Sunday, December 20, 2015

Merry Chiristmas 2015

Dr. and Mrs. Paul Manuel
Christmas 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

This past year has marked a significant change for us: retirement. Many of the activities that gave life regularity because we did them every week are no longer part of our routine. We have had to develop new patterns. Although we miss some of the old activities (e.g., choir), we realize that such change is inevitable. Nevertheless, it is good that some things do not change, that some things continue to be a regular part of life. If everything changed at once, it would be too unsettling, too confusing. Christmas is one of those things that does not change, and though we may bemoan the “holiday creep” as seasonal music and store decorations seem to manifest earlier every year, we can still appreciate the regularity this day brings as it recurs each December 25. In a way, the regularity of Christmas reflects the immutability of God, that He does not change:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
Yet it was not always so. There was, after all, no Christmas before the first Christmas. God introduced a measure of regularity into the lives of His people by marking significant occasions of His intervention, like Passover, that celebrates the physical redemption of God’s people from slavery. Fifteen hundred years later, He marked another significant occasion of His intervention, with Christmas, that celebrates the spiritual redemption of God’s people from sin. As the angel said to Joseph about Jesus, “he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

Some think of regularity as boring, and they wait for a new experience to excite their senses, like Jesus’ return: 
They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4)
Predictability is not the kind of regularity that God employs. On the contrary, despite appearances He will disrupt the status quo (our schedule) when it suits His purpose. That is what He did when Jesus appeared the first time. It was not according to someone else’s expectations but “when the time had fully come” (Gal 4:4) according to God’s plan. That is also when Jesus will appear the second time. It will not be when people are saying “peace and safety” (1 Thess 5:3) but at a time “the Father has set” (Acts 1:8).

Even though God’s schedule is different from our schedule, and even when time marks significant change for us, His program still possesses a regularity upon which we can depend, and Christmas is an annual reminder of that regularity. May the stability of the season be an ever-present reminder of the love God expressed when He sent Jesus to “save his people from their sins.”

Merry Christmas!
Pastor and Linda

Friday, December 18, 2015

The role of the Law

FOUR STAGES IN A BELIEVER'S LIFE
An excerpt from The Soul Set Free: Recounting Redemption in Romans
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

There are four stages in a believer’s life during which the law plays different roles, from some to none.


Stage #1: The process of conversion is a person’s gradual awakening to his need for God’s pardon. Whether it takes years or minutes, the person becomes increasingly aware of his sinful condition. In that process, the law plays a convicting role, showing God’s standard and exposing man’s deficiency.1
Rom 3:20b …through the Law [comes] the knowledge of sin.
Stage #2: The moment of justification is God’s declaring a person to be righteous.2 It is immediate, occurring the instant a person turns to God in repentance and faith. At that moment, the law plays no role; justification is entirely and exclusively by God’s grace.3
Rom 3:24a being justified as a gift by His grace…
Stage #3: The process of sanctification is a person’s gradual aligning of his life to God’s perfect standard. It is a long-term undertaking by which the person becomes increasingly godly. In that process, the law plays a conforming role (instructing the believer about the righteous lifestyle he should adopt).4
Rom 6:19 …present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
Stage #4: The moment of glorification is God’s transforming a person to perfection. It is immediate, occurring the instant a person receives his resurrection body. At that moment, the law again plays no role; glorification is entirely and exclusively by God’s power.5
Rom 8:30c …these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Trinity and Creation

THE TRINITY AND CREATION1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2006

The standard trinitarian formulation describes God as three persons in one essence, co-equal and co-eternal.2 When the Bible mentions them together, they are distinct individuals yet having the same status (i.e., deity).
Matt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
2 Cor 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
This is most clearly stated with the person of Jesus, who identifies himself with the Father.
John 10:30 I and the Father are one.
The predicate nominative is literally “one thing,” not the same person—they are distinct personalities—but the same substance (“god stuff”). As John writes,
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Father and the Son are separate individuals, but they consist of the same material, they possess the same qualities, and they pursue the same agenda.3 Despite their similar make-up, Father and Son do not have the same role. Jesus became subject to the Father in order to fulfill his redemptive mission.4
Phil 2:6 [Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Likewise, the Holy Spirit’s activity is also subject to the Father’s direction.5
2 Cor 5:5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dreams and Visions

OTHER MEANS OF REVELATION1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

When God wants to communicate with man, He uses a variety of ways.2 The most common method is verbal, as when He speaks to His people through an angel or a prophet.3 In addition to what is then recorded in scripture, God employs other means of revelation,4 both natural and supernatural.

I. Natural means of revelation
 A. Stellar creation5
Rom 1:20 …since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
B. Human conscience
Rom 2:15 …they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

II. Supernatural means of revelation
A. Angelic visitation6
Gen 19:15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.”
B. Prophetic inspiration
Isa 7:7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen,’”

Mic 4:4 Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The worship service

TEN YEARS OF WORSHIP
Dr. Paul Manuel—2008

Pastor Manuel served the German Seventh Day Baptist Church in Salemville. Pennsylvania.  In 2008 he published this summary for the congregation of their worship experience over that time. The appendices (available on this pdf) contain many resources for worship.

Over the past ten years, we have held more than 500 services in obedience to the oft-repeated command in scripture to worship God.1 Most of those services have been thematic, focusing on the many divine attributes and actions that call forth our praise. Through those various themes, I hope that you have come to know better the One we serve2 and that you have been able to draw closer to Him. Because any increase in your understanding of God should also increase your devotion to God, I hope you have seen growth in your relationship with Him as well, growth that is manifest by a greater desire to please Him in what you say and do. Moreover, worshiping God now prepares you to meet God later, when you will see Him face to face.3 Hence, in addition to focusing what we do on Sabbath morning, these services have been part of your orientation for that heavenly appointment.

What follows is a summary, reviewing some of the manifold reasons we have employed to worship God. They are certainly not exhaustive, but they are illustrative of why He is worthy of our constant devotion. There are many reasons the LORD deserves our worship, far more than we could list.4 Some of these service themes we have used more than once, which is appropriate of course, given the greatness of the God we serve. Ultimately, however, the fact that He is God is sufficient reason to worship Him.

