Category Archives: Article

Madera Bible Institute announces new study

New study to begin on October 5 at 6:45 p.m.: sibi class

The Case for Historic Christianity A Study in Historical Christian Evidences

(October – December 2015 study at Madera Bible Institute)

Teacher: Edward C. Wharton

In this volume, Wharton establishes the historical trustworthiness of the New Testament as the foundation upon which the claims for the resurrection and deity of Jesus are sustained.

Included is a brief examination of liberal criticism’s view of Christ and the New Testament.

(The latest edition has added a chapter on canonicity.)

1.  Jesus and History
2.  The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, Part I
3.  The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, Part II
4.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Part I – Evidence from the Tomb
5.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Part II – The Pentecost Phenomenon
6.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Part III – The Apostles’ Testimony
7.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Part IV – The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus
8.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Part V – Evidence from Paul’s Epistles
9.  Jesus, the Man of Destiny
10. Jesus in the Context of Miracles
11. The Canonicity Factor
12. The Value of the Critical View of the Bible

The classes are held every two weeks from 7:00-8:30  p.m. There is a charge for the study manual, which includes postage. For more information, contact: Gary Davenport at 559-273-2383 or

SIBI Satellite Schools are simply groups of people who gather where they live to study God’s word using materials from Sunset External Studies.  Those who participate receive Biblical teaching from the excellent instructors at SIBI via video and audio courses. These professional courses are packaged with relevant reading materials as well as associated study guides.

Located in church buildings and homes across the USA and around the world, Satellite Schools allow people the opportunity to study God’s word in depth with excellent instruction adapted to their schedule and circumstances. It is not necessary for a person to uproot his or her family or to raise support in order to participate in a Satellite School.  This cost-effective method of study allows a student to study part-time and still continue with his or her normal daily activities.


Satellite Schools serve the purpose of training church leaders and spokesmen where they are without requiring relocation to the residence school in Lubbock. However, just as importantly, they also meet the needs of a grass roots movement of individual Christians who desire to be more effective servants in the kingdom strengthened by deeper Bible knowledge. The rapid growth in this ministry illustrates how effective this tool has become to hundreds of Christians seeking in-depth Bible knowledge. The statistics reported below demonstrate this fact.

Activity & Growth

satschool_map_02.pngSatellite Schools have been started in 46 states and in 20 foreign countries (some countries having several schools) with an estimated student body of 2,000+ audit and credit students.  New schools are being added on a regular basis contributing to this dynamic growth.

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Posted by on October 5, 2015 in Article


A Father’s Love!” Psalm 121

Presentation1There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

Happy fathers’ day!Nationally, we celebrate five holidays that honor either family members or the family as a unit. Valentine’s day is a day for all people who are in love. But it is a day of special significance for wives and husbands. Mother’s day exists to honor mothers. Father’s day exists to honor fathers. And Thanksgiving and Christmas have become two of the most important family days of the entire year.

  • A successful father (by that I specifically mean a man who is successful as a father) is one of the most remarkable persons in our society.
  • What is a successful father? Are we talking about the perfect parent? No. Successful fathers are imperfect parents who acknowledge and accept responsibility for their mistakes.
  • Successful fathers are comfortable in accepting the fact that they are not super human, are not always right, and do make mistakes.
  • A successful father loves his children. He communicates his love with words, kindness, fairness, and touch.
  • He builds and nurtures relationships with his children rather than assuming the role of an authoritarian.
  • He dares to accept the challenge to communicate with his children in the knowledge that communication is a hard and often painful art to learn.
  • He is kind even when his children exploit him. He is fair in all his discipline.He seeks influence, not control. He literally loves his children enough to want them to make their mistakes while they are at home. Then he can in love and forgiveness help them recover and learn from their mistakes.
  • He knows that it is impossible to program a child to live his or her life in the ways that he as the parent chooses. But he also knows that he can live as a positive force in his children’s hearts even after he dies.

A Dad Is …

A dad is a mender of toys, A leader of boys.

He’s a changer of fuses, A healer of bruises

He’s a mover of couches, A soother of ouches.

He’s a pounder of nails, A teller of tales.

He’s a dryer of dishes, A fulfiller of wishes

Bless him, O Lord.  – Jo Ann Heidbreder


“I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? {2} My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. {3} He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; {4} indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. {5} The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; {6} the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. {7} The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; {8} the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Sometimes we want to put on a front; we want others to think everything is okay and we are in control; we don’t want their pity, or curiosity, or disrespect. A mask of courage, a facade of strength, a pretense of power may well fool others around us and protect our image.

But our sighing is not hidden from God! Our way is not hidden from Him! He has not failed to take notice! He has not drifted off into disinterested sleep.

Psalms 121:4:

(Psa 121:4)  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

God sees, God knows, and God cares.  Let’s make it personal here. Let’s bring this into life:

  • You may be weighted down with debt and financial pressures. God knows all about that and has promised to meet all your needs.
  • You may be struggling with a deep-seated sense of failure and frustration. God is aware of it and cares.
  • You may be weak in some moral area of life and may be struggling with temptation to sin. God sees it.
  • You may be grappling with some personal relationship. Maybe you are at odds with a parent, or a sibling, or one of your children, or a friend. You want to reconcile, but you are having a difficult time. God recognizes your weakness.
  • You may be weak spiritually right now. You just can’t seem to pray with power; you read the bible and forget it as soon as you close it; you have to force yourself to come to worship; your witness has dried up. God perceives the problem, and cares.

In all our weakness, in all our struggles, in all our futility, he speaks to us as He did to the disciples in Gethsemane:

(Mat 26:41)  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

The wonderful invitation still sounds out, still waits our RSVP:

(Mat 11:28)  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

If you’re struggling, He invites you to come to Him for rest. So, let me tell you a secret about a father’s love, you see, father’s don’t just love their children every now and then, it’s a love without end, even when we are weak, amen!


(Psa 37:23-24)  If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; {24} though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

Our strength fails us; our foot slips. Sometimes we suffer the weakness of the flesh, and we sin. We disobey. We fall

Those of us who have watched our own children struggle to walk also watched them fall. They’d take a teetering step or two and then topple over, but we’d be there to take them by the hand. Or later, when they were learning to ride a bicycle or to roller skate, they’d take a spill or two.

That’s part of the learning procedure. But when they fell, we were there to pick them up. We didn’t kick them; we didn’t berate them; we didn’t disown them. Nor does our Father! He lifts us! He stabilizes us.

 “…who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy”

But when that inevitable fall comes, God is there to lift us and to encourage us and to help us. So, let me tell you a secret about a father’s love, you see, father’s don’t just love their children every now and then, it’s a love without end, even when we fall, amen!


God has given us unfailing promises

(Gen 28:15)  I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

(Exo 33:14)  The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

(Deu 31:6)  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

(1 Chr 28:20)  David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.

Jesus promised his disciples: (John 14:18)  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

We sing the truth, let’s believe and live by it:

“He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am his own!”

“No, never alone, no never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.”

So, let me tell you a secret about a father’s love, you see, father’s don’t just love their children every now and then, it’s a love without end even if He has to carry us to the finish!

You can have that love today if you put faith in Jesus Christ and obey Him as Lord. And when you cross the finish, everyone in heaven will rise and cheer. You won’t win the gold medal, however, but something infinitely more valuable and desirable; you will receive a crown of life. That is the promise of the one who brings us love without end, amen!

Some what are some of the qualities of a great dad?

1.  A great dad treats the mother of his children with adoration and respect.  Little children see it all! Nothing gets by them.  They see the contemptuous looks and they hear the words that drip with sarcasm. The way you treat their mother, impacts the way they will treat others later on.

2.  A great dad is moral, even when his children are not looking.  A great dad realizes that an immoral lifestyle impacts his children whether they ever know the details or not.  After all, his character is slowly being diminished.

3.  A great dad shows his children what it means to love the Lord as he allows them to see his heart and life each day. Children don’t grow up loving God simply because they’ve seen Dad sing loudly at church.  Rather, they grow up loving God because they have seen how the Lord has impacted his life.

4.  A great dad lives his own life and deals with his own issues himself.  He doesn’t use and manipulate his children into thinking that they must somehow make their daddy happy.

5.  A great dad behaves like a grown up.  It is true that parents can be friends to their children.  However, more than needing friendship, children need a parent.

6.  A great dad tells the truth.  There is a certain security that children experience when they learn their parents always tell the truth.  However, children who learn that they cannot always count on their parents’ word, grow up wondering they  “really mean it” this time.

7.  A great dad treats his child right – regardless.  A great dad does not allow his moods determine what he says to his children.  A great dad lives by his principles not his emotions.

Build Me a Son, O Lord

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.” -General Douglas MacArthur

An incredible event took place at the Barcelona Olympics of 1992. A runner from Britain, Derek Redmond, had trained for and worked toward and dreamed about winning a gold medal in the 400-meter race. The starting gun sounded in the semifinals and his aspiration seemed attainable. As he ran the race of his life, he could see the finish line as he rounded the turn into the backstretch. Suddenly, Derek felt a sharp pain go up the back of his leg. He ran with difficulty for a few steps and then began to stumble. His father, watching from the stands, became keenly alert to his son’s difficulty. As you and I press on through life, we grow weak and we struggle and we, too, often stumble badly, and our difficulties do not escape the attention of our Father.

Derek was struggling, and his father was watching from the stands. The pain in Derek’s leg was the result of a torn right hamstring. He tried to run, but stumbled and fell face first onto the track and winced in agony. As help was approaching, Derek fought to his feet and began hopping toward the finish line in a desperate effort to finish the race. But he had fallen, and was now far behind. Suddenly, his father came out of the stands, brushed aside the security guard and ran to Derek. Putting his arms around his injured son, he helped him stay on his feet. In our weakness, we often stumble; but in that very moment, our Father is there to help.

Derek’s father came to his side and spoke kindly. “You don’t have to do this,” he told his weeping son. “Yes, I do,” Derek said, through clenched teeth. “Then,” said his father, “we’re going to finish this together.” And the two of them pressed on; sometimes Derek’s head was buried in his father’s shoulder, but they stayed in his lane all the way to the finish line. When you are overwhelmed by the hard happenings of life, you will never face them alone. You have the Father by your side.

As Derek and his father crossed the finish line, the crowd rose and cheered and wept. He didn’t win a gold medal at Barcelona, but he walked away with the incredible memory of a father who came to him in his need and helped him finish the race.

This father demonstrates the same kind of imminent, present, caring, helping love God has brought to us in Jesus Christ. He did not remain apart from us in Heaven, He came to us, He identified with us, He brought us love. Love divine, all excelling love, redemptive love, saving love.

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Posted by on June 21, 2015 in Article


“Keeping the Faith” Hebrews 11 Introduction

I appreciate your kind comments these past few weeks as we have worked our way through the first major part of Hebrews.

KEEPING_THE_FAITH_by_ainjhel21_largeIt is sobering to think that we might be sitting in this auditorium with heads of households who might not be faithful to the cause of Christ in coming years…and it moves us to our knees to be prayerful that we can be of help to encourage any who might “lose heart” and fall away.

Those who might move toward this unfaithfulness can lose the spiritual resources they need to make progress in this life..and certainly could miss out on the reward that is waiting at the end of our short time on this earth

The best thing we can do – and the first things we can do – is to be faithful ourselves. To get our priorities straight for those in our households, both physically and spiritually!

To appreciate chapter 11, which we will begin studying soon, we need to see it in its setting in Hebrews. Hebrews 11 was written not just to give us a great chapter on faith, but because faith was what the readers needed.

