From Gary... This too shall pass

Late last summer, Lizzie, myself and the dogs went for a walk and Lizzie snapped this little jewel. There had been quite a powerful rainstorm, which seemed to last FOREVER, but then it cleared. And although there wasn't much day left, it became better and better.  The sky finally turned that bright blue that you see in the upper left of the picture and the purples and greys of sunset soon followed. I remember that all I could think about was "this too shall pass" and THAT is worth remembering!!!  Life is a connected series of constant changes and the best is yet to come...

Romans, Chapter 5
  1 Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;  2 through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance;  4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: 5 and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  6 For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die. 8 But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

In the upcoming years, I see the trend towards a growing animosity toward Christians gaining speed.  It seems to me that tough times are ahead for those who try to follow Jesus.  But, along with that there is the realization that even those times will change as well.  Life is full of cycles and so is our progression as a Christian. From suffering to hope, we need to always remember that God loves the unlovable.  This means myself and everyone who reads these words.  Every single one of the storms of life will pass and at the sunset of our lives something marvellous awaits.  This is a great comfort to me and I hope you say the same thing!!!

PS- Thanks for the picture, Lizzie!!!

From Gary... Bible Reading April 20

Bible Reading  

April 20

The World English Bible

Apr. 20
Numbers 31, 32
Num 31:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Num 31:2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward you shall be gathered to your people.
Num 31:3 Moses spoke to the people, saying, Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian, to execute Yahweh's vengeance on Midian.
Num 31:4 Of every tribe one thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, you shall send to the war.
Num 31:5 So there were delivered, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.
Num 31:6 Moses sent them, one thousand of every tribe, to the war, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand.
Num 31:7 They warred against Midian, as Yahweh commanded Moses; and they killed every male.
Num 31:8 They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they killed with the sword.
Num 31:9 The children of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their livestock, and all their flocks, and all their goods, they took for a prey.
Num 31:10 All their cities in the places in which they lived, and all their encampments, they burnt with fire.
Num 31:11 They took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of man and of animal.
Num 31:12 They brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the children of Israel, to the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by the Jordan at Jericho.
Num 31:13 Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them outside of the camp.
Num 31:14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who came from the service of the war.
Num 31:15 Moses said to them, Have you saved all the women alive?
Num 31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Yahweh.
Num 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.
Num 31:18 But all the girls, who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
Num 31:19 Encamp outside of the camp seven days: whoever has killed any person, and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves on the third day and on the seventh day, you and your captives.
Num 31:20 As to every garment, and all that is made of skin, and all work of goats' hair, and all things made of wood, you shall purify yourselves.
Num 31:21 Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who went to the battle, This is the statute of the law which Yahweh has commanded Moses:
Num 31:22 however the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead,
Num 31:23 everything that may abide the fire, you shall make to go through the fire, and it shall be clean; nevertheless it shall be purified with the water for impurity: and all that doesn't withstand the fire you shall make to go through the water.
Num 31:24 You shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you shall be clean; and afterward you shall come into the camp.
Num 31:25 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Num 31:26 Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of man and of animal, you, and Eleazar the priest, and the heads of the fathers' houses of the congregation;
Num 31:27 and divide the prey into two parts: between the men skilled in war, who went out to battle, and all the congregation.
Num 31:28 Levy a tribute to Yahweh of the men of war who went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the cattle, and of the donkeys, and of the flocks:
Num 31:29 take it of their half, and give it to Eleazar the priest, for Yahweh's wave offering.
Num 31:30 Of the children of Israel's half, you shall take one drawn out of every fifty, of the persons, of the cattle, of the donkeys, and of the flocks, even of all the livestock, and give them to the Levites, who perform the duty of the tabernacle of Yahweh.
Num 31:31 Moses and Eleazar the priest did as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Num 31:32 Now the prey, over and above the booty which the men of war took, was six hundred seventy-five thousand sheep,
Num 31:33 and seventy-two thousand head of cattle,
Num 31:34 and sixty-one thousand donkeys,
Num 31:35 and thirty-two thousand persons in all, of the women who had not known man by lying with him.
Num 31:36 The half, which was the portion of those who went out to war, was in number three hundred thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep:
Num 31:37 and Yahweh's tribute of the sheep was six hundred seventy-five.
Num 31:38 The cattle were thirty-six thousand; of which Yahweh's tribute was seventy-two.
Num 31:39 The donkeys were thirty thousand five hundred; of which Yahweh's tribute was sixty-one.
Num 31:40 The persons were sixteen thousand; of whom Yahweh's tribute was thirty-two persons.
Num 31:41 Moses gave the tribute, which was Yahweh's wave offering, to Eleazar the priest, as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Num 31:42 Of the children of Israel's half, which Moses divided off from the men who warred
