Today’s Blog

Friday, 3/22/19 – Tough Question

“How did Peter, James, and John recognize Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration?”

The account of the transfiguration is found in all three synoptic gospels (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). Peter also references it in his epistle (2 Peter 1:16-21).

20190309_151003Jesus had taken Peter, James and John up a high mountain, “to pray,” Luke adds. As Jesus prayed, his disciples witnessed his face and clothes shine brilliantly “As the sun,” says Matthew, “as bright as a flash of lightning,” describes Luke. Then, with Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared, “in glorious splendor,” he adds. They talked with Jesus. [They] “were speaking of His departure [from earthly life], which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:31, AMP).

Other events transpired: Peter’s unthinking suggestion to build three shelters, the brilliant cloud which covered them, the divine announcement, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” and their subsequent terror. But our question has to do with how Moses and Elijah were known to these disciples.

No one in the first century could possibly have seen Moses or Elijah, and there were no portraits of them. So, how were they recognized?

It does make some logical senses that these particular two men would appear: Moses representative of the Law, and Elijah representative of the Prophets. Also, the circumstances of the departures of both these men from this earth were somewhat mysterious. Of Moses it is recorded that God Himself buried him in Moab “but to this day no one knows where his grave is.” (Deut. 34:5,6). And in 2 Kings 2 we have the account of Elijah not seeing death at all, but of being caught up to heaven in “a chariot of fire and horses of fire… in a whirlwind.” (2 Kings 2:11).

It could have been that as Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus things were said which revealed their identities to the three disciples. Or it could have been made known to them by revelation or intuition given them in this holy setting. We see this already in Peter when he replies “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16). And what is Jesus’s reply? “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (v.17).

To me, this seems the more likely, and as Paul reminds us, this will one day be our experience of knowing also,

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:9-12).

Press on…

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

Thursday, 3/21/19 – Discipleship: The Soon Return of Christ

grayscale photo of luxury car

A minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him in front of the service station. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump.

“Reverend,” said the young man, “sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.”

The minister chuckled, “I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business.”

trees under starry sky

The Soon Return of Jesus Christ is one of God’s sure promises we discussed yesterday: “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” (Luke 12:40). The second coming of Christ is as certain in scripture as was His first appearance in this world as an infant some 2,000 years ago. Yet through many centuries worldly-minded souls have neglected to prepare for it.

burial cemetery countryside cross

Whether one lives to see Christ’s second advent or not, one’s own mortality should be abundantly and undeniably clear. “All flesh is like grass,” says scripture (Isa. 40:7,8; 1 Peter 1:24), it withers quickly. “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” writes James (James 4:14).

But the soul lives on. Job realized this centuries before Christ’s birth:

I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)

The soul-shaking truth of humanity is this: “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27, KJV).

black and white cemetery christ church

Yet the very next verse brings hope: “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” (v.28). Note well: this salvation is not to everyone, only “to those who are waiting for Him.” Are you waiting for Him? Do you acknowledge that you have fallen short… that apart from Him you are indeed a sinner… you need a Saviour, a Mediator between yourself and God?

Come to Him today and whether you live to see His promised return to this world or die to meet Him in the next you will be ready for the trip.

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, 3/20/19 – Pressing on…

brown grey brick old building

I mentioned yesterday that in my walk with the Lord some 50 years now I can look back and say with Joshua, Solomon, and others: “Not one word has failed of all His good promises…” (Joshua 23:14; 1 Kings 8:56). Peter marvelled, “He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature…” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Here’s a few…

He promises to provide a way out of temptation

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13).

He promises that our salvation is secure, no matter what

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:28–29).

He promises to never leave or forsake us

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5).

He promises to finish the good work he has begun in us

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6).

He promises to come back

“You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:40)

He promises us the indwelling Holy Spirit

“…you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39)

Some promises have requirements:

2 Chron. 7:14 –If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Phil. 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

white and red plastic heart balloon on sky during daytime

There may also be things God has promised only to you! Deep in your heart you know it, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to it, resonating its truth within you.

God speaks through His Word, His promises and commands; He speaks through His Spirit, confirms through others, circumstances, conviction & the personal call of God… and Faith is our response to what God has said.

Press on…

Tuesday, 3/19/19 – Pressing on…

This past Sunday I shared regarding the difference between Faith and Presumption. Faith, I said, is our response to what God has made known to us. Presumption, however, is when we tell God how He should respond to us. Faith remembers that “God is God and I am not.” Faith keeps in step with the Spirit and assures us that God is with us.

