Saturday, March 28, 2015

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

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


Prophetic Previews
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.


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


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

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.


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

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

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


Preview (coming attractions)


  • 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

      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.


      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


      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.