A More Excellent Way

A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Friday, June 27, 2014

Persecution: Prayerful, But Not Alarmed

"The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that Christians are persecuted in more places today than any other religious group, suffering formal or informal harassment in 3/4 of the world's countries." A researcher said, "It's occurring on a massive scale, is underreported, & in many parts of the world is rapidly growing" (http://online.wsj.com/articles/charlotte-allen-meriam-ibrahim-and-the-persecution-of-christians-1403822908). 

This calls for prayer, but not alarm. Keep the faith. Jesus already told us this would happen. Prepare yourself to endure it if necessary. Meditate on these Bible passages in the coming days.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)."First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Timothy 2:1-4 ESV).

"Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it" (2 Timothy 3:12-14 ESV)."Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39 ESV). 

"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death" (Revelation 2:10-11 ESV).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We Grow Up In Stages

Growing up is a mystery! Those of us who’ve (more or less) done it, spend the rest of our lives reflecting on the successes and failures of the process, and often wonder how we ever made it this far. The best answer is, of course, God’s providence! However, by considering the stages of life children go through toward adulthood and recognizing the different needs and abilities of each, we can hopefully make a little more sense of it all.

In Chapter 7 of Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Edersheim wrote of stages of growth toward adulthood recognized by the Hebrews in the Old Testament. I’ll share them here in abbreviated form. “We find no fewer than nine different terms, each depicting a fresh stage of life. The first designates the babe as newly born (Ex 2:3, 6, 8; Isa 9:6, etc.). The next is ‘jonek,’ which is literally ‘suckling’ (Isa 11:8; Ps 8:2). A third stage in the child's existence, ‘olalim,’ appears in many passages. He’s no longer satisfied with only milk, but asks for bread, as in Lam 4:4. A fourth designation represents the child as the ‘gamul’ (‘weaned one’) (Ps 131:2; Isa 11:8, 28:9). The period of weaning among the Hebrews was generally at the end of two years (Chethub. 60), celebrated by a feast. After that the fond eye of the Hebrew parent seems to watch the child as it is clinging to its mother, hence the fifth designation, ‘taph’ (‘quick, tripping steps’) (Est 3:13). The sixth period is marked by the word ‘elem’ (femenine, ‘almah,’ as in Isa 7:14), which denotes becoming firm and strong (early to mid adolescence in today’s terms -JLP). We have next the ‘naari,’ or youth—literally, ‘he who shakes off,’ or ‘shakes himself free’ (older adolescence to young adulthood -JLP). Last, we find the child designated as ‘bachur,’ or ‘ripened one;’ a young warrior if male, as in Isa 31:8; Jer 18:21,15:8, etc. Assuredly, those who so keenly watched child life as to give a pictorial designation to each advancing stage of its existence, must have been fondly attached to their children.”

These days we’re familiar with terms like infant, toddler, preschooler, tween, teen, young adult, and so on. Regardless of how many stages you recognize in the process, children long for more independence as they grow up. Parents should see this longing as an opportunity for strategig parenting. Independence is a side-effect of personal responsibility, and must both be earned, and maintained through self-control. By celebrating a child’s growth into a new stage toward adulthood, parents will earn the appreciation of their children. By awarding the growth with greater freedoms—on condition of fulfilling more responsibilities, parents will prepare the young person to succeed in life. By reminding the young person stretching toward adulthood of their growing responsibility to seek the Lord and serve him, parents can save their children’s souls, and possibly increase the population of heaven for generations to come!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bricks That Build A Better Home

Brick Sculpture by Brad Spencer
If your marriage/home isn’t what it ought to be, there’s hope that with a little work it can get better. Even if yours is good there’s room for improvement. As good bricks make sturdy houses, so there are five bricks that make better homes.

Brick #1: Concern. That is, enough concern to do what’s needed to make things right. Whether it’s reading books, attending seminars, counseling, or Bible study and prayer, the concerned family member does what it takes.

Brick #2: Charity. That is, charity in the King James Version sense, which means love. Everything Ephesians 5 says about marriage is rooted in love, and “love covers a multitude of sins” (1Peter 4:8).

Brick #3: Compliments. If you want to have a happy home, spend more time bragging on each other and less time criticizing. It takes about 7 compliments to outweigh 1 criticism.

