Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Power of Christ Rests On Me (part 2)

(view Part 1)

Reading 2 Corinthians 1:1-2 we discover that Paul’s greeting is loaded with golden nuggets--and we are just getting started. So far, we’ve explored the three worlds of Paul (Paul the Jew, Paul the Greek and Paul the Roman). Now let’s take a close look at Paul the Apostle. This is where we find him faithful.

Paul, the man of many worlds was prepared by God to be a bridge, carrying the gospel to many cultures. We examine his apostleship because this is one issue Paul defends in this letter. There were questions about what this means, so he answers them.

“Apostle” means more than simply “sent one” (not “pempo,” but “apostolos”). In common  day-to-day use the word describes a vessel outfitted for a specific expedition. It is related to “Admiral”, one armed with orders, the spearhead of logistics. More isolated uses reveal the word applied to an ambassador, a delegate, messenger--one sent off on commission to be someone’s representative. Specifically we understand the word to describe believers with a specific criteria, commissioned for specific function. One must be:

  1. Chosen by God. Most of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s defense concerning his apostleship, contrasting his ministry against false apostles who had invaded the Corinthian church. Nearly every letter of Paul’s opens with the statement that he was an apostle because he had been chosen for that role by God.
  2. Witness to the resurrection. Be a good Bible student and discover Acts 1:16-26, (note 21-22) and Acts 10:38-41.
  3. Appointed by Jesus. Notice how Paul roots his Apostleship as “of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” Jesus is The Head of The Church. Apostleship is not an office gained by promotion or accomplishment or by completing levels of training but by divine appointment. Consider Acts 1:24 and 20:24. Paul knew God set him apart for a special purpose. He was not a self-made man. Jesus is also the foundation of The Church, the very hinge on which all life turns and it is from Jesus’ perspective from which Paul saw God’s purpose in every detail of his own life, and in the life of the church.

What is God doing in your life?

a) Do you believe God knows what He’s doing?
b) Do you believe God when He says His will is that all come to repentance--that He has a heart for the lost?
c) Do you believe Jesus has a plan for His Church: to legislate Kingdom business on earth and lock down the business of hell?
d) Do you believe that the Holy Spirit equips Christ’s followers with spiritual gifts, tools to use within the Church?
e) Do you believe that God connects His heart with His plan for the church to use His tools in such a way that His Church is built among the nations?

If you affirm these things, the next question you need to answer is: “How does my life show that I believe God?”
a) If I believe He knows what He is doing, He is accomplishing His purpose in my life. If He does not know what He is doing, then He is not God.
b) If I believe God when He says His will is that all come to repentance, then I myself have turned from sin by faith in Christ and encourage others to do the same.
c) If I believe Jesus has a plan for His Church, I do Kingdom business on earth and lock down the business of hell.
d) If I believe the Spirit equips Christ’s followers with spiritual gifts, I am using my gifts for the building of the body.
e) If I believe God has a heart for the nations, I fulfill the Great Commission by giving and going.

God created us, directs our lives and does not expect His children to do His work without supply. We tend to act like atheists (one who has no invisible means of support) but Paul will remind us later that we are not sufficient in ourselves “but our sufficiency [is] from God”(2 Cor 3:5). “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor 12:9)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Photoblog: Curiosity

The other day I was doing an Active Recovery workout in our bedroom when these two jokers showed up to watch. They would not set foot across the threshold, even when I called. They just . . . watched.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Paul's Greeting (part 3): A Man of Three Worlds

(part 2)

We are considering the elements of Paul’s greetings, focusing attention on 2Corinthians 1:1-2. Last time we introduced the fact that Paul was a man of three worlds and we only looked at the first, exploring Paul the Jew. Let’s look into the second  and third worlds now and consider Paul the Greek and Paul the Roman.

We read in Acts 9:10-16 that God sent Ananias to help Paul after Paul’s conversion and God tells Ananias that Paul is God’s chosen instrument to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. When in Antioch of Pisidia, after Paul preaches his first sermon, we find that the Jews rejected the gospel, but Paul reiterated God’s call: (Acts 13:47) “For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Paul quotes the Old Testament passage of Isaiah 49:6, which show that the nations have always been on God’s heart. Paul understood the Jewish roots of the Great Commission! Was it an accident that Acts 18:6 records Paul standing in the synagogue in Corinth (of all places), saying “I will go to the Gentiles.” How was he qualified to do this, beyond God’s call? We ask because most of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s defense of his qualifications.

