Is America a “Christian nation”?

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Calling people back to the Word of God

Is America a “Christian nation”?

 

  • In the Bible the word “Christian” has a very specific meaning.
    1. A Christian undergoes a very specific process (the “new birth,” Jn. 3:3, 5).
    2. A person who is truly a “Christian” is “born anew” and then lives in a “new way.”
  • A Christian is also someone who follows the pattern God has given for NT worship.

 

  • From about 1790 to the middle of the 19th century, there was a swell of interest in the Bible.
    Preacher were saying, “Let’s speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.”
  • There were calls for “no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, and no name but the divine.”
    So many people were becoming Christians 200 years ago, some though world was ending.
  • If we look closely at our time, things have changed.
  • Mention God on a sign on public property, and a lawsuit may be in our future.
  • In the last 200 years there has been a major shift away from God.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT LIVING IN A CULTURE A LOT LIKE OURS.

In 2 Kgs. 22 we read about a king – a pretty good king.

Josiah had access to the royal throne at age 8 (2 Kgs. 22:1).

2 Kgs. 22:2 says he “did what was right” in the eyes of God.

After 8 years (2 Chron. 34:3), this young man was still seeking God.

After Josiah had reigned for 12 years (20 years of age), turned his attention to the sin of idolatry.

About 600 years before Jesus arrived, Israel was involved with idols.

About halfway between 20-30, this king begins to engage in some really important reforms.

Verses 4-7 of 2 Kgs. 22 – READ

Verse 8 – READ

God’s law was discovered and a decision was made to alert the king to this news.

Josiah had the Bible read to him – verse 10 – READ

It would come as a shock to some people, but rulers need to hear the Word of God.

This king listened to the Word of God and then he reacted to what he heard.

Verse 11 – READ

After hearing God’s word, Josiah was concerned.

This man ripped his clothes and then gave a command – verse 13 – READ

Verses 16-17 – READ

Good things do not come to those who reject the will of God.

Verses 18-20 – READ

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Steps to studying the Bible

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How to Study the Bible

Analyze the Sentence Structure
and the Flow of the Passage – Part 1

    The writers of the Bible communicated in paragraphs. But, those paragraphs are divided into sentences and we have to begin understanding the paragraphs by understanding the sentences that make up the paragraphs.

    To continue illustrating How to Study the Bible in this devotional, we consider looking at sentence structure and the flow of thought. If we were picking up 1 Thessalonians for personal study or any paragraph/chapter in 1 Thessalonians, we would follow these same simple steps.

STEP ONE – Understand the historical context of the passage. For 1 Thessalonians, that would primarily be Acts 17. You could also search “Thessalonians” and “Macedonia” in other passages to see what you might learn. Consult dictionaries and encyclopedias as well.

STEP TWO – Decide on the limits of your chosen passage. When we looked at 1 Thessalonians last time, I divided the chapter into three paragraphs:

    The Greeting – verse 1

    Paul’s Prayer of Thanksgiving – verses 2-5

    Setting an Example – verses 6-10

STEP THREE – Become thoroughly acquainted with your chosen passage. In this step, we are simply looking for items – words or phrases – that may need further study.    This brings us to STEP FOUR: – Analyze sentence structure and the flow of the passage.

FIRST, FIND THE MAIN IDEA:

    Ideas are conveyed around verbs. We’ll talk more about grammar specifically next week. Suffice it to say at this time that verbs are words that describe an action or a state of being. The main idea of a sentence is found in its main verb. The main verb of a paragraph is going to govern the thoughts of that paragraph.

    Let’s consider 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 (NASV):

    “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”

    Where are the verbs? Make a note of these and we’re going to go back and identify the main verb. Now, it helps that this paragraph is all one sentence. That leaves out the step of having to find the main verb of the paragraph because once we find the main verb of the sentence, we’ll have the main verb of the paragraph.

    The verbs are: give thanks, making mention, bearing in mind, knowing, did come, know, and proved. Seven verbs. Now, which one of those is the main verb? I mentioned last time that participles (verbs ending in “-ing”) are not normally the main verb. That leaves out three verbs: making mention, bearing in mind, and knowing. If you observe “did not come,” you see that it follows the preposition “for,” which shows that it is a subordinate idea. Actually, the same thing is true with “know” and “proved;” these two verbs follow the “just as” adverb so they are completing a thought but they are not the main thought.

