From Jim McGuiggan... The "nonsense" of faith

The "nonsense" of faith

A psalmist wrote, "I was young and now I'm old and I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his children begging for bread." How silly!
A poet wrote, "Till the tropic sun grows cold, till this young world goes old my darlin' I'll adore you." What rubbish!
A noted scientist wrote to one he adored, "There's no life without you; nothing means anything anymore." Had his intellect collapsed?
Why do people talk like that? Why do they speak like that in the face of obvious facts to the contrary? Do they really believe what they're saying? The psalmist knew nothing of the righteous poor dying during famines? The poet thought he'd live longer than the sun? The brilliant scientist thought that the laws of rationality had collapsed because she was gone? Now it would be nonsense to think they thought like that.
What are people doing when they speak in that way? Well, I'm no specialist in the area (or any other, if it comes to that) but I know what they're feeling when they speak that way. The psalmist's persuaded beyond debate that God is faithful and caring, the poet's enthralled by his beloved and commits himself for always to her and the scientist is shattered by his loss and everything now lacks point—why bother? None of them has any interest in curbing his speech or putting reins on his heart. Each one of them defies the ordinary and the obvious and he's carried beyond precision and logic—the heart's too full for such things however legitimate and useful they are under other circumstances.
It isn't that they have taken leave of truth; it's that the truths that have come home to them in these moments loom larger than the other truths they're well aware of. If you reminded the psalmist that some righteous people and their children had starved to death he'd shake his head and tell you you'd missed his point. If you told the poet how long it'll be before the tropic sun grows cold he'd smile at you in his lunatic way as if you were the lunatic and if you told the scientist that other things still made sense he'd say, "For you, perhaps!"
When Christians sing hymns that seem so far removed from the facts of life and pray prayers that are so out of touch with reality—presuming they're sincere and are expressing their faith—we're not to sneer and think they've taken leave of their senses (well, perhaps they have, in the best sense of those words). No, they're relying on truths and facts other than the ones that seem to deny all they're singing and praying and proclaiming. Sometimes when their worlds come tumbling down around them it's in light of that that they sing and pray other massive truths and realities; truths and realities that take their loss into account and absorb the loss without harm.
They aren't talking nonsense and denying truth; they're expressing faith and proclaiming bigger truths. They've come to know the "bigger picture"; the bigger picture about the one true God who has shown himself to us in and as Jesus Christ and that being the case, like poets and lonely scientists they speak the "grander sense" and defy "common sense". And a host of them do it, just as enthralled as the poet, just as persuaded as the psalmist and with as much feeling as the hurting scientist. They do!
Ervin Drake, Jimmy Shirl, Al Stillman & Irvin Graham wrote the words and music to a 1953 hit song I Believe. It doesn't matter to me that the song might not now make the number 2 spot; it's a song for believers and they'll continue to sing this kind of thing until He returns.
 I believe for every drop of rain that falls,
A flower grows,
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night,
A candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray,
Someone will come to show the way.
I believe,
I believe. 

I believe above the storm the smallest prayer,
Will still be heard.
I believe that someone in the great somewhere,
Hears every word.
Every time I hear a new born baby cry,
Or touch a leaf or see the sky.
Then I know why,
I believe. 

Every time I hear a new born baby cry,
Or touch a leaf or see the sky.
Then I know why,
I believe.

©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.

Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, the abiding word.com.

From Jim McGuiggan... THAT'S what faith means?

THAT'S what faith means?

