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Losing Your First Love (guest post by Jake Schotter)

Losing Your First Love (guest post by Jake Schotter)

The Lord, through the Apostle John, wrote the church at Ephesus a short yet direct letter detailing their spiritual condition as a congregation. We find this letter in Revelation 2:1-7 and the typical pattern emerges through each letter: we see the destination of the letter, a description of Jesus Christ, the diagnosis of the church (with commendation and condemnation), and a demand for the church based on its health. For the church at Ephesus, they were diagnosed with losing their original love for Christ.

The Ephesians read this letter and saw,

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate                            evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are                              not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured                       for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that                           you have left your first love… (Revelation 2:2-5).

There was a lot that this church was commended for! Several great things could be said about the Ephesians:

They were a dynamic church (“I know your works”),

They were a dedicated church (“I know your… labor”),

They were a determined church (“you have persevered and have endured”)

They were a disciplined church (“you cannot bear those who are evil”)

They were a discerning church (“you have tested those who say… have found them..”)

But, they were also a declining church (“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love…”). The Christian life stresses the importance of love – not only in action, but in attitude. From Leviticus 19:18 to Psalm 119 to John 13:34-35 to 1 John 3 and in Revelation 2:4, we find the constant theme of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The Ephesian church had a great beginning. From Acts 20:27 and 31, we know that the Apostle Paul devoted three years of his ministry to teaching and working among the Ephesians. They did things right based on what they did. Certainly, their work was full of zeal, but they did not have love. Paul would elsewhere emphasize the fact that if you do not have love, it is meaningless to do what you do (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

The church at Ephesus is a great reminder for all Christians that we can lose our flame for Christ. Let us not become so busy and lost in our zealous activities in the name of the Lord that we forget to love the One whom we seek to glorify and serve. We cannot neglect the necessity of maintaining our relationship with God. If we do not pay attention, we will lose our first love and become spiritually apathetic, as well… just like the Ephesians. This is why we find their example in the Scriptures: to see what they did and to heed their example.

Perhaps, it is time to check your spiritual pulse… do you truly love God or are you just here to check your name on the attendance sheet and be seen by people?

 

Jake Schotter, a resident of Goodyear, Arizona, has been preaching the Gospel since he was 9 years old. He is currently working towards B.A. in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in preaching from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee. He is available for preaching appointments and can be contacted at jakeschotter@gmail.com.

 

Election, Predestination and Foreordination

Election, Predestination and Foreordination

The following is a guest post from James Quiggle

These subjects keep coming up in posts here and there. This essay considers them all together.

God did not predestine anyone to salvation or election. Predestination is “God’s decree to conform the believer to be like Christ according to certain aspects of Christ’s spiritual character and physical form (Romans 8:29–30; 1 John 3:2), and to place the believer in the legal position of God’s son and heir (Ephesians 1:5, 11), so that the believer has an inheritance from God and is God’s heritage.” Predestination is a decree affecting believers only.

God did elect some sinners to salvation. Election is “the choice of a sovereign God, 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect the salvation of some sinners, and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny salvation to other sinners.” Election is a decree affecting unsaved sinners only.

The word “elect” or “choose” (eklégō, eklektós, eklogé) in every use throughout Scripture never says anything about those not chosen. Jesus chose twelve disciples out of many disciples to be his apostles. There is no indication of future prejudice or bias against those not chosen. Those not chosen continued to be disciples, even though they were not chosen to be apostles. In Acts 6:5 the Jerusalem church chose seven men to make the daily distribution to the needy. Many males met the qualifications; seven were chosen. Those not selected continued as they were.

Election in an illustration, “The river of sinful humankind is justly racing toward the waterfall of death emptying into the lake of eternal fire; God reaches into the river and saves many; he prevents no one from swimming to the safety of the heavenly shore; he puts his saved people on the shore encouraging all to believe on Christ and be saved; he saves all that come to him by faith in Christ.”

God did not make anyone a sinner. This is the issue of foreordination: “the decree of God occurring between his decision to create and his act of creation as to which agents, events, and outcomes, out of all possible agents, events, and outcomes potential in the decision to create, would pass from possible to actual, in which the liberty or contingency of secondary causes is established, in which God is not the author of sin, and in which no violence is done to the free will of his creatures.” Foreordination is God choosing what kind of universe he would create, in order to fulfill his purpose in creating.

