Saturday, May 26, 2012

Walking Out of a Prison

This morning as I was reading a blog of a friend on some interesting words in Acts 15, I decided to do a word study on them. The blogger had pointed out the phrase 'it seemed good to the Holy Ghost'. It got me to thinking about the spirit of God and how it works in us.  In the book of Acts at that time, Paul hadn't written the church epistles yet, nor were the gospels all written out in a nice leather bound book for everyone to put on their coffee table. What they had were eyewitness accounts and the gift of holy spirit that was given on the day of Pentecost. The Judean law and oral traditions were still very much a part of the culture, so things like circumcision which had been staple of the Judean religion before Christ was still a consideration in many of their minds.

The words 'seemed good' is the greek word 'dokeo'.  This word in other places is translated think, suppose, trow,  pleaseth and seemeth good. I went back to the first use of 'dokeo' in the book of Acts and studied it's use.
Acts 12
1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw it pleased
 (eimi arestos) the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers (16 soldiers working in shifts) to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.  
6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. 
An angel woke Peter up and told him to get up. This was not a dream. When the angel wanted to talk to Peter he needed to be awake. He would have to act on what the angel told him.
8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought (dokeo-seemed good) he saw a vision. 
Peter didn't know what was happening, he just went out and followed the angel. He thought that it was a spiritual revelation, not something physically real.
10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. 11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. 
Recognizing the voice of God through one of God's messengers, he carried out the instructions and was miraculously delivered from the prison ordeal. After the angel left, Peter was left with the reality of what happened. It really did happen!

We too often find ourselves in prisons of various types. God is a God of deliverance. We have the church epistles to explain spiritual matters (I Corinthians 12:1 pneumatikos -gifts is in italics) to us. We know the gift of holy spirit arrives with  nine gadgets (I Corinthians 12:7-11) to operate and bring about success for ourselves and others. One can't see spiritual things by the 5 senses, but men and women who trust God are fully knowledgeable that God can communicate to them by various means: by the word and by what is revealed to the holy spirit within by revelation.  Some times if we are unsure because we don't see something physically, we simply have to trust God. He always comes through! As we act, we realize the surety of the gift.  It is pretty amazing how it works.

Monday, May 21, 2012

1st Amendment

Recently I was thinking back to the Mayflower days and about the men and women who made the courageous believing journey across the Atlantic to find religious freedom establishing a new world based upon God's abundant goodness.  Life wasn't handed to them on a silver platter, but they were blessed with the the greatest freedom and peace. We have all benefited by their actions and commitment.

The United States of America is not a theocracy but the 1st amendment guarantees freedom of religion.

 Notice that the phrase 'separation of church and state' does not appear in the amendment. This phrase was first used by Thomas Jefferson in response to the Danbury Connecticut baptists in 1807 to calm their fears of government intervention in church affairs. 

In the 21st century, America has the greatest diversity of religions and is one of the most religious countries in the world. There is much evidence that this country started in Christian Theism. God is mentioned in our national anthem and referenced to in the Declaration of Independence four times (Nature's God, Creator, Supreme Judge of the world and divine Providence). There are Bible verses as well as the name 'God' etched in stone and brass all over Washington D.C. The Bible was at one time used as a textbook in schools. Our founding fathers often utilized biblical quotes in their writings.

According to the amendment, the government is not to establish a particular denomination as the official denomination according to the Constitution. It also restricted government meddling in church business. This did not apply to states. Several states originally had state religions. The courts did not interfere with this for over 150 years. In 1947 the Supreme Court utilized the words 'separation of church and state' in a ruling of the Everson vs Board of Education case reversing previous rulings and applying the Establishment Clause to states. From this point on in history, there has been increased pressure to separate church and state in many avenues of American life.

The first amendment guarantees freedom of religion. In many ways this has benefited minority religions and atheism and it should not take away the free exercise of Christianity which many argue has happened. Examples cited include prayer in schools, religious expression in schools (including art work of elementary grade school children), the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, references to religious holidays and many more conceived violations in our predominantly Christian culture.

