Monday, March 13, 2017

Why try God?

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Islam, Judaism and Christianity

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


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

A. Its Inception

B. Its Expansion

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

A. The Pillars of Islam

B. The Authority of Islam

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

   Frame: Jews and Christians under Islamic Rule 10

A. Why do Muslims hate Jews?

   Frame: Differences between the Quran and the Old Testament 11

   Frame: Differences between the Quran and the New Testament 12


Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Love that dominates (1 Cor 13)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Love that defines (John 13:34-35)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

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

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

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Love that discriminates (Ps 97:10)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Love that decides (Mic 6:6-8)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

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

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

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

Friday, March 3, 2017

Love that dedicates (Deut 6:4-6)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

What are you worth? That probably depends on whom you ask. Your mother would probably give a different answer than your boss, who would give a different answer than a person who does not know you. Discovering someone's opinion about you can be elevating or deflating.
Early one morning, a woman made a mad dash out of the house when she heard the garbage truck pulling away. She was still in an old bathrobe and beat-up slippers, her hair wrapped in curlers and her face covered with sticky cream. In short, she was a frightful sight. "Wait," she called. "Am I too late for the garbage?" ..."No," came the reply.... "Hop right in." (Adapted from Hodgin 1994:26)
Thankfully, God views us as worth keeping. How do we regard His worth, and how do we demonstrate that view?

Our previous sermon series noted that the divine attribute of love has always been an important part of God's relating to man. It is a consistent and persistent thread that wends its way through scripture, from the first collection of biblical books to the last. It is also not one-sided. Just as God has extended His love to us, so He expects us to reciprocate. This, too, is a thread that wends its way through scripture, from the first collection of biblical books to the last. So, from Great Expressions of God's Love, we turn next to Great Expectations of Man's Love, exploring how we are to make this divine attribute our own attribute. As before, we will select an example of what God expects from each of the main biblical collections.
  • From the Law: Love that Dedicates (Deut 6:4-6)
  • From the Prophets: Love that Decides (Mic 6:6-8)
  • From the Writings: Love that Discriminates (Ps 97:10)
  • From the Gospels: Love that Defines (John 13:34-35)
  • From the Epistles: Love that Dominates (1 Cor 13)
When God's people finally reach the eastern border of Canaan, forty years after a failed attempt to take the land from the south, Moses addresses a new generation of Israelites. Unlike the previous generation, they will trust and obey the Lord to help them conquer the region He had promised them. Moses knows, however, that they are not much different from their forefathers and that they will fail God if they do not remain vigilant in their devotion to Him. On the plains of Moab, along the eastern shore of the Jordan River, Moses gives a brief summary of their history, then launches into an extensive review of the law they received from God at Sinai, forty years earlier (hence, the name of this book: Deuteronomy, or "second law"). In chapter 5, Moses prefaces his law review with the Reader's Digest version of torah, the ten-point, representative summary of the 613 commandments God gave Israel. Before Moses recounts the complete list, he inserts an exhortation in chapter 6 explaining why they should obey.1 It is one of the Great Expectations of Man's Love—Love that Dedicates. Please turn to Deut 6, where Moses tells the people that...

I. Israel must have a singular appreciation of the LORD (v. 4).
Deut 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
For many Jews, this is the single most important verse in the Old Testament.2 It is called "The Shema," because that is the verse's first word in Hebrew:
"The Shema" is both a declaration of faith in and a pledge of allegiance to the one true God. It is part of the regular morning and evening prayers, part of the Sabbath and holiday liturgies. It is the first verse a Jewish child learns and is among the last words a Jew may utter before his death.3

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

About Mormonism

pdf (29 pages)
Dr. Paul Manuel—1990

I. History
A. Founder—Joseph Smith
1. His early years
a. Joseph Smith was born December 23, 1805 in Sharon, VT to Joseph and Lucy Smith, the third child of five brothers and three sisters (PGP Smith 2:3-4), and moved to Palmyra, NY in 1815 (PGP Smith 2:7).
b. He dabbled in the occult by employing divination (e.g., magical "peek" stones) in a persistent search for Captain Kidd's treasure (Martin 1977:50).
c. He was confused by denominationalism, struggling with apparent discrepancies, and was impressed by reading James 1:5 (PGP Smith 2:915).1
Jms 1:5 But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
2. His visions
a. In 1820 Smith saw God the Father and God the Son, who counseled against any denominational affiliation, condemning each group as wrong—"an abomination" (PGP Smith 2:16-19).
b. In 1823 he saw the angel Moroni, who informed Smith of the location [Hill Cumorah] of book of golden plates containing "the fulness of the everlasting Gospel" and commissioned Smith to translate the book with the aid of "two stones in silver bows...the Urim and Thummim," buried with the plates (PGP Smith 2:30-43, 51).
c. In 1827 Smith again saw Moroni, who permitted him to remove the plates from their hiding place (PGP Smith 2:59).
3. His translation
a. Smith began translating the plates in 1829 from "reformed Egyptian," aided by Oliver Cowdery (PGP Smith 2:66-69; BM Morm 9:32).
b. He completed the translation within two months (Richards 1978:71) and returned the plates to Moroni (PGP Smith 2:60).
c. He published the first English edition of the Book of Mormon in 1830 (BM publishing information page).