Month: August 2019

Letting Go

let go of balloons

Perhaps the most challenging problems we face in life are family problems. I could enumerate the kinds of issues, but you already know them. Some families seem to give a wide berth to each member while others are deeply intertwined. Still, under quiet waters, there can be deep currents that pull, push, pummel, and punish individuals or whole families.

I just read a secular blog on MindCafe that relates to the topic of being brave when dealing with problems. The title of the article is, “This is the Way to be Brave Again,” written by John P. Weiss.

The blog is a fascinating, well-written article. I don’t agree with everything Mr. Weiss says, but I do find his article thought provoking. For me, the best take-away from the blog post is a quote from Melody Beattie. Who is Melody Beattie? I don’t know, but I like her quote.

“Letting go helps us to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.” — Melody Beattie

Selective Shoppers

As we we grow in Jesus, let’s be selective shoppers. Let’s add to our lives only things that are pleasing to Jesus; any more or any less will make our lives unnecessarily difficult. I’m sure we have enough challenges without hanging onto things that are beyond our control.

The idea of letting go is pointed out in this familiar passage of Scripture:

Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Just as we do before checking out at our favorite grocery store, it helps if we rummage through the shopping carts of our lives. There may be people we need to let go of, and there may be people we need to add to our lives. Your spirit and mine will thank us for it. (1 Corinthians 2:11)

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Be Still

Be Still - Man reading the Bible in a wheat field.

As I’ve written in previous posts, truth is true no matter where you find it. And, by having the Holy Spirit within us, there is a resonance that we, as Christians, feel in our souls when we come across a truth. I am sure you have felt that way. 

Jesus, the Son of God, said that we receive the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). So just as a metal detector makes an audible sound when it gets close to metal, the Holy Spirit alerts us when we come close to something true.

However, if I try to use a metal detector without headphones while standing close to a busy street, i may not hear the detector’s alert. The same goes for us becoming aware of the Holy Spirit’s signals. If we have a cluttered mind; if we have a troubled heart; if we have a distracted life, then we very well may miss out on truths God wanted us to know.

I know what I’m writing is correct because I allowed a troubled heart to distract me just this week. I am without an excuse. I let my distraction cause me to miss an opportunity. I write this to remind you, so you don’t let yourself miss appointments that God has scheduled for you.

Psalms 46:10 reminds us to “Be still.” God isn’t our mother telling us to “sit still.”; God said to be still. Here’s the text:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” 
Psalms 46:10 (ESV)

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A Benediction is a Blessing ;-)

Peace - open hands

In my daily Bible reading, I read 2 Peter 1:2, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance, through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” That got me thinking. (My wife hates that.) Had I written a devotional about benedictions? I did a quick search. No, I hadn’t. Yeah!

I love benedictions because they bestow a blessing. We find them throughout the Bible, and we see them in liturgical worship as well as other aspects of church services.

I did a quick search for a list of benedictions in the Bible, and there are a lot of them. So, I went to Bible.org because they had a list of eleven benedictions in the Bible. I can deal with eleven.

As I read each one, I immediately noticed a characteristic that I never noticed. From the list, ten of the eleven benedictions include the word “peace” and six of the eleven include the word “grace.” So, from my sample, peace is by far the most used blessing.

Peace and Grace are Important

It was time to use Strong’s Concordance. Biblehub.com has an abundant number of tools to help people study the Bible, and Strong’s Concordance is one of them.

One of the great things about Strong’s is that it includes lexicons for Greek and Hebrew. So I went to Bible Hub, entered 2 Peter 1:2, and hit Enter. Bible Hub showed me that verse in a long list of Bible translations. That list is always convenient. 

Next, I clicked on the menu item for Strong’s. Now I saw a lexicon of each word in 2 Peter 1:2. As for the word “peace,” Strong’s showed me:

peace
εἰρήνη (eirēnē) Noun – Nominative Feminine Singular
Strong’s Greek 1515: Probably from a primary verb eiro; peace; by implication, prosperity.

That is interesting, but I wanted to dig deeper. So I clicked on the link Strong’s Greek 1515 which took me to a page full of indexes and way more information than I was prepared to tackle.

What does peace mean?

However, scanning down the Greek Lexicon, for “peace” I found the following: “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is“: Romans 8:6;

Every generation has had difficulties, diseases, deaths, and destruction; ours is no different. That is why I find great comfort in God’s blessings of peace upon His own family.

As I close, let me write perhaps my favorite benediction as I pray you will receive this from our Abba Father (Mark 13:36).

