01. Three in One and One Another

Posted by on May 27, 2012 under Front Page Posts, Sermons

Over the next two Sundays, we will have groups out for summer activities.  I’m mindful of these things because it has an

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effect on our Sunday attendance here, but we should all be encouraged that these groups are serving the Lord elsewhere. I’m never discouraged because church is about more than just occupying a space.

Church is about something else, and I think that sort of concern lies behind statements like “Love Jesus, Hate the Church.” Perhaps you’ve seen this statement or one like it somewhere. It is popular right now seems to be the mantra of our times.  At one time there was a sign posted around town that was advertising a different group and actually had this phrase as a question: “Do you love Jesus but hate the church?”  Obviously it was an attempt to reach out to those who had had a bad experience with church.

It is not my intent to criticize any of these groups who used the slogan.   Actually they make fairly reasonable points including some points that our heritage has made over the last 200 years.

The two images on the screen are from a book and video.   The first is a book titled “Love Jesus Hate the Church,” written by a man named Steve McRainie.   He is of the pastor for the Church Without Walls in Georgia. The book is a statement of how the institutional church is failing to truly represent Christ and the Church Without Walls is calling people to a different kind of fellowship.

Some of you may recognize the second image as a fellow named Jeff Bethke, who at the first part of this year gained attention with a spoken word performance on YouTube. He actually loves the church but he says in his poem that he hates religion.  If you follow his poem, some of it sounds quite familiar.  He says that Jesus didn’t call us to be an institution and Jesus didn’t call us to be hypocritical or Pharisaical. I would say that you can go back and find sermons from 100 years ago in the Restoration Movement that say something similar.  We ought to pay attention to the fact that this slogan is being renewed and revived because it represents an interest in our times.  That interest is focused on a discipleship that is not encumbered by the of the demands of institutional religion.  I believe that we have something to offer in this discussion.   The worst thing that could happen to us is that we start picking up all the of all of the baggage of institutional church and start dressing ourselves up in it and lose out when the rest of the world is having the conversation that we’ve been trying to have over the last 200 years.

Back to this slogan, I can understand that it’s a harsh an offensive statement.  I don’t think there’s any mistake that they are trying to be provocative with a statement like “Love Jesus Hate the Church.”  Hate is strong word, but at least when they’re saying that it is still better than a passive aggressive hate of the church which comes across as a neglect of the church.  I see that sort of contempt for the church when we show no desire, no energy to make a better way.  We may be all for loving Jesus but the church becomes easy to neglect.

To any who say that there is no neglect of the church, why is it that even within the church we have to make gargantuan efforts to boost attendance, promote membership, and increase involvement?  It seems to me that sometimes the church fails to do what the church is meant to do because we must spend so much energy on remedial tasks like getting people to attend a gathering, promoting membership, or getting people to sign up for activities and increase involvement.  Are we trying to overcome a passive aggressive contempt for a bad notion of church?  Our lack of awareness about what it means to truly be church has allowed us to treat church as if it is no more than membership in a social club in which we place membership and all that is required is attendance.

You and I have encountered this in one form or another.  We have either asked the question ourselves or we have been asked this question by others.  If you’re a parent you know you’ve heard this question from your children: “Why do I need to go to church?”

Let us imagine a dialogue with someone who is asking that question.  He will our questioner.  Along comes an adventurous soul who ventures to reply.  He will be our defender and answerer.

Given the question, “Jesus saves me so why do I need to go to church at all?” our defender may say “You are right Jesus our only salvation but you need church because church is going to help you get to heaven.”

To which our questioner may say something like,”Really? That group is going to help me get to heaven? But some of them seem like the very people to keep me out of heaven! Some of them are constantly angry, some of them are constantly rude, some of them are just not happy at all and I’m not talking about being hypocrites because they are not at all hypocritical about it!  They are straight up and face-forward about it all.

Now, our valiant defender says, “Okay so I get that.  But we certainly need you then. We need you to be a part of church.”   The questioner comes back with, “Why is it that you need me? You say that but often when I’m there you ignore me you don’t pay any attention to me. You want me to sign up and be involved in activities which you don’t really seem to have any real interest in what is going on in my world and in my life.”

So our defender drives it home with authority and says “Alright, you must go to church! God says you have to go to church right here — Hebrews 10! It’s a commandment!  Don’t forsake church attendance!  There, that settles it.”

Yet, our questioner is not convinced.  He says, “What exactly is it that I’m not supposed to forsake?  What is the assembly after all?  Is it an appointed meeting time or a community of people?  I can devote myself to people and their needs without showing up for appointed meeting times.”

Now, our exasperated defender comes back and he says, “Listen here, you need to show up because this is where the Lord’s supper is served.  You do want to get your Lord’s supper, yes?  Well, it is served right here only in this time and this place and you cannot get it anywhere else.  Accept no substitutes!”

Our questioner asks the defender, “Have you now gone in for the Holy Mass? You’re saying that this is the only time and place that I can get the special bread and wine?  But you are also telling me that church is people rather than a sanctuary?  Now you are being inconsistent!”

I want to help you because I’ll admit our defender in that little one-act play did not do a very good job.  He tried to make the case that you need to go to church for some sort of salvation but was forced to agree that that is not the case and once we scratch that off the list we have to wonder why do we need to go to church.  Is it for security because church is what checks us in with God and we must make sure that our salvation is still holding up?  Is it for obedience? If so then we just attend church because we are marking time and we have to put in attendance somewhere thus we have to do the things we are told and there really is no other reason.  It becomes obedience to an empty command that degrades into a slavish obedience. Is it for worship? Is attending church about going to the one place of worship where worship happens and it only happens right here and so attending church is all about a worship club?

In the interest of helping, let’s notice that it’s hard to come up with an answer for a question that is invalid. It’s very hard to find biblical answers for questions that are not biblical.

The real problem is the question why do I need to go to church?  When church has been viewed as something that we have to go to we are missing what church is really all about. In the era of the “Love Jesus Hate the Church” slogan, we need a renewed vision of why we are church.  And I say renewed because the answers are very biblical, we just need to renew them for ourselves and we need to embrace them.   Let us recognize that our best defenses for the church, even our best arguments for our love for the church is too often filtered through this view of church as a building, or a place, or an organization.  We may find an answer but we have to go for more than church. You can’t find the rationale or the reason for the church within the church, you have to go higher.  And you may have to go higher than Christ.  It may seem a bit unusual.  How can you go higher than Christ? If the people of God would understand what it means to be church then they must look at Jesus who points to something greater than himself.   He himself is part of something greater.

In John 14 there are at least two statements (verse seven and verse ten) in which Jesus points to something higher.  He says the only way to the father is through me if you really knew me you would know my father too.”  And “ the words I say to you don’t come from me, but the father lives in me and does his own work.”

Regardless of how you think you may feel about the church, if you do love Jesus then you have just cast yourself into love with something more than Jesus.  For if you know Jesus, then you cannot help but know the father.  C.S. Lewis warned us about the nonsense of regarding Jesus as nothing more than a religious teacher.  There’s more to him than that.  Likewise, the notion that Jesus is a good and kind Savior and he’s all you need to know will not suffice.  If you know Jesus, then you already know much more than Jesus.  Jesus himself says that if you know him, you know the father. If you’ve seen him you have seen the father.  A relationship with Jesus means you have a relationship with the Father.  This is why it’s very difficult for those who say “I respect Jesus and I appreciate Jesus, but I just appreciate Jesus from a human standpoint. I think that he is a good moral teacher.  He’s a good man.”  How can you have a relationship with Jesus and overlook God the Father who is a part of Jesus?  As we have observed in our Lord’s Supper, the relationship between father and son is so close, intimate, real that any separation of that relationship brings pain and suffering.  This is why Jesus says, “My God my God why have you forsaken me?”   If you know Jesus, you know the father also.