Brick #4: Courtship. Whatever good things brought you together will also keep you together. Even if it’s been a while, get back to it. Write notes. Go on dates. Remind each other why you decided to get married to start with.

Brick #5: Communication. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we can’t read minds. A little talk can go a long way in blessing your family relationships. Remember to “let your speech always be gracious” (Colossians 4:6). Kindly share your thoughts, dreams, and feelings, and then decide to make them “our” thoughts, dreams, and feelings.

Brick by brick, you’ll build a better home filled with joy that will affect generations!

---JLP (Inspired by Keith Parker’s sermon of the same title)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Conditions for Overcoming Sin (cont'd from previous post)

We all want to hear Jesus say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Jesus will say “well done” to those who have done well! Don’t mistake this to mean you must earn good standing with God through works. No amount of effort can undo your sins. Your only hope of salvation is by “grace through faith” in Christ’s work. Ephesians 2:8-9 says so plainly, and then in verse 10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).

Faith that saves has come to life in works! Works of faith always follow saving faith. If your faith doesn’t propel you into a sincere war against sin, it’s not saving faith (James 2:14, 17). The previous post noted that concern is the first of ten essential steps for overcoming sin. Let’s consider seven more.

Commands are essential to overcoming sin. We each must diligently study Scripture to learn God’s commandments for us, and prayerfully strive to obey them from the heart. The simplest definition of sin is disobedience to God’s commands. Conviction is the third condition. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost notably brought the hearers to ask, “What shall we do?” (Acts 3:37). We each need to hear the words Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2Samuel 12:7). Until you are convicted of your own sinfulness, you’ll never be motivated to fight against it seriously.

The fourth condition is Contrition. When the word of God reveals your guilt, how will you respond? Will you proudly reject what the Bible says, or will you humble yourself and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 8:13). Fifth is conversion. There is the thought of sin, the act of sin, and the state of sin. When a young person reaches accountability and chooses to do wrong, he or she becomes a sinner, and enters the state of being “in sin” (John 8:24; Romans 6:1). The Bible calls all who continue in this state and frame of mind “the world.” To be saved from the power of sin, the sinner concerned with God’s commands, convicted of his failures, and contrite about it must be converted, that is changed in mind and transferred out of the power of sin into the power of God. It’s called salvation, justification, and the new birth (John 3:3-8).

Once converted, there is still the possibility a Christian may not take the fight against sin seriously. God help us all realize how serious it is! Commitment is essential! We must be committed to winning! The writer of Hebrews teaches us to struggle against sin even if it takes our lives! “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:3-4, ESV).

Seventh is Continuance. The Christian struggle against sin is for the long haul. We must fight against it until we are set free from it on our dying day or the day the Lord returns whichever comes first. Jesus said, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Brothers and sisters, let’s redouble our efforts to overcome sin in all its forms and keep on keeping on! 

You’ve probably noticed I’ve used alliteration to make these easier to remember, and I hope they will be memorable. A final disclaimer: While the ten “Conditions” for overcoming sin are both Biblical and important, overcoming sin in your life is more than just going through a checklist of steps. The ultimate key to overcoming sin is to walk with the Lord daily in genuine faith. It’s our God who gives us the victory over sin, and we do not have the power in ourselves alone. Now on to the last three.

Communion with the Lord means more than taking communion on Sundays. It means association, fellowship, sharing thoughts and emotions, and intimate communication. Communion with God and brethren is essential to winning against sin—which leads to the next “C,” Companions.

Companionships can corrupt good morals, or the right kind of companions can help you stick to them! Choose your friends wisely! Paul tells Christians in 1Corinthians 15:33 not to be deceived for a reason. Some have foolishly thought themselves above being influenced only to find themselves drifting into sin. 

Finally, Confession is essential to winning the fight against sin. Pretending to be better than you are is hypocrisy, and trying to beat sin all by yourself—in the shadows—is playing right into Satan’s hands. Find a brother or sister in Christ you can trust and share your struggles (James 5:16). Bringing it into the light will rob Satan of the powers of fear, guilt, and shame, and enable you to fight the fight in the daylight rather than the dark—it’s so much easier in the light!