True Worship according to Paul


“I appeal to you therefore, brothers,
by the mercies of God, to present your bodies
as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,
which is your spiritual worship.” Rom 12:1


How many people when they think of Christianity think that being a Christian is a matter of sitting in church on Sunday, singing a few hymns, and putting money in the offering bag? Is that all there is to Christianity?
Christianity is not about sitting in church.
Christianity is about transformation! Paul understood that God’s plan of salvation, which encompasses Jews as well as Gentiles, has implications for how we live. Being a Christian involves following God’s way of life.
A lIving sacrificePaul writes in Rom 12:1 about this transformed way of life in Christ in terms of believers presenting their bodies as living sacrifices to God. In ancient Israel, worship at the temple involved bringing sacrifices to God. These were offered up as symbols of a person’s dedication to God. These sacrifices usually consisted of animals that were dedicated to God by being killed. In being killed, they were being removed from ordinary human use, and handed over to God for his use. Paul indicates that Christians should view themselves as sacrifices, but we are called to be a living sacrifice, not a dead sacrifice. The idea here is not that we serve God by literally dying for him like an Old Testament sacrifice, but that we serve God as we live in our bodies in the here and now. Every day of our life is supposed to be dedicated to God.
A Sacrifice to God
Paul describes the kind of sacrifice that we are to be in terms of being holy and pleasing to God. The concept of holiness in Greek has connotations of that which inspires religious awe or fear, or that which is fitting or appropriate in a sacred context. But underlying this Greek word is the use of the word קדוש in the Hebrew Bible. קדוש expresses the idea of separation from common use in order to be consecrated to God. Being holy means that we are to give ourselves over to God for his service. Being a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God means that we are to be dedicated in our service to God in a way that is appropriate in terms of what God desires.
A Living Sacrifice
Paul says that dedicating ourselves as a living sacrifice constitutes our spiritual worship. The word translated as spiritual in the NIV usually means rational or reasonable. The word translated as worship means service, and has connotations of the service that the Levitical priests offered to God in the tabernacle/temple. What then is this rational worship? It involves using our thoughts and minds to direct our bodies in the service of God. Paul speaks about the need for a mind-transformation in Rom 12:2, so he probably wants us to understand that being a living sacrifice for God as we engage our minds for him in our daily lives is the kind of worship that we are to show.
This service is mind-full, always mindful of God and what pleases him. This is the kind of worship that God desires, and it contrasts with the physical worship of God that took place in the temple in Jerusalem. For Paul, therefore, Christian worship is basically a new way of life based on a new way of thinking.
Our Motivation
The motivation for us in offering ourselves in this kind of worship is particularly God’s compassion that has been shown to us in his plan of salvation. All human beings (apart from Christ) have sinned, but God has chosen to be compassionate. The meaning of the word translated as mercy in the NIV indicates that God has identified with our pain or grief. As the word compassion implies, God has felt our feelings. God has felt our passions of pain or grief, and has been moved to do something to help us.
Seeing us tormented on the pathway of death, God sent Jesus into the world to rescue us; and a key part of that rescue involves us being set upon the way of life, no longer serving sin but serving God instead. God does not have to save anyone, but he has! And in response to his mercy, it behooves his people to respond to his compassion by offering themselves in grateful service to him.

To comment on Steven Coxhead’s article visit his blog page here.


Steven Coxhead
Brother Coxhead has served as visiting lecturer in Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Sydney Missionary and Bible College since 2002. He’s taught Advanced Classical Hebrew regularly at the Macquarie Ancient Languages School since 2009. As a part-time lecturer at the Presbyterian Theological Centre in Sydney from 2002 to 2010, teaching the Old Testament, Romans, John’s Gospel, Biblical Hebrew, and New Testament Greek; and taught Johannine Theology and the Old Testament at the Wesley Institute in Sydney from 2010 to 2011. Steven also taught Old Testament, New Testament, and Systematic Theology in South-East Asia.
Visit Steven Coxhead’s Berith Road Blog

The City of Refuge

A Study Outline
city of refuge
If the first readers of the epistle to the Hebrew Christians did not know their scriptures they would have missed a valuable insight into God’s Word from Hebrews 6.  Join with me to consider a glorious theme in God’s Word that should be readily known and understood by today’s student of God’s Word.
A. The promise to Abraham and the hope that is set before us provided we hold fast that which is promised.
Hebrews 6:13-19 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying,

“Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

B. In Hebrews 6:18 the writer (and teacher) makes a definite allusion to the Cities of Refuge.
What is an allusion?

First of all an “allusion” spelled with an “a” is very different from an “illusion” spelled with an “i.”

allusion – a noun : an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference.
illusion – a noun : a thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses: illusional

The cities of refuge presented a picture or shadow, of a type of Christ who is the Shelter, for needy and guilty sinners.

Strongs 4267: hope, place of refuge, shelter, trust Or machceh {makh-seh’}; from chacah; a shelter (literally or figuratively) — hope, (place of); refuge, shelter, trust. see HEBREW chacah

If the reader did not know his or her Old Testament scriptures this allusion would have gone right over their head and they would have missed out on savoring a blessed thought.
The Cities of Refuge were towns within the united kingdom of Israel in which the perpetrators of manslaughter could claim the right of asylum; outside of these cities, blood vengeance against such perpetrators was allowed by law. The Torah names six cities as being cities of refuge: Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor, on the east of the Jordan River, and Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron on the western side.

Joshua 20:1-3 Then the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, 3 that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.

So a City of Refuge served to shelter a man fleeing there for the safety it would provide. Safety to protect him from another man who sought to take his life.

For this study we consider how Jesus Christ is:

• A Protecting Refuge
• A Pleasant Hope
• A Personal Refuge
• The Believer’s Permanent Peace

C. First thing I want you to see from the scriptures is that our God is a Protecting Refuge
For this message I want to expand upon the importance of a God appointed place of refuge. Lord willing the Holy Spirit will grant us permission to taste and see. So follow me with your Bibles open so I can demonstrate to you how the idea of a refuge would have served the New Covenant readers of Hebrews. From….

Isaiah 25:4
For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,

Psalms 59:16
But I will sing of thy power; yea,
I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning:
for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.

Psalms 94:22
But the LORD is my defence;
and my God is the rock of my refuge.

God’s Word gives us many reasons why sinners should flee to Jesus Christ for protection and refuge.
From the Old Testament

⁃ Jeremiah 31:30 But everyone shall die for his own sin.

⁃ Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

⁃ Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die.

From the New Testament

⁃ Romans 3

10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Those who flee to Jesus find protection from God’s own wrath.

I Thessalonians 1:10 …Jesus who delivers us (His saints) from the wrath to come.

Those who flee to Jesus must look to Him as God’s provision to save them from their sins.

Hebrews 9:26b But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Those who look to Jesus Christ need Him who has the power to deliver them from spiritual darkness and this evil world. Of God’s saints it is said….

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

Galatians 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Helpless sinners look to Jesus because He is a friend of sinners.

Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.

D. He is not only a Protecting Refuge, Jesus Christ is also a Pleasant Hope for all those who put their trust in Him

In 1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Note: All who are not in Christ receive a delayed judgment because of God’s love for the believer. In this sense, Jesus is the Savior of the world because He holds back His judging hand from all who rightly and immediately deserve it. Judgment is delayed. This is a blessing received from God upon the unbeliever. In fact, God often blesses the unbeliever because of the presence of a believer.

Psalm 119:114 Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.

Note: Remember how the Hebrew word for hope can at times be translated to refuge.

Jesus Christ is much more.

He is altogether lovely.

Songs 5:16

His mouth is most sweet,

and he is altogether desirable.

This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

He is the rest for our conscience

Mat 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

He is the joy of our hearts

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He is the satisfaction for our souls

Psalm 36:8 They (his saints) feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

He is the brightness of our hope

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

He is the gladness of our spirit

John 20:20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

He is the preciousness of God’s promises

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.

E. Lastly, Jesus Christ is a Personal Refuge and a Permanent Peace for the weary soul.
God’s Word applies this picture of the city of refuge to the believer finding refuge in God on more than one occasion:

⁃ Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. More than 15 other times, the Psalms speak of God as our refuge.

There are obvious points of similarity between the cities of refuge and our refuge in Jesus.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge are within easy reach of the needy person; they were of no use unless someone could get to the place of refuge.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge are open to all, not just the Israelite; no one needs to fear that they would be turned away from their place of refuge in their time of need.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge became a place where the one in need would live; you didn’t come to a city of refuge in time of need just to look around.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge are the only alternative for the one in need; without this specific protection, they will be destroyed.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge provide protection only within their boundaries; to go outside means death.

⁃ With both Jesus and the cities of refuge, full freedom comes with the death of the High Priest.

He is the pleasantness of our peace with God, It is found in Him

II Peter 1:2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Jesus Christ is a Permanent Peace

There is a crucial difference between the cities of refuge and the saint’s refuge in Jesus. The cities of refuge only helped the innocent, but the guilty can come to Jesus and find eternal refuge.

I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Ezekiel 33:9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

F. Concluding remarks
Earlier in this message I pointed out Joshua 20:1-3 so you could see that there were indeed six cities appointed by God to serve as cities of refuge.

Joshua 20:1-3 Then the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, 3 that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.

Now at the conclusion of this message I want to reveal to you a seventh city. A glorious City, the City of our God, New Jerusalem, Sion.

Hebrews 6:17-18 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

Hebrews 11:8-10; 14-16 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (now jump to verse 14) For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

The 7th city of refuge is made by God.

