Tag Archives: Gospel

Manipulating the Manna

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday here in America, I have been studying Exodus 16 and Numbers 11:6-8 for this Sunday morning’s sermon. Over the next few days, I would like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned.

When you have a spare moment, please read these passages (Exodus 15:22-23; Exodus 16; and Numbers 11, particularly verses 6-8) in order to become more familiar with the text from which I am gathering my thoughts.


Manna

After the children of Israel were freed from slavery in Egypt, it took only three days for some of them to start complaining. After only six weeks of freedom from bondage, the whole Israelite camp was “murmuring” against Moses – actually, against God.

Even after all God had accomplished for them, the Israelites were somehow afraid that the One who kept them from all the plagues that befell their slavemasters, the One who had just parted the Red Sea, could not take care of them in the wilderness. Right from the beginning, they began to complain, up until the point where they began wishing they were back in bondage eating the food of slaves.

As you can read in the text, even though God had already done so much, and even though His people were faithless and idolatrous (because covetousness is the same as idolatry – see Ephesians 5:5), the Lord God was faithful to keep His own covenant and miraculously provided food from heaven – manna.

Nevertheless, even though what God provided them was sufficient to meet their needs, over time they once again began to remember with fondness the foods of Egypt. Therefore, as they became weary of the manna – as miraculous as it was – they sought ways to change it, to manipulate it, and to shape it into something akin to what they missed from the years of their captivity.

Manipulating the Gospel

Do we not do the same thing today with the simple, yet wholly-sufficient gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it not sweet and pleasant enough?

When we are forgetful (forgetful of God’s mercy and grace); when we allow discontent to develop in our hearts; when we take our eyes off God; when we doubt His promises and provision; when we selectively remember the variety of lustful pleasures in Egypt that have tainted our palate; the simple, pure, wholesome things of God lose their appeal, leading us to mix and mash the “manna” with things that suit our particular tastes.

Unfortunately, all we end up with is something no one will find palatable or satisfying.

 


In my next post, I will share with you some actual statistics I uncovered regarding the miracle of the manna in the wilderness. Hint: You’ll need a “boxcar” to walk away with it.

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Cold as Hell?

The other morning it was a brisk and refreshing 55 degrees on my school bus. I had not yet turned on the heaters before picking up one group of students, and that’s when one highly-intelligent, highly-literate teenage girl said,

“Damn! Turn on the heat! It’s cold as hell!”

I took no time in responding, “You know, I think hell is a little hotter than this.”

Here’s what I’m going to start doing. Every time someone uses Hell as a descriptive adjective, I’m going to consider it an open invitation to share the gospel. When someone says “cold as hell” or “hot as hell” I’m going to say something like:

“You know, it’s funny that you should say that, because from what I’ve read, specifically from those who’ve actually been there or seen it, Hell is much, much worse than you’re describing…and I’m glad I won’t have to go there! You want to know why?”

There are also those who commonly use the descriptive of “funny as hell.” To those I will reply:

“You know, what’s really funny is that something could be ‘funny as hell,’ because from what I’ve heard Hell isn’t funny at all. Do you actually believe in hell?”

Honestly, if we really want to share the gospel with people, we can find the opportunities.

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Crawl Into the Pulpit and Die

I found the following description of preaching very sobering. May we all take our preaching more seriously.

“What we are asking is that our preachers, in great imitation of the Gospel, would crawl into the pulpit and die, and in that death other people may live…

Perhaps the greatest metaphor for preaching the Gospel is the Gospel…

We take a message of death to life and people watch that being preached by someone who is willing to die so that others may live. Therefore, may this never be a place to showcase rhetorical device, rather may this be a place that when we explain the Word of God He brings brokenness, He brings contrition, He brings repentance, and ultimately salvation. And when we see that, we will worship.  Because preaching is worship. May this be a house of worship.”

 – Dr. Steven Smith

(The above is from a transcript of a testimony by College at Southwestern Dean Steven Smith on the importance of preaching, given during the MacGorman Chapel dedication service at Southwestern Seminary, Dec. 1, 2011.)

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A Universal Gospel?

The following is an outline (nothing but an outline) that I prepared to preach one Sunday several years ago. I found it while searching through some documents on my computer and felt led to share it with you. Feel free to use it, if that’s what you do. Other than that, maybe you could use it as a study tool. 


“Examining the Universality of the Gospel”

I.   Introduction

Luke 2:9-10. Is the Gospel good news for all people?

The word “people” was “pointing specially to the people of Israel.”

