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The Bible: God’s Very Words

The Bible: God’s Very Words

Jesus the Messiah of Israel, whom we call our “Lord” and “Master,” quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to Satan when He was being tempted to eat physical food during a 40-day fast: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Therefore, He promoted the scope of importance of the Old Testament Scriptures over and above even the importance of eating physical food!

The following is a short paper on what I believe the Bible to be, and its importance for family life and for ministry in the local church.

Knowing God Through Revelation
How can one know God? There are two main ways people can do that as wonderful, good, partial, insufficient and incomplete as they are: Reason, which is a tool to reflect and synthesize to arrive at an understanding of revelation. Reason doesn’t make knowledge; it reflects upon knowledge. The second is experience. Most people’s experiences are the same, but we can’t come to conclusions based on mass-experiences. Therefore, it is necessary for God to reveal Himself to humans. God has revealed Himself to humanity throughout the history of time in two ways: General Revelation and Special Revelation.

General Revelation. By generally revealing Himself to all humanity, I mean that God has revealed Himself in a broad way to all people through creation (Ps 19:1-2; Rom 1:19-20), history (Prov 14:34; Rom 9:17) and human conscience (Rom 2:14-16). By this revelation, all people can somehow perceive God’s existence, nature, power and glory and even a limited knowledge of the difference between good and evil.

Special Revelation. By Special Revelation, I mean that God narrowed His focus to revealing Himself to designated individuals (people who are believers in Christ) in a unique way through various means as found in the Scriptures: such as appearances of God, visions and dreams, Apostles, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Scriptures and the Church.

The Scriptures
The Scriptures (the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament) originated by God who superintended (2 Tim 3:16) the human authors (1 Pet 1:21) so that using their thinking, talents, life circumstances, individual personalities and styles; they composed and recorded without error His revelation to humanity in the words of the original inscriptions. I embrace the verbal-plenary view of inspiration stating that God inspired every word of the Scriptures. Scripture ought to be held in very high esteem and the reader changed as a result of encountering it, as it has a life of its own (Heb 4:12).

Interpretive Hermeneutic. I believe the Bible is totally without error, and that it must be interpreted in its historical, grammatical, cultural, theological and literary context to discover the author’s original intent and meaning.

Practicality of the Scriptures. The Bible is our Field Manual and guide for life (Ps 119:105); it is our final authority for our understanding of and dependence on God: Himself, His ways and His purposes (John 5:19), as well as for our daily faith and behavior (Ps 119:9-11), and lastly, for our practices within the Church (Phil 4:9). It is how God decided to communicate specifically to human beings, and we need to know His words so that we are better able to know its Author and obey Him in everything we are, think and do (John 14:21).

How this affects my relationship with Jesus, my family leadership, disciple making, teaching, and preaching is that I desire to teach people what God’s intent was through the original authors to the original audience of the Bible. This inevitably leads to the application of scripture to contemporary life today, as we seek to obey God (John 14:23). I want to teach people the Bible: not fads, gimmicks, or the latest church growth or business principles, all of which are “man’s wisdom” (1 Cor 2:12-13).

I want to train ministers and leaders how to teach the Bible without the use of curriculum. I believe the use of good curriculum is helpful as a supplement, but like with physical food, I can’t live on chips and salsa alone. I need the balanced and proper nutrition of whole foods, vegetables and fruit, grains, meat and potatoes. In order for people to grow spiritually, they need the substance that will foster healthy spiritual growth; that substance is the objective and very words of God found in the 66 books of the Bible.

“Sola Scriptura”
Scripture Alone

A Look Ahead…

A Look Ahead…

Have you ever asked yourself these questions?
Why not try it soon. Live your life on purpose.

What goals must I accomplish for me to say I have achieved true manhood by the end of my life?

What adjectives would I want my bride to use to describe me over the course of our marriage?

What sort of old man do I want to be?

How do I want to be remembered by those who knew me?

What specific experiences and memories do I want my kids to have with me before they leave home?

Family Poem

Family Poem

I ran into a stranger as he passed by,
“Oh excuse me please” was my reply.
He said, “Please excuse me too;
I wasn’t watching for you.”