Revelation of John 21:1-2 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Video Link to Cities of Refuge as presented at
Commentary: Moe Bergeron

Into The Light


Safety is found in the light of God

A few years ago, a friend of mine was keeping a very serious temptation in the dark. His friends and his pastor often asked questions about things that didn’t line up, but instead of seeing those questions as evidence of God’s mercy at work in his life, my friend continued to hide. He denied any wrongdoing and skirted the pointed questions about his past.
Then one day he succumbed to this temptation and was caught. It was the kind of deed that puts one in jail for a very long time. His family was devastated and his church was dismayed.
Afterward, I wrote him and asked him how we was processing these recent events. I’ll never forget what he wrote back to me. In short, he said God had given him many opportunities to confess and repent, but he didn’t see it as the mercy that it was. Instead, what he kept in the dark became the very thing that the Enemy used to destroy him. By nursing his secret sin and fearing the opinions of others more than the judgment of God, he destroyed all that was valuable to him — including his witness for the Lord.
Light EnteringI’ve thought a lot about this in the ensuing years, especially in the context of small groups and accountability relationships. In certain circles, we can talk a lot about “safe” people and “safe” churches, places where self-righteous judgment isn’t the most dominant relational characteristic. While it is important that we cultivate humility in our relationships (which is what being “safe” is all about), safety is not found in the reaction of others. Safety is found in the light of God.In God’s mercy, the one thing we don’t want to do — drag our sin out of the darkness and confess it others — is the very thing that will actually spare us. As it says in the first chapter of the gospel of John, life is found in the light:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14, emphasis mine)

Grace and truth co-exist in the One who is the true light, who came into the world on a divine rescue mission to give those who receive Him the right to become children of God. This is jaw-dropping truth! We want to hide our ugliness, our brokenness, our darkness. But when we willingly expose it to the Light, we are healed and restored.
This means confession and accountability are some of our primary weapons in the spiritual battles we face every day. This “life together in the light” should be the culture we create in our churches and in our families. We should be eager to help each other, not to judge one another. There is but one wholly righteous Judge and He tells us to meet Him at the point of our most severe criticism, the Cross, so that we can see clearly how great is our sin. The wonder is that at this place of severe criticism, we receive completely unmerited mercy! When we are truthful about our temptations and sins, we find grace to repent and change.
So how can we create this culture in our small group or church? It starts with each of us being willing to remove our own “fig leaf” mask and get real. Why does it seem so much harder to tell one another the truth that God already knows? For that matter, why does it seem so hard to tell one another the truth that most of us can already see in each other?! If I find it hard to confess my pride or anger, I’m being illogical. Nearly everyone around me is already aware of the overflow of my heart in those areas. But confession is the healing balm that brings me into the Light, where grace and truth meet me for full restoration!
(If you want to read further on this topic, I highly recommend Ed Welch’s classic book, When People Are Big and God Is Small. It’s not just for those who fear rejection. It’s also for those who crave approval. Both of those motivations keep us in the dark, instead of the light.)
~ Carol
Some blog posts are worth repeating. This is one of them. ~ CMC
Read the original post and/or comment at Carolyn McCulley’s blog.
Carolyn McCulley
Carolyn is the author of two books, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005), as well as to other webzines and publications. She is a frequent conference speaker for women’s ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.

Preaching: Delivery Dynamics


Can They Hear?

Preaching DynamicsI have been pondering the issue of sermon delivery again.  Part of the reason is that I am leading a workshop on the subject.  I don’t want to go over the whole rationale for even engaging the subject.  I know some are prone to suggest that to give any consideration to delivery is to fall into entertainment and performance, or to fail to trust the Spirit of God.  Maybe I’ll come back and offer some thoughts on why that is not the case.  But for now I’d like to offer a basic pairing of key issues:
Can they hear?  If the people in the meeting cannot hear what is said, then communication is not happening.  No amount of good content will overcome the fundamental flaw of not being heard.  Three factors to consider:
1. Projection.  The preacher needs to project their voice.  Even if you have a microphone, preach as if you don’t (without shouting) and let the experts on the sound desk adjust accordingly.  Some people assume a microphone will pick up and amplify sound that barely has the strength to make it across the few inches to the black foam.  Shouting and straining may harm your vocal clarity and make it so listeners don’t want to hear you, but lack of projection can be just as frustrating.
2. Pronunciation.  You don’t need to put on an accent that is not your own.  You are preaching, not reading the news.  But be lovingly sensitive to those present, and adjust as necessary to allow them to make out the words you are saying.  Mumbled words are not casual, they are unloving.  Practice moving the mouth a little more and make sure the words and sounds are articulated.
3. Pace.  You will often hear people talking about how the pace should not be too quick.  It is certainly possible to overdo the pace, but the human mind can cope with quick speech.  That is, as long as the words are distinct, and the pace is not sustained for too long.  So beware of going too fast, but also recognize that some listeners cannot tolerate it when a speaker goes too slowly, either.
Let’s now probe another question that will take us to a new level on the issue of delivery dynamics. Comments invited for the above through Cor Deo
Here’s a follow up question:

Will they Listen?

Just because people technically can hear the preacher, this doesn’t mean that they want to listen.  Here are three factors to ponder:
1. Personal Warmth.  Dogs can tell when they are not liked.  So can congregations.  If the preacher lacks personal warmth, then the listeners may feel more critical of the preacher, or they may tune out what they perceive to be a critical spirit toward them.  There is no need to act like syrup and present a fake flattery (people see through that, of course).  But genuine warmth and care is critical to creating a true communication connection.
2. Prideful Attitude.  Many people have a sensitive radar when it comes to personal pride.  They can spot any hint of it in others (even while being oblivious to their own profound problems with pride!)  So be careful not to show off, to drop names, to seek to impress, to be proactively self-conscious.  When listeners thinking you are prideful, they tend to stop being good listeners.
3. Provocatively Annoying.  Not to put too fine a point on it, don’t be annoying.  I could list any number of habits that preachers might develop that might annoy their listeners, but the best way to find out is to humbly ask a few trusted listeners and be willing to listen to them.  It could be a matter of a gesture, or a vocal habit, or a strategy for interaction, or whatever.  It would be a shame for people to choose not to listen to your message because something you are doing is annoying to them.
Can they hear?  Will they listen?  Two key questions in considering the dynamics of delivery.
You may comment on the above section through Cor Deo
~ Peter
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit Peter also authors the website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]

Three Visions


Amos 7:1-9


This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings. 2 When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said,

“O Lord GOD, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” 3 The LORD relented concerning this; “It shall not be,” said the LORD.

4 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. 5 Then I said,

“O Lord GOD, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” 6 The LORD relented concerning this; “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

7 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; 9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

AmosThis passage begins a new section in the book. This section contains some prophetic visions, and we want to look at the first three of these. The visions are given to and through Amos to emphasize the fact that judgment would shortly come upon Israel. They are, so to speak, the final warning. But sadly, Israel would not listen to this warning. The visions in these verses demonstrate the sovereignty of our God in three different ways.
Comment: We are acting in a spiritually wise manner when we listen to God’s warnings, repent and turn back to the Lord.
I. God’s sovereign purpose
A. The passage clearly teaches that God had a purpose for Israel, that he was pursuing that purpose, and that his purpose would be accomplished (7:8). God had a purpose of judgment, revealed from the birth of the covenant nation, to punish the people if they disobeyed. In the old covenant everything hung upon the “if you obey….”

1. There is a seeming problem in this, for the passage also says that “the Lord relented” (7:3, 6). How can the Lord carry out his purpose if he relents?

2. We see this same kind of statement made in other passages (Ex 32:14; Jer 18:5-10). How can this be consistent with statements about God’s unchanging purpose (Num 23:19; Is 14:24; 46:9-11)?

B. A two-part answer to this apparent difficulty

1. God reveals himself in human terms to help us understand him and his ways.

a. Since the Creator is so much greater than we are, it is necessary for God to communicate with us in this manner. Is 55:8-9

b. For this reason, we find statements like “the arm of the Lord,” though God is spirit.

2. God reveals himself in this manner to show his patience and mercy. God is saying that he is not impulsive or capricious. He delights to show mercy, but his mercy has met with consistent refusal.

Illustration: Adults sometimes find that young children of their friends might be initially frightened of them. So what do you do? You do something nice for the child in order to encourage him or her to think nicely of you.
Illustration: In the workplace, employers or employees may have problems with each other. In either case, you usually hear the complaint, “Look at all the things I have done for him or her!”
Point: Statements like “the Lord relented” must be seen in the larger context of his sovereignty. God has a larger purpose that he is working out, and in order to do so in the way that he wants to, he apparently relents or changes his mind in some matters, while in fact he is accomplishing his larger purpose.
II. God’s sovereignty and prayer
A. In the Bible we encounter many commands and encouragements to prayer.

1. In this passage we see Amos praying to God for mercy on Israel. Given the fact of God’s purpose already considered, we can wonder, “Since God is sovereign and does all his holy will, why should I bother to pray?”

Comment: The first difficulty about prayer, which most fail to consider, is the nature of prayer itself. Is it a list of demands from sinners that are forced upon a fully holy Creator, or is prayer something else? Since I have already discussed this on various occasions, I move on.

2. Before we consider the answer, it might be helpful to consider this: Though the people through whom God gave the Scriptures may have wrestled with this problem, it did not deflect them from acknowledging God’s sovereignty or from praying. To fall into to the error of rejecting God’s absolute sovereignty or the error of ceasing to pray are not Biblical options. Theology can create problems that the Bible does not!

Point: Our thoughts must be kept within the boundaries of the Scriptures.
B. A partial answer to this apparent difficulty

1. This passage demonstrates that prayer is an effective part of the plan of God (7:3, 6) – “So the Lord relented.”

Other Examples: Gen 20:7; 2 Ki 6:17; Mt 26:41; Mk 9:28-29; Jn 16:24; Js 4:2b-3

2. Prayer is one of the means to God’s appointed goal. In various situations God will use various “second causes” to fulfill his purposes. In some situations he might use only one “second cause” or even none at all. We cannot put God in a box and demand that he work the same way in every situation.

Illustration: In situations of financial need, one time God might meet the need through providing a gift, and in another he might provide a better paying job, or in some other way.

a. Consider the example of Elijah’s prayers about rain.

b. Consider the examples of the prayers of Moses and Samuel (Jer 15:1; Ex 32:9-14; 1 Sm 7:7-13).

Comment: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance but laying hold of his willingness.” [Luther]

3. In this text we see the importance of prayer in connection with God’s mercy to people. We cannot save or deliver, but God can, and therefore we must ask God.

III. God’s sovereignty and judgment
A. God has the ability to use various instruments of judgment. Although he uses second causes, the Lord is the One judging.