If you know Jesus you have the spirit as well.  It all comes together and you cannot separate.  You will not be able to pick out the parts you do not like. You decide that you are all for Jesus the Son part of it and so the father makes some sense but the spirit is scary.   You cannot ask God to keep that on the side as you sample it or choose only to have a little of it.  Good people that we are, we are used to having full-service. In John 16, Jesus is once again teaching about who he is, and that a relationship includes the spirit.  Jesus reveals that it’s through that spirit that we have the connection with the risen Jesus.  You need not understand everything there is to understand about the spirit (as if that’s possible).

In John 17:21 Jesus is saying a prayer that same night that he sweats those drops of blood that we focused on in the communion. On that same night that he’s in anguish and agony he’s thinking of us.  During a time when we would’ve forgiven him totally and completely understood if he only cared to focus on himself, he remembers us.  All of God’s children are included in this prayer. He says, “Father just as you are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  When we are in Christ we are also in the Father and we are also in the Spirit. there is no distinction and no compartmentalization. We are then united one to another.  Our relationship to one another and our relationship to all the earth, at least what it should be, is seen in this prayer of Jesus.

I there are controversies in the past about the word Trinity. It is not a biblical word, but we use a lot of words that are not biblical words because they are good words.  Trinity is just an idea of saying that there are three and yet there’s a unity.  It simply means that the “threeness” of God the Father, the son and Spirit does not mean that there are three separate entities in the sense that they are not connected at all.  Rather, that there is a oneness.  Yet, teachings that get into the mechanics of the Trinity do not always help. In fact, we may have missed the significance of the Trinity because of an over emphasis historically on the mechanics.

What does the reality of Father-Son-Spirit say to us about God?  It tells us that God is in himself all about relationship.  Stop and think about what that means. God is, as the apostle John says, love.   How often we use that statement: we sing it, we teach it, we pray it. We must mean that God is more than a warm fuzzy emotion or just feeling good.  Within himself, as the father loves the son and the son loves the father and the Spirit is the love of both in action, then God himself is characterized by love that’s what it means for us.  That view of God is our source for our unity and for our one another community

When we commune in the name of the Lord, we commune in his love and as we are drawn together by his love we love him and it causes us to love one another.  God’s project of salvation is not focused on me or you alone, as he desires to not only save individuals.  He wants to save me and you. He wants to save our relationships with one another.  All of his rescuing and saving is forming community so we begin to see the church as God does.  God’s love pours out into the hearts of many and God draws them together as his children

Ephesians 4: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace!”  That means everybody get along and everybody build on those relationships, but not just because that’s a good sounding thing to do or because we do not care for troublemakers.  There’s a much better reason rooted in Trinity! Why do we keep the bond of peace and unity of the Spirit? Because “there is one body and one spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”  In that text you see the Trinity: Is God mentioned in that text? Is Jesus mentioned in this text? Is the spirit mentioned in this text? Yes all three.

We are mentioned as well.  All in all.   The unity of the spirit and the bond of peace is the basis of all of our relationships.  Husbands and wives love one another the way Christ loves the church. The model of marital faithfulness and devotion is not the image of a happy couple, but Christ and the church. It all keeps going back to the Trinity.  Marriage is not just a civil union or social contract, it is not simply a hedge against loneliness, but it participates in the relationship with God. Likewise the relationship with parents and children, likewise with all members of the household, likewise with all of us and all relationships route back into the relationship of the father-son and the Holy Spirit.

My hope is that a new view of the Trinity relationship gives us new perspective. I hope you leave here today with new perspective that the church is not a building, the church is not a place, the church is not even a style of worship (people always want to sort out churches by their style of worship. Jesus never said that his church would be known by their style of worship.  Just that the worshipers seek him in spirit and truth). Church is not an organization, the church is not an institution, church is not something external to us. It makes no sense to say, “Let’s all get together and go to the church” when the fact of the matter is we are church.  One cannot have this building without the materials that make it up.  Likewise, you can’t have church without the people who are the church and who are connected to the Father, Son and the Spirit

Church is not a 501(c)(3) entity.  We are not defined by the IRS, we are defined by God.  Tax-exemption is not who we are and it is not what makes us special.  It is fine and good that we have this status and we can use it to accomplish God’s purposes, but we must use this as a tool and not as a definition of church. In the mission field, believers sometimes have to use government registration with the state to function as the church, but those groups understand that that registration is not their spiritual identity and that registration with the government powers is not what makes them church.  If we understand that in the mission field, then let’s understand that in this mission field. IRS qualifications and government definitions are not what makes us God’s people. It may allow us to do certain things according to the laws of this nation, but let’s not assume that we cannot be the church without the state’s blessing.  We must wear those things as lightly as we can just as we see those in the mission field wear it lightly.

Jesus says you will be known as my disciples if you love one another. That’s how we are known as church.  According to Jesus (John 13) the church is those who keep Christ’s ways and keep his commandments.  His teaching is a way of life that brings blessings to us and blessings to others and even when it’s hard we know it is the way of Christ. It is the way to live that honors him and glorifies him. The church are a group of people who are living along the way in relationship with the father and relationship with the son in relationship with the spirit and then in relationship with one another. I hope you love Jesus, and he hopes you love the church.   Because you are the church!  And if it is hard to love the church (and it is because sometimes the church is unlovable, because each of us is at times unlovable), then we have a way to see our love increase.  Our love can increase because we will share in his spirit and it won’t be up to us to come up with it on our own.

3 in 1 and 1 Another

Posted by on May 26, 2012 under Front Page Posts, Sermons

Church is certainly more than an organization, a place, a center for worship, a club of which we are members, or a 501 c(3) tax-exempt entity.

Church is nothing less than the people of God who are living out the sort of love that is rooted in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  If we want to be the community of God then we must dive into the trinity of God.


Job Class

Posted by on May 20, 2012 under Curriculum, Resources

Note to Readers – these Job Class notes are a rough compilation of some of the material we cover in the class.  In these blog posts it is not possible to retain all of the formatting and graphics that are present in the native files.  Also, I will post the most recent lesson at the top of the blog.  There is quite a bit of introductory material to follow the current week’s lesson.  Also, at the end of the blog is a “Resources” page with links to outside sources and recommended reading materials – these will be added to as we go through the study.

As always, if you would like to have access to the full file in Adobe Acrobat format (i.e. a .pdf file) you may find it at my Dropbox:


(When you go to the above link, the file will open in your web browser but it will not be “functional” – that is, clicking on a relevant link in the Contents page will not allow you to “jump” to the relevant section.  For full functionality of the .pdf file, download the file to your desktop and then open it in Acrobat Reader or similar .pdf reading software.  The “Download” link for the .pdf will most likely be in the upper right of your browser window.)

What immediately follows is the posting for lesson 11.  For the sake of space Lesson 11 is the only one posted here.  If you are interested in all of the lessons (all those completed by me) then click on the Dropbox link above.  Also, as of July 6, 2012 I have added Jerry Canfield’s summary of the Book of Job after Week 11 and before the Resources page.  Jerry did in a wonderful fashion what I was not yet willing to do in summarizing and overviewing the Book of Job – please look at it.  Hopefully, I’ve not lost anything in the conversion/editing process.  As always, the downloaded .pdf opened in Adobe Acrobat will have the best formatting for viewing.


