Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas, 2004

[Dr. Manuel recently provided me with the Christmas letters he and his wife Linda have sent each year since 2001.
One of the annual letters will be posted each day over the next two weeks.]

Dr. and Mrs. Paul Manuel
Christmas 2004

Dear Friends and Family,

After thirty years of marriage and, between school and ministry, almost as many years of wandering, we are in our new home this holiday season. It is a modest (1860 sq. ft.) three-bedroom ranch, yet with a full basement and attached two-car garage, having a lovely view of the rural Pennsylvania countryside. We have been able to unpack many things that have followed us from place to place but never made it out of boxes. Linda, who had been watching the Home and Garden channel for quite a while, hoping one day to apply some of the program's ideas, has been enjoying the opportunity to paint and decorate. We have even remodeled one of the basement rooms as a gym, eliminating the need to drive thirty miles to the YMCA.

At this time last year, we were looking for a house but (I, at least, was) not very optimistic about finding one that we could afford and that would meet our needs—let alone some of our wants. We looked at several other places, but none was quite right for us. When, through a series of circumstance we could not have orchestrated, we were able to purchase this place, we were thrilled and conscious of God's gracious hand in the process.

As I was selecting the music for our Christmas program this year, a combination of congregational hymns and choir pieces, the familiar "Away in a Manger" caught my attention. One hymnal resource describes it as "the musical equivalent of a child's Christmas card with its quaint nativity scene colored by crayons or markers."
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
The lilting melody only enhances "the childlike charm" of this lullaby.

Although the contrast between Jesus' situation and our situation has always been evident, it made a particular impression upon me this year. We celebrate our first Christmas in a new home; he celebrated his first Christmas (so to speak) in no home.
[When Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a son, [s]he wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
Our appreciation of the contrast is even greater when we consider what he gave up for us. The apostle Paul writes:
Christ Jesus...being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7)
Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
The wonder of Christmas is that Jesus' sacrifice did not begin at the cross; it began at his birth.

May the love of Jesus, who gave his life for us, encourage you to trust him and inspire you to serve him. And may God grant you His peace and blessing this New Year.

Pastor and Linda

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas, 2003

[Dr. Manuel recently provided me with the Christmas letters he and his wife Linda have sent each year since 2001.
One of the annual letters will be posted each day over the next two weeks.]

Dr. and Mrs. Paul Manuel
Christmas 2003

Dear Family and Friends,

Several years ago, Linda and I were doing graduate studies at a small Christian school in Jerusalem, Israel. As November turned into December, she remarked that it did not "feel" like Christmas, and for us it was, indeed, a very different holiday than we had spent before. Circumstances made trimming our own tree impractical. Our lean financial situation, coupled with final exams right to the last minute, meant that we would not exchange presents. The most obvious contrast to previous seasons, however, was that in Israel the merchant community was not geared up for its biggest push of the year, so the streets and shop windows were not creating an atmosphere of expectation. Oh, there were special activities and decorations in the school and in many churches, but for the vast majority of us in Israel, it was "business as usual." Although we certainly missed our family and friends, those different circumstances enabled us to catch a fresh glimpse of the birth of Jesus.

It is this concept of "business as usual" that we often miss in the States. I am not suggesting that our preparation is bad or that the commercialism surrounding Christmas does not in some way focus public attention on the event the holiday commemorates. There is little doubt, though, that the build-up here does obscure to some extent what God has done in history by sending his son, for in those days it was, after all, "business as usual."
  • The emperor, Caesar Augustus, in his on-going efforts to streamline Roman administration, ordered an empire-wide census, probably with an eye toward taxation.
  • The governor, Herod, after finally realizing his political aspirations, was beginning to reap the fruit of the political intrigue he had sown earlier and was extremely suspicious of anyone he thought might usurp his position.
  • The common people, those not traveling to their home towns for the census, were engaged in their normal occupations, like the shepherds tending their flocks.
In general, people operated on the principle that "everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation" (2 Pet 3:4), and their assumption was not without some justification. Many years had passed since the last known instance of divine intervention (when Judah, the Maccabee, defeated the Syrian army of Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 B.C.), and the memory of that event was considerably dimmed by this period of Roman domination. Consequently, few people were ready for what God was about to do. Caesar, Herod, and the people of Israel were understandably conducting "business as usual."

