Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ready for the End? (1 Pet 4:7-11)

THE END OF ALL THINGS IS NEAR (1 Pet 4:7-11)
pdf
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

For me, who did not grow up in the country, I enjoy the stories people tell about their animals, like this one by a woman who asked, for a reason you will soon understand, to remain nameless.
A couple bought an old farmhouse on several acres of land. The house itself was at the end of a long driveway, set back from the road and out of sight from any who might pass by as well as from the neighbors on either side. Because this couple both had jobs elsewhere, they did not raise crops or tend livestock. They just had some chickens, a rooster (named Randy), a dog, and two cats.
After coming home from work one day, the wife had gone upstairs to take a relaxing bath. She was about to get into the tub, having just drawn the water, when she looked out the window and saw that Randy the rooster had gotten loose from its pen. "I'll catch him later," she thought, until she noticed the dog, a retriever, was also loose and was eying the rooster. Deciding that urgency was more important than modesty, the woman ran down the stairs and out the door without putting her clothes back on, yelling to her husband, who was working outside but around the corner of the house and could not see the animals.
Picture this: Her shout startled the rooster, which started running, with the dog running after the rooster, the woman running after the dog, and the husband, still uncertain about the reason for the commotion, running after his naked wife.... As they rounded the house for the third time...it gave new meaning to the term 'family circle.'
That is not something you would see in the city.... Certain things are urgent and require immediate attention. Other things are urgent but come with some advance notice, allowing you to prepare, such as Peter's warning that The End of All Things Is Near.

In the early 1800s, there was a growing anticipation that the end of all things was, indeed, near. The acceptance of Bishop Ussher's chronology, a feature in the center column of the Schofield Reference Bible, which provided a specific date for creation at 4004 B.C., as well as the study of certain prophecies in Daniel and Revelation led many to believe that Jesus would return in 1843. One of the most prominent of these Adventists, as they were called, was William Miller, an influential Baptist minister. He wrote and spoke widely on the subject and convinced many the Lord would return between October 20-22 of that year.1 Rev. Miller was not a cult leader but a sincere Christian, and when the Lord did not appear at the expected time, Miller attempted to discover the cause of his mistake. He determined that the calculation of the year might be off by one, and he reset the date for October of 1844. When Jesus failed to appear yet again, Miller acknowledged his error and repudiated such methods of predicting the Lord's return.?2

Like Miller, his followers were generally sincere and devout Christians, but friends and family often accused them of fanaticism, even insanity. As the time drew near, they disposed of property and goods, forgave debts, closed businesses, and gave away what money they had, assuming they would soon need none of these, for they believed, The End of All Things Is Near (Numbers and Butler 1993:209-221). Is this what God expects you to do? Please turn to 1 Pet 4, where the apostle explains what God does expect,3 beginning with...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Does size matter? (Philemon 4-7)

BIGGER IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER (Philemon 4-7)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2009

We are often impressed by size, and we commonly make comparisons, thinking that "bigger is better." Marketing agencies attempt to exploit this tendency. For example, have you ever selected the larger of two similarly priced items from the grocery store shelf, only to look more closely and discover that the contents were the same? How many of people's goals rest on the assumption that what they need is something bigger than what they have—a bigger car, a bigger house, a bigger income? The very image a person seeks to present of himself may depend on a preoccupation with size.
A Texas rancher was visiting colleagues in Chicago. The Chicago group booked a large suite with several bedrooms and a common living room in a prestigious motel so that they could all stay together. When the Texan saw the expansive accommodations, though, he remarked, "It'll do, but my dog's house is bigger than this." His colleagues decided to show him the big city. When he saw the stockyards, he said, "That ain't much. We've got branding corrals on my ranch bigger than that." When he saw the skyscrapers, he dismissed them, "We've got tombstones at home taller than that." After an entire day of his telling them how small things in Chicago were compared to things in Texas, the rancher's annoyed hosts decided to get even: ...They put rats in the Texan's bed. That evening, they stayed in the common living room after the Texan had gone to bed. When he climbed under the sheets, the unpleasant surprise brought him quickly to his feet, screaming, "What was that?" His colleagues, who had rushed in, answered, "Those are Chicago bedbugs." ..."Oh," he replied, regaining his composure. "You're right.... Young'uns, aren't they?" (Adapted from Hodgin 1998:264-265)
We are impressed and obsessed with size. Despite good judgment, it is not always easy to resist the assumption that bigger is better. The same applies to our evaluation of churches. Ministers as well as members often admire larger congregations because they have more resources and, as a result, can do more. They attract more people, have more thrilling worship, meet more needs, run more varied programs, and support more missionary work. As a result, those in the pulpit of a small church may set their sights either on making their present church bigger or on securing a position in a bigger congregation, while those in the pews of a small church may decide simply to go to a bigger church.

This attitude presents a problem for many congregations. The typical church in the United States has no more than fifty in attendance at a given morning service, and many (including most Seventh Day Baptist churches) have fewer still. Do little churches mean little success, or does size not necessarily have anything to do with success? How do you measure success? ...Paul addresses this question indirectly in his letter to Philemon, where we learn that Bigger Is not Necessarily Better.