We were very polite, this stranger and I.
We went on our way and we said good-bye.
But at home a different story is told,

How we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal,
My son stood beside me very still.
When I turned, I nearly knocked him down.

“Move out of the way,” I said with a frown.
He walked away, his little heart broken.

I didn’t realize how harshly I’d spoken.

While I lay awake in bed,
God’s still small voice came to me and said,
“While dealing with a stranger, common courtesy you use,

but the family you love, you seem to abuse.
Go and look on the kitchen floor,

you’ll find some flowers there by the door.
Those are the flowers he brought for you.

He picked them himself: pink, yellow and blue.
He stood very quietly not to spoil the surprise,

you never saw the tears that filled his little eyes.”

By this time, I felt very small,
and now my tears began to fall.
I quietly went and knelt by his bed;

“Wake up, little one, wake up,” I said.
“Are these the flowers you picked for me?”

He smiled, “I found ’em, out by the tree.
I picked ’em because they’re pretty like you.

I knew you’d like ’em, especially the blue.”

I said, “Son, I’m very sorry for the way I acted today;
I shouldn’t have yelled at you that way.”
He said, “Oh, Mom, that’s okay. I love you anyway.”
I said, “Son, I love you too,

and I do like the flowers, especially the blue.”

– Source Unknown.

Are you aware that if we died tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days. But the family we left behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives. Come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into work than into our own family, an unwise investment indeed, don’t you think? So what is behind the story?

Do you know what the word FAMILY means?

My Philosophy of Worship

My Philosophy of Worship

My Definition of Biblical Worship
Worship is declaring the worth of someone or something. How I define corporate (in community with other like-minded people) worship is “Worship is the commemoration of being in covenant fellowship with the sovereign and holy God through the Lord Jesus Christ.”
How that is accomplished is by the:
1. Expressed commitment of trust and obedience to the responsibility of loving God with our whole being, and loving all other people.
2. Intentional praise and adoration of His person and work, and
3. memorial re-enactment of entering into covenant through sacrificial atonement with the confident anticipation of the fulfillment of His covenant promises.
(Adapted from Allen P. Ross, Ph.D. Worship in Ancient Israel).

Worship must be done as God desires it, in accordance with His person and works of creation and redemption. God’s purpose in creating us and redeeming us was to create genuine worshippers. Worship as an expression of “truth” is the journey we take to make God of first priority in our lives and declare through our words, thoughts and behavior that He is of supreme value. God is worthy of worship from all human beings. It is the purpose for which He created humanity and has redeemed many. The summary of God’s commandments is to love God with all our whole being (Luke 10:27).

My Understanding of Parameters for Congregational Worship

To understand the parameters for congregational worship, we must examine the qualifications for worship and the worshipper as it pertains to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ today as well as summarizing permissible corporate worship expressions.

Qualifications for Worship and the Worshipper
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The most important qualification for a human being to worship God is that they believe in Him through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10). Without this critical component, a human cannot worship God. Therefore, a person who lacks faith in the Lord Jesus Christ does not and is not able to worship or please God (Hebrews 11:6).

The qualifications or requirements for those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ may be summed up when He said “Those who worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24 NIV). He defined for believers two boundaries to worship God. The first boundary is “in truth.”
“In Truth” – Worshipping God through Jesus the Messiah. From this passage, we understand that for us to worship “In Truth,” is to worship God through the correct Messiah—Y’shua (Jesus). In this conversation with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar, Jesus made the reference that “salvation is from the Jews” (4:22), from which He then claimed Himself to be their Messiah (4:26). To worship God “in truth” is to worship Him through Jesus the Messiah. Since He later refers to Himself as being “the truth” (14:6), there leaves little room for debate that this is what He was referring to in 4:24. Belief in Jesus as the Messiah is the first requirement to worship of the One True God.

“In Spirit” – Unlimited Geographic Boundaries. In this same passage, the Messiah refers to God as being Spirit (4:24), which has intangible qualities. There are no geographic boundaries to the Spirit of God, as He is Omnipresent. Thus, the reason is clear for Jesus’ statement in 4:21 regarding the Jewish/Samaritan debate of where to worship God (Jerusalem in the temple or Mt. Gerizim in the Samaritan version of the temple). It soon wouldn’t matter where people worship God, because He is everywhere, and can be worshiped everywhere!