Num 31:43 (now the congregation's half was three hundred thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep,
Num 31:44 and thirty-six thousand head of cattle,
Num 31:45 and thirty thousand five hundred donkeys,
Num 31:46 and sixteen thousand persons),
Num 31:47 even of the children of Israel's half, Moses took one drawn out of every fifty, both of man and of animal, and gave them to the Levites, who performed the duty of the tabernacle of Yahweh; as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Num 31:48 The officers who were over the thousands of the army, the captains of thousands, and the captains of hundreds, came near to Moses;
Num 31:49 and they said to Moses, Your servants have taken the sum of the men of war who are under our command, and there lacks not one man of us.
Num 31:50 We have brought Yahweh's offering, what every man has gotten, of jewels of gold, armlets, and bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and necklaces, to make atonement for our souls before Yahweh.
Num 31:51 Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, even all worked jewels.
Num 31:52 All the gold of the wave offering that they offered up to Yahweh, of the captains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds, was sixteen thousand seven hundred fifty shekels.
Num 31:53 (For the men of war had taken booty, every man for himself.)
Num 31:54 Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the Tent of Meeting, for a memorial for the children of Israel before Yahweh.
Num 32:1 Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that behold, the place was a place for livestock;
Num 32:2 the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the princes of the congregation, saying,
Num 32:3 Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Sebam, and Nebo, and Beon,
Num 32:4 the land which Yahweh struck before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock; and your servants have livestock.
Num 32:5 They said, If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession; don't bring us over the Jordan.
Num 32:6 Moses said to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brothers go to the war, and shall you sit here?
Num 32:7 Why do you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which Yahweh has given them?
Num 32:8 Your fathers did so when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to see the land.
Num 32:9 For when they went up to the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into the land which Yahweh had given them.
Num 32:10 Yahweh's anger was kindled in that day, and he swore, saying,
Num 32:11 Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me:
Num 32:12 save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun; because they have wholly followed Yahweh.
Num 32:13 Yahweh's anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander back and forth in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, who had done evil in the sight of Yahweh, was consumed.
Num 32:14 Behold, you have risen up in your fathers' place, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of Yahweh toward Israel.
Num 32:15 For if you turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and you will destroy all this people.
Num 32:16 They came near to him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones:
Num 32:17 but we ourselves will be ready armed to go before the children of Israel, until we have brought them to their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
Num 32:18 We will not return to our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.
Num 32:19 For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan, and forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side of the Jordan eastward.
Num 32:20 Moses said to them, If you will do this thing, if you will arm yourselves to go before Yahweh to the war,
Num 32:21 and every armed man of you will pass over the Jordan before Yahweh, until he has driven out his enemies from before him,
Num 32:22 and the land is subdued before Yahweh; then afterward you shall return, and be guiltless towards Yahweh, and towards Israel; and this land shall be to you for a possession before Yahweh.
Num 32:23 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against Yahweh; and be sure your sin will find you out.
Num 32:24 Build cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do that which has proceeded out of your mouth.
Num 32:25 The children of Gad and the children of Reuben spoke to Moses, saying, Your servants will do as my lord commands.
Num 32:26 Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our livestock, shall be there in the cities of Gilead;
Num 32:27 but your servants will pass over, every man who is armed for war, before Yahweh to battle, as my lord says.
Num 32:28 So Moses commanded concerning them to Eleazar the priest, and to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the heads of the fathers' houses of the tribes of the children of Israel.
Num 32:29 Moses said to them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over the Jordan, every man who is armed to battle, before Yahweh, and the land shall be subdued before you; then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession:
Num 32:30 but if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.
Num 32:31 The children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying, As Yahweh has said to your servants, so will we do.
Num 32:32 We will pass over armed before Yahweh into the land of Canaan, and the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us beyond the Jordan.
Num 32:33 Moses gave to them, even to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land, according to the cities of it with their borders, even the cities of the surrounding land.
Num 32:34 The children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer,
Num 32:35 and Atrothshophan, and Jazer, and Jogbehah,
Num 32:36 and Beth Nimrah, and Beth Haran: fortified cities, and folds for sheep.
Num 32:37 The children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kiriathaim,
Num 32:38 and Nebo, and Baal Meon, (their names being changed), and Sibmah: and they gave other names to the cities which they built.
Num 32:39 The children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were therein.
Num 32:40 Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh; and he lived therein.
Num 32:41 Jair the son of Manasseh went and took its towns, and called them Havvoth Jair.
Num 32:42 Nobah went and took Kenath, and its villages, and called it Nobah, after his own name.
Apr. 20, 21