Paul writes two letters to believers in Colossae,1 one of which is this correspondence to Philemon.2 In both letters, he mentions house churches, but he addresses the second epistle to one such congregation.3 The letter has only one chapter, so if you can find it, please turn to...
Philemon 1b To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia [probably his wife]... to Archippus [perhaps his son]...and to the church that meets in your home:
The occasion of this missive is the return of Onesimus, Philemon's runaway slave. Paul hopes to restore him to Philemon, although not as the slave he once was but as the brother in Christ he has become.4 This is a private matter, not an issue for the entire church at Colossae, and Paul makes no mention of it in his other letter. It does, however, bear on this particular group, the core of which is Philemon's family, whom Onesimus served. After a standard salutation in v. 3 ("Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"), Paul relates what he has heard about the congregation's most prominent member, qualities the apostle admires, as we see...

I. The Reasons for Paul's Gratitude over Philemon (Philemon 4-5)
Phlm 4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.

Monday, January 23, 2017

To manifest His glory

IDEOLOGY—THEOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS
An additional unit for The Drama of Redemption
Dr. Paul Manuel—2010

God's purpose in history is to manifest His glory. As He says through the prophet Isaiah...1
Isa 40:5 [T]he glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see [it] together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
This is the status quo, the way things ought to be for a sovereign God. There is, however, a challenge to God's sovereignty, a disruption in the status quo that leads to conflict. By manifesting His glory, God seeks to restore the status quo and, thereby, to resolve the conflict. In order to accomplish His goal, God must reveal Himself, for only then will others see and acknowledge His glory. The means by which God will accomplish His goal is through the kingdom, and it constitutes the primary subject matter (content) of scripture.

The Occasion for God's Work in History
Status Quo   Disruption  Conflict  Resolution  Status Quo
I am God. Are You? [Debate] You are! I am God.
Glory
 Manifested 
Glory
Questioned 
Glory
Proven  
Glory
Affirmed  
Glory
Manifested  

The biblical writers all seem to have some understanding of this "Big Picture," of what God is doing in history. It is an ideology that infuses their work, a theme that provides unity from Genesis to Revelation, a concept we call the Theocratic Ideal.2 God sets forth the concept of a kingdom in the Abrahamic promises, details it in the Mosaic covenant, models it in the Davidic dynasty, envisions it through the prophets, rehearses it in Israel's liturgy, and will culminate it in the Messianic Age.3

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dexterity

DEXTERITY:
Right-Handed (Dextral) and Left-Handed (Sinistral) in the Bible
Dr. Paul Manuel—2008

The biblical authors employ countless figures to make their speaking and writing more vivid and engaging for their audience. One such figure is the use of "hand," particularly the "right hand." As with most tropes, there is a literal usage that underlies the figure, and the right hand often serves as a metonymy (substitute) for some thing or action produced by it. As an extension of this figurative use, the writers also depict God as having hands (anthropomorphism) and of using His right hand in similar fashion to that of man. Does this predilection for right-handedness (dextrics) in scripture imply a divine bias against left-handedness (sinistrics)?

Because most people are right-handed, they generally favor that side of the body,1 and the right hand itself is usually stronger than the left. Hence, they normally perform tasks with their right hand that require force or dexterity.2
Judg 5:26 Her hand reached for the tent peg, her right hand for the workman's hammer. She struck Sisera, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple.
Judg 7:20b Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!"
Recognizing this natural tendency, people have commonly associated the right side with power and ability,3 whether human or divine.4
Ps 137:5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
Exod 15:6 "Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.... 12 You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What is lacking? (Col 1:24)

WHAT IS STILL LACKING? (Col 1:24)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2000

In Paul's letter to the Colossian Christians, he suggests there is a deficiency in what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
Col 1:24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
This seems to contradict what the author of Hebrews states,1
Heb 10:10 ...we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.... 12a ...this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins.... 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.... 18b ...there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
How can such a discrepancy exist in scripture? What is still lacking in regard to Christ's affliction?

Paul believed in the sufficiency and exclusivity of Jesus' atonement, making clear that nothing man does can match what Jesus' death accomplished.2 Therefore, the apostle must intend something else by his statement to the Colossians. Indeed, when we examine Paul's writings, we see his eschatological perspective. He viewed current events, especially suffering, as a means of linking us with what Jesus did in the past and with what God will do in the future.

The first result of this linkage is the benefit we derive.
  • Our suffering unites us with Jesus' suffering and makes possible our resurrection.3
Phil 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
  • Our suffering unites us with Jesus' suffering and makes possible our glorification.
Rom 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Jesus' suffering for the kingdom was part of God's unfolding plan, a plan that has not yet run its full course. Our suffering for the kingdom makes us part of that plan, continuing what Jesus did and ultimately resulting in benefit for us.

Blessed

ALL THE BEATITUDES IN THE BIBLE
AND MANY OF THOSE IN OTHER LATE SECOND TEMPLE LITERATURE
Dr. Paul Manuel—1998

The beatitude (macarism<Grk makarios) is a sub-genre of wisdom, specifically that branch of wisdom which includes proverbial sayings for success in life, in this world or in the world to come. It appears in two forms, either of which can have a singular subject (personal: "blessed is the one who...") or a plural subject (collective: "blessed are those who..."; see Appendix):
1. Simple/basic congratulations form—Blessed is the one who...
  • In the simple form, the advantage is self-evident and needs no explanation.
2.. Compound/complex congratulations form—Blessed is the one who... + adjunct
  • In the compound form, the advantage is not immediately evident and includes an explanation. Alternatively, there may be an additional advantage not readily apparent in the clause or, if the clause does not appear advantageous, there may be reversal of fortune (thereby creating a paradox). Complex beatitudes fall into the following subcategories:
  • Causal
Sometimes an author does not state the cause immediately, and the delay may obscure a beatitude's classification (i.e., Does the cause really adhere to the beatitude? e.g., Deut 33:29; Ps 1:1, 6). Other times the cause may appear before the clause (italicized and reconstructed in the more common order below). 
  • Resultive
  •  Adversative (antithetical)  
  • Conditional
  •  Inferential  
Structurally, beatitudes may occur singly or in groups (usually of 7-8, as a program for living), though grouping seems to be a later development (Second Temple Period; e.g., Sir 14:20-27; 25:7-10; 4Q525; see Viviano 1992), and the final beatitude in a group may be longer to mark closure. Beatitudes may also have specific reference to this world (Temporal) or to the next (Eschatological).
For a pdf including Bibliography and an extensive Appendix categorizing beatitudes see here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