There are countless examples of kings and rulers in the Bible who were blessed and influenced by believers like Joseph, Abraham, Jonah and others. Today this country has benefited and will continue to benefit from the application of biblical principles by believing men and women who live and walk for the Supreme Judge!
Psalm 33:11-2111 The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.12 Blessed is the nation (ethnos in Greek Septuagint) whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.13 The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.15 He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.17 An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.20 Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield.21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Law is Good

The Word of God is quite simple. God has provided a loving handbook to life which explains how to live it fully.  In the administration that we live in, the grace administration, we have the privilege to accept the opportunity to have the energized power of God living in the very depths of our heart through the gift of holy spirit. This was provided as a result of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ including his supernatural deliverance by God in being raised from the dead.

In the Old Testament only certain people manifested the spirit of  God so the law in a physical sense was what people knew about God. The law was taught and embellished on in oral tradition by the leaders. People endeavored to carry it out.

Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law. The law became established by means of faith in Jesus Christ. The law then became something impressed on our hearts spiritually by believing, not by works of external piety. God's word becomes a living reality in the righteous and capable of all that Jesus Christ accomplished because of the inherent power of God energized in the gift.

In Timothy Paul encourages believers to stay on the simple truth of grace:
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.  The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.(NIV I Timothy 1:3-7)
We see false doctrines magnified today in certain psychological and sociological circles. It is rampant in politics and even in some religious circles. We are constantly bombarded with alternative ways of living. In regards to God's law and its use, Paul provided clarifications to filter the speculative assaults of  culture:
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,  for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine (I Timothy 1:8-10 NIV)
 The warnings are for those who argue with God and who become desensitized and tolerant of evil. People who turn away from the evil and towards the goodness of God see huge differences in their lives. God's work is advanced by believing good sound doctrine and its application to life. It is practical and pertains to all aspects of living a meaningful life.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


When someone evolves in his own reasoning, and tries to claim Christian underpinnings, it's a slippery slope. One must be very careful to acknowledge why the change in thinking is taking place. Is it the influence of culture or is it really about the truth of God?
Romans 1:18-32 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
The 'invisible' things can be seen through what God has created. We have the Bible in the senses realm to verify God and we also have the creation to some extent that can teach us about God.You can look at a tree and see what He's about. You can look at the human body and see what He's about. Man is not smarter than God and God clearly has made Himself know in a number of ways. There are no excuses.
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 
Man however can get caught up in the web of his own thinking and push back against God in a variety of ways, none of which necessarily contribute to true happiness. Yet God has allowed free choice rather than compulsion for man's options. Every human being has a choice.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sin (Ugh)!

This morning I was thinking about 'sin' (ugh) and about Jesus Christ (un-ugh!). I don't really understand some religious groups who require confessing publicly sin for salvation. 'Sin' is a given in the old man nature. We are all sinners. (Look 'sin' up in Bullinger's Lexicon*) So-o What else is new? God is no dummy, he knows everything. Does He require us to to list our sins to be saved?

'Salvation' or true wholeness is wrapped up two wonderful verses in Romans 10:9-10:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
People get confused about the word 'confession'. In the Greek it is the word 'homologeo' which means to say the same thing. (Another word to check out in Bullinger's Lexicon!). In Greek 'homo' means same and 'logos' means word.

Somehow 'confession' got linked to humbleness and humbleness got linked to listing all the evil one has done.  I'm sure God wants to hear all about that! (NOT!) The humbleness that God asks from us is to act upon His plan which involves saying the same thing or figuratively speaking the same language about His son, Jesus Christ.  What God wants wants to hear is that we are on board. The Lordship of Jesus Christ really involves understanding God's Word, the whole Word from start to finish, not just isolated soundbites. When one starts to see the biblical time zone  we live in, post gospel period (Romans -Thessalonians), it is apparent how much God loves us and wants true wholeness for our lives! Hallelujah!

*A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament ...

 By Ethelbert William Bullinger