1. Judgment through the means of locusts (7:1)

2. Judgment through the means of fire (7:2)

3. Judgment through the means of sword (7:9)

B. God’s sovereign judgment is according to a true standard (7:7-8).

1. The importance of building plumb and square

Illustration: Our parsonage in Rural Grove was neither plumb nor square.

2. Israel had been built the proper way. The Lord had given them just laws and leaders to guide them in his ways. The problem was with the people (cf. Heb 8:3ff?).

C. God proclaimed a limit to the delay in punishment.

1. Failure to repent during a delay sent by God increases our responsibility. Rm 2:4-5

Comment: America has had a long opportunity to repent after 9/11, but has become worse instead of repentant. Instead of humbling herself before God, America is suppressing the knowledge of God even more. God may not use the locusts or the fire on America, but will he use the sword? Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

2. Since they had been unrepentant, there was no escape (7:8b). “I will spare them no longer.” God warns us that mercy will not always be available. Consider Abraham’s plea for Sodom (Gen 18:22-33) or God’s words to Jeremiah (Jer 7:16; 11:14; 14:10-12; 15:1). The same is true in the new covenant (Heb 10:26-31; 1 Jn 5:16-17).

Apply: Tonight is the time to turn back to the Lord. How is your relationship with the Lord?
~ Dave
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.

Love is Kind

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

We began to consider the character of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 a few weeks ago. Paul uses 15 verbs in vss. 4-7 to tell us what love does. True biblical love always expresses itself through action. The last two session we have been talking about how love is patient. This session we will be moving along to kindness. As always our focus will be on God and His kindness toward us. If we want to know what it means to be patient and kind we need to look to God and how He has related with we sinful human beings. He is our standard. And I am convinced that the only way we will ever learn to be kind is if we keep our eyes on Him, reveling in His kindness toward us. The more we relish the Gospel, God’s love poured out for us in Christ, the more we will desire to be loving toward one another. As we talk about kindness this morning I will be taking you through three primary passages of Scripture.


1. Romans 12:14-21
Before we talk about kindness in particular, it will be helpful to consider patience and kindness together. Really, patience and kindness are two sides of the same coin. How do you respond when you are sinned against, hurt, or offended? Patience is the negative response. Kindness is the positive response. This isn’t to say that patience is bad and kindess is good. Rather, it is to say that patience is the lack and action and kindness is the presence of action. Patience says, I will not retaliate if you sin against me. Patience is really the law of non-retaliation.
Kindness actually seeks to bless when sinned against.
Patience says, “If you hurt me I will not hurt you back.” Kindness says, “If you hurt me I will respond (pay you back) in goodness and love.” Let me put it this way. If God were merely patient with us, we would still go to hell. The patience of God means that He is slow to anger. If God were merely patient with us without moving toward us in kindness, hell would merely be postponed. His long fuse would come to an end and He would condemn us as we deserve. Kindness, however, is one giant leap forward. When God moves toward us in kindness, not only does He not retaliate, He actually pursues our good. Let me show you the two side by side in Romans 12:14-21.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In vs. 14 we see a picture of kindness.
When someone sins against you, persecutes you, slanders you, wrongs you, hurts you, etc., how do you respond? Paul says that we are to not merely put up with that person. Paul says that we are to go way beyond the bounds of non-retaliation. We are to actually move toward the person in kindness. We are to “bless” those who persecute us. It is not enough to merely not retaliate. We must ultimately move toward them in kindness.
In vs. 17 Paul speaks about patience, the law of non-retaliation.
He says, “Repay no one evil for evil.” In other words, if someone slanders you, you ought not slander them back. If someone hurts you you ought not seek to hurt them back. Christianity is a non-retaliation religion. There is no room for retaliation in Christianity. This doesn’t mean that we can’t defend ourselves. Jesus wasn’t afraid to defend Himself when maligned (see Matthew 22:15-46; John 18:35-37). Paul defended himself against false apostles in 2 Corinthians. He defends Himself by appealing to his Roman citizenship in Acts 22:25. Jesus actually advises His disciples to get a sword for self-defense purposes (see Luke 22:36). So self-defense is not prohibited in the Christian life. But there is a world of difference between relatiation and self-defense. Retaliation is where you seek the harm of one who has harmed you. God gives you zero liberty when it comes to “getting even” with a person who has sinned against you, hurt you, maligned you. Paul says, “Do not return evil with evil.”
He goes on in vs. 19 to once again puts the emphasis on patience, the law of non-retaliation.
He says, “never avenge yourselves.” Don’t retaliate when someone sins against you. God says that vengeance is His job. He has that covered just fine. Do you think that you can avenge yourself better than God can avenge you? Next time you question God’s ability to avenge you, read the account of the flood in Genesis 6-7. This is the light hearted story we tell our kids about God killing literally everything he had created save one man, his small family, and two of every kind of animal. You don’t have to avenge yourself. God has that covered. He is more than qualified for the job. Knowing that God has this covered frees you up to love. You can be patient and kind to the one who sins against you, persecutes you, offends you, because you know that vengeance is God’s. He is far more just and righteous than you are.
Paul then moves back to kindness in vss. 20-21.
In these verses we learn that being patient—not retaliating—is not enough. If we truly want to be like Christ we must actually move toward them in kindness. He says that you are to feed your enemy. Now Paul says that if you feed and water your enemy (like a plant or a cow?) you will “heap burning coals on his head.” Many think here that Paul is giving the Christian a Christian way of getting even (sucker punching) with someone who sins against you. It is almost like a Jedi magic trick. And so many Christians will talk about these burning coals of kindness as if they were meant to bring harm to the person.
This is the way many Christians think through this; they say, ‘This person sinned against me. I will rejoice in their misery when I heap burning coals of kindness on their head. Haha!” No. This contradicts everything that Paul has said in this passage. To use kindness as a way to hurt and inflict pain on another person is to use kindness in an unkind, evil way. The burning coals are not meant to hurt the person but to heal.
What then are these burning coals?
First, it must be mentioned that this is a quotation from Proverbs 25:21-22. It has been argued that the burning coals on the head is a reference to an Egyptian ritual. When a person had sinned and had come under conviction and was truly repentant, he would put a pan on his head which was filled with coals as a way of publicly confessing his guilt and shame and his commitment to repentance. This Egyptian practice was much like the biblical practice of rending your garments or that of dressing in sackcloth and ashes. These were biblical ways of expressing grief and sorrow over tragedy or sin (see Daniel 9:3 and Matthew 11:21).
What then is Paul’s point?
Maybe you have seen this in action. Jesus says that men hate the light because it exposes their deeds of darkness (John 3:19-20). When a person reviles a Christian and the Christian responds as Jesus would, with kindness, their Christ-like response is like light which exposes this person’s sin. As the light of Christ shines through you by the Spirit of God as you respond to offense and personal sin, the world’s deeds of darkness is exposed. This leads to conviction of sin, which drives them to Christ in faith and repentance. This is what Paul is talking about. Let me read for you a portion from John Stott’s commentary on Romans to bring greater clarity.

“the coals are a symbol of penitence… the coals are a dynamic symbol of change of mind which takes place as a result of a deed of love… Our personal responsibility is to love and serve our enemy according to his needs, and genuinely to seek his highest good. The coals of fire this may heap on him are intended to heal, not to hurt, to win, not to alienate, in fact, to shame him into repentance.

But if you think about it, we usually stop with patience and fail to move on to kindness. We don’t retaliate, but we fail to move forward in the area of kindness. We feel satisfied that we don’t return evil with evil, but we don’t move to the point where we are actually seeking to overcome evil with good. You don’t retaliate, but you become cold toward the person who sinned against you, offended you, or whatever. If you stay cold in your patience, you have not truly loved. Really, when you have been patient you are only at the very beginning stage of love. This is so very important as we think about what it means to be holy—what it means to be like Jesus. Consider what Paul says in 2 Timothy 6:11.

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Flee and pursue. If you only flee you will not be holy. If you only pursue you will not be holy. You must flee sin and pursue righteousness at the same time. If you go only half way in your flight from sin but do not actually pursue righteousness, you are not holy. In order to be like Jesus you must both flee and pursue. The same is true here. You must be patient and kind. Until you actually pursue the good of the one who has sinned against you, you have not exhibited biblical love. Biblical love is never content with a cold heart even toward our enemies. What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 13 is that love manifests itself through both patience and kindness. Love moves beyond patience. Love manifests itself in acts of kindness. Don’t ever be content or think yourself to be spiritual simply because you refrain from retaliation. You must pursue the good of your enemy, “bless those who persecute you,” and “overcome evil with good.”
2. Matthew 5:43-45.
Turn with me to Matthew 5:43-45 and Luke 6:35.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