Jesus' incarnation, though, represents God's interruption of human affairs, a disruption in the status quo. His advent was intended to startle men into a recognition and wonder of God at work. Nevertheless, most failed to see it.
  • It is doubtful that Caesar even heard of Jesus' birth. Unless there was a direct threat to the security of the empire, the emperor would not concern himself with the affairs of any single Roman province.
  • Herod was overwhelmed by his own problem of maintaining the political control for which he had struggled so long to acquire. He viewed the announcement of Jesus' birth solely as a threat to that control and sought to eliminate it as quickly as possible.
  • Only a very few, like the shepherds, recognized the birth for what it was—a divine interruption in human affairs—and interrupted their own "business as usual" to wonder at what God had done.
It was in this light that we came to appreciate Christmas in Israel. Around us, life went on; it was "business as usual." There was no visible expectation. It did not "feel" any different, but Jesus came into just such a world, and into the same world he shall return (Matt 24:37-39). I hope that we will be among the few expectant ones at his next advent (Matt 24:44). May this Christmas help us all to prepare for that great event.

Pastor and Linda

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas, 2002

[Dr. Manuel recently provided me with the Christmas letters he and his wife Linda have sent each year since 2001.
One of the annual letters will be posted each day over the next two weeks.]

Dr. and Mrs. Paul Manuel
Christmas 2002

Dear Friends and Family,

Although a year has passed since the horrific events of the 9/11 attack, we still wrestle with the revelation that there are those intent on our harm who will not rest until they have destroyed us. Claiming a religious mandate from Allah, these followers of Muhammad would conquer the world for Islam, and it matters little if the method is peaceful or forceful. Is this, indeed, how God operates? Does He want His devotees to advance the kingdom of heaven by whatever means necessary?

The answer God provided is what we rehearse each year at this time: the birth of Jesus, who came in obscurity, who lived in humility, and who died in charity.
For God sent not his Son...to condemn the world,
but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17)
For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto,
but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
God patiently and persistently calls people to embrace this good news, but He coerces no one. He wants our willing commitment not our grudging compliance, and He expects those who serve Him to spread the good news accordingly.

It is amazing that the transcendent God would concern Himself with our iniquity and send His own Son as the remedy. He could easily ignore us, yet He does not. It is amazing that the omnipotent God would care enough for our integrity and want our acceptance to be only voluntary. He could easily compel us, yet He does not. This is how God operates, and this is how we receive eternal life.

Although two thousand years have passed since the humble event of the first Christmas, we still wonder at the revelation that there is one intent on our good who will not rest until He has delivered us. May what God did in the past to secure the future give you hope and peace this day and in the days to come.

Pastor and Linda

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas, 2001

[Dr. Manuel recently provided me with the Christmas letters he and his wife Linda have sent each year since 2001.
One of the annual letters will be posted each day over the next two weeks.]

Dr. and Mrs. Paul Manuel
Christmas 2001

Dear Friends and Family,

As angels announced to the shepherds, Christmas is a joyful time to praise God for His wonderful gift of the messiah.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
(Luke 2:14)
Recent events, however, have tempered that joy for many. The memories of September 11, still vivid in our minds, the threats of further attacks in this country, as well as the on-going terrorist assaults in Israel, make us wonder if peace is an elusive ideal. Ours, of course, is not the only generation to face this question.

In 701 B.C., the Assyrian army swept through villages in Judah, bringing in its wake destruction to the land and death to the people. Sennacherib, having heard about Judah's refusal to surrender, sought to crush resistance town by town. It was an act of excessive cruelty, and Jeremiah described the anguish of that period for God's people, personified by Rachel.
A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.
(Jer 31:15)
Those who fled managed to survive, but what future did they have? To them, God offered hope.
Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears.... There is hope for your future.... Your children will return to their own land. (Jer 31:16-17)
Three hundred years later, on a smaller scale but still with devastating results, the Roman army swept through villages in Judea. Herod, having heard about the birth of a Jewish king and wanting to eliminate this potential threat, sought to kill all male children who might fit the description. It was an act of excessive cruelty, and Mathew described the anguish of that period for God's people with familiar words.
A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. (Matt 2:18)
Those who fled, like Jesus' parents, managed to survive, but what future did they have? To them, God offered hope.
Go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead. (Matt 2:20)
Neither in Jeremiah's day nor in Mathew's day was peace especially evident. On the contrary, peace seemed an elusive ideal. Nevertheless, God encouraged His people with the hope of better times ahead.