II.  What does it mean to be universal?

The term universal is described by one dictionary as an “adjective relating to or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group; applicable to all cases.”

III. What is the Gospel?

Dictionary Definition:

The gospel is the The Eng. word “gospel,” i.e. “good message,” is the equivalent of euangelion (Eng., “evangel”). In the NT it denotes the “good tidings” of the Kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension, e.g., Act 15:7; 20:24; 1Pe 4:17.[3]

Paul’s Definition: In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul makes it very clear that the gospel is simple, not complicated, and consists of two central features:

  • Jesus the Messiah died on the cross and
  • He rose from the dead according to the Scriptures.[4]

IV. Objections and False Gospels  Some object to a Universal Gospel because race, culture, past experiences, etc.

  1. From those who have been hurt or don’t understand. “You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to His mind; and, if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a Book. If it was intended for us, as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given to us, and not only to us, but why did He not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that Book, with the means of understanding it rightly. We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?”[5] – Chief Red Jacket, 1805, in a speech to the Six Nations and an American missionary, Mr. Cram.
  2. The Jews. In the eleventh chapter of the book of Acts, for instance, we read how that Peter, when he went to Jerusalem, “contended” with the Jews over the issue of the gospel being presented to the Gentiles. In 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 Paul mentioned those who forbade him to “speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved.”
  3. Prosperity Gospel. It is certainly not a gospel that expects “blessing and favor” as evidence of God’s grace.

V.   A Gospel that IS Universal

  • Not limited by race, gender, age, nationality, boundary of any kind, or economic status. It is truly “good news” to anyone and everyone as long as they first realize they have a need for it.
  • Meet the most basic needs of Humanity.
  1. Sin. All men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Because of Adam, sin entered the world, and death by sin; therefore death has passed as a consequence upon all men (Rom. 5:12). Jesus Christ died for the sins of all, and whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).
  2. The gospel is universal because it addresses the world we all live in. It answers the questions of pain and suffering. It gives meaning to the struggles of life. The gospel is not a drug or panacea of some sort; it is a reality pill.
  3. Love and Compassion. Mother Teresa said, “Maybe they are starved for bread in Africa. You are starved for love in the United States.”[6] What greater message of love can one share than that of the gospel of Jesus? “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

 VI. Conclusion  The gospel that is truly universal in its scope and application.

  1. All men are born in sin – Romans 5:12
  2. There is none righteous – Romans 3:10
  3. All have sinned – Romans 3:23

But…

  1. Jesus is the only Way – John 14:6
  2. One day ever knee will bow and ever tongue will confess – Phil. 2:10-11

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” – Mark 16:15 KJV

A message of love to every “creature” (κτίσις , εως f creation, what is created, created order, creature [7]) – how much more “universal” can a gospel get?

 

 

 

[1] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), Lk 2:10.

[2] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[3] W. E. Vine, “Gospel (Noun and Verb: to Preach)”, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Blue Letter Bible. 1940. 24 June, 1996 3 Dec 2012.

[4] Donny Mathis, “Gospel” In , in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 671.

[5] Bryan, William Jennings, ed. The World’s Famous Orations. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1906; New York: Bartleby.com, 2003. www.bartleby.com/268/. [Accessed Dec. 2, 2012].

[6] G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1986), 257.

[7] Barclay M. Newman, Jr., A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies, 1993), 104.

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“Please Lord, Help Me Get One More”

A Facebook Find

I am writing this at 10:40 pm, Sunday evening. I was just in the process of shutting everything down when I decided to take a glance on Facebook – usually a big mistake when time is an issue.

Sometimes, after a stressful day, I will sit down at the computer and just scroll for a little while. Yeah, it can be a waste of time, most certainly, but isn’t it better than watching TV? I mean, should I see something interesting I can at least leave a comment, right?

Even more than a comment, I like finding stuff I can share, either on Facebook, Twitter, or this blog. I especially love finding out about upcoming events or important stories that can benefit others.

The following is one of those finds.

Hacksaw Ridge

While scrolling through the posts on Facebook I came across the official trailer for a movie which I am absolutely going to go see. The movie is supposed to be the true story of Desmond Doss, a local hero around these parts. Doss was a conscientious objector during WWII, but he became famous for actually going into combat to save lives.

By way of a little spoiler, just in case you’ve never heard of him, Desmond Doss won the Congressional Medal of Honor for single-handedly saving the lives of 75 injured soldiers, all while being fired upon by the enemy….and each one he personally lowered 200 ft. by rope off a bluff!