Benediction

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Num. 6:24-26 ESV)

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Theology, Part 4, Endowments of Man, and the Conclusion

Theology - Picture of man and the universe

We’ve concluded our brief study of the meaning of theology and God’s general and special revelation. So today we will look into the other side of the coin, the endowments of man, and we will conclude this series.

God has revealed Himself, but how does humanity come into possession of God’s revelation? God has provided people with two kinds of endowments (i.e., gift, subsidy, award) which people can use to acquire God’s revelation: mental and spiritual.  

Mental Endowments

God has given people the ability to reason. And, by reason, I mean a person’s ability to perceive, compare, judge, and organize. Our ability to reason is an essential component of theology. However, the abuse of reason is when people refuse truth when it leads to God.

The person who rejects God’s revelation replaces God with rationalism. Having eliminated God from their reasoning, that person, surrounded by the general and special revelations of God still considers the possibility of God’s existence to be irrational. 

Examples of the abuse of reason are:

  • Rationalists believe it took 3.5 billion years for life to evolve from chemicals into the complexity of a person. However, they do not believe that a single letter on a single sheet of paper could evolve from chemicals after 3.5 billion years.
  • Rationalists deny that theology is a science. Still, they will place their faith in an equation that they accept as proof that dark matter exists despite having never captured, seen, or measure it. Their belief in dark matter has far less scientific evidence than the evidence of God.

Spiritual Endowments

People have an intuitive knowledge of God. We know this because of Romans 1:18-19 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

For Christians, there is a spiritual endowment that is not abstract but clear and convincing. We know this because Romans 8:15-17 states, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Conclusion
During this four-part study, we learned that theology is the science of God. We learned that theology is an overarching science that pulls all of the other sciences together, resting upon the Bible.

We learned that God’s general revelation is communicated to all people and is accessible to all people. God’s purpose for general revelation is for supplying the natural needs of people and the persuasion of the souls of people to seek after the one true God.

God’s special revelation is like a treasure which, though given at select times to specific people in special ways, is to be shared with the whole world.

And, today, we learned about the endowments of man. Therefore, God is available to everyone that seeks Truth. That person not only has reason but also the Holy Spirit to guide them to Jesus Christ and salvation in Him.

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Theology, Part 3 – God’s Special Revelation

Theology - Picture of man and the universe

Special Revelation

So far, we have covered the definition of theology and God’s General Revelation. Today, in part three, we will look into God’s special revelation.

By special revelation, we mean when God acts to make Himself and His truth known at select times to specific people in special ways. It is important to note that God’s special revelation may not be limited to that time and those people. However, a special revelation will never contradict Scripture.

God’s special revelation is like a treasure which, though given at select times to specific people in special ways, is to be shared with the whole world. An example of this is found in Luke 2:10 (ESV), And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Throughout the history of humankind, God continued to reveal more of Himself and His truth. The culmination of God’s progressive revelation was in Jesus when God’s very Word became flesh (John 1:1). It’s as if God invested in mankind for thousands of years to prepare humanity for the impact of God’s only begotten Son.

At Select Times to Specific People
in Special Ways

Examples of God’s special revelation are when:
– God called Abram (Genesis 12:1–9) which starts God’s work of redemption through the lineage of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob,

– God speaks to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-17) which starts the process of God forming the Israelites into a nation

– the Apostles witness Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41) which implants in the Apostles the revelation that Jesus is greater than Creation

God’s Ways

God’s special revelation can come through several ways, such as miracles, prophecy, and personal experience. Regardless of what the special revelation is, that revelation has never and will never contradict Scripture.

God has revealed Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. The general revelation of God did not lead the Gentile world to any clear understanding of the existence of God, the nature of God, or the will of God (Romans 1:20-23). Even philosophy did not give people an accurate understanding of God.

Jesus the Messiah

God’s general revelation was not insufficient. God’s special revelation was not lacking. But humanity in its fallen condition did not respond. A fuller revelation was needed. That fuller revelation is in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah (John 4:25-26). 

In Christ Jesus, we have a threefold revelation of God: the revelation of God’s existence, the revelation of God’s nature, and the revelation of God’s will. Now mankind has a Savior, and mankind no longer has an excuse.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow we will look at the endowments of man.

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Theology, Part 2 – God’s General Revelation

Theology - Picture of man and the universe

From Yesterday’s Post

Why should we bother learning theology when we are already saved? Let me answer that question with a theological question: Since the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in Romans 10:9, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So, why do I need to be baptized?

