Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How far would you go? (Gen. 22:1-19)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

One of the least favorite aspects of education for typical students is exams. Most students (as well as most teachers) would be content to omit them. They are, however, an obligatory part of the educational process.
A female college English teacher was known for being a hard grader. After receiving a B minus on an exam, and hoping to improve his grade, Jack decided to take advantage of the impending Valentine's Day holiday, and he sent her a heart-shaped box of chocolates with the inscription, "Be Mine." The following day, he received a note that read: "Thank you, for the candy, but it's still Be Mine-Us."
Some tests are not amenable to grade adjustment. Thankfully, the tests God gives are all pass-fail, like the test He gave Abraham in the story, The Binding of Isaac.

The Binding of Isaac (Ha'akedah in Gen 22), is about a boy's trust in his father and a father's trust in his God. It recounts how Abraham almost kills his only son as a sacrifice to the Lord and how the boy is spared at the last moment, offering an important lesson to the Patriarch, a lesson his descendants will retell for generations. It begins as a test (or "temptation") of Abraham's obedience.

I. The Lord orders the patriarch (Gen 22:1-2).
Gen 22:1 God tested Abraham.2 He said to him,3 "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. 2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love,4 and go to the region of Moriah.5 Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."
Let us take stock of events leading to this 'test.' What prompted God to examine the extent of Abraham's obedience? Did God doubt the Patriarch's devotion? Like most exams, this 'test' was for the student's benefit, to probe not the depth of Abraham's knowledge about God but the degree of Abraham's commitment to God. Because God knows all things before they happen (foreknowledge), He knew Abraham's heart as well as how he would respond to this command,6 but that did not mean obedience was easy for Abraham.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The epistles to the Thessalonians

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians

I. Paul addresses the Thessalonian church (1 Thess 1:1-10).
A. He extends a greeting (v. 1).
B. He expresses his thanksgiving (vv. 2-10).
Application: God places into your life those who are more mature in the faith as models for you to imitate, and it is important for you to emulate them (Phil 3:17).

II. Paul recounts the initial visit (1 Thess 2:1-20)
A. He touts their success (vv. 1-12).
B. He expresses his thanks.. .again (2:13-20).
Application: You may face more serious threats than from secular authorities, so it is important that you recognize them and that you resist them (Jms 4:7).

III. Paul reviews his protégée's visit (1 Thess 3:1-13).
A. He recalls Timothy's ministry (vv. 1-5).
B. He recounts Timothy's return (vv. 6-10).
C. He petitions God's blessing (vv. 11-13).
Application: There are too many unforeseen and unforeseeable variables to plot the course of your life with certainty (Jer 29:11).

IV. Paul offers his readers instruction (1 Thess 4:1-12).
A. He teaches about satisfying God (vv. 1-8).
B. He teaches about loving others (vv. 9-12).
Application: Your responsibility to care for others is not the same for everyone but is greatest for those closest to you (Gal 6:10).

V. Paul explains about Jesus' return (1 Thess 4:13-5:11).
A. He tells how some expect it (vv. 13-18).
B. He tells how most ignore it (vv. 1-1 1).
Application: Do not lose your hope in him, and do not lapse in your devotion to him (Matt 24:13).

VI. Paul gives some closing remarks (1 Thess 5:12-28).
A. He instructs about church life.. .again (vv. 12-22).
B. He appends a benediction (vv. 23-24)
C. He solicits their prayers (vv. 25-28).
Application: You should be careful to acknowledge and not ignore other believers. (2 John 7a, 10-11).

Paul's Second Epistle to the Thessalonians

I. Paul addresses the Thessalonian church...again (2 Thess 1:1-4).
A. He extends a greeting (vv. 1-2).
B. He expresses his thanksgiving (vv. 3-4).
Application: Proper pride is not conceitedness you have in yourself but confidence someone else has in you or you have in God (Prov 27:2; Jer 9:23-24).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Prison Epistles: Philemon

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

 (This is one of four posts, each studying one of the four epistles the apostle wrote while in prison in Rome.) 

