Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Sweet and Awesome Is This Place

How sweet and awesome is this place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!

Here every bowel of our God
With soft compassion rolls;
Here peace and pardon bought with blood
Is food for dying souls.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice, and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Study With Me -- Acts Lesson 12

I ended the last post with the question as to what will cause knowledge and prophecy to cease and when will or did tongues cease in and of themselves.

I Corinthians 13:10 Tells us, “when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” Well, when is that? I think verse 12 has the answer for us. Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. What does that sound like to you? To me it sounds like knowledge and prophecy will be made to cease when Christ comes back and we see Him face to face. Neither gift will be needed after that.
The other half of the question though is more difficult. When did or will tongues cease in and of themselves? On this topic I think a great deal of humility is needed because there are a great many opinions on this topic and many books and sermons have been preached on it throughout the centuries. There is no way that I’m claiming to have the final answer which everyone must follow. However, I don’t think that means we should stop studying and trying to figure out what God is saying. Certainly as men who would be faithful, part of that faithfulness is in attempting to study the Word so that we can rightly divide it. So for whatever it’s worth here is my take.

Just as in chapter 13 Paul mentioned growing up and putting away childish things, he challenges us in chapter 14:20 to be grown up in our understanding. He then quotes from Isaiah 28:11, 12. “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear me,” says the Lord.

If you go back to Isaiah 28, the scenario is this. Isaiah has been preaching and the people basically say, “Who does he think he’s talking to? Babies?” “He keeps repeating things to us – line upon line, precept upon precept. He is treating us like little kids!”

Isaiah’s response to this basically is, “OK. If that’s they way you are going to be about what I’m teaching you then judgment is coming and I’m going to talk to you with people of other languages. You don’t like hearing this in your own language, then I’ll speak to you with men of other languages. That will be a sign to you that judgment is coming.”

Of course that was followed up in the Old Testament with the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of Israel in foreign countries.

What Paul is saying in chapter 14 of I Corinthians is that tongues are a sign to the Jews in that same way in His day. Of course we know that not many years later judgment came and the Jews were scattered from Jerusalem once again. So in verse 22 after he quotes Isaiah he says, “Therefore.” That is an important word. The “therefore” means he is connecting this verse to the quote from Isaiah. “Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.”

So we say to Paul, “What are tongues for?” His answer is that tongues are a sign. So we ask, “A sign? Who is the sign for?”

Paul says, “Tongues are a sign for unbelievers.”

I believe he means unbelieving Jews because he tied verse 22 with a “therefore” to verse 21. It is a sign for unbelieving Jews that God is again speaking and expecting a response from the Jewish nation. It’s a validating sign that God is working through Paul and the other apostles.

So when will they cease? I believe they ceased in and of themselves when Jerusalem fell and the judgment had come. After that, Jews were no longer in their land, Scripture had been written and validated by all of the previous signs and wonders and there is now no need for this sign gift to unbelieving Israel.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Memorization Monday -- Week 22 The Fact of Sin

This week’s focus is on the Gospel. The first topic is the fact of sin.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hymn of the Week -- What Wondrous Love is This

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Study WIth Me - Acts Lesson 11

We’re continuing a short detour from the study of acts through a discussion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians 12-14. God through the Apostle Paul has taught us in chapter 12 that there is one body but there is a diversity of gifts in that body. Just as the body would be a monstrosity if it were only an eye, so the body of Christ would be a monstrosity if it had only one functioning gift and therefore God has provided many members with differing gifts so that the body would be a functioning whole. This provides a unified body with no schism.

Paul ends chapter 12 with a lead in to a more excellent way. That way is love. If we use our various gifts without love, we are nothing more than a clanging, noisy cymbal. After a description of love he says in verse 8, “Love never fails.” He goes on to say in that verse, “whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.”

Let’s look at this passage a little bit. As faithful men, God wants us to dig into His word and learn what He has for us. We shouldn’t shy away from finding out what God is saying. On the first reading it sounds like Paul is talking about three things –prophecy, tongues and knowledge – all of which will pass away. It sounds like he is lumping them altogether into one category. However it is important to look a little deeper. I am not a Greek scholar and so I am indebted to others who have helped me learn a little bit about how language works. The verb used for failing for prophecies and knowledge is different from the verb used for tongues ceasing. In addition to that, the verb for what happens to prophecies and knowledge is in the passive voice and the verb for what happens to tongues is in the middle voice.