Each service begins with a meditation passage and a meditation hymn (which is also the closing hymn) that introduces the theme and allows people to prepare for their time of adoration before God. What follows is a biblical passage that calls the congregation to worship, an invocation in prayer, and three more sections of scripture and hymns that explicate the theme. In most cases, this constitutes the worship service before the sermon. Depending on the time for preliminary matters (e.g., announcements, offering, children’s message, prayer concerns) and the length of the sermon itself (average 20-30 minutes), the whole session together should be about one hour. Although it is certainly possible to abbreviate the service by shortening the biblical passages or singing fewer verses of the hymns, most often the pressures of time constraints arise because we give more attention to our interests than we give to God’s interests, more attention to what we have to say than to listening for what God has said, more attention to satisfying us than to seeking God. Of all that we do on Sabbath morning, however important those other activities may be, by far the most important activity is what prepares us for what we will be doing for all eternity: worshiping God.

The Appendices contain a selection (50+) of the thematic services we have used at the German Seventh Day Baptist Church. The NIV is the Bible translation throughout, unless noted otherwise. The congregation has two hymnals: Favorite Hymns of Praise (FHP) and The Worshiping Church (WCh).5 The verse portion in italics below the hymn selection is what connects the hymn to the preceding scripture. All service themes begin with, “We worship God because He….”

Monday, December 14, 2015

A suffering God?

DIVINE SUFFERING—AN IMPROPER WORSHIP THEME
Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

God’s attributes and actions offer many reasons to worship Him. Those occasions do not, however, include the supposition that we worship God because He suffers or (at some point) suffered for us. While Jesus in his incarnation certainly suffered, God the Father, the proper object of worship, did not, and assertions to the contrary anthropomorphize God beyond what the scriptures support. Passages that allegedly buttress such a claim actually indicate a different divine attitude, one an English translation (e.g., NIV) does not always represent. As in all such cases, context controls meaning.

About God the Father…
1. It is not true that He suffered because of us.
Gen 6:5-6 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved [regretted] that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain [annoyed].
N be sorry, console oneself; LXX = ponder
HtD (2x, also Gen 34:7) provoke, annoy; LXX = consider (Gen 34:7 = strike, stun)
1 Sam 15:10-11a [T]he word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I am grieved [regret] that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.”
N be sorry, console oneself; LXX = call > (be) comforted
Ps 78:40 How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved [annoyed] him in the wasteland!
H (1x) cause pain or grief; LXX = provoke to anger
Isa 63:9b-10 In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved [annoyed] his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The focus of our devotion

WHO IS THE PROPER OBJECT OF WORSHIP?
An excerpt from yesterday's "What Does It Mean to Worship?"
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

Contrary to the character of most hymns,1 the focus of our devotion should be on God the Father,2 rather than on Jesus3 or on the Holy Spirit (i.e., theocentric not christocentric or pneumocentric).4 This is the clear and consistent teaching of scripture, where “[t]he normal manner [is to worship] the Father, on the merits of the Son, in or through the Holy Spirit” (Thiessen 1979:304).5 As Paul says,6
Eph 2:18 …through him [Jesus] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Eph 5:18b …be filled with the Spirit…. 20 …giving thanks to God the Father…in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This order does not negate the deity of Jesus or of the Holy Spirit; it simply recognizes the hierarchy and respective responsibility that exists in the Godhead, that each member (though equal to the others) has a different role, and that it is the role of God the Father to receive worship.

For the Bibliography and Endnotes, see the pdf here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

How should we worship?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WORSHIP?
Examining the Biblical Model for Expressing Devotion to God
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011



“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647)

Contents

Introduction
I. The People Involved in Worship
A. Who worships?
B. Whom do we worship?
Clarification: Who is the proper object of worship?
II. The Purpose and Content of Worship
A. Why do we worship?
B. What is worship?
Query: Does God help us to worship?
III. The Time and Place of Worship
A. When should we worship?
B. Where should we worship?
IV. The Method Involved in Worship
A. How should we worship?
Query: Should there be a fear of God in the worship of God?
B. How do we worship?
Chart: The Development of the Worship Service
Conclusion: Erroneous Assumptions and Essential Attitudes about Worship
Postscript
Handout: Using the Psalms to Worship
Bibliography
Endnotes

Introduction

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”1 Indeed, worship is the most important thing we do, individually and collectively.2 In this study, we will consider what it means to worship. As a way of organizing our discussion, I have chosen the reporter’s traditional inquiries using the five W’s—who, what, when, where, and why, with the addition of how.

Perhaps more than any other subject, it is essential that we apply what we learn about worship to worship, particularly to what we do collectively. Toward the end of each session, we will discuss specific ways that we can use what we have studied to improve our worship. According to the OAD (Ehrlich 1980:803-804)…
  • As a noun, worship means…
  • Reverence and respect paid to God or a god
  • Acts or ceremonies displaying this
  • As a verb, worship means…
  • To honor as a deity; to pay respect to
  • To take part in an act of worship
  • To idolize; to treat with adoration
We will enlarge and refine our understanding of worship beyond this definition, but it provides us with an initial idea and a point of departure for our study. The first question pertains to…

Because of its length (84 pages) the complete study isn't available online. "What Does It Mean to Worship" along with its Bibliography and Endnotes, can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

"Son of God"

SON OF GOD1
Dr. Paul Manuel—1995

The title “Son of God,” as it is used of Jesus, is often considered to be a reference to his deity. Indeed, there is ample evidence for this doctrine on other grounds.2 Nevertheless, an examination of the grammatical and historical data does not support such a definition of this phrase.

The Hebrew construct “son(s) of” with other objects suggests that such specificity in meaning is more than the phrase will bear. The bound form of stands in a relationship to whatever free form that follows in one of six ways, several of which appear in Matthew (marked by asterisks). Only context can determine which way the author intends, and some of the examples offered below may fit in more than one category. Rarely, if at all, does the meaning remain the same without the bound form (only in IV.B. and IV.A.). That is, “son(s) of X” is not, as a rule, the equivalent of “X” alone.
I. Physical
A. Related by immediate descent3
  1. Eleazar, son of Aaron
  2. * Zacharias, son of Barachias
  3. * James and John, sons of Zebedee
B. Related by distant descent4
  1. Mephibosheth, (grand)son of Saul
  2. * Jesus, son of David
II. Temporal
A. Age of the father5
  1. Son of (one’s) youth
  2. Son of (one’s) old age
B. Age of the person or thing6
  1. Son of 500 years
  2. Son of a night (= 1 night old)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Old Covenant and New

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE OLD COVENANT AND NEW COVENANT
An excerpt from "A Study of Law and Grace"
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

Many Christians read Jesus’ statement during the Last Supper—“This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20b)—and they assume that he is identifying the new covenant with his death, that his vicarious sacrifice is the new covenant or, at least, an integral part of that agreement. Those two elements of God’s plan are, in fact, quite distinct. Deliverance from sin is not a provision in the new covenant any more than deliverance from slavery was a provision in the old covenant. Deliverance of either kind is, rather, a prerequisite to the contracts God makes.

