  Movement - change, causality - examples:  Big Bang - Law of Inertia.  (an object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by some external force)

4)  Morality - conscience, right, wrong, oughtness - if is a moral law, then must be moral lawgiver

5)  desire - a desire that can't be satisfied in this world

6)  Common consent - ie.  belief in God = universal
on one hand, doesn't prove that God exists, BUT, must be factored in.

Summary:  These arguments cannot PROVE God, BUT taken together provide beyond Reasonable Doubt.

Enter:  Immanuel Kant (an agnostic) - 18th. century German philosopher (in wake of David Hume -  "roused from my dogmatic slumbers" of rationalism)

in "The Critique of Pure Reason", he concludes:

#2.  NO - we cannot know God exists.  Because--
A)  although rational arguments are valued here, don't know if they would work in a metaphysical world.
(ie:  laws of causation inertia, etc. don't necessarily work in metaphysical world.)

B)  IF God exists -- He's so "wholly other" (transcendent) that our best reasoning wouldn't necessarily apply to Him, describe Him, reveal Him

C)  All our speculations and conclusions of he metaphysical world are clouded by our experiences here.  (physical world tinted glasses)

THEREFORE:  we Cannot know God exists (even if He does)!
Also said... 1) "can't deny starry host above or moral law within"
                  2)  should keep looking and asking (but recognize  limits of reasoning)
                  3)  should ACT like there's a God ... even if there's not!!! - because what would it mean to society if we say there's no meaning to this life!

So, we have - fideism - I just believe and that's it.

Can we know??  Who should we believe???

Enter one more philosopher - one you know and have read - who says:
#3.  Yes, we can know God exists .... even apart from Scripture   ie:  The Apostle Paul -
Rom. 1:18-22

His conclusion??
1)  God has revealed Himself - contrasted to Kant's gulf
not fully - but sufficiently

2)  You can know Him
not fully ... but enough to make the next steps

3)  You DO Know Him!!!
The knowledge is not just available (around you) BUT - is within you!!!

4)  You are responsible and accountable - "without excuse"
doesn't mean you know everything about God, but know enough to live right life

Application: -- for non-believer = pretty clear!!
BUT, application for the believer??? - Rom. 2:1

1)  God has revealed Himself and some of His Will for you!!

2) You know it  (without excuse)

3.  You are responsible -- to respond to, act on it


Again, doesn't mean always know everything, but is a whole bunch we do know.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Purpose and Function of the Church

Matt. 16:13-18 - Church = called-out gathering of people - not necessarily a religious term at this time.

Peter's confession - Christ's church -
On one hand = 1 church - Eph. 4:4-6
On the other hand are many local congregations, ie. churches.

BUT, point today is NOT church's size, growth, numbers
         Point is church's purpose and function.

PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH = to glorify God.
Definition of glorify = to make Him known, declare His glory, show forth His character, etc.
Psm. 19:1-4 - nature, the creation

AS nature does generally, the church can do Specifically!!   Ex.  Eph. 3:10
Nature can tell us God is incredibly wise, organized, powerful, etc., but will never be able to convey the Jesus Christ is His Son, sent to earth to die for our sins, that we might be saved and live with Him in Heaven for all eternity.

Question???  WHY?? - (ie:  why make Him known)
Answer:  when God's person, character, nature - purpose, intent, will - is make known - MAN BENEFITS - socially and individually, temporally (here and now) and eternally!

So, How  is this accomplished??  What is The Function of the Church

Note:  IF these = the function of the church,  THEN = function of individual members and will only be accomplished as individual members do it!!

A ___________ church is made of ___________ people.  (fill in the blanks with same word:  ie:  warm, cold, friendly, happy, growing, etc.)

4 functions of the (NT) Church

I.  Evangelism - ie:  connecting people to God
         2 Cor. 5:17-20 - lays ministry in our laps.
On one hand - beyond our ability - John 6:65
However - clearly called to partner in this  (Not just as corporate body, BUT as individual members!!)

II.  Nurture - feed, nourish, provide for, care for
Christian sense - promote spiritual growth and well being - to assist on journey to maturity.
Matt. 28:19-20 - this is more than an introduction to Messiah - means to "disciple"
Col. 1:28 - perfect meaning complete, grown up, etc.