There are a number of things to point out in these two passages.
God says that we will be “sons of your Father who is in heaven” if we love and pray for our enemies.
I want to talk about what it means to be a son of our Father in heaven. D.A. Carson has been helpful here. Because we live in a culture which is so very different from that of the first century, we lose what it means to be a son of our Father in heaven. In the first century, nearly 95% of all boys ended up doing occupationally what their fathers did. So, if you lived in the first century, if your dad was an electrician you would be an electrician, if your dad was a professional wrestler you would grow up to be a professional wrestler, if your dad was a mall cop you would too grow up to be a mall cop. 95% of all boys ended up doing occupationally what their fathers did. Today that number is completely inverted. That is to say that nearly 95% of boys do not end up doing occupationally what their fathers did.
So… my dad was a machinist and I am a pastor. Mike’s dad is a plant manager and he is a firefighter, Brad Pitt’s dad was a truck company owner. 95% of all boys today do not end up doing what their father’s did. But in the first century sons always did what their father’s did. This is why Jesus is referred to as “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55). This is why Jesus tells the Pharisees that their father is the devil; because they were acting like the devil. The Devil is a murderer and a liar and they were seeking to kill Jesus and were propagating lies about him (see John 8:44-45).  So when Jesus says that you will be sons of your Father in heaven you have to keep in mind the culture to which He was speaking. What He meant was that if you love your enemies and pray for your enemies you will be doing what God does. In that sense you will be sons of your Father in heaven.
And in the next verse Jesus tells us just how God’s love for his enemies is manifest.
His love is manifest in acts of kindness toward the evil, the good, the righteous, and the unrighteous. He speaks specifically of the sun rising and the rain falling. Without the rising sun and the falling rain all of humanity would die of dehydration and starvation. God keeps those who love Him alive and He keeps those who hate him alive. This is what theologians call “common grace.” Common grace is refers to those gifts of God’s grace which He gives to all people without distinction. As you see in this passage, the sun rises and the rain falls on both the evil and the good. Just to add clarity, theologians also speak of what is called “special grace.” This refers to those gifts of God’s grace which He gives only to His sheep, the elect, Christians.
God sends the rain on both radical Islamic terrorists and Baptist preachers alike.
You see, God has not merely been patient with us. That certainly would be enough. However, not only did not condemn you and I to hell the very first time you sinned, but He has actually moved toward you and I in kindness. I want to list just a few evidences of God’s kindness in common grace. Health, wealth, prosperity, family, friends, education, transportation, creaturely comforts. The list could go on and on. God bestows these gifts on the most humble servant on the most defiled rapist. This is not to say that God condones sin. That is the point; He has moved toward us in spite of our sin. Not only has He put off wrath, He has actually moved toward us in kindness. So lets think about a few of these gifts of kindness that God gives us.
1. Health. I find health to be one of the greatest evidences of God’s kindness.
That may be the case because James, my son, is handicapped.
We always talk to each other as we watch other kids talking, eating, walking, running, and playing. Our conversation is not filled with bitterness. Our conversation is filled with wonder. A child will be sitting up in a chair unassisted playing with a toy. The child will drop the toy, get off the chair, bend over, and then climb back up on the chair. What Kristal and I see the glory of God, the miracle of life. The brain sending signals to the muscles to contract and relax. The coordination of the muscles to contract and relax such that a little child can get off the chair, bend over, pick up the toy, and sit back in the chair in one fluid motion. It is a miracle. It is God’s kindness. And this kindness is not merely extended to God’s people, but even to the child of the most hate-filled terrorist. Your health is a gift. The health of your children is an expression of God’s lovingkindness. And this loving kindness extends to the evil and the good, the righteous and the unrighteous, alike. God has not merely been patient, He has moved toward us in kindness.
2. Living conditions in 21st century America.
Look at the kindness of God to us here in America. Many do not think about the fact that we live in the most privileged society not only globally but historically. Never in the history of mankind has there been a country as bountiful and abundant as ours. We live like kings and queens. Even those who are dependent upon government assistance are more than adequately supplied. Sure, we may feel that we are poor because we compare ourselves to each other. However, if you consider your situation in the light of global conditions you will find that God’s kindness has been poured on you in abundance. Sofas, hot showers, heated homes, cars, multiple room homes, electricity on demand, water on demand, multiple pairs of pants, shirts, socks, shoes, and the list goes on and on and on. One of the most striking features of our modern times is medical advancement. We have pills to dull pain, medicine to cure ailments, surgery to fix bones. Did you know that the average life expectancy in the Roman world in the first century was the late 20’s for women and the late 40’s for men. Just a hundred years ago 1 out of every 4 children died before reaching 1 year old. The great puritan John Owen (1616-1683) had 11 children, only 1 lived to adulthood. Now in America the average life expectancy among women is nearly 80, men nearly 75, and nowadays the infant mortality rate is lower than .5%.
If you live in America you are drinking from the firehose of God’s common grace.
You have received more common grace than nearly any other human being under the face of the sun. What is the point of all of this? God pours out His common grace on both the terrorist and the evangelist—he causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. God has not merely been patient with His enemies—He had every right to send us all to hell the very moment we committed our first sin. But He has moved far beyond patience and has actually moved toward us in kindness. He has showered His loving kindness even on His enemies—even on those who refuse to repent of their sins and receive Christ—on those who do not love Him or give Him the glory due His name. Are you overwhelmed by God’s kindness to you? What does it mean to be kind? It means that you treat your enemies as God has treated His enemies.
3. Titus 3:3-7.
Let me take you to one last passage, Titus 3:3-7.

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

If the passage we just looked at in Matthew 6 focused on God’s common grace, the focus of this passage is on His special grace—those good gifts of grace which He gives only to the elect. In vs. 3 Paul tells us who we were when God saved us. We were evil. We were enemies of God. Dead in trespasses and sins—slaves of sin. Before God saved you, you were in rebellion against God, an enemy of God. So even God’s special grace is meted out to His enemies. It was when we were in rebellion against God (vs. 4) that God’s “goodness and loving kindness… appeared.” This is the kindness of God. The word translated here by the ESV as “goodness” is actually the same word that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 13:4 for “kindness” (here it is the noun form of the word, in 1 Corinthians 13 it is the verb form of the same word). So God speaks of salvation as a result of His kindness. God saved us by His kindness while we were still His enemies. He moved toward us in kindness while we were still dead in our trespasses and sins. He became a man and died in our place while we were still fast bound in sin. This is the kindness of God.
God was not merely patient toward you, He moved toward you in kindness.
He died for you while you were an unlovely sinner.
It is only when you are swallowed up by His kindness that you will joyfully bless those who persecute you. It is only when you are joyfully overwhelmed by His kindness toward you in Christ that you will joyfully be kind to your enemies. It is only when you embrace the Gospel and enjoy the Gospel and exult in the kindness of God toward you in the Gospel that you will extend that same kindness to others. Love is patient and kind. Love does not retaliate when sinned against. However, love doesn’t stop there. Love actually moves toward the unlovely in kindness—seeking to overcome evil with God, just as God has done for you in Christ!
1 Stott, Romans, 336-227.
~ Jimmy

Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
Visit pastor Snowden’s Blog

The Second Corinthian Church


Why you’ve never heard of
the Second Corinthian Church

[Studies in 1 Corinthians]
The Church at CorinthPaul was a traveling apostle, not the local pastor of Corinth. Nevertheless, he had to deal with the members of this flock in a pastoral way, teaching, encouraging and rebuking them.
I’ve spend some years studying 1 Corinthians, and I must admit honestly, that if I had been Paul, I would have been heavily tempted to abandon the Corinthian church, and that long before he wrote 1 Corinthians in AD 56. The fact that Paul did not do so is a testimony to what God was doing at Corinth. It is estimated that there were perhaps 60-100 Christians in Corinth, distributed among 3-4 congregations, which met in private homes. It took two years to plant that church; it had then received five years of further apostolic care from Paul, then Apollos, probably Cephas/Peter, not to mention Timothy, Titus and other team members. It carried on regular written correspondence with Paul. It was a church for which Paul anxiously prayed every day (2 Cor 11:28).
Yet compared with the other churches, Corinth gave back poor returns for Paul’s investment. He does not commend them as he does Philippi or Thessalonica for their evangelistic work, and 2 Cor 10:16 may imply that Corinth had not gotten far into evangelizing their own region, Achaia; yet in the meantime, both Achaia and Macedonia had heard about the gospel work in Thessalonica (1 Thess 1:7-8). The Corinthians consumed more resources and energy than they produced; they ate up the apostle’s time and energy when he should have been focusing on the “open doors” in other places (1 Cor 16:8-9).
Some deprecated Paul’s work, even though they owed him their souls. They laughed behind his back that he was crude and simplistic, a loser. Some devalued his gospel by ranking it second to popular philosophy. They rejected whole apostolic doctrines, such as the resurrection of the dead. They were arrogant and boastful, and cruel to their own poor. They justified themselves for rejecting marriage on one hand or for visiting prostitutes on the other. They took each other to court and hurled insults at each other.
If Paul were like us, wouldn’t he have left the church, walked across the city and planted a new work of Christ from scratch? Wouldn’t common sense tell him that if he stopped wasting his time with these few dozen people, he could start another work and surpass that number in a very short time? Why not pour his time into a Second Corinthian Church? He could not do so because Christ would not allow it. For these bothersome individuals were not simply marks in a ledger that should be written off as a bad investment. Rather they were God’s chosen people. And despite the inexcusable things they did and said, Paul perceived that the Spirit was working in them and would continue to do so (1 Cor 1:4-9). As one of the early church fathers wrote around AD 117, a pastor should not spend all his time with the pleasant disciples of the congregation: “If you love only good disciples, it is no credit to you.” (Ignatius Epistle to Polycarp 2.1).
What modern pastor can endure months of this treatment, let alone years? We are in a rush to reap results that we can measure and boast of before other shepherds. We forget that God is not in a hurry. What foolishness it would be to storm off from God’s flock when he may be preparing to do a fresh work among them in a few short years.
When a pastor becomes furious at his sheep for their slowness or stubbornness; when he berates them for their stupidity; when he threatens to leave them; when he beats them in anger rather than chastise them in love; then this pastor has left behind the ministry of Christ and wandered into a ministry of the flesh. Anger cannot accomplish a work for God; impatience, boasting, rudeness and sarcasm are never tools of God’s Spirit.
Download my full commentary on 1 Corinthians

~ Gary
Visit Dr Shogren’s blog to comment on his article.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Copyright Gary Shogren.
Gary has a PhD in New Testament Exegesis. He serves as Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San Jose, Costa Rica[/author_info] [/author]
[button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Dr. Gary Shogren’s blog![/button]

The Gospel at Work


A short testimony about what the
gospel looks like in the daily work I do.