20190318_100957In this “three-legged race” together God works, and I work, following His stride. We both have our parts to play.

Chuck Swindoll comments,

“To walk by faith does not mean stop thinking. To trust God does not imply becoming slovenly or lazy or apathetic . . . You and I need to trust God for our finances, but that is no license to spend foolishly. You and I ought to trust God for safety in the car, but we’re not wise to pass on a blind curve . . . Acting foolishly or thoughtlessly, expecting God to bail you out if things go amiss, isn’t faith at all. It is presumption.” – Charles R. Swindoll [Charles Swindoll, Wisdom for the Way (Thomas Nelson, 2001).]

Presumption initiates with us, as we try to misapply a promise, or force God’s Hand, or promote our own agendas, glory, or ambitions.

But, aren’t we to claim the promises of God? You might ask. — Yes… yes indeed… so long as those promises are promises He has made to us! Not all promises of God in scripture are directed to us.

man in black long sleeved shirt and woman in black dress

For example, God’s promise of offspring as numerous as the stars was not made to you, but to Abraham (Gen. 15:4-6). God did not promise you the kingship, but David (1 Sam. 16:1-13), though even David had to wait several years for its fulfillment (2 Sam. 5:1-4).

Some scriptures are popularly misunderstood. We think they are promises when they are not.

Prov. 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – A principle, not a promise. Generally true, but not a guarantee.

Prov. 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish” as the almost romanticized KJV reads. But the term ‘vision’ no longer holds the meaning it did in 1611, i.e. a seer or prophet, a word from God. Where these are not present the people “cast off restraint” as the rest of the verse proclaims.

3 John 1:2 “…I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” This is not a promise to you, but simply a well-wishing salutation to John’s “dear friend” Gaius. The KJV phrase “…prosper even as your soul prospers” has been widely and incorrectly used as a basis for promoting a “prosperity gospel.” But God does not promise prosperity in this world. He promises persecution!

grayscale photography of man sitting on grass field

Acts 16:31 “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” This verse is sometimes grammatically misunderstood. While it is certainly true that “all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13), it is certainly not true that someone else’s faith can effect salvation on another’s behalf. The phrase “you and your household” does not mean the Philippian Jailer’s family was also saved by his faith, but rather that the way to salvation through faith in Christ was as equally open to them as it was to him. Thankfully it appears they did received Him and were baptized (v.34).

Sometimes we get the promise right, but use the wrong scripture to support it. For example, God promises His children wisdom (Prov. 3:6): wisdom in Christ (1 Cor. 1:30) and through seeking God for it (James 1:5). But to use God’s promise to Solomon (King’s 3:12) as support would be misplaced.

Other promises in scripture are very clearly stated as intended for us:

Acts 2:38, 39 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.

John 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message

But more on those tomorrow…

If you would like to listen to my complete message on Faith and Presumption, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the March 17 message.

Monday, 3/18/19 – Pressing on…

I can find only one instance in scripture where God commanded an individual to pick up a snake!

When the Lord spoke to Moses from the burning bush and commissioned him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt Moses asked, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”
“What is that in your hand?” the Lord replied.
“A staff,” said Moses.

20190317_184719Then the Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses did so and the staff became a snake! Terrified, he ran from it.
But then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.”

20190317_185051They say a good way to pick up a dangerous snake is by one swift, fluid motion where one hand grabs it by the tail and sweeps the snake through the air while the other hand catches it just behind the head. Both these actions limit the possibility of the snake coiling back to bite you.

Moses did not need to employ this technique. As soon as his hand grasped the snakes tail “it turned back into a staff in his hand.” By this miracle the Hebrews would know indeed that God had sent Moses to be their deliverer. (See Exod. 4:1-5)

The New Testament records another interesting snake encounter. When Paul was shipwrecked on Malta while in transit to Rome as a prisoner, this occured:…

20190317_185246Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. (Acts 28:3-6)

Both of these incidents were to the glory of God. They were not for showmanship. These were God ordained opportunities, not man manipulated displays! In both cases God protected his servants and glorified His Name. Faith, not presumption, was honored.

One extreme and obvious example today of presumptuousness toward God is the cult practice of snake handling. Adherents use the sometimes disputed verses of Mark 16:17,18 to justify their actions:

20190205_062844“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will… pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:17,18).

But this is not exercising faith. Participants are behaving presumptuously. They are tempting God!

In fact, in a most ironic twist, scripture records the punishment of those who tempted God in the wilderness. “…the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.” (c.f. Num. 21:6).