III.  Ministry - help, aid, assist Any/All people - may be physical need, emotional need, spiritual need, relational need, financial need, etc.
Acts 10:37-38   Gal. 6:10  - We are called to do good for people - all people
Do it ... 1)  in God's name
             2) in hope of eternal results

IV.  Worship - ascribe worth to, declare value of ...
Examples:  sing/praise/thanks/prayer/give time, money, attendance ...

Worship is more about giving that receiving - Deut. 16:16-17
The Irony  = in so giving, you receive and others receive also!!

In all the above,  IF = function of the church, THEN must = function of individual members!

Question/Challenge directed toward -
A.  Your understanding of this

B.  Your commitment to this.   Commitment meaningless without participation.

C.  Your participation  (involvement) in this.  (Hands and feet)

God has blessed us beyond description, and He calls us to worship and declare Him.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Christian Response to Poor and Needy - PM

God is concerned about man's material life and needs.  (physical well being, financial state, etc.)
hence, are many verses instructing us to assist the poor and needy  (concordance search brings up hundreds of references)

"Poor" is a relative term.  - USA Poverty level 2014 - family of 4 - $23,850, family of 5 - $27,910

We are called to identify and assist!

4 Groups of Poor Identified in Scripture!

#1.  Poor due to calamity (disaster, disease, disability) - example:  "widows and orphans" - great depression
  - through no fault of their own
  - presently incapable of supporting self

#2.  Poor due to Oppression - ( exploitation, abuse)
example:  slaves, exploited workers
Also no fault and unable to correct situation.

#3.  Poor because of sloth/laziness (indifference)
Prov. 10:4, 20:13

#4.  Poor for Righteousness' sake. - forfeited wealth and/or opportunity to serve God and man.
example:  Apostles/missionaries, etc.

Add 2 more:

#5.  Poor due to financial ignorance - maybe incompetence, maybe indifference

#6.  Poor due to long term (continual) mismanagement.
examples:  21st .Century Americans, lottery winner stats:  70% of big winners broke within 5 years.  Bigger the amount, more likely are to file bankruptcy
Prov. 21:17, 23:20-21 - continual lifestyle

Christian Response??? (not the same in every situation) to...........
#1.  Calamity/disaster?  = aid and assist - Lev. 25:35-37 - examples:  field corners left, no 2nd. picking, every 7th year = fallow year.
Matt. 25:37-40 - we have obligation to help.

#2.  Oppression/exploitation?  = aid financially, aid politically, judicially, etc.  Don't deny assistance because poor.
Deut. 24:14-15
Ex. 23:6
Prov. 14:31, 31:8-9

#3.  Righteousness' sake? - support them in their ministry  without expecting to change the situation.  (they have chosen the situation) - Matt. 10:41-42

#4.  Sloth and laziness?  2 Thess. 3:6, 10-15 - don't encourage this behavior

#5.  Financially ignorant? 
- assist if incompetent - that can't be helped
- educate if competent - BUT if indifferent - see #4.

#6.  Continual mismanagement - if because of incompetence, see #5.  If because of indifference - #4

Ongoing dilemma. 
A consideration on dealing with the continually poor and needy:

example:  Book entitled "When Helping Hurts" -

Response = Relief - Rehabilitation - Development

When in a bad situation, no matter what reason, give relief, then try to restore to original state (rehabilitation) and then try to bring to the next level (development).

BUT, helping the poor requires more than $$$.  Self-esteem, self-worth, depression, etc. Many other issues to deal with.

Age old issue:  who to help?  How?  When?  How often??
While it's not always easy to answer, we are obligated to help, and God will bless us in our efforts.
Isa. 58:5-12

Wealth and Money - AM

OT - Wealth and Money mostly viewed positively - ie:  as a Blessing from God - examples:  Job, Abraham, Solomon  Prov. 10:22

NT - expresses more warnings, stresses the dangers of wealth and money.  ie:  parable of the Rich Fool, the Rich Young Ruler - Luke 16:13-15 - have tendency to put trust in riches when are very wealthy.
There are thousands of verses about W & $ in the Bible.