In 1 Timothy 3:16 Paul says, "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great" and then proceeds to summarise the faith by quoting a well-established Christian confession that has a series of mind-boggling truths. The incarnation is a brain-wrecker, vindicated by the Spirit is too rich and complex and taken "up" in glory is a centre of controversy. Seen by angels is plain enough if it weren't so mysterious and preached on among the nations makes perfect sense (who would want to keep a message like that to herself?). But what do you make of that "believed on in the world"?
Believed on in heaven, believed on inside the jewelled walls and down the golden streets of the city foursquare, but believed on "in the world"? This world? The one you and I live in? The one you and I and millions with us have helped to build with lies and treachery and uncleanness and self-centeredness? Believed on in this world? Where Roman armies exiled enslaved millions and called it re-settlement, where they committed genocide and called it discipline, the one in which they created a desert and called it peace and where degenerate aristocrats fed their educated slaves to pet fishes? Did Paul mean this, our world? The one that educates its children from infancy how to be greedy while calling it "just good business", providing them with lots of good reasons to be racist, teaching them how to sneer at goodness and holiness while calling verbal or visual filth art?
Are we talking about this world, the one that hated and hounded him? The world of tough politicians that had no time for talk of crosses or integrity while there is more money and power to be gained? The world of churchgoing people that is good at singing and eating Passovers and Lord's Suppers and "doing church" and writing books about the love of God while harbouring bitterness, nurturing unbridled ambition, becoming experts at self-excusing, all neatly packaged in a sickening self-righteousness? My world?
Yes, it's astonishing, but even in a world like this one Jesus has been able to persuade people to believe in him!
Paul and people like him, down to this very day, have come to desperate people that have been oppressed externally and internally, socially and morally to the point where hope had died and cynicism was king; they came to people like that and gave them a Message and praise God, incredible though it seems, they believed!
Now that's a great mystery. I know that when Paul used "mystery" he meant something now revealed but you're dreaming if you think just because it's been revealed that it's no mystery to us. How does it come that Jesus Christ was believed on in a world like this?
The faith of any individual in Jesus Christ is astonishing. We take its existence too much for granted. We tend not to think much about it, of course, but when we do many of us take it as almost "natural" that we believe. "Well, of course, we believe, what's the surprise in that, isn't Christ worth believing in?" Yes, of course he is worth believing in but it isn't the worthiness of Christ that I'm amazed at. What astonishes me is that people shaped for so long by sin in a world that is really lord Sin's empire have stopped believing in Sin and now believe in Jesus Christ.
We stress the truth that there is no faith in Christ without a free commitment to him as if that explained the existence of our faith. Look, it's precisely because we were blessed with free will that we were able to become sinners in the first place. Free will doesn't explain the existence of faith in Christ. How does it come that we freely believed in him when the world was and is all-encompassing? How did we ever get free from it? Did we free ourselves by our moral strength? Did we face lord Sin, denounce and renounce him out of the moral and spiritual strength that we had without God's help? You understand I'm not talking about intellectual capacity at this moment, I'm talking about the amazing moral truth that at some point we turned to emperor Sin, defied him and walked away from him to Jesus Christ! That's calledrepentance. How did that come about?
It came about because God in the crucified Christ disarmed the powers and defeated lord Sin and came in the gospel and told us he had done it. Had he not done that there would be no faith in Jesus Christ on earth. And the faith of every believer and the corporate faith of the church make visible and concrete the triumph of Jesus Christ over Sin and the corrupted powers. The grand biblical truth shows itself in actual individuals and congregations. So the believers should rejoice in their personal deliverance from sin's dominion but, additionally, they should rejoice because they are witnesses to something vast, something cosmic and they're witnesses to the glory of the crucified, risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ. Isn't that astonishing?
If we proclaim the gospel that Jesus is Lord and has conquered Sin and the principalities and powers and someone should ask us for proof of that we would of course turn to scriptures. But it would be perfectly legitimate to point out the fact that we ourselves have faith in Jesus Christ and that is part of the proof that the gospel is God's saving power because we ourselves have been saved by faith. Scattered all over the world, little handfuls of people with no political or social clout, many of them despised and some of them persecuted by their communities, families and even governments are living proof of Christ's Lordship because he overcame the sin in them and brought them to faith! Their personal faith and salvation is proof that God in Jesus Christ actually saves people (1 Corinthians 1:21 and Romans 1:16). Rome slew him and yet here he is saving people by bringing them to faith in him.
As long as the world stands there's a man who will be known as "the penitent thief" whose faith climbed over every conceivable obstacle to breathe free. Despite his background, his own agony, the appearance of the one dying across from him that said he was nothing more than a criminal like himself he said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom." That faith wasn't born in a soft home and comfortable circumstances and it was more than a personal commitment of faith. That personal faith was a proof that there, on that other cross, the world and all the principalities and powers were being stripped of their power and dignity (Colossians 2:15).
And some of you reading this know very well what crucifixion means but every day and in every way by God's grace your faith in Jesus Christ leads you to say, "Lord remember me when..."
And because of it, if you listen really hard, from some vast distance you'll be able to hear the threshing sound and the pain-filled screech of a fatally wounded Dragon who knows his time is short.

