Monday, December 19, 2011

Slipping Faith

Signs that Faith Is Slipping

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).

Drifting isn’t just possible; it’s a major, constant, and common danger. I recently read a list on the internet, “10 Signs Your Christianity Has become too Comfortable.” It made me think, and it invited me to work on the items below. Perhaps you can add to and “improve” this list of frightening signs.

  1. The truth of Romans 5:6-8, especially “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us,” no longer moves me to humility, gratitude, and commitment.
  2. Prayer is cold or robotic rather than robust and intimate (Luke 22:44).
  3. The Bible, if I read it, tells me what others ought to be and do.
  4. Worshiping with the saints is increasingly optional (John 4:23-24).
  5. Giving is a good idea if I feel like it, but it’s not part of who I am.
  6. My language has been more “earthy,” and my conscience is OK with that (Ephesians 5:1-7).
  7. I see people in terms of their function (what they can do for me or how they complicate my life) rather than as souls made in God’s image.
  8. I want what I want, and I don’t really care how that affects others.
  9. Before acting, I no longer ask, “Is this right? Will it honor God?”
  10. I don’t want to be challenged to grow, think, or serve (2 Peter 1:5-11).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happier Holidays

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3 and 27:12).

We have long been taught to pay attention to the truth of Scripture and to pay double attention when God’s word tells us something twice. We can’t foresee every trap, snare, and temptation. But when we do foresee, we need to act with wisdom.

As blessed as the holiday season is, it’s also known for significant temptations. Some of us have been around long enough that we ought to see the tempter coming from miles away.

For happier holidays, avoid the trap of over-booking. It’s still impossible to be two places at once. For happier holidays, choose to do what’s reasonable. Don’t over-commit. Take turns with visits. Visit by phone, text, or Skype. Go old school and write a card or letter.

For happier holidays, avoid the trap of over-eating. Trust the modern proverb, “It’s not what you eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas; it’s what you eat between Christmas and Thanksgiving.” Still, self-control is a major virtue (Proverbs 25:28, Galatians 5:22-23).

For happier holidays, avoid poison. We remain amazed that so many people harm their bodies with nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs. Proverbs 20:1 tells the truth: “Wine is a mocker…” Proverbs 23:29-35 is stunningly blunt and accurate. So is Proverbs 23:20-21.

For happier holidays, avoid grudging giving and grudging givers. Proverbs 23:6-8 speaks graphically. The grudging giver’s “heart is not with you.” He can’t enjoy giving the gift, and he won’t let you enjoy receiving it. That’s a lose/lose proposition.

For happier holidays, avoid loving things more than people. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure with trouble. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted calf with hatred” ((Proverbs 15:16-17). Proverbs 23:4-5 warns against overworking to be rich. “For riches certainly make themselves wings. They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” Things don’t last, but love does.

For happier holidays, avoid closing your heart to those who need. “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17). What an offer of grace! God promises, “The generous soul will be made rich…” (Proverbs 11:25).

For happier holidays, avoid saying everything that you think. “He who guards his mouth preserves life…” (Proverbs 13:3). “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs 29:11). “He who has knowledge spares his words…” (Proverbs 17:27-28).

And you know these aren’t just holiday truths. They’ll work every day of the year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Book of Titus

Introduction to the Book of Titus

Written by George Goldman

“The Preacher’s Work”

Titus was a convert, friend, and helper of Paul. He is mentioned only in Paul’s letters, especially 2 Corinthians. He was a Greek son of Gentile parents (Gal. 2:3).

Titus was a very capable man of God. He was assigned to solve some of the most vexing problems at Corinth (1 Cor. 1 – 6; 2 Cor. 2:13; 7:5-16). He also was called upon to encourage the Gentile contributions for the needy saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8). Later, Titus was missionary to Crete (Titus 1:4f) and Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10).

The New Testament letter Paul wrote to Titus explains some of the most challenging work of an evangelist. In congregational life he was to appoint well-qualified elders in every town (Titus 1:5-9). There are usually two extremes taken when these requirements are discussed today. One is to make the mistake of demanding perfection so that no local church member can oversee and lead the congregation. The other mistake is to discount the requirements so that only the most popular and prestigious men can serve in the eldership.

The evangelist works also to make known the Lord’s requirements in Christian behavior (Titus 2:1-10). The older Christian is to be serious and reverent in behavior (Titus 2:1-3). The younger women are to be domestic and to love and submit to their husbands (Titus 2:4-5). The younger men are to exercise self-control. Titus himself must be an example (Titus 2:6-8).

The evangelist works to put Christ in his community (Titus 3:1f). Christian behavior must be marked by loyal citizenship, honest toil, and a courteous approach to others. Nations, families, churches, preachers, and citizens cannot be truly great in the sight of God until these things become a reality. Surely, no one could dedicate himself to a more challenging life than to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Watching Our Speech

Did He Really Say That?

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2).

I was listening to a basketball game as I worked. The commentator captured my attention most negatively when he said of a player, “And when he catches the ball in the paint with his hands . . .” How else would he catch the ball? With his feet? In his mouth?

I cringe every time I hear a college football announcer utter the worthless phrase “young freshman.” Virtually all freshmen are young. It’s noteworthy only when a freshman isn’t young. Same goes for “young rookie” in professional ball.

With apologies to bikers, I was part of a conversation with a gentleman who fit the stereotype. From the scars to the “body art,” he was on the well-worn side of life. The subject of drug abuse came up. He denied any involvement. To reinforce the denial, he said of himself, “You can’t look like this and do drugs.” I was (and still am) thinking just the opposite.

Some counseling friends and I were in a training session in Atlanta. Regrettably, our presenter used salty language. But she began an even saltier quote on one of her clients with, “I don’t curse.” To make it even more ironic, she was wearing a cross on a chain around her neck.

I recently heard of a man who used a quintessential racist word in a text. When challenged by a friend, his reply was the classic, “I’m not racist. I have black friends.” The very use of the word is racist. Having 10,000 friends wouldn’t change that.

I read from 3 John 2 in a recent sermon. Not once or twice, but three times, I caught myself saying, “As the Apostle Paul wrote . . .” I know Paul didn’t write the book of 3 John. I have no clue why I wanted to credit the book to him.

What a challenge to get our language right! Factually right. Compassionately right. Non-redundantly right. Graciously right.

We know that it’s a battle worth fighting. Redundancies and little slips of the tongue might merely be annoying. Untruth, hateful speech, and all unrighteous words aren’t merely annoying. Such words deny the faith, obscure the gospel, dishonor the Lord, and endanger our souls.

“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). We have God’s word on that!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Child-like or Childish?

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

I greatly appreciated a recent Bible class discussion of Mark 10:13-16. Obviously, there are ways that we need to be like little children. Just as obviously, 1 Corinthians 13:11 reminds us that there are ways we must NOT be childish. The following contrasts help us hold these vital truths in biblical balance.

Positive Child-like Qualities Negative Childish Qualities
Trusting. Innocent. Pure in heart. Naïve. Uncritically believing every assertion.
Freely, honestly loving Possessive, jealous.
Always learning. Eager to learn. Finding joy in learning. Resistant to the labor of learning. Preferring play.
Joyous, stress free, happy. Happy only when I get my way.
Dependent, knowing we need help. Grateful. Overly, unhealthily dependent. Too needy, too high maintenance.
Affectionate. Willing to express affection. Failing to or wrongly expressing affection.
Sharing. Generous. Selfish
Accepting, quick to make friends. Fearful of others, too cautious, too closed.
Filled with a sense of wonder. Still amazed by the beauty and complexity of God’s creation. No sense of wonder. Afraid of the unknown. Fearful of everything new. Bored.
Pliable. Flexible. Able to grow. Overly rigid. Unwilling to make needed changes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

1 and 2 Timothy

Introduction to the Books of 1 and 2 Timothy

Written by George Goldman

Paul met Timothy in Lystra. Timothy was the offspring of a mixed marriage: a Greek father and a Jewish mother, Eunice (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5). Racial descent was determined by the mother; therefore, Paul had Timothy circumcised upon his conversion. (Acts 16:3). None of Paul’s companions is mentioned as often as Timothy.