    That leaves us with the verb “give thanks.” You probably already knew that. So our main verb is “give thanks.” What is the “subject” of the verb and what is the “object” or “indirect object” of the verb? The object of the verb receives the action of the verb directly while the indirect object of the verb receives the action of the verb only indirectly.

    The verb is “give thanks.” The subject? “We” – Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. “Give thanks” does not have a direct object but it does have an indirect object: “to God.” So, what I recommend doing is to write on your Bible study note pad the subject, verb, and indirect object lined up on the left side of the paper:

We give thanks to God.

    That is the main idea of this sentence and, because the sentence is the paragraph, the main idea of the paragraph. What should we learn from that? That giving thanks is a good thing to do and that giving thanks is addressed to God.

    Monday, we’ll continue to examine the sentence structure by examining how to fill out the main verb “We give thanks” with all of the clauses Paul uses in this sentence/paragraph.

–Paul Holland

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Jesus tells the people, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (6:27).

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Miracles in the Desert Daily Droplets

In Exodus 16, we see one of the most incredible miracles to happen in the pages of the Old Testament. The Israelites have only recently been released from Egyptian captivity.  Two chapters prior, God, through Moses, parts the Red Sea so that they can escape the pursuing Egyptians. In chapter 15, they sing a song of rejoicing and praise to the God who performed incredible miracles and released them from slavery. At the end of chapter 15, God again provides for his people. They had not had water for 3 days, and there was no water to be found.  God tells Moses to throw a log into the bitter waters at Marah, which makes the water sweet and drinkable.

This leads us to chapter 16. A new land, a new complaint. In verse 3, the people say to Moses and Aaron, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Their logic makes no sense. They’re essentially saying that the worst case scenario in the wilderness is the best case scenario in Egyptian captivity, yet, they’d prefer the latter. Then, they start complaining as children do, “I’m starving!  I’m so hungry I could die!” They forgot the Lord has always provided for them.  Could he not provide for them again?

Of course, we know he does. In the following verses (4-35), the Lord provides quail in the evening and rains bread from heaven, manna, for them every morning except for the Sabbath. He gives specific instructions on what to do with this food, and for 40 years, he provides this to them. In this passage, the Israelites learned two lessons:

  1. The Lord hears. He didn’t owe an explanation or proof to them, as if he hadn’t already proved enough to them. Regardless, he still listened to what they had to say, and he responded. He has been, was, and would be there for His people.
  2. The Lord provides. Just as he had provided them with an escape, redeeming them from slavery to the Egyptians; just as he provided them with sweet water in Marah, he would, again, provide for them, this time with food.  Up to this point, throughout the Scriptures, and now long after the completion of the Word, God provides.

That’s not where this story ends. The narrative of this is much more than an all-you-can-eat quail and bread buffet. This was really only foreshadowing another occurrence in John.

Jesus tells the people, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (6:27). The people are intrigued, asking what works he would perform so that they might believe in Him, as Moses provided manna in the wildreness.  Much like the Israelites forgot about the parting of the Red Sea and the bitter-to-sweet water, the crowd must’ve forgotten Jesus just fed 5,000 people with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish.

Jesus then compares himself to the miracle in Ex. 16, saying, “…my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (v. 32-33, 35). He later says that he is the true bread of life; those who ate the manna in the wilderness died, but partaking of him would lead to eternal life (v.49-50).  He proceeds to teach the crowd that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood.

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me” (v. 56-57). This teaching was a tough pill to swallow, as even some of his disciples left him. One day, they all would understand. In the next couple of years, they would witness the Lord’s flesh being torn apart and his blood being spilt as he died for the sins of the world. That was what He was referring to.

If a miracle is defined as an event, not explicable by natural or scientific laws, then, yes, God provided a miracle in the desert, but the greatest miracle to ever occur was when Jesus was sent down from Heaven to redeem the world. Still, no one has been able to fully explain why God, why Christ did what he did. That, by definition is a miracle, that Jesus, through love, became our bread of heaven, that any who partake of him should not die, but have everlasting life. Just as God provided for the Israelites, he now provides for the whole world, that any who partake of him might receive eternal life. He has provided us with grace, mercy and life; a gift that cannot begin to be deserved.

–Jared McLeod

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The Glorious Church – Ephesians 5:26-27

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Like myself, Dad was not a major proponent of preaching with acronyms. But, he left at least one that I present here: the glorious church. Dad loved the church of Christ because Dad loved the Christ of the church.