For those who are not Israel

WHAT ABOUT GENTILES IN THE THEOCRATIC IDEAL?1
pdf (68 pages)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

The spotlight of scripture and of the Theocratic Ideal is on the nation of Israel.2 Most people, indeed, most believers today are not actively part of Israel, which raises an important question about their future role: How does the Church fit into the Theocratic Ideal? Thankfully, for those of us who are not Israel, God answers this and other, related questions in His word. In a general way...

I. God has demonstrated His goodness to gentiles.3
A. He provides for their physical needs.
1. God gives them authority.
Gen 1:26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." ...28 God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
2. God gives them territory.4
Deut 2:5 do not provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land, even [as little as] a footstep because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.... 9 ...Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the sons of Lot as a possession.
Cf. Acts 17:26b [God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
3. God gives them safety.5
Gen 9:8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying... 11 "I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth." ...19 These three [were] the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Gentiles and the Law

GENTILE RESPONSIBILITY BEFORE GOD
Dr. Paul Manuel—2003; revised 2011

God holds gentiles responsible for natural law (particularly the dictates of conscience)—that which He gave to all. This is essentially Paul's assertion.1
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
Rom 2:14 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since 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.
God does not hold gentiles responsible for revealed law (an expansion of natural law)2—that which He gave to Israel.3 This is essentially Moses' and the psalmist's assertion.4
Deut 4:8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
Ps 147:19 He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. 20a He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws.
Because Israel has greater revelation, it has greater responsibility. As Jesus said,
Luke 12:48b From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Nevertheless, non-Jews are far from exempt.

Gentile violations of universal prohibitions often elicit condemnation in the Bible, especially in the prophets. God censures the nations for violating natural law, the social norms of ethical behavior.5
  • Syria: Do not destroy an enemy once you have defeated him.
Amos 1:3 ...Damascus...threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth,
  • Philistia: Do not engage in slave commerce.
Amos 1:6 ...Gaza...took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom,
  • Lebanon: Do not break a treaty.
Amos 1:9 ...Tyre...sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood,
  • Edom: Do not show cruelty to relatives.
Amos 1:11 ...Edom...pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked,

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Roman Road

THE ROMAN ROAD—SIGNPOSTS TO SALVATION
pdf
Dr. Paul Manuel—2005


One of the most notable achievements of the Roman Empire was a highway system that connected major cities throughout the region. A similar interconnectivity also characterizes Paul's epistle to the Roman church, as he describes elements of God's plan for man's salvation. A collection of passages
from that letter, popularly called "The Roman Road," offers a systematic way to understand and present major elements of the gospel. Many people think they will go to heaven because they have lived a good life or because they have fulfilled some religious obligation. God's standard, though, is higher than we can reach, so we need a way to God that depends not on our goodness but solely on His grace. Below are several signposts on the road to salvation, directing us to a relationship with Him.
  • The existence of God
Rom 1:20 ...since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
We must recognize that God is the Creator of everything and that we are part of His creation.
  • The glory of God
Rom 3:10 ...it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one" ...23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
No matter how good we may think we are or try to be, we cannot meet the perfect standard of God's own character. We are sinful and need His forgiveness.
  • The power of God
Rom 1:16 ...I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
God is able to solve our problem, which He has done, and He makes that solution available to whoever accepts it in faith.
  • The goodness of God
Rom 2:4 ...do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Realizing the benevolence of God should compel us to change the direction of our lives and turn to Him.
  • The love of God
Rom 5:8 ...God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Thankfully, our sinful state has not deterred God from helping us. Because of His great love, He sent Jesus to die in our place.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Romans

THE SOUL SET FREE:
Recounting Redemption in Romans
pdf (103 pages)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

Contents

Prologue

An Outline of the Book of Romans
    Introduction: Paul's ministry
    I. SIN: God is just in condemning sinners

      An Equal-Accessibility Deity

      God Right to Condemn Those Who Have Never Heard?

      Response Acceptable to God
    II. SALVATION: God is gracious in justifying sinners

      Four Stages in a Believer's Life
    III. SANCTIFICATION: God is powerful in sanctifying believers

      Important Theological Terms
    IV. SOVEREIGNTY: God is sovereign in accepting Jew and gentile

      Israel's Many Blessing

      God's Sovereignty in Election: Narrowing the Scope of the Promise
    V. SERVICE: God is worthy as the object of service.

      Assessing the Strength of Your Convictions

    Conclusion: Paul's ministry

    Appendix: The Roman Road—Signposts to Salvation

    Bibliography

    Endnotes

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Sufficiency

    THE USE OF "THREE" IN THE BIBLE
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2010

    Numerology sees particular meaning in the Bible's use of certain numbers. Seven, for example, is supposedly the number of God and, consequently, of perfection, marking His perfect work.
    Gen 2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3a And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy....
    Rev 21:9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came....
    Indeed, the number seven does appear with reference to God but not exclusively so. Moreover, such a connection is nowhere stated. Silence, however, has not deterred some interpreters from making the link. To be sure, seven does occur with frequency and, in some settings, it seems to have significance, but what that import is, being unstated, remains uncertain.