It is true that Paul’s travels as described in these books (2 Tim. 4:13, 20) do not fit into the Acts account. Yet there is ample evidence for a second Roman imprisonment. Acts has Paul in a Roman prison around 60 A.D. Luke’s detailed account of the trip is found in the latter chapters (Acts 27 – 28). Acts leaves the question of Paul’s release unanswered, but there is strong evidence that he was released after the two years (Acts 28:30). The attitude of the Roman government in the book of Acts favors it; the Prison Letters expect it (Phil. 1:19-26), the Pastorals demand it (2 Tim. 4:16); and tradition asserts it.

After his release, probably in the spring of 63 A.D., Paul went east (Rom. 15:22ff) and also planned to visit Timothy and Titus (1 Tim. 3:14f; 4:13; Titus 3:12). First Timothy and Titus were evidently written before Nero blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians (July, 64 A.D.). During this persecution Paul was imprisoned a second time in Rome and there met his death in 66 or 67 A.D. (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18). Tradition says he was beheaded.

These two letters to Timothy contain much rich and valuable material. All teachers of the gospel should be familiar with them. The minister of God is to see that his teaching is true to the gospel (1 Tim. 1:3); he is to be a man of prayer (1 Tim. 2:1f, 8); he is to instruct the women as to their place in the church (1 Tim. 2:9ff). This is unpopular in ERA circles today but it is still in the Bible (cf. 1 Pet. 3:1-7; Eph. 5:22ff; 1 Cor. 11:1-3); he is to influence both old and young, men and women (1 Tim. 5:1-2); he is to see that the widow is cared for (1 Tim. 5:3-16); he is to rebuke elders who sin (1 Tim. 5:20); and he is to be an example in personal conduct, purity, and holiness (1 Tim. 4:12; 5:21f; 6:11-14). Thus, what the minister says is only part of his job; what he does in the rest of it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Planning for Success

A Simple Strategy for Success

Written by Cory Collins

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” Jn 4:35

Being “shrewd as serpents” (Matt 10:16) involves both prayerful and careful effort in doing the work of the Lord’s church. In order to “grow up into our Head” with the “proper working of each individual part” (Eph 4:15f), we must plan the work and then work the plan.

Our friend Michael Jackson, the Director of Institutional Effectiveness at Heritage Christian University, superbly assists every department head in the planning and assessment of its work. Using a six-step paradigm, he helps leaders draw a map and then follow it. Eureka! This system, at least in principle, could be adapted to benefit the work of the local church.

The first step is to define the “Purpose.” Here we would state the function of the church, “to save the lost and secure the saved,” or “to evangelize, educate, and edify.” We could then add the specific mission of any ministry, such as our educational program: “To teach the Word of God clearly and accurately, so that all may know Him and do His will.”

The second step is to list the “Strategic Goals.” These might include biblical concepts, texts, classes, opportunities, and applications which the Bible school aims to provide.

The third step notes “Objectives – Means of Assessment and Criteria for Success.” These are specific, measurable, achievable, time-bound benchmarks that will mark progress. They could include grade-level review quizzes, service projects, student essays, etc.

The fourth step lists the “Assessment Results.” What did the tests, activities, or other instruments indicate? Did the students make the intended score, or exhibit the desired mastery of the concept, or accomplish the pre-selected level of success?

The fifth step states the “Use of Results.” Based on the outcomes in step four, we reevaluate and reconstruct our objectives. If we reached them, we move on to new horizons. If not, we stick with them, diagnose the failure, and devise a better way to proceed.

The sixth step identifies the persons responsible, the due date, and the budget impact. Who are the “go-to” leaders that will implement the updated aims? By what date will they have completed the task? What resources will be required and set aside?

This same, simple strategy can be applied to local evangelism, benevolence, youth, the training of new elders, deacons, and teachers, etc. This six-step cycle can be repeated over and over and over again until the job is done. The Lord’s work is not complicated, but it does require big-picture thinking and nuts-and-bolts participation.

The gospel has the power, but we have the tools. Let’s put them to work.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Best Policy

Honesty Remains the Best Policy

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

If free is unavailable, I like cheap. Target had the cheapest prices on colas last week. As we checked out, I asked Laura to check the receipt for accuracy. We were charged the advertised price on the colas, but there was a mistake. The scanner failed to record her shampoo. I waited in the truck as she returned to pay.

There was no temptation to steal the shampoo. Our consciences are too well trained. We’d have felt guilty because we would have been guilty. From Exodus 20 to Ephesians 4:28, it’s clear that stealing is wrong. Doing wrong always damages the soul.

As we paid the first time with a debit card, Laura asked for $40 cash back. The clerk handed her two twenties. When she paid for the shampoo, Laura used one of those twenties. To her amusement, the clerk authenticated the bill with his “bill checker” pen. Laura told him, “I noticed you didn’t check that twenty when you gave it me, but now you’re checking it as I give it back.” The irony zipped right over his head. Besides, he was just following store policy. I’m fine with following good policy.

Any time we refuse to steal, we’ve followed many sound policies. You could add notably to the following list:

  • Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
  • Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”
  • Matthew 7:12, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
  • Ephesians 5:17, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
  • 1 Peter 1:15, “…But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…”

I’d hate to suffer spiritual defeat over a $6 bottle of shampoo. Doing right pays.

Monday, November 14, 2011

1 and 2 Thessalonians

Introduction to the Books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians

Written by George Goldman

You can read the background of these two letters in the book of Acts (Acts 17). With the possible exception of Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians are the earliest surviving letters of the Apostle Paul. They were written during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:36 – 18:21) about 49 – 52 A.D. They were likely written within a few months of each other since Silas and Timothy were still with Paul (1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes. 1:1).

Thessalonica was the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. Its inhabitants were Roman citizens who were ruled by officials know as “politarchs” (Acts 17:6-8). This term which is used in the Greek New Testament and is translated “city authorities” was once thought to be a historically inaccurate statement. It occurred only in the Bible and not in any historical documents. Therefore many concluded that Luke, God’s writer of Acts, was mistaken. Today in modern Thessalonica, Salonica, sixteen inscriptions of this Macedonian term have been uncovered. One is now in a British museum.

The basic doctrine in these earliest letters of Paul concerns the second coming of Christ. The first letter tells of the resurrection of the righteous dead and the “changing” of those alive when Christ comes again (1 Thes. 4:13ff). Paul did not talk about the “soonness” of Christ’s return but its suddenness. Christ would come as a “thief in the night” (1 Thes. 5:2) but no one knew when (Mt. 24:36; 25:13).

The second letter was written to explain some previous oral teaching of Paul’s. “Now concerning” (2 Thes. 2:1) could refer to some correspondence between Paul and the Thessalonians as it does in Corinthians. Here Paul describes the imminent apostasy or “falling away” (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1ff). This apostasy was already under way, the restraint, inspired preaching, would soon be taken away (2 Thes. 2:7). Then the man of sin, the lawless one, would be revealed (2 Thes. 2:8-10). This activity of the “lawless one” could be the protagonists in the Jewish war against the Romans when the Temple was destroyed (66 – 70 A.D.). It perhaps could refer to the Roman emperors in general or Nero (54 – 64 A.D.) and Domitian (96 A.D.) in particular. The miraculous activity the “man of sin” proves that neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament affirms that only God’s people can work miracles.

The “day of the Lord” (2 Thes. 2:2) is an Old Testament expression first met in Amos (Amos 5:18-20). It is a day of darkness and not of light, in other words a day of calamity; a day in which Jesus is said to appear and come (2 Thes. 2:8). There have been many days of the Lord in history and one need not apply this expression only to the second coming of Christ. Thus, the great tribulation may have taken place in the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.), rather than being an event occurring before the end of the world (cf. Mt. 24:15-35).

The “rapture” is a current religious doctrine. It comes to us from the Latin translation of the Greek word harpazo or “caught up” (1 Thes. 4:17). The rapture is neither a biblical word nor a biblical doctrine. Second Thessalonians clearly teaches that the wicked are being punished at the same time the righteous are being rewarded (2 Thes. 1:4-10). There is but one resurrection for both good and bad (Acts 24:15). There is no time lapse of seven years. The parable of the tares states the good and bad must grow together until the last day (Mt. 13:24-30). How could we preach the gospel “even to the end of the world” (Mt. 28:18-20), if all the righteous are removed seven years prior to the end of the world?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Forgiveness, Part Four

Adequate Forgiveness

Adequate forgiveness involves God, God’s people, and oneself. If any one of these is omitted, then serious problems will result. Every sinner needs to find at least one person who is willing to listen and, while knowing the very worst, will still love and respect the sinner. Such a person is God and the church is such a society.