Today, as we battle forces that threaten peace, it remains an elusive ideal. We need not flee to survive, but the future is still in doubt. Nevertheless, God encourages us with the hope of better times ahead, hope that begins at Christmas.
For to us a child is born...and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called...Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. (Isa 9:6-7)
No matter how the forces of evil attempt to impose their own version of the future, God has determined a different outcome. May that hope of better times ahead enable you to rejoice and praise God this season for His wonderful gift of the messiah.

Pastor and Linda

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Final redemption for the wicked?

Is There a Final Redemption of the Wicked?1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2006

Some Christians, who have difficulty reconciling God's love with His justice, believe that God will give those who rejected His grace in life an opportunity to accept that grace after death, immediately or following a period of punishment. At some point, most or all of the dead will turn to Him and be saved, a view known as universalism. Proponents of this view appeal to passages that allegedly support the notion that Jesus gave Old Testament sinners, those who had never heard the gospel, a second chance to repent.

The first passages to which advocates of universalism appeal are in Peter's first epistle where the apostle allegedly sets forth the idea that those who believed in Jesus after death, the savior then brought with him to heaven.
1 Pet 3:18b He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20a who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
1 Pet 4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
Does Peter teach a final redemption of the wicked after death? This interpretation reads more into the apostle's statements than is there and does not have the strong, unambiguous support necessary for such an unorthodox doctrine. It fails to convince on several counts.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Mark of the Beast (Rev 13:16-18)

The Mark of the Beast (Rev 13:16-18)1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

The apostle John, in his Revelation, mentions a mark that the antichrist's agent will impose on many people during the tribulation period.
Rev 13:16 He [the false prophet] also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.
What is this mark of the Beast?

As "the father of lies" (John 8:44), Satan attempts to promote his agenda through deception, using "all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders" (2 Thess 2:9).2 The mark of the beast is ultimately Satan's mark and is yet another example of the devil's trickery. What, then, can we say about it?

The first thing to note is that...

I. Satan's mark is an imitation of God's mark (Deut 11:18).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

God's wrath and God's people

God's Wrath and God's People:
A Case of Collateral Damage
Dr. Paul Manuel—2009

The assertion, as some advocates of a pre-tribulation rapture contend, that believers will not be present when God pours out His wrath on the wicked, fails on two counts.2 First, it lacks the support of examples from scripture when God has removed the righteous from the scene of His judgment and, second, it does not account for counter-examples in scripture, those times when the Lord executed judgment against the ungodly despite the presence of the godly. Such instances are always when the wicked significantly outnumber the righteous3 and, whereas the focus of divine anger is against the wicked, the righteous community is not necessarily spared from unpleasantness and may even suffer collateral damage.4
  • When God brought the flood on earth's wicked, He did not remove earth's righteous, who had to endure the flood,5 albeit from the safety of the ark.6
  • When God brought the plagues against Egypt, He did not remove the Israelites, who had to endure at least some of God's judgment.7

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rapture review

Rapture Review—Events That Occur Together at the End1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2000

Christians who hold to a pre-tribulation rapture of the saints distinguish passages that actually refer to the same event, as denoted by common features. The following list of five passages links such features as the savior's return, the saints' rapture, the saints' resurrection, the (final) trumpet announcement, and the culmination of the Great Tribulation, indicating that they will all happen around the same time and not as widely spaced events.
  • The Savior's return and the Saints' rapture will occur with trumpet announcement "after the tribulation." (Matt 24:29-31)
Matt 24:29a ...immediately after the tribulation of those days.... 30c ...they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
  •  The Saints' resurrection will occur with (the last) trumpet announcement. (1 Cor 15:52)
1 Cor 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A pre-millennial summary

A Pre-Millennial Summary of the Future1
pdf with bibliography and footnotes
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