God’s Prescription For Discouragement Hebrews 11 Introduction

Our world does not encourage us in the direction of God, or Christ, or the Word of God or a “called out body of believers…the church” does it? I hope today and in coming weeks we will be reminded of circumstances in our life (and people) that brought us to that point of conviction and belief that encouraged us to put Christ on in baptism and begin the most wonderful life in this world…and the one to come!

The readers were Jewish Christians who lived in a certain locale, possibly in a predominantly Gentile city. They had started their Christian life with a great deal of enthusiasm. (They were commended in Hebrews 6:10 and 10:32-34.) Then they had become discouraged.

Spiritually, their hands were hanging down and their legs were shaky (Hebrews 12:12). Things had not turned out as they thought they would. It was not easy to be a Christian week after week, month after month, year after year. They were even being persecuted.

On top of this, apparently their fellow Jews had made fun of them, perhaps saying, “Look at our magnificent temple . . . and our high priest in his priestly robes . . . and the smoke of our sacrifices waft­ing heavenward—and you, you have nothing as far as we can see.” As a result, these Jewish Christians were on the verge of giving up.

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NIV) 32  Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.  33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

In the third century A.D., Celsus, a pagan philosopher, carried on a lively debate with Origen, the Christian scholar. The pagan phi­losopher tried to show that Christianity was untrue. He said that Christianity served only the superstitious and the simple-minded.

If there was anything of substance to the Christian faith, Celsus argued, certainly it would have attracted a greater following. He was one of many edu­cated people offended by Christian beliefs. (Do we often feel the same way today? We know only a remnant will be true to the principles set forth by Jesus Christ…but we often wonder…)

If numbers decided who is right before God, who has the largest crowds on the weekends…and on Sundays? I know of some groups that begin meeting on Saturday nights and have 2-3 meetings on Sunday…yet brag that they rarely discuss sin in their assemblies…never talk about hell…and worship in ways contrary to the New Testament pattern.

Before we went to China I heard that there was some 150,000 that followed the teachings of a man who did not believe in God, Christ, or the Bible. I never heard of this person, and I am thankful there are many thousands in the country that have a firm belief in God, are studying the Bible, and are coming to understand the message of Jesus Christ.

   I am personally aware of a baptism in the Ukraine, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and China during the past two weeks.

One characteristic which particularly of­fended ancient people was the Christian de­mand that people have faith in realities that no one could see or experience. The educated Greek required his students to examine all things using reason. They said “faith could too easily become a crutch for the simple-minded who dared not face real­ity. Christianity called for faith in its fol­lowers, so the pagans disdained this reliance on faith.

The old pagan argument seems modern. For many people, the church includes people who believe in a story and in a God who is far re­moved from the real world of their experience.

Scientific advances have made God seem more and more remote from the world. Today’s secu­larism concludes that the real world consists of our homes, our land, and those other material items that give us a sense of security. Indeed, we speak of papers that are locked away in a safe deposit box as our “securities.”

How has that kind of thinking served us during the past .com meltdown? Housing collapse? Stocks and other investments losing 65-90% of their value?

I read a few years back of one of our secular politicians who had earned with his wife in excess of 1 million $$…yet his income tax records of the previous 4 years showed he had given only $507 to charities. Where do you think his priorities were?

Sigmund Freud believed Christianity “was an invention on the part of people who ‘needed’ something in the midst of ‘our uncertainty in our future on this earth.”’

Ted Turner (of CNN, TNT and TBS fame) said “religion was for weak-kneed” or “weak-willed” or “weak-minded” people. He apparently never heard the stories of those we read about in those latter verses of Hebrews 10. Christianity was not a ‘crutch’…it was a firm conviction: because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Faith in the ‘unseen’ was a great difficulty of scholars of the past…this view affects the life of the church today.

1 Corinthians 1:17ff (NIV)
17  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20  Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
22  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23  but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
26  Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29  so that no one may boast before him.
30  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31  Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-16 (NIV)
1  When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3  I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.
4  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5  so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
6  We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
7  No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

Our apathy toward the life of the church is probably the result of the unspoken belief that the real world is somewhere else. If it comes to a choice be­tween our commitment to the church and the world we see, we easily demonstrate which of the two is the real world.

What was the conclusion given, as we finish the verses from Hebrews 10: 35  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
36  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
37  For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay.
38  But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”
39  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

We can imagine, however, an objection: We do believe, and we still are having all these prob­lems. So the writer of Hebrews begins to talk about what real faith is in chapter 11.

  • The sluggishness of the original readers of Hebrews was probably the result of a conviction that faith was impossible because they could not see or touch its reality. Frustration set in when the promises were not immediately fulfilled.
  • Perhaps the fact that Christianity had turned out to be a long pilgrimage or a distance run had unsettled their convictions and left them with the feeling that faith had brought no security. Persecution and imprisonment (10:32-34) had left them at the point of “falling away” and “shrinking back” (10:39).
  • Like Esau, they seemed ready to sell their birthright for a single meal from the real world (12:16, 17). The only world apparent to them was the world they could see and touch. The realities of faith had become nothing more than a mirage.

The Faith Chapter

The first part of chapter 11 is on the descrip­tion of faith, and the last part of the chapter is on the demonstration of faith, as the writer uses great examples of faith from the Old Testament.

Notice I said the chapter begins with a descrip­tion of faith. The chapter does not define faith in the full sense of the word. For instance, verse 1 does not mention the object of our faith, and verse 6 does not mention faith in Jesus. To get a complete definition of faith, we have to supple­ment this chapter with Paul’s discussion of faith in Romans and other books.

What the writer is striving to do is show what real faith is, the faith that will enable his readers to take whatever comes—persecutions, ridicule, whatever—and to remain faithful to the end.

As we shall see in the series, this involves several things, but the point I want to stress in this lesson is that real faith has the ability to see the unseeable.

Hebrews 11 stresses that God’s children can see the unseeable but goes a step further as it stresses that what enables us to see the unseeable is our faith. Note these verses:

Faith is . . . the evidence of things not seen (v. 1).

Through faith we understand . . . that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear (v. 3).

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark. . . . (v. 7).

By faith [Abraham] . . . looked for a city [which was spiritual, eternal, invisible] (vv. 9, 10).

[The patriarchs] died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off (v. 13).

By faith [Moses] . . . endured, as seeing him who is invisible (v. 27). (Emphasis mine.)

From these passages, we conclude that “see­ing the unseeable” involves several things:

First is the ability to see the reality of things spiritual and eternal; thus, to see these are of far greater importance than the physical and temporal.

Second is the ability to see the truthfulness of the God-given account of events which occurred when we were not present, and to learn from those events.

Third is the ability to see the cer­tainty of God’s promises, though the fulfillment of those promises may be far in the future.

We also learn that it is by this ability to see the unseeable that we can live the triumphant Christian life. If we can see the invisible, we can do the impossible. To put it another way, if we can see what others cannot see, we can do what others cannot do.

Perhaps most important, however, we learn from these verses what it is that enables us to see the unseeable by the eye of faith: the Word of God, the Word of Him who knows all things and who cannot lie!

The emphasis in this chapter is the same as that of Paul in Romans 10:17: “Faith cometh by hear­ing, and hearing by the word of God.”

It is God who tells us about the things unseeable—and you can, without reservation, totally trust in God and His Word!

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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Article


Sentence Sermon #2 – Words of Salvation

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(Luke 23:43) “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus’ second “last words” were similar to his first in that they were concerned with the forgiveness of sins, this time for the sins of an individual instead of the sins of mankind in total. 

Two robbers were crucified with22b3409e8c14fa32e861468c8770d8eb Jesus.  As they hung on their crosses of death beside Jesus, one of the robbers joined in with the crowds and rebuked Jesus saying, “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  But the other robber immediately rebuked the first saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man had done nothing wrong.”  (Luke 23:39-41).  Then he said, “Jesus remember me when you come in your kingly power.11  (Luke 23:42). 

Full of compassion for the sins of this repentant robber, Jesus speaks the second of his “last words”. Proof again that, despite his bodily afflictions, his mind remained centered on his one purpose in life.

The only thing more outlandish than the request was that it was granted. Just trying to picture the scene is enough to short-circuit the most fanciful of imaginations: a flatnosed ex-con asking God’s son for eternal life? But trying to imagine the appeal being honored, well, that steps beyond the realm of reality and enters absurdity.

But as absurd as it may appear, that’s exactly what happened. He who deserved hell got heaven, and we are left with a puzzling riddle. We need to learn what Jesus intended us to learn from this situation.

While Jesus hung on the cross, He never once uttered a defense. He didn’t yell out, “You’ve got the wrong man. I didn’t commit an offense worthy of death. You are crucifying an innocent man.”

In fact, not only did Jesus utter no defense…none of His disciples protested His persecution. Not one disciple spoke out on Jesus’ behalf. They all remained silent as they watched their friend and teacher suffer intense pain.

Interestingly enough…the only person who spoke out in defense of Jesus was a convicted criminal…a thief…a robber…an unrighteous, sinful man.

We are told in the Bible that while this thief was hanging on a cross next to Jesus, he told the other thief, “this man (talking about Jesus) has done nothing wrong.”

This thief had the courage and the faith to stand up for Jesus. And this impressed Jesus so much that He told the man that he would join Him in paradise. This is a wonderful story.



This condemned unworthy thief received salvation. He didn’t deserve it. In fact, in Matthew’s account of this event, this thief had earlier heaped insults upon Jesus (Matthew 27:44). He had verbally abused and attacked Jesus.  But as this man hung on the cross, his heart softened and he obtained a penitent heart. He wanted Jesus to forgive him…to remember him in the kingdom, which Jesus did.

But I ask you…how in the world could this criminal be saved? He was a convicted robber who was sentenced to death. He had probably been a thief for many years…taking things that did not belong to him. He had lived a sinful life. So how could he receive salvation? He received salvation through the unearned gift of God’s grace. And it is through this wonderful grace that we can be saved as well.


In 1944, Bert Frizen was an infantryman on the front lines in Europe. One day, his patrol reached the edge of a wooded area with an open field before them. Unknown to the Americans, a battery of Germans waited in a trenches about two hundred yards across the field.

Bert was one of two scouts who moved out into the clearing. Once he was halfway across the field, the remainder of his battalion followed. Suddenly the Germans opened fire, and machine gun fire ripped into both of Bert’s legs. The American battalion withdrew into the woods for protection, while a rapid exchange of fire continued.

Bert lay helplessly in a small stream as shots volleyed overhead. There seemed to be no way out. To make matters worse, he now noticed that a German soldier was crawling toward him. Death appeared imminent; he closed his eyes and waited. To his surprise, a considerable period passed without the expected attack, so he ventured opening his eyes again. He was startled to see the German kneeling at his side, smiling. He then noticed that the shooting had stopped. Troops from both sides of the battlefield watched anxiously. Without any verbal exchange, this mysterious German reached down to lift Bert in his arms and proceeded to carry him to the safety of Bert’s comrades.

Having accomplished his self-appointed mission, and still without speaking a word, the German soldier turned and walked back across the field to his own troop. No one dared break the silence of this sacred moment. Moments later the cease-fire ended, but not before all those present had witnessed how one man risked everything for his enemy.

Bert’s life was saved through the compassion of a man whom he considered his enemy.

The undeserved grace that the thief received on the cross is the same grace that is available to us today.  If you have not received this marvelous grace of God, please do so today. To receive salvation, you must believe in Jesus Christ…repent of your sins…confess faith in the Lord…be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins…and live faithfully to the end.


I don’t know for sure, but chances are the thief had not lived his life for God. But while on the cross, He changed. He became a spiritually minded person. The afterlife became important to him. As he was approaching death, he got his life right with God.  Because of his faith in Christ, this thief received salvation although his past was full of sin and unrighteousness.

No matter what we have done in our past, God will accept us and give us another chance if we are willing to follow His will.