Every person needs a social context in which he can openly admit how far s/he has fallen. Yet s/he must still feel loved and accepted in spite of her or his shortcomings. S/he must be supported in developing the kind of God-approved behavior s/he really desires. God’s people believe that sinners are worth saving. They do more than support; they motivate each other to self-control and will power. The church is to help people rise above their failures.

Saul of Tarsus was adequately forgiven because he dealt adequately with his guilt. In Acts 24:16 Paul said, “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward man.” Paul dealt with his guilt by confessing it to God, to God’s people, and to himself.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Forgiveness, Part 3

Inadequate Forgiveness

Inadequate forgiveness occurs because we deal inadequately with our guilt. Guilt is a part of every human’s make-up. Personal guilt occurs when people fail to live up to their own moral ideas. They violate what they believe is true and are thus self-indicted. Guilt is the sense of wrongdoing. It is the difference between what we are and what we know we should be. A person who lives with his guilt lives in a self-created prison.

There are three kinds of guilt.

Appropriate Guilt

Appropriate guilt occurs when we actually transgress God’s commandments, harm our fellow human beings, or violate our own consciences. Appropriate guilt must be dealt with by confrontation, confession, forgiveness, restitution, and reconciliation.

Neurotic Guilt

  1. Neurotic guilt occurs when we do not involve God, God’s people, and ourselves in the forgiveness process. God showed His willingness to forgive on the cross. The church we read about in the Bible shows that God’s people openly admitted sin and yet were accepted and loved (Gal 6:1f. Read; Jas. 5:19f.). But to enjoy the blessing of forgiveness, one must be able to forgive oneself. Neurotic guilt is cured by accepting God and His forgiveness, God’s people and their forgiveness, and finally by self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.
  2. There are several examples in the Bible of remorseful people who refused to forgive themselves. Judas Iscariot is the prime example (Matt. 27:1-5). The Bible explicitly teaches that Judas repented and confessed. He could have been forgiven. But he would not forgive himself.
  3. There is such a thing as psychosomatic or functional illness - illness that has no physical basis. Headache, upset stomach, and heart palpitation are just as real as if the physical organs were damaged or diseased. Yet these illnesses clear up almost overnight when adequate forgiveness is attained. So sometimes even our bodies condemn us!

Complete Lack of Guilt

  1. A lack of guilt occurs when we do not respond to the forgiveness process. Many people endeavor to conceal their guilt by denying it. They will never know the blessing of forgiveness. They live lives of hypocrisy and lies. They soothe themselves by saying, “We all sin from time to time.” But when a person is unable to admit his guilt, he is also unable to find forgiveness. The more he denies his need for forgiveness, the more unforgiving he becomes. Isaiah prayed, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins” (Is. 58:1).
  2. The parable of the unmerciful servant illustrates a person with a complete lack of guilt (Matt. 18:23ff). A debt of ten thousand talents represents a billion dollars. One talent was more than fifteen years’ wages. A man would have to work 150,000 years to pay off such a debt and even then the interest on the money could not ever be paid back. It would take 8,600 men each carrying sixty pounds to equal such a debt. With this enormous debt forgiven, the same man would not forgive a small three-month debt of his fellowman. He lacked a complete sense of his guilt. The point of the parable is that if God can forgive our enormous burden of guilt surely we can forgive each other our everyday mistakes. When we need forgiveness we expect God to generously and freely grant it. We must learn to care more for each other and care less about each other’s mistakes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Forgiveness, Part Two

The Conditions of Forgiveness

What a wonderful blessing complete and absolute forgiveness really is. Forgiveness is beautiful (Ps. 32:1f). But as with all of God’s blessings there are conditions for forgiveness. What are God’s conditions for forgiveness?

God’s forgiveness is conditioned on our ability to forgive others (Matt. 6:14f). The unforgiving heart is of necessity a heavy heart. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” That is, the forgiving will be forgiven.

Another condition for forgiveness is that men may preach forgiveness only through the name of Christ; that is, by His authority.

The apostle Peter said to Cornelius, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43). The apostle John wrote, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His sake” (I John 2:12). The apostle Paul preached, “Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38). “In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14).

The forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon the blood of the covenant. “For this is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). The conditions of forgiveness are emphatically and repeatedly discussed in the Book of Acts. The various accounts of conversion teach that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are all prerequisites to forgiveness. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us” (Eph. 1:7f).

Forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance. Complete and absolute forgiveness is conditioned on complete and absolute repentance. Notice how closely repentance and forgiveness are tied together in the New Testament: “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4); “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47; cf. Acts 2:38); “God highly exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). God’s forgiveness is unalterably tied to man’s repentance.

Forgiveness is also conditioned upon confession. For adequate forgiveness to take place, there must be adequate confession. Confession is not complaining. It is not blaming other people. Confession is not substitution. It is not replacing a bad deed with a good one. Confession is not plea-bargaining. It is not pleading guilty to a lesser charge. Confession is not camouflage. It is not exhibitionism or boasting. Real confession is cleansing for the soul. It is catharsis. It cleanses the emotions. Confession is not the cure for the problem; it is only the admission that the problem exists. The goal of confession is to receive forgiveness and not to develop the details of the sin. Forgiveness requires humility but not humiliation.

Genuine confession has a sound Biblical basis: “They were baptized in the Jordan confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6); “Many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices” (Acts 19:18; cf. I John 1:9f; Jas. 5:16).

Finally, forgiveness is conditional upon reconciliation (Matt. 18:15-17). If a private meeting fails to bring about forgiveness, then arbitrators are to be consulted. Arbitrators are not to take sides. They are not to prove a point, but they are to help in the process of reconciliation. Reconciliation means to bring back harmony, to end alienation, and to begin a brand-new relationship. If this meeting also fails, the personal matter is to be brought before the church. And if this third meeting does not succeed, then the effort is to be abandoned as hopeless until there is an attitude change. This then becomes a condition for forgiveness.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Forgiveness, Part One

Forgiveness

While Jesus was on earth He preached in many places: a crowed street in Jericho, a boat by the seashore, a mountainside in Galilee, a well near Samaria, and the temple at Jerusalem. But Jesus’ last sermon was preached on a cross outside of Jerusalem. There was never a pulpit like the cross, never an audience like the one assembled there, and never a preacher like the dying Savior.

The Bible records the dying words of only four men: Jacob, the first Israelite; Moses, the first lawgiver; Stephen, the first Christian martyr; and Christ, the only Savior. After being raised on the cross, Jesus opened His eyes and probability in the back of the crowd He could see the curiosity seekers. As He looked closer, He could see a little group of His disciples, made up mostly of the women from Galilee. Closer still were the priests who were ridiculing Him and the Roman soldiers who were crucifying Him.

Christ’s dying words are the foundation of Christianity. Perhaps everyone expected Him to say something, but no one expected Him to say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The Greek verb here is in the imperfect tense which indicates continuance of action. Each time an insult was hurled, a snide remark was made, a tongue-lashing was given, Jesus repeated His prayer. These dying words have become the standard of Christian forgiveness. Jesus wanted Pilate forgiven for his failure to enforce justice. Jesus wanted the house of Caiaphas forgiven for hitting and spitting on Him. Jesus wanted the soldiers forgiven for ridiculing and finally crucifying Him. Jesus wanted both Judas and Peter forgiven.

Jesus never withheld forgiveness from anyone who sincerely asked for it. Jesus came to teach about forgiveness. He came both to forgive and to tell us we are forgiven. Human nature has not changed through the centuries. We have the same needs, the same drives, and the same capacity for good or evil. The sins of Jerusalem, Corinth, and Rome are the sins of New York, Chicago, and __________, U.S.A. So when one preaches on forgiveness he is preaching an all-important phase of the gospel.

The Meaning of Forgiveness

There are four words in the original language translated forgiveness in the New Testament. The first is a legal term, the second is a gracious term, the third and fourth are synonymous with the removal of guilt. Let’s look at each one of these:

The legal term for forgiveness, apoluo, means to set free, to dismiss, to release, or even to divorce. It is the term used in Matthew 5:32. In John 19:10, Pilate said to Jesus, “Do you not know that I have power to release (legally forgive) you, and power to crucify you?” Paul said in Acts 28:18, “When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case.”