Having determined that Pre-millennialism offers the most straightforward, consistent, and comprehensive treatment of final events in scripture,2 we will now consider that view in more detail.3
1. God will pour out His wrath on unrepentant man (Rev 6:15-17; 9:20-21; 16:21).4
  • This will trigger a reaction from Satan, whom angelic forces will drive out of heaven (Rev 12:7-9; cf. Luke 10: 18).5
  • Satan, realizing that time is running out, will launch a last-ditch counter-offensive against Israel (= Great Tribulation) but will fail to destroy God's people (Rev 12:1017).6
  • Satan will gather his armies at Armageddon to face the messiah (Jesus), who is the embodiment of God's wrath (Rev 19:11-16,19; cf. Joel 3:3, 9-16).7
2. Jesus will appear to establish God's kingdom on earth (Rev 19:11-16).8
  • He will engage and defeat Israel's (and, by implication, his) enemies at the Battle of Armageddon, slaughtering the invading armies (Zech 14:3, 12-15; Rev 19:19-21) and imprisoning Satan (Rev 20:1-3).9

Saturday, December 14, 2013

End times

Major Views of Future Events1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

Pre-millennialism presents the most likely outcome of the cosmic conflict. In fairness, though, we should glance at the other two major views of future events: Post-millennialism and A-millennialism.2 As their names indicate, the main difference among the three positions concerns the time of the Messianic Age (or millennium) as it relates to the return of Jesus.

I. Millennialism
A. Pre-millennialism3
1. Premise: Things will get worse before they get better.
a. The worse part: Satan will escalate the conflict through a messianic impersonator whom he appoints (Antichrist) and will attempt to preempt the establishment of God's kingdom by setting up one of his own.
b. The better part: Jesus will return, defeat Satan and company, and establish the Messianic Age.
c. The final part: After an extended period (1000 years?), God will execute the final judgment on the wicked and usher in eternity.
2. Conclusion: Jesus' return will be before the millennium.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Contents and Links for "A 'Reader's Digest' Approach to Theology"

The final chapter of the series has been posted — Paul Manuel calls it "A 'Reader's Digest' Approach to Theology." The chapter titles and links are below.

A User-Friendly Guide to Basic Christian Doctrine
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

Table of Contents

I. Bibliology
A. The inspiration of scripture
B. The canonicity of scripture
II. Theology
A. The nature of God
B. The work of God
III. Christology
A. The nature of Christ
B. The work of Christ
IV. Pneumatology
A. The nature of the Holy Spirit
B. The work of the Holy Spirit
V. Angelology
A. The nature of angels
B. The work of angels
VI. Anthropology
A. The nature of man
B. The destiny of man
VII. Soteriology
A. The purpose of salvation
B. The procedure of salvation
VIII. Ecclesiology
A. The design of the church
B. The leaders of the church
IX. Eschatology
A. The reign of Christ
B. The re-creation by God

Theology Series: Bibliography

Theology Series: Bibliography
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

This is the Bibliography for the theology series Dr. Manuel titled "A 'Reader's Digest' Approach to Theology." The Table of Contents for the series can be found here.


Abbreviation Key:
AB Anchor Bible.
ABD Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 vols.
BDT Baker Dictionary of Theology.
CT Christianity Today.
EBC The Expositor's Bible Commentary. 12 vols.
EGT The Expositor's Greek Testament. 5 vols.
EJ Encyclopedia Judaica. 16 vols.
ICC International Critical Commentary.
IDCC The International Dictionary of the Christian Church.
ISBE The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 5 vols.
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature.
JETS Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.
JQR Jewish Quarterly Review.
NCBC The New Century Bible Commentary Series.
NICNT New International Commentary on the New Testament. 18 vols.
NICOT New International Commentary on the Old Testament. 24 vols.
NIDCC The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church.
NIGTC The New International Greek Testament Commentary.
TDNT Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 10 vols.
TDOT Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. 15 vols.
TJ Trinity Journal.
WBC Word Biblical Commentary.
ZPEB Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. 5 vols.
Aland, Kurt and Barbara
1987, The Text of the New Testament. Translated by Erroll F. Rhodes. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Albi, Martin C.
2002, "Are Any among You Sick?' The Health Care System in the Letter of James." JBL 121/1:123-143.
Allen, Leslie C.
1976, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah. NICOT. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Theology Series: Epilogue

Does what we believe actually match our statement(s) of faith?

Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

Having covered the essentials of what the Bible says about basic dogma, we come to the final assignment in A 'Reader's Digest' Approach to Theology,1 to evaluate what we profess (in our statements of belief) by what we have learned. Using what we have studied, we will assess our church's doctrinal statement in four areas.
  • Exegetical: How accurate is the church's statement?
  • Examine each of the stated beliefs, determining which ones have the support of scripture—that is, do the biblical passages listed actually teach the doctrine in question? If not, are the verses wrong for that particular point—in which case, can you suggest better ones—or is the point itself deficient in some way—perhaps more specific than the biblical evidence will allow?
  • Theological: What are the doctrines essential to true evangelical Christianity? (You do not have to limit your answer to items in the doctrinal statement.)
  • Be prepared to justify your response, to give the reason you consider one point of belief more important than another. Consider, for example, to what extent it is necessary to hold these doctrines in order to be saved and, if they are not necessary for salvation, what makes them in some way essential.

Theology Series Chapter 9: Eschatology

Chapter IX: Eschatology
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

IX. Eschatology

It is appropriate that, in A Reader's Digest Approach to Theology, the last unit should be eschatology, the study of last things. Some religions hold a cyclical view of history in which events simply repeat themselves, perhaps with some variation but with no discernible progress. Orthodox Judaism and Christianity, as well as Islam,1 hold a linear view of history in which God is at work moving events toward a glorious finale for His people, although the identity of those people is different for Muslims and Christians.

No other topic has so stirred the imagination and speculation of people as the prospect of what the future holds, and no other topic has generated as many different opinions and raised as many questions. Will a messianic figure appear to bring peace? Will some cataclysmic event precipitate the end? How and when will it all happen?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Holiness of God (Lev 16)

Sermon: The Holiness of God (Lev 16)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

What do you know about God, in particular, about His attributes? You certainly know that He is powerful and that He is able to protect you. But is that enough?
One evening during a violent thunderstorm, a mother was tucking her frightened little boy into bed. Wanting to reassure him before she turned off the light, she said, "Remember, God is always with you." "I knew God is with me," he replied. "But I would feel even better if you could stay with me, too." She smiled and gave him a reassuring hug. "I can't dear. I have to sleep with Daddy." Silence followed, broken at last by his little voice... "The big sissy."
What do you know about God's attributes? You certainly know that He is powerful and that He is able to protect you. But is that enough? ...You should also know that God is holy. While that particular attribute may not calm your fears, it should focus your conduct, especially as God tells His people several times, "be holy, because I am holy" (11:44-45; 19:2; 20:26). Before that can happen, before you can be holy, you must understand The Holiness of God.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mission impossible (Acts 2:23-24)

Good Friday:
Mission Impossible
(Acts 2:23-24)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

There was a television program in the 1960s and 70s with Peter Graves called Mission Impossible about a secret team of government agents that took on especially difficult assignments, which they accomplished through a combination of intelligence, technology, deception, and daring. (The TV show spawned a quartet of recent movies starring Tom Cruise.) Despite the title, each TV episode showed how the team met and overcame a challenge that seemed at first to be insurmountable. The end of Jesus' earthly ministry also presented an impossible situation.

At several points, Jesus tells the disciples what lies ahead for him. After Peter correctly identified him as the messiah (Mat 16:16)...
Matt 16:21 ...Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed...and on the third day be raised to life.
This was not something the disciples wanted to hear.
Matt 16:22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
Sometime later,
Matt 17:22 ...[Jesus] said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. 23a They will kill him...and on the third day he will be raised to life."

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Sermon: The Cost of Complaining:
Biting Words Bite Back
(Num 11-21) 
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

Some people complain about everything they think is wrong with life. Others reserve that response for legitimate concerns.
A man who had just undergone surgery was complaining about a bump on his head and a terrible headache, as if someone had hit him on the head. Since his operation had been intestinal, there was no reason why he should be complaining of a headache. Finally, his nurse, fearing the man might be suffering from some post-operative shock, spoke to the doctor about it. He assured her, "Don't worry. He really does have a bump on his head. Halfway through the operation...we ran out of anesthetic."
Certain people have legitimate reasons to complain. Our message this morning is from the fourth book of the Bible, Numbers. It chronicles a series of illegitimate reasons and deals with The Cost of Complaining.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Knowing God

Sermon: Knowing God (Exod)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

When a person meets someone special, he wants to get to know that someone and may benefit from advice about how to make it happen.
A young man called his mother and announced excitedly that he had just met the girl of his dreams. "Now what should I do?" he asked. His mother said, "Why don't you send her flowers, and on the card invite her to your apartment for a home-cooked meal?" He thought this was a great strategy and, a week later, the girl came to dinner. His mother called the next day to see how things had gone. "The evening was a disaster," he moaned. "Why, didn't she come over?" his mother asked. "Oh, she came over...but she refused to cook."
When a person meets someone special, he wants to get to know that someone and may benefit from advice about how to make it happen. That applies when a guy meets a girl, or when a person meets God. While getting to know a girl would probably benefit by getting advice from the girl herself, getting to know the Lord would certainly benefit by getting advice from the Lord himself.