Dad took as his text for this sermon, Ephesians 5:26-27 – “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” Dad’s sermon revolved around the word “glorious” (NKJV). Let’s study the “glorious church…”

THE GLORIOUS CHURCH IS “G”ODLY:

Consider the words of Paul in Titus 2:11-12. God’s grace has appeared, instructing us how to live godly in the present age. That means we can live godly; God expects it.

THE GLORIOUS CHURCH IS “L”ABORING:

When Jesus, through John, commends the church of Christ in Ephesus in Revelation 2:2, Jesus says, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance.” The NKJV says, “labor” instead of “toil.”

The church exists to do more than just assemble and worship. Worship is at the heart of what we do but it is not all that we do. We are to be a busy church, doing good works.

THE GLORIOUS CHURCH IS “O”VERCOMING:

If we stay faithful to Christ, we will overcome. We’ll overcome this sinful world. We’ll overcome the power of Satan in death. We will be victorious. Paul writes the church of Christ in Rome: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:21). We can’t let the world’s self-defeating decisions cause us to quit doing good. Overcome evil with good, Paul says.

THE GLORIOUS CHURCH IS “R”EADY:

Once we are baptized into Christ, we are ready. We are ready for what Satan has to throw at us and we are ready for death and the judgment. I am inspired by Paul’s words to the Christians in Caesarea in Acts 21:13 when they tried to get him not to go to Jerusalem for Passover.

Not only are we ready for death and the judgment, we are also, having been baptized into Christ, ready to do anything good for the cause of Christ: “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed” (Titus 3:1).

THE GLORIOUS CHURCH IS “I”NSTRUCTING:

We must teach others. That is the great commandment Jesus gives, our “marching orders” in Matthew 28:18-20.

The church is glorious because we instruct men on how to worship God and how to come to Jesus Christ. And if we don’t do it, no one else will!

THE GLORIOUS CHURCH IS “O”BSERVING:

That is, we are observing the commands, precepts, principles, statues, ordinances, rules, that Jesus Christ laid down. We respect His authority (Matthew 7:21). In that context, Jesus sets “doing the will of the Father” in contrast with: 1.) prophesying, 2.) casting out demons; 3.) doing miracles. That means that doing the will of the Father (obeying His commands, having His authority) is more important than: 1.) prophesying, 2.) casting out demons, and 3.) doing miracles.

THE GLORIOUS CHURCH IS “U”NITED:

It is a sin not to be united. If two brothers can’t get along, one or both of them will fail to be in heaven. It’s just that simple. Jesus died for unity and emphasized unity. The church of Christ was united in the very beginning: “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44). The word “together” is found 35 times in the book of Acts! Jesus’ church was united and together.

THE GLORIOUS CHURCH IS “S”EPARATE:

Separate, that is, from the world. Just like God had to keep the Israelites morally and spiritually separate from the pagan world around them so they would be prepared for the coming of Jesus Christ, so we must keep ourselves morally and spiritually separate from our pagan world so we will be prepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 6:17-18).

The church of Christ was in the mind of God from the very beginning, a body brought together by the Holy Spirit, washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is this body, the church of Christ that is going to heaven.

the late Wayne Holland

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The Temple Carried the Name of God

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    In studying the importance (or lack?) of the name of the church, we have been working through the Old Testament. In essence, we are considering the question, “Is there a ‘name’ theology in the Bible?” Or, “Is there theology behind a name?” So far, we’ve seen there is theology behind God’s name; most everyone understands that. We’ve also learned that God was going to choose a place where His name would “dwell,” which turned out to be Jerusalem (in one sense) and the temple in Jerusalem (in another sense).

    In the reign of Manasseh, we read in 2 Kings 21:4, 7: “He built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name. …In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever.”

    Because Israel acted like the temple was theirs to do with it as they pleased, rather than the Lord’s, they had profaned it. And God could not dwell in a profaned temple: “The Lord said, “I will remove Judah also from My sight, as I have removed Israel. And I will cast off Jerusalem, this city which I have chosen, and the temple of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.’” (2 Kings 23:27).

    The Chronicler records David having told Solomon, in building the temple: “Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God; arise, therefore, and build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the holy vessels of God into the house that is to be built for the name of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 22:19).