    One number that has significance, although in a cultural sense not a spiritual sense, is three.

    Three often seems to indicate a sufficient amount of something.1
    Exod 23:14 "Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.... 17 "Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD.
    Exod 34:23 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel. 24 I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.
    Num 22:32 The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."
    Deut 16:16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed:
    1 Sam 3:8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." ¶ Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.
    I Sam 20:20 I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target.
    1 Sam 20:41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together— but David wept the most.
    2 Sam 24:12 "Go and tell David, 'This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you."

    Sunday, January 15, 2017

    Israel's role

    ISRAEL'S PRIVILEGED ROLE IN GOD'S PROGRAM
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

    More than any other people on earth, the nation of Israel occupies a preferential status in God's program. This exalted position is because of His promise to Abraham.
    Gen 12:2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
    It is a promise God reiterated several times thereafter and that manifests in four ways:
    • Israel is the recipient of God's support.
    Exod 19:6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."
    Lev 20:26 You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.
    Deut 7:6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
    Deut 10:15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today.
    Deut 14:2 for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.... 21 Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to an alien living in any of your towns, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God.
    Deut 26:19 He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.
    Deut 28:1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.
    Deut 30:3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you
    Rom 9:4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

    Saturday, January 14, 2017

    Humility (Phil 2:1-11)

    HARD TO BE HUMBLE (Phil 2:1-11)
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

    As a minister, I realize that some of my sermons are more well-received than others. Generally, the more time I have to prepare, the more comfortable I am with the finished product. In any case, people here are very polite and considerate, and I appreciate that. It is not always so for other ministers.
    A woman leaving the worship service commented to the minister, "I enjoyed your sermon." "Don't thank me. Thank the Lord," he said. "Oh," she replied, "...it wasn't that good." (Adapted from Rowell 1996:88)
    Such honesty can ensure a minister's humility...or his humiliation. For others, immune to such comments, it may be Hard to Be Humble. Nevertheless, that is what Paul calls the Philippians and us to be in our text this morning.

    Of all the churches to which Paul wrote, only the one at Philippi seems free of the difficulties that plague other congregations.
    No sharp rebukes of the congregation mar its joyful spirit; no disturbing problems threaten the progress of the church. The warnings [he does issue] are of a cautionary and preventive nature [the kind] that are always in order. (Kent 1978:99)
    One such exhortation concerns unity in the church, as Paul calls on the believers there to avoid division by exercising humility toward one another. He offers two reasons, based on Jesus' character, why they and we should be humble.1 First...

    I. Because of Jesus' humiliation, we have the opportunity to humble ourselves before others.

    Paul opens chapter 2 with...
    A. The exhortation to humility (Phil 2:1)
    Phil 2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
    As I said, Paul does not seem to be addressing a problem in the Philippian church. The believers there are doing fine in their walk with God, and Paul wants to encourage them along, which he does by stressing the one quality that will keep them united: humility. He does this by appealing to what they have in common....
    • Union with the savior,
    • Comfort from his love,
    • Fellowship with the Spirit,
    • Concern (for one another).
    Realizing the tremendous things that God has done for them should enable them to overlook the trivial things they do to each other, the petty differences that can destroy their unity.

    Friday, January 13, 2017

    "At ease in Zion" (Heb 5:11-6:3)

    WORKING UP TO YOUR ABILITY (Heb 5:11-6:3)
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2006

    It is good to strive for improvement by increasing your activity and by challenging yourself to greater levels of difficulty. This is especially important as the aging process takes its toll on one's natural abilities. The following suggestion is directed to older people, Younger people try it at their own risk.
    For those getting along in years, here is an exercise to build your arm and shoulder muscles. Do this three days a week. Begin by standing straight, with a 5 lb. potato sack in each hand. Extend your arms directly out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute before you relax. After a few weeks, move up to 10 lb. potato sacks, then 50 lb. potato sacks, and eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100 lb. sack in each hand and hold out your arms straight for a full minute. Do not become discouraged if this seems too difficult. Keep at it. After you feel confident at the most advanced level...start putting a couple of potatoes in the sacks.
    Whether attempting to grow stronger or smarter, it is necessary to challenge yourself, to raise the bar of expectation beyond its current level. What applies in the quest for physical and intellectual improvement is relevant also for spiritual improvement. If you want to make progress, though, the question to ask and to answer periodically is: Are you Working Up to Your Ability?

    During the mid-first century, the reform movement called the church that had begun in Israel is facing turmoil and confusion. Stirrings of revolt against Rome place Jews, including followers of Jesus, in the uncomfortable position of having to take a side in the coming conflict. In addition to political uncertainty, there is religious uncertainty. Belief in Jesus is only one of several ideologies vying for people's attention, and the competition is drawing people away from the truth. In an attempt to bring some clarity to the situation and encourage the faithful, an unnamed author (probably not the apostle Paul) writes a letter to his fellow messianic Jews, addressing these concerns and exhorting his readers to remain steadfast in their commitment. He begins by contrasting the superiority of Jesus with one of the alternative belief systems in circulation, a religious aberration that advocates worshipping angels.1 Then, at the end of chapter 5, he warns his readers about the danger of spiritual stagnation, how their failing to grow in the faith could lead to their falling awayfrom the faith. He says to them,
    Do not get stuck on this false notion about angels, uncertain about whether or not to invest time and effort in proper spiritual growth. There is much more to knowing God than what you have learned thus far, but you are not ready to receive it, because you have not implemented what you have already been shown. You could be much farther along, but you are not Working Up to Your Ability.
    Please turn to Hebrews 5.