Personal Parameters for Worship

The act of worshipping God is not to be performed flippantly or without intentionality. Sincerity is essential because of three issues: personal integrity, genuine interest, and the voluntary expressions of the worshipper.
Personal integrity affects sincere worship because it assumes the righteousness of the worshipper, which occurs from prior self-examination, repentance and confession. Worship will not be inhibited when the worshipper makes time to prepare himself to be in the presence of God with other worshippers.
Genuine interest affects sincere worship because a person can’t worship God (or anything else for that matter) when one is on “autopilot.” Engaging the mind and desires is necessary for worship to occur – if one doesn’t want to worship God, then worship will not occur.
Unique and Voluntary Expressions. For a worshipper to make voluntary expressions in their worship is to do from the heart above and beyond what is expected. The Old Testament forms of worship were to an Israelite their duty, or what was expected as a minimum. God seems to have expected (and sometimes made provision for) additional acts of worship, which could be categorized as “above and beyond” or out of abundance. It is God’s desire and expectation that worshippers make a personal, unique contribution or expression of their praise to God.

Permissible Corporate Worship Expressions
My understanding of what is permissible and even valid expression of corporate worship of the Lord Jesus Christ comes from what is prescribed and what is allowable in Scripture. There are four main categories of permissible corporate worship expressions. They are as follows.

Teaching/Proclamation of the Word. The first is the teaching/proclamation of the word, in which the people’s response to hearing the word is to understand and obey. The format of this can be preaching/teaching from the pulpit, reading the Bible devotionally together, studying the Bible in a small group format, or even studying through a Christian book whose foundation is Scriptural.

Remembering the Lord’s Table. The second is remembering the death, burial and resurrection through the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. It is permissible to partake in the Eucharist once a week or once a month. My preference is every time we gather all together corporately (once a week on Sundays) we take communion together to re-enact (remember) Christ’s work on our behalf. Our response is to receive the sacraments appropriately as prescribed in I Corinthians 11.

Praising God through Creative Arts. The third category of permissible expressions of corporate worship is praising God Himself for His character and His works by using the media of art (music, poetry, writing, dance, reader’s theater, sculpture, painting, and drawing). I am committed to the Lord Jesus Christ as Head of the Church. Our worship, regardless of style of art, is to be Christ-centered, authentic, and creative; not people centered. I believe the creative arts are a vehicle to motivate us toward worshipping God, and are not ends in themselves; therefore styles ought to change as people’s needs and preferences change. The object of our worship is God, so we must come to Him in worship according to His ways and purposes (Ex. 20:3; Ps. 100, 150; Matt. 5:23-24; Matt. 18:15-20). The content of the lyrics and the excellence of the musicians are what is more important than necessarily “hymns or choruses.” So many people make the style of music an issue over which to break fellowship. However, this ought not to be. Our response is to revere God for His character and works through our artistic talents, whether they be novice or expert, everyone can participate.

Sharing Life Together in Community. The final category of permissible corporate worship expression is to share life together in community, where each member’s responsibility is to remind one another to follow Christ, to sacrifice for each other (time, energy, possessions, etc.). Since Israel was a worshipping community, and it would be more the oddity rather than the normative to worship privately or in isolation from other human beings, so the church is similar in that we are to worship corporately in community.

My Approach to Handling Contemporary Worship Issues
My approach to handling contemporary worship issues such as musical styles and dancing (for example) is pastoral in nature. Here, I will briefly explain my strategies as to how I would handle those issues within a church context.
Strategy: Four General Principles
My strategy is to use four general principles whenever thinking through how to pursue worshipping God in a local church or when conflict arises due to opinion and preference differences. The principles are “Function vs Form,” “Excellence,” “Beauty and Creativity,” and “Highest Goal: Love and Healthy Relationships.”