20190317_181921Then, in double irony, Moses forms and lifts up a bronze serpent on pole and all who looked at it were healed! The “caduceus” is the widely recognized symbol of medicine today.

Paul writes, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” (1 Cor. 10:11). We do well to take heed.

More tomorrow…

Friday, 3/15/19 – Tough Question

“How can Peter say these passages speak of Judas?”

This question came to me along with last week’s question. It too has to do with the events surrounding selecting a replacement disciple for Judas.

books bookshelf open page

When Peter first brings up the matter of selecting another disciple, he quotes Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 and uses them in reference to Judas, yet in their original context they don’t appear to be about Judas at all! What gives?

Let’s have a look at the full passage…

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ‘May another take his place of leadership.’” (Acts 1:15-20).

And here are the two passages from the Psalms…

Psalm 69:25May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents.” – subject “all my enemies” (v.19)
Psalm 109:8May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.” – subject “my enemy” (v.6)

Both Psalm 69 and Psalm 109 are ‘imprecatory’ psalms of David. Imprecatory psalms are those which call down curses or judgments upon one’s enemies. In both these psalms David is asking the Lord to destroy his enemies and to vindicate his person. These Psalms would be well-known to the disciples.

book showing das gebet mananes des text in shallow focus photography

Peter may or may not have in mind here a sort of Davidic typology where David is representative of Christ and so consequently David’s enemies are representative of Christ’s enemies, and thus representative of Judas. But it could be something much simpler. It could be that Peter is merely drawing upon known scripture and making his own application of them to Judas.

We actually do something like this very often ourselves. For example, if I see someone just loving on a person who has many obvious faults but the loving person simply overlooks these faults and is genuinely gracious to the individual regardless, I might say of that person, “This fulfills the scripture ‘love covers over a multitude of sins.’” (1 Pet. 4:8). And these actions do fulfill that scripture, in that they demonstrate the essential truth of it, but that does not mean the 1 Pet. 4:8 passage was originally written with the person I saw in mind.

Once again Barnes gives insight …

“…the expression here was not intended to denote Judas in particular, but one of his foes who was to meet the just punishment of rejecting, betraying, and murdering him. The change, therefore, which Peter made from the plural to the singular, and the application to Judas especially “as one of those enemies,” accords with the design of the Psalm, and is such a change as the circumstances of the case justified and required.” – Albert Barnes

Press on…

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

Thursday, 3/14/19 – Discipleship: God’s Will

20190308_184509On December 15, 2000 The movie “What Women Want” was released. Mel Gibson played advertising executive Nick Marshall who, after experiencing an electrical shock, gains the ability to hear what women are thinking.

20190308_184427Just last month, on February 8, 2019 the obvious counterpart movie “What Men Want” was released. In this flick Taraji P. Henson plays sports agent Ali Davis who, after drinking a strange concoction, gains the ability to hear what men are thinking.

Figuring out what’s going on in the head of the opposite sex can certainly be daunting. (My wife and I will be celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary next month, but on good days I’m still only scoring maybe 60% !)

Yet the Christian is commissioned with what seems a comparatively monumental task. “Find out what pleases the Lord,” writes Paul, “…do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Eph. 5:10, 17). As Christians, we need to hear what God is thinking!

Paul next goes on to tell us not to get drunk but to instead “be filled with the Spirit” (v.18). I wonder, do you suppose the Holy Spirit might have something to do with a child of God understanding the Will of God?

bible blur book christian

Then look where Paul goes next in his epistle – right into that whole men and women relationship thing! He seems to be saying that the marriage union is very much like the union between Christ and His people, the Church. Turns out that knowing God… knowing His Will… is really all about this learning the ropes of a united relationship. “The two will become one”(v.31), cites Paul from Gen. 2:24.

We have many helps in learning to grow in knowledge and in relationship with God: we have prayer, we have His written Word, we have other godly believers who have walked this path before us, and we have the Holy Spirit Who helps us in all of these and Who Himself whispers directions in our ear… “a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isa. 30:21).

There are many other things to learn about knowing the Will of God and following Him. If you have never been discipled one-on-one with another believer why not consider doing so. (See below.) Discipleship is for new as well as seasoned believers who may wish to consolidate or review the fundamentals of their faith with a fellow believer.

Discipleship also equips you to be a discipler of someone else, as Jesus commanded, “Go, and make disciples…” (Matt. 28:19). — It’s part of God’s Will.

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.