God is not interested in what we once were; instead, He is interested in what we can become. Many people in the Bible overcame a turbulent past, and became great and faithful servants of the Lord.

  1. Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, at one time worshipped other gods (Joshua 24:2).
  2. David, the third King of Israel, although he committed adultery, became a man after God’s own heart.
  3. Paul, the great apostle of Jesus Christ, at one time had Christians arrested and killed.

Although at one time these men lived ungodly lives, they were given another chance and eventually they became great servants of the Lord, and so can we. We must forget our past failures and focus on our future successes.

Paul put it this way in (Phil. 3:13-14) “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”


The other thief on the cross-had an opportunity to get his life right with God, however, he chose not to. His life ended without salvation. Maybe if he had a few more years he would have eventually made the decision to follow Christ. But his time ran out.

Our values are messed up. Someone broke into the store and exchanged all the price tags. Thrills are going for top dollar and the value of human beings is at an all-time low.

One doesn’t have to be a philosopher to determine what caused such a sag in the market. It all began when someone convinced us that the human race is headed nowhere. That man has no destiny. That we are in a cycle. That there is no reason or rhyme to this absurd ex­istence. Somewhere we got the idea that we are meaninglessly trapped on a puny mud heap that has no destination. The earth is just a spinning mausoleum and the universe is purposeless. The creation was incidental and humanity has no direction. Pretty gloomy, huh?

The second verse is even worse. If man has no destiny, then he has no duty. No obligation, no responsi­bility. If man has no destiny, then he has no guidelines or goals. If man has no destiny, then who is to say what is right or wrong? Who is to say that a husband can’t leave his wife and family? Who is to say you can’t abort a fetus? What is wrong with shacking up? Who says I can’t step on someone’s neck to get to the top? It’s your value system against mine. No absolutes. No principles. No ethics. No standards. Life is reduced to weekends, paychecks, and quick thrills. The bottom line is disaster.

“The existentialist,” writes existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, “finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to de­pend on within or without himself.”

If man has no duty or destiny, the next logical step is that man has no value. If man has no future, he isn’t worth much. He is worth, in fact, about as much as a tree or a rock. No difference. There is no reason to be here, therefore, there is no value.

And you’ve seen the results of this. Our system goes haywire. We feel useless and worthless. We freak out. We play games. We create false value systems. We say that you are valuable if you are pretty. We say that you are valu­able if you can produce. We say that you are valuable if you can slam-dunk a basketball or snag a pop fly. You are valu­able if your name has a “Dr.” in front of it or Ph.D. on the end of it. You are valuable if you have a six-figure salary and drive a foreign car.

Value is now measured by two criteria, appear­ance and performance.

Pretty tough system, isn’t it? Where does that leave the one challenged mentally? Or the ugly or uneducated? Where does that place the aged or the handicapped? What hope does that offer the unborn child? Not much. Not much at all. We become nameless numbers on mislaid lists.

Now please understand, this is man’s value sys­tem. It is not God’s. His plan is much brighter. God, with eyes twinkling, steps up to the philosopher’s blackboard, erases the never-ending, ever-repeating circle of history and replaces it with a line; a hope filled, promising, slender line. And, looking over his shoulder to see if the clas is watching, he draws an arrow on the end.

In God’s book man is heading somewhere. He has an amazing destiny. We are being prepared to walk down the church aisle and become the bride of Jesus. We are going to live with him. Share the throne with him. Reign with him. We count. We are valuable. And what’s more, our worth is built in! Our value is inborn.

You see, if there was anything that Jesus wanted everyone to understand it was this: A person is worth something simply because he is a person. That is why he treated people like he did. Think about it. The girl caught making undercover thunder with  someone she shouldn’t-he forgave her. The untouchable leper who asked for cleansing–he touched him. And the blind wel­fare case that cluttered the roadside-he honored him. And the worn-out old windbag addicted to self-pity near the pool of Siloam-he healed him!

“Why do you insist that baptism is essential for salvation? While hanging on the cross, Jesus pardoned the thief who was crucified with him. And that forgiveness was granted without baptism (Luke 23:43). Surely this is a clear example of salvation by faith, not by baptism.”

To argue that the example of the thief on the cross is a pattern of salvation today involves: first, an unwarranted assumption; and second, a faulty view of biblical chronology. Here are the basic facts of the case.

When the Lord was crucified, he was positioned between two robbers, both of whom, at some point during the six hours of agony, reproached him (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). The Greek grammar suggests a repeated verbal assault. However, as the ordeal proceeded, a change occurred in one of the thieves. This aspect of the case is recorded by Luke alone (23:38-43).

“And there was also a superscription over him, THIS IS THE KING OFTHE JEWS. And one of the malefactors that were hanged railed on him, saying, Art not thou the Christ? Save thyself and us. But the other answered, and rebuking him said, Dost thou not even fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said, Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom. And he said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

 (1) By comparing Luke’s record with that of Matthew and Mark, it is obvious that there was a change in the man’s view regarding Jesus. Instead of reviling the Lord, he glorified him and petitioned the Savior; and Jesus graciously responded to him.

(2) The penitent thief had a good deal of information concerning Christ; exactly when he learned these facts is not specified.

Note some things about the man’s beliefs.

He acknowledged the existence of God. He believed in a standard of right and wrong, he confessed that he and his companion had transgressed divine law, and he conceded they were being punished “justly.”

He asserted the innocence of Christ. The Teacher had done “nothing amiss.” And remember, the Lord was being crucified for his affirmation of being the “Son of the Blessed One” (Mark 14:61,62). The robber’s statement, therefore, is basically an acknowledgement of the truth of Jesus’ claim.

The penitent thief believed that Christ was a “king,” and that this act of murder would not terminate the Savior’s life; rather, the Lord would “come in [his] kingdom.”

He was confident that Jesus would be able to bless him in that regime. At the very least, these expressions indicate that the thief believed it was possible to have association with the Lord after both of them were dead.

In view of this principle, consider the following facts.

During his personal ministry, Jesus possessed the authority to forgive men’s sins personally and directly, upon whatever terms he chose. For example, once while in the city of Capernaum, the Lord encountered a man who was paralyzed. The unfortunate gentleman had been conveyed to where Christ was by four of his friends. When Jesus saw “their faith,” he said to the palsied man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). Then, in order to establish his “authority” in the matter of personally forgiving sins “on earth” (2:10), Christ healed the man of his malady.

 (2) The fact is, while Jesus was on earth he had the authority to dispense blessings directly based upon the circumstances at hand. At the time of his death, however, his authority was made resident in his testamentary “will” (Hebrews 9:15-17). And the terms of that will specify baptism as a condition of pardon (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21, etc.).

No one has the legal right to eliminate that condition by appealing to something the Lord did while he was implementing his earthly ministry. The heavenly regime takes precedence over the former.

It becomes very apparent, therefore, that those who appeal to the case of the “thief on the cross,” as a specific example for conversion today, are mistaken in several particulars.

(a) They do not comprehend the difference between the Savior’s earthly operations and his current reign from heaven

(b) They have thrust aside the plain demands of the New Covenant economy.

What Happens To A Person At Death?

When the human body dies, it goes back to the dust of corruption (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1) where it remains until the “last day” of earth’s history (John 6:44, 54). At that point it will be raised in a new form, an immortal body (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 10:28; 1 Corinthians 15:54).

The body has been endowed by the Creator with a “soul” or “spirit” — the terms being used interchangeably at times (cf. John 12:27; 13:21). The soul leaves the body at death (Genesis 35:18; cf. James 2:26), and remains in a separate state until the general resurrection. This spirit-state is called Hades (10x NT). Hades comes directly from Greek into English, letter-for-letter. Some derive the term from the negative prefix a (“not”) and eido (“seen”), hence “the unseen,” (i.e., from the earthly vantage point).

In the KJV, the Greek term hades is rendered as “hell,” but this is incorrect. Hades is the generic name for the state of the spirits of the dead, whether righteous or wicked.

Jesus’ spirit was in Hades, elsewhere designated as “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) or “Paradise” (Luke 23:43), while his body lay in the tomb (Acts 2:27).

Likewise, the selfish rich man (mentioned by Christ) was tormented in Hades (Luke 16:23). Most likely, this is the same state as that called “hell,” tartarus, a condition of rebellious angels who are “chained by darkness” (2 Peter 2:4), and reserved until their ultimate deposition in “hell,” gehenna. This state is the final receptacle of all the wicked—both rebel angels (including Satan) and evil humans (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).

At the time of Christ’s return, all bodies will be raised from the dead (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). When the Lord descends from heaven he will bring with him the righteous spirits of those whose bodies “fell asleep” as they died (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16). Hiebert observed: “Those now in heaven in a disembodied state, will Christ bring with him” (1971, 200-201). Elsewhere in this letter the apostle speaks of “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (3:13). Most scholars appear to believe that “saints” embraces angels as well as the redeemed, though the latter is the common meaning in the New Testament. Lenski argues there is “no support” for a reference to angels in this passage (1961, 301; cf. Vincent, 1972, 939). The two texts (3:13; 4:14) certainly complement one another. For more, see below (4).

(Note: The term “sleep” is never used of the soul; only of the body (Daniel 12:2; John 11:11ff).) “Hades” then will surrender its meaning (Revelation 1:18; 20:13-14), since both the righteous and the wicked will be assigned their final destinies—with their incorruptible bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53-54), and immortal souls, reunited (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 10:28; 2 Corinthians 5:1ff).

One must remember, however, that no single text contains the full picture of the disembodied state of human spirits. The complete collection of information must be assembled from various passages, each of which contributes its own deposit of data.

One of these is in Second Corinthians, where Paul affirmed that fourteen years earlier he had been “caught up even to the third heaven” and “into Paradise,” not knowing whether such was “in the body” or “apart from the body” (12:2ff). There is an obvious proximity, or relationship, between the “third heaven” and “Paradise” (cf. Revelation 2:7; 22:2). A number of scholars see the two expressions as synonymous (Hodge, 1860, 282; Barnett, 1997, 562).

One should not argue, therefore, that the Christian who dies will not see Christ until after the resurrection; such denies the testimony of the New Testament, both explicitly and implicitly (Acts 7:59; Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:14b, 16a; 5:10; Revelation 6:9). Let us consider these passages for a moment.

Stephen’s Prayer – Acts 7:59

As Stephen was being stoned, he looked “into heaven” and saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God. Calling on Christ, he petitioned: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Surely he anticipated that his prayer would be answered, just as Jesus did on the brink of his death (Luke 23:46), and that his soul would be with the Lord.

Very Far Better – Philippians 1:23

During his two-year Roman imprisonment (Acts 28), Paul wondered how his appeal to Caesar might go (cf. Acts 25:11). He wasn’t sure (cf. Philippians 2:19-24). Yet of one thing he was certain. If he were executed, his non-earthly state would be “very far better” for he would “be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). The preposition “with” [ syn ] “is not simply spatial proximity to Christ but active communion with Christ” (Harris, 1971, III.1207). Gordon Fee argues that the language “implies a period in which one is with the Lord in ‘body-less’ existence” (1995, 148).

At Home With the Lord – 2 Corinthians 5:8

Similarly, Paul says that when the Christian is “absent from the body,” i.e., his spirit has left his body (and he is dead), he nonetheless is “at home with [ pros ] the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). The preposition pros in this context, as in the case of John 1:1b of the pre-incarnate communion between the Word [Christ] and God, implies a “dynamic interpersonal communion, a settled mutual fellowship” (Harris, op. cit., 1205). A.T. Robertson depicted it as a “face-to-face converse with the Lord … a living relationship, intimate converse” (1919, 625). As another scholar, commenting on Second Corinthians 5:6-8, suggests: “bodily existence is absence from the Lord … full fellowship is possible only” without “this bodily existence” (Grundmann, 1964. II.63-64; emp. WJ). The apostle longed for an “intimate, open, and total relationship with Christ himself” (Melick, 1991, 85).