So:  views of wealth and money have been varied among Christians.
View #1. - Money is Bad!  (evil and/or leads to evil)
Early Christians = A) mostly poor
                            B) often oppressed and exploited by the rich and powerful
Therefore,            C) stressed TRUE RICHES .... in Christ.

On one hand, Scripture does not condemn wealth, However, wealth and money are considered seductive and dangerous.  1 Tim. 6:9-10

One result of this view = medieval monasticism -  people gave away everything to follow Christ.  Example:  Francis of Assisi (1200 - )   Believed that Poverty - a duty and a virtue!!  Thousands began to follow him which resulted in the Franciscan Order which is still huge today.  Wealth considered a vice.

View #2.  Money Is Good.  (God wants you to have LOTS!!)
example:  health and wealth gospel.   Matt. 7:7-11   Mark 10:28-30   Rom. 8:15-17
Some of largest churches around world today follow and promote this.

View #3.  Between =  a)  Money is neither good nor bad.
                                  b)  can be a great blessing or great curse
                                  c)  makes wonderful servant, but terrible master.
Protestant/Reformed view - Calvin, Luther, Puritans.

The oddity:  the practitioners know as "non-worldly", BUT tended to accumulate wealth!!!
(example: Quakers/Amish/Mennonites, etc)
So, a look at  a few of their interpretations/ ideas.  
Particularly their Practices - (practical application)

#1.  Hard Work - considered part of their "vocation" or "calling from God" - Gen. 2:15 (hasn't changed)
We ought to:  work hard, work well - Col. 3:23-24 - do it well as unto the Lord.
They believed 2 Thess. 3:6-10 - a) given to Christians  and b)  applied to Rich also!!

#2.  Simple lifestyle - relative term but, live well but don't live high.

To them this didn't mean "live within your means", rather meant "live beneath your means", which lead to

#3.  Good Stewardship (management) - from Greek word meaning house law
- household manager, management - Example:  Joseph for Potiphar

       Which included:
       A)  Paying attention to business - Prov. 27:23-24
        B) Living off the gain (providing for the family) - 1 Tim. 5:8
        C) Using gain for good - giving/sharing/assisting
                 a)  helping poor, needy, unfortunate - Prov. 19:17
                 b)  building community - love neighbor as self
                c)  building Kingdom - education/missions - they believed tithe was bare minimum - that were robbing God if only giving 10%

       D.  Saving for hard times - Prov. 21:20

       E.  Investing the profit - idea was not "make profit, now can consume it", but "made profit so now can employ it"!!
They felt responsible to put profit to work!!! = Capitalism! - they didn't do this because wanted to make money, but as good stewards of what God had blessed them with.

      F.  Leaving a financial legacy - giving children, grandchildren, etc. = "leg up"

     G.  Being honest & fair in all financial dealings. - believed no profit in being dishonest and God would not bless that!

#4.  Practiced Contentment
1 Tim. 6:6-8   Phil. 4:10-13   

Their Point was NOT about wealth, but about pursuing God/Godliness/living out faith/building the Kingdom

The summary = Matt. 6:31-33

Monday, June 23, 2014

Finances and the Christian Marriage

When people asked, "what caused your marriage to fail?", four answers surface:
communication problems
sexual incompatibility
in laws
financial issues

The leading factor?  financial issues
80% of couples divorcing before 30 cited financial problems as THE primary cause of the divorce.  (are additional things as well, but this = primary)

Therefore, continuation of the Marriage and Family Series.
This week - "Finances and Christian Marriage"
Next week - "Biblical principles of Finance"

Steps to Strengthening and Improving your marriage in the arena of money and finances.

The point today is NOT how to improve your finances.  It is how to improve your marriage by means of your finances.

(Obvious extension --- if improve your marriage it will naturally improve your home/family)

Step #1.  Make Jesus LORD of your finances.   Matt. 6:24, 33
1st - make Him LORD of your Life, then be sure that includes your $$$.

Observation by Martin Luther - "3 conversions necessary for a believer - conversion of the heart, conversion of the mind, conversion of the purse!!"  This is very difficult to accomplish because finances are a very personal issue.