New Resource Posted in July, 2012.  I have come across a wonderful summary of the Book of Job that most closely reflects my thinking about the book.  It is the Chapter on the Book of Job from Dr. Bruce Waltke’s Old Testament Theology Book/Text.  You may find a .pdf of that chapter at the link below:



Week 11 – Our Epilogue: On Understanding – or not!

And now, it is the time of “Our Epilogue: On Understanding – or not!”  It is not my intention here to summarize, rehash, overview or draw conclusions (though each of us will be doing that in our own minds to some extent).  It is time to ponder.  It is time for reflection.  It is time to consider what we know and don’t know as a result of this very superficial look at the Book of Job.

But, first, my “confession” before my reflection.  I am definitely not “comfortable” with my understanding of the Book of Job.  There are still large areas of question for me.  Some people’s confidence about their conclusions and lessons learned from the Book of Job definitely exceed my level of confidence.  I have been seriously humbled by this effort to “study” the Book of Job.  I have to conclude that in the past 3 months I have not really “studied” the Book of Job.  I have read it, read about it, thought about it, and written about it but I have not “studied” it to the degree I feel necessary to impart to others any confidently profound conclusions (and perhaps I never will).  So, I “confess” that I bit off more than I could chew in the time we’ve allotted to this look at the Book of Job.

By “Our Epilogue”, I intend to suggest that there really should be some “take home” material for us in our lives as a result of our study.  These “take home” points as suggested by me need to be cautiously considered and not blindly accepted.  “Our Epilogue” is really only meaningful to the extent that we have developed some sense (perhaps not full understanding) of the purposes behind the Book of Job being placed in the canon of Scripture by God.  I do not feel I have a complete understanding of all of God’s purposes (from the Book of Job) for me/us.

Let me, though, make some general observations based on our look at the Book of Job and the “Epilogue” God provided in Job 42.  What follows will not be in “exegetical” order from a study of Job 42.  These are overall impressions of what I think I should be considering for myself (you may think differently and that’s OK).

First of all for me, I am profoundly humbled by the life and character of the man Job – for indeed he was a man.  I do not believe he was a “made up” man.  I’m convinced he was all so very real and to me, almost unbelievably awesome in his character.  He was a man God bragged about!  It is profound to me to see a “pre-cross” man with such a wholesome, loving, compassionate and giving character.  I am humbled to a very great degree to look at all the ways I’ve been blessed and yet fall short of such accomplishments of character.  This is probably the biggest “take home” for me.  The character of Job that made God proud to the point of bragging is attainable – I need to pursue that (let’s not here confuse the issue with redemption, sanctification, faithfulness and all the post cross things we’re so wont to fall back on).

This remarkable character of Job was obviously established in Job’s profound acceptance of God and Who He Is.  Job lived in the patriarchal period.  He did not have the benefit of the recorded word in the entirety that we enjoy and likely not in any fashion.  He did not have the recorded lessons of “men of faith” as we have.  But, he had a rock solid faith – not only in God but in who he himself was before God.  Would I be so bold and confident of my past to challenge God to trial! – Most certainly not.  My only fall back is to the cross – a fall back that I am so much more appreciative of after reflecting on Job – “The man God bragged about”.

I really love the way Buttenweiser said what I’m trying to say (Buttenwieser, M. (1922). The Book of Job (39–40). New York: Macmillan Co.)

Step by step the conflict in Job’s soul is revealed to us. We see him bewildered at God’s inexplicable harshness, weighed down by his appalling afflictions, goaded beyond endurance by the coldness and suspicion of his friends, those one-time chosen friends of his spirit of whose understanding and sympathy he had felt confident. We see him passionately repudiating the suspicion cast on his integrity by the undeserved calamities with which God has visited him, proclaiming his innocence again and yet again, and asserting that it is God’s treatment of him which requires explanation, not his own thoughts or conduct—these are open and above reproach. We see him searching, reasoning, wrestling, until it comes to him that in spite of all appearances he is not really cut off from his God. We see him thus through the sheer force of his own moral sense rising to a larger conception of God and of His rule of the world, and as the intolerance of the friends becomes more fanatic, and their distrust and disaffection more pronounced, finding ever greater comfort in the reflection that in spite of his afflictions God is on his side, and in the conviction that grows on him that He will one day vindicate him before his fellowmen. We see him, finally, transported by this assurance, rising above his fate and humbly rejoicing in the knowledge of his oneness with God. His trials are still with him, but what are physical suffering and material losses to him who has surrendered himself to the unfathomable wisdom of an infinite God?


This unfolding of the processes going on in the mind of Job constitutes the sole action of the drama. The dramatic incidents narrated in the Prologue, the plot laid in Heaven and its execution on earth, are but the means employed to set the real drama in motion and to illuminate its general purpose, which might otherwise be dark. (A similar dramatic expedient is God’s revelation amidst the storm in the concluding act.) By the altercation between God and the Satan the purpose and tendency are at once disclosed. God in vouching for the steadfastness of Job defends, in effect, the proposition that there is such a thing as disinterested piety in man, such a thing as real, unselfish love for the good—with the corollary that once the love for the good is firmly implanted in the human heart, no power in heaven or on earth can avail to uproot it. The Satan for his part scoffs at the idea of disinterested piety, or any real nobility of soul in man, and claims that material considerations, the hope of reward and the fear of punishment are the sole motive power back of human virtue.


I thrill to consider approaching the kind of character Buttenweiser describes above.  It is attainable!  It is lovely to consider living a life that could lead to being “The man God bragged about” (again, let’s leave post cross issues out of the discussion at this point).

As thrilling as it is to consider Job’s character and indomitable faith as well as the beauty and inspiration of all that Job accomplished, there is some real darkness in the Book of Job.  In saying that, most of us will likely turn to thinking of the problem of suffering and the action of “The Satan” behind the scenes.  But, to me, there is an even “scarier” darkness to consider.  That is the issue of Job’s friends whose thoughts, actions and words so devastatingly hurt Job and angered God Himself.  Perhaps the “Problem of Suffering” is not the “main point” of the Book of Job.  Perhaps a more important “main point” is the lack of empathy engendered in Job’s friends when their religious understandings and biases drove them to attack Job.  Oh, that we could see ourselves in the story.  Where would I be?  Which character would I be in the story?  How do my understandings of God and my character and empathy equip me to function in the environment that Job and his friends found themselves in?  Would the failure of Job’s “friends” be my failure?  Would I be the “Job” in the story? – “The man God bragged about”.  The degree to which there is this other “darkness” in the Book of Job is the degree to which I’m at risk of being in the place of Job’s friends.

It is this risk of being Eliphaz, Bildad or Zophar that should strike some fear in us.  It is not the pain of the suffering that Job endured that should scare us (granted there is some lingering dread of being a fellow sufferer with Job (or Christ) that festers within each of us).  Jesus was clear in Matthew 10 – “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Are we convinced that Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were at risk of eternal judgment because of their “defense” of God in view of their conviction that Job was a liar and reprobate?  If not convinced, we sure need to be careful – why was it they needed Job to pray for them and to themselves offer sacrifice.  Why was God “angry” with them?  Reading what they had to say sounds like how I might have approached the situation – that’s scary!