Function vs. Form. The function never changes… to declare God’s worth. The form, however, may change based upon the demographic of the people we are attempting to engage and reach for Christ. If the general population of the “natives” is into rap music, then I must lay aside my personal preference for hard rock and cater to that need. The style of music changes to fit the target audience. The function is to worship God and proclaim truth, which must never change. The form may be hymns, Jewish folk dancing, choruses, Christian contemporary songs, graffiti art, or liturgy, all of which may change due to target audience and preferences. The goal of art is to glorify God, not the artist. To edify the church, not self.

Excellence. Christians who desire to worship God and whose mission it is to reach the non-believing population of their surrounding community have an obligation both to God and to the skeptical world to perform with excellence. From the entrance into the parking lot, from the parking lot to the front door, from the front door into the sanctuary, from the sanctuary back into the parking lot again, the church must have a commitment to worship God well and treat these people with love. This means that there are few glitches due to dedicated practice–from parking lot attendants, to greeters, to ushers, to prayer leaders, to Scripture readers, to music team, to drama team, to those taking the offering, to the preacher, to those who are small group leaders looking to assimilate new-comers. Everyone must be doing their jobs well… it honors the King (I Corinthians 10:31), and communicates love and importance to people who are visiting and attending.

Beauty and Creativity. Being creative in worship is to go above and beyond to seek new ways of creating mediums of art or communication. From the building and grounds to the actual art being performed in the worship service, creativity and beauty ought to be expressed and appreciated, rather than deemed as an attempt to bring glory to oneself.

Highest Goal: Love and Healthy Relationships. Our highest goal is love and healthy relationships. This means that we won’t argue over what my preference of musical style is, because my relationship with my brothers and sisters in Christ is more important. If a person is stumbling over a certain style of music being played in a service, then the goal would be to pursue the reasons why they are stumbling so. If it is a valid and scriptural reason they are stumbling, then it is the obligation of the “stronger” brother to revise their approach (or song, or drama, etc.) according to Romans 14:19.

Resurrection Sunday Aftershock

Resurrection Sunday Aftershock

My body aches… my feet hurt… my eyes are tired… if you cut me open right now, I think I’d have chocolate running through my veins.

Last week was a busy week as the Easter week is the busiest week of the Christian calendar. We had Maundy Thursday service, Good Friday service, Passover Seder on Saturday, and Sunday was the coup de grace of Sundays–Resurrection Sunday. I’m wasted!

The Easter season is potentially fraught with more trouble and energy expenditure than Christmas! Drink plenty of water, eat well, sleep much, spend time with Jesus, your spouse, and your children. Even though you as a Pastor/church leader may be gone a lot during these times of heightened church attendance/effort, they still need you.

For Family Worship night tonight, we made Resurrection Cookies and read through the Passion section of the book of John (chapter 19). We also dyed some eggs. A day late, but what’s that to a 2 year old? It was fun!

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

Good Friday marks a moment that has split humanity apart. Every human ever born on this earth must decide where they stand in regard to the events that took place 1,973 years ago on AD 33 in Jerusalem, Israel.

Jesus of Nazareth died on behalf of all humanity at the merciless hands of Roman soldiers and the wishes of a frenzied mob of His fellow countrymen. There, He was crucified at 9am (the 3rd hour of the day according to the Hebrew clock), and died at 3pm (the 9th hour). The significance of this act was that He was the prophesied lamb of God, which was scheduled to be sacrificed at the temple exactly at the ninth hour on this particular day, Passover.

What was so good about this act is the resulting resurrection that following Sunday! Jesus rose from the dead and is alive now and forever. He defeated death and His ultimate enemy Satan, and because of this, all people who believe that Christ died for their sins and rose from the dead, will have forgiveness from God and will enter eternity with Him forever in heaven.

That’s what’s so good about Good Friday.

Got "Incarnation?"

Got "Incarnation?"

If I am to have a truly Nourished Soul, and out of that, help others to have a Nourished Soul, then how am I to go about doing that?

I’m going to share a noun with you which ancient theologians developed at the Council at Chalcedon way back in AD 451: Incarnation. We refer to the event of Jesus Christ’s first coming to earth (or advent) as a human as “the Incarnation of Christ.” It was the act of God Himself becoming “One of us,” which was the perfect act of cultural relevance; He became human while retaining His Divinity–His Godhood.