In foreordination, in regard to humankind, sin, and salvation, God decided Adam’s freely made choice to sin would pass from possible to actual. Could God have foreordained a different choice in Adam? Perhaps in all the possible choices Adam might make, there was a choice not to sin; perhaps all Adam’s possible choices were to commit his act of sinning? As created beings it is not within our authority to judge the sovereign God for his decisions. God decided Adam’s exercise of free will to choose to sin would pass from possible to actual.

Adam’s freely made choice to sin placed all his descendants in the state of sin. Because of Adam’s freely made choice to sin, God saw all human beings as sinners. In mercy and love God chose to give some sinners his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8) to save those particular sinners from their sins. All other sinners God justly left in their sins, never taking any action, neither for nor against, regarding their salvation. There is never any prejudice against those not chosen; they are left to continue as they were before the selection was made.

Why did God foreordain Adam’s freely made choice to sin to pass from possible to actual? God designed into human nature the moral authority to make decisions. God does not act contrary to what he has created. God allows human beings to exercise their free will to make morally right and wrong decisions. God justly warns against wrong decisions and warns against the consequences of wrong decisions. God justly as punishes morally wrong decisions, if not in the here and now, then in the hereafter. God regulates morally wrong decisions through his laws, commandments, providence, and grace. To try and make God culpable for human sin because he foreordained Adam’s choice is to say, “I would not have done it that way”; it is to judge God for being sovereign. As a created being I choose not to judge my Creator.

God foreordained Adam’s exercise of free will to choose to sin. God is not culpable for Adam’s freely made choice to sin, for it was Adam’s misuse of his free will. Nor is God culpable for the freely made choices of Adam’s descendants to reject God and his salvation, because it is the misuse of their free will. Sinners act according to their nature, making choices according to the spiritual boundaries of that nature. Sinning is the natural choice of the sinner, the free exercise of the will to rebel against God and reject his salvation.

God foreordained to save some, choosing to initiate faith in them by giving each his gift of grace-faith-salvation (the salvation principle, Ephesians 2:8, saved by grace through faith) at a particular moment in their personal history. God’s gift changes the rebellious human nature, gives spiritual perception of the issues of sin and death and faith and life, and the person now freed from the rebellion of sin chooses to exercise saving faith. God’s gift guarantees salvation; that is its purpose; that is God’s choice.

God does not act to prevent any non-elect from coming to him in faith and being saved. Their nature, fueled by the sin attribute–the principle of rebellion against God–chooses to reject God and his salvation. God would act savingly toward any non-elect person, if he/she would come to him through faith in God and his testimony of salvation. They need only overcome their sin.

But the person without God’s gift always chooses not to overcome their sin. The sinner freely chooses sinning because his will is of itself always inclined to choose sinning, and as being rebellious and disobedient toward God never desires to change its inclination to choose sinning to rebel against God, disobey his commandments, and seek a path in life apart from God.

There is no force, there is no fate, there are only choices: God’s freely made choices and the person’s freely made choices. God choose to give humankind free will. God choose to allow humankind to exercise their free will, for good or ill. God choose to rescue some from their choice to sin and thereby they freely exercise saving faith in him. God chose to leave others in their sin and chose not to prevent those others from freely deciding not to come to him to be saved. They freely choose to continue with sin, not God.

God gets glory from the exercise of all his attributes. In relation to this particular discussion, God gets glory from his mercy and love eternally rescuing sinners, and God gets glory from his holiness and justice in eternally punishing sinners. If you doubt, consider the cross, where Christ suffered God’s justice against sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) because of his mercy and love for sinners (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4–5).

(Definitions from Quiggle, “Dictionary of Doctrinal Words”; explanation and illustration from Quiggle, “God’s Choices, The Doctrines of Foreordination, Election, and Predestination.”)

Deuteronomy Essentials

Deuteronomy Essentials

Summary

Deuteronomy follows the ancient pattern of a covenant renewal document:

 

Recollection

Covenant renewal treaties began by recounting the history of the parties involved, just like here. Moses looked back over the 38 years since leaving Mount Sinai, recalling key events, both good and bad (1:1-3:29), and urging continued obedience to God (4:1-40).

 

Requirements

Moses then outlined the terms Israel must follow as their part of the covenant. The Ten Commandments were given central place (5:1-33) and were then summed up in one short commandment: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (6:4-5). Jesus himself would say that this commandment summed up all the others (Mark 12:28-31).