The Gospel At Work ConferenceLast month, I participated in The Gospel at Work conference. In addition to giving a seminar about women, work and productivity, I was also invited to give this short testimony about what the gospel looks like in the daily work I do. So I’m sharing the testimony here. The messages from this event are available online.
Four years ago, I decided that the depth of the Great Recession was an ideal time to start a new business—in a creative field, no less! So in early 2009, I launched Citygate Films, raising private equity to produce a slate of documentary films. Digital distribution was poised to change the way independent films reach their audiences and I was positioning Citygate to take advantage of that trend.
As expected, my first year in business was a steep learning curve—trying to master securities law, effective business plans, accounting software, taxes and tax forms . . . and even the occasional film shoot! I quickly learned that the “business of business” took more time and brain cells than the creative film work I anticipated filling my time. Daily I asked God both for my personal provision and for the wisdom to make the right decisions required in this new venture—and daily I saw Him be faithful to His promises to give both.
But those experiences are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to seeing the gospel at work. In the years since, I’ve learned three valuable lessons:
Lesson Number One: Relationship Trumps Product
There is a sticky note on my office wall to remind me to pray for one of the musicians featured in our jazz documentary because she’s seriously ill with cancer. Do you know why I have this note posted? Because I need to be reminded she is more than a face in my film.
It’s so easy to default to the product—the film—being the highest priority. I want to make excellent films, but this woman is much more than a subject in my film. She has become a dear friend. Being granted access to someone else’s life and story is one of the great privileges of being a documentary filmmaker. But any story I create only captures a small slice of the larger narrative God has already created, ordained, and sustained.
As John Piper says, “In every situation and circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know.”
Therefore, I need to live in prayerful awareness of that truth. Whether I am working on a feature film that Citygate has produced or a short film for a corporate, nonprofit, or ministry client, I need to live the truth that relationship trumps product. And intercessory prayer is one of the ways I’m learning to practice it.
Lesson Number 2: Give Credit
If you’ve ever made it through a movie’s entire closing credit scroll, you know that filmmaking is a highly collaborative endeavor. As much credit as is given the director for the artistic and commercial success of a film, that individual stands on the talents and efforts of countless others. This is true in every field. We need to acknowledge and praise the contributions of others. But that’s a self-evident truth, even to those who don’t claim faith.
A more profound lesson I’ve learned as a Christ-follower is to look for what’s never listed in the credit scroll: the grace of God in making any human collaboration actually work. That’s the single most important aspect of success, for there are a gazillion ways for our best-laid plans to go wrong.
Lesson Number 3: Invite the Critics
Every filmmaker craves “two thumbs up” and rave reviews. You’ve been up to stupid o’clock every night for months, sometimes years, working on this film and you want major applause as a reward. But that doesn’t happen without much critique along the way to improve the final product.
Here’s what I’ve learned the hard way: critique only becomes criticism if you fear other people by craving their approval or fearing their rejection. But living in light of gospel truth means you know that your most devastating evaluation has already been made: you have fallen short of God’s glory in every way possible. But you still get “two thumbs up” because of Christ’s righteousness. That frees you from the sting of falling short in the judgment of a fellow creature.
Practically speaking, your first draft is never your best, anyway. You have to be willing to have lots of “rough-cut screenings” as we say in the film industry to solicit feedback and improve the final product. Not only will that practice improve your craft, it will also improve your soul.
Some blog posts are worth repeating. This is one of them. ~ CMC
Read the original post and/or comment at Carolyn McCulley’s blog.
Carolyn McCulley
Carolyn is the author of two books, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005), as well as to other webzines and publications. She is a frequent conference speaker for women’s ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.

Thoughts in Preaching from Numbers & Levitcus


Three Thoughts in Preaching Numbers

….followed by Three Themes to preach from Leviticus
I have to admit that Numbers is not a book that I rush toward.  The main reason for this is that I have not studied it in depth and so should probably preach it in order to develop my appreciation.  Nonetheless, here are three thoughts from reading it through these last few days.
1. Faith does not automatically flow from the miraculous.
Many people assume that if we could just see something miraculous, then we’d believe.  After all, if we could just see God doing wonders in our midst then the culture would come flocking.  Numbers again underlines that even God’s people don’t automatically respond in faith to observed wonders, so assuming others will is presumptuous.  Water from a rock, a budding staff, the ground swallowing rebels, and consequently that generation were a people of faith?  Not quite.  The issue is not what we see, but how our hearts perceive what we see.  If we don’t want to believe, no amount of miraculous intervention will guarantee true faith.
2. The Law’s community function did not generate faith.
The nation that had started with one man, become twelve men, then seventy, then hundreds of thousands needed to be constrained and ordered.  Their sin and rebellion had led to a growing statute book and legal code.  By the time we get to Numbers we might assume that being a people with well defined laws meant they were ready to believe and trust God.  Caleb and Joshua are the glorious exceptions.  The ten spies didn’t.  The people didn’t.  Even Moses didn’t.  In fact, rather than getting caught up in what Moses actually did wrong in chapter 20, perhaps the writer is vague on the errant action to point us to underlying faith issues.  The great leader under the Law who disobeys God through lack of faith (Num.20:12) seems to contrast with the great man of faith before Law who kept God’s commands (compare and contrast Gen.26:5).
3. God’s promise plan is not thwarted even when the faithless miss out.
It is important to help listeners know that Numbers sits in the flow of the Pentateuch, rather than as a stand-alone collection of stories.  God’s plan to bless the world back in the beginning of Genesis was articulated clearly in his promise to Abram.  By the end of Genesis the seed promise has grown into an extended family, with blessing to all families reiterated in the blessing of Judah by Jacob.  That nation through which the blessing would come is born in Exodus despite the three-fold attempt by Pharoah to curse the “too numerous people.”  At the other end of the wilderness sojourn we see another king seeking three times to curse a “too numerous” Israel.  Again, the attempts to curse God’s nation lead only to their blessing.  Thus the promise to Abraham marches on, with just Deuteronomy left: a sermonic call for circumcised hearts and love for God from the new generation heading into the dangerous place of security and peace.
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Moving on now to consider….

Three Themes to Preach from Leviticus

I admit it, I haven’t preached through Leviticus.  For many people it is the book that undoes their read through (my suggestion?  Read faster and get the sweeping history rather than trying to meticulously study through Leviticus every time . . . and keep the pace through the rest of the Bible too!)  So I haven’t preached it, but I can say this: when I preached the whole Bible in a single message, the key text came from Leviticus.
So here are three themes that are worth pondering, both in preaching Leviticus itself, and for preaching elsewhere:
1. Worship and Atonement.
Leviticus launches with seven chapters on sacrificial offerings, then builds to the climactic Day of Atonement description in chapter 16.  It is too easy to preach from the New Testament and make vague references to “Old Testament sacrifices” and how glad we are not to have to do them.  As a preacher it would be well worth reading this section closely enough to be able to describe what was involved in “all those sacrifices.”  Can we really grasp all that Jesus has done for us if we are basically unaware of the system in place prior to His sacrifice?
2. Living and Loving.
The priestly code of early Leviticus flowed out of the conclusion to Exodus (and the terrible golden calf incident).  But then in Leviticus 17 there is a passing reference to another ghastly failure, this time on the part of the people: worshipping goat demons.  What follows is yet more law, this time focusing in on the people who needed to live with one another and love one another in light of who the LORD is.  In the midst of this section we find the seven Mosaic feasts described in chapter 23.  Again, to preach the New Testament effectively we need to know our way around the annual feasts of Israel.
3. Living in God’s Presence.
So the last time I preached the whole Bible in a single message, what text proved pivotal?  It came from Leviticus.  It is about living in God’s presence.  Sounds like it will feel like a pressure passage pushing us to live holy lives so we might be able to approach God?  Not quite.  The anticipation of Leviticus 26:11-12 shows God’s desire to dwell with His people, a desire that shows throughout the canon and culminates the whole story in Revelation 21.

“I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you.  And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”

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~ Peter
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit Peter also authors the website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]

False Security


Amos 5:18-6:14

1 “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes!
2 Pass over to Calneh, and see,
and from there go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory,
3 O you who put far away the day of disaster
and bring near the seat of violence?
4 “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
6 who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
7 Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.”

8 The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:
“I abhor the pride of Jacob
and hate his strongholds,
and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”

9 And if ten men remain in one house, they shall die. 10 And when one’s relative, the one who anoints him for burial, shall take him up to bring the bones out of the house, and shall say to him who is in the innermost parts of the house, “Is there still anyone with you?” he shall say, “No”; and he shall say, “Silence! We must not mention the name of the LORD.”

11 For behold, the LORD commands,
and the great house shall be struck down into fragments,
and the little house into bits.
12 Do horses run on rocks?
Does one plow there with oxen?
But you have turned justice into poison
and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood—
13 you who rejoice in Lo-debar,
who say, “Have we not by our own strength
captured Karnaim for ourselves?”
14 “For behold, I will raise up against you a nation,
O house of Israel,” declares the LORD, the God of hosts;
“and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath
to the Brook of the Arabah.”

This section is the completion of Amos’ third prophetic proclamation. Here Amos strongly warns them against thinking that they can continue as they are and avoid calamity.

I. Religion cannot prevent calamity. 5:18-27
A. The extent of their religious activities

1. Religious assemblies (5:21)
2. Sacrifices (5:22)
3. Songs of praise (5:23)
4. They even longed for the day of the Lord (5:18-20). They had some wrong ideas about the day of the Lord, so Amos quickly corrects their doctrine.

a. They thought that they were okay because they were Jews (cf. Mt 3:7-10; Rm 2:17ff).
b. They forgot what God demanded (Ps 24:3-4; 1 Sm 15:20-23). The terms of the old covenant were not to be involved in religious ritual but to obey the Lord.

B. Their problem

1. Unrighteousness (5:24)
2. God wasn’t really important to them (5:25-26). Underneath their outward devotion to the Lord, they were involved in the worship of the stars (cf. Dt 4:19; 17:2-3).

Apply: We must reject and avoid the remnants of paganism (Eph 4:17-24).
C. Their judgment (5:27)
II. Complacency cannot prevent calamity. 6:1-7
A. Their indifference portrayed. Notice that both Judah and Israel were addressed (6:1).

1. Exposure of their indifference

a. Luxuriant idleness (6:4a)
b. Luxuriant feasting (6:4b)
c. Entertainment (6:5)

Comment: We’re in danger when we have to be continually entertained. This is a trap that is too easy to fall into. We should enjoy the Lord and our walk with the Lord. Joy is very important (Ph 3:1; 4:4; etc.). But we have to maintain a constant evaluation of activities like our worship services. Is our goal to entertain or to worship and build up one another?

d. Drunkenness (6:6a)
e. Lack of concern (6:3, 6b)

2. It is at this point that we must ask ourselves a hard question. Are we grieved over the weaknesses and sins of the church?