#2.  Learn what God has to say about finances.
ie:  Biblical principles of acquiring, spending, saving, investing, giving

There are thousands of verses in the Bible about money.  Only the Kingdom of God has more verses about it. 
Survey:  Americans who own a Bible (in their household) - 88%
             Americans who consider themselves knowledgeable about the Bible - 82%
             Americans who can name the 1st. 5 books of the Bible - 43%
A)  this = (important) moral issue
B)   Bible has given us a lot of information
C)  bottom line is NOT $$ in the bank, = better marriage, better witness, better peace, better harmony - "well done"

#3.  Talk about finances with one another
when asked, "what caused marriage to fail?" - answer = financial issues
BUT, when asked "what would make relationship successful?" - answer = communicate

Best time to talk about this - before the wedding.  (and almost nobody does it)

Next best time - NOW!!

This is not always easy because is VERY personal and potentially volatile!

#4.  Recognize your spouse's legitimate views on money.  (a different view is not necessarily a wrong view)
Some books dealing with money:  "Four Money Languages" - Dr. Kenneth Doyle, Financial Psychologist - U. of MN
                                                   "Five Money Personalities" - Scott & Bethany Palmer

Point:  Money means different things to different people!!
examples:  significance - (proves I'm somebody"
                 security - (protects my future)
                 enjoyment/pleasure - (satisfies my hungers)
                 love/affection - (makes people love me)

Simplify:  SPENDERS and SAVERS.  Which is legitimate?  Which is needed?  Which is healthy? 
Answer = BOTH!!
Simple formula = Save Some - Spend Some - Share Some

#5.  Approach financial issues as partners (equals)
One may MAKE more
One may have more interest, savvy, ability to handle
BUT, one should NOT have more say, more control

"God's plan for marriage = 1) Companionship and 2) PARTNERSHIP
Therefore, Share - the money, burden, strain, responsibility, goals, harvests, abundance

Point = share all liabilities AND Assets
            share all decisions on liabilities and assets.
Luke 11:17

#6.  Agree to live within your means.
2 parts to this:
A)  "live within your means" - if you spend more than you make??,  if you don't save some??, if you borrow more than can pay? - NOT living within your means!   We are notorious about living above means.
Average American = $225,000 debt and less than $500 savings.

B)  "Agree to Live" -  examples:  Spendthrift vs. tightwad

Additional:  C) Agree to give - IF not giving, then NOT practicing Christian financial principles!!

#7.  Create a Positive Christian financial legacy
Doesn't mean leave behind money, inheritance
Means leave a model, trail, teaching - something your kids and grandkids and great-grandkids can see and understand and embrace and practice and, therefore, AVOID some of your struggles!!!

Point of all this is NOT to improve your bank account.
It is to improve your marriage, family, home

Beauty of it is that you CAN HAVE BOTH!!!   So, next week - "Biblical Principles of Finance"

Luke 16:10-13 - Choose!!!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Marriage and Family - Core Doctrines

Materials for Marriage and Family - good but need to be built on solid foundation of Scripture (Systematic Theology).   These are the doctrines on which the teachings of Marriage and Family rest.


I.  Creation and Design -
   A.  We are created and designed
   B.  Marriage and family are created and designed.
   C.   function BEST when practiced according to that Design!!  (example:  your plan for marriage vs. His intent.  - we don't know as much as we think we do.  He DOES!!)

II.  Sin - "if marriage and family designed .... why do they fail so??
Answer: = Sin - which = acting contrary to God's will, intent, design
Example:  #1 effect of Sin = Alienation - schism, break in harmony

POINT -  understanding Christian Marriage and Family at superficial levels is practical and helpful
BUT, when you grasp CORE DOCTRINES on which they were built, much more effective!

So, today = 3 core doctrines (that affect your marriage and family)

The Doctrine of:
#I.  The Indwelling Holy Spirit

#II.  Sanctification

#III.  Redemptive Suffering

First:  Definition/Description of these Doctrines.
#I.  The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
ie:  when you receive Christ, His Holy Spirit comes to dwell, reside within
John 14:16-17  1 Cor. 6:19
How?  What manner? = mystery - Col. 1:27

But, regardless of what you feel, sense, are aware of,
He is WITH you in a very PERSONAL and POWERFUL way!