Noted scholar Charles Hodge, of Princeton Seminary, commented: “The Christian’s heaven is to be with Christ, for we shall be like him when we see him as he is. Into his presence the believer passes as soon as he is absent from the body, and into his likeness the soul is at death immediately transformed; and when at the resurrection, the body is made like unto his glorious body, the work of redemption is consummated” (1860, 123).

Brought With Him – 1 Thessalonians 4:14

In his first letter to the Thessalonian saints, Paul stresses that Christians who have died still enjoy their “in Christ” relationship (4:16b), and that at the time of the Lord’s return, those whose bodies that have “fallen asleep” would be brought “with him” (4:14b) “from heaven” (4:16a). While there is some controversy over the construction of the text (some contending that “with him” refers to an entrance into heaven after the time of the Second Coming), after discussing the options carefully, Hendriksen declares that God “will bring their souls [the righteous] along from heaven [‘with Jesus, from heaven’], so that these may be reunited quickly (in a flash)” with their bodies (1979, 113-114; cf. Morris, 1991, 140).

All faithful saints—the living and the dead—maintain their “with the Lord” experience. Again, as Harris, notes: “The difference between ‘the dead in Christ’ and living Christians is not in their status (‘in Christ’ in both cases), but in the quality of their fellowship with Christ and the degree of their proximity to Christ” (1971, III.1207; emp. WJ).

Saved Unto His Heavenly Kingdom – 2 Timothy 4:18

In his final written words Paul expresses confidence that the Lord “will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). The term “heavenly” is a compound term, literally meaning “in heaven.” George W. Knight says “it appears that Paul is speaking of Christ’s kingdom ‘in heaven’ and saying that when he dies he will be brought safely into that kingdom and remain in it from then on (cf. 1 Thes. 4:13-18)” (1992, 472; cf. Lenski, 1961, 880-881).

Under the Altar – Revelation 6:9

In Revelation 6:9ff John sees a group of souls “underneath the altar”; they had been murdered for the word of God and their testimony. They are distinguished from those on “earth” (v. 10), and the “altar” motif identifies the locale as heaven (8:3, 5; 11:1, 19; 14:15, 18). If there are no souls in heaven, the imagery is baffling. See also the “great multitude” that is “standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (7:9ff; cf. 14:1-4). And, as noted earlier, elsewhere in the book of Revelation the “tree of life,” identified as being in “Paradise” (2:7), is located in heaven (22:2).

As one scholar has observed, with reference to Paul’s discussion of his heavenly journey fourteen years earlier (2 Corinthians 12:1ff):

“Paul’s reference to the vision given him early in his ministry, in which in one instance he says that he was ‘caught up even to the third heaven,’ and in another that he was ‘caught up into Paradise,’ II Cor. 12:2-4, shows that Paradise is to be identified with heaven” (Boettner, 1956, 92).

Would it not be best, therefore, to speak of Hades as a state of disembodied souls (whether righteous or unrighteous), prior to the resurrection, with “Paradise” depicting the state of the righteous in the heavenly realm, though as yet without their new bodies? This view is consistent with the ample evidence of a celestial reward at the point of death. As Prof. Erickson has expressed it:

“On the basis of these biblical considerations, we conclude that upon death believers go immediately to a place and condition of blessedness, and unbelievers to an experience of misery, torment, and punishment. Although the evidence is not clear, it is likely that these are the very places to which believers and unbelievers will go after the great judgment, since the presence of the Lord (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil 1:23) would seem to be nothing more than heaven. Yet while the place of the intermediate and final states may be the same, the experiences of paradise and Hades are doubtless not as intense as what will ultimately be, since the person is in a somewhat incomplete condition” (Erickson, 1998, 1189).

And don’t forget the classic case study on the value of a person by Luke. It is called ‘The Tale of the Crucified Crook.”

If anyone was ever worthless, this one was. If any man ever deserved dying, this man probably did. If any fel­low was ever a loser, this fellow was at the top of the list.

Perhaps that is why Jesus chose him to show us what he thinks of the human race.

Maybe this criminal heard the Messiah speak. Maybe he had seen him love the lowly. Maybe he had watched him dine with the punks, pickpockets, and pot-mouths on the streets. Or maybe not. Maybe the only thing he knew about this Messiah was what he now saw: a beaten, slashed, nail-suspended preacher. His face crim­son with blood, his bones peeking through torn flesh, his body heaving for air.

Something, though, told him that he had never been in better company. And somehow he realized that even though all he had was a prayer, he had finally met the One to whom he should pray.

“Any chance that you could put in a good word for me?” (Loose translation.) “Consider it done.”

Now why did Jesus do that? What in the world did he have to gain by promising this desperado a place of honor at the banquet table? What in the world could this chiseling quisling ever offer in return? I mean, the Samari­tan woman I can understand. She should go back and tell the tale. And Zacheus, he had some money that he could give. But this guy? what is he going to do? Nothing!

That’s the point. Listen closely. Jesus’ love does not depend upon what we do for him. Not at all. In the eyes of the King, you have value simply because you are. You don’t have to look nice or perform well. Your value is inborn. Period.

Think about that for just a minute. You are valu­able just because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are. Remember that. Remember that the next time you are left bobbing in the wake of someone’s steamboat ambition. Remember that the next time some trickster tries to hang a bargain basement price tag on your self-worth. The next time someone tries to pass you off as a cheap buy, just think about the way Jesus honors you… and smile.

I do. I smile because I know I don’t deserve love like that. None of us do. When you get right down to it’ any contribution that any of us make is pretty puny. All of us–even the purest of us –deserve heaven about as much as that crook did. All of us are signing on Jesus’ credit card’ not ours.

And it also makes me smile to think that there is a grinning ex-con walking the golden streets who knows more about grace than a thousand theologians. No one else would have given him a prayer. But in the end that is all that he had. And in the end, that is all it took. No wonder they call him the Savior. (later comments by Max Lacado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior)



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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Article


Why Men Don’t Talk

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(I referred to this article in a recent lesson and wanted to share the full article)

Why Men Don’t Talk

By Hampton Keathley

I read a book a couple of months ago that really changed my thinking on a few things and helped me understand a lot more about myself. The book was The Silence of Adam by Larry Crabb. It was so good, that I read it twice. It is called The Silence of Adam because he starts off by asking where Adam was when Eve was talking to the serpent.

Tradition has always taught, and I had always assumed that Eve was alone at that time, and that after she was deceived and ate the fruit, she went in search of Adam and gave him some to eat. But Crabb pointed out that Adam was right there with Eve during the conversation with the serpent. When I read that, I immediately got off the couch and went to get my Bible to read the verse for myself.

god-make-me-an-instrumentGenesis 3:6 says, When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, (imah) and he ate.

Wow! Adam was with her! I don’t know about you, but that blows away my categories. We always talk about how Eve was deceived, (In fact we read that three weeks ago in 1 Tim 2:14 right here in class.) And I think deep down, we sort of blame Eve for getting us all in this mess in the first place, even though we know technically that Adam was responsible.

But what if Adam was standing right there the whole time that Eve was talking to the serpent? I think this sheds new light on just how responsible Adam was for what happened. What does this say to us about not doing anything when we are not sure exactly what we should do or say? It sure makes inactivity look more sinful to me

If Adam was there, then why didn’t he say something? Why didn’t he tell the serpent to get lost? Why didn’t he correct Eve when she misquoted the command not to eat of the tree? Why didn’t he suggest they go somewhere else to talk about the situation? Why didn’t he stop Eve when she reached for the fruit?

Why Adam was silent? I’m not going to answer that right now. The answer will become obvious as we work through several concepts.

We are going to divide our study into the following topics:

  • The Search for Real Men
  • Man’s model—God’s role in creation, because man is created in God’s image and we need to see what that entails.
  • Man’s responsibility—to walk in God’s image.
  • Man’s natural tendency—to be silent.
  • What Speaking is Not.
  • The Reasons for Silence
  • The Solution
  • Woman’s responsibility

The Search for “Real Men”

I think the first time I ever heard any talk about “real men” was in college when someone said, “Real men don’t eat quiche.” I think there was a whole string of “real men” jokes going around then, but that is the only one I remember.

The traditional view of a real man is one who is broad-shouldered, self-confident, tough, unemotional and successful. If you ever read any Louis L’Amour books, the main character was always tall, dark and invulnerable and he didn’t talk much. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood always played that kind of man in their movies.

But for the past ten years there has been a call for men to be more sensitive, to be vulnerable, to share their feelings, to cry more. Men are supposed to be more concerned with connecting with others than with trying to achieve and conquer the world. I remember my dad once making the comment that there didn’t seem to be any actors rising on the scene to replace John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Maybe that is the reason. Their character type was out of style. John Wayne has been replaced with Billy Crystal.

I think the John Wayne tough guy image is a warped model of what a man should be. But I also think that the soft, vulnerable, almost homo-sexual image that we are bombarded with in the secular media is a pendulum swing too far in the other direction.

There is obviously a problem, but what is the solution? What constitutes a real man?

In the Christian world, we’ve been trying to come up with the answer. We have Family Life Seminars, Promise Keepers conventions, hundreds of self-help books on how to be a good father, how to be a good husband, how to be a good whatever. The list of self-help books is endless.

I think that phrase “self-help” is significant. I don’t mean to discredit any of those things I just mentioned, because they all have their place. In fact, many of them were started because people felt like churches weren’t dealing with the issues. But our tendency, when we realize there is a problem, is to go find a book written by some expert with the answers or go to a “professional counselor” or go to some conference to learn some neat steps to follow or principles to apply, to get motivated to work hard, and then we go home and try really hard to follow those steps. We do them for the next few weeks or months. But eventually, we slip back into our old habits and wait for the next conference. Perhaps that is why the Promise Keepers have to come back each year. We don’t keep our promises. The problem is that we were doing all these things out of our own energy, not God’s energy.

In our day, too many men are seeking more diligently for their manhood, than for God. However, if you read the biographies of the great Christians of the past, like Dwight L. Moody, Hudson Taylor, etc., it becomes obvious that they sought God first. They spent hours in the word and in prayer. They were very godly men. And look what God did through them. They are remembered as great men. Therefore, I think it is safe to say, “The only way to be manly is to be godly.” (Crabb, p. 32)

How do we become godly? By reflecting the image of God. We can’t do that unless we know what God is like. So we need to study what God is like. That by the way is theology. I almost hesitate to say that because most people think of theology as booooooring, but you will see that is very relevant. It is relevant because if we are to be godly, we have to know what God is like.

The Model: God’s Role in Creation

Genesis 1:2 says that the earth was formless and void and darkness was over the surface of the deep. In other words, everything was chaos. Then, while everything was darkness and chaos, God spoke into the darkness and He created life and beauty.

For years, people have argued about the “Gap theory” or “Restitution Theory” which proposes that there were two creations. After the first creation, Satan messed up the earth and so God had to rebuild. All this was supposed to happen somewhere between Gen. 1:1 and 1:3.

I think one reason this idea became popular was to try to explain why there was chaos. The question people asked, was “Why would God create a chaotic earth on his first pass, and then have to come back and fix it up later?” The gap theory also gained popularity when science started saying that the earth was millions of years old. A “Gap” between a first and second creation left room for that. The fact that the earth appears to be millions of years old can be explained without a gap theory. If God created a tree, and we cut it down the next day, how many rings would it have in it? 50? 100? God created trees, man, everything, including the earth, with apparent age. So we don’t need a gap theory as an answer to evolution.