Here’s what Mike Mason had to say (The Gospel According to Job: An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One Who Lost Everything (pp. 433-434). Kindle Edition). :

The fact that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, after all they have said against job, should now do a complete about-face and come to him virtually on bended knee, bringing not only apologies but ritual sacrifices and humbly begging him to intercede for them with his God-is this not astounding? This could only be the work of an unusual outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Ironically, Eliphaz himself had prophesied this very turn of events back in 22:29-30, when he told Job that if he repented, “When men are brought low and you say, `Lift them up,’ then God will save the downcast. He will deliver even one who is not innocent, who will be saved through the cleanness of your hands.” Little did Eliphaz realize how exactly his words were to be fulfilled! Adding to the wonder of this occasion is the fact that as yet there has been not one iota of change in Job’s outward circumstances. For it was only “after Job had prayed for his friends” that “the Lord made him prosperous again” (42:10). The prayer that moves mountains does not happen in the midst of prosperity. For all we know, at the point when Job’s friends brought him sacrifices his body was still covered with boils and he was still sitting on his ash heap swatting flies. What a comeuppance it must have been for these three proud pillars of society to have to pay homage to a man in this condition.

But just so is the time approaching when the whole world will have to bow before a crucified Savior. Reading the Epilogue of Job, we are reminded of these words of Isaiah: Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (53:4-5)


I do not want God to see me as He saw Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.  To avoid that end, we must be incredibly humble and cautious when looking at the lives of others and offering proscriptions we represent as being from God.  God, please help us all with this.


What moved Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar to stumble into their diatribes against Job?  It was their conviction that they “knew” the heart of Job as well as the heart of God.  That’s a fearful place for us to go.  See where it led these fellows.  They totally lost all empathy for Job and his plight based on a false, firmly held, religious conviction.


It is this issue of feeling empathy that appears to me to be another very important point in the Book of Job.  This is the empathy that keeps us stable and close to the heart of God.  It is the empathy that keeps us involved in the good things that bring blessings to others and completeness to our own lives.  It is the empathy that truly keeps us “human” (in the “made in the image of God” sense).  Those things in our lives that lead to loss of empathy are to be avoided at all cost.  They will drive us away from God and His purposes.  They will lead us to places of dark conduct that we might never have imagined possible for us.


As an interesting aside in this regard let me share with you an interesting experience Deborah and I had on our recent trip together.  Prior to the trip Deborah had selected a number of books to read and I had downloaded 4 movies to watch on our iPad while we were away.  We didn’t know what the other had selected.  One evening as Deborah finished reading one of her books I suggested to her we watch one of the movies I had downloaded, “Attack on Leningrad”.   Amazingly she at that moment had just finished reading Hannah Kristin’s “Winter Garden” which was also about the siege of Leningrad by the Germans in WWII.  It was written from the perspective of the women in Leningrad for indeed there were few men in the city for those 828 days of siege.  We were both amazed at the timing of the circumstances and we watched the movie together.  It was produced in Russia (an amazing occurrence in and of itself considering the preceding silence in Russia concerning the events of the siege of Leningrad).  The movie was also shown from the perspective of a grouping of women in Leningrad.


Those interesting circumstances for Deborah and me aside, I want to share with you some comments that the author of Winter Garden made in her “Epilogue”.  These comments fit well with an important point to consider for us and our understanding of the need for “empathy”.


In writing Winter Garden, it was my goal to take this epic, tragic event and personalize it as much as possible. I wanted to give you all this story of survival and loss, horror and heartache in a way that would allow you to experience it with some measure of emotion. I am not a historian, nor a nonfiction writer. In writing Winter Garden, it was my goal to take this epic, tragic event and personalize it as much as possible. I wanted to give you all this story of survival and loss, horror and heartache in a way that would allow you to experience it with some measure of emotion. I am not a historian, nor a nonfiction writer. My hope is that you leave this novel informed, but not merely with the facts and figures; rather, I want you to be able to actually imagine it, to ask yourself how you would have fared in such terrible times.


Hannah, Kristin (2010-01-28). Winter Garden (p. 394). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.


The author’s comments regarding her Novel “Winter Garden” are the thoughts I want to leave you with as we conclude our superficial look at the Book of Job.  That is – “My hope is that you leave this novel (class for us) informed, but not merely with the facts and figures; rather, I want you to be able to actually imagine it, to ask yourself how you would have fared in such terrible times.”



Jerry Canfield’s Job Summary

Job Summary Comments

  1. We are blessed to live on this side of the cross. God now sheds light on, though not fully answering, the perplexing questions presented by the existence of evil in the world by the revelation of His purpose and grace in the salvation of man by abolishing death and bringing life and immortality to light by the gospel of Jesus Christ. II Timothy 1: 7-12. Satan contends Job and the rest of us are not worthy of God’s purpose and plan for us — contending we love and trust God only for what we can get from Him. God cannot fully explain to Job or to us why evil is happening; otherwise, Satan’s challenge of God for creating and loving man cannot be fully responded to or proven wrong. May we humble ourselves to the sovereignty of God and acknowledge Him as supreme, as creator, and worthy of our trust regardless.
  2. An additional look at creation. In some respect, Job presents another, different look at the creation of man. Job lives in a Garden of Eden with perfect peace, wealth, family and purpose. Yet Job is taken from the garden. God, Satan, man and the earth are common participants in this garden scene just as in Genesis. Both Genesis and Job acknowledge the principal truth that God is the creator. But they look at that fact from different perspectives. Genesis reports man acting with God and the curses resulting from man’s sin — those curses eventually being nailed to Jesus’ cross thus making possible a heaven with no curse. Galations 3:13; Revelation 22:3. Job looks at the same fact of creation from one perspective of God’s action with man — why is man’s existence in the world influenced by real evil? Man’s exercising his freedom of choice may explain evil caused by sin or inflicted to build character, but why do the innocent suffer evil which, more often than not, destroys character?

Job introduces us to true ra-a (Hebrew word for evil). Our word study reminded us of the evil which comes as punishment for sin (whether of those who receive the evil or of their predecessors) (Deut. 32:21-26; Amos 9:14), and with evil which is discipline to improve the character of man (Josh. 24:20; Prov. 17:3; Psa. 66:10; I Peter 1:7), and evil sent to fulfill the purposes of God (Gen. 50:20). But Job deals with evil of a different type — evil that exists and is not explained — Eccl. 9:12. For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

Is God the creator of this true evil? Consider Isaiah 45:7. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil (ra-a): I the Lord do all these things. Is Isaiah considering God’s judgment on sin, His discipline or action to carry out His purposes? Or, is Isaiah talking of true ra-a? Whatever is intended by Isaiah, we know that God is the creator of this world and, thus, responsible for a world in which true ra-a exists. But is any other kind of world possible if man (and other created beings) are to have free choice? But can God fully explain evil and a world of free choice continue to exist?

We should not forget that Job is restored to his Garden of Eden. Job 42:10-17, Being on this side of the cross, we have revealed to us the purpose of God. We should not forget that God, who cannot lie, tells us: There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it. I Cor. 10:13.

Footnote re: Satan.

  1. Satan challenges God’s judgment that Job is righteous. Job 1:8-11. Satan says that if God removes God’s protection of Job, Job will curse God to his face. Satan says Job, and all of us, are selfish and our belief, love and trust of God are based on what God does for us. Take it away, Satan says, and Job will sin. God disagrees and accepts Satan’s challenge.
  2. Implicit in the challenge is an assertion that God has lost his authority to judge. If God is wrong about Job, then God’s judgment is not perfect (Romans 2:2) and He should step down from being judge (Satan does not challenge God’s initial authority to judge because God is the creator). Satan is quite willing to step into God’s role of judge.
  3. Also implicit in the challenge is Satan’s assertion that God was wrong to make man. Satan would have this world and all of us destroyed as a failed experiment.