#II.  Sanctification = the ongoing process of becoming what you were created to be and saved to be!

3 tenses of salvation:   Justification - when accept Christ, placed in a right relationship with Him
                                  Sanctification - present - process of making you holy
                                  Glorification - future

#III.  Redemptive Suffering - ie:  Christ suffered for you and your benefit (immensely, eternally,) from His sacrifice.  1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18

Now, simple application of these core doctrines to your marriage and family life.

I.  The Indwelling - the Holy Spirit indwells you TO
    1)  reveal (show) - God's will for yr. life
                               - your behavior (what I am) - John 16:8 - so can turn to what should be
    2)  enable - you to do His will - instead of "couldn't" do that, = "won't" do that!
    3)  effect change - in you, your thinking, your philosophy, etc.
              Better Person => better Partner => better Parent

II.  Sanctification - the process is:
      1)  Gradual - immediate change only happens occasionally
      2)  continual - ie.  you have not arrived - therefore, should NOT stop!!  - as long as you live, should improve
      3)  a cooperative effort - 2 Pet. 1:2-4 - His part
                                            2 Pet. 1:5-8 - Your part

III.  Redemptive Suffering = as Christ sacrificed, suffered to MAED (make an Eternal difference) - so can you!!  Eph. 5:25-29  Can do for other people.

We can't sacrifice all things all the time,  (have physical, emotional, relational needs),
However, most could improve on sacrificing OWN SELFISH DESIRES.
1 Pet. 2:20-21 - doesn't mean He wants us to suffer.
BUT, He wants us to achieve, accomplish, effect - sometimes we're called to bear unjust load for the benefit of spouse, family, others..

                                      Marriage & Family Books & materials
                                            D O C T R I N A L     S T U D I E S
                                                  JESUS CHRIST - 1 Cor. 3:11

On one hand, nothing wrong with starting at the top and working way down.  But note where that will ultimately lead you!!  - To Christ

Monday, June 2, 2014

Marriage and Sin - Effects & Results

Gen. 1:31 - Marriage good in first 2 chapters.
Then, Gen. 3:1-24 - 'The Fall"

1)   Marriage = designed - has divine Designer (God)
2)   Marriage = designed to produce/ bring about ... companionship (way beyond friendship),  partnership, courtship, "Godly offspring", melding, staying lifelong (some purposes marriage designed for)

Question:  IF it is so designed, why not Producing more????
Quote from acquaintance years ago, "problem is not with the institution, the problem is us!!"

BUT, what about us????   Biblical Answer = SIN

Definition of sin = any attitude or action contrary to God's will, desire, design for us.  - Commission or Omission.

First instance of sin (in human race) - Gen. 3

Results?   Consequences?  
 #1.  Alienation  
#2.  Perpetuation
 Prior to the fall, everything was in harmony.

I.  Alienated from:
 a) God - "hid selves"
 b) Nature/Creation - "thorns and thistles"
 c) One Another - "fig leaves, covered "selves"
d) Themselves (self) - ashamed of nakedness, battle/struggle within

II.  Perpetuation of  this flawed nature - Rom. 3:23 - "all have sinned"

So, now any marriage involves 2 seriously flawed people.
Any family consists of seriously flawed people!

How much does this sin principle/presence affect your marriage?  family? 
Answer:  A lot!!  Too much!!!

Is there a remedy?  Can the harmony (unity, tranquility) be restored?
Answer = Yes ---- BUT!!    It can never be restored without Jesus Christ in life as Savior and LORD!

On one hand, the Christian is Positionally restored at salvation.
However, we still live amidst the presence, power, pervasiveness of Sin 
Example:  Present/Future Salvation   - Present/Future Kingdom

So, 1) Sin still exists
      2) we still tend toward it
      3) it still has Negative consequences!! - Gal. 6:7-8

So, what can I do to better my marriage and family - in light of Sin?
Can't eliminate sin, it's presence, it's effects..

Some things to consider that WILL make a difference!