Also, a good understanding of Hebrew shows that there is no reference to a gap in time in Gen. 1:3.

So, why the part about the earth being formless and void in vs. 2? Let me propose another reason—a theological one.

When Moses wrote Genesis, he left out lots of stuff. He covered 6000 years in just a few pages, and then focused in on Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. I think Moses was very selective in what events he recorded. He only recorded what he did because they make a theological point. Therefore Gen. 1:2 is as much a theological statement as it is an historical one. It is not just giving us a chronological order of events.

When I say it is a theological statement I mean that, the part about the earth being formless and void is there to make a statement about God—to let us know what God is like. What it is saying about God is that God moves in darkness and chaos and creates order and life. The statement is there so that man, who is created to walk in God’s image will know what that involves. It involves moving into the chaos and creating order and life.

That brings us to the next point.

Man’s Responsibility: To Walk in God’s Image

Genesis 1:26 says that man was created in God’s image and one purpose was to rule over the rest of creation. Man was to help keep the order. One of the first things Adam did was to name the animals. That did three things:

  • It demonstrated his superiority over them, and fulfilled the command to rule over creation.
  • It helped fulfill his role of being in God’s image and taking part in creating order out of chaos.

Lori and I were talking about that the other day. If animals didn’t have names, you would find yourself saying things like… I saw one of those yellow, furry animals down by the creek today. The other person would say, “The one with the long neck?” Then you would say, “No, it had a short neck..” Then the other person would say, “The one with stripes?” “No, the one spots…” And on and on it might go. That definitely would be a chaotic situation.

  • Adam was also “like” God because naming the animals involved speaking into the disorder.

I imagine that naming all those animals was not easy. Imagine if someone brought a few hundred species of animals to you and asked you to name them. Would you be overwhelmed? Sure you would. It was probably all you could do to think of a name for your baby. And if you’re like us, you didn’t decide untill they were rolling mom and baby out of the hospital.

So, Gen. 1:3 says God spoke and then in Gen. 2:19-20 man spoke. There is a logical connection between the two. Man was reflecting the image of God by speaking into the chaos and creating order.

That is the theological basis for our study. God spoke into chaos and created life and order. Man is created in God’s image and part of man’s responsibility is to speak into chaos and create life and order.

How does that apply to us today? We don’t need to name the animals.

For me, that means that when life is chaotic, I need to speak. I need to say something and I need to do something. I need to get involved. I should not remain silent. If I remain silent, I am like Adam in the garden. I am sinning.

But man’s natural tendency is to remain silent. That takes us to the next topic.

Man’s Natural Tendency: To Be Silent

If Adam were the only man in the Bible who was silent, then perhaps one could say that this conclusion is doubtful. But, there are several examples in the Bible of men who were silent. Let’s look at them and see where it got them.

The Example of Adam

We’ve already looked at this one, but I just wanted to make it a part of the list so I could ask you what were the consequences of Adam’s silence? The result was that billions of people have lived miserable lives and then died and most have gone to hell.

The Example of Abraham

Everyone probably knows of God’s promise to Abraham (Gen 15)—that he would have a son and be the father of a multitude, through whom God would bless the world. After ten years, and no children, Sarah comes to Abraham and says, take my slave, Hagar, and have children with her so that God’s promise can come true. What did Abraham say to that? Nothing. Gen 16:2 says He listened to the voice of Sarah.

Then later after Hagar has Ishmael, Sarah is jealous and Abraham tells her to do what she wants to her slave. And he lets her treat Hagar harshly.

So, Abraham was silent and did what Sarah said. What was the result? The Arab/Israeli conflict that still rages today.

The Example of Lot

We know from 2 Peter 2:7f that Lot was a righteous man, but you would never know it from the Genesis account. He stayed in Sodom and Gomorrah and was silent about the evil around him. When he offered his two daughters to a crowd of men to protect God’s messengers, that was not the action of a strong man. At the end of that account, when they are fleeing the city, and Lot’s wife looks back at Sodom and turns into a pillar of salt, it becomes obvious who it was that wanted to live in Sodom and Gomorrah and who was in really running the family. If Lot was tormented in his soul by the evil around him (2 Pet 2:8), then why didn’t he leave? Because his wife didn’t want to. Lot remained silent and passive.

Some time later Lot’s daughters commit incest with Lot while he is drunk and they get pregnant. So, we see further damage result from Lot’s silent passive life.

The Example of Bethuel

Do you remember the story of how Isaac got his wife? His father, Abraham, sent a servant back to the home country to get a wife for his son, Isaac. In the account in Gen. 24, the servant goes to a well, meets Rebekah, follows her home, and then proceeds to bargain with her brother Laban for her hand in marriage for Isaac. At the end of the account, (24:50) it says Bethuel agreed to the arrangement. It seems to me that Laban was the one who was involved, and Bethuel was along for the ride. I can’t swear to it, but nothing is said about him, and he doesn’t speak until the end of the account.

What was the result? He had two very controlling children. Laban and Rebekah. We know that Rebekah was very involved with the deception of Isaac when Jacob deceived his father out of the family blessing. And we know that Laban made life miserable for Jacob when he tried to marry Rachel and got Leah instead. So, by being a silent and uninvolved father, Bethuel helped create at least two manipulative and very controlling children.

The Example of Isaac

We don’t have to read much further in Genesis before we come to the next silent man —  Isaac. He was a very passive man. If you read through Genesis, you see that he didn’t do anything right except allow his father to almost sacrifice him.

Isaac knew the prophecy of God that his older son, Esau, would serve the younger son, Jacob, but he preferred Esau who appeared to be a strong, manly man always out hunting. And at the end of his life, he was going to go ahead and bless Esau in spite of the prophecy. Why? I think it was easier to go along with the tradition of blessing the oldest son than to trust God and bless Jacob. Why? Perhaps he was afraid of Esau’s reaction? After all, Esau was the hunter. Perhaps he was afraid of what others might say when they found out. Because he was afraid to act, his wife tried to take over and handle the problem. It backfired and the family was split up and Isaac and Rebekah never saw Jacob again.


Here we have five examples of men who were silent. In each situation the result was much harm to others. We might say the result was chaos.

When God spoke, He made order out of chaos. When man fails to act in God’s image, and speak, the result is more chaos. And very important to recognize: It brings the severing of relationship. And that is what this is all about – relationships. How is my silence going to affect my relationship with others? The Bible shows that it wll definitely destroy them.

  • Adam’s silence destroyed his relationship with God and his wife.
  • Abraham’s silence resulted in the Arab/Israeli conflict.
  • Lot’s relationship with his daughters and his wife was not good.
  • Isaac had almost no relationship with his wife or son, Jacob. This is obvious when you read the story of Isaac’s deception at the blessing. Isaac never talks to Rebekah. He never talks to Jacob (except when he thinks Jacob is Esau). Rebekah never talks to Esau. And Jacob never talks to Esau. You see a family divided right down the middle.

Notice also that in each of these situations, when the man was silent, the women stepped in and took control. God said that was going to be the woman’s natural tendency in Gen. 3:16, and we can see it happening over and over again.

So, man’s natural tendency is to be silent. But what we’ve seen so far ought to do away with the description of a man as “The Strong Silent Type.” When you understand these principles, it makes you want to change it to “The Weak Silent Type.”


  • What we’ve seen is that God speaks into disorder and creates order and life.
  • Man is created in God’s image and should also speak into disorder and create order and life.
  • But man’s natural tendency is to avoid the chaos and to be silent.
  • When he does that he creates even more chaos and destroys relationships.
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Posted by on June 4, 2015 in Article


Sentence Sermons — A closer look at the seven last words of Jesus spoken at the cross #1

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Have you ever walked through an old cemetary and read the gravestones?  It can make for a very interesting outing.  A lot of information can be learned about the people buried there just from the inscriptions on their gravestones -their dates of birth and death, their age, their name, even their family history (who they married, who their children were).

7-Sayings-from-the-Cross-ScreenSometimes you’ll even find an inscription describing the person – a short verse or words the person or his family and friends wished him to be remembered by.  These inscriptions are called epitaphs.  Some epitaphs have become famous and well known -remembered several generations later.  Books have even been written about the epitaphs found on certain gravestones.

But a person doesn’t have to be dead to be remembered by an epitaph of words. Often nicknames or phrases become associated with one particular person, and whenever those nicknames or phrases are heard, that individual immediately comes to mind.  Another way a person may be remembered is by the words he uses in his speech.  Without realizing it, we can offend a person by the words we say and use.  Words of anger, harshness, slang, and ridicule, may be the ones that end up associated with us in some person’s memory, never to be forgotten How important it is for us to remember to speak only words of love, kindness and praise to other people.

Have you ever thought about what words you are likely to be remembered by? Many people, without thinking, have said that they wished they knew what the future held for them just so they would be able to select more appropriate words to express to someone.  In reality, its doubtful these people realize what they are really asking for.

The future is most often best not known. Some people In life have that wish granted, even when they didn’t ask for it. Cancer patients, heart attack victims, AIDS patients, and many other persons inflicted with incurable diseases, unrepairable failing bodies, or physical disfigurements all know their futures – and they wish they didn’t.  These people often become embittered because they do know their future and can’t do anything about it.

On the other hand, some other people in these same situations endure their afflictions and live outgoing, happy, otherwise positive lives.  What is the difference?  It isn’t the knowledge of the future that causes people to be one way or the other, but rather what the person’s life is centered on, the person’s inner strengths, the moral fiber he or she is made of, and the knowledge of their purpose in life, that together play a important part in determining the person’s outlook and attitude on their life.

JESUS IS AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE IN THIS REGARD.  Final acts. Final hours. Final words. They reflect a life well lived. So do the last words of our Master. When on the edge of death, Jesus got his house in order.

He definitely knew what his future would be.  The reality of the cross was always before him.  Like a death-row inmate, his future was fixed and certain.  There was never any doubt in Jesus’ mind about his own destiny.  Yet his last words, spoken almost 2,000 years ago during his anguish and agony on the cross, still serve as epitaphs to guide mankind in their memory of him today.

Jesus’ Last Words on the Cross:

  1. Words of Forgiveness

(Luke 23:34) “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Were the words of chance muttered  by a desperate martyr? No. They were words of intent, painted by the Divine Deliverer on the canvas of sacrifice.

Final words, final acts. Each one is a window through which the cross can be better understood. Each one opens a treasury of promises.

The dialogue that Friday morning was bitter. From the onlookers, “Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God!” From the religious leaders, “He saved others but he can’t save himself.” From the soldiers, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

Bitter words. Acidic with sarcasm. Hateful. Irreverent. Wasn’t it enough that he was being crucified? Wasn’t it enough that he was being shamed as a criminal? Were the nails insufficient? Was the crown of thorns too soft? Had the flogging been too short? For some, apparently so.

Peter, a writer not normally given to using many descriptive verbs, says that the passers-by “hurled” insults at the crucified Christ. They didn’t just yell or speak or scream. They “hurled” verbal stones. They had every intention of hurting and bruising. “We’ve broken the body, now let’s break the spirit.” So they strung their bows with self-righteousness and launched stinging arrows or pure poison.

Of all the scenes around the cross, this one angers me the most. What kind of people, I ask myself, would mock a dying man? Who would be so base as to pour the salt of scorn upon open wounds? How low and perverted to sneer at one who is laced with pain. Who would make fun of a person who is seated in an electric chair? Or who would point and laugh at a  criminal who has a hangman’s noose around his neck?

The words thrown that day were meant to wound. And there is nothing more painful than words meant to hurt. That’s why James called the tongue a fire. Its burns are every bit as destructive and disastrous as those of a blowtorch.

If you have suffered or are suffering because of someone else’s words, you’ll be glad to know that there is a balm for this laceration. Meditate on those words from 1 Peter 2:23: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Man had done his worst: Jesus, the Messiah, had come to earth and the world did not receive Him.