©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.

Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, the abiding word.com.

From Jim McGuiggan... Reconciliation and Faith

Reconciliation and Faith

As far as our relations with God go reconciliation is the re-establishment of a relationship. But it's more than that; it's a certain kind of re-establishment. Hostility has ceased. But it's more than that; it's the realignment of two hearts. Reconciliation isn't a unilateral affair; it involves both the estranged parties.
One of the parties (God) may make all the running and create the possibility of actual reconciliation but until the other lays down his arms (however many elements are involved in bringing that about)until the other lays down his arms and desires the peace of reconciliation then in fact no reconciliation has taken place between God and the sinner.
Atonement is the means by which the offensive thing is dealt with so that nothing stands in the way of the two parties being one again except the grateful receiving of the gift of at-oneness made possible by the sacrifice.
But the restored relationship, which is what constitutes "reconciliation", is a personal and an ethical relationship rather than a legal status conferred on someone. That is, there can be no status without the relationship and the relationship cannot be restored unless the heart of the transgressor (the sinner) is realigned with the offended one (God). God who is light cannot have fellowship with us who rejoice in being darkness and who choose to hold him in contempt.
The grateful receiving of the gift of reconciliation with God is by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith lays hold on that which Christ alone has accomplished for the sinner and it does it by laying hold on the Christ who alone has gained it. But what does we mean when we say "faith" lays hold on Christ? Of course faith involves some intellectual grasp and knowledge of Christ but beyond this faith is a surrender of the self to him. Faith is not simply an awed confession that Christ has done this and that for sinners, it is a commitment to Christ in light of all that he is and has done.
Faith endorses Christ! But what does it mean that faith endorses Christ? It means that who he is and what he has done to atone for our sin has our heart's approval and the commitment of our will. Christ's atoning work was not legal, it was ethical and what is called for in the accepting of that gracious gift is an ethical response. Faith is the response that embraces that ethical atonement.
The response of faith is fitted to the nature and aim of atonement, which is reconciliation with God. Simply reaching out to punish someone because some others have transgressed is not the biblical teaching about atonement. To punish the innocent and then call the impenitent "righteous" or "reconciled" because someone innocent was punished is objectionable. What's worse, that theory is provoked by legal considerations and it is itself manifestly illegal as well as unethical.
Christ atoned for sin by offering a child's holy obedience to his holy Father--an obedience consummated by death. Everything about the atoning work was ethical and relational and it aimed at bringing people to the realignment of their hearts and lives to God. The way in which he atoned spelled out the nature of reconciliation. Faith fully endorses that kind of atoning work and commits itself to live in the image of Christ.

©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.

Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, the abiding word.com.

From Mark Copeland... The Selection Of The Seven (Ac.6:1-7)

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                  The Selection Of The Seven (6:1-7)


1. As the disciples in Jerusalem increased, problems increased as
   a. Problems from without - Ac 4:1-3; 5:17-18
   b. Problems from within - Ac 5:1-11

2. In chapter six of Acts, difficulties continue...
   a. Complaints from those within - Ac 6:1-7
   b. Persecution from those without - Ac 6:8-15

[In Ac 6:1-7, with "The Selection Of The Seven" we read how the church
successfully addressed a serious complication...]


