“Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, Part 1 (Deuteronomy 32:35)

Deuteronomy 32:35

If you want to know God as he has revealed himself to us in Scripture, you need to hold together his justice and his love. These are not two different sides of God, as if God is a split personality like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nor are these two different ways that God has dealt with his people throughout history, so that in the Old Testament he was all fire and judgement but in the New he is all love. 

God has always been and always will be both just and loving toward us. At best, we can say love and justice are two different aspects of the same God, but one aspect never exists apart from the other. God does not have good days and bad days like we do. He does not wake up on the wrong side of the bed some mornings. He does not get hangry.

Continue reading

Why did Jesus come? (Matthew 1:21)

Matthew 1:21

Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. What did Joshua do for Israel? God used Joshua to save Israel from her enemies in the promised land.

Let us think about that for a moment. In the days when the angel spoke to Joseph, Israel was under Roman rule. Joseph may have thought this child would one day, like Joshua, save Israel from her Roman oppressors. The angel did not say that. He said, “he will save his people from their sins,” not from Rome but from their sins.

Like first-century Israel we often mistake the hope of the world for geo-political solutions. We say we want someone to save our nation, someone who will stand up for what is right in society, a hero by our standards who will take care of whatever or whoever we think our enemy is. Jesus does not save in this way; his salvation works on a deeper level.

Continue reading

God’s law to Moses was very gracious (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

Deuteronomy 30:11-14

Let me test your Bible knowledge. This question ranks like a high cash-value question on Jeopardy. Did the law of Moses require the nation of Israel to be perfectly obedient to God? If you answered in the negative, you correctly answered this question.

Continue reading

A circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:1-10)

Deuteronomy 30:1-10

Why did God choose to make circumcision the covenant sign of Israel?

When people made covenants in ancient times, they often would perform a covenant sign to remind each other what would happen if either party broke the covenant. In the case of Israel – do not think too hard about this – God required every male Israelite to have a small, sensitive part of their body cut off. They were declaring that if the nation broke covenant with God through habitual disobedience, God, in his perfect justice, ought to cut them off from him, each other, and even life itself. 

Just as Israel habitually broke the covenant that God made with them through Moses, we all have disobeyed God’s holy law. God’s justice requires we be cut off. Yet, Jesus allowed himself to be cut off for our behalf, so that we would not need to.

Continue reading

What if you are found opposing God? (Acts 5:39)

The esteemed pharisee Gamaliel once warned, “You might even be found opposing God (Acts 5:39)!” Jesus’ apostles were on trial for teaching in the name of Jesus. The Jewish Sanhedrin was on the brink of sentencing them to death when Gamaliel made this bold assertion.

Many today do not give much thought about the implications of the existence of God. Undirected, evolution, while a widely fanciful idea, has convinced many that the world we live in no longer requires the intelligence of a designer for its existence. Meanwhile, the latest science shows us, with every discovery, how narrow the margin of error for life’s existence is.

Continue reading

“You intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:27-32)

Acts 5:27-32

“…you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us (Acts 5:28).” This accusation was lodged against the apostles, and the world continues to lodge this complaint against Christians.

Few crimes are more grievous than murder. After Cain killed his brother Abel, God said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground (Gen 4:10).” Abel’s blood cried for justice! 

Continue reading

God ensures the gospel goes out (Acts 5:22-26)

Acts 5:22-26

God sovereignly ensures that the gospel of his Son always goes out into the world. Throughout church history the number of the faithful may wax and wane; nevertheless, a faithful remnant always remains to tell the world the good news of Christ.

Continue reading

Are you confused about death? (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

The 2010 film “Extraordinary Measures” depicts John and Aileen Crowley’s heroic efforts to find a cure for their two children who suffer from a rare and deadly genetic disorder. In one heart-wrenching scene, their oldest child experiences an exacerbation so bad that it brings her to the brink of death. With no treatment options remaining on the table, the Crowleys can do nothing but wait. Attempting to comfort them, a doctor tells them that they could try to look at their daughter’s seemingly imminent death as a blessing because their daughter would not need to suffer any more. As any parent can imagine, the proposal was less than satisfying to the Crowleys.

Continue reading

The Cure for the Spiritually Lame (Acts 3:1-10)

Acts 3:1-10

A baby’s first steps mark a milestone. From sitting up to crawling to pulling up to holding on to finally walking, those steps open up a world of possibility. Can you imagine someone waiting forty plus years to take those first steps?

Continue reading

Distinguishing Marks of the Infant Christian Church, Part 5 (Acts 2:42-47)

Acts 2:42-47

This continues a series of articles on the distinguishing marks of the infant Christian church. The infant Christian church’s devotion to prayer comprises its fifth distinguishing mark (Acts 2:42).

In the original Greek, the word often translated “prayer” is pluralized and preceded by the Greek article. Literally, we would render the Greek, “the prayers” and not simply “prayer.” The members of the infant church not only devoted themselves to the act of prayer, but they devoted themselves to regular routine times of prayer. They did not pray only at times they felt moved to pray but established regular times to gather together and pray. A healthy church prays regularly and routinely. Prayers do not simply punctuate the end of a song or fill a liturgical role in the service, but flow from the heart of those who make these times of regular prayer foundational to their lives.

Luke showed us the believers praying before. Before the day of Pentecost, they were in a room praying regularly, likely for the power from on high Jesus promised (Acts 1:14) . Luke will show us again, time after time, the early church praying (e.g. Acts 3:1). Prayer gives the church her lifeblood.

The scholar Dr A. T. Pierson once said, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.” Charles Spurgeon was said to have a group regularly meeting in the steam cellar of the church for the sole purpose of praying for the ministry of the church. It was said of John Knox that one day when he went into the room he often withdrew to, his wife followed him. When she entered, she heard him pleading to God in broken sentences, “Lord, wilt thou grant me Scotland.”

The prayer life of a congregation serves as one of the spiritual barometers that measures a congregation’s health. Is your congregational prayer life healthy? Is your individual prayer life for your congregation’s ministry healthy? If you cannot answer in the affirmative, drop what you are reading and fall on your knees. Your Lord calls you; will you listen?

For those looking to pray for our county, I invite you to join a group of us Mondays by the flagpole near the courthouse in Wellsboro at 4pm (or a little thereafter). Many prayers go from that place weekly for the welfare of our community. It matters little your denomination, only your willingness to join fellow brothers and sisters in beseeching Christ for times of refreshing to come to the people in our community.