I. Paul addresses a good friend (Philemon 1-7).
A. He extends a greeting (vv. 1-3).
B. He expresses his thanks (vv. 4-7).
Application: If you want to benefit from God's good impressions, it is important to recall and to heed the advice He has left you (Ps 103:17-18).
II. Paul intercedes for a slave (Philemon 8-21).
A. He attests Onesimus' industry (vv. 8-16).
B. He requests Philemon's indulgence (vv. 17-21).
Application: Keeping your relationships with others in good order may be more important than completing a religious obligation (Matt 5:23-24).
III. Paul gives some closing remarks (Philemon 22-25).
A. He anticipates a visit (v. 22).
B. He greets some individuals (vv. 23-24).
C. He appends a benediction (v. 25).
Application: The challenge for you is to find your particular role in the church and then to fulfill it (Rom 12:4-5).

Paul's letter to Philemon (62) was one of four epistles he composed (with Timothy) from a Roman prison after his third missionary journey to Asia Minor.1 The missive was in response to a visit from Onesimus, who then returned to Philemon with this letter from Paul:2
I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. (v. 12)
Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good. (v. 15)
The moral imperative for the letter is to repair the estranged relationship between Philemon and Onesimus.

I. Paul addresses a good friend (Philemon 1-7).
A. He extends a greeting (vv. 1-3).
Phlmn 1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,3 to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia our sister [Philemon's wife/sister?], to Archippus [Philemon's son?] our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:4 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the letter's prescript, Paul directs his missive to a small group of Christians. Some early believers were part of established synagogues, while other early believers, such as this group, were so few in number that they met in private homes.5 The leader of this group was Philemon, a man of some financial means and social standing, having a house with a dedicated "guest room" (v. 22) and at least one servant.
B. He expresses his thanks (vv. 4-7).
Phlmn 4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear6 about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.7 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
As was his custom, Paul begins this letter with an expression of gratitude for the recipients' faith and love.8 The apostle's practice of prayer is evident here in its consistency ("always" v. 4) and content ("thank...God" and "remember you" v. 4).

Application: Making a good impression, as Philemon did on Paul, is not necessarily easy, and only God leaves consistently good impressions. Moreover, His are not merely good feelings but influences that can benefit you. So calls to remember something He did or something He said span generations and have a lasting impact:9

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Prison Epistles: Colossians

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

 (This is one of four posts, each studying one of the four epistles the apostle wrote while in prison in Rome.)

I. Paul addresses the Colossian church (Colossians 1:1-14).
A. He extends his greeting (vv. 1-8).
B. He offers a prayer (vv. 9-14).
Application: As you evaluate your life, you must have a realistic view of your own relevance.... God will commend you if you are commendable (Jms 4:10).
II. Paul describes a new relationship (Colossians 1:15-29).
A. He recognizes Christ's supremacy (vv. 15-20).
B. He reviews their reconciliation (vv. 21-23).
C. He introduces God's mystery (vv. 24-29).
Application: God has revealed some future events, not all you might like to know but all you need to know to make good choices now (Matt 24:13).
III. Paul extols the Savior's preeminence (Colossians 2:1-23).
A. He explains God's plan (vv. 1-5).
B. He minimizes sin's corruption (vv. 6-23).
  1. A circumcised nature is now controlling (vv. 6-12).
  2. A restricted lifestyle is now free (vv. 13-23).
Application: The challenge in your adopting any extra-biblical practice is to do so without your attributing to it the authority of scripture (1 Cor 4:6).
IV. Paul advocates a radical change (Colossians 3:1-4:1).
A. He counsels a new viewpoint (vv. 1-11).
B. He recommends a new attire (vv. 12-17).
C. He teaches about various relationships (vv. 18-25; 4:1).
Application: You determine how others view your savior by the way you treat your brethren (John 13:35; Gal 6:10).
V. Paul gives some closing remarks (Colossians 4:2-18).
A. He solicits their prayers (vv. 2-6).
B. He commends several individuals (vv. 7-18).
Application: Your commitment to God...should be manifest in your communion with God... (Luke 18:1).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Prison Epistles: Philippians

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

(This is one of four posts, each studying one of the four epistles the apostle wrote while in prison in Rome.)  