To most Christians, this may seem an overly fine distinction. What difference does it make if Jesus’ sacrifice is a provision in or a prerequisite to the new covenant? Either way, believers still benefit. …While the advantage is the same, the attending obligations are not.
  • If Jesus’ sacrifice is a provision in the new covenant, part of that contract, then gentiles who avail themselves of the pardon his death affords are party to this agreement and must keep its terms. Thus, gentile believers have to obey the laws God gave to Israel.
  • If Jesus’ sacrifice is a prerequisite to the new covenant, separate from that contract, then gentiles who avail themselves of the pardon his death affords are not (automatically) party to this agreement and are not (thereby) required to keep its terms. Only when gentile believers subsequently choose to enter the new covenant must they obey the terms of that contract—the laws God gave to Israel.
God makes the Messianic covenant, like its Mosaic predecessor, with the people of Israel. Also like the earlier agreement, the later one allows non-Jews to participate but does not obligate them. The primary difference between the two contracts is that the first admits anyone, whereas the second admits only certain ones: Whoever would enter the new covenant must first experience the new birth.

Israel has not yet realized the New Covenant fully, for God has not yet gathered all the exiles to the land as He will when the messiah returns, and many of Abraham’s descendants do not yet have the intimate knowledge of God they will possess when the messiah returns. In this sense, Jews who are faithful to God but who do not consider Jesus to be the messiah, still regard themselves as operating under the Old Covenant. For Jews who are faithful to God and who do consider Jesus to be the messiah, his death ratifies the New Covenant and enables them to appreciate the unfolding of God’s plan even before Jesus’ second advent. This overlap of the two covenants accords with the statement in Hebrews that indicates there will be a gradual transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant as more Jews recognize Jesus to be the messiah:
Heb 8:13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
For some Jews, that transition happens sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sermon: A new creation (II Cor 5:16-21)

GOD'S EXTREME MAKEOVER
(II Cor 5:16-21)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

Some people will make a career change not necessarily for greater remuneration but in order to do what they enjoy.
Bumping into an old girlfriend, Tom told her that he had given up a boring and unfulfilling accounting job to do what he loved: writing. “That’s terrific!” she said, “I really admire a person who follows his dream. Tell me, have you sold anything yet?” “Sure have,” Tom replied…. “My house, my car, my stocks and bonds.”
Some career changes come at a price, but they are still fulfilling. Paul made a career change when he switched from opposing Christ to promoting him.i It was a change that cost him dearly, but it was a change he found ultimately fulfilling, and it resulted in God’s Extreme Makeover.ii

In chapter 5 of Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle presents life in stark, either/or contrasts. He talks about…
  • Our earthly tent (mortal body) versus our heavenly home (glorified body vv.1-4),
  • Being in the body versus being with the Lord (vv. 6-10),
  • What is plain to God versus what is plain to us (v. 11),
  • The old that has gone versus the new that is coming (v. 17).
It is the old versus the new that Paul treats in this passage, and in three sections he emphasizes what is new about the provision God offers that the apostle himself has experienced.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sermon: "If you love me..." (John 14:23)

FATHERS' DAY:
The Father's Affection (John 14:23)
Dr. Paul Manuel—201
Raising teenagers poses a particular challenge to parents, and a teenage girl can pose a particular challenge to her father, especially as his daughter begins to attract male suitors. It is a challenge a father must meet with measured affection, allowing her the freedom to make certain choices, while not allowing those choices to exceed certain boundaries.
A father grew increasingly displeased as his teenage daughter and her boyfriend studied in her room late one evening. Finally losing patience shortly after midnight, he knocked sharply on her door. The boyfriend immediately opened it and inquired if something was wrong. “I have to ask you to move your car,” the girl’s father told him. “Oh, sure. Is it in someone's way?” “No,” the father replied… “it’s at the wrong address.”
Raising teenagers poses particular challenges to parents and, I suspect that raising us poses particular challenges to God, challenges He, too, meets with measured affection.

During his last Passover with the disciples before the crucifixion, Jesus has an extended discussion with them about how they will fare in his absence. Jesus has told them that he is going away to be with his Father, and they are puzzled because Jesus describes his future as if it is not the end for him. Peter and Thomas want to know why they cannot follow him. Philip wants to know if they can meet the Father. Jesus says they must remain but that he will send the Holy Spirit in his place. This is all very confusing. Jesus also says they will be privy to special revelation as he makes his messianic identity known to them.
John 14:22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus’ reply, though, does not seem to answer the question but raises yet another issue:
John 14:23 If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
Love is a prominent topic in John’s gospel, and he uses the word (56x) more than all other gospel writers combined (44x).1 It is also a prominent theme in his three epistles (33x), and John repeatedly calls his readers to contemplate the extent of The Father’s Affection for His people.2 For example, the apostle writes in…
1 John 3:1a-b How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
The reason this is such an important topic for John is because Jesus emphasizes it in his instruction.

The teacher-student relationship is an important one in first century Judaism, being the primary means of education outside the home. Jews would seek a teacher with whom they could study, and they would meet whatever requisites that teacher demanded, whether academic (the candidates’ already having reached a certain level of learning) or financial (the candidates’ being able to pay for their lessons). Jesus’ expectations from his disciples were different. He seems to care little about their academic background, accepting students with some education, as was likely the case with the taxman Matthew, as well as students with little education, as was likely the case with the fisherman Peter. Jesus also seems to care little about his students’ ability to pay, as his group often operates on a shoestring budget, relying on the generosity of a few benefactors. Jesus is more concerned with his students’ grasp of the subject matter.3 Do they understand what he is teaching them?