Luke 12
Luk 12:1 Meanwhile, when a multitude of many thousands had gathered together, so much so that they trampled on each other, he began to tell his disciples first of all, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Luk 12:2 But there is nothing covered up, that will not be revealed, nor hidden, that will not be known.
Luk 12:3 Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light. What you have spoken in the ear in the inner chambers will be proclaimed on the housetops.
Luk 12:4 "I tell you, my friends, don't be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
Luk 12:5 But I will warn you whom you should fear. Fear him, who after he has killed, has power to cast into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
Luk 12:6 "Aren't five sparrows sold for two assaria coins? Not one of them is forgotten by God.
Luk 12:7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore don't be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows.
Luk 12:8 "I tell you, everyone who confesses me before men, him will the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God;
Luk 12:9 but he who denies me in the presence of men will be denied in the presence of the angels of God.
Luk 12:10 Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
Luk 12:11 When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, don't be anxious how or what you will answer, or what you will say;
Luk 12:12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say."
Luk 12:13 One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."
Luk 12:14 But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?"
Luk 12:15 He said to them, "Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man's life doesn't consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses."
Luk 12:16 He spoke a parable to them, saying, "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth abundantly.
Luk 12:17 He reasoned within himself, saying, 'What will I do, because I don't have room to store my crops?'
Luk 12:18 He said, 'This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns, and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
Luk 12:19 I will tell my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry." '
Luk 12:20 "But God said to him, 'You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared-whose will they be?'
Luk 12:21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
Luk 12:22 He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, don't be anxious for your life, what you will eat, nor yet for your body, what you will wear.
Luk 12:23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.
Luk 12:24 Consider the ravens: they don't sow, they don't reap, they have no warehouse or barn, and God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than birds!
Luk 12:25 Which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his height?
Luk 12:26 If then you aren't able to do even the least things, why are you anxious about the rest?
Luk 12:27 Consider the lilies, how they grow. They don't toil, neither do they spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Luk 12:28 But if this is how God clothes the grass in the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith?
Luk 12:29 Don't seek what you will eat or what you will drink; neither be anxious.
Luk 12:30 For the nations of the world seek after all of these things, but your Father knows that you need these things.
Luk 12:31 But seek God's Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.
Luk 12:32 Don't be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.
Luk 12:33 Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the needy. Make for yourselves purses which don't grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn't fail, where no thief approaches, neither moth destroys.
Luk 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Luk 12:35 "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning.
Luk 12:36 Be like men watching for their lord, when he returns from the marriage feast; that, when he comes and knocks, they may immediately open to him.
Luk 12:37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord will find watching when he comes. Most certainly I tell you, that he will dress himself, and make them recline, and will come and serve them.
Luk 12:38 They will be blessed if he comes in the second or third watch, and finds them so.
Luk 12:39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched, and not allowed his house to be broken into.
Luk 12:40 Therefore be ready also, for the Son of Man is coming in an hour that you don't expect him."
Luk 12:41 Peter said to him, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everybody?"
Luk 12:42 The Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the right times?
Luk 12:43 Blessed is that servant whom his lord will find doing so when he comes.
Luk 12:44 Truly I tell you, that he will set him over all that he has.
Luk 12:45 But if that servant says in his heart, 'My lord delays his coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken,
Luk 12:46 then the lord of that servant will come in a day when he isn't expecting him, and in an hour that he doesn't know, and will cut him in two, and place his portion with the unfaithful.
Luk 12:47 That servant, who knew his lord's will, and didn't prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes,
Luk 12:48 but he who didn't know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes. To whoever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.
Luk 12:49 "I came to throw fire on the earth. I wish it were already kindled.
Luk 12:50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!
Luk 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.
Luk 12:52 For from now on, there will be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
Luk 12:53 They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
Luk 12:54 He said to the multitudes also, "When you see a cloud rising from the west, immediately you say, 'A shower is coming,' and so it happens.
Luk 12:55 When a south wind blows, you say, 'There will be a scorching heat,' and it happens.
Luk 12:56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but how is it that you don't interpret this time?
Luk 12:57 Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?
Luk 12:58 For when you are going with your adversary before the magistrate, try diligently on the way to be released from him, lest perhaps he drag you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.
Luk 12:59 I tell you, you will by no means get out of there, until you have paid the very last penny."