The gracious term for forgiveness is charizomai. It means to freely grant as a favor, to remit, to forgive, and to pardon. Jesus graciously restored sight to the blind (Luke 7:21). God freely gave His Son and will He not freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32). The disfellowshipped man was graciously forgiven when he repented (2 Cor. 2:7, 10). Christians are to have this attitude. In Ephesians 4:32, “and be ye kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” And in Colossians 3:13, “forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” In Colossians 2:13, “And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses. . .”

The third and fourth words for forgiveness are the most common in the New Testament: aphiemi and the noun form aphesis. These words have to do with the removal of guilt. “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). Peter’s question about forgiveness involved these words (Matt. 18:21, 35). This is the word Jesus used on the cross (Luke 23:34). Every Christian needs and receives this kind of forgiveness (I John 1:9; 2:12). The Jews began to question Christ’s authority because He so easily and graciously forgave sin and removed guilt (Luke 7:47ff; Mark 2:5-12). Jesus repeatedly told His apostles, disciples, and all Christians to forgive. This means to remove the guilt and refuse to hold it against one another (Mark 11:25).

How wonderful it is to be released, divorced from sin, and unconditionally forgiven, removed from all guilt.

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Testament Textual Criticism

New Testament Textual Criticism

Why should members of churches of Christ care about New Testament textual criticism? How do textual critics go about reconstructing the text of the New Testament? What is next for New Testament textual criticism?

These are a few of the questions Doug Burleson answered in the inaugural Graduate Research Lectures at Heritage Christian University. Burleson, Assistant Professor in Bible at Freed-Hardeman University, will graduate in May 2012 with a PhD in the area of New Testament Textual Criticism from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, titled “Case Studies in Closely Related Manuscripts for Determining Scribal Traits,” is directed by Dr. William Warren.

Audio from Burleson's Lectures

New Testament Textual Criticism Since 1881

New Testament Textual Criticism Today

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book of Colossians

Introduction to the Book of Colossians

Written by George Goldman

Colossae was an ancient city of about 500 years when Paul wrote this letter. It was known for a peculiar purple wool (colossinus). The city stood on a trade route from Ephesus to the Euphrates. However, the trade route changed and the neighboring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis became the greater cities. Colossae was the last prominent city to which Paul wrote. Archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of an ancient church there.

The church of Colossae was probably established on Paul’s third missionary journey during his ministry in Ephesus. The congregation was not started by Paul himself (Col. 2:1) but by Epaphras (Col. 1:7, 12f). Archippus was a minister there (Col. 4:17). Members included Philemon and Onesimus (Phile. 1; Col. 4:9).

Paul wrote to the Colossians while a prisoner (Col. 4:3, 10, 18), probably during the first Roman imprisonment (62 A.D.). He wrote this insignificant out-of-the-way place where he had never been because of the erroneous doctrine beginning there. The exact origin of this false teaching is unknown. Some say it was Essenism; or Gnosticism; or even contemporary Judaism with a syncretism of local Phrygian ideas.

Paul met these errors by presenting the all-sufficient Christ. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom, knowledge, and divine perfections (Col. 1:15-23). On the cross, Jesus Christ revealed his importance and freedom from corruptions and newness of life is found in His death and resurrection (Col. 2:8-15).

The letter has four parts:

  1. Salutation and thanksgiving (1:1-8);
  2. Doctrinal section (1:9 – 2:5);
  3. Ethical section (2:6 – 4:6); and
  4. Concluding salutations (4:7-18).

Towards the end of the epistle (Col. 4:16), Paul asks this congregation at Leodicea to which he had also written. This gives the most accurate picture of how the twenty-seven books of the New Testament were collected. Paul’s letter to the Laodiceans has perished (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Directing Your Paths

“And He Shall Direct Your Paths”

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Does God still direct our paths? In this non-miraculous age, does God still guide His people? If He does, how does He guide us?

Some believers disavow any form of divine guidance. In their view, divine guidance is an illogical concept. In the first place, they ask, “If God guides, then what about free will? How can we consistently affirm the personal responsibility and accountability of each individual?” Others add, “If God guides, then why do bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t God keep them out of harm’s way?” Others query, “If God guides, how does He guide? If you can’t tell me how, then I can’t believe it.”

If God guides, how does He guide? He guides through His word (Psalm 119:105-106). He guides through the advice or assistance of others (Acts 9:23-25 and 23:11-22). He guides through providence, opening and closing “doors” that may not even be visible to us (Romans 1:13). Only by looking back through the eyes of faith do we come to see that God must have had a hand in directing events. Admittedly, this is an attribution made in faith, and it is certainly not a claim that we know all the mechanisms that God uses to bless and protect us.

If God guides, then why do bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t God keep them out of harm’s way? We have no idea why God allowed James to be executed, but rescued Peter (Acts 12). We have no idea why God allowed righteous Uriah to be killed while adulterous David was spared. We don’t know why their first child died, but David and Bathsheba lived. We have no idea why God allowed a lie to kill his servant in 1 Kings 13, while the prophet who told the lie was allowed to live. We don’t know because God did not choose to reveal that information. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. Some mysteries are beyond us. Perhaps they serve to remind us of our limitations. Dwelling on the mysteries rather than the facts of revelation seems futile.

If God guides, then what about free will? How can we consistently affirm the personal responsibility and accountability of each individual? The fact that God guides those who are willing to be guided does not imply that His guidance is overwhelming or irresistible. Obviously, it is possible to reject the will of God (Luke 7:30). It is possible to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). It is possible to reject the gospel and to fail to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 2:11). It’s possible, but it’s deadly. God wants to direct our paths, but He does so only with our consent and cooperation.

Friday, October 28, 2011

For the Asking . . . .

QUESTIONS

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

Are good people happier when they see me coming or see me going?

Do I make life more complicated or more interesting for those who love me?

Have I learned to enjoy listening more than talking and serving more than being served?

Does God’s word speak to me, or do I try to tell it what I want to hear?

When I learn that I’ve been wrong, do I work to save face or do I work to get right?

When I find myself angry, do I pause to pray or proceed to punish?

When I find myself sad, do I first look upward or inward?

When things go right, is my first action a prayer of gratitude to God?

When things go wrong, do I remember that it might be my doing?

Have I learned to let going last be OK? Do I trust God to keep count of whatever needs to be counted?

When slighted, do I remember that God will exalt the humble in due time?

When rescued, do I remember to see God’s gracious hand?

When others are honored, do I choose to feel great joy? Do I show them that joy?

When others hurt, do I choose to share in their pain? If so, how will they know that?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Book of Philippians

Introduction to the
Book of Philippians

“Rejoice!”

Written by George Goldman

The background for this letter is found in the book of Acts (Acts 16). Paul received a vision of a Macedonian man saying, “Come over and help us.” (Acts 16:9). Three households became the nucleus of a new congregation. There was the aristocratic family of Lydis (Acts 16:11-15), the middle-class family of the jailor (Acts 16:25-34), and the lower class slave girl (Acts 16:16-18). In about a ten-year period this nucleus had become a full-fledged congregation with “bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1).

This ten-year period (53 – 63 A.D.) between Paul’s first visit and the writing of this letter shows quite a change in Paul’s ministry. While in Philippi Paul was performing miraculous feats such as casting out demons, but ten years later he simply trusts in God for the recovery of the sick (Phil. 2:25-27 cf. 2 Tim. 4:20). This should tell us something about the purpose and duration of miracles in the first Christian century.

If I could have been a member of one of the New Testament congregations, I would have chosen Philippi. This group seemed to embody more of the spirit of Christ than any other group. Paul has only praise for them. The terms “joy” and “rejoice” appear sixteen times in this letter. In it he evaluated his life (Phil. 3:12-16) and tells his secret of contentment (Phil. 4:10-13). Paul had not been perfect, but he did not retire to live on his reputation. His Christian life had not been free from problems, but he was a man who could turn things over to God (Phil. 2:1-11).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Campaign in Texas

Observations in Texas

Written by Hannah Burleson
Student at Heritage Christian University

Editor’s Note: Students at Heritage Christian University participate in evangelistic campaigns every semester. Hannah, having just returned from such an endeavor in Texas, gives her observations


When we arrived in Texas, I began to notice some of the differences there are compared to Alabama. After making a mental note of several, I thought I better start jotting them down before I started to forget them.

