Today’s Blog

Friday, 9/21/18 – Tough Question

“How could Jesus ‘learn obedience from what He suffered’ and be ‘made perfect’? (Heb. 5:8)
Was there a time when Jesus was disobedient, or imperfect?”

20180918_193624I stopped by a yard sale one day a few years ago and noticed a toaster oven that looked like a good deal. “Does it work?” I asked the seller. “Yeah, you can try it out if you like. Got an extension cord right here.” So, I plugged it in, ran it through its settings – toast, broil, bake… checked out the timer… “ding!” Yep, it worked just fine. “OK,” I said, “I’ll buy it.” And that old toaster oven served us well for several years.

I’ll get back to this later, but now let’s look at the passage which prompted today’s question…

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 5:7-10).

In English the word ‘perfect’ generally refers to a thing that is ‘flawless,’ but the Greek word τελειόω used here for ‘perfect’ has a much wider meaning. It can mean to make perfect, but also to carry something through completely, to accomplish, or to add what is yet lacking in order to render a thing full or to bring it to fulfilment.

Elsewhere in scripture Jesus said He had not come not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17). Sin still required a sacrifice to atone for it, but now Jesus Himself would be that sacrifice once and forever more. During his sojourn on this Earth he would show himself to be that ultimate high priest as well.

Suffering is a part of human experience. If Jesus were to fulfill the role of high priest, then sharing in suffering would be a necessary part of it. In order for Jesus to share in human suffering he had to be incarnate and live for a time among us. This He did for thirty years – from babe to man — prior to beginning His three year ministry.

Although Jesus was perfect in his very nature, to become our high priest he had to experience the temptations and suffering of our humanity and yet not be conquered by them as was the first man Adam. He had to demonstrate in practice what He knew He already was. Only in this way could he prove that he was indeed our sinless High Priest.

Where we failed when tested in the Garden of Eden, Jesus succeeded when tested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thus He qualified to offer Himself a Sacrifice in our stead.

Barnes puts it like this,

Yet learned he obedience – That is, he learned experimentally and practically. It cannot be supposed that he did not “know” what obedience was; or that he was “indisposed” to obey God before he suffered; or that he had, as we have, perversities of nature leading to rebellion which required to be subdued by suffering, but that he was willing to “test” the power of obedience in sufferings…

Like the toaster oven I mentioned above, He had to be “tried” in order to prove His worth.

Thank the Lord that Jesus always passes every test and — if we have made Him our Lord — He now dwells within us and helps us to do likewise.

Press on…

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 9/20/18 – Discipleship: Freedom!

20180919_080157Here I am back in July of 2007 soaking wet on the summit of Mt. Head. The rugged journey which got me here was at this point only half completed.

20180919_095721Mt. Head is located midway between Mt. Carleton and Mt. Sagamook in northern New Brunswick’s Mount Carleton Provincial Park. The only way to get to it and the only way to come from it is from the summits of either of these two mountains. If you are going to get to Mt. Head you must commit to ascending and descending three mountain peaks, each approximately 8/10ths a kilometer high over some 12 to 15km of rocky terrain.

We set out from the Mt. Carleton side under a partly cloudy early morning sky following the blue and white markers along what at first was an easy uphill path. After about 3 km though the climb got steeper, rockier and more challenging. By the time we reached the first summit the sky had grown overcast.

There were two marked routes down the mountain: an easy descent down a dried riverbed led back to the base of Mt. Carleton, while the other more rugged led the way to Mts. Head and Sagamook. We chose the latter and hoped the sky might clear. It didn’t.

By the summit of Mt. Head we were completely drenched! I remember how my jeans, weighted down with water, needed to be pulled up constantly! On The descent of Mount Head I slipped on rocks and fell nine times – yes, I counted them! It had gotten to be quite comical — a little slapstick relief that spurred us along despite the ruggedness of the trail and the tiredness of our bodies!

By the summit of Mount Sagamook we just wanted this ordeal to be over! The rain had not let up at all and ahead of us yet lay a final 3 km of rocky, slippery descent. We pressed on as quickly as safety would allow, driven mostly by the thought of getting clean, dry and fed!

We made it down without incident by late afternoon and almost immediately — wouldn’t you know it — the sun came out! Soon we were indeed clean, dry and very well-fed!

20180919_101225As we sat around a campfire that evening we reminisced of the rugged day we had just completed. It felt good now to be refreshed clean, contented, and know that we had accomplished something very difficult. I was probably a better man for it — for not having given up and taken the easy riverbed route down from the summit of Mount Carleton… for having pressed on. Perhaps this is one reason God allows this life to be so difficult.

Our Creator has made us unique above the angels. He has endowed us with free will — the freedom to choose whom we will serve, the freedom to choose the broad way or the narrow way. In Christ we have the freedom to choose the right over the wrong. We have the freedom to face temptations and say ‘no’ or say ‘yes.’ We can choose courage over cowardice, love over hate, faith over fear. This power has been given to us and will not be taken from us.