B. Amos responds to their complacency.

1. By directness in his preaching – note the repetition of “you” in 6:1-7!
2. By continuing to warn them of approaching judgment.

a. Some surrounding nations had already fallen—close nations that Israel would be aware of. 6:2
b. Their supposed position would not protect them. 6:7

III. Human power cannot prevent calamity. 6:8-14
A. A root sin exposed—pride (6:8, 13b).
B. The folly of trusting in human might (6:13a) – “How easily man takes credit to himself and makes some small achievement the basis of a similar foolish trust!” [Beeley] C. The nature of the judgment

1. God would use another nation to punish them (6:14a). Note that God is plainly in control of the nations: “command” (6:11); “I will stir…” (6:14).
2. The judgment would affect all classes (6:11).
3. The judgment would bring complete destruction (6:8b, 9, 11).
4. The judgment would surely come to pass (6:8a; cf. Heb 6:13-17).

~ Dave
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.

The Character of Love: Patience and Kindness

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This week will be moving along in our study through 1 Corinthians 13 to the second part of the chapter. As I stated a few weeks ago, 1 Corinthians can be broken up into three sections: 1. The Necessity of Love (vss. 1-3), 2. The Nature of Love (vss. 4-7), and 3. The Permanence of Love (vss. 8-13). We just finished going through the first part of the chapter. I find the first three verses to be so very important because it rocks our world in regard to how we gauge true spirituality.
Paul says that you can have the greatest of all the gifts, can have the best theology, can be the most sacrificial giver to the poor, and you can even be the most self-sacrificial servant of God, but if you don’t have love, you are nothing. You can serve all you want, suffer all you want, give all you want, and you can even have the greatest gifts known to man, but if you don’t have love you are a zero in the sight of God. Love is the telltale sign that you are a true Spirit-filled Christian. Its not your gifting or your level of self-sacrificial devotion, but love. Love is the fruit of the Spirit. It is the highest pursuit in the Christian life, because the pursuit of love is the pursuit of Christlikeness. Love is the entire essence of the law of God.
Now we turn our attention to vss. 4-7 where Paul talks about the nature/character of love.
Let me lay forth a few things before we dive into the particulars.
1. These characteristics are present where there is love.
In other words, if you truly love as Christ has loved you, these characteristics will be manifest in your life. If these characteristics are not manifest in your life to at least one degree or another, it is evidence that you do not really love as Christ has loved you.
2. Paul here uses 15 verbs to speak of the character of love.
All of the words that Paul uses in vss. 4-7 (patient, kind, envy, boast, etc.) are all verbs. We would think that these are all adjectives, as if Paul were merely speaking about what love is like. However, Paul is here using verbs, speaking about what love does. What may this teach us about love? That you cannot talk about love without talking about actions. I have been arguing for quite some time for a particular definition of love. I have argued that you love biblically when you desire the good of another so much so that you act on their behalf. I have criticized the popular culture for saying that love is a mere feeling. It is ultra clear from Paul’s description of the character of love that you cannot talk about love as a mere feeling or emotion. Affections which do not result in actions are not loving in the biblical sense. John argues this very point in 1 John 3:16-18.

16 By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

So the church is right to correct the world when the world says that love is a mere emotion. No! You may have affections for another person, but if your affections are not strong enough to actually get you off your duff to act on their behalf, it is not biblical love. But we must not forget what we learned from 1 Corinthians 13:3; you can give away all that you have to feed the poor and still not love. So affections are essential to love. Let me state it in two sentences like this:

1) Actions which are not driven along by affections are not loving.
2) Affections which are not strong enough to drive you to action are not love.

You cannot talk about love without talking about both affections and actions. So Paul lays forth 15 verbs as he describes the character/nature of love.
2. Where do these characteristics come from?
Think about it. How did God decide what was to be vice and what to be a virtue? How did He decide what was to be righteous and what was to be unrighteous? Did He determine it arbitrarily? Not at all. It is not like He sat in the heavens saying, “Hmmm… stealing… I will make that… uhhh… let me flip a coin. Heads its right, tails its wrong. Hmmm… patience…. Heads its right, tails its wrong.” No! All law flows from the character of God. Unrighteousness is anything that runs contrary to His perfectly holy character. Righteousness is anything that reflects His perfectly holy character. God is the law. His character is the standard of all righteousness.
Why is this important to know where these virtues come from? Two Reasons.
First, So we can know where to look for clarity and instruction.
Where do you look if you want to know what it means to be patient? Look to God. He is the standard. We look at the record of how He has related with human beings in the Scriptures. And since Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, we ultimately look to Him because in Him we find the highest and clearest expression of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3). We learn of Christ that the fullness of God dwells in Him bodily (Colossians 2:9). He so clearly and perfectly reveals who God is that He tells Philipp, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). So what does it look like to be patient, kind, etc.? Look to God. He is our blueprint. So to understand what God is expecting of us we will first explore what it means that Jesus is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, etc. From that we will get a clear picture of what it means to be patient, kind, etc.
The second reason why it is important to know where these characteristics of love come from is…
….because it tells us what our primary goal is. Our primary goal is not to be conformed to some abstract set of moralistic principles. If you gaze is on a mere set of principles or rules, you will have wasted your effort and time. Our goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10).
The goal is to be like Him in every way.
So the we do not merely want to be patient. We want to be patient just like He was patient. The problem comes in when Christians speak of these character traits as if they were a mere list of abstract principles. They end up seeking to be conformed not to the image of Jesus Christ, but to a set of ideals. This is an unbiblical, unchristian way to go about living the Christian life. Everything in the Christian life has to do with being like Jesus. Being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29)—being “renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:11). The point is this, you will never be able to love like this if you do not keep your gaze solely on Him. The goal is to be like Jesus. This is exactly what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18.

18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

How are we “transformed into the same image”—the image of Christ, that is?
By beholding the glory of the Lord. By keeping our gaze on Christ! Jesus is, after all, the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). Thus John was able to say, “we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So the only way we can be transformed into His image is by keep our gaze on Him. We want to be conformed to the living person of Christ, not merely to a lifeless set of principles. This is what is different between Christianity and mere moralism.
Love is Patient
So lets dive in. He says that love is patient. We must begin at the beginning, with God. We are going to spend the majority of our time this morning looking at the patience of God. This is so very important. This may seem backwards to you. You may wonder, “Jimmy, we are talking about our responsibility to be patient to others, why are you focusing all your attention on God’s patience toward us?” For two reasons.
First, because God is our standard—we learn what it means to be patient by looking to Him. The goal of the Christian life is to do everything like Jesus. We want to love others as God has loved us in Christ. This means that we want to be patient with others as Christ as has been patient with us. So we focus on Him because He is our standard.
Second, because the standard of patience will be a begrudging duty if you are reveling in and captivated by His patience toward you. The standard is too difficult for you to keep in your own strength. If you are driven by pure obligation, you will be miserable in your attempts at patience. The only way you will find patience to be a light burden is if it flows out of a heart which is rejoicing in God’s patience toward you. If you see the depth of God’s patience toward you, you will say, “How dare I not be patient to others when He has been so patient with me in my sin?!” You will say, “I want to be patient because I want to be more like Jesus.”
So, let’s direct our attention to the patience of God. I have just a few points.
1. God is patient.
First, let me establish that God is indeed patient. Turn with me to Exodus 34:6.

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”

Here we see that God is “slow to anger.” That is exactly what the word patience communicates. It communicates the fact that God is not a hot head. God does not fly off the handle and flip out. God is not a reactor. He has a long fuse. When He acts, He acts decisively, make no mistake about it. Nonetheless, He is “slow to anger.” So this is not the sort of patience that has to do with timing. I know some who hate fishing because they aren’t patient. If you are in that boat (no pun intended), don’t worry, that isn’t the type of patience Paul is talking about here. He isn’t talking about timing patience, but relational patience. The NKJV translates patience as “suffering long.” That is the idea. God puts up with your junk without flying off the handle. Many think that a patient person is never angered or upset. Not true. God is patient. This does not mean that He is never angry. Rather it means that He is slow to anger.
Now before we move along let me say, for the sake of those who do not know Christ, that you should not lean on God’s patience as a reason to put off getting right with Him. Many will think that since God is patient they can live in their sin and God will simply put up with them forever. But you have to realize that the words eternal and patience are not friends. Inherent in the word patience is the idea of temporality. If someone is eternally patient, they are not truly patient they are just inactive. If you are eternally patient with your kids, that means that you never discipline.
All patience must have a terminating point or it is not true patience.
So if you are here this morning and you haven’t repented of your sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, do so now. There is an element of urgency to this. This is why Isaiah could exhort the Israelites to “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). The window for seeking God is narrow. He is patient. He is slow to anger. He has a long fuse. However, there is a bomb at the end of that fuse. We call that bomb the day of judgment. This is why Paul warns the Romans in Romans 2:4:
Do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
To use God’s patience or kindness as a justification for not getting right with God right now is to presume upon His patience and kindness. He offers you a window of opportunity so that you might be all the more urgent in your response to Him, not so that you will drag your feet. Yes God is slow to anger. But think of what this means. Does this mean that God is never angry? No! It just means that He is slow to anger.
2. Patience is not to be confused with indifference.
In other words, when God does not act with immediate judgment and wrath upon disobedience this does not mean that He doesn’t care about sin. This in fact is what makes His patience so amazing. God hates sin. God is not neutral to sin. Nonetheless, He puts up with sin and rebellion temporarily. Haven’t you ever asked yourself, “God, how is it that you can sit back without intervening? How is that you let Jerry Sandusky get away with molesting children for decades? How is it that you let Lance Armstrong get away with lying and doping for years, using his platform for a good cause? How can God look on without intervening? Doesn’t He care” Have you ever wondered that? Yes. He does care.
And this is what makes God’s patience so very amazing.
It is not that He sits on the sidelines disinterested. Not at all. In fact, it must be asserted that all sin is ultimately against God—He is the most offended party. Think of David’s sin against both Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah the Hittite. David sinned against Uriah by sleeping with his wife while he was off to war fighting for David. Bathsheba became pregnant by David. In order to cover his sin up, he sinned against Bathsheba by having Uriah the Hittite killed. Yet when David prays for God’s mercy in Psalm 51 he does not say, “Against Uriah and Bathsheba have I sinned” Rather, speaking to God, he says;

“Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (vs. 4).