With all He had undergone, from the Jews1 the religious leaders, and the leaders of government.. what would we expect to find? Is Jesus crying for pity? Is He casting down vile words to His crucifiers?

Luke 23:34  “Jesus said, “Father , forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

Jesus was doing what every one of us should be doing when things go wrong around us: He was praying! This also gives us the encouragement to keep on praying for any loved ones we have who might otherwise “be beyond prayer.”

Luke’s gospel has given us many, many pictures of Jesus praying.

– His hands could no longer minister to the sick–they were nailed to the cross

– HIs feet could no longer run errands of mercy

– He could no longer instruct His disciples, for they had forsaken Him and fled


As we say last week from Isaiah 53:7, it was foretold that the Savior would make intercession for His transgressors. This also takes place for us today: Hebrews 7:25: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”


Sin is always sin in the sight of God whether we are conscious of it or not. Sins of ignorance need atonement just as much as conscious sins.  Ignorance is not innocence! There were five sins involved in the crucifixion of Christ:

– The sin of ignorance

Acts 3:17 “Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.”

1 Corinthians 2:8  “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

– The sin of hated

John 15:25  “But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

They hated Christ because of His condemnation of their evil; He condemned their traditions and their hypocrisy.

– The sin of the love of money

Judas betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver.

– The sin of envy

Matthew 27:18 “For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.”

– The sin of lying

False witnesses had been used in the trial of Jesus.. money was offered to the soldiers to lie about the resurrection (Matthew 28:12-13: “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, (13) telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.”


The people certainly understood the fact of this crucifixion–they remembered crying out “crucify him.”

But they likely didn’t realize the enormity of their crime. They didn’t realize Jesus was the King of Glory.

Luke 7:29-30: “(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. (30) But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)”


Jesus had said, early in His ministry, that they should “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” Now He does it! I’m convinced that this was noticed by that thief more than anything else.


The first important lesson which all need to learn is this: we are sinners and therefore, unfit for the presence of a Holy God. No matter what we do good in life, it will not be enough to settle the sin question.


The patience of Job.. .the wisdom of Solomon… the meekess of Noses… the strength of …….the faith of Abraham . the compassion of Joseph…the tears of Jeremiah.. the devotion of David… the voice of Elijah.. .the courage of Daniel…the greatness of John the Baptist… the zeal of Peter…the endurance of Paul.. WE WOULD STILL NEED: “The salvation that is in Christ Jesus”

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– (9) not by works, so that no one can boast.”


There are a number of things Jesus could have done.. but He didn’t. And this is the triumph we seek in our lives!

Close with reading Romans 8:28-32

Jesus’ first “last words” on the cross showed his continuing awareness of the reason he was enduring the crucifixion.  He was still acutely aware that his one and only mission in being on earth was to provide mankind with a way of escape from their burdens of sin

Even as he hung painfully on the cross, his back ripped open and bleeding from the scourging he had earlier received, his hands pierced with the nails of the cross, his ears and mind receiving scorn and ridicule from the people standing at his feet, Jesus never once let his mission be forgotten.  As a last loving proof of his concern for mankind, he implored his heavenly father to forgive the very ones who were responsible for his agonizing torment, explaining to his father that they were unaware of what they were doing.

Yes, the dialogue that Friday morning was bitter. The verbal stones were meant to sting. How Jesus, with a body wracked with pain, eyes blinded by his own blood, and lungs yearning for air, could speak on behalf of some heartless thug is beyond our comprehension. Never, never have I seen such love. If ever a person deserved a shot at revenge, Jesus did. But he didn’t take it. Instead he died for them.

Have you ever wondered how Jesus kept from retaliating? Have you ever asked how he kept his control. Here’s the answer:…”for they do not know what they are doing.” It’s as if Jesus considered this bloodthirsty, death-hungry crowd not as murderers, but as victims. It’s as if he saw in their faces not hatred but confusion. It’s as if he regarded them not as a militant mob but, as he put it, as “sheep without a shepherd.”

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Posted by on May 28, 2015 in Article


Developing Spiritual Maturity Hebrews 5:12—6:12

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“For though by this time you ought to be teachers.. . .” (5:12).

In the Middle Ages, a list was made of the “seven deadly sins.” The authors must have considered these seven sins worse than any others. The “seven deadly sins” contained such expected sins as pride, envy, anger, avarice, gluttony, and lust.

But there is one surprising item— the Greek word accidie, which is normally translated “laziness” or “sloth.” We may not think of it as one of our most serious offenses because to us the word “sin” normally conjures up images of sexual or anti-social offenses. But the church in the first century considered “sloth” to be one of its most serious offenses.

Another characteristic of accidie might be a “couldn’t-care-less” attitude.  We  might think that our problems are very different from those of ancient people because our lives are more complicated than theirs. But listen to this description of a lazy fifth-century monk: “When the poor fellow is beset by it, it makes him detest the place where he is, and loathe his cell; and he has a poor and scornful opinion of his brethren, near and far, and thinks that they are neglectful and unspiritual.

“It makes him sluggish and inert for every task; he cannot sit still, nor give his mind to reading; he thinks despondently how little progress he has made where he is, how little good he gains or does . . . he dwells on the excellence of other and distant monasteries; he thinks how profitable and healthy life is there; how delightful the brethren are, and how spiritually they talk. On the contrary, where he is, all seems harsh and untoward; there is no refreshment for his soul to be got from his brethren, and none for his body from the thankless land; . . . and so, with his mind full of stupid bewilderment and shameful gloom, he grows slack and void of all spiritual energy, and thinks that nothing will do him any good save to go and call on somebody, or else to betake himself to the solace of sleep.” 1

Sloth is  our  problem  as well.  We  see  the debilitating effects of not caring. Discouragement easily robs us of our will to go on with our Christian calling.

The Hebrews’ author says in 6:12, “That you may not be sluggish. . . .”

One of the problems of those Christians was that they had “hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble.” Having lost their original intensity, they were vulnerable to new ideas or doctrines (13:9). This sluggishness was especially evident in the problem of lack of church attendance (10:25) and in their temptation to “neglect” their great salvation. Sluggishness was only the beginning of what could turn into apostasy (6:6).


There is more than one way to be sluggish. We have already noticed some of the symptoms of sluggishness among the readers of Hebrews. But another aspect of sluggishness is often overlooked. In 5:11, the author suddenly says, “You have become dull of hearing.”

In 5:1-10, he starts the central section of the book showing that Jesus Christ is the high priest after the order of Melchizedek. After describing the levitical requirements for priesthood (5:1-4), he demonstrates that Jesus Christ fulfills all requirements.

Having experienced the agony of suffering (5:8, 9), He has been designated the “high priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (5:10). This fact is first mentioned in 5:10 and is then developed in chapters 5 through 10. For most people, the argument about the high priesthood of Christ is the most memorable section of the epistle. We learn that Jesus is no ordinary priest. Unlike levitical high priests, He lives forever (7:3, 23).

To our surprise, this discussion is interrupted in 5:11. The author leaves the subject to address his readers personally. We know that the author consistently ends his expositions of the Old Testament with some words of encouragement. The longest exhortation in the book is found in 5:11—6:12.

The subject which the author introduced in 5:10 is too difficult for the readers: “Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain.” The Greek word for “hard to explain” (dusermeneutos) literally means “hard to communicate,” not “hard to interpret.”

Hebrews is sometimes known for its difficult arguments, especially  in  the  description  of  Christ  and Melchizedek. We wonder why the author pursued a matter that is “hard to explain” with Christians who were dropping out of the community.

Why did he not try “pep rallies” or other new gimmicks to stir their interest? Often, we think the church should consider things that are “hard to explain” only after all other matters have been solved. Or we reserve such matters for the experts, not the entire church.

But the author was convinced that matters “hard to explain” were meant for the whole church—even a tired and  bored  church—to  pursue.  In  chapters  7 through 10, he continues this difficult message. We may wonder why the author pursues such a topic in a book on church renewal. The answer is that the only renewal that matters is a lasting renewal. There is a need for depth and roots if we are to maintain our vitality for a long period. A pep rally may be useful for a while. But a church that endures needs a firm anchor (6:19) where it can find the security and encouragement to keep the faith. Archimedes, the Greek mathematician, said, “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.” The author introduced a topic “hard to explain” because he knew the church needed a place to stand.

It is easy to lose the balance between the tasks of informing and exhorting in preaching. A sermon that merely informs may never confront the audience with the demands of God on their lives. A sermon which only exhorts may easily be without substance.

The author of Hebrews, a model preacher, knows that a living church maintains its vitality through both exhortation and information. He recognizes that a church needs firm roots in solid, demanding study. He is not afraid of confronting Christians with challenging words. He knows that a faith that is easily reduced to a few slogans does not give a firm place to stand. There is a place in biblical preaching for a challenge to our minds. There is no substitute for words that are “hard to explain” because the enthusiasm for learning provides roots for living.


Preaching should sometimes confront us with our responsibilities and indict us for our failures. The spiritual-maturityauthor of Hebrews says that the word is difficult to explain because “you are dull in hearing.” The Greek word for “dull” (nothros) is the same word that is translated “sluggish” in 6:12. This word was often used for a lazy student who refused to develop his mind. The author might have said, “The fault does not lie in the word itself. The fault is yours. You have not developed the capacity to understand.”

The readers had apparently been Christians for at least a generation. The author mentions the amount of time which has elapsed since they first became Christians (“by this time,” 5:12). The readers had sufficient time to sharpen their minds and become competent to teach. Their problem was sluggishness manifested in a lack of physical and intellectual energy.

The answer for a tired church, according to the author, is to be fed “solid food.” In the ancient times, a beginning philosophy student was introduced to a few “first principles” by his teachers. The student was often described as a “babe” who had to rely first on “milk” before he went on to “solid food.” The students intended to develop their potential in order to become teachers themselves. Any student who remained at the beginning level for a long period of time caused serious problems.

This was appropriate imagery for the author of Hebrews. After a generation, the readers were still in their infancy (5:13). Their diet consisted of milk, and they were unable to digest the solid food that the author would offer. The author probably looked at the tired community and wanted to say something that would strengthen their faith. But he observed that their lack of intellectual growth made it almost impossible for him to communicate what they needed most. He recognized that the church can never main- tain its identity unless it is grounded in the solid food of the Word of God.


According to the author of Hebrews, Christianity cannot survive unless it is taught. It must be treasured enough to capture our minds. Christians in every age have set up schools to pursue the scholarly study of Scripture. The health and vitality of Christianity benefits from a respect for learning. As heirs of a long, respected tradition of learning, we depend on the survival of educated church members. Faith must be explained, and faith seeks understanding. Only a shallow, inconsequential religion makes no demands for continued learning.

R. Glover, a great classical scholar, once explained a major reason why Christianity was victorious in the ancient world. There were many causes competing for the people’s commitment, but Christianity conquered their minds and hearts. Glover said Christians did better thinking than other people.

The Christian read the best books, assimilated them, and lived the freest intellectual life the world had known. Jesus had set him to be free to fact. There is no place for an ignorant Christian. From the very start every Christian had to know and to understand, and he had to read the gospels, he had to be able to give a reason for his faith. They read about Jesus, and they knew him, and they knew where they stood. . . . Who did the thinking in that ancient world? Again and again it was the Christian. He out-thought the world.2


We sometimes think of study as a waste of time or a diversion from more important things. We live in a culture which favors action over reflection. But we must question the value of actions which are not guided by careful study. The author makes a careful distinction between those who are nourished on milk and those who are nourished on meat. Those who exist on milk are “not accustomed to the word of righteous- ness” (5:13). Those who live on meat “have their senses trained to discern good from evil” (5:14). The Greek word for “unskilled” literally means “inexperienced” or “ignorant.” The author says some Christians remain perpetually like beginning students. The “word of righteousness” or the Christian faith remains incomprehensible to them because they have no habit of careful study and reflection and no recognition that faith requires an understanding, responsive mind.