    Having just finished giving a detailed explanation of Jesus' part in God's program, using the analogy of the high priest's earthly role to illustrate the savior's heavenly role, the author says that he can go no further because his readers are not ready. He says to them...

    I. You are slow to learn (Heb 5:11-12).
    Heb 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!
    These are not new converts who have only recently come to recognize Jesus as the messiah. They have been believers long enough to learn more than the basics of the faith. In fact, the author admonishes them...
    A. You should be teachers
    • ...at least of elementary material!2
    This is a strong statement to make, because not everyone is cut out to be a teacher,3 yet the author is not necessarily speaking in the formal sense of standing before a classroom. People can teach informally the basic truths they have learned about God, communicating with others one-on-one. That is probably what the author means, but that is not happening among the recipients of this letter. Quite the contrary, far from being teachers, the author says...
    B. You still are students
    • ...in need of elementary review.
    Despite the fact that they have been believers in Jesus for some time, they have not advanced their understanding beyond the most rudimentary information.4 In fact, they have stopped learning, and now what they once did know is in jeopardy of being lost.5

    Thursday, January 12, 2017

    When the Lord Reacts (Amos 5:16-9:15)

    ADMONITIONS FROM AMOS:
    When the Lord Reacts (Amos: 5:16-9:15)
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2000

    People who live in close contact are often aware of others' vulnerabilities. Kids, for example, know how to tease their siblings. They know just what button to push to get a reaction. My brother was particularly adept at this with our younger sister. At the dinner table, he had only to glance in her direction, and she would invariably whine: "Mom, he's lookin' at me. Tell him to stop." This ability to get a rise out of others is not confined to families but is also possible with total strangers.
    While Bill and Tom were drinking coffee in an all-night café, they got into a discussion about the difference between irritation, aggravation, and frustration. At about one a.m., Bill said to Tom, "I'll show you an example of irritation." He went to the pay phone, put in a coin, and dialed a number at random. It rang several times. Finally, a sleepy voice answered, and Bill said, "I'd like to speak to Jones." "There's no one here named Jones," the disgruntled man replied and hung up the phone. "That," Bill said to Tom, "is a man who is irritated." An hour later, at two a.m., Bill dialed the same number and let it ring. Eventually, the same sleepy voice answered. "May I please speak with Jones?" Bill asked. "There's no one here named Jones!" the man replied angrily and a bit louder as he hung up. "That," Bill said to Tom, "is a man who is aggravated." An hour later, at three a.m., Bill said, "Now I'll show you an example of frustration." He dialed the same number again and let it ring. When the sleepy man answered, Bill said, "Hi, this is Jones.... Have there been any calls for me?" (Adapted from Wright 1985:27)
    To some extent, the prophets use a similar strategy to get a rise out of their audience, to make them pay attention to the message, as Amos does in describing When the Lord Reacts.

    The prophets' books are generally compressed accounts of their work, with little indication of how often they actually spoke or of how long they ministered.1 Amos opens with a call for Israel to repent, warning of dire consequences if the people exceed the limit of God's patience. Does the first half of Amos represent a day, a week, or a month of prophetic activity? How many people did his message reach? Amos probably did not present the material in a single session but spread it out over several days in order to reach as large an audience as possible. This gave his listeners opportunities to ask questions and to discuss his warnings. It also gave opponents the chance to argue against him.

    At some point, however, the time for repentance runs out and, in the second half of the book, Amos relates a change in God's attitude as the people continue to reject God's appeal, so that...

    I. When the LORD reacts, it means the people have sinned.

    The fundamental reason for God's displeasure remains the same...
    A. The chosen have rejected His precepts.
    Because they have heard this before, Amos varies the way he talks about the problem. He uses the "woe". This is not a familiar form to us. Today, when someone says, "Woe is me," it is to elicit sympathy for an unfortunate turn of events. Woe is me...
    • I lost my job.
    • The car died.
    • My girlfriend dumped me.
    Admittedly, if all that happened at once, you probably would feel sorry for him. In the prophets, though, the term has a different meaning, unfamiliar to us but quite familiar to the people of their day. It may include commiseration—It is too bad that happened—but it stresses condemnation. The people are behaving in a way that is self-destructive. They have brought misfortune upon themselves.
    • I lost my job because I kept slacking off.
    • The car died because I never checked the oil.
    • My girlfriend dumped me because I was dating her sister on the side.
    Knowing the reason for another's adversity can alter the way we look at his situation and change our evaluation, from "that's unfortunate" to "that's what he deserves." Amos wants his audience to realize that whatever adversity they experience is only what they deserve.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017

    "Seek me and live" (Amos 1:1-5:15)

    ADMONITIONS FROM AMOS:
    When the Lord Roars (Amos 1:1-5:15)
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2000

    Among the increasing number of educational toys on the market today are several that make use of the latest technology. As with any such gadget, though, they are only as good as their programming.
    Matthew's mother was watching her five-year-old work on his Speak-and-Spell computer. He was concentrating intensely, typing words for the computer to say back to him. When Matthew keyed the word God, to his surprise, the computer said, "Word not found." He tried again and received the same reply. With great disgust, he stared at the computer and told it in no uncertain terms, "God is not going to like this!" (Adapted from Rowell 1996:79)
    The computer did not have God in its vocabulary. It is worse, however, for a nation not have God in its society, for then there is little restraint on behavior, and people think they can act as they please no matter what the consequence for others. That is a situation God likes even less. It is also what Amos faces as he travels north to relay the divine evaluation When the LORD Roars.

