Tuesday, October 27, 2015

God's Church Lives On

    On the News.  “Christianity is dead in Europe.  Islam is the new reality.”  [But God may have other plans.  “Horses & chariots of fire.”  2 Kings 6:16-17.]
    John wrote to suffering Christians to strengthen their faith at a time they were being destroyed.  The God of Heaven is in control even when He seems not to be.  The “gates of hell” cannot prevail against Christ and His church.  Paul wrote:  “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  Eph 6:10-12 (NLT)
    Christianity may seem to be dying.  John wrote in Revelation. 
“When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.  And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”  Rev 11:7-8 (NKJV)
    1. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the one Spiritual Kingdom.  Satan is allowed to oppose the church through the antichristian world.  He seems to defeat the church, and the dead bodies lie on the street.  But God the Holy Spirit sends a life-giving breath and Christianity is reborn – again and again!
    a) Righteousness comes from God.
    “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.  And the Lord said to Satan, "The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?"  Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.  Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes."  And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.”  Zech 3:1-5 (NKJV)
    b) Come Up Here!
    “Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.  And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.  In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”  Rev 11:11-13 (NKJV)
    “The death of the two witnesses is not the end of their ministry. God was not defeated in the death of Jesus and he will not be defeated in the slaughter of his witnesses. The God of the resurrection breathed life into the dead so that they stood up (see Ezek 37:3-5,10), leaving no doubt about God's power. • Terror struck: It is a fearful experience for sinful humans to face the power of the living God (see Heb 10:31).  they rose to heaven in a cloud: The event is reminiscent of the ascent of Jesus (see Acts 1:9) and others (see 2 Kgs 2:11-12; 1 Thess 4:17).”  —NLT Study Bible
    c) Central idea.  Evil cannot permanently conquer good.  God is the Power and the Glory.  Rev 11:7-13 shows a continuing cycle of events.  Satan himself fights against the church of Christ [through the antichristian world] and seems to destroy it.  But after 3½ days, God sends a life-giving breath into it.  The church seems to die and is reborn again and again.  The one spiritual church does not terminate.  It is taken up to God and continues to be with Him forever, in the eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:7-9).  God’s eternal purpose in the first Coming of Jesus Christ is stated in John 3:16-17.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  John 3:16-17 (NKJV)
    “The truth that God loved the world is basic to Christian understanding (1 Jn 4:9-10). God's love extends beyond the limits of race and nation, even to those who oppose him (see "The World" at John 17:5-26, p. 1807). • The Son came to save—not condemn (John 3:17)—men and women who habitually embrace the darkness (John 3:19-21).  As light penetrates and exposes the world's darkness, God's judgment on the world has already begun. Those who see this light and recognize the tragedy of their own situation have the responsibility of believing in God's... Son.”  —NLT Study Bible

Monday, October 19, 2015

We Preach Christ

        Gospel Meetings used to be called Protracted Meetings in the 1940s, and were called Revivals by many.  These are times of evangelistic outreach, lifting up and honoring Christ Jesus and letting His Light of Truth shine. “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”  John 1:9-10 (KJV)
        “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”  Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)
        “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?  And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”  Heb 1:5-6 (KJV)
        “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.  But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. “  1 Cor 3:10-11 (KJV)
      In the year of 1794, on August 4th, Rice Haggard stood in the meeting at Old Lebanon Church, Surry County, Virginia, with a New Testament in his hand, and said: "Brethren, this [New Testament] is a sufficient rule of faith and practice.  And by it we are told that the disciples were called Christians. And I move that henceforth and forever the followers of Christ be known as Christians simply."  This proved to be the beginning of the "Stone-Campbell Movement" in America.  [The Lord's Church dates from Pentecost.]
        Salvation unites the believer with Christ.  Said Stone: "We urged upon the sinner to believe now, and receive salvation...No previous qualification was required, or necessary, in order to believe in Jesus, and come to Him - that if they were sinners, this was their divine warrant to believe in Him and to come to Him for salvation...When we first began to preach these things, the people appeared as just awakened from the sleep of ages - they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed [for salvation] was a damning sin.”
        Walter Scott, who came to be thought of as The Evangelist  used the "five-finger exercise" to help people remember: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Remission of sins, Gift of the Holy Spirit."  These were man's response to God's offer of salvation.  Christ is preached: His Death and Resurrection. Sinners are to believe in Christ, repent of sins, and be baptized into Christ for remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:38].  With this message, Scott led thousands each year [in the 1800's] to "obey the gospel." 
        Unity  is a command of Christ
      “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”  John 17:20-23 (KJV)
        In 1832, Stone and Campbell joined the right hand of fellowship. Stone wrote in 1833: "How vain are all human attempts to unite a bundle of twigs together, so as to make them grow together and bear fruit.  They must first be united with the living stock, and receive its sap and spirit, before they can ever be united with one another.  The members of the body cannot live unless by union with its head - nor can members of the church live united, unless first united with Christ The Living Head.  His Spirit is the bond of union.  Men have devised many plans to unite Christians - all in vain.  There is but one effectual plan, which is, that all be united with Christ and walk in Him."
        We "stand on the shoulders" of those who have gone before us.  Their work of faith is very important to us.  Read Paul's teaching in 1 Cor. 15:1-8; Titus 2:11-14; 3:3-8; Col. 2:11-14.         