 

This absolute allegiance to God was then underlined by instructions to destroy the Canaanites who might otherwise turn their hearts to their gods (7:1-26). (In fact, this was exactly what would happen.) Warned not to forget God and all he had done (8:1-20), they were reminded that they would conquer Canaan, not because of their own goodness or abilities, but because God was with them. If they feared God alone (10:12-22) and remained obedient, they would indeed be blessed (11:1-32).

 

Chapters 12-26 then give a wide range of religious, social and legal laws governing life in the Promised Land.

 

Ratification

Having outlined the terms of the covenant, Moses listed curses that would follow if they disobeyed (27:1-26; 28:15-68) and blessings if they obeyed (28:1-14). The covenant was then ratified (renewed) (29:1-30:20).

 

The covenant renewed, Moses’ work was complete and he handed over leadership to Joshua, who had been alongside him since leaving Egypt, encouraging him to be strong and courageous for the task ahead (31:1-8). He praised God for all he had done (32:1-43), blessed the twelve tribes (33:1-29) and then died, being buried on Mount Nebo on the very edge of the Promised Land (34:1-12) – so close, and yet so far.

 

 

 

The message

God’s people are called to respond to God’s salvation with love and loyalty, worshiping the one true God in the midst of surrounding cultural idolatries and living in the midst of the nations as a community shaped at every level of life by God’s character of grace, justice, purity, compassion and generosity.

 

Storyline

During His earthly ministry, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy more than any other Old Testament book, such as when he countered Satan’s temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). When asked to name the greatest Old Testament commandment, again Jesus turned to Deuteronomy (Matthew 22:37). And when the Pharisees rebuked Him for failing to perform ceremonial washings, He quoted Deuteronomy to rebuke their hypocritical disobedience of God’s commands (Mark 7:10). It was certainly an appropriate book for Jesus to cite. For as does God the Father in Deuteronomy, Jesus promises life to all who follow Him, raises up a new generation of disciples, and never withdraws His offer of salvation, even when men and women rebel against Him.

 

Key Doctrines in Deuteronomy

The Promised Land of Israel (1:8; 6:10; 9:5; 29:13; 30:20; 34:4; Genesis 12:7; 15:5; 22:17; Exodus 33:1; Leviticus 18:24; Numbers 14:23; 34:1–15; Joshua 24:13; Psalm 105:44; Titus 3:5)

The Lord’s faithfulness to give Israel victory over its enemies (2:24–3:11; 29:2,7–8; Numbers 21:3,33–34; Joshua 1:7; 10:8–12; Judges 1:1–4; 1 Kings 2:3; Psalm 18:43; Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:54–57; 1 John 5:4)

 

Israel’s rebellion against the Lord (1:26–46; 9:7–10:11; Exodus 14:11; Numbers 14:1–4; Ezra 4:19; Psalm 106:24; Jeremiah 5:6; Ezekiel 18:31; Daniel 9:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Jude 1:11,15)

The scattering of Israel as judgment from God (4:25–31; 29:22–30:10; 31:26–29; Leviticus 26:33; 1 Kings 14:15; Nehemiah 1:8; Psalm 106:25–27; Ecclesiastes 3:5; Jeremiah 9:15–16; Amos 9:8)

Holiness of God and His people —God declares Israel His chosen people (7:6–11; 8:6,11,18; 10:12,16–17; 11:13; 13:3–4; 14:1–2; Exodus 19:5–6; Proverbs 10:22; Amos 3: 2; Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:1; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Peter 2:9)

 

God’s Character in Deuteronomy

God is accessible —4:7

God is eternal —33:27

God is faithful —7:9

God is glorious —5:24; 28:58

God is jealous —4:24

God is just —10:17; 32:4

God is loving —7:7–8:13; 10:15,18; 23:5

God is merciful —4:31; 32:43

God is powerful —3:24; 32:39

God is a promise keeper —1:11

God is provident —8:2,15,18

God is righteous —4:8

God is true —32:4

God is unequaled —4:35; 33:26

God is unified —4:32–35,39–40; 6:4–5; 32:39

God is wise —2:7

God is wrathful —29:20,27–28; 32:19–22

 

Christ in Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy speaks directly of the coming of a new Prophet similar to Moses: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (18:15). This Prophet is interpreted by both the Old and New Testaments as the Messiah or Christ (34:10; Acts 3:22–23; 7:37).