One of the important lessons he taught was about the meaning of love. We tend to think of love as an emotion, and it certainly includes that element. As Jesus describes it, though, love is also, perhaps primarily, an action.4 However insistent or persistent may be our declaration of love for a person, more important and compelling is our demonstration of love for that person. This applies to our love for the savior as well.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sermon: Prayer (Matt 26:36-46)

PRAYER:
A Demanding Discipline (Matt 26:36-46)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

When you talk to God, are those sessions generally long or short? …The answer probably depends in part on how much you have to say and how urgent the situation is.
A young boy was “acting up” during the morning worship service. His parents did their best to maintain some sense of order in the pew but were losing the battle. Finally, the father picked up the little fellow and walked sternly up the aisle on his way out. Just before reaching the safety of the foyer, the little boy called loudly to the congregation… “Pray for me!”
When you talk to God, are those sessions generally long or short? When Jesus talked to God in the garden, the situation was urgent, so he kept the conversation relatively short.

The author of Genesis records that Jacob “wrestled” with an unidentified man (Gen 32:24), which incident an early Jewish commentary treats as referring to prayer. Paul commends Epaphras because he wrestled in prayer on behalf of the church (Col 4:12). These two passages do not describe literal altercations but figurative contact with the numinous, though contact that is more strenuous than having a simple conversation. These verses also indicate that prayer is more than positive thinking, that it entails more than the common but essentially empty assertion: “I’ll be thinking of you.” Prayer is engaging with God in a way that involves more than just words. It is an activity that is potentially demanding. Too often we are content with a brief “shout out” to the Lord, as if He is satisfied when we simply acknowledge His existence.

While it is true, as the common dictum states, that prayer changes things, an equally important effect is that prayer changes people, specifically the ones who engage in it, by bringing them into conformity with God’s expectations. Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane illustrates the potentially demanding nature of prayer.
Matt 26:36 [After their last Passover together] Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”1 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup2 be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”3 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
In this episode, at the close of Jesus’ ministry, he illustrates several principles that we should bear in mind when we pray.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sermon: When Jesus will reign (Zech 10:6-12)

DOES GOD WHISTLE WHILE HE WORKS?:
(Zeck 10:6-12)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

When you are engaged in a particularly tedious or repetitious activity, how do you pass the time?
Fred, a trucker, was often caught in commuter rush-hour traffic. One morning when everything came to a standstill, he sat high up in his 18-wheeler singing and whistling. The driver of a nearby car, frustrated by the delay, yelled up at him, “What are you so happy about?” Cheerfully, Fred replied… “I’m already at work!”
Do you ever whistle while you work?

There is a song various characters sing in the Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, entitled, “Whistle While You Work.” The point of this little ditty is that whistling is a light-hearted, entertaining activity often used to distract one from an otherwise labor-intensive or dreary activity. The Bible refers to God’s working, especially at creation,1 but without any mention of His whistling in the process. Nevertheless, there are three passages that do refer to God’s whistling. Isaiah mentions it twice, both times during His judgment of Israel, not a lighthearted activity:
Isa 5:25a …the LORD’S anger burns against his people; his hand is raised and he strikes them down…. 26a He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth.
Isa 7:17 The LORD will bring on you…the king of Assyria. 18 In that day the LORD will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria.
Zechariah mentions God’s whistling once yet in a very different situation, which we will consider today, not during retribution but during redemption, the redemption of Israel.

Some of what God does is labor-intensive, not for Him of course, but it would be for us (if it were even possible for us). Still, why might He whistle? He does not need to entertain Himself during or distract Himself from any activity we might think is tedious. So, is the Disney song in any sense true of Him: Does God Whistle While He Works?2

Zechariah addresses the post-exilic community during the reign of Darius. The prophet is especially concerned for Jews who returned to the land and wondered if their struggling experience in rebuilding the Jewish community there was all God intended. The resettlement and temple reconstruction projects have both made progress, and peoples’ attention is turning to the future: What more does God have in store for them?3 In chapter ten the prophet describes some of what lies ahead, not in the near term but in the distant future, when God will whistle again, not in retribution but in redemption.
Zech 10:6 “I will strengthen the house of Judah and save the house of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them. They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them. 7 The Ephraimites will become like mighty men, and their hearts will be glad as with wine. Their children will see it and be joyful; their hearts will rejoice in the LORD. 8 I will [whistle] for them and gather them in. Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before. 9 Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me. They and their children will survive, and they will return. 10 I will bring them back from Egypt and gather them from Assyria.4 I will bring them to Gilead and Lebanon, and there will not be room enough for them. 11 They will pass through the sea of trouble; the surging sea will be subdued and all the depths of the Nile will dry up. Assyria’s pride will be brought down and Egypt’s scepter will pass away. 12 I will strengthen them in the LORD5 and in his name they will walk,” declares the LORD.
In this passage, whistling is a signal for Jews to return home.6 When will this particular summons take place?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Divorce and remarriage

Divorce and Remarriage
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

The prevalence of divorce and remarriage in our society has not left the church untouched. Most congregations include members or constituents whose families have undergone restructuring. Nevertheless, some Christians condemn all divorce and remarriage, appealing to Jesus’ statements, such as the one in Mark’s gospel:1
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. (Mark 10:11)
However attractive it may be to have a clear delineation of right and wrong, few issues lend themselves to either-or categories, and any treatment of marital relationships must include other passages in the biblical text that argue for a more nuanced position or that offer more information.2 The parallel account in Matthew, for example, has a more complete transcript of Jesus’ words:3
Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matt 19:9)
In light of the limited information these few passages offer, therefore, it is necessary to conduct a broader survey to understand God’s perspective on the issues of divorce and remarriage.