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


     If it’s true the redemptive drama being played out here hinges on the quality of the church’s leadership, then each congregation must pay close attention to what makes for a good church leader. A fresh look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is needed.
     In that hope, I’ve tried to summarize Paul’s description of the ideal spiritual leader in a list of 10 questions a congregation could ask of potential elders. Keep your Bible open to the text as you read through the following descriptions. As you seek those men who will lead your church, perhaps these questions will serve as a helpful test:
     1. Is this man respected in the community? The first quality listed is above reproach, literally meaning “not able to be held.” In other words, if charges were leveled against this man, he wouldn’t even be held for questioning because his reputation is so solid. He’s Teflon, not Velcro. His integrity is such that accusations just won’t stick.
     By the way, in verse 7 Paul bookends this list with another call for a good reputation with outsiders. Why this emphasis on how well others think of a man? Simply this: the reputation of Christ is tied to that of the church, and the reputation of the church is tied to that of its leaders.
     2. Is this man committed to his wife? A husband of but one wife literally reads “a one-woman man.” It describes a man completely devoted to his wife not only in body, but also in mind and heart. Why is this important? A strong marriage helps protect an elder from moral failure, provides needed support when he faces draining church challenges, and offers a powerful example to younger believers (1 Peter 5:3).
     3. Has this man shown wisdom in decision-making? Temperate means “clear-headed,” and self-controlled could actually be translated “prudent or thoughtful.” These words picture a man who has his head on straight. Why? Because an elder must often think his way through thorny relational, financial, and doctrinal questions—all of which can have eternal consequences. (Perhaps this is why spiritual leaders are called “elders,” suggesting a certain amount of life experience. Wisdom doesn’t always come with age, but it rarely comes without it.)  Look for evidence that a man is mature enough to avoid shoot-from-hip, impulsive, or careless decisions.
Whether you call it common sense, horse sense, or “coon dog sense,” you want your spiritual leaders to demonstrate wise decision-making.
     4. Has this man shown the ability to keep his temper in check? Paul describes an elder as a man who is not violent, but gentle and not quarrelsome. Church leaders will face volatile situations in which a soft word will turn away anger, but a harsh word will stir up wrath (Proverbs 15:1). If a man is known to have either an explosive anger (“losing it”) or a slow, simmering anger (“carrying a grudge”), the church will suffer. When conflict and criticism arise, the man who will make a good elder will have a tough skin, a tender heart, a short memory, and a long fuse.
     5. Is this man willing to be inconvenienced for others? When we hear the word hospitable, we picture inviting someone over for an evening of lasagna dinner and conversation. In the ancient world, where inns were notoriously filthy and even dangerous, the word pictured someone opening his home for guests to stay days or even weeks on end. Hospitality involved sacrifice and cost a great deal in time, space, money and effort. In other words, Paul’s question is: will this man think of others before himself?  After all, an elder is to shepherd the flock of God, and having raised sheep, I can tell you these frustrating animals need constant care. Their problems always seem to come at inconvenient times—I’ve spent a late night or two in the sheep barn. Plus, they smell baaaaad. (Sorry.) In other words, sheep require unconditional love.  A good elder recognizes, however, that these frustrating folk are beloved of God and are “bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
     6. Is this man capable of teaching Scripture to others? An elder must be able to teach. Why? Biblically, the primary strategy for personal and corporate transformation is not excellent programming or even quality relationships, but rather the patient teaching of Scripture (2 Timothy 4:2). Is Paul telling Timothy to look for effective public speakers? Not necessarily. While delivery matters, the first requirement of a good teacher is not presentation skills, but mastery of content. Has this man given himself to study of Scripture and to filling himself with the Word of God?  You’re not simply looking for a man who knows how to say something, but rather a man who has something to say—something from God
     7. Has this man established wise personal habits? The word respectable pictures a man who is self-disciplined and orderly in his behavior. It describes the ancient church father who once prayed, “Father, help me be master of my self that I may be servant of others.” To serve the church, an elder certainly must not be given to drunkenness, but he must also avoid other habits that can damage reputation and distract focus—workaholism, gambling, smoking, overeating, or even watching too much television.  Ask of a potential leader: Do his habits reveal a man who is able to supervise his own life well? Self-control is not only the fruit of the Spirit, but also the mark of a good elder.
     8. Does this man have a strong sense of stewardship? Phrased differently, he is not a lover of money. Phrased positively, he is a lover of God with his money. Paul is describing a leader whose life will be marked by generosity and simple contentment. (See 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19.)   Why? A man who lives under the love of money might let in the door of his life such sins as embezzling, extravagance, or even hoarding, and I’ve seen spiritual leaders who then let these sins in the door of the church. On the other hand, a man who lives under the love of God will steward his own money and the church’s finances with God’s glory and the church’s mission always in mind.
     9. Does this man have a track record of discipling leadership? Has this man shown the ability to lead others to greater maturity in Christ? To answer that question, look at his family first. When Paul says an elder must manage his own family well, he means a man’s family is his first little congregation, and “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). But if three of his four children have no use for the church, what does this say of his spiritual leadership?
     10. Has this man been a Christian long enough to maintain humility? Paul says he must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited. The chief occupational hazard of spiritual leadership is pride, and too much visibility too soon in a man’s Christian pilgrimage can inflate his ego.  You’re looking for a man who won’t believe his own church newsletter press clippings and instead has the humility that comes when you’ve walked a ways with Jesus.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Christ Transformed In A Resurection Body