#1.  Recognition and Admission  ie:  R & A
A)   Your need for reconciliation - To God, through Christ
B)   Your degree of imperfection - 1 John 1:8
C)  Your spouse, kids etc. suffer from the same malady

#2.  Submission (ie:  a yielding, surrendering)
A)  to God/Christ - as BOTH Savior AND Lord!!
B)  to His Revealed Will (His Word)
C)  to Your role within in the family - ie:  male/female, husband/wife/ father/mother, etc.

This is NOT a one time surrender!!

#3.  Instruction and Correction - primarily from Scripture, but also books, DVDs, speakers on marriage
can't do Right if don't know right!!!!

#4.  Discipline - (continual application) 
The battle doesn't end when you accept Christ.  The process doesn't end. 

#5.  Apology - which = admission of wrong and request for forgiveness - there is tremendous power in apology.

#6.  Forgiveness - Let it go!!! - Col. 3:13  - sometimes before and without a request!!!

#7.  Support - Eph. 5:25-27 - "build up" - Prov. 14:1

When we come to a point or recognition of the power of sin in life, then can begin to move up the other steps listed.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Marriage - God's Design

Last week - "Marriage is designed" - not accidental, incidental, cultural invention

IF designed, Then there's a purpose!!  ie:  designed to achieve, accomplish, bring about an intended outcome.


So, WHAT is Marriage designed to eventuate?  deliver?

#1.  Provide Companionship.  "not alone" - no friendship is comparable to what God is trying to accomplish in marriage.

#2.  establish a Partnership - "help mete" - plus " - working together in life and against life - "subdue, rule, have dominion"

#3.  provide Courtship - (romance, passion, LOVE) - "this is bone of my bone"

#4.  effect Completion (compliment, Add to, Round out)  Doesn't mean you are incomplete if not married.  But means, the Union is incomplete without Both male and female.

#5.  create a Couple - a pair, a mating pair.  Gen. 4:1 (KJV - "knew") - intimacy, need, enjoyment
Doesn't mean this can't take place outside of marriage.  Obviously, it does.

BUT, that's not God's design.  His design is within marriage, with commitment

What else is Marriage designed to effect??

#6.  Procreation - ie:  babies!!!  Gen. 1:28  (creation out of His creation)
Doesn't mean can't do this outside of marriage, BUT, God's design is within marriage!!!
Procreation is far more than just having kids.

#7.  Child raising - nurture, development within confines of home and marriage.
This is more than perpetuation of species - Mal. 2:16
Doesn't mean incomplete without kids, doesn't mean singles cannot nurture, develop, etc.
However, IF there are kids, God's plan is the best plan - nuture, etc. within marriage.  God is preparing a Kingdom of Godly people - Eternal people

#8.  Melding Together - Gen. 2:24   - 2==>1
Doesn't mean individuality is erased.  But "knit together", so.....

#9.  Staying Together - Matt. 19:4-6
Old English = "put asunder".    Mal. 2:16
Doesn't mean no place for divorce.  Doesn't mean God hates divorcees.   God understands divorce perfectly, but that's NOT His design or desire.  Jer. 3:6-8

#10.  Glorifying God.   ie:  make Him know, reveal Him, manifest Him
Point = people should encounter God in a Christian marriage.

Eph. 5:31-32 - Christ & church = model  for marriage!  Marriage is to reflect/display Christ & church


if marriage designed for this, why isn't it producing more of it? 
Answer:  SIN  (next week).  Nothing wrong with the institution - wrong with the people in the institution

Note:  we tend to ask "is my spouse providing this for me?"
We ought to ask "am I providing this for my spouse?"

Before marriage can deliver what it is designed to do, you must ...
A.  Submit to the design
B.  Submit to the designer

Monday, May 19, 2014

Family Series - Marriage

Design, Purpose, Function

Christians believe: 
#1.  in the Bible we find God's guidelines for marriage and family
#2.  When followed, practiced - marriage and family "work" better

Underlying this idea are some basic Biblical doctrines/teachings:
1)  Creation - we are not a cosmic accident, but intentional creation.  God not only created us, but designed us!!