I. Divorce
A. According to Moses
When God instituted marriage, His intention was that it be permanent. Some Pharisees question Jesus on this matter, and he refers them to Genesis:4
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ [Gen 1:27] and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ [Gen 2:24]? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matt 19:4-6)
They press him further, and Jesus indicates that God allowed divorce as a concession to man’s sinful nature:5
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matt 19:7-8)
Jesus acknowledges that sin has altered the edenic model of marriage and that the original permanence of the union is subject to revision. The contrast here is between God’s perfect will and His permissive will, between what He approves and what He allows (so also Davies 1997:14).6 On the one hand, God states, “I hate divorce” (Mal 2:16), but, on the other hand, He speaks about divorcing Israel for the nation’s unfaithfulness.7 God recognizes that a marriage might fail because one or both parties undermine it.8 So as not to make a bad situation worse, He provides for the formal dissolution of a marriage contract through the issuing of a “certificate of divorce,” called a get:9

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Woodstock, 1969

WOODSTOCK
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

In the summer of 1969, a friend and I went to a three-day concert held on a farm in upstate New York near a place called Woodstock. Some of the biggest names in rock music would be playing there. The advertising campaign was very successful, selling 186,000 tickets in advance. Organizers expected that 50,000 might actually show up. When the weekend of the concert arrived, not 50,000 but 400,000 (est.) converged on Woodstock, completely overwhelming the fences and the facilities. The vast majority who came assumed they would be able to get tickets at the gate. They were wrong. The gates were (torn) down when we arrived, but it did not matter—everyone who came got in.

Many people have a similar assumption about entry to heaven, that they will get tickets at the gate or will get in if they just show up. They, too, will be wrong, but in that case, it will matter, because that event will last much longer than three days. As the apostle Paul says, “we will be with the Lord forever” (2 Thess 4:17). Moreover, only those who have made advance arrangements will get in, who have been washed “by the blood of the lamb” (Rev 12:11), because “many are invited but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14).

We drove as close as we could to the site but had to park the car on the side of the road behind the many who had arrived before us. We walked with others for several miles, passing countless numbers who were giving up and going home, until we finally reached the place. Because the promoters were not prepared for that many people, there were not enough food stands, first aid stations, and, more importantly, not enough Port-o-potties. To make matters worse, it rained, a lot, turning the entire area to ankle-deep mud.

The concert was already in progress when we arrived, and the sound system was quite good, so we had no trouble finding the stage. It was in a valley, a third to a half mile below the ridge on which we eventually stood. I thought we had encountered a lot of people on our way in, but I was not prepared for what I saw from that ridge. The entire hillside was covered, from one end to the other and from top to bottom, with a seemingly endless mass of humanity. Apparently, the poor accommodations deterred only a relatively few of those who came. The vast majority chose to remain and were seated on the ground—in the mud!—with barely enough space to squeeze between. I had never seen so many people in one place at one time, certainly more than I could count.

When the apostle John sees in his vision of heaven “a great multitude that no one could count” (Rev 7:9), his description may not be an exaggeration. (The advertising for that event will also be quite good.) It will certainly be bigger than Woodstock, and it will have much better accommodations.

We worked our way down the hill looking for a place to sit, but the bodies were packed together so closely that there was barely enough room to walk without stepping on someone. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, we were at the base of the stage, facing a tall wall and looking straight up. We could hear everything just fine but could see nothing, only the wall. At that point, we decided to give up and go home, which meant another trek up the hill and a long walk back to the car. Sitting in the mud was unappealing no matter how good the music.

The next year, Linda and I went to see the documentary film entitled Woodstock. It showed much of what my friend and I did not get to see. The movie theatre experience was quite different, of course, having shelter from the rain, a dry and carpeted floor, food options, comfortable seating, and (perhaps most importantly) bathrooms.

Heaven will have even better accommodations (no mud), including better food options, like “the wedding supper of the lamb” (Rev 19:9), enabling us to sit “at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Matt 8:11).

At the time, I did not realize how important Woodstock would become in American culture. There is even a US postage stamp commemorating the event (02/18/99 Scott #3188b). Some of the performers were very good (if you like rock music), and the entire gathering was amazingly peaceful, perhaps due in part to the prevalence of illegal drugs. Still, there were some not-so-good things as well (e.g., an overdose death). Heaven, though, will be far, far better, with great reason to celebrate and without any not-so-good things. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order…has passed away” (Rev 21:4). Best of all, we will see the greatest headliner of all: God Himself (Rev 22:4). There will also be great music (Heb 12:22; Rev 5:12).

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sermon: Fathers (John 5:19-20a)

FATHERS' DAY:
A Father's Responsibilities (John 5:19-20a)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2006

It is interesting the kinds of things that make an impression on children. Last Sunday afternoon, several of us heard about the bear that Nathaniel saw, complete with sound effects. In fact, most of us heard about it several times. Nathaniel did not actually hear the bear roar, but his siblings told him the sound a bear makes, and that impressed him and became part of his recounting the event. What makes an impression may not always be accurate, but it can make a story more vivid.
Three young boys are bragging about their respective fathers. The first boy says, "My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, calls it a poem, and gets $50 for it." The second boy says, "That's nothing. My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, calls it a song, and gets $100 for it." The third boy says, "I got you both beat. My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, calls it a sermon...and it takes four people to collect all the money!"
What a child tells, including what he tells about his father, may not always be accurate, but it will reflect what impresses him. When Jesus tells about his heavenly father, it is also what impresses him, but it is entirely accurate.

In John 5, Jesus is engaged in some controversial activity, at least, controversial for some. He is healing on the Sabbath, and that is causing quite a stir among certain religious authorities.1 Their negative reaction prompts a comment from him about God. It is a description of our heavenly father that earthly fathers can and should emulate. When these Jewish leaders ask Jesus to explain his actions, why he heals on the Sabbath...
John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20a For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does."
When Jesus says, "the son can do nothing by himself,"2 he means he is not entirely free to do as he pleases. There are boundaries he is not able to cross. We tend to picture Jesus as having the same capabilities as God the Father, which is probably true now but was not true when Jesus was on earth. To come here, Jesus gave up many of the advantages of deity.3 As Paul writes...
Phil 2:6 [Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be [retained], 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient....

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sermon: Easter (Phil 3:20-21)

EASTER SUNDAY:
The Ultimate Extreme-Makeover (Phil 3:20-21)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

Coming from the suburbs of New York City, the only wildlife that I saw as a child were cats, dogs, pigeons, and squirrels. When, on rare occasions, I saw another animal, what immediately came to mind was a fictional character: Yogi Bear, Tony the Tiger, Bulwinkle the Moose. Some times the associations we make as children stay with us as adults.
A man from the city was driving down a country road. Suddenly, a rabbit skipped in front of the car. The man tried to stop but hit the rabbit. He jumped out of his car to check the scene. Seeing the lifeless form, he cried out, "I've killed the Easter bunny!" Another car stopped, and a woman got out to see if she could help. "What's the problem?" she asked. Still sobbing, the man answered, "I've run over the Easter bunny. Now there will be no one to deliver eggs to the children." The woman went back to her car, returned with an aerosol can, and sprayed the motionless rabbit. Immediately, it sprang up, ran into the woods, stopped, and waved back at the man and woman. Then it ran another ten feet, stopped, and waved. It then ran another ten feet, stopped, and waved again. It did this over and over until it was out of sight. Astonished, the man exclaimed, "What is in that can?" Walking back to her car, the woman replied, "It's hare spray.... It revitalizes your hare and adds permanent wave."
While the Easter Bunny has nothing to do with the true meaning of the holiday, the fragile nature of life in this world should make you contemplate the durable nature of life in the next world.