The preeminent answer is that Jesus established baptism as an ordinance of the Church. The word “ordinance” means decree or command. Jesus gave His Church ordinances before His ascension. Here are two ordinances:

Eucharist/Communion/The Lord’s Supper ordinance: We know this is an ordinance because in both 1 Corinthians 11:24 & 25, Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” v26, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Baptism ordinance: Matthew 28:18 (ESV) Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. 

Today’s Study – God’s General Revelation

As you may remember, the “possibility” of theology comes from two things: the revelation of God and the endowments of man

There are two forms of the revelation of God. We find the general forms of the revelation of God in nature, history, and conscience.

God’s General Revelation

God’s general revelation is communicated to all people and is accessible to all people. God’s purpose for general revelation is for supplying the natural needs of people and the persuasion of the souls of people to seek after the one true God. As examples:

Nature Example

Job 12:7-9 (ESV)
7 But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
         And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
8 “Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
         And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
9 “Who among all these does not know
         That the hand of the LORD has done this,

History Example

Acts 17:26 (ESV), From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

Conscience Example

Romans 2:14-16 (ESV), 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

So?

Theology is called the queen of the sciences because it ties all of the other sciences together upon the foundation of the Bible.

What we see in God’s general revelation is that God uses things that are common to everyone as the media to communicate His message. His message is that there is one true God, that God has designed and created everything that exists, and that He expects people to do what is right.

Next time we will look at God’s special revelation.

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Theology

Theology - Picture of man and the universe

The topic of theology has been rolling around inside me for a few days. So today I pulled my copy of “Lectures in Systematic Theology” by Henry Clarence Thissen.

When I opened the book, I noticed I had one slip of paper marking a page that I hadn’t opened in years. The topic? “The Nature and Necessity of Theology.” So that is the topic of today’s devotional.

We know that biology is the study of living things, cardiology is the study of the heart, and ecology is the study of the interaction of living things with their environment. There are hundreds of sciences (i.e., ologies). Overall the sciences are theology for it is the science (i.e., study of the structure and behavior) of God.

For centuries theology was called the “queen of the sciences” and systematic theology was the crown of the queen. Theology is the “queen of the sciences” because the various branches of learning require an overarching standard, and that standard is the Bible.

Theology: The Queen of Sciences

Quoting from Got Questions (https://www.gotquestions.org_: Although the scholastic standard has changed in our world, a Christian’s belief in biblical inerrancy supports theology as “queen.” The Bible warns us to avoid “the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20). Rather, we should strive to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Theology truly is the starting place for learning. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7).

To keep this article brief, I’m skipping over the logic for the necessity of theology. However, I want to touch on the “possibility” of theology. How is it possible to have a science about God when we can’t measure Him?

The “possibility” of theology comes from two things: the revelation of God and the endowments of man. The revelation of God takes on two forms: general and special, kind of like Albert Einstein’s theories of general relativity and special relativity. The endowments of man have two types: mental and spiritual.

In tomorrow’s devotional, we will take a look at God’s general and special revelations and mankind’s mental and spiritual endowments.

Why Bother

Why should we bother learning theology when we are already saved? Let me answer that question with a theological question: Since the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in Roman’s 10:9, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So, why do I need to be baptized?

More tomorrow…

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Sudden Trouble

Trouble - City bus t-bones police car

“Why?” That is often the first question we ask when trouble invades our lives. Most of us feel that we have enough stress to deal with in our daily lives. There isn’t enough room in our day for a new problem. Even if that’s true, there will be times in our lives when we are blindsided by a problem so devastating that all our other problems seem trivial.

Some problem we can see off in the distance; so we have some warning. It might be an aging parent, the pending sale of the company you work for, a noise in your car that wasn’t there before. We all deal with similar problems, and some can be crushing. Still, we had time to pray and prepare.

The trouble that comes suddenly is nothing like what I just wrote. A sudden, heart-rending crisis is like being T-boned by another car in an intersection. That happened to me, and I see many similarities to a vehicular accident and other kinds of sudden troubles.

My Car was T-boned

While on my daily commute, I was less than a mile from work. The light changed to green; I started through the intersection, and with zero time to react, a car blew through their red light and hit me full speed. In an instant life went from “just another day” to sudden trouble.

Sudden trouble doesn’t limit itself to auto accidents. We can receive bad news from a doctor, the sudden loss of income, troubles that affect children or loved ones. We may be doing fine and then get a phone call telling us our identity was stolen.