Paul was a citizen of Tarsus, a Greek city of historical drama established around 860 B.C. when Shalmanezer of Assyria listed it in his directory of conquests.  Alexander the Great nearly died here and Mark Antony prepared for war in Tarsus. This was a commercial city, the crossroads of trade into Asia Minor, known (among other things) for it’s  production of goat-hair felt, out of which people made tents, blankets, clothes, etc. (interesting that Paul was a tent-maker). Tarsus was also a university town, with an enthusiasm for learning that rivaled Athens and Alexandria. Commentator William Barclay noted “it was a city so cosmopolitan that none could walk the streets without coming into contact with the ends of the earth . . . If a man was destined to be a missionary to the world at large, there was no better place in all the east for him to grow to manhood than in Tarsus.”

But that’s not all! Paul was also a man of a third world: Paul was Roman. The more we read about Paul in the book of Acts, we find that Paul was a proud citizen of the Roman empire and never hesitated to appeal to his Roman citizenship or government. Now, there are different kinds of Roman citizenship: one could purchase citizenship to gain trade rights; one could be granted citizenship (such as military draft during times of crises); one could have “captured” citizenship (via conquest by the Empire); or, one could be born a citizen, and this was Paul’s case.

When we wrap up the three worlds of Paul, we have a Jewish man who grew up in a Roman neighborhood under Greek influence. In order for the gospel to go into ALL the world, God needed a unique person, and Paul was that person.

Who are you? What does your human portrait reveal? Does your life seem like a bunch of loose ends? Think for a moment about where you’ve come from, your experience and current activities. Is it difficult to tell who you are becoming? “I dunno, I feel lack of direction.”

Your background exposes opportunities for faithfulness in what He is doing, not failure-ness. No two churches are alike--you have a unique place, role in your local body of believers in fellowship. God is not too busy to be bothered by details of your life.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Repentance Of God

One topic often heard from objectors concerns the repentance of God where is often quoted, “God [is] not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do [it]? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Nu 23:19 KJV) against “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Gen 6:6 KJV). These and other scriptures seem to suggest contradiction concerning the nature of God. Perhaps in it’s most simplistic form, the question is really “how can one who does not change have a change either in mind or heart?”
One way to answer the question is found in the Hebrew word "nacham", which is often translated “comfort” throughout Genesis (5:29; 24:67; 37:35; 38:12; 50:21--to select one book). This demonstrates how the Hebrew mind understands a wider range of meaning beyond simply, “to be sorry.” 
The word carries the concepts of lamenting, grieving over one’s actions or the actions of others. We also find the word is refers to vengeance, anger--a specific response to a specific situation, such as a preemptive strike against one’s enemies (whether they be roaches, ants or opposing nations).

Is God sorry for what He says or does? Hardly. Does He grieve over the blatant disobedience of mankind against Him? Certainly! God must do what He says, even in punishing sin. If a person remains His enemy and will not be sorry for his own sins against God, He will overthrow them for His comfort (Isaiah 1:24). If His enemy grieves over his sin and trusts God by faith, both God and man will be comforted. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014


It's "Authority of Scripture" Week here on the campus of Columbia International University. Listen to guest speaker Dr. Douglas Moo (Wheaton College) speak on "Trusting Translations" (part 1, part 2, part 3)

How Paul McCartney's "Scrambled Eggs" Became The Most Recorded Song of All Time.

30 of the most beautiful bookshops in the world.

Here's the answer to the question that lurks in the backs of our minds but we never ask: "Why don't vultures get sick when eating dead things?"

Before the music was dubbed in . . . right?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paul's Greeting (part 2): A Man of Three Worlds

(read Part 1)

The Apostle Paul began each letter in a nearly identical way, and each word is loaded with meaning, so he’s saying much more than, “howdy, readers!”

Know what’s special about the FedEx logo? Its not the colors, but the arrow between the “E” and “x”. Sometimes we miss details.  One feature we often miss when we read 2 Corinthians 1:1-2  is that God inspired two authors to write the letter: Paul and Timothy.

What do we know about Paul? We know that he was a man of three worlds:

First, Paul was Jew. Jesus said He would build His church so He commissioned a handful of living stones to take the gospel into the world; however, the gospel is rooted in Judaism.