    Thus we read in 2 Chronicles of Solomon: “Now Solomon decided to build a house for the name of the Lord and a royal palace for himself. …”Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, dedicating it to Him, to burn fragrant incense before Him and to set out the showbread continually, and to offer burnt offerings morning and evening, on sabbaths and on new moons and on the appointed feasts of the Lord our God, this being required forever in Israel” (2:1, 4). See also 6:5-10.

    Once Solomon had built the temple, God appeared to him, saying, “For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (2 Chronicles 7:16).

    King Darius of the Medes recognized that the temple in Jerusalem, the house of God, bore the name of the God of the Israelites (Ezra 6:12).

    Through their lives and their worship in the temple of God, the Jews were to see that God’s name was glorified in all ways: “I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the peoples will give You thanks forever and ever.” (Psalm 45:17). When the enemies of Israel burned the temple to the ground, they attacked the place where God’s name dwelt: “They have burned Your sanctuary to the ground; They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name” (Psalm 74:7).

    In Proverbs 10:7, the word “memory” and “name” are used as synonyms: “The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.” The people and the temple would keep the memory of God’s work alive, as they glorified His name on a daily basis.

    Next time we study this “name theology” together, we’ll look at a couple dozen passages in the prophets before we consider the New Testament teachings.

–Paul Holland

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Leaving a Legacy: Gentleness

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    Holly Dunn wrote and sang this song, titled “Daddy’s Hands.” Here’s the first verse and the chorus:

I remember Daddy’s hands, folded silently in prayer
And reaching out to hold me, when I had a nightmare
You could read quite a story, in the callouses and lines
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’
Daddy’s hands, were hard as steel when I’d done wrong
Daddy’s hands, weren’t always gentle But I’ve come to understand
There was always love in Daddy’s hands

    As I grew older, the gentleness in dad’s hands came through in his hand shake – the hand shake of a father proud of his son. Or even a hug. Once your dad passes away, you wish you could hug him one last time.

    What legacy, Dads, are we leaving our children? Consider leaving a legacy of gentleness. How does gentleness look like in the father/child relationship? Here are some ideas… 

GENTLENESS IS PATIENCE:

    It is not losing your cool. You do not treat your family the way you treat your co-workers. You treat them better. 

    Dads, rarely do we have to discipline so rapidly that we can’t take time to calm down and think about what we are doing. Is the response appropriate? Is the discipline appropriate? In words or actions, look to God’s example and see where God did not always respond immediately.

GENTLENESS IS FAIRNESS:

    Do we have real expectations of each child? Or do we treat our children unfairly?

    Make sure you treat your kids fairly. God is fair and He will always do what is right (Genesis 18:25). We are not God so we are not always right. But if we will be patient, we can be more thoughtful and therefore, more fair.

GENTLENESS IS CONSISTENT:

    Are you strict in your discipline one day – maybe because you had a bad day at work or perhaps you just had a spat with your wife? But the next day, your child does the exact same wrong thing and you laugh at it and shrug it off? If you discipline like that, your children don’t know what to expect from one day to the next. And the minute they hear you at the door, they’ll cringe, not knowing what mood you’re going to be in. That’s like rearranging the furniture in the home of a blind person. They never know when they’re going to run into something.

    That’s what we can do with our children if we are not consistent in our response to them. Gentleness is consistent. When we pass away, our children might say, “Man, I never knew what to expect out of my dad!” That would be a poor legacy to leave behind. No matter how tired you are or how preoccupied you are, don’t be a “Dr. Jekyll” one day and a “Mr. Hyde” the next.

    Just a few thoughts on leaving a lasting legacy of gentleness.