Moses illustrates a type of Christ in several ways: 1) Both were spared death as babies (Exodus 2; Matthew 2:13–23); 2) Both acted as priest, prophet, and leader over Israel (Exodus 32:31–35; Hebrews 2:17; 34:10–12; Acts 7:52; 33:4–5; Matthew 27:11).

 

Key Verses:

Deuteronomy 10:12, 13; 30:19, 20—“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (10:12, 13).

 

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them” (30:19, 20).

 

Key Words in Deuteronomy

 

Statutes: Hebrew choq —4:1,14; 5:1; 6:1; 7:11; 10:13; 16:12; 28:15; 30:16—conveys a variety of meanings in the Old Testament, including a verb that means “to decree” or “to inscribe” (Proverbs 8:15; Isaiah 10:1; 49:16). It often refers to commands, civil enactments, legal prescriptions, and ritual laws decreed by someone in authority—whether by humans (Micah 6:16) or by God Himself (6:1). The Law of Moses includes commandments (miswah ), judgments (mispat ), and statutes (choq ) (4:1–2). Israel was charged to obey God’s statutes, and they had pledged to do so (26:16– 17).

 

Swore: Hebrew shaba ‘—6:13; 7:8; 10:20; 13:17; 19:8; 29:13; 31:7—the verb translated swore is related to the word used for the number seven. In effect, the verb means “to bind oneself fully”; that is, “seven times.” In ancient times, oaths were considered sacred. People were promising to be faithful to their word no matter what the personal cost. The Old Testament describes God as taking an oath (Genesis 24:7; Exodus 13:5). He was not forced to do this; He did not have to swear in order to ensure His own compliance with His word. Instead, He made an oath so that His people would be assured that His promises were completely trustworthy.

 

Worship: Hebrew shachah —4:19; 8:19; 11:16; 26:10; 30:17—this most common Hebrew word for worship literally means “to cause oneself to lie prostrate.” In ancient times, a person would fall down before someone who possessed a higher status. People would bow before a king to express complete submission to his rule. Following the example of the ancient people of faith, true Christian worship must express more than love for God; it must also express submission to His will.

 

Cursed: Hebrew ‘arar —7:26; 13:17; 27:15,20,23; 28:16,19—literally means “to bind with a curse.” A curse is the opposite of a blessing. It wishes or prays illness or injury on a person or an object. God cursed the serpent and the ground after the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14,17).

Jeremiah, in despair, cursed the man who brought news of his birth (Jeremiah 20:14–15). The seriousness of God’s covenant with His people is illustrated by the threat of a curse on any who violate it (28:60–61). In the New Testament, Paul taught that Jesus Christ became a “curse” for us, so that we might be freed form the curses of the Law (Galatians 3:13).

 

 

 

Teaching Structure

Deuteronomy has a covenant structure comparable to ancient treaties. There is a historical prologue (chs. 1-3), a call to loyalty (chs. 4-11), detailed stipulations (chs. 12-26), blessings and curses (chs. 27-28), and witnesses (e.g., 30:19; 31:19; 32). However, its literary structure is nicely balanced, as outlined below, with an outer frame setting the historical context (chs. 1-3; 31-34), an inner frame stressing covenant loyalty (chs. 4-11; 27-30), and a central section that, in broad terms, follows the flow of the Decalogue in “preaching” how Israel should live.

 

  1. Looking back: remembering the wilderness (chs. 1-3)
  • Warning from past failure (ch. 1)
  • Encouragement from past victories (chs. 2-3)
  1. Called to covenant love and loyalty (chs. 4-11)

Know the Lord and avoid idolatry (ch. 4)

  • Ten Words: the Decalogue recalled (ch. 5)
  • One Lord, one love, all of life (ch. 6)
  • The challenge of election (ch. 7)
  • Remember God in the bad times and in the good times (ch. 8)
  • Not because of your righteousness (ch. 9)
  • What does God require? (ch. 10)
  • The crucial choice: life or death; blessing or curse (ch. 11)
  1. Decalogue unpacked: guidance for the life and culture of God’s people (chs. 12-26)
  • Exclusive worship of the living God alone (chs. 12-13)
  • The sabbatical rhythms of life, meant for economic generosity (chs. 14-16)
  • The responsibility of social, religious and political authorities (chs. 17-18)
  • The sanctity of life in differing contexts (chs. 19-21)
  • Handling disordered sexuality (ch. 22)
  • The claims of justice and compassion in society (chs. 23-25)
  • Celebrating God’s grace and responding in practical obedience (ch. 26)
  1. Confirming the covenant relationship (chs. 27-30)
  • Blessings and curses sanction and protect the covenant (chs. 27-28)
  • Anticipated failure, future grace, present challenge (chs. 29-30)
  1. Looking forward: anticipating the Land (chs. 31-34)
  • Israel’s history in advance, in prophetic song (chs. 31-32)
  • The blessings, death and epitaph of Moses (chs. 33-34)