      1. The number of the disciples was multiplying - Ac 6:1; cf. 
         Ac 2:41; 4:4; 5:14
      2. Increasing numbers in a congregation often lead to problems
         a. It is more difficult to know everyone
         b. Cliques begin to form based on common interests
         c. Misunderstandings become more frequent

      1. Hellenists 
         a. Jews living in Jerusalem but originally connected with
            Diaspora Judaism and characterized by the use of Greek as 
            their principle language, especially for worship and 
            scripture - AYBD
         b. The Hellenists in Ac 6:1 are Christian Jews, while in Ac 9:29 
            they represent the larger group of Diaspora Jews who 
            have not converted - ibid.
      2. Hebrews
         a. Aramaic-speaking Jews who held to their native language and
         b. In this passage they are evidently Christian Jews as well

      1. Feature of communal Christianity practiced in Jerusalem - 
         Ac 6:1; cf. Ac 2:44-45; 4:35
      2. Which was not the norm practiced elsewhere-see"Communal Christianity"
      1. Churches would provide support for widows, with qualification
         - cf. 1Ti 5:3-16
      2. The Hellenist widows were being neglected - Ac 6:1
      3. Leading to a complaint by the Hellenists against the Hebrews

      1. The twelve (apostles) summon the multitude - Ac 6:2
      2. "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and
         serve tables"
      3. Leaders should not be distracted from their primary
         responsibilities - e.g., Exo 18:13-26  
      4. Note well:  The apostles' duty was prayer and the ministry of
         the Word - cf. Ac 6:4

[The problem threatened the care of the widows, the unity of the church
and the spread of the Word.  The solution serves as an example for
solving church-related problems...]


      1. The apostles summon the multitude of disciples - Ac 6:2
      2. The apostles explain the problem to the disciples - ibid.
      3. The apostles propose a solution - Ac 6:3-4
         a. The congregation to select seven men
         b. Men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom
         c. Whom the apostles could appoint over the distribution
         d. So the apostles can be devoted to prayer and the Word

      1. The proposal pleases the multitude - Ac 6:5
      2. They select seven men - ibid.
         a. Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, later the
            first martyr - Ac 7:57-60
         b. Philip, who later served as an evangelist - Ac 8:4; 21:8
         c. Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a
            proselyte from Antioch
      3. Note well:  the church, while mostly Hebrews, appointed seven

      1. Set before the apostles by the multitude - Ac 6:6
      2. Appointed with prayer and the laying on of hands - ibid.
         a. Indicating acceptance and approval of those who have been
            selected by the congregation - cf. 1Ti 5:22
         b. Beseeching God's blessing and protection on those who serve
            - cf. Ac 13:1-3
         c. It may have also involved imparting a miraculous measure of
            the Holy Spirit via the apostles - cf. Ac 6:8; 8:6-7,18; 
            19:6; Ro 1:11

[The congregation was pleased, and the widows' need was met.  Not
surprising, therefore, was...]


      1. Once again the Word of God had free course - Ac 6:7; cf. 2Th 3:1
      2. They were able to devote themselves to the ministry of the
         Word - cf. Ac 5:42 

      1. Once again the growth of the church grew exponentially - Ac 6:7
      2. Which is what happens when the Word of God is spread - cf. 
         Ac 2:41,47; 4:4
      1. A great many of the priests were obedient to the faith - Ac 6:7
      2. Perhaps many who earlier believed but were ashamed to confess
         - cf. Jn 12:42-43


1. Church problems are a common occurrence...
   a. Especially as churches grow rapidly
   b. Satan does what he can to hinder growth - cf. Mt 13:24-25

2. Church problems can be a great hindrance...
   a. Creating ill will among members
   b. Distracting members from important tasks

3. Church problems can be solved successfully...
   a. By informing the congregation of the problem
   b. By involving the congregation in finding a solution

From "The Selection Of The Seven", a congregation can learn how to turn a
trial into a triumph...! 