I. Paul addresses the Philippian church (Philippians 1:1-30).
A. He extends a greeting (vv. 1-1 1).
B. He describes his situation (vv. 12-26).
C. He recognizes their struggle (vv. 27-30).
Application: You should be able to keep from becoming discouraged by considering what God will do for you ultimately (2 Cor 4:17).
II. Paul advocates a worthy lifestyle (Philippians 2:1-30).
A. He extols Christ's humility (vv. 1-1 1).
B. He encourages their progress (vv. 12-18).
C. He commends his companions (vv. 19-30).
Application: Although you must consider the needs of others, you must recognize that there is a hierarchy to meeting others' needs (Gal 6:10).
III. Paul cautions them against overconfidence (Philippians 3:1-21).
A. He reviews his lineage (vv. 1-11).
B. He presses toward the goal (vv. 12-16).
C. He awaits the glorious return (vv. 17-21).
Application: God calls you to be involved with His program, but He will not force you to play a particular role (Matt 22:14).
IV. Paul gives some closing remarks (Philippians 4:1-23).
A. He offers his encouragement (vv. 1-9).
B. He extols their generosity (vv. 10-20).
C. He extends a benediction (vv. 21-23).
Application: Wherever possible it is best to simplify your life, whether your expectations or your expenditures (1 Tim 6:8).
Addendum: The Value of Rejoicing

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Prison Epistles: Ephesians

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

(This is one of four posts, each studying one of the four epistles the apostle wrote while in prison in Rome.)

I. Paul addresses the Ephesian church (Ephesians 1:1-23).
A. He extends a greeting (vv. 1-2).
B. He voices some praise (vv. 3-10).
C. He acknowledges their election (vv. 11-14).
D. He reveals his prayer (vv. 15-23).
Application: Although salvation is free, it is not automatic, and obtaining it takes initiative on your part (Rom 10:13).
II. Paul recounts the believers' redemption (Ephesians 2:1-22).
A. He describes their reconciliation to God (vv. 1-10).
B. He describes their reconciliation to others (vv. 11-22). 
Application: The joining of believing Jews and gentiles is part of God's plan, so you should become familiar with it (Gal 3:26, 28).
III. Paul reveals the gentile inclusion (Ephesians 3:1-21).
A. He presents the gospel's expansion (vv. 1-13).
  1. It is his message (vv. 1-6).
  2. It is his mission (vv. 7-13).
B. He prays for their comprehension (vv. 14-2 1).
Application: The redemption Christ has accomplished the means that you, as a gentile, are immediately part of God's people (Rom 10:12).
IV. Paul reflects on their progress (Ephesians 4:1-32).
A. He contrasts their situation (vv. 1-13).
B. He recognizes their growth (vv. 14-19).
C. He advocates their change (vv. 20-28).
Application: Because sin starts inside you then spreads outside you, it is important to nip it quickly, even before it occurs (Eph 4:27).
V. Paul instructs about being moral (Ephesians 5:1-6:9).
A. He applies it to general interactions (vv. 1-7).
B. He applies it to confronting evil (vv. 8-14).
C. He applies it to spirit-filled living (vv. 15-20).
D. He applies it to close relationships (5:21-6:9).
  1. The married must relate properly to their spouses (vv. 21-23).
  2. The children must relate properly to their parents (vv. 1-4).
  3. The slaves must relate properly to their masters (vv. 5-9). 
Application: As you have opportunity to "contend for the faith" (Jude 3), you are not left to your own devices.... Are you availing yourself of what God provides?
VI. Paul gives some closing remarks (6:10-24).
A. He prepares for battle (vv. 10-18).
B. He solicits their prayers (vv. 19-20).
C. He commends an individual (vv. 21-22).
D. He extends a benediction (v. 23).
Application: By using the equipment God provides you will be able to withstand the devil's onslaught and move forward to advance God's agenda (2 Cor 10:4).
Addendum: The Mystery of the Gospel

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother's Day (Luke 10:38-42)

 Choosing What is Better (Luke 10:38-42)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

Children often have different ideas about how things should be, and the challenge is to find a useful way of illustrating that difference.
When Jack was still quite young, his mother read to him the Nativity story. Jack asked her what a stable was. She thought for a moment how to explain it to him in terms he could understand, then said, "It's something like your sister's room...but no stereo or computer."
Children often have different ideas about how things should be. Martha and Mary had different ideas about how they should respond to Jesus' visit, Choosing What Is Better.

Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus, live in Bethany, a town "less than two miles from Jerusalem" (John 11:18). We do not know how they first had contact with Jesus, only that they became model disciples and good friends. John records that "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11:5), a distinction unique to that family. As their home was along the route to Jerusalem, the capital, Jesus probably visited them whenever he came to the city.1

On this occasion, Jesus arrives, perhaps with the disciples in tow, so Martha and Mary may have a house full of guests. How large a group is uncertain.2 It was evidently enough to require extensive preparation. Martha is probably the older of the two sisters. Luke says it is "her home," so the chief responsibility for the household, such as entertaining out of town guests, falls to her.3 Nevertheless, she naturally expects her sister to help. When Mary does not, Martha is a bit annoyed. Please turn to Luke 10 where as the story opens in v. 38...

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Passover seder

Dr. Paul Manuel—1996

(When Dr. Paul and Linda lived in Madison they annually invited friends to celebrate the Passover seder with them. 
This is how Paul would introduce the service.)

God told His people to observe the Passover, and their obeying this command is one way they demonstrate their devotion to Him, as this rabbinic story illustrates. Why is the Exodus from Egypt mentioned in connection with every commandment?
...The matter can be compared to a king, whose friend's son was taken prisoner after the father's death. For the sake of his friend, the king ransomed the young man, though not as a son but as a slave, so that if he should disobey the king at any time, the king could say, "You are my slave." When the lad returned, the king said, "Put on my sandals for me and take my clothes to the bath house," but the young man protested. Then the king took out the bill of sale and said, "You are my slave."
So it was when God redeemed the children of Abraham, His friend, He redeemed them not as children but as slaves. If He imposed decrees upon them and they did not obey, He could say, "You are my slaves." When they went into the desert, He gave them some light and some heavy commands (e.g., Sabbath, sexual purity, fringes, phylacteries), but they began to protest. Then God said, "You are My slaves. I redeemed You on the condition that I would command and you would obey." (Montefiore 1974:117-118)
God's people have been observing the Passover annually for thousands of years, not only as a means of demonstrating their devotion to Him but also as a review of His care for them.

The Passover seder (service) we use today is a traditional one that dates back hundreds of years. We can trace most aspects of the seder at least to the late Second Temple Period, when Jesus ministered, and the major elements we can even trace to the exodus from Egypt that the Passover commemorates. We need two things to conduct the seder: certain symbols of the exodus and the story of the exodus.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Why try God?

Dr. Paul Manuel—Seventh Day Baptist General Conference—August 6, 2001

Why try God?1 From the moment you acknowledge His existence, He is intrusive and demanding. He expects you to change, to conform to His standard. Surely it is better to do your own thing and to let God do His...whatever that may be. Why bother cluttering up your life with another person's agenda? That is a question many people ask or, at least, think, and the answer is not what we, having tried God, like to admit.

I heard a preacher once say that God created man for fellowship because God was lonely. Although God is alone, for there is no one else like Him,2 He gives no indication of being lonely. The testimony of scripture is that He is quite self-sufficient.3 Consequently, there is no deficiency in God that man can fill ("as if he needed anything" Acts 17:25).
  • He does not need our help, because He is omnipotent.
  • He does not need our advice, because He is omniscient.
  • He does not need our company, because He is other—more different from us than we can imagine.
From eternity past, He has survived without us, and He would get along quite well without us in the future. Besides, if we hold to the trinity, God the Father has the company of the Son and of the Spirit.4 In other words, God does not need us, for fellowship or for anything else.5 So, we are not doing Him a favor by coming to Him. On the contrary, He is doing us a favor, a very big favor, by paying attention to us at all. As several biblical authors note,
Ps 8:4a what is man that you are mindful of him...?
Ps 144:3a ...what is man that you care for him...?
Job 7:17 What is man...that you give him...attention...?
Job 22:2a Can a...man be of use to God...?
Job 25:6 ...man...is but a maggot...a worm!
Such comments do not bolster our self-image. They do, however, bring us to an uncomfortable but incontrovertible point: We try God because we need God, and that is the basis on which He appeals to us, saying—"Do yourself a favor; seek me and live" (Amos 5:4).