As a part of the heavenly host, Satan has access to God to bring the challenge. He apparently has free choice. When God persists in His plan and purpose of redeeming man so man can spend an eternity with God, Satan, together with other angels, exercise free choice and rebel against God. Revelation 12:7-12. Being on this side of the cross, we understand Satan no longer has access to God to accuse man of sin and to challenge God’s purpose and plan for each of us. Rev. 12:10; Luke 10:18.

God knows his created man (represented by Job) will be righteous (Job is declared to be righteous and God has a plan by which each of us can be imputed with the righteousness of God himself) and that God’s creation can and will trust God selflessly in spite of true evil. The trial of Job confirms the defeat of Satan and the sovereignty of God. And we, like Job, are sent into the world to demonstrate agape love.

III. Job asks why, why, why. Job 3:11-12, 16, 20, 23. Job trusts that God has a purpose in allowing the evil to come to Job, but he cannot understand why God has hidden the purpose and not revealed it to his servant Job. Job 10:13. We also ask why God, all powerful and all good, allows evil to exist.

In reading Job, we must accept as true the signposts that (1) Job is innocent (Job 1:1; 2:3) and (2) Job speaks correctly in defending himself and protesting to God (putting God on trial) (Job. 42:7, 9). Footnote — don’t be concerned with Romans 3:23. Job’s innocence with reference to the evil that happens to him does not speak to and is not relevant here to the universal nature of sin. See, also Luke 1:6 (Zacharias and Elisabeth).

IV. Do Job’s friends have an answer or can their discussion lead Job to an answer? No — all the talk about God does not provide an answer. If you are like me, the long winded discussion simply “wears me out.” The three cycles of speeches constitute a whirlwind of righteous indignation. Bildad describes Job’s speeches as a “great wind.” Job 8:2. Eliphaz describes them as “windy knowledge.” Job. 15:2. Job describes the speeches of all his friends as “windy words.” Job 16:3. They go round and round the issue of evil in the world. They wear each other out. The only peace to be had is at the center of the whirlwind — the peace that only the answer of God can give. Not surprisingly, when God appears to answer, he appears in a whirlwind. Job 38:1.

God may have an answer, but God isn’t speaking. How can Job get God to answer?

V. Possible avenues.

  1. Perhaps a mediator can help settle the dispute. Job 8-9. But there is no “daysman betwixt us” that might compel an answer. Job 9:33.
  2. Perhaps Job could speak to God and reason with him (Job 13:3) even if the result is that God would kill him. (Job 13:15) But God does not appear.

VI. Job is bitter and wants to argue with God. Job 23:3-4. Job is convinced he is innocent and would come out of the discussion “as gold.” Job 23:10. With no other option, Job decides to put God on trial through a judicial procedure existing in many cultures including the Hebrew under the Law of Moses. Job asserts an Oath of Innocence which requires a response by God, failing which a default judgment can be issued proving Job’s assertions. See I Kings 8:31-32; II Chronicles 6:22-23. God is the source of judgment and any cause too hard for God’s leaders should be brought to God who will hear it. Deut. 1:17.

Job asserts he is innocent, that God is the source of the evil that has befallen Job (Job 27:2), and that God should appear and explain the reason (Job 31:35), which Job assumes God has. Job’s Oath of Innocence is stated in Job 38. The following summary of the Oath of Innocence is from Robert Sutherland’s Putting God on Trial: The Biblical Book of Job – A literary, legal and philosophical study.

Job is putting his temporal and eternal life on the line. Job has already indicated he would suffer the “unrelenting pain” of a hell to get that answer. (Job 6:10) And now he is preparing to condemn or damn God to such a metaphorical hell should he not get his answer,

  1. “If I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin? What would be my portion from God above, and my heritage from the Almighty on high? Does not calamity befall the unrighteous, and disaster the workers of iniquity? Does he not see my ways, and number all my steps? (Job 31;1-4)
  2. ”If I have walked with falsehood, and my foot has hurried to deceit– let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!— (Job 31:5-6)
  3. “If my step has turned aside from the way, and my heart has followed my eyes, and if any spot has clung to my hands; then let me sow, and another eat; and let what grows for me be rooted out. (Job 31:7-8)
  4. “If my heart has been enticed by a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door; then let my wife grind for another, and let other men kneel over her. For that would be a heinous crime; that would be a criminal offense; for that would be a fire consuming down to Abaddon, and it would burn to the root all my harvest. (Job 31:9-12)
  5. ”If I have rejected the cause of my male or female slaves, when they brought a complaint against me; what then shall 1 do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? Did not he who made me in the womb make them? And did not one fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:13-15)
  6. “If l have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the orphan has not eaten from it– for from my youth I reared the orphan like a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow—(Job 31:16-18)
  7. “If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or a poor person without covering, whose loins have not blessed me, and who was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; (Job 31:21:19-20)
  8. “If I have raised my hand against the orphan, because I saw I had supporters at the gate; then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty. (Job 31:21-23)
  9. ”If I have made gold my trust, or called fine gold my confidence; (Job 31:24)
  10. “If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, or because my hand had gotten much; (Job 31:25)
  11. “If I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon moving in splendor, and my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand; this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for 1 should have been false to God above.” (Job 31:26-28)
  12. “If I have rejoiced at the ruin of those who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook them– I have not let my mouth sin by asking for their lives with a curse—(Job 31:29-30)
  13. “If those of my tent ever said, ‘0 that we might be sated with his flesh!’– the stranger has not lodged in the street; 1 have opened my doors to the traveler—(Job 31:31-32)
  14. “If I have concealed my transgressions as others do, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom, because I stood in great fear of the multitude, and the contempt of families terrified me, so that I kept silence, and did not go out of doors—(Job 31:33-34)
  15. “If my land has cried out against me, and its furrows have wept together; (Job 31:38)
  16. “If I have eaten its yield without payment, and caused the death of its owners; let thorns grow instead of wheat, and foul weeds instead of barley.” (Job 31:39-40 Italics and paragraphing added for emphasis.)

A number of items here merit comment. The standard of social justice Job claims to have met is centuries, perhaps even millennia, ahead of its time. All human beings are created equal by God. Every person, regardless of rank or wealth, is entitled to the equal benefit and protection of the law. (Job 31:13-15) The standard of personal righteousness Job claims to have met is very high. The sins denied are not merely deeds, but words and thoughts. This standard greatly exceeds the traditionally accepted Old Testament norm of morality.

In the judicial proceeding, God has been put on trial and is, of course, the defendant/accused. Job intends to call witnesses if God appears to answer. Interestingly, God is the true witness Job intends to call. Job. 16:18-22. Moreover, Job has an advocate vindicator, a redeemer, who will prosecute Job’s claim against God. Of course, God himself is Job’s advocate and redeemer. Job 19:25. And Job knows that God himself is the true judge. Interesting trial !!

  1. Amazingly, after all the talk about God, God does respond to the summons and appears so that Job has the opportunity to talk with God.

First, God asks Job to consider the fact that God is the creator. In rehearsing the creation of the physical world, God presents seven (perfect) courses of creation bringing order from chaos. Job 38-40:1. But Job and even Job’s friends acknowledged as much. Job is humble (Job 40:2-5), but the complaint of Job still has not been answered. God then describes the mythical world of the behemoth and the leviathan, a fire breathing dragon, who God asserts God can hook and capture whenever God intends. Job 40-41. The strong implication is that true ra-a, personified by the mythical beasts (as the great red dragon of Revelation 12), is subject to capture and control by God. God never broaches the topic of “selfless love.” Job is humble and acknowledges that God can do every thing. Job 42:2-6.