This is evident in a familiar Old Testament refrain God adds to many of the explanations He offers for His actions—so "they will know that I am the LORD." Such knowledge is good news to some and bad news to others. In fact, it is particularly interesting that the first reference in scripture to knowing God is negative, and one that perhaps sets the stage for much of what follows. We will trace this theme through the book of Exodus and we will consider four steps by which people come to know God. Please open your Bibles and follow along as we make the journey.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blameless (Gen 17:1)

Sermon: Mission Impossible? (Gen 17:1)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

As we go through life, we will face challenges of various kinds, some of which may seem impossible, and our first response must not be to give up. On the other hand, we must also guard against being overly confident.
There were two backwoods hillbillies living across the river from each other, who feuded constantly. Beaufort hated Clarence with a passion and never passed up a chance to throw rocks at him across the river. This went on for years until one day the Army Corps of Engineers built a bridge across that river. Beaufort was elated; he told his wife that finally he was going to cross over and whip Clarence. He left the house but returned in a matter of minutes. His wife asked what was wrong, wasn't he going over the bridge to whip Clarence? Beaufort replied that he never had really seen Clarence up close and didn't realize his size until he started over the bridge and saw the sign... "CLEARANCE 8 FT 3 IN"
Our initial response when facing a seemingly impossible challenge must not be to give up. When God appears to Abraham and issues a demanding challenge, the patriarch may wonder: Is this Mission Impossible?

It happened when, in...
Gen 17:1 ...the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Foremost Sermon Series


The "Foremost Sermon Series"—a series of seventy sermons preached by Dr. Paul Manuel between February 2011 and September 2013—has now been completed on this site. Each is listed below in the order delivered with the relevant text and a link to the sermon.

These items fall into two categories, priorities God has for man, that which he can and should recognize as well as aspire to attain and priorities God has for Himself (marked by *), that which He will attain and which man will witness.

  • The passion for God (Matt 22:37-38)
Matt 22:37 [Jesus said:] "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment."
  • The pairing by God (Matt 22:39)
Matt 22:39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
  • The program of God (Matt 6:31, 33)
Matt 6:31 [Jesus admonished his disciples: D]o not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' ...33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Sermon: The foremost culmination (1 Pet 4:7)

The Foremost Culmination (1 Pet 4:7)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2013
(This sermon is part of Dr. Manuel's sermon series: "What is Foremost?" Links to
each of the sermons in the series will be found here
as they are posted.)
We do not all perceive the passage of time the same way. As we get older, we reduce time to measurable units: minutes, hours, months, years. When we are young, however, the measurement of time is less distinct.
A husband and wife thought they both looked young for their age and would tell themselves they had hardly aged a day since first laying eyes on each another in college. One day they were discussing a man who was running for public office. "He's a Vietnam Vet," the husband said. "What's that?" queried their four-year-old daughter. Trying to answer the question in terms the child could readily grasp, her father replied, "Well, Honey, that means the man fought in a war that happened when Mommy and Daddy were little." The girl regarded them both thoughtfully for a moment, then asked... "So, was he a Viking?"
We do not all perceive the passage of time the same way. It is so with the past, and it will be so with the future and The Foremost Culmination.
Some people think the Bible is full of contradictions. If you press them for examples, though, they are usually unable to cite any, or the examples they do cite are not, upon close examination, contradictions at all. One illustration might be the apparent conflict between whether we can or cannot know when Jesus will return.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sermon: The foremost cultivation (1 Cor 3:6-7)