From Mark Copeland... Letters To Theophilus (Acts 1:1)

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                      Letters To Theophilus (1:1)


1. The New Testament is a collection of 27 books...
   a. Containing gospels, history, epistles, and prophecy
   b. Some written to people at large, others to individual Christians
      and churches

2. It may surprise some that over one fourth of the NT was written to
   one individual...
   a. Luke and Acts contains more than 27% of the total words in the NT
   b. Both were addressed to a man named Theophilus - Lk 1:1-4; Ac 1:1-3

[With much of the New Testament written to just one man, it may be of
interest to further examine the relationship between the author and his
recipient, and the two letters between them...]


      1. Though unnamed, church tradition supporting Luke as the author
         is both early and unanimous - ESV Study Bible
      2. Luke was a physician, thought to have been a Gentile, possibly
         from Antioch - Co 4:14; cf. Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History,

      1. Also unnamed, but obviously the same author as Luke's gospel 
         - cf. Ac 1:1 with Lk 2:1-4
      2. The "we" sections require a companion of Paul, and Luke is
         mentioned in Paul's epistles - Col 4:14; 2Ti 4:11; Phm 24 

[The "beloved physician" who often accompanied Paul in his travels had
ample opportunity to collect the information shared in the gospel of Luke
and the book of Acts.  As for...]


      1. Was written to "most excellent Theophilus" - Lk 1:3
      2. Theophilus means "loved of God"
      3. The appellation "most excellent" suggests a government
         official - cf. Ac 23:26; 24:3; 26:25
      1. Was written to "O Theophilus" - Ac 1:1
      2. Note that the honorific title "most excellent" was dropped,
         about which we will comment later

[Not much more is known about the identity of Theophilus, but what is
said about him has led to some interesting possibilities about...]


      1. "that you may know the certainty of those things in which you
         were instructed" - Lk 1:4
      2. Theophilus had undoubted heard many things about Jesus and his
         followers - Lk 1:1; cf. Ac 17:6-7; 28:22
      3. There is evidence that Luke composed his work partially to
         prove that neither Jesus nor his followers were politically 
         dangerous to the Roman government - ISBE, "Theophilus"

      1. To continue the story begun in the gospel of Luke - Ac 1:4
      2. Some have concluded that Theophilus was the magistrate who
         heard Paul's case in Rome and that Acts (and Luke) was a legal 
         brief in Paul's defense - ISBE, "Theophilus"
      3. The abrupt ending of Acts prior to Paul's trial before Caesar
         lends support to the idea that it may have initially served as a
         "legal brief" in Paul's behalf - cf. Ac 28:30-31

[Luke's purpose in writing these two letters to Theophilus was to inform
him about the life of Christ and the growth of the early church.  How
were these letters received by Theophilus...?] 