“Why doesn’t God just make us perfect?” asks Owen on pg 25 of the First Steps workbook. Well, that’s exactly what He is doing! And the struggles of this life are one way he intends to accomplish it while still allowing us the freedom to choose all along the journey. When we choose rightly, when we choose what pleases Him and is best for us, He also gives us the ability. As our workbook defines “Freedom is the ability to do what you ought, not the right to do what you want.” (p.23)

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started

Wednesday, 9/19/18 – Pressing on…

Yesterday we discussed imitating Jesus, yet several of the Bible passages I cited had to do with Paul telling his readers to imitate himself! “Be imitators of me,” he wrote, “just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1), Wow! How many of us would be that confident?

20180917_132226Yet, like it or not, we don’t get a say in this! Each believer already is a letter to this world, “known and read by everyone” (2 Cor. 3:2), “Christ’s ambassador” (2 Cor. 5:20), announcing, ‘This is what Christ is like!’ Daunting indeed, but that’s exactly what this whole “light of the world,” “salt of the earth” stuff is about!

The good news is, whether you believe it or not, you are already equipped to do this. Here’s something from an old Our Daily Bread devotional:

Some Christians assume that being a good example means keeping up an appearance of strength — even when they are weak. They have the misconception that any appearance of weakness hinders their testimony… Are unbelievers best won to Christ by ‘strong’ people who pretend they’re never weak, or by ‘weak’ people who testify of a strength not their own? Unbelievers often say of the former, ‘I could never be like that.’ But of the ‘weak’ people they more often say, ‘If Christ can help them, perhaps He has something for me.’ – Our Daily Bread, Aug. 16/96.

There’s no need to hide your weakness, your fears. Your weakness is in fact your strength in disguise. It forces you to Christ for a strength beyond yourself. As Paul acknowledged, “…I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 9, 11) He will do what you cannot.

Now, if we are going to imitate Christ completely, there’s another bit that we simply must accept – crucifixion. I rather suspect that is what Pastor Steve is going to touch on this coming Sunday at Lincoln Baptist Church.

Be brave, and don’t miss it!

Press on..

Tuesday, 9/18/18 – Pressing on…

Impersonator or Imposter?

Does impersonating Christ sound hypocritical to you? If so, it may be because you’ve not understood the difference between an impersonator and an impostor.

An impersonator is one who “assumes or acts the character of,” or “pretends to be (another person)”

An impostor is one who “assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception”

If you’ve seen the movie Catch Me if You Can you’ve watched an impersonator (actor Leonardo DiCaprio) play the part of a true impostor (Frank Abagnale, Jr.).

Paul speaks of us “putting on” Christ like an actor dresses for a role: “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Rom. 13:14), “…all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27)

He urged the believers in Corinth saying, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1), and those in Philippi, “Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.” (Phil. 3:17), and Thessalonica, “For you yourselves know how you must imitate us… we did it to make ourselves an example to you so that you would imitate us.” (2 Thess. 3:7,9) [See also 1 Cor. 4:16, 1 Tim. 4:12, Heb.13:7]

Does this whole idea of “acting” like Jesus still disturb you? Consider these insights of C.S. Lewis…

Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.

Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash- up. Well, go and do it. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So… today… try it out! Start “acting” like Jesus! Find ways to show others what Jesus would do if He were here in bodily form instead of you. By doing these things, you in fact will be transforming that little bit more that we talked about yesterday. This is not being a hypocrite, but becoming a better disciple. It’s an exciting business!

“Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].” (Eph. 5:1, Amplified Bible)

More tomorrow.

Monday, 9/17/18 – Pressing on…

Back in the early sixties I used to watch a lot of cartoon shows. There was ‘The Flintstones’, ‘Quick Draw McGraw’, ‘Rocky the flying squirrel’, and one I remember just now in particular was ‘The Jetsons.’

The Jetsons was set in the future and the opening always began with George Jetson in his flying car dropping off members of his household to school or the shopping mall then arriving at his office in the sky. George would hop out of his glass domed vehicle, push a button on the front of it and magically the car would transform into a carriable attache case. He’d then pick up the case and saunter off to his office.

20180916_200115So what does George Jetson have to do with discipleship, Pastor Steve’s topic this past Sunday? Read on…

A distinction was drawn between a follower and a disciple. To understand these terms better I looked them up.

A follower, it appears, is someone who supports and is guided by another person or group, someone who likes and admires a thing very much. Some followers are followers by nature. Rather than think for themselves they will adopt the beliefs and opinions of others—any others. These are chameleons.

A disciple, however, refers to “one who follows another for the purpose of learning.” A disciple is a pupil–a student of his instructor. The word is also related to the idea of discernment, which is to distinguish a thing by the senses: to perceive, make out, pick out, detect, recognize. Jesus often taught the deeper truths by using parables which required discernment to comprehend. Parables separated followers from disciples.

If we are to call ourselves disciples of Jesus we must be hearing from Him and learning from Him on a regular basis — and being changed by what we hear and learn…. transformed bit by bit into His likeness.

Paul wrote about this process in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That word “transformed” is the Greek word μεταμορφόω (metamorphoō) from which we get the English word “metamorphosis.” A disciple is not a chameleon, but a worm being transformed into a stunning butterfly!