Why doesn’t God explain the prologue (Job 1-2) and advise Job of Satan’s contention that Job only trusts God because of what God does for Job? God cannot explain without giving Job a selfish reason for loving God. God has appeared and defended against the complaint of Job, but God closes his defense having hinted that God has an answer to Job’s question of “why” but without having ever presenting it. God closes by asking Job and all of us a single question (Job 42:8): will you condemn God that you might be justified? Job seems to understand. Even though he has not received a direct answer for his suffering, he is willing to give God more time (final judgment) to explain. Until then, Job kneels in worship and patiently endures until that day when God will answer further and demonstrate to us that he is both all good and all powerful and will then destroy evil. Revelation 20:10.

  1. Conclusion. Habakkuk 3:16-18. If God’s blessings and protection disappear, will you still, with worship, acknowledge He is sovereign God and trust Him to “get it right?”

I learned or, at least, became willing to acknowledge:

  1. God may be the cause of true evil — at least, He created this world in which it exists;
  2. He may not be morally wrong for doing so and may reveal the reason in full as he implies to Job;
  3. Job was right to challenge God about this issue — God said Job spoke correctly. We too must consider this issue in order to mature and be able to give an answer for the hope within us; and,
  4. We will not fully know the answer until judgment. Until then we must serve as God’s priests to show repentance and salvation to others. Job 42:7-9; I Peter 2:9; II Cor. 5:20.

IX. God has empathy for man, even in the midst of true ra-a.

Israel in Egypt; Gen. 45:7; 50:20; stories from Daniel; Dan. 3:15-25; 4:20-23; Ester 4:14; the marking of God’s people – Ezekiel 9:4 and Revelation 7:3; I Cor. 10:13; Revelation 1; Psalms 23

Promotion Sunday Sermon

Posted by on under Front Page Posts, Sermons, WAYG

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The words that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy shared with the congregation in Thessalonica are very appropriate for our seniors and youth group today.  As I speak to the youth, I invite the rest of the congregation to overhear . . .


1 Thess. 1:8-9 . . . Wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God.

  • We are proud  of your  decision to turn  to Christ
  • That may be  a Future  decision
  • That may be a decision you made years ago.  If so, then renew it and build on it.
  • The decision to follow Christ is an everyday decision to turn to Christ in  everything; and to turn away from the idols (distractions, empty pursuits of the world – some that may even seem really good.  False gods often seem quite “godly”).

1 Thess. 1:6-7 . . . You know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you.

In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers

  • Look to those who will be good examples.  Even as you imitate them, you will still be your own person.
  • Adults and Peers who set a good example
  • Be an Example the other youth who will notice you
    • Sometimes we make too much of the word leader.  If everyone is leading then  who is following ?
    • In the church, Jesus Christ is Lord and he leads thru his spirit.  He is the authority.
    • Leadership is not simply positional authority.  It is influence.  You lead others when the spirit of Christ works in you to be a spiritual influence on others.  For instance, when you set a good example
    • Youth influence us – After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy. (1 Thess)

Our encouragement to you is to do more and more of the good and godly things that you are doing.
Keep growing and following Christ
For, what seems like the end of a path is just beginning.

1 Thess. 4:1-2 . . . Finally, dear brothers and sisters,we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more. For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.


Extra-Biblical Historical Evidence for the LIFE, DEATH, and RESURRECTION of JESUS

Posted by on May 14, 2012 under Curriculum, Resources



Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 AD), “the greatest historian” of ancient Rome:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”



Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas, chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD):

“Because the Jews of Rome caused continous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from the city.”

“After the great fire at Rome [during Nero’s reign] … Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.”



Flavius Josephus (37-97 AD), court historian for Emperor Vespasian:

“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” (Arabic translation)



Julius Africanus, writing around 221 AD, found a reference in the writings of Thallus, who wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean around 52 AD, which dealt with the darkness that covered the land during Jesus’ crucifixion:

“Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away the darkness as an eclipse of the sun–unreasonably, as it seems to me.” [A solar eclipse could not take place during a full moon, as was the case during Passover season.]



Pliny the Younger, Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor around 112 AD:

“[The Christians] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.” Pliny added that Christianity attracted persons of all societal ranks, all ages, both sexes, and from both the city and the country. Late in his letter to Emperor Trajan, Pliny refers to the teachings of Jesus and his followers as excessive and contagious superstition.



Emperor Trajan, in reply to Pliny:

“The method you have pursued, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those denounced to you as Christians is extremely proper. It is not possible to lay down any general rule which can be applied as the fixed standard in all cases of this nature. No search should be made for these people; when they are denounced and found guilty they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that when the party denies himself to be a Christian, and shall give proof that he is not (that is, by adoring our gods) he shall be pardoned on the ground of repentance, even though he may have formerly incurred suspicion. Informations without the accuser’s name subscribed must not be admitted in evidence against anyone, as it is introducing a very dangerous precedent, and by no means agreeable to the spirit of the age.”



Emporer Hadrian (117-138 AD), in a letter to Minucius Fundanus, the Asian proconsul:

“I do not wish, therefore, that the matter should be passed by without examination, so that these men may neither be harassed, nor opportunity of malicious proceedings be offered to informers. If, therefore, the provincials can clearly evince their charges against the Christians, so as to answer before the tribunal, let them pursue this course only, but not by mere petitions, and mere outcries against the Christians. For it is far more proper, if anyone would bring an accusation, that you should examine it.” Hadrian further explained that if Christians were found guilty they should be judged “according to the heinousness of the crime.” If the accusers were only slandering the believers, then those who inaccurately made the charges were to be punished.



The Jewish Talmud, compiled between 70 and 200 AD:

“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.”

[Another early reference in the Talmud speaks of five of Jesus’ disciples and recounts their standing before judges who make individual decisions about each one, deciding that they should be executed. However, no actual deaths are recorded.]



Lucian, a second century Greek satirist:

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. … You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.” Lucian also reported that the Christians had “sacred writings” which were frequently read. When something affected them, “they spare no trouble, no expense.”



Mara Bar-Serapion, of Syria, writing between 70 and 200 AD from prison to motivate his son to emulate wise teachers of the past:

“What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burying Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”




The Gospel of Truth, probably by Valentius, around 135-160 AD:

“For when they had seen him and had heard him, he granted them to taste him and to smell him and to touch the beloved Son. When he had appeared instructing them about the Father. … For he came by means of fleshly appearance.” Other passages affirm that the Son of God came in the flesh and “the Word came into the midst. … it became a body.”

“Jesus, was patient in accepting sufferings. . . since he knows that his death is life for many. . . . he was nailed to a tree; he published the edict of the Father on the cross. … He draws himself down to death through life. … eternal clothes him. Having stripped himself of the perishable rags, he put on imperishability, which no one can possibly take away from him.”



The Aprocryphon of John, probably by Saturninus, around 120-130 AD:

“It happened one day when John, the brother of James,–who are the sons of Zebedee–went up and came to the temple, that a Pharisee named Arimanius approached him and said to him, `Where is your master whom you followed?’ And he said to him, ‘He has gone to the place from which he came.’ The Pharisee said to him, ‘This Nazarene deceived you with deception and filled your ears with lies and closed your hearts and turned you from the traditions of your fathers.'”



The Gospel of Thomas, probably from 140-200 AD:

Contain many references to and alleged quotations of Jesus.



The Treatise On Resurrection, by uncertain author of the late second century, to Rheginos:

“The Lord … existed in flesh and … revealed himself as Son of God … Now the Son of God, Rheginos, was Son of Man. He embraced them both, possessing the humanity and the divinity, so that on the one hand he might vanquish death through his being Son of God, and that on the other through the Son of Man the restoration to the Pleroma might occur; because he was originally from above, a seed of the Truth, before this structure of the cosmos had come into being.”