What is particularly wonderful is that, despite being so far above us that we are less than insects to God, He is not aloof. He does not keep us at arm's-length. Neither does He wait for us to make the first move. Rather, He invites us to know Him and explains how that is to our benefit. This study answers the question—Why Try God?—we will consider together Five Invitations from Isaiah that Appeal to Our Self Interest. While God's word contains many such calls, He issues the most through this prophet.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Islam, Judaism and Christianity

Six Reasons for Muslim Animosity toward Jews and Christians
pdf (136 pages)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2003


Preface 2
I. Introduction 3
II. A Brief History of Islam 4

A. Its Inception

B. Its Expansion

C. Its Opposition
III. The Main Beliefs of Islam 6

A. The Pillars of Islam

B. The Authority of Islam

   Frame: The Principle of Naskh 7
IV. The Hostile Attitudes of Islam 10

   Frame: Jews and Christians under Islamic Rule 10

A. Why do Muslims hate Jews?

   Frame: Differences between the Quran and the Old Testament 11

   Frame: Differences between the Quran and the New Testament 12


Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

Freedom is not being able to do whatever you want but being able to do whatever you should, a distinction that applies to all avenues of life.
An airline pilot was scheduled to take a flight from New York to Los Angeles. The weather was too bad in NY to allow his usual on time departure. When the weather finally cleared and the pilot asked for his departure clearance, he was dismayed to hear about another delay due to the increased traffic now leaving NY. Sometime later he finally received his clearance and decided he would try to make up the time lost by asking for a direct route to LA. Halfway across the country, though, he was told to turn due South. Knowing this would now throw him further behind schedule, he inquired, quite agitated, to the controller the reason for changing course. The controller replied that the turn was for noise abatement. The pilot was infuriated and said to the controller, "Look buddy, I am already way behind schedule with all the delays you guys have given me today. I really don't see how I could be causing a noise problem for pedestrians when I am over 6 miles above the earth!" The controller answered in a calm voice, "Apparently, Captain, you have never heard two 747's collide!"
Freedom is not being able to do what you want but to do what you should, a distinction God offers initially to Adam and subsequently to you.

There is a saying in America that "freedom isn't free," by which we mean that the opportunity or ability to chart your own course in life, to decide for yourself how you will live, while an inherent right is not an automatic one. It comes only as a result of great sacrifice by others.1 The Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This collection of "inalienable rights" is paradoxical because if God gave them then you should have them all the time, but you do not. You must seize them, by force if necessary, because there are people who would prevent your acquiring them. Most importantly, however, by not seizing freedom you relinquish that which God endowed you or wants for you. Freedom is something you must actively pursue and never take for granted lest you fall short of your potential.2

Yet man's freedom has its roots not in the Declaration document but in the creation account, and it came with a limitation God made clear at the outset:
The LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Gen 2:16-17)3
It is difficult to stress the importance of this passage: "The future of the race centers upon this single prohibition" (Leupold 1942 1:127). God does not explain the reason for His proscription, only the dire consequence should man disobey: death. Still, this was Man's First Taste of Freedom.4 God's permission to eat from any tree in the garden except one.5 The ensuing events, however, did not go smoothly, for man chose to rebel against God and chart a different course, a course apart from God and away from God. Thankfully, God did not give up on man but gave him the opportunity to repent his rebellion and regain his freedom. In view of this situation, you must remember that...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Love that dominates (1 Cor 13)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

Because running errands can be a time-consuming experience, we often put several of them together in a single trip. Occasionally, one will interfere with another and require us to revise our plan.
After spending over three hours enduring long lines, surly clerks, and insane regulations at the Department of Motor Vehicles, a man stopped at a toy store to pick up a gift for his son. He selected a baseball bat and brought it to the register. "Cash or charge?" the clerk asked. "Cash!" the father snapped. Then, apologizing for his rudeness, explained, "I just spent the afternoon at the motor vehicle bureau." Nodding in sympathy, the clerk asked, "Shall I gift wrap the bat...or are you going back there?" (Adapted from Hodgin 2004:153)
Sometimes we may be tempted to use a gift in a way other than it was intended. That was what Paul faced with members of the church at Corinth, who were misusing the gifts of the Spirit, a problem he addresses with one of the Great Expectations of Man's LoveLove that Dominates.