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

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From Mark Copeland... The Persecution Intensifies (Ac.5:17-42)

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                The Persecution Intensifies (5:17-42)


1. Previously, we saw where persecution against the church began...
   a. Religious leaders in Jerusalem had become greatly disturbed - Ac 4:1-2
   b. They made threats against Peter and John, but nothing more - Ac 4:18-22

2. We saw how the apostles responded to the threats...
   a. With fellowship and prayer for boldness - Ac 4:23,29
   b. Strengthened by the Spirit, they continued to preach with
boldness - Ac 4:31

[But as the church in Jerusalem grew, so did the persecution against it. 
Beginning with Ac 5:17, let's read about the apostles of Christ...]


      1. By the high priest and those of the Sadducees - Ac 5:17-18
      2. Who were filled with indignation - cf. Ac 4:1-2,18,21

      a. Who came at night, opened the prison doors, and brought them
         out - Ac 5:19
      b. Who charged them to return to the temple and speak the words
         of life - Ac 5:20
      c. Which they did, entering the temple in the early morning - Ac 5:21

[For the first time, we read of an angel freeing servants of the Lord
(cf. Ac 12:5-11).  But it is not long before the apostles are...]


      1. To be brought from the prison - Ac 5:21
      2. But the officers are unable, for the apostles are not there! 
         - Ac 5:22
      3. Despite secure doors and the guards standing outside - Ac 5:23

      1. The council is informed that the apostles are teaching in the
         temple - Ac 5:24-25
      2. The apostles are brought to the council peacefully, for fear
         of the people - Ac 5:26

      1. Were they not strictly commanded to teach in Jesus' name? - Ac 5:27-28
      2. "You have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, intending to
         bring this Man's blood on us!"

      1. We ought to obey God rather than man - Ac 5:29
      2. God has raised Jesus, whom you murdered - Ac 5:30; cf. Ac 4:19
      3. God has exalted Jesus to His right hand - Ac 5:31; cf. Ac 2:33,36
         a. To be Prince and Savior
         b. To give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins - cf.
            Lk 24:47
      4. We are witnesses to these things - Ac 5:32
         a. And so is the Holy Spirit
         b. Whom God has given to those who obey Him - cf. Ac 2:38-39

[The council's immediate reaction was anger, and plotted to kill them (Ac
5:33).  But one of the council, like Nicodemus a good and fair man (cf.
Jn 3:1-2; 7:50-51; 19:38-39), stands up to speak...]


      1. A Pharisee, a teacher of the law - Ac 5:34
      2. Held in respect by all the people - cf. Ac 22:3
      3. Who commands the apostles to be put outside

      1. To be careful what they do with the apostles - Ac 5:35
      2. To remember what happened to Theudas - Ac 5:36
         a. A man claiming to be someone, joined by 400 men
         b. He was slain, and those who obeyed him came to nothing
      3. To remember what happened to Judas of Galilee - Ac 5:37
         a. He drew away many people after him
         b. He also perished, and those who obeyed him dispersed
      4. His advice regarding the apostles: leave them alone - Ac 5:38-39
         a. If their work is of men, it will come to nothing
         b. If it is of God, it cannot be overthrown and you will be
            fighting against God

[The Pharisee and teacher, Gamaliel, displayed wisdom and justice that
spared the apostles' death on that occasion.  But despite his efforts,
the apostles were not released unharmed...]