  1. The traffic lights in Texas are all horizontal. What's the deal? Do they have something against the vertical traffic lights everywhere else?
  2. The Mexican food we had in Texas was good. But given the choice, I'd still go with Buena Vista in Cullman, Alabama :)
  3. Texans are serious about getting where they are going. Some of the roads in Texas are 70 MPH. In Alabama, the same roads would be 55 MPH, at best. Additionally, their medians are really wide. And if someone is driving slower than you, they kindly get in the median long enough for you to pass them. It's a great system.
  4. People in Texas are amazing cooks. I daresay, better than cooks in Alabama. The food these wonderful brothers and sisters made for us was phenomenal.
  5. Apparently, the favorite fast food places were Jack in the Box and Whataburger. They were everywhere. Neither of which I have seen around here.
  6. You know you're an HCU student when you hear someone mention Waco, Texas and your mind automatically thinks, "I've cited a publisher there in some of my research papers."
  7. Don't worry. The vehicles are not all driving in reverse. It's just that in Texas, you are required to have a tag on both the front AND the back of the vehicle.
  8. "Hard" water is a blessing which shouldn't be taken for granted. After trying to rinse my hands for double the time it normally takes and they still felt soapy, I realized that they won't. And neither will my hair when I wash it. Because the water here feels soapy in and of itself--that's how "soft" it is.
  9. Never trust a GPS in Texas. It confused Fairfield church of Christ with a ranch in the middle of nowhere.
  10. I've had plenty of sawmill gravy and my fair share of chocolate gravy. But did you know that tomato gravy existed? It does. And it's pretty good.

These are just a few of the surface observations that I took the time to write down on our trip to Texas.

On a more serious note, it was, as it always is, such a joy and a blessing to be able to meet, know, and love more brothers and sisters in Christ. It is always an encouragement to know more of our family members in the Lord.

This trip was a blessing to us for several reasons. First, it was a blessing to meet, love, and know the church in Fairfield. Second, it was a blessing to get to know our fellow students on a deeper level. Finally, it was a blessing to be able to meet lost people and to be able to show them Christ and the salvation that He offers.

First, the church at Fairfield blew me away. They welcomed us like no church I've ever met before. This was my fifth campaign with HCU and I've never seen a church so willing to work. I've never seen a church that steps up in every way and that truly wraps her arms around us in the way that this one did. Jason and Jill and their beautiful family are a clear blessing to the church there and it was such a privilege to be able to work with and know them. I will never forget the church in Fairfield and the wonderful family that I know and love there. I pray that the Lord will bless them and keep them, til we meet again.

Second, I've realized just how blessed Heritage Christian University is to have such amazing students. There are some real men of God at HCU and I have no doubt that great things will come as a result. These men are willing to be used in whatever way God chooses. After the meetings each night, Matt and I had the privilege of hanging out together and getting to know each other better. We were able to have some really great discussions about Christianity and about the Lord's church. We got a glimpse into the hearts of these guys and we were truly amazed at the things we saw in each one.

Finally, it was a blessing to meet lost people who are searching and to be able to show them Christ. After knocking several hundred doors and getting less than desirable responses (just ask Kyle--he knocked a door and the response was, "Well you can just gospel yourselves on down the road) it is nice to finally come to that door where you meet the soul that may be the very reason that the campaign took place. We met a young lady named Tiffany who was searching for a church to become involved with. She took a great interest in Fairfield and Jason and Jill are going to follow up. The Lord willing, she will learn about salvation and be able to experience the many blessings that come with it. Out of 800 doors, 1 door that results in a saved soul makes the entire campaign worth it all.

I think I've made it abundantly clear how blessed I've been by this campaign on several levels. I am thankful to be a part of a school who tries to live out its mission on a practical level. Thank you to the school for making these kinds of experiences and blessings possible. And thank you to churches like the one in Fairfield who are willing to partner with HCU and live out what they preach on a regular basis.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thinking About Preaching

Thinking Soberly About Teaching and Preaching

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

Sometimes preachers and teachers are blessed to present a homerun sermon or class. Everything clicks. Hearers visibly engage. The illustrations energize. Memory functions perfectly. The hearers connect, the lesson flows, and it feels great.

When that happens, we’re blessed to enjoy the moment. And we’re blessed to remember that this moment was a blessing from God. If the sermon was faithful, it flowed from His life-changing word (Romans 10:14-17, 2 Timothy 3:14-17). If the class was powerful, the power flowed from the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). If the lesson was beneficial, God was the true source of the blessing (James 1:17). And we were blessed by God to be an instrument of His grace.

If we’re not careful, the devil will rob us of such moments. He will tempt us to pride. He will ask us to think, “I did well. I thought well. I created something special. I made this work.” He will help us avoid thinking of Luke 12:16-21 and Romans 12:3). He will insist that we forget Acts 12:20-24. He will invite us to put ourselves ahead of God.

If that doesn’t work, the devil will try the opposite. He will tempt us to fear or to false humility. He will ask us to think, “I can’t enjoy this moment. If I enjoy it, then I’m claiming to be something special. If I enjoy it, I’m thinking too highly of myself.” He will help us avoid thinking of Acts 18:27-28 and 1 Thessalonians 1:13. He will insist that we forget 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. He will invite us to declare ourselves unfit to serve the Lord.

I love homerun lessons whenever they come. But I want to remember the following:

  • What I think to be a homerun may not be. While we want to do our best for God, God often does much with little. I should be grateful for the opportunity to try.
  • No one does homerun lessons every time. There’s virtually no limit to human frailty. We need to pray for God’s wisdom, strength, and guidance.
  • What’s a homerun sermon to some hearers may be of far less benefit to others. It’s not that the word is weak, but our hearing—like our teaching—is far from perfect. No lesson connects equally well for every hearer.
  • We’re blessed to learn from failures and successes. If a lesson didn’t work, why not? How could it be improved? Was it a failure of prayer? Of study? Of attitude? If it worked, how can that lead us to even more effective service to the Lord?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spite

To Hurt You, I’ll Hurt Me. So There!

Written by Cory Collins

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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:20-21

How strange it was to learn recently that Terry Thompson, the owner of the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio, had released 56 exotic, wild beasts from their cages, and that he had then taken his own life. Sheriff's deputies, armed with high-powered rifles, shot nearly 50 of them — including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions — in a big-game hunt across the state's countryside, as homeowners nervously hid indoors.

After an all-night effort that extended into Wednesday afternoon, 48 animals were killed. Six others — three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkeys — were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo. A wolf was later found dead, leaving a monkey as the only animal still on the loose. Those destroyed included six black bears, two grizzlies, a wolf, a baboon and three mountain lions. Dead animals were being buried on Thompson's farm.

The 62-year-old Thompson had reportedly had repeated run-ins with neighbors and with the police. In fact, just three weeks earlier, he had been freed from jail for possessing unregistered guns. Apparently he thought he had a score to settle. The Associated Press report said that Thompson threw the cages open and shot himself to death “in what may have been one last act of spite against his neighbors and police.”

Spite is defined as, “A desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone; malicious ill will prompting an urge to hurt or humiliate.” Like the word “despite,” It is derived from the Old French despit, from the Latin dēspectus for contempt. Whoever Thompson thought he was spiting, whether the authorities or his neighbors, it was he who suffered most. He’s dead.

When I decide that I will strike back at someone who has wronged me by feeding myself anger, hatred, and vengeance, I am the one who suffers. I’m doing it to myself. He or she may be happy, peaceful, and even unaware of the pain I am trying to inflict.

When I cut back my church involvement, worship, or giving, because of what someone said or did to me, I am cheating myself of opportunities to grow and serve. I’m hurting my own faith. I’m depriving myself of joy. The only one truly happy as a result is the devil.

I can hurt my boss by complaining, gossiping, and wasting time on the job. I can hurt my spouse by bickering, leaving a mess on the floor, or yelling at the kids. I can hurt people that do not like me by being rude, arrogant, and mean. I can hurt drivers who cut me off by honking, screaming, and tailgating. When I do I inflict scars and wounds on my own soul.

The flip side is just as true. When I help others, I actually help myself. I’ll try it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Book of Ephesians

Introduction to the Book of Ephesians

Written by George Goldman

To many, Ephesians is one of Paul’s most moving letters and yet to others it is only a reproduction of Pauline themes by another mind. Ephesians explicitly claims that Paul wrote it (Eph. 1:1; 3:1). The early church unanimously accepted it as from Paul.

In modern times liberal critics have raised doubts as to the authorship of Ephesians. These doubts are based on subjective arguments drawn from are inconclusive when compared to objective statements of the text itself (Eph. 1:1; 3:1). If Paul’s authorship is rejected the letter was written by someone equal to Paul.