    The tension that followed the division of Solomon's kingdom into north and south eventually dissipated as the rulers of Israel and Judah learned it was better not to be at each other's throats all the time. The peace they established allowed each country to concentrate on its own domestic interests and to establish a measure of economic prosperity. As one commentator notes, however, the prosperity of the Northern Kingdom did not extend to all its citizens.
    Affluence, exploitation and the profit motive were the most notable features of the society which Amos observed and in which he worked. The rich were affluent enough to have several houses apiece (Amos 3:15), to go in for rather ostentatiously expensive furniture (Amos 6:4) and not to deny themselves any bodily satisfaction (Amos 3:12; 4:1; 6:6). On the other hand the poor were really poor and were shamelessly exploited: they suffered from property rackets (Amos 2:6, 7), legal rackets (Amos 5:10, 12) and business rackets (Amos 8:5) and the defenseless man with no influence came off worst every time. When the poor could not contribute to the rich they were simply ignored and left to be broken (Amos 6:6). Moneymaking and personal covetousness ruled all: the men lived for their offices (Amos 8:5), the women lived for excitement (Amos 4:1), the rulers lived for frivolity (Amos 6:1-6) (Motyer 1975:15).
    This was the Northern Kingdom in the first half of the eighth century B .C. Both Israel under King Jeroboam II and Judah under King Uzziah experienced a period of growth while their common enemy, Assyria, turned elsewhere. Control over the trade routes and economic expansion provided a new wealth that overshadowed the values of a traditionally agricultural society. With affluence came a self-sufficiency that lessened the need to seek the direction of the LORD. This did not mean that religion was declining. On the contrary, people thronged the temples at Dan and Bethel.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2017

    Satan and his angels

    THE ORIGIN OF THE OPPOSITION
    Material excerpted from the Angelology unit of A Reader's Digest Approach to Theology
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2010

    The Bible says little about the origin of Satan and his minions, except that angels were originally good, but some sinned.
    2 Pet 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;
    Eph 6:11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
    Jude 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.
    An angelic fall does not appear in the Bible. (Peter and Jude mention the event but offer few details.) Some think Isaiah 14 refers to Satan's rebellion, but the context of the passage is a "taunt against the king of Babylon" (Isa 14:4).
    Isa 14:12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." 15 But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.
    Others have seen a similar reference in Ezekiel 28, where context again identifies the passage as "a lament concerning the king of Tyre" (v. 12a). The language, however, is quite specific and may allude to a well-known tradition.
    Ezek 28: 12b 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
    This is not as much information as we might like about the origin of the opposition, but it is apparently what information God thinks we need.

    For a pdf see here.

    Monday, January 9, 2017

    The Name

    DIVINE TITLES AND THE NAME
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2007

    Christians tend to be rather indiscriminate in the way they refer to God, especially in prayer. They call Him God, Lord, Father, often without intending any difference, as if the words were completely synonymous. Sometimes this imprecision in speech exposes imprecise thinking as well, particularly when people begin a sentence addressed to God the Father and end it addressing God the Son, without any indication that they are talking to another person.

    The biblical writers, on the other hand, usually (perhaps always) made a distinction between the various ways of referring to deity, because the connotation of the divine name or of a particular title supported the point they were trying to make.

    I. Divine Titles
    A. God (Elohim + Elah)
    1. Usage
    • Inclusive—true or false deity
    Exod 20:1 And God spoke all these words.... 3 "You shall have no other gods before me.
    Ps 86:8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.... 10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.
    Dan 1:2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
    2. Connotation
    • Power
    Ps 68:34 Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies. 35 You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!

    Sunday, January 8, 2017

    Marking what the Lord has done

    DIVINE EPITHETS
    (Geographic Nouns)
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

    In addition to the name of God and the most common titles He bears, there are times when God's people experience His intervention in their lives and underscore the significance of that divine involvement by coining a new title, one that expresses the particular way the LORD acts. Often these titles are made by joining the divine name to a descriptive word or phrase. Several such combinations become names of places that commemorate something He did there. In each case, the title describes a God involved in the lives of His people.

    In Genesis 22, Abraham and his son Isaac were ascending Mt. Moriah to worship the LORD. On the way, the boy asked a pertinent question: "The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" To which Abraham replied, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." (Gen 22:7b-8a); literally, "God will see [to it]." God, of course, did provide (ram), and this experience so impressed Abraham that he used his earlier response to Isaac to name the place (although with one change): "The LORD sees", because the LORD saw and provided.

    In Exodus 17, the Amalekites attack Israel, as God's people make their way through the wilderness. The Israelite soldiers need encouragement in battle, some indication that He who brought them out of Egypt is still with them. Moses stands on a nearby hill and holds aloft the staff of God, by which he divided the Red Sea. As long as the soldiers could see the staff, the battle went well. If Moses tired and dropped his hands, however, the battle would turn against Israel, so Aaron and Hur support Moses' arms until the Israelites defeat the Amalekites. To commemorate the victory, Moses builds an altar and calls it: The LORD is my battle standard "because [my] hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD" (Exod 17:15-16).