 

 

KJV and NLT: Better together

KJV and NLT: Better together

I would like to answer a question which I am, very often, asked, “Matt, how can you love KJV and NLT?” I wll give you the short answer and then I will develop it a little…

In KJV, we find the ancientness of the Church and in NLT, we find the vitality and vigor of the Church, who speaks the Ancient Truths in today’s language.

Let me use the metaphor of a bride to describe the two. KJV is a bride before the wedding night. In many ways her glory is hidden. She is regal, mysterious and yet arrayed in splendor and fine linen, a gift for her husband who stands before her in awe of the wonders God has created in this woman made just for him. The NLT is that  same bride the morning after the wedding. Her secrets have been opened to her husband. All her delights are made known to him and now, in the fullness of their love a life is built.

We, the Church, are that husband. The Bible speaks to the whole Church at all times but it also speaks to us as individuals. The Lord God of Heaven and Earth whispers His wonders through the text of Scripture and we stand in awe of His majesty.

Since there is no language that evades God’s understanding, there is no Bible which hinders the Holy Ghost from speaking His truth into our lives. He is the ever present author, ready to teach the moment the book is opened, ready to illuminate Himself to us as we are already fully known by Him.

I read the KJV and NLT together regularly. As a matter of fact the NLT is alongside whichever essentially literal translation which I am reading. Why? The NLT speaks my language and it does for most of the English speaking people on the planet. It is true that anyone who makes the effort can understand the KJV and I very much encourage the making of that effort. With NLT, I frequently hear new disciples saying “Oh! I get it now!”

KJV + NLT: Timeless beauty meets modern beauty. I read these together…

Psalm 119:18 Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wonderous things in Thy law.

The Function of the Church (guest post by James Quiggle)

The Function of the Church (guest post by James Quiggle)

This question was asked: “Is online Christianity an assembly of God?”

The answer is, “What are the functions of a church?”

If the functions of a NT church may only be met by people meeting daily in the Jerusalem temple and in many houses, the earliest form of the NT church, Acts 2:46, then when the NT church began meeting in fields, and later in graveyards and catacombs filled with graves, and in prisons, and then later in buildings dedicated to the purpose, then very shortly after the beginning the NT church has failed and continued to fail to be a church.

But thank God the NT church is not defined by where it meets, but by what it does.

If the functions of a NT church may be performed in a house, a field, graveyards, a catacomb, a prison, a building, then there are no limits to where and how a NT church may meet, as it adapts to times, cultures, and circumstances—as long as the functions of a NT church are performed.

What, then,  are the functions of a New Testament church? It is a small list.
— Preach the Word, 2 Timothy 4:2.
— Teach the word, 2 Timothy 2:2
— Assemble together, regularly, Hebrews 10:25.
— Baptize new believers, Matthew 28:19; Acts 10:47.
— Communion, Luke 22:17–20; 1 Corinthians 11:24–25
— Financial support to ministers of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:14.
— Minister to one another, 1 Peter 4:10.
Which of these require a building?
— Preaching and teaching maybe done online.
— An online community is assembling together.
— Financial support may be given online
— Ministering to one another maybe done online.
What about baptism? Answer: the New Testament church does not have a priesthood, and water in sufficient quantity for dunking is required. If a sufficient amount of water is not available, if baptism may be done only by pouring or sprinkling, the New Testament church has done that too, in its long history (see the Didache). A river, a stream, a bathtub, a shower, a pitcher of water will do. Is it the quantity of water that counts, or the obedience of the believer?
What about communion? Answer: the New Testament church does not have a priesthood. The elements may be self-administered. If an online community has gathered for that purpose, then have they not shared in that experience? Communion is a remembrance of the Lord, not one another.
Brethren, my preference is the assembly of the saints meet in person. But that preference is based on decades of personal experience reinforced by centuries of Christian tradition.
Times have changed, and the New Testament church must be willing to adapt. The early church regularly met in homes, and when under persecution met in graveyards, catacombs and open areas in small groups of a few individual believers. They also met as a congregation from time to time, when it was allowed (see governor Pliny’s letter to emperor Trajan), or when it was safe.
Traditions are wonderful servants, but terrible masters. Every hallowed tradition of today was at one time a new practice, to which many objected, because it was not tradition. So also meeting in buildings weekly to do “church.” There is no place in the scriptures requiring we meet in a building.