      1. We noted that Luke dropped the honorific title "most
         excellent" in his second letter - Ac 1:1
      2. This has led many to conclude that Luke's relation to
         Theophilus had changed, that receiving Luke's gospel resulted in
         Theophilus' conversion
      3. For Christians did not use honorific titles to address one
         another - cf. Mt 23:8-12

      1. There is evidence that Paul's first appearance before Caesar
         led to his release
      2. After which he had time to travel, according to his plans
         written in his prison epistles - Php 2:24; Phm 22
      3. During which he wrote his first epistle to Timothy, and the
         one to Titus

[Even if the letters were originally intended for Theophilus, may have
even served as a "legal brief", their inspiration by the Spirit of God
has long been acknowledged.  Leading one to inquire about...]


      1. Many have used Luke's gospel to introduce people to Jesus
      2. It is the most extensive of the four gospels, written in
         chronological order - Lk 1:3
      3. Penned by a professional man (physician), with a view toward
         historical accuracy - Lk 1:4; 2:1-2; 3:1-2

      1. Luke records many examples of conversion in the book of Acts 
         - e.g., Ac 2:36-41; 8:30-38
      2. We read of the evangelistic methods and message of the early
         apostles and preachers
      3. For assurance of our own salvation, we can compare our own
         conversion experience with those in Acts; were we told the same
         gospel, did we respond in the same way?

      1. Acts contains the only record of the first thirty years of the
         early church
      2. It describes establishment, growth, organization, and worship
         of the church - e.g., Ac 2:42; 14:23
      3. Comparing Luke's record in Acts with the religious world
         today, we can see how far people have drifted from following 
         Jesus as the Way


1. Two letters, written to one man, sometime in the early 60s A.D....
   a. Who would have thought a simple correspondence would have the
      impact it did
   b. Of course it is due to their inspiration and preservation by the
      Spirit of God!

2. Have you given yourself the opportunity to read these two letters? 
   Do so, and you...
   a. Already have read one fourth of the New Testament!
   b. Will have the opportunity to learn much about Jesus, His
      salvation, and His church!

Along with the rest of the New Testament, you can "know the certainty of
those things in which you were instructed"...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

From Jim McGuiggan... Miracles: See that jacket?

Miracles: See that jacket?

God sent a deliverer to Israel in Egypt; a reluctant deliverer who was sulking and bitter over a past rejection.“What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Moses wants to know (Exodus 4:1). Though the problem, at this point, is more in Moses than in the people, it isn’t an irrational request. The “God of their fathers” had been around a long time and yet they were murdered and enslaved. If one comes with promises of a new future, it would hardly surprise us that they would have their doubts (Exodus 6:9).

So God offers him credentials (Exodus 4:2-9). Turning the staff into a snake and back again was “so that they may believe that the Lord...has appeared to you” (Exodus 4:5). If that wasn’t enough, there were two more signs (Exodus 6-9). Someone met and was with Moses. Whoever he was, he had power over the Nile, serpents and disease—power to create and cure.

I know philosophers and philosophical theologians debate the credential power of miracles but you only do that in your study or lecture hall. You only do that when you calmly abstract the events from reality and reason on logical relations. We’ve heard enough about Lessing’s ugly ditch and how that miraculous power doesn’t “prove” this or that. Yes, yes, but when you meet the real thing in a real setting where the event is contextualised and invested with meaning, all those arguments seem like vapour.

G.K. Chesterton’s poem on Lazarus sums it up well. Lazarus dies and is called back to life by Jesus the Christ. He wanders down the road, stops by a group of wise men that are matching words, laying out syllogisms, rattling out reason through a sieve that holds the chaff and lets the wheat go free. And what are they proving? That men cannot be raised from the dead! Lazarus listens to their arguments for a while then walks off saying, “But all of this is less than dust to me—for I am Lazarus, and I live!”