    Saturday, January 7, 2017

    "He who stands firm"

    "CAN A PERSON LOSE HIS SALVATION?"
    An excerpt from the Soteriology unit of A Reader's Digest Approach to Theology
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

    This question is about what theologians call "eternal security." Can a believer, once he is saved, backslide to the point where he becomes unsaved? As with any such question, we must examine what scripture as a whole reveals and allow that comprehensive survey to determine the answer.
    • Christians who say a person cannot lose his salvation appeal to God's sovereignty.
    • God will not allow someone He has redeemed to turn away from Him.
    • Whoever forsakes his commitment to God was never truly saved.
    • Eternal security, according to this view, applies to the whole (all) of those God saves.
    • Were someone to lose his salvation, it would indicate a deficiency in God's ability to keep that person, and we know there is no deficiency in God.
    • Christians who say a person can lose his salvation appeal to man's responsibility.
    • The redeemed must be diligent to maintain his relationship with God.
    • Whoever forsakes his commitment to God will be lost forever.
    • Eternal security, according to this view, applies to the faithful of those God saves.
    • When someone loses his salvation, it indicates a deficiency in man's commitment to God, and we know there is great deficiency in man.
    Although both sides in this debate appeal to scripture for support, sometimes even citing the same texts, a careful examination of what God has revealed does favor one position over the other.

    A common passage for both views is John 10:28-29, where Jesus says about the believer that...

    Friday, January 6, 2017

    As one approved

    OF PREACHING
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

    There is a fallacy among Christians, particularly prevalent among Charismatics but also present among others, that equates spontaneity with spirituality and that assumes what is planned is unspiritual. Those who hold this position regard careful research and revision as hindrances to the leading of God's Spirit, as if only empty minds are attuned to the divine muse. While God can certainly direct people without any effort on their part or redirect them at the last moment, His more common method is to work through their careful examination of what He has already revealed. This is especially so for those who presume to speak for Him, which is why Paul admonishes Timothy...1
    2 Tim 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
    In this passage, Paul speaks about the two elements in the preacher's task: preparation and presentation. His initial imperative, "Do your best" is the antithesis of spontaneity and is a term that appears in other exhortations.2 Only by devoting himself to diligent preparation will Timothy meet with God's approbation.3

    I lay no claim to being a great preacher. I am neither eloquent, nor do I possess a ready wit. My mind moves ponderously, at times haltingly, in an attempt to find the most efficient means of making a particular point. Consequently, I speak from a manuscript rather than from an outline. This is a deliberate method, for it keeps me to the task at hand and allows me to fashion precise wording.4 One criticism I have received is that I do not rely on the Spirit's leading when I am in the pulpit. When I press for a more specific description of how such guidance would be manifest, the individual is usually unable to articulate what is essentially a vague impression. ("I can't explain it, but I know it when I see it.") For many, it seems "leading of the Spirit" is synonymous with "shooting from the hip," and some preachers are, indeed, adept at the latter.5 By this, I assume people mean that I am not spontaneous, which is certainly an accurate observation. For me, the Spirit's guidance comes first and foremost in my preparation, directing my research, exposing the biblical author's thought, and shaping the structure of the sermon. While I attempt to remain sensitive to any redirection the Spirit might indicate as I present the message, if I have been attentive to his leading from the start, there will be little change at the end.

    Thursday, January 5, 2017

    Tithes

    TITHING: A MATTER OF PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2010

    The tithe was a recognized amount in the Ancient Near East, the appropriate percentage to give a priest or king.
    Gen 14:20 "And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
    Heb 7:2a and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.... 4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.... 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham,
    Jacob either follows his grandfather's example or the custom in his day.
    Gen 28:22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.
    After the exodus, the tithe becomes a requirement for Israel in the land. Moreover, the tithe's association with the sanctuary made it "holy to the LORD" and unsuitable for secular use. If, subsequent to its dedication, an Israelite wished to use his tithe for some other purpose, he could buy it back at a twenty percent mark-up.
    Lev 27:30 A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. 31 If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. 32 The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod—will be holy to the LORD.
    This requirement was, in part, to support the Levites, who had no inheritance in the land (although they could purchase property). The Levites then tithed as well to support the priesthood (cf. Neh 13:5 below).

    Wednesday, January 4, 2017

    Prayer (Dan 10:1-14)

    THE VALUE OF PRAYER (Dan 10:1-14)
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2003

    Some people are always on the lookout for bargains. They rarely pay full price for anything, because they know it must be available somewhere else for less.
    A young blonde was vacationing in the depths of Louisiana and wanted a pair of genuine alligator shoes in the worst way, but she refused to pay the high prices local vendors were asking. After becoming frustrated with the "no haggle" policy of one shopkeeper, she turned in a huff to leave. "Maybe I'll just catch my own alligator, so I can get a pair of shoes at a reasonable price!" she said. "Go right ahead," the shopkeeper replied. "Maybe you'll catch a big one!" Determined, the blonde headed for the swamps. Later that day, as the shopkeeper was heading home, he spotted the young woman standing waist deep in the water, shotgun in hand, as a huge nine-foot alligator swam quickly toward her. She took aim, shot the creature, and with a great deal of effort hauled it onto the bank, where several more carcasses lay nearby. Amazed, the shopkeeper watched her flip the alligator on its back, then heard her mutter, "Darn...this one isn't wearing shoes either!"
    We are always on the look out for a good value, not just at the store but in many areas of life. We want the way we spend our money, our time, and our energy to be worthwhile.