The Roman perspective was that Jews were bad people, had bad ideas and gave bad advice. The Roman senator Tacitus called the Jewish nation “the vilest of all people.” The Roman Philosopher Cicero said that the Jewish religion was “a barbarous superstition.” Josephus records a popular idea that Moses actually commanded Jews to show good will to no man, to always give advice, destroy altars and overturn established order, disrupt whenever possible. The gospel, rooted in Judaism?

Of course, a majority of Jews at that time also had a perspective: Gentiles were created by God to fuel the fires of hell. The gospel, rooted in Judaism? Really?

God has a perspective of both Jews and Gentiles: John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." God’s only Son, Jesus, also had a perspective: go into all the world with gospel. This is what Paul did. We will find Paul stating very clearly later in this letter “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.” (2 Cor 11:22). Paul was “Hebrew” meaning he could still speak Hebrew though most Jews scattered at this time forgot their native language and were speaking Greek. Paul was an “Israelite”: a member of God’s covenant nation. Paul was “of the seed of Abraham”: ethnically pure. Paul the Jew was dedicated to keeping the law, but he was not blameless. Remember that his name was “Saul”, before “Paul.” He had a Reputation (persecuting followers of Christ) but he also had a transformation in that he was changed by Christ. How did the change begin? 

A good Jew knew the law and the law revealed Paul’s heart as sinful (Ro 7:7), “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’”

How does God see your heart? What do you do with the gospel? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Paul's Greeting (part 1)

Have you read 2 Corinthians 1:1-2? I mean, really "read" it? Seems to be no different than any other letter written by the Apostle Paul, doesn't it?  One commentator had this to say, “It was a convention in ancient letters for the writer to express pious wishes for the health and well-being of his readers, invoking the names of the gods. Although he observed this practice in the form of his greeting, the apostle introduced the distinctively Christian hope that his readers will enjoy grace and peace which come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the words used here by Paul do not have any special force in this letter, since they are in identical form in greetings in six other letters.” (1)

Frankly, that’s sad.  His words have no special force? Paul’s greeting was just reduced to, “hey, s’up?” I think there is something more here than “greetings” and the fact that Paul uses the same formula in every letter should be a clue that what he has to say is very, very important.

Every letter Paul wrote was inspired by God; therefore, every word has significance. I can’t write off these two verses as “My name is Paul. How are you, in Jesus’ name, Amen?” The recipients of this particular letter are troubled; besides, Paul is about to defend his ministry, so every word explodes with meaning! What is Paul’s motive for doing this? Job security? No, but his Love for Christ, builder of the Church.

Remember Jesus’ conversation with Peter after the resurrection? (John 21:16) “He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’"

John Chrysostom (ca. 344-407) wrote, “What advantage, pray, could be greater than to be seen doing those things which Christ with his own lips declared to be proofs of love to Himself?” The primary charge of the pastor: “Tend my sheep” so those who shepherd the flock of the Lord, and care for His sheep do out of their love for Christ.

Paul loves the bride of Christ, so his words are a little more than “hello.”

Stay tuned as we study Paul’s greeting.

(1) Barnett, Paul. The Message of 2 Corinthians. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1988.

Friday, October 17, 2014

One Son, Or Many?

Question: “The Bible speaks of Jesus as God’s only begotten son, but there are many passages that say God has many sons. How many sons does God have: one, or many?”

Answer: God has many sons, but only one “only begotten” son.

Perhaps the best approach would be to discover “how” one is made a son. The first and most obvious answer is that one is made a son by birth, when a father brings a male child into the world, as in Adam being the son of God (Luke 3:38). Adam’s also had children: Abel, who was pleasing to God and Cain, who displeased the Lord by keeping a hard heart. After Cain killed Abel, Adam had another son (Seth) who was pleasing to the Lord. The descendants of Abel (“sons of God”, nobility) took wives from the descendants of Cain (“daughters of men”, peasantry) as described in Genesis 6:2-4.

A second option would be that one is made a son by adoption. This is how “son” is applied to the Christian. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” (John 1:12) because “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:5).

But what about these other “sons of God” such as those who witnessed Creation (Job 38:6-7) and who presented themselves before the Lord (Job 2:1). We should ask: are these sons Christians, sons by adoption? Clearly, no. Are they beings who share a common source, a father? Clearly, yes. Are they human? Clearly, no. They must be spiritual beings.