Concerning the audience being address there is legitimate differences in scholarly opinion. Objective textual evidence is lacking concerning to whom Paul was writing. The words “in Ephesus” (Eph. 1:1) are missing in our three oldest existing copies of this letter (Chester Beatty papyrus, Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Vaticanus). This accounts for the different ways the first verse is translated (cf. KJV and RSV). This omission allows scholars to speculate on “to whom” the letter was written. The title, “to the Ephesians” was not part of the original letter, as is true to of all titles of New Testament books. These titles simply represent the uninspired thinking of the early Christians.

No book in the Bible exalts Christ and the church more than the book of Ephesians (Eph. 3:21). There is a close connection between Ephesians and Colossians. The same themes are dealt with though the exact words are different. Any good reference Bible will show the close relationship between these two books.

God’s seven-fold plan for unity is found in this book (Eph. 4:1-7). In view of the 300 denominations in America and 800 world religions, it would be well to memorize this plan. There is but one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The King James Version

Four Hundred Years of the King James Version

The King James Version has had a profound impact on the English language since that translation was first published in 1611. Heritage Christian University recently commemorated the KJV’s four hundredth anniversary. In today’s blog post, we offer several resources from our weeklong celebration.

The King James Version as Literature by Dr. Larry Adams

Audio The History of the English Bible Up to 1611

Restoration Leaders on Bible Translation by Dr. Jack P. Lewis

Friday, October 14, 2011

Real-World Ministry

Real-World Ministry: October Campaigns

Written by Brad McKinnon,
Director of Christian Service

Historian and educator Henry Adams once suggested, “An education may be the wider and the richer for a large experience of the world.” Real-World Ministry. At Heritage Christian University, real-world ministry is more than a slogan; it is a fundamental component of the University’s mission to prepare effective communicators of the gospel. The Christian Service Department provides practical field experience for our students, including regular weekly service to the church and community, as well as targeted evangelistic activities each semester in various locations. During the week of October 16-22, our students will serve the communities of Fairfield, Texas and Florence, Alabama.

Jason Schick, HCU alumnus and the preaching minister with the Fairfield Church of Christ, has designed an organized and professional experience by which our students can grow spiritually, as they share the gospel with others. HCU’s Director of University Advancement, Philip Goad, has been invited to present a series of lessons focused on the grace and mercy offered by the Lord to all. In coordination with the gospel meeting, our students will meet with local residents, setting up and leading personal Bible studies. Recognizing Jesus’ command to “go and do likewise” in response to the needs of others, Thursday will be dedicated to various service projects throughout Fairfield. Brandon Beard, one of our most experienced student campaigners, will provide exceptional leadership for the students during this campaign.

The Florence campaign will focus on doing simple things in service to others that we believe will have a lasting impact. Work will consist of mowing yards, raking leaves, and making minor repairs for those who are not able to do these things for themselves. Senior HCU student, Derrick Sumerel, has planned and organized this effort in an outstanding way.

In both campaigns, our students will be guided by the principle of responsibility outlined by Paul in Galatians 6:10 – “So then, whenever we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (NRSV).

May God be glorified through our efforts!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Does Your Life Matter?

Will My Life Matter?

Satan’s cruelty is stunning! Even though he knows that selfishness destroys, he tempted even Jesus to act selfishly (Matthew 4:3). Even though he knows that God is utterly good, he tempted even Jesus to presume upon the goodness of the Father (Matthew 4:5-7). Even though he knows that “the law of the Lord is perfect...the testimony of the Lord is sure, the statutes of the Lord are right, and the commandment of the Lord is pure,” he tempted even Jesus to misunderstand and misapply God’s law (Psalm 19:7-11). Even though he knows that “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up,” he tempted even Jesus to choose fame and fortune over loyalty to God (2 Peter 3:10, Matthew 4:8-9).

The devil loves to offer shortcuts to significance. He loves to offer substitutes that have the appearance of value, but hold no worth at all. He offers hollow dreams to hurting people, hoping that they’ll trust their wishes more than they trust God’s truth.

The devil loves to whisper lies. Through one means or another, he says to God’s people, “You don’t count. What’s one among six billion? Does anybody who matters even know who you are? Are you so arrogant as to think that your life really matters?”

The Lord loves to shout truth. We matter enough that He sent His Son to redeem us (John 3:16). We matter enough that Jesus Christ lets us wear His name (Acts 11:26). We matter enough that no power, whether physical, social, economic, political, or spiritual, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Unless we rebel, we stand secure in Christ. We matter enough that God has entrusted the gospel to our care, as “God’s fellow workers” (Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Corinthians 3:9). We matter enough that God Himself intends to dwell with us forever (Revelation 21:1-3).

Will my life matter? It will if it is lived in Christ. Not a single deed done to the glory of God will be forgotten (Matthew 10:42, Hebrews 6:10). God will be glorified by every good work that we do in His name (Matthew 5:16). God will be pleased by both our good deeds and our worship (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Will my life matter? It will if I help even one other person obey the gospel of Christ or return to truth (James 5:19-20). To seek and save the lost is to step into the very mission of Jesus (Luke 19:10). Nothing, not even the whole material world, matters more than a soul (Matthew 16:25-27).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Galatians

Introduction to the Book of Galatians

Written by George Goldman

The term Galatia in the New Testament designates both a territory in north-central Turkey and a Roman province in the south. In 25 B.C. this Celtic territory was converted into a Roman province called Galatia. This province included parts of Phrygia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia. Therefore the term Galatia can geographically describe the territory inhabited by the Celtic tribes from Gaul, or politically describe the entire Roman province.

Around A.D. 200 the Roman province was reduced to include only the ethnic Galatians (Celtics) and the double use of the term disappeared. The traditional view became that Paul, on the second missionary journey, established churches in northern Galatia (Acts 16:6) and wrote the letter to the Galatians from Ephesus on the third missionary journey about A.D. 56.

In the nineteenth century Sir Williams Ramsey popularized the “South-Galatian theory.” This view is almost universally accepted today. This theory maintains that while Luke uses ethnic-geographic designations (Acts 16:6; 18:23), Paul’s general practice was to use political designations (Gal. 1:1; 1 Cor. 16:1). Therefore, the letter to the Galatians was addressed to Christians in southern Galatia, or churches established on the first missionary journey (Acts 13 – 14).

Galatians is the only Pauline letter addressed to a group of congregations. They were all established by Paul (Gal. 1:8, 11; 4:19f), and were affected by the same disturbance (Gal. 1:6, 9; 5:7-9). This disturbance was the age-old problem of prejudice. Jewish teachers were trying to convince Gentile converts that they had to become Jews before they could become Christians. That is, they had to pass through the channel of Judaism, circumcision, before they could obey the gospel. This makes up the doctrinal section of the letter (Gal. 1 – 4).

The gospel has always been hindered by prejudice and bias. Peter and Barnabas were even affected when it came to eating with Gentiles (Gal. 2). Today we hinder the gospel when we prejudice ourselves against rich or poor, educated or uneducated, black or brown, yellow or white. Souls will be lost on Judgment Day because of prejudice. The gospel is for all (Heb. 2:9). We sing it, why do we not practice it?

In the ethical section of his letter (Gal. 5 – 6), Paul points out the vast difference between Christianity and worldliness. There is a tremendous difference following fleshly appetites (Gal. 5:19-21) and spiritual guidelines (Gal. 5:22-26). Therefore, let us bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Realizing that we reap what we sow, let us not grow weary in well doing but as we have opportunity, let us to good to all men, especially members of the church (Gal. 6:2, 7-10).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Biblical Leadership

Leadership Lessons from Joshua 1

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

Wise men don’t readily choose to succeed great leaders. Beloved leaders earn tremendous trust and respect. They engender tremendous loyalty. And when they die, their stature elevates astronomically! Some suggest that this is the reason God buried Moses in a secret place. He knew people’s tendency to enshrine dead leaders.

Joshua didn’t ask to succeed Moses. He effectively led God’s army (Exodus 17). He served as Moses’ assistant (Exodus 24:13). He fulfilled his duties with faithfulness and zeal (Numbers 14:6-10). God Himself elevated Joshua and chose him to step into Moses’ shoes (Numbers 27:15-23). God blessed Joshua with many opportunities to learn and with a gradual transition into leadership.