On the other hand, some Christians can distinguish between good and evil because their minds have been trained by practice. The author uses the illustration of an athlete who trains himself through habits of practice and self-control. The same language was sometimes used for the discipline of the philosophy student because he knew the importance of training the mind.

In the same way, there is training in the Christian faith. We can develop the necessary sensitivity to make moral decisions only through such training. Our minds are trained to “distinguish good from evil.” Without this training, we have no way to evaluate new ideas. We may easily become prey for any new popular idea. Without disciplined training in the “word of righteousness,” we cannot distinguish between the Christian faith and the many other claims.

But Christianity is not a religion only for learned people. Paul could describe some of the early Christians as being “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” (1 Corinthians 1:26). But Christianity called all of these to use their own gifts to become more intelligent in the faith.

We notice also that it is not just a certain group of experts in Hebrews who were called to develop their understanding of the faith. The words “you are dull of hearing” were addressed to the whole congregation. It was the author’s reminder that, while we may want responsible leadership to guide our study, others need to use their own gifts to grow up in the faith.

Are we also “sluggish in hearing”? What has happened to families who should have a thorough knowledge of the basic content of the Bible? As James Smart wrote in his book The Strange Silence of the Bible in the Church, there is a danger that the church will largely ignore the Bible in its educational curriculum. The indictment of a bored church long ago may also be indictment of contemporary congregations.

Not all educational programs based on the Bible are equally beneficial for the vitality of the church. We often demonstrate that we do not take the Bible seriously by the way we treat it in our programs. In some instances, we abuse it by limiting our study to only a few sections. Sometimes, it is used only to prove a point reached long ago. The mere fact that we use the Bible does not mean that we will “train our senses,” as Hebrews puts it. We grow when we study with enough seriousness to be prepared to hear the whole story, not just the parts we prefer to hear. We wonder why people who read a lot do not read more books on religious subjects. Some people take their Christianity very seriously. They keep informed in many fields by reading the best books.

But they seldom read a book about the realities of faith, about God, Christ, prayer, and the Bible.

Most of us have known people in the church with extraordinary competence in the academic, professional, or business world who have not grown beyond a few fundamentals in the Christian faith. In business they have shown their keen minds and capacity for growth. But they exhibit an unbelievable immaturity when it comes to faith. The author of Hebrews knows sluggish minds do not give vitality to the church.


The preacher’s indictment of his community is not the end of the sermon. Preaching also offers words of hope and encouragement. People must see a reason to engage in the action to which they are called. So the author of Hebrews encourages his community to leave the “elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity” (6:1f.). In this word of exhortation, there is a stern warning that ap- pears in two other instances in Hebrews (10:26f.; 12:17).

If those who have been “once enlightened” fall away, it is impossible to restore them to repentance. The author does not elaborate on his statement, so his warning is hard for us to understand. We must remember, though, that his words are not addressed to people who have already fallen away and are seeking readmission to the church. His major point is that our faith is far too precious to throw away. Our “enlightenment,” or our beginning Christian life, only happens once. To think that we all “fall away” and then return cheapens our salvation. We must “go on to perfection.” Without that progress we will die.

The preacher must also provide the resources that will challenge the people to go on. The author offers two reasons to his community to keep their commitment. First, verses 7 and 8 provide an illustration from nature. The land which receives rain and bears useful fruit is blessed by God. If it bears only thorns and thistles, it will be burned. God calls the land to be responsible. He provides His blessing only if the land does its part. It is the same way with this tired community. God promises His blessing only to those who discipline themselves to grow up in the faith.

Second, we have invested so much of ourselves in the faith that it would be a tragedy to throw it away. The readers of this epistle demonstrated their “earnestness” (spoude) long ago when they served the saints. In 10:32-35, there is another reminder of what their faith had meant to them. They endured loss of property and abuse from their society. They visited prisoners (10:34), endured a hard struggle (10:32), and ministered to the saints (6:10). This faith meant far too much to them to be thrown away now.

Our church life often appears unpleasant. Disagreements with others and dissatisfaction with the direction of the church can cause us to become disheartened and sluggish. We need to remember our previous investment in a cause in which we believed. If God does not forget our “work and labor of love for his sake” (6:10), our past should also stimulate us to “show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end” (6:11).

If the author of Hebrews had written his book two thousand years later, he probably would have said about the same thing. A weary church in the twentieth century needs to hear both his word of indictment (5:11-14) and his word of encouragement (6:11). Both sound as if they were addressed to us.

* Appreciation to Dr. James Thompson


1 David H. C. Read, Virginia Woolf Meets Charlie Brown (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), 141.

2 Donald Baillie, To Whom Shall We Go? (New York: Scribner’s Press, 1955), 63.

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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Article


“God’s Word…and our sins” Hebrews 4:12-16

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Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV) 12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The author’s enthusiasm for the Word of God seems to be naive to many contemporary Christians. Instead of seeing the Word of God as the answer for a dying church, many today suspect that it is the cause for much of our apathy.

Sin in the life of a child of God can bring terrible consequences. We have seen what sin did to Israel: It hardened their hearts, produced unbelief, and kept an entire generation out of the Promised Land.

The writer of Hebrews said that the same misfortunes can befall Christians. He encouraged his readers not to make the mistakes the Israelites made (v. 11).

If sin is so terrible, what can be done about it? Specifically, what should a child of God do with his sins?
For us, words can be cheap. We make promises to each other that we do not take seriously. We make oaths to God that we easily break. It is easy for our words to mean nothing because too often we have turned them into nothing.

But God is different. He says to Jeremiah, “‘Is not My word like fire?’ . . . ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’” (Jeremiah 23:29). Our commitments may be meaningless, but God’s Word is lasting. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

We cannot hide them (4:11–13)
People deal with their sins in many different ways. Some deny them; others ignore them; many make excuses for them. Then there are those who try to hide them. The author of Hebrews said, in effect, that it is impossible to hide our sins. The Word exposes them (v. 12). Further, God knows when we sin (v. 13).

The Israelites fell because they did not heed God’s Word. The same will be true of us if we do not pay close attention to the teaching of the Scriptures.

In context, “the word of God” refers to the Old Testament passages the writer was quoting, but the message is applicable to all of God’s revealed will.

First, it is “living and active.” God’s Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (v. 12a). The Word can reveal even the most carefully hidden sin.

The Bible is not a book of thousands of isolated verses. It concerns the God whose Word is “living and active,” who offers our lives a promise. 

Early Christians were sustained largely by the conviction that the thread running through the Bible was the word of promise:

  • They recalled that God had made promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:2) and David (2 Samuel 7:10-17).
  • In the coming of Jesus Christ, they recognized that God had kept His promise.
  • Paul told his listeners in one speech, “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus” (Acts 13:32, 33).
  • The good news was the word that was “promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2).
  • God’s Word—pierces “as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow” (v. 12b). The message is that the Word of God lays bare all of a man. If we look into the Word with an honest heart, we see ourselves as we really are (James 1:22–25).
  • The Word is therefore “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (v. 12c; emphasis mine). The Israelites fell in the wilderness because of a heart problem. As our lives are com- pared to God’s Word, our hearts are revealed.

God Knows When We Sin (4:13).
The writer moved easily from the Word of God to God Himself. God’s Word is an expression of Himself; the two cannot be separated.

The passage says that no one can hide from God: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight” (v. 13a). God knows everything. “All things are open” to His eyes (v. 13b).

Think of an individual who has done everything he can to hide the flaws of his body. Then think of his embarrassment as he is stripped of his clothing and every flaw is exposed. Even so, regardless of outward religious show, God sees us as we really are.

Everything is “laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (v. 13c).

Right now God knows all about us, and someday we will stand before Him in judgment and give an account for all that we have said and done. The conclusion from this is that we need to repent of our sins and change our lives!

Words of cheap grace do not sustain the life of the church. It is the confrontation with God’s word of judgment which calls us to repentance and accountability.

We must acknowledge our sins and turn to Jesus for mercy Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

If we cannot hide our sins, what should we do with them? We should acknowledge them and turn to Jesus for mercy.

We Have a Sympathetic High Priest (4:15).
He passed through the heavens (4:14). The most sacred locale ever entered by an earthly high priest was the physical Holy of Holies (the “Most Holy Place”; NIV), but Jesus went “into heaven itself” (9:24).
He can sympathize with our weaknesses (4:15). This was not always true of earthly high priests.
He is sinless (4:15). This was definitely not true of earthly high priests.

He administers grace. Earthly high priests could administer law and even justice, but not grace. Jesus gives “grace to help in time of need” (4:16).

Verse 14 says that since Jesus is our High Priest, we should “hold fast our confession”—that is, the confession we made before we were baptized, the confession that Jesus is the Christ. If we hold fast that confession, we will never leave Him or cease to follow Him.

To phrase verse 15 positively, “we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted in all things as we are (yet without sin).”

We Can Come Before Him With Confidence (4:16).
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” (v. 16a). Someday Jesus’ throne will be the throne of judgment; but today, for the faithful child of God, it is “the throne of grace,” which means “the throne that is characterized by and inhabited by grace.”

We need to draw near “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 16a). We need mercy and grace to be saved; we also need mercy and grace to stay saved.

Hebrews 5:7-10 (NIV) 7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Many interpret the “loud cries and tears” are here because of Jesus’ concern about the pain on the cross. While there was much pain involved during those last few hours, the tears and cries here are about the time on the cross when God turned His back on Him as He took on the sins of the whole world.

It should give us an indication why we must deal with our sins God’s way…they separate us from God and it should trouble us with ‘loud cries and tears of our own.’

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Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Article


A Woman Worthy of Praise” – Proverbs 31:10-31 (preached at Sunset Avenue for Mother’s Day, 2015)


Just a Housewife?

A lawyer met a housewife at a function, and asked her what she did. The housewife replied, “I am socializing two homo-sapiens in the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the teleological prescribed utopia inherent in the eschaton.” Then she added, “And what do YOU do?” The lawyer stammered: “Er, I’m just a lawyer.”

Unfortunately many mothers feel very far from the ideal. The sermons are like the story of 2 cows in a pasture. They watch a milk truck pass by w/signs painted: “Enriched w/vitamin D,” “Homogenized!” “Pasteurized!” One cow looks at the other & says,”Every time I see those signs, I feel very inadequate!” 

Our purpose in this lesson is not to make the mothers feel inadequate but to honor their role & applaud their service.

We’re calling upon a man whose name is mentioned only once in scripture, yet this choice portion of literature seems to last forever in our minds as we look for a godly woman.

His name was King Lemuel, and he had a good mother. Listen to the opening verses of this chapter: Proverbs 31:1-9: “The sayings of King Lemuel–an oracle his mother taught him: {2} “O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my vows, {3} do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings. {4} “It is not for kings, O Lemuel– not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, {5} lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. {6} Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; {7} let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. {8} “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. {9} Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.””

In verse 10, King Lemuel begins with both a question and a declaration:

Question: a wife of noble character, who can find?

Answer: she is worth far more than rubies!

Verse 30 sums it all up: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Many times these verses are presented in such a way that a great deal of guilt is brought forth on the part of the woman and mothers listening. If you do not get up early and buy-and-sell land or provide your family with hand-sewn clothing…these verses are still for your encouragement.

Instead of listing items of activity which should be part of the Christian woman, it is listing characteristics which are then applied to the culture in which we walk and work. The idea: be this kind of woman in your character and your activities will be determined by the particular circumstances which do apply to your life.