What a privilege! Just think, before you go to bed tonight you can become just a little bit more like Jesus! (And that’s way better than a dome topped car or a briefcase!) So go now… open your Bible… pray… listen… learn… obey…

How will you be transformed today?

More tomorrow.

Friday, 9/14/18 – Tough Question

“Are dinosaurs in the Bible?”

20180913_065036Whether or not you believe dinosaurs are found in the Bible their remains are certainly found in museums and archeological digs around the world. Some ancient cave deawings may also depict them. We cannot dismiss them.

But whether or not the Bible mentions any animal neither proves nor disproves its existence. Many creatures are not mentioned in the Bible; the common house cat may be one of them, though there is one staring me down right now — our own “Miss Molly” wants her morning scratch.

20180913_064919One theory is that dinosaurs roamed the earth very early in its creation – In fact all within Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 during a sort of failed ‘first attempt’ at creation resulting in the earth being ‘without form and void.’ Personally, I have a hard time accepting a God Who botches up!

20180913_080112The book of Job is understood to be the oldest book in the Bible. Chapters 40 and 41 describe two creatures: one a land dwelling herbivore and the other a tightly scaled see creature. We have only been able to guess just what these are. Some have suggested the elephant or hippopotamus or perhaps a large crocodile. But the descriptions could equally apply to a few species of what we call dinosaurs.

20180913_065158God is actually challenging Job in these chapters, pointing out His own might by a sampling of things He created.

In Job 40:15-24 He describes the “Behemoth.” This creature “feeds on grass like an ox,” has mighty muscular strength, it’s tail “sways like a cedar,” it’s skeletal system is like bronze and iron. It stands firm in the Jordan, resisting the strongest raging of its waters.

Job 41:1-2,7,12-32 describes the “Leviathan.” This beast has an impenetrable skin of scales, powerful jaw and “terrible teeth all around.” It “sneezes” out flashes of light, and from its mouth “sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.” This creature “makes the deep boil like a pot” and “leaves a shining wake behind him.” Psalms 74:14, 104:25-26, and Isaiah 27:1 also mention this one.

20180918_172128What ever happened to these animals? Did they perish in the great flood? (It is difficult to imagine these beasts also on the ark!) Short answer is: we just really do not know. Just as there are many things about the future that we cannot know now, there may also be many things about the past that we cannot know until all is revealed in eternity.

One thing for sure though, we serve a powerful God Who demonstrates His strength in creations past, present and future.

Press on!

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 9/13/18 – Discipleship: Assurance

We began this blog last Monday talking about confidence. Interestingly, the first need of a new believer is very similar: Assurance.

The first temptation of humankind was the hissing serpent’s subtle whisper “Did God really say…” then he misquotes the prohibition saying “…you must not eat from any tree…?” (Gen. 3:1). “You will not certainly die!” he lies, in fact, “you will be like God.” (v.4). But they already were like God, created in His Image! By breaking His commandment they would become far less like God.

When new life sparks its ‘new creation’ in a soul, the devil seeks to snatch the good seed away with this same old tool of doubt (see Matt. 13; Mark 4). Then he throws it back in the face of the nervous neophyte and shouts, “Aha! You are doubting! This shows you are not truly saved at all!”

But Jesus said the devil “is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Doubt shows no such thing at all! Doubt means you are currently only partly confident–but you are at least partly confident! Where before there was no confidence at all or perhaps complete ignorance, now there is a light… flickering perhaps, but true light nonetheless.

Paul Tournier has said, “When there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith either.” (Paul Tournier, as quoted in Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God. p. 244.) If you are sitting in a chair you require no faith at all to believe it will support you. But if I build you a chair and tell you it will hold you, that will require at least some faith as you commit your whole body to sit in it.

The battle between faith and doubt is simply a reality of Christian experience. “We walk by faith, not by sight,” Paul reminds us (2 Cor. 5:7).

The apostle Thomas is called “doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe Christ had risen until he saw and felt the scars on Jesus’s body — which Christ later gave him opportunity to do (John 20:24-29).

In fact, all of the disciples doubted. When Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him each of the disciples in turn asked “Lord, Am I the one?” (Matt. 26:21,22), evidently uncertain of their own commitment.

The father who brought his demon possessed boy to Jesus cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-25).

John, now aged and exiled, penned from the isle of Patmos, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13). He wrote to believers… so they may know — i.e, have assurance that they were saved.

Each of these reflect the ongoing tension between faith and doubt. To combat this we all must learn to feed faith and starve doubt. As Paul reminded young Timothy: “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6) so must we.

The First Steps workbook (p.21) lists actions we can take:

1. Walk-in relationship with Jesus through prayer Bible study evangelism and fellowship.
2. Be committed to your discipleship relationship or small group.
3. Confess your difficulties, doubts, discouragements, and sins to trusted supportive believers.
4. Understand that doubt and discouragement are all part of this journey we share together as we travel toward completeness in Christ.

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” (Luke 17:5)

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.