Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Being More Deliberate

Years ago I had an encounter with some people that said that our work for the church had to have intentionality. This word, I learned later, was a buzz word used in certain Christian circles that espouse the ideas of the Church Growth Movement. One of their claims is that to reach people where they are, you must become more like them; hence, the intentionality. You choose to make a deliberate effort – you force yourself - to show yourself like them to have something in common. In this way they feel comfortable being around you and they join your church because they seem to like you, not because they love Jesus. When they stop liking you they leave to where they like other people. This style is a backlash of our former style of telling people seemingly irrelevant information about prophecy, theology, or Bible history. Many left our churches with this system, also.

Being more deliberate will not help your witnessing (or discipleship). Only submitting more to the Holy Spirit will. Consider the disciples. It was not until the disciples submitted to the Holy Spirit that they became effective in their ministry. They became bold after receiving the “early rain” (Acts 2). Just before this they confessed their sin and repented, the prayed and studied. If anything they became more deliberate in their submission to Christ.

Before the early rain fell on them the disciples were not quite effective workers. Even when Jesus gave the disciples power they could not free the one demon possessed. Let’s read the story in Matthew 17: 14 – 21,

Mat17:14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,

Mat17:15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for oft times he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

Mat17:16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

Mat17:17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

Mat17:18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

Mat17:19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

Mat17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Mat17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Contrast this with the man healed of demon possession at Gadarene. Let’s read in mark 5:18 – 20,

Mark5:18 And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.

Mark5:19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

Mark5:20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

Christ never said to the man “be more deliberate.” He said to him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” We also have the story of the woman by the well. Let us read in John 4:28 – 29

John4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,

John4:29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

He never told her to be more deliberate, in fact she went on her own, to share about Christ. She just went. Her witness was very effective, the whole town converted. The other thing Christ told people was to “Show yourself to the Priests,” as we read in Luke 17:14.

Luke17:14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests.

They were to witness to the priests about their miraculous healing. This would have been a great witness to the priests who were bent on rejecting Christ. Christ knew this, so he sent the people where He would not be effective. Christ instead would go where the Spirit sent Him. Christ was deliberate on following what the Spirit prompted Him to do. And, He wants us to follow His example.


Click on link To Download as PDF file: On_Being_More_Deliberate

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jesus was no Hero

A Hero is a mythological, or legendary, figure, of great strength, or ability; the chief male character in a literary or dramatic work; a man admired for his achievements and qualities. In the teachers section of our quarterly an objective is proposed, “To feel an admiration and attachment to Jesus as the only Savior of humanity and as a true Hero to be emulated.” The question to ask is if Jesus is a Hero. If we are to use the above definitions then He was not.

For starters Jesus was neither mythological nor legendary. He was and is real. While Jesus is the chief male character of the story in the Bible, the Bible is not fictional work. The Bible also does not describe Jesus as a man of great strength and ability. This is not to say that He was a weakling, after all He was a carpenter for most of his life, but He was no Samson. The Bible did not talk of Jesus possessing great ability as, for example, David had. David wrote poetry and songs, played the harp, sang, and fought beasts and giants. (Although, it should be said that it was Jesus as God who gave to Samson his strength and to David his ability.) Jesus after all “…hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa53:2).

Some will point to the miracles Jesus performed. But remember what He told the disciples when Phillip asked Him to show the Father, let read in John 14:8 12,

John14:8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

John14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

John14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

John14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.

John14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Jesus told His disciples that because He was leaving He would pray to the Father so the Father would send another Comforter (walking partner). This walking partner is the Holy Spirit which dwells in all who believe (John 14: 16 – 17). The Holy Spirit would give us the power to do greater things than even Jesus did.

There is one thing, however, that Jesus did that we will not ever be able to do. That is to die to save the world(John 3:16). Only Jesus could do that. The Law required a “Spotless lamb” and only Jesus can say that He was spotless. Not that His flesh was spotless, He came in the likeness of Sinful flesh, was tempted in all things as we are, but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15; Romans 8:3). This is great distinction between heroes and Jesus: heroes cannot die to save you from the wages of Sin. So, Jesus is our Savior, and He is also our Master and Lord.

No one submits and depends on Superman or Spiderman for all things as we do in Christ. Heroes show up when we need them and after we no longer need them they leave. We always need Jesus and He never leaves us, He is with us always (Matthew 28:20).


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Thursday, July 17, 2008


Hypocrisy is the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or Possess. In other words, Insincerity by pretending to have qualities or beliefs not really held. Other words for it are deceitfulness, pretense, pharisaism, phoniness, sanctimoniousness, sanctimony, tartuffery, two-facedness, and dishonesty. This shows in inconsistent behavior, which shows their lack of integrity. Because of this, hypocrisy is also the act of condemning or calling for the condemnation of another person when the critic is guilty of the act for which he demands that the accused be condemned. The word originates the Greek word for acting or playing a part. Some psychologists explain hypocrisy by saying that individuals are more likely to explain their own actions by their environment, yet they attribute the actions of others to 'innate characteristics', thus leading towards judging others while justifying ones' own actions. In other words hypocrites judge themselves by their motives and others by their actions. The issue is that hypocrites try to hide in themselves the things they dislike in others. When caught they excuse themselves, when others are caught they are fast to judge and condemn.