  1. She is diligent (vs. 13, 17-18, 27)

Proverbs 31:13: “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”

Proverbs 31:17-18: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. {18} She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.”

Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

This trait seems to be mixed with a pleasant spirit and a good attitude. She seems to possess pride in what she does…she’s not happy just to “get by” but in doing a good job. She looks for the best buys, she realizes a profit, and works even into the night.

  1. She’s industrious and efficient (vs. 14, 16, 24)

Proverbs 31:14: “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.”th

Proverbs 31:16: “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”

Proverbs 31:24: “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.”

She’s a thinking individual. In the investment of her time, she looks for dividends and returns. Instead of focusing on the grind, she looks to the benefits her work will bring.

  1. She’s compassionate (vs. 20, 26).

Proverbs 31:20: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”

Proverbs 31:26: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

She has a soft heart that can be touched. And this makes her unique and distinct when contrasted to the man: an illustration….a child is hurt and the two responses:

Mother: How are YOU doing? What can I do? (the caring one)

Dad: Why were you running? You scratched the wall! Who’s fault was it? (the investigator).

  1. She has inner beauty (vs. 22, 25).

Proverbs 31:22: “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.”

Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

IF MARRIED: She’s a devoted wife:

  1. She maintains her husband’s confidence (vs. 11a)

Proverbs 31:11a: “Her husband has full confidence in her….”

He’s comfortable in being transparent with her. He can share his feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and disappointment and know she will keep them to herself.

  1. She meets his needs (vs. 11b).

Proverbs 31:11b: “…and lacks nothing of value.”

She’s supportive and affectionate. She encourages his pursuits, and is committed to him and his efforts.

Remember when God looked at Adam and said: “It is not good that man should be alone.” He made a help-meet that would make him complete. Woman was a special creation of God but also a “corresponding part.”

  1. She seeks his good (vs. 12)

Proverbs 31:12: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

  1. She aids his influence (vs. 23)

Proverbs 31:23: “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

IF A PARENT: she’s a dependable mother.

  1. She is disciplined (vs. 15, 18-19).

Proverbs 31:15: “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”

Proverbs 31:18-19: “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. {19} In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”

This is not a verse teaching you into hell if you don’t make homemade biscuits early in the morning, etc. But it is teaching a principle of taking charge of your time so you can meet the family needs. If the role of the husband or father in your house is for him to fix breakfast, then, obviously, the specifics would change.

  1. She’s organized (vs. 21).

Proverbs 31:21: “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.”

mother-and-childThis verse presents a sense of planning. She takes the challenge of a family as just that, a challenge, and seeks to meet it. It’s not just “a cross to bear.”

  1. She’s dedicated (vs. 27).

Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

What will be the results of this kind of woman (28-31).

Proverbs 31:28-31“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” {30} Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. {31} Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

* Her children will bless her! * Her husband will praise her!

* Her peers will be challenged by her! * Her works will bring their own praise!

* Her Lord will be honored by her life!

A Housewife’s Lament

“Make the beds, bandage heads, straighten up the room, wash the windows, cut the grass, see the tulips bloom. Drive the children off to school, drive them back again. Have the cubs to their meetings…then I clean the den.

“Serve on my committee, attend the PTA, forgot to buy the children’s shoes, I can’t do that today. Pay the bills, write a note, fill the cookie jar…Oh, dear, I forgot to go and have them grease the car.

“Catch up on the ironing, scrub the kitchen floor, answer phones and doorbells…need I list some more?

“My pet peeve, I must admit, you surely will agree…when someone will ask: are you employed? I will answer: ‘no, not me…I don’t work…I’m just a homemaker.’”

A husband’s relationship to his excellent wife: (vs. 11-12, 28-29)

Proverbs 31:11-12: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. {12} She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:28-29: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.””

  1. He trusts her (vs. 11).He has no cause for suspicion for her. Deep within, he holds confidence in her.
  2. He benefits from her (vs.11).
  3. He’s affirmed by her (vs. 12).
  4. He’s impressed with her and sings her praises (vs. 28-29).

Young men – look for this kind of woman!

Young ladies – strive with God’s help to be this kind of woman!

Fathers and married men – Thank God if you have this kind of woman!

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Posted by on May 10, 2015 in Article


A discussion of our ‘Private Worship’ to God

There are some ‘Private Worship’ books available for free download at:


God has always taught us that who we are day by day determines His attitude toward our corporate worship when we gather as His ‘called out’ people.

So I want to my spend time looking at Private Worship through the lens of the teaching about spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual Disciplines – What are they?

A spiritual discipline is a good habit that allows you to remain OPEN  to God and develop yourself spiritually.

Spiritual disciplines are practices modeled by the life of our Lord and in the rhythms of the church dating back to the first century. These practices are embedded in the rich history of God’s story in each century as He is writing our stories.

They are simple practices that help create space for God and for you to attend to His Presence.

These are practices you may have already been doing like- prayer, solitude alone with God, fasting and study of the Scriptures; practices the Lord engaged in when he was on earth.

Life is crazy busy. Each of us needs an anchor to hold us down in the midst of the incredible speed at which our lives move. Some days could feel like they are spiraling out of orbit.
R. D. Laing: “We live in a secular world…There is a prophecy in Amos that a time will come when there will be a famine in the land, ‘not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.’ That time has now come to pass. It is the present age.

Psalm 63:6 (NIV) On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.

Psalm 119:148 (NIV) My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.

Psalm 1:2 (NIV) But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Discipline is defined as “training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior.” Spiritual disciplines can be described as those behaviors that augment our spiritual growth and enable us to grow to spiritual maturity. This process of spiritual growth and development begins to take place the moment a person encounters the risen Christ and comes to Him for salvation.

By definition, disciplines are (but are not limited to):

  • Repetitive actions driven by spiritual decisions rather than natural environmental reactions.
  • Deliberately self-induced behaviors that nurture spiritual health and fosters spiritual growth leading to maturity with God.
  • Deliberately self-induced actions to alter existing life and thought patterns, thereby breaking the normal cycle of life and breaking the focus on intimacy with God.

The spiritual disciplines are means by which individuals and communities can very literally “practice” their faith. They are tools by which Christians seek to know God, yield to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power, and surrender to the Divine Will in their lives.

God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who must wash dishes and mow lawns.

In fact, the Disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our normal daily activities. If they are to have any transforming effect, the effect must he found in the ordinary junctures of human life: in our relationships with our husband and wife, our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors.

The primary requirement is a longing after God. Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV) As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Richard Foster identifies 12 crucial spiritual disciplines. These are further organized into sections: inward, outward, and corporate practices.

Disciplines of Personal Development (Inward)

  • Prayer – communicating with God ( 6:9)
  • Meditation – focusing on God and his will  ( 4:8)
  • Fasting – a reminder of the source of all nourishment (Luke 5:35)
  • Study – careful attention the reality that God reveals to us, especially through Holy Scripture (Luke 2:46)

Disciplines of Service to the Body of Christ (Outward)

  • Simplicity – seeking God’s Kingdom first ( 6:33)
  • Submission – placing God’s will above one’s own (Luke 22:42)
  • Solitude – withdrawing from the world to spend time with God ( 14:23)
  • Service – supportive action toward others (Mark 10:45)

Disciplines of Service with the Body of Christ (Corporate)

  • Confession – acknowledging one’s sin with and to others in the community of faith (James 5:16)
  • Guidance – giving and receiving direction from others along the journey with Jesus (Acts 15:8)
  • Celebration – taking joy is what God has done (1 Cor. 5:8)
  • Worship – giving God glory through attitudes and actions (1 Cor. 14:26)

Spiritual disciplines exercise our spirit, mind, and emotions so that we become closer to God. They help us see His will for our lives more clearly so that we can live the life He desires for us. The more we practice these disciplines, the better we get at them, and the stronger we make our faith.

Spiritual Disciplines Make It Simple

Spiritual disciplines also help us simplify our faith. How often do we just feel discouraged because we don’t quite know what to do or if our decisions are right or not? Spiritual disciplines have a way of clearing out the superfluous things so we can just get back to basics. Sometimes we just overcomplicate things, and spiritual disciplines can keep us from making our spiritual lives more difficult.

By practicing spiritual disciplines we also keep our eyes on God more often. When we focus on God, we stop letting other things get in our way or cloud our vision. Our lives find a clarity when we become more disciplined in our faith.

Examples of How Real Change Happens

The Disciplined Christian can know God’s ways though study…

He or she spends time soaking in Scripture, becoming intimately familiar with its message, learning the history of God’s church, and gaining understanding of the practical implications of theology.

The Disciplined Christian is reminded of the source of all blessing and sustenance through fasting…

Abstaining from food, time commitments and distractions, from anything that takes focus from Jesus brings clarity, focus, and humility.

The Disciplined Christian can SLOW  down through simplicity…he can hear God’s voice more clearly through solitude…

Alone time with God helps provide room for silence, waiting on God, and hearing the sometimes still, small voice of his Spirit.

In the end, the spiritual disciplines are hardly disciplines but gifts, opportunities to know grace, to experience joy, to brush the hem of Christ’s robe.

At the very best of moments, when we enter into the disciplines, our heads crane upwards, our mouths fall open, our hearts pound beholding wonder and mystery!

Disciplines of Letting Go

Solitude—Spending time alone to be with God. Find a quiet place to be alone with God for a period of time. Use the Bible as a source of companionship with God. Listen to Him. Remain alone and still.

Silence—Removing noisy distractions to hear from God. Find a quiet place away from noise to hear from God. Write your thoughts and impressions as God directs your heart. Silence can occur even in the midst of noise and distraction. But you must focus your attention on your soul. This could mean talking less or talking only when necessary. And it could mean turning off the radio and the TV.

Frugality—Learning to live with less money and still meet your basic needs. Before buying something new, choose to go without or pick a less expensive alternative that will serve your basic needs. Live a simple, focused life.

Secrecy—Avoiding self-promotion, practice serving God without others knowing.Give in secret. Serve “behind the scenes” in a ministry that you are assured few will know about.

Sacrifice—Giving of our resources beyond what seems reasonable to remind us of our dependence on Christ. Choose to give your time or finances to the Lord beyond what you normally would.

Disciplines of Activity

Dallas Willard writes, “The disciplines of abstinence must be counter-balanced and supplemented by disciplines of engagement (activity).” It’s choosing to participate in activities that nurture our souls and strengthen us for the race ahead.

Study—Spending time reading the Scriptures and meditating on its meaning and importance to our lives. We are nourished by the Word because it is our source of spiritual strength. Choose a time and a place to feed from the Word of God regularly.

Worship—Offering praise and adoration to God. His praise should continually be on our lips and in our thoughts. Read psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs, or sing to the Lord daily using a praise tape. Keep praise ever before you as you think of God’s mighty deeds in your life.

Prayer—Talking to and listening to God about your relationship with Him and about the concerns of others. Find time to pray to God without the distraction of people or things. Combine your prayer time with meditation on the Scriptures in order to focus on Christ.

Fellowship—Mutual caring and ministry in the body of Christ. Meet regularly with other Christians to find ways to minister to others. Encourage one another.

Confession—Regularly confess your sins to the Lord and other trusted individuals.As often as you are aware of sin in your life, confess it to the Lord and to those you may have offended.

Submission—Humbling yourself before God and others while seeking accountability in relationships. Find faithful brothers or sisters in Christ who can lovingly hold you accountable for your actions and growth in Christ.

PERSONAL  and corporate confession provide a way to confront, admit, be convicted of, and deal with sin in the context of a supportive community and ministers of grace.

The Disciplined Christian puts God in the highest place through worship…which sets us up for the lesson on Corporate Worship…



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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in Article

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