At this point some of you may be saying, “So, what.” Or “What does this have to do with me?” Well, if you want to understand what the Bible is saying, it’s important to know what it is saying. A passive verb means that something else is doing the action. You might say, “I was hit by the ball.” That is an example of passive. Something else, namely the ball, did the hitting. In the case of verse 8, knowledge and prophecy will cease or fail because something else acts upon them and causes them to cease. Tongues is different. The verb that describes tongues is in the middle voice. That means tongues ceases in and of itself. It is not caused to cease by something else. It just stops in and of itself.

My point in emphasizing this is that rather than tying the three things together, Paul is actually separating them into two categories: those that cease of themselves and those that are caused to cease by something else.

This is emphasized then in verses 9 and 10. He says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” He focuses on knowledge and prophecy. Tongues is left out of this discussion. That’s because tongues will cease in and of itself whereas something else will cause the other two things to cease.

Now comes the difficult part. What does all of this mean? When will or did tongues cease in and of themselves, and what is the thing that is going to cause the other two to cease?

I’ve already written a lot today, so let’s pick up there next time.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Memorization Monday -- Week 21 Review

This is week 21 of our discipline of scripture memorization. I think this would be a good time to do a little reviewing. I’ll give a topic and a reference and give you a couple of words of the verse. See if you can finish the verse.

Witnessing – Acts 1:8 But you shall….

Obedience – John 14:21 He who has…

Prayer – I John 5:14, 15 Now this is….

The Word – Acts 17:11 These were more…

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Study with Me - Acts Lesson 10

Again, we continue our study of the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians 12-14. In verse 12 of chapter 12 we learn that the church is one body. That means all true believers no matter what church they physically attend are part of the same body. The members are placed and given functions as God directs. The purpose for this is that there would be no schism in the body.

The interesting thing to me is that often our differences seem to bring schism, but God gave different functions to prevent schism. How would that prevent schism? My interpretation of this is that we need each other because none of us is complete in our self. We need to learn to rely on one another more because by our self we are incomplete. We need the gifts of all the others around us to make a well-functioning body.

Paul concludes this section by telling us to desire the best gifts and yet there is a more excellent way. What way is that? …Love.

More next time.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Study With Me - Acts Lesson 9

There are so many different beliefs regarding the Holy Spirit and tongues that I thought it might be wise to look at I Corinthians 12-14 before we return to our Acts study.

One of the pages in the Acts study notes contains the guide to this study as well. You can find that here.

One of the main things we learn of the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives is that the Spirit has an impact on our speech. I Corinthians 12:3 tells us what we won’t say and what we will be able to say if we have the Spirit in us. No one can say Christ is accursed if the Spirit is in control. And no one can say “Jesus is Lord” unless he has the spirit. Obviously if you offered someone a thousand dollars they might say the words, but the point is that no one will say it from their heart unless the Spirit dwells in them.

Another thing we learn is that all three members of the trinity are involved in the gifts and their use. In verses 4 through 6 we learn that there are a variety of gifts, but it is the same Spirit that provides them. There are a variety of ways those gifts are used in ministry and service, but the same Lord that directs and oversees their use. And finally there are a variety of ways the gifts and ministries are energized but it is the one God that does the working.

One of the things that is alluded to in verses 4 – 6 and spelled out more clearly throughout the chapter is that not everyone has the same gifts. He gives to each one as He wills. (v.11) The members are placed in the body as He pleased. (v. 18) He says in verse 8, “for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, and to another faith…” So we see that He gives one gift to one person and a different gift to another person. Not all have all the gifts. In fact in verse 29 he asks, “Are all apostles? …” The implied answer to each of these questions is “no”.

So the Spirit gives gifts as directed by the Lord Jesus and energized by God the Father. These are assigned as it pleases Him with the purpose that all would be profited and the body would grow.

Memorization Monday -- Week 20 Witnessing

This is the third in the series on witnessing.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
I Peter 3:15

Next week we'll take a break to review some of the verses we've been learning.