The problem with sudden problems is that they can easily knock us off the path on which God has us. Internally, we feel like our feet have been kicked out from under us. We may be mad at God, questioning our past decisions, frozen by fear, tempted to run away or hunker down. All of these and more are common responses to sudden trouble, but none of these is a surprise to our Lord and Savior.

So, when sudden trouble knocks down your door, remember Psalm 94:18-19 (ESV):

18 When I thought, “My foot slips,”
    your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19 When the cares of my heart are many,
    your consolations cheer my soul.

Give sudden trouble to Jesus. Our victory can be found within the action of our faith in God.

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Instruction of Fools is Folly

sign says, "Think before you speak; read before you think.

I did not have good sense when I was growing up. My inquisitiveness certainly helped up my career. But I am still amazed that my parents survived my childhood.

My sister wisely disowned me and never recognized me in public. During this time, we lived away from relatives, so they were not placed in an untenable position of acknowledging me while feigning ignorance of my foolishness.

Let give you just a small sample from just a couple of months of my 10th year on Earth:

Foolish Ideas

I loved being outside, at least that’s what Mom always told me. So I would spend several hours every day bouncing a tennis ball off the side of the two-story house we rented in town. I assume my mother preferred this continual bong-bong sound to that of me being inside the house.

I found a couple of cast iron molds that Dad made during his college years. Spying those I knew I could do something with them. I rummaged around until I found a large box of paraffin. Brilliant! The thought came to me in a flash.

I took the paraffin to our one-car, detached garage. I found Dad’s propane torch and some matches. I was nearly set. Looking around, I found two concrete blocks. I placed one of the cast-iron molds on the concrete blocks, leaving a gap between the blocks, and filled the mold with slices of paraffin. I lit up the torch, slid it between the concrete blocks, so the flame was blowing against the mold. It worked! The paraffin melted into the shape of the mold.

I was so proud of myself that I ran into the house and showed it to Mom and Dad. Yep. I never got the chance to try out the State of Indiana mold. It would have been so cool.

Beware of Landmines

Our next-door neighbor wanted the backyard hedge trimmed way back. She said she would pay me if I’d do the work. I said, “yes!” As a man of my word, I cut that hedge so far back it was lower than me.

Unfortunately, Mom got an earful from the landlord. It seemed that there was a longstanding feud between our neighbor and our landlord concerning that hedge. The hedge was on the landlord’s property, but our neighbor hated it. I got paid and sternly warned to never do anything like that without the landlord’s approval.

I’ve got ten more months of stories, but by now you have a good understanding of my lack of common sense. As a kid, I didn’t think things through which leads me to our Scripture for today.

Today’s Scripture

Proverbs 16:22Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.

I pray that God increases your already deep well of good sense and that He guards you against fools.

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A Difficult Scripture

The Apostle Peter traveled to Babylon in Iraq sometime around 60 AD. Babylon was a small town when Peter arrived. Accompanying Peter were Silas and (John) Mark.  (1 Peter 5:12-13)

In this small village Peter wrote his first book, with the help of Silas. We know the book was written by a person well educated in writing Greek. Peter was born and raised a fisherman, so he was fluent in spoken Greek. But unlike the Apostle Paul, Peter likely had limited Greek writing skills. This limitation is probably why Peter did a shout out to Silas in 1 Peter 5:12. Silas was well versed in writing Greek text.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter began writing his first book. With the emperor’s edict to kill the apostles of Jesus, he certainly felt the hot breath of Nero’s henchmen on his neck. So, Peter needed to condense all that he carried within him into a small but overflowing book. Peter was eventually captured and taken to a Roman prison and crucified, but not before he wrote his second book.

In Apostle Peter’s first book, we find a difficult scripture, 1 Peter 2:18-21 (ESV):

Servants [1], be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

How is this good news?

In yesterday’s devotional, we read that we are to live our lives as sojourners and exiles. This world is not our home, and this life is not our future. Presently we are witnesses of Jesus to the hostile world around us. If even one person sees our lives and receives Jesus, that value is beyond measure.

If we are called to work for a difficult, demanding, unappreciative boss, then we need to fulfill our responsibilities with joy, diligence, and dedication for through these we glorify Jesus our Savior. That’s good news.

Let me hasten to add that this passage of Scripture is not referring to abusive personal relationships. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help immediately.

[1] Barnes’ Notes on the Bible states: “Servants, be subject to your masters – The word here properly means “domestics” – those employed about a house, or living in the same house …These people might have been slaves, or might not.”

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