Christ Transformed In A Resurrection Body
    In His Resurrection Jesus had a real immortal and imperishable body.  Luke 24:40.  So will we.
    1. Death is defeated.
    "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” Rev 1:17-18     
     He has authority even over death and Hades [the world of the dead].  He will raise eveyone from death at His Coming!  See John 5:27-29.
    “Although He eternally existed as the Son of God, Jesus' resurrection demonstrated Him to be God's Son, revealing Him in all His power and glory. —NLT Study Bible
    “O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?  Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the Angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.”  Chrysostom
    “Only in the resurrection do we have the message that God has given us the provision of His life in order that we might be man as God intended man to be; in order that the resurrection life of the risen Lord Jesus might become the essence of spiritual life in the Christian; in order that we might live by His life and the expression of His character. The resurrection is the positive provision of life in Christ Jesus, around which all other theological topics must be oriented.”  J.A.Fowler
    2. Resurrection events.
    “Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.  She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.  And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.  After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.  And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.”  Mark 16:9-13
    “Mary thought that with the resurrection, Jesus would resume normal relations with His disciples. She was trying to cling to the joy she discovered in Her resurrected Lord. But His fellowship with her would come in a new form (John 20:22). Jesus had not yet ascended to complete His return to the Father, but the process was underway. Before His final departure, He would give the Holy Spirit (John 20:22; see John 14:15-21, 26; 15:26-27; 16:5-15).—NLT Study Bible
    He shewed unto them his hands and his side.  The Lord showed his wounds to convince them beyond a doubt that it was not a fantasy or an apparition. A week later he shows his wounds to Thomas. The resurrected body still bore these proofs of his suffering and love. Sixty years later, when John, at Patmos, saw the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, he beheld “a Lamb as it had been slain.” Perhaps our Lord in glory continues to bear the marks of the cross. Perhaps these will forever, as we gaze in glory, remind us of the story of our redemption.”—People's New Testament, Johnson’s Notes
    “It was fitting for Christ’s soul at His Resurrection to resume the body with its scars. In the first place, for Christ’s own glory. For Bede says on Luke 24:40 that He kept His scars not from inability to heal them, “but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.”  Aquinus
    3. We shall be raised!
    “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  Romans 8:11
    Though the body be doomed to death “because of sin,” it shall be “quickened” for those who have God's Spirit dwelling in them. Even our mortal bodies shall be raised, not in corruption, but in incorruption.
    “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
1 Cor 15:51-52
    “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”  Phil 3:20-21 
     "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-- Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”  Acts 2:22-24

    “For early Christians, resurrection was seen to consist of passing death and out the other side into a new sort of bodily life. As Romans 8 shows, Paul clearly believed that God would give new life to the mortal bodies of Christians and indeed to the entire created world: “If the Spirit of the God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised the Messiah Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). This is a radical mutation from within Jewish belief.  Resurrection hope (as one would expect from its Jewish roots) turned those who believed it into a counter-empire, an alternative society that knew the worst that tyrants could do and knew that the true God had the answer. But the Christians had an extra reason for this hope, a reason which, they would have said, explained their otherwise extraordinary focus on, and sharpening of, this particular Jewish belief. For the Christians believed that the Messiah had already been raised from the dead. Passages such as Job 19:25-27, which in the King James Version seems to predict bodily resurrection more solidly than the Hebrew warrants, may have gained this meaning when read in the Septuagint.”  N.T Wright