–Paul Holland

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Father’s Day 2016

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  • Men have made some great sacrifices throughout the years, as have several women.
  • Single men and single women have made sacrifices.
  • This morning we want to think about sacrifices and fathers.
    1. Soldiers have made and continue to make sacrifices.
    2. Some have a sick family member (child, wife, distant relative) and they make sacrifices.
  • In Heb. 11 we read about “faith.”
  1. Faith often describes what we believe in but have not personally seen.
  • One man who had faith and was willing to sacrifice was Noah – Heb. 11:7 – READ
  • Noah was a father; he was also someone who made some sacrifices.
  • As Noah preached (2 Pet. 2:5) the world continued to live as if all was okay (Mt. 24:37-38).
  • Because people did not accept Noah’s message, this godly man was likely mocked.
    1. We read about Abraham in Heb. 11:8 – READ
    2. God called on Abraham to sacrifice his home country.
  • This man was asked to make a sacrifice when it came to his relatives – verse 9 – READ
  1. Men like Abraham made sacrifices, but they received a limited benefit in this life.
  2. Verse 13 of Heb. 11 – READ
  • Abraham PLUS OTHERS made sacrifices, but the sacrifices did not pay a full reward in this life.
    1. Verse 17 says Abraham was once called upon to offer up his son.
    2. The thought of losing this child would be incomprehensible for many.
  • As this chapter continues we read of other men who were willing to make sacrifices.
    1. Moses is introduced in verse 23.
    2. Moses came to be recognized as the daughter of Pharaoh (verse 24) and this was significant.
  • According to verse 26, Moses was entitled to the “treasures of Egypt.”
    • Verses 24-25 – READ
    • Verse 27– READ

MEN – SOME WHO WERE SERVANTS OF GOD AND SOME WERE NOT – HAVE OFTEN SACRIFICED FOR SOMEONE, EVEN TO THE POINT OF GIVING THEIR LIVES.

  • The greatest sacrifice is one we have not yet read – this is in Heb. 12.
  • Here we have the greatest sacrifice of all from A Father – Heb. 12:2 – READ
  • The “beloved” Son (Mt. 3:16) was allowed to die on our behalf.
  • The sacrifice of Jesus was so great it is remembered in multiple ways.
  • We have the “Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10).
  • There is the “Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20) which contains the “cup of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:21).
  • The sacrifice of the Son is so magnanimous it is to be remembered on a weekly basis.
  • When Sunday comes (Acts 20:7), our worship is to include the Lord’s Supper.
  • The sacrifice of earthly fathers will clearly never equal what the Lord did.
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How to Study the Bible – Considering Words & Phrases for more Study

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In our 11-Step process to study a given passage, we have considered the first two steps. Here, we present step three:

STEP THREE – Become thoroughly acquainted with your chosen passage. Read your paragraph over and over and over again. Use different translations and in different languages if possible. Compare “literal” translations (NKJV, ESV, NASV) with “dynamic” translations (NIV).

As you read the text and get very familiar with it…

  1. Consider any hard-to-understand phrases.
  2. Some differences in translations are only variations in English synonyms. Other differences can reflect a substantial difference in an approach to the text.
  3. Consider parallel passages from the other accounts. What is repeated? What is different? Is the context of the text different?
  4. Are there references or allusions to the Old Testament that you need to explore?

Last week, I used 1 Thessalonians 1 as an example. Let’s stay in that text.

In working through this text, we come across three people: Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. What do we know about them? Do we want to study more about them? We can easily access biblestudytools.com or any other computerized (or printed) concordance and find all the verses that mention these three men. If we want to know more, we can access Bible dictionaries or encyclopedias from the same site.

We’re looking at hard to understand phrases or words we don’t know, important theological words that show up in the text, words that would demand a more thorough study.

For example, in verse 3, we have three phrases that we would need to meditate on if we wanted to fully understand this passage: work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope. One word there is not used in common speech – “steadfastness.” That’s a word that we might have to do a little more study on. As far as phrases goes, what does “work of faith” mean? What does “labor of love” mean? How about “steadfastness of hope”?

I encourage you to have a handful of different translations at your desk where you feed on God’s word. Here, I draw your attention to the NIV: “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Knowing that the NIV does not translate word for word and comparing it to the NASV and the NKJV, I know that the NIV translators added the words “produced,” “prompted,” and “endurance inspired.” They also used a different preposition, “by” instead of “of.” Here, it doesn’t necessarily make a big difference but we don’t need to be limited by how the NIV translators interpret the phrases: “work of faith,” or “labor of love,” or “steadfastness of hope.”

In verse 4, there are two words that jump out at me in the context of biblical theology: “beloved,” and “choice.” The idea of “choice” is related to the biblical terms election and predestination. Those are some deep concepts I could get involved in. Again, Smith’s Bible Dictionary and the ISBE could provide some interesting help. We’ll talk about doing word studies in Step Six. Right now, we’re just making notes about words and phrases that we might need to do further studies on.

In verse 5, we have three key words: “gospel,” “power,” and “Holy Spirit.” Those are words that we’ll need to understand. Now, in our personal study, we won’t do a word study on each of these; only on words that we desire to study further.