“For we have known the Son of Man, and we have believed that he rose from among the dead. This is he of whom we say, ‘He became the destruction of death, as he is a great one in whom they believe.’ Great are those who believe.”

“The Savior swallowed up death. … He transformed himself into an imperishable Aeon and raised himself up, having swallowed the visible by the invisible, and he gave us the way of our immortality.”

“Do not think the resurrection is an illusion. It is no illusion, but it is truth. Indeed, it is more fitting to say that the world is an illusion, rather than the resurrection which has come into being through our Lord the Savior, Jesus Christ.”

“. . . already you have the resurrection … why not consider yourself as risen and already brought to this?” Rheginos was thus encouraged not to “continue as if you are to die.”




Acts of Pontius Pilate, reports sent from Pilate to Tiberius, referred to by Justin Martyr (150 AD):

“And the expression, ‘They pierced my hands and my feet,’ was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after he was crucified, they cast lots upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And that these things did happen you can ascertain the ‘Acts’ of Pontius Pilate.” Later Justin lists several healing miracles and asserts, “And that He did those things, you can learn from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.”



Phlegon, born about 80 AD, as reported by Origen (185-254 AD), mentioned that Jesus made certain predictions which had been fulfilled.




Clement, elder of Rome, letter to the Corinthian church (95 AD):

“The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order. Having therefore received a charge, and having been fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come. So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe.”



Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, letter to the Trallians (110-115 AD):

“Jesus Christ who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those under the earth; who moreover was truly raised from the dead, His Father having raised Him, who in the like fashion will so raise us also who believe on Him.”



Ignatius, letter to the Smyrneans (110-115 AD):

“He is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, but Son of God by the Divine will and power, truly born of a virgin and baptised by John that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him, truly nailed up in the flesh for our sakes under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch (of which fruit are we–that is, of his most blessed passion); that He might set up an ensign unto all ages through His resurrection.”

“For I know and believe that He was in the flesh even after the resurrection; and when He came to Peter and his company, He said to them, ‘Lay hold and handle me, and see that I am not a demon without body.’ And straightway they touched him, and they believed, being joined unto His flesh and His blood. Wherefore also they despised death, nay they were found superior to death. And after His resurrection He ate with them and drank with them.”



Ignatius, letter to the Magnesians (110-115 AD):

“Be ye fully persuaded concerning the birth and the passion and the resurrection, which took place in the time of the governorship of Pontius Pilate; for these things were truly and certainly done by Jesus Christ our hope.”



Quadratus, to Emperor Hadrian about 125 AD:

“The deeds of our Saviour were always before you, for they were true miracles; those that were healed, those that were raised from the dead, who were seen, not only when healed and when raised, but were always present. They remained living a long time, not only whilst our Lord was on earth, but likewise when He had left the earth. So that some of them have also lived to our own times.”



(Pseudo-)Barnabas, written 130-138 AD:

“He must needs be manifested in the flesh. … He preached teaching Israel and performing so many wonders and miracles, and He loved them exceedingly. … He chose His own apostles who were to proclaim His Gospel. … But He Himself desired so to suffer; for it was necessary for Him to suffer on a tree.”



Justin Martyr, to Emperor Antoninus Pius about 150 AD:

After referring to Jesus’ birth of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, and that His physical line of descent came through the tribe of Judah and the family of Jesse, Justin wrote, “Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judea.”

“Accordingly, after He was crucified, even all His acquaintances forsook Him, having denied Him; and afterwards, when He had risen from the dead and appeared to them, and had taught them to read the prophecies in which all these things were foretold as coming to pass, and when they had seen Him ascending into heaven, and had believed, and had received power sent thence by Him upon them, and went to every race of men, they taught these things, and were called apostles.”



Justin Martyr, in Dialogue with Trypho, around 150 AD:

“For at the time of His birth, Magi who came from Arabia worshipped Him, coming first to Herod, who then was sovereign in your land.”

“For when they crucified Him, driving in the nails, they pierced His hands and feet; and those who crucified Him parted His garments among themselves, each casting lots for what he chose to have, and receiving according to the decision of the lot.”

“Christ said amongst you that He would give the sign of Jonah, exhorting you to repent of your wicked deeds at least after He rose again from the dead … yet you not only have not repented, after you learned that He rose from the dead, but, as I said before, you have sent chosen and ordained men throughout all the world to proclaim that ‘a godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilean deceiver, whom we crucified, but His disciples stole Him by night from the tomb, where He was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that He has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.'”

“For indeed the Lord remained upon the tree almost until evening, and they buried Him at eventide; then on the third day He rose again.”



For more details of the historical and scientific evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Habermas, Gary R.   Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus.   Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984.


Read related: “The Historical Christ–Fact or Fiction?” by Apologetics Press

Full Assurance of Faith

Posted by on May 13, 2012 under Front Page Posts, Resources, Sermons, Uncategorized

by Dr. Michael Cole

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May 13, 2012 – Sunday PM
“Let us draw near with a true heart in FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH …” (Hebrews 10:22)
What do you have doubts about?
In what do you trust and why?
“You can never be sure that there is a God.”
Is this a true statement?

Hebrews 11:6 – Without faith it is impossible to please God. Christians must believe that He exists.

Adult Christians seem too embarrassed to say, “If there is a God, … .”  I was.
One can recite Scripture and even argue biblical principles without fully believing it.
Romans 10:17 – “faith comes by hearing … the Word of God.”

What is “faith”?

Webster’s Dictionary definition of faith:
“firm belief in something for which there is no proof”

Does God expect us to have faith in or rely upon or trust something or someone for which there is no proof? And He expects me to be willing to die for this?

Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Real faith must rest on solid proof, not just feelings, conjecture, or wishful thinking.
Ecclesiastes 3:11; Job 38-41
Mark 9:24 – Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
  • How do I know Australia exists?
  • Was Julius Caesar assassinated?

Genesis 37:33 (NKJV) – And [Jacob] recognized it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.”

Discussion of Origins in Search of Evidence for “Things Not Seen.”

  • Origin of the Universe and Age of the Earth
  • Origin of Man
  • Origin of God (the concept)
  • Origin of the Bible

1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics
Cell Theory

Science deals with HOW, not WHY

“Evidences” that God doesn’t exist:
1.  ?_____
There is no evidence that God does not exist.
 Evidences for the existence of God:
5.  Order and complexity of the Universe
4.  Intricate, delicately balanced nature of life
3.  Deliberate design in Genetic Code
2.  Historical record, Bible (history and prophecies) and extra-biblical
I Corinthians 15:12-20, “… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless …”
Extra-biblical Sources – Evidences for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
Even if we did not have the New Testament or anything else written by early Christians, we would be able to conclude from non-Christian writings that:
  1. Jesus was a Jewish teacher;
  2. many people believed that He healed the sick and cast out evil spirits;
  3. He was rejected by the Jewish leaders;
  4. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar;
  5. despite this shameful death, His followers, who believed that He was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by 64 A.D.;
  6. all kinds of people from the cities and countryside—men and women, slave and free—worshiped Jesus as God by the beginning of the second century.

Above list is from Yamauchi, Edwin M. (1995), “Jesus Outside the New Testament: What is the Evidence?,” Jesus Under Fire, ed. Michael J. Wilkins and J.P. Moreland (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), p. 122.


  • Legend?
  • Lunatic?
  • Liar?
  • LORD
Job 42:5 (CSB), “I had heard rumors about You, but now my eyes have seen You.”