David is not here minimizing the damage that he caused to Bathsheba and Uriah. However, he is acknowledging who the most offended party is. It was not Uriah’s law that David broke. It was God’s law. God is always the most offended party. Sin is always ultimately (first and foremost) against God. It is incorrect to misinterpret God’s patience. God is patient, but He is not disinterested or uncaring. This would be a good place to say that patience is not the absence of anger. God is angry with sin. It is to say that God is not controlled by His anger. He doesn’t fly off the handle. Isn’t this amazing? Doesn’t this expose the hypocrisy of those who say, “I had a right to give that person a piece of my mind. After all, he/she sinned against me.” Well, how have you offended Christ? The glory of
God’s patience is that it is extended to those who have sinned against Him. He is our standard. Let’s think on this some more.
What was your life situation when God saved you?
When you think of God’s patience toward you, do you not rejoice? Of course you do! After all, you know that if God had intervened and had dealt out immediate justice to you while you were in your sin, you would be in hell as we speak. Isn’t this amazing? When we think of God’s patience toward us in our sin we rejoice and are filled with thanksgiving. When we think of God’s patience toward others we are filled with frustration at God for letting their sin continue. When we think of God’s patience toward us we thank Him for giving us room and time for repentance. When we think of God’s patience toward Sandusky or Madoff or Armstrong we are filled suspicion about God—why doesn’t He impose Himself… Doesn’t He care? Why is this? Is it because we think we are more deserving of His patience?
This is so very important because many think they are patient just because they put up a façade of patience. Some people appear patient because they are indifferent to sin. Some people appear to be patient with others and then whine and complain about their “labor of love.” Some people are patient with others and then gossip about those with whom they were patient.
3. God is patient with His enemies.
Imagine if God would have stepped in and dealt out immediate justice to Paul. In 1 Timothy 1:16 Paul states that his salvation is in large part owing to God’s patience. Take a look at 1 Timothy 1:13, 16 with me.

13 formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent… 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Paul identifies himself as a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” He was a hater and killer of Christians. He was an enemy of God. He was an enemy of the church, of Christ! He authorized the death of Stephen. He beat, whipped, imprisoned, and killed many Christians. After God saved Paul, Christians everywhere were terrified of him. Do you think Stephen had a best friend? Do you think he had a family? How do you think Stephen’s family responded to Paul’s conversion? We read it as ancient history. But Paul’s atrocities were real. He really killed Stephen. He really did kill someone’s best friend, some poor woman’s husband, some little kid’s father.
Imagine if persecution were to break out in New Hampshire and someone in Boscawen was to kill your best friend here at SGF simply because of his Christianity. How would you pray? Would pray that God would have mercy on this man? Would you pray that God be patient? And yet we learn why God saved Paul. Why didn’t God step in as soon as Paul killed his first Christian to bring justice upon Paul’s head. Paul tells us in vs. 16. God had mercy on Paul to “demonstrate His perfect patience.” And this patience stands as an example to anyone who may doubt God’s ability to save even the worst of sinners. God had patience on Paul. If God didn’t have patience on Paul, he would be condemned to hell without one plea. And so would you. But the good news is that if God was patient with a Christian killer, He can be patient with anyone.
God has patience upon His enemies.
He had patience on the crowds who mocked Jesus, crying out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Have you ever watched the Passion of the Christ? Were you not sitting there saying, “Why didn’t God stop it all and bring immediate justice upon those men?” Did God not care? Of course He cared. The reason He didn’t stop them was because this was the only way to for God to deal with sin so that He might forgive sinners without compromising His justice. However, what is most noteworthy is that many of those who cried out Crucify Him! Crucify Him! were saved just 50 days later when Peter preached that amazing sermon. They committed the greatest crime that could ever be committed, the crucifixion of God in the flesh. God was patient. God is patient even to His greatest enemies.
Let me give one last example.
Have you ever wondered why God has delayed His second coming for so long? It has been 2000 years since Jesus told His disciples that He was coming soon (Revelation 22:12). Peter tells us the answer in 2 Peter 3:8-10.

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Why has He postponed the day of His return?
Because of His patience with fallen humanity. Because He is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” There are many who think that Jesus is for certain coming back really really soon. Maybe He will come back within the next year or 5 or 10. I don’t know. However, He may not come back for another 1000, 5000, or 10,000 years. You may say, “No way, why would you think His return could be so far out?” Well, look at what has motivated Him to postpone His return thus far. He has been motivated by patience, by His desire that none should perish. I believe God is that patient even toward His enemies.
4. God’s patience is unrelenting.
What about God’s patience toward the Israelites? They were faithless to Him and His law for 1500 years. It was only after 1500 years that He finally put an end to His covenantal relationship with them (as a nation). What about God’s patience toward you? How many times have you disobeyed when you knew you shouldn’t have? How often have you chosen t.v. over fellowship with Him in the word? How many times have you went days on end without prayer or scripture meditation? How many times have you turned a deaf ear to His word? Yet you are still here. Yet He is presently feeding you through the preaching of His word. Time and time again He has reaffirmed and reaffirmed and reaffirmed His love for you. Time and time again you have blown it. Time and time again you have come to the communion table knowing your unworthiness and sin. Time and time again He said to you, “Come and let Me reaffirm My love for you again and again.” This is a daily reality for every Christian.
Has He not been patient with you?
Concluding Thoughts
1.    It is possible to look patient with out being patient, just as it is possible to do things which look loving without being loving. Patience with a bad attitude is no patience at all. Gossiping about one with whom you are “patient” is not patience. You are not being patient with a person by avoiding that person.
2.    You may say, “Jimmy, I can’t be patient… that’s not my personality. I am naturally a hot head.” I have just one word for you. Repent of your personality. Some say the same thing about being suspicious of authority. It just simply does not work to be a Christian without joyfully submitting to King Jesus. A Christian who does not submit happily is a rebellious Christian, regardless of his personality. An impatient Christian is a Christian who needs to repent regardless of personality.
3.    It is one thing to be angry, it is another thing to be controlled by your anger. Jesus was never controlled by His anger. If you are controlled by your anger you cannot be controlled by the Holy Spirit.
4.    You never have a right to say, “This person sinned against me, I am justified in my anger.” This is the very point of putting our focus on God’s patience toward us. The fact is that God’s patience is highlighted by the fact that all sin is ultimately against Him.
5.    You have to keep your eyes on Christ. If you know the glory of His patience toward you, you will want to bend that patience out to others. If you are not overwhelmed by how patient He has been with you, you will not be patient with others with joy.
Consider: Romans 2:3-4; 1 Timothy 1:12-16; Exodus 34:6-7; 2 Peter 3:8-10; Luke 6:35; Matthew 5:43-47; Proverbs 14:29, 15:18; Psalm 145:13, 17; Titus 3:4
~ Jimmy

Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
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A Passionate God


Too many Christians, I’m afraid,
have the disaffected God of the
Greek philosophers in mind
when they pray or plan their day.

Aristotle and PlatoThe Greek versions of God are mainly about power—about having control over everything—rather than about his forming and sustaining relationships with a treasured creation.
But let’s be clear from the outset that I don’t know many Christians who think their vision of God has anything to do with the divinities of Plato or Aristotle.  For most of us that’s certainly not the case, given that almost no one today knows or cares what the Greeks believed.  Yet to be unaware of the unhappy theological tributaries that once poured into Western Christianity doesn’t mean that by simply forgetting about these muddied sources our river is now somehow pristine.
So what is it about the true and living God that we need to know more than anything else—in order to test the purity of the water in which we swim today?
Is God, for instance, mainly concerned to remind us that he’s in charge, as the Greeks would have it—with ultimate power over everything, past, present, and future?
No.  Focusing on that reality is a bit like telling children each morning, “Don’t forget to breathe—you’ll need your oxygen!”  Of course God is all-powerful: he made and sustains everything in the creation!  So while the Bible offers brief notices that other “gods” are only pretenders and that Yahweh alone is the true God and sole ruler of all that is, the main thrust of the Bible runs elsewhere.  On the matter of power, God is fully secure about his eternal standing; and so are those who know him well.  I will also note, mischievously, that many people who want to represent God as his prophets, priests, and pastors today may be prone themselves to be fixated on God’s power as they rule others by attributing God’s power to their own ministry ambitions.
In another option, is God mainly concerned with his own glory—with some superabundant need for huge crowds of created beings to tell him how wonderful he is?
Once again, that’s not what the Bible tells us. 
Aristotle, in his Metaphysics, gives us a God who can only think about himself; but the Bible portrays a God whose glory is displayed in a self-giving love that pours out of the Triune heart.  In John 17, for instance, we discover that Jesus spoke of glory as the environment he shared with the Father before the creation, and as a place he wants to share with all of us who believe in him.  It was a glory given by the Father to the Son because, as Jesus put it, “you loved me.”  So it boggles the mind to think that a God whose glory consists in the selfless giving of love is mainly driven by self-concerned glory-seeking.  Of course for all who know and love him we find joy in expressing our delight in his glory.  Glory is the offspring of love: the flower, not the root.
What we do find in the Bible is a passionate God. 
He is the God who has always existed in the bond of love, so much so that John labels that bond as “love” (e.g. “God is love” in 1 John 4:8 & 16).  In the eternal past, before the creation, what was God up to?  In the glimpses we have from places like John 17 the Father was spending his time in devotion to the Son, and the Son was reciprocating that devotion to the Father; and (drawing from 1 Corinthians 2) the Spirit supported and sustained this shared mutual delight.  It was and still is a love story.  By our creation we were invited to the party.
Now, back to the Greek philosophers.
Aristotle defined goodness as the stable center found midway between the extremes of human passions.  God, however, calls for passion in the Bible: for our selfless love for him that reciprocates his prior love for us.  He made us so that love rules every heart in every activity.  With love as his motive for our creation and the aim of our calling, God then presses all of us to commit to either loving him or to hating him.  There is no neutral middle!
So let’s enjoy our passionate God by being more and more passionate in our devotion while our philosophical neighbors grimace as they obey the disaffected deity of their own making.  For us who embrace the biblical God let’s join in David’s passion: “O, taste and see, the LORD is good!”
You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo
~ Ron
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on [See “Resources”].
Visit Spreading The Goodness
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Preaching Exodus and Genesis