2)  Design - we are:  intricantly, specifically, intentionally planned and formed and put together
for a:

3)  Purpose - for a reason:  to best achieve and accomplish

4)  Function - we are to operate accordingly - if we wish to achieve maximum performance and benefits..

We believe this to be true of  1)  His people   and 2) His institutions (organizations)
examples:  A.  the church   B.  marriage/family

Remember, believing God's Word about these things puts us in the minority.

BUT, how to KNOW His design?  purpose?  function?

(Answer = another basic doctrine) - Revelation:  general and specific
He has chosen to make many things known to us about Himself, His creation.  Not all things, but many things.

So, based on these doctrines,
Marriage - it's design, function, purpose

Gen. 1:20-25   Gen. 2:20-24

What is Marriage designed to do? 
#1.  Provide companionship - Gen. 2:18 "alone"- yet, more than friends!

#2.  Establish a partnership (pair up against life) - Gen. 2:18  "helpmeet" - you are created in image of God - not one of the animals. Gen. 1:26-28 - "rule and subdue"
             Gen. 2:15 - "dress and keep garden"
#3.  Provide courtship, romance - Gen. 2:23 = excitement
Song of Solomon 1:1-2, 7:10
Compare Eph. 5:25  Rev. 19:7, 21:2
This is more than friendship, companionship.  = exclusive love relationship.
Found in analogy between Christ and His church - He loves the church pursuantly, extravagantly

#4.  Complement one another ( a man and a woman) - supplement, complete one another
Doesn't mean that you are incomplete without a spouse.
It does mean that the union (institution, organization, alliance, association, firm) IS incomplete without Male and Female - has to have both to complete and to work

We are created/designed - 1) different from one another
                                         2) beneficial to one another
                                         3) dependent on one another (marriage doesn't work, can't work with one!)
Cannot have a complete marriage, complete union without man & woman.

#5.  Couple (a man & woman) ie:
     A.) to pair up - two people in exclusive relationship
     B.) couple up/MATE - sexual intimacy .... for:
               sexual needs - 1 Cor. 7                sexual enjoyment - Song of Solomon

These are things that marriage is designed to do.  However, marriage doesn't assure you of all of these.  Won't happen unless two people make it work!!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Family Series - 25th. Year

Began with "Butterflies & Buffaloes" in 1989. 

Why continue with this series? 

#1.  Family is important - to God and His Kingdom, to society, to US.  According to polls taken in Money Magazine regarding the American Dream, 2 questions raised:

"Rate the most important elements of the American Dream."
#1 answer = "having a happy home life" - 97.8%
If you miss that, you have missed the Dream.

"What is the greatest obstacle to achieving the American Dream?
#1 answer - "catastrophic illness in the family

(typical of many polls)

So, why continue with the family series?
#1.  Family is important 

#2.  Instruction is needed - clearly, the desire for something is no assurance that it will happen.
Example:  stats/polls show a breakdown of marriage/family.   (ex.= divorce in USA is at "highest level of marital failure in the History of mankind - of any culture, any period of time.

#3.  We need to be reminded.  --> we are human - we forget what we learned.

So, we begin the 25th. year, because it is not enough to desire/want this, need additional things.

Prov. 14:1 - "builds" - implies Work - doesn't just happen because you want it. 
Need knowledge, application, discipline, reminding - 2 Tim. 3:16-17 - God's Word is useful for every day.
Not just for Sunday morning, Sunday School, etc.

2 Pet. 1:12

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

Luke 18:1-8

The Point:  Vs. 1 - "Always Pray & Not Give Up"

The Context:  (begins in Luke 17:20 - must know the setting before can apply the teaching) = 2nd. Coming, Establishment of Kingdom.

Before His Coming (prior to His return and establishing the Kingdom) - EXPECT
1)  injustice, unrighteousness, turmoil, unbelief
2)  delay
3)  doubts - (caused by the turmoil and the delay)

But also Expect ... His Return/Sudden Judgment and a setting right of all things!!

Illustration:  Noah - Luke 17:26-27
                  Lot - Luke 17:28-30

So, in Spite of the situation, circumstances, appearances - believers should "A.P.and N.G.Up" (always pray and not give up)

Compare:  Rev. 19:11 with Rev. 6:9-11
2 Pet. 3:3-4, 8-11

Anybody serious about following the Lord will go through these times.  Going to have to fight, fight, fight upstream and not give up.