I believe the New Testament church must adapt. I believe that in some places in the world, the USA for example, the Holy Spirit has in fact begun that process of creating new traditions to meet current circumstances. We should—we must—with the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, continue to find ways to meet as a congregation in person, as did the early, persecuted church. But we must not object to new ways of meeting just because “we never did it that way before.”

ARE YOU CONFIDENT IN GOD’S WORK? Guest Post

ARE YOU CONFIDENT IN GOD’S WORK? Guest Post

The following is the 1rst article by out new contributor, Jake Schotter. We hope you find it challenging,  thought provoking and most of all, we hope you are blessed by this content…

 

(Ephesians 1)

In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, his primary focus is on God the Father. In chapter one alone, we find at-least 23 references to Him, primarily demonstrating that He is a gracious giver of gifts. Here are some examples:

  • “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 2)
  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (v. 3)
  • “…the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” (v. 17)

As he describes God as the Great Benevolent, Paul draws our attention to two primary areas where God is mightily at work and has given us great gifts – great gifts that should cause us to have great confidence for being Christians!

  1. We should have confidence in God because He has given us the gift of salvation (1:3-14)

In these verses, Paul elaborates on ten gifts God has blessed those who are “in Christ.” If you are “in Christ,” then you are saved. Reading through this beautiful section, you cannot miss the clear emphasis on what God has done. Paul explains, “He chose… He predestined… He freely bestowed,” among others because it was “according to the kind intention of His will” (v. 5).

If we think we are the source of our salvation, we have lost sight of God and have become too pridefully dependent on ourselves. Do our actions reflect the reality of God’s work of salvation in our lives? Paul later wrote, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (2:10).

  1. We should have confidence in God because He gives us the gift of sanctification (1:15-23)

Paul prays for the Christians in Ephesus to keep on reflecting God in their lives (verses 15-16 indicates that they have an active faith!). To Paul, however, that is not enough. So, he prays that they may continue growing in their relationship to God! He prays that they may know more about the person of Christ (v. 17), their portion in Christ (v. 18), and the power of Christ (vs. 19-21).

If God has control over our way of thinking (our mindset) and He dominates our mind (Colossians 3:2), then we will inevitably have the desire to live faithfully and grow in our knowledge of Him. The result of doing this? A transformed life (Colosians 3:1-17). When we allow God to work on and through us, we are able to experience the “surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19). Let us have an unwavering confidence in God’s work and reflect that in how we think and live!

 

Readings for 2020-2021

Readings for 2020-2021

Sunday, 29 November, begins the Advent Season as well as the Lectionary Year for church readings. Our fellowship, Abounding Grace Baptist Church, will be sharing the Sunday Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. For those who desire to follow the readings for the whole year, we have provided a link below.

The text of each Sunday reading will be found on the church Facebook page found, here:  Abounding Grace Baptist Church Phoenix

 

Click here for Lectionary Readings

Why do we keep returning to NIV

Why do we keep returning to NIV

 It is a very true statement that my two favorite English translations of the Bible are the New King James Version and the New American Standard Bible. Why then do we keep coming back to NIV? Why is it in the pulpit at our sister ministry, Abounding Grace Baptist Church, and why does it keep popping up in our Facebook Page feed?

 

These are excellent questions and worthy of an answer…

1. To most of the Anglophone World, NIV is the Bible. NIV is currently offered in American Standard English and Commonwealth English (Anglicised). It is truly international in scope.

2. NIV is the translation used by most of our audience members. As a pastor, it is critically important to me that those who are hearing the expostion of the Bible from our pulpit are hearing the Bible in an English format that is easy to understand and follow along. By using the same translation, both pastor and audience are able to grow together in our common faith.