God blessed Joshua in another crucial way. In Joshua 1, God spoke His personal word of encouragement to Israel’s new leader. That encouragement contains so many lessons for us today.

  • Joshua 1:2, “Moses My servant is dead.” Human leaders don’t live forever. There is a time to lament and mourn losses, but life must go on.
  • Joshua 1:2-4, “I am giving” you and the nation this land. Faithful leaders and faithful followers are part of God’s ongoing work. We step up to that challenge.
  • Joshua 1:5, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” There is no greater assurance than knowing that God is with us. Whether Matthew 28:20 or Romans 8, no promise is more precious than the assurance of God’s abiding presence.
  • Joshua 1:6-9, “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law...” God’s abiding presence is conditional. He links His presence to our faithfulness. His will is to be our meditation and our guide. We don’t pick and choose; we respect God by respecting all His law.
  • Joshua 1:16-18, “Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you.” Leaders who trust and obey God should be respected and followed. Following the leadership that God ordains shows respect for God. We all need to show that respect.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Bad Check

The Check’s in the Mail, but You Dare Not Cash It!

Written by Cory Collins

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Matt 4:8-9

Early one September morning my cell phone rang. I took the call, from the 202 area code (Washington, DC). The man said he was a Postal Service agent, and he asked, “Is this Cory Collins?” “Yes.” “Did you use your Discover Card ending in xxxx to open a Click-N-Ship account this morning?” I was suspicious. I said, “No!” and ended the conversation. The fact is, I don’t even have a Discover Card. What was going on?

I phoned the USPS fraud office later and confirmed that the agent was legitimate. I called Discover to be sure no one had opened an account there in my name. I checked my credit report for the same reason. All was clear. Whew! I let it go. I hoped it was over. I knew, however, that someone had obtained my name, cell number, and (likely) home address.

Then, about ten days later, a large Priority Mail envelope arrived at the house. It was “returned to sender,” and it came to me as if I had sent it! Someone had used my name and address, pretending to be me, and had mailed this envelope to a “Bill Roach” in Ventura, CA. The crook (the real sender) had entered Mr. Roach’s address incorrectly. The envelope could not be delivered, so it was sent back to the designated sender – me.

Inside was a cashier’s check, drawn on the Mountain West Bank in Coeur d’Alene, ID, in the amount of $2,850. The remitter was named as Mathew Anderson, and the payee was Bill Roach (as above). It looked perfect, even including the watermark and other top security features. I phoned that bank and described the story and the check. The officer asked for the remitter’s name and then said, “We know about other checks just like this one, with this same fake remitter’s name. They are bogus.”

Some scam artists will offer such fake cashier’s checks in large amounts. They only ask you to send them a genuine check from your account to cover “taxes” or “shipping and handling fees.” They then cash your check and pocket your money. When you cash their bad check it costs them nothing. You may have to pay an additional “bad check” bank fee.

Satan is the ultimate con man. Whatever he promises is appealing, pleasurable, and apparently free. It’s only after you agree to do business with him that you realize you have lost everything. You’re broke. Bankrupt. And he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

Ask Eve (Gen 3:1ff). The serpent’s deal sounded too good to be true. And it was. Lost souls in hell would tell you the same. Scripture says, “Don’t give the devil a foothold” (Eph 4:26-27). Don’t cash Satan’s check. He’ll rob you blind.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sexual Harassment and the Preacher

Sexual Harassment in Ministry

Written by Dr. Justin Imel

Introduction

  1. Sexual misconduct in ministry is a constant problem.
    1. In a 1984 survey, 38.6 percent of ministers reported sexual contact with a church member, and 76 percent knew of another minister who had had sexual intercourse with a member of the congregation.
    2. In 1992, Leadership magazine conducted a survey and found that 37 percent of ministers engaged in "inappropriate sexual behavior" with a church member.
  2. Today, I have the difficult assignment of speaking concerning "Sexual Harassment in Ministry."
    1. I say it's a "difficult assignment" because sexual harassment in ministry isn't something we typically discuss.
      1. I can't help but wonder if that isn't a large part of the problem.
      2. If we were to discuss the real problems of ministry - as we're trying to do with the "Spiritual Formation" chapels - I firmly believe some of the pitfalls would disappear.
    2. Sexual harassment: "Any unwanted sexual comment, advance or demand, either verbal or physical, that is reasonably perceived by the recipient as demeaning, intimidating, or coercive."

SCRIPTURE

  1. Sexuality drastically changed with the Fall.
    1. Before the Fall: "The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (Gen 2:25, ESV).
    2. After the Fall: "They knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths" (Gen 3:7, ESV).
    3. It's essential to understand:
      1. God made sexuality.
        1. Nothing inherently evil about our sexuality.
        2. Instead, when sexuality remains where God properly placed it, sexuality is a beautiful expression of love between two connected individuals.
      2. But, the misuse of sexuality belongs to our fallenness. Because we are fallen individuals, we need to think about the misuse of sexuality.
  2. Many think of sexual harassment as something only women suffer.
    1. In most cases, it is women who are victims of sexual harassment.
      1. But, because of the intimate nature of ministry, many ministers face sexual harassment.
      2. We are the ones who are with people at the most vulnerable times of their lives: births, baptism, marriage, death.
        1. We are the ones to whom people turn when life turns upside down. People often come to us when they need counseling.
        2. Therefore, it's not terribly uncommon for us to become the object of some people's sexual fantasies.
    2. In Scripture we see that some men were the object of women's sexual desire:
      1. Gen 39:6b-12.
      2. Lot and his daughters could be another example:
        1. Gen 19:30-38.
        2. You'd be right to point out that it's not sexual desire that drove Lot's daughters to do what they did, but Lot's daughters abused him sexually.
  3. Scripture would also speak to us about keeping relationships healthy.
    1. I've always liked Job's statement:
      1. "I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?" (Job 31:1).
      2. While he isn't talking about sexual harassment, Job is making a declaration about the intent of his heart.
    2. Matt 5:27-30.
      1. Important thing about what Jesus says is that he goes directly to intent.
      2. Much of sexual harassment begins with intent, and we'll be talking a good bit about intent.
    3. Timothy was to encourage "younger women as sisters, in all purity" (1 Tim 5:2).

APPLICATION

  1. How do we handle sexual harassment in ministry?
  2. These suggestions are largely taken from Preventing Sexual Abuse in Congregations by Karen A. McClintock.
  3. When someone makes an unwanted sexual advance toward you:
    1. Keep silent.
      1. Breathe deeply and keep silent for a while - This gives you time to formulate your response.
      2. Picture God sitting in the room with you.
    2. Accept the other person's feelings.
      1. This does not mean that you approve.
      2. It took courage for the individual to express his/her feelings.
      3. "Thank you for telling me that. I'm sure it wasn't easy to do."
      4. Validate the relationship: "I'm honored to be your preacher."
      5. Clarify the professional/moral boundary: "I'm honored to be your preacher, but we're not going where that thought would lead."
    3. Pause for a response.
      1. Ask how the person is responding to what you have said.
      2. Listen for clues that he or she really understands what you have said.
    4. Sometimes, it's important to get out of the situation immediately just like Joseph did - the person removes clothing, attempts physical contact, or uses overt sexual language.
      1. Tell the person directly the behavior has to stop and leave the room.
      2. Tell the individual that for all parties involved, you must break the confidentiality of what's transpiring.
      3. Bring back in secretary or spouse to witness a clarification of what's just occurred.
      4. Refuse to see the person again in any type of personal, private setting.
  4. Yet, it's not always that people make advances toward the preacher - Sometimes the preacher makes unwanted advances toward others.
    1. Pay attention to your intuitive discomfort.
      1. If you doing something that makes you uncomfortable, STOP!
      2. That is a very biblical response.
        1. Our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you" (2 Cor 1:12).
        2. "Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things" (Heb 13:18).
    2. Stay tuned to your body.
      1. Notice your physiological responses and determine the source of them.
      2. Were you flirting, or was someone flirting with you?
    3. Notice whom you touch and why.
      1. Do you touch one gender more than another?
      2. Do your hugs linger for a longer time with some people?
    4. Avoid commenting on appearance.
    5. Ask before you hug.
    6. Ask yourself, "Who needs this hug?"
      1. Is the hug really for the recipient?
      2. Is the hug really for your own benefit?
    7. Notice the feedback.
      1. Pay close attention to the verbal and nonverbal feedback you receive.
      2. Does the person respond in kind?
      3. Does he/she attempt to get out of the situation?
    8. Take the risk of being called a "cold fish."
      1. Reduce the amount of touching in which you engage.
      2. We can minister effectively without a constant need to touch.
    9. Learn and practice safer alternatives.
      1. Men can learn to listen more empathetically and reduce the need to touch.
      2. Give lots of empathetic head nods and verbal comments like "uh huh."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Divine Blessings

"Ordinary" Blessings

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

I can’t remember where I read the quote. I’m not sure that I remember the exact words, but I love the message. “God is always speaking. How often do we listen? God is always teaching. How often do we learn?” There’s so much to learn from the ordinary events of life.