Three Questions by Way of Application:

#1.  Is this true of prayer in general?  ( should a.p. & n.g.u)
Answer:  Yes!!  Luke 11:5-13 - text following the Lord's Prayer

Application = Luke 11:9

God does not get annoyed by persistence. - He sees, hears, cares. unlike the unrighteous judge
God doesn't avoid petitions - He will respond  - unlike the annoyed neighbor
AS a Righteous judge, AS a Loving Father
He is delighted by persistence because He's the one to whom we should go!!

Question #2:  What about "Quickly"??  - Luke 18:8
Some suggestions:  A)  suddenly - as in His Return
                              B) quickly - according to His time frame - relative term - ( 2 Pet. 3:8-11  Rev. 3:11 )

On one hand, neither answer is satisfactory.
However, must remember:  1)  Prayer Remains a mystery.  (example:  if God is omniscient, omnipotent, why pray??0
Must also remember 2)  Prayer is a mystery but = a mystery with a Promise!!
James 5:16 (b)
There is no promise that the answer will be what we want, or that it will happen when we want, just promises that it will make a difference!!

Question #3:  (posed by Jesus) - Luke 18:8 (b) - in spite of situation, appearances, delay, doubts, will He find perseverance?

Isa. 62:6-7 (after the exile) - Context = Restoration of Israel and Jerusalem.
                                           Point = "Always Pray and Not Give Up"

Promises:  He cares and He responds.  He wants us to come persistently, knowing He will make it right.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Pharisee and the Publican

Luke 18:9-14
Publicans = tax collectors.
Justified = in right relationship with God.
Pharisee = religious sect of Judaism - very intent on keeping of the law and the traditions of man - VERY strict.  Separatist.

To whom this parable addressed?  Luke 18:9
1)  self-righteous = confidence that MY deeds, actions, lifestyle, HEART = good enough to please God and gain heaven.   (all about me)
2)  disdain = looking down on anyone who does not share my views, opinions, standards, lifestyle

Note #1:  This = common malady!! - example:  just get in to a discussion with anyone about politics!

Note #2:  This uses a ridiculous standard of rightness!!! - ie:  ME/SELF!!  - everything is measured by this!

Question:  by what should I measure 'self?
Answer:  God's Law which = "here's how ought to act, live, etc.

Problem:  we fall miserably short of what we ought to be.  Example:  "love the Lord God with ALL your heart, mind, soul, AND, your neighbor as yourself"  (How you doing with that?)  Rom.  3:23
All fail to live up to standard He has set or that we know exists.

The irony:  if Anybody should have understood this, it should have been THE PHARISEES!!    (compare  the Christian)

The Result??  The Pharisee did NOT please God.... and was NOT justified.

the Publican - Luke 18:13 who displays: 
1) admission - of his sinfulness
2)  confession - says the same thing as God about it
3)  contrition - more than aware of sin but = SORRY for sin.
4)  request ---- for MERCY

The Result??  Luke 18:14 (a) - Publican was justified.  The Moral? :  Luke 18:14 (b)


God wants you to see your sinfulness.

Why??  So you'll  1)  Come to Him - Gal. 3:24 - the Law was a teacher to instruct the ppl as to what they were NOT doing vs what they should do.
                            2)  Correct yourself.  (not continue in self-righteousness)
If judge self, God won't have to.

Objection!!  all this "sinfulness" stuff de-values man!!
Answer:  NO - it declares our value, demonstrates our value - Rom. 5:8 - it's out of love that God shows us our sinfulness.

Expanded Application How do I achieve, acquire this justification?  This rightness?

The need initially = come to God through the Sacrifice of Christ - 1 Pet. 3:18 - Admit   Believe   Confess - Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior

The need continually - don't believe you'll lose your standing - do believe you can lose focus!!
Example:  David w/Bathsheba

So:  Psm. 51:1-12, 16-17

New Testament Summary:  1 John 1:8-9

So, where do you stand?
      who do you resemble?
      what is your response?

Remember:  Luke 18:14 (b) - by God