The name of the movie is Hacksaw Ridge. Here is the official trailer.

Just One More?

So, why sit down and write a blog post about a movie I’ve yet to see? Simple. Because of what I have seen.

Do you remember the heartbreaking scene at the end of the movie Schindler’s List? Remember when Schindler broke down and wept when he realized the gold in the simple lapel pin he was wearing could have saved at least one more Jew from being killed? Oh, that is a difficult bit of film to watch, but very worth it. Each time I see it I’m convicted.

In the upcoming film adaption of Desmond Doss’ story, we hear him pray, “Please Lord, just one more.” When you witness what he went through to keep going back, time after time, each time under fire, every time putting his own life at risk, will you be as convicted as me?

You see, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? And what does it profit a man to have his life saved, but then die and go to hell without ever hearing about the saving hope of Jesus Christ? If there are men out there who would put their lives on the line to save men and women from sure death, where are those crying out for the eternal souls of men?

Heaven will have its share of rewards, but how many will actually receive the equivalent of the Medal of Honor? How many of us will be commended by our Commander for braving enemy fire, scaling the jagged cliffs, and going back again and again for “just one more?” Isn’t that our mission?

Convicting, isn’t it?

 

 

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Preparing for an Encounter

Like many pastors, whether they’d admit it or not, I’m still in my little study/office with an open Bible, a note pad, some colored pencils, coffee that’s no longer hot, and a deep, yearning desire to hear from God. 

It’s after midnight, and while many folk are already in bed, still partying, or watching another increasingly perverted installment of Saturday Night Live, I’m wiping away tears as I beg for the souls of lost young men and women, boys and girls, and adults who think there’s nothing left to hear that will change their minds about Jesus. 

I know that I’m only human, but the task before me is inhuman; it is more than I can accomplish in my own strength with my own words. But I must try. I must depend on God’s endless grace and mercy. He called me, but He will empower me, speak through me, for I am but a vessel. 

Nevertheless, I struggle, for the words I choose to say must adhere to a universal Truth, the gospel that transcends cultures and circumstance. It can’t – it MUST NOT! – be a message relevant only to those here in America, but a message of Truth that could fit right in to whatever culture in which it’s shared. Otherwise, instead of a universal Gospel, all I have is my opinion on an Americanized gospel which will be irelevant to some who may attend and hear nothing more than me pontificate. 

The eleven o’clock hour at church, for many, is just another box on a list that must be checked off in order to earn a few religious brownie points. Rarely does one come, so it seems, expecting an encounter with the Living, Holy, Creator God. If I stand and preach in my own strength, with my own words, there’s no reason for any expectation. 

But if I’m broken, humble, obedient, and yielding, not to mention passionate for the heart of my Saviour,  and faithfully expound the Word of God, the universally applicable gospel of Jesus Christ, the Hope that is the same no matter where in the world a person is from, will be preached and, should the Spirit move, lives will be changed. That is my prayer. 

There’s never enough study and preparation time, so for many like me, the dark and quiet loneliness of Sunday morning is the time to wrap things up, settle my heart with God, and pray, if nothing else, that I’m not a hindrance to the glorious work set before me. 

Dear Father, may we experience an encounter with you. Where we will gather, please be in our midst. May we as Saul, as Ananias, as little Samuel, hear You call our names. May we also, with obedient and submissive hearts, say, “Here I am, Lord…what would you have me to do?” 

May it happen around the world! 

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Filed under Countries, Culture Wars, God, ministry, Prayer, Theology, Witnessing, World View

Five Objectives

Ministry Objectives

Some people take a sentence or two, or even a paragraph, to describe their ministry objectives. I decided to divide mine into five points and put them right up front for everyone, including myself, to read.

My desire is…

I.    To bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ in all that I do (Ps 19:14) and go through (1Pet 1:7).

bibleII.   To “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim 4:13) and “to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

III. To be known as a humble and consistent husband and father whose household serves the Lord (Josh 24:15; 1 Cor 15:58); a forgiven sinner who understands grace (1 Tim 1:15); and a fearless soldier of the Cross (Mark 8:34) who never compromises the truth (1 Tim 4:16).

IV. To affect future generations yet to come as children are grounded, parents become responsible, singles are emboldened, and the aged get a second wind (Josh 4:21-24; Pro 22:6).

V.  To promote the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in every part of the world (Acts 1:8).

Dear Heavenly Father, make them more than objectives… make them reality.

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