Charles Ryrie writes on page 241 of Basic Theology, “John wrote that the Word became flesh (John 1:14). He also wrote of Jesus coming in the flesh (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). By this he meant that the eternal second Person of the Trinity took on Himself humanity. He did not possess humanity until the birth, since the Lord became flesh. However, His humanity was sinless.” Wow!

What does it look like for you to be Incarnational (to become “one of them”) in your Realms (Self, Family, Community, Church, Workplace, Country, etc.), Roles (Spouse, Parent, Child, Neighbor, Manager, etc.), and Relationships?

As my soul is becoming more nourished, then I engage in the world of others so they too can have a truly Nourished Soul.

Join with me as I strive to be culturally relevant in the community to which I am called in order to transform the spiritual landscape to reflect the rule and reign of Christ’s kingdom!

Got “Incarnation?”

"Even God himself could not sink this ship."

"Even God himself could not sink this ship."

This article comes from Doug Phillips, the founder of Vision Forum Ministries and Christian Boys’ & Men’s Titanic Society, who is committed to standing for the proposition that the strong must sacrifice for the weak, that greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for another, and to the enduring legacy of those men who died that women and children might live.

“The world has changed dramatically in the 86 years since this book was first published. The era of the R.M.S. Titanic is long past, but the tragic tale of the “unsinkable” White Star liner remains the subject of intense public fascination. The Titanic is the most famous and intriguing ship in history, second only to Noah’s Ark. Scholars have observed that the three most popular historical subjects are Jesus Christ, the Civil War, and the Titanic. A recent newspaper account would appear to lend credibility to this claim. According to the story, there are more than 800 Titanic-related books in the public libraries of one Virginia county — all of which were checked out at the time of the article’s publication. Titanimania is with us and there is no indication that it will soon abate.

Historian Wyn Craig Wade concisely summarized the entire tragedy as follows: “In 1912, 1,522 people drowned or froze to death after the palatial liner in which they were sailing was sufficiently mismanaged as to take a nose dive to the bottom of the North Atlantic.”

So what?” Read more here…

From The Sinking of the Titanic by Douglas W. Phillips

Honestly Seeking!

Honestly Seeking!

When was the last time you truly felt needed? This is the need we all have for significance. The questions we start asking ourselves or others, including God, sound like these:
* What on earth am I here for?
* Why do I exist?
* If I die, would anyone notice?
* Would people attend my funeral?
* What is the meaning of life?

These are the questions most every human being asks in this life. However, there are multiple sources of answers that various groups give. How do we know which answers are really true? How do we know what we know?

Do you have an answer? Without sounding r-e-a-l-l-y prideful or holier-than-thou, I must confess to you, that I DO have an answer for each of these questions, and I would LOVE to share them with you. If this is what you’re honestly seeking.

What Should Come From The Torture of Xu Shuangfu

What Should Come From The Torture of Xu Shuangfu

This comes from Voice of the Martyrs, dated 29 March 2006. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in China!

CAA (China Aid Association) learned 24 house-church leaders are still missing following a police raid on a house-church leader’s meeting in Henan province. According to an eyewitness report, at noon on March 13th, a number of public security officials raided a house-church meeting at Wen county, Henan province. Eighty Chinese house-church leaders from different counties of Henan province were attending a co-workers’ meeting. All of the leaders were then taken into custody after the police searched their bodies and confiscated the cash on them.

While 36 from Wen county were released within 24 hours, 24 of those from other counties are still missing. None of their whereabouts are known. Last week CAA also released a Defense Statement prepared by the defense lawyers of a controversial religious group leader, Xu Shuangfu.

Xu Shuangfu stated he had sustained an extortion of confession by severe torture, including denial of sleep for long periods and pouring hot pepper, gasoline and ginger juice into his nostrils. He was hung for long periods with his armed stretched and bound, shocked with electricity applied to copper wires bound around his extremities and hit with clubs on a helmet worn on his head. After seven days and nights of severe torture, he finally confessed to the unsubstantiated charges of authorizing the killing of members of the Eastern Lightning sect.

Pray the 24 Christians still in custody will know the comfort of Jesus’ presence. Pray they will be released soon. Pray Xu Shuangfu will remember the apostle Peter and know Jesus’ love and forgiveness.