The cell phone rang so I answered. No one was there. After the third hello, I was preparing to be ill. Finally, Laura responded. She hadn’t called me—her back pocket had. We enjoyed a pleasant four-minute conversation. What I almost found to be a bother was really a blessing. That happens more often than we might think.

A friend whom I’ve never met in person calls from California. Our conversations are stunningly diverse. Recently he began with questions about faith and how we help faith grow. I offered suggestions from Luke 17:5 (pray, ask God to help), Romans 10:17 (listen to the word), and Hebrews 5:14 with Luke 17:5-10 (use what you have, do what you know to do). I suggested that God is for us and will help us. Then my friend responded, “That’s grace, and grace is too good to be true.” He wasn’t expressing doubt. Rather, he was emphasizing the stunningly amazing nature of grace.

Wondrous grace. Marvelous grace. Matchless grace. Too good to be true, but God has made it true through Jesus Christ. And we won’t grasp the full power of grace until we see our Lord in all His holiness and majesty (Titus 2:11-14, Ephesians 2:1-10, Revelation 1:12-18). We need to think of that often. Such thoughts will always bless. They’ll pull us toward heaven. They’ll cause us to hate sin. They’ll pull us toward God.

I picked up Laura for lunch. At the restaurant we saw one of the sweetest, most pleasant ladies we know. Every time we see her, we’re reminded of how much she has blessed our family. Seeing her made the meal better. Seeing her made the day better. I hope we had something of the same effect on her. God means for us to be and to bring blessings to others. It’s one of the ways that we are made in His image. It’s one of the ways that we preach the gospel (Matthew 5:13-16, 1 Peter 2:11-12 and 3:1-3). It’s one of the ways that we “stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Corinthian Epistles

Introduction to 1 and 2 Corinthians

Written by George Goldman

“The Corinthian Correspondence,
A Church with Problems”

Paul visited Corinth for the first time on his second missionary journey (Acts 18). He remained there eighteen months and made his home with two exiled Jews from Rome, Priscilla and Aquilla. After being forbidden to preach in the synagogue, Paul made use of the house of Titus Justus. Many of the Corinthians, Jew and Gentile, believed and were baptized. Paul himself baptized Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue; Gaius; and the household of Stephanus (1 Cor. 1:14-16).

Often a city influences the church more than the church influences the city. This was certainly the case in Corinth. Corinth was about the size of Memphis, Tennessee, in population. It had a very bad reputation. In the stage plays people from Corinth were always depicted as drunkards. To live like a Corinthian was to live a life of fornication and drunkenness. The Corinthians worshiped Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In Aphrodite’s temple there were more than a thousand priestesses of vice. Paul spoke out against this sin again and again (1 Cor. 5:10; 6:9; 10:7, 8; 2 Cor. 6:14; 7:1; 12:21). He wrote the book of Romans from this city that probably contributed to his terrible description of heathenism (Rom. 1:21-32).

First Corinthians was written to a church with problems. In the first four chapters the problem of divisiveness is discussed. In 97 A.D. Clement of Rome wrote another letter, which still survives today, and shows that divisions still existed at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians (5 – 6) Paul deals with the problem of moral lapses. Chapter 7 begins with “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote.” This formula denotes the questions the Corinthians had written to Paul. These questions concerned: marriage (1 Cor. 7), meats sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8 – 10); disorders in public worship (1 Cor. 11); spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12 – 14); the resurrection (1 Cor. 15); and the contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16).

In 2 Corinthians Paul elaborates further on the collection scheme (2 Cor. 8 – 9) and defends his apostleship.

Today if you visited ancient Corinth you could see the ruins of the ancient market place (1 Cor. 10:25) with its refrigeration system of cold water. Also you could touch the starting marks for the runners in the Isthmain games, which consisted of melted copper poured into stone. Among the ruins of the temple of Apollo you could drink from a foundation of running water. You could climb the 2,000-foot Arco-Corinthies where the temple of Aphrodite once stood. You could also visit the ruins of two ancient Greek theaters. At the entrance of one was found in inscription, “Erastus, city treasurer” (Acts 18:22; 2 Tim. 4:20).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Sentence of Death

Dying to Self

Written by Dr. Justin Imel

Death. That’s the sentence Youcef Nadarkhani has received from an Iranian court for refusing to recant his faith in Christ.

According to news reports, the court asked Nadarkhani to repent. He replied, “Repent means to turn. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” declared the judge.

Nadarkhani simply said, “I cannot.”

Nadarkhani clearly stands as an example for all who profess faith in Christ. In former days, many gave their lives for Christ – Stephen, James, Peter, Paul, Justin Martyr, and the list could be made much longer.

Yet, Jesus intends every disciple to lay down his life. Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, ESV). We view the cross as a symbol of our redemption, but Jesus’ original hearers would have understood the cross as an instrument of death. Jesus says that his disciples must daily die for him – die to their own will and live for him. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24, ESV).

Have you died to self today? Have you taken off the old self to be clothed with Christ? Why not die to self today that you might live for Jesus? After all, he has already died for you. “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:15, ESV).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lives of Holiness

Holy Living

1 Peter 1:1-25

When one thinks of Peter, generally the first thoughts are of a disciple who was impulsive, impetuous, and maybe at times impossible. He is the one who was willing to fight and die with his Lord one minute and yet willing to deny him the next. You might wonder how could this impossible, impulsive, impetuous disciple ever write to encourage anyone? It is the result of a changed heart and spiritual growth. He is the disciple to whom Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom (Mat. 16:28). Peter understood what it meant to stand up with great courage for the cause of Christ, Acts 2:14-47; Acts 5:40-42.

Peter therefore could write to those who were either suffering persecution or about to suffer persecution with all the confidence one needs to reassure. He could write brethren who were about to experience persecution, trials and tribulations and exhort them toward “holy living” because he had already experienced what they were going to experience.

“First Clement 5:4-7 names Peter and Paul as victims of persecution” (Gaebelein p. 212). The persecution is most likely that given out by Nero. On July 19, 64 AD the city of Rome suffered a disastrous fire that destroyed nearly a fourth of the city. It was rumored that the fires were started by Nero (it is said that he was charmed by the flames). He supposedly needed space for buildings he wanted built. He sought a scapegoat for the fires and chose the Christians. They were already under suspicion according to Tactius in ancient history. (Tac. Ann. XV44).

They were considered by the Romans to be a sect of the Jews and there was no love lost by the Romans for the Jews. Nero increased the persecution in order to throw suspicion off him. Christians were persecuted in horrible ways. Therefore, imagine the words that Peter is writing are to encourage Christians to remain holy in an unholy world and he attempts to encourage them in this process.

  1. Blessings Afforded Those Living a Holy Life: (1:3-12)
    1. New Birth: Jn. 3:5 (born again) Our new birth, gives hope and joy not only in this life, but in the life hear after, or eternal life. No matter what may happen to the body, they cannot kill the soul.
    2. Living hope through the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
      1. Life without hope: Eph. 2:11-12 “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”
      2. Christ is the source of all hope and blessings (Eph. 1:3)
    3. A precious inheritance:
      1. Incorruptible
      2. Undefiled-implies purity not corrupted
      3. Will not fade away
      4. Reserved in Heaven
    4. Faith Value (1:5-8)
      1. Kept by power of God 1:5
      2. More precious than gold 1:7
      3. Will be found unto the praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ 1:7
      4. Joy unspeakable 1:8
    5. Salvation of soul: (1:9-12)
  2. Living the Holy Life (1:13-15)
    1. Be Sober
    2. Hope
    3. Living Obedient lives
    4. Holy in Conduct and Character
  3. The Purpose of Living the Holy Life: (1:16-25)
    1. Living Holy (1:13-16)
    2. Living Reverently (1:17-21)
    3. Living a life of Love (1:22-25)