Three Momentous Moments
& Three Common Mistakes


The Moments

Exodus is not just a book with stories for children, it continues the weighty foundational role and themes of Genesis.  Does God keep His promises?  How will He redeem His people?  What kind of God is He?  What is their relationship with Him?  I suspect Exodus may well be under-preached in light of its significance.  It is a book that is quoted and alluded to repeatedly in the rest of the Old Testament, and in the New Testament as well.  Here are three momentous moments not to be passed over followed by three common mistakes:
1. Passover in chapter 12 
Here is the moment that the Jewish people would look back on for centuries to come.  With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, the LORD delivered His people from captivity in Egypt and launched them on their journey to home.  The hardened heart of Pharoah was baked solid as God prepared to deliver His people, with the showdown between the LORD and the gods of Egypt being decisively won.  And at the very heart of this key moment in human history?  A perfect and innocent lamb slain to provide blood protection for the people who trusted God’s word.  The LORD himself protecting them from the destroyer.
2. Sinai in chapters 19-20 
Delivered safely into the wilderness the kingdom of priests arrived at the place where God would meet with them. It was an impressive encounter, perhaps too much for them to bear.  The kingdom of priests seemed to shrink back in fear (as Moses tells us later on), and the first boundary markers of the Law were established for them, along with a simple earthen altar.  If God had called His son out of Egypt, then the familial imagery seems to move to the marital at Sinai – covenant commitments both ways, but would both prove faithful?
3. Glory in chapters 32-34
The revelation of the Law given in Exodus and Leviticus has a progressive development, apparently instigated by failure on the part of the people.  Despite chapter 24 and their fellowship with the LORD, they were unfaithful to Him in profoundly flagrant ways before the Golden Calf.  God’s anger raged hot, for He is Jealous, but Moses interceded for His presence to go on with them.  Amazingly, while on the mountain with the LORD Moses dared to ask to see His glory.  How could he have confidence to make such a request?  Earlier in the same chapter we are told of his regular face to face conversations with the LORD whose tent was pitched down near the people.  But the LORD up on the mountain could not be seen.  Yet Moses got that wonderful encounter with the trail of God’s glory.  And what did God reveal?  A stronger power than that image of power, the golden calf?  Absolutely.  He was given a divine glimpse of God’s goodness and covenant loyalty and mercy.  Not a weak God, for He does deal with sin.  A powerful God whose power of character overwhelms our conceptions of raw force.
So much to preach, and this post has only scratched at the surface!
You may comment on the above here at Cor Deo

Now for the Mistakes

Genesis is such a critical book!  I suspect it simply isn’t preached enough.  The rest of the Bible is built on the foundation of Genesis, and so preaching it enough and preaching it well are very important.
Here are three mistakes to avoid, although many more could be added:
1. Atomistic Reading
This is where a text is snipped from the flow of the context and becomes a stand alone.  Typically this leads to a Sunday School type of preaching that treats each narrative as complete in itself, and with its own “moral of the story.”  Cain and Abel has to flow out of Genesis 3, and into the two genealogies of chapters 4 and 5.  Abraham does not offer us a set of stand alone tales, but a sequence of growing faith, obedience and connection with God.  Joseph’s brothers show consistency between snapshots, making them more than 11 faceless foils in the story of Joseph.  Be careful to study and preach each unit in context.
2. Moralistic Reading.
This is where a text is snipped from the artery of life that is God’s involvement in specific history, turning the text into a tale with a moral, a lesson for the day, a suggestion on how we can live better.  So we should try to avoid infidelity like Joseph did, or not give away our wives like Abraham/Isaac did, or not get caught up in tempting conversations like Eve did.  But actually the goal is not our independent successful functioning: that was what the serpent was pushing for.  The goal is surely more God-centred than that.  Eve didn’t trust God’s Word and God’s character, but God himself works the resolution to the sin problem and invites us to trust Him and His Word.  Abraham was on a journey of faith as we are.  Joseph lived as if God were with him, even though he had very little indication that he was!
3. Impositional Reading.
This is where a text is seen, but not heard.  It is where a text acts as a trigger to recall sermons heard and points previously stated.  The preacher reads the text and looks for a sermon, instead of studying the text and looking for God.  Impositional reading will always lead to superficial preaching.  Probe, question, examine, query, ponder, mine, and wrestle with the text.  Do that with God in conversation and see if the preaching of Genesis suddenly becomes a spring of living water instead of stale old picture book fables.
You may comment on the above section here at Cor Deo
~ Peter
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit Peter also authors the website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]

Seek and Live


Amos 5:1-17

1  Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:

2  “Fallen, no more to rise,
is the virgin Israel;
forsaken on her land,
with none to raise her up.”

3  For thus says the Lord GOD:

“The city that went out a thousand
shall have a hundred left,
and that which went out a hundred
shall have ten left
to the house of Israel.”

4  For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:

“Seek me and live;
5  but do not seek Bethel,
and do not enter into Gilgal
or cross over to Beersheba;
for Gilgal shall surely go into exile,
and Bethel shall come to nothing.”
6  Seek the LORD and live,
lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
7  O you who turn justice to wormwood
and cast down righteousness to the earth!
8  He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning
and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the LORD is his name;
9  who makes destruction flash forth against the strong,
so that destruction comes upon the fortress.
10  They hate him who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
11  Therefore because you trample on the poor
and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
12  For I know how many are your transgressions
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and turn aside the needy in the gate.
13  Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,
for it is an evil time.
14  Seek good, and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you,
as you have said.
15  Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

16  Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord:

“In all the squares there shall be wailing,
and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’
They shall call the farmers to mourning
and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation,
17  and in all vineyards there shall be wailing,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the LORD.


This section is the start of the third proclamation. We need to remember that Israel (the northern kingdom) was at the height of its power when Amos prophesied these words. It would be like proclaiming that the USA was about to be overthrown. Who would listen to that message? “You’re being ridiculous,” or “you’re an alarmist”. But Amos was saying that Israel was already dead. This is a lament. Amos is telling dead Israel to listen to the poem he is reading at her funeral.
A more practical matter for us is this. Do we want to hear the word of the Lord? This should be one reason for attending public worship. We should be listening so that we can live closer to the Lord.
I.    Amos prophesies weeping over Israel’s destruction (5:1-3, 16-17). It is a lament. What were they to grieve about?
A.    They should weep about the sad condition of Israel. She was a fallen virgin (5:1).

1.    Before the people were unsubdued—beautiful and separated to God.
2.    Now all is changed. God had deserted her. Her true and faithful husband had departed from her. God had withdrawn. It may be that the picture is like the one in Jer 9:22. So this is a picture of utter rejection.

B.    They should weep because there was no one to help Israel (5:2b).

1.    Contrast Ps 18:1ff.
2.    “If you understand, weep.” The great glory of God’s people is the presence of God to bless and sustain them; otherwise, we are nothing, because God’s people are the weak and foolish and despised of the world. Without our helper, where are we?

C.    They should weep because of the degree of destruction—ninety percent (5:3).

1.    Destruction is a recurring theme throughout this passage.
2.    Contrast Dt 28:7; 32:28-30 and the conquest of Canaan; compare Dt 28:26-26.

D.    They should weep because the Lord had come to judge (5:16-17).

1.    Notice that the whole community of Israel is involved: “in all the streets… in every public square… in all the vineyards”.
2.    The language is the same as in Ex 12:12. God was about to pass through their midst in judgment. Compare Rev 2:5.

II.    Amos describes God (5:8-9, 14-16). Who is this one who has come to judge?

A.    He describes God’s greatness by proclaiming God’s ability (5:8-9). Compare Job 9:9; 38:31.

1.    Creator
2.    Sustainer
3.    Ruler – able to bring human fortifications down (5:9)
Comment: We should observe how often the Bible emphasizes these truths about God. Yet it is these very teachings that the church has lost its grip on. Evolution, the belief in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system, and the deep dislike of God’s sovereignty have consumed the faith of the church.

B.    He describes God by his names (5:14-16).

1.    God reveals himself by his names. We do not profit from this truth like we should, and we become formal and stale in our worship.
2.    Three times God is called “the Lord God Almighty”.
Comment: Perhaps we need to say more than just “God” to people, because the word “God” has little meaning to them. We worship the living God, the Lord God Almighty.

III.    Amos presents a way to avoid judgment (5:4-7, 10-15). Is there any hope?

A.    Amos urges them to seek the Lord.

1.    He does not tell them to seek religion (5:5). Israel should place no confidence in religious ritual and experience. We need, somehow, to make this plain to people.
Illustration: God is a husband who wants no rival for his affections.
2.    He tells them not to presume that God is with them (5:14b). A boast about God’s presence does not mean that God is really with that person. A person may give the appearance of “spirituality” when his or her heart and life are a denial of that pretense.
Comment: Religion can be man’s substitute for the reality of God’s presence. Human religion cultivates conditions (robes, bells, candles, prostrations, recitations, etc.) that strive to create a “feeling” that God is present. True Christianity trusts in God’s ability to reveal himself to the hearts of the worshipers without such cultivated condition. Approach God by faith in Jesus, and you will be found by him.
3.    He instructs them to seek God (“seek me”) and not merely the benefits that God gives to us (5:4). Are we truly interested in God? Do we have a heart or passion for God? This calls us to a personal relationship with God.
Apply: Later Habakkuk was to learn this truth (Hab 3:17-18). [Moen’s song “I Will Sing”]

B.    Amos urges them to seek what is good.

1.    They were not acting according to justice (5:7, 12, 15). So then they must repent of that way of life.
2.    They were despising those who told them the truth (5:10). We must avoid the trap of despising God’s messenger (cf. 1 Cor 1).

a.    Do not despise him because he is not a polished speaker.
b.    Do not despise him because you do not personally like him.
c.    Do not despise him because he tells you the truth. The most important fact about any ministry is “does it tell the truth?”

3.    They were, generally, overrun with sin (5:12a).

a.    They were seeking the wrong things (compare 5:5 with 5:14) and hating the wrong things (compare 5:10 with 5:15).
b.    Yet God still offers mercy (5:15b)! How great God’s grace is—far beyond our comprehension (cf. Is 1:10-18).

~ Dave
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.