      1. They agree with Gamaliel to let the apostles go - Ac 5:40
      2. But first beat them and commanded them not to speak in the
         name of Jesus - cf. Ac 4:17-18

      1. Left rejoicing they were counted worthy to suffer for His name
         - Ac 5:41; cf. Mt 5:10-12
      2. Continued to teach and preach Jesus daily in the temple and in
         every house - Ac 5:42


1. From threats to beatings, the persecution was intensified against
   the church 

2. Once again, the apostles show how to respond to persecution:  with
   joy! - cf. Lk 6:22-23; Ro 5:3-4; 1Pe 2:19; 3:14; 4:14; Jm 1:2-4 

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

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From Mark Copeland... The Miracles Of The Apostles (Ac.5:12-16)

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                The Miracles Of The Apostles (5:12-16)


1. Following the death of Ananias and Sapphira, we read about...
   a. The signs and wonders being done by the apostles - Ac 5:12-13
   b. Where they were able to heal all those brought to them - Ac 5:14-16

2. "The Miracles Of The Apostles" provide an opportunity to make
   observations about...
   a. The success of the apostles' miracles
   b. The purpose of the apostles' miracles

[Similar observations can be made about the miracles of Jesus and Paul,
which can serve to critique so-called miracles today (are they really
miracles?).  So let's begin by noting...]


      1. During the early days of the church - Ac 5:12; cf. Ac 2:43
      2. Daily in the temple, in Solomon's Porch - Ac 5:12; cf. Ac 2:46;
      3. Even in the streets, as the shadow of Peter went by - Ac 5:15

      1. The miracles of Jesus - Mk 6:53-56
         a. In the land of Gennesaret
         b. In villages, cities, the country
      2. The miracles of Paul - Ac 19:11-12
         a. In the city of Ephesus
         b. During his extended stay while on his third journey

[In both rural and urban settings, wonderful things happened when true
men of God were healing the sick.  So let's consider carefully...]


      1. The sick were laid out in the street on beds and couches - Ac 5:15
      2. People from surrounding cities brought the sick and possessed
         - Ac 5:16
      3. Note well:  "they were all healed"

      1. Jesus in the land of Gennesaret - Mk 6:53-56
         a. When people heard He was there, they gathered the sick
         b. Wherever He went, they brought the sick to Him, on beds
            laying them in the market
         c. Note well:  "as many as touched Him were made well"
      2. Paul at Ephesus - Ac 19:11-12
         a. God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul
         b. Even handkerchiefs brought from his body to the sick healed
         c. Note well:  implied is that all who received such
            ministrations were healed

[The crowds that gathered around the apostles, Jesus, and Paul were
understandable, for the success of these three men was remarkable.  Now
for an observation or two about...]


      1. The effect of the miracles led to high esteem among the people
         - Ac 5:13
      2. The purpose of apostolic miracles was to confirm their message
         - Mk 16:17-20

      1. The purpose of Jesus' miracles was to confirm His claims - 
         Jn 5:36; 10:25,37-38
         a. People who saw such signs made the connection - Jn 3:2;
         b. Jesus did refrain from doing miracles on one occasion for
            lack of faith - Mt 13:58
         c. But note well:  He never failed any miracle that He Himself
      2. The purpose of apostolic miracles was to confirm they were
         from God - Ac 14:3
         a. God bore witness to His Word by gifts of the Holy Spirit 
            - He 2:3-4
         b. The apostles did not always heals those they knew were sick
            - 2Ti 4:20
         c. But note well:  the apostles never failed any miracle they


1. Today, there are self-proclaimed miracle workers who say God is
   working through them...
   a. Large crowds often attend their meetings, hoping to be healed
   b. But many people leave such meetings, disappointed that they were
      not healed
   c. Despite having such healers lay their hands on them, and pray for

2. When true servants of God worked miracles, everyone was healed...!
   a. Whether it was the apostles, Jesus, or Paul
   b. The purpose of miracles to confirm they were servants of God
   c. And God left no room for doubt:  all were healed!

3. It is important to remember that such miracles were for a specific
   a. They were to confirm the message and messengers as being from God
   b. Once the Word of God was completely revealed and confirmed, there
      is no longer a need for such miracles of confirmation - cf. 1Co 13:8-10
   c. Which explains why such miracles are not being done today
   d. Contrary to claims made by false teachers who mislead many

When we carefully study the miracles of Jesus and those of His apostles,
comparing them with the so-called miracle healers of today, we can easily
see the difference...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

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