But we’re not very impressed with a school of thinkers that is so good with words that it can’t condemn and call “evil” what the Nazis or Stalin or ten thousand other tyrants have done! The man or woman that stands to say there is no way to “prove” the right or wrong of what such people did to hundreds of millions should be wondered at. Should we be surprised that they see no proof in the biblical miracles of what they are said to support? The word ‘proof’ is not the problem any more.

For those who wish to believe, said God, these signs are proof enough. Ah, but a real miracle would compel faith. No sir! The rich biblical notion of faith is more than mere belief, more than simply “the acceptance as true any given proposition”; it includes trust and commitment. And trust can’t be compelled! Self-serving critics had seen miracles all over the place but wouldn’t believe and so the Messiah would work no signs for them; but he did believe in their credential power (John 15:24). To the strugglers who were not hard of heart but needed help at a critical time, Jesus offered his works as proof (John 14:11; 20:24-31).

In a house in Troy, Ohio many years ago I was in the company of a boy called Tad Powers. I had spoken at the nearby building and he and I came on home ahead of the rest. He followed me around, as boys are apt to do with a visiting speaker. I don’t know what got into me but I turned to him and taking off my glasses I said to him, “Do you know who I am?” “Yes,” he said, not especially impressed, “You’re a preacher!” I looked at him solemnly and said, “I’m Superman!” Quick as a flash he said, “Prove it!” Here’s this, what? eight or nine-year old boy, and he knew the difference between an ordinary claim and an extraordinary one. Had I said, “I’m Jim McGuiggan” he might have said, “You’re secret safe with me.” Since I made an extraordinary claim, one that the circumstances made more than hard to believe, he made an understandable response.

I had made a “power” claim and he asked for “power” evidence. So I gave him one. I must have been out of my head but I looked around and there on the stair-post of the banister a jacket was hanging. I think it was mine but I can’t remember. “See that jacket?” I asked. He grunted assent. I said, “Watch it!” He watched it for a few seconds and saw it fall. It nearly floored him (nearly floored me too). He turned with eyes like organ-stops and whispered, “Do some more!” At that point others were coming in and I whispered to him that I didn’t want everyone to know who I was. He watched me even more closely for the rest of the evening. (I even made a quick visit to the bedroom to check under my shirt for the big S.)

The biblical credentials are not just raw acts of power, of course. They have a moral and contextual fitness to them though there are a few which must be taken up in the larger context of the entire biblical corpus if we are to see them at their best.

From Kyle Butt, M.A. ... The Web At Work


The Web At Work

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

Last week we received a call from a distraught mother whose 26-year-old son has turned to unbelief. She explained that he was raised understanding that God exists, but that due to material he viewed on YouTube, he had declared himself an agnostic/atheist. She related several of the questions that her son was having about evil, pain, and suffering, slavery and the Bible, and the alleged immorality of the God of the Old Testament. I assured her that we have answers to all of the questions that she mentioned and we would be more than happy to open up a dialogue with her son.
Out of curiosity, I asked her how she found our phone number. She said that one of the main issues her son was struggling with was his understanding of slavery and the Bible. She related that she went to the Internet, typed in slavery and the Bible and our Web site popped up. She went to the article and at the bottom found our contact information. Apparently, she had never before heard of Apologetics Press, but our article on the Bible and slavery pulled her to the site.
This is an excellent example of the importance of making sure the truth is presented on the Web. Error clutters the Web like old junk in an attic. There is no way to avoid its influence. But there are millions of honest-hearted truth seekers out there who are willing to do the work to wade through the garbage and find the truth. It is imperative that we as Christians take our mission of evangelism seriously and do our very best to ensure that the truth is presented in an attractive, concise, easily accessible format that truth seekers can obtain.
That is why we are so excited about what the Lord is doing through Apologetics Press on the Web. Last month (March 2011), we had over 700,000 page hits. That is almost twice the amount that we have received in any single month. Each month, we continue to add new articles, materials, and multimedia resources. Is there something you could do to help promote the site so that more people would have easier access to the truth? Could you encourage your congregation to link to the site? Could you send an e-mail to your friends with a link to the site and a brief paragraph encouraging them to check it out? We have the truth, let’s make it as easy as we can for those who are seeking it to find it.