Paul founded the church at Corinth (in what is now Greece) on his second missionary journey through Asia Minor. He stayed there for about eighteen months, before moving on but kept in touch with the congregation and attempted to counsel the members through a series of letters, addressed, simply, "to the church of God in Corinth" (1 Cor 1:2a; 2 Cor 1:1b). The first one in our New Testament is actually the second he wrote to believers there,1 but only what we call First and Second Corinthians have survived.

In First Corinthians, Paul addresses several problems within the church that have come to his attention: division, discipline, lawsuits, and immorality. He then answers several questions the church has asked on a variety of topics: marriage, food, worship, communion, and spiritual gifts. Some of his answers are longer than others. The answer about spiritual gifts, for example, is three chapters.2 In chapter 12, Paul stresses the fact that the Holy Spirit determines who gets what gift and that the purpose of all the gifts is to help the congregation grow. Whether a person's gift is teaching or healing, speaking in an unlearned language or offering especially wise counsel, the primary goal is to benefit others not oneself. Some people, though, are abusing what the Spirit has given them by using their gift, specifically the gift of tongues, to draw attention to themselves—to show off. In chapter 13, Paul explains that the most important ingredient in a healthy church is not the gifts of the Spirit but the fruit of the Spirit,3 especially the fruit of love. Paul begins by asserting that spiritual gifts are nothing in...

I. The Absence of Love (1 Cor 13:1-3)
1 Cor 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Love that defines (John 13:34-35)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

Love is a difficult thing to quantify. How much do you love your favorite food, your favorite song, or your favorite pet?
A woman went to the minister of a local Baptist church to ask if he would perform a funeral for her precious little dog, that had just died. "I've been to every other pastor in town. I've been to the Catholic church, the Congregational church, the Lutheran church, and the Methodist church. No one will do this for me. Please, Pastor, I loved my little dog as if he were my own child." "I'm sorry," the minister said. "We do funerals for people, not animals. I've never done anything like this before, and I don't intend to start now." The woman wiped tears from her eyes as she continued to sob. "You were my last hope, and I really thought you would help me. In fact I had planned to give $1,000.00 to the minister who would have a funeral for my little doggie." "Oh my," he exclaimed... "You didn't tell me it was a Baptist dog!"
Love is a difficult thing to quantify, and some things or people we might think are beyond the bounds of love. It is a topic Jesus discusses.

While the gospel writers all chronicle the last few years of Jesus' life, they do not all narrate every event. That would have been an encyclopedic task for, as John mentions at the end of his account...
John 21:25 Jesus did many other things [in addition to those recorded]. If every one of them were written down...even the whole world would not have room for the books....
The gospel writers also do not necessarily narrate the same events. Consequently, there are some incidents that appear in all four gospels1 and other matters that appear only in a single gospel. During the Last Supper, for example, John alone records Jesus' washing the disciples' feet. On that occasion, Jesus issues one of the Great Expectations of Man's Love, and it is a Love that Defines. Please turn to John 13 where we see first that...