That was the apostle Paul's situation as he sat in a Roman prison, writing a letter to the church he established at Philippi, a city in northern Greece. Three times in the first chapter he mentions his plight, saying, "I am in chains" (vv. 7, 13, 17).1 What has he done to warrant such treatment? Has he been arrested for theft or murder? No, he says, "I am in chains for Christ" (v. 13b) and "for the defense of the gospel" (v. 16b). To make matters worse, there are those back in Asia Minor who oppose Paul and would cause him further grief by taking credit for his missionary efforts.2 He writes,
Phil 1:17 [They] preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
Despite this unfortunate turn of events, Paul does not despair,3 but his experiences bring his mortality into sharp relief and turn his attention to the prospect of something else.
Phil 1:21 For...me...to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body...I do not know! 23b [Yet] I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
Apart from bringing an end to his current troubles, what advantage is there to being "with Christ?" Paul does not give a detailed answer that question, but what he does say provides us with a glimpse of what lies ahead and offers us encouragement when troubles bring our own mortality into sharp relief. Turn, please, to Phil 3, where Paul explains in v. 20 that by his sacrifice,...

I. Jesus enables our relocation to heaven (Phil 3:20).
Phil 3:20 [O]ur citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Saturday, March 28, 2015

How should I keep the Sabbath?

HOW SHOULD I KEEP THE SABBATH?
Dr. Paul Manuel—Youth SS Class—2000

Although you have not lived very long, your responsibility as well as the freedom you have to choose the direction of your life has changed over the years.
  • When you were little, your parents decided most of what you would do and where you would go.
  • As you get older, you decide more of what you will do and where you will go.
Right now, you may think your folks should let you decide a lot more than they do but, I assure you, that will change. In fact, you are going to be making some important decisions over the next few years.
  • Will you date and, if so, whom?
  • Will you have sex before you get married?
  • Will you get married and, if so, to whom?
  • Will you use drugs or alcohol?
  • Will you go to college and, if so, where will you go and how will you pay for it?
  • What job will you take?
  • Where will you live—someplace near or far away?
Your friends will be glad to help you make some of those decisions, but their advice may not always be the best, depending on the kind of friends you have. Your parents also may help you with some of those decisions, and their advice usually has your best interest at heart. Still, the choices will ultimately be yours, because that is part of growing up. One of the decisions you will face is whether or not you will serve God.
  • You may say, "I've already made that decision. I've been baptized. I come to church every week."
  • That is true. You have all been baptized, and you all come to church regularly.
  • Would you continue to come, though, if your parents did not bring you? Is worshiping God and being with other Christians on Saturday more important to you than staying in bed or watching TV or hanging out with your friends?
  • In other words, if someone did not make you come or drive you here, would you come? One day, you will have to make that decision.
It is important for you to know what God has said about this matter, especially as you encounter conflicts with other activities on the Sabbath. School activities, for example, things you enjoy doing, often happen on Friday night. Right now, your parents may be "discouraging" you from participating in those activities. Suppose they left the decision up to you? How would you decide the right thing to do? Is that even be a question you would ask?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sermon: The Coming of the Lord

THE COMING OF THE LORD (1 THESS 4:13-5:11)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

We assume certain things are common knowledge, and we often take such things for granted.
Jeff and his five-year-old son were discussing differences between their respective childhoods. Jeff pointed out that when he was young, there were no such things as Nintendo, cellphones, computers or digital cameras. He realized just how big the generation gap was when his son asked…“Did you have fruit?”
We can chalk up some ignorance to youth. In this case, the boy did not realize how quickly technology has advanced. Then there are experiences for which youth is not a factor.
Diminutive Aunt Flora, just four feet, nine inches tall, accepted an offer to visit a health club for a free session. After a hearty greeting, the receptionist showed her where to change and said an instructor would be with her soon. After changing her clothes, Aunt Flora went to the exercise area. Along one wall she noticed a silver bar that was not in use, and decided to try her hand at chin-ups while she waited. She jumped up, barely reaching the bar, and managed to strain through two chin-ups before an instructor came to her side. Smiling politely, the instructor said, “If you follow me, I’ll be glad to help you get started…. Just let go of the coat rack.”
We assume certain things are common knowledge, but some things require special knowledge, the kind that comes through revelation, as in Paul’s explanation of what the future holds with The Coming of the Lord.

The church at Thessalonica was one of Paul’s early missionary endeavors, and his letters to the congregation were among his first epistles. The church was strong and demonstrated a good grasp of the gospel.1 There was some confusion, though, about the return of Jesus, not whether he would come back2 but who would participate in that great event. Paul writes this first letter, in part, to set the record straight. Please turn to 1 Thess 4:13 where he begins with what they and…

I. You Should Know…
1 Thess 4:13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
Apparently, a rumor was circulating that to take part in Jesus’ kingdom you had to be present at his return, and that if you had the misfortune of dying before it happened, you would miss out. Were that the case, Paul says, we would be “like the rest of men,” and he describes…
A. What the future will be like for others (4:13).
For them, the prospect of death is bleak for several reasons. First…
1. What happens at death is unknown.
Does the individual continue to exist or cease to exist? People are ignorant of what, if anything, happens after death. They would like to know, but apart from God’s revelation, they cannot. Second…
2. What happens at death is unhappy.
If not for the individual, it certainly is for those he leaves behind. Moreover, people’s grief over the loss of a loved one is without comfort when that person’s destiny is in doubt. Third…
3. What happens at death is unpromising.
There is no expectation that the situation will change for the better. Most people “have no hope” that death is anything but the end, the final punctuation of a brief existence. Paul says that is how the future appears to “the rest of men.”3

Let me recap. For them…
  • What happens at death is unknown;
  • What happens at death is unhappy;
  • What happens at death is unpromising;
That about sums it up…but not for us.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Eschatology

BACK TO THE FUTURE
Prophetic Previews
or
Coming Attractions and Un-attractions in Eschatology
Dr. Paul Manuel—2001


Because of the length of "Back to the Future" (91 pages) only the Contents and Preface are below. The entire paper is available as a pdf here.

