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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dark Clouds, High Winds and Rising Waters

St. John's Hospital, Joplin, MO, after the 2011 tornado.

Sometimes it seems like bad storms come more frequently and fervently than they used to. I don’t have “science” to back that up. It may not be the case at all, but it sure seems like it is. I went with our church’s youth to Joplin, MO last year to help with cleanup efforts after a powerful tornado devastated that city. It was like nothing I’d ever seen—just massive destruction everywhere. Tuscaloosa, AL was beat to pieces as well by a different storm. Look up 2011 tornadoes on Wikipedia for the details of a really bad year of storms. It may surprise you how many tornadoes occur across the world every year, and that’s just tornadoes. If we consider hurricanes, tsunamis, severe thunderstorms and other sources of high winds and waters (not to mention volcanoes and wildfires) that occur across the globe, the cost in destroyed property and lives is astronomical. I hate severe storms! Why can’t they all just be soothing little rumbling thunderstorms and then move out of the way for some sunshine? If wishes were horses…

Right now all the news is about the storm that hit the East Coast of the U.S. yesterday. It wasn’t even a full-fledged hurricane, but still caused billions of dollars of damage and considerable loss of life. May God bless those caught in the wake of the storm with survival, prompt reconstruction, and a sense of hope in strengthening, remaking, or establishing their commitments to our good God!

And, yes, God is good—all good! Bible students know why the world is the way it is—sin. Not that every storm is a direct act of God in judgment of particular sins, but that the world has been “subjected to futility” (Romans 8:18-25) as a cosmic judgment against sin itself, and as general discipline for the whole human race to remind us what our lot looks like without God. Shouldn’t a good God do away with all destructive storms and give us peace? One day he will. He’s promised us that in the Bible. But, for now, who am I to say what God should and shouldn’t do? I’d have to be all-knowing myself to be bold enough to seriously question the judgments of God, and it has been noted that I’m not all-knowing—not even close! Are you? So, depend on God, be right with him through the grace available through faith in Jesus and try not to worry about the storms. When dark clouds, high winds and rising waters approach—and they will—use good sense to protect your loved ones if you can, and when they pass—and they will—use the aftermath as an opportunity from God to do some good. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

It feels So Good to Pray!

It just feels so good to pray. Some of you know what I'm talking about very well. For the rest of you, I challenge you to give prayer a try. To know that God is there, that he is eagerly listening, that he loves you and wants everything to work out well for you, and that he has the power to make it happen (Romans 8:28) is just a blessing beyond description!

Last night I decided to write this quick post. I was laying in bed, and the last thoughts of a full day were swirling prayerfully in my sleepy head. I prayed for my family and friends. I prayed for all the sick people I know. I prayed about the upcoming elections and the future of America and the world. I prayed for the church and Christians everywhere that we all might be able to live quiet, dignified lives free from any serious persecution (1Timothy 2:1-3). I prayed about finances and daily needs. I prayed about my plans. I prayed about my sins, and asked for the strength and will to do right. I asked for wisdom and understanding. When I said amen, I felt nothing but sweet peace, and the words came to my mind, "It feels so good to pray."

God answers every prayer asked through Christ (John 14:13, 16:26-27). He wants us to learn what is right through thoughtful Bible study (2Timothy 2:15) so that we don't ask for foolish, harmful things (James 4:3), but when we unselfishly ask our loving God for gracious blessings for others first and then ourselves, he will not turn a deaf ear toward us. He will give us what we ask for or better! These words of the Lord Jesus will be my encouragement through this day, and I hope they encourage you: "And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith" (Matthew 21:22 ESV). It feels so good to pray!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Immerse Yourself in Scripture

God gave the Scriptures for our good! Keeping them is not a heavy burden, and studying them is not a bitter task (1 John 5:3). How you decide to view the task of reading and studying the Bible is one of the most consequential decisions you’ll ever make. If you read the Bible through even once, it will change your life. If you devote yourself to studying it regularly, not only will it change your life, but it will enable you to live life to the fullest, and will illuminate the pathway to life eternal through the Lord Jesus Christ. However, you need to have the skills to study its rich passages accurately, or your misuse of the word could cause you much sorrow.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul urged him to be devoted to his studies in the word; even to be consumed or obsessed with them (1 Timothy 4:15). Then in the second letter he wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), and later, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). When we apply ourselves with spiritual discipline (even obsession) to studying the Bible, God will enrich our souls. Shame will fly from us as we grow to have boldness in his loving presence, and we will be equipped to stride through any door of ministry the Lord may open.

Allow me to paraphrase 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as follows: “All Scripture . . . is profitable for teaching us what is right, for pointing out our mistakes, for revealing the pathway back into the light, and for training us to have the right mindset, so that we will be able to do everything God has called us to do.” We can likely all agree that the promised result of diligent study is desirable. What we need then is to “practice,” and “immerse” ourselves in the Scriptures so that we can gain all the profit it has to offer us (1 Timothy 4:15). 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Christ Our Creed - Summary & Conclusion (5/5)

The true creed is Christ. “We preach Christ” (1Corinthians 1:23). He is our authority, belief, and guide. Brother Barton Stone understood this well when he was asked if he accepted the Presbyterian Confession. He said, “I do only so far as it is consistent with the word of God.” Jesus is the Living Word (John 1:1), and as such his spoken words literally are his mind and will and form the basis for eternal judgment and eternal life (John 6:63, 12:44-50, 14:15, 14:24-25). Jesus is the personal truth and his teaching is the propositional truth. 