3. NIV is trustworthy and accurate along with being designed for study. The New International Version is what we call a mediating translation. It is in the midde of essentially literal and meaning based. Most of the commentaries in my library are based on the NIV. Beyond that, there is a very broad range of study Bibles, hand-books dictionaries, and other resources to ensure that you have the most comprehensive selection of toold available; only KJV has more tools but to be fair it does have a 350 year head start.

4. The NIV’s history earns it a place in the pulpit. 55 years ago, the New International Verision was created to help people to better understand the Bible by putting it into more accessible English. From its inception to the present day, NIV has had one goal, which happens to be the same goal that I have, to help people understand the Bible and live a life pleasing to God. It is, then, natural for us to be together.

Should I follow verse of the day posts?

Should I follow verse of the day posts?

Many people ask, regularly, if following a Verse of the Day on Facebook is good/helpful. The truth of the matter is this: you have to start somewhere. Most Christians do not experience any more of the Bible than what they get in church on Sunday so, in that case, a Verse of the Day is helpful.

Growing in grace, like building a house, is a process. In both cases, a foundation is easential. In this metaphor, the Verse of the Day is a foundational habit, daily experience of the Bible.

There are a number of solid Bible teaching ministries that offer a Verse of the Day. I encourage you to find one and follow some Verse of the Day posts.

A Summary of the Great Tribulation

A Summary of the Great Tribulation

Although God’s people may expect tribulation throughout the present age (Jn. 16:33; Acts 14:22), the word “tribulation,” as here, is also used specifically of a future time (Mt. 24:21,29; Mk. 13:24). This future time is also referred to as the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer. 30:6-7)

Since our Lord links the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel with this time of tribulation (Mt. 24:15-21; Mk. 13:14-19), it is evident that the tribulation is to be connected with the seventieth week of Daniel (Dan. 9:27). Furthermore, the Biblical references have in common an allusion to unprecedented trouble (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 9:27; 12:1; Mt. 24:21-22).

While the seventieth week of Daniel is seven years in length (see Dan. 9:24, note; compare Rev. 11:2, note), and the terms “tribulation” and “great tribulation,” as used in the Scriptures, both have to do with the latter half of the seven years, it is customary to use “tribulation” of the whole period, and “great tribulation” of the second half of the period.

From the Scriptures we may deduce that the tribulation will begin with the signing of the covenant to permit the renewal of Jewish sacrifice (Dan. 9:27); it will be a period of unexampled trouble and judgment (see chain ref., Tribulation, Ps. 2:5 to Rev. 7:14), and is described in Rev. 6-19; and it will involve the whole earth (Rev. 3:10), but it is distinctively “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7).

The elements of the great tribulation (the latter half of the seventieth week) are:

(1) the cruel reign of the “beast . . . out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1) who, at the beginning of the final three and one-half years, will break his covenant with the Jews (by virtue of which they will have re-established the temple worship, Dan. 9:27), and show himself in the temple, demanding that he be worshiped as God (Mt. 24:15; 2 Th. 2:4) {The rise of the Beast, while chronicled in Revelation 13, it is alluded to in the opening of the 1st seal.}

(2) the active interposition of Satan “having great wrath” (Rev. 12:12), who gives his power to the beast (Rev. 13:4-5). It is important to remember that even though Satan has fierce wrath, that wrath is governed by God the Holy One and is used as a minister of Divine Wrath.

(3) the unprecedented activity of demons (Rev. 9:2,11; compare v. 20); and

(4) the terrible bowl judgments of Rev. 16. These bowl judgments are teh final opportunity for the wicked to turn toward God in repentance and faith. Bowls six and seven are devoid of the opportunity to repent and are the most terrible of God’s outpouring of wrath. Following the seventh bowl judgment, Christ returns

The tribulation will, nevertheless, be a period of salvation. An election out of Israel will be redeemed (Rev. 7:1-4) with an innumerable multitude of Gentiles (v. 9). These are said to have come “out of the great tribulation” (v. 14). They are not of the priesthood, the Church, to which they seem to stand somewhat in the relation of the Levites to the priests under the Mosaic Covenant. The great tribulation will be followed immediately by the return of Christ in glory, and the events associated therewith .

There is a difference of opinion about the location in Revelation at which the great tribulation is first alluded to. Some suggest as early as ch. 6; others, as late as ch. 11.  Either way, it is described in chs. 11-18.

 

**Adapted from the Scofield Study Bible**