Contents


Preface 1
I. Getting Our Bearings (Matt 24) 2
II. Conflict of History (Dan 7; 9) 8
III. Restoration of Israel (Ezek 36-48) 15
IV. Jews and Gentiles (Zech 12-14) 20
V. Resurrection of the Dead (1 Cor 15)   24
VI. Day of the Lord (1 Thess 5; 2 Thess 2)    28

The parousia of Jesus and the period of judgment              29
VII. A Spiritual Struggle (Rev 12-14) 32

Outline: The Structure of Revelation 33

Rapture Review: Events That Occur Together 37
VIII. Coming of the Messiah (Rev 19-20) 41
IX. Eternity with God (Rev 21-22) 45

Conclusion 47

Live in the Light of What You Have Learned 47

Appendix A: God’s Wrath and God’s People 49

Appendix B: The Battle of Armageddon 50

Bibliography 56

Endnotes 57


Preface

One of the many limitations we have as human beings is time. We can recall the past, if we experienced it or if someone else related it to us, but we cannot see in the other direction, into the future. Nevertheless, we have an innate curiosity about what lies ahead. Solomon said,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Praying through the Bible

PRAYING THOUGH THE BIBLE:
A Reporter's Investigation
Dr. Paul Manuel—2008
The true spirit of prayer does not consist in asking for blessings,
but in receiving Him who is the giver of all blessings,
and in living a life of fellowship with Him.
Sundar Singh (1889-1929)

Because of the length of "Praying through the Bible" (205 pages) only the Introduction is below. The entire paper is available as a pdf here. The study consists of  ten sessions, examining the practice of prayer from the Pentateuch to the Epistles.

Introduction1

Are your prayers getting through to God? Is He paying attention? The Bible offers guidelines for making your prayers work, eliminating the problems that hinder communication, assuring you that God will hear and will answer. In this study, we will look in scripture at some of the many examples of prayer as well as at various instructions about prayer to determine what God expects from us—as well as what He does not want to hear from us—and what we can expect from Him. We will examine what the Bible says about this discipline to determine what makes it effective or ineffective, and how knowing the difference should influence how we pray.

Among the most important disciplines a child of God can develop, next to worship, is his ability to communicate with God in prayer.
  • Corporate prayer as part of the believer’s service when he gathers with others each week.
  • Family prayer as part of his home life, at least before meals.
  • Private prayer as part of his personal expression of devotion each day.
With the prevalence of prayer in our lives, giving ourselves to its study is certainly appropriate, especially if one result of that study is to improve our ability in this area.

The Bible contains much about prayer, both directly, through instruction, and indirectly, through illustration. An exhaustive study of this subject would easily take more than a year.2 To keep things at a manageable level without sacrificing thoroughness, we will narrow the scope of our investigation in three ways:
  • First, we will concentrate on the primary words for prayer in Hebrew and in Greek.3
These are the terms that occur with the greatest frequency and which most English translations render “to pray” or “prayer.” They represent a particular kind of communication with God (the “what” of our study), most often petition—asking for divine favor—or intercession—defending against divine judgment (that God would remit His punishment).4

Even looking only at these (Hebrew and Greek) words, a comprehensive investigation would require several months, at least, but we can derive considerable benefit from a selective overview. Hence…
  • Second, we will concentrate on primary passages about prayer.
Most uses of these terms just make the observation that this or that person prayed. Other sections provide additional information about the context or content of prayer,5 and it is those we will investigate. (Additional examples will appear in the endnotes.).6

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The prayer of Jabez

SHOULD YOU ADOPT THE PRAYER OF JABEZ?
An excursus from Judges: The Struggle for Autonomy
Dr. Paul Manuel—2010

In 2000, Bruce Wilkinson (founder of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries) wrote The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life, an inspirational and international bestseller.1 Wilkinson says (p. 86),
I challenge you to make the Jabez prayer for blessing part of the daily fabric of your life. To do that, I encourage you to follow unwaveringly the plan outlined here for the next thirty days. By the end of that time, you'll be noticing significant changes in your life, and the prayer will be on its way to becoming a treasured, lifelong habit.
Should believers make this petition a regular practice with the expectation that God will respond to them as He responded to Jabez? ...This notion is similar to another popular trend, known variously as the "Health and Wealth (or Prosperity) Gospel" and the "Name It and Claim It" approach to prayer, both of which assert that God wants you to be financially successful (even affluent) and that by faith you can realize God's abundant material blessing.

Along with the theological problems that attend such a notion,2 this practice violates two principles of biblical interpretation. The first principle is...
  • Do not base doctrine on a narrative passage.
Narrative or historical passages provide an accurate account of the events they record, but they do not necessarily offer reliable or applicable instruction about doctrine. For faith and practice we must rely on didactic texts, those the biblical authors intended for teaching, lest we misinterpret and misapply what is written.
  • For example, failing to recognize this distinction could make Jesus' admonition to one discipleship candidate a prerequisite for all disciples.3
Matt 19:21 ...sell your possessions and give to the poor.... Then come, follow me.
Jesus' instruction (total divestiture) in this story was for this individual only. There is no evidence that Jesus intended it for other disciples, let alone all disciples.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Drama of Redemption

THE DRAMA OF REDEMPTION
Tracing the program of God in the progress of history
Dr. Paul Manuel—2012



Paul Manuel writes about the genesis of this study:
When Linda and I where at CBC, the most popular course was The Progress of Redemption, which traced God's plan through scripture. The reason I found it helpful was that it filled in a lot of gaps in my understanding of the Bible and of what He is doing throughout history. Years later, while at the University of Wisconsin, Steve Lancaster and I created a similar course called, The Drama of Redemption, that we expanded and taught in our respective congregations and in a Trinity extension. We modeled the course on a Greek play (with acts and scenes). Several years after that, I developed it a bit further to teach in the German Seventh Day Baptist church here (adding several philatelic illustrations from Linda's and my Bible stamp collection).
Because of length, only the "Program Guide" is provided below. Each link will take you to a pdf of that section of the study.