What does it mean to preach Christ and have the person of Christ as guiding principle? It means that we act like Jesus (properly understanding and emulating his example –John 13:15; 1Peter 2:21). It means we think like Jesus (we seek and accept transformation of our old, natural ways of thinking into his high and holy mind –Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:9-10). “We have the mind of Christ” (1Corinthians 2:16). Ultimately it means having the Bible, which is the full testimony of Christ prophetically (Old Testament), personally (four Gospels), and through his chosen teachers, the apostles and Christian prophets (Acts through Revelation) as our standard of belief and practice. 

In summary, when we speak of Christ as our Creed, we mean that as the Eternal Living Word of God, Jesus is the lived out embodiment of all the will of God. To be just like Jesus is to be just like God—immersed within his will and utterly righteous. That is our creed, our statement of belief, and our guiding principle: to be just like Jesus. I want to be just like him! The Bible is the record and testimony of him. It consists of the laws, prophecies and history leading up to him, the account of his life and works while on this earth, and his will and testament that flowed from the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit into the minds of supernaturally inspired men and on to the sacred page. We have in the Bible the source of infallible truth—the King’s will. Whatever accords with its teachings, properly understood, we believe and do. Whatever is not Biblical, we reject and avoid. It is by this creed that we “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

(Excerpt from That You May Grow Thereby, Vol.3, by Tim Mitchell & Joshua Pappas)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The World’s Creeds (Christ Our Creed, Part 4)

The devil is the father of deception. He is a deceiver (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9). To deceive the sons and daughters of men he has inspired the creation of sinful creeds unnumbered! “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2John 1:7 NAS). 

It is even so among those who would follow Jesus. There are numerous old written creeds including the Roman Catholic Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, etc. These contributed to the corruption of the Reformation and the rise of denominational divisions. The late brother Alexander Campbell wrote, “While protestant hatred of the Roman pontiff and the papacy continued to increase, a secret lust in the bosoms of Protestants for ecclesiastical power and patronage worked in all the members of the protestant states, and ultimately introduced a swarm of protestant popes, who gradually assimilated the new church to the old. Creeds and manuals, synods and councils soon shackled the minds of men, and the spirit of reformation gradually forsook the protestant church, or was supplanted by the spirit of the world” (Christianity Restored, p. 4). The new subtly written or unwritten creeds include revered commentaries, study guides, study Bibles, doctrine books, etc. A preacher for a local denominational church once told me that people of his denomination changed their views to those of their new minister whenever a new one came along. I suppose it would be safe to say that, for them, the preacher is their creed. 

More or less “creedless” movements include interfaith groups, ecumenical movements, many community churches, and a lot of the big “mega churches,” many of whom shrug off the logical issues arising from belief in conflicting, incompatible aspects of various religions all muddled together like oil and water. For some, tradition is creed. For these, “the way we’ve always done it” is the right way, and there is no sense in testing to see whether the tradition is truth (2 Corinthians 13:5).

A creed is a statement of belief. It teaches us right and wrong. We all follow one. It may be written or unwritten—God’s or man’s. There is no sin in writing books about doctrine, but when we construct any kind of statement of belief that is not of the word of God, and compel others to it, it is a creed of men and wrong and sinful (Matthew 15:7-9; 1 Peter 4:11). One more thing: If we are content with the One creed God has given us, and accept it, we have no need to draw up articles of faith or statements of belief, for we already have them in our confession of Christ as Lord and acceptance of the Bible as his authoritative word.

(Excerpt from That You May Grow Thereby, Vol.3, by Tim Mitchell and Joshua Pappas)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kinds of Creeds (Christ Our Creed, Part 3)

The Scriptures recognize only one body of disciples (Ephesians 4:4), and only one creed, yet those who claim Christ as king are divided into numerous sects and, sadly, divisions continue to occur. 

The original cause of division in the church is apostasy. Apostasy means rebellion or departing. That which we often refer to as “The Great Apostasy” (Acts 20:29-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10; 1 Timothy 4:1-3 & 2 Timothy 4:3-4) resulted in the usurpation of the church and the word by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and its creed, the Catechism

Many years later, conscientious men dissented against the Roman Catholic Church in what has come to be called the Protestant Reformation. They rallied around the slogan, “Sola Scriptura,” or “the Scriptures alone” as authority in religious matters. Great though their efforts were, their followers eventually adopted some of the Roman Catholic practices formerly abandoned and wrote the old creed books that led to division among churches the likes of which had never been seen before. Denominationalism resulted from this failure of the Protestant Reformation. 

As of today, I am glad to say that the old mainline denominational creeds and confessions have lost some of their influence. However, in some cases it has been replaced by two evils that we must identify and avoid: Unwritten creeds of the consensus and the traditions of men (many boast of being non-denominational, or of having no creed book, and yet bind their opinions upon men as if spoken by the mouth of the Almighty) and creedless antinomianism (i.e. rejection of all laws).

The church of Christ is undenominational, it has no creed book written by men, nor can it shackle itself to unwritten creeds of men’s traditions if it hopes to remain true. But, the church is not without creed, and cannot last from one generation to the next without the one proper and true creed: Jesus Christ himself. 

(Excerpt from That You May Grow Thereby, Vol.3, by Tim Mitchell & Joshua Pappas)