    Sometimes the benefit we derive is immediately evident, in which case we are ready to make whatever investment is needed. At other times, the return is either not immediate or not obvious, in which case, we may be less enthusiastic about committing ourselves or our resources. Prayer fits into that second category. We often do not see the result right away and sometimes not at all, which makes us reluctant to devote much effort to it. To stimulate our thinking about The Value of Prayer, I would like us to consider the example of Daniel.1

    Tuesday, January 3, 2017

    A reasonable faith (1 Cor 15:1-8)

    IS IT REASONABLE TO BE A CHRISTIAN? (1 Cor 15:1-8)
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

    We humans pride ourselves in being the most intelligent species on the planet. Then something happens to test that assumption.
    A man went to visit a friend and was amazed to find him playing chess with his dog. He watched the game in astonishment for a while. "I can hardly believe my eyes!" he exclaimed. "That's the smartest dog I've ever seen." "Nah, he's not so smart," the friend replied.... "I've beaten him three games out of five."
    We humans pride ourselves in being the most intelligent species on the planet. Be that as it may, it is important to base our beliefs on what accords with reason. So, Is It Reasonable to Be a Christian?

    Just before going away to college, I met a Jewish believer in Jesus who challenged me to review several doctrinal issues (e.g., Shabbat), which is what I did during my freshman and sophomore years. He has no idea what he started, because as I dug deeper, I realized that some of what I believed rested on uncertain supports. That is, if someone had asked me to justify elements of my belief system, I would have been hard-pressed to comply. I had no problem with the existence of God—my experiences had confirmed that—or even with possibility of the miraculous; but I began seriously to ask about an item I had previously accepted without question: Is Christianity right?

    A woman mentioned to me once that the reason she did not give Christianity serious consideration until she was an adult was because while she was growing up, the prevailing opinion of those around her was that intelligent people are not Christians. My upbringing was just the opposite, since both my parents were Christians. So for me, it was not until adulthood that I asked the question: Is It Reasonable to Be a Christian?

    I had to know. Having left New York to attend Bible college so that I could eventually teach in this area, it was not something I could put off; and the whole point of being in school was to think about such things. So I dismantled my theological system and sifted through the pieces, searching for some reliable core around which I could reformulate my beliefs. I knew that I would have to be honest with my findings, no matter where they led me; but I must admit that I approached the process with some apprehension.

    Monday, January 2, 2017

    What does the future hold? (2 Thess 2:1-15)

    FIRST THINGS FIRST (2 Thess 2:1-15)
    Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

    Given a list of options, we decide which we should do or which we should do first, often depending on what we think is more or less pleasant.
    Jeff's whole family—his sisters, their husbands, and their children—had gathered to welcome his newborn son. Nieces Sarah and Jessica, both five, began to squabble over who would get to hold the baby first. Jeff's mother, with her years of wisdom, suggested they sit side by side and both hold the baby. Not to be outdone, and knowing that babies do not come fully trained, Sarah piped up and said, "Okay...but I want the end with the head on it!"
    New experiences often require new decisions, whether how to hold a newborn or how to process information about Jesus' return. When Paul addressed converts in the church at Thessalonica, he had to advise them that some views had priority over other views, and that they should be sure to put First Things First.

    On his second missionary journey, Paul visited the seaport city of Thessalonica in Macedonia and founded a church there. Sometime later, he sent Timothy to check on the progress of those believers. Later, Timothy met Paul in Corinth and reported that they were doing well but were facing difficult tests of their new faith from pagan neighbors and even from others who were teaching peculiar notions about Jesus' return. Some were claiming that those who die before the Second Coming will have no part in the Messianic Age. ("If ya snooze, ya lose."1) Paul responds in his first letter to the church that those who die in the Lord will actually be among the first to meet him. Others were claiming that the Day of the Lord had already come (or had already begun), and the Thessalonian believers had missed it. Paul responds in his second letter that certain events must precede Jesus' return, and those events have not yet happened. This is not new information for the Thessalonians, but in the confusion of conflicting views Paul reiterates his previous instruction and exhorts them...

    I. Retain what you know about Jesus' return (2 Thess 2:1-4).
    2 Thess 2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. [Notice that Paul equates "the day of the Lord" with Jesus' return and with "our being gathered to him." They are all part of the same series of events.] 3 Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
    Whatever the purported source of these rumors, whether a spirit-inspired utterance by the apostle, a conversation with Paul, or a letter from him,2 he assures these believers that the information they are hearing is not true and that they should give those ideas no credence.
    A. Do not let false reports disturb you, despite their alleged authority.
    • The Day of the Lord has not already come.
    The pressure they are experiencing from the pagan community to renounce their faith and return to the fold of idolatry is heightening their sense of urgency that God must soon provide relief. Surely, nothing more needs to happen before He sends Jesus back to judge the wicked! "Perhaps the Day of the Lord has come (or has begun), and we've missed it!"3 Paul writes...
    B. Do not let false beliefs deceive you, despite their apparent urgency.
    • The man of lawlessness must first be revealed.
    Who is this man of lawlessness, and what will he do to precipitate the end that is worse than what anyone else has done? Paul lists three offenses in v. 4 that make this individual's rebellion so utterly heinous

    Sunday, January 1, 2017

    Heroes

    EIGHT WHO DARED: HEROES FROM THE BIBLE
    Dr. Paul Manuel—1997


    Table of Contents1

    Introduction
    I.  Joshua: Who dared to conquer Canaan
    II.  Jael: Who dared to oppose Sisera
    III.  Gideon: Who dared to defeat Midian
    IV.  Elijah: Who dared to confront Baal
    V.  Josiah: Who dared to reform Judah
    VI.  Esther: Who dared to approach Ahasuerus
    VII.  Peter: Who dared to welcome Cornelius
    VIII.  Paul: Who dared to visit Jerusalem

     HollywoodSquares

     Bibliography

     Endnotes
    For a pdf including Bibliography and Endnotes (55 PAGES) see here.