In the third paragraph, we have some key words, beginning in verse 6: “tribulation” and “joy.” In verses 7 and 8, we are introduced to two regions in Europe: Macedonia and Achaia. Where are they? What do I know about them? What was life like for them? I can go to my Smith’s Dictionary or the ISBE and read the articles about them. If I want to understand 1 Thessalonians, then I want to understand the circumstances of Paul’s audience. That was Step One.

There are just a few more words we notice in verses 9 & 10. For example, “you turned to God from idols.” What does that tell us about the audience? They are Gentiles, at least primarily Gentiles. An interesting expression that should arrest our attention is the last phrase in verse 10: “who rescues us from the wrath to come.” What are the implications of that statement? What further meditation do I need to make about that?

We have covered three steps, so far, in our “How to Study the Bible” series:

STEP ONE – Understand the historical context of the passage.

STEP TWO – Decide on the limits of your chosen passage.

STEP THREE – Become thoroughly acquainted with your chosen passage.

Next week, STEP FOUR – Analyze sentence structure and the flow of the passage.

–Paul Holland

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Prayer

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How much I’d give if I could take

This fear, this stress away from you

But circumstances won’t allow

So I must be content to do

My part from over here, unseen

And while I can’t your burden share

I must still hope that though away

I yet can keep you through my prayer.

– J. Holland

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Matthew 10:37 – He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

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Jesus knows how strong a family bond can be but He is not teaching us to sever all family bond. He certainly wants us to love our family. We are commanded to honour and obey our parents (Eph 6:1-2). We are commanded to love our wives (Eph 5:25-28).

Yet, He also knows that there are many things in this life that can prevent us from loving God. For example, the love of the world can cause us to stop loving God (Matt 13:22). Demas, once a faithful disciple of Christ, loved the world and turned his back on God (2 Tim 4:10). Hence, our Lord warns us about loving the mammon of unrighteousness (Matt 6:24).

Relationships can also prevent us from following Christ. Some face parental objections from becoming a Christian. In such cases, Christ is looking at whether the newly-called child of God will stand firm, or waver, or even fall back and deny his faith. Does he love his parents more than Him? Would he listen to his parents’ advice and leave the faith to follow the religion of his parents?

Still, there is another greater obstacle to faith that is more difficult to overcome than parental objection. Today, at least in the society that we are living in, few face objections from their parents to become a Christian. But oftentimes, the young Christian has to make a choice when choosing a life partner. What if the person the Christian is dating does not believe in the God of the bible?

Young Christian men and ladies who are dating unbelievers and are madly in love with each other could not see the danger of such unequally yoked relationships have on their faith. What they know is they cannot live without each other. They have forgotten that they have been living well without each other and they will still survive, and in fact, better, without each other.

For a young Christian man or lady who truly loves God, the struggle to live with an unbelieving spouse is painful. He loves God but he also loves his wife. He has his Christian ethics to live by but his wife does not share the same and will sometimes do things that he frowns upon. He sees other church members coming together for worship as a loving family but he could not bring his children to worship. He wants to serve God but his unbelieving wife wants him. Before marriage, he has the desire that one day he would become an elder to serve the congregation but now he is not qualified. He could not open his house to hold fellowship with the members of the church because his wife is against it, and moreover, she has placed an idol altar in the living room.

The saddest part is this: he has to live the rest of his forty or fifty years of his life in such agony. It is precisely the reason that I wrote in an earlier statement that he will still survive, and in fact, better, without each other. The pain of breaking up during the courtship is tremendously short when compared to the rest of his life living in a mixed marriage.

There is a cost to pay to become a disciple of Christ and so, Jesus urges those who would follow Him to consider the cost before becoming disciples (Luke 9:23). Commitment requires sacrifices and hardship is unavoidable: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12).

Christ teaches us that we ought to love Him more than our own family, spouse or friends. There is a reason for doing so. The choice is actually between choosing eternal life in heaven or eternal damnation in hell. The devil wants to prevent us from going to heaven. He gets the person we love most to prevent us from reaching there. But Christ wants us to go to heaven and He warns us about listening to those whom we love who might prevent us from going there. The choice is deciding to live eternally with Christ in heaven or with the devil in eternal damnation.

Young men and ladies: make the right choice for after the wedding, there is no turning back. For eternity sake, you must let go of everything in this life that holds you back from following the Lord faithfully. “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.” (Deut 7:3-4).

Jimmy Lau
Psa 119:97 Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

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