I. It defines your imitation of Jesus (John 13:34).
John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
In the course of this series, I hope you have seen that God's love is not just a New Testament concept but is a divine attribute He has demonstrated from His earliest dealings with Israel. In addition, I hope you have also realized that since the same early period, God has wanted His people to model love in their own dealings with others. So there would be no doubt about His expectation, God formulated it as a command in...
Lev 19:18b love your neighbor as yourself...2
Surveying the law codes of the Ancient Near East,3 I could find no counterpart to this biblical precept. There are prohibitions against murder and theft but no admonitions to love. Apparently, pagan deities did not care how their devotees related to one another. Israel alone had this concept written into its legal corpus, and...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Love that discriminates (Ps 97:10)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

Married couples, however much they may think alike, rarely agree on everything. Hence, that relationship, if it is to avoid conflict, is often characterized by compromise. When there is a point of disagreement, each party will adjust its individual expectations so they can both meet somewhere in the middle. At least, that is how it is supposed to work.
The cashier watched her customer dig through her pocketbook for her wallet. As she emptied the cavernous bag one item at a time, an odd piece of electronics fell out. "You certainly have a lot of stuff in there," the cashier remarked. "That thing looks like the remote control for a television. Do you always carry it around?" "No," the customer replied, as she continued her search. "My husband was supposed to come shopping with me, but he backed out at the last minute to stay home and watch a game.. .so I figured taking this was the most evil thing I could do to him."
However annoying her husband may have considered this theft, it does not really stoop to the level of "evil." There are cases, though, that do, and we would do well to follow the admonition of a passage In the Writings about Love that Discriminates.

Although the psalms were often written for specific occasions, they commonly speak in general terms that can apply to many situations. Ps 97 is a hymn to God's kingship (Sabourin 1974:202). It begins with a vivid description of the Lord's appearance (theophany), as He bends all creation to His sovereign will.
Ps 97:1 The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. 2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 3 Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. 4 His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. 5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. 6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.
The author explains how this divine manifestation affects those who witness it, even those who never acknowledged the Lord.
Ps 97:7 All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols — worship him, all you gods! 8 Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, O LORD. 9 For you, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
The psalmist does not say when the Lord will appear but encourages the faithful to remain committed to Him while they wait.
Ps 97:10 Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 11 Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. 12 Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.
This final portion of the psalm includes one of the Great Expectations of Man's Love. Unlike other passages in this sermon series, it is not an entirely positive admonition. There are negative elements that God's people must identify in order to implement Love that Discriminates.

If you are not there already, please turn to Ps 97 and consider with me v. 10, whose initial admonition describes...1

I. The Character of the Righteous
Ps 97:10a Let those who love the LORD hate evil....

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Love that decides (Mic 6:6-8)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

We face many choices in life. Some are easy to make; others are difficult. Occasionally, we may wish we had some help deciding—or not.
A young man, hitchhiking through Kentucky, got a ride from a farmer in an old pickup. After driving for a while, the farmer asked, "Have you ever had real moonshine?" "No," his passenger replied. "I don't drink much, and moonshine would probably be too strong for my taste." "Nonsense," said the farmer, as he reached for a small jug. "Try this." After several attempts by the young man to decline the offer, the farmer stopped the truck, pulled a shotgun off the rack behind him, and pointed it at his passenger. "I said, 'Take a drink!" "Okay!" the young man said. "I'll have some." When he took a swig, his throat muscles tightened, his eyes watered, and he made a choking sound. "Good, ain't it?" the farmer asked. "Yeah, I guess so" the young man gasped. The farmer grinned and said, "Now hold the gun on me, and make me drink." (Adapted from Hodgin 1998:225)
Thankfully, when it comes to obeying God, He does not hold a gun on us. It is a choice He allows us to make, although He does gives us some guidance in Great Expectations of Man's Love, this morning In the Prophets with Love that Decides.

Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and ministered in the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the latter half of the eighth century. As with most of the prophets, Micah speaks out against the sin of God's people, calling them to repent and threatening divine judgment if they continue in their unrighteous lifestyle. He presents his oracles in the form of a lawsuit in which God charges the people with violating the covenant He made with them at Sinai, despite what He had done for them in Egypt. Please turn to chapter 6, where God demands that the people answer for their disobedience, calling creation itself to witness against them.
Mic 6:1 Listen to what the LORD says: "Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2 Hear, O mountains, the LORD's accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. 3 "My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. 4a I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed You from the land of slavery."
Following this charge, Micah poses a series of rhetorical questions in vv. 6-7 to highlight the people's wrong thinking about God. They have made religion solely a matter of ritual. Hence, the prophet asks...

I. What is God's requirement? (vv. 6-7)
Mic 6:6a With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?