This was the issue with the Pharisees. They seemed very strict in their public practice, but in private they were worse then public offenders. In many ways, John was as strict as a Pharisee, but not a hypocrite. John practiced what he preached. The Pharisees did not. They told the people that they did one thing and that the people should follow suit, but hid to do other things. They claimed to love and follow God, but mistreated those whom God loved. It is no wonder John spoke so strongly against them. When they and the Sadducees went to see John in the wilderness, he said to them,

Mat3:7 …O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Mat3:8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

Mat3:9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Mat3:10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Christ had also harsh words for the Pharisees. In Luke 11:37 one of them invited Jesus to dine. After observing that Jesus did not wash His hands before eating the disciple pointed out that Jesus was breaking or defiling the tradition of the elders. Jesus replied to Him that what defiles a body – wickedness and ravening - is already inside. In other words, what is on the outside shows what is in the inside. The Pharisees tithed on everything, but refuse to give care to their elderly parents, thus violating the commandment of giving honor to your parents (Mark 7: 8 – 11). So Christ proceeds to proclaim His famous woe to the Pharisees in Luke 11: 42 – 44,

Luke11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Luke11:43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.

Luke11:44 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.

In contrast, Christ words for the John the Baptist, were praiseworthy. Jesus said of John, that he was more than a prophet, and “…Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist (Matthew11:11). Was John inherently better than the Pharisees? No. John just made better choices. He chose to allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in him, and lived a life of total dependence on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit cleansed Him of the wickedness and ravening in his heart.

The difference between John and the Pharisees was that the John allowed the Holy Spirit to do in him, what the Pharisees professed they could do on their own. The Pharisees represent those will be lost and John represents those who will be saved. Which one are you?


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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Different Words for the Same Covenant

The Lesson quotes 1 Corinthians 9:22 which reads,

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

The author interprets this verse to say that Paul modified the message specifically for his audience. This is nothing new. God, for example, reworded His covenant, to fit the circumstance of the person He was speaking to. Something Paul, as an avid reader of the Old Testament, should have known.

God worded the covenant to his servants in different times in different ways. But, it has been in principle the same covenant. It is always something that God promises that the person cannot do for themselves, at least the way God can do it. And, it is always tied up with the promise of salvation and the promise of rewards through salvation.

We have several examples of this.

  1. The promise to Adam and Eve is found in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Her child would provide the salvation against the serpent.
  2. The promise to Noah is found in Genesis 9: 8 – 13,

Genesis 9:8 - 13 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you … neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, this is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.”

The rainbow was to be a sign of the covenant. So every time we see a covenant we should remember God’s covenant to Noah.

  1. In the case of Abraham the promise is found in Genesis 15:18, “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” The Lord repeats and expands the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17. The sign of this covenant was to be circumcision. Again, God making promises that Abraham could not fulfill himself.
  2. This covenant to Abraham was to be established with Isaac and also Jacob.
  3. It was this covenant that God remembered to save the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 2:24). So He called on Moses to establish the covenant with the people of Israel. This was something Moses could not do by himself.
  4. Years after God establish the same covenant with Naomi and Ruth in the form of a spouse for Ruth, who would as a kinsman redeem the land for Naomi and Ruth. God did for them through Boaz what they could not do on their own.
  5. God then spoke to David, Boaz and Ruth’s great grandson, and promised him a kingly lineage (2 Samuel 7:13; 1Kings 2:4), a dynasty of sorts, from which the King of Kings would be born. The Lord kept the promise to David: Jesus was born out of David’s lineage.

Paul adjusted the message to his audience by following the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Jesus had said that when we are submitted to the Holy Spirit, He would give us the words to say. Perhaps that is why Paul was able to so aptly modify his preaching. In other words, this gift can be ours too, if we are submitted to the Holy Spirit.


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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Paul Means The Little One

What do we know of Paul before His conversion? Paul says of himself in Acts 22:3, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” He proceeds in Philipians 3:5, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee.” He was born a Roman citizen according to Acts 22:25 – 28. According to Galatians 1:14 He “…profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” He was Present at Stephen’s death and consenting of it according to Acts 7:58 and 8:1.

After this He persecuted the church as we read in Acts 8:3 and 22:4 and 5:

Act 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Act 22:4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.

Act 22:5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

Paul’s original name was Saul (Acts 13:9). His parents gave him this name because they hoped he would be as great as King Saul (Saul means desired). After Paul conversion (Acts 9) Saul changed his name to Paul, which means little one. This was to contrast his name in his life without Christ. After Christ he no longer pursued greatness, but was content to consider Christ as the great One and he, Paul, was a small one compared to Christ. Indeed, He called himself the least of the Apostles and all saints (1Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8), the chief of sinners (1Timothy 1:15), and a wretched man (Romans 7:24).

This is very paradoxical, as the things of God often are. The little one and least of all of the Apostles can be considered from our human our perspective as the greatest apostle of all. He was the evangelist. He was also a very successful church planter. Also, Paul was the most prolific letter writer.

How did Paul do it? We could argue that technically he did not. It was the Holy Spirit through him that accomplished all these things. Paul completely gave himself to the Holy Spirit’s control. He was a man of prayer. There are 32 references of prayer in Paul’s epistles. The Bible says Paul was full of the Spirit (Acts 13:9). Elsewhere Paul talks about following the directions of the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6).

Many want to be like Paul, but are unwilling to yield as Paul. Many want to plant churches, but are unwilling follow the Holy Spirit’s direction. Many want to preach and baptize, but are unwilling to let the Spirit speak through them. Many complain that the tithes and offerings are low; Paul became a tent maker to not burden the brethren (Acts 18:3). The question is which group do we belong to? Is it the group that as Paul lives by faith or the other that lives by works?