The Foremost Cultivation (1 Cor 3:6-7)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2013
(This sermon is part of Dr. Manuel's sermon series: "What is Foremost?" Links to
each of the sermons in the series will be found here
as they are posted.)
I knew little about farming when we moved to rural Pennsylvania from Long Island and, despite my having lived here several years, I still know little about farming. What I have come to appreciate is that farming is very labor intensive, with long hours, few days off, and a good deal of financial uncertainty. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates that.
A man with a small farm attracted the attention of The US Department of Labor, which claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent to investigate. "Give me a list of your employees, and tell me how much you pay them," the agent demanded. "All right," said the farmer. "I have a hired man who has been with me six years. I pay him $600 a week, plus room and board. I have a cook who has been here six months. I pay her $500 a week plus room and board." "Anyone else?" the agent asked. "Yes," the farmer admitted. "There is a guy who is not too bright. He works about eighteen hours a day. I pay him ten dollars a week and give him chewing tobacco." This is what the agent was looking for. "I want to talk to that man!"..."Speaking," said the farmer.
Not everyone appreciates that farming is very labor intensive. Whether or not you are involved on an actual farm, your work for the Lord makes you part of The Foremost Cultivation.

At the close of Matthew's gospel, Jesus charges the apostles with the task of spreading the gospel, an assignment they undertake in the book of Acts. While many Christians think that charge applies to every believer, it actually has a much narrower focus, having been given to and implemented by a select few in the early church, those God equipped for the task, namely apostles and, to some extent, evangelists.1 Apart from the twelve Jesus chose, including Matthias (Acts 1:26), Judas's replacement, only a few others serve in this capacity:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sermon: The foremost conservation (Rev 22:14)

The Foremost Conservation (Rev 22:14)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2013
(This sermon is part of Dr. Manuel's sermon series: "What is Foremost?" Links to
each of the sermons in the series will be found here
as they are posted.)
In the past, it was not unusual to see trash thrown by the side of the road. Today, people are a bit more sensitive to preserve the environment, and they generally follow posted signs.
The sheriff pulled up next to a guy unloading garbage out of his pick-up into the ditch. The sheriff asked, "Why are you dumping garbage in the ditch? Don't you see that sign right over your head?" "Yep," the man replied. "That's why I'm dumpin' it here...'cause it says: 'Fine For Dumping Garbage.'"
Some people are a bit more sensitive to preserve the environment. God is also concerned and has taken a big step to preserve an important part of the environment in The Foremost Conservation.

The Bible came to us as a single book, but it did not begin that way. Originally, it was a series of separate documents, composed then collected in groups over hundreds of years. God's people recognized those groups as inspired—first the Law, next the Prophets, then the Writings, lastly, for Christians, the New Testament—and they added each collection to a growing corpus of literature the believing community held as authoritative for faith and practice.

There is no indication that the apostle John, whose gospel and epistles contributed to the final collection, thought his Revelation would be the last in that collection,1 but it offers a fitting conclusion to The Drama of Redemption, whose telling begins in Genesis, especially as it recalls elements readers first encounter there and as it resolves some lingering questions about man's fate.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sermon: The foremost consummation (Rev 21:3-4)

The Foremost Consummation (Rev 21:3-4)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2013
(This sermon is part of Dr. Manuel's sermon series: "What is Foremost?" Links to
each of the sermons in the series will be found here
as they are posted.)
When a person invests himself in something, whether a project or an occupation, he hopes it will be worth the effort in in the end.
A medical doctor, a school teacher, and the director of a large HMO, all pass away and meet St. Peter at the pearly gates. Peter asks the doctor, "What did you do on earth?" The doctor replies, "I healed the sick and, if they couldn't pay, I treated them for free." Peter says to the doctor, "Okay, you can go in." Then Peter asks the teacher, "What did you do on earth?" The teacher replies, "I taught physically and emotionally challenged children." Peter says to the teacher, "Okay, you can go in." Then Peter asks the director, "What did you do on earth?" The director replies, "I ran a large HMO, overseeing billing for hundreds of physicians and hospitals." Peter says to the director, "Okay, you can go in... but you can only stay for three days."
When a person invests himself in something, he hopes it will be worth the effort in the end. That is not always the case, except when the investment is the kingdom of God, which ends with The Foremost Consummation.

The apostle John begins his Revelation, describing some of the first believers in Jesus and ends his Revelation describing some of the final believers in Jesus. Between those two periods, he does not present a continuous narrative. Rather, after his initial report, John skips large portions of history to concentrate on six key events in a grand finale for The Drama of Redemption.