Fragile Faith is transformed by

  1. Believing that God exists
  2. Coming to know God through study and prayer
  3. Trusting that He will provide for you

I John 2:3

II Corinthians 4:17-18

Can I follow a God who might exist, or will I affirm allegiance to the God who undoubtedly exists and has my best interest at heart?

Shall we disobey a God who might exist, or will we rebel against the God who is known to exist and has expectations of His children?

Mother’s Day Sermon

Posted by on under Front Page Posts, Sermons, Uncategorized

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Once again, extreme parenting is in the news as Time Magazine asks, “Are you Mom enough?”  If one looks beyond the provocative and scandalous cover photo and actually reads the story, the reporting suggests that it is a difficult time to be a mother and women are forced to choose between career and family.  But in the end every woman has to make the choice that works for them and feel good about it.

Last month, the term “Mommy Wars” was prominent in the media when Hilary Rosen criticized Ann Romney for never working a day in her life.  Of course the Romney campaign countered by noting that motherhood is full-time work.

I am reluctant to say much about motherhood since it is quite impossible for me to ever experience the joys and pressure of being a mom.  I know that I am not “Mom Enough” and I never will be.  C.S. Lewis said that ever since he served as an infantryman in WW1, he had a great dislike for those who, themselves in ease and safety, issued exhortations to [those] in the front line.  Thus he was wary about speaking on sins and temptations to which he was never exposed.

Yet, I believe it is fair to observe that they must be a genuine stress on women and mothers to prove themselves and deal with the criticism of others and their own internal criticism.

There’s nothing new about this.  Nearly fifteen years ago I preached a sermon about “the mom contest.”  Okay, perhaps the only thing new is that the contest escalated into a war.  But we can go back even farther than fifteen years and notice that rivalry among women and mothers existed in the days of the patriarchs and kings.  Sarah and Hagar, Rachel and Leah, and Penninah and Hannah.

Hannah’s Story

Hannah is caught up in the “mom contest.”  An ancient mommy war of rivals.  Penninah convinces her that she’s not mom enough.  As a result, she is depressed, grief-stricken.  She will not eat and she cries easily.

–       At the risk of stereotyping and generalizing, I will make an observation as an outsider to womanhood.  First, women certainly know how to create and nurture relationships with one another.  In our culture and in our churches, women certainly do this much more freely and easily than men.  You will probably never see a “Secret Brothers Gift Exchange.”  Second, the flip side then is true and some of the most bitter and harsh rivalries exist between women.  The letter to the Philippian church addressed the tension between Euodia and Syntyche that rippled out into the rest of the community.

–       A word to women, who has criticized you?  Ringing in your mind’s ear this very morning may be the hurtful words of other women who for reasons of their own have attacked you.  Or maybe the words are your own?  Perhaps you are comparing yourself to other women and the attack on your soul comes from within.

The reasons for the rivalry are endless.

In ancient times, a woman’s worth was based upon child-bearing, child-rearing, and keeping a home.

In our more enlightened age, we haven’t done away with the others, but we have added to the list of worthiness that a woman must have a successful career and involvement in social activities.

In addition a woman must remain physically attractive and demonstrate the proper etiquette and talents in all social affairs. Furthermore, she may be called upon to be a financial manager and in some cases the spiritual leader for the family.

All of this she must do with feminine grace and charm and should she lack in any area, then she is not trying very hard.  She isn’t “mom enough” or “woman enough.”  These are the “Mom Wars.”

Men are guilty of promoting it:  Domineering men blame women; confused men do not know how to take responsibility.

The 1963 song Wives and Lovers suggests that women are responsible for their husband’s sexual integrity.  This lyric has never seemed quite right . . .

Day after day,

There are girls at the office,

And men will always be men.

Don’t send him off

With your hair still in curlers.

You may not see him again.

–       Wives and Lovers, Burt Bacharach 1963

 According to the song, if he cheats, it is his wife’s fault.  The song assumes that wives are in a contest for the attention of their husbands.

Women are guilty of engaging in the contest:  Soap opera conflicts such as Mean Girls, Gossip Girls, Bad Girls Club are popular in both the drama and reality TV categories.  Cat fights and drama showdowns are standard.  It is difficult to know if the television reflects our culture or influences our culture.  Perhaps it does not matter.  The sum of the scores is always a loss.

The way out of the contest is to seek first God’s favor instead of trying to win the favor of men, other women, your children, or yourselves.  In fact, if you will seek God’s favor first, then you will have the respect of those who likewise seek God’s favor.

Hannah quit the contest when she turned to the Lord.  With God, Hannah had a future – a gift from God!  She is no longer depressed, she is no longer grief-stricken, she has hope and Peninnah’s insults no longer effect her!

  • But Hannah’s future also became the future of Israel.
  • Hannah gained more than she could ever imagine.
  • The beginning of the Kingdom of Israel is not David, Saul, or Samuel – but barren Hannah.
  • Mothers and women, find your worth and value in God!

(1)     Go to him in prayer!

(2)    Devote yourself to God and refuse to be downhearted by the insults and criticism of the Peninnah’s in our culture!

(3)    Seek to please God, not other men and women.  You will find his burden lighter and his yoke easier.

The Open Door

Posted by on May 6, 2012 under Front Page Posts, Sermons

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Thanks to a relationship that formed with the English Language School at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, our congregation has been invited to help with international students.

As visitors to our community and our country, these young men and women will be well served by our hospitality.  The actions that are called for are simple works of kindness.  Many of these students have financial resources, what they need most is access to resources, friendships, and conversation partners.

Here are some of the simple opportunities:

1. Transportation and Shopping –  These students need transportation to do their own shopping.  City transit and taxi service are not always reliable nor convenient.  The students have means and will manage their own purchases, though they may seek your advice on products.


Grocery stores – Harps on Grand accepts Lion’s Cash- (which dorm students have as a part of their housing package), Wal-Mart or Target, Asian Market , Clothing Stores, Book Stores

2. Other Transportation – TB testing is required by AR law for any student on an AR university campus.  About once every six weeks, there is a need to transport students to the Sebastian Country Health Department for these tests.  This is usually scheduled on a Friday @ 1:30 and the following Monday @ 2:35 for new students.

3. Volunteer Drivers – The ELS will welcome volunteer drivers to their scheduled activities.  In some cases, they will reimburse drivers for their time.  These may include out of town trips or outings to activities in town.  Contact ELS for more information.

4. Food – Providing and Picking Up Orders.  We can be a great neighbor to the coordinator at ELS, Malia, by picking up food orders for the students.  Providing lunch is a bit of a challenge while UAFS is not in session and ELS is having classes.  This gap is from May 7th- 29th and again between Summer 2 session and Fall.

5. Waldron Block Party! – This is one of the first big events we are considering.  We could host all the students for a potluck.  This would give us a chance to make relationships.  We need champions to plan this and all potential volunteers should plan on attending.

6. Conversation Partners – The students are working hard to learn English.  They need practice.  This involves an hour once a week.

7. Hosting a Student – ELS arranges for students to stay in host homes.  Homestay Familes are much needed! A family earns $550 per session (4 weeks) per student living with them.

8. Activities – These can be simple game nights, opening your home, outdoor games, pool parties.  If group size is an issue, please coordinate with us and ELS.

Family Lines — May, 2012

Posted by on May 3, 2012 under Bulletins, Front Page Announcements

Family Lines for May 6, 2012

Family Lines for May 13, 2012

Family Lines for May 20, 2012

Family Lines for May 27, 2012