Where does this leave us concerning our final option, Jesus, God’s only begotten son (John 3:16)? Reviewing the list above, no other son is described as “only begotten” except Jesus. There is only one only begotten son, and that usage has a clear definition: the son who God raised from the dead. "God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'" (Acts 13:33)

Therefore, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18)

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Photoblog: The Band

I think we should name it "Yeah, It Happened." 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Power Of Christ Rests On Me (part 1)

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” [2Co 12:9 NKJV]

When you think of the power of Christ, what comes to mind? God gives us a three-pronged explanation, so let’s plug in:

First, the power of Christ is salvation from the penalty of sin, to everyone who believes. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”  (Ro 1:16). The future hope we have connected to this is eternal life. “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:6)

Second, the power of Christ is salvation from the power of sin. This is overpowering power, not a mere balancing act where one cancels out the other. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Ro 6:14)

Finally, the power of Christ is salvation from the presence of sin, to everyone who believes. “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation,  and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” (Rev. 12:10)

The beauty of the power of Christ is that this is not an experience that happens to us; rather, the power of Christ is placed within us. Notice that the Apostle Paul does not speak of the power of Christ as an “it”, something impersonal, but as being-in-residence, housed. We should find comfort in Jesus as our Power who is in-residence within us. This is where true spirituality is found: living by faith. Paul expresses this golden nugget of truth in the midst of deep and intense personal frustration--yet being fully spiritual. He has repeatedly and fervently prayed for release from something he called “a thorn in the flesh.” Notice how God answered the prayer: the power of Christ.

Andrew Murray (died, 1917) wrote, “Faith always means helplessness. In many cases it means: I can do it with a great deal of trouble, but another can do it better. But in most cases it is utter helplessness; another must do it for me. And that is the secret of the spiritual life.”

Monday, October 06, 2014

More Than a Baby

Sometimes it is difficult to see something by standing too close--you gotta take a step back and look at the whole thing again. Often too, familiarity creates blind-spots and while we think we see or have seen, we actually no longer see because we think we “know, understand” what we are viewing. Jesus is a familiar figure that often gets relegated into the realm of by scrutiny and we often lose sight of who He is. This is one reason I am so grateful to have the angelic announcement to Mary concerning His birth.
Luke records that the angel visited Mary with a birth announcement loaded with information. He does not merely say, “you’re gonna have a baby.” No, the angel makes some very specific statements about this child, identifying unique characteristics that distinguish this prophetic announcement. 
First, the angel declares the Humanity of The Child, saying “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son” (Luke 1:31). How’s that for an ultra-sound. The yet-to-be conceived baby will be a boy!
Second, he declares the Deity and Mission of The Child, “you shall name Him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). This name has a specific meaning, “The LORD saves.” The covenant-making God will rescue His people from their sins.
Third, the angel proclaims the Greatness of The Child, this boy Jesus “will be great” (Luke 1:32). When you think of “greatness,” what comes to mind? Will Jesus be large, great in size--will he be one of those big bouncing baby boys? Actually, the next descriptors help define the kind of greatness He will bear, and when we look at these we understand that his greatness describes His rank, His authority, power, influence, importance and most importantly, His excellence.
Fourth, the angel reveals the Identity of Jesus as He will be “called Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32) Who will call Him this? Mark records the testimony of demons calling Him such (Mark 5:7). But does Jesus require the testimony of these rebellious spirits? How were they able to identify Him the Son of the Most High? Consider the testimony of the Father Himself at Jesus’ baptism: “Thou art my beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). This declaration is given because Jesus was baptised but because He was filled with the Holy Spirit at the time of baptism. This is just as the angel explained to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Fifth, the angel discloses His Title To The Throne as “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32). No other person living, yet to live or dead has the title. The Lord God assigned this one person to the throne through a very public history. We don't make Him Lord. The Lord God makes Jesus Lord.
Finally, Jesus will have an Everlasting Universal Kingdom as, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:33). Let that sink in for a moment: His reign will never end. Never. 
How does one respond to that kind of announcement? We've already considered the response of Zacharias who doubted God’s announcement concerning his son, John. He did not believe God and his disbelief silenced his mouth. What will Mary do? The angel reminds Mary about Elizabeth, who conceived in her old age (hint: don’t be like her old man)--so Mary submits herself to God.
This is not an issue of "who is Jesus to you" but who are you in the light of how Jesus is revealed in time and space. Will you respond to Him as Mary--with belief, allowing God to accomplish His purpose in you?

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