Program Guide 
 
Program Guide and Bibliography

 Preface


Preview (coming attractions)

Prologue

  • God's goal
  • God's glory
Act I:  Introduction—God Promises the Kingdom.

Scene 1: Primeval Conflict

  • The creation
  • The fall
  • The flood
  • The tower


Scene 2: Patriarchal Expectation

  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob

Act II: Rising action—God Models the Kingdom.

Scene 1: Wilderness Experience

  • The exodus
  • The covenant
  • The wandering
  • The renewal


Scene 2: Canaan Conquest


    • The invasion
    • The settlement



    Scene 3: Israelite Consolidation

    • Deborah
    • Gideon
    • Samuel


    Scene 4: United Monarchy


      • Saul
      • David
      • Solomon


      Excursus: David's Devotion

      • David's fitness for office
      • David's failure in office

      Sunday, March 15, 2015

      Arguing with God

       PRAYING THROUGH TOUGH PROBLEMS:
      Eight Biblical Models for Arguing with God
      Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

      Because of the length of "Arguing With God" (50 pages, not including the Bibliography and Endnotes) only the Contents and Introduction are below. The entire paper is available as a pdf here.

      Contents

      Introduction 2
      I. Abraham and God's Righteousness (Gen 18:16-33)        3
      II. Job and God's Sovereignty (Job 26-31; 38-41) 8

         Excursus: On mediate and immediate causation
      III. Moses and God's Forbearance (Exod 32:1-14) 18

          Excursus: On the immutability of God
      IV. Elijah and God’s Providence (1 Kgs 19:9b-18) 25
      V. Jonah and God’s Compassion (Jonah 4) 31
      VI. Habakkuk and God’s Equity (Hab 1-3) 37

         Excursus: On the fairness of God
      VII. Jesus and God’s Purpose (Matt 26:36-46) 43
      VIII. Paul and God’s Provision (2 Cor 12:1-10) 47

      Conclusion 50

      Bibliography 51

      Endnotes 53


      Introduction

      Why do we pray? ...Most prayers fall in two general categories: We pray either to praise God (e.g., to thank Him for some favor) or to petition God (i.e., to ask Him for some favor). What do we expect prayer to accomplish, especially the second kind—petitionary prayer? ... We hope to influence the course of events, to move God to take some action either on our behalf or for someone else. While this is all true, there is another benefit, perhaps even the primary purpose of prayer: Prayer is a window that enables us to view life from God's perspective. It offers an objective vantage point from which we can evaluate what is happening around us or to us. As such, prayer shapes our thinking by correcting and broadening our understanding about what filters through our physical senses and our emotions.

      Sometimes what we see or hear makes us question God, especially when it is bad and affects us or someone close to us: "How could God be actively involved in this incident or passively silent in that one?"1 At such times we may be reluctant to voice our doubts or complaints, either because we think it would be improper to question God or because we fear that it might anger God and make matters worse. Quite the contrary, He wants us to pray through difficult issues—to discuss them until we reach some understanding. To help us, He has preserved Eight Biblical Models for Arguing with God.2 As we examine them, we will consider what they can teach us about Praying through Tough Problems.

      By the way, when I use the word "argue" in this study, it is not in the pejorative sense we often associate with the term. I simply mean discussion or interaction, not necessarily heated debate. Fervency is a potential and frequent correlate to arguing, but not a necessary one. You can be passionate without being impertinent.

      For the entire paper including the Bibliography and Endnotes, see the pdf here.

      Saturday, January 10, 2015

      Blessed be God (Eph 1:3-14)

      BLESSED BE GOD (Eph 1:3-14)
      Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

      When a young girl lost her dog, she decided to distribute flyers around town, hoping that someone would spot the wayward pooch and return him. The notice she prepared read...
      Lost Dog: He has brown hair with several bald spots. His right front leg was once broken in an auto accident. He limps because he hurt his left hip. His right eye is missing, and he had his left ear bitten off in a dog fight. Please help me find him. He answers to the name...Lucky. (Adapted from Hodgin 1994:216)
      However lucky or unlucky we may be, we are glad for whatever help people can give us as we travel life's path. When the one who helps us is God, the benefits we derive are without equal, and we should respond as Paul does in our message this morning, by exclaiming: Blessed Be God.

      A few years ago, another pastor was studying what the Bible says about the will of God, and he asked me to look at Eph 1, where Paul mentions God's will. When I turned to the passage, which I had not read in quite some time, I could hardly make sense of it. Eph 1:3-14 is one long sentence in Greek, as if once Paul got started he did not know where to stop.1 The English translations help us by breaking it into smaller units, but my first reading made me agree with Peter, that Paul's "letters contain some things that are hard to understand" (2 Pet 3:16b).

      As I reread the text, I began to notice the phrases Paul repeats.
      • Three times he refers to the "will" of God (vv. 5, 9, 11), indicating that history—our history—is not without purpose. God intends some particular things for us.
      • Three times he uses the phrase "to the praise of his glory" (vv. 6, 12, 14), because understanding what God has done and will do for us should make us break forth in worship.
      • Ten times he says "in Christ" or "in him" (vv. 3, 4, 6, 7, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 132) to emphasize that everything God does for us—our very relationship with God—comes as a result of what Jesus did and because of our relationship with him.
      These repetitions tie together Paul's thoughts and help us to see what he considers most important. Keep them in mind as we read the passage. Please turn to Eph 1....

      After opening the book in vv. 1-2 with his usual salutation...

      I. Paul blesses God for the scope of His blessing to us.
      Eph 1:3a [Blessed] be...the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ....
      One congregant mentioned to me that she had never made a distinction between praising God and thanking Him, that she had simply assumed they were synonyms for the way we express our devotion. When she realized the terms were different, she asked me to define them. Because others may have the same question, here is the distinction.

      The biblical writers use three main words to describe the ways you should declare your devotion.
      • Praise God to express your admiration for His wonderful character and great deeds. Think of praise as bragging about God.
      • Thank God to express your appreciation for who He is to you and what He does for you.
      • Bless God to express your affirmation that He is the source of all (power for